Between character, novel and libel: A seventeenth-century French traveller’s view of English culture
A. V. Stogova
Institute of World History, Russian Academy of Sciences (Russia, Moscow)
Keywords: Sorbière, Sprat, nation, travel, romance, character, libel, curiosity, galanterie, gallantry, science
Abstract: This article analyses the case of the scandal around Samuel Sorbière’s Relation d’un voyage en Angleterre (Report of a journey to England), published in 1664. The public reaction in England, most notably Thomas Sprat’s Observations on monsieur de Sorbier’s “Voyage into England” (1665), provides a rare opportunity to see the reader’s reaction of the English to how their national culture appears in a foreigner’s description. The analysis shows that the indignation was caused not by the negative comments themselves, but by the way in which they were presented. It was interpreted in the context of discourses and types of texts within which, in England and France in the 1660s, distance was created between the knowledgeable, sophisticated author of the statement and the object of his consideration, and equally so between the author and the reader. This article examines several French literary conventions that defined the manner of presentation chosen by Sorbière —salon literature, libertine writings and the moralistic tradition — as well as those contexts within which the text written in this way was read by the English critic — political satire, scholarly literature and romances. The differences in literary conventions were associated with cultural and national rather than personal priorities, and therefore contributed to the institutionalization of national discourses.
To cite this article: Stogova, A. V. (2022). Between character, novel and libel: A seventeenth-century French traveller’s view of English culture. Shagi/Steps, 8(1), 220–239. (In Russian). https://doi.org/10.22394/2412-9410-2022-8-1-220-239.