Beaumont, Gustave de (1802–66), French writer on Ireland, was born at Beaumont-la-Chartre in the département of the Sarthe. He belonged to a conservative, aristocratic family, his full name being Gustave-Auguste de la Bonnière, comte de Beaumont, but, like his friend and fellow lawyer Count Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–59), he adopted liberal opinions from a ‘love of liberty and human dignity’ (Carpentier). The two men were employed together in judicial capacities at Versailles (mid 1820s), went on an official fact-finding mission to the United States (1831) and, after leaving government service, visited England (1833) and then Ireland (July–Aug. 1835).
Beaumont published subsequently L'Irlande sociale, politique et religieuse (2 vols, 1839; 8th ed., 1881). An analysis of Irish society preceded by a long historical introduction, it was an instant success, going into several editions and widely influencing French opinion on Ireland. Beaumont obtained much information from well-known published sources but his book contains no clear evidence of his having made inquiries while in Ireland. It was a partisan work that equated catholic assertiveness under Daniel O'Connell (qv) with democracy on the American model. An English translation, by W. C. Taylor, soon appeared (1839). Though Beaumont was preceded by several other French visitors to Ireland who later put their impressions into print – the first was probably another Angevin, François de la Boullaye le Gouz (1610–68), who visited Ireland in 1644 – he was the first Frenchman to write a full-length book pertaining wholly to Ireland. Tocqueville's notes on Ireland took the form of a travel diary, which however was not published until 1958, when it appeared in the fifth volume of J. P. Mayer's 18-volume edition of Tocqueville's Oeuvres complètes (1951–77). In the same year appeared an English translation, edited by Mayer. Tocqueville's Irish diary is valuable as a source on the catholic church in the mid 1830s and, unlike Beaumont's two-volume work, contains interviews with public figures.