Loves of Sundry Philosophers and Other Great Men , a Translation of Madame De Villedieu's Les Amours Des Grands Hommes
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Klein’s book provides the opportunity to read in English the innovative narratives of an illustrious woman author who played a prominent role on the literary scene in France during the reign of Louis XIV. Marie-Catherine de Desjardins de Villedieu produced over ten volumes of works that include plays, poetry, and narrative fictions. Today’s critics attribute Villedieu with having created a new genre of literature, the ‘nouvelle galante’, in which the author recounts a series of gallant episodes, rather than the heroic actions so popular in the adventure stories of the first half of the seventeenth century.
An example of this new literary genre, Les Amours des grands hommes is a collection of four pseudo-historical nouvelles that relate the love adventures of four famous men who lived in ancient times: Solon, Socrates, Julius Caesar, and Cato. Villedieu proposes to recount a personal and intimate version of their lives that represents these revered heroes in more realistic terms. This narrative process eventually would undermine the aristocratic representational system in 17th century France, and have far-reaching effects on the 18th century gallant novel.
First published in 1671, the stories were quickly translated into English in 1673 as The Loves of sundry Philosophers and other Great Men. Very few English editions of Villedieu’s works exist today. Klein’s timely translation is an attempt to remedy this situation. Her excellent introduction gives detailed historical and critical contexts for these narratives.
“These writings are today generating considerable interest for readers and scholars who find that the perspectives and discourse in de Villedieu’s narratives are very contemporary in nature. Perhaps the most daring of her historical novellas is Les amours des grands hommes, an early (1673) English translation of which is being re-edited here. The work of an anonymous translator displays the gracefulness and richness that characterized the English language during the Restoration period.” – Translation Review
“Klein’s transcription remains faithful to the original 1673 English translation, modernizing only capitalization and the use of possessives. By maintaining the seventeenth-century English translation, she notes that readers will have at their hands and be able to compare two original seventeenth-century texts. Klein’s introduction provides the reader with valuable background information on the text and its author. . . . The introduction and extensive critical bibliography provide a useful synthesis of scholarly work on Madame de Villedieu.” – John F. Boitano
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