Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 386–402 | Cite as

A French dandy in New York: Robert de Montesquiou and American visions of France in the Progressive era

  • Timothy VerhoevenEmail author


This article explores American stereotypes of France in the Progressive era by analysing the little-known visit of Count Robert de Montesquiou. The most famous dandy in fin-de-siècle Paris, Montesquiou arrived in 1903 to give a series of talks on literature. His visit, however, sparked a wave of hostility which reveals the role of gender, and particularly masculinity, in driving francophobia. At the same time, his ability to win an admiring audience attests to the appeal of France. The response to Montesquiou thus illuminates the negative and positive stereotypes which together made up American perspectives of France in this era.


France United States masculinity Progressive era stereotypes 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Montesquiou’s visit does not appear in Jacques Portes, Une fascination réticente: Les États-Unis dans l’ opinion française (Nancy: Presses Universitaires de Nancy, 1990).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Sun (New York), January 18,1903. Many of the press articles related to Montesquiou’s visit are contained in his private papers, La Vie et les OEuvres de Robert de Montesquiou, Le voyage aux États-Unis, Nouvelles Acquisitions Françaises (NAF), 15054–15061, Bibliothè-que Nationale (Paris, France).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Telegraph (New York), January 18, 1903, in NAF 15059.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    As a sample, Seth D. Armus, French Anti-Americanism (1930-1948): Critical Moments in a Complex History (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2007)Google Scholar
  5. 4a.
    Denis Lacorne, Jacques Rupnik, and Marie-France Toinet, eds., The Rise and Fall of Anti-Americanism: A Century of French Perception (Hampshire: Macmillan, 1990)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 4b.
    Philippe Roger, The American Enemy: A Story of French Anti-Americanism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    Elizabeth Brett White, American Opinion of France: From Lafayette to Poincaré (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1927), 262.Google Scholar
  8. 6.
    Jean-Baptiste Duroselle, La France et les Etats-Unis, des origines à nos jours (Paris: Seuil, 1976), 89.Google Scholar
  9. 7.
    Frank Costigliola, ‘L’image de la France aux États-Unis’, Cahiers de l’IHTP 28 (1994): 93–109. See alsoGoogle Scholar
  10. 7a.
    Pierre Verdaguer, ‘La France vue par l’Amérique: considérations sur la pér-ennité des stéréotypes’, Contemporary French Civilization 20, no. 2 (1996): 240–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 7b.
    Eugen Weber, ‘Of Stereotypes and of the French’, Journal of Contemporary History 25, no. 2 (1990): 169–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 8.
    Anne C. Loveland, Emblem of Liberty: The Image of Lafayette in the American Mind (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1971)Google Scholar
  13. 8a.
    Lloyd Kramer, Lafayette in Two Worlds: Public Cultures and Personal Identities in an Age of Revolutions (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  14. 9.
    Robert J. Young, American by Degrees: The Extraordinary Lives of French Ambassador Jules Jusserand (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009).Google Scholar
  15. 10.
    Madame Léon Grandin, A Parisienne in Chicago: Impressions of the World’s Columbian Exposition, trans. Mary Beth Raycraft (Urbana-Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2010). On American travellers to France, seeGoogle Scholar
  16. 10a.
    Harvey A. Levenstein, Seductive Journey: American Tourists in France from Jefferson to the Jazz Age (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998). On cultural exchangesCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 10b.
    Henry Blumenthal, American and French Culture, 1800-1900: Interchanges in Art, Science, Literature, and Society (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1975) andGoogle Scholar
  18. 10c.
    Howard Mumford Jones, America and French Culture, 1750-1848 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1927).Google Scholar
  19. 11.
    Bertram M. Gordon, ‘The Decline of a Cultural Icon: France in American Perspective’, French Historical Studies 22, no. 4 (1999): 625–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 12.
    Sacha Bernard, A l’ ombre de Marcel Proust: Robert de Montesquiou, Sarah Bernhardt, les Rostand (Paris: A.G Nizet, 1978).Google Scholar
  21. 13.
    W Graham Robertson, Time Was: the Reminiscences of W. Graham Robertson (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1931), 99.Google Scholar
  22. 14.
    A French Man of Letters’, The Critic; an illustrated monthly review of literature, art, andlife 41 (1902): 541.Google Scholar
  23. 15.
    Bertrand Antoine, Les curiosités esthétiques de Robert de Montesquiou (Genève: Droz, 1996)Google Scholar
  24. 15a.
    Patrick Chaleyssin, Robert de Montesquiou: mécène et dandy (Paris: Somogy, 1992)Google Scholar
  25. 15b.
    Bertrand Schneider, Montesquiou, le dandy magnifique (Lyon: Baudelaire:, 2009). See as wellGoogle Scholar
  26. 15c.
    Constance Classen, The Colour of Angels: Cosmology, Gender and the Aesthetic Imagination (London: Routledge, 1998), 113–4.Google Scholar
  27. 16.
    Figaro, December 5, 1902.Google Scholar
  28. 17.
    Elisabeth de Clermont-Tonnerre, Montesquiou et Marcel Proust (Paris: E. Flammarion, 1925), 90.Google Scholar
  29. 18.
    Flament to Montesquiou, no date, NAF 15054.Google Scholar
  30. 19.
    Vance Thompson, French Portraits (Boston: R.G. Badger, 1900), 26.Google Scholar
  31. 20.
    On Wilde’s tour, see Lloyd Lewis and Henry Justin Smith, Oscar Wilde Discovers America (New York: B. Blom, 1967)Google Scholar
  32. 20a.
    Mary Warner Blanchard, Oscar Wilde’s America: Counterculture in the Gilded Age (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998)Google Scholar
  33. 20b.
    Roy Morris jr, Declaring His Genius: Oscar Wilde in North America (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2013)Google Scholar
  34. 20c.
    David M. Friedman, Wilde in America: Oscar Wilde and the Invention of Modern Celebrity (New York: W.W. Norton, 2014).Google Scholar
  35. 21.
    Blanchard, Oscar Wilde’s America, 3.Google Scholar
  36. 22.
    Commercial Advertiser (New York), January 31, 1903, in NAF 15059.Google Scholar
  37. 23.
    William Dean Howells, Criticism and Fiction (London: Osgood, McIlvaine, 1891), 8.Google Scholar
  38. 24.
    Frank Norris, The Responsibilities of the Novelist (New York: Doubleday, Page 1903), 19.Google Scholar
  39. 25.
    Gail Bederman, Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 26.
    John F. Kasson, Houdini, Tarzan, and the Perfect Man: the White Male Body and the Challenge of Modernity in America (New York: Hill and Wang, 2001).Google Scholar
  41. 27.
    Clifford Putney, Muscular Christianity: Manhood and Sports in Protestant America, 1880- 1920 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001)Google Scholar
  42. 27a.
    John Pettegrew, Brutes in Suits: Male Sensibility in America, 1890-1920 (Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press, 2007)Google Scholar
  43. 27b.
    Kevin P. Murphy, Political Manhood: Red Bloods, Mollycoddles, & the Politics of Progressive Era Reform (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 27c.
    E. Anthony Rotundo, American Manhood: Transformations in Masculinity from the Revolution to the Modern Era (New York: Basic Books, 1993).Google Scholar
  45. 28.
    ‘The French Character’, Atlantic Monthly 5, no. 29 (1860): 270.Google Scholar
  46. 29.
    Horace Greeley, Glances at Europe (New York: DeWitt and Davenport, 1851), 135.Google Scholar
  47. 30.
    Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad, or, the New Pilgrim’s Progress (Hartford: American Publishing Company, 1869), 235.Google Scholar
  48. 31.
    ‘Is the French Republic a Failure?’, American Monthly Review of Reviews, 16 (1897): 347.Google Scholar
  49. 32.
    Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 5, 1890.Google Scholar
  50. 33.
    Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York), May 16, 1894.Google Scholar
  51. 34.
    New York Tribune, December 19, 1897.Google Scholar
  52. 35.
    Kristin L. Hoganson, Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998).Google Scholar
  53. 36.
    Roosevelt to Cecil Arthur Spring Rice, May 29, 1897, in The Letters of Theodore Roosevelt, ed. Elting E. Morison, vol. 1 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1951), 620.Google Scholar
  54. 37.
    New York Times, May 25, 1902.Google Scholar
  55. 38.
    Alfred Allan Lewis, Ladies and Not So Gentle Women: Elisabeth Marbury, Anne Morgan, Elsie de Wolfe, Anne Vanderbilt, and Their Times (New York: Viking, 2000).Google Scholar
  56. 39.
    Elisabeth Marbury, My Crystal Ball (New York: Boni & Liveright, 1923), 117.Google Scholar
  57. 40.
    Percy Mitchell to Montesquiou, December 20, 1902. NAF 15054.Google Scholar
  58. 41.
    New York Herald, December 27, 1902.Google Scholar
  59. 42.
    North American, January 1, 1903.Google Scholar
  60. 43.
    Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 4, 1903.Google Scholar
  61. 44.
    Paul Helleu to Montesquiou, no date, in NAF 15054.Google Scholar
  62. 45.
    Jean-François Raffaëlli to Montesquiou, no date, in NAF 15054.Google Scholar
  63. 46.
    John W. Harding to Montesquiou, January 21, 1903, in ibid.Google Scholar
  64. 47.
    Marcel Schwob to Montesquiou, November 22, 1902, in ibid.Google Scholar
  65. 48.
    Marcel Schwob to Montesquiou, December 20, 1902, in ibid.Google Scholar
  66. 49.
    Marion Crawford to Montesquiou, March 5, 1903, in ibid.Google Scholar
  67. 50.
    Marion Crawford to Montesquiou, no date, in ibid.Google Scholar
  68. 51.
    The American, January 21, 1903, in NAF 15059.Google Scholar
  69. 52.
    Sun (New York), January 20, 1903, in ibid.Google Scholar
  70. 53.
    Evening World (New York), January 21, 1903, in ibid.Google Scholar
  71. 54.
    For coverage of the duel, see New York Times, June 13 and June 20, 1897.Google Scholar
  72. 55.
    Sun (New York), January 12, 1903, in NAF 15059.Google Scholar
  73. 56.
    Telegraph (New York), January 18, 1903, in ibid.Google Scholar
  74. 57.
    Evening World (New York), January 20, 1903, in NAF 15059.Google Scholar
  75. 58.
    Commercial Advertiser (New York), January 31, 1903, in ibid.Google Scholar
  76. 59.
    Sun (New York), January 12, 1903, in ibid.Google Scholar
  77. 60.
    Evening Journal (New York), January 22, 1903, in ibid.Google Scholar
  78. 61.
    Morning Telegraph (New York), January 24, 1903, in ibid.Google Scholar
  79. 62.
    News Tribune (Detroit), March 1, 1903, in NAF 15061.Google Scholar
  80. 63.
    New York Press, February 6, 1903, in NAF 15060.Google Scholar
  81. 64.
    Evening Journal (New York), February 6, 1903, in ibid.Google Scholar
  82. 65.
    NAF 15058.Google Scholar
  83. 66.
    Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 6, 1903.Google Scholar
  84. 67.
    New York Times, February 13, 1902.Google Scholar
  85. 68.
    New York Times, March 13, 1903.Google Scholar
  86. 69.
    Philadelphia Inquirer, March 7, 1903, in NAF 15061.Google Scholar
  87. 70.
    Public Ledger, March 7, 1903, in ibid.Google Scholar
  88. 71.
    Telegraph (Philadelphia), March 7, 1903, in ibid.Google Scholar
  89. 72.
    Lawrence W. Levine, Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998).Google Scholar
  90. 73.
    Ann Douglas, The Feminization of American Culture (New York: Knopf, 1977)Google Scholar
  91. 73a.
    Jane Tompkins, Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction, 1790-1860 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985).Google Scholar
  92. 74.
    Charles Dawbarn, France and the French (New York: Macmillan, 1911), 40–1.Google Scholar
  93. 75.
    Evening Bulletin (Philadelphia), March 6, 1903.Google Scholar
  94. 76.
    Tribune (New York), January 24, 1903, in NAF 15059.Google Scholar
  95. 77.
    NAF 15057.Google Scholar
  96. 78.
    Levenstein, Seductive Journey, 185.Google Scholar
  97. 79.
    New Yorker, February 11, 1903, in NAF 15060.Google Scholar
  98. 80.
    Detroit Free Press, February 20, 1903, in ibid.Google Scholar
  99. 81.
    NAF 15059.Google Scholar
  100. 82.
    La Presse, April 12, 1903.Google Scholar
  101. 83.
    TR to George Otto Trevelyan, October 1, 1911, in The Letters of Theodore Roosevelt, ed. Elting E. Morison, vol. 7 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1954), 380. See also Serge Ricard, ‘An Atlantic triangle in the 1900s: Theodore Roosevelt’s ‘special relationships’ with France and Britain’, Journal of Transatlantic Studies 8, no. 3 (2010): 202–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  102. 84.
    The State Department collated the list of complaints in 112 Gripes about the French, Department of State, 1945. One of the legacies of the wartime experience was a vision of France as deeply anti-Semitic. See Stanley Hoffmann, ‘Battling Clichés’, French Historical Studies 19, no. 2 (1995): 321–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  103. 85.
    For scholarly analyses of this burst of francophobia, see the collection of essays in French Politics, Culture & Society 21, no. 2 (2003). For an example of anti-French literature, Kenneth R. Timmerman, The French Betrayal of America (New York: Crown, 2005).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Board of Transatlantic Studies 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Philosophical, Historical and International StudiesMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations