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Roland Salon



The Roland 'salon' constitutes an interesting case in the developing function of the salon in the revolutionary period. It can only tenuously be called a salon, but this tenuousness is characteristic of the developing function of the salon in political and cultural in revolutionary Paris. Centred around the ambivalent – certainly not courtly – hostessing of Mme Marie-Jeanne 'Manon' Roland at Hôtel Britannique on the rue Guénégaud, the salon was regardless emphatically masculine in its membership: the only female member was Roland herself, who passed the time silently knitting in the corner while the men talked; a ‘political conference for men’ which 'shadowed' the official institutions of the Assembly and political clubs (Kale, 55); more a ‘modern think tank’ than salon of 'mondanité' (Reynolds, 140). Nonetheless, Mme Roland was crucial in the structuring and organisation of this group, which constituted a central gathering of republicans in the period around 1791 – another possible birthplace of the Girondin party.

Roland’s hosting of this so-called le petit comité should be seen as a gathering continuous with other social engagements for an emerging political class, between Assembly, dinner, and the Jacobins Club. The Rolands frequented the Jacobins (M. Roland as a member from Lyon; Mme. Roland, with the other women, watching from the gallery), and her clientele consisted mostly of deputies connected with Brissot (with whom Roland had corresponded before coming to Paris in 1791), and other figures including, infrequently, Robespierre. The majority were, like Pétion, friends of Brissot, or his new associates; the group is essentially Brissotin, rather than Girondin. While Desmoulins did not visit, his newspaper kept updates on the group. Despite this homosocial constitution, Roland collaborated with other salonnières in her organisation: Sophie de Grouchy, Helen Maria Williams, and Louise-Félicité de Kéralio-Robert, all notable republican salonnières themselves. The salon was most prominent in 1791, during Jean-Marie Roland’s ministry.

Through these connections there are further associations with the Cercle sociale and the Société des amis des noirs.


Olivier Blanc, ‘Cercles politiques et « salons » du début de la Révolution (1789-1793)’, Revolutions français (2006)

Steven Kale, French Salons: High Society and Political Sociability from the Old Regime to the Revolution of 1848 (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004)

Antoine Lilti, ‘Sociabilité et mondanité : Les hommes de lettres dans les salons parisiens au XVIIIe siècle’, in French Historical Studies, Vol. 28, No. 3 (Summer 2005), 415-445

Sîan Reynolds, Marriage & Revolution: Monsieur and Madame Roland (Oxford: OUP, 2012)

Marie-Jeanne Roland, Appel à l’impartiale postérité (Éditions Dagorno, 1994)