A magisterial work of omnivorous scholarship, beautifully planned, vigorously executed, the most impressive survey of 18th century thought since Ernst Cassirer's classic study. Those familiar with Professor Gay's The Party of Humanity need not be told that the author is an historian who combines elegantly persuasive phrase-making with a formidable command of cultural and political events. Here the scope of inquiry has widened to include all the representative figures of the Enlightenment, German and English, as well as French, unfolding a panoramic reassessment of ""the first truly modern century."" The portraits of Voltaire or Lessing, Hume or Rousseau, Gibbon and Diderot, Goethe and Kant; the radical and much misunderstood doctrine of Progress; concepts such as ""natural law"" and ""natural religion""; the struggle between mythical and critical thinking; the disgust with royalist or institutional corruption; the search for new values and subsequent disenchantments--all these issues, crusades and crusaders are viewed as engendering, what the subtitle calls, ""the rise of modern paganism."" The old school analysis by the philosophes of Becker's Heavenly City is energetically disputed and a far more sophisticated, daring summing-up along dialectical lines is splendidly argued. A must.