Restif de La Bretonne (1734-1806) is one of the most prolific and talented French
libertine writer of the 18th century. "Rediscovered" in the 1960's and the 70's, he is no longer seen
as a secondary author, and now has his place among the greatest, Voltaire, Diderot, Sade, Laclos...
Restif de La Bretonne in Indiana? Hé oui! His main works are to be
found in the Indiana University Libraries - Bloomington, especially in the Main Library (research
Collections) and in the Lilly Library, which , among other French treasures, owns a very good
copy of the original edition of Les Contemporaines, and where the volumes should be
consulted carefully, one by one, s'il vous plaît...
Call numbers are given below, at the end of the Présentation complète .
Les Contemporaines (Contemporary Women) is a collection of 272 short
stories(nouvelles) organized in 42 volumes, which present a vast panorama of Parisian
women of all conditions and ages. Restif intended to write only three volumes, but kept on
accumulating stories, without definite plan. The stories were written between 1779 and 1784, and
published between 1780 and 1785, with 283 illustrations by Binet. The collection is divided in
three groups, or series :
1 - "les Contemporaines ou Aventures des plus jolies femmes de l'âge
présent" (Contemporary Women or Adventures of the most beautiful women of
the present age), then called "les Contemporaines melêes" (Mixed Contemporary Women),
2 - "les Contemporaines du commun ou Aventures des belles marchandes, ouvrières,
etc.,de l'âge présent" (Contemporary Women of the Common People or
Adventures of the beautiful working women of the present age), 13 volumes.
3 - "les Contemporaines par gradation ou Aventures des jolies femmes de l'âge actuel,
suivant la gradation des principaux états de la société" (Contemporary
Women by gradation or Adventures of the most beautiful women of nowadays, following the
gradation of the main stations of society), 12 volumes.
In spite of the all the social differences described, the three series rely on the same themes:
traditional ones like resistance of feminine virtue, corruption of innocence, adultery punished,
or more personal ones developed by Restif in other works : polygamy, travesty, murder of the
husband and illicit love redeemed through procreation. The two stories published in these Web
pages offer merely a small glimpse of Restif's skill.
Concerning the spelling we have kept the one of the original edition (especially in the
html versions, with accents), except for verb endings in - oit , replaced by - ait ,in
order to make them uniform and so less disturb the flow of narrative.
Binet, Louis (1744-1800) student of Jacques-Firmin Beauvarlet (1731-1797), who
was the engraver of the king Louis the 16th, he has illustrated some of the works of Restif, in
particularLe Paysan Perverti. The reproductions of the engravings presented here give only
an idea of the original. The comments accompagning the engravings are from the original edition,
checked by Restif. The relationship between text and image was very important to him.
About Restif (ascii format & english)
Présentation complète (ascii format & french)