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WILLIAMS, Helen Maria (trans.); SAINT-PIERRE, Jacques-Henri Bernardin de.

Paul and Virginia.

Translated from the French... by Helen Maria Williams, author of Letters on the French Revolution, Julia: a novel, Poems, etc.

London: G. G. and J. Robinson, 1795 Stock Code: 144669
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First separate edition in English, translated by the celebrated bluestocking Helen Maria Williams (1759-1827) "amidst the horrors of Robespierre's tyranny", as she explains colourfully in her Preface; it became "the standard English edition well into the nineteenth century" (Deborah Kennedy, Helen Maria Williams and the Age of Revolution, 2002, p. 122). The circumstances under which Williams completed her translation were trying to say the least, "she was subject to frequent house searches, and on several occasions had parts of the translation and other papers seized and taken to 'the Municipality of Paris, in order to be examined as English papers; where they still remain, mingled with revolutionary placards, motions, and harangues; and are not likely to be restored to my possession'" (ibid.).

Paul and Virginia was first published in French as part of Bernardin de Saint-Pierre's Études de la nature in 1788 and received its first English translation the same year. "ESTC shows 17 English forms of this work between 1795, when Helen Maria William's Paul and Virginia was published, and 1800" (Garside, Raven and Schöwerling). Though published without an imprint, this edition was almost certainly issued by the radical and printer John Hurford Stone (1763-1818), with whom Williams was involved. Another edition was published in London the same year by G. G. and J. Robinson. Precedence has not been established.

"Although excessively sentimental, this little work contains many charming passages, especially the descriptions, in which Rousseau's influence can be seen, of an idyllic life in strange surroundings. It had an immense vogue, was translated into many languages, and still retains its popular fame. Bonaparte considered it the language of the soul, and he pensioned and decorated the author" (The Oxford Companion to French Literature).

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Octavo in 4s (205 x 133 mm). Recent quarter calf and marbled boards to style, spine ruled gilt, red morocco label.


With 6 engraved plates by Clément after drawings by Dutailly.


Small rust hole to one leaf touching one letter; a very good copy.


See Garside, Raven and Schöwerling 1788:71


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