Hippolyte by Jean Yeuwain is a valuable document in Mons for the study of culture and humanities before the arrival of the Jesuits. Reflecting on how a bourgeois from Hainaut at the beginning of the 17th century wrote, it testifies to the rediscovery of ancient theatre by Renaissance scholars.
There is little information about the author. Jean Yeuwain was born in Mons and died before 1626, before the age of 60. Like his brother André (c. 1565-1639), he is the author of Latin poems and unpublished works on tragedies. The two brothers, sons of Nicolas and Jeanne Legrand, studied at the community college in Rue de Houdain which was founded in 1545. The Yeuwain family settled in Mons for generations. Jean is considered a "bourgeois of Mons."
In 1591, he completed an adaptation of the play Seneca. He was able to use two translations of his time, that of Martin-Antoine Delrio, published in Antwerp in 1576 and that of François van Raphelengen in Leiden in 1589. His translation is distinguished by versification while his more recent pieces are in prose. However, this manuscript will never be published despite André's will which states that he wanted to put his pieces and those of his brother in a collective volume. Despite several changes made by the author and by his brother's friends, Jean Laurent, a priest, and Pierre Cospeau, a lawyer who was responsible for the posthumous edition, it remains in manuscript form because the heirs protested and overturned the draft publication. The works of André and Jean Yeuwain most likely stayed with the executor and could not be traced until 1865 when they reappeared at a public auction at the library of Hippolyte Rousselle. The city acquired the manuscript of Jean Yeuwain as well as the works of his brother André.
Hippolyte was published in 1933 with an introduction by Gontran Van Severen.
The manuscript appears as a simple paper notebook (21.5 x 17 cm) of 38 numbered pages with no cover and bound in groups of 4 pages by cords forming knots on the back. The handwriting is most likely Jean Yeuwain's since it is unlikely that the author gave it to a copyist. In addition to the changes made by the author, the text shows his brother André's annotations as well as variations made by Cospeau. The manuscript is kept in a portfolio containing poems written by André and Jean Yeuwain and part of André Yeuwain's inheritance file.
Paul FAIDER, Catalogue des manuscrits de la bibliothèque publique de la ville de Mons, Gent-Paris, 1931, p. 386-387 ; Catherine GRAVET, Par des Montois, pour des Montois quatre siècles de théâtre à Mons dans Mons & le Hainaut, textes réunis par Catherine Gravet, Illustrations rassemblées par Christine Gobeaux, Mons, Université de Mons, 2013, p. 155-156 ; Ernest MATTHIEU, Biographie du Hainaut, Enghien, A. Spinet, t. 2, 1905, p. 425 ; Gontran VAN SEVEREN, Jean Yeuwain. Hippolyte tragédie tournée de Sénèque (1591). Édition critique précédée d’une introduction et accompagnée d’une étude littéraire, Mons, Société des Bibliophiles belges séant à Mons, 1933 (Publication n° 37)