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A Wicked Company: The Forgotten Radicalism of the European Enlightenmentby Philipp Blom
Synopses & Reviews
A Wicked Company tells the remarkable story of Baron Thierry Holbachs Parisian salon, an epicenter of freethinking that brought together the greatest minds of the 18th century. Over wine-soaked dinner parties, the finest intellectuals of the Western world—figures such as Denis Diderot, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, David Hume, Adam Smith, Horace Walpole, and Benjamin Franklin—matched wits and scandalized one another with their own ever-more-provocative ideas. Writers of genius all, full of wit and courage (but also personal contradictions, doubts, conflicts of conscience, and their fair share of open arguments and love affairs), this group of friends embodied an astonishing radicalism in European thought, so uncompromising and bold that its bracing, liberating, humanist vision has still not been fully realized. As acclaimed historian Philipp Blom shows, these thinkers analysis of our culture remains as valid as it was then, and has lost little of its potential to shock—or to force us to confront with new eyes debates about our society and its future.
The acclaimed author of The Vertigo Years tells the remarkable story of the Parisian salon that hosted the eighteenth centurys greatest minds and changed the course of Western philosophy
Blom skillfully evokes the characters of these young men . [His] coupling of the lives of the philosophes with their thought helps make their ideas less desiccated than they might otherwise have appeared in the hands of a more academic writer. He has an admirable ability to get to the heart of what Spinoza, Hume or Voltaire argued.”—Wall Street Journal
The flourishing of radical philosophy in Baron Thierry Holbachs Paris salon from the 1750s to the 1770s stands as a seminal event in Western history. Holbachs house was an international epicenter of revolutionary ideas and intellectual daring, bringing together such original minds as Denis Diderot, Laurence Sterne, David Hume, Adam Smith, Ferdinando Galiani, Horace Walpole, Benjamin Franklin, Guillaume Raynal, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
In A Wicked Company, acclaimed historian Philipp Blom retraces the fortunes of this exceptional group of friends. All brilliant minds, full of wit, courage, and insight, their thinking created a different and radical French Enlightenment based on atheism, passion, reason, and truly humanist thinking. A startlingly relevant work of narrative history, A Wicked Company forces us to confront with new eyes the foundational debates about modern society and its future.
About the Author
Philipp Blom is the author of The Vertigo Years, Enlightening the World, and To Have and To Hold. He contributes articles to the Times Literary Supplement and the Guardian, among others. He lives in Vienna, Austria.
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