Émile de Girardin (22 June 1802 – 27 April 1881) was a French journalist, publisher and politician. He 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 a hundred thousand subscribers, and his inexpensive daily newspaper La Presse undersold the competition by half, thanks to its 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 a brilliant polemicist, a master of controversy, with pungent short sentences that immediately caught the reader's attention.[1]

Émile de Girardin
Photograph of Girardin (1876)
Member of the Chamber of Deputies
for Seine
In office
7 November 1877 – 27 April 1881
Preceded byJules Simon
Succeeded bySeveriano de Heredia
ConstituencyParis (9th)
Member of the Chamber of Deputies
for Bas-Rhin
In office
1850 – 2 December 1851
Preceded byGustave Goldenberg
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Member of the Chamber of Deputies
for Tarn-et-Garonne
In office
10 July 1842 – 16 July 1846
Preceded byBertrand Faure-d'Ère
Succeeded byJean-Pierre Bourjade
Member of the Chamber of Deputies
for Creuse
In office
17 August 1846 – 24 February 1848
Preceded byLouis-Jean-Henry Aubusson de Soubrebost
Succeeded byJoseph-Edmond Fayolle
In office
22 June 1834 – 9 July 1842
Preceded byAdolphe Bourgeois
Succeeded byAntoine Regnauld
Personal details
Born(1802-06-22)22 June 1802
Paris, Seine, France
Died27 April 1881(1881-04-27) (aged 78)
Paris, Seine, France
Political partyResistance Party (1834–1842)
Movement Party (1842–1848)
Moderate (1850–1851)
Left Republican (1877–1881)
(m. 1831; died 1855)
Wilhelmine Brunold, Gräfin von Tiefenbach
(m. 1856; div. 1872)
ProfessionJournalist, writer, publisher



Early life and career

Portrait of Girardin by Carolus-Duran (1876)

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.[2] He founded the illustrated literary magazine Musée des familles in 1833.[citation needed]

In 1836 he inaugurated penny press journalism in a popular conservative organ, La Presse, the subscription to which was only forty francs a year. It was the first newspaper anywhere to rely on paid advertising to lower its price, extend its readership and increase its profitability and the formula was soon copied by all titles.[3] 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 24 February 1848 sent a note to Louis Philippe demanding his resignation and the regency of the duchess of Orléans.[2]

Political career

Satirical cartoon on parliamentarians. Girardin is the stick-brandishing figure dressed as Harlequin

In the Legislative Assembly he voted with the Mountain.[2] 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 Frederick Engels in a jointly written article carried in their newspaper Neue Rheinisch Zeitung Politisch-Ökonomische Revue No. 4.[4] 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.[5]

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.[2]

Final years


Of his many subsequent enterprises the most successful was the purchase of Le Petit Journal, which served to advocate the policy of Adolphe 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 granddaughter of Prince Frederick of Nassau. He was divorced from his second wife in 1872.[2] He died in Paris.

The long list of his social and political writings includes:[2]

  • De la presse périodique au XIXe 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 à l'Assemblée Nationale (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 Condamné 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 à 1846, articles extracted from the daily and weekly press (12 vols., 1858).

See also



  1. ^ Joanna Richardson, "Emile de Girardin 1806–1881," History Today (1976) 26#12 pp 811–17.
  2. ^ a b c d e f   One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Girardin, Émile de". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 12 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 46.
  3. ^ Clyde Thogmartin (1998). The National Daily Press of France. pp. 53–54. ISBN 978-1-883479-20-6.
  4. ^ "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.
  5. ^ "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

  • O'Brien, Laura. "Monsieur Vipérin: Émile de Girardin and the republican satirical press in 1848." French History 30.2 (2016): 197–217.
  • Richardson, Joanna. "Emile de Girardin 1806–1881," History Today (1976) 26#12 pp 811–17. online; focused on his notorious private life
  • Zelden, Theodore. France, 1848–1945: Volume II: Intellect, Taste, and Anxiety (1977) pp 494–97.