Ferdinand Brunetière (1849 - 1906)

Ferdinand Brunetière


Journalists & intellectuals

A confirmed Dreyfusard with respect for France's institutions, and co-founder of the League of the French Homeland in December 1898, Ferdinand Brunetière was born in Toulon on 19 July 1849.

The son of a graduate of the Ecole Polytechnique and inspector for the Navy, Brunetière failed his exams at the Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) in 1869 and 1870. He wrote for the Revue des Deux Mondes starting in 1875, and became the copy-editor from 1877 to 1893. Resolutely opposed to the naturalistic novels of Zola, he did not wish to have a personal opinion on Dreyfus's guilt. This former freethinker, defender of the Roman Catholic ideal, and member of the Académie Française since 1894 endorsed the idea that attacking the honor of the military weakened democracy. On 15 May 1898, he wrote: "when intellectualism and individualism become this infatuated with themselves, it means that they are or they will turn into anarchy, pure and simple."

He thought that the intellectual Dreyfusards were irresponsible and stated "The intervention of a novelist, even a famous one, in a question of military justice appears to me as out of place as a captain in the police force intervening in the question of the origins of Romanticism." Wanting scholars to yield "their logic before the word of an army general," he was the object of a hostile campaign in Le Siècle, which defended the sovereignty of conscience and "the possibility for a wise man to be right in the face of public error."

A year after founding it, Brunetière distanced himself from the League of the French Homeland; he continued the publication of eight volumes of Critical Studies on the History of French Literature; which drew the incisive judgment of André Gide: "What he supports is not always quite right, but it is very solidly established. One might even dare to say that it is all the better established for being less right." A few months after Dreyfus's rehabilitation, Brunetière died in Paris on 9 December 1906.