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«Spectator»-Type Periodicals in International Perspective

Enlightened Moral Journalism in Europe and North America


Edited By Misia Sophia Doms

As soon as the Spectator model spread from England to continental Europe and began to be incorporated in French, Dutch and German translations and adaptions, the respective journalistic networks and negotiations regularly exceeded local, regional, and even national boundaries and took on international dimensions. The contributions of the present volume outline the historical development and the intricate literary, artistic, journalistic and scientific communication and distribution networks of the moral weeklies and periodical essays inspired by the Spectator prototype in Europe and North America. Thus, these periodicals become visible as parts and products of ramified learned and creative negotiations on genres, writing techniques and topics.

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A Case Study from Canada


Abstract: This article addresses the dissemination of Enlightenment thoughts in the francophone part of Canada at the end of the 18th century. It will demonstrate how the genre of the European spectatorial periodicals was used and adapted by the Frenchman Fleury Mesplet in order to achieve this goal.

Keywords: spectatorial influences in the Province of Quebec, Canadian newspapers, Fleury Mesplet


The French printer Fleury Mesplet came to North America as an immigrant with an ambitious agenda. After working for the Continental Congress in Philadelphia for two years, he was sent to Montreal to spread the ideas of liberty, progress and tolerance in the New World. On his arrival in May 1776, he encountered a very traditional and conservative society living under the wings of the Catholic Church. However, this atmosphere did not prevent him from publishing the first French-speaking periodical in the Province of Quebec, which he used for promoting Enlightenment ideals among the francophone population in the British colony.

The present article traces Fleury Mesplet’s attempt to disseminate the thoughts of the Enlightenment in his periodical La Gazette du commerce et littéraire de Montréal, published between 1778 and 1779. In a first step, I will study the historical and socio-political context of the province and explain the motives behind sending a Frenchman to Montreal. Then, by looking at the characteristics of his journal, I will show how Mesplet emulated the genre of the European Spectator-type or...

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