Nicolas Gueudeville's enlightenment utopia

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Nicolas Gueudeville's 1715 French translation of Utopia is often dismissed as a "belle infidèle," an elegant but unfaithful work of translation. Gueudeville does indeed expand the text to nearly twice its original length. But he presents Utopia as a contribution to emergent debates on tolerance, natural religion, and political anthropology, directly addressing the concerns of many early advocates of the ideas we associate with Enlightenment. In this sense, it is not as much an "unfaithful" presentation of More's project as it is an attempt to introduce Utopia to eighteenth-century francophone audiences-readers for whom theses on political economy and natural religion were much more salient than More's own preoccupations with rhetoric and English law. This paper introduces Gueudeville and his oeuvre, paying particular attention to his revisions to Louis-Armand de Lom d'Arce, Baron de Lahontan's 1703 Nouveaux Voyages dans l'Amérique Septentrionale. Published in 1705, Gueudeville's "revised, corrected, & augmented" version of Lahontan's Voyages foregrounds the rational and natural religion of the Huron as well as their constitutive aversion to property, to concepts of "mine" and "yours." Gueudeville's revised version of Lahontan's Voyages purports to be an anthropological investigation as well as a study of New World political economy; it looks forward, moreover, to his edition of Utopia, framing More's work as a comparable study of political economy and anthropology. Gueudeville, in other words, renders More's Utopia legible to Enlightenment audiences, depicting Utopia not in terms of impossibility and irony but rather as a study of natural religion and attendant forms of political, devotional, and economic life. Gueudeville's edition of Utopia even proved controversial due, in part, to his insistence on the rationality as well as the possibility of Utopia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-60
Number of pages37
Issue number209
StatePublished - Jun 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Religious studies
  • Law


  • "Noble savage"
  • Baron de Lahontan
  • Enlightenment
  • Natural religion
  • Property
  • Radical enlightenment
  • Thomas more
  • Utopia


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