Critical Edition of Penelope Aubin’s Translation of Robert Challe’s Les Illustres Francaises / The Illustrious French Lovers

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Abduction and magic philtres, debauchery and virtue, fickleness and passionate fidelity are the components of the stories of The Illustrious French Lovers (1727), translated into English by Penelope Aubin from the French Les Illustres Françaises (1722) by Robert Challe, The literary importance of both texts has now become obvious. In early 18th - century France and England, they contributed to the transformation of the novel, affecting the techniques as well as the nature of narration. Both the social context and the moral dilemmas were familiar to the readers of the time, but, set in this everyday context, these constitute extraordinary stories.


“This edition should fill a double gap in our understanding of the evolution of the European novel in the eighteenth century, since it contributes both to French and to English literary history. The extraordinary literary quality of Robert Challes’s Les Illustres Françaises has been increasingly recognized in recent years: it is now seen as the most important French novel between Mme de Lafayette’s La princesse de Cleves and Prevost’s Manon Lescaut. This edition . . . will help us to gauge its possible influence on English novel-writing, particularly on the work of Samuel Richardson. . . . the alterations made by the translator, helpfully analysed in Dr. de Sola’s introduction, throw light on significant differences of moral attitude between the original French readership and the English literary public. They also illuminate the situation of the woman writer in Georgian England, whose writing must sustain a personal image of respectability. . . . de Sola is well qualified to undertake this work, being an acknowledged expert on the work of Challe, whose research has much illuminated the distinctive aspects of his style. . . This volume will repay the attention of any serious student of eighteenth-century prose fiction.” Professor Michael Moriarty

“An excellent Preface by David Williams situates the author well in her own right and with reference to Robert Challe’s Les Illustres Françaises , of which this is a free translation. The Introduction by the editor, Anne de Sola, is of equally high quality, showing in persuasive detail what important contribution Challe made to the burgeoning genre of the novel, as too did Aubin in her own narrative. . . . this edition possesses a diversity of appeals: the original source, now universally accepted as being a great French novel; the reception into English literature of this modified version; the importance of women writers in eighteenth-century English literature; the impact of Aubin’s writings upon the English novel. . . The edition, furthermore, appears to be virtually flawless in its presentation.” – Professor Haydn Mason, General Editor, Complete Works of Voltaire

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