Émile de Girardin (portrait by Nadar)
Émile de Girardin (1802-1881), was a French journalist, publicist, and politician. He was born in Paris in 1802, the son of General Alexandre de Girardin and of Madame Dupuy, wife of a Parisian advocate.
His first publication was a novel, Emile, 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 Almanack de France (1834) ran to a million copies.
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. He 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 Liberty, the sale of which was forbidden in the public streets. He supported Emile 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 the 16th of 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. Emile de Girardin married in 1831 Delphine Gay, and after her death in 1855 Guillemette Josephine Brunold, countess von Tieffenbach, widow of Prince Frederick of Nassau. He was divorced from his second wife in 1872.
The long list of his social and political writings includes:
- De la presse periodique au XIX" siècle (1837)
- De l'instruction publique (1838)
- Études politiques (1838)
- De la liberté de la presse et du journalisme (1842)
- Le Droit au travail au Luxembourg et a l'Assembles Nationals (2 vols, 1848)
- Les Cinquante-deux (1849, etc.), a series of articles on current parliamentary questions
- La Politique universelle, décrets de l'avenir (Brussels, 1852)
- Le Condamne du 6 mars (1867), an account of his own differences with the government in 1867 when he was fined 5000 fr. for an article in La Liberté
- Le Dossier de la guerre (1877), a collection of official documents
- Questions de mon temps, 1836 á 1846, articles extracted from the daily and weekly press (12 vols., 1858).
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