- Margot la ravaudeuse by Louis-Charles Fougeret de Monbron
Five years after his critical edition of Le Cosmopolite, ou le citoyen du monde (Cambridge: Modern Humanities Research Association, 2010), Édouard M. Langille returns to Fougeret de Monbron and presents us with a much-needed translation of his most famous work, Margot la ravaudeuse (1753). Alongside the marquis d’Argens’s Thérèse philosophe, Margot la ravaudeuse is one of the crown jewels of what was once the ‘Enfer’ section of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. It relates the story of an attractive stocking-darner who manages to climb the social ladder and eventually retires to ‘enjoy with a few intimate friends the best that life has to offer’ (p. 61). Despite its manifest indebtedness to John Cleland’s Fanny Hill (which Monbron himself had adapted for the French public in 1751), and in spite of its own centrality to the literary production of Catherine Gore, among others, Margot la ravaudeuse has been translated into English only once before (The Amorous Adventures of Margot, translated by M. Alexander and L. E. LaBan (North Hollywood, CA: Brandon House, 1967)), and mentions of it in English scholarly works have consequently been very rare. It cannot but be hoped, then, that Langille’s newly published translation will fuel the interest of anglophone scholars in a work that, if properly analysed, will add much to our understanding of the libertine novel as a genre and of the eighteenth-century literary scene as a whole. Furthermore, Margot la ravaudeuse may well be of interest to scholars working on a wide variety of other subjects, ranging from cultural history to gender studies. Indeed, Langille’s edition offers much to satisfy a scholarly readership: his Introduction provides a detailed account of the life and works of Fougeret [End Page 599] de Monbron, includes an exhaustive bibliography, and perfectly succeeds in situating the novel within the broader context of European literature, with a special focus on Britain. This critical apparatus may accordingly prove helpful to French-speaking researchers as well. However, Langille also caters to a non-scholarly readership. Very informative footnotes and a high-quality translation, which effectively conveys Monbron’s colloquial style, make the book perfectly suitable for a wide public. Langille’s mimicking of foreign accents adds to the enjoyment of the text—as is particularly apparent in the case of Margot’s German suitor (‘Vivat! [ . . . ] You haff just profided me, vithout knowink what you were saying, with the most charmink opportunity to make a peace offerink’ (p. 45))—and the translation proves both accurate and pleasant even when the original French is at its most difficult, for instance in the episode of the diplomat who seeks Margot’s favours.