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Caroline Warman

Published On


Page Range

pp. 335-354

Print Length

19 pages

11. 1820: Garat’s Mémoires historiques sur la vie de M. Suard, sur ses écrits, et sur le XVIIIe siècle

  • Caroline Warman (author)
This chapter looks at Garat’s Mémoires sur Suard and identifies various moments in which Garat may have been cautiously alluding to Diderot’s Éléments de physiologie. Warman first notes that Garat potentially wanted his biographical text to be associated with other forthcoming memoirs during this period, including Naigeon’s Mémoires on Diderot, as a way of reinstating his position within the academic community from which he had been shunned. She then quotes an extensive passage from the Mémoires sur Suard on Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle in which Garat describes Fontenelle’s interest in and work on theories of human understanding. Although Fontenelle did actively engage with this topic, Warman argues that, with its framing references to literary fragments and posthumous papers, Garat’s description applies better to Diderot’s Éléments than to Fontenelle. At points, Garat mentions Diderot explicitly by combatting Suard’s criticism of the philosopher, and by claiming that Diderot excelled in one particular – albeit unspecified – field of science. Garat was most likely referring here to Diderot’s work on materialism but consciously masked his meaning for fear of backlash from the state and authoritarian theologians. Ultimately, it is impossible to fully prove that Garat was using his Mémoires sur Suard to allude to Diderot’s Éléments because, according to Warman, Garat ‘masks and conceals’ as much as he ‘suggests and signals’.


Caroline Warman