Pieces relatives aux Lettres, memoires et negociations particulieres du chevalier…

~ Pieces relatives aux Lettres, memoires et negociations particulieres du chevalier D’Eon, Ministre Plenipotentiaire de France aupres du Roi de la Grande-Bretagne; contenant la note, contre-note, lettre à Mr. le duc de Nivernois, & l’examen des lettres, Memoires, &c. ‘Londres: chez Jacques Dixwell, dans la rue St. Martin’, 1764.

8vo (191 × 120 mm), pp. iv,219, [1]. Title printed in red and black with bird and flower ornament, typographical ornaments. Contemporary mottled sheep, gilt panelled spine. Rubbed, corners worn, upper joint cracked but cords holding. A good copy.

Sole edition, rare, with false London imprint, of a pamphlet by the famous transvestite spy, issued during one of the most colourful and tangled episodes of Anglo-French diplomacy.

Following a successful military career d’Eon served Louis XV in English diplomacy and espionage from 1762, gathering defence intelligence for a projected French invasion. Living lavishly in London he became something of an embarrassment to his government who stopped his pension and sought to recall him to France. He became embroiled in a bitter row with his compatriot Claude Louis François Régnier de Guerchy, who he saw as an interloper on his diplomatic patch. ‘From October 1763 the dispute took a spectacular turn as d’Eon published allegations that Guerchy had tried to poison him. In March 1764, he went further still and published a selection of his diplomatic papers, which heaped ridicule on Guerchy and his allies in France’ (Lettres, mémoires et négociations particulières, Dixwell, 1764, noted by Burrows, A King’s Ransom). The dispute was a profound embarrassment to the French, not least because d’Eon successfully brought the matter to the English courts and because it drew attention to the chevalier’s increasingly complex personal life. The extent of the chevalier’s ire (or paranoia) is demonstrated by this further volume of testimonies and evidence in his favour, published (presumably at his behest) on the continent, with a false Dixwell imprint.

It was in the wake of this affair that the chevalier went into hiding in Byfleet (Surrey), spending a years disguised as a woman and going by the name of Madame Duval. This transvestite experiment became a pattern and the remainder of his career was lived partly as a woman and he became a celebrated figure in London society. ESTC: Canadian National Library, Michigan State, NYPL and University of Rochester only in US. For the best account of the affair see Burrow, A King’s Ransom, 2010.

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