Author(s): Frangois de Fénelon, Edited by Patrick Riley
Publication Date: 15/09/1994
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Fénelon's Telemachus (1699) is, alongside Bossuet's Politics, the most important work of political theory of the grand siècle in France. It was also the most widely read work of the time, influencing Montesquieu and Rousseau in its attempt to combine monarchism with republican virtues. Fénelon tells of the moral and political education of Telemachus, young son of Ulysses, by his tutor Mentor (the goddess Minerva in disguise). Telemachus visits every corner of the Mediterranean world and learns patience, courage, modesty and simplicity, the qualities he will need when he succeeds Ulysses as King of Ithaca. It is the story of the transformation of an egoistic young man into a model ruler, and is meant (among other things) as a commentary on the bellicosity and luxuriousness of Louis XIV. The present English edition follows closely that of Tobias Smollett published in 1776.