A Lecture by Gabriel Tarde1

   For a long time the public knew only one thing about M. Tarde, namely that they did not know anything about him at all; his permanent position as magistrate of Sarlat brought this great thinker more attention than the most rapid promotion and it might be said it was as if it was his obscurity that prompted the onset of his renown. Now established in Paris where he occupies an important position in the administration, yesterday at the École des Sciences politiques M. Tarde inaugurated his course on Elements of Sociology. More of an intuitive than a logician, which is not to say any the less thinker than poet, talking about ideas through ideas no doubt but also through the imagination, reinforcing the persuasiveness of his arguments through the authority of fine and noble images, to the extent of introducing the mysterious threads of analogy, the dazzling embroidery of metaphor into the solid material of his reasoning, M. Tarde created a lesson that he alone, philosopher poet in the mould of M. Darlu could produce, and in which, to emphasize their grandeur and poetry, he expands at every moment into the realms of plants and stars the laws that govern societies. The marvellous author of Les Lois de l'imitation ought like Emerson, like Carlyle, to make within sociology a significant place for individuals, and above all those individuals most amply assimilable by society and who are called great men. "The great man comes in his time, or in his own time. But for his country's time he slows it down or he brings it forward as he wishes." M. Tarde can slow ours down as much as he likes. When it got to quarter past three and he apologized for detaining his listeners for such a long time, long drawn out exclamations proved to him that, no doubt according to the laws of imitation, we had already been moulded into his discursive manner of speech, and that we asked of him just one thing, "frequent repetition" to quote  him "of his original individuality".

1. Gabriel Tarde (1843-1904), sociologist, criminologist and social psychologist. In 1896 he came to the École libre des Sciences politiques to teach a course entitled "Elements of political sociology". The inaugural lecture took place on 7 January to an audience of fifty. Proust attended the École libre des Sciences politiques from 1890 to 1893 and must have attended this lecture.


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Created 15.11.19