Monsieur Guillaume ou le Disputeur, by Théophile Duvernet.

IMG_4268.jpg Monsieur Guillaume title page Monsieur Guillaume contemporary binding

A rare pamphlet by Voltaire's first biographer, which landed the author in the Bastille.

Monsieur Guillaume contemporary binding

[DUVERNET, Théophile Imarigeon, abbé]. Monsieur Guillaume ou le Disputeur. Nouvelle Édition, revue, corrigée & considerablement augmentée, avec des Notes Critiques, Politiques & Littéraires. Enrichie du portrait de M. Guillaume disputant dans le Café de Patural, avec M. Larcher, de l’Académie des Belles-Lettres.

S.n., Amsterdam, 1781.

8°: [A]4 (-A1) B-O4 P2 [$3 (-N3, O3) signed]; Frontispiece, [3-7] 8 [9] 10-116 pp. Contemporary yellow paper covered boards (cartonnage) with manuscript title label on the spine and shelf number, all edges red. Cover a bit rubbed with a few spots and a tiny bit of worming at the head, edge wear to one corner, otherwise a clean and solidly well preserved near fine copy of a scarce title.

This new edition, appearing the same year as the first edition, includes a much expanded text with footnotes and references, as well as an engraved frontispiece, in which we find our protagonist Monsieur Guillaume engaged in lively debate in a café.


In addition to frequently citing Voltaire, this pamphlet was directed against three of Duvernet’s prominent contemporaries, Simon-Nicholas Henri Linguet, Jean-Jacques Duval d'Eprémesnil, Abbé Sabatier de Cabres, which landed the author in prison. Duvernet relates the circumstances himself in the preface to the 1797 ed. La Vie de Voltaire, which I translate as follows:

[In 1781, I put out Disputes de M . Guillaume [sic], a pamphlet in which I mocked rather amusingly Linguet, d'Eprémesnil, and the atheism of the little abbot Sabatier de Castres, as well as some government nonsense. This pleasantry made the Parisians laugh for one or two days; as a reward, I was granted the honors of the Bastille].
En 1781 , je donnai les Disputes de M . Guillaume [sic], bagatelle où je me moquais assez plaisamment de Linguet, de Despréménil , de l’athéisme du petit abbé Sabatier de Castres, et de quelques sottises du Gouvernement . Cette gaieté fit rire les Parisiens pendant un ou deux jours ; et pour récompense on m’accorda les honneurs de la Bastille.

Duvernet took the sentence in stride, and complete a number of writing projects while in residence, including La Vie de Voltaire, which first appeared in 1786.