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Roberts, Eliza.

Beauties of Rousseau, The.


From The Library Of The Duke Of Bedford:
The First "Edition" Of Rousseau's Work By A Woman
(Roberts, Eliza). The Beauties of Rousseau; Selected By a Lady... London: T. Hookham, 1788.
2 vols., 8vo.; signed "Woburn Abbey" binding; marbled calf boards, intricately stamped in gilt; lightly bumped and rubbed; a splendid copy.    
First edition of the first book-length redaction of Rousseau ever produced by a woman; concurrent with similar French attempts, especially Madame de Staƫl's first book, published anonymously by her parents the previous year. From the library of the Duke of Bedford, with his bookplate on the front paste-downs.
An early exposition of Rousseau's philosophies, by an illusive British woman not appearing in any of the standard bibliographies. Eliza Roberts makes herself known only in the printed dedication to this volume-"To the Right Honorable Sir Lloyd Kenyon, Bart., Master of the Rolls, these volumes are inscribed, with all deference and respect, by his most obedient, and devoted, servant, Eliza Roberts, London, 4th June, 1788"-and in the brief preface to the first volume, which merits quoting in full:
The Beauties of the celebrated J.J. Rousseau recommend themselves; and any introductory Apology, either to execute the Transaction, or to point out the Claims of the Original to attention, would be to insult the Genius of the Author, and the understanding of the Public. I shall, therefore, only observe, on this Head, that I have faithfully endeavored to preserve the Sense, when I found it impossible to infuse the Spirit of my Author; and, that whatever defects may be found in either, I trust there will be discovered nothing offensive to the Interests of Religion, or Morality. If I have done both those and my Author Justice, by selecting only such Parts, as "teach the Passions to move at the command of Virtue," I shall have performed a duty to Rousseau, to my Sex, and to the Public.
Robert's edition of Rousseau is noteworthy on many levels: Rousseau (1712-1778) had been dead for only ten years at the time of this publication; his contributions to social and political theology, the novel, autobiography, moral theology and educational theory had been much remarked during his lifetime, but seldom by female critics, who were slower to embrace or dispute-publicly, at least-the import of Rousseau's theories of the "natural law" and the consequent implications for women. By the 20th century, the essence of Rousseau's philosophical argument would become a major point of contention for American and European feminists-one that is still very much part of the intellectual feminist currency.

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