Soirées du Bois de Boulogne, ou Nouvelles Françoises et Angloises. Par M. le Comte de ****. I. [-II.] Partie. 1754.
Second Edition. Two volumes, 12mo, (138 x 68 mm), pp. xii, 265; iv, 280, text fairly browned in part, in contemporary red morocco, covers with triple filet gilt, flat spines ruled in compartments with sunburst tool in each compartment, lettered and numbered in gilt, marbled endpapers, gilt edges, gilt dentelles, with an unidentified red heraldic booklabel stamped in gilt and the heraldic bookplate of Baron James de Rothschild in each volume.
A lovely copy of this scarce novel by the Comte de Caylus, first published in 1742. An aristocratic dilettante, Caylus was a popular novelist and writer of short stories or contes badines - ranging from fairy tales to sentimental intrigue and oriental fables - which are always witty and usually slightly disreputable. Alongside this reflection of his place in the gayest circles of Paris society, Caylus was also a great collector of art and antiquities, a scholar and connoisseur, painter, etcher and patron of contemporary artists. His major work of scholarship, Recueil d’antiquités égyptiennes, étrusques, grecques, romaines et gauloises, is increasingly recognised for its significant importance in the development of modern archaeology.
Soirées du Bois de Boulogne is a loosely entwined collection of six short stories, or ‘soirées’, set in an apartment near the Bois de Boulogne where the hero, the comte de Trémaillé, has been sent to recover his health after an injury sustained at the Battle of Clausen. After happily spending a week there taking the air in the park and content with his books for company, early one morning he is surprised to see a carriage arriving at his door, with several ladies and a large entourage. Discussing their recent histories and swapping stories of unhappy liaisons, his companions, who include English visitors as well as French compatriots, decide to narrate to one another the stories of their lives. The names have of course, as the dedication makes clear, been changed.
The first story, which has for title ‘Histoire du Commandeur Hautpré’, begins with a summary of all the romantic novels he had been reading which had determined him to find his Angélique or his Clorinde. The second story is told by the young Englishwoman, Madame de Rockfields, who, after complaining about being forced to entertain them in a foreign language, insists that her story will have nothing about convents in it. ‘In France’, she says, ‘it is always about convents’. The Marquis de Montgeüil follows, and tells the audience of his going into Spain, ‘la Patrie du Roman’, narrating the ‘Histoire de l’Abbé de Longuerive’. The second volume begins with the fourth soirée, ‘Histoire du Comte de Prémaillé’ which tells of his love for the beautiful Constance and of her being sent to a convent. The fifth story gives the ‘Histoire du Comte de Crémailles’, including the correspondence between the unhappy fugitive, Mlle de Vauxfleurs, and an Abbess (more convents...). The final story is another English one, ‘Histoire de Mylord Wynghton’, a tragic tale which hurtles from the birth of the French court of the exiled James II and the birth of his son, the Old Pretender, to the political turbulence of the hero’s homeland - ‘L’Angleterre le pays du monde le plus fertile en Mécontens’ - where the hero and Dorothy fall in love but through a series of disasters and misunderstandings, mistaken identities, unforgiving parents, spells in Newgate and galleys bound for America, Dorothy takes her own life and dies in her lover’s arms in the final ‘sanglante Catastrope’.
OCLC lists BN, BL, Leeds, Danish Royal Library, Augsburg, Goettingen, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Sainte Genevieve; for the 1742 edition, OCLC adds Princeton and Ottawa.
Cioranescu 16256; Jones p. 78; Gay III, 1123.