LAFAYETTE, Marie-Madeleine de, ~ La Princesse de Clèves. “Amsterdam et se trouve a Paris” [probably Paris], 1786.
2 vols, 12mo (145 × 80 mm), pp. [ii], 254; [ii], 251,  bound without the half-titles to the “Oeuvres” of Madame Lafayette. Eighteenth-century green straight-grain morocco, sides with gilt fillet borders, spines with 5 ruled bands and lettered in gilt, inner gilt dentelles, gilt edges. Duke of Sussex’s copy with gilt monogram to head of each spine. Spines and joints slightly rubbed. A good copy.
A nice copy of this famous novel, issued as volumes 4 & 5 of a set of the works of Madame de Lafayette, but bound separately here without the half-titles from the set and the spines numbered “I” and “II”. The library of Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex was sold at auction in 1844-45.
Eschewing the fantastic rhetoric of other seventeenth-century authors such as Madeleine de Scudéry, and the excesses of heroic romance, La Fayette preferred to explore the realities of human emotion when exposed to love and jealousy and told a remarkably modern story of a virtuous young wife who suppressed her passion for a nobleman in the name of honour and duty. In so doing, La Fayette launched the ‘novel of character’ as a genre, in which the character of the protagonists is more important than the events of the plot. Set in the previous century during the reign of Henri II and with carefully researched historical detail, the novel nevertheless pursues themes of individuality and public expectation absolutely contemporary to its author’s times. After La Fayette, writers of French novels continued to be preoccupied with the realistic analysis of love, but none of their productions can compare with Princesse de Clèves until perhaps Laclos’ Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1782).