Very rare censored edition of the Characters of La Bruyère, published during the author’s lifetime, and printed from the text of the seventh first edition largely revised by the Belgian editor Leonard who truncated the parts where the author was attacking too directly the opponents of the conquering French monarchy. Tchemerzine, III, 805.
The edition used as model for the present one is the 7th first edition printed in Paris in 1692 that contained 77 new characters (including Emile, Roscius, portraits of prudes, coquettes, devotees, etc.) and of which 9 characters have been added.
“With ‘The Characters’ it is indeed the common passions and general types La Bruyère targets, but always caught in their demonstration and in the framework of a specific society: not the abstract man but the courtier, the great lady, the magistrate, the financier, the preacher of the century of Louis XIV at the beginning of his decline sorting individuals according to an immutable moral geography, but dramatized by a pessimism of Augustinian origin. Admittedly he hasn’t thought of giving an historical testimony even though we guess through his pictures of manners this increasing domination of money that was collapsing the frames and the traditions of the ancient society. But La Bruyère’s concrete and photographic realism, as we could say, so well served by a sharp and agile style, marks by itself a transition between great classics and the 18th century: he finally leads us closer to Montesquieu and Voltaire than to Molière.”
As for the present edition, it offers “something peculiar, as a result of its place of printing, first printed according to the Parisian seventh edition, which contains judgments and attacks of William of Orange and his allies, including Maximilian of Bavaria, governor of the Spanish Netherlands, and of the English War. Realizing his mistake, Leonard had to make cuts and cancels.” (Tchemerzine)
Indeed, the editor Leonard who prints this edition in Brussels during the war of the League of Augsburg, who watched the French monarchy fight against the Spanish Netherlands (of which Belgium is a part at that time), is forced to make cuts in La Bruyère’s text in order to remove the attacks targeting the monarchs of the League.
Our copy presents the censorship applied to the text by Leonard once the text was printed, that is to say 4 ll. removed and two cancels.
A precious and very pure copy, preserved in its contemporary limp vellum binding.