François-Vincent Toussaint (1715-1772)

François-Vincent Toussaint (21 December 1715 - 22 June 1772) was a French writer most famous for Les Mœurs (The Manners). The book was published in 1748 and was soon prosecuted and burned by the French court of justice.

Toussaint worked with Denis Diderot and Marc-Antoine Eidous on a French translation of Dr. Robert James' A Medicinal Dictionary (the London publication of 1743-1745, fol. 3 vols, became Dictionnaire universel de medicine, published in Paris 1746-1748, fol. 6 vols). He later contributed to the first volumes of the Encyclopédie of Jean le Rond d'Alembert and Diderot.

Toussaint produced novels, and also worked as a proof reader, magazine publisher and language translator. He translated Tobias Smollett's The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, and composed the table of contents for a 1749 edition of L'Esprit des Lois (The Spirit of the Laws) by Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu.

Toussaint was born in Paris and studied to become a lawyer, but he always worked in the book trade. He was fortunate when his novel Les Mœurs was issued, because he was acquainted with the minister of the Navy, Maurepas. The book was a scandal (and a huge success, reprinted 13 times in the first year) for several reasons, including the fact that one of the treatise's characters was assumed to be based on the oversanctimonious queen Marie Leszczynska.

Toussaint finally got into trouble because of his book in 1757, during the period when Robert Damiens attempted to assassinate Louis XV of France. On the other hand, Claude Adrien Helvétius legally published his book De l'Esprit in 1758. It was then that the enemies of the Enlightenment saw their chance to destroy the hated Encyclopédists. This was the moment when Les Mœurs came to be regarded as a book that could lead to regicide. Also Toussaint illegally sold 400 exemplaires of an illegal reprint of De l'Esprit. He left France then, traveling first to Brussels, and in 1764 moved to Berlin. He had become an external member of the Prussian Academy of Science in 1751, but once he was settled in Berlin he was appointed a regular member of the Academy.

Toussaint published an Éclaircissement (Explanation) of his book Les Mœurs in 1763, in which he showed that every one was mistaken and the book was not at all offensive. During this time he also worked as a teacher in a military school recently founded by Frederick II of Prussia.

When he died in 1772, he was quite poor, leaving behind a wife and several children.

As for Les Mœurs, even if it were his biggest success, he felt sorry for having written it almost all his life. Parts of the book were re-used in several articles of the Encyclopédie.

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