Denis Diderot: the Encyclopédist and a Pornographic Novelist

Denis Diderot, best known as a Philosophe of the Enlightenment and a co-editor of the Encyclopédie, has left his mark in every literary genre including that of the pornographic prose. The Indiscrete Family Jewels was published anonymously circa 1750 and depicts the Court of Versailles transported to a romantic local in the Caucasian mountains where Louis XV, in the role of the enlightened ruler of Chechnya, is curious to examine the moral fiber of his female subjects: with a turn of the stone in his magic ring, he can extract confessions, if not from the women themselves, a task no magic can accomplish, at least from their genital organs, which are compelled to speak the truth.

One of the aspects of pornographic novel is pure gossip; for example, the sexual liaisons of Louis XV’s daughters; the other is political satire; the third, and this one is of an interest to me, is self-parody, for such a view of the Enlightenment gives us a definition of truth as the lowest and the ugliest of all lies. Then the portrait of Louis XV, entertaining as it is, brings to memory the comment once made by the Count de Ségur that in his youth the king had too often been praised without merit, as for the criticism he has received in later years, it was equally exaggerated.

This entry was posted in Chateau Versailles, Diderot, Louis XV, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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