Londres (London), 1789. 8vo. Cont. hcalf w. gilding on spine. Hinges and capitals repaired. Occasional minor brownspotting. Frontispiece portrait, 431 pp. Complete w. half-title. W. wookcut vignettes and 1 1/2 p. of musical notes.
The not common first edition of the first biography of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, an important work of French Enlightenment, published in the year of the French Revolution.
The work was published the year after Rousseau's death and is highly interesting due to its numerous anecdotes, several of which are not to be found anywhere else; Not all of them can be called fully reliable, though.
The work is also interesting, not only as the first biography of Rousseau and as a contemporary source to the life of the great French philosopher, but also as a testimony to the influence and fascination of Rousseau to revolutionary France. The cult-role that Rousseau played before and during the French Revolution is difficult to overlook, and the degree of his popularity during the second half of the 18th century must be deemed no less than astonishing.
This first biography of Rousseau begins with six letters that are supposed to be genuine, written by the author and dated 1788-89; one of them is to Madame de Staël, and they all contain interesting anecdotes concerning Rousseau.
The author, an impoverished count who was born in 1756 and committed suicide in 1817 due to his ruin because of a punishment from the Tribunal, was an enthusiastic Rousseauphile, member of his cousin Rivarol's literary circle, and with the progress of the revolution a fervent royalist. He was imprisoned 1800-1802 under the Consulate due to his writings. As the biographer of Rousseau also his literary presence is of interest. He states in the preface that he will present the facts as they were, as they appeared to him, or at least how he thought they appeared (p. 15), and he ends the preface with the words: "Pour bien chantes Jean-Jacque il faut être un grand homme." (p. 16).