While recent scholarship has tended to highlight the position of Le Pour et le contre as something of a landmark in the journalism of the ancien régime, and students of Prévost’s œuvre have long been aware of the need to take account of his writing in that periodical, there has never, until now, ben any attempt at a critical edition.
Consequently, Le Pour et le contre has largely escaped systematic textual study, so that all manner of questions remain in varying degrees unanswered. Who printed it? How many editions did it go through, and how may these be identified? What is the relationship between the editions? Is there any evidence of variant states and, if so, what is their significance? Where there are textual variants, which reading should be preferred, and why? To what extent, if at all, was the author’s original text modified by the intervention of the censor, or by editorial intervention on the part of the publisher? Who replaced Prévost as author of Le Pour et le contre, and for which numbers? What sources were used, and how were they exploited? Should the sentiments expressed at any given time be attributed to the author of Le Pour et le contre, or to his source, or to the censor? The present edition attempts to answer these and other questions as far as possible.
Le Pour et le contre no. 61 marks Prévost’s official return to the French scene. The first sixty numbers may be seen, therefore, to constitute the first period in the career of Le Pour et le contre. The highlights are undoubtedly the review of Voltaire’s Letters concerning the English nation and Prévost’s elaborate self-justification in response to Lenglet-Dufresnoy’s accusations. But the anecdotes about English life and letters, which form the substance of most of these early numbers, and the fictional tales which Prévost occasionally includes, are likewise rich in interest.
This edition gives the full text of each number, based on a comparison of up to twenty copies of Le Pour et le contre. For each number, the extensive critical apparatus gives details of the editions and variant states found, comments of each point of bibliographical interest, and records significant variants, while explanatory notes are given on the substance of the text. In addition, the manuscript annotations to be found in the copy of Le Pour et le contre held at the municipal library in Lyons are published here integrally for the first time. Ranging from a single word or less to several pages, they undoubtedly reinstate Prévost’s text in the vast majority of cases, and are of great interest for the light they shed on matters of censorship and authority.