Maistre, Joseph de

Maistre, Joseph de zhôzĕfˈ də mĕsˈtrə [key], 1753–1821, French writer and diplomat. Born in Savoy, he was Sardinian ambassador at St. Petersburg from 1803 to 1817. A passionate Roman Catholic and royalist, he was master of a rigidly logical doctrine and the possessor of a great store of knowledge. These qualities, combined with a fine ability in writing French prose, made him perhaps the most powerful literary enemy of 18th-century rationalism, in which he delighted to detect logical weakness and shallowness. His principal works were Du pape [on the pope] (1819) and Les Soirées de Saint-Pétersbourg [discussions in St. Petersburg] (1821). They develop his idea that the world should be one, ruled absolutely by the pope as the spiritual ruler, with no temporal ruler having an independent authority.

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