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Caroline Warman

Published On


Page Range

pp. 179-206

Print Length

27 pages

5. 1790: Naigeon and the Adresse à l’Assemblée nationale

  • Caroline Warman (author)
Setting the Éléments de physiologie within the wider cultural landscape of the French Revolution, Warman explains how the publication of Jacques-André Naigeon’s ferociously anti-clerical Adresse à l’Assemblée nationale tarnished Diderot’s name by association. As Diderot’s literary executor, Naigeon drew extensively from a range of unpublished Diderotian sources within his Adresse; in particular, Warman focuses on two longer passages taken from Diderot’s Plan d’une université, various extracts from letters, and, most crucially, three glancing quotations from the Éléments. To varying degrees, each of these references poses troubling questions about the role of God, the nature of priesthood, and the institution of religion as a whole. Although Naigeon never explicitly mentions Diderot by name, he attributes many of his direct quotations to ‘un philosophe’. Warman moves to discuss Naigeon’s broader theories on readership, timeliness, and publication, describing how Naigeon formulated the image of an ‘attentive and intelligent reader’ who could successfully trace his various allusions to Diderot back to their source material. Conversely, the ‘ideal writer’ must remain unconcerned about the risk of censorship and speak only in clear, transparent terms. Warman highlights Naigeon’s self-contradiction here, demonstrating how he makes complex cross-references to and borrows snippets of texts from other writers without concrete citation. Overall, Warman argues that Diderot used his Adresse to disseminate Diderot’s unpublished manuscripts to the masses, and that, in doing so, caused great damage to Diderot’s public reputation.


Caroline Warman