Le Sopha, Conte Moral. by CREBILLON, Claude-Prosper-Jolyot de, 'Crébillon fils',…

CREBILLON, Claude-Prosper-Jolyot de, 'Crébillon fils', (1701-1777).

Le Sopha, Conte Moral. Première [-Second] Volume. ‘Gaznah’, ie Paris, 1742.

Second Edition. Two volumes, 12mo in eights and fours, (162 x 92mm), pp. [vi], 298; [vi], 264, title pages in red and black, in contemporary calf, spines gilt in compartments, head of spines chipped, upper joint of first volume cracking, other joints beginning to show some wear, extremities bumped, red morocco labels lettered and numbered in gilt, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt, with the bookplate of Anthony Conyers Surtees in volume one.

The second edition, following the very scarce Le Sopha couleur de roze, 1120 de l’Hégire, a Gaznah, also published in 1742. Neither Jones nor Tchemerzine had seen a copy of this earlier edition (Jones just lists the present edition as the first) but it does exist: OCLC lists copies at Cambridge, V&A, Penn, McGill and Texas.
Le Sopha is Crébillon fils’ most brilliant novel. It was enormously popular in its time, with its humour, its mild eroticism and its fashionable eastern setting, and is still entertaining today. Dozens of editions have been published from the eigtheenth century to the present. The central character was thought to have been based on Louis XV, a suspicion which was enough to enable Madame de Pompadour to have Crébillon exiled for five years. Laclos further immortalised the work by making it the favourite reading for Madame de Merteuil in his Les Liaisons dangereuses.
‘Crébillon déteste et méprise l’étroite société qu’il décrite, ses hauts personnages hypocrites, corrompus, égoïstes, méchants, inutiles, médisants, fats et quelquefois sots, il fait même passer l’expression satirique de sa haine avant l’intérêt romanesque... A part deux chapitres du Sopha qui évoquent avec lyrisme le franc et vrai plaisir d’aimer, tout le reste de l’oeuvre est pessimiste et grimaçant... à la galerie des imposteurs et des vicieux s’oppose une galerie de libertins lucides, mais aussi antipathiques, et dont aucun n’est vraiment heureux’ (Henri Coulet, Le Roman au XVIII Siècle, pp. 365-366). We can be thankful for those two chapters, which are chapter seven and the final chapter.

Jones p. 79; Tchemerzine IV, p. 193 (b) and p. 194 (figs. I & II); Gay III 1135; see Cioranescu 21744.

OCLC lists McGill, Arkansas, Yale, Harvard, Texas, Bodley & V&A; RLIN adds Princeton and Penn.

Keywords: Continental Books
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