Apocryphal Account Of Rabelais' Death By Pierre Motteux And Others

by François Rabelais
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"I Am Going To Seek The Great Perhaps"

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Last Updated on October 13, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 199

Context: According to Anatole France, who wrote a Life of Rabelais together with a critical analysis of his works, the death speech and other traditional commentary on the controversial surgeon-monk's life are fanciful and inaccurate in every detail. Peter Anthony Motteux, who along with Urquhart first translated Rabelais into English,...

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Context: According to Anatole France, who wrote a Life of Rabelais together with a critical analysis of his works, the death speech and other traditional commentary on the controversial surgeon-monk's life are fanciful and inaccurate in every detail. Peter Anthony Motteux, who along with Urquhart first translated Rabelais into English, is given credit for circulating this and other apocryphal anecdotes, although the words are credited to other men as well. Anatole France states the case against the popular stories as follows:

Tradition effects strange metamorphoses, causing the heroes whom it sweeps along to lead a posthumous existence very different from the life they lived in flesh and blood. Rabelais is a case in point . . . [with] wretched fables, which are to be found in all the old biographies of the author. . . .
Once upon a time it was held that the statement was authentic which Rabelais made, when dying, to the page sent by Cardinal Du Bellay to inquire about the patient's health. "Tell Monsignor the state in which you see me. I am going away in search of a great perhaps. He is in the magpie's nest. Tell him not to leave it. Drop the curtain, the farce is over. . . ."

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