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Literature & Fiction
THE ADVENTURES OF GIL BLAS of SANTILLANE. translated from the French of Lesage, by TOBIAS SMOLLETT. published GEORGE ROUTLEDGE AND SONS, LONDON. Not dated. John Childs and son, printers.
442 pages in very good clean condition, with some yellowing, some bumping on page corners last 50 pages or so. front blank page dettached, starts with title page, if there was a frontispiece it is missing. a few spots on title page. leather covers worn and are dettached. no spine covering. nice gilt page edges.
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Alain-René Lesage (6 May 1668 – 17 November 1747; older spelling Le Sage) was a Frenchnovelist and playwright. Lesage is best known for his comic novel The Devil upon Two Sticks (1707, Le Diable boiteux), his comedy Turcaret (1709), and his picaresque novel Gil Blas (1715–1735.
Claude Lesage, the father of the novelist, held the united positions of advocate, notary and registrar of the royal court in Rhuys. His mother's name was Jeanne Brenugat. Both Lesage's father and mother died when Lesage was very young, and he was left in the care of his uncle who wasted his education and fortune. Père Bochard, of the Order of the Jesuits, Principal of the College in Vannes, became interested in the boy on account of his natural talents. Bochard cultivated Lesage's taste for literature. At age 25, Lesage went to Paris in 1693 "to pursue his philosophical studies".
In August 1694, he married the daughter of a joiner, Marie Elizabeth Huyard. She was beautiful but had no fortune, and Lesage had little practice. About this time he encountered an old schoolfellow, the dramatist Antoine Danchet, who is said to have advised him to take up literature. He began as a translator, and published in 1695 a French version of the Epistles of Aristaenetus, which was not successful. Shortly afterwards he found a valuable patron and adviser in the Abbé de Lyonne, who bestowed on him an annuity of 600 livres, and recommended him to exchange the classics for Spanish literature, of which he was himself a student and collector. Spanish literature was once very popular in France when the queens of the house of Austria sat upon the throne, but had become neglected by Lesage's time
Some years passed before he again attempted romance writing, and then the first two parts of Gil Blas de Santillane were published in 1715, without the popularity of Le Diable boiteux. Lesage worked at it for a long time, and did not bring out the third part till 1724, nor the fourth till 1735. During these twenty years he was, however, continually busy. Notwithstanding the great merit and success of Turcaret and Crispin, the Théâtre Français did not welcome him, and in 1715 he began to write for the Théâtre de la foire, the comic opera held in booths at festival time. According to one computation he produced, either alone or with others, about a hundred pieces, varying from strings of songs with no regular dialogues, to comediettas only distinguished from regular plays by the introduction of music. He was also industrious in prose fiction. Besides finishing Gil Blas he translated the Orlando innamorato (1721), rearranged Guzman d'Alfarache (1732), published two more or less original novels, Le Bachelier de Salamanque and Estevanille Gonzalez, and in 1733 produced the Vie et aventures de M. de Beauchesne, which resembles certain works of Daniel Defoe. Besides all this, Lesage was also the author of La Valise trouvée, a collection of imaginary letters, and of some minor pieces including Une journée des Parques. He did not retire until 1740, when he was more than seventy years of age; he and his wife went to live with his second son, who was a canon at Boulogne-sur-Mer. Lesage's eldest son, Louis-André, had become an actor, and Lesage had disowned him. Lesage's last work, Mélange amusant de saillies d'esprit et de traits historiques les plus frappants, appeared in 1743.
To his wife, he had three sons and a daughter whose filial piety made her devote her entire life to serving her genius father. Though he lived happily, one event embittered Lesage for years. His eldest son had been educated for the bar, but insisted going on stage. Lesage, who had often painted the life of the actor in the most ridiculous and hateful aspect, was pained by his son's career choice, especially when his son joined the Theater Français, against which Lesage had long waged a satirical war. Probably out of deference to his father, the son took the name Montménil, and by the merit of his talents and private character, soon entered the upper society of Paris. Lesage reconciled with his son many years later and became so devoted to Montménil that he could barely leave his side.
Montménil caught cold during a hunting party and died on 8 September 1743. This was such a severe blow to Lesage, that he retired forever from Paris and the world. Lesage's youngest son had also become an actor under the name Pittenec, so Lesage and his wife saw out their old age in the home of their second son who had become the Abbé Lesage (Abbott Lesage). This son had been made a Canon of the Cathedral of Boulogne, through the patronage of the queen, and been bestowed a fair pension.
Lesage lived beyond 80 years of age, but was afflicted with deafness and had to use an ear trumpet. However, his conversation was so delightful that when he ventured into the world and frequented his favourite coffee house in Rue St. Jacques in Paris, guests would gather around him, climbing onto tables and chairs, to hear his famous words of wit and wisdom.
Alain-René Lesage died on 17 November 1747
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