“THE MOST WIDELY READ LITERARY WORK IN 18TH-CENTURY FRANCE”: FÉNELON’S TELEMACHUS, WITH 12 SPLENDID ENGRAVED PLATES
FÉNELON, François de la Salignac de la Mothe. The Adventures of Telemachus, the Son of Ulysses. From the French of Salignac de la Mothe-Fenelon, Archbishop of Cambray, by the late John Hawkesworth. London: C. & G. Kearsley, 1795. Two volumes in one. Large quarto (10 by 13 inches), contemporary full mottled brown calf gilt rebacked, raised bands. $700.
Early edition of Hawkesworth’s notable English translation of Fénelon’s Telemachus, one of the most important works of the Enlightenment, containing 12 full-page engraved plates after Stothard and Burney.
“A precursor of the political and philosophical tales of Marmontel and Voltaire… Fénelon’s Télémaque has been described as the first prose-poem in French” (Harvey & Heseltine, 698). Fénelon’s reworking of the Homeric legend was intended only for the private instruction of his pupil, the duc du Bourgogne, eldest grandson of Louis XIV. The unplanned publication of Télémaque in 1699 caused a furor. It incorporated much political theory on “the ideal state,” and was seen as a critique of the controlled economy favored by the King. Télémaque became “the most widely read literary work in 18th-century France… It directly inspired Rousseau’s own plan in Émile to reform society through the instruction of the young… Stendahl, de Stael and Chateaubriand all recognized Fénelon’s importance… In his “Essay on the Revolutions,” Chateaubriand… frankly declares the key role of Fénelon and of Telemachus in the history of the Enlightenment and the Revolution” (Vidal). “Had it not been for the premature death of the duc de Bourgogne, Fénelon’s teaching, so contrary to Louis XIV’s practice, might well have become official policy” (Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Instead, Fénelon slipped quietly into exile in the provinces. Initially translated into English in 1703, the first printing of Hawkesworth’s version of Telemachus appeared in 1768 and “is still considered the best… It is one of the most spirited and valuable in our language” (Lowndes, 787). This splendid edition contains 12 full-page engravings, ten after Thomas Stothard. Stothard produced mainly small-scale historical pieces in a charmingly sentimental manner, as well as an occasional literary subject, notably his three paintings of scenes from Shakespeare for Boydell’s famous edition, “the most splendid of bibliophile editions undertaken in the 18th-century or at any other time” (Franklin). With biography of Fénelon and index. Without two pages of advertisements in front. Graesse II:566. Lowndes, 787. See Matterlin F5.800. See Mahaffey, 70.
Text and plates very clean and bright, with only an occasional small spot of foxing, early paper repairs to title page, minor abrasion to contemporary calf. A near-fine copy.