L’Homme conduit par la raison.
[French Enlightenment].

Paris: Chez Pillot, 1770. First and only edition of a rare book. Searching OCLC, RLIN and COPAC, we could locate only copies at McGill, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, the Bibliotheque Nationale, and the National Library of Australia. The last of these is seriously defective. No catalogu Woodcut title-page vignette, woodcut headbands, tail-pieces and initial letters. A few spots on covers, including faint circular stain, minor foxing. A very good copy. Contemporary stiff vellum with gilt leather spine label. Twelvemo. . xii, 309 pp., includin (Item ID: 13915)


This is a curious work, embodying enlightenment thought, and though the text is short in the use of proper names, the author is clearly familiar with Rousseau (the only philosopher mentioned in the body of the text, p. 189), Voltaire, and probably Locke and Hume. The work is dedicated to D***, and there are a number of quotes from the poetry of “D***” at the beginnings of chapters, along with quotes from Voltaire, Racine, Fenelon, Malesherbes, Corneille, Boileau, and Thomas. We have been unable to guess the identity of “D****,” though he is the author of verse of a philosophic bent. The title-page bears his quotation: “Elle est du genre humain le trésor le plus beau;/On ne craint point d’ecueil en suivant son flambeau.”

The text consists of brief chapters on various subjects: De l’homme & de ses imperfections; Des passions; De la sagesse; Affectation; Belles manières; Education; Equité; Humeur; Imagination; Des plaisirs; etc. Like Rousseau, the author is convinced of the innate goodness of the human heart (“L’humanité reside principalement dans le coeur”—p. 147), but he is also an admirer of reason, education, and intelligence. He discusses the conflicts between loyalty to God and country, logic and emotion, decency and valor, and is convinced that in each case, one can value both. He is convinced that man and women have different characters and positions in life, yet his chapter on marriage (which glorifies the institution) shows an implicit belief in equality. The last fifteen pages contain an interesting list of short rules to live by: “De la pureté de la Religion dépendent les moeurs des Peuples, & de la sagesse de la politique naissent les usages avantageux au Gouvernement”; “Faire du bien & entendre dire du mal de foi patiemment, c’est une vertue de Roi;” “C’est plus par les actions que par les paroles qu’on découvre les sentiments du coeur”; “Dans toutes les disputes, le plus foien raisonnements est toujours celui qui crie le plus fort; it croit trouver dans sa poitrine ce qui lui manque dans la tete.”

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