The Life of Petrarch. Collected from the Memoires pour la vie de Petrarch [by Jacques François Paul Aldonce, abbé de Sade.]
Dobson, Susanna, [translator].

London: Printed for James Buckland, 1775. First edition. Engraved frontispiece in Volume I. Light foxing to first and last few leaves of each volume, old ink signature on title-page of Volume I. A very good, clean copy. Contemporary calf, lightly worn at spine extremities. Gilt spine with burgundy morocco label, edges sprinkled red. Two volumes, octavo. xxxii, 544; [2], 560 pp. (Item ID: 15380)


Susanna Dobson (d. 1795) was the wife of Matthew Dobson, author of several medical treatises. Mrs. Dobson's first book was her Life of Petrarch, which was based in part on de Sade's Mémoires pour la vie de Petrarch. According to Samuel Johnson, ‘Mrs Dobson, the Directress of rational conversation, did not translate Petrarch; but epitomised a very bulky French life of Petrarch’ (Letters of Samuel Johnson, 249). Sade’s work was controversial; he claimed to prove the true identity of Petrarch's Laura and identified her with the Laura de Noves, wife of Hugues de Sade, on the basis of a sonnet found in her tomb in the De la Croix Chapel in Avignon. Dobson’s work was very popular, going into a sixth edition by 1805. Roderick Marshall wrote, “this book restored Petrarch, after a hundred and fifty years of banishment, to an active part in English literature:” (Marshall, 124, quoted in DNB). Dobson’s other works were less well received, and she was never accepted into the literary circles that she desired to join. Fanny Burney famously referred to her as “coarse, low-bred, forward, self-sufficient, and flaunting.”

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