• The Manuscript of Claude Dupin's Commentary on Montesquieu's 'Esprit des lois'

    Pauline Kra (see profile)
    CLCS 18th-Century, LLC 18th-Century French, TM Literary Criticism
    Europe, History, French literature, Literature--Philosophy, Philosophy
    Item Type:
    criticism, enlightenment, intellectual history, literature and philosophy, Montesquieu, European history, Literature and philosophy
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    Claude Dupin published two versions of his critique of the Esprit des lois: Réflexions sur quelques parties d’un livre intitulé ‘De l’esprit des loix,’ in 2 volumes, which appeared in 1749 and was suppressed by the author; and Observations sur un livre intitulé de l’Esprit des loix, in three volumes, published before 1755 and also suppressed. In 2004 Cecil Courtney discovered at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Columbia University a manuscript entitled Observations sur un livre intitulé "De l'Esprit des lois", which is the final revised and unpublished version of Dupin's work. The manuscript remained unknown to Montesquieu scholars till 2004 because of a spelling error in the card catalogue: it was cross referenced to "Montesquiou, Charles Louis de Secondat" and was listed among works on Montesquiou. The Columbia manuscript shows that after the publication of the Observations Dupin continued to make changes in his work seeking to strengthen his arguments and to make the connection of his text to the Esprit des lois more transparent. The most important change is the reorganization of chapters. The published Réflexions and Observations are divided into chapters which correspond either to books or to chapters of the Esprit des lois. The manuscript, on the other hand, is divided into chapters which correspond to chapters in the Esprit des lois and bear the same titles. The article examines the most frequent types of omissions, additions and characteristic revisions of style. Dupin failed to refute or to elucidate the Esprit des lois , but the table of contents of the manuscript is valuable because it connects Dupin's comments to individual chapters of the Esprit des lois and the references he provides are useful for the investigation of sources of information that were available to Montesquieu.
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