Du Châtelet’s translation of The Fable of the Bees
  • introduction

    An interesting manuscript for Du Châtelet and Mandeville Scholars
    The critical edition of this fragmentary translation of The Fable of the Bees has a particular relevance to both studies on Émilie du Châtelet and those concerning the reception of Bernard Mandeville’s thought in continental Europe – a field that has developed considerably in recent years, thanks in part to the celebrations for the tercentenary of the publication The Fable of the Bees in 2014.

    Aims and relevance of a critical edition
    A transcription of one of the prefaces and one copy of the translation has been edited by Ira Owen Wade, Studies on Voltaire: with some unpublished papers of Mme. du Châtelet (Princeton: 1947); the same preface, translated into English, can be found in Judith Zinsser (ed.), Emilie du Châtelet: Selected philosophical and scientific writings (Chicago: 2009). The critical edition of the manuscript will provide scholars with all the documents related to this work, including the differences among the various copies and drafts. These variations, especially in the prefaces, are highly significant because they show an intellectual development in the approach of Du Châtelet to this work.

    RESEARCH
    ASSOCIATE

    Elena Muceni


  • A “pseudo” translation that reveals much about its author

    La Fable des abeilles is the earliest surviving work of Émilie du Châtelet that we have; it dates back to the first years of the Cirey period (1735-1738). Never completed, it has been preserved until now in the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg among Voltaire’s papers. The manuscript is composed of four drafts of an original translator’s preface (containing numerous variants), and two copies of the translation which both end with the translation of Remark L of Mandeville’s text.

    The translation itself is extremely free and does not respect the standards for translation of modern philosophical text which were in place during the time it was written. Furthermore, Du Châtelet inserts her own remarks and commentary directly into the text, that sometimes highlight how her position differs from that of the author. Because of these changes to Mandeville’s text, a critical edition would show how Du Châtelet has modified the ethical theories of this Anglo-Dutch author, and thus offer suggestions about her personal views on morality. Fragmentary as it may be, the text of this pseudo-translation thus proves to be a source for understanding Du Châtelet’s moral thought and intellectual background. Precisely because it is an “immature” work, which has not been reworked, adapted – or censored – for publication, Emilie du Châtelet’s La Fable des abeilles represents an authentic expression of her thoughts and feelings.

  • Mandeville and The Fable of the Bees

    The Fable of the Bees, second and most controversial edition, 1723.

    Bernard Mandeville was born in Rotterdam in 1670. After completing his studies in medicine in Leiden, he moved to London in the 1690s and worked primarily as a doctor, but also as a translator, journalist and writer. He was considered by his contemporaries as a free thinker linked to the tradition of Epicurean and Hobbesian thought. The Fable of the Bees (1714) is the most controversial of his works and provoked a strong critical response in England.

    In this second edition of the work, Mandeville added an Essay on Charity and Charity schools wherein he criticized these institutions, which were supported by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. This edition was condemned by the Grand Jury of Middlesex, but the essay remained in all subsequent editions of the text.

    By the time of his death in 1733, Mandeville had become popular not only in England but also on the continent, thanks to the publication of French translations of some of his works. However, although it was his most popular work, The Fable of the Bees was not translated into another language until after his death, probably due to its scandalous reputation.

  • Emilie du Châtelet, first translator of The Fable of the Bees

    Started in 1735, Du Châtelet’s Fable des abeilles was the first translation of this book, had it not been abandoned. Two other contemporary translations were published: a French and a German translation.

    The French translation was done by Jean Bertrand, and published under a false imprint in 1740 with the title of La Fable des abeilles ou les fripons devenus honnêtes gens. This French translation was included in the Index librorum prohibitorum in 1745. A second edition was published in 1750.

    A German translation of the first part of the work appeared in 1761 in Frankfurt am Main with the title Anti-Shaftsbury oder die entlarvte Eitelkeit der Selbstliebe und Ruhmsucht. The translator uses the pseudonym Just German von Frenstein at the end of the Foreword – their true identity remains unknown to this day.

     

  • Related Bibliography

    Costa, Gustavo, Alle origini del pensiero economico-sociale moderno: la Congregazione dell’Indice e Bernard Mandeville, «Nouvelles de la Republique des Lettres», 1 (2008), pp. 7-74.

    Fabian, Bernhard, The Reception of Bernard Mandeville in Eighteenth-Century Germany in, SVEC 152 (1976), p.693-722.

    Gottmann, Felicia, Du Châtelet, Voltaire, and the Transformation of Mandeville’s Fable, «History of European Ideas» 38 (2012), pp. 218-232.

    Muceni, Elena, John/Jean Nourse. Un masque anglais au service de la littérature clandestine francophone, «La Lettre clandestine», 24 (2016), pp. 203-219.

    Muceni, Elena, Le poison et l’antidote: Mandeville et la connexion Suisse, «Rivista di Storia della Filosofia» 3 (2016), pp. 451-473.

    Muceni, Elena, Mandeville and France: The Reception of the Fable of the Bees in France and its Influence on the French Enlightenment, «French Studies» 69 (2015), 4, pp. 449-461.

    Pieretti, Marie-Pascale, Women Writers and Translation in Eighteenth-Century France, «The French Review» 75 (2002), pp. 474-488.

    Zinsser, Judith, Entrepreneur of the Republic of Letters: Emilie de Breteuil, Marquise Du Châtelet, and Bernard Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees, «French Historical Studies» 25 (2002), pp. 595-62

     

  • introduction

    An interesting manuscript for Du Châtelet and Mandeville Scholars
    The critical edition of this fragmentary translation of The Fable of the Bees has a particular relevance to both studies on Émilie du Châtelet and those concerning the reception of Bernard Mandeville’s thought in continental Europe – a field that has developed considerably in recent years, thanks in part to the celebrations for the tercentenary of the publication The Fable of the Bees in 2014.

    Aims and relevance of a critical edition
    A transcription of one of the prefaces and one copy of the translation has been edited by Ira Owen Wade, Studies on Voltaire: with some unpublished papers of Mme. du Châtelet (Princeton: 1947); the same preface, translated into English, can be found in Judith Zinsser (ed.), Emilie du Châtelet: Selected philosophical and scientific writings (Chicago: 2009). The critical edition of the manuscript will provide scholars with all the documents related to this work, including the differences among the various copies and drafts. These variations, especially in the prefaces, are highly significant because they show an intellectual development in the approach of Du Châtelet to this work.

    RESEARCH
    ASSOCIATE

    Elena Muceni


  • A “pseudo” translation that reveals much about its author

    La Fable des abeilles is the earliest surviving work of Émilie du Châtelet that we have; it dates back to the first years of the Cirey period (1735-1738). Never completed, it has been preserved until now in the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg among Voltaire’s papers. The manuscript is composed of four drafts of an original translator’s preface (containing numerous variants), and two copies of the translation which both end with the translation of Remark L of Mandeville’s text.

    The translation itself is extremely free and does not respect the standards for translation of modern philosophical text which were in place during the time it was written. Furthermore, Du Châtelet inserts her own remarks and commentary directly into the text, that sometimes highlight how her position differs from that of the author. Because of these changes to Mandeville’s text, a critical edition would show how Du Châtelet has modified the ethical theories of this Anglo-Dutch author, and thus offer suggestions about her personal views on morality. Fragmentary as it may be, the text of this pseudo-translation thus proves to be a source for understanding Du Châtelet’s moral thought and intellectual background. Precisely because it is an “immature” work, which has not been reworked, adapted – or censored – for publication, Emilie du Châtelet’s La Fable des abeilles represents an authentic expression of her thoughts and feelings.

  • Mandeville and The Fable of the Bees

    The Fable of the Bees, second and most controversial edition, 1723.

    Bernard Mandeville was born in Rotterdam in 1670. After completing his studies in medicine in Leiden, he moved to London in the 1690s and worked primarily as a doctor, but also as a translator, journalist and writer. He was considered by his contemporaries as a free thinker linked to the tradition of Epicurean and Hobbesian thought. The Fable of the Bees (1714) is the most controversial of his works and provoked a strong critical response in England.

    In this second edition of the work, Mandeville added an Essay on Charity and Charity schools wherein he criticized these institutions, which were supported by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. This edition was condemned by the Grand Jury of Middlesex, but the essay remained in all subsequent editions of the text.

    By the time of his death in 1733, Mandeville had become popular not only in England but also on the continent, thanks to the publication of French translations of some of his works. However, although it was his most popular work, The Fable of the Bees was not translated into another language until after his death, probably due to its scandalous reputation.

  • Emilie du Châtelet, first translator of The Fable of the Bees

    Started in 1735, Du Châtelet’s Fable des abeilles was the first translation of this book, had it not been abandoned. Two other contemporary translations were published: a French and a German translation.

    The French translation was done by Jean Bertrand, and published under a false imprint in 1740 with the title of La Fable des abeilles ou les fripons devenus honnêtes gens. This French translation was included in the Index librorum prohibitorum in 1745. A second edition was published in 1750.

    A German translation of the first part of the work appeared in 1761 in Frankfurt am Main with the title Anti-Shaftsbury oder die entlarvte Eitelkeit der Selbstliebe und Ruhmsucht. The translator uses the pseudonym Just German von Frenstein at the end of the Foreword – their true identity remains unknown to this day.

     

  • Related Bibliography

    Costa, Gustavo, Alle origini del pensiero economico-sociale moderno: la Congregazione dell’Indice e Bernard Mandeville, «Nouvelles de la Republique des Lettres», 1 (2008), pp. 7-74.

    Fabian, Bernhard, The Reception of Bernard Mandeville in Eighteenth-Century Germany in, SVEC 152 (1976), p.693-722.

    Gottmann, Felicia, Du Châtelet, Voltaire, and the Transformation of Mandeville’s Fable, «History of European Ideas» 38 (2012), pp. 218-232.

    Muceni, Elena, John/Jean Nourse. Un masque anglais au service de la littérature clandestine francophone, «La Lettre clandestine», 24 (2016), pp. 203-219.

    Muceni, Elena, Le poison et l’antidote: Mandeville et la connexion Suisse, «Rivista di Storia della Filosofia» 3 (2016), pp. 451-473.

    Muceni, Elena, Mandeville and France: The Reception of the Fable of the Bees in France and its Influence on the French Enlightenment, «French Studies» 69 (2015), 4, pp. 449-461.

    Pieretti, Marie-Pascale, Women Writers and Translation in Eighteenth-Century France, «The French Review» 75 (2002), pp. 474-488.

    Zinsser, Judith, Entrepreneur of the Republic of Letters: Emilie de Breteuil, Marquise Du Châtelet, and Bernard Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees, «French Historical Studies» 25 (2002), pp. 595-62