What did he believe? I see him get posted a lot, especially in regards to monarchists, and I'm genuinely interested. Also De Maistre thread.
Oh please. He was just into it as a young man, while everyone was doing it. One of his biographers says that he cried a whole night, when one of his friends didn't take the last communion on his dead.
There's a pretty good book on him called "A Modern Maistre." He's probably most popularized by Israel Berlin, but it's a very inaccurate caricature. On balance, very intelligent, very well educated, and really rather subtle in his opinions --- in line with much of the Enlightenment. His masterwork is a rather long Platonic dialogue called ``St. Petersburg Dialogue.'' (He was ambassador in Russia,---partly for political reasons, again pointing against the typical interpretations of him as less modern-minded... funny anecdote, he was very successful at converting aristocratic ladies at court in Russia to Catholicism and the Tzar had to ask him to stop).
I like Bradley's book, but the best work on his philosophy (as opposed to his theology or just a biographical bit) is L'Autorité contre les Lumières by JY Pranchère. In fact it's such a good and thorough study of his thought that it bums me, since I'm working on a paper about him at the moment and find he picked up on most of my ideas already.
It's nice how the style has a very baroque ring to it. It is no coincidence since Maistre was in love with 17th century philosophy.
>Technically you can't be Mason and catholic as well
Not so much. Masonry is a group, Martinism is a sect. The Vatican might not be fond of the former, but it doesn't impact on the individual belief compared to Martinism.
He actually hoped for a reconciliation between the churches. If you read the Soirées and some of his letters, he goes on about how catholicism is 'Greek in content, Latin in style' and such.
I don't believe he was a Martinist. He had a taste for the esoteric and the hermetic, but he was a devoted catholic who also endorsed the dogma and papal infallibility. The view of JdM as a Martinist is usually advanced by orthodox catholics who don't like him very much.