January 27, 2014


Prose writer and philosopher who settled in England and who won European fame with The Fable of the Bees.

Mandeville graduated in medicine from Leiden University, the Netherlands, in March 1691 and started to practice but very soon went abroad.

Arriving in England to learn the language, he "found the Country and the Manners of it agreeable" and settled in London.

In 1699 he married an Englishwoman by whom he had two children. His professional reputation in London was soon established and he attracted the friendship and patronage of important persons. Benjamin Franklin found him an agreeable companion.

Mandeville´s first works in English were burlesque paraphrases from the 17th-century French poet Jean de La Fontaine and the French writer Paul Scarron.

The 1714 edition of Mandeville´s most important work The Fable of the Bees was subtitled Private Vices, Publick Benefits and consisted of a preface, the text of The Grumbling Hive, an Enquiry into the Origin of Moral Virtue and Remarks on the poem.

The 1732 edition included an examination of The Nature of Society and provoked a long controversy.

Mandeville´s argument in The Fable, a paradoxical defense of the utility of vices, rests on his definition of all actions as equally vicious in that they are motivated by self interest. Yet the results of such actions, producing the comforts of civilization, are beneficial to man.

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