Only edition of French poet-philosopher Jean-François de Saint-Lambert's short novel about the ultimate test of friendship between two young Iroquois men, with the action set in the region of the St. Lawrence River Basin in the period before the 1763 Treaty of Paris. There is no evidence that Saint-Lambert ever travelled to any part of Cananda before or after the Treaty, and so may have gathered his information on the Iroquois Nation from the 1723 Voyage de l’Amerique, by M. de Bacqueville de La Potherie, with whom Saint-Lambert shared a regional kinship. But some of the descriptions of the landscapes and the accounts of the customs of the people do not have an obvious historical source, and may have been reported to Saint-Lambert from an acquaintance who had returned from travels to the region. Le conte Iroquois is about two friends, Tolho and Mouza, "nés le même jour dans deux cabanes voisines," who come of age together, and whose loyalty to each other is repeatedly tested, most critically when they fall in love with the same Iroquois woman, Erimé. The novel is prefixed with an avertissement from the unnamed editor noting that the manuscript, which just "fell into our hands," is spicy, full of intrigue, and that the customs of the native peoples of North America have been painted with extreme verisimitude, and conform to everything they'd heard from trustworthy travelers. This editor adds that the author will (also) remain anonymous, because revealing his identity would add nothing to the tale. The novel proper opens with a description of the Iroquois people and the lands that they inhabit. It is filled with generalizations which, at the time, probably seemed generous and even charily respectful, but which today read as gross umbrella characterizations that subtract from any potential literary merit. The nowaday value of Le conte Iroquois lies in the descriptions of the features of the land and the customs of the Iroquois and their enemy, the Outaouais, and in fact stands as one of the first novels that feature Indigenous Canadian protagonists. The novel is set in the region of the Saint Lawrence River Valley, and Lake Ontario to Niagara Falls, where a pivotal scene occurs. Saint-Lambert was well known as a studious contributor to Diderot's Encyclopédie (but did not write the highly uncharitable entry for the Iroquois people; nor was that entry an obvious source for Saint-Lambert). At some point Diderot read Le conte Iroquois, and, clearly finding it wanting in every conceivable way, composed the short story "Les Deux amis de Bourbonne" as a kind of shaming critique. Saint-Lambert's novella and Diderot's story have obvious parallels beyond the echoing titles, though Diderot expressed in a letter that he thought Saint-Lambert would never see his response, and even if he did, wouldn't recognize it as a cruel, dismissive critique. (It is unknown if Saint-Lambert ever did see it.) Le conte Iroquois, without publisher or place, was, according to Echeverria & Wilkie, probably printed at Amsterdam. The few known copies are often bound with other works; ours is bound with a copy of an elegy to Voltaire, who, we note, shared a mistress with Saint-Lambert for many years. Two copies of Le conte Iroquois located in US libraries (Yale and John Carter Brown), and a single copy in Canadian institutional collections (Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec).
Two works in octavo, 180 x 125 x 12 mm (binding), 176 x 121 x 10 mm (text block). Ad.1: π2 A-E8 F4; , 85, ,  pp. Ad. 2: A-B8 C4; 40 pp. Contemporary quarter calf over marbled boards, titled in gilt on citron lettering-piece. Covers worn, loss of paper to lower board; old minor restorations to leather. Interior: Light foxing to first leaves, closed tear to F4, and to verso of C4 in second work.
Cioranescu (18th c.) III, p. 1621; Echeverria & Wilkie French Image in America, 770; Sabin 35106 ["Curious Indian tale, describing scenery on the Ohio and St. Lawrence."]; Martin, Angus, "Diderot's 'Deux amis de Bourbonne' as a critique of Saint-Lambert's 'Les deux amis, conte Iroquois,'" Romance Notes, UNC Press, Vol. 20, No. 2, pp. 235-41.
Status: On Hold