Charles Peguy: perpetual infidel
Derrick, June Elizabeth
Rath, R. John
Master of Arts
Charles Peguy was a highly individualistic thinker. So personally tailor-made were many of his ideas that even his friends and supporters found him difficult to follow intellectually. However, Peguy's eccentricities were to a great extent shaped and colored by the political and social upheaval of his nation. This thesis attempted both to elucidate the uniqueness of this man and to use him as a window into fin de siccle Franse. Four major areas are analyzed in order to present this portrait of Peguy as a touchstone for his times: his socialism, his involvement in the Dreyfus Affair, his journalistic effort in the Cahiers de la Quinzaine, and his attitude towards French nationalism. Peguy's socialism certainly attracted no adherents and founded no movement. His utopian outlook was engendered by a disenchantment with the turmoil of French parliamentary politics, and produced in Peguy a sense of urgency shared by many of his countrymen. Peguy, the poet, is particularly important to the historian dealing with the Dreyfus Affair. Only a poet could articulate the transcendent qualities the fate of a lone army captain came to represent for the French Republic. Dreyfusism marked Peguy's life as surely as it changed the French body politic. Peguy's newspaper, the Cahiers de la Ouinzaine, gave concrete expression to many of his ideas. In addition, the Cahiers brought together the writings of many discordant thinkers, resulting in what was truly a potpourri of diverse elements of French intellectual life. Even in his distorted patriotism, Peguy reflected the stance of many Frenchmen. His hatred of positivism his distrust of intellectuals, and his fear for French security combined in a call for heroic action which found a ready response in the youth of France. As a socialist; Dreyfusist, fin de siecle writer, and militant chauvinist Peguy, despite his idiosyncrasies, truly lived the various phases of the history of his own time.