Louis Racine: “La Religion et la Grâce”
Seventh edition – Paris, published by Desaint, Durand and Leprieur, 1756 – XXIV pp, 267 pp, 113 pp, (1) ff – full period marbled calfskin – small duodecimo – 8.5 x 14 cm.
1 tear in the headcap, joints and corners in good condition, solid hinges, smooth spine decorated with golden fleurons and garnet morocco title piece, rare foxing, red text block edges. Complete.
Lovely provenance with coat of arms bookplate belonging to Régis Bayle, consul to S.M. the King of the Belgians.
Contents: La religion et la grâce, poèmes.
Louis Racine the writer and tax inspector
Louis Racine (1692-1763) was a French poet of the Age of the Enlightenment. The second son of the celebrated tragic dramatist Jean Racine, he was interested in poetry from childhood but was dissuaded from trying to make it his career by the poet Boileau on the grounds that the gift never existed in two successive generations.
However, in 1719 Racine became a member of the Académie des Inscriptions and published his first major poem, La Grâce, in 1722. But, because of the poem’s Jansenist inspiration, Cardinal de Fleury, chief minister of Louis XV, blocked the poet’s admission to the Académie Française, and instead Racine was induced to accept the post of inspector-general of taxes at Marseille in Provence.
For the next 24 years, although he continued to write poetry, Racine worked as a tax inspector in various provincial towns and cities. His most important poem, La Religion, in which he was careful to avoid further accusations of Jansenism, was published in 1742. He eventually retired from government service in 1746, aged 54, and returned to Paris where he devoted himself to his writing.
In November 1755, he lost his only son and his daughter-in-law when they were swept away by the tsunami from the Lisbon earthquake while on honeymoon at Cadiz in Spain. This tragedy, commemorated by the French poet Écouchard-Lebrun, is said to have broken Racine’s spirit. He sold his large library, gave up writing, and devoted himself now to the practice of religion. It was around this time that Racine wrote his last published work, an essay on the famous feral child of 18th-century France Marie-Angélique Memmie Le Blanc whom he had interviewed and written of in his philosophical poem L’Épître II sur l’homme.
Louis Racine was characterised by Voltaire, the leading French intellectual of his day, as le bon versificateur Racine, fils du grand Racine.
His Oeuvres complètes were collected in six volumes and published in Paris in 1808. He was said by his contemporaries to have been a very personable, humble man who was sincerely pious and fluent in seven languages.