Restif de la Bretonne, Nicolas Edme

Restif de la Bretonne, Nicolas Edme

(nëkôlä` ĕd`mə rĕstēf` də lä brətôn`), 1734–1806, French novelist. A printer by trade, he wrote and published over 250 novels, mostly based on incidents in his own rather libertine life. His detailed realism earned him the epithets "the Rousseau of the gutter" and "the Voltaire of the chambermaids." He was the author of many tracts on social reform. Outstanding among his novels are Le Pied de Fanchette (1769), Le Paysan perverti (1775), Les Parisiennes (1787), and Monsieur Nicolas (16 vol., 1794–97; tr., 6 vol., 1930–31).
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Restif de la Bretonne, Nicolas Edme


(also Rétif de la Bretonne). Born Nov. 22, 1734, in Sacy, Yonne Department; died Feb. 3, 1806, in Paris. French writer.

The son of a peasant, Restif de la Bretonne worked as a printer in Paris from 1755. As a writer, he introduced a new theme into literature: the life of the plebeian strata of the population. Influenced by Rousseau, he wrote the novel The Peasant Perverted, or the Dangers of the City (1775), in which urban life, with its vices, is contrasted with the Utopian agricultural commune; similar themes appear in the Utopian novel Southern Discovery (1781). In these two novels and in a series of books entitled Strange Ideas (1769–89), Restif de la Bretonne is revealed as a precursor of Utopian socialism. However, his social thought was rather naïve. Extreme frankness characterizes Restif de la Bretonne’s 16-volume autobiographical novel Monsieur Nicolas, or the Human Heart Laid Bare (1794–97), which reveals the depths of human psychology and depicts the life and mores of 18th-century France. The series of short stories Women of My Day (vols. 1–42, 1780–85), which creates a gallery of female characters, depicts everyday life realistically.

Restif de la Bretonne’s books are notable for their accuracy of description, abundance of naturalistic detail, and clearly expressed democratic tendencies. A special place in Restif de la Bretonne’s enormous literary output (more than 200 volumes) is held by his book of literary sketches Parisian Nights, or the Night Spectator (1788–94), which is devoted to prerevolutionary and revolutionary Paris. A supporter of the French Revolution, Restif de la Bretonne was close to G. Babeuf.


L’Oeuvre, vols. 1–9. Paris, 1930–32.
[Choix de textes.] Preface by F. Marceau. [Paris, 1964.] (Contains bibliography.)
La Vie de mon père. Paris [1970.] (Contains bibliography.)
In Russian translation:
Sovrashchennyi poselianin; Zhizn’otsa moego. Moscow, 1972.


Istoriia frantsuzskoi literatury, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1946. Pages 788–90.
Buachidze, G. S. Retif de la Bretonn v Rossii. Tbilisi, 1972.
Bégué, A. Etat présent des études sur Rétif de la Bretonne. Paris, 1948.
Porter, C. A. Restif’s Novels or an Autobiography in Search of an Author. New Haven-London, 1967. (Contains bibliography.)
Ellis, H. “Restif de la Bretonne.” In From Rousseau to Proust. Freeport, N. Y. [1968].
Lacroix, P. Bibliographie et iconographie de tous les ouvrages de Restif de la Bretonne. Paris, 1875.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.