The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

October 17, 2013

October 17, 1719

Jacques Cazotte (October 17, 1719 to September 25, 1792)  is called by some the "father of fantastic fiction." This is based on his fiction titled The Devil in Love (1772 is the date of the original French). We get a glimpse into the significance of this author by noting some criticism written about the text of The Devil in Love:

One of a flurry of faustian narratives to be written around the turn of the nineteenth century, Le Diable amoureux contributed not only to an aesthetics of the fantastic but also to the sexual and psychological components that have come to be associated with the genre. The search for his sources has led critics to conclude that Cazotte was familiar with Villars's Comte de Gabalis, Voragine's La Légende dorée, and Bekker's Le Monde enchanté, among others. The narrative also reveals that he was well versed in the philosophical discourse and aesthetics of his day.

This is from an article written by Tili Boon Cuillé on our subject, which is the source of the quotes herein. 

The first story Cazotte published was La Patte du chat (1741). This translates as The Paw of the Cat. Some have described this work as a parody of the writings of Claude Crebillon, another 18th century French writer of fiction.  La Patte du chat is presented as a fairy tale and involves the banishment of  the hero who has accidentally stepped on the paw of the Queen's cat. Even better knowledge of French might not resolve the issue of whether the work is a parody and of whom.  

More confusion was later apparent in Cazotte's work and life regarding his membership in an Illuminati group called the Martinists, who claimed a goal of mystical union, wherein the path involves defeating evil spirits In other words, not a Christian way but a gnostic one.  Cuillé's article goes into these questions in some detail and should be read by anyone interested in this aspect of Cazotte's career.  It is my opinion though, that confusion must arise when mockery, rather than reasoned argument,  is used as a way to defeat those  espousing  intellectual conclusions different from one's own. This style was common in the 18th century France. 

Jacques Cazotte is said to have foretold his own execution. That was by guillotine during the Terror.  Though his predictive powers may arouse suspicion, Cazotte's "convictions and creations remain a conundrum for scholarship."

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