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This report is taken from PN Review 138, Volume 27 Number 4, March - April 2001.

My Old Dressing Gown (translated by Iain Bamforth) Denis Diderot

This, one of Diderot's most lighthearted pieces, was a note of thanks to Madame Geoffrin, a wealthy patron who had sent him a new dressing gown along with some pictures and ornate furniture in return for his help in the matter of a troublesome inheritance. Diderot was used to living simply, if not frugally, and he pretends to foresee dire consequences for his moral welfare in the redecoration of his study. In this short piece, the most genial of the philosophes puts his finger on the modern problem of affluenza - keeping up with the Joneses. The Diderot Syndrome seems more acute than ever now that cognitive expansion and wealth creation go hand in glove. Regrets sur ma Vieille Robe de Chambre was first published as a small octavo brochure in 1772.

Why didn't I hold on to it? It was used to me; I to it. It fitted itself snugly yet loosely around the folds of my body; it was a handsome Joseph's coat. The new one I've acquired is starchy and rigid; it makes me look like a tailor's dummy. The old one used to lend itself complaisantly to any demands I made of it, the way the poor are almost always obliging. If a book was rimed with dust, one of the flaps of my old dressing gown served to wipe it clean. If the ink was too clotted to run out of my pen, there was its ...

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