“The Title of Lawyer Leads Nowhere!”: The “Physiology” of the Law Student in Paul Gavarni, Émile de la Bédollierre and George Sand
In the 1830s and 1840s, the law student type develops into a pervasive and enduring cultural topos. The law student type, as sketched by Émile Gigaut de la Bédollierre and Paul Gavarni in Les Français peints par eux-mêmes (1840-42), as well by George Sand, in her novel Horace (1841) written in response to it, accurately reflects the historical appeal of law among the educated elites as well as concern over the role of education in social mobility during the July monarchy. The type’s effectiveness, however, depends less on its ability to make an historical situation legible than on its playful appeal to the reader’s connivance. The three authors maintain an ironic distance from their student portraits that makes the reader part of the satire. The same expansion of liberal education that led to the proliferation of students also created a male readership that could see itself in these critical yet sympathetic portraits.