Confidence Philosophique. Londres, ie. Geneva, 1771.
First Edition. 8vo (212 x 145 mm), pp. [viii], 381, , uncut throughout and partly unopened, in the original blue wrappers, some light browning, considerably worn to extremities and spine but cords holding and part of the spine preserved, an unsophisticated copy with generous margins, with a colour postcard bookmark dated 1822, without free endpapers, printer’s waste used for the pastedowns, with a section of reverse calligraphy on the front pastedown.
The scarce first edition of this anti-enlightenment novel by the Geneva pastor Jacob Vernes, friend and correspondent of Rousseau and Voltaire. Vernes was a frequent visitor to Ferney and Voltaire welcomed Vernes’ unorthodox approach to religion. Despite their friendship, however, this epistolary novel is a direct attack on Voltaire and the philosophes. The novel emphasises the shallowness of enlightenment ideas and the moral duplicity of their exponents. The anti-hero is a Parisian philosopher, brimming with charm and enlightenment, who takes as a student a pious married woman. Systematically he persuades her of the errors of her Christian faith and as she replaces it with his philosophy, she abandons all the principles of her life that had been grounded in it. Finally, she abandons her family and friends, becomes his lover and gives herself up to a life of dissipation and gambling.
Vernes’ novel struck a chord: it became a best-seller in France, where it saw five pre-Revolutionary editions and was also very popular in England, where at least three editions were published, and the Netherlands. MMF notes that several of the later editions that claim to be ‘augmentées’, have almost nothing new in them but have had the order of the letters rearranged. Clever trick.
OCLC records a number of copies in France, and BL, NLS, Leeds, Texas, Princeton, Minnesota, Illinois, Delaware and UCLA.