There seems a trend in scholarly works nowadays to “blue pencil” descriptions of the grotesque happenings that took place during the many periods of inquisition and to concentrate rather on the motives of the inquisitor as well as the results of his action upon the educated and not so educated public at large. This trend appears particularly evident in the current academic writings from Continental universities, unlike the solid, popular but non-academic series, Trente journées qui ont fait la France.
Originally a thèse complimentaire, Professor Defourneaux’s aim, speaking generally, is to acquaint the reader with the reaction of the Spanish tribunals towards French language publications that were infiltrating Spain in the latter half of the eighteenth century. More particularly, L’inquisition . . . presents two well footnoted chapters that constitute the main part of the book: “Inquisitional Censorship in Spain in the Eighteenth Century,” and “French Books and Inquisitional Censorship.” The study of the two previously mentioned aspects is generously supplemented with an extensive bibliography as well as a lengthy and detailed chronological catalogue of those works in French which were condemned by the Spanish Inquisition between 1747 and 1807.
After reading this work we realize that Professor Defourneaux has left us little room to doubt that the writings of les philosophes were having a profound effect on Spanish thought during the Bourbon-Bonaparte era. Despite the severe censorship imposed the Intellectual Revolution, led as it was by men condemned by the Church, nevertheless made itself felt south of the Pyrenees due to the sometime disregard of Inquisitional edicts on the part of the populace. The relative facility with which the Spanish people read French, Professor Defourneaux assures us, is not to be forgotten. The secular, philosophical, and scientific writings of Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, d’Alembert, and others constituted the greatest moral and intellectual danger to the traditional thought of Spain. The Inquisitor Riesco’s complaint that “France, its morals corrupted to the extreme, is introducing the poison of its ideas in Europe” is one which must oft have been heard during these times.
Considering the brevity of this publication, Professor Defourneaux traces his subject with extreme accuracy and systematically concludes that the Inquisition did not close Spain to the secular “Society of the Dialogue” between scientist and philosopher.