Lettres Ecrites de Colombier, by CHARRIERE, Isabelle-Agnès-Elisabeth van Tuyll van…

CHARRIERE, Isabelle-Agnès-Elisabeth van Tuyll van Serooskerken van Zuylen, Madame de (1740-1805).

Lettres Ecrites de Colombier, près de Neuchatel. Pour servir de Supplément aux Lettres Neuchâteloises. [No date or place of publication but probably Colombier, 1780s].

First Edition. 8vo (160 x 108 mm), pp. 7, [1], drop-head title only, some light staining and wear, sewn as issued in the original colourful patterned wrappers.

A scarce survival of an anonymous attack on Madame de Charrière, claiming to be written by her as a supplement to her Lettres Neuchâteloises. In these two supposedly additional letters, Madame de Charrière is presented as being self-abnegating and in complete agreement with the contemporary criticisms of herself and her writing. ‘Oui, je l’avoue’, begins the first letter, ‘plaire, briller par l’esprit; voilà ce qui peut seul m’intéresser: aucune considération ne m’arrête’. She ‘admits’ that the Lettres de Lausanne had no moral purpose and that she knew nothing of the city, having spent less than 24 hours there. In the second letter the confessional tone of the ‘author’ goes even further: ‘I want to talk about myself a moment’, it begins, ‘I am rude on principle, contemptuous by system, bizarre by vanity... I desire only the pleasures of pride, and a restless spirit follows me everywhere’.

Isabelle de Charrière’s two major epistolary novels, Lettres Neuchâteloises, Amsterdam 1784 and Lettres écrites de Lausanne, Toulouse 1785, together with its genuine continuation, Caliste, ou la continuation des Lettres écrites de Lausanne, were outspoken attacks on Swiss society in which she argued against political corruption and aristocratic privilege in favour of moral, religious and social emancipation. It is not entirely surprising that her writings provoked such an attack as this. What is particularly interesting is the spiteful personal nature of this attack

Not in Cioranescu; OCLC lists a single copy, in Zurich.

Keywords: Continental Books
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