Compere Mathieu ou les Bigarrures de l'Esprit Humain... Tome Premier [-Troisième]. Londres, 1770.
Three volumes, 8vo (165 x 100 mm), pp. [iv], 321; [iv], 340; [iv], 374, wanting the half title to the first volume, uncut throughout in slightly later, nineteenth century, brown and blue marbled boards, with the library stamp of le Comte Guillaume de Limburg Stirum on the half title to the second and third volumes, from the library of Claude Lebédel.
A scarce early edition of this controversial anti-clerical novel, the plot of which, and even entire sentences, are lifted from Voltaire's Candide. This important libertine novel is written by the defrocked monk and satirist, Du Laurens, who was famous for his sharp attacks on clerical institutions and his risqué 'philosophical' tales. The rabelaisian comic scenes and the destructive scepticism applied to institutions and received morals made the work an instant best-seller. It narrates the adventures of Compère Mathieu and his group of outcast hangers on as they wander through much of Europe and Asia earning a dubious living through such methods as forging money, practising quack medicine, selling slaves, writing pamphlets and plain old-fashioned theft.
First published in 1766, there were at least twenty-six editions of this work. It was placed on the index in 1804 and condemned as outraging public morality and religion. It's destruction was ordered by the Tribunal de la correctionel de la Seine in 1851, 1862 and 1865. Much admired by Diderot, Dulaurens' novel was a major influence on his Jacques le Fataliste. This edition is not listed in MMF, who give three editions with the imprint ‘Londres, aux dépens de la Compagnie’, one of which is an abridged edition (which this is not) and has an error in the date of the first volume; the other two are marked ‘nouvelle édition’ and are 12mo, with different pagination. This edition is also not in ESTC, which only lists eight of the known ‘Londres’ editions and only one dated 1772, a 12mo illustrated edition.
OCLC lists Mannheim, Hamburg, Leipzig, Berlin and Dresden only; ESTC n27788 adds UCLA, North Carolina and Otago.
See Cioranescu 26453; MMF 66.21; Gay I 637.