Gargantua and Pantagruel eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 952 pages of information about Gargantua and Pantagruel.

In 1820 L’Aulnaye published through Desoer his three little volumes, printed in exquisite style, and which have other merits besides.  His volume of annotations, in which, that nothing might be lost of his own notes, he has included many things not directly relating to Rabelais, is full of observations and curious remarks which are very useful additions to Le Duchat.  One fault to be found with him is his further complication of the spelling.  This he did in accordance with a principle that the words should be referred to their real etymology.  Learned though he was, Rabelais had little care to be so etymological, and it is not his theories but those of the modern scholar that have been ventilated.

Somewhat later, from 1823 to 1826, Esmangart and Johanneau issued a variorum edition in nine volumes, in which the text is often encumbered by notes which are really too numerous, and, above all, too long.  The work was an enormous one, but the best part of it is Le Duchat’s, and what is not his is too often absolutely hypothetical and beside the truth.  Le Duchat had already given too much importance to the false historical explanation.  Here it is constantly coming in, and it rests on no evidence.  In reality, there is no need of the key to Rabelais by which to discover the meaning of subtle allusions.  He is neither so complicated nor so full of riddles.  We know how he has scattered the names of contemporaries about his work, sometimes of friends, sometimes of enemies, and without disguising them under any mask.  He is no more Panurge than Louis XII. is Gargantua or Francis I. Pantagruel.  Rabelais says what he wants, all he wants, and in the way he wants.  There are no mysteries below the surface, and it is a waste of time to look for knots in a bulrush.  All the historical explanations are purely imaginary, utterly without proof, and should the more emphatically be looked on as baseless and dismissed.  They are radically false, and therefore both worthless and harmful.

In 1840 there appeared in the Bibliotheque Charpentier the Rabelais in a single duodecimo volume, begun by Charles Labiche, and, after his death, completed by M. Paul Lacroix, whose share is the larger.  The text is that of L’Aulnaye; the short footnotes, with all their brevity, contain useful explanations of difficult words.  Amongst the editions of Rabelais this is one of the most important, because it brought him many readers and admirers.  No other has made him so well and so widely known as this portable volume, which has been constantly reprinted.  No other has been so widely circulated, and the sale still goes on.  It was, and must still be looked on as a most serviceable edition.

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