Nouvelle Allégorique

Antoine Furetière, Paris, 1658, Google Books

This was the first work Lister recorded reading in 1665.

Furetière (1619-1688) was a scholar and writer from Paris, who trained as a lawyer and became abbé of Chalivoy (Bourges).   A member of the Académie française, he was best known for his satires, including the Nouvelle Allégorique, and as the ‘Father of the French Dictionary’.

As Erik Butler has noted, Furetière’s Nouvelle Allégorique is the early modern French version of the Bellum Grammaticale characterizing language as a battlefield for political and literary influence between proper courtly speech and ill-mannered babble.    The work was intended as a celebration of the Académie française, and as ‘an indictment of those who cultivated letters in a way that did not befit the ascendant political and cultural order’. 1  The Nouvelle Allégorique was the very exemplar of the preciosity and ornament of the French language that characterized absolutist France:  ‘Rhétorique and her troops bask in glow of metropolitan Éloquence, and the enemy forces dwell in the shadows of the provinces and foreign lands’. 2

Unfortunately for Furetière, when he later sought to ‘express a vision of language of odds with the one presented in the Nouvelle . . . he found himself ensnared in a trap of eloquence he had helped to create’. 3

Later in his career, as Kathryn Hoffman has noted, Furetière engaged in a long battle with the Académie française over the right to publish his Dictionnaire universel, making ‘the rather surprising assertion, for the seventeenth century, that language belonged to all men, that the exclusive privilège held by the Academy constituted a monopoly’. 4  Despite Academy objections, he published his work in 1684, dying before there was a court judgment on his right to produce his work for public consumption.


  1. Erik Butler, The ‘Bellum Grammaticale’ and the Rise of European Literature (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2010), 53.
  2. Butler, Bellum Grammaticale, 55.
  3. Butler, Bellum Grammaticale, 54.
  4. Kathryn A. Hoffman, ‘Palimpsests of Knowledge, Feast of Words: Antoine Furetière’s Dictionnaire universel’, Cahiers du dix-septième: An Interdisciplinary Journal vii, 1 (1997), 47-60, on  47.

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