Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s surprising ‘cosmopolites’

Reading the recent blog, ‘Voltaire, the Lettre sur les Anglais, and Enlightenment cosmopolitanism’ I was reminded that Bernardin de Saint-Pierre employed ‘cosmopolite’ as an adjective. I had always assumed that the term was utilised exclusively as a noun – for instance, we read early on in ‘Livre I’ of Rousseau’s Emile: ‘Défiez-vous de ces cosmopolites qui vont chercher dans leurs livres des devoirs qu’ils dédaignent de remplir autour d’eux.’ As the general editor of Bernardin’s Harmonies de la Nature (Œuvres complètes of Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, t.4, Paris, Classiques Garnier, forthcoming), I came across this adjectival usage on several occasions, moreover describing the natural world. Bernardin’s monumental work in nine ‘Livres’ was probably begun in 1790 and then recast in several versions for the next fifteen to twenty years without being published in its author’s lifetime. In ‘Livre I’ we read regarding plants (the italics are mine):

Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson, engraving by Etienne Frédéric Lignon (1818).

‘Le blé a des harmonies avec la terre par ses racines, divisées par filaments, qui en y pompent leur nourriture. Elles ne sont ni longues ni nombreuses mais elles y adhèrent si fortement qu’on ne peut les enlever sans emporter une portion du sol ni rompre la paille à cause de sa dureté. Voilà sans doute les raisons qui obligent les laboureurs de le scier plutôt que de l’arracher. Ces rapports terrestres lui sont communs avec beaucoup d’autres végétaux, mais ce qu’il a de particulier, c’est qu’il n’y a aucune partie du globe où ne puisse croître quelqu’une de ses espèces, depuis le riz du Gange jusqu’à l’orge de la Finlande. Il est cosmopolite comme l’homme […].’

In the same ‘Livre’ one finds:

‘Les plantes cosmopolites croissent en général le long des grands chemins. Ce sont des espèces d’hospices que la nature y a établis pour les animaux domestiques voyageurs.’

Birds are endowed with this capacity in ‘Livre II’:

‘L’organisation des volatiles, leur instinct et leurs vols, peuvent se rapporter à une infinité de besoins de la vie sociale. Ils peuvent servir à découvrir les propriétés des végétaux, à annoncer l’arrivée des orages, le changement des saisons, et les îles qui sont hors de la vue des navigateurs. Les volatiles sont les premiers habitants des terres, de tous les genres d’êtres organisés, le leur est seul cosmopolite.’

The utility of floating vegetation is illustrated in ‘Livre III’:

‘Ces végétations flottantes forment quelquefois des tribus si nombreuses, qu’elles arrêtent la course des vaisseaux: telles sont celles de la Floride. D’autres semblent poser des limites stables et tracer des lignes de démarcation sur les plaines liquides de la mer: elles peuvent déterminer les bornes des diverses puissances maritimes, et donner aux navigateurs des points plus sûrs que leurs longitudes estimées. D’autres font comme eux le tour du globe, et circulent d’un pôle à l’autre avec l’océan. C’est peut-être parmi ces espèces voyageuses et cosmopolites, que de malheureux marins, naufragés sur un écueil, peuvent choisir des trajectiles propres à annoncer leur infortune sur tous les rivages.’

‘Livre IX’ offers a further example:

‘Tels sont les principaux genres physiques qui se subdivisent en moraux, les uns vivant fraternellement comme les moineaux. Tous se divisent en deux sexes. Quelques-uns vivent conjugalement comme les tourterelles, d’autres maternellement ainsi que les abeilles qui travaillent en familles sous le gouvernement d’une mère. Des familles les unes se rassemblent en tribus ainsi que les castors, quelques tribus se réunissent en nations telles que plusieurs espèces de poissons. Enfin d’autres sont cosmopolites et vivent pour ainsi dire sphériquement en parcourant le globe. Telles sont les espèces voyageuses comme les hirondelles.’

I wondered whether this extended use could be found elsewhere. The search facility of Electronic Enlightenment offered an excellent resource. It registered 29 occurences. Voltaire writes towards the end of a letter to Frederick II, c.15 July 1742: ‘Mais j’ay essuyé une des plus illustres tracasseries de ce monde. Mais je suis si bon cosmopolite, que je me réjouiray de tout.’ On 29 April 1752 he chides La Condamine: ‘mon cher cosmopolite, ne me croyez pas assez ignare pour ne pas savoir où est Cartagene; j’y envoie tous les ans plus d’un vaisseau, ou du moins je suis au nombre de ceux qui y en envoient […].’ Moultou told Rousseau on 13 October 1762: ‘R[oustan] n’a pas compris vôtre dernier chap. du Contrat social, au moins il ne l’a pas compris come moy. Quand vous dites que le Xanisme est contraire a l’esprit social, il me semble que cette assertion revient a celle cy, que la bienveillance se relâche en s’etendant, & que le Xanisme nous fesant envisager touts les homes come nos fréres, nous empêche de mettre une grande difference entre eux, et nos concitoyens. De la le Systéme du Xanisme est plus favorable a la société universelle des homes qu’aux societés particuliéres: le Xen est plus cosmopolite que patriote.’

However it is the abbé Morellet who appears the greatest fan of the term ‘cosmopolite’. He tells David Garrick on 21 April 1765: ‘N’ai je pas fait là un petit sacrifice à l’utilité publique qui merite de la part des amis du genre humain quelque reconnoissance. Je dis de la part du genre humain car je ne crains pas de vous avoüer que ce n’est pas pour mon pays que je travaille. On ne profitera pas de longtemps de ce que je pourrai avoir dit de bon dans ce pays cy et on ne m’en saura peut-etre pas grand gré. Mais je suis cosmopolite et si je puis en développant les principes d’une science aussi vaste et j’ose dire assés inconnue jusqu’à present etre utile à quelque nation que ce soit[,] fut elle notre ennemie[,] je me croirai bien payé de mes travaux.’ He tells Pietro Verri in a missive composed between 14 and 15 March 1767: ‘Dites moi, Monsieur le Comte, si vos occupations et celles de M. le Comte Carli vous empêchent d’écrire sur ces objets intéressans. Devenus des hommes d’état, vous ferez les meilleures choses du monde dans votre Milanois, cela est bien. Mais je suis cosmopoliteet je voudrois bien que vous travaillassiez un peu pour le genre humain.’

He further champions the idea of being ‘cosmopolite’ in letters of 4 September 1775 and c.30 December 1777 to the 1st marquess of Lansdowne and on 30 October 1785 to Benjamin Franklin. The term is not found in Bernardin’s own letters but exists in a communication to him dated c. October 1789. The correspondent is a fellow Norman and a fervent admirer, Mme Le Pesant de Boisguilbert. She is now an émigrée in Margate: ‘il n’est point de bonheur pour moi sachant La France agiteé de troubles et de divisions et travaillant elle même a sa ruine. personne pour mon malheur n’est moins cosmopolite que moi; je tiens fortement à ma patrie […].’ Here the word has clearly negative connotations unlike the resonances in the other quoted letters.

Evidently ‘cosmopolite’ has no linkage with the non-human world in the above quotations. I wondered therefore whether the seemingly new usage might be found in contemporary reference books. The word was clearly in circulation in the early decades of the eighteenth century with its ‘citizen of the world’meaning. Yet it is absent from the 1694, 1718 and 1740 editions of the Dictionnaire de l’Académie française. It appears however as a noun in the 1762 version: ‘Celui qui n’adopte point de patrie. Un cosmopolite n’est pas un bon citoyen.’ The 1798 edition is arguably more positive: ‘Citoyen du monde. Il se dit de celui qui n’adopte pas de patrie. Un cosmoplite regarde l’univers comme sa patrie.’ (The 1835 edition follows similar lines.) The Encyclopédie article in volume 4 of the 1751 edition offers: ‘COSMOPOLITAIN, ou COSMOPOLITE, (Gram. & Philosoph.) On se sert quelquefois de ce nom en plaisantant, pour signifier un homme qui n’a point de demeure fixe, ou bien un homme qui n’est étranger nulle part.’ In volume 2 of its edition in 1771 the Dictionnaire de Trévoux suggests: ‘Cosmopolitain, aine. On dit quelquefois ce mot en badinant, pour signifier un homme qui n’a point de demeure fixe, ou bien un homme qui nulle part n’est étranger […].’ The abbé Féraud supplies nothing new in his Dictionnaire critique de la langue française (1787): ‘Cosmopolite, Celui qui n’adopte point de patrie; citoyen de l’univers. “Il se fait honneur d’être cosmopolite, mais un cosmopolite n’est pas un bon citoyen.”’

The first reference that I have encountered which records Bernardin’s practice is in the Dictionnaire Littré (1873-1877). Its entry begins with the customary definition: ‘Celui qui se considère comme citoyen de l’univers’ but suggests also ‘celui qui vit tantôt dans un pays tantôt dans un autre; qui adopte facilement les usages des divers pays. C’est un cosmopolite.’ It goes on to list: ‘Adjectivement. Un philosophe cosmopolite. Une existence cosmopolite. “De tous les genres d’êtres organisés, le genre des insectes est seul cosmopolite”, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, Harm. liv. II, Anim.’ Bernardin’s is the only source cited although the quotation is slightly incorrect as it should be ‘volatiles’ and not ‘insectes’ (see the quotation from ‘Livre II’ above). Could Bernardin thus be the initiator of this adjectival extension of ‘cosmopolite’ to the non-human world? Intriguingly the old but still valuable study of changes in the French language by Ferdinand Gohin in the final decades of the eighteenth century would seem to support that possibility. In a section entitled ‘On applique aux choses ce qui ne se disait que des personnes’ he provides an entry for ‘cosmopolite’: ‘B. de St-P., Et., II. 383; […]. – Ibid, I, 71 […].’* The reference is not to the Harmonies de la Nature but to the Etudes de la Nature (first published in 1784).

Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, Etudes de la Nature, frontispiece and title page of the first edition (Taylor Institution library).

I have omitted above Gohin’s quotations from Bernardin (in the square brackets) for clarity. I shall quote the second one first: ‘[La nature] a donné aux plantes qui lui [à l’homme] sont les plus utiles, de croître dans tous les climats; les plantes domestiques, depuis le chou jusqu’au blé, sont les seules qui, comme l’homme, soient cosmopolites’ (Etudes de la Nature, ed. Colas Duflo, Œuvres complètes of Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, t.3, Paris, 2019, p.131). Bernardin believed in a divinely ordered universe which is governed by providence where everything was primarily geared to the benefit of ‘le genre humain’. The other quotation (which I cite at greater length) could be considered as very revealing: ‘C’est dans cette famille, si j’ose dire cosmopolite, que la nature a placé le principal aliment de l’homme; car les blés, dont tant de peuples subsistent, ne sont que des espèces de graminées. Il n’y a point de terre où il ne puisse croître quelques espèces de graminées’ (ibid., p.700). It is the insertion of the phrase ‘si j’ose dire cosmopolite’ which is telling. It surely implies that Bernardin recognises that he is not following standard usage and that his readers may disapprove of such linguistic licence.

Those familiar with Bernardin’s works are well aware of his vast range of vocabulary. Unless possessing specialist knowledge, his early readers (and doubtless their twenty-first century successors) can only regard his terminology for flora and fauna in the lands of the Indian Ocean as exotic and evocative without comprehending their precise meaning. In common with his contemporary acquaintance, Louis-Sébastien Mercier, he championed the invigorating value of new words. Jean-Claude Bonnet claims that ‘Bernardin s’est révélé hardiment néologue.’** In ‘Livre IX’ of the Harmonies de la Nature Bernardin includes ‘propulsation’ three times, a word unknown to any dictionary, in effect a ‘barbarisme’. The final letter of his first publication, the Voyage à l’île de France (1773), states: ‘L’art de rendre la nature est si nouveau, que les termes même n’en sont pas inventés’ (ed. A. Gigan and V. Kapor, Œuvres complètes, t.2, Paris, Classiques Garnier, 2019, p.854).

Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, Voyage à l’île de France, frontispiece and title page of the first edition (Taylor Institution library).

Editors of his Œuvres complètes frequently fail to find words that he employs in eighteenth-century dictionaries. Indeed when they are found in nineteenth-century listings, examples of usage are often derived from Bernardin’s works, particularly the Harmonies de la Nature. With reference to ‘cosmopolite’ one can speculate that Bernardin adapted the positive implications of the term to an adjectival context to consider nature in a wider focus – its productions can be admired and consumed across the planet. People benefit from the presence and exchange of plants etc on a global scale just as they benefit from the sharing of ideas and experiences – we live in a joined-up world.

* Les transformations de la langue française pendant la deuxième moitié du XVIIIe siècle (Paris, 1903), p.302. The Trésor de la langue française informatisé in its entry for ‘cosmopolite’ suggests its first appearance as an ‘adj. bot.’ was in the Etudes de la Nature edition of 1784 and cites Gohin as its source. It defines its modern meaning as ‘Qui connaît une très large répartition géographique.’

** ‘Bernardin néologue à l’épreuve de l’océan Indien ou “l’art de rendre la nature”’, in Bernardin de Saint-Pierre et l’océan Indien, ed. Jean-Michel Racault, Chantale Meure and Angélique Gigan (Paris, 2011), p.405.

Simon Davies

Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, a Voltaire fan?

Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, Voyage à l’Isle de France (Amsterdam, 1773) (Bibliothèque nationale de France).

Bernardin de Saint-Pierre returned to France in 1771 following an unhappy posting to Mauritius. In Paris he made new acquaintances, D’Alembert, Julie de Lespinasse, Condorcet and, most significantly in the eyes of posterity, he befriended Jean-Jacques Rousseau. This intimacy has ossified critical opinion as it was D’Alembert who aided the publication of his first book, the Voyage à l’île de France (1773) by a printer whom Voltaire termed ‘l’enchanteur Merlin’. Drafted in part in the Indian Ocean, the work was published anonymously with a permission tacite as it criticized French colonial practices. In it Bernardin claimed that his travel writing was innovative as Voltaire, D’Alembert, Buffon and Rousseau had not provided a model. He demonstrated his extensive reading by asserting: ‘Je sais bon gré à M. de Voltaire d’avoir traité de barbares ceux qui éventrent un chien vivant pour nous montrer les veines lactées’ (a reference to the article ‘Bêtes’ in the Dictionnaire philosophique).

Like Voltaire, Bernardin was educated by the Jesuits. He too liked citing Latin authors, particularly Virgil, and also frequently quoted from memory. He stated that D’Alembert had suggested that he compose histories and claimed that he had read Voltaire’s historical writings. He shared the patriarch’s alarm at d’Holbach’s Système de la nature and wrote against it. Despite a staunch belief in God, Bernardin was anticlerical and loathed superstition. Like Voltaire, he mocked fears about a comet in 1773, telling Mme Necker: ‘On attend ici la comette pour demain; il y a des églises dont les confessionaux ne désemplissent pas; le peuple est fort inquiet de sçavoir si la terre sera brûlée ou noyée’ (Electronic Enlightenment, BSP_0244). He too was intrigued  by the possibility of ‘éléphants’ (i.e. mammoths) in Siberia. The Revolution saw him produce short works advocating tolerance and social harmony.

Invitation à la Concorde, pour la Fête de la Confédération, du 14 juillet 1792 (Gazette Drouot).

His Invitation à la concorde (1792) appeared in print and as a poster. It proclaims that discord will destroy France but Catholics, Protestants and Jews will thrive ‘autour de l’autel de la patrie’ where ‘chaque religion deviendra citoyenne’. He composed contes in a manner reminiscent of Voltaire. The Café de Surate (1792), depicting often religious prejudices, may have been inspired by a chapter in Zadig, ‘Le Souper’. He read his fictional Voyage en Silésie, with its message of reconciling quarrelsome multinational travellers, in his capacity as professeur de morale républicaine to instituteurs at the Ecole normale in 1795. In the foreword to the first printed edition, he asserted that ‘Mon but était d’inspirer aux hommes, qui sont les mêmes quant au fond, de la tolérance pour les opinions diverses.’

Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, Voyage en Silésie (Paris, 1807) (Bibliothèque nationale de France).

Bernardin returned to a controversy treated by Voltaire in Lettre XI of the Lettres philosophiques, inoculation. In the Harmonies de la nature (begun in the 1790s), he writes: ‘On a longtemps agité la question, si l’inoculation était utile. J’observerai ici que Jean-Jacques n’a pas osé la décider dans son Emile.’ While acknowledging risks, Bernardin is decisive: ‘Il me semble […] que pour détruire tant d’intérêts particuliers qui s’opposent à l’intérêt général on devrait faire inoculer à la fois tous les enfants […] l’inoculation contribuerait à resserrer entre eux les liens de la fraternité.’ Despite his antipathy to the scientific establishment and, unlike Voltaire, opposed to Newtonian ideas of attraction, Bernardin is generally in favour of scientific advances.

Voltaire loved publishing texts anonymously or with fictional authors. Bernardin, after the Voyage, demanded his name on the title page. Yet, in a text not printed in his lifetime which I am editing for his Œuvres complètes (Garnier), the Fragment sur la théorie de l’univers, he too adopted a ludic pretence. The narrator, a ship’s pilote, recounts Bernardin’s views to a passenger without naming him. All he will reveal is that: ‘Le système dont je vais vous entretenir est d’un Français.’ Subsequently he speaks of ‘l’auteur de la nouvelle théorie’, ‘mon auteur’, ‘Notre auteur’.

Simon Davies, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre: colonial traveller, Enlightenment reformer, celebrity writer, Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment (Liverpool University Press, 2021).

Bernardin often omits the sources of his references. In a manuscript that I am also editing for his Œuvres complètes, he writes ‘Un de nos poètes a dit: “Dieu mit la fièvre en nos climats et le remède en Amérique.” C’est une pensée de bel esprit.’ The line had appeared in a poem to Frederick the Great (OCV, t.32A, p.412) and in the Questions sur l’Encyclopédie (OCV, t.41, p.394). Bernardin probably found it in the latter as it is mentioned in the Harmonies de la nature.

While Bernardin sympathised with ‘l’infortuné Jean-Jacques’ and knew that his public renown benefited from that association, he believed that sociability was natural. He thought that reform was needed, hence his acceptance of appointments at the Jardin du roi (where he championed initiatives), the Ecole normale and the Institut. He disliked Voltaire’s relations with crowned heads (although he had met Catherine the Great, praised her in his Voyage ‘porté par tout le vent des philosophes qui étaient dans sa faveur’), but was far more sociable than his clichéd reputation. To label him as simply a disciple of Rousseau is misleading. He owed as much to Voltaire as to Rousseau and he supplies an even-handed comparison in his Parallèle de Voltaire et de Jean-Jacques Rousseau. His celebrity in the Ancien Régime and the Revolution and the accessibility of his correspondence in Electronic Enlightenment make him an excellent point of reference for questions still raised about the role and impact of the so-called philosophes in scholarly publications and recently at the Enlightenment Workshops in Oxford. In sum, Bernardin reacted to the challenges of his age and responded in his own distinctive fashion.

– Simon Davies

Bernardin de Saint-Pierre: adventures in words and deeds

Frontispiece and title page of Paul et Virginie

Frontispiece and title page of a 1789 edition of Paul et Virginie. (Taylor Institution, Oxford)

Why read and study Bernardin de Saint-Pierre (1737-1814)? Until recently, his reputation rested almost exclusively on arguably the most-published novel in French literature, Paul et Virginie (1788). However, the appearance of the first scholarly editions of his correspondence in Electronic Enlightenment and his Complete Works (in progress, Garnier) have produced not only reliable texts but substantial fresh material. His status has been considerably enhanced.

Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, engraving by Etienne-Frédéric Lignon

Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, engraving by Etienne-Frédéric Lignon, after a painting by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson (1767-1824). (Public domain)

Trained as a military engineer, Bernardin found job opportunities impossible after the Seven Years War. He sought his fortune by setting out for Eastern Europe. In Russia he met Catherine the Great and secured employment. He then crossed into Poland where he was imprisoned for an unwise military escapade and acted as an unofficial spy for a French diplomat. He observed customs and landscapes as well as drafting reports. It was a political awakening. Penniless, he returned to France before being posted in 1768 to its colony of île de France (Mauritius).

His sea journey was perilous, marked by deaths and scurvy. On the island he was appalled by aspects of the French administration. He possessed two slaves as servants but was shocked by the treatment of slaves on plantations. Despite having family members engaged in the maritime slave trade, he attacked the brutality of slavery in his correspondence and subsequent publications.

Paul and Virginie obtain pardon for a runaway slave, print by Charles Melchior Descourtis

Paul and Virginie obtain pardon for a runaway slave, print by Charles Melchior Descourtis, after Jean Frédéric Schall (1752-1825). (Public domain)

He returned to France in 1771. In Paris, he became a friend of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and attended the salon of Julie de Lespinasse. In a surprising career move, he became a writer, in a variety of formats.

His first work, a sort of travel account, appeared in January 1773, the Voyage à l’île de France. Its publication was supported by d’Alembert and it was admired by Condorcet. It was published anonymously because officials disapproved of its harsh depiction of colonial life. Bernardin was not against colonisation but wanted reforms. Indeed he proposed schemes to the government for foreign initiatives, but all to no avail. He lived on his wits but refused to sell his pen like those in Robert Darnton’s version of Grub Street. Some financial stability arrived with the publication of the Etudes de la nature (1784) and Paul et Virginie (1788).

Frontispiece and title page of the first edition of Etudes sur la nature

Frontispiece and title page of the first edition of Etudes sur la nature. (Taylor Institution, Oxford)

The three-volume Etudes supplied a panorama of his thoughts: a firm belief in God and Providence and the ideal of harmony in an interlinked world but also opposition to the scientific and political establishments. It won him a large readership. He received an abundant fan mail from admirers from different backgrounds. He was regarded as a sage, as a moral authority in whom even strangers could confide.

Invitation à la concorde

Invitation à la concorde. (Gazette Drouot)

At the outset of the Revolution he was famous. He used his fame to enter the political arena as a reformist pamphleteer. In September 1789 he published the Vœux d’un solitaire and was eager that Revolutionary activists should read it. The wisdom of the poor and excluded was championed in the character of the pariah in the short story La Chaumière indienne (1791). He sought to influence moderate public opinion through his little-known poster Invitation à la concorde displayed in the Palais-Royal in July 1792. He was elected to a Revolutionary body, a position that he refused. He belonged to no political grouping. There followed a series of posts that he could not turn down. Louis XVI appointed him Intendant of the Jardin des plantes in 1792 (a position formerly held by Buffon). The Comité d’instruction publique nominated him in 1794 as professeur de morale républicaine at the new Ecole normale (Bernardin’s views on education have been neglected but receive significant coverage in my book). The Ecole closed in May 1795 but he was still a ‘go to’ man and became a member of the Institut during the Directory. Linked with the Bonapartes, he remained a prominent figure in his declining years.

Despite his intimacy with Rousseau, it is possible that he read Voltaire’s works more extensively. This study suggests that the slippery terms philosophe or antiphilosophe cannot be unambiguously applied to him. He was a witness to an age in transformation who gained supporters engaged in politics to add to his wide community of readers. He was not just an adventurer in terms of his travels to Eastern Europe and the Indian Ocean, but also in his ideas and their varied forms of expression. He believed that the world was in constant change, history was not cyclical. A growing assessment of his importance is emerging and this monograph hopes to provide information and insights to stimulate further research on Bernardin and his times.

Simon Davies

Bernardin de Saint-Pierre: Colonial Traveller, Enlightenment Reformer, Celebrity Writer is part of the Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment series, published in collaboration with the Voltaire Foundation, University of Oxford.

This text first appeared in the Liverpool University Press blog, January 2021.

The Bernardin de Saint-Pierre Project

Jacques_Henri_Bernardin
Today marks 200 years since the death of Bernardin de Saint-Pierre (1737-1814). Best known for his novel Paul et Virginie, he was also the author of a voluminous correspondence: nearly 2800 letters to and from the author survive detailing the author’s travels to Eastern Europe and Mauritius, and providing insights into the cultural and social life of Paris at the turn of the eighteenth century.

The Bernardin de Saint-Pierre Project, the first critical edition of his correspondence, generously funded by the AHRC, the British Academy and the MHRA, is now nearing completion. The Voltaire Foundation has been publishing the letters in batches via Electronic Enlightenment since 2008. The publication in electronic format allows us to update letters as more information becomes available, and also to add new letters as they come to light.

Whilst the correspondence project is almost complete, the first complete critical edition of the author is under way under the general editorship of Jean-Michel Racault. This will replace the early nineteenth-century editions of Aimé-Martin which sometimes contain unreliable texts and lack scholarly annotation. A special Bernardin de Saint-Pierre issue of Nottingham French Studies will appear in 2015.

BSP_Paul_Virginie
Further links

  • Anybody taking the ferry from Britain to Le Havre (Bernardin’s birthplace), may wish to see the exhibition on Bernardin: ‘Paul et Virginie, un exotisme enchanteur’, until 16 May 2014.
  • A website hosted by the University of Exeter contains all the manuscripts of the author that are held in the Bibliothèque Armand Salacrou, Le Havre. There are over 10,000 manuscript pages, available to all without password.

-Malcolm Cook