Angola, Histoire Indienne; Ouvrage sans vraisemblance. I. [-II] Partie. ‘Agra’, the Grand-Mogol, ie Paris, 1746.
First Edition. 12mo, (162 x 92 mm), pp. [ii], 20, [vi], 162; [iv], 199, in contemporary calf, rebacked retaining the original spine, red morocco label lettered in gilt, spine gilt in compartments, marbled endpapers, red edges.
First edition of this famous satire on Paris society, ‘chef d'œuvre de la littérature galante’ and one of the best-sellers of pre-Revolutionary France. Set in the exotic Indies, where La Morlière creates an imaginary and fantastical world, the nature of which allows him great scope in satirising contemporary French society. The novel opens with the marriage of the just king, Erzeb-can, to Princess Arsenide, a relation of the Fée Lumineuse, queen of a neighbouring nation. It is their son, Angola, the eponymous hero, whose adventures during his travels through the Indies and Arabia make up the body of the narrative. Edouard Thiery called this novel 'le miroir du siècle, le livre des jolies boudoirs, le manuel charmant de la conversation à la mode'. The dedication, bound as usual after the preface and the contents, is addressed ‘aux petites maitresses’ and sets the tone for the ‘free and licencious’ spirit of the text. By far the most successful of La Morlière’s works, it ran to numerous editions throughout the eighteenth century, with at least ten further ‘Agra’ printings in the decade following publication.
‘The reader is continually invited to laugh mockingly at the frivolity of a world where only fashion reigns. La Morlière’s characters exist as functions of their pleasures: the theater, the opera, receptions, reading, hunting, gambling, and - above and before all else - the dynamics and delights of the bedroom. While the narration of these pleasures can never be the equivalent of experiencing them, what La Morlière does offer is a diction of flippancy and cynicism that invites his readers to share an assumed superiority to characters whom in most cases they would be delighted to replace; (Thomas M. Kavanagh, Enlightened Pleasures, 2010, p. 32).
Libertine, musketeer, theatrical critic and associate of Voltaire, La Morlière established his headquarters in the Café Procope where a clique of journalists soon formed around him. He was a great operator in the theatrical world, both in the 'Théâtre français' and the 'Comédie italienne', where he was known for the dubious nature of his dealings. However, his theatrical career came to a fairly abrupt end when he thought that by engineering applause in the usual way he could guarantee the success of his own plays, a mistake for which he paid the price of his career.
Cioranescu 36472; Jones p. 92; Gay I:221; Darnton 38; Hartig p. 50.