Testament de Gille Blasius Sterne. Traduit du Hollandois.
8vo. (2) ff., 3-XIII pp., (1), 185 pp. Modern wrappers. Edges untrimmed; a very fresh copy.
Very rare sole edition of this French translation of "Legaat van Gillis Blasius Stern" (1784), a satirical imitation of Laurence Sterne. On the Continent, as Agnes Zwaneveld notes, “gradually there arose a generalized awareness of Sterne’s fiction as both satirical and sentimental” (“Laurens Sterne in Holland”, The Shandean, Vol. 5, 1993). “The [present work’s] title could be taken as an invocation of a spirit of satire and social commentary as much as an acknowledgement of the author’s sources of inspiration. In my view Donker Curtius addresses a general awareness of Sterne’s fiction as both satirical and truly sentimental, without much distinction between Tristram Shandy and A Sentimental Journey, and Sterne’s name, like that of Gil Blas, was used as a hieroglyph of a playful attitude. Donker Curtius’ joke for private consumption is to me an indication that by 1784 Sterne’s work had become an object of common lore among educated people” (Zwaneveld, “A Bookseller's Hobby-Horse, and the Rhetoric of Translation”).
Curtius employed this allegorical vehicle for his own social commentary on contemporary Dutch society during the ‘Patriotic Revolution’ of 1780-87. The travails of Gille Blasius Sterne - identified here as the great-nephew of Laurence - must have resonated equally with the anonymous translator of the present work; Lausanne would experience its own patriotic revolution against Bernese rule in 1798.
The translator’s preface suggests that the reader will find it a little presumptuous that the protagonist is based on Sterne’s Yorrick (the hero of "A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy"). The original author’s preface is also translated here, in which he briefly recounts the genesis of the work, found in manuscript among the remains of the late Gil Blas Sterne alongside two shirts, an old pair of britches, a copy of Tristram Shandy, the works of Rabelais, and an album amicorum.
Evidently intended as an allegorical medley of both Sterne’s "Sentimental Journey" and Lesage’s "Gil Blas" (1715-35), the work is composed of a series of vignettes of G. B. Sterne’s life, describing his unhappy journey to an unhappy end. The chapters are headed ‘Je dors’ [I sleep], 'Je rêve' [I dream], 'Je m’éveille' [I awake], and so on.
Curtius (1746-1832) was formerly suspected of having prepared the wave of Sterne translations into Dutch which swept through the country in the 1780s, but which are today attributed to Bernardus Brunius.
OCLC does not seem to show any US copies of the Dutch original (Legaat van Gillis Blasius Stern, 1784), but we have located one at Harvard. Of this French translation we find three copies in the US: UCLA, Texas A & M, and Princeton.
Bibliotheca historico-neerlandica #4504. Cf also van Boven, Afscheid van de wereld: het eigen levensverhaal van Boudewijn Donker Curtius, pp. 18f. Westerweel et al., Something Understood: Studies in Anglo-Dutch Literary Translation, p. 203. Voogd et al., The Reception of Laurence Sterne in Europe, p. 88.