The Paris journal of the Abbé Mugnier, which he kept for sixty years (1879–1939), was published by Mercure de France in 1985 and has yet to been done into English. It is the remarkable record of a priest who knew and confessed the cream of the old aristocracy of the Faubourg Saint-Germain and who was also the friend and sometimes the intimate of many of the leading literary and artistic lights of the time.

The Abbé’s nobler qualities have been somewhat swamped by his reputation as the spiritual guide of the gratin and by his long remembered quips, as, for example, his reply to the aging actress who asked him if it was a sin for her to admire her own beauty when she looked in a mirror: “No, my dear, it’s only an error.” Or to the avid social climber who, finding that each new level he attained was not the “true” faubourg, asked impatiently if the true faubourg was simply...

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