This article draws attention to the reception that François Fénelon's Télémaque (1699) received in England in the first half of the eighteenth century. It overturns the historiographical assumption that the Jacobites were the leading disseminators of this continental bestseller on the other side of the Channel. Even though in the English intellectual context Télémaque's framework was unorthodox, many staunch supporters of the Glorious Revolution were fascinated by the book's portrayal of a virtuous king who respects laws, rights and liberties, and sacrifices himself to improve the wellbeing of his subjects. Moderate Whigs - who included several Huguenot refugees - capitalised on the poem's esprit du roi in order both to celebrate the English kings and to construct the ‘Myth of Louis XIV' as an example of how a sovereign should not rule. The study of the book's reception thus presents a somewhat emblematic case study from which to view the genesis of ‘Englishness', that of an ideological discourse largely based on a process of overturning. In addition, the Télémaque responded to the thirst for ‘useful Knowledge' that distinguished the advocates of ‘politeness' and, not least, its mild pedagogical approach rendered it a precious resource for the ‘moderation’ of the youth.

Constructing ‘Englishness’ and promoting ‘politeness’ through a ‘Francophobic’ bestseller: Télémaque in England (1699–1745)

Aris Della Fontana
2020

Abstract

This article draws attention to the reception that François Fénelon's Télémaque (1699) received in England in the first half of the eighteenth century. It overturns the historiographical assumption that the Jacobites were the leading disseminators of this continental bestseller on the other side of the Channel. Even though in the English intellectual context Télémaque's framework was unorthodox, many staunch supporters of the Glorious Revolution were fascinated by the book's portrayal of a virtuous king who respects laws, rights and liberties, and sacrifices himself to improve the wellbeing of his subjects. Moderate Whigs - who included several Huguenot refugees - capitalised on the poem's esprit du roi in order both to celebrate the English kings and to construct the ‘Myth of Louis XIV' as an example of how a sovereign should not rule. The study of the book's reception thus presents a somewhat emblematic case study from which to view the genesis of ‘Englishness', that of an ideological discourse largely based on a process of overturning. In addition, the Télémaque responded to the thirst for ‘useful Knowledge' that distinguished the advocates of ‘politeness' and, not least, its mild pedagogical approach rendered it a precious resource for the ‘moderation’ of the youth.
Settore M-STO/02 - Storia Moderna
Télémaque; Glorious Revolution; Jacobitism; Englishness; politeness; Francophobia
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11384/106866
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