The Fable of the Bees or Private Vices, Publick Benefits, by Bernard Mandeville


History of the Text 1

THE production of The Fable of the Bees consumed some twenty-four years. The germ from which it developed was a sixpenny2 quarto of twenty-six pages published anonymously on 2 April 1705.3 It was called The Grumbling Hive: or,Knaves Turn’d Honest.4 The piece took, for a pirated edition was soon printed, and ‘cry’d about the Streets in a Half-Penny Sheet’5 of four pages.

The work now lay fallow for almost a decade, until, in 1714,6 it reappeared as part of an anonymous book called The Fable of the Bees: or, Private Vices, Publick Benefits, in which the original poem was followed by a prose commentary, explaining, in the form of An Enquiry into the Origin of Moral Virtue and twenty ‘Remarks’, divers of the opinions expressed in the poem. There was a second edition the same year.7 In 17231 another edition, entitled the second, was issued at five shillings,2 with the ‘Remarks’ much enlarged3 and two essays added —An Essay on Charity and Charity-Schools and A Search into the Nature of Society.4

Now, for the first time, the work attracted real attention,5 and attacks upon it began to accumulate. The Grand Jury of Middlesex presented the book as a public nuisance, and what Mandeville called ‘an abusive Letter to Lord C.’ appeared in the London Journal for 27 July 1723. This caused Mandeville to publish, in the London Journal for 10 August 1723, a defence of his work against the ‘abusive Letter’ and the presentment. This defence he had reprinted upon sheets of a size such that they could easily be bound up with the 1723 edition,6 and he included this defence in all subsequent editions, together with a reprint of the letter to Lord C. and the Grand Jury’s presentment.7

In 1724 appeared the so-called third edition,8 in which, besides including the defence, Mandeville made numerous stylistic changes and added two pages to the preface. The next edition, in 1725, was identical except for a number of slight verbal alterations, some of which are probably by Mandeville.1 The editions of 1728 and 1729 are unchanged except for small variations which are probably due to the compositor.2 Mandeville may have been responsible for a few verbal variations in the edition which followed in 1732.3

The variations between the editions show Mandeville to have been a conscious stylist, carefully polishing.4

While the various editions of Part I were pouring out, Mandeville was writing a second part to the Fable, made up of a preface and six dialogues, amplifying and defending his doctrines. He issued this in 1728 (by title-page 1729)1 under the title of The Fable of the Bees. Part II. By the Author of the First. It was published independently of the first part — by a different publisher, in fact. A second edition of Part II followed in 1730, and in 1733 came a third edition, called, on its title-page, ‘The Second Edition’.2

After this, the two parts were published together. A two-volume edition was advertised in 1733.3 Another two-volume edition was published at Edinburgh in 1755, this same edition later appearing with a misleading title-page dated London, 1734.4 Still another two-volume edition issued from Edinburgh in 1772. In 1795 both parts appeared in a single volume, and this same edition was reisued in 1806. This was the last complete edition of the book. It had, however, a partial resurrection in 1811, when the poem of The Grumbling Hive was issued at Boston, Massachusetts, in a small pamphlet ‘printed for the People’.5

Meanwhile, the work had been translated into foreign languages. In 1740 appeared a four-volume French translation attributed to J. Bertrand1 — a free one, in which the Rabelaisian element in Mandeville was toned down; and a new edition of this was issued in 1750. It is possible that there was still another French edition in 1760.2 German translations appeared in 1761,3 1818,4 1914,5 and, possibly, in 1817.6

Such, in brief, was the textual history of the Fable of the Bees.

1 Below, ii. 386–400, I give the full title-pages of every accessible edition, together with a detailed account of the differences between the editions.

2 Fable i. 4.

3 Advertised in the Daily Courant for that date as ‘This Day is publish’d’. The advertisement was repeated the following day.

4 It corresponds to pp. 17–37 of this present volume.

5 Fable i. 4.

6 Advertised in the Post Boy for 1–3 July 1714 as ‘Just publish’d’. The notice reproduces the title-page of the first edition, and, therefore, I take it, refers to that.

7 Advertised in the Post Man for 4–7 Dec. 1714 as if published some time before. The announcement reproduces the title-page of the second edition, which seems, therefore, to be referred to.

1 Advertised as ‘Just publish’d’, in the Daily Post for 10 Apr. 1723, and in the Post Boy for 9–11 Apr. 1723. It was entered in the Register (MS.) of the Stationers’ Company 28 Mar. 1723 by Edmund Parker as owned entirely by Mandeville. Mandeville had also owned the 1711 Treatise (see Register 27 Feb. 17 10/11).

2 See below, i. 406, n. 1.

3 A summary of the additions is given below, ii. 392–3.

4 See Fable i. 253–322 and 323–69.

5 See Fable i. 409.

6 See Letter to Dion, p. 7.

7 See Fable i. 381–412.

8 It is probably this edition which is advertised as ‘Just publish’d’, in Applebee’s Original Weekly Journal for 18 Jan. 172 3/4, p. 3198.

1 That Mandeville and not the compositor was responsible for some of the variations between the editions of 1724 and 1725 is indicated, first, by the fact that the variations between these editions are much more numerous than the alterations occurring after 1725, which is what would be likely to happen if the changes were due to the author’s intention and not to inaccuracies of the printer; secondly, by the nature of certain of the changes — those noted below, i. 89, n. a, 139, n. a, 275, n. a, 288, n. c, 298, n. b, and 327, n. a. The variant in i. 89, n. a is especially significant, for in the previous edition Mandeville had made similar contractions (see below, i. 118, n. e, and 128, n. a); the variant in i. 139, n. a shows a correction of an error in the earlier editions — a correction of a kind not likely to be made by a compositor setting a verbatim reprint; and the change in i. 298, n. c is a stylistic improvement.

2 There is not a single alteration in the 1728 edition which might not easily be due to the compositor’s inaccuracy. That the changes in the 1729 edition were not Mandeville’s is shown by the fact that the next edition (1732) was set from the 1728 edition (the variants prove this).

3 The following two variants suggest Mandeville’s responsibility: the alteration in i. 149, n. a, which causes a witticism; and the correction of the index, i. 375, n. a.

4 For instance, in three cases (i. 55, n. c, 240, n. a, 241, n. a) the change seems to have been made merely to avoid repeating a word on the same page. The alteration of ‘Rigour’ to ‘Harshness’ (i. 245, n. b) apparently occurred because ‘rigid’ bad been used three lines earlier. Mandeville’s care is indicated also by such attention to shades of expression as is shown in i. 60, n. a. His desire for colloquial effect is shown by the contractions noted i. 89, n. a, 118, n. e, and 128, n. a.

1 Published 19 Dec. 1728, according to the Daily Courant for 17 and 19 Dec., and the Daily Post for 18 Dec.

2 The variants in these last two editions seem due to the compositor.

3 It is recorded in the London Magazine for Dec. 1733, p. 647.

4 See below, ii. 396–9.

5 The Grumbling Hive was also reprinted in F. D. Maurice’s edition of William Law’s Remarks upon . . . the Fable of the Bees (1844), in Paul Goldbach’s Bernard de Mandeville’s Bienenfabel (Halle, 1886), in J. P. Glock’s Symbolik der Bienen (Heidelberg, 1891 and 1897), pp. 358–79 (which also prints the German translation of 1818), and in part in Ernest Bernbaum’s English Poets of the Eighteenth Century (1918), pp. 14–18. Fragments of the prose of the Fable are printed in the edition of Law by Maurice just mentioned, Craik’s English Prose Selections (1894) iii. 440–6, Selby-Bigge’s British Moralists (1897) ii. 348–56, Rand’s Classical Moralists (1900), pp. 347–54, and Alden’s Readings in English Prose of the Eighteenth Century (1911), pp. 245–54.

1 By Barbier and the catalogues of the Bibliotheque Nationale and British Museum. I do not know the primary source of the ascription.

2 This edition is mentioned by Goldbach (Bernard de Mandeville’s Bienenfabel, p. 5). I doubt its existence.

3 In the preface the translator signed himself Just German von Freystein.

4 This version, by S. Ascher, contains a translation of the Grumbling Hive and a kind of paraphrase of the ‘Remarks’— really a rewriting by Ascher, sometimes contracting, sometimes as much as tripling in length what Mandeville said.

5 The 1914 translation is a new one.

6 An 1817 edition by the same editor, publisher, and, apparently, with the same title as in the case of the 1818 edition is recorded (priced at one reichsthaler) in Heinsius’ Allgemeines Bücher-Lexikon (1822) vi. 535 and Kayser’s Vollständiges Bücher-Lexicon (1834) iv. 20. I cannot find it in any German library. The reference to an ‘1817’ edition in R. Stammler’s Mandevilles Bienenfabel (Berlin, 1918), p. 8, n., is, the author informs me, a misprint for ‘1818’.

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 23:00