Émile de Girardin

Émile de Girardin circa 1876
Émile de Girardin (portrait by Nadar)

Émile de Girardin (22 June 1802 – 27 April 1881) was a French journalist, publisher and politician. was the most successful and flamboyant French journalist of the era, presenting himself as a promoter of mass education through mass journalism' His magazines reached over hundred thousand subscribers, and his inexpensive daily newspaper La Presse undersold the competition by half, thanks to is cheaper production and heavier advertising. Like most prominent journalists, Girardin was deeply involved in politics, and served in parliament. To his bitter disappointment, he never held high office. He was of brilliant polemicist, a master of controversy, with pungent short sentences that immediately caught the reader's attention. [1]


Girardin was born in Paris, the bastard son of General Alexandre de Girardin and of his mistress Madame Dupuy (née Fagnan), wife of a Parisian advocate.

His first publication was a novel, Émile, dealing with his birth and early life, and appeared under the name of Girardin in 1827. He became inspector of fine arts under the Martignac ministry just before the revolution of 1830, and was an energetic and passionate journalist. Besides his work on the daily press he issued miscellaneous publications which attained an enormous circulation. His Journal des connaissances utiles had 120,000 subscribers, and the initial edition of his Almanach de France (1834) ran to a million copies. He founded the illustrated literary magazine Musée des familles in 1833.

In 1836 he inaugurated penny press journalism in a popular Conservative organ, La Presse, the subscription to which was only forty francs a year. This undertaking involved him in a duel with Armand Carrel, the fatal result of which made him refuse satisfaction to later opponents. In 1839 he was excluded from the Chamber of Deputies, to which he had been elected four times, on the plea of his foreign birth, but was admitted in 1842. He resigned early in February 1847, and on February 24, 1848 sent a note to Louis Philippe demanding his resignation and the regency of the duchess of Orléans.

In the Legislative Assembly he voted with the Mountain. In 1850, Girardin wrote an article called Le Socialisme et l'Impot. In his article, Girardin suggested that there was a "good" socialism and a "bad" socialism. This article was reviewed by Karl Marx and Fredeerick Engels in a jointly written article carried in their newspaper--Neue Rheinisch Zeitung Politisch-Ökonomische Revue No. 4.[2] Giradin defined "good socialism" as promoting harmony between capital and labor, while "bad socialism" promoted war between capital and labor. Marx and Engels criticized Girardin's theory of good socialism as not being socialism at all. Girardin's "good socialism" actually ignored workers in society and concluded that society was composed exclusively of capitalists.[3]

Later, Girardin pressed eagerly in his paper for the election of Prince Louis Napoleon, of whom he afterwards became one of the most violent opponents. In 1856 he sold La Presse, only to resume it in 1862, but its vogue was over, and Girardin started a new journal, La Liberté, the sale of which was forbidden in the public streets. He supported Émile Ollivier and the Liberal Empire, but plunged into vehement journalism again to advocate war against Prussia.

Of his many subsequent enterprises the most successful was the purchase of Le Petit Journal, which served to advocate the policy of Thiers, though he himself did not contribute. The crisis of 16 May 1877, when Jules Simon fell from power, made him resume his pen to attack MacMahon and the party of reaction in La France and in Le Petit Journal. Émile de Girardin married in 1831 Delphine Gay, and after her death in 1855 Guillemette Josephine Brunold, countess von Tieffenbach, morganatic stepdaughter of Prince Frederick of Nassau. He was divorced from his second wife in 1872. He died in Paris.

The long list of his social and political writings includes:

See also


  1. Joanna Richardson, "Emile de Girardin 1806-1881," History Today (1976) 26#12 pp 811-17.
  2. "A Review of Le Socialisme et l'Impot" by Émile de Girardin" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 10 (International Publishers: New York, 1978) pp. 326-337.
  3. "A Review of Le Socialisme et l'Impot" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 10, pp. 336-337.


Further reading

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