12mo (161 x 93 mm). , 98 pages. Title in red and black, four engraved plates including frontispiece, woodcut and type ornament headpieces, woodcut initials. Occasional soiling or faint dampstaining, marginal tear to a plate, foot of front free endpaper restored. Contemporary red morocco, sides with triple gilt fillet, spine densely gold-tooled, citron morocco lettering-piece, green and gold brocade paper pastedown, gilt edges (small abrasions to lower cover). Provenance: Du Tillet: green gilt morocco book label with a maltese cross, his sale, Paris, 6 Dec. 1938 - 23 March 1939. ***
Only edition of an illustrated illicit prose novel. The author presents his tale as a true story and an implied roman à clef, and the simple plot supports the claim of veracity. A roman sentimental, it commences with the growing love between young Ollivarius and Eleonor, a recent arrival to Paris from Normandy, and the crystallization of their feelings thanks to the obstacles put in their way. These include a perfidious ex-friend of Ollivarius, the Chevalier de **, who falls in love with the heroine and conspires against her lover, easily manipulating Eleonore’s uncle and guardian Solon; the heroine’s near-fatal illness, an “oppression of the chest”; her forced entry into a convent; and finally the resistance of Ollivarius’ father, who wants him married to a local heiress. Along the way the lovers alternate jealous fits; there are passionate missives, a spontaneous duel, an amorous nun, and deadly maladies. Local color includes a visit to the chateau of Saint Cloud, and a delicately risqué description of life in a convent. The four unsigned engraved plates depict moments of crisis. The author’s prose is workmanlike, and somewhat literal-minded. I won’t reveal the dénouement, as the end is the only reason to keep reading.
The narrator inserts occasional opinions in parentheses, repeatedly speaking out against parents who force “vocations” on their children, and specifically criticizing forced monachization, a theme the author would explore again in his better-known novel La Religieuse malgré elle (Amsterdam 1720). Most striking to the modern reader is the dependency of the young woman, obliged to obey both her aging uncle, who agrees to let the Chevalier “kidnap” her, and later her brother, when he orders her into a convent. At the same time, as a woman of the upper classes she enjoys a certain liberty, managing throughout to continue seeing her forbidden lover with the help of complicit female friends.
Unexplained though not necessarily untrue is the traditional attribution of both works to the otherwise unknown author Brunet de Brou.
Printed illicitly, without the requisite permissions, no doubt because of its faint respect for religious representatives (though not for religion itself), Ollivarius is dedicated to the delegates of the States General of the United Provinces, but the imprint is almost certainly false, the compositorial style being in all ways Parisian (cf. Sayce, Compositorial practices).
OCLC locates a single copy, at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Barbier IV: 677; Quérard, La France littéraire I: 541; Gay-Lemononyer III: 1188; Jones, A List of French Prose Fiction from 1700 to 1750 (1939), p. 28. Item #4153
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Status: On Hold