Smith in the City: Death of the Dauphin

In my previous post, we saw that the names of Adam Smith or his pupil Duke Henry appear in Horace Walpole’s Paris journal no less than 20 times, starting with Walpole’s entry for Feb. 15, 1766, but we also saw an initial two-week gap in Walpole’s journal in which neither Smith nor Duke Henry appears by name at all. So, what was Adam Smith doing in Paris during this period of time, from Feb. 15, 1766 (the first time we hear of Smith) to March 2, 1766 (the next time his name is mentioned). Among other things, it is possible that Adam Smith visited Notre Dame Cathedral during this time. By way of example, Horace Walpole’s journal entry for Wednesday, February 26 contains the following somber words (emphasis added): “To the English Benedictines, and to Notre Dame to see the catafalque for the Dauphin’s funeral oration.”[1]

Although Smith and the young Duke are not mentioned in this journal entry, it is hard to imagine they would miss such a significant and historic event, for the “Dauphin” refers to none other than Louis Ferdinand (1729–1765), the eldest and only surviving son of King Louis XV of France and Queen Marie Leszczyński and the heir apparent to the throne until his death on December 20, 1765, when he died of tuberculosis at the age of 36.[2] Also, as Walpole mentions, the Dauphin’s funeral oration was to take place at the world-famous Notre Dame Cathedral. Constructed in the 12th and 13th centuries and located on the then-crowded Île de la Cité quarter of Paris, Notre Dame is still one of the most famous Gothic structures in the world and one of the most recognized symbols of the city of Paris and the nation of France.[3]

By this time (late February 1766), numerous eulogies had already been published in the Dauphin’s honor. One was by the Jesuit priest Anne Alexandre Charles Marie Lanfant.[4] Another was by a member of the Royal Academy of Sciences and Beaux Artes, Jean-Baptiste-Armand Cottereau.[5] But this particular funeral oration was to take place at Notre Dame, and it was to be delivered by Étienne Charles de Loménie de Brienne, the Archbishop of Toulouse and a prominent figure of Old Regime France. Originally ordained in 1752, Brienne held a wide variety of prominent and lucrative religious titles and would later become Louis XVI’s finance minister (1787-88). In 1766, he was still the archbishop of Toulouse, the provincial town in the south of France where Smith had resided for most of 1764 and 1765.

Walpole mentions that he visited the Dauphin’s catafalque at Notre Dame Cathedral on February 26, but Brienne did not deliver his funeral oration until March 1, 1766. Although I have no evidence to confirm whether Adam Smith or Duke Henry attended the March 1 funeral oration, it is unlikely they would have missed such an important event as the funeral oration for Louis-Ferdinand, who was the next-in-line to the French throne.[6]

If Smith did attend Brienne’s funeral oration on March 1st, or if he subsequently read a published version of Brienne’s eulogy in honor of the Dauphin, he would have also had an opportunity compare the communal impact of the heir apparent’s death, “a punishment sent from Heaven and a public calamity,”[8] with the private lamentations of the Dauphin’s mother: “Her gaze was fixed on [her son’s] image … but soon the awful truth opened a wound in her heart, the lifeless image fell from her hands, leaving her sobbing and in tears.”[9]

Was Adam Smith, whose literary reputation at the time was still based on his 1759 magnum opus The Theory of Moral Sentiments, moved by these words? Either way, what else could have motivated or contributed to Smith’s transformation from a moral philosopher to a political economist? Brienne’s funeral oration also contains an allusion to the age of Enlightenment, to “the torch of sciences [that] today casts its vivid and bursting light.”[7] This reference may provide a clue to Smith’s intellectual transformation, something I shall consider further in my next post.

File:Hôtel-Dieu sur le plan de Turgot.jpg
The hospital of Hôtel-Dieu on the map of Turgot, with the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

[1] Lewis 1939, p. 304 (footnote omitted). The rest of the entry for this day reads: “To Armide [a play], the capitation or benefit for the actors. Supped at M. de Beaumont’s, with M. and Mme du Boccage, M. and Madame de Florian, and several others.”

[2] His eldest surviving son, Louis-Auguste, duc de Berry, in turn became the new dauphin, ascending the throne as “Louis XVI” upon the death of Louis XV in May of 1774.

[3] For more information about Notre Dame Cathedral, see Henriet 2005; de Villefosse 1980; Viollet-le-Duc 1868.

[4] See “Oraison funèbre de très-haut, très-puissant, et très-excellent prince, Monseigneur; prononcée dans l’eglise du college de la Compagnie de Jésus, le 7 février 1766” (Nancy, 1766).

[5] See “Eloge funebre detrès-haut, très-puissant, et très-excellent Monseigneur Louis Dauphin, prononcé dans l’Eglise de la Ville de Donnemarie, le premier Janvier 1766” (Paris, 1766).

[6] As it happens, Walpole’s journal entry for March 1 does not contain any reference to a funeral oration; instead, that day he visited a tapestry shop, the home of Britain’s ambassador to France (the Hôtel de Brancas), and the home of one Madame d’Egmont, where he was invited to souper with the Princess of Monaco and many aristocrats. See Lewis 1939, p. 305. So, it is possible that Smith or Duke Henry, or both, attended the funeral oration without Walpole.

[7] Brienne 1766, p. 21, quoted in Kelly 1986, p. 59.

[8] Brienne 1766, p. 2, quoted in Kelly 1986, p. 59.

[9] Ibid., p. 11.

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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