Auteur : Butler (Samuel), 1879. Un art d’écrire ironique, qui se laisse lire à deux niveaux, l’un destiné aux savants, l’autre au peuple.
Date et contexte : 1879
Butler soutient la thèse de la présence d’un « subrisive humour » dans le texte de Buffon (p. 83).
Samuel Butler, Evolution old and new ; or the theories of Buffon, Dr. Erasmus Darwin, and Lamarck, as compared with that of Mr. Charles Darwin, London, Hardwicke and Bogue, 1879, ch. IX « Buffon’s method, the Ironical character of his work ».
p. 81. « I am inclined to think that a vein of irony pervades the whole, or much the greater part of Buffon’s work, and that he intended to convey, one meaning to one set of readers, and another to another ; indeed, it is often impossible to believe that he is not writing between his lines for the discerning, what the undiscerning were not intended to see. It must be remembered that his Natural History has two sides, a scientific and a popular one. May we not imagine that Buffon would be unwilling to debar himself from speaking to those who could understand him, and yet would wish like Handel and Shakespeare to address the many, as well as the few ? But the only manner in which these seemingly irreconciliable ends could be attained, would be by the use of language which should be self-adjusting to the capacity of the reader. So keen an observer can hardly have been blind to the signs of the times which were already close at hand. Free-thinker though he was, he was also a powerful member of the aristocracy, and little likely to demean himself — for so he would doubtless hold it — by playing the part of Voltaire or Rousseau. »
p. 84 : « It is probably for the reasons above suggested that Buffon did not propound a connected scheme of evolution or descent with modification, but scattered his theory in fragments up and down his work in the prefatory remarks with which he introduces the more striking animals or classes of animals. »