Late-breaking news on Regnault-Warin’s controversy


Le Cimetière de la Madeleine has elicited an upsurge of interest recently.  An unbound copy of the 1800 edition sold on ebay for 200 euros yesterday!   Why this great interest now?  The reason lies, at least in part, in  the novel’s contested  legacy.    (There is also a sensational publishing history here; watch this blog for more on that story.)

Most critics believe Le Cimetière de la Madeleine to present an apology for royalist sentiment, written by a beleaguered champion for truth under a semi-totalitarian regime. The profile of an embattled author is enhanced by the “avertissement” to volume three where Regnault-Warin details the problems encountered with the police after publishing vols. 1 & 2.*   Close study of the author’s voluminous earlier writings, however, and analysis of the ambiguous way that the novel concludes its account of the Dauphin’s martyrdom, point to a more complicated interpretation. In a book-in-progress, we interpret Regnault-Warin’s novel as a transitional tale of Bourbon sacrifice and republican redemption.

*Now that we’ve had the opportunity to do more research at the wonderful Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris, it has come to our attention that the “avertissement” is only included in the Lepetit jeune edition of 1800-01, held in the Rare Books collection at the University of Notre Dame Hesburgh Library.  It does not appear in later editions of 1801 by Lepetit jeune or Les Marchands de Nouveautés.  What does that mean?  The mystery continues…

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