London: John Clark and Richard Hett...[et al.], 1728. First edition of this second English translation of Bouhours’ important book. As Howell notes in Eighteenth-Century British Logic and Rhetoric, this is really more of a paraphrase of Bouhours, with added references to English writers, and as such, is almost a new work, and an important one in the history of English literary criticism. Text is continuous despite pagination. Title-page in black and red. A good and interesting copy. Contemporary paneled calf, rebacked to style. Gilt spine with red morocco label, edges sprinkled red. Light tape stains on front cover. Ink signature of Thomas Foxcroft (1697-1769), pastor of the Congregational Church in Boston, admired for his skills as a logician. Additional ink signature of Joseph E. Foxcroft (1773-1852), colonel, merchant, sheriff, state senator and postmaster from New Gloucester, Maine. Ink notations on back endpapers, including a index, in the hand of one of the two Foxcrofts. xxxii, 232, pp, 225-418, [16, index], [2, ads] pp. Item #14718
Bouhours (1628-1702) was a Jesuit professor of rhetoric and belles lettres at the Collège de Clermont, among others. He was a friend of Boileau, La Fontaine, La Bruyère, Racine, and Bussy-Rabutin. The present work first appeared in 1687. In the “Avertissement” to the French text, he notes that he does not intend for this work to have any connection with the Port-Royal Logic, or seek to use the methods of Aristotle or Descartes the set rules governing thinking. He sought rather to show readers how to form correct judgments in matters concerning eloquence and belles-lettres. The work consists of four dialogues between two fictional persons named Eudoxe and Philanthe, in which they ponder over what makes a literary work great. Topics discussed include truthfulness, sublimity, agreeableness, clarity and intelligibility in style. The work was immensely popular, being reprinted twenty-four times in the next hundred years and being translated into English, Latin, and German.
The first English edition appeared in 1705 as The Art of Criticism: or, The Method of Making a Right Judgment Upon Subjects of Wit and Learning. The translator is given as “a person of quality.” The present translation—or paraphrase—by John Oldmixon (1673-1742) quickly eclipsed the earlier translation. The key interest lies in the fact that Oldmixon “not only translated belles lettres into ‘polite Learning,’ and specified that this phrase embraced works of history, poetry and eloquence, but he also suggested that his own title was dictated by what Bouhours had said when he called his original work a discourse on ‘both the Arts and Logick and Rhetorick’. Moreover, by adding copious English illustrations to those given by Bouhours in French, Italian, Latin and Spanish, and by speaking words of blame or praise for English writers, Oldmixon gave the arts of logic and rhetoric a central place in the study and criticism of literature of his own land…By putting rhetoric in this kind of framework, Oldmixon was helping to prepare the way for its emergence in England as the acknowledged custodian of the belles lettres… (Howell, p. 529).