12mo., pp. viii, 133, [3, blank]; a very good copy in slightly later calf.
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Dying Merrily: or, historical and critical Reflexions on the Conduct of great Men in all Ages, who, in their last Moments, mock’d Death, and died facetiously ... translated from the French by T. W.–––. A.M. ...
First edition of this translation of Réfléxions sur le grands homes que sont morts en plaisantant (1712). The translator T. W. has not been identified. A different translation by Abel Boyer, interspersed with English verse (presumably at the suggestion of Boyer), had appeared in 1713 under the opaque title A Philological Essay.
When published originally Deslandes’s Reflexions was a contribution to the contemporary controversy between free-thinkers and the religious establishment. As the free-thinkers did not believe in an afterlife they could not face death ‘merrily’, that is, without fear. Montaigne was one inspiration (‘I cannot say whether Monta[i]gne died merrily, but ... in a hundred Places of his Essays, [he] speaks advantageously of a merry Death’). There are numerous examples from classical times, but also ‘Of the Dutchess of Mazarin’s last Moments’, ‘Of Gassendi’s Death, and that of the celebrated Hobbes’, passages on Machiavelli and Rabelais, and ‘An Extract from some of Monta[i]gne’s Thoughts’. There is one brief chapter on ‘Women who have died facetiously’, among whom he numbers Anne Boleyn, reporting her supposed laughter on the scaffold.
Rare. ESTC records copies at BL (2), NLS, Bodley, Huntington, UCLA, San Francisco Public Library, and McMaster.
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