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Pierre Antoine Motteux

Pierre Antoine Motteux (February 25, 1663 - February 18, 1718), English translator and dramatist, of French parentage, was born at Rouen.

After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes he settled in London with his kinsman and godfather, Paul Dominique Motteux. He acted as an auctioneer of pictures, and in 1706 he had a shop in Leadenhall Street for the sale of lace, stuffs, Chinese and Japanese commodities, duly advertised in the Spectator by his friend Richard Steele. He had not been six years in England when he obtained sufficient mastery of the language to edit the monthly The Gentleman's Journal, which contained verses by himself and by the chief wits of the day.

In 1693 he edited the third book, hitherto unpublished, of Sir Thomas Urquhart[?]'s translation of Rabelais, and in the next year printed the first and second books of Urquhart's translation. In 1694 he completed Urquhart's work by a translation of the fourth and fifth books, which, although not to be compared with the racy, nervous writing of Urquhart, shows a perfect mastery of colloquial English and an intimate and adequate sense of Rabelais's meaning. The complete translation appeared in five volumes in 1693-1694, and was reprinted as The Whole Works of Francis Rabelais, M.D., described as the work of "Sir T. Urchard, Knight, Mr Motteux and others."

His first play, a comedy in five acts entitled Love's Jest, was produced at Lincoln's Inn Fields in 1696, and next year followed The Loves of Mars and Venus. He wrote other works for the stage of no great consequence. More important than his dramatic work is his History of the Renowned Don Quixote de la Mancha (4 vols., 1701, 2nd ed., 1712), "translated from the original by many hands and published by Peter Motteux," one of the most masterly and spirited translations in English.

His later years appear to have been given to the shop in Leadenhall Street. He was murdered on the 18th of February 1718 at a house of ill fame in Star Court, near St Clement's Church, London, under circumstances which have never come to light. The manner of his death was no criterion of his life, which appears to have been sober and decent.

An excellent life by Henri van Laun is prefixed to the 1880 reprint (4 vols.) of JG Lockhart[?]'s edition of Motteux's Don Quixote. See also a prefatory note by Charles Whibley in vol. iii. of Sir T Urquhart's Rabelais (Tudor Translations, 1900), reprinted from a rare 1693-1694 edition.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

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