Les foiblesses d’une jolie femme, by NOUGARET, Pierre Jean Baptiste…

licentious novel sometimes attributed to Restif
NOUGARET, Pierre Jean Baptiste (1742-1823).

Les foiblesses d’une jolie femme, ou Mémoires de Madame de Vilfranc, Ecrits par elle-même. Première [-Seconde] Partie. Amsterdam, Belin, 1779.

Second Edition? Two parts in one volume, 12mo, (160 x 87mm), pp. viii, 94; [iv], 103, wanting the final advertisement (?) leaf to the first volume, in contemporary quarter calf over imitation leather boards, flat spine gilt in compartments, green morocco label (surface rather chipped) vertically lettered in gilt, head of spine chipped.

A scarce early edition of this notorious licentious novel, attributed both the Nougaret and Restif de la Bretonne, presented as the true memoirs of an attractive young lady, one Madame de Vilfranc. It caused a considerable flurry on publication, was republished at least eight times and was widely accepted as a genuine set of memoirs. Even Voltaire was said to have been taken in by the hoax.
However, this latter statement calls into question the date of the first edition, as Voltaire died in 1778. There does appear to be some uncertainty as to when the novel first appeared. MMF states that Barbier, Gay, Mornet and Quérard all give an edition of 1776 and Delcro an edition of 1778, but they were unable to find it. I have been unable to find any trace of an earlier edition in any of the usual on-line databases, but whilst Cioranescu and MMF go for the 1779 first edition, the combined weight of Barbier, Gay, Mornet, Quérard and Delcro is hard to wave aside. Besides, there are at least two 1779 editions, not distinguished by MMF or Cioranescu, the one listed by MMF, with pp. iv, 144; 159 and the present edition (Trinity College Dublin only listed in Copac).
The novel, described as ‘assez érotique’ by Gay, has also been attributed to Restif de la Bretonne, with whom Nougaret collaborated on a number of occasions. ‘On trouve encore là un cordon de sonnette indiscret’, says Gay. The setting is amongst the merchant classes and the action takes place in Paris. In addition to the contemporary popularity of the work, it seems to have had a following in subsequent centuries, published by Lalouette-Douce in 1885, by Edmond Vairel in 1951 and translated into German in 1920 and in 1978.

See Cioranescu 48442; MMF 79.28; Gay II 226 (under ‘faiblesses’).

Keywords: Continental Books
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