EON DE BEAUMONT, [Charles Geneviève Louis Auguste André Timothée] chevalier d’. ~ Lettres, memoires & negociations particulières du chevalier d’Éon, Ministre Plénipotentiaire de France aupres du Roi de la Grande Bretagne; Avec M. M. les Ducs de Praslin, de Nivernois, de Sainte-Foy, & Regnier de Guerchy Ambassadeur Extraordinaire, &c. &c. &c. ‘A la Haye imprime chez H. Scheurler, F.Z. aux Dépens du Corps Diplomatique & se vend a Francfort chez les Frères Van Dures, a Londres chez Jaques Dixwell, dans la Ruë St. Martin’, 1764.
3 parts, pp. , xxxvi, , 178, 181-202; , 75, ; , 59, , double page letterpress table after p. 178 in part 1 (as called for), final errata leaf bound at the end of the volume.
[bound with:] ― Dernière lettre du Chevalier D’Eon a M. Le Comte de Guerchy, en date du 5 Aout, 1767.Avec l’extrait de la procedure en bonne forme. ‘A Londres’, 1767. pp. 19, .
2 works bound together, 4to (260 × 200 mm). Contemporary sprinkled English calf, gilt panelled spine, red morocco label. Joints expertly repaired. Contemporary bookplate of I. Baker Holroyd Esq. Sheffield Place, Sussex.
Two rare works, probably both London-printed, by the Chevalier D’Eon — the French diplomat recognised as one of the first openly transgender figures in European print. The Lettres appear here in their second edition, identical to (and swiftly following) the first, but with a new preface, while the Dernières Lettres is in its rare first edition (at least one more followed).
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 alarmed the French 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 (1715–1767), 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’ (the present Lettres discussed by Burrows, A King’s Ransom). The dispute was an 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. It was in the wake of this affair that the chevalier went into hiding in Byfleet (Surrey), spending a year disguised as a woman and going by the name of Madame Duval. This trans experiment initiated the period in which, D’Eon lived partly as a woman and became a celebrated figure in London society.
The Dernière lettre is a superb piece of propaganda issued on d’Eon’s behalf appearing after the comte de Guerchy’s death in 1767 and reproducing the last letter sent to him by d’Eon recounting the facts of the poisoning case together with extensive translations from English legal records of the law case as it worked its way, very publicly, through the courts.
This copy is from the library of politician John Baker Holroyd, 1st Baron Sheffield (1735-1821, friend of Edward Gibbon). ESTC lists only the BL and UL copies of the ‘La Haye’ second edition of Lettres (and notes a separate large paper issue in a handful of copies) and the BL, Harvard and Czartoryski Library (Cracow) copies of Dernière Lettre only.