Contemporary Satire of Rousseau’s ‘Émile’
Le Père Avare, ou Les Malheurs de L'Education; Contenant une idée de ceux de la Colonie de l'Isle de C***.
Paris: Desventes de Ladoué, 1770.
First edition. xvi, 359, [iii]; 334; 360pp. 3 vols. 12mo. Contemporary Satire of Rousseau’s ‘Émile’. Bound in full contemporary mottled calf. With the bookplate of the Vicomte de Noailles (engraved by Agry) in each volume. Upper joint of vol. III with short start at foot, otherwise a fine and fresh copy OCLC records two copies in N. America (Princeton, UCLA), two in France, and one at Trinity College Dublin. Item #307572
A satirical response to Rousseau’s Emile ou l'Education (1762). Where Émile is guided by a wise tutor, the author of Le Père avare mocks from the outset Rousseau’s dictum “le véritable précepteur est le père”, for the narrator’s father M. d’Erigny grew up poor and gained wealth through his friendship with a government minister; his child has been spoiled from infancy.
While M. d’Erigny is drunk, his mistress gets him to sign an order from her jeweler for 20,000 francs of precious stones, and skips out. The extravagance is discovered, and the father becomes miserly in the extreme. The son, now 15 years old, is entrusted to a unscrupulous précepteur or tutor who involves the youth in a swindle and vanishes with the money.
This is a confessional, so we learn it all: the narrator soon discovers love and devotes himself to pleasure, using the family name to run up accounts everywhere before being deceived and fleeced. M. d’Erigny is furious; Madame intercedes: his debts are paid and he is sent off to exile in a provincial town. He is befriended by a well-connected gentleman but repays this trust with deceit. Besotted with an actress, he forges a criminal denunciation of a rival, but his scheme is discovered and his in consigned to “une de ces maisons de force”, a private prison for the reform of licentious youth.
To escape this close confinement, the narrator embarks with a flotilla of colonists bound for the island of C*** in the new world. His mother’s continued good influence follows him across the ocean, cushioning him from the worst excesses of a brutal colonial regime (amply detailed). Florainville, a mistress who has managed her money well, comes to the colony to rescue him but falls afoul of the corrupt Intendant and her health fails her. She dies but not before she has made him her legatee. The narrator assists the colonial governor in prosecuting the Intendant and returns to France. He retires to a rural abbey and contemplates his experiences. Before long he becomes the benefactor of a village community and sees it thrive.
Only edition of this little-known work of fiction, set partly in the Americas.
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