[RUTLEDGE, John James]. ~ La Quinzaine angloise à Paris, ou l’art de s’y ruiner en peu de tems. Ouvrage posthume du Docteur Stearne, traduit de l’anglois par un observateur. Londres [i.e. Paris], 1776.
12mo (162 × 90 mm), pp. xvi, 287, . Floral ornament to titles, head- and tailpieces. Contemporary French mottled calf, spine attractively gilt in compartments, red morocco label. Joints very slightly rubbed, but an excellent copy.
First edition. Not, despite the title a genuine work by Sterne, but an original novel by Rutledge (or Rutlidge) of French-Irish parentage born at Dunkirk. La Quinzaine angloise à Paris tells the story of rapid demise of a young English aristocrat during his brief sojourn in Paris. He is seduced by the glittering Parisian beau monde, attending balls, horse races, galleries and theatres and (naturally) he falls in love. Through various unfortunate twists of fate he loses all his money and finds himself imprisoned for debt. The novel’s critique of French society made it notorious in its day, especially since he failed to disguise several of its characters: notably the painter Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805) whose atelier the hero visits, occasioning an interesting discussion of the decadence of contemporary French art. Despite its obvious caricatures, it is a serious comparison of English and French character.
‘Rutlidge’s principal claim to fame was his promotion of English literature in France. In Observations à messieurs de l’Académie française (1776) he provided a spirited defence of Shakespeare’s superiority over French dramatists, attacking Voltaire for his earlier criticisms of the English writer. (Alger and Carter, Oxford DNB). This criticism appears also in La Quinzaine angloise, with the 12-page preface devoted to a defence of Shakespeare against the claims of Voltaire, and with several incidental reflections on the comparative merits of French and English literature appearing throughout.
The work appeared in English the following year as The Englishman’s Fortnight in Paris. Rutledge went on to play a significant part in the Revolution, becoming a champion of the Paris bakers in the affaire des boulangers: accusing Louis XVI’s minister, Necker, of conspiring to deprive the capital of bread (briefly costing him his liberty). Cioranescu 57877; Gay III, 912-3.