MATON DE LA VARENNE, Pierre-Anne-Louis de. ~ Valdeuil, ou les Malheurs d’un habitant de St-Domingue. Paris: [the author] and André, Déroy, ‘An III’, 1795.
18mo (120 × 70 mm), pp. , 178, ; , 140, plus engraved frontispieces, pp. 17-18 and 19-20 in vol. 1 transposed. Author’s signature to foot of the Avertissment (faint). Contemporary mottled sheep, sides with gilt borders, panelled spine. Upper hinge of vol. 1 starting, slight loss of covering on lower board, upper hinge of vol. 2 cracked with some loss at joint (board secure). Unsophisticated and sound.
First edition thus (see below) of a singularly unsatisfactory novel by a reactionary French conservative, of interest for its framing—the narrative opening and closing on the island of St Domingue (Haiti). Vadeuil is displaced from St Domingue when French raiders attack the island and he finds himself in France. He learns that his father back home has been murdered (poisoned by one of his slaves) and there follows a rather tedious sentimental tour of Europe (France and Germany) and a love story. Valdeuil returns to St Domingue with a young bride, and is promptly rejected by his widowed mother.
The author notes in his introduction that he had previously issued the novel in another form as Mémoires d’un Amèricain, printed in a small edition some years before. Of this we have found no trace. He also mentions that he has added a great deal more to this new edition to make it more interesting (one can only imagine his first attempt). Despite its shortcomings as literature, there is interesting material here on St Domingue, particularly a long footnote (over several pages) on the origins of the island and the history of the Buccaneers. Cioranescu II, 43772 (making no mention of a former edition entitled Mémoires d’un Amèricain); Cohen/De Ricci, 694. Worldcat: Bn, Mazarine, Goettingen, NYPL and University of Victoria (BC) only (Mémoires d’un Amèricain also not found).