autograph manuscript book by the author of Ourika
DURAS, Claire de Durfort, duchesse de. ~ Pensées de Louis XIV. Paris, 16 July 1825.
Manuscript, 8vo (160 × 115 mm), pp. , plus several blanks at rear. Occasional dampstaining. In a neat and mostly legible hand throughout. Original green morocco backed boards with booksellers ticket (‘Au Coq Honoré, Rue du Coq St Honoré. Alph. Giroux’.) Rubbed, corners slightly more worn.
An autograph manuscript of Claire Duras’s Pensées de Louis XIV; her first book, composed in March 1821, but not published in print until Didot’s small edition of 1827 (very rare with OCLC recording the Bn copy only). Claire Duras is best known as the author of the novel Ourika (1824) famously recounting the true story of black slave girl brought up in France. Ourika, like the Pensées de Louis XIV, was first aired in her celebrated literary salon, described as ‘among the most brilliant of the Restoration period’ (Oxford Companion to French Literature). Duras was an important member of the circle around Chateaubriand who she met while in exile in England and who became a frequenter of her salon. Duras’ dedication inscription in our manuscript is to their mutual friend, Louise Angélique de Vintimille (1763-1831) another well-known salon hostess.
Like Chateaubriand and many of their circle in Restoration Paris, Duras looked back at the reign of Louis XIV as a golden age and eagerly read his Mémoires in the two editions published respectively by Montagnac and Grouvelle in 1806. It was a fashionable preoccupation to select, collect and discuss the maxims of the Sun King, presumably as a barometer of contemporary government, but surely also as treasures of cultivated French pros. In the Pensées Duras selects 70 extracts, ranging from a couple of lines to over a page each, drawn from the 1806 edition together with a few from the seventeenth-century editions. She opens with: ‘Choisir de bons sujets et maintenir la règle, voila la science de tout bon gouvernement’, supposedly written by the King on the first leaf of a journal given him Madame de Maintenon, according to an anecdote recounted by Madame de Genlis in 1811. Others include ‘Il n’y a rien qui puisse faire en si peu de tems de si grands effets que la bonne ou la mauvaise réputation des princes’; ‘Il faut beaucoup de lumières pour savoir discerner au vrai ceux qui nous flattent d’avec ceux qui nous admirent’ [a line previously selected by Chateaubriand in his review of one of the 1806 editions of Louis XIV’s Oeuvres]; ‘Le plus sûr chemin de la gloire est toujours celui que montre la raison’; ‘L’art de connoître les hommes se peut apprendre, mais ne se peut enseigner’; ‘La décision a besoin d’un esprit de maître’.