Fanaticism, frisson, and Fin de Siécle France: Catholics, conspiracy theory, and Leo Taxil's 'Mystification' - Part 1

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Abstract

On November 21, 1907, the Sydney-based Catholic Press—a forerunner to the modern Catholic Weekly—published an anonymous (and probably syndicated) article entitled ‘The World’s Worst Liar’, subtitled ‘Gabriel Jogand and His Hoax’.1 This somewhat distasteful piece of post-mortem polemic gave a brief and highly selective account of the late nineteenth century ‘mystification’ of the erstwhile French anticlerical, expelled and disgraced Freemason, and later feigned convert to the Roman Church, Gabriel Jogand-Pagès (1854–1907). A figure better known to posterity by his nom de plume: Léo Taxil. The article, with some morbid satisfaction, held that Taxil had ‘died despised by those who had known him and by the great world he had cheated’. Among other pieces of invective, the Catholic Press article referred to Taxil as a ‘horrible buffoon’, whose ‘thrilling fairy tale under the guise of fact took the Catholic world by storm’. More accurately perhaps, however, it called him ‘the most successful fraud of the nineteenth century’ – an appellation Taxil would have savoured.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-118
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society
Volume41
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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