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Voltaire XLII

Aug 07, 2018



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I am a heritage because

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brin you years of tboupbt

and tbe lore of time ^

I impart yet I can pot 5peal<^

I have trciveled arnor^ tbe

peoples of, tbe eartb -^ I

am a rover-^ Oft-tLpes

1 strc^y frorr? tbe iresLde,

of tbe or?s u!bo loves and

cbertsbes rpe-o"bo

 #Olooeo n?e u"ber? I an?

^or?e $bould youLnd

n?e vac"rarct please send

brothers -on tbe

shelves of

%&O%'&#( O)

**, L

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 #he +O&$ of OL#.I&'

'/I#IO0 /' L. %.I)I.#IO0

Limited to one thousand sett

for .merica and 2reat 3ritain4

3et6een t6o servants of 7umanity, 6ho appeared

eighteen hundred years apart, the8- 9< a mysterious relation4

8 Let us say it 6ith a sentiment of

profound respect: ;'$$ +'%#: OL#.I&' $=IL'/4

Of that divine tear and of that human smile is composed the

s6eetness of the present civili>ation4

I#O& 72O4

=O=4 ;O70 =O&L3(

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LI$# O) %L.#'$



7O04 ;O70 =O&L'( 4 4 4 )rontispiece

=.&EI$' /' %O=%./O& 4444 1FG

I=%'&I.L %.L.' .# %O#$/.= 444 HFB

OL#.I&' .# $''0#( 1A

 #he &ight 7onorable ;ohn =orley 6as born in Lanca-

shire, 'ngland, in 1GG4 7e edited the )ortnightly &evie6

from 1GC* until 1GGH, and the 'nglish =en of Letters

series4 7is literary fame 6as established by his masterly

and courageous 6orDs, oltaire J1G*HK! &ousseau

J1G*CK! /iderot and the 'ncyclopaedists J1G*GK! and

On ompromise J1G*FK4 Other studies, literary and

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biographical, are included in his collected 6ritings4 7e

entered the 7ouse of ommons in 1GG as an independent

&adical and served under =r4 2ladstone as $ecretary for

Ireland4 =r4 =orley 6as chosen by the family to 6rite the

Life of his former distinguished leader4


7.%#'& I4

 #7' I/'.L =.0 )O& #7' #I='4

+7'0 the right sense of historical proportion is

more fully developed in men9s minds, the name of

oltaire 6ill stand out liDe the names of the great

decisive movements in the 'uropean advance, liDe

the &evival of Learning, or the &eformation4 #he

eistence, character, and career of this etraordinary

person constituted in themselves a ne6 and prodig-

ious era4 #he peculiarities of his individual genius

changed the mind and spiritual conformation of

)rance, and in a less degree that of the 6hole of the

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+est, 6ith as far-spreading and invincible an eMect

as if the 6orD had been 6holly done, as it 6as actu-

ally aided, by the s6eep of deep-lying collective

forces4 . ne6 type of belief, and of its shado6, dis-

belief, 6as stamped by the impression of his char-

acter and 6orD into the intelligence and feeling of

his o6n and the follo6ing times4 +e may thinD of

oltairism in )rance some6hat as 6e thinD of ath-

olicism or the &enaissance or alvinism4 It 6as one

of the cardinal liberations of the gro6ing race, one


C oltaire4

of the emphatic manifestations of some portion of

the minds of men, 6hich an immediately foregoing

system and creed had either ignored or outraged4

hristianity originally and generically at once

a6oDe and satisNed a spiritual craving for a higher,

purer, less torn and fragmentary being than is per-

mitted to sons of men on the troubled and corrupt

earth4 It disclosed to them a gracious, benevolent

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and all-po6erful being, 6ho 6ould one day redress

all 6rongs and recompense all pain, and 6ho asDed

no more from them mean6hile than that they should

prove their love of 7im 6hom they had not seen, by

love of their brothers 6hom they had seen4 Its great

glory 6as to have raised the moral dignity and self-

respect of the many to a level 6hich had hitherto

been reached only by a fe64 alvin, again, liDe

some stern and austere stepson of the hristian 2od,

 "ealous of the divine benignity and abused open-

handedness of his )ather9s house, 6ith 6ord of mer-

ciless po6er set free all those souls that 6ere more

anious to looD the tremendous facts of necessity

and evil and punishment full in the face than to

reconcile them 6ith any theory of the inNnite mercy

and loving Dindness of a supreme reator4 =en

6ho had been enervated or helplessly perpleed by a

creed that had sunD into ignoble optimism and self-

indulgence, became conscious of ne6 Nbre in their

moral structure, 6hen they reali>ed life as a long

6restling 6ith unseen and invincible forces of grace,

election, and fore-destiny, the agencies of a being

 #he Ideal =an for the #ime4 *

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6hose 6ays and dealings, 6hose contradictory attri-

butes of un"ust "ustice and loving vindictiveness, it

6as not for man, 6ho is a 6orm and the son of a

6orm, to reconcile 6ith the puny logic of human

6ords, or the shallo6 consistency of human ideas4

atholicism 6as a movement of mysticism, and so in

darDer regions 6as the alvinism 6hich in so many

important societies displaced it4 'ach did much to

raise the measure of 6orth and purify the spiritual

self-respect of manDind, and each also discouraged

and depressed the liberal play of intelligence, the

cheerful energi>ing of reason, the bright and many-

sided 6orDings of fancy and imagination4 7uman

nature, happily for us, ever presses against this sys-

tem or that, and forces 6ays of escape for itself into

freedom and light4 #he scientiNc reason urgently

seeDs instruments and a voice ! the creative imagina-

tion unconsciously taDes form to itself in manifold

6ays, of all 6hich the emotions can give good

account to the understanding4 7ence the glorious

suMusion of light 6hich the ardent desire of men

brought over the face of 'urope in the latter half of

the Nfteenth century4 3efore Luther and alvin in

their separate 6ays brought into splendid promi-

nence their ne6 ideas of moral order, more than t6o

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generations of men had almost ceased to care

6hether there be any moral order or not, and had

plunged 6ith the delight 9of enchantment among

ideas of grace and beauty, 6hose forms 6ere old on

the earth, but 6hich 6ere full of seemingly ine-

G oltaire4

haustible novelty and freshness to men, 6ho had once

begun to receive and to understand all the ever-living

gifts of 2recian art, architecture, and letters4 If the

&eformation, the great revival of northern 'urope,

6as the enfranchisement of the individual from

bondage to a collective religious tradition that had

lost its virtue, the &enaissance, the earlier revival of

southern 'urope, 6as the admission to participate in

the noblest collective tradition of free intellect 6hich

the achievements of the race could then hand do6n4

oltairism may stand for the name of the &enais-

sance of the eighteenth century, for that name taDes

in all the serious haltings and shortcomings of this

strange movement, as 6ell as all its terrible Nre,

s6iftness, sincerity, and strength4 #he rays from

oltaire9s burning and far-shining spirit no sooner

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strucD upon the genius of the time, seated darD and

dead liDe the blacD stone of =emnon9s statue, than

the clang of the breaDing chord 6as heard through

'urope, and men a6oDe in ne6 day and more spa-

cious air4 #he sentimentalist has proclaimed him a

mere mocDer4 #o the critic of the schools, ever

ready 6ith compendious label, he is the revolution-

ary destructive4 #o each aliDe of the countless

orthodo sects his name is the symbol for the pre-

vailing of the gates of hell4 'rudition Ngures him

as shallo6 and a trier ! culture condemns him for

pushing his hatred of spiritual falsehood much too

seriously! hristian charity feels constrained to

unmasD a demon from the depths of the pit4 #he

 #he Ideal =an for the #ime4 A

plain men of the earth, 6ho are apt to measure the

merits of a philosopher by the strength of his sym-

pathy 6ith eisting sources of comfort, 6ould gen-

erally approve the saying of /r4 ;ohnson, that he

6ould sooner sign a sentence for &ousseau9s trans-

portation than that of any felon 6ho had gone from

the Old 3ailey these many years, and that the diMer-

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ence bet6een him and oltaire 6as so slight that it

6ould be diPcult to settle the proportion of iniQuity

bet6een them4 #hose of all schools and profes-

sions 6ho have the temperament 6hich mistaDes

strong epression for strong "udgment, and violent

phrase for grounded conviction, have been stimu-

lated by antipathy against oltaire to a degree that

in any of them 6ith latent turns for humor must

no6 and then have even stirred a Dind of reacting

sympathy4 #he ranD vocabulary of malice and hate,

that noisome fringe of the history of opinion, has

received many of its most fulminant terms from crit-

ics of oltaire, along 6ith some from oltaire him-

self, 6ho un6isely did not al6ays refuse to follo6

an adversary9s bad eample4

 (et oltaire 6as the very eye of eighteenth-cen-

tury illumination4 It 6as he 6ho conveyed to his

generation in a multitude of forms the consciousness

at once of the po6er and the rights of human intel-

ligence4 .nother might 6ell have said of him 6hat

he magnanimously said of his famous contemporary,

=ontesQuieu, that humanity had lost its title-deeds,

and he had recovered them4 #he fourscore volumes

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io oltaire4

6hich he 6rote are the monument, as they 6ere in

some sort -the instrument, of a ne6 renaissance4

 #hey are the fruit and representation of a spirit of

encyclopaedic curiosity and productiveness4 7ardly

a page of all these countless leaves is common form4

7ardly a sentence is there 6hich did not come forth

alive from oltaire9s o6n mind, or 6hich 6as said

because some one else had said it before4 7is 6orDs,

as much as those of any man that ever lived and

thought, are truly his o6n4 It is not given, 6e all

Dno6, even to the most original and daring of lead-

ers, to be 6ithout precursors, and oltaire9s march

6as prepared for him before he 6as born, as it is for

all mortals4 (et he impressed on all he said, on

good 6ords and bad aliDe, a marDed autochthonic

Quality, as of the self-raised spontaneous products of

some miraculous soil, from 6hich prodigies and por-

tents spring4 =any of his ideas 6ere in the air, and

did not belong to him peculiarly ! but so strangely

rapid and perfect 6as his assimilation of them, so

vigorous and minutely penetrative 6as the Quality of

his understanding, so Nrm and independent his initi-

ative, that even these 6ere instantly stamped 6ith

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the epress image of his personality4 In a 6ord,

oltaire9s 6orD from Nrst to last 6as alert 6ith

unQuenchable life4 $ome of it, much of it, has

ceased to be alive for us no6 in all that belongs to its

deeper signiNcance, yet 6e recogni>e that none of it

6as ever the dreary still-birth of a mind of hearsays4

 #here is no mechanical transmission of untested bits

 #he Ideal =an for the #ime4 1 1

of current coin4 In the realm of mere letters, ol-

taire is one of the little band of great monarchs, and

in style he remains of the supreme potentates4 3ut

literary variety and perfection, ho6ever admirable,

liDe all purely literary Qualities, are a fragile and

secondary good 6hich the 6orld is very 6illing to

let die, 6here it has not been truly begotten and

engendered of living forces4

oltaire 6as a stupendous po6er, not only because

his epression 6as incomparably lucid, or even

because his sight 6as eQuisitely Deen and clear,

but because he sa6 many ne6 things, after 6hich the

spirits of others 6ere unconsciously groping and

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dumbly yearning4 0or 6as this all4 )ontenelle 6as

both brilliant and far-sighted, but he 6as cold, and

one of those 6ho love ease and a safe hearth, and

carefully shun the din, turmoil, and danger of the

great battle4 oltaire 6as ever in the front and

centre of the Nght4 7is- life 6as not a mere chapter

in a history of literature4 7e never counted truth a

treasure to be discreetly hidden in a napDin4 7e

made it a perpetual 6ar-cry and embla>oned it on a

banner that 6as many a time rent, but 6as never out

of the Neld4

 #his is the temper 6hich, 6hen the times are aus-

picious, and the fortunes of the Nght do not hurry

the combatant to dungeon or staDe, raises him into a

force instead of leaving him the empty shado6 of a

literary name4 #here is something in our nature

6hich leads men to listen coolly to the most eager

1H oltaire4

hints and pregnant innuendoes of sDepticism, on the

lips of teachers 6ho still in their o6n persons Deep

adroitly a6ay from the Nery darts of the oPcially

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orthodo4 #he same something, perhaps a moral

relish for veritable proofs of honesty, perhaps a

Quality of animal temperament, drives men to grasp

even a crudity 6ith fervor, 6hen they see it 6ielded

liDe a battle-ae against spiritual oppression4 .

man is al6ays so much more than his 6ords, as 6e

feel every day of our lives! 6hat he says has its

momentum indeNnitely multiplied, or reduced to nul-

lity, by the impression that the hearer for good rea-

sons or bad happens to have formed of the spirit and

moral si>e of the speaDer4 #here are things enough

to be said of oltaire9s moral si>e, and no attempt is

made in these pages to dissemble in ho6 much he

6as condemnable4 It is at least certain that he hated

tyranny, that he refused to lay up his hatred privily

in his heart, and insisted on giving his abhorrence a

voice, and tempering for his "ust rage a Nne s6ord,

very fatal to those 6ho laid burdens too hard to be

borne upon the conscience and life of men4 ol-

taire9s contemporaries felt this4 #hey 6ere stirred

to the QuicD by the sight and sound and thorough

directness of those ringing blo6s4 #he strange and

sinister method of assault upon religion 6hich 6e of

a later day 6atch 6ith 6ondering eyes, and 6hich

consists in 6earing the shield and device of a faith,

and industriously shouting the cry of a church, the

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more eMectually to reduce the faith to a vague futil-

 #he Ideal =an for the #ime4 1

ity,and its out6ard ordering to a piece of ingeniously

reticulated pretence! this method of attacD might

maDe even the champions of prevailing beliefs long

for the shre6d trusts, the ashing scorn, the relent-

less Nre, the do6nright grapples, 6ith 6hich the

hated oltaire pushed on his 6orD of crushing the

Infamous4 If he 6as bitter, he 6as still correct4 If

he 6as often a mocDer in form, he 6as al6ays

serious in meaning and laborious in matter4 If he

6as uninching against theology, he al6ays paid

religion respect enough to treat it as the most impor-

tant of all sub"ects4 #he contest 6as real, and not

our present pantomimic stage-play, in 6hich muRed

phantoms of debate are made to gesticulate ine-

pressible things in portentously signiNcant silence4

 #he battle 6as demorali>ed by its virulence4 #rue !

but is this 6orse than to have it demorali>ed by

co6ardice of heart and understanding, 6hen each

controversial man-at-arms is eager to have it thought

that he 6ears the colors of the other side, 6hen the

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theologian 6ould fain pass for rationalist, and the

freethinDer for a person 6ith his o6n orthodoies

if you only Dne6 them, and 6hen philosophic candor

and intelligence are supposed to have hit their Nnal

clima in the doctrine that everything is both true

and false at the same time?

. man liDe =ontaigne, as has been said, could

slumber tranQuilly on the pillo6 of doubt, content to

live his life, leaving many Questions open4 $uch

men9s meditations, 6hen composed in the genial

1F oltaire4

literary form proper to them, are naturally the

delight of people 6ith 6hom the 6orld goes fairly

6ell materially, 6ho have sensibility enough to be

a6are that there are unseen lands of Dno6ledge and

truth beyond the present, and destinies beyond their

o6n ! but 6hose sensibility is not intense and ardent

enough to maDe 6holly unendurable to them unscru-

tini>ing acQuiescence in half-thoughts and faint

guesses, and pale unshapen embryos of social sym-

pathy4 #here are con"unctures 6hen this mingling

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of apprehension and ease, of aspiration and content,

of timorous adventure and reective indolence is the

natural mood of even high natures4 #he great tides

of circumstance s6ell so tardily that 6hole genera-

tions, that might have produced their share of sDilful

and intrepid mariners, 6ait in vain for the full ood

on 6hich the race is borne to ne6 shores4

0or assuredly is it 6ell for men that every age

should marD either a revolution, or the slo6 in6ard

agitation that prepares the revolution, or that doubt-

ers and destroyers should divide bet6een them all

admiration and gratitude and sympathy4 #he vio-

lent activity of a century of great change may end in

a victory, but it is al6ays a sacriNce4 #he victory

may more than recompense its cost4 #he sacriNce

may repay itself a thousand-fold4 It does not al6ays

repay itself, as the too neglected list of good causes

lost, and noble eMort 6asted, so abundantly sho6s4

0or in any case is sacriNce ever an end4 )aith and

order and steady strong movement are the conditions

 #he Ideal =an for the #ime4 15

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6hich everything 6ise is directed to perfect and con-

solidate4 3ut for this process of perfection 6e need

Nrst the meditative, doubting, critical type, and net,

the dogmatic destroyer4 In counsel it is good to

see dangers, 3acon said ! and in eecution not to

see them, ecept they be very great4 #here are, as

history instructs us, eras of counsel and eras of ee-

cution ! the hour 6hen those do best 6ho 6alD most

6arily, feeling 6ith patience and sagacity and pains-

taDing for the ne6 6ays, and then the hour of march

and stout-hearted engagement4

oltaire, if he adroitly or sagely preserved his

bucDler, felt that the day 6as come to thro6 a6ay

the scabbard ! that it 6as time to trust Nrmly to the

free understanding of men for guidance in the

voyage after truth, and to the instincts of uncor-

rupted benevolence in men for the upholding of

social "ustice4 7is 6as one of the robust and inci-

sive constitutions, to 6hich doubt Ngures as a sicD-

ness, and 6here intellectual apprehension is an

impossibility4 #he old-fashioned nomenclature puts

him do6n among sDeptics, because those 6ho had

the oPcial right to aP these labels could thinD of

no more contemptuous name, and could not suppose

the most audacious soul capable of advancing even

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under the leadership of $atan himself beyond a

stray doubt or so4 7e had perhaps as little of the

sDeptic in his constitution as 3ossuet or 3utler, and

6as much less capable of becoming one than de

=aistre or %aley4 #his 6as a prime secret of his

1 C oltaire4

po6er, for the mere critic and propounder of unan-

s6ered doubts never leads more than a handful

of men after him4 oltaire boldly put the great

Question, and he boldly ans6ered it4 7e asDed

6hether the sacred records 6ere historically true,

the hristian doctrine divinely inspired and spirit-

ually ehaustive, and the hristian church a holy

and beneNcent organi>ation4 7e ans6ered these

Questions for himself and for others beyond pos-

sibility of misconception4 #he records 6ere sat-

urated 6ith fable and absurdity, the doctrine

imperfect at its best, and a darD and tyrannical

superstition at its 6orst, and the hurch 6as the

arch-curse and infamy4 $ay 6hat 6e 6ill of these

ans6ers, they 6ere free from any taint of sDepticism4

Our lofty ne6 idea of rational freedom as freedom

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from conviction, and of emancipation of understand-

ing as emancipation from the duty of settling

6hether important propositions are true or false, had

not da6ned on oltaire4

7e had "ust as little part or lot in the complaisant

spirit of the man of the 6orld, 6ho from the depths

of his mediocrity and ease presumes to promulgate

the la6 of progress, and as dictator to N its speed4

+ho does not Dno6 this temper of the man of the

6orld, that 6orst enemy of the 6orld? 7is ine-

haustible patience of abuses that only torment

others! his apologetic 6ord for beliefs that may

perhaps not be so precisely true as one might 6ish,

and institutions that are not altogether so useful as

 #he Ideal =an for the #ime4 1*

some might thinD possible! his cordiality to6ards

progress and improvement in a general 6ay, and his

coldness or antipathy to each progressive proposal in

particular! his pygmy hope that life 6ill one day

become some6hat better, punily shivering by the

side of his gigantic conviction that it might 6ell be

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inNnitely 6orse4 #o oltaire, far diMerent from

this, an irrational pre"udice 6as not the ob"ect of a

polite coldness, but a real evil to be combated and

overthro6n at every ha>ard4 ruelty 6as not to him

as a disagreeable dream of the imagination, from

thought of 6hich he could save himself by arousing

to sense of his o6n comfort, but a vivid ame burn-

ing into his thoughts and destroying peace4 +rong-

doing and in"ustice 6ere not simple 6ords on his

lips ! they 6ent as Dnives to the heart ! he suMered

6ith the victim, and 6as consumed 6ith an active

rage against the oppressor4

0or 6as the coarse cruelty of the inQuisitor or the

politician, 6ho 6rought iniQuity by aid of the arm

of esh, the only Dind of in"ury to the 6orld 6hich

stirred his passion4 7e had imagination enough and

intelligence enough to perceive that they are the

most pestilent of all the enemies of manDind, the

sombre hierarchs of misology, 6ho taDe a6ay the

Deys of Dno6ledge, thrusting truth do6n to the sec-

ond place, and discro6ning sovereign reason to be

the serving drudge of superstition or social usage4

 #he system 6hich thre6 obstacles into the 6ay of

publishing an eposition of 0e6ton9s discoveries

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ol4 FH H

1 G oltaire4

and ideas 6as as mischievous and hateful to him as

the darDer bigotry 6hich broDe 2alas on the 6heel

because he 6as a %rotestant4 #o checD the energetic

discovery and 6ide propagation of scientiNc truth,

he rightly held to be at least as destructive in the

long run to the common 6eal, as the un"ust eter-

mination of human life ! for it is the possession of

ever more and more truth that maDes life ever better

6orth having and better 6orth preserving4 .nd

must 6e not admit that he 6as right, and that no age

nor school of men nor individual has ever been mor-

tally afraid, as every good man is afraid, of inicting

any 6rong on his fello6, and has not also been afraid

of etinguishing a single ray from the great sun of

Dno6ledge ?

It is 6ell enough to say that in unscientiNc ages,

liDe the t6elfth century for instance, the burner of

booDs and the tormentor of those 6ho 6rote them

did not feel either that he 6as doing an in"ustice to

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man or a mischief to truth4 It is hard to deny that

$t4 3ernard 6as a good man, nor is it needful that

6e should deny it ! for good motives, o6ing to our

great blindness and slo6 enlightenment, have made

grievous havoc in the 6orld4 3ut the conception of

 "ustice to6ards heretics did not eist, any more than

it eisted in the mind of a lo6 type of 6hite man

to6ards a blacD man, or than the conception of pity

eists in the mind of a sportsman to6ards his prey4

 #hese 6ere ages of social cruelty, as they 6ere

ages of intellectual repression4 #he debt of each

 #he Ideal =an for the #ime4 1A

to his neighbor 6as as little felt as the debt of

all to the common faculties and intelligence4 =en

o6ed nothing to man, but everything to the gods4

.ll the social feeling and intellectual eMort and

human energi>ing 6hich had made the high idea

of 2od possible and real, seemed to have epended

themselves in a creation 6hich instantly s6allo6ed

them up and obliterated their recollection4 #he

intelligence 6hich, by its active straining up6ards

to the light, had opened the 6ay for the one 2od,

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became itself forth6ith identiNed 6ith the chief of

the devils4 7e 6ho used his reason 6as the child of

this demon4 +here it is a duty to 6orship the sun,

it is pretty sure to be a crime to eamine the la6s of

heat4 #he times 6hen such 6as the universal idea

of the rights of the understanding 6ere also the

times 6hen human life 6as cheapest, and the tiny

bo6l of a man9s happiness 6as spilled upon the

ground 6ith least compunction4

 #he companionship bet6een these t6o ideas of

disrespect for the rights of man, and disrespect for

reason or the highest distinction of man, has been an

inseparable companionship4 #he converse is unhap-

pily only true 6ith a modiNcation, for there have

been too many men 6ith an honorable respect for a

demonstration and a proper hospitality to6ards a

probability, 6ho looD on the rights of man, 6ithout

disrespect indeed, but also 6ithout fervor4 #o ol-

taire reason and humanity 6ere but a single 6ord,

and love of truth and passion for "ustice but one

ao oltaire4

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emotion4 0one of the famous men 6ho have fought

that they themselves might thinD freely and speaD

truly have ever seen more clearly that the funda-

mental aim of the contest 6as that others might live

happily4 +ho has not been touched by that admir-

able 6ord of his, of the three years in 6hich he

labored 6ithout remission for "ustice to the 6ido6

and descendants of 2alas : /uring that time not a

smile escaped me 6ithout my reproaching myself for

it, as for a crime4 Or by his sincere avo6al that

of all the 6ords of enthusiasm and admiration 6hich

6ere so prodigally besto6ed upon him on the occa-

sion of his last famous visit to %aris in 1**G, none

6ent to his heart liDe that of a 6oman of the people,

6ho in reply to one asDing the name of him 6hom

the cro6d follo6ed, gave ans6er, /o you not

Dno6 that he is the preserver of the alas?

 #he same Dind of feeling, though manifested in

6ays of much less uneQuivocal nobleness, 6as at the

bottom of his many eMorts to maDe himself of con-

seQuence in important political business4 +e Dno6

ho6 many contemptuous sarcasms have been

inspired by his aniety at various times to perform

diplomatic feats of intervention bet6een the )rench

government and )redericD the $econd4 In 1*FH,

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after his visit to the %russian Ding at .i-la-ha-

pelle, he is supposed to have hinted to ardinal

)leury that to have 6ritten epic and drama does not

disQualify a man for serving his Ding and country

on the busy Nelds of aMairs4 #he follo6ing year,

 #he Ideal =an for the #ime4 H1

after )leury9s death, 6hen )rench fortunes in the

6ar of the .ustrian succession 6ere near their lo6-

est, oltaire9s o6n idea that he might be useful from

his intimacy 6ith )redericD, seems to have been

shared by .melot, the secretary of state, and at all

events he aspired to do some sort of active, if

radically futile, diplomatic 6orD4 In later times

6hen the tide had turned, and )redericD9s star 6as

clouded over 6ith disaster, 6e again Nnd oltaire

the eager intermediary 6ith hoiseul, pleasantly

comparing himself to the mouse of the fable, busily

striving to free the lion from the meshes of the

hunter9s net4

 #he man of letters, usually unable to conceive

loftier services to manDind or more attractive aims

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to persons of capacity than the composition of

booDs, has treated these pretensions of oltaire 6ith

a supercilious Dind of censure, 6hich teaches us

nothing about oltaire, 6hile it implies a partic-

ularly shallo6 idea aliDe of the position of the mere

literary life in the scale of things, and of the condi-

tions under 6hich the best literary 6orD is done4 #o

have really contributed in the humblest degree, for

instance, to a peace bet6een %russia and her ene-

mies in 1*5A, 6ould have been an immeasurably

greater performance for manDind than any given

booD 6hich oltaire could have 6ritten4 .nd, 6hat

is still better 6orth observing, oltaire9s booDs

6ould not have been the po6ers they 6ere, but for

this constant desire of his to come into the closest

HH oltaire4

contact 6ith the practical aMairs of the 6orld4 7e

6ho has never led the life of a recluse, dra6ing an

income from the funds and living in a remote gar-

den, constructing past, present, and future out of

his o6n consciousness, is not QualiNed either to lead

manDind safely, or to thinD on the course of human

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aMairs correctly4 'very page of oltaire has the

bracing air of the life of the 6orld in it, and the

instinct 6hich led him to seeD the society of the

conspicuous actors on the great scene 6as essentially

a right one4 #he booD-6riter taDes good advantage

of his opportunity to assure men epressly or by

implication, that he is their true Ding, and that the

sacred bard is a mightier man than his hero4

oltaire Dne6 better4 #hough himself perhaps the

most puissant man of letters that ever lived, he

rated literature as it ought to be rated, belo6 action !

not because 6ritten speech is less of a force, but

because the speculation and criticism of the litera-

ture that substantially inuences the 6orld maDe

far less demand than the actual conduct of great

aMairs on Qualities 6hich are not rare in detail, but

are ama>ingly rare in combination ! on temper, fore-

sight, solidity, daring! on strength, in a 6ord,

strength of intelligence and strength of character4

2ibbon rightly amended his phrase 6hen he

described 3oethius not as stooping, but rather as

rising, from his life of placid meditation to an active

share in the imperial business4 #hat he held this

sound opinion is Quite as plausible an eplanation

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 #he Ideal =an for the #ime4 H

of oltaire9s aniety to Dno6 persons of station

and importance as the current theory that he 6as

of sycophantic nature4 +hy, he asDs, are the ancient

historians so full of light? It is because the 6riter

had to do 6ith public business ! it is because he could

be magistrate, priest, soldier! and because if he

could not rise to the highest functions of the state,

he had at least to maDe himself 6orthy of them4 I

admit, he concludes, that 6e must not epect such

an advantage 6ith us, for our o6n constitution hap-

pens to be against it ! but he 6as deeply sensible

6hat an advantage it 6as that they thus lost4

In short, on all sides, 6hatever men do and thinD

6as real and alive to oltaire4 +hatever had the

Quality of interesting any imaginable temperament,

had the Quality of interesting him4 #here 6as no

sub"ect 6hich any set of men have ever cared about,

6hich, if he once had mention of it, oltaire did not

care about liDe6ise4 .nd it 6as "ust because he

6as so thoroughly alive himself, that he Nlled the

6hole era 6ith life4 #he more closely one studies

the various movements of that time, the more clear

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it becomes that, if he 6as not the original centre

and Nrst fountain of them all, at any rate he made

many channels ready and gave the sign4 7e 6as

the initial principle of fermentation throughout that

vast commotion4 +e may deplore, if 6e thinD Nt,

as 'rasmus deplored in the case of Luther, that the

great change 6as not allo6ed to 6orD itself out

slo6ly, calmly, and 6ithout violence and disruption4

HF oltaire4

 #hese graceful regrets are po6erless, and on the

6hole they are very enervating4 Let us maDe our

account 6ith the actual, rather than seeD ecuses for

self-indulgence in pensive preference of something

that might have been4 %ractically in these great

circles of aMairs, 6hat only might have been is as

though it could not be! and to Dno6 this may 6ell

suPce for us4 It is not in human po6er to choose

the Dind of men 6ho rise from time to time to the

supreme control of momentous changes4 #he force

6hich decides this immensely important matter is

as though it 6ere chance4 +e cannot decisively

pronounce any circumstance 6hatever an accident,

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yet history abounds 6ith circumstances 6hich in

our present ignorance of the causes of things are

as if they 6ere accidents4

In this respect history is neither better nor 6orse

than the latest eplanation of the origin and order

of the 6orld of organi>ed matter4 7ere, too, 6e are

landed in the Nnal resort at 6hat is neither more

nor less than an accident4 0atural selection, or the

survival of the Nttest in the universal struggle for

eistence, is no6 held by the most competent inQuir-

ers to be the principal method to 6hich 6e o6e the

etinction, preservation, and distribution of organic

forms on the earth4 3ut the appearance both of

the forms that conQuer and of those that perish still

remains a secret, and to science an accident and a

secret are virtually and provisionally the same thing4

In a 6ord, there is an unDno6n element at the bot-

 #he Ideal =an for the #ime4 H5

torn of the varieties of creation, 6hether 6e agree to

call that element a volition of a supernatural being,

or an undiscovered set of facts in embryology4 $o

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in history the &oman or Italo-7ellenic empire, ris-

ing 6hen it did, 6as the salvation of the +est, and

yet the appearance, at the moment 6hen anarchy

threatened rapidly to dissolve the &oman state, of a

man 6ith the po6er of conceiving the best design

for the ne6 structure seems to partaDe as much of

the nature of chance as the non-appearance of men

6ith similar vision and po6er in eQually momen-

tous crises, earlier and later4 #he rise of a great

constructive chief liDe harlemagne in the eighth

century can hardly be enough to persuade us that

the occasion invariably brings the leader 6hom its

conditions reQuire, 6hen 6e remember that as con-

cerns their demands the conditions of the end of the

eighth century 6ere not radically diMerent from

those of the beginning of the sith, yet that in the

earlier epoch there arose no successor to continue

the 6orD of #heodoric4 +e have only to eamine

the origin and fundamental circumstances of the

types of civili>ation 6hich rule 6estern communi-

ties and guide their advance, to discern in those

original circumstances a something inscrutable, a

certain element of 6hat is as though it 6ere fortui-

tous4 0o science can as yet tell us ho6 such a varia-

tion from previously eisting creatures as man had

its origin! nor, any more than this, can history

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eplain the la6 by 6hich the most striDing variations

HC oltaire4

in intellectual and spiritual Quality 6ithin the human

order have had their origin4 #he appearance of the

one as of the other is a fact 6hich cannot be further

resolved4 It is hard to thinD in imagination of the

globe as unpeopled by man, or peopled, as it may at

some remote day come to be, by beings of capacity

superior enough to etinguish man4 It is hard also

to thinD of the scene 6hich 6estern 'urope and all

the vast space 6hich the light of 6estern 'urope

irradiates, might have oMered at this moment, if

nature or the unDno6n forces had not produced a

Luther, a alvin, or a oltaire4

It 6as one of the happy chances of circumstance

that there arose in )rance on the death of Louis

@I4, a man 6ith all oltaire9s peculiar gifts of

intelligence, 6ho added to them an incessant activity

in their use, and 6ho besides this en"oyed such

length of days as to maDe his intellectual po6ers

eMective to the very fullest etent possible4 #his

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combination of physical and mental conditions so

ama>ingly favorable to the spread of the oltairean

ideas 6as a circumstance independent of the state of

the surrounding atmosphere, and 6as 6hat in the

phraseology of prescientiNc times might 6ell have

been called providential4 If oltaire had seen all

that he sa6, and yet been indolent ! or if he had been

as clear-sighted and as active as he 6as, and yet

had only lived Nfty years, instead of eighty-four,

oltairism 6ould never have strucD root4 .s it

6as, 6ith his genius, his industry, his longevity, and

 #he Ideal =an for the #ime4 H*

the conditions of the time being 6hat they 6ere,

that far-spreading movement of destruction 6as


Once more, 6e cannot choose4 #hose 6hom tem-

perament or culture has made the partisans of calm

order, cannot attune progress to the stately and

harmonious march 6hich 6ould best please them,

and 6hich they are perhaps right in thinDing 6ould

lead 6ith most security to the goal4

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$uch a liberation of the human mind as oltairism

can be eMected only by the movement of many spir-

its, and they are only the fe6 6ho are moved by

moderate, reective, and scientiNc trains of argu-

ment4 #he many need an etreme type4 #hey are

strucD by 6hat is ashing and colossal, for they

follo6 imagination and sympathy, and not the

eactly disciplined intelligence4 #hey Dno6 their

o6n 6ants, and have dumb feeling of their o6n

better aspirations4 #heir thoughts move in the

obscurity of things QuicD but unborn, and by instinct

they push up6ards in 6hatever direction the darD-

ness seems breaDing4 #hey are not critics nor

analysts, but 6hen the time is ripening they never

fail to Dno6 the 6ord of freedom and of truth, 6ith

6hatever imperfections it may chance to be spoDen4

0o prophet all false has ever yet caught the ear of

a series of generations4 0o prophet all false has

succeeded in separating a nation into t6o clear divi-

sions4 oltaire has in eMect for a century so divided

the most emancipated of 6estern nations4 #his is

HG oltaire4

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beyond the po6er of the mere mocDer, 6ho perishes

liDe the ash of lightning! he does not abide as a

centre of solar heat4

 #here are more Dinds of oltaireans than one, but

no one 6ho has marched ever so short a 6ay out

of the great camp of old ideas is directly or indirectly

out of the debt and out of the hand of the Nrst liber-

ator, ho6ever little 6illing he may be to recogni>e

one or the other4 .ttention has been called by every

6riter on oltaire to the immense number of the

editions of his 6orDs, a number probably unparal-

leled in the case of any author 6ithin the same limits

of time4 3esides being one of the most voluminous

booD-6riters, he is one of the cheapest4 +e can

buy one of oltaire9s booDs for a fe6 pence, and

the Deepers of the cheap stalls in the cheap Quarters

of London and %aris 6ill tell you that this is not

from lacD of demand, but the contrary4 $o clearly

does that light burn for many even no6, 6hich scien-

tiNcally speaDing ought to be etinct, and for many

indeed is long ago etinct and superseded4 #he

reasons for this vitality are that oltaire 6as him-

self thoroughly alive 6hen he did his 6orD, and that

the movement 6hich that 6orD began is still une-

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7o6 shall 6e attempt to characteri>e this move-

ment ? #he historian of the hristian church usually

opens his narrative 6ith an account of the depriva-

tion of human nature and the corruption of society

6hich preceded the ne6 religion4 #he &eformation

 #he Ideal =an for the #ime4 HA

in liDe manner is only to be understood after 6e

have perceived the enormous mass of superstition,

in"ustice, and 6ilful ignorance, by 6hich the theo-

logical idea had become so incrusted as to be 6holly

incompetent to guide society, because it 6as eQually

repugnant to the intellectual perceptions and the

moral sense, the Dno6ledge and the feelings, of the

best and most active-minded persons of the time4

 #he same sort of consideration eplains and vindi-

cates the enormous po6er of oltaire4 )rance had

outgro6n the system that had brought her through

the middle ages4 #he further development of her

national life 6as fatally hindered by the tight bonds

of an old order, 6hich clung 6ith the hardy tenacity

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of a thriving parasite, diverting from the roots all

their sustenance, eating into the tissue, and feeding

on the "uices of the living tree4 #he picture has

often been painted, and 6e need not try to paint

it once more in detail here4 #he 6hole po6er and

ordering of the nation 6ere 6ith the s6orn and

chartered foes of light, 6ho had every interest that

a desire to cling to authority and 6ealth can give,

in Deeping the understanding sub"ect4

.nd, 6hat 6as more important, there had been no

sign made in the nation itself of a consciousness

of the immense realms of Dno6ledge that lay imme-

diately in front of it, and still less of any desire or

intention to 6in lasting possession of them4 #hat

intellectual curiosity 6hich 6as so soon to produce

such ama>ing fruits 6as as yet unstirred4 .n era

B oltaire4

of etraordinary activity had "ust come to a close,

and the creative and artistic genius of )rance had

risen to the highest marD it attained until the open-

ing of our o6n century4 #he grand age of Louis

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@I4 had been an age of magniNcent literature and

unsurpassed eloQuence4 3ut, in spite of the potent

seed 6hich /escartes had so6n, it had been the

age of authority, protection, and patronage4 onse-

Quently all those sub"ects for 6hich there 6as no

patronage, that is to say the sub"ects 6hich could

add nothing to the splendor and dignity of the

church and the pageantry of the court, 6ere virtually

repressed4 #his ought not to blind us to the real

loftiness and magnanimity of the best or earlier part

of the age of Louis @I4 It has been said that his

best title to the recollection of posterity is the pro-

tection he etended to =oliere ! and one reason 6hy

this 6as so meritorious is that =oliere9s 6orD had

a marDedly critical character, in reference both to the

devout and to the courtier4 #he fact of this,

undoubtedly the most durable 6orD of that time,

containing critical Quality, is not of importance in

reference to the generally Ned or positive aspect

of the age4 )or =oliere is only critical by accident4

 #here is nothing organically negative about him,

and his plays are the pure dramatic presentation

of a peculiar civili>ation4 7e is no more a destructive

agency because he dre6 hypocrites and cocombs,

than 3ousset 6as destructive or critical because he

inveighed against sin and the ecess of human vain-

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 #he Ideal =an for the #ime4 1

glory4 #he epoch 6as one of entire loyalty to itself

and its ideas4 oltaire himself perceived and

admired these traits to the full4 #he greatest of all

overthro6ers,he al6ays understood that it is to6ards

such ages as these, the too short ages of conviction

and self-suPcience, that our endeavor 6orDs4 +e

Nght that others may en"oy! and many generations

struggle and debate, that one generation may hold

something for proven4

 #he glories of the age of Louis @I4 6ere the

clima of a set of ideas that instantly after6ards lost

aliDe their grace, their usefulness, and the Nrmness

of their hold on the intelligence of men4 . digniNed

and venerable hierarchy, an august and po6erful

monarch, a court of gay and luurious nobles, all

lost their grace, because the eyes of men 6ere sud-

denly caught and appalled by the a6ful phantom,

6hich 6as yet so real, of a perishing nation4 #urn

from 3ousset9s orations to 3ois-2uilbert9s /etail

de la )rance! from the pulpit rhetorician9s courtly

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reminders that even ma"esty must die, to auban9s

pity for the misery of the common people! from

orneille and &acine to La 3ruyere9s picture of

certain 6ild animals, male and female, scattered

over the Nelds, blacD, livid, all burnt by the sun,

bound to the earth that they dig and 6orD 6ith

unconQuerable pertinacity ! they have a sort of artic-

ulate voice, and 6hen they rise on their feet, they

sho6 a human face, and, in fact, are men4 #he

contrast had eisted for generations4 #he material

H oltaire4

misery caused by the 6ars of the great Louis deep-

ened the darD side, and the lustre of genius conse-

crated to the gloriNcation of traditional authority

and the order of the hour heightened the brightness

of the bright side, until the old contrast 6as sud-

denly seen by a fe6 startled eyes, and the ne6 and

deepest problem, destined to strain our civili>ation to

a degree that not many have even no6 conceived,

came slo6ly into pale outline4

 #here is no reason to thinD that oltaire ever

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sa6 this gaunt and tremendous spectacle4 &ousseau

6as its Nrst voice4 $ince him the reorgani>ation of

the relations of men has never faded from the sight

either of statesmen or philosophers, 6ith vision Deen

enough to admit to their eyes even 6hat they dreaded

and eecrated in their hearts4 oltaire9s tasD 6as

diMerent and preparatory4 It 6as to maDe popular

the genius and authority of reason4 #he founda-

tions of the social fabric 6ere in such a condition

that the touch of reason 6as fatal to the 6hole

structure, 6hich instantly began to crumble4

.uthority and use oppose a steadfast and invincible

resistance to reason, so long as the institutions 6hich

they protect are of fair practicable service to a soci-

ety4 3ut after the death of Louis @I4, not only the

grace and pomp, but also the social utility of spiritual

and political absolutism passed obviously a6ay4

$piritual absolutism 6as unable to maintain even a

decent semblance of unity and theological order4

%olitical absolutism, by its material costliness, its

 #he Ideal =an for the #ime4

augmenting tendency to repress the application of

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individual energy and thought to public concerns,

and its pursuit of a policy in 'urope 6hich 6as

futile and essentially meaningless as to its ends,

and disastrous and incapable in its choice of means,

6as rapidly ehausting the resources of national

6ell-being and viciously severing the very tap-root

of national life4 #o bring reason into an atmosphere

so charged 6as, as the old Ngure goes, to admit

air to the chamber of the mummy4 .nd reason 6as

eactly 6hat oltaire brought! too narro6, if 6e

6ill, too contentious, too derisive, too unmitigatedly

reasonable, but still reason4 .nd 6ho shall measure

the conseQuence of this diMerence in the history of

t6o great nations! that in )rance absolutism in

hurch and $tate fell before the sine6y genius of

starD reason, 6hile in 'ngland it fell before a respect

for social convenience, protesting against monop-

olies, benevolences, ship-money? #hat in )rance

speculation had penetrated over the 6hole Neld of

social inQuiry, before a single step had been taDen

to6ards application, 6hile in 'ngland social prin-

ciples 6ere applied, before -they received any Dind

of speculative vindication ? #hat in )rance the Nrst

eMective enemy of the principles of despotism 6as

oltaire, poet, philosopher, historian, critic ! in 'ng-

land, a band of homely sQuires ?

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 #raditional authority, it is true, had been partially

and fatally undermined in )rance before the time of

oltaire, by one of the most daring of thinDers, and

ol4 FH

F oltaire4

one of the most acute and sDeptical of scholars, as

6ell as by 6riters so acutely careless as =ontaigne,

and apologists so dangerously rational as %ascal,

6ho gave a ranD and consistency to doubt even in

sho6ing that its seas 6ere blacD and shoreless4 /es-

cartes9 /iscourse on =ethod had been published

in 1C*, and 3ayle9s #houghts on the omet, Nrst

of the series of critical onslaughts on pre"udice and

authority in matters of belief, had been published in

1CGH4 #he metaphysician and the critic had each

pressed for6ard on the path of eamination, and had

each insisted on Nnding grounds for belief, or else

sho6ing the absence of such grounds 6ith a fatal

distinctness that made belief impossible4 /escartes

6as constructive, and 6as bent on reconciling the

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acceptance of a certain set of ideas as to the relations

bet6een man and the universe, and as to the mode

and composition of the universe, 6ith the logical

reason4 3ayle, 6hose antecedents and environment

6ere %rotestant, 6as careless to replace, but careful

to have evidence for 6hatever 6as allo6ed to

remain4 0o parallel nor hint of eQuality is here

intended bet6een the rare genius of /escartes and

the relatively lo6er Quality of 3ayle4 #he one, ho6-

ever high a place 6e may give to the regeneration

of thought eMected by 3acon in 'ngland, or to that

6rought by the brilliant group of physical eperi-

mentalists in Italy, still marDs a ne6 epoch in the

development of the human mind, for he had deci-

sively separated Dno6ledge from theology, and sys-

 #he Ideal =an for the #ime4 5

tematically constituted science4 #he other has a

place only in the history of criticism4 3ut, although

in 6idely diMerent 6ays, and 6ith vast diMerence

in intellectual stature, they both had touched the pre-

vailing notions of )rench society 6ith a fatal breath4

 #he blast that Nnally dispersed and destroyed

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them came not from /escartes and 3ayle, but

directly from oltaire and indirectly from 'ngland4

In the seventeenth century the surrounding condi-

tions 6ere not ripe4 $ocial needs had not begun

to press4 #he organs of authority 6ere still too

vigorous, and performed their functions 6ith some-

thing more than the mechanical half-heartedness of

the net century4 Long familiarity 6ith sDeptical

ideas as enemies must go before their reception as

friends and deliverers4 #hey have perhaps never

gained an eMective hold in any community, until

they have found allies in the hostile camp of oPcial

orthodoy, and so long as that orthodoy 6as able

to aMord them a vigorous social resistance4 ol-

taire9s universal talents made one of the most po6-

erful instruments for conveying these bold and

inQuisitive notions among many sorts and conditions

of men, including both the multitude of common

readers and playgoers in the to6n, and the nar-

ro6er multitude of nobles and sovereigns4 =ore

than this, the brilliance and variety of his gifts

attracted, stimulated, and directed the ma"ority of

the men of letters of his time, and imparted to them

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C oltaire4

a measure of his o6n singular sDill in conveying the

principles of rationalistic thought4

 #he eMect of all this 6as to turn a vast number

of personages 6ho 6ere oPcially inimical to free

criticism, to be at heart abettors and fello6-conspira-

tors in the great plot4 #hat fact, combined 6ith

the independent causes of the incompetency of the

holders of authority to deal 6ith the crying social

necessities of the time, left the 6alls of the citadel

undermined and undefended, and a fe6 of the sacred

birds that 6ere still found faithful cacDled to no pur-

pose4 It has often been said that in the early times

of hristianity its inuence gave all that 6as truest

and brightest in color to the compositions of those

6ho 6ere least or not at all aMected by its dogma4

It is more certain that oltaire by the etraordinary

force of his personality gave a peculiar tone and

life even to those 6ho adhered most staunchly to the

ancient ordering4 #he champions of authority 6ere

driven to defend their cause by the unusual 6eapons

of rationality! and if oltaire had never 6ritten,

authority 6ould never, for instance, have found such

a soldier on her side as that most able and eminent

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of reactionaries, ;oseph de =aistre4 In reply to the

favorite assertion of the apologists of atholicism,

that 6hatever good side its assailants may present

is the product of the very teaching 6hich they repu-

diate, one can only say that there 6ould be at least

as much "ustice in maintaining that the marDed

improvement 6hich tooD place in the character and

 #he Ideal =an for the #ime4 *

aims of the priesthood bet6een the &egency and

the &evolution, 6as an obligation unconsciously

incurred to those "ust and liberal ideas 6hich ol-

taire had helped so po6erfully to spread4 /e

=aistre compares &eason putting a6ay &evelation

to a child 6ho should beat its nurse4 #he same

Ngure 6ould serve "ust as 6ell to describe the thanD-

lessness of 3elief to the /isbelief 6hich has purged

and ealted it4

 #here is another Dind of opinion that is as little

merciful in its o6n 6ay as either of the t6o others,

and this is the scientiNc or cultured opinion4 Ob"ec-

tions from this region epress themselves in many

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forms, some of them calm and suggestive, others a

little empty and a little brutal4 #hey all seem to

come to something of this Dind: that oltaire9s

assault on religion, being conducted 6ithout even

the smallest sparD of religious spirit, 6as therefore

necessarily un"ust to the ob"ect of his attacD, and

did the further mischief of engendering in all on

6hom his inuence 6as poured out a bitterness and

moral temerity 6hich is the 6orst blight that can fall

upon the character either of a man or a genera-

tion : that 6hile truth is relative and conditional, and

6hile belief is only to be understood by those 6ho

have calmly done "ustice to the history of its origin

and gro6th, oltaire carelessly, unphilosophically,

and maliciously handled 6hat had once possessed a

relative truth, as if it had al6ays been absolutely

false, and 6hat had sprung from the vie6s and

G oltaire4

aspirations of the best men, as if it had had its root

in the base artiNces of the 6orst: that 6hat ought

to have gone on, and 6ould have gone on, as a

process of soft autumnal dissolution, 6as converted

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by the infection of oltaire into a stained scene of

passion and battle : that assuming to possess and to

furnish men 6ith a broad criticism of life, he left out

of life its deepest, holiest, and most ealting ele-

ments, as 6ell as narro6ed and depraved criticism,

from its right ranD as the high art of stating and

collating ideas, do6n to an acrid tricD of debate, a

thing of proofs, arguments, and rancorous polemic4

It is certain that there is much truth in this partic-

ular strain of ob"ection to oltaire9s po6er and his

use of it, or else it 6ould not have found mouth-

pieces, as it has done, among some of the Nnest spirits

of the modern time4 3ut it is the natural tendency

of the hour rather to eaggerate 6hat 6eight there

really is in such criticism, 6hich, though claiming

to be the criticism of temperance and moderation and

relativity, does not as a matter of fact escape the

fatal la6 of ecess and absoluteness even in its very

moderation and relativity4 In estimating an inno-

vator9s method, all depends on the time and the

enemy! and it may sometimes happen that the time

is so out of "oint and the enemy so strong, so unscru-

pulous, so imminently pernicious, as to leave no

alternative bet6een Nnally succumbing, and 6aging

a 6ar of deliverance for 6hich coming generations

have to bear the burdens in feuds and bitterness!

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 #he Ideal =an for the #ime4 A

bet6een abridging some6hat of the richness and

fulness of life, and allo6ing it all to be gradually

choDed up by dust and en6rapped in night4 )or let

us not forget that 6hat atholicism 6as accom-

plishing in )rance in the Nrst half of the eighteenth

century, 6as really not anything less momentous

than the slo6 strangling of )rench civili>ation4

 #hough oltaire9s spirit may be little edifying to us,

6ho after all partaDe of the freedom 6hich he did

so much to 6in, yet it is only "ust to remember 6hat

6as the spirit of his foe, and that in so pestilent a

presence a man of direct vision may 6ell be eager

to use such 6eapons as he Nnds to his hand4 Let

the scientiNc spirit move people to speaD as it lists

about oltaire9s 6ant of respect for things held

sacred, for the good deeds of holy men, for the sen-

timent and faith of thousands of the most 6orthy

among his fello6s4 $till there are times 6hen it

may be very Questionable 6hether, in the region of

belief, one 6ith po6er and 6ith fervid honesty ought

to spare the abominable city of the plain, "ust because

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it happens to shelter Nve righteous4 #here are times

6hen the inhumanity of a system stands out so red

and foul, 6hen the burden of its iniQuity 6eighs so

heavy, and the contagion of its hypocrisy is so laden

6ith mortal plague, that no a6e of dilettante con-

demnation nor minute scruple as to the historic or

the relative can stay the hand of the man 6hose

direct sight and moral energy have pierced the veil

of use, and revealed the shrine of the infamous thing4

FB oltaire4

 #he most noble of the holy men said long ago that

the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gen-

tle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meeDness

instructing those that oppose themselves4 #he his-

tory of the churches is in one of its most conspicuous

aspects the history of a prolonged outrage upon

these 6ords by arrogant and blasphemous persons,

pretending to dra6 a sacred spirit from the very

saint 6ho uttered them4 +e may 6ell deplore that

oltaire9s attacD, and every other attacD of the same

sort, did not taDe the fair shape prescribed by the

apostle to the servant of the Lord, of gentleness,

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patience, and the instruction of a s6eet and Nrm

eample4 3ut the partisans of the creed in 6hose

name more human blood has been violently shed than

in any other cause 6hatever, these, I say, can hardly

Nnd much ground of serious reproach in a fe6 score

epigrams4 oltaire had no calm breadth of 6is-

dom4 It may be so4 #here are moments 6hich need

not this calm breadth of 6isdom, but a t6o-edged

s6ord, and 6hen the deliverers of manDind are they

6ho come to send Nre on the earth4

7.%#'& II4

'02LI$7 $#/I'$ .0/ I0)L'0'$4

OL#.I&I$= may be said to have begun from the

ight of its founder from %aris to London4 #his,

to borro6 a name from the most memorable instance

of out6ard change marDing in6ard revolution, 6as

the decisive hegira, from 6hich the philosophy of

destruction in a formal shape may be held seriously

to date4 oltaire landed in 'ngland in the middle

of =ay, 1*HC4 7e 6as in the thirty-third year of his

age, that earlier climacteric, 6hen the men 6ith

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vision Nrst feel conscious of a past, and reectively

marD its shado64 It is then that they either press

for6ard eagerly 6ith ne6 impulse in the 6ay of

their high calling, Dno6ing the limitations of cir-

cumstance and hour, or else fainting dra6 bacD their

hand from the plough, and ignobly leave to another

or to none the accomplishment of the 6orD4 #he

narro6ness of the cribbed decD that 6e are doomed

to tread, amid the vast space of an eternal sea 6ith

fair shores dimly seen and never neared, oppresses

the soul 6ith a burden that sorely tries its strength,


FH oltaire4

6hen the Ned limits Nrst deNne themselves before

it4 #hose are the strongest 6ho do not tremble

beneath this gray ghostly light, but maDe it the pre-

cursor of an industrious day4

 #he past on 6hich oltaire had to looD bacD 6as

full of turmoil, contention, impatience, and restless

production4 )rangois =arie .rouet 6as born in

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1CAF, so feeble in constitution that, as in the case

of )ontenelle, 6hose hundred years surpassed even

oltaire9s lengthy span, his life 6as long despaired

of4 7is father 6as a notary of good repute for

integrity and sDill, and 6as entrusted 6ith the man-

agement of their aMairs by several of the highest

families in )rance4 7is mother is supposed to have

had some of the intellectual alertness 6hich pene-

trated the character of her son, but she died 6hen he

6as seven years old, and he remained alone 6ith

his father until 1*BF, 6hen he 6as sent to school4

7is instructors at the ollege Louis-le-2rand 6ere

the ;esuits, 6hose 6ise devotion to intellectual edu-

cation in the broadest sense that 6as then possible,

is a partial set-oM against their mischievous inuence

on morals and politics4 #he hardihood of the young

.rouet9s temper broDe out even from the Nrst, and

6e need not inQuire minutely 6hat 6ere the precise

sub"ects of education of a child, 6hom his tutor tooD

an early opportunity of pointing out as the future

coryphaeus of deism in )rance4 7e used to say in

after life that he had learnt nothing 6orth learning4

. lad 6ho could launch inNdel epigrams at his

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'nglish $tudies and Inuences4 F

 ;ansenist of a brother, and declaim a poem in 6hich

so important a hero as =oses Ngures as an impostor,

6as of that originality of mental turn on 6hose

freedom the inevitably mechanical instruction of the

school cannot be epected to maDe any deep or decis-

ive impression4 #he young of this independent

humor begin their education 6here those of less

energetic nerve hardly leave oM, 6ith character

ready made4

3et6een a youth of bold, vivacious, imaginative

disposition, and a father of the temperament proper

to a notary 6ith many responsibilities, there could

be no sympathy, and the t6o 6ere not long in com-

ing to open Quarrel 6ithout terms4 #he son 6as

taDen out by his godfather, the .bb hateauneuf,

into that gay 6orld 6hich presently became the

infamous 6orld of the regency, 6here etraordinary

sprightliness and facility in verse gained him 6el-

come and patronage4 +e need 6aste no 6ords on

the corruption and intellectual triing of the society

into 6hich oltaire 6as thus launched4 )or shal-

lo6ness and levity, concealed by literary artiNce and

play of frivolous 6it 6hich only maDes the scene

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more dreary or detestable, it has never been sur-

passed4 #here 6as brightness in it, compared 6ith

the heavy brutality and things obscene of the court

of Louis @4, but after all 6e seem to see over the

brightness a sort of foul glare, liDe the iridescence of

putrefaction4 0inon de 19'nclos, a friend of his

mother9s, 6as perhaps the one free and honest soul

FF oltaire4

6ith 6hom the young .rouet had to do4 0o6

etremely old, she still preserved both her 6it and

her Nne probity of intellect4 $he had al6ays Dept

her heart free of cant, from the time 6hen she had

ridiculed, as the ;ansenists of love, the pedantic

6omen and platonic gallants of the 7otel &ambouil-

let, do6n to her re"ection of =adame de =aintenon9s

oMer of an invitation to the court, on condition of

her "oining the band of the devout4 #he veteran

.spasia, no6 over eighty, 6as strucD by the bril-

liance and da>>ling promise of the young versiNer,

and left him a legacy for the purchase of booDs4

 #he rest of the society into 6hich oltaire 6as

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taDen 6as saturated 6ith a spirit of reaction against

the austere bigotry of the court, and bad and miser-

able as such austerity is, the rebellion against it is

al6ays 6orse and more miserable still4 #he licence

seems not to have been of the most "oyous sort, as

indeed licence protesting and deNant is not apt to

be4 #he .bbe haulieu, a versiNer of sprightly

fancy, grace, and natural ease, 6as the dissolute

.nacreon of the people of Quality 6ho during the

best part of the reign of Louis @I4 had failed to

sympathi>e 6ith its nobility and stateliness, and

during the 6orst part revolted against its gloom4

oltaire at t6enty 6as his intimate and his professed

disciple4 #o this intimacy 6e may perhaps trace

that remarDable continuity of tradition bet6een ol-

taire and the grand age, 6hich distinguishes him

from the school of famous men 6ho 6ere called

'nglish $tudies and Inuences4 F5

oltaireans, and of 6hom the special marD 6as that

they had absolutely broDen 6ith the 6hole past of

)rench history and literature4 %rinces, duDes, and

marQuises 6ere of haulieu9s band4 #he despair and

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fury of the elder .rouet at such companions and

such follies reproduce once more a very old story

in the records of youthful genius4 2enius and Nne

friends reconcile no prudent notary to a son9s hatred

for la6 and the desD4 Orgies 6ith the /uDe of

$ully, and rhyming bouts 6ith haulieu, have sunD

into small si>e for us, 6ho Dno6 that they 6ere but

the mischievous and unbecoming prologue of a life

of incessant and generous labor, but 6e may 6ell

believe that such enormities bulDed big in the vision

of the father, as portents of degradation and ruin4

+e have a glimpse of the son9s temper to6ards the

profession to 6hich his father had tried so hard to

bind him, in the ironical deNnition, thro6n out long

after6ards, of an avocat as a man 6ho, not having

money enough to buy one of those brilliant oPces

on 6hich the universe has its eyes Ned, studies for

three years the la6s of #heodosius and ;ustinian

so as to Dno6 the custom of %aris, and 6ho at length

having got matriculated has the right of pleading

for money, if he has a loud voice4 #he young

.rouet did actually himself get matriculated and

acQuire this right, but his voice proved so loud that

his pleadings 6ere destined to Nll 6ider courts than

those of %aris4

.rouet the elder persuaded hateauneuf s brother,

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FC oltaire4

6ho 6as a diplomatist, to taDe into his company the

la6-student 6ho had made verse instead of study-

ing the la6s of #heodosius4 $o the youth 6ent to

the 7ague4 7ere he straight6ay fell into ne6 mis-

adventure by conceiving an undying passion, that

lasted several 6eeDs, for a young country6oman

6hom he found in 7olland4 $tolen intervie6s, let-

ters, tears, and the other accustomed circumstances

of a "uvenile passion on 6hich the gods fro6n, 6ere

all discovered4 #he ambassador sent the refractory

boy bacD to his father, 6ith full details and docu-

ments, 6ith results on the relations of the pair that

need not be described4

In the autumn of 1*15 Louis @I4 died, and the

&egent /9Orleans reigned in his stead4 #here

presently appeared some pungent lines, entitled Les

 "9ai vu, in 6hich the 6riter recounted a number of

evil things 6hich he had seen in the state a thou-

sand prisons cro6ded 6ith brave citi>ens and faith-

ful sub"ects, the people groaning under rigorous

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bondage, the magistrates harassing every to6n 6ith

ruinous taes and unrighteous edicts ! "9ai vu, c9est

dire tout, le ;esuite adore4 #he last line ran that all

these ills the 6riter had seen, yet 6as but t6enty

years old4 oltaire 6as t6enty-t6o, but the authori-

ties Dne6 him for a verse-6riter of biting turn, so

they treated the discrepancy of age as a piece of

mere prosopopoeia, and laid him up in the 3astille

J1*1CK4 .s a matter of fact, he had no hand in the

oMence4 'ven amid these sombre shades, 6here he

'nglish $tudies and Inuences4 F*

6as Dept for nearly a year, his spirit 6as blithe and

its Nre unQuenchable4 #he custom of %aris and the

odes 6ere as little handled as ever ! and he divided

his time bet6een the study of the t6o great epics of

2reece and &ome, and the preparation of 6hat he

designed to be the great epic of )rance4 7e also

gave the Nnishing stroDes to his tragedy of 'dipe,

6hich 6as represented in the course of the follo6ing

year 6ith deNnite success, and 6as the opening of a

brilliant dramatic career, that perhaps to a mortal of

more ordinary mould might alone have suPced for

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the glory of a life4

 #he net si years he divided bet6een a lively

society, mostly of the great, the assiduous composi-

tion of ne6 plays, and the completion of the 7en-

riade4 7is Nbre 6as gradually strengthening4 3y

the end of this period, the recDlessness of the boy-

ish disciple of haulieu had 6holly spent itself ! and

although oltaire9s manner of life 6as assuredly not

regular nor decorously ordered, no6 nor for many

years to come, if measured by the rigid standard on

6hich an improved society properly insists, yet it

6as al6ays a life of vigorous industry and clear

purposes4 )or a brief time his passion for the =are-

chale de illars broDe the tenacity of his diligence,

and he al6ays looDed bacD on this interruption of his

6orD 6ith the Dind of remorse that might aRict a

saint for a grave spiritual bacDsliding4 7e 6as often

at the country seats of $ully, illars, and else6here,

thro6ing oM thousands of triing verses, arranging

FG oltaire4

theatricals, enlivening festivals, and al6ays corre-

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sponding indefatigably ! for no6 and throughout his

life his good sense and good-6ill, his business-liDe

Quality and his liDing for his friends, both united

to raise him above the idle pretences and self-indul-

gence of those 6ho neglect the chief instrument of

social intercourse and friendly continuity4 7e pre-

ferred the country to the to6n4 I 6as born, he

says to one, to be a faun or creature of the 6oods !

I am riot made to live in a to6n4 #o another, I

fancy myself in hell, 6hen I am in the accursed city

of %aris4 #he only recommendation of the accursed

city 6as that a solitude 6as attainable in it, as in

other cro6ded spots, 6hich enabled him to 6orD

better there than in the small and eacting throng

of country-houses4 I fear )ontainebleau, illars,

and $ully, both for my health and for 7enry I4!

I should do no 6orD, I should over-eat, and I should

lose in pleasures and in complaisance to others an

amount of precious time that I ought to be using

for a necessary and creditable tasD4

 (et there 6as even at this period much of that

marvellous hurrying to and fro in )rance and out of

it, 6hich continued to marD the longer portion of

oltaire9s life, and Nlls it 6ith such a busy air of

turmoil and confusion, eplaining many things,

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6hen 6e thinD of the stability of life and permanence

of out6ard place of the net bright spirit that shone

upon 'urope4 2oethe never sa6 London, %aris, nor

ienna, and made no "ourney save the famous visit

'nglish $tudies and Inuences4 FA

to Italy, and the march at almy4 oltaire moved

hither and thither over the face of 'urope liDe the

6ind, and it is not until he has passed through half

of his life that 6e can begin to thinD of his home4

'very association that belongs to his name recalls

tumult and haste and shrill contention 6ith men

and circumstance4 +e have, ho6ever, to remember

that these constant movements 6ere the price 6hich

oltaire paid for the vigor and freedom of his

speech, in days 6hen the party of superstition pos-

sessed the ear of the temporal po6er, and resorted

6ithout sparing to the most violent means of oblit-

erating every hardy 6ord and crushing every inde-

pendent 6riter4 #he greater number of oltaire9s

ceaseless changes of place 6ere ights from in"us-

tice, and the recollection of this may 6ell soothe the

disturbance of spirit of the most fastidious >ealot

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for calm and orderly living4 #hey 6ere for the

most part retreats before pacDs of 6olves4

In 1*HH the elder .rouet died, to the last relent-

lessly set against a son, not any less stubborn than

himself, and unfortunately a great deal more poet-

ical4 .bout the same time the name of .rouet falls

a6ay, and the poet is Dno6n henceforth by that ever

famous symbol for so much, oltaire! a name for

6hich various eplanations, none of them satisfac-

tory, have been oMered, the latest and perhaps the

least improbable resolving it into a fanciful ana-


Industrious as he 6as, and eager as he 6as for

ol4 FH F

5B oltaire4

rural delights and laborious solitude, oltaire 6as

still pre-eminently social4 7is letters disclose in

him, 6ho really possessed all arts, the art of one 6ho

Dne6 ho6 to be graciously respectful to the social

superiors 6ho tooD him for a companion, 6ithout

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forgetting 6hat 6as due to his o6n respect for him-

self4 +e are all princes or poets, he eclaimed

 "ubilantly on the occasion of one of those nights and

suppers of the gods4 $uch gay-hearted freedom

6as not al6ays 6ell taDen, and in time oltaire9s

eyes 6ere opened to the terms on 6hich he really

stood4 +ho is the young man 6ho talDs so loud?

called out some hevalier &ohan, at one of these

sprightly gatherings at the house of the /uDe of

$ully4 =y lord the young man replied promptly,

he is one 6ho does not carry about a great name,

but 6ins respect for the name he has4 . fe6 days

after6ards the high-spirited patrician magnani-

mously tooD an opportunity of having a caning

inicted by the hands of his lacDeys on the poet 6ho

had thro6n a6ay this lesson upon him4 oltaire,

6ho had at all events that substitute for true physical

courage 6hich springs up in an intensely irritable

and susceptible temperament, forth6ith applied

himself to practise 6ith the small-s6ord4 7e did

his best to sting his enemy to Nght, but the chevalier

either feared the s6ordsman, or else despised an

antagonist of the middle class ! and by the inuence

of the &ohan family the poet once more found him-

self in the 3astille, then the house of correction at tht

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'nglish $tudies and Inuences4 51

disposal and for the use of the nobles, the court, and

the clergy4 7ere for si months oltaire, then only

representing a very humble and unDno6n Quantity

in men9s minds, chafed and fretted4 #he paciNc

)leury, as is the 6ont of the paciNc 6hen in po6er,

cared less to punish the 6rong-doer than to avoid

disturbance, Dno6ing that disturbance 6as most

eMectually avoided by not meddling 6ith the person

most able to resent4 #he multitude, ho6ever, 6hen

the day of recDoning came, remembered all these

things, and the Nrst act of their passion 6as to ra>e

to the ground the fortress into 6hich nearly every

distinguished champion of the freedom of human

intelligence among them had at one time or another

been tyrannically thro6n4

On his release oltaire 6as ordered to leave %aris4

. clandestine visit to the city sho6ed him that there

6as no hope of redress from authority, 6hich 6as in

the hands of men 6hose pride of ranD prevented

them from so much as even perceiving, much more

from repairing, such grievance as a mere bourgeois

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could have: as if, to borro6 ondorcet9s bitter

phrase, a descendant of the conQuering )ranDs, liDe

de &ohan, could have lost the ancient right of life

and death over a descendant of the 2auls4 .nd this

6as no ironic taunt! for 6hile oltaire 6as in the

3astille, that astounding booD of the ount of 3ou-

lainvilliers 6as in the press, in 6hich it 6as sho6n

that the feudal system is the master-6orD of the

human mind, and that the advance of the royal

5H oltaire4

authority and the increase of the liberties of the peo-

ple 6ere eQually un"ust usurpations of the rights of

the conQuering )ranDs4

oltaire 6as no patient victim of the practice

6hich corresponded to this trim historic theory4 In

a tumult of "ust indignation he Quitted )rance, and

sought refuge 6ith that stout and free people, 6ho

had by the eecution of one Ding, the deposition of

another, and the deNnite sub"ugation of the hier-

archy, 6on a full liberty of thought and speech and

person4 . modern historian has dra6n up a list of

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the men of marD 6ho made the same invigorating

pilgrimage4 /uring the t6o generations 6hich

elapsed bet6een the death of Louis @I4 and the

outbreaD of the &evolution, there 6as hardly a

)renchman of eminence 6ho did not either visit

'ngland or learn 'nglish! 6hile many of them

did both4 .mong those 6ho actually came to 'ng-

land and mied in its society besides oltaire, 6ere

3uM on, 3rissot, 7elve tius, 2ournay, ;ussieu, Lafay-

ette, =ontesQuieu, =aupertuis, =orellet, =irabeau,

&oland and =adame &oland, &ousseau4 +e 6ho

live after +ords6orth, $helley, 3yron, $cott, have

begun to forget the brilliant group of the Eueen

.nne men4 #hey belong to a self-complacent time,

and 6e to a time of doubt and unsatisNed aspiration,

and the t6o spirits are unsympathetic4 (et they

6ere assuredly a band, from 0e6ton and LocDe

do6n to %ope, of 6hom, taDing them for all the Quali-

ties 6hich they united, in science, correct "udgment,

'nglish $tudies and Inuences4 5

love of letters, and taste, 'ngland has as good reason

to be proud as of any set of contemporary 6riters

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in her history4

p to this moment oltaire had been a poet, and

his mind had not moved beyond the region of poetic

creation4 7e had beaten every one once and for all

on the ground of light and graceful lyric verse, a

Dind of poetry, says a )rench critic 6hose 6ord in

such a matter 6e can hardly refuse to taDe, in

6hich oltaire is at once 6ith us the only master

and the only 6riter supportable, for he is the only

one 6hom 6e can read4 7e had produced three

tragedies4 7is epic 6as completed, though under-

going ceaseless labor to the Nle4 #6o lines in his

Nrst play had served to marD him for no friend to

the hierophants:

0os pretres ne sont point ce Qti9un vain peuple pense !

0otre credulite fait toute leur science4

.nd the 6ords of .raspe in the same play had

breathed the full spirit of the future liberator:

0e nous Nons Qu9a nous ! voyons tout par nos yeu :

e sont la nos trepieds, nos oracles, nos dieu4

$uch epressions, ho6ever, 6ere no more than the

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vague and casual 6ord of the esprit fort, the friend

of haulieu, and the rhymer of a dissolute circle,

6here religion only became tinged 6ith doubt,

because conduct had already become penetrated 6ith

licence4 =ore important than such stray 6ords 6as

the 'pistle of ranie J1*HHK, that truly masculine

5F oltaire4

and terse protest against the popular creed, its mean

and fatuous and contradictory idea of an omnipotent

2od, 6ho gave us guilty hearts so as to have the

right of punishing us, and planted in us a love of

pleasure so as to torment us the more eMectually by

appalling ills that an eternal miracle prevents from

ever ending ! 6ho dro6ned the fathers in the deluge

and then died for the children ! 6ho eacts an

account of their ignorance from a hundred peoples

6hom he has himself plunged helplessly into this

ignorance :

 ;e ne reconnais point a cette indigne image

Le dieu Que "e dois adorer!

 ;e croirais le deshonorer

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%ar une telle insulte et par un tel hommage4

 #hough called #he )or and .gainst, the poet

hardly tries to maintain any proportion bet6een the

t6o sides of the argument4 #he verses 6ere

addressed to a lady in a state of uncertainty as to

belief, of 6hom there 6ere probably more among

oltaire9s friends of Quality than he can have cared

to cure or convert4 $Depticism 6as at this time not

much more than an interesting fashion4

 #he dilettante believer is indeed not a strong

spirit, but the 6eaDest, and the facts of life 6ere by

this time far too serious for oltaire, for that truth

to have missed his Deen-seeing eye4 It is not hard to

suppose that impatient 6eariness of the poor life

that 6as lived around him, had as large a share as

resentment of an in"ustice, in driving him to a land

'nglish $tudies and Inuences4 55

6here men did not merely mouth idle 6ords of maD-

ing reason their oracle, their tripod, their god, but

6here they had actually systemati>ed the re"ection

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of hristianity, and had thro6n themselves 6ith

grave faith on the disciplined intelligence and its

lessons4 +hen he returned, 6hile his poetic po6er

had ripened, he had tasted of the fruit of the tree

of scientiNc reason, and, 6hat 6as not any less

important, he had become alive to the central truth

of the social distinction of all art and all Dno6ledge4

 #n a 6ord, he 6as transformed from the penman

into the captain and man-at-arms4 #he eample of

'ngland, says ondorcet, sho6ed him that truth

is not made to remain a secret in the hands of a

fe6 philosophers, and a limited number of men of

the 6orld, instructed, or rather indoctrinated, by

the philosophers ! smiling 6ith them at the errors of

6hich the people are the victims, but at the same

time maDing themselves the champions of these very

errors, 6hen their ranD or position gives them a real

or chimerical interest in them, and Quite ready to

permit the proscription, or even persecution of their

teachers, if they venture to say 6hat in secret they

themselves actually thinD4 )rom the moment of his

return, oltaire felt himself called to destroy the

pre"udices of every Dind, of 6hich his country 6as

the slave4

It is not diPcult to perceive the sorts of fact

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6hich 6ould most striDe the eile9s attention, though

it 6ould be rash to suppose that things strucD him in

5C oltaire4

eact proportion to their real 6eight and the depth

of their importance, or that he detected the connec-

tion subsisting among them at their roots4 %erhaps

the Nrst circumstance to press its unfamiliarity upon

him 6as the social and political conseQuence of the

men of letters in 'ngland and the recognition given

to the po6er of the pen4 #he patronage of men of

genius in the reign of .nne and part of the reign of

the Nrst 2eorge had been profuse and splendid4 #he

poet 6ho had been thro6n into prison for resenting

a 6hipping from a nobleman9s lacDeys, found him-

self in a land 6here 0e6ton and LocDe 6ere

re6arded 6ith lucrative posts in the administration

of the country, 6here %rior and 2ay acted in impor-

tant embassies, and 6here .ddison 6as a $ecretary

of $tate4 #he author of J'dipe and the 7enri-

ade had to hang ignobly about in the cro6d at er-

sailles at the marriage of Louis @4 to gain a

paltry pittance from the Queen9s privy purse, 6hile

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in 'ngland 7ughes and &o6e and .mbrose %hilips

and ongreve 6ere all en"oying amply endo6ed

sinecures4 #he familiar intercourse bet6een ther

ministers and the brilliant literary group of that age

has been often painted4 .t the time of oltaire9s

eile it had "ust come to an end 6ith the accession to

supreme po6er of +alpole, 6ho neither Dne6 any-

thing nor cared anything about the literature of his

o6n time4 3ut the usage 6as still ne6, and the men

6ho had proNted and given proNt by it 6ere alive,

and 6ere the central Ngures in the circles among

'nglish $tudies and Inuences4 5*

6hich oltaire 6as introduced by 3olingbroDe4

0e6ton died in 1*H*, and oltaire sa6 his death

mourned as a public calamity, and surrounded 6ith

a pomp and circumstance in the eye of the country

that could not have been surpassed if he had been,

not a geometer, but a Ding 6ho 6as the benefactor

of his people4 #he author of 2ulliver9s #ravels

6as still a dignitary in the state church, and there

6as still a large association of out6ard po6er and

dignity 6ith literary merit4

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In so far as 6e consider literature to be one of the

purely decorative arts, there can be no harm in this

patronage of its most successful, that is its most

pleasing, professors by the political minister ! but the

more closely literature approaches to being an organ

of serious things, a truly spiritual po6er, the more

danger there is liDely to be in maDing it a path

to temporal station or emolument4 #he practical

instinct, 6hich on some of its sides seems liDe a

miraculously implanted substitute for scientiNc intel-

ligence in 'nglish politics, has led us almost too far

in preserving this important separation of the ne6

church from the functions and re6ards of the state4

 #he misfortunes of )rance since the &evolution

have been due to no one circumstance so marDedly

as to the predominance 6hich the man of letters has

acQuired in that country! and this fatal predomi-

nance 6as Nrst founded, though assuredly not of

set design, by oltaire4

0ot less ama>ing than the high honor paid to

5G oltaire4

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intellectual eminence 6as the refugee from the city

of the 3astille liDely to Nnd the freedom 6ith 6hich

public events and public personages 6ere handled

by any one 6ho could pay a printer4 #he licence of

this time in press and theatre has been eQualled only

once or t6ice since, and it has never been surpassed4

)rom 3olingbroDe and $6ift do6n to the author of

#he 2olden &ump, every 6riter 6ho chose to

consider himself in opposition treated the minister

6ith a violence and ferocity, 6hich neither irritated

nor daunted that sage head, but 6hich 6ould in

)rance have cro6ded the lo6est dungeons of the

3astille 6ith victims of )leury9s anger and fright4

$uch licence 6as as natural in a country that had

6ithin ninety years gone through a violent civil 6ar,

a revolutionary change of government and line, and

a half-suppressed dispute of succession, as it 6ould

have been astonishing in )rance, 6here the continu-

ity of out6ard order had never been more than

superNcially ruRed, even in the most turbulent times

of the factious 6ars of the League and the )ronde4

0o ne6 idea of the relations bet6een ruler and sub-

 "ect had ever penetrated into )rance, as it had done

so deeply in the neighboring country4 0o serious

popular issues had been so much as stated4 .s ol-

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taire 6rote, in the detestable times of harles I@4

and 7enry III4 it 6as only a Question 6hether the

people should be the slaves of the 2uises, 6hile as

for the last 6ar, it deserved only hisses and con-

tempt ! for 6hat 6as de &et> but a rebel 6ithout a

'nglish $tudies and Inuences4 5A

purpose and a stirrer of sedition 6ithout a name,

and 6hat 6as the parliament but a body 6hich Dne6

neither 6hat it meant nor 6hat it did not mean?

 #he apologies of ;esuit 6riters for the assassination

of tyrants deserve an important place in the history

of the doctrine of divine right ! but they 6ere theo-

retical essays in casuistry for the initiated fe6, and

certainly conveyed no general principles of popular

right to the many4

%rotestantism, on the other hand, loosened the

conception of authority and of the respect proper for

authority, to a degree 6hich has never been reali>ed

in the most anarchic movements in )rance, 6hose

anarchy has ever sprung less from a disrespect for

authority as such, than from a passionate and uncom-

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promising resolve in this or that group that the

authority shall be in one set of hands and not

another4 oltairism has proved itself as little capa-

ble as atholicism of inspiring any piece that may

match 6ith =ilton9s .reopagitica, the noblest

defence that 6as ever made of the noblest of causes4

+e Dno6 not 6hether oltaire ever thought much

as to the history and foundation of that freedom of

speech, 6hich even in its abuse strucD him as so

6onderful a circumstance in a country that still pre-

served a stable and orderly society4 7e 6as prob-

ably content to admire the phenomenon of a liberty

so marvellous, 6ithout searching very far for its

antecedents4 #he mere spectacle of such free, vig-

orous, many-sided, and truly social and public

CB oltaire4

activity of intellect as 6as visible in 'ngland at this

time 6as in itself enough to N the ga>e of one 6ho

6as so intensely conscious of his o6n energy of

intellect, and so bitterly rebellious against the sys-

tem 6hich fastened a gag bet6een his lips4

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If 6e 6ould reali>e the impression of this scene

of free speech on oltaire9s ardent spirit, 6e need

only remember that, 6hen in time he returned to his

o6n country, he had to 6ait long and use many arts

and suMer harassing persecutions, before he could

publish 6hat he had to say on 0e6ton and LocDe,

and in other less important respects had to suppress

much of 6hat he had most at heart to say4 One

must disguise at %aris, he 6rote long after his

return, 6hat I could not say too strongly at Lon-

don! and he vaunts his hardihood in upholding

0e6ton against &ene /escartes, 6hile he confesses

that an unfortunate but necessary circumspection

forced him to try to maDe LocDe obscure4 ;udge the

light 6hich 6ould come into such a mind as his,

6hen he Nrst sa6 the discussion and propagation

of truth freed from these vile and demorali>ing

aMronts4 #he very conception of truth 6as a ne6

one, as a goddess not to be shielded behind the

shades of hierophantic mystery, but rather to be

sought in the free tumult and "oyous strife of many

voices, there vindicating her o6n ma"esty and marD-

ing her o6n children4

%enetrating deeper, oltaire found not only a ne6

idea of truth as a something rude, robust, and self-

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'nglish $tudies and Inuences4 C1

suPcient, but also 6hat 6as to him a ne6 order of

truths, the triumphs of slo6-footed induction and the

positive reason4 )rance 6as the hotbed of systems of

the physical universe4 #he provisional and suspensive

attitude 6as intolerable to her impetuous genius, and

the gaps 6hich scientiNc investigation 6as unable to

Nll 6ere straight6ay hidden behind an artiNcial

screen of metaphysical phantasies4 #he .ristotelian

system died harder in )rance than any6here else,

for so late as 1CA, 6hile Oford and ambridge

and London 6ere actually embracing the 0e6tonian

principles, even the artesian system 6as forbidden

to be taught by decrees of the $orbonne and of the

ouncil of the ing4 +hen the artesian physics

once got a foothold, they Dept it as Nrmly as the sys-

tem 6hich they had found so much diPculty in

displacing4 It is easy to believe that oltaire9s posi-

tive intelligence 6ould hold aloof by a certain

instinct from physical eplanations 6hich 6ere un-

veriNed and incapable of being veriNed, and 6hich

6ere imbrangled 6ith theology and metaphysics4

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+e can readily conceive the sensation of fresh-

ness and delight 6ith 6hich a mind so essentially

real, and so fundamentally serious, paradoical as

this may sound in connection 6ith the name of the

greatest mocDer that has ever lived, 6ould echange

the poeti>ed astronomy of )ontenelle, ecellently

constituted as )ontenelle 6as in a great many 6ays,

for the sure and scientiNc discoveries of a 0e6ton4

oltaire, in 6hatever sub"ect, never failed to see

CH oltaire4

through rhetoric, and for rhetoric as the substitute

for clear reasoning he al6ays had an aversion as

deep as it 6as 6holesome4 0obody ever loved grace

and form in style more sincerely than oltaire, but

he has sho6n in a great many 6ays that nobody

ever valued grace and form more truly at their

6orth, compared 6ith correctness of argument and

precision and solidity of conclusion4

LocDe, instead of inventing a romance of the soul,

to use oltaire9s phrase, sagaciously set himself to

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6atch the phenomena of thought, and reduced

metaphysics to being the eperimental physics of

the soul4 =alebranche, then the reigning philos-

opher in )rance, astonished the reason of those

6hom he delighted by his style4 %eople trusted him

in 6hat they did not understand, because he began

by being right in 6hat they did understand! he

seduced people by being delightful, as /escartes

seduced them by being daring, 6hile LocDe 6as

nothing more than sage4 .fter all, oltaire

once 6rote, 6e must admit that anybody 6ho has

read LocDe, or rather 6ho is his o6n LocDe, must

Nnd the %latos mere Nne talDers, and nothing more4

In point of philosophy, a chapter of LocDe or larDe

is, compared 6ith the babble of antiQuity, 6hat

0e6ton9s optics are compared 6ith those of /es-

cartes4 It is curious to observe that de =aistre,

6ho thought more meanly of %lato than oltaire

did, and hardly less meanly than he thought of

oltaire himself, cried out that in the study of

'nglish $tudies and Inuences4 C

philosophy contempt for LocDe is the beginning

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of Dno6ledge4 oltaire, on the other hand, is

enchanted to hear that his niece reads the great

'nglish philosopher, liDe a good father 6ho sheds

tears of "oy that his children are turning out 6ell4

.ugustus published an edict de coercendo intra

Nnes imperio, and liDe him, LocDe has Ned the

empire of Dno6ledge in order to strengthen it4

LocDe, he says else6here, traced the development

of the human reason, as a good anatomist eplains

the machinery of the human body! instead of

deNning all at once 6hat 6e do not understand, he

eamines by degrees 6hat 6e 6ant to understand!

he sometimes has the courage to speaD positively,

but sometimes also he has the courage to doubt4

 #his is a perfectly appreciative account4 LocDe per-

ceived the hopelessness of deNning things as they

are in themselves, and the necessity before all else

of understanding the reach of the human intel-

ligence! the impossibility of attaining Dno6ledge

absolute and transcendent, and the limitations of

our thinDing and Dno6ing faculties 6ithin the

bounds of an eperience that must al6ays be

relative4 #he doubt 6hich oltaire praised in

LocDe had nothing to do 6ith that shivering mood

6hich receives overmuch poetic praise in our day,

as the honest doubt that has more faith than half

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your creeds4 #here 6as no Question of the senti-

mental "uvenilities of children crying for light4 It

6as by no means religious doubt, but philosophic!

CF oltaire4

and it aMected only the possibilities of ontological

Dno6ledge, leaving the grounds of faith on the one

hand, and practical conduct on the other, eactly

6here they 6ere4 7is intense feeling for actualities

6ould dra6 oltaire irresistibly to the 6riter 6ho,

in his "udgment, closed the gates of the dreamland

of metaphysics, and banished the vaulting ambition

of a priori certainties, 6hich led no6here and

assured nothing4 oltaire9s Deen practical instinct

may 6ell have revealed to him that men 6ere most

liDely to attribute to the great social problem of the

improvement of manDind its right supremacy, 6hen

they had ceased to concentrate intellectual eMort

on the insoluble ! and LocDe 6ent a long 6ay to6ards

sho6ing ho6 insoluble those Questions 6ere, on

6hich, as it chanced, the most strenuous eMorts of

the intellect of 'urope since the decline of theology

had been concentrated4

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 #hat he should have acQuired more scientiNc

vie6s either upon the origin of ideas, or the Ques-

tion 6hether the soul al6ays thinDs, or upon the

reason 6hy an apple falls to the ground, or 6hy

the planets remain in their orbits, 6as on the 6hole

very much less important for oltaire than a pro-

found and very vital sentiment 6hich 6as raised to

supreme prominence in his mind, by the spectacle of

these vast continents of Dno6ledge ne6ly discovered

by the adventurous yet sure eplorers of 'nglish

thought4 #his sentiment 6as a noble faith, none

the less Nrm because it 6as so passionate, in the

'nglish $tudies and Inuences4 C5

ability of the relative and practical understanding to

reach truth! a deep-rooted reverence for it, as a

ma"estic po6er bearing muniNcent and unnumbered

gifts to manDind4 7ence the vivacity of the annota-

tions 6hich about this time J1*HGK oltaire aPed

to %ascal9s famous #houghts, and 6hich 6ere

regarded at that time as the audacious carpings of a

shallo6 poet against a profound philosopher4 #hey

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6ere in truth the protest of a lively common sense

against a strained, morbid, and often sophistical,

misrepresentation of human nature and human cir-

cumstance4 oltaire shot a penetrative ray through

the clouds of doubt, out of 6hich %ascal had made

an apology for mysticism4

)rom this there o6ed that other vehement cur-

rent in his soul, of energetic hatred to6ard the

blacD clouds of pre"udice, of mean self-love, of

sinister preference of class or order, of indolence,

obstinacy, 6anton fancy, and all the other unhappy

leanings of human nature, and veed and fatal con-

 "unctures of circumstance, 6hich interpose bet6een

humanity and the beneNcent sunbeams of its o6n

intelligence, that central light of the universe4

7ence, again, by a suPciently visible chain of

thought, his marDed disesteem for far-sounding

names of brutal conQuerors, and his cold regard for

those out6ard and material circumstances in the

state of nations, 6hich striDe the sense, but do not

touch the in6ard reason4 0ot long ago, he 6rites

once, a distinguished company 6ere discussing the

ol4 FH5

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CC oltaire4

trite and frivolous Question, 6ho 6as the greatest

man, aesar, .leander, #amerlane, or rom6ell4

$omebody ans6ered that it 6as undoubtedly Isaac

0e6ton4 #his person 6as right ! for if true great-

ness consists in having received from heaven a

po6erful understanding and in using it to enlighten

oneself and all others, then such an one as 0e6ton,

6ho is hardly to be met 6ith once in ten centuries, is

in truth the great man4 4 4 4 It is to him 6ho mas-

ters our minds by the force of truth, not to those

6ho enslave men by violence! it is to him 6ho

understands the universe, not to those 6ho disNgure

it, that 6e o6e our reverence4 #his may seem trite

to us, as the Question 6hich suggested it seemed to

oltaire, but 6e need only reect, Nrst, ho6 ne6

this 6as, even as an idea, in the )rance 6hich ol-

taire had Quitted, and, second, ho6 in spite of the

nominal acceptance of the idea, in the 'ngland of

our o6n time there is, 6ith an immense ma"ority

not only of the general vulgar but of the special

vulgar 6ho presume to teach in press and pulpit,

no name of slight at once so disdainful and so sure

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of transNing as the name of thinDer4

 #he discovery of the 0e6 +prld did not Nre the

imagination and stir the thought of 'urope more

intensely than the vision of these ne6 6orlds of

Dno6ledge Dindled the ardor of the receptive spirit

6hich had "ust come into contact 6ith them4 3ut

besides the speculative aspects of 6hat he sa6 in

'ngland, oltaire 6as deeply penetrated by the

'nglish $tudies and Inuences4 C*

social diMerences bet6een a country that had been

eMectively, if only partially, transformed from

feudalism, and his o6n, 6here feudalism had only

been transformed into a system more repressive

than itself, and more unNt to conduct a nation to the

free and industrious developments of ne6 civili>a-

tion4 It is a remarDable thing that, though ol-

taire9s habitual companions or patrons had belonged

to the privileged class, he had been suPciently

strucD by the evils incident to the privileged system

to notice the absence of such evils in 'ngland, and to

maDe a clear attempt, though an insuPcient one, to

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understand the secret of the 'nglish immunity from

them4 One of the 6orst curses of )rance 6as the

taille or capitation-ta, and the 6ay in 6hich it 6as

levied and assessed4 In 'ngland, oltaire noticed,

the peasant has not his feet bruised in 6ooden shoes,

he eats 6hite bread, is decently clad, is not terriNed

to increase the number of his stocD, or to roof his

d6elling 6ith tiles, lest his ta should be raised

net year4 .gain, he placed his Nnger on one of the

circumstances that did most to spoil the gro6th of

a compact and 6ell-Dnit society in )rance, 6hen

he pointed to the large number of farmers in 'ng-

land 6ith Nve or si hundred pounds sterling a year,

6ho do not thinD it beneath them to cultivate the

earth 6hich has made them rich, and on 6hich they

live in active freedom4 /e #ocQueville, the pro-

foundest modern investigator of the conditions of

)rench society in the eighteenth century, has indi-

CG oltaire4

cated the eagerness of every man 6ho got a little

capital to Quit the country and buy a place in a to6n,

as doing more harm to the progress of the agri-

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culture and commerce of )rance than even the faille

itself and the trade corporations4

oltaire perceived the astonishing fact that in

this country a man because he is a noble or a priest

6as not eempt from paying certain taes, and that

the ommons, 6ho regulated the taes, though

second to the Lords in ranD, 6ere above them in

legislative inuence4 7is acute sight also revealed

to him the importance of the miture of ranDs and

classes in common pursuits, and he records 6ith

admiration instances of the younger sons of peers of

the realm follo6ing trade4 +hoever arrives in

%aris from the depths of a remote province 6ith

money to spend and a name in ac or ille, can talD

about 9 a man liDe me, a man of my Quality and hold

a merchant in sovereign contempt4 #he merchant

again so constantly hears his business spoDen of

6ith disdain that he is fool enough to blush for it !

yet I am not sure 6hich is the more useful to a state,

a thicDly-bepo6dered lord 6ho Dno6s eactly 6hat

time the Ding rises and 6hat time he goes to bed,

and gives himself mighty airs of greatness 6hile he

plays the part of a slave in a minister9s anteroom!

or the merchant 6ho enriches his country, gives

orders from his counting-house at $urat or airo,

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and contributes to the happiness of the globe4 It

is easy to conceive the fury 6hich these contrasts

'nglish $tudies and Inuences4 CA

dra6n from 'nglish observation 6ould ecite

among the personages in )rance 6ho happened to

get the 6orst side in them, and there 6as assuredly

nothing surprising in the decree of the parliament

of %aris J1*FK, 6hich condemned the Letters on

the 'nglish to be publicly burned, as scandalous

and contrary aliDe to good manners and the respect

due to principalities and po6ers4

 #he 'nglish reader of the Letters is naturally

strucD by the absence of any adeQuate account of

our political liberties and free constitutional forms4

 #here is a good chapter on 3acon, one on inocula-

tion, and several on the EuaDers, but on the civil

constitution hardly a 6ord of large appreciative-

ness4 0ot only this, but there is no sign that ol-

taire either set any due or special value on the

popular forms of the 7anoverian time, or clearly

understood that the liberty, 6hich 6as so ama>ing

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and so precious to him in the region of speculative

and literary activity, 6as the direct fruit of that

general spirit of freedom, 6hich is naturally engen-

dered in a people accustomed to taDe an active part

in the conduct of its o6n aMairs4 Liberty in spirit-

uals 6as adorable to him, but for liberty in tem-

porals he never seems to have had more than a very

distant and verbal Dind of respect! "ust because,

6ith all his unmatched Deenness of sight, he failed

to discover that the 'nglish sturdiness in the matter

of civil rights 6as the very root and cause, not

only of that material prosperity 6hich strucD him

yo oltaire4

so much, and of the slightness and movableness of

the line 6hich divided the aristocracy from the com-

mercial classes, but also of the fact that a 0e6ton

and a LocDe 6ere in6ardly emboldened to give free

play to their intelligence 6ithout fear of being

punished for their conclusions, and of the only less

important fact that 6hatever conclusions speculative

genius might establish 6ould be given to the 6orld

6ithout interposition from any court or university

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or oPcial tribunal4 oltaire undoubtedly admired

the 'nglish for their parliament, because the mate-

rial and superNcial advantages that delighted him

6ere evidently due to the system, 6hich happened

to be parliamentary4 +hat 6e miss is any con-

sciousness that these advantages 6ould not have

been 6hat they are, if they had been conferred by

an absolute sovereign ! any recognition that political

activity throughout a nation 6orDs in a thousand

indirect but most potent 6ays, and is not more to be

pri>ed for this, than for its direct and most palpable

conseQuences4 In one place, indeed, he mentions

that the honor paid to men of letters is due to the

form of government, but his language betrays a

6holly inadeQuate and incorrect notion of the true

operation of the form of government4 #here are

in London, he says, about eight hundred people

6ith the right of speaDing in public and maintaining

the interests of the nation4 $ome Nve or si

thousand pretend to the same honor in their turn4

.ll the rest set themselves up to "udge these, and

'nglish $tudies and Inuences4 *1

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everybody can print 6hat he thinDs4 $o all the

nation is bound to instruct itself4 .ll talD is about

the governments of .thens and &ome, and it

becomes necessary to read the authors 6ho have dis-

cussed them4 #hat naturally leads to love of polite

learning4 #his is to confound a very trivial acci-

dent of popular governments 6ith their essence4 If

culture thrives under them a very doubtful posi-

tion it is not because voters 6ish to understand

the historical allusions of candidates, but because

the general stir and life of public activity tends to

commove the 6hole system4 %olitical freedom does

not produce men of genius, but its atmosphere is

more favorable than any other to their maDing the

best of their genius in the service of manDind4

oltaire, in this as in too much besides, 6as con-

tent 6ith a Deen and rapid glance at the surface4

 #he reader may remember his story of meeting a

boatman one day on the #hames, 6ho seeing that he

6as a )renchman, 6ith a too characteristic Dind of

courtesy, tooD the opportunity of ba6ling out, 6ith

the added emphasis of a round oath, that he 6ould

rather be a boatman on the #hames than an arch-

bishop in )rance4 #he net day oltaire sa6 his

man in prison 6ith irons on and praying an alms

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from the passers-by, and so asDed him 6hether he

still thought as scurvily of an archbishop in )rance4

.h, sir, cried the man, 6hat an abominable

government S I have been carried oM by force to go

and serve in one of the Ding9s ships in 0or6ay4

*H oltaire4

 #hey taDe me from my 6ife and my children, and

lay me up in prison 6ith irons on my legs until the

time for going on board, for fear I should run

a6ay4 . countryman of oltaire9s confessed that

he felt a splenetic "oy that a people 6ho 6ere con-

stantly taunting the )rench 6ith their servitude

6ere in sooth "ust as much slaves themselves ! but

for my o6n part, says oltaire, I felt a humaner

sentiment, I 6as aRicted at there being no liberty

on the earth4

 #his is 6ell enough as a comment on the abomi-

nation of impressment! yet 6e feel that there is

behind it, and not here only but generally in ol-

taire, a sort of confusion bet6een t6o very distinct

conceptions, that both in his day and ever since have

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been eQually designated by the common name of

civil liberty4 #he Nrst of these ideas is a mere

privative, undoubtedly of sovereign importance, but

still a privative, and implies absence, more or less

complete, of arbitrary control from 6ithout, of

interference 6ith individual action by authority, of

any pretension on the part of any organi>ed body

to hinder any member of the society from doing

or abstaining from doing 6hat may seem right in

his o6n eyes, provided he pays a corresponding

respect to the freedom of his fello6s4 )reedom in

this sense oltaire fully understood, and valued as

profoundly as it deserves to be valued4 %olitical

liberty, ho6ever, has not only a meaning of absten-

tion, but a meaning of participation4 If in one sense

'nglish $tudies and Inuences4 *

it is a sheer negative, and a doctrine of rights,

in another sense it is thoroughly positive, and a

gospel of duties4 #he liberty 6hich has really made

'ngland 6hat it so delighted and stimulated and

inamed oltaire to Nnd her, has been Quite as much

of the second Dind as of the Nrst ! that liberty 6hich

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consists in a national habit of independent and

6atchful interest in the transaction of the national

aMairs by the persons most concerned in them! in

a general consciousness of the duty of having some

opinion on the business of the state ! in a recognition

on the part of the government that the balance of

this opinion is necessary as a sanction to any policy,

to 6hich the eMective force of the state is applied4

It is true that this public participation in public con-

cerns has sometimes been very darD and blind, as it

has often been in the highest degree enlightened,

but for good or for evil it has been the root of the


It may at Nrst sight be astonishing to Nnd that,

6hile oltaire 6as impressed only in a vague and

general 6ay 6ith the free variety of theological

opinion 6hich %rotestantism had secured for 'ng-

land, the sect 6hich made a sort of marD on his mind

6as that 6hich conceived the idea that hristianity

has after all something to do 6ith the type and

eample of hrist4 +e Dno6 ho6 laughable and

monstrous the EuaDer scheme has appeared to

people 6ho have been steeped from their youth

up6ards in elaborate systems of abstruse meta-

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*F oltaire4

physical dogma, mystic ceremonies, hierarchic

ordering, and profuse condemnation of rival creeds4

oltaire9s imagination 6as strucD by a sect 6ho

professed to regard the religion of hrist as a simple

and austere discipline of life, 6ho repudiated ritual,

and held 6ar for the 6orst of anti-hristian prac-

tices4 #he forms and doctrines of the established

church of the country he 6ould be liDely to taDe

merely for so much of the common form of the

national institutions4 7e 6ould simply regard it

as the 'nglish 6ay of narro6ing the mind and con-

solidating the social order4 2ibbon9s famous sen-

tence 6as not yet 6ritten, 6hich described all

religions as eQually true in the eyes of the people,

eQually false in the eyes of the philosopher, and

eQually useful in the eyes of the magistrate4 3ut the

idea 6as the idea of the century, and oltaire 6ould

 "ustly looD upon the .nglican profession as a tem-

porarily useful and statesmanliDe settlement4 7e

praised its clergy for the superior regularity of their

manners4 #hat indeNnable being, 6ho is neither

ecclesiastic nor secular, in a 6ord, 6ho is called abbe,

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is an unDno6n species in 'ngland! the clergy here

are all prigs, and nearly all pedants4 +hen they

learn that in )rance young men notorious for their

debauchery, and raised to preferment by the in-

trigues of 6omen, pursue their amours publicly,

amuse themselves by the composition of gallant

verses, give every day prolonged and luurious sup-

pers, and rise from them to implore the enlighten-

'nglish $tudies and Inuences4 *5

ment of the holy spirit, boldly calling themselves

the successors of the apostles 6hy, then our 'ng-

lish thanD 2od that they are %rotestants4

If, ho6ever, in the face of a young and lively

)rench graduate, ba6ling theology in the schools

in the morning and in the evening singing tender

songs 6ith the ladies, an .nglican divine is a very

ato, this ato is a do6nright gallant before a

$cotch %resbyterian, 6ho assumes a grave step and

a sour mien, preaches from the nose, and gives the

name of harlot of 3abylon to all churches in 6hich

some of the ecclesiastics are so fortunate as to receive

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an income of Nfty thousand livres a year4 7o6ever,

each man taDes 6hatever road to heaven he pleases4

If there 6ere one religion in 'ngland, they 6ould

have to fear its despotism ! if there 6ere only t6o,

they 6ould cut one another9s throats ! but there are

thirty! so they live peaceably and happily together4

In the EuaDers oltaire sa6 something Quite

diMerent from the purely political pretensions and

internecine Quarrels of doctrine of the ordinary

6orldly sects4 It is impossible to say ho6 much of

the Dindliness 6ith 6hich he speaDs of them is due

to real admiration of their simple, digniNed, and

paciNc life, and ho6 much to a mischievous desire

to maDe their praise a handle for the dispraise of

over6eening competitors4 On the 6hole there is a

sincerity and heartiness of interest in his long

account of this sect, 6hich persuades one that he

6as moved by a genuine sympathy 6ith a religion

*C oltaire4

that could en"oin the humane and peaceful and

spiritual precepts of hrist, 6hile putting a6ay

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baptism, ceremonial communion, and hierophantic

orders4 #he nobility of the social theories of the

$ociety of )riends 6ould naturally stir oltaire

even more deeply than their abstention from prac-

tices that 6ere in his eyes degrading superstitions4

7e felt that the repugnance to lo6er the ma"esty of

their deity, by taDing his name upon their lips as

solemn ratiNcation of their 6ords, had the eMect

of elevating the dignity of man, by maDing his bare

6ord fully credible 6ithout this solemn ratiNcation4

 #heir refusal to comply 6ith the deferential usages

of social intercourse, though nominally based on the

sinfulness of signs of homage to any mere mortal,

insinuated a consiousness of eQuality and self-respect

in that mere mortal 6ho 6as careful to maDe no

bo6s and to Deep his hat on in every presence4 .bove

all, oltaire, 6ho 6as no6here more veritably

modern or better entitled to our veneration than by

reason of his steadfast hatred of 6ar, revered a

sect so far removed from the brutality of the mili-

tary regime as to hold peace for a Nrst principle of

the hristian faith and religious practice4 #he

reason 6hy 6e do not go to 6ar, his EuaDer says,

is not that 6e are afraid of death, but because 6e

are not 6olves, nor tigers, nor dogs, but hristian

men4 Our 2od, 6ho has bidden us love our enemies

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and suMer evil 6ithout complaint, assuredly has no

mind that 6e should cross the sea to go and cut the

'nglish $tudies and Inuences4 **

throats of our brothers, because murderers in red

clothes and hats t6o feet high enlist citi>ens, maDing

a noise 6ith t6o little sticDs on an ass9s sDin tightly

stretched4 .nd 6hen, after victories 6on, all Lon-

don bla>es 6ith illuminations, the sDy is aame 6ith

rocDets, and the air resounds 6ith the din of bells,

organs, cannon, 6e mourn in silence over the slaugh-

ter that causes all the public "oy4

oltaire, let us add, 6as no dilettante traveller

constructing vie6s and deducing theories of national

life out of his o6n uninstructed consciousness4 0o

2erman could have 6orDed more diligently at the

facts, and 6e may say here, once for all, that if it is

often necessary to condemn him for superNciality,

this lacD of depth seldom at any time proceeds from

6ant of painstaDing4 7is unrivalled brilliance of

epression blinds us to the etreme and conscien-

tious industry that provided matter4 #he most

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illustrious eile that our free land has received from

)rance in our o6n times J7ugoK, and assuredly

far more of a giant in the order of imagination than

oltaire, never had intellectual curiosity enough

to learn the language of the country that had given

him t6enty years of shelter4 oltaire, in the fe6

months of his eile here acQuired such an astonish-

ing mastery over 'nglish as to be able to read and

relish an esoteric booD liDe 7udibras, and to com-

pass the enormously diPcult feat of rendering por-

tions of it into good )rench verse4 7e composed an

*G oltaire4

essay on epic poetry in the 'nglish tongue, and he

6rote one act of 3rutus in 'nglish4

7e read $haDespeare, and made an elaborate study

of his method4 7e declares that =ilton does as

much honor to 'ngland as the great 0e6ton, and

he tooD especial pains not only to master and appre-

ciate the secret of =ilton9s poetic po6er, but even to

ascertain the minutest circumstances of his life4 7e

studied /ryden, an author 6ho 6ould have a glory

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6ithout blemish, if he had only 6ritten the tenth

part of his 6orDs4 7e found .ddison the Nrst

'nglishman 6ho had 6ritten a reasonable tragedy,

and .ddison9s character of ato one of the Nnest

creations of any stage4 +ycherley, anbrugh, and

ongreve he esteemed more highly than most of

their countrymen do no64 .n act of a play of

Lillo9s 6as the base of the fourth act of =ahomet4

&ochester, +aller, %rior, and %ope, he read care-

fully and admired as heartily as they deserved4 Long

after he had left 'ngland behind, he places %ope

and .ddison on a level for variety of genius 6ith

=achiavelli, Leibnit>, and )ontenelle ! and %ope he

evidently for a long 6hile Dept habitually by his

elbo64 $6ift he placed before &abelais, calling him

&abelais in his senses, and, as usual, giving good

reasons for his preference! for $6ift, he says "ustly,

has not the gayety of &abelais, but he has all the

Nnesse, the sense, the variety, the Nne taste, in 6hich

the priest of =eudon 6as 6anting4 In philosophy,

besides LocDe, there is evidence that he read some-

'nglish $tudies and Inuences4 *A

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thing of 7obbes, and something of 3erDeley, and

something of ud6orth4 .l6ays, ho6ever, har-

assed, 6earied, ashamed of having sought so many

truths and found so many chimeras, I returned to

LocDe ! liDe a prodigal son returning to his father, I

thre6 myself into the arms of that modest man, 6ho

never pretends to Dno6 6hat he does not Dno6, 6ho

in truth has no enormous possessions, but 6hose

substance is 6ell assured4

0or did oltaire limit himself to the study of

science, philosophy, and poetry4 7e plunged into

the Neld of theology, and mastered that famous

deistical controversy, of 6hich the seed had been

so6n in the Nrst half of the seventeenth century by

Lord 7erbert of herbury, the correspondent of

/escartes and the earliest of the 'nglish metaphy-

sical thinDers4 Lord 7erbert9s ob"ect 6as to dis-

engage from revelation both our conceptions of the

one supreme po6er, and the sanctions of good and

bad conduct4 #oland, 6hom 6e Dno6 also that

oltaire read, aimed at disengaging hristianity

from mystery, and discrediting the canon of the

0e6 #estament4 In 1*HF ollins published his

/iscourse on the 2rounds and &easons of the

hristian &eligion, of 6hich 6e are told that fe6

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booDs ever made a greater noise than this did at

its Nrst publication4 #he press teemed 6ith vindica-

tions, replies, and re"oinders to ollins9 arguments

during the 6hole of oltaire9s residence in 'ng-

land4 7is position 6as one 6hich no modern free-

Go oltaire4

thinDer 6ould dream of maDing a central point of

attacD, and 6hich hardly any modern apologist 6ould

taDe the pains to reply to4 7e maintained that ;esus

hrist and the apostles trusted to the prophecies

of the Old #estament for their credentials, and

then he sho6ed, or tried to sho6, in various 6ays,

that these prophecies 6ould not bear the 6eight

6hich 6as thus laid upon them4 +e may be sure

that oltaire9s alert curiosity 6ould interest him

profoundly in the lively polemical ferment 6hich

this notable contention of ollins9 stirred up4

+oolston9s discourses, 6ritten to prove that the

miracles of the 0e6 #estament are as mythical

and allegorical as the prophecies of the Old #esta-

ment, appeared at the same time, and had an enor-

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mous sale4 oltaire 6as much strucD by this

6riter9s coarse and hardy 6ay of dealing 6ith the

miraculous legends, and the article on =iracles

in the %hilosophical /ictionary sho6s ho6 care-

fully he had read +oolston9s booD4 +e Nnd refer-

ences to $haftesbury and hubb in oltaire9s letters

and else6here, though they are not the references

of an admirer, and 3olingbroDe 6as one of the most

inuential and intimate of his friends4 It is not too

much to say that 3olingbroDe 6as the direct pro-

genitor of oltaire9s opinions in religion, and that

nearly every one of the positive articles in oltaire9s

rather moderately si>ed creed 6as held and incul-

cated by that brilliant and disordered genius4 7e

did not al6ays accept 3olingbroDe9s optimism, but

'nglish $tudies and Inuences4 G1

even as late in the century as 1*C* oltaire thought

it 6orth 6hile to borro6 his name for a volume of

compendious attacD on the popular religion4 3o-

lingbroDe9s tone 6as peculiarly light and peculiarly

6ell-bred4 7is inNdelity 6as strictly inNdelity for

the upper classes ! ingenious, full of literature, and

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elegantly supercilious4 7e made no pretence to

theological criticism in any sense that can be gravely

admitted, but looDed at the claims of revelation 6ith

the eye of a polished man of the 6orld, and met its

arguments 6ith those general considerations of airy

probability 6hich go so far 6ith men 6ho insist on

having plausible opinions on all sub"ects, 6hile they

6ill not taDe pains to 6orD to the bottom of any4

illemain9s observation, that there is not one of

oltaire9s 6ritings that does not bear the marD of

his so"ourn in 'ngland, is specially true of 6hat

he 6rote against theology4 It 6as the 'nglish

onslaught 6hich so6ed in him the seed of the idea,

and eventually supplied him 6ith the argumentative

instruments, of a systematic and reasoned attacD

upon that mass of doctrinal superstition and social

abuse, 6hich it had hitherto been the fashion for

even the strongest spirits in his o6n country to do

no more than touch 6ith a cool sneer or a ippant

insinuation, directed to the private ear of a sym-

pathi>er4 +ho, born 6ithin the last forty years,

cried 3urDe, has read one 6ord of ollins, and

 #oland, and hubb, and =organ, and that 6hole

race 6ho called themselves )reethinDers? +ho

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ol4 FH-C

GH oltaire4

no6 reads 3olingbroDe? +ho ever read him

through ? #his 6as very 6ell, but hundreds of

thousands of persons born 6ithin those last forty

years had read oltaire, and oltaire had dra6n

from the armory of these dead and unread )ree-

thinDers the 6eapons 6hich he made sharp 6ith the

mocDery of his o6n spirit4 7e stood on the plat-

form 6hich they had constructed to stretch forth his

hand against the shrine and the image before 6hich

so many credulous generations had bo6ed do6n4 It

6as in this most transformed shape among others

that at length, late and changed, but directly of

descent, the free and protesting genius of the

&eformation made its decisive entry into )rance4

It is easy to cite proofs of the repudiation by %rot-

estant bodies of the %rotestant principle, to multiply

instances of the narro6 rigidity of their dogma, and

the intolerance of their discipline4 #his method

supplies an ecellent ans6er as against %rotestants

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6ho ta atholics 6ith the crime of persecution, or

the crime of opposing intellectual independence4 It

cannot, ho6ever, touch the fact that %rotestantism

6as indirectly the means of creating and dispersing

an atmosphere of rationalism, in 6hich there speedily

sprang up philosophical, theological, and political

inuences, all of them entirely antagonistic to the

old order of thought and institution4 #he 6hole

intellectual temperature under6ent a permanent

change, that 6as silently mortal to the most ourish-

ing tenets of all sorts4 It is futile to asD for a pre-

'nglish $tudies and Inuences4 G

else logical chain of relations bet6een the beginning

of a movement and its end! and there is no more

direct and logical connection bet6een the right of

private "udgment and an eperiential doctrine of

psychology than there is bet6een eperiential

psychology and deism4 0obody no6 thinDs that the

eMect is homogeneous 6ith its cause, or that there

is any ob"ective resemblance bet6een a blade of

6heat and the moisture and 6armth 6hich Nll and

epand it4 .ll 6e can see is that the proclamation

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of the rights of free "udgment 6ould tend to sub-

stitute reason for authority and evidence for tradi-

tion, as the arbiters of opinion ! and that the polit-

ical epression of this change in the civil 6ars of the

middle of the seventeenth century 6ould naturally

deepen the inuence of the ne6 principle, and pro-

duce the LocDeian rationalism of the end of that

century, 6hich almost instantaneously etended

from the region of metaphysics into the region of


 #he historian of every Dind of opinion, and the

student of the great chiefs of intellectual movements,

habitually do violence to actual circumstances, by

imparting too systematic a connection to the various

parts of belief, and by assuming an unreal degree of

conscious logical continuity among the notions of

individual thinDers4 ritics Nll in the frame 6ith a

completeness and eactitude that had no counterpart

in the man9s o6n "udgments, and they identify him

6ith a multitude of deductions from his premises,

GF oltaire4

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6hich may be fairly dra6n, but 6hich never at all

entered into his mind, and formed no part of his

character4 #he philosophy of the ma"ority of men

is nothing more shaped and incorporate than a little

group of potential and partially incoherent tenden-

cies4 #o stiMen these into a system of deNnite

formulas is the most deceptive, as it is the most com-

mon of critical processes4 . fe6 persons, 6ith an

eceptional turn for philosophy, consciously embody

their metaphysical principles 6ith a certain detail

in all the rest of their thinDing4 +ith most people,

ho6ever, even people of superior capacity, the rela-

tion bet6een their ground-system, such as a critic

might supply them 6ith, and their manifestations

of intellectual activity is of an etremely indirect

and general Dind4

7ence the untrust6orthiness of those critical

schemata, so attractive for their compact order,

6hich Nrst maDe oltaire a LocDeian sensationalist,

and then trace his deism to his sensationalism4 +e

have already seen that he 6as a deist before he came

to 'ngland, "ust as Lord 7erbert of herbury 6as

a deist, 6ho 6rote before LocDe 6as born4 It 6as

not the metaphysical revolution of LocDe 6hich led

to deism, but the sort of 6ay in 6hich he thought

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about metaphysics, a 6ay 6hich 6as immediately

applied to theology by other people, 6hether assail-

ants or defenders of the current opinions4 LocDe9s

6as common-sense thinDing, and the fashion

spread4 #he air 6as thicD 6ith common-sense ob-

'nglish $tudies and Inuences4 G5

 "ections to hristianity, as it 6as 6ith common-sense

ideas as to the 6ay in 6hich 6e come to have ideas4

 #here 6as no temperament to 6hich such an atmos-

phere could be so congenial as oltaire9s, of 6hom

6e cannot too often repeat, considering the vulgar

reputation he has for violence and ecess, that he

6as in thought the very genius of good sense,

6hether or not 6e fully admit =4 ousin9s QualiNca-

tion of it as superNcial good sense4 It has been said

that he al6ays speaDs of /escartes, Leibnit>, and

$pino>a liDe a man to 6hom nature has refused the

metaphysical sense4 .t any rate he could never

agree 6ith them, and he never tried to Nnd truth by

the roads 6hich they had made4 It is true, ho6ever,

that he sho6s no sign of special Ntness for metaphys-

ics, any more than he did for physical science4 #he

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metaphysics of LocDe lay undeveloped in his mind,

 "ust as the theory of evolution lies in so many minds

at the present time4 #here is a faint informal refer-

ence of other theories to this central and half-seen

standard4 +hen metaphysical sub"ects came before

him, he felt that he had this for a sheet-anchor, and

he did not greatly care to Deep proving it again

and again by continued criticism or eamination4

 #he upshot of his acQuaintance 6ith LocDe 6as a

systematic adherence to common-sense modes of

thinDing! and he al6ays betrayed the faults and

shortcomings to 6hich such modes inevitably lead,

6hen they are brought, to the eclusion of comple-

mentary ideas, to the practical sub"ects that com-

GC oltaire4

prehend more than prudence, self-interest, and

sobriety4 #he sub"ect that does beyond any other

comprehend more than these elements is religion,

and the substantial vices of oltaire9s ob"ections to

religion Nrst arose from his familiarity 6ith the

'nglish form of deism, and his instinctive feeling

for its method4

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 #he deism of Leibnit> 6as a positive belief, and

made the eistence of a supreme po6er an actual

and living ob"ect of conviction4 #he marD of this

belief has remained on 2erman speculation through-

out it? course, do6n to our o6n day4 'nglish

deism, on the contrary, 6as only a particular 6ay of

repudiating hristianity4 #here 6as as little of

2od in it as could 6ell be4 Its theory 6as that 2od

had given each man the light of reason in his o6n

breast! that by this reason every scheme of belief

must be tried, and accepted or re"ected ! and that the

hristian scheme being so tried 6as in various 6ays

found 6anting4 #he formula of some booD of the

eighteenth century, that 2od created nature and

nature created the 6orld, must be allo6ed to have

reduced theistic conception to something liDe the

shado6 of smoDe4 #he 'nglish eighteenth-century

formula 6as, theistically, nearly as void4 #he 3eing

6ho set the reason of each individual on a Dind of

 "udicial bench 6ithin the forum of his o6n con-

science, and left him and it together to settle belief

and conduct bet6een them, 6as a tolerably remote

and unreal sort of personage4 7is spiritual force,

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'nglish $tudies and Inuences4 G*

according to such a doctrine, became very much as

if it had no eistence4

It 6as not to be epected that a sovereign d6elling

in such ama>ingly remote lands as this 6ould con-

tinue long 6ith undisputed authority, 6hen all the

negative forces of the time had reached their full

momentum4 In 'ngland the reaction against this

strange absentee government of the universe tooD

the form 6hich might have been anticipated from

Khe deep hold that %rotestantism had 6on, and the

spirituality 6hich had been engendered by %rotes-

lant reference to the relations bet6een the individual

conscience and the mystic operations of faith4 /eism

became a reality 6ith a 2od in it in the great 'van-

gelical revival, terrible and inevitable, 6hich has so

deeply colored religious feeling and 6arped intel8

lectual gro6th in 'ngland ever since4 In )rance,

thought tooD a very diMerent and much simpler

turn4 Or perhaps it 6ould be more correct to say

that it tooD no turn at all, but carried the godless

deism of the 'nglish school to its fair conclusion,

and dismissed8 a deity 6ho only reigned and did not

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govern4 #he 6hole movement had a single origin4

 #here is not one of the arguments of the )rench

philosophers in the eighteenth century, says a very

competent authority, 6hich cannot be found in the

'nglish school of the beginning of the century4 ol-

taire, 6ho carried the 'nglish 6ay of thinDing about

the supernatural po6er into )rance, lived to see a

band of trenchant and energetic disciples develop

GG oltaire4

principles 6hich he had planted, into a system of

dogmatic atheism4 #he time came 6hen he 6as

spoDen of contemptuously as retrograde and super-

stitious : oltaire est bigot, il est deiste4

7.%#'& III4

 #'=%'&.='0#, LI)', .0/ LI#'&.&( 2'0I$4

O0 #7' 6hole, the critic9s tasD is perhaps less to

classify a type of character as good or bad, as

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6orthy of so much praise or so much censure, than

to marD the material out of 6hich a man has his life

to maDe, and the Dind of use and form to 6hich he

puts his material4 #o begin 6ith, the bald division

of men into sheep and goats is in one sense so easy

as not to be 6orth performing, and in another

sense it is so hard as only to be possible for some

being 6ith supernatural insight4 .nd even 6ere the

Qualities employed in the tasD of a rarer Dind than

they are, the utility of the performance is al6ays

etremely slight, compared 6ith that other Dind of

criticism 6hich d6ells less on the Nnal balance of

good or evil than on the Nrst innate conditions of

temperament, the Ned limitations of opportunity,

and the comple interplay of the t6o 6ith that

character, 6hich is Nrst their creature and then their

master4 It is less the concern of criticism to pro-

nounce its man absolutely rich or absolutely poor


AB oltaire4

than to count up his talents and the usury of his o6n

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6hich he added to them4 .ssuredly there ought to

be little condonation of the foibles, and none at all

of the moral obliQuities, of the dead, because this

6ould mean the demorali>ation of the living4 3ut

it is seriously to overrate the po6er of bald 6ords

and 6ritten opinion, to suppose that a critic9s cen-

sure of conduct 6hich a thousand other agents, from

the child9s hornbooD up to the obvious and pressing

dictates of social convenience, are daily and hourly

prescribing, can be other than a 6orD of supereroga-

tion, 6hich Nes the mind on platitudes, instead of

leading it on in search of special and distinctive


It 6ould be easy to pour overo6ing vials of con-

demnation on many sides of oltaire9s character and

career4 0o man possessed of so much good sense

ever fell so constantly into the Dinds of error

against 6hich good sense particularly 6arns men4

 #here is no more 6earisome or pitiful leaf in the

biographies of the great, than the tale of oltaire9s

Quarrels 6ith ignoble creatures! 6ith a 6recDed

soul, liDe ;4 34 &ousseau J6hom the reader 6ill not

confound 6ith ;ean ;acQuesK ! 6ith a thievish

booDseller, liDe ;ore! 6ith a calumnious "ournalist,

liDe /esfontaines ! 6ith a rapacious Dnave liDe 7ir-

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schel ! and all the other tormentors in the oltairean

history, 6hose names recall vulgar, dishonest, and

indignant pertinacity on the one side, and 6asteful,

undigniNed fury on the other4 #hat lesson in the art

 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 A1

of life 6hich concerns a man9s dealings 6ith those

6ho have sho6n conspicuous moral inferiority, 6as

never mastered by oltaire4 Instead of the silence,

composure, and austere oblivion, 6hich it is of the

essence of strength to oppose to un6orthy natures,

he habitually confronted the dusty creeping things

that beset his march, as if they stood valiant and

erect! and the more un6orthy they 6ere, the more

vehement and strenuous and shrill 6as his conten-

tion 6ith them4 #he ignominy of such strife is

clear4 One thing only may perhaps be said4 7is

intense susceptibility to vulgar calumny o6ed from

the same Quality in his nature 6hich made unbear-

able to him the presence of superstition and in"ustice,

those mightier calumnies on humanity4 #he irritated

protests against the small foes of his person 6ere as

the dregs of potent 6ine, and 6ere the lo6er part of

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that passionate sensibility 6hich made him the assail-

ant of the giant oppressors of the human mind4 #his

reection does not maDe any less tedious to us the

damnable iteration of petty Quarrel and fretting com-

plaint 6hich Nlls such a space in his correspondence

and in his biographies, nor does it lessen our regret

at the havoc 6hich this fatal defect of his Qualities

made 6ith his contentedness4 +e thinD of his con-

solation to a person as susceptible as himself:

#here have al6ays been )rerons in literature ! but

they say there must be caterpillars for nightingales

to eat, that they may sing the better ! and 6e 6ish

that our nightingale had devoured its portion 6ith

AH oltaire4

something less of tumult4 3ut it may do something

to prevent us from giving a prominence, that is both

unfair and etremely misleading, to mere shado6,

as if that had been the 6hole substance4 .las,

6hy after all should men, from =oses do6n6ards,

be so cheerfully ready to contemplate the hinder

parts of their divinities?

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 #he period of t6enty years bet6een oltaire9s

departure from 'ngland and his departure for 3er-

lin, although often pronounced the happiest time of

his life, is very thicDly set 6ith these humiliating

incidents4 #o us, ho6ever, they are dead, because

though vivid enough to oltaire and it is strange

ho6 constantly it happens that the minor circum-

stance of life is more real and ever-present to a man

than his essential and abiding 6orD in it they 6ere

but transitory and accidental4 ;ust as it does little

good to the understanding to spend much time over

tenth-rate literature, so it is little edifying to the

character to raDe among the private obscurities of

even Nrst-rate men, and it is surely a good rule to

Deep ourselves as much as 6e can in contact 6ith

6hat is great4

 #he chief personal fact of this time 6as the con-

nection 6hich oltaire formed 6ith the =arQuise du

hatelet, and 6hich lasted from 1* till 1*FA4 $he

6as to him that important and peculiar inuence

6hich, in one shape or another, some 6oman seems

to have been to nearly every foremost man4 In

oltaire9s case this inuence 6as not the rich and

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 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 A

tender inspiration 6ith 6hich 6omen have so many

a time s6eetened the lives and gloriNed the thought

of illustrious 6orDers, nor 6as he bound to her by

those bonds of passion 6hich have often the eMect of

ealting the strength and 6idening the range of the

6hole of the nature that is susceptible to passion4

 #heir inner relations hardly depended on anything

more etraordinary or more delicate than the senti-

ment of a masculine friendship4 oltaire found in

the divine 'mily a strong and active head, a Deen

and generous admiration for his o6n genius, and an

eagerness to surround him 6ith the eternal condi-

tions most favorable to that steady industry 6hich

6as al6ays a thing so near his o6n heart4 #hey

are t6o great men, one of 6hom 6ears petticoats,

said oltaire of her and of )redericD4 It is impos-

sible to tell 6hat share vanity had in the beginning

of a connection, 6hich probably o6ed its long con-

tinuance more to use and habit than to any deep-

rooted sentiment4 anity 6as one of the most

strongly marDed of oltaire9s traits, and to this side

of him relations 6ith a 6oman of Quality 6ho adored

his genius 6ere no doubt etremely gratifying4 (et

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one ought to do him the "ustice to say that his vanity

6as only sDin-deep4 It had nothing in common 6ith

the greedy egotism 6hich reduces the 6hole broad

universe to a mere microcosm of pygmy self4 #he

vanity 6hich discloses a real a6 in character is a

loud and tyrannical claim for acDno6ledgment of

literary supremacy, and 6ith it the mean vices of

AF oltaire4

envy, "ealousy, and detraction are usually in com-

pany4 oltaire9s vanity 6as something very dif-

ferent from this truculent Dind of self-assertion4 It

had a source in his intensely sympathetic Quality, and

6as a gay and eager asDing of assurance from

others that his 6orD gave them pleasure4 Let us be

very careful to remember that it never stood in the

6ay of self-Dno6ledge the great test of the diMer-

ence bet6een the vanity that is harmless, and the

vanity that is fatuous and destructive4

It has been rather the fashion to laugh at the

=arQuise du hatelet, for no better reasons perhaps

than that she, being a 6oman, studied 0e6ton, and

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had relations called tender 6ith a man so little asso-

ciated in common opinion 6ith tenderness as ol-

taire4 #he Nrst reason is disgraceful, and the second

is perhaps childish4 'verything goes to sho6 that

=adame du hatelet possessed a hardy originality

of character, of 6hich society is so little liDely to

have an ecess that 6e can hardly ever be thanDful

enough for it4 #here is probably nothing 6hich

6ould lead to so rapid and marDed an improvement

in the 6orld as a large increase of the number of

6omen in it 6ith the 6ill and the capacity to master

0e6ton as thoroughly as she did4 .nd her long

and sedulous aMection for a man of genius of ol-

taire9s eceptional Quality entitles her to the not too

common praise of recogni>ing and revering intel-

lectual greatness as it deserves4 7er friendship for

him 6as not the semi-servile and feebly intelligent

 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 A5

solicitude 6hich superior men have too often the

6retched 6eaDness to seeD in their female com-

panions, but an imperial sympathy4 $he 6as unami-

able, it is true, and possessed neither the delicacy

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6hich a more fastidious age reQuires in a 6oman,

nor the sense of honor 6hich 6e no6 demand in a

man4 #hese defects, ho6ever, 6ere not genuinely

personal, but lay in the manners of the time4 It 6as

not so 6ith all her faults4 #o the 6eaD and depend-

ent she 6as overbearing, harsh, mean, and even

cruel4 . fatuous caprice 6ould often destroy the

domestic peace and pleasure of a 6eeD4 3ut nothing

6as suMered to impede the labor of a day4 #he

industry of the house 6as incessant4

It is said, and it 6as said Nrst by one 6ho lived

6ith them for some time, and has left a graphic

account of the interior of irey, that she made ol-

taire9s life a little hard to him4 #here 6ere many

occasional storms and short sullen Nts even in these

high regions of science and the Nner tastes4 (et

such stormful scenes, 6ith great actors as 6ith small,

are perhaps more painful in description than they

6ere in reality! and oltaire 6as less discomposed

by the lively impetuosity of a companion liDe

=adame du hatelet than he 6ould have been by

the orderly calm of a more precise and perfectly

6ell-regulated person4 . man follo6s the condi-

tions of his temperament, and oltaire9s unresting

animation and Nre might maDe him feel a certain

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 "oy of life and freedom in the occasional conten-

AC oltaire4

tiousness of a slightly shre6ish temper4 +e cannot

thinD of him as ever shrinDing, ever craving for

repose, as some men do as for a very necessity of

eistence4 #he health of your friend, 6rote

=adame du hatelet to de .rgental, in 1*A, is in

so deplorable a state that the only hope I have left of

restoring it is in the turmoil of a "ourney4 .

tolerably freQuent agitation 6as a condition of even

such health as he had, to one of oltaire9s nervous

and feverish habit4

Let it be said that his restlessness never tooD a

form 6hich involved the sacriNce of the happiness of

other people4 It 6as never tyrannical and eigent4

 #here are many, too many, instances of his angry

impatience 6ith persons against 6hom he thought

he had cause of oMence4 #here is not a single

instance in 6hich any shado6 of implacableness

lurDed for an enemy 6ho had repented or fallen into

misfortune! and if his resentment 6as constantly

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aame against the ignoble, it instantly epired and

changed into 6arm-hearted pity, 6hen the ignoble

became either penitent or miserable4 #here are

many tales of the readiness 6ith 6hich his anger

6as appeased4 .ny one 6ill suPce as a type4 On

some occasion 6hen oltaire 6as harassed by a

storm of libels, and happened to be on good terms

6ith the police, a distributor of the libels 6as

arrested4 #he father, an old man of eighty, hastened

to oltaire to pray for pardon4 .ll oltaire9s fury

instantly vanished at the Nrst appeal ! he 6ept 6ith

 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 A*

the old man, embraced him, consoled him, and

straight6ay ran to procure the liberation of the

oMender4 .n eye-6itness related to 2rimm ho6

he happened to be present at )erney 6hen oltaire

received &ousseau9s Lettres de la =ontague, and

read the apostrophe relating to himself4 7is face

seemed to taDe Nre, his eyes sparDled 6ith fury,

his 6hole frame trembled, and he cried in terrible

tones : #he miscreant S the monster S I must have

him cudgelled yes, I 6ill have him cudgelled in his

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mountains at the Dnees of his nurse4 %ray, calm

yourself, said the bystander, for I Dno6 that &ous-

seau means to pay you a visit, and 6ill very shortly

be at )erney4 .h, only let him come, replied

oltaire4 3ut ho6 6ill you receive him ?

&eceive him 444 I 6ill give him supper, put

him in my o6n bed, and say, 9 #here is a good

supper! this is the best bed in the house! do

me the pleasure to accept one and the other, and

to maDe yourself happy here49 One does not

understand the terrible man, 6ithout remembering

al6ays ho6 much of the hot generosity of the

child he Dept in his nature to the last4 +hen the

very ;esuits 6ere suppressed 6ith circumstances of

etreme harshness, he pitied even them, and tooD

one of their number permanently into his household4

 #he most important part of a man9s private con-

duct, after that 6hich concerns his relations 6ith

6omen and his family, is generally that 6hich con-

cerns his 6ay of dealing 6ith money, because money

ol4 FH *

AG oltaire4

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in its acQuisition and its dispersion is the out6ard

and visible sign of the absence or of the pres-

ence of so many in6ard and spiritual graces4

.s has often been said, it is the measure of some

of the most important of a man9s virtues, his hon-

esty, his industry, his generosity, his self-denial,

and most of the other elements in Deeping the

diPcult balance bet6een his care for himself and

his care for other people4 oltaire perceived very

early in life that to be needy 6as to be dependent!

that the rich and poor are as hammer and anvil!

that the chronicles of genius demonstrate that it

is not by genius that men either maDe a fortune

or live happy lives4 7e made up his mind from

the beginning that the author of the )rench epic

6ould not share the poverty and straitened lives of

 #asso and =ilton, and that he for his part 6ould

at any rate be hammer and not anvil4 I 6as so

6earied, he 6rote in 1*5H, of the humiliations that

dishonor letters, that to stay my disgust I resolved

to maDe 6hat scoundrels call a great fortune4 7e

used to give his booDs a6ay to the printers4 7e had

a small fortune from his father ! he is said to have

made t6o thousand pounds by the 'nglish sub-

scriptions to the 7enriade! and he did not hide

his talent in the ground, but resorted sDilfully to all

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sorts of speculations in stocDs, army contracts, and

other authori>ed means of converting one livre into

t6o 6hile you sleep4 7e lent large sums of money,

presumably at handsome interest, to the /uDe of

 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 AA

&ichelieu and others, and though the interest may

have been handsome, the trouble of procuring it 6as

often desperate4 (et after much eperience oltaire

came to the conclusion that though he had some-

times lost money by banDers, by the devout, by the

people of the Old #estament, 6ho 6ould have had

many scruples about a larded capon, 6ho 6ould

rather die than not be idle on the $abbath, and not

be thieving on the $unday, yet he had lost nothing

by the great ecept his time4

It is easy to point a sneer at a high priest of

humanity "obbing in the funds4 Only let us remem-

ber that oltaire never made any pretence of being

a high priest of humanity ! that his transactions 6ere

substantially very liDe those of any banDer or mer-

chant of to-day ! and that for a man 6ho 6as preach-

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ing ne6 opinions it 6as etremely prudent to place

himself out of the necessity of pleasing booDsellers

or the pit of the theatre on the one hand, and on

the other to supply himself 6ith ready means of

freQuent ight from the ceaseless persecutions of

authority4 'nvious scribes in his lifetime taunted

him 6ith avarice, and the evil association still clings

to his memory no6 that he is dead4 One can only

say that good and high-minded men, 6ho never

shranD from 6ithstanding him 6hen in fault, men

liDe ondorcet for eample, heard such talD 6ith

disdain, and set it do6n to the disgraceful readiness

of men to credit anything that relieves them from

having to admire4 #he people 6ho disliDe prudence

ioo oltaire4

in matters of money in those 6hose distinction is

intellectual or spiritual, resemble a sentimental lover

6ho should lose his illusions at sight of his mistress

eating a hearty meal4 Is their lot, then, cast in the

ethereal uid of the interstellar spaces ?

.t all events oltaire had t6o important gifts

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6hich do not commonly belong to the avaricious ! he

6as a generous helper aliDe of those 6ho had, and

those 6ho had not, a claim upon him, and he Dne6

ho6 to bear serious losses 6ith unbroDen composure4

=ichel, the receiver-general, became banDrupt, and

oltaire lost a considerable sum of money in con-

seQuence4 7is uency of invective and complaint,

6hich 6as simply boundless 6hen an obscure

scribbler earned a guinea by a calumny upon him,

6ent no farther on the occasion of this very sub-

stantial in"ury than a single splenetic phrase, and a

harmless Quatrain:


=ichel au nom de 19'ternel,

=it "adis le diable en deroute!

=ais, apres cette banQueroute,

Eue le diable emporte =ichel S

It has been fairly asDed 6hether a genuine miser

6ould content himself 6ith a stan>a upon the man

6ho had robbed him4 7is correspondence 6ith the

/uchess of $ae-2otha sho6s him declining to

accept the thousand louis 6hich she had sent as a fee

for the composition of the .nnales de I9'mpire

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=uch has been made of the bargaining 6hich he

carried on 6ith )redericD, as to the terms on 6hich

 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 1B1

he 6ould consent to go to 3erlin4 3ut then the

%russian Ding 6as not one 6ith 6hom it 6as 6ise to

be too nice in such aMairs4 7e 6as the thriftiest of

men, and as a Ding is a person 6ho lives on other

people9s money, such thrift 6as in his case the most

princely of virtues4 7aggling is not graceful, but it

need not imply avarice in either of the parties to it4

 #he truth is that there 6as in oltaire a curious

admiture of splendid generosity 6ith virulent

tenacity about pennies4 #he famous Quarrel 6ith the

%resident de 3rosses about the fourteen cords of

Nre6ood is a 6orse aMair4 oltaire, 6ho leased

 #ourney from him, insisted that de 3rosses had

made him a present of the fourteen cords4 /e

3rosses, no doubt truly, declared that he had only

ordered the 6ood to be delivered on oltaire9s

account4 On this despicable matter a long corre-

spondence 6as carried on, in 6hich oltaire is seen

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at his very 6orst ! insolent, undigniNed, lo6-minded,

and even untruthful4 #he case happily stands alone

in his biography4 .s a rule, he is a steady practi-

tioner of the .ristotelian nsralonptneia, or virtue of

magniNcent ependiture4

 #he truly important feature of the life 6hich ol-

taire led at irey 6as its unremitting diligence4

LiDe a 7omeric goddess, the divine 'mily poured

a cloud round her hero4 #here is a sort of moral

climate in a household, an impalpable, unsei>able,

indeNnable set of inuences, 6hich predispose the

inmates to industry and self-control, or else rela

IOH oltaire4

Nbre and slacDen purpose4 .t irey there 6as an

almost monastic rule4 =adame 2raNgny says that

though oltaire felt himself bound by politeness to

pay her a visit v from time to time in her apartment,

he usually avoided sitting do6n, apologetically pro-

testing ho6 frightful a thing is the Quantity of time

people 6aste in talDing, and that 6aste of time is the

most fatal Dind of etravagance of 6hich one can be

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guilty4 7e seems to have usually passed the 6hole

day at his desD, or in maDing physical eperiments

in his chamber4 #he only occasion on 6hich people

met 6as at the supper at nine in the evening4 ntil

then the privacy of the chamber aliDe of the hostess,

6ho 6as analy>ing Leibnit> or translating 0e6ton,

and of the unoPcial host, 6ho 6as compiling

material for the $iecle de Louis @I4, or polishing

and repolishing =ahomet, or investigating the

circumstances of the propagation of Nre, 6as

sacredly inviolable4

 #he rigor of the rule did not forbid theatrical

performances, 6hen any company, even a company

of marionettes, came into the neighborhood of the

desolate hampagne chateau4 $ometimes after sup-

per oltaire 6ould ehibit a magic lantern, 6ith e-

planatory comments after the sho6man9s manner, in

6hich he 6ould convulse his friends at the epense

of his enemies4 3ut after the evening9s amusement

6as over, the =arQuise 6ould retire to 6orD in her

chamber until the morning, and, 6hen morning

came, a couple of hours9 sleep 6as the only division

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 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 1B

bet6een the tasDs of the night and the tasDs of the

day4 #6o splenetic 6omen have left us a couple of

spiteful pictures of =adame du hatelet, but neither

of her detractors could rise to any higher conception

of intellectual eMort than the Nne turn of phrase,

the ingenious image, the Deen thrust of cruel satire,

6ith 6hich the polished idle of that day 6hiled a6ay

dreary and 6orthless years4 #he translator of

0e6ton9s %rincipia 6as not of this company, and

she 6as 6holly indiMerent to the raillery, sarcasm

and hate of 6omen 6hom she "ustly held her

inferiors4 It is much the fashion to admire the

6omen of this time, because they contrive to hide

behind a veil of 6itty 6ords the coldness and hol-

lo6ness of lives 6hich had neither the s6eetness of

the old industrious domesticity of 6omen, nor the

noble largeness of some of those in 6hom the &evo-

lution Dindled a pure Nre of patriotism in after days4

=adame du hatelet, 6ith all her faults, 6as a far

loftier character than the malicious gossips 6ho

laughed at her4 'verything that occupies society

6as 6ithin her po6er, ecept slander4 $he 6as

never heard to hold up anybody to laughter4 +hen

she 6as informed that certain people 6ere bent on

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not doing her "ustice, she 6ould reply that she

6ished to ignore it4 #his 6as surely better than a

talent for barbing epigrams, and she led a 6orthier

life at irey than in that %aris 6hich oltaire

described so bitterly4

IOF oltaire4

La, tous les soirs, la troupe vagabonde,

/9un peuple oisif, appele le beau monde,

a promener de reduit en reduit

L9inQuietude et 19ennui Qui la suit4

La sont en foule antiQues mi"aurees,

 ;eunes oisons et begueules titrees,

/isant des riens d9un ton de perroQuet,

Lorgnant des sots, et trichant au piQuet4

3londins y sont, beaucoup plus femmes Qu9elles4

%rofondement remplis de bagatelles,

/9un air hautain, d9une bruyante voi,

hantant, dansant, minaudant a la fois4

$i par hasard QuelQue personne honnete,

/9un sens plus droit et d9un gout plus heureu

/es bons ecrits ayant meuble sa tete,

Leur fait 19aMront de penser a leurs yeu!

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 #out aussitot leur brillante cohue,

/9etonnement et de colere emue,

3ruyant essaim de frelons envieu,

%iQue et poursuit cette abeille charmante4 1

It 6as not the fault of =adame du hatelet that

the life of 2rey 6as not the undisturbed type of

oltaire9s eistence during the Nfteen years of their

companionship4 =any pages might be Nlled 6ith

a mere list of the movements from place to place

to 6hich oltaire resorted, partly from reasonable

fear of the grip of a "ealous and 6atchful govern-

ment, partly from eagerness to bring the hand of the

government upon his enemies, and most of all from

the uncontrollable restlessness of his o6n nature4

.msterdam, #he 7ague, 3russels, 3erlin, the little

court of Luneville, and the great 6orld of %aris,

1 'pttre a =me4 la =arQuise du hatelet, sur la alomnie4

J'uvres, vii, G54

 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 1B5

too freQuently 6ithdre6 him from the solitary castle

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at irey, though he never failed to declare on his

return, and 6ith perfect sincerity, that he 6as never

so happy any6here else4 If it 6as true that the =ar-

Quise made her poet9s life a little hard to him, it is

impossible to read her correspondence 6ithout per-

ceiving that he, too, though for no lacD of sensibility

and good feeling, often made life etremely hard

for her4 3esides their moral diMerence, there 6as

a marDed discrepancy in intellectual temperament,

6hich did not fail to lead to out6ard manifestations4

oltaire 6as sometimes a little 6eary of 0e6ton and

eact science, 6hile the =arQuise 6as naturally of

the rather narro6 turn for arid truths 6hich too

often distinguishes clever 6omen inadeQuately dis-

ciplined by contact 6ith aMairs4

oltaire 6as not merely one of those paper

philosophers, 6hose intrusion into the Nelds of

physical science its professional follo6ers are "ustly

6ont to resent4 7e 6as an active eperimenter, and

more than one letter remains, containing instructions

to his agent in %aris to for6ard him retorts, air-

pumps, and other instruments, 6ith the 6ise hint in

one place, a hint by no means of a miser, In the

matter of buying things, my friend, you should

al6ays prefer the good and sound even if a little

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dear, to 6hat is only middling but cheaper4 7is

correspondence for some years proves the diligence

and sincerity of his interest in science4 (et it is

tolerably clear that the man 6ho did so much to

ioC oltaire4

familiari>e )rance 6ith the most illustrious of

physicists, 6as himself devoid of true scientiNc

aptitude4 .fter long and persevering labor in this

region, oltaire consulted lairaut on the progress

he had made4 #he latter, 6ith a loyal franDness

6hich oltaire Dne6 ho6 to appreciate, ans6ered

that even 6ith the most stubborn labor he 6as not

liDely to attain to anything beyond mediocrity in

science, and that he 6ould be only thro6ing a6ay

time 6hich he o6ed to poetry and philosophy4 #he

advice 6as taDen! for, as 6e have already said,

oltaire9s self-love 6as never fatuous, and the inde-

pendent search of physical truth 6as given up4

 #here is plainly no reason to regret the pains 6hich

oltaire tooD in this Dind of inQuiry, not because

the study of the sciences etends the range of poetic

study and enriches verse 6ith fresh images, but

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because the number of sorts of Dno6ledge in 6hich

a man feels at home and is intelligently cogni>ant

of their scope and issues, even if he be 6holly incom-

petent to assist in the progress of discovery,

increases that intellectual conNdence and self-respect

of understanding, 6hich so fortiNes and stimulates

him in his o6n special order of 6orD4 +e cannot

precisely contend that this encyclopaedic Quality is

an indispensable condition of such self-respect in

every Dind of temper4 It certainly 6as so 6ith

oltaire4 .fter all, my dear friend, he 6rote to

ideville, it is right to give every possible form to

our soul4 It is a ame that 2od has intrusted to us,

 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 1B*

6e are bound to feed it 6ith all that 6e Nnd most

precious4 +e should introduce into our eistence

all imaginable modes, and open every door of the

soul to all sorts of Dno6ledge and all sorts of feel-

ings4 $o long as it does not all go in pell-mell, there

is plenty of room for everything4

 #o us, 6ho can be 6ise after the event, it is clear

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that if ever a man 6as called not to science, nor to

poetry, nor to theology, nor to metaphysics, but to

literature, the art, so hard to deNne, of sho6ing the

ideas of all sub"ects in the double light of the prac-

tical and the spiritual reason, that man 6as oltaire4

7e has himself d6elt on the vagueness of this much-

abused term, 6ithout contributing anything more

satisfactory to6ards a better account of it than a crude

hint that literature, not being a special art, may be

considered a Dind of larger grammar of Dno6ledge4

.lthough, ho6ever, it is true that literature is not

a particular art, it is not the less true that there is a

mental constitution particularly Ntted for its suc-

cessful practice4 Literature is essentially an art of

form, as distinguished from those eercises of intel-

lectual energy 6hich bring ne6 stores of matter to

the stocD of acQuired Dno6ledge, and give ne6

forces to emotion and original and deNnite articula-

tion to passion4 It is a misleading classiNcation to

call the 6orD of $haDespeare and =oliere, $helley

and 7ugo, literary, "ust as it 6ould be an eQually

inaccurate, though more glaring piece of classiNca-

tion, to count the 6orD of 0e6ton or LocDe litera-

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ioG oltaire4

ture4 #o taDe another case from oltaire, it 6ould

not be enough to describe 3ayle9s /ictionary as a

literary compilation ! it 6ould not even be enough to

describe it as a 6orD of immense learning, because

the distinguishing and superior marD of this booD

is a profound dialectic4 It forms men of letters and

is above them4

+hat is it then that literature brings to us that

earns its title to high place, though far from a

highest place, among the great humani>ing arts ? Is

it not that this is the master organon for giving men

the t6o precious Qualities of breadth of interest and

balance of "udgment! multiplicity of sympathies and

steadiness of sight? nhappily, literature has too

often been identiNed 6ith the smirDs and aMectations

of mere elegant dispersiveness, 6ith the hollo6

niceties of the virtuoso, a thing of madrigals4 It is

not in any sense of this sort that 6e can thinD of

oltaire as specially the born minister of literature4

+hat 6e mean is that 6hile he had not the loftier

endo6ments of the highest poetic conception, subtle

speculative penetration, or triumphant scientiNc

po6er, he possessed a superb combination of 6ide

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and sincere curiosity, an intelligence of vigorous and

eact receptivity, a native inclination to candor and

 "ustice, and a pre-eminent mastery over a 6ide range

in the art of epression4 Literature being concerned

to impose form, to diMuse the light by 6hich com-

mon men are able to see the great host of ideas and

facts that do not shine in the brightness of their

 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 1BA

o6n atmosphere, it is clear 6hat striDing gifts

oltaire had in this 6ay4 7e had a great deal of

Dno6ledge, and he 6as ever on the alert both to

increase and broaden his stocD, and, 6hat 6as still

better, to impart of it to everybody else4 7e did not

thinD it beneath him to 6rite on 7emistichs for

the 'ncyclopaedia4 It is not a very brilliant tasD,

he said, but perhaps the article 6ill be useful to

men of letters and amateurs! one should disdain

nothing, and I 6ill do the 6ord 9 omma if you

choose4 7e 6as very catholic in taste, being able

to love &acine 6ithout ignoring the lofty stature of

$haDespeare4 .nd he 6as free from the 6eaDness

6hich so often attends on catholicity, 6hen it is not

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supported by true strength and independence of

understanding ! he did not shut his eyes to the short-

comings of the great4 +hile loving =oliere, he

6as a6are of the incompleteness of his dramatic

construction, as 6ell as of the egregious farce to

6hich that famous 6riter too often descends4 7is

respect for the sublimity and pathos of orneille did

not hinder him from noting both his violence and

his frigid argumentation4 /oes the reader remem-

ber that admirable saying of his to auvenargues :

It is the part of a man liDe you to have preferences,

but no eclusions? #o this Nne principle oltaire

6as usually thoroughly true, as every great mind,

if only endo6ed 6ith adeQuate culture, must neces-

sarily be4

no oltaire4

0ul auteur avec lui n9a tort,

Euand il a trouve 19art de plaire !

II le critiQue sans colere,

II 19applaudit avec transport4

 #hirdly, that circumfusion of bright light 6hich

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is the highest aim of speech, 6as easy to oltaire,

in 6hatever order of sub"ect he happened to treat4

7is style is liDe a translucent stream of purest

mountain 6ater, moving 6ith s6ift and animated

o6 under ashing sunbeams4 oltaire, said an

enemy, is the very Nrst man in the 6orld at 6riting

do6n 6hat other people have thought4 +hat 6as

meant for a spiteful censure, 6as in fact a truly

honorable distinction4

 #he secret is incommunicable4 0o spectrum

analysis can decompose for us that enchanting ray4

It is rather, after all, the piercing metallic light of

electricity than a glo6ing beam of the sun4 +e can

detect some of the eternal Qualities of this striDing

style4 +e sei>e its da>>ling simplicity, its almost

primitive closeness to the letter, its sharpness and

precision, above all, its admirable brevity4 +e see that

no 6riter ever used so fe6 6ords to produce such

pregnant eMects4 #hose 6hom brevity only maDes

thin and slight may looD 6ith despair on pages

6here the nimbleness of the sentence is in propor-

tion to the Nrmness of the thought4 +e Nnd no

bastard attempts to reproduce in 6ords deep and

comple eMects, 6hich can only be adeQuately pre-

sented in color or in the combinations of musical

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 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 1 1 1

sound4 0obody has ever Dno6n better the true

limitations of the material in 6hich he 6orDed, or

the scope and possibilities of his art4 oltaire9s

aleandrines, his 6itty stories, his mocD-heroic, his

eposition of 0e6ton, his histories, his dialectic, all

bear the same marD, the same natural, precise, and

condensed mode of epression, the same absolutely

faultless Dno6ledge of 6hat is proper and permitted

in every given Dind of 6ritten 6orD4 .t Nrst there

seems something paradoical in d6elling on the

brevity of an author 6hose 6orDs are to be counted

by scores of volumes4 3ut this is no real ob"ection4

. 6riter may be insuMerably proli in the limits of

a single volume, and oltaire 6as Quite right in

saying that there are four times too many 6ords in

the one volume of d97olbach9s $ystem of 0ature4

7e maintains too that &abelais might advan-

tageously be reduced to one-eighth, and 3ayle to a

Quarter, and there is hardly a booD that is not

curtailed in the perfecting hands of the divine muses4

$o, conversely, an author may not 6aste a 6ord in

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a hundred volumes4 $tyle is independent of Quan-

tity, and the 6orld suMers so grievously from the

mass of booDs that have been 6ritten, not because

they are many, but because such a vast proportion of

their pages say nothing 6hile they purport to say

so much4

0o study, ho6ever, of this out6ard ease and s6ift

compendiousness of speech 6ill teach us the secret

that 6as beneath it in oltaire, an eye and a hand

11H oltaire4

that never erred in hitting the eact marD of

appropriateness in every order of prose and verse4

%erhaps no such vision for the beNtting in epression

has ever eisted4 7e is the most trenchant 6riter

in the 6orld, yet there is not a sentence of strained

emphasis or over6rought antithesis ! he is the 6it-

tiest, yet there is not a line of bad buMoonery4 .nd

this intense sense of the appropriate had by nature

and cultivation become so entirely a Ned condition

of oltaire9s mind that it sho6s spontaneously and

6ithout an eMort in his 6orD4 0obody is more free

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from the ostentatious correctness of the literary

precisian, and nobody preserves so much purity and

so much dignity of language 6ith so little formality

of demeanor4 It is interesting to notice the absence

from his 6ritings of that intensely elaborated Dind

of simplicity in 6hich some of the best authors of

a later time epress the Nnal outcome of many

thoughts4 #he strain that society has undergone

since oltaire9s day has taught men to Qualify their

propositions4 It has forced them to follo6 truth

slo6ly along paths steep and devious4 0e6 notes

have been strucD in human feeling, and all thought

has no6 been touched by compleities that 6ere

then unseen4 7ence, as all good 6riters aim at

simplicity and directness, 6e have seen the gro6th

of a ne6 style, in 6hich the rays of many side-lights

are concentrated in some single phrase4 #hat ol-

taire does not use these focali>ing 6ords and turns

of composition only means that to him thought 6as

 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 11

less comple than it is to a more sub"ective genera-

tion4 #hough the literature 6hich possesses =ilton

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and 3urDe need not fear comparison 6ith the graver

masters of )rench speech, 6e have no one to place

eactly by the side of oltaire4 3ut, then, no more

has )rance4 #here are many pages of $6ift 6hich

are more liDe one side of oltaire than anything else

that 6e have, and oltaire probably dre6 the idea

of his famous stories from the creator of 2ulliver,

 "ust as $6ift got the idea of the #ale of a #ub

from )ontenelle9s 7istory of =ero and 'negu,

that is, of &ome and 2eneva4 $6ift has correctness,

invention, irony, and a tricD of being eMectively

literal and serious in absurd situations, "ust as

oltaire has ! but then $6ift is often truculent and

often brutally gross, both in thought and in phrase4

oltaire is never either brutal or truculent4 'ven

amid the licence of the %ucelle and of his

romances, he never forgets 6hat is due to the

)rench tongue4 +hat al6ays charmed him in

&acine and 3oileau, he tells us, 6as that they said

6hat they intended to say, and that their thoughts

have never cost anything to the harmony or the

purity of the language4 oltaire ranged over far

6ider ground than the t6o poets ever attempted to

do, and trod in many slippery places, yet he is enti-

tled to the same praise as that 6hich he gave to


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nhappily, one of the many evil eMects 6hich

have alloyed the revolution that oltaire did so much

ol4 FHG

7F oltaire4

to set in motion has been, both in his country and

ours, that purity and harmony of language, in spite

of the eamples of the great masters 6ho have

lived since, have on the 6hole declined4 In both

countries familiarity and slang have actually

asserted a place in literature on some pretence

that they are real! an assumed vulgarity tries

to pass for native homeliness, and, as though a

giant 6ere more impressive for having a humped

bacD, some men of true genius seem only to maDe

sure of fame by straining themselves into gro-

tesQues4 In a 6ord, the action against a spurious

dignity of style has carried men too far, because

the reaction against the digniNed elements in the

old order 6ent too far4 $tyle, after all, as one

has al6ays to remember, can never be anything

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but the ree of ideas and habits of mind, and 6hen

respect for one9s o6n personal dignity as a ruling

and uniQue element in character gave 6ay to senti-

mental love of the human race, often real, and often

a pretence, old self-respecting modes of epression

6ent out of fashion4 .nd all this has been defended

by a sort of argument that might "ust as appropri-

ately have been used by /iogenes, vindicating the

Nlthiness of his tub against a doctrine of clean linen4

 #o follo6 letters, it is important to observe, meant

then, or at least after oltaire9s inuence rose to its

height, it meant distinctly to enter the ranDs of the

opposition4 In our o6n time the profession of letters

is placed 6ith other polite avocations, and those 6ho

 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 115

follo6 it for the most part accept the traditional

social ideas of the time, "ust as clergymen, la6yers,

and physicians accept them4 #he modern man of

letters corresponds to the ancient sophist, 6hose

oPce it 6as to conNrm, adorn, and propagate the

current pre"udice4 #o be a man of letters in )rance

in the middle of the eighteenth century 6as to be

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the oPcial enemy of the current pre"udices and their

sophistical defenders in the church and the parlia-

ments4 %arents heard of a son9s design to go to

%aris and 6rite booDs, or to mi 6ith those 6ho

6rote booDs, 6ith the same dismay 6ith 6hich a

respectable .thenian heard of a son follo6ing

$ocrates4 #he hyper-7ellenistic collegian need not

accuse us of instituting a general parallel bet6een

$ocrates and oltaire4 #he only point on 6hich 6e

are insisting is that each 6as the leader of the assault

against the sophists of his day, though their tactics

and implements of 6ar 6ere suPciently unliDe4 #o

the later assailant the conditions of the time made the

pen the most eMective instrument4 #he clergy had

the pulpit and the confessional, and their enemies

had the press4

It 6as during the period of his connection 6ith

=adame du hatelet, that is in the active literary

years bet6een his return from 'ngland and his

removal to 3erlin, that oltaire9s dramatic talent

6as most productive4 1 7e is usually considered to

1 #he dates of the most famous of his tragedies are these :

'dipe, 1*1G ! 3rutus, 1*B ! aire, 1*H ! =art de har,

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1 1 C oltaire4

hold the same place relatively to orneille and

&acine that 'uripides held relatively to ^'schylus

and $ophocles4 It is not easy to see 6hat is the

eact point of analogy in 6hich the critics agree

beyond the corresponding place in the order of

chronological succession, and such parallels are not

really very full of instruction4 If 6e are to dra6

any parallel at all, it must be bet6een the 2reeD and

&acine4 #he diMerences bet6een 'uripides and his

predecessors are not those bet6een oltaire and his

predecessors4 #here may be one common peculi-

arity4 'ach made the drama an instrument for

the epression not merely of passion, but of specula-

tive and philosophical matter, and this in each case

of a sDeptical Dind in reference to the accepted tra-

ditions of the time4 3ut apart from the vast supe-

riority of the 2reeD in depth and passion and

dramatic invention, in oltaire this philosophi>ing

is very much more indirect, insinuatory, and furtive,

than in the marDed sententiousness of 'uripides4

 #here are critics, indeed, 6ho insist that all ol-

taire9s poetic 6orD is a series of pamphlets in dis-

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guise, and that he ought to be classiNed, in that

 "argon 6hich maDes an uncouth compound pass

muster for a ne6 critical nicety, as a tendency-poet4

 #o accept this 6ould simply be to leave out of

account the very best of oltaire9s plays, including

=erope, $emiramis, #ancrede, in 6hich the

 ; *5 5 .l>ire, 1*C ! =ahomet, 1*1 ! =erope, 1*F ! $emir-

amis, 1*FG ! #ancrede, 1*CB4

 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 11*

most ingenious of men and critics 6ould be at a loss

to Nnd any tendency of the pamphleteering Dind4

oltaire9s ever-present sense of congruity prevented

him from putting the harangue of the pulpit or the

discourse of the academic doctor upon the tragic

stage4 If the clergy found in =ahomet 9, for

instance, a covert attacD on their o6n religion, it 6as

much more because the poet 6as suspected of

unbelief, than because the poem contained inNdel

doctrine4 Indeed, nothing sho6s so clearly as the

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strange aMright at this and some other pieces of

oltaire9s, that the purport and eMect of poetry

must depend nearly as much upon the mind of the

audience as upon the lines themselves4 7is plays

may be said to have led to sDepticism, only because

there 6as sDeptical predisposition in the mind 6hich

his public brought to them ! and under other circum-

stances, if for instance it had been produced in the

time of Louis @I4, the eposure of =ahomet

6ould have been counted a gloriNcation of the rival

creed4 Indeed, %ope 3enedict @I4 did by and by

accept oltaire9s dedication of the play, 6hether in

good faith or not 6e cannot tell, on the epress

ground that it 6as an indirect homage to hris-

tianity4 =en 6ith a sense of artistic propriety far

inferior to oltaire9s are yet fully alive to the

monstrosity of disguising a pamphleteer9s polemic in

the form of a pretended drama4

In choice of sub"ect, oltaire, 6e may believe, 6as

secretly guided by his 6ish to rela the oppressive

1 1 G oltaire4

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hold of religious pre"udice4 &eligion, 6e cannot

too fully reali>e, 6as the absorbing burden of the

time4 #here 6as no sort of Dno6ledge, from

geometry on6ards, on 6hich it did not 6eigh4

+hatever 6orD oltaire set himself to, he 6as con-

fronted in it by the Infamous4 #hus in accordance

6ith the narro6 theory of his time, he held =ahomet

to be a deliberate and conscious impostor, and in

presenting the founder of one great religion in this

odious shape, he 6as doubtless suggesting that the

same account might be true of the founder of

another4 3ut the suggestion 6as entirely outside

of the play itself, and 6e 6ho have fully settled these

Questions for ourselves, may read =ahomet 6ith-

out suspecting the shade of a reference from =ecca

to ;erusalem, though hardly 6ithout contemning the

feebleness of vie6 6hich could see nothing but

sensuality, ambition, and crime in the career of the

Nerce eastern reformer4 #he sentiments of ealted

deism 6hich are put into the mouth of the noble

opire 6ere perhaps meant to teach people that the

greatest devotion of character may go 6ith the most

uninching re"ection of a pretended revelation from

the gods4 #his again is a gloss from 6ithout, and

by no means involves oltaire in the oMence of art

6ith a moral purpose4

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aire 6as the Nrst play in 6hich )rench char-

acters appeared upon the tragic stage4 #he heroine,

the daughter of Lusignan, has been brought up,

unconscious of her descent, in the =ahometan faith

 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 11A

and usage4 onsider the philosophy of these lines

vrhich are given to her :

La coutume, la loi plia mes premiers ans

. la religion des heureu musulmans4

 ;e le vois trop ! les soins Qu9on prend de notre enfance

)orment nos sentimens, nos moeurs, notre croyance4

 ;9eusse etc pres du 2ange esclave des fau dieu,

hretienne dans %aris, musulmane en ces lieu4

L9instruction fait tout! et la main de nos peres

2rave en nos faibles coeurs ces premiers caracteres,

Eue 19eemple et le temps nous viennent retracer,

't Que peut-etre en nous /ieu seul peut eMacer4 1

 #his of course implies the doctrine of %ope9s ni-

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versal %rayer, and contains an idea that 6as al6ays

the favorite 6eapon for smiting the over-conNdent

votaries of a single supernatural revelation4 LocDe

had asDed 6hether the current opinions and

licenced guides of every country are suPcient evi-

dence and security to every man to venture his great

concernments on ? Or, can these be the certain and

infallible oracle and standards of truth 6hich teach

one thing in hristendom, and another in #urDey?

Or shall a poor countryman be eternally happy for

having the chance to be born in Italy? Or a day-

laborer be unavoidably lost because he had the ill-

lucD to be born in 'ngland ? #his 6as eactly the

Dind of reasoning to 6hich aire9s lines pointed ! and

oltaire 6as never 6eary of arguing that the divine

lay outside of the multitudinous variety of creeds

that 6ere never more than local accidents4 0either,

ho6ever, in aire nor any6here else is the la6 of

1 aire, act i, sc4 i4

1 HB oltaire4

perfect dramatic Ntness violated for the saDe of a

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lesson in heterodoy4 +ith oltaire tragedy is, as

all art ought to be, a manner of disinterested pres-

entation4 #his is not the noblest energy of the

human intelligence, but it is truly art, and oltaire

did not forget it4

It 6ould be entirely unproNtable to enter into any

comparison of the relative merits of oltaire9s

tragedies and those either of the modern romantic

school in his o6n country or of the master drama-

tists of our o6n4 'very form of composition must

be "udged in its o6n order, and the order in 6hich

oltaire chose to 6orD 6as the )rench classic, 6ith

its appointed conditions and Ned la6s, its three

unities, its stately aleandrines, and all the other

essentials of that special dramatic form4 7ere is one

of the many points at 6hich 6e feel that oltaire is

trying to prolong in literature, if not in thought, the

impressive tradition of the grand age4 .t the same

moment, strangely enough, he 6as giving that stir

to the opinion of his time 6hich 6as the prime

agent in deNnitely breaDing the hold of that tradi-

tion4 It is no inNdelity to the glorious and incom-

parable genius of $haDespeare, nor does it involve

any blindness to the Nne creation, fresh fancy, and

noble thought and imagery of our less superb men,

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yet to admit that there is in these limits of con-

struction a concentration and regularity, and in

these too contemned aleandrines a "ust and s6elling

cadence, that confer a high degree of pleasure of the

 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 1H1

highest Dind, and that demand intellectual Quality

only less rare than that other priceless and unattain-

able Quality of having the lips touched 6ith divine

Nre4 It is said, ho6ever, that such Quality does not

produce acting plays, but only dramatic poems : this

is really laughable if 6e remember Nrst, that the

Nnest actors in the 6orld have been trained in the

recitation of these aleandrines, and second, that

as large and as delighted an audience used until

6ithin some t6enty years ago to cro6d to a tragedy

of orneille or &acine, seen repeatedly before, as to

a brand-ne6 vaudeville, never to be seen again4

+e insist, said oltaire, that the rhyme shall

cost nothing to the ideas! that it shall neither be

trivial nor too far-fetched ! 6e eact rigorously in a

verse the same purity, the same precision, as in prose4

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+e do not permit the smallest licence! 6e reQuire

an author to carry 6ithout a breaD all these chains,

and yet that he should appear ever free4 7e

admitted that sometimes they failed in reaching the

tragic, through ecessive fear of passing its limits4

7e does "ustice to the singular merits of our stage in

the 6ay of action4 $haDespeare, he says, had a

genius full of force and fertility, of all that is

natural and all that is sublime4 It is even the merit

of $haDespeare those grand and terrible pieces

that abound in his most monstrous farces that

has been the undoing of the 'nglish stage4

'ven the famous criticism on 7amlet has been

a good deal misrepresented4 oltaire is vindicating

1HH oltaire4

the employment of the machinery of ghosts, and he

d6ells on the Ntness and Nne dramatic eMect of the

ghost in $haDespeare9s play4 I am very far, he

goes on to say, from "ustifying the tragedy of

7amlet in everything: it is a rude and barbarous

piece4 4 4 4 7amlet goes mad in the second act,

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and his mistress goes mad in the third! the prince

slays the father of his mistress, pretending to Dill a

rat, and the heroine thro6s herself into the river4

 #hey dig her grave on the stage ! the grave-diggers

 "est in a 6ay 6orthy of them, 6ith sDulls in their

hands ! 7amlet ans6ers their odious grossnesses by

etravagances no less disgusting4 =ean6hile one

of the characters conQuers %oland4 7amlet, his

mother, and his stepfather drinD together on the

stage! they sing at table, they 6rangle, they Nght,

they Dill ! one might suppose such a 6orD to be the

fruit of the imagination of a drunDen savage4 3ut

in the midst of all these rude irregularities, 6hich to

this day maDe the 'nglish theatre so absurd and

so barbarous, there are to be found in 7amlet by

a yet greater incongruity sublime stroDes 6orthy of

the loftiest geniuses4 It seems as if nature had

taDen a delight in collecting 6ithin the brain of

$haDespeare all that 6e can imagine of 6hat is

greatest and most po6erful, 6ith all that rudeness

6ithout 6it can contain of 6hat is lo6est and most


If one 6ere to retort upon this that anybody 6ith

a true sense of poetry 6ould sacriNce all the plays

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 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 1H

that oltaire ever 6rote, his eight-and-t6enty trage-

dies, and half-score of comedies, for the soliloQuy in

7amlet, ing 7enry at #o6ton )ight, or &oses,

their sharp spines being gone, there 6ould be truth

in such a retort, but it 6ould be that brutal truth,

6hich is al6ays very near being the most subtle Dind

of lie4 0ature 6rought a miracle for us by producing

$haDespeare, as she did after6ards in an etremely

diMerent 6ay for )rance by producing oltaire4

=iracles, ho6ever, have necessarily a very demoral-

i>ing eMect4 . prodigy of loaves and Nshes, by

slacDening the motives to honest industry, must in

the end multiply paupers4 #he prodigy of such

ama>ing results from such glorious carelessness as

$haDespeare9s, has plunged hundreds of men of

talent into a carelessness most inglorious, and made

our acting stage a mocD4 It is Quite true that the

academic rule is better Ntted for mediocrity than for

genius ! but 6e may perhaps trust genius to maDe a

6ay for itself4 It is mediocrity that needs la6s and

prescriptions for its most eMective fertili>ation, and

the enormous ma"ority even of those 6ho can do

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good 6orD are still mediocre4 +e have preferred

the methods of la6less genius, and are left 6ith ram-

pant la6lessness and no genius4 #he very essence of

the old )rench tragedy 6as painstaDing, and pains-

taDing has had its unfailing and eceeding great

re6ard4 +hen people 6hose taste has been trained

in the traditions of romantic and naturalistic art, or

even not trained at all ecept in indolence and pre-

1 HF oltaire4

sumption, ya6n over )rench aleandrines, let them

remember that 2oethe at any rate thought it 6orth

6hile to translate =ahomet and #ancrede4

.n eminent 2erman 6riter on oltaire has

recently declared the secret of the )rench classic

dramaturgy to be that the drama 6as a diversion

of the court4 #he personages have to speaD not as

beNts their true feelings, their character, and the

situation, but as is seemly in the presence of a Ding

and a court! not truth, nature, and beauty, but

etiQuette, is the highest la6 of the dramatic art4

 #his may partially eplain ho6 it 6as that a return

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to some features of the classic form, its dignity,

elevation, and severity, came to taDe place in )rance,

but no eplanation can be at all satisfactory 6hich

reduces so distinct and genuine a manner of dramatic

epression to a mere outside accident4 orneille,

&acine, oltaire, treated their tragic sub"ects as they

did, 6ith rigorous concentration of action, stately

consistency of motive, and in a solemn and balanced

measure, because these conditions ans6ered to

intellectual Qualities of their o6n, an aPnity in

themselves for elegance, clearness, elevation, and a

certain puriNed and 6eighty 6isdom4 It is true that

they do not unseal those deep-hidden fountains of

thought and feeling and music, 6hich o6 so freely

at the 6aving of $haDespeare9s 6and4 +e are not

s6iftly carried from a scene of clo6ns up to some

sublime pinnacle of the seventh heaven, 6hence 6e

see the darD abysses that lie about the path of human

 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 1H5

action, as 6ell as all its s6eet and shado6ed places4

Only let us not un"ustly suppose that 6e are deciding

the merits of the old )rench dramaturgy, its severe

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structure and stately measure, by ans6ering the

Question, 6hich no 'nglish nor 2erman 6riter can

ever seriously put, as to the relative depth and vision

in poetic things of $haDespeare and oltaire4 0or

can 6e be epected to be deeply moved by a form

of art that is so unfamiliar to us4 It is not a Question

6hether 6e ought to be so deeply moved4 #he too

susceptible =armontel describes ho6 on the occasion

of a visit to )erney, oltaire tooD him into his study

and placed a manuscript into his hands4 It 6as

#ancrede 6hich 6as "ust Nnished4 =armontel

eagerly read it, and he tells us ho6 he returned to

the author, his face all bathed in tears4 (our tears,

said oltaire, tell me all that it most concerns me to

Dno64 #he most supercilious critic may Nnd this

very #ancrede 6orth reading, 6hen he remem-

bers that 2ibbon thought it splendid and interesting,

and that 2oethe found it 6orth translating4 One

could hardly be convicted no6 of 6ant of sensibility,

if all oltaire9s tragedy together failed to bathe one9s

face in tears, but this is a very bad reason for

denying that it has other merits than pathos4

+e cannot, indeed, compare the author of aire

and #ancrede 6ith the great author of inna

and %olyeucte, any more than in another Dind 6e

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can compare 2ray 6ith =ilton4 oltaire is the very

genius of correctness, elegance, and grace, and if the

1HC oltaire4

reader 6ould Dno6 6hat this correctness means, he

6ill Nnd a most 6holesome eercise in reading

oltaire9s notes on some of the most celebrated of

orneille9s plays4 3ut in masculine energy and in

poetic 6eightiness, as 6ell as in organ-liDe richness

of music, oltaire certainly must be pronounced

inferior to his superb predecessor4 #here is a certain

thinness pervading the 6hoie of his 6orD for the

stage, the conception of character, the dramatic

structure, and the measure aliDe4 ndoubtedly 6e

may freQuently come upon 6eighty and noble lines,

of Nne music and lofty sense4 3ut there is on the

6hole 6hat striDes one as a fatal ecess of facility,

and a fatal defect of poetic saliency4 #he uent ease

of the verse destroys the impression of strength4

(our friend, 6rote =adame du hatelet once of

her friend, has had a slight bout of illness, and you

Dno6 that 6hen he is ill, he can do nothing but 6rite

verses4 +e do not Dno6 6hether the =arQuise

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meant aleandrines, or those graceful verses of

society of 6hich oltaire 6as so incomparable a

master4 It is certain that he 6rote aire in three

6eeDs and Olympic in si days, though, 6ith

respect to the latter 6e may 6ell agree 6ith the

friend 6ho told the author that he should not have

rested on the seventh day4 7o6ever that may be,

there is a Quality about his tragic verse 6hich to one

fresh from the sonorous ma"esty and digniNed

beauty of %olyeucte, or even the Nne gravity of

#artufe, vibrates too lightly in the ear4 Least of

 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 1H*

all may 6e compare him to &acine, 6hose t6o great

tragedies of Iphigenie and .thalie oltaire him-

self declared to marD the nearest approach ever made

to dramatic perfection4 #here is none of the mied

austerity and tenderness, height and s6eetness,

grace and Nrmness, that blend together 6ith such

invisible art and uniQue contrivance in the poet

6hose verses taught )enelon and =assillon ho6 to

maDe music in their prose4 #o this oltaire could

only have access from 6ithout, for he lacDed the

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famous master9s internal depth, seriousness, and

veneration of soul4 +e Dno6 ho6 little this

approach from 6ithout can avail, and ho6 vainly

a man follo6s the harmonious grace of a style,

6hen he lacDs the impalpable graces of spirit that

made the style live4 It is only 6hen grave thoughts

and benignant aspirations and purifying images

move 6ith even habit through the mind, that a

man masters the noblest epression4 /e =aistre,

to 6hom oltaire9s name 6as the symbol for all

that is accursed, admitted the nobleness of his

6orD in tragedy, but he instantly tooD bacD the

grudged praise by saying that even here he resem-

bles his t6o great rivals only as a clever hypocrite

resembles a saint4 =alignantly epressed, there is

in this some truth4

It 6as one of the elements in the plan of dramatic

reform that sprang up in oltaire9s mind during his

residence in 'ngland, that the sub"ects of tragedy

should be more masculine, and that love should cease

1HG oltaire4

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to be an obligatory ingredient4 It is nearly al6ays

the same piece, the same Dnot, formed by "ealousy

and a breach, and united by marriage! it is a per-

petual coQuetry, a simple comedy in 6hich princes

are actors, and in 6hich occasionally blood is spilt

for form9s saDe4 #his he counted a mistaDe, for, as

he "ustly said, the heart is but lightly touched by a

lover9s 6oes, 6hile it is profoundly softened by the

anguish of a mother "ust about to lose her son4 #hus

in =erope 6e have maternal sentiment made the

spring of 6hat is probably the best of oltaire9s

tragedies, abounding in a "ust vehemence, compact,

full of feeling at once ealted and natural, and mov-

ing 6ith a sustained energy that is not a too common

marD of his 6orD4 It 6as the same conviction of the

propriety of maDing tragedy a means of epressing

other emotions than that 6hich is so apt to degener-

ate into an insipidity, 6hich dictated the composi-

tion and novel treatment of the &oman sub"ects,

3rutus and La =ort de esar4 7ere the )rench

drama Nrst became in some degree truly political4

7is predecessors 6hen they handled a historic theme

did so, not from the historic or social point of vie6,

but as the illustration, or rather the suggestion, of

some central human passion4 In the inna of or-

neille the political bearings, the moral of benevolent

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despotism 6hich 3onaparte found in it, 6ere purely

incidental, and 6ere distinctly subordinate to the

portrayal of character and the movement of feeling4

In 3rutus the 6hole action lies in the region of

 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 1HA

great public aMairs, and of the passions 6hich these

aMairs stir in noble characters, 6ithout any admi-

ture of purely private tenderness4 In La =art de

esar 6e are eQually in the heroics of public action4

&ome $auvee, of 6hich the sub"ect is the conspir-

acy of atiline, and the hero the most eloQuent of

consuls or men a part that oltaire 6as very fond

of Nlling in private representations, and 6ith dis-

tinguished success is etremely loose and spas-

modic in structure, and the speeches sound strained

even 6hen put into icero9s mouth4 3ut here also

private insipidities are banished, though perhaps it

is only in favor of public insipidities4 It is impos-

sible to tell 6hat share, if any, these plays had in

spreading that curious feeling about &oman freedom

and its most reno6ned defenders, 6hich is so striD-

ing a feature in some of the great episodes of the

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&evolution4 +e cannot suspect oltaire of any

design to stir political feeling4 7e 6as no6 essen-

tially aristocratic and courtly in his predilection,

6ithout the smallest active 6ish for an approach to

political revolution, if indeed the conception of a

change of that Dind ever presented itself to him4 7e

6as indefatigable in admiring and praising 'nglish

freedom, but, as has already been said, it 6as not the

laudation of a lover of popular government, but the

envy of a man of letters 6hose life 6as tormented by

censors of the press and the lieutenant of police4

%erhaps the only approach to a public purpose in

this fancy for his &oman sub"ects 6as a lurDing idea

ol4 FH A

1B oltaire4

of arousing in the nobles, for 6hom 6e must remem-

ber that his dramatic 6orD 6as above all designed,

not a passion for freedom from the authority of

monarchic government, but a passion of a more gen-

eral Dind for energetic patriotism4 oltaire9s letters

abound 6ith epressions of the 6riter9s belief that

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he 6as the 6itness of an epoch of decay in his o6n

country4 7e had in truth far too Deen and practical

and trained an eye not to see ho6 public spirit, polit-

ical sagacity, national ambition, and even valor had

declined in the great orders of )rance since the age

of the 2rand =onarch, and ho6 much his country

had fallen bacD in the race of civili>ation and po6er4

+e should be guilty of a very transparent eagger-

ation of the facts, if any attempt 6ere made to paint

oltaire in the attitude and colors of one transcend-

entally aspiring to regenerate his countrymen4 3ut

there is no diPculty in believing that a man 6ho had

lived in 'ngland, and Dne6 so much of %russia,

should have seen the fatal enervation 6hich had

come upon )rance, and that 6ith oltaire9s feeling

for the stage, he should have dreamed, by means

of a more austere sub"ect and more masculine treat-

ment, of reviving the love of 6isdom and glory and

devotion in connection 6ith country4 In a 6ord,

the lesson of La =art de esar or of 3rutus

6as not a speciNc admonition to slay tyrants, or to

eecute stern "udgments on sons, but a general

eample of self-sacriNcing patriotism and devoted

public honor4

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 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 11

It is often said that oltaire9s &omans are mere

creatures of parade and declamation, liDe the Ngures

of /avid9s paintings, and it is very liDely that the

theatre infected the )rench people 6ith that mis-

chievous idea of the &omans, as a nation of

declaimers about freedom and the death of tyrants4

 #he true &oman 6as no doubt very much more liDe

one of our narro6, hard, and able $cotchmen in

India than the lofty talDers 6ho delighted the par-

terre of %aris or ersailles4 nlucDily for truth of

historical conception, icero 6as, after irgil, the

most potent of &oman memories, and a man of

6ords became 6ith modern 6riters the favorite

type of a people of action4 .ll this, ho6ever, is

beside the Question4 oltaire 6ould have laughed at

the idea of any obligation to present either &omans

or other personages on the stage 6ith realistic Ndel-

ity4 #he tragic drama 6ith him 6as the highest

of the imaginative and idealistic arts4 If he had

sought a parallel to it in the plastic arts he 6ould

have found one, not in painting, 6hich by reason of

the greater eibility of its material demands a more

eact verisimilitude, but in sculpture4 onsidered

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as statuesQue Ngures endo6ed 6ith speech, 3rutus,

aesar, and the rest are noble and impressive4 +e

may protest as vigorously as 6e Dno6 ho6 against

any assimilation of the great art of action 6ith the

great art of repose4 3ut 6e can only criticise the

individual productions of a given theory, provided

6e for the moment accept the conditions 6hich the

1H oltaire4

theory lays do6n4 .ll art rests upon convention,

and if 6e choose to repudiate any particular set of

conventions, 6e have no more right to criticise the

6orDs of those 6ho submit to them than one 6ould

have to criticise sculpture, because marble or bron>e

is not liDe esh and blood4 +ithin the conditions

of the )rench classic drama oltaire9s &omans are

high and stately Ngures4

oltaire9s innovations etended beyond the intro-

duction of more masculine treatment4 3efore his

time romantic sub"ects had been regarded 6ith dis-

favor, and orneille9s 3a"a>et 6as considered a

bold eperiment4 &acine 6as more strictly classic,

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and dramatists 6ent on handling the same ancient

fables, #hebes, or %elops9 line, or the tale of #roy

divine, "ust as the 2reeDs had done, or "ust as the

painters in the atholic times had never 6earied of

painting the t6o eternal Ngures of human mother

and divine child4 oltaire treated the classic sub-

 "ects as others treated them, and if J'dipe misses

the depth, delicate reserve and fateful gloom of the

2reeDs, =erope at any rate breathes a Nne and

tragic spirit4 3ut his restless mind pressed for6ard

into sub"ects 6hich &acine 6ould have shuddered at,

and every Quarter of the universe became in turn

a portion of the oltairean stage4 L9Orphelin de

la hine introduces us to hina and 2enghis han,

=ahomet to .rabia and its prophet, #ancrede

to $icily ! in ulime 6e are among =oors, in

.l>ire 6e are 6ith %eruvians4 #his revolutionary

 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 1

enlargement of sub"ect 6as signiNcant of a general

and very important enlargement of interest 6hich

marDed the time, and led presently to those con-

trasts bet6een the condition of )rance and the imag-

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inary felicity and nobleness of 6ilder countries,

6hich did so much to breed an irresistible longing

for change4 oltaire9s high-minded $cythians, gen-

erous %eruvians, and the rest, prepared the 6ay

along 6ith other inuences for that curious cosmo-

politanism, that striDing eagerness to believe in the

eQual virtuousness and devotion inherent in human

nature, independently of the religious or social form

accidentally imposed upon them, 6hich found its

ultimate outcome, Nrst in an ardent passion for social

eQuality, and a depreciation of the special sanctity

of the current religion, and net in the ill-fated

emancipating and proselyti>ing aims of the &evo-

lution, and in orators of the human race4

It has usually been thought surprising that ol-

taire, consummate 6it as he 6as, should have been

so marDedly unsuccessful in comedy4 ertainly no

one 6ith so right a sense of the value of time as

oltaire himself had, 6ill in our day 6aste many

hours over his productions in this order4 #here are

a do>en of them more or less, and 6e can only hope

that they 6ere the most rapid of his 6ritings4 Lines

of etraordinary vivacity are not 6anting, and at

their best they oMer a certain bustling $prightliness

that might have been diverting in actual representa-

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tion4 3ut the Deynote seems to be strucD in farce,

1F oltaire4

rather than in comedy ! the intrigue, if not Quite as

slight as in =oliere, is too forced ! and the characters

are nearly all ecessively mediocre in conception4 In

one of the comedies, Le /epositaire, the poet pre-

sented the aged patroness of his youth, but the neces-

sity of respecting current ideas of the becoming

prevented him from maDing a great character out

of even so striDing a Ngure as 0inon de 19'nclos4

La %rude is a version of +ycherly9s %lain-

dealer and is in respect of force, animation, and

the genuine spirit of comedy, very inferior to its

admirable original4 L9Indiscret is a sparDling and

unconsidered trie, L9'cossaise is only a stinging

attacD on )reron, and L9'nfant %rodigue, though

greater pains 6ere taDen 6ith it, has none of the

glo6 of dramatic feeling4 #he liveliest of all is

La )emme Qui a &aison a short comedy of sit-

uation, 6hich for one reading is entertaining in the

closet, and must be ecellent on the stage4 It is

very slight, ho6ever, and as usual verges on farce4

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 #his inferiority of oltaire9s ought not to astonish

any one 6ho has reected ho6 much concentrated

feeling and 6hat profundity of vision go to the

production of great comedy, and ho6 in the mind

of the dramatist, as in the movement of human

life, comedy lies close to portentous tragedy4 #he

author of the 3ourgeois 2entilhomme and

L9.var e 9 6as also the creator of the =isan-

thrope that inscrutable piece, 6here, 6ithout plot,

fable, or intrigue, 6e see a section of the polished

 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 15

life of the time, men and 6omen paying visits, maD-

ing and receiving compliments, discoursing upon

aMairs 6ith easy lightness, itting bacD6ards and

for6ards 6ith a thousand petty hurries, and among

these one strange, rough, hoarse, half-sombre Ngure,

moving solitarily 6ith a chilling reality in the midst

of frolicDing shado6s4 oltaire entered too eagerly

into the interests of the 6orld, 6as by temperament

too eclusively sympathetic and receptive and social,

to place himself even in imagination thus outside of

the common circle4 +ithout capacity for this, there

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is no comedy of the Nrst order! 6ithout serious

consciousness of contrasts, no humor that endures4

$haDespeare, =oliere, and even .ristophanes, each

of them unsurpassed 6riters of mere farce, 6ere

one and all, though 6ith vast diMerence of degree,

masters of a tragic breadth of vision4 oltaire had

moods of petulant spleen, but 6ho feels that he ever

sa6, much less brooded over, the darD cavernous

regions of human nature? +ithout this 6e may

have brilliant pleasantry of surprise, inimitable cari-

cature, ecellent comedy of society, but of the verit-

able comedy of human character and life, nothing4

In da>>ling and irresistible caricature oltaire has

no eQual4 #here is no deep humor, as in /on

Euiote, or #ristram $handy, 6hich oltaire

did not care for, or &ichter9s $iebenDds, 6hich he

6ould not have cared for any more than de $tael

did4 7e 6as too purely intellectual, too argumen-

tative, too geometrical, and cared too much for illus-

1C oltaire4

trating a principle4 3ut in andide, adig,

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L9Ingenu, 6it is as high as mere 6it can go4 #hey

are better than 7udibras, because the motive is

broader and more intellectual4 &apidity of play,

infallible accuracy of stroDe, perfect copiousness,

and above all a fresh and unagging spontaneity,

combine 6ith a surprising invention, to give these

stories a singular Quality, of 6hich 6e most eMect-

ively observe the real brilliance by comparing them

6ith the too numerous imitations that their success

has unhappily invited since4

It is impossible to omit from the most cursory

study of oltaire9s 6orD, that too famous poem

6hich 6as his favorite amusement during some of

the best years of his life, 6hich 6as the delight of all

6ho could by any means get the high favor of sight

or hearing of so much as a canto of it, and 6hich is

no6 al6ays spoDen of, 6hen it happens to be spoDen

of at all, 6ith etreme abhorrence4 #he %ucelle

oMends t6o modern sentiments, the love of modesty,

and the love of the heroic personages of history4

 #he moral sense and the historic sense have both

been sharpened in some respects since oltaire, and

a poem 6hich not only abounds in immodesty, and

centres the 6hole action in an indecency of concep-

tion, but also fastens this gross chaplet round the

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memory of a great deliverer of the poet9s o6n

country, seems to oMer a double outrage to an age

6hen relish for licentious verse has gone out of

fashion, and reverence for the heroic dead has come

 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 1*

in4 $till the fact that the greatest man of his time

should have 6ritten one of the most unseemly poems

that eist in any tongue, is 6orth trying to under-

stand4 oltaire, let us remember, had no special

turn, liDe 2ibbon or 3ayle, least of all liDe the

unclean $6ift, for etracting a malodorous diversion

out of grossness or sensuality4 7is 6ritings betray

no irresistible passion for ying to an indelicacy,

nor any of the vapid lasciviousness of some more

modern )rench 6riters4 #he %ucelle is at least

the 6it of a rational man, and not the prying beast-

liness of a satyr4 It is 6it 6orse than poorly

employed, but it is purity itself compared 6ith some

of the nameless abominations 6ith 6hich /iderot

besmirched his imagination4 #he %ersian Letters

contain 6hat 6e should no6 account passages of

etreme licentiousness, yet =ontesQuieu 6as assur-

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edly no libertine4 oltaire9s life again 6as never

indecent or immoderate from the point of vie6 of

the manners of the time4 . man of grave character

and untarnished life, liDe ondorcet, did not scruple

to defend a poem, in 6hich it is hard for us to see

anything but a most indecorous burlesQue of a most

heroic sub"ect4 7e insists that booDs 6hich divert

the imagination 6ithout heating or seducing it,

6hich by gay and pleasurable images Nll up those

moments of ehaustion that are useless aliDe for

labor and meditation, have the eMect of inclining men

to gentleness and indulgence4

 #he fact is that in amusing himself by the

1G oltaire4

%ucelle, oltaire 6as only giving literary epres-

sion to a Dind of vie6 6hich had already in the

society of the time found for itself a thoroughly

practical epression4 #he people among 6hom he

lived had systemati>ed that freedom from la6 or

restraint in the relations of the sees, of 6hich his

poem is so vivid a representation4 #he /uDe of

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&ichelieu 6as the irresistible Lovelace of his time,

and it 6as deemed an honor, an honor to 6hich

=adame du hatelet among so many others has

title, to have yielded to his fascination4 . long and

profoundly unedifying chronicle might be dra6n up

of the memorable gallantries of that time, and for

our purpose it might Ntly close 6ith the amour of

$aint Lambert that led to =adame du hatelet9s

death4 Of course, these countless gallantries in the

most licentious persons of the day, such as &ichelieu

or $ae, 6ere neither more nor less than an outbreaD

of sheer dissoluteness, such as tooD place among

'nglish people of Quality in the time of the &estora-

tion4 #he idle and luurious, 6hose imagination is

uncontrolled by the discipline of labor and purpose,

and to 6hom the indulgence of their o6n inclina-

tions is the Nrst and single la6 of life, are al6ays

ready to proNt by any relaation of restraint, 6hich

the moral conditions of the moment may permit4

 #he peculiarity of the licence of )rance in the

middle of the eighteenth century is, that it 6as

looDed upon 6ith complacency by the great intel-

lectual leaders of opinion4 It tooD its place in the

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 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 1A

progressive formula4 +hat austerity 6as to other

for6ard movements, licence 6as to this4 It is not

diPcult to perceive ho6 so etraordinary a circum-

stance came to pass4 hastity 6as the supreme vir-

tue in the eyes of the hurch, the mystic Dey to

hristian holiness4 ontinence 6as one of the most

sacred of the pretensions by 6hich the organi>ed

preachers of superstition claimed the reverence of

men and 6omen4 It 6as identiNed, therefore, in a

particular manner 6ith that Infamous, against 6hich

the main assault of the time 6as directed4 $o men

contended, more or less epressly, Nrst, that conti-

nence 6as no commanding chief among virtues, then

that it 6as a very superNcial and easily practised

virtue, Nnally that it 6as no virtue at all, but if

sometimes a convenience, generally an impediment

to free human happiness4 #hese disastrous sophisms

sho6 the peril of having morality made an append-

age of a set of theological mysteries, because the

mysteries are sure in time to be dragged into the

open air of reason, and moral truth crumbles a6ay

6ith the false dogmas 6ith 6hich it had got mied4

If, says ondorcet, 6e may treat as useful the

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design to maDe superstition ridiculous in the eyes of

men given to pleasures, and destined, by the very

6ant of self-control 6hich maDes pleasures attract-

ive to them, to become one day the unfortunate vic-

tims or the mischievous instruments of that vile

tyrant of humanity! if the aMectation of austerity

in manners, if the ecessive value attached to purity,

1FB oltaire4

only serves the hypocrites 6ho by putting on the easy

masD of chastity can dispense 6ith all virtues, and

cover 6ith a sacred veil the vices most pernicious to

society, hardness of heart and intolerance! if by

accustoming men to treat as so many crimes faults

from 6hich honorable and conscientious persons are

not eempt, 6e etend over the purest souls the

po6er of that dangerous caste, 6hich to rule and

disturb the earth, has constituted itself eclusively

the interpreter of heavenly "ustice then 6e shall

see in the author of the 9 %ucelle 9 no more than a

foe to hypocrisy and superstition4

It helps us to reali>e the inNnite vileness of a

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system, liDe that of the hurch in the last century,

6hich could engender in men of essential nobleness

of character liDe ondorcet, an antipathy so violent

as to shut the eyes of their understanding to the

radical sophistry of such pleading as this4 Let one

reection out of many serve to crush the 6hole of it4

 #he Dey to eMective life is unity of life, and unity of

life means as much as anything else the unity of

our human relations4 Our identity does by no means

consist in a historic continuity of tissues, but in an

organic moral coherency of relation4 It is this, 6hich

alone, if 6e consider the passing shortness of our

days, maDes life a 6hole, instead of a parcel of

thrums bound together by an accident4 Is not every

incentive and every concession to vagrant appetite a

force that en6raps a man in gratiNcation of self, and

severs him from duty to others, and so a force of

 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 1F1

dissolution and dispersion? It might be necessary

to pull do6n the hurch, but the 6orst church that

has ever prostituted the name and the idea of reli-

gion cannot be so disastrous to society as a gospel

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that systematically relaes self-control as being an

unmeaning curtailment of happiness4 #he apologists

for the %ucelle ehibit the doctrine of individual-

ism in one of its 6orst issues4 (our proof that this

is really the best of all possible 6orlds is ecellent,

says andide for his famous last 6ord, but 6e must

cultivate our garden4 #he same principle of eclu-

sive self-regard, applied to the gratiNcation of sense,

passed for a satisfactory defence of libertinage4 In

the Nrst form it destroys a state, in the second it

destroys the family4

It is easier to account for oltaire9s contempt for

the mediaeval superstition about purity than his 6ant

of respect for a deliverer of )rance4 #he epla-

nation lies in the conviction 6hich had such po6er in

oltaire9s o6n mind and 6ith 6hich he impregnated

to such a degree the minds of others, that the action

of illiterate and unpolished times can have no life in

it4 7is vie6 of progress 6as a progress of art and

Dno6ledge, and heroic action 6hich 6as dumb, or

6hich 6as not epressed in terms of intellect, 6as to

the eighteenth century, and to oltaire at least as

much as to any other of its leaders, mere barbaric

energy4 In the order of taste, for instance, he can

Nnd only 6ords of cool and limited praise for 7omer,

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6hile for the polish and elegance of irgil his

1FH oltaire4

admiration is supreme4 #he Nrst 6as the bard of a

rude time, 6hile round the second cluster all the

associations of a reNned and lettered age4 . self-

devotion that 6as only articulate in the "argon of

mystery and hallucination, and that 6as surrounded

6ith rude and irrational circumstance, 6ith igno-

rance, brutality, visions, miracle, 6as encircled by

no halo in the eyes of a poet 6ho found no nobleness

6here he did not Nnd a deNnite intelligence, and 6ho

rested all his hopes and interests on the long distance

set by time and civili>ation bet6een ourselves and

such conditions and associations as belong to the

name of ;oan of .rc4 #he foremost men of the

eighteenth century despised ;oan of .rc, 6henever

they had occasion to thinD of her, for the same rea-

son 6hich made them despise 2othic architecture4

+hen, says oltaire in one place, the arts began

to revive, they revived as 2oths and andals ! 6hat

unhappily remains to us of the architecture and

sculpture of these times is a fantastic compound of

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rudeness and Nligree4 ;ust so, even #urgot, 6hile

protesting ho6 dear to every sensible heart 6ere the

2othic buildings destined to the use of the poor and

the orphan, complained of the outrage done by their

rude architecture to the delicacy of our sight4 har-

acters liDe ;oan of .rc ranDed in the same rude and

fantastic order, and respect for them meant that

respect for the middle age 6hich 6as treason to

the ne6 time4 =en despised her, "ust as they

despised the ma"esty and beauty of the great church

 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 1F

at &heims 6here she brought her 6orD to a clima,

or the lofty grace and symmetry of the church of

$t4 Ouen, 6ithin sight of 6hich her life came to its

terrible end4

7enry the )ourth 6as a hero 6ith oltaire, for no

better reason than that he 6as the Nrst great toler-

ant, the earliest historic indiMerent4 #he 7enri-

ade is important only because it helped to popular-

i>e the type of its hero9s character, and so to promote

the rapidly gro6ing tendency in public opinion

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to6ards a still 6ider version of the policy of the

'dict of 0antes4 #he reign of Louis @I4 had

thro6n all previous monarchs into obscurity, and the

)rench Ding 6ho sho6ed a 6armer and more gener-

ous interest in the happiness of his sub"ects than any

they ever had, 6as forgotten, until oltaire brought

him into fame4 It 6as "ust, ho6ever, because

7enry9s eploits 6ere so glorious, and at the same

time so near in point of time, that he made an indif-

ferent hero for an epic poem4 7e should never

choose for an epic poem history, said 7ume very

truly, the truth of 6hich is 6ell Dno6n ! for no

Nction can come up to the interest of the actual

story and incidents of the singular life of 7enry I4

 #hese general considerations, ho6ever, as to the

propriety of the sub"ect are hardly 6orth entering

upon4 7o6 could any true epic come out of that

age, or Nnd fountains in that critical, realistic, and

polemical soul ? #o fuse a long narrative of heroic

adventure in animated, picturesQue, above all, in

1FF oltaire4

sincere verse, is an achievement reserved for men

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6ith a steadier glo6, a Nrmer, simpler, more euber-

ant and more natural poetic feeling, than 6as pos-

sible in that time of mean shifts, purposeless public

action, and pitiful sacriNce of private self-respect4

irgil 6as stirred by the greatness of the ne6ly

united empire, #asso by the heroic march of hris-

tendom against pagan oppressors, =ilton by the

noble ardor of our 6ar for public rights4 +hat long

and glo6ing inspiration 6as possible to a 6ould-be

courtier, thrust into the 3astille for 6anting to Nght

a noble 6ho had had him caned by lacDeys ? 3esides,

an epic, of all forms of poetic composition, most

demands concentrated depth, and oltaire 6as too

6idely curious and vivacious on the intellectual side

to be capable of this emotional concentration4

3ut it is superuous to give reasons 6hy ol-

taire9s epic should not be a great poem4 #he 7en-

riade itself is there the most indisputable of argu-

ments4 Of poems 6hose names are Dno6n out of

literary histories and academic catalogues, it is per-

haps the least 6orth reading in any language by

any one but a professional student of letters4 It is

less 6orth reading than Lucan9s %harsalia, because

it is more deliberately artiNcial and gratuitously

unspontaneous4 %aradise &egained, 6hich it is

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too ready a fashion among us to pronounce dull, still

contains at least three pieces of superb and unsur-

passed description, never fails in grave ma"estic

verse, and is at the 6orst free from all the dreary

 #emperament and Literary 2enius4 1F5

apparatus of phantom and impersonation and mystic

vision, 6hich have never "arred so profoundly 6ith

sense of poetic Ntness, as 6hen associated 6ith so

political and matter-of-fact a hero as 7enry I4

 #he reader has no illusion in such transactions as

$aint Louis taDing 7enry into heaven and hell,

$leep hearing from her secret caves, the +inds

at sight of him falling into $ilence, and /reams,

children of 7ope, ying to cover the hero 6ith olive

and laurel4 7o6 can 6e overcome our repugnance

to that strange admiture of real and unreal matter

6hich presents us 6ith a highly colored picture of

the #emple of Love, 6here in the forecourt sits ;oy,

6ith =ystery, /esire, omplaisance, on the soft

turf by her side, 6hile in the inner sanctuary haunt

 ;ealousy, $uspicion, =alice, )ury! 6hile the net

canto describes

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L9eglise tou "ours une et partout etendue,

Libre, mais sous un chef, adorant en tout lieu,

/ans le bonheur des saints, la grandeur de son /ieu4

Le hrist, de nos peches victime renaissante,

/e ses elus cheris nourriture vivante,

/escend sur les autels a ses yeu eperdus,

't lui decouvre un /ieu sous un pain Qui n9est plus4 1

oltaire congratulated himself in his preface that

he had come suPciently near theological eactitude,

and to this QualiNcation, 6hich is so ne6 for poetry,

the critic may add elegance and o6! but neither

elegance nor theological eactitude reconciles us to

an epic that has neither a stroDe of sublimity nor a

1 7enriade , FG5-FA14

ol4 FH 1B

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1FC oltaire4

touch of pathos, that presents no grandeur in char-

acter, and no hurrying force and movement in action4

)redericD the 2reat used to speaD of oltaire as

the )rench irgil, but then )redericD9s father had

never permitted him to learn Latin, and if he ever

read irgil at all, it must have been in some of the

 "ingling )rench translations4 'ven so, 6ith the

episodes of /ido and of 0isus and 'uryalus in our

minds, 6e may 6onder ho6 so monstrous a parallel

could have occurred even to )redericD, 6ho 6as no

critic, bet6een t6o poets 6ho have hardly a Quality

in common4 If the reader 6ishes to reali>e ho6

nearly insipid even oltaire9s genius could become

6hen 6orDing in unsuitable forms, he may turn

from any canto of the 7enriade to any page

of Lucretius or the %aradise Lost4 . )rench

critic Quotes the famous revie6er9s sentence, con-

cluding an analysis of some epic, to the eMect that

on the 6hole, 6hen all is summed up, the given epic

6as one of the best that had appeared in the course

of the current year ! and insists that oltaire9s

piece 6ill not at any rate perish in the oblivion of

poetic annuals liDe these4 If not, the only reason lies

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in that unfortunate tenderness for the bad 6orD of

famous men, 6hich maDes of so much reading time

6orse than 6asted4 #he un6ise, said andide,

value every 6ord in an author of repute4

7.%#'& I4

+I#7 )&'/'&I #7' 2&'.#4

 #7' =arQuise du hatelet died under circumstances

that 6ere tragical enough to herself, but 6hich dis-

gust the grave, 6hile they give a grotesQue amuse-

ment to those 6ho looD 6ith cynical eye upon 6hat

they choose to treat as the great human comedy4 In

1*FA the friendship of siteen years thus came to its

end, and oltaire 6as left 6ithout the tie that, in

spite of too freQuent breaDing a6ay from it, had

brought him much happiness and good help so far

on the road4 7e 6as no6 free, disastrously free as

the event proved, to accept the invitations 6ith 6hich

he had so long been pressed to taDe up his resi-

dence 6ith the Ding 6ho may dispute 6ith him the

claim to be held the most etraordinary man of that


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0either credit nor peace follo6ed oltaire in his

o6n land4 Louis @4, perhaps the most 6orthless of

all the creatures that monarchy has ever corrupted,

al6ays disliDed him4 #he 6hole inuence of the

court and the oPcial 6orld had been uniformly


1FG oltaire4

eerted against him4 =any years 6ent by before he

could even 6in a seat in the academy, a distinction,

it may be added, to 6hich /iderot, hardly second to

oltaire in originality and po6er, never attained to

the end of his days4 =adame de %ompadour, the

protectress of Euesnay, 6as oltaire9s Nrst friend at

court4 7e said of her long after6ards that in the

bottom of her heart she belonged to the philosophers,

and did as much as she could to protect them4 $he

had Dno6n him in her obscurer and more reputable

days, and she charged him 6ith the composition of a

court-piece J1*F5K, to celebrate the marriage of the

dauphin4 #he tasD 6as satisfactorily performed, and

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honors 6hich had been refused to the author of

aire .l>ire and the 7enriade, 6ere at once

given to the 6riter of the %rincess of 0avarre,

6hich oltaire himself ranDed as a mere farce of

the fair4 7e 6as made gentleman of the chamber

and historiographer of )rance4 7e disarmed the

devout by the %ope9s acceptance of =ahomet, and

by a letter 6hich he 6rote to )ather Latour, head of

his former school, protesting his aMection for relig-

ion and his esteem for the ;esuits4 ondorcet most

righteously pronounces that, in spite of the art 6ith

6hich he handles his epressions in this letter, it

6ould undoubtedly have been far better to give up

the academy than to 6rite it4 It ans6ered its pur-

pose, and oltaire 6as admitted of the forty J=ay,

1*FCK4 #his distinction, ho6ever, 6as far from

securing for him the tranQuillity 6hich he had hoped

=.&EI$' O' %O=%./O&

+ith )redericD the 2reat4 1FA

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from it, and 6orse libels tormented him than before4

 #he court sun ceased to shine4 =adame de %ompa-

dour gave to rebillon a preference 6hich oltaire

resented 6ith more agitation than any preference

of =adame %ompadour9s ought to have stirred in

the breast of a strong man4

+e cannot, ho6ever, too constantly remember not

to asD from oltaire the heroic4 7e 6as far too

sympathetic, too generously eager to please, too sus-

ceptible to opinion4 Of that stern and cold stuM

6hich supports a man in Nrm march and straight

course, giving him the ample content of self-respect,

he probably had less than any one of eQual promi-

nence has ever had4 Instead of 6riting his tragedy

as 6ell as he Dne6 ho6, and then leaving it to its

destiny, he 6rote it as 6ell as he Dne6 ho6, and then

6ent in disguise to the cafe of the critics to Nnd out

6hat his inferiors had to say about his 6orD4 Instead

of composing his court-piece, and taDing such re6ard

as oMered, or disdaining such ignoble tasDs and

nobody Dne6 better than he ho6 ignoble they 6ere

he sought to catch some crumb of praise by fa6n-

ingly asDing of the vilest of men, #ra"an est-il con-

tent? =aDe 6hat allo6ance 6e 6ill for diMerence

of time and circumstance, such an attitude to such a

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man, 6hether in $eneca to6ards 0ero, or ol-

taire to6ards Louis @4, is a baseness that 6e

ought never to pardon and never to etenuate4

+hether or no there be in the human breast that

natural religion of goodness and virtue 6hich 6as

1 5B oltaire4

the sheet-anchor of oltaire9s faith, there is at least

a something in the hearts of good men 6hich sets

a vast gulf bet6een them and those 6ho are to the

very depths of their souls irredeemably saturated

6ith corruption4

+e may permit ourselves to hope that it 6as the

consciousness of the humiliation of such relations as

these, rather than the fact that they did not ans6er

their o6n paltry purpose, that made oltaire resolve

a second time to shaDe the dust of his o6n country

from oM his feet4 In ;uly, 1*5B, he reached %ots-

dam, and 6as installed 6ith sumptuous honor in the

court of )redericD the 2reat, t6enty-four years since

he had installed himself 6ith =r4 )alDener, the

'nglish merchant at +ands6orth4 /iderot 6as

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15H oltaire4

2erman his pleadings in the infamous 7irschel case4

It 6as not then 6orth 6hile for a stranger to learn

the language in 6hich Lessing had not yet 6ritten,

and oltaire, 6ho 6as a master of 'nglish and Ital-

ian, never Dne6 more 2erman than 6as needed to

curse a postilion4 Leibnit> 6rote everything of

importance in Latin or )rench, the 3erlin academy

conducted its transactions Nrst in Latin, net and

for many years to come in )rench, and one of its

earliest presidents, a man of special competence,

pronounced 2erman to be a noble but frightfully

barbari>ed tongue4 #he famous +olf had done his

best to maDe the tongue of his country literate, but

even his inuence 6as uneQual to the tasD4

$ociety 6as in its foundations not removed from

the mediaeval4 #he soldiers 6ith 6hom )redericD

6on orndorf and Leuthen, liDe the &ussians and

.ustrians 6hom he defeated on those bloody days,

6ere not more nor less than serfs4 Instead of philos-

ophers liDe 0e6ton and LocDe, he had to Nnd the

pride and safety of his country in s6ift-rushing

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troopers liDe +interfeld and iethen4 . daring

cavalry-charge in season 6as for the moment more to

%russia than any theory 6hy it is that an apple falls,

and a ne6 method of drill much more urgent than a

ne6 origin for ideas4 $he 6as concerned not 6ith

the speculative problem of the causes 6hy the earth

Deeps its place in the planetary system, but 6ith the

practical problem ho6 %russia 6as to maDe her place

in the system of 'urope4 %russia 6as then far more

+ith )redericD the 2reat4 15

behind )rance in all thought and all arts, save the

soldier9s, than 'ngland 6as in front of )rance4

oltaire had nothing to learn at 3erlin, and may

6e not add, as the Ding 6as a rooted oltairean long

before this, he had nothing to teach there? #he

sternest barracD in 'urope 6as not a Neld in 6hich

the apostle of free and reNned intelligence could so6

seed 6ith good hope of harvest4 oltaire at this

time, 6e have to recollect, 6as in the public mind

only a poet, and perhaps 6as regarded, if not alto-

gether by )redericD, certainly by those 6ho sur-

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rounded him, as much in the same order of being

6ith )redericD9s ute, Ntted by miracle 6ith a

greater number of stops4 I don9t give you any

ne6s of literature, d9.lembert 6rote from %ots-

dam in 1*C, for I don9t Dno6 any, and you Dno6

ho6 barren literature is in this country, 6here no

one ecept the Ding concerns himself 6ith it4

 #here is no particular disgrace to 3erlin or its Ding

in this4 #heir tasD 6as very deNnite, and it 6as only

a pleasant error of )redericD9s rather fantastic

youth to suppose that this tasD lay in the direction

of polite letters4 #he singer of the 7enriade 6as

naturally of diMerent Quality and turn of mind from

a hero 6ho had at least as hard an enterprise in his

hand as that of 7enry I4 oltaire and )redericD

6ere the t6o leaders of the t6o chief movements

then going on, in the great 6orD of the transforma-

tion of the old 'urope into the ne64 3ut the move-

ments 6ere in diMerent matter, demanded vastly

1 5F oltaire4

diMerent methods, and, as is so often the case, the

scope of each 6as hardly visible to the pursuer of

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the other4 oltaire9s 6orD 6as to QuicDen the activ-

ity and proclaim the freedom of human intelligence,

and to destroy the supremacy of an old spiritual

order4 )redericD9s 6orD 6as to shaDe do6n the old

political order4 #he sum of their eMorts 6as the

deNnite commencement of that revolution in the

thought and the political conformation of the +est,

of 6hich the momentous local revolution in )rance

must, if 6e taDe a suPciently 6ide survey before

and after, be counted a secondary phase4 #he con-

ditions of the order 6hich 6as established after the

confusion of the fall of the &oman po6er before the

inroads of the barbarians, and 6hich constituted the

'urope of the early and middle ages, are no6 toler-

ably 6ell understood, and the historic continuity or

identity of that order is typiNed in t6o institutions,

6hich by the middle of the eighteenth century had

reached very diMerent stages of decay, and possessed

very diMerent po6ers of resisting attacD4 One 6as

the 2erman 'mpire and the other 6as the 7oly

atholic hurch4 )redericD dealt a deNnite blo6 to

the Nrst, and oltaire did the same to the second4

 #hose 6ho read history and biography 6ith a

sturdy and childish preconception that the critical

achievements in the long course of the 6orld9s

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progress must of necessity have fallen to the lot of

the salt of the earth, 6ill Nnd it hard to associate

the beginning of the great overt side of modern

+ith )redericD the 2reat4 155

movement 6ith the t6o men 6ho versiNed and

6rangled together for some t6o and a half years in

the middle of the eighteenth century at 3erlin4 It

is hard to thinD of the old state, 6ith all its memories

ofc simple enthusiasm and 6ild valor and rude aspi-

ration after some better order, Nnally disappearing

into the chaos for 6hich it 6as more than ripe, under

the impulse of an arch cynic4 .nd it is hard, too, to

thinD that the civili>ing religion 6hich 6as founded

by a ;e6, and Nrst sei>ed by ;e6s, noblest and holi-

est of their race, got its Nrst and severest blo6 from

one 6ho 6as not above using a ;e6 to cheat hris-

tians out of their money4 3ut the fact remains of

the vast 6orD 6hich this ama>ing pair had to do, and


 #he character of the founder of the greatness of

%russia, if indeed 6e may call founder one rather

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than another member of that active, clear, and far-

sighted line, can have no attraction for those 6ho

reQuire as an indispensable condition of fealty that

their hero shall have either purity, or sensibility, or

generosity, or high honor, or manly respect for

human nature4 )redericD9s rapidity and Nrmness of

6ill, his administrative capacity, his military talent,

6ere marvellous and admirable enough ! but on the

moral side of character, in his relations to men and

6omen, in his feeling for the unseen, in his ideas of

truth and beauty, he belonged to a type 6hich is not

altogether uncommon4 In his youth he had much of

a sort of shallo6 sensibility, 6hich more sympathetic

15C oltaire4

usage might possibly have established and to some

small etent even deepened, but 6hich the curiously

rough treatment that his paciNc tastes and frivolous

predilections provoDed his father to inict, turned in

time into the most bitter and profound Dind of cyni-

cism that the 6orld Dno6s4 0o cynic is so hard and

insensible as the man 6ho has once had sensibility,

perhaps because the consciousness that he 6as in

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earlier days open to more generous impressions per-

suades him that the fault of any change in his o6n

vie6 of things must needs lie in the 6orld9s villainy,

6hich he has no6 happily for himself had time to

Nnd out4 $ensibility of a true sort, springing from

natural fountains of simple and unselNsh feeling, can

neither be corrupted nor dried up4 3ut at its best,

)redericD9s sensibility 6as of the literary and aes-

thetic Dind, rather than the humane and social4 It

concerned taste and epression, and had little root in

the recognition as at Nrst-hand of those facts of

eperience, of beauty and tenderness and cruelty

and endurance, 6hich are the natural ob"ects that

permanently QuicDen a sensitive nature4 In a 6ord,

)redericD9s 6as the conventional sensibility of the

)rench literature of the time! a harmless thing

enough in the poor souls that only poured them-

selves out in bad romance and 6orse verse, but

terrible 6hen it helped to Nll 6ith contempt for

manDind an absolute monarch, 6ith the most per-

fect military machine in 'urope at his command4

)redericD is constantly spoDen of as a man typical

+ith )redericD the 2reat4 15*

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of his century4 In truth he 6as throughout his life

in ostentatious opposition to his century on its most

remarDable side4 #here has never been any epoch

6hose foremost men had such faith and hope in

the virtues of humanity4 #here has never been any

prominent man 6ho despised humanity so bitterly

and unaMectedly as )redericD despised it4

+e Dno6 6hat to thinD of a man 6ho 6rites a

touching and pathetic letter condoling 6ith a friend

on the loss of his 6ife, and on the same day maDes

an epigram on the dead 6oman! 6ho never found

so much pleasure in a friendly act as 6hen he could

maDe it the means of hurting the recipient ! 6hose

practical pleasantries 6ere al6ays spiteful and

sneering and cruel4 .s 6e read of his tricDs on

d9.rgens or %ollnit>, 6e feel ho6 right oltaire

6as in borro6ing a nicDname for him from a mis-

chievous brute 6hom he Dept in his garden4 7e

presented d9.rgens 6ith a house! 6hen d9.rgens

6ent to taDe possession he found the 6alls adorned

6ith pictures of all the most indecent and humiliat-

ing episodes of his o6n life4 #his 6as a type of

)redericD9s delicacy to6ards some of those 6hom

he honored 6ith his friendship4 It is true that,

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ecept oltaire and =aupertuis, most of the )rench

philosophers 6hom )redericD seduced into coming

to live at 3erlin 6ere not too good for the corporal9s

horse-play of 6hich they 6ere the victims4 3ut

then 6e Dno6, further, 6hat to thinD of a man

6hose self-respect fails to proscribe gross and

15G oltaire4

un6orthy companions4 7e is either a lover of

parasites, 6hich )redericD certainly 6as not, or else

the most eecrable cynic, the cynic 6ho delights in

any folly or depravity that assures him ho6 right he

is in despising that damned race4

)redericD need not have summoned the least

6orthy )rench freethinDers, men liDe d9.rgens and

La =ettrie and /e %rades, in their o6n 6ay as little

attractive in life and in doctrine as any monD or

2eneva preacher, to 6arrant him in thinDing meanly

of manDind4 If any one 6ants to Dno6 6hat man-

ner of spirit this great temporal deliverer of 'urope

6as of, he may Nnd 6hat he seeDs in the single

episode of the negotiations at lein-$chnellendorf

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in 1*F14 #here, although he had made and 6as

still bound by a solemn treaty of alliance 6ith

)rance, he entered into secret engagements 6ith the

7ungarian Queen, to be veiled by adroitly pretended

hostilities4 'ven if, as an illustrious apologist of

the %russian Ding is reduced to plead, this is in a

certain fashion defensible, on the ground that

)rance and .ustria 6ere both playing 6ith loaded

dice, and therefore the other dicer of the party

6as in self-defence driven to sho6 himself their

superior in these ecellent artiNces, there still seems

a gratuitous infamy in hinting to the .ustrian

general, as )redericD did, ho6 he might assault

6ith advantage the )rench enemy, )redericD9s

o6n ally at the moment4 #his 6as the author of

the plea for political morality, called the .nti-

+ith )redericD the 2reat4 15A

=achiavelli, 6hose publication oltaire had superin-

tended the year before, and for that matter, had

done his best to prevent4 $till, as )redericD so

graciously said of his ne6 guest and old friend:

7e has all the tricDs of a monDey ! but I shall

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maDe no sign, for I need him in my study of )rench

style4 One may learn good things from a scoundrel :

I 6ant to Dno6 his )rench ! 6hat is his morality to

me ? .nd so a royal statesman may have the

manners of the coarsest corporal, and the morality

of the grossest cynic, and still have both the eye

to discern, and the hand to control, the forces of a

great for6ard movement4

)redericD had the signal honor of accepting his

position, and taDing up 6ith an almost perfect forti-

tude the burden 6hich it laid upon him4 +e are

not masters of our o6n lot, he 6rote to oltaire,

immediately after his accession to the throne ! the

6hirl6ind of circumstances carries us a6ay, and

6e must suMer ourselves to be carried a6ay4 .nd

6hat he said in this hour of ealtation he did not

deny nearly t6enty years later, 6hen his fortunes

seemed absolutely desperate4 If I had been born a

private person, he 6rote to him in 1*5A, I 6ould

give up everything for love of peace ! but a man is

bound to taDe on the spirit of his position4 %hilos-

ophy teaches us to do our duty, to serve our country

faithfully at the price of our blood and our ease, to

sacriNce for it our 6hole eistence4 =en are also

called upon by their country to abstain from sacri-

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1 CB oltaire4

Ncing their eistence, and if )redericD9s sense of

duty to his sub"ects had been as perfect as it 6as

eceptionally near being so, he 6ould not have

carried a phial of poison round his necD4 $till on

the 6hole he devoted himself to his career 6ith a

temper that 6as as entirely calculated for the over-

thro6 of a tottering system, as oltaire9s o6n4 It

is diPcult to tell 6hether )redericD9s steady atten-

tion to letters and men of letters, and his praise-

6orthy endeavors to maDe 3erlin a true academic

centre, 6ere due to a real and disinterested love of

Dno6ledge, and a sense of its 6orth to the spirit of

man, or still more to 6eaD literary vanity, and a

futile idea of universal fame so far as his o6n

productions 6ent, and a purely utilitarian purpose

so far as his patronage of the national academy

6as concerned4 One thing is certain, that the

philosophy 6hich he learned from )rench masters,

6hich oltaire brought in his proper person to

3erlin, and to 6hich )redericD to the end of his

days 6as al6ays adding illustrative commentaries,

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never made any impression on 2ermany4 #he

teaching of Leibnit> and +olf stood liDe a fortiNed

6all in the face of the )rench invasion, and 6hat-

ever eMective share )rench speculation had upon

2ermany, 6as through the inuence of /escartes

upon Leibnit>4

 #he dissolution of the outer frame6orD of the

'uropean state-system, for 6hich )redericD9s

sei>ure of $ilesia 6as the Nrst clear signal, follo6ed

+ith )redericD the 2reat4 1C1

as it 6as by the indispensable suppression of the

mischievous independence, so called, of barbaric and

feudal %oland, 6here bishops and nobles held a

people in the most oppressive bondage, can only

concern us here slightly, because it 6as for the

time only indirectly connected 6ith the character-

istic 6orD of oltaire9s life4 3ut, though indirect,

the connection may be seen at our distance of time

to have been marDed and unmistaDable4 #he old

order and principles of 'urope 6ere to receive a

ne6 impress, and the decaying system of the middle

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age to be replaced by a polity of revolution, 6hich

should Nnally change the relations of nations, the

types of 'uropean government, and the ideas of

spiritual control4

In 1* the 6ar of the %olish succession bet6een

.ustria and &ussia on the one hand, and )rance

and $pain on the other, had given the Nrst great

shocD to the house of .ustria, 6hich 6as com-

pelled to renounce the pretensions and territory of

the 'mpire in Italy, or nearly all of them, in favor

of the $panish 3ourbons, as 6ell as to surrender

Lorraine to $tanislaus, 6ith reversion to the cro6n

of )rance4 +e may notice in passing that it 6as at

$tanislaus9s court of Luneville that oltaire and

the =arQuise du hatelet passed their last days

together4 #he 6ars of the %olish succession 6ere

remarDable for another circumstance4 #hey 6ere

the Nrst occasion of the decisive interference of

&ussia in 6estern aMairs, an only less important

ol4 FH11

1 CH oltaire4

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disturbance of 'urope than the Nrst great inter-

ference of %russia a fe6 years later4 #he falling to

pieces of the old 'urope 6as as inevitable as, more

than t6elve centuries before, had been the dissolu-

tion of that yet older 'urope 6hose heart had been

not ienna but &ome4 &ussia and %russia 6ere

not the only novel elements4 #here 6as a third

from over the sea, the .merican colonies of )rance

and 'ngland4

&oman 'urope had been a vast imperial state,

6ith slavery for a base4 #hen, after the feudal

organi>ation had run its course, there 6as a long

and chaotic transition of dynastic and territorial

6ars, frightfully 6asteful of humanity and 6orse

than unfruitful to progress4 In vain do historians,

intent on vindicating the foregone conclusions of

the optimism 6hich a distorted notion about Nnal

causes demands or engenders in them, try to sho6

these hateful contests as parts of a harmonious

scheme of things, in 6hich many diverse forces

move in a mysterious 6ay to a common and happy

end4 .s if any good use, for instance, 6ere served

by the transfer, for one of the chief results of the

6ar of the %olish succession, of the Italian provinces

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of the 'mpire of the $panish 3ourbons4 .s if

any good or permanent use 6ere served by the 6ars

6hich ended in the %eace of trecht, 6hen victor-

ious 'ngland conceded, and 6ith much 6isdom

conceded, the precise point 6hich she had for so

many years been disputing4 )rom the %eace of

+ith )redericD the 2reat4 1C

+estphalia to the beginning of the $even (ears9

+ar, it is not too much to say that there 6as a

century of purely artiNcial strife on the continent

of 'urope, of 6ars as factious, as merely personal,

as unmeaning, as the civil 6ar of the )ronde 6as

all of these things4 In speaDing roundly of this

period, 6e leave out of account the Nrst $ilesian

+ar, because the issue bet6een %russia and .ustria

6as not decisively fought out until the Nnal death-

struggle from 1*5C to 1*C4 It 6as the entry of

)redericD the 2reat upon the scene, that instantly

raised international relations into the region of real

matter and changed a strife of dynasties, houses,

persons, into a vital competition bet6een old forces

and principles and ne64 #he aimless and bloody

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commotions 6hich had raged over 'urope, and

ground men9s lives to dust in the red mill of battle,

came for a time to an end, and their place 6as taDen

by a tremendous conict, on 6hose issue hung not

merely the triumph of a dynasty, but the Question

of the type to 6hich future civili>ation 6as to


In the preliminary 6ar 6hich follo6ed immedi-

ately upon the death of harles I4 in 1*FB, and

6hich had its beginning in )redericD9s invasion of

$ilesia, circumstances partially marched in the usual

tradition, 6ith )rance and .ustria playing opposite

sides in an accustomed game4 3efore the opening

of the $even (ears9 +ar the cardinal change of

policy and alliances had taDen place4 +e are not

1 CF oltaire4

concerned 6ith the court intrigues that brought

the change about, 6ith the intricate manoeuvres of

the ;esuits, or the 6ounded vanity of 3ernis, 6hose

verses )redericD laughed at, or the piQue of %ompa-

dour, 6hom )redericD declined to count an acQuaint-

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ance4 +hen conicting forces of tidal magnitude

are at 6orD, as they 6ere in the middle of the last

century, the play of mere personal aims and ambi-

tions is necessarily of secondary importance!

because 6e may al6ays count upon there being at

least one great po6er that clearly discerns its o6n

vital interest, and is sure therefore to press 6ith

steady energy in its o6n special direction4 #hat

po6er 6as .ustria4 One force of this Dind is

enough to secure a universal ad"ustment of all the

others in their natural places4

 #he situation 6as apparently very comple4

 #here 6ere in the middle of the century t6o great

pairs of opposed interests, the interests of )rance

and 'ngland on the ocean and in .merica, and the

interests of .ustria and %russia in central 'urope4

 #he contest 6as in each of the t6o cases much more

than a superNcial aMair of dynasties or division of

territory, to meet the reQuirements of the metaphy-

sical diplomacy of the balance of po6er4 It 6as

a re-opening in far vaster proportions of those pro-

found issues of ne6 religion and old 6hich had only

been damned up, and not permanently settled, by

the great %eace of +estphalia in 1CFG4 In vaster

proportions, not merely because the ne6 struggle

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+ith )redericD the 2reat4 1C5

bet6een the atholic and %rotestant po6ers

etended into the ne6 6orld, but because the forces

contained in these t6o creeds had been 6idened and

developed, and a multitude of indirect conseQuences,

entirely apart from theology and church discipline,

depended upon the triumph of 2reat 3ritain and

%russia4 #he 2overnments of )rance and .ustria

represented the feudal and military idea, not in the

strength of that idea 6hile it 6as still alive, but in

the narro6 and oppressive form of its decay4 0o

social gro6th 6as possible under its shado6, for

one of its essential conditions 6as discouragement,

active and passive, of commercial industry, the main

path6ay then open to an advancing people4 .gain,

both )rance and .ustria represented the old type

of monarchy, as distinguished aliDe from the aristo-

cratic oligarchy of 'ngland, and the ne6 type of

monarchy 6hich %russia introduced into 'urope,

frugal, encouraging industry, active in supervision,

indefatigable in improving the la6s4 Let us not

omit above all things the splendid religious tolera-

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tion, of 6hich %russia set so etraordinarily early

an eample to 'urope4 #he %rotestants 6hom

episcopal tyranny drove from $al>burg found 6arm

hospitality among their northern brethren4 +hile

the professors of the reformed faith 6ere denied

civil status in )rance, and sub"ected to persecution

of a mediaeval bloodiness, one hristian 6as counted

eactly as another in %russia4 +hile 'ngland 6as

revelling in the iniction of atrocious penal la6s on

1 CC oltaire4

her atholic citi>ens, %russia etended even to the

abhorred ;esuit the shelter 6hich 6as denied him in

$pain and at &ome4 #he transfer of territory from

.ustria to %russia meant the etension of toleration

in that territory4 $ilesia, for instance, no sooner

became %russian, than the niversity of 3reslau,

6hose advantages had hitherto been rigidly conNned

to atholics, 6as at once compulsorily opened to

%rotestants and atholics aliDe4 In criticising

)redericD9s despotism let us recogni>e ho6 much

enlightenment, ho6 much of 6hat is truly modern,

6as to be found in the manner in 6hich this despotic

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po6er 6as eercised, long before the same enlight-

ened principles 6ere accepted in other countries4

 #here is a point of vie6 from 6hich 6e may

 "ustly regard the violent change that 6as the result

of the $even (ears9 +ar, as a truly progressive

step4 +e cannot be as reasonably sure that the old

conditions of men9s relations in society are in 6hat-

ever ne6 shape destined to return, as 6e are sure

that it 6as a good thing to prevent a feudal and

 ;esuitical government liDe .ustria from retaining a

purely obstructive po6er in 'urope, and a ;esuitical

government liDe )rance from establishing the same

obstructive Dind of po6er in .merica4 #he advan-

tages of the Nnal acQuisition of .merica by %rot-

estantism, and the decisive consolidation of %russia,

6ere not 6ithout alloy4 7istory does not present

us 6ith these clean balances4 It is not at all diPcult

to see the in"urious elements in this victory of the

+ith )redericD the 2reat4 1C*

northern po6ers, and nobody 6ould be less 6illing

than the present 6riter to accept either the %russian

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polity of )redericD, or the commercial polity of

'ngland and her 6estern colonies, as oMering Nnal

types of 6holesome social states4 3ut the alter-

native 6as the triumph of a far 6orse polity than

either, the polity of the $ociety of ;esus4

'ven those 6ho claim our respect for the ;esuits

as having in the beginning of their course served

the very useful purpose of honestly administering

that spiritual po6er 6hich had fallen from the

hands of the %opes, 6ho had mischievously entered

the ranDs and follo6ed the methods of temporal

princes, do not deny that 6ithin a couple of genera-

tions they became a dangerous obstacle to the con-

tinuity of 'uropean progress4 Indeed, it is clear

that they gre6 into the very 6orst element that has

ever appeared in the 6hole course of 'uropean

history, because their inuence rested on a sys-

tematic compromise 6ith moral corruption4 #hey

had barely sei>ed the spiritual po6er in the atholic

countries 6hen it 6as perceived that as an engine

of moral control their supposed po6er 6as no po6er

at all! and that the only condition on 6hich they

could retain the honor and the political authority

6hich 6ere needful to them 6as that they should

connive at moral depravity4 #hey had the education

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of the country in their hands, and from the con-

fessor9s closet they pulled the 6ires 6hich moved

courts4 #here 6as no counter-force, for the mass

1 CG oltaire4

of the people 6as dumb, ignorant, and fettered4 $ay

6hat 6e 6ill of the need for a spiritual po6er, the

inuence of the ;esuits by the middle of the eight-

eenth century 6as cutting oM the very root of civi-

li>ation4 #his 6as the veritable Infamous4 .nd

this 6as the inuence 6hich the alliance of 'ng-

land and %russia, a thing accidental enough to all

appearance, successfully and decisively checDed,

because the triumph of the t6o northern po6ers 6as

naturally the means of discrediting the ;esuit

intrigues in the court of ersailles and else6here,

and stripping them of those associations of political

and material success 6hich had hitherto stood to

them in the stead of true spiritual credit4

 #he peace of 1*C had important territorial con-

seQuences4 3y the treaty of %aris bet6een )rance,

'ngland, and $pain, 2reat 3ritain 6as assured of

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her possessions on the other side of the .tlantic4

3y the treaty of 7ubertusburg bet6een .ustria,

%russia, and $aony, %russia 6as assured of her

position as an independent po6er in 'urope4 #hese

things 6ere much4 3ut the decisive repulse of the

great ;esuit organi>ation 6as yet more4 It 6as the

most important side of the same facts4 #he imme-

diate occasions of this repulse varied in diMerent

countries, and had their origin in diMerent sets of

superNcial circumstance, but the debility of the

courts of .ustria and )rance 6as the only condition

on 6hich such occasions could be sei>ed4 #he very

net year, after the treaties of %aris and 7ubertus-

+ith )redericD the 2reat4 1CA

burg, the $ociety of ;esus 6as suppressed in )rance,

and its property conNscated4 #hree years later it

6as epelled from $pain4 +ithin ten years from

the peace of 1*C it 6as abolished by the virtuous

lement @I4 In anada, 6here the order had

been etremely po6erful, their authority vanished,

and 6ith it the probability of establishing in the

northern half of the ne6 6orld those ideas of

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political absolutism and theological casuistry 6hich

6ere undoing the old4 +hatever the accidents

6hich hurried the catastrophe, there 6ere t6o

general causes 6hich really produced it, the revolu-

tion in ideas, and the revolution in the seat of

material po6er4 If this be a true description of the

crisis, 6e can see suPciently plainly to 6hat an

etent oltaire and )redericD, 6hile they appeared

to themselves to be fello6-6orDers only in the

culture of the muses, 6ere in fact unconsciously

co-operating in a far mightier tasD4 +hen the 6ar

6as dra6ing to an end, and )redericD 6as liDely to

escape from the calamities 6hich had so nearly

over6helmed him and his Dingdom in irretrievable

ruin, 6e Nnd oltaire 6riting to d9.lembert thus:

.s for Luc Jthe nicDname borro6ed for the Ding

of %russia from an ape 6ith a tricD of bitingK,

though I ought to be full of resentment against

him, yet I confess to you that in my Quality of

thinDing creature and )renchman, I am heartily

content that a certain most devout house has not

s6allo6ed 2ermany up, and that the ;esuits don9t

1 *B oltaire4

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confess at 3erlin4 $uperstition is monstrously

po6erful to6ards the /anube4 #o 6hich his

correspondent replied that he Quite agreed that the

triumph of )redericD 6as a blessing for )rance and

for philosophy4 #hese .ustrians are insolent

apuchins, 6hom I 6ould fain see annihilated 6ith

the superstition they protect4 7ere 6as precisely

the issue4

It 6ould be a great mistaDe to suppose that

)redericD consciously and formally recogni>ed the

ultimate ends of his policy4 $uch deliberate marD-

ing out of the Nnal destination of their 6orD,

imputed to rulers, churchmen, poets, is mostly a

Ngment invented by philosophers4 )redericD

thought nothing at all about the conformation of

the 'uropean societies in the t6entieth century4 It

6as enough for him to maDe a strong and inde-

pendent %russia, 6ithout any far-reaching vision,

or indeed 6ithout any vision at all, of the eMect

6hich a strong and independent %russia 6ould

Nnally have upon the read"ustment of ideas and

social forces in 6estern civili>ation4 +e are led

to a false notion of history, and of all the conditions

of political action and the development of nations,

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by attributing to statesmen deep and far-reaching

sight of conseQuences, 6hich only completed Dno6l-

edge and some ingenuity enable those 6ho live after

to Nt into a harmonious scheme4 )ate, says

2oethe, for 6hose 6isdom I entertain all imagin-

able reverence, often Nnds in chance, by 6hich it

+ith )redericD the 2reat4 1*1

6orDs, an instrument not over manageable4 .nd

the great ruler, Dno6ing this, is content to abstain

from playing fate9s part, feeling his 6ay slo6ly to

the net step4 7is compass is only true for a very

short distance, and his chart has marDs for no long

course4 #o maDe %russia strong 6as the aim of

)redericD9s life4 7ence, although the real destiny

of his policy 6as to destroy the house of .ustria,

he did not scruple in 1*F1 to oMer to assist =aria

 #heresa 6ith his best help against all the other

invaders of the famous %ragmatic $anction, 6hich

they had solemnly s6orn to uphold4 .fter6ards,

and before the outbreaD of the $even (ears9 +ar,

he sought the alliance of )rance, but happily for

'urope, not until after aunit> and =aria #heresa

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had already secured that blind and misguided

po6er, thus driving him into an alliance 6ith 2reat

3ritain4 .nd so chance did the 6orD of fate

after all4

It may be said that such a vie6 of the operation

of the great forces of the 6orld is destructive of

all especial respect and gratitude to6ards the emi-

nent men, of 6hom chance and fate have made mere

instruments4 +hat becomes of hero-6orship, if

your hero after all only half Dne6 6hither he sought

to go, and if those achievements 6hich have done

such po6erful service 6ere not consciously directed

to6ards the serviceable end? +e can only ans6er

that it is not the oPce of history to purvey heroes,

nor al6ays to "oin appreciation of a set of comple

1*H oltaire4

eMects 6ith veneration for this or that performer4

)or this veneration, if it is to be an intelligent mood,

implies insight into the inmost privacy of aim and

motive, and this insight, in the case of those 6hom

circumstance raises on a to6ering pedestal, 6e can

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hardly ever count 6ith assurance on Nnding faith-

ful and authentic4 7istory is perhaps not less inter-

esting for not being distorted into a ne6 hagi-


It is eQually un6arranted to put into )redericD9s

mind conscious ideas as to the type of monarchy

proper for 'urope in the epoch of passage from old

systems4 Once more, he thought of his o6n coun-

try, and his o6n country only, in all those 6ise

measures of internal government 6hich have been

so un"ustly and so childishly thrust by historians

into the second place behind his eploits as a soldier,

as if the civil activity of the period bet6een 1*C,

6hen peace 6as made, and 1*GC, 6hen he died, 6as

not fully as remarDable in itself, and fully as

momentous in its results, as the military activity of

the period bet6een 1*C and 1*FB4 #here is in men

of the highest governing capacity, liDe &ichelieu,

or rom6ell, or )redericD, an instinct for good

order and regular administration4 #hey insist upon

it for its o6n saDe, independently of its eMects

either on the happiness of sub"ects, or on the funda-

mental policy and march of things4 If )redericD

had acceded to the supreme po6er in a highly

civili>ed country, he 6ould have been eQually bent

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+ith )redericD the 2reat4 1*

on imposing his o6n 6ill and forcing the adminis-

tration into the eact grooves prescribed by him-

self, and the result 6ould have been as pestilent

there as it 6as beneNcial in a bacD6ard and semi-

barbarous country such as %russia 6as in his time4

 #his good internal ordering 6as no more than a

part of the same simple design 6hich shaped his

eternal policy4 7e had to maDe a nation, and its

material independence in the face of .ustria and

&ussia 6as not more a part of this process than giv-

ing it the great elements of internal 6ell-being,

eQual la6s, "ust administration, Nnancial thrift, and

stimulus and encouragement to industry4 $uch an

achievement as the restoration of the germs of order

and prosperity, 6hich )redericD so rapidly brought

about after the appalling ruin that seven years of

disastrous 6ar had eMected, is unmatched in the

history of human government4 +ell might he pride

himself, as 6e Dno6 that he did, on replacing this

social chaos by order, more than on &ossbach or

Leuthen4 .bove all, he never forgot the truth

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6hich every statesman ought to have burning in

letters of Nre before his eyes ! am the procurator

of the poor4

It commits us to no general theory of government

to recogni>e the merits of )redericD9s internal

administration4 #hey constitute a special case, to

be "udged by its o6n conditions4 +e may safely

go so far as to say that in 6hatever degree the

social state of a nation calls for active government,

1*F oltaire4

6hether, as the people of the .merican nion boast

of themselves, they need no government, or 6hether,

as is the case in 2reat 3ritain, the 6retched lives

of the poor beneath the combined cupidity and

heartless 6ant of thought of the rich cry aloud for

 "ustice, in this degree it is good that the statesmen

called to govern should be in that capacity of

)redericD9s type, conceding all freedom to thought,

but energetic in the use of po6er as trustees for the

6hole nation against special classes4 #o meet com-

pletely the demands of their oPce they should have,

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6hat )redericD neither had nor could under the

circumstances of his advent and the time be epected

to have, a Nrm conviction that the highest ultimate

end of all Dingship is to enable nations to dispense

6ith that organ of national life, and to Nt them for

a spontaneous initiative and free control in the con-

duct of their o6n aMairs4

Let us be careful to remember that, if )redericD

6as a great ruler in the positive sense, he sprang

from the critical school4 #he traditions of his house

6ere strictly %rotestant, his tutors 6ere alvinistic

refugees, and his personal predilections had from

his earliest youth been enthusiastically oltairean,

=ay 6e not count it one of the claims of the critical

philosophy to a place among the leading progressive

inuences in 6estern history, that it tended to pro-

duce statesmen of this positive type? I do not

Dno6 of any period of corresponding length that

can produce such a group of active, 6ise, and truly

+ith )redericD the 2reat4 1*5

positive statesmen as eisted in 'urope bet6een

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1*CB and 1*GB4 3esides )redericD, 6e have #urgot

in )rance, %ombal in %ortugal, harles III4 and

.randa in $pain4 If harles III4 6as faithful

to the old creed, the three greatest, at any rate, of

these etraordinary men dre6 inspiration from the

centre of the critical school4 .randa had mied

much 6ith the oltairean circle 6hile in %aris4

%ombal, in spite of the taint of some cruelty, in so

many respects one of the most po6erful and resolute

ministers that has ever held oPce in 'urope, had

been for some time in 'ngland, and 6as a 6arm

admirer of oltaire, 6hose 6orDs he caused to be

translated into %ortuguese4 #he famous school of

Italian publicists, 6hose speculations bore such

admirable fruit in the humane legislation of Leopold

of #uscany, and had so large a share in that code

6ith 6hich the name of the ever hateful 3onaparte

has become fraudulently associated, these ecellent

thinDers found their oracles in that practical philos-

ophy, of 6hich 6e are so un"ustly bidden to thinD

only in connection 6ith shallo6 and recDless

destruction4 #he application of reason to the ameli-

oration of the social condition 6as the device of the

great rulers of this time, and the father and inspirer

of this device 6as that oltaire 6ho is habitually

presented to us a mere mocDer4

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%sychologues liDe $ul>er might declare that the

scourge of right thinDing 6as to be found in those

philosophers 6ho, more used to sallies of 6it than

1*C oltaire4

to deep reasoning, assume that they have over-

thro6n by a single smart trope truths only to be

Dno6n by combining a multitude of observations,

so delicate and diPcult that 6e cannot grasp them

6ithout the aid of the Nrmest attention4 7o6

many of these so-called truths 6ere anything but

sophistical propositions, the products of intellectual

ingenuity run riot, 6ithout the smallest bearing

either on positive science or social 6ell-being? .nd

is it not rather an abuse of men9s 6illingness to taDe

the profundity of metaphysics on trust, that any one

6ho has formulated a metaphysical proposition,

6ith due technicality of sounding 6ords, has a claim

to arrest the serious attention of every busy

passer-by, and to thro6 on this innocent and laud-

able person the burden of disproof? If /uns

$cotus or $t4 #homas .Quinas had risen from the

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dead, oltaire 6ould very properly have declined a

bout of school dialectic 6ith those famous shades,

because he 6as living in the century of the 'ncyclo-

paedia, 6hen the eploration of things and the

improvement of institutions had taDen the place of

subtle manipulation of unveriNed 6ords, important

as that process had once been in the intellectual

development of 'urope4 7e 6as eQually 6ise in

declining to thro6 more than a trope or sprightly

sally in the direction of people 6ho dealt only in the

multiplication of metaphysical abracadabras4 It 6as

his tasD to N the eyes of men upon action4 In the

sight of Lutheran or +olNan con"urors 6ith 6ords

+ith )redericD the 2reat4 1**

this 6as egregious shallo6ness4 $trangely enough

they thought it the clima of philosophic profundity

to reconcile their natural spiritualism 6ith the super-

natural spiritualism of the $criptures, and rational-

istic theism 6ith the historic theism of revelation4

oltaire repudiated the supernatural and pseudo-

historic half of this hybrid combination, and in doing

so he sho6ed a far profounder logic than the

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cloudiest and most sonorous of his theologico-meta-

physical critics4 +e may call him negative and

destructive on this account if 6e please, yet surely

the abnegation of barren and inconsistent specula-

tion, and of fruitless eMort to sei>e a vain abstract

universality, 6as a very meritorious trait in a man

6ho did not stop here, but by every means, by

poetry, by history, by biography, and by the mani-

festation of all his vivid personal interests, dre6

every one 6ho 6as 6ithin the sphere of his attrac-

tion to the consideration of social action as the Nrst

fact for the Nrm attention of the leaders of man-


It may be said that even from this side oltaire

6as destructive only, and undoubtedly, o6ing to

the circumstances of the time, the destructive side

seemed to predominate in his social inuence4 #o

say this, ho6ever, is not to bring an end to the mat-

ter4 #he truth is that no negative thinDing can stop

at the negative point4 #o teach men to hate super-

stition and in"ustice is a sure, if an indirect, 6ay of

teaching them to seeD after their opposites4 ol-

 (ol4 FH1H

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1*G oltaire4

taire could only shaDe obscurantist institutions by

appealing to man9s love of light, and the love of light,

once stirred, leads far4 7e appealed to reason, and it

6as reason in )redericD and the others, 6hich had

QuicDened and strengthened the love of good order,

that produced the striDing reforming spirit 6hich

moved through the eighteenth century, until the

reaction against )rench revolutionary violence

arrested its progress4 It is one of the most diPcult

Questions in all history to determine 6hether the

change from the old order to the ne6 has been

damaged or advanced by that most memorable arrest

of the 6orD of social renovation in the hands of

sovereign and traditional governments, administered

by 6ise statesmen 6ith due regard to traditional

spirit! and ho6 far the passionate eMorts of those

classes, 6hose only tradition is a tradition of sQualor

and despair, have driven the possessors of superior

material po6er bacD into obstructive trepidation4

 #he Question is more than diPcult, it is in our gener-

ation insoluble, because the movement is 6holly

incomplete4 3ut 6hether the )rench outbreaD from

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1*GA to 1*AF may prove to have been the starting-

point of a ne6 society, or only to have been a

detrimental interruption and parent of interruptions

to stable movement for6ards, 6e have in either

case to admit that there 6as a most vigorous attempt

made in all the chief countries in 'urope, bet6een

the middle of the century and the fall of the )rench

monarchy, to improve government and to perfect

+ith )redericD the 2reat4 1*A

administration! that )redericD of %russia 6as the

author of the most permanently successful of these

endeavors! and that )redericD learned to breaD

loose from darD usage, to prefer eQuity of adminis-

tration, to abandon religious superstition, and to

insist on tolerance, from the only eMective moral

and intellectual masters he ever had, Nrst the )rench

alvinists, and then the )rench critical school, 6ith

oltaire for chief4 It is true, as 6e shall presently

see, that an important change in the spirit of )rench

6riters 6as marDed by the 'ncyclopaedia, 6hich 6as

so much besides being critical4 J 3ut then this

famous 6orD only commenced in the year 6hen ol-

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taire reached 3erlin, and )redericD9s character had

received its Nnal shape long before that time4

+ith the eception of oltaire, d9.lembert 6as

the only really eminent )renchman 6hose 6orD

ever strucD )redericD, and 6e are even conscious,

in comparing his letters to these t6o eminent men,

of a certain seriousness and deferential respect

to6ards the latter friend, 6hich never marDed his

relations 6ith oltaire after the early days of youth-

ful enthusiasm4 )redericD9s admiration for )rance,

indeed, has been some6hat overstated by )rench

6riters, and by those of our o6n country 6ho have

taDen their 6ord for granted4 (our nation,

)redericD once 6rote to oltaire, is the most

inconseQuent in all 'urope4 It abounds in bright

intelligence, but has no consistency in its ideas4

 #his is ho6 it appears through all its history4 #here

1 GB oltaire4

is really an indelible character imprinted on it4 #he

only eception in a long succession of reigns is to be

found in a fe6 years of Louis @I4 #he reign of

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7enry I4 6as neither tranQuil enough nor long

enough for us to taDe that into account4 /uring

the administration of &ichelieu 6e observe some

consistency of design and some nerve in eecution!

but in truth they are uncommonly short epochs of

6isdom in so long a chronicle of madnesses4 .gain,

)rance has been able to produce men liDe /escartes

or =alebranche, but no Leibnit>, no LocDes, no

0e6tons4 On the other hand, for taste, you surpass

all other nations, and I 6ill surely range myself

under your standards in all that regards delicacy of

discernment and the "udicious and scrupulous choice

bet6een real beauties and those 6hich are only

apparent4 #hat is a great point in polite letters, but

it is not everything4 )redericD, ho6ever, could

never endure the least hint that he 6as not a perfect

)renchman in the order of polite letters4 #he article

on %russia in the 'ncyclopaedia 6as full of the most

attering eulogies of his 6orD as a soldier and an

administrator, and even contained handsome praise

for his 6ritings! but /iderot, the author of this

part of the article, delicately suggested that a year

or t6o in the )aubourg $t4 7onore 6ould perhaps

have dispersed the fe6 grains of 3erlin sand 6hich

hindered the perfect purity of note of that admirable

ute4 )redericD, 6ho had hitherto been an ardent

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+ith )redericD the 2reat4 1G1

reader of the 'ncyclopaedia, never opened another


+e can understand oltaire9s character 6ithout

6ading through the slough of mean scandals 6hich

sprang up liDe gross fungi during his stay at 3erlin4

+ho need remember that )redericD spoDe of his

illustrious guest as an orange of 6hich, 6hen one

has sQuee>ed the "uice, one thro6s a6ay the sDin?

Or ho6 oltaire retorted by speaDing of his illustri-

ous host, 6hose royal verses he had to correct, as a

man sending his dirty linen to him to 6ash? Or,

still 6orse, as a compound of ;ulius aesar and the

.bbe otin? 0or need 6e eamine into stories,

suspicious products of 3erlin malice, ho6 )redericD

stopped his guest9s supply of sugar and chocolate,

and ho6 oltaire put his host9s candle-ends into his

pocDet4 It is enough to Dno6 that the Ding and the

poet gradually lost their illusions, and forgot that

life 6as both too short and too valuable to 6aste

in vain eMorts of maDing believe that an illusion is

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other than it is4 oltaire tooD a childish delight

in his gold Dey and his star, and in supping as an

intimate 6ith a Ding 6ho had 6on Nve battles4 7is

life 6as at once free and occupied, the t6o con-

ditions of happy eistence4 7e 6orDed diligently

at his $ttcle de Louis @I4, and diverted him-

self 6ith operas, comedies, and great entertainments

among aMable Queens, charming princesses, and

handsome maids of honor4 (et he could not forget

the saying, 6hich had been so faithfully carried to

1 GH oltaire4

him, of the orange-sDin4 7e declared that he 6as

liDe the man 6ho fell from the top of a high to6er,

and Nnding himself softly supported in the air, cried

out, 2ood, if it only lasts4 Or he 6as liDe a husband

striving hard to persuade himself of the Ndelity of a

suspected 6ife4 7e had Nts of violent nostalgia4

I am 6riting to you by the side of a stove, 6ith

drooping head and heavy heart, looDing on to the

&iver $pree, because the $pree falls into the 'lbe,

the 'lbe into the sea, and the sea receives the $eine,

and our %aris house is near the &iver $eine, and I

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say, +hy am I in this palace, in this cabinet looDing

into this $pree, and not in our o6n chimney-corner ?

4 7o6 my happiness is poisoned, ho6 short

is lifeS +hat 6retchedness to seeD happiness far

from you! and 6hat remorse, if one Nnds it a6ay

from you4 #his 6as to =adame /enis, his niece !

but a hristmas in the 3erlin barracD made even a

plain coQuette in %aris attractive and homely4 +e

may imagine 6ith 6hat tender regrets he 6ould

looD bacD upon the old days at irey4

'ven in respect of the very mischief from 6hich

he had ed, the detraction and caballing of the

envious, he 6as hardly any better oM at 3erlin than

he had been at %aris4 /9.rgental, one of the 6isest

of his friends, had fore6arned him of this, and that

he had ed from enemies 6hom at any rate he never

sa6, only to Nnd other enemies 6ith 6hom he had

to live day after day4 #his 6as eactly 6hat came

to pass4 oltaire often compared the system of life

+ith )redericD the 2reat4 1G

at 3erlin and %otsdam to that of a convent, half

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military, half literary4 #he vices of conventual life

came 6ith its other features, and among them "eal-

ousy, envy, and malice4 #he tale-bearer, that con-

stant parasite of such societies, had eQuisite oppor-

tunities, and for a susceptible creature liDe oltaire,

the result 6as 6holly fatal4 #he nights and suppers

of the gods became, in his o6n phrase, suppers of

/amocles4 .leander the 2reat 6as transformed

into the tyrant /ionysius4 #he famous /iatribe of

/octor .DaDia, in the autumn of 1*5H, brought mat-

ters to a clima, because its publication 6as sup-

posed to sho6 marDed deNance of the Ding9s 6ishes4

=aupertuis had been one of the earliest and most

strenuous 0e6tonians in )rance, and had at his o6n

personal risD helped to corroborate the truth of the

ne6 system4 In 1*5 the >eal for eperimental

science, 6hich 6as so remarDable a trait in this

century of many-sided intellectual activity, induced

the academy of sciences to despatch an epedition to

taDe the actual measure of a degree of meridian

belo6 the eQuator, and the curious and indefatigable

La ondamine, one of the most ardent men of

that ardent time, 6ith t6o other inQuirers 6ent to

%eru4 In 1*C =aupertuis and lairaut under the

same auspices started for the north pole, 6here,

after undergoing the severest hardships, they suc-

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ceeded in measuring their degree, and verifying by

observation 0e6ton9s demonstration of the oblate

Ngure of the earth, a veriNcation that 6as further

1 GF oltaire4

completed by La attle9s voyage to the ape of 2ood

7ope in 1*5B4 =aupertuis commemorated his share

in this ecellent 6orD by having a portrait of himself

eecuted, in 6hich the palm of a hand gently attens

the north pole4 7e 6as etremely courageous and

etremely vain4 7is costume 6as eccentric and

aMected, his temper more "ealous and arbitrary than

comports 6ith the magnanimity of philosophers,

and his manner more gloomily solemn than the con-

ditions of human life can ever "ustify4 +ith all his

absurdities, he 6as a man of real abilities, and of a

solidity of character beyond that of any of his coun-

trymen at )redericD9s court4 I 6ould rather live 6ith

him, )redericD 6rote to the %rincess +ilhelmina,

than 6ith oltaire ! his character is surer, 6hich

in itself 6as saying little4 3ut then, the moment he

came into collision 6ith oltaire, his absurdities

became the most important thing about him, because

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it 6as precisely these 6hich oltaire 6as sure to

drag into unsparing prominence4 In old days they

had been good friends, and a letter still remains,

mournfully testifying to the shallo6ness of men9s

sight into the roots of their relations 6ith others,

for it closes by bidding =aupertuis be sure that

oltaire 6ill love him all the days of his life4 #he

causes of their collision 6ere obvious enough4 .s

)redericD said, of t6o )renchmen in the same court,

one must perish4 =aupertuis, from the heights of

the eact sciences, probably despised oltaire as a

scribbler, 6hile oltaire, 6ith a heart o6ing over

+ith )redericD the 2reat4 1G5

6ith gay vivacity, assuredly counted =aupertuis

arbitrary, ridiculously solemn, and something of an

impostor4 #he compliances of society, he said of

the president of the 3erlin academy, are not prob-

lems that he is fond of solving4 =aupertuis acted

to onig, in the matter of an academic or dis-

coverer9s Quarrel, in a 6ay that strucD oltaire, and

all men since, as tyrannical, un"ust, and childish, all

in one4 7e unhappily 6rote a booD 6hich gave ol-

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taire such an ecuse for punishing the author9s

in"ustice to onig, as even oltaire9s spleen could

hardly have hoped for, and the result 6as the 6itti-

est and most pitiless of all the purely personal satires

in the 6orld4 #he temptation 6as certainly irre-


=aupertuis, as has been said, 6as courageous and

venturesome, and this venturesomeness being uncor-

rected by the severe discipline of a large body of

accurate positive Dno6ledge, such as lairaut and

Lagrange possessed, led him into some 6orse than

eQuivocal speculation4 7e 6as in the depths of the

metaphysical stage, and developed physical theories

out of abstract terms4 Of some of these theories

the 6orst that could be said 6as that they 6ere

6holly unproved4 7e advanced the hypothesis, for

instance, that all the animal species sprang from

some Nrst creature, prototype of all creatures since4

Others of his theories 6ere right in idea, but 6rong

in form, and 6ithout even an attempt at veriNcation4

 #he famous principle of the minimum of action, for

1 GC oltaire4

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eample, in spite of the truth at the bottom of it,

6as valueless and confused, until Lagrange con-

nected it 6ith fundamental dynamic principles,

generali>ed it, and cleared the unsupported meta-

physical notions out of it4 .ll this, ho6ever, 6as

6ise and 0e6tonic compared 6ith the ideas pro-

mulgated in the %hilosophic Letters, on 6hich the

6icDed .DaDia so s6iftly pounced4 7ere 6ere

notions 6hich it needed more audacity to broach,

than to face the frosts and sno6s of Lapland!

strange theories that in a certain state of ealtation

of the soul one may foresee the future! that if the

epiration of vital force could only be prevented,

the body might be Dept alive for hundreds of years !

that by careful dissection of the brains of giants,

%atagonian and other, 6e should ascertain some-

thing of the composition of the mind ! that a Latin

to6n if it 6ere established, and this 6as not an

original idea, 6ould be an ecellent means of teach-

ing the Latin language4 oltaire Dne6 eactly 6hat

Dind of malicious gravity and feigned respect 6ould

surround this ama>ing performance and its author

6ith inetinguishable laughter, and his thousand

turns and tropes cut deep into =aupertuis liDe

sharpened s6ords4

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oltaire 6as not by scientiNc training competent

to criticise =aupertuis4 #his is true! but then

oltaire had 6hat in such cases dispensed 6ith

special competence, a preternatural gift of detecting

an impostor, and 6e must add that here as in every

+ith )redericD the 2reat4 1G*

other case his anger 6as set aame not by intellec-

tual vapidity, but by 6hat he counted gross 6rong4

=aupertuis had acted 6ith despotic in"ustice

to6ards onig, and oltaire resolved to punish him4

 #his is perhaps the only side of that 6orld-famous

and truly 6retched fray 6hich it is 6orth our 6hile

to remember, besides its illustration of the general

moral that active interest in public aMairs is the only

sure safeguard against the inhuman egotism, other-

6ise so nearly inevitable and in any 6ise so revolt-

ing, of men of letters and men of science4

)redericD tooD the side of the president of his

academy, and had /octor .DaDia publicly burnt

6ithin earshot of its author9s Quarters4 1 oltaire

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had long been preparing for the end by depositing

his funds in the hands of the /uDe of +urtemberg,

and by other steps, 6hich had come to the Ding9s

ears, and had by no means smoothed matters4 7e

sees no6 that the orange has been sQuee>ed, and that

it is his business to thinD of saving the sDin4 7e

dre6 up for his o6n instruction, he said, a pocDet-

dictionary of terms in use 6ith Dings: =y friend

means my slave! my dear friend means that you

are more than indiMerent to me! understand by

6ill maDe you happy, I 6ill endure you as long as

1 It may be 6orth mentioning that there actually eisted

in the siteenth century a )rench physician, 6ho changed

his real name of $ans-=alice into .DaDia, and left descend-

ants so called4 $ee =4 ;al9s /ictionnaire ritiQue de 3iog-

raphic ct d97istoire, p4 1A J1GCAK4

1 GG oltaire4

have need of you! sup 6ith me to-night means

6ill maDe fun of you to-night4 oltaire, though he

had been, and al6ays 6as, the most graceful of

courtiers, Dept to his point, and loudly gave )red-

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ericD to understand that in literary disputes he rec-

ogni>ed no Dings4 .n act of tyranny had been com-

mitted to6ards onig, 6ho 6as his friend, and

nothing 6ould induce him to admit either that it

6as anything else, or that it 6as other than "ust to

have held up the tyrant to the laughter of 'urope4

)redericD 6as profoundly irritated, and the terms

in 6hich he 6rites of his )rench irgil as an ape

6ho ought to be ogged for his tricDs, a man 6orse

than many 6ho have been broDen on the 6heel, a

creature 6ho may deserve a statue for his poetry but

6ho certainly deserves chains for his conduct, seem

to imply a Quite special mortiNcation and resent-

ment4 7e had no doubt a deep and haughty con-

tempt for all these angers of celestial minds4 #he

cabals of men of letters, he 6rote to oltaire, seemed

to him the lo6est depths of degradation4 .nd he

6ould fain have ung a handful of dust on the furi-

ous creatures4 .fter three months of vain eMort to

achieve the impossible, oltaire being only moder-

ately compliant, the Ding in =arch, 1*5, gave him

leave to depart, though 6ith a sort of nominal under-

standing for politeness9 saDe that there 6as to be

a speedy return4

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oltaire, ho6ever, 6as not a man in 6hose breast

the ame of resentment ever icDered a6ay in polite-

+ith )redericD the 2reat4 1GA

ness, until his adversary had humbled himself4

 #hough no one ever so systematically convinced him-

self each day for thirty years that he 6as on the very

point of death, no one 6as less careful to measure

the things that 6ere 6orth doing from the point of

vie6 of a conventional memento mori4 0obody

spoDe about dying so much, nor thought about it so

little4 #he Nrst use he made of his liberty 6as to

shoot yet another bolt at =aupertuis from Leipsic,

more piercing than any that had gone before4 )red-

ericD no6 in his turn abandoned the forms of polite-

ness, and the reno6ned episode of )ranDfort tooD

place4 oltaire, on reaching )ranDfort, 6as reQuired

by the %russian resident in the free city to sur-

render his court decorations, and, more important

than these, a certain volume of royal verse contain-

ing the %alladium a poem of indecencies 6hich

6ere probably 6orse than those of the %ucelle,

because an indecent 2erman is usually 6orse than an

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indecent )renchman4 #he poems, ho6ever, 6ere

6hat 6as far 6orse than indecent in )redericD9s

eyes ! they 6ere impolitic, for they contained bitter

sarcasm on sovereigns 6hom he might be glad to

have, and one of 6hom he did actually have, on

his side in the day of approaching storm4 arious

delays and unlucDy mishaps occurred, and oltaire

under6ent a Dind of imprisonment for some Nve

6eeDs J=ay 1 to ;uly *, 1*5K, under etremely

mortifying and humiliating circumstances4 #here

6as on the one part an honest, punctual, methodic,

1AB oltaire4

rather dull %russian subordinate, anious above all

other things in the 6orld, not ecepting respect for

genius and respect for la6, to obey the in"unctions

of his master from 3erlin4 On the other part ol-

taire, 6hom 6e Dno6 ! ecitable as a demon, burning

6ith fury against his enemies 6ho 6ere out of his

reach no6 that he had spent all his ammunition of

satire upon them, only half understanding 6hat 6as

said to him in a strange tongue, mad 6ith fear lest

)redericD meant to detain him after all4 It 6ould

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need the singer of the battle of the frogs and mice

to do "ustice to this Nve- 6eeDs9 tragi-comedy4 .

booDseller 6ith 6hom he had had feuds years before,

in"udiciously came either to pay his respects, or to

demand some trivial arrears of money ! the furious

poet and philosopher rushed up to his visitor and

inicted a stinging bo on the ear, 6hile ollini, his

Italian secretary, hastily oMered this intrepid conso-

lation to an /uren,$ir,you have received a bo on

the ear from one of the greatest men in the 6orld4

. clerD came to settle this aMair or that, and ol-

taire rushed to6ards him 6ith clicD of pistol, the

friendly ollini again interfering to better purpose

by striDing up the hand that had 6ritten =erope

and 6as on the point of despatching a clerD4 +e

need not go into the minute circumstances of the

)ranDfort outrage4 )reytag, the subordinate, clearly

overstrained his instructions, and his ecess of >eal

in detaining and harassing oltaire can only be laid

indirectly to )redericD9s charge4 3ut )redericD is

+ith )redericD the 2reat4 1A1

responsible, as every principal is, 6ho launches an

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agent in a la6less and tyrannic course4 #he 2erman

arnhagen has undoubtedly sho6n that oltaire9s

account, 6itty and diverting as it is, is not free from

many misrepresentations, and some tolerably deliber-

ate lies4 )rench 6riters have as undoubtedly sho6n

that the detention of a )rench citi>en by a %russian

agent in a free to6n of the empire 6as a distinct

and outrageous illegality4 +e, 6ho are fortunately

not committed by the eigencies of patriotism to

close our eyes to either half of the facts, may 6ith

facile impartiality admit both halves4 oltaire,

though fundamentally a man of eceptional truth,

6as by no means incapable of an untruth 6hen his

imagination 6as hot, and )redericD 6as by no means

incapable of an outrage upon la6, 6hen la6 stood

bet6een him and his purpose4 )redericD9s subordi-

nates had no right to detain oltaire at all, and they

had no right to allo6 themselves to be provoDed by

his impatience into the iniction of even small out-

rages upon him and his obnoious niece4 On the

other hand, if oltaire had been a sort of 3en"amin

)ranDlin, if he had possessed a 6ell-regulated mind,

a cool and gentle temper, a nice sense of the epe-

dient, then the most grotesQue scene of a life in

6hich there 6as too much of grotesQue 6ould not

have been acted as it 6as, to the supreme delight of

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those miserable souls 6ho love to contemplate the

follies of the 6ise4

.ny reader 6ho taDes the trouble to read the

1AH oltaire4

documents aMecting this preposterous bra6l at

)ranDfort bet6een a thoroughly subordinate 2erman

and the most insubordinate )renchman that ever

lived, this adventure, as its victim called it, of

imbrians and $icambrians, 6ill be rather strucD

by the etreme care 6ith 6hich )redericD impresses

on the persons concerned the propriety of having

oltaire9s 6ritten and signed 6ord for such parts of

the transaction as needed oPcial commemoration4

In one place he epressly insists that a given mem-

orandum should be 6ritten by oltaire9s o6n hand

from top to bottom4 #his precaution, 6hich seems

so strange in a Ding 6ho had 6on Nve battles, deal-

ing 6ith the author of a score of tragedies, an epic,

and many other Nne things, sprang in truth from no

desire to cast a 6anton slight on oltaire9s honor,

but from the painful Dno6ledge that the author of

the Nne things 6as not above tampering 6ith papers

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and denying patent superscriptions4 oltaire9s visit

had not been of long duration, before the unfor-

tunate la6suit 6ith .braham 7irschel occurred4 Of

this transaction 6e need only say this much, that

oltaire employed the ;e6 in some illegal "obbing in

$aon securities ! that he gave him bills on a %aris

banDer, holding diamonds from the ;e6 as pledge of

honest hristian dealing! that his suspicions 6ere

aroused, that he protested his bills, then agreed to

buy the "e6els, then Quarrelled over the price, and

Nnally plunged into a suit, of 6hich the issues 6ere

practically t6o, 6hether 7irschel had any rights on

+ith )redericD the 2reat4 1A

one of the %aris bills, and 6hether the "e6els 6ere

fairly charged4 oltaire got his bill bacD, and the

 "e6els 6ere to be duly valued! but the proceedings

disclosed t6o facts of considerable seriousness for

all 6ho should have dealings 6ith him! Nrst, that

he had interpolated matter to his o6n advantage in

a document already signed by his adversary, thus

maDing the ;e6 to have signed 6hat he had signed

not! and second, that 6hen very hard pushed he

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6ould not s6erve from a false oath, any more than

his great enemy the apostle %eter had done4 )red-

ericD had remembered all this, "ust as every negotia-

tor 6ho had to deal 6ith )redericD remembered

that the great Ding 6as not above such infamies as

lein-$chnellendorf, nor such meanness as Nlching

a6ay 6ith his foot a letter that had slipped unseen

from an ambassador9s pocDet4

.nd so there 6as an end, if not of correspondence,

yet of that friendship, 6hich after all had al6ays

belonged rather to the spoDen order than to the

deep unspeaDable4 #here 6as no6 cynical, hoarse-

voiced contempt on the one side, and Nerce, rever-

berating, shrill fury on the other4 #he spectacle

and the sound are distressing to those 6ho crave

dignity and admission of the serious in the relations

of men 6ith one another, as 6ell as some sense of

the myriad indeNnable relations 6hich encompass us

una6ares, giving color and perspective to our more

deNnable bonds4 One 6ould rather that even in their

estrangement there had been some grace and Nrm-

ol4 FH 1

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1AF oltaire4

ness and self-control, and that at least the long-

cherished illusion had faded a6ay 6orthily, as 6hen

one bids fare6ell to a friend 6hom a perverse 6ill

carries from us over unDno6n seas until a far day,

and 6e Dno6 not if 6e shall see his face any more4

It "ars on us that the moon 6hich has climbed into

the night and moved liDe sound of music over heath

and 6oodland, should Nnally set in a gray s6amp

amid the harsh croaDing of amphibians4 3ut the

intimacy bet6een )redericD and oltaire had per-

haps been al6ays most liDe the theatre moon4

+e may Dno6 6hat strange admiture of dis-

trust, contempt, and tormenting reminiscence, min-

gled 6ith the admiration of these t6o men for one

another9s genius, from the bitterness 6hich occasion-

ally springs up in the midst of their most graceful

and amiable letters of a later date4 9)or instance,

this is oltaire to )redericD : (ou have already

done me ill enough! you put me 6rong for ever

6ith the Ding of )rance! you made me lose my

oPces and pensions! you used me shamefully at

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)ranDfort, me and an innocent 6oman 6ho 6as

dragged through the mud and do6n into "ail ! and

no6, 6hile honoring me 6ith letters, you mar the

s6eetness of this consolation by bitter re-

proaches4 4 4 4 #he greatest harm that your

6orDs have done, is in the ecuse they have given

to the enemies of philosophy throughout 'urope

to say, 9 #hese philosophers cannot live in peace,

and they cannot live together4 7ere is a Ding 6ho

+ith )redericD the 2reat4 1A5

does not believe in ;esus hrist! he invites to his

court a man 6ho does not believe in ;esus hrist,

and he uses him ill ! there is no humanity in these

pretended philosophers, and 2od punishes them by

means of one another49 4 4 4 (our admirable

and solid 6isdom is spoiled by the unfortunate pleas-

ure you have al6ays had in seeing the humiliation of

other men, and in saying and 6riting stinging things

to them ! a pleasure most un6orthy of you, and all

the more so as you are raised above them by your

ranD and by your uniQue talents4 #o 6hich the

Ding ans6ers that he is fully a6are ho6 many faults

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he has, and 6hat great faults they are, that he does

not treat himself very gently, and that in dealing

6ith himself he pardons nothing4 .s for oltaire9s

conduct, it 6ould not have been endured by any

other philosopher4 If you had not had to do 6ith

a man madly enamored of your Nne genius, you

6ould not have got oM so 6ell 6ith anybody else4

onsider all that as done 6ith, and never let me

hear again of that 6earisome niece, 6ho has not so

much merit as her uncle, 6ith 6hich to cover her

defects4 %eople talD of the servant of =oliere, but

nobody 6ill ever speaD of the niece of oltaire4

 #he poet had talDed, after his usual manner, of

being old and 6orn out, and tottering on the brinD

of the grave4 +hy, you are only sity-t6o, said

)redericD, and your soul is full of that Nre 6hich

animates and sustains the body4 (ou 6ill bury me

and half the present generation4 (ou 6ill have the

1AC oltaire4

delight of maDing a spiteful couplet on my tomb4

oltaire did not maDe a couplet, but he 6rote a prose

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lampoon on the Ding9s private life, 6hich is one of

the bitterest libels that malice ever prompted, and

from 6hich the greater part of 'urope has been

content to borro6 its idea of the character of )red-

ericD4 #his 6as vengeance enough even for ol-

taire4 +e may add that 6hile oltaire constantly

declared that he could never forget the outrages

6hich the Ding of %russia had inicted on him,

neither did he forget to dra6 his pension from the

Ding of %russia even in times 6hen )redericD 6as

most urgently pressed4 It may be said that he 6as

ready to return favors ! If things go on as they

are going no6, he 6rote 6ith sportive malice, I

recDon on having to allo6 a pension to the Ding of


It 6as not surprising that oltaire did not return

to %aris4 7is correspondence during his residence

at 3erlin attests in every page of it ho6 bitterly

he resented the cabals of ignoble men of letters, and

the insolence of ignoble men of authority4 If I had

been in %aris this Lent, he 6rote in 1*5H, I should

have been hissed in to6n, and made sport of at

court, and the $iecle de Louis @I4 6ould have

been denounced, as smacDing of heresy, as audacious,

and full of ill signiNcance4 I should have had to go

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to defend myself in the anteroom of the lieutenant

of police4 #he oPcers 6ould say, as they sa6 me

pass, #here is a man 6ho belongs to us4 4 4 4 0o,

+ith )redericD the 2reat4 1A*

my friend, Qui bene latuit, bene viit +ith most

 "ust anger, he contrasted 2erman liberality 6ith the

tyrannical suspicion of his o6n government4 #he

emperor, he says, made no diPculty in permitting

the publication of a booD in 6hich Leopold 6as

called a co6ard4 7olland gave free circulation to

statements that the /utch are ingrates and that their

trade is perishing4 7e 6as allo6ed to print under

the eyes of the Ding of %russia that the 2reat 'lector

abased himself uselessly before Louis @I4, and

resisted him as uselessly4 It 6as only in )rance

6here permission 6as refused for a eulogy of Louis

@I4 and of )rance, and that, because he had been

neither base enough nor foolish enough to disNgure

his eulogy either by shameful silences or co6ardly

misrepresentations4 #he imprisonment, nine years

before this, of Lenglet /ufresnoy, an old man of

seventy, for no 6orse oMence than publishing a sup-

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hole, 6hence I command a patch of sDy three ells

long4 #o poor d9.lembert the name of the famous

laDe 6as fraught 6ith evil associations, for he had

 "ust published his too veracious article on 2eneva in

the 'ncyclopaedia, in 6hich he paid the clergy of

that city the un6elcome compliment, that they 6ere

the most logical of all %rotestants, for they 6ere

$ocinians! and he 6as no6 suMering the penalty

of men 6ho stir up angry hives4

 #he en"oyment 6hich oltaire had then and for

t6enty years to come in his noble landscape, and

6hich he so often commemorates in his letters, is a

proof that may be added to others, of the in"ustice of

the common idea that the oltairean school of the

eighteenth century 6ere specially insensible to the

picturesQue4 =orellet, for instance, records his

delight and 6onder at the .lps and the descent into

Italy, in terms Quite as 6arm as, if much less profuse

than, those of the most impressible modern tourist4

/iderot had a strong spontaneous feeling for nature,

as he sho6s not only in his truly remarDable criti-

cisms on the paintings of t6enty years, but also in

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+ith )redericD the 2reat4 1AA

his most private correspondence, 6here he demon-

strates in terms too plain, simple, and homely, to

be suspected of insincerity, the meditative delight

6ith 6hich the solitary contemplation of Nne land-

scape inspired him4 7e has no peculiar felicity in

describing natural features in 6ords, or in repro-

ducing the inner harmonies 6ith 6hich the soft lines

of distant hills, or the richness of deep embosoming

6oodlands, or the s6ift procession of clouds driven

by Nerce or cheerful 6inds, compose and strengthen

the sympathi>ing spirit4 3ut he 6as as susceptible to

them as men of more sonorous 6ord4 .nd oltaire

Nnds the liveliest pleasure in the natural sights and

ob"ects around him, though they never QuicDened

in him those brooding moods of egotistic introspec-

tion and deep-Questioning contemplation in 6hich

 ;ean ;acQues, 3ernardin de $t4 %ierre, and $enan-

cour, found a sort of refuge from their o6n desper-

ate impotency of 6ill and of material activity4 ol-

taire never felt this impotency4 .s the very apostle

of action, ho6 should he have felt it? It pleased

him in the Nrst fe6 months of his settlement in ne6

scenes, and at other times, to borro6 some of )red-

ericD9s talD about the bestial folly of the human race,

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and the absurdity of troubling oneself about it ! but

6hat 6as a sincere cynicism in the Ding, 6as in ol-

taire only a bit of cant, the passing aMectation of

an hour4 #he dramatist 6hose imagination had

produced so long a series of dramas of situation, the

historian 6ho had been attracted by such labors as

HOO oltaire4

those of harles @II4 of $6eden and %eter the 2reat

of &ussia, as 6ell as by the achievements of the

illustrious men 6ho adorned the age of Louis @I4,

proved himself of far too ob"ective and positive a

temperament to be capable of that self-conscious

despair of action, that paraly>ing lacD of conNdence

in 6ill, 6hich drove men of other humor and other

eperience forlorn into the hermit9s caves of a ne6

 #hebaid4 oltaire9s ostentatious en"oyment of his

landscape and his garden 6as only the epansion of

a seafarer, 6ho after a stormful voyage Nnds himself

in a fair haven4 7is lines to Liberty give us the Dey-

note to his mood at this time4 7e did not suppose

that he had got all, but he Dne6 that he had got


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 ;e ne vante point d9avoir en cet asile

&encontre le parfait bonheur :

II n9est point retire dans le fond d9un bocage!

II est encore moins che> les rois !

II n9est pas meme che> le sage !

/e cette courte vie il n9est point le partage !

II y faut renoncer! mais on peut QuelQuefois

'mbrasser au moins son image4

#is a Nne thing, is tranQuillity, he 6rote ! yes,

but ennui is of its acQuaintance and belongs to the

family4 #o repulse this ugly relation, I have set up a

theatre4 3esides the theatre, guests 6ere freQuent

and multitudinous4 7e speaDs of sometimes having

a cro6d of Nfty persons at table4 3esides Les

/elices and Lausanne, he purchased from the %resi-

dent de 3rosses a life-interest in #ourney, and in the

+ith )redericD the 2reat4 HB1

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same year J1*5GK he bought the lordship of )erney,

close by4 7e 6as thus a citi>en of 2eneva, of 3erne,

and of )rance, for philosophers ought to have t6o

or three holes underground against the hounds 6ho

chase them4 If the dogs of )rance should hunt

him, he could taDe shelter in 2eneva4 If the dogs of

2eneva began to bay, he could run into )rance4 3y

and by this consideration of safety gre6 less absorb-

ing, and all 6as abandoned ecept )erney ! a name

that 6ill al6ays remain associated 6ith those vigor-

ous and terrible assaults upon the Infamous, 6hich

Nrst deNnitely opened 6hen oltaire became the lord

of this little domain4

7.%#'& 4

+.& .2.I0$# I0#OL'&.0'4

I0 eamining the oltairean attacD upon religion 6e

have to remember that it 6as in the Nrst instance

prompted, and throughout its course stimulated and

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embittered, by antipathy to the eternal organi>ation

of the religion4 It 6as not merely disbelief in a

creed, but easperation against a church4 #6o dis-

tinct elements lay at the bottom of oltaire9s enmity

to the peculiar form of monotheism 6hich he found

supreme around him4 One of them 6as the intellec-

tual element of repugnance to a system of belief that

rested on miracles and mysteries irreconcilable 6ith

reason, and 6as so intimately associated 6ith some

of the most odious types of character and most

atrocious actions in the Old #estament, 6hich

undoubtedly contains so many of both4 #he other

6as the moral element of anger against the epound-

ers of this system, their intolerance of light and

hatred of Dno6ledge, their Nerce yet profoundly con-

temptible struggles 6ith one another, the scandals

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 HB

of their casuistry, their besotted cruelty4 Of these

t6o elements, the second 6as, no doubt, if not the

earlier in time, at least the stronger in intensity4 It

6as because he perceived the fruit to be so deadly,

that oltaire laid the ae to the root of the tree4 It

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is easy to say that these poisonous ;esuitries and

blacD ;ansenisms 6ere no fruit of the tree, but the

produce of a mere graft, 6hich could have been

lopped oM 6ithout touching the sacred trunD4 ol-

taire thought other6ise, and 6hether he 6as right

or 6rong, it is only "ust to him to Deep constantly

before us the egregious failure of atholicism in his

day as a social force4 #his is a fact as to 6hich

there can be no dispute among persons 6ith Dno6l-

edge enough and mental freedom enough to be com-

petent to have an opinion, and oltairism can only

be fairly 6eighed if 6e regard it as being in the

Nrst instance no outbreaD of recDless speculative

intelligence, but a righteous social protest against a

system socially pestilent4 It 6as the revival of the

6orst parts of this system in the cruelty and obscur-

antism 6hich broDe out after the middle of the cen-

tury, that converted oltaire into an active assailant

of belief4 3ut for that he 6ould pretty certainly

have remained tranQuilly in the phase of deism of

6hich some of his early verses are the epression4

%hilosophy is truly, as allicles says in the 2orgias,

a most charming accomplishment for a man to fol-

lo6 at the right age, but to carry philosophy too far

is the undoing of humanity4

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able is the oppressive fanaticism 6hich is its cham-


It is hardly possible to deny the service 6hich

%rotestantism rendered in preventing the revolution

from atholicism to scientiNc modes of thought from

being that violent, abrupt, and irreconcilable breach,

6hich 6e no6 observe in )rance and Italy, 6hen 6e

1 orr4 J'uv4 Iv, p4 HFA4

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 HB5

remember that the cause of toleration 6as system-

atically defended in 'ngland by men 6ho as system-

atically defended the cause of hristianity4 #he

Liberty of %rophesying, in 6hich the epediency of

tolerance 6as based on the diPculty of being sure

that 6e are right, 6as 6ritten by one of the most

devout and orthodo divines! 6hile the famous

Letters on #oleration J1CGAK, in 6hich the truly

remarDable step is taDen of conNning the functions

of civil government to men9s civil interests and the

things of this 6orld, 6ere the 6orD of the same

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LocDe 6ho vindicated the &easonableness of hris-

tianity4 1 #he 'nglish /eists pressed home in a very

eMectual 6ay the deduction of universal freedom of

speech from the Nrst maims of %rotestantism, and

their inference 6as practically admitted4 H 7ence

there 6as no inseparable association bet6een adher-

ence to the old religious ideas and the prohibition of

free speech in spirituals, and on the other hand there

6as no obligation on the part of those 6ho claimed

free speech to attacD a church 6hich did not refuse

their claim4

1 It 6as to the last-named booD, one may suppose, that

oltaire referred, 6hen he asDed ho6 it 6as that LocDe,

after having so profoundly traced the development of the

human understanding, could so degrade his o6n under-

standing in another 6orD4 J/iet4 %hil4 s4 v4 %laton4 J'uv4

Ivii, p4 CA4K

H $ee ollins9s .pology for )ree /ebate and Liberty of

+riting, preNed to the 2rounds and &easons of hris-


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HBC oltaire4

In )rance the strictly repressive policy of the

church in the eighteenth century, sometimes bloody

and cruel as in the persecution of the %rotestants,

sometimes minutely veatious as in the persecution

of the men of letters, but al6ays stubborn and lyn-

eyed, had the natural eMect of maDing it a point of

honor 6ith most of those 6ho valued liberty to hurl

themselves upon the religious system, of 6hich rig-

orous intolerance 6as so prominent a characteristic4

 #he %rotestant dilution of the theological spirit

seems thus to be in the long run a more eMective

preparation for decisive abandonment of it than its

virulent dissolution in the biting acids of oltairism,

because 6ithin limits the slo6er these great trans-

formations are in accomplishing themselves, the bet-

ter it is for many of the most precious and most

tender parts of human character4 Our present con-

tention is that the attitude of the religionists left no

alternative4 It is best that creeds, liDe men 6ho have

done the 6orD of the day, should die the slo6 deaths

of nature, yet it is counted la6ful to raise an armed

hand upon the brigand 6ho seeDs the life of another4

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oltaire to the end of his course contended that

the church only 6as to blame for the storm 6hich

overtooD her teaching in the later years, 6hen his

o6n courageous attacD had inspired a host of others,

less brilliant but not any less embittered, to thro6

themselves on the reeling enemy4 #he cause of the

inundation of 'urope by the literature of negativism

and repudiation 6as to be sought Nrst of all in the

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 HB*

Nerce theological disputes 6hich revolted the best of

the laity4 Of this violent revulsion of feeling oltaire

himself 6as the great organ4 7e furnished its "usti-

Ncation, and nourished its Nre, and invested it 6ith a

splendid lustre4 'ven 6hen 6ith the timidity of e-

treme age he seemed to deprecate the gro6ing feroc-

ity of the attacD, he still taunted the clerical party

6ith their o6n folly in allo6ing a mean and egotistic

virulence to override every consideration of true 6is-

dom and policy4 0o6, he 6rote in 1*CG, a

revolution has been accomplished in the human mind,

that nothing again can ever arrest4 #hey 6ould have

prevented this revolution, if they had been sage and

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moderate4 #he Quarrels of ;ansenists and =olinists

have done more harm to the hristian religion than

could have been done by four emperors liDe ;ulian

one after another4

It cannot be too often repeated that the hris-

tianity 6hich oltaire assailed 6as not that of the

$ermon on the =ount, for there 6as not a man then

alive more Deenly sensible than he 6as of the gen-

erous humanity 6hich is there en"oined 6ith a force

that so strangely touches the heart, nor one 6ho

6as on the 6hole, in spite of constitutional inNrmities

and 6ords 6hich 6ere far 6orse than his deeds,

more ardent and persevering in its practice4 $till

less 6as he the enemy of a form of hristian profes-

sion 6hich no6 fascinates many Nne and subtle

minds, and 6hich starting from the assumption that

there are certain inborn cravings in the human heart,

HoG oltaire4

constant, profound, and inetinguishable, discerns

in the long religious tradition an adeQuate proof that

the mystic faith in the incarnation, and in the spir-

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itual facts 6hich pour liDe rays from that a6ful

centre, are the highest satisfaction 6hich a divine

6ill has as yet been pleased to establish for all these

yearnings of the race of men4 #his graceful devel-

opment of belief, emancipated from dogma and

reducing so many substantial bodies to pale shades,

so many articles once held as solid realities to the

strange tenuity of dreams, 6as not the hristianity

of oltaire9s time, any more than it 6as that of the

7oly OPce4 #here 6as nothing resembling the

present popularity of a treatment 6hich gives gen-

erals so immense a preponderance over particulars

some6hat to the neglect of the old saying about the

snare that lies hidden in generals, many persons

being tolerably indiMerent about the dolus so long

as they can maDe sure of the latet4 7e attacDed a

deNnite theology, not a theosophy4 +e may, indeed,

imagine the Dind of Questions 6hich he 6ould have

asDed of one pressing such a doctrine on his accept-

ance! ho6 he 6ould have sought the grounds for

calling aspirations universal, 6hich the numerical

ma"ority of the human race appear to have been

6ithout, and the grounds for maDing sub"ective

yearnings the test and the measure of the truth of

deNnite ob"ective records! ho6 he 6ould have

prayed to be instructed of these cravings, 6hether

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they spring up spontaneously, or are the products of

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 HBA

spiritual self-indulgence, and also of the precise man-

ner in 6hich they come to be satisNed and soothed

by the momentary appearance of a humane Ngure far

oM upon the earth! ho6 he 6ould have paused to

consider the intelligibility of so over6helming a

6onder as the incarnation having been 6rought, for

the beneNt of so inNnitesimally small a fragment of

manDind4 +e can imagine this and much else, but

oltaire 6ould never have stirred a Nnger to attacD

a mysticism 6hich is not aggressive, and can hardly

be other than negatively hurtful4

If any one had maintained against oltaire that

the aspirations after a future life, the longing for

some toDen that the /eity 6atches over his creatures

and is moved by a tender solicitude for them, and

the other spiritual desires alleged to be instinctive in

men, constitute as trust6orthy and Nrm a guide to

truth as the logical reason, 6e may be sure that he

6ould have forgiven 6hat he must have considered

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an enervating abnegation of intelligence, for the saDe

of the humane, if not very actively improving, course

of life to 6hich this Dind of pietism is 6ont to lead4

7e might possibly have entertained a little contempt

for them, but it 6ould have been Quiet contempt and

unspoDen4 #here is no case of oltaire mocDing at

any set of men 6ho lived good lives4 7e did not

mocD the 'nglish EuaDers4 7e doubtless attacDed

many of the beliefs 6hich good men hold sacred, but

if good men taDe up their abode under the same roof

6hich shelters the children of darDness and 6rong,

ol4 FH TF

Hio oltaire4

it is not the fault of oltaire if they are hit by the

smooth stones shot from his sling against their

un6orthy comrades4 #he ob"ect of his assault 6as

that amalgam of metaphysical subtleties, degrading

legends, false miracles, and narro6 depraving con-

ceptions of divine government 6hich made the start-

ing-point and vantage-ground of those ecclesiastical

oppressors, 6hom he habitually and "ustly desig-

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nated the enemies of the human race4 #he evil and

the good, the old purity and the superadded cor-

ruptions, 6ere all so inetricably bound up in the

atholicism of the eighteenth century, that it 6as

impossible to deal a blo6 to the one 6ithout risD of

harm to the other4 #he method 6as desperate, but

then the enemy 6as a true himaera, a monster

sodden in blacD corruption, 6ith 6hom in the breast

of a humane man there could be no terms4

 #he popes during the oltairean period 6ere

above the average in virtue and intelligence, but their

po6er 6as entirely overshado6ed by that 6onder-

ful order that had assumed all eMective spiritual

supremacy for something liDe t6o centuries4 0or

6as this order the only retrogressive inuence4 #he

eighteenth century 6as the century not only of the

$acre ceur, but of the miracles of the dead .bbe

%aris, transactions in 6hich ;ansenist emulated

 ;esuit in dragging men and 6omen into the deepest

slough of superstition4 . &oman augur fresh from

the inspection of the sacriNcial entrails 6ould have

had a right to despise the priests 6ho invented an

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+ar .gainst Intolerance4 H11

ob"ect for the adoration of men in the diseased and

hideous visions of =arie .lacoQue4 #he man 6ho

sells rain to savages may also be held to add to the

self-respect of the race, if you contrast him 6ith the

convulsionnaires and the fanatics 6ho 6ere trans-

ported by their revolting performances4

)rance is the country 6here reactions are most

rapid and most violent4 0o6here else can the

reformer count so surely on seeing the completion of

his reform follo6ed so instantly by the triumph of

its adversaries4 #he epulsion of the ;esuits, under

circumstances of marDed and uncompromising

harshness, 6as not consummated, before the tide of

religious bigotry o6ed in from the opposite shore,

and s6elled to a portentous height4 #he eultation

of the philosophers at the coming fall of their old

foes 6as instantly checDed by the yet 6orse things

6hich befell them and their principles at the hands

of ne6 enemies4 #he reign of the ;ansenists 6as

speedily pronounced more hateful than the reign of

the ;esuits4 arious accommodations 6ere possible

6ith heaven, so long as the ;esuits had credit, but

the ;ansenists 6ere pitiless4

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 #he parliament or supreme "udicial tribunal of

%aris 6as ;ansenist, mainly out of political hatred

of the ;esuits, partly from a hostility, very easily

eplained, to every manifestation of ultramontane

feeling and inuence, partly from a professional

 "ealousy of the clergy, but partly also because the

austere predestinarian dogma, and the metaphysical

H1H oltaire4

theology 6hich brought it into supreme prominence,

seem often to have had an uneplained aPnity for

serious minds trained in legal ideas and their applica-

tion4 #he ;esuits had systematically abstained as

far as possible from purely speculative theology4

$uare> is pronounced one of the greatest 6riters in

speculative ethics and "urisprudence! but in the

technical metaphysics of theology the ;esuits 6ith

all their literary industry did not greatly care to

eercise themselves4 #heir tasD 6as social and prac-

tical, and as confessors, directors, preachers, and

instructors, they had naturally paid less attention to

abstract thought than to the arts of eloQuence,

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address, and pliancy4 #hen, too, in doctrine they

had uniformly clung to the softer, more amiable,

more 6orldly, less repulsive, interpretation of the

eternally embarrassing claims of grace, election,

free-6ill4 #he .ugustinian, alvinistic, or ;ansen-

ist vie6 of the impotence of 6ill and the saving

importance of grace is the ans6er of souls eager to

feel immediate individual contact 6ith a $upreme

3eing4 #he ;esuits and their po6er represented

etremely diMerent sentiments, fundamentally

religious, but still fundamentally social also, the

desire of men for sympathetic and considerate guid-

ance in conduct, and their craving for such a unity

of the eternal ordering of the faith as should leave

them undistracted to live their lives4 #he former

concentrated feelings upon the relations of men

directly and immediately 6ith a $upreme 3eing!

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 H1

the latter upon their relations 6ith this 3eing only

mediately, through their relations 6ith one another,

and 6ith the church to 6hich a measure of divinity

had been attributed4 7ence the decline of the

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 ;esuits assumed the form of a depravation of morals,

6hile the ;ansenists held more and more tightly to a

narro6 and bigoted correctness of belief4 #he par-

liament 6as 6illing to resist a =olinist archbishop

and his satellites, 6hen they refused burial to all 6ho

should die 6ithout having received a certiNcate of

conformity to the famous bull nigenitus, 6hich

proscribed ;ansenist opinion4 3ut none the less for

this 6as it bent on suppressing the common enemy,

6ho despised the bull and the )ive propositions,

=olina and ;ansenius, .rchbishop 3eaumont and

Euesnel, all eQually4 oltaire9s natural sagacity

made him alive to the fact, 6hich perhaps remains

as true no6 as then, that the professional and mid-

dle classes are a 6orse enemy of liberal opinion and

are more intolerant than the remnants of the old

aristocratic orders4 7e says to d9.lembert, (ou

are right in declaring yourself the enemy of the great

and their atterers ! still, the great protect one upon

occasion, they despise the Infamous, and they 6ill

not persecute philosophers ! but as for your pedants

of %aris, 6ho have bought their oPce, as for those

insolent bourgeois, half fanatics, half imbecile, they

can do nothing but mischief4 7e had not learnt to

looD a6ay from both classes, professional and aris-

tocratic aliDe, to that third estate 6here the voice

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H1F oltaire4

of the reformer has al6ays found the Nrst response4

$till 6hat he said 6as true as against the la6yers,

6hose vision perhaps never etends beyond the

improvement of that mere surface of order 6ith

6hich their profession is concerned4 #he %arliament

of %aris 6as the eager ally of the bigots of the

court in 1*5*, in fulminating deadly edicts against

the 'ncyclopaedia and all concerned in its production

or circulation4 In 1*CH, the year of the publication

of 'mile and the ontrat $ocial not all the

inuence of &ousseau9s po6erful protectors could

prevent the launching of a decree of arrest against

him4 3loodier measures 6ere not 6anting4

In 1*CH =orellet had published under the title of

a =anual for InQuisitors a selection of the most cruel

and revolting portions of the procedure of the 7oly

OPce, dra6n from the /irectorium InQuisitorium

of 'ymeric, a grand inQuisitor of the fourteenth

century4 #he cold-blooded cruelties of the regula-

tions, 6hich 6ere thus brought into the light of the

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 "urisprudence4 . %rotestant pastor, &ochette, 6as

hanged for eercising his functions in Languedoc4

 #he atholics on the occasion of the arrest of &o-

chette 6ere summoned by sound of tocsin, and three

young %rotestants, 6ho 6ere brothers, fearing mas-

sacre in the midst of the agitation, tooD up their

arms: for this oMence they 6ere convicted of

rebellion, and had their heads strucD oM4 It

became painfully clear ho6 great a mistaDe it

6as to suppose the clergy touched 6ith some

special curse of cruelty4 #hen, as usually, for

good or for evil, they 6ere on about the same

moral level 6ith an immense number of laymen, and

6ere not much more than the incarnation of the

average darDness of the hour4 If 'ymeric9s proced-

ure only copied the ordinary criminal "urisprudence,

the bigotry of the ecclesiastics 6as accurately

reected in the 3igotry of the secular tribunals4 #he

%rotestant 2alas 6as broDen on the 6heel J1*CHK,

because his son had been found dead, and some one

H1 C oltaire4

chose to say that the father had Dilled him, to pre-

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vent him from turning atholic4 #here 6as not the

smallest fragment of evidence, direct or indirect, for

a single linD in the chain of circumstances on 6hich

the unfortunate man9s guilt depended! 6hile there

6ere many facts 6hich made the theory of his guilt

the most improbable that could have been brought

for6ard4 #he 6ido6 and the children of 2alas 6ere

put to the torture, and eventually ed to 2eneva to

taDe refuge 6ith oltaire4 /uring the same year the

same tribunal, the %arliament of #oulouse, did its

best to repeat this atrocity in the case of $irven4

$irven 6as a %rotestant, and his daughter had been

6ith perfect legality snatched a6ay from him, and

shut up in a convent, there to be better instructed in

the faith4 $he ran a6ay, and 6as found at the bot-

tom of a 6ell4 $irven 6as accused of murdering

his daughter, and he only escaped the 6heel by

prompt ight4 7is 6ife perished of misery amid

the sno6s of the evennes, and he "oined the

6retched family of 2alas at 2eneva, 6here the same

generous man furnished shelter and protection4

In the north of )rance the Nre of intolerance

burnt at le^st as hotly as in the south4 .t .bbe-

ville a cruciN 6as found to have been mutilated in

the night4 #6o lads of eighteen, to one of 6hom

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)redericD gave shelter in %russia, 6ere accused

under cover of the sacrilege, and La 3arre 6as con-

demned by the tribunal of .miens, at the instance of

the bishop, to have tongue and right hand cut oM,

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 H1*

and then be burnt alive! a sentence that 6as pres-

ently commuted by the %arliament of %aris to decap-

itation J1*CCK4 #here 6as no proof 6hatever that

either of the t6o youths 6as in any 6ay concerned

in the outrage4 #he bishop of the diocese had issued

monitory proclamations, and conducted a solemn

procession to the insulted cruciN4 #he imagination

of the to6n 6as Dindled, and the sacrilege became

the universal talD of a people gro6ing more and

more ecited4 &umor ran that a ne6 sect 6as being

formed, 6hich 6as for breaDing all the cruciNes,

6hich thre6 the host on the ground and cut it 6ith

Dnives4 #here 6ere 6omen 6ho declared that they

had seen these things4 .ll the horrible stories 6ere

revived 6hich had been believed against the ;e6s

in the middle ages4 . citi>en tooD advantage of

this Nerce agitation to gratify a private grudge

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designed to put do6n sorcery4 In the sentence

inicting so bloody a punishment, the oMence 6as

described as consisting in singing abominable songs

against the irgin =ary4 #o eact such a penalty

for such a delinQuency 6as to maDe human life a

mere plaything for the ignorant passion of the pop-

ulace and the intellectual confusion of the tribunals4

 #hese atrocities Dindled in oltaire a bla>e of

anger and pity, that remains among the things of

6hich humanity has most reason to be proud4 'very-

body 6ho has read much of the )rench 6riting of

the middle of the eighteenth century is conscious

from time to time of a sound of mocDing and sar-

donic laughter in it4 #his laugh of the eighteenth

century has been too often misunderstood as the

epression of a cynical hardness of heart, proving

the hollo6ness of the humanitarian pretensions in the

midst of 6hich it is heard4 It 6as in truth some-

thing very diMerent ! it 6as the form in 6hich men

sought a little relief from the monotony of the

abominations 6hich oppressed them, and from 6hose

taint they had such diPculty to escape4 #his refrain,

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 H1A

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that after all a man can do nothing better than

laugh, apparently so shallo6 and inhuman, in reality

so penetrated 6ith melancholy, 6e may count most

certainly on Nnding at the close of the narration of

some more than usually iniQuitous or imbecile

eploit of those in authority4 It 6as 6hen the

thought of the political and social and intellectual

degradation of their country became too vivid to be

endured, that men liDe oltaire and d9.lembert

6ould abruptly turn a6ay from it, and in the bitter-

ness of their impotence cry that there 6as nothing for

it but to taDe the 6orld and all that befalls therein in

merriment4 It 6as the grimacing of a man 6ho "ests

6hen he is perishing of hunger, or is shrinDing

under Dnife or cautery4 #hus d9.lembert having

given oltaire an account of the eecution of the

unfortunate La 3arre, in 6ords that sho6 ho6

intensely his o6n narrative 6as aRicting him, sud-

denly concludes by saying that he 6ill add no more

on this auto-da-fe, so honorable to the )rench nation,

for it made him ill-humored, and he meant only to

mocD at 6hatever might happen4 3ut oltaire could

not rest thus4 #he thought of so hateful a crime,

perpetrated by a tribunal of "ustice, clothed him in

the shirt of 0essus4 .ll aame, he 6rote to d9.lem-

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bert 6ith noble impetuosity :

#his is no longer a time for "esting : 6itty things

do not go 6ell 6ith massacres4 +hat? #hese

3usirises in 6igs destroy in the midst of horrible

tortures children of siteenS .nd that in face of

HHB oltaire4

the verdict of ten upright and humane "udges S .nd

the victim suMers itS %eople talD about it for a

moment, and the net they are hastening to the comic

opera ! and barbarity, become the more insolent for

our silence, 6ill to-morro6 cut throats "uridically

at pleasure4 7ere 2alas broDen on the 6heel, there

$irven condemned to be hanged, further oM a gag

thrust into the mouth of a lieutenant-general, a fort-

night after that Nve youths condemned to the ames

for etravagances that deserved nothing 6orse than

$aint La>are4 Is this the country of philosophy and

pleasure ? It is the country rather of the $aint 3ar-

tholome6 massacre4 +hy, the InQuisition 6ould

not have ventured to do 6hat these ;ansenist "udges

have done4 +hen he had received d9.lembert9s

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letter, ending as 6e have seen, his remonstrance

6aed vehement : +hat, you 6ould be content to

laugh? +e ought rather to resolve to seeD venge-

ance, or at any rate to leave a country 6here day

after day such horrors are committed4 4 4 4 0o,

once more, I cannot bear that you should Nnish your

letter by saying, I mean to laugh4 .h, my friend,

is it a time for laughing ? /id men laugh 6hen they

sa6 %halaris9 bull being made red-hot ?

 #his revival in the tribunals of %aris and the pro-

vincial to6ns aliDe, of the ignorant fanaticism and

the unscientiNc "urisprudence of the most unenlight-

ened times, 6as the more bitter and insupportable

from the ne6 light 6hich shone around such horrors4

3eccaria9s treatise On OMences and %enalties had

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 HH1

 "ust been translated into )rench by =orellet, and

furnished a strange commentary upon the atrocities

of #oulouse and .bbeville4 It seemed, men said,

as if at every striDing vindication of the rights of

humanity the genius of cruelty broDe its chains, and,

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to prove the futility of all such vindications, inspired

ne6 acts of barbarism and violence4 #he philosophic

group had yielded to a premature eultation, and in

their ineperience supposed that they 6ho planted

the tree should see the gathering-in of the fruit4

 #he reign of reason 6as believed to be close at hand,

and this belief made the visible recrudescence of

fanatical unreason signally unsupportable4 It is a

high honor to oltaire and his disciples that the trial

did not prove too strong for their faith, and that

6hen they sa6 ho6 far too sanguine they had been,

they 6ere more astonished than they 6ere discour-

aged, and their energy redoubled 6ith the demands

made upon it4 #he meaner partisans of an orthodoy

6hich can only maDe 6holly sure of itself by in"ustice

to adversaries, have al6ays loved to paint the ol-

tairean school in the character of demons, en"oying

their 6orD of destruction 6ith a sportive and impish

delight4 #hey may have re"oiced in their strength

so long as they cherished the illusion that those 6ho

Nrst Dindled the torch should also complete the long

course and bear the lamp to the goal4 +hen the

gravity of the enterprise sho6ed itself before them,

they remained alert 6ith all courage, but they ceased

to fancy that courage necessarily maDes men happy4

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HHH oltaire4

 #he mantle of philosophy 6as rent in a hundred

places, and bitter 6inds entered at a hundred holes,

but they only dre6 it the more closely around them4

.t the very last oltaire seems to have seen some-

thing of the vast space 6hich every ray of light has

to traverse before it reaches the eye of the common

understanding4 I no6 perceive, he 6rote the year

before his death, that 6e must still 6ait three or

four hundred years4 One day it cannot but be that

good men 6in their cause! but before that glorious

day arrives ho6 many disgusts have 6e to undergo,

ho6 many darD persecutions, 6ithout recDoning the

La 3arres, of 6hom from time to time they 6ill

maDe an auto-da-fe4 #o speaD thus 6as to recog-

ni>e the true character of the revolution, and the

many elements 6hich go to the transformation of an

old society4 #o speaD thus, too, 6as to marD the

true character of the sincere lover of human prog-

ress, the soul of steadfast patience and strong hope,

mingled 6ith many a pang for the far-oM and slo6-

coming good4

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It 6as a natural thing to identify the ;esuits 6ith

the strongest part of the old society, because their

organi>ation 6as both the strongest and most striD-

ing of its eternal supports4 #heir suppression,

though not to be dispensed 6ith ecept on the con-

dition of an ultimate overthro6 of morality and an

etinction of intellectual light, had one eMect

6hich the statesmen of the time could hardly be

epected to see, and 6hich has not been enough

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 HH

considered4 ;ust as the papacy by the fourteenth

century had become more and more eclusively a

temporal po6er, so the ;esuits by the middle of the

eighteenth had become more and more a commer-

cial po6er4 #hey 6ere a po6erful trading corpora-

tion, and it 6as as merchants, rather than as

casuists and directors of conscience, that they Nnally

came into collision 6ith secular authority in )rance,

%ortugal, and $pain4 0o6 since the revival of the

order it has been eclusively engaged in the contest

for spiritual supremacy, and for as much of temporal

po6er as has seemed essential to its security4 #his,

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ho6ever, is only one of the evils 6hich counter-

balance the advantages of every progressive meas-

ure! for, alas, 6hen the statesman believes most

conNdently that he has advanced by a league, a

very fe6 years sho6 him or others that his league

6as after all no more than an ell or t6o4

 #he reactionary outburst of fanaticism for 6hich

the humiliation of the ;esuits 6as a signal, only

sho6ed ho6 6ell founded the oltairean allegations

as to the depraving eMects of the eisting system of

religion had really been4 It 6as the veriNcation of

all that oltaire ever said against the system, and

demonstrated both the virulence and the tenacity of

the inuences 6hich atholicism in the days of its

degradation had eerted over the character of the

nation4 It 6as most illogical to epect a people 6ho

had been bred in the atholic tradition suddenly to

6elcome its enemies4 If atholicism had trained

HHF oltaire4

men up to the temper 6hich seeDs the light and loves

it, ho6 should it have deserved animosity ? 0early

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all lovers of improvement are apt in the heat of a

generous enthusiasm to forget that if all the 6orld

6ere ready to embrace their cause, their improve-

ment could hardly be needed4 It is one of the hard-

est conditions of things that the more numerous and

resolute the enemies of reform, then the more unmis-

taDably urgent the necessity for it4 It 6as "ust

because the cruelty, persecution, and darDness, in

the last ten years of the reign of Louis @4 6ere

things possible, that the onslaught upon atholicism

6as "ustiNable and praise6orthy4 #hey sho6ed

the depth and strength of the forces of the old

society, and they foreshado6ed the violence 6hich

marDed its dissolution4 If people had remembered

in 1*GA ho6 fe6 years separated them from the

6ide-spread fanaticism 6hich darDened the last

days of oltaire, they might have calculated better

ho6 fe6 years separated them from the 0apoleonic


0o permanent transformation of a society, 6e

may be sure, can ever taDe place until a transforma-

tion has been accomplished in the spiritual basis of

thought4 oltaire may have distinctly seen this and

formulated it to himself, or not ! in any case, he

steered his o6n course eactly as he 6ould have

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done if he had seen it4 .s =4 2ui>ot epresses it,

the separation bet6een the spiritual and temporal

orders 6as never real in 'urope ecept in the eight-

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 HH5

eenth century, 6hen for the Nrst time the spiritual

order developed itself entirely apart from the tem-

poral order4 #hus oltaire acQuiesced 6ithout mur-

mur or reproach in the conditions of political

absolutism, and the disgrace and ruin 6hich the

nullity of the government brought upon his country

in the $even (ears9 +ar, Deenly as he felt it, yet

provoDed no thought of temporal changes4 7is

correspondence in that fatal time is marDed by a

startling apathy about public events, and even &oss-

bach seems not to move him to seeD its causes4 If

6e compare his4 "oyful enthusiasm at the accession

of #urgot to po6er in 1**F, 6e can have no doubt

that this strange numbness of feeling 6as only the

silence of a 6ise man despairing of saying or seeing

anything useful, and not the criminal folly of a bad

citi>en to 6hom the 6elfare of his country is not

dear4 #he disasters of )rance 6ere as serious to

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him as to any one else, as may be plainly seen under

the assumed philosophy 6ith 6hich his vivacious

spirit loved to veil real feeling ! but the impossibility

of doing anything, even of taDing a part in the

process 6ith 6hich 6e 'nglish are so familiar as the

forming of public opinion, drove him for consola-

tion to the Neld 6here he 6as certain of doing eP-

cient 6orD4 +riting in 1*C1, a year of crushing

national loss, he says to one of the oldest and most

intimate of his correspondents : #here is nothing

to laugh at in all this4 I am strucD to the heart4

Our only resource is in the promptest and most

ol4 FH 15

HHC oltaire4

humiliating peace4 I al6ays fancy, 6hen some

over6helming disaster arrives, that the )rench 6ill

be serious for si 6eeDs4 I have not yet been able

to disabuse myself of this notion4 oltaire 6as

penetrated by the spirit of action, and he perceived

and regretted that the organi>ation of )rance did

not permit of the eMective action of private individ-

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uals in the Neld of politics4 #here are lines in the

7enriade etolling the freedom of 'ngland, and

he sometimes indulges in the commonplaces of a lit-

erary republicanism ! but turning to the portion of his

6orDs 6hich his editors have classiNed as political,

6e scarcely Nnd much beyond the documents, and

they are important and interesting enough, still not

truly political, that relate to the various aMairs of

2alas, La 3arre, and others, in 6hich he eposed the

atrocities of the tribunals4 $o far as they come into

the region of politics at all, it is only to assail the

overt and direct in"ustice done to society by the in-

stitutions, privileges, and pretensions of the hurch4

7e constantly attacDs in a great variety of forms the

material mischief inicted on society by the vast

numbers of monDs, mendicant or other! their

unproductive lives, the burden of their maintenance

6eighing upon more industrious sub"ects, the restric-

tion of population occasioned by their celibacy4 #he

direct refusal of the clergy in 1*5B to consent to pay

their share of the taes liDe other citi>ens, though

o6ning as much as a Nfth of all the property in the

realm, moved him to insist in a vigorous pamphlet

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+ar .gainst Intolerance4 HH*

that the distinction in a Dingdom bet6een spiritual

and temporal po6ers is a relic of barbarism ! that it

is monstrous to permit a body of men to say, Let

those pay 6ho 6orD, 6e ought not to pay because

6e are idle! that superstition inevitably tends to

maDe bad citi>ens, and therefore princes ought to

protect philosophy 6hich destroys superstition4

oltaire9s tasD, ho6ever, 6as never directly polit-

ical, but spiritual, to shaDe the foundations of that

religious system 6hich professed to be founded on

the revelation of hrist4 +as he not right? If 6e

Nnd ourselves 6alDing amid a generation of cruel

and un"ust and darDened spirits, 6e may be assured

that it is their beliefs on 6hat they deem highest

that have made tnem so4 #here is no counting 6ith

certainty on the "ustice of men 6ho are capable of

fashioning and 6orshipping an un"ust divinity, nor

on their humanity so long as they incorporate inhu-

man motives in their most sacred dogma, nor on

their reasonableness 6hich they rigorously decline

to accept reason as a test of truth4

It is necessary to admit from the point of vie6 of

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impartial criticism, that oltaire had one defect of

character, of etreme importance in a leader of this

memorable and direct attacD4 +ith all his enthu-

siasm for things noble and lofty, generous and com-

passionate, he missed the peculiar emotion of

holiness, the soul and life aliDe of the 6ords of

hrist and $aint %aul, that indeNnable secret of the

long hold of mystic superstition over so many high

HHG oltaire4

natures, other6ise entirely prepared for the bright-

ness of the rational day4 )rom this impalpable

essence 6hich magically surrounds us 6ith the

mysterious and subtile atmosphere of the unseen,

changing distances and proportions, adding ne6

faculties of sight and purpose, etinguishing the

ames of disorderly passion in a ood of truly divine

aspiration, 6e have to confess that the virtue 6ent

out in the presence of oltaire4 #o admire ol-

taire, cried a man 6ho detested him, is the sign of

a corrupt heart, and if anybody is dra6n to his 6orDs,

then be very sure that 2od does not love such a

one4 #he truth of 6hich that is so vehement a para-

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phrase amounts to this, that oltaire has said no

6ord, nor even sho6n an indirect appreciation of

any 6ord said by another, 6hich stirs or epands

the emotional susceptibility, indeNnite eultation,

and far-s6elling inner harmony, 6hich de =aistre

and others have Dno6n as the love of 2od, and for

6hich a better name, as covering most varieties of

form and manifestation, is holiness, deepest of all

the 6ords that defy deNnition4 #hrough the

aMronts 6hich his reason received from certain pre-

tensions both in the 6riters and in some of those

6hose actions they commemorated, this sublime

trait in the 3ible, in both portions of it, 6as unhap-

pily lost to oltaire4 7e had no ear for the Nner

vibrations of the spiritual voice4

 #his had no concern in the fact that he hated and

despised, and 6as eager that others should hate and

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 HHA

despise, the religious forms that ruled )rance in his

day4 #he hristianity 6hich he assailed 6as as

little touched as oltairism itself 6ith that spirit of

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holiness 6hich poured itself around the lives and

6ords of the t6o founders, the great master and

the great apostle4 #he more deeply imbued a man

6as 6ith this spirit, the more ardently 6ould he

crave the demolition of that Infamous in belief and

in practice, 6hich poisoned the stream of holiness

in its springs, and shed pestilence along its banDs,

and choDed its issues in barrenness and corruption4

 #he point 6here the failure of this Quality in

oltaire 6as especially a source of 6eaDness to his

attacD, is to be found in the crippling of his historic

imagination, and the inability 6hich this inicted

upon him of conceiving the true meaning and lo6est

roots of the atholic legend4 #he middle age

bet6een himself and the polytheism of the empire

6as a parched desert to him and to all his school,

 "ust as to the %rotestant the interval bet6een

the apostles and Luther is a long night of unclean

things4 7e sa6 only a besotted people led in chains

by a crafty priesthood ! he heard only the unending

repetition of records that 6ere Nctitious, and dogmas

that dre6 a curtain of darDness over the under-

standing4 =en spoDe to him of the mild beams of

hristian charity, and 6here they pointed he sa6

only the yello6 glare of the staDe! they talDed of

the gentle solace of hristian faith, and he heard

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only the shrieDs of the thousands and tens of

HB oltaire4

thousands 6hom faithful hristian persecutors had

racDed, strangled, gibbeted, burned, broDen on the

6heel4 #hrough the steam of innocent blood 6hich

hristians for the honor of their belief had spilled

in every Quarter of the Dno6n 6orld, the blood of

 ;e6s, =oors, Indians, and all the vast holocausts of

heretical sects and people in eastern and 6estern

'urope, he sa6 only dismal tracts of intellectual

darDness, and heard only the humming of the

doctors, as they served forth to congregations of

poor men hungering for spiritual sustenance the

draM of theological superstition4

 #his vehement and blinding antipathy arose

partly from the intense force 6ith 6hich the eisting

aspect of atholicism recalled all that 6as 6orst,

and shut out all that 6as best in its former history4

One cannot fairly epect the man 6ho is in the grip

of a decrepit tyrant, to do absolutely full "ustice to

the seemly deeds and gracious promises of his tor-

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menter9s youth4 3ut partly also this blindness arose

from the fact that oltaire measured the achieve-

ments of atholicism by the magnitude of its pre-

tensions4 7e tooD its supernatural claims seriously,

and his intelligence 6as easperated beyond control

by the ama>ing disproportion and incongruity

bet6een these claims and the most conspicuous of

the actual results4 #hose 6ho have parted company

6ith a religion, as oltaire had parted company

6ith hristianity, can only be counted upon to a6ard

the 6ell-earned praise to its better part, after they

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 H1

have planted themselves stably on the assumption

that the given religion is a human and natural force

liDe another4

 #he "ust, historic calm on 6hich our modern

prides himself, is only possible in proportion to the

mature completeness 6ith 6hich he taDes for

granted, and believes that those to 6hom he speaDs

6ill taDe for granted, the absence of supernatural

intervention in the processes of religious action and

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development4 7e is absolutely undisturbed by the

thought of that claim, 6hich 6as omnipotent until

oltaire came to do deadly battle 6ith it, of hris-

tianity to be a cro6ning miracle of divine favor,

6hich should raise men to be only a little lo6er than

the angels, and should be the instrument for pouring

out upon them an ever-o6ing stream of special and

etraordinary grace4 It is not until the idea has

dropped out of our minds of the great fathers of the

hurch as saints, that 6e are free to perceive 6hat

services they rendered as statesmen, and it is only

6hen men have ceased to dispute 6hether hris-

tianity 6as a revelation, that they have eyes to see

6hat services it has rendered as a system4 3ut in

oltaire9s time, if atholicism 6as "ustiNed historic-

ally, it 6as believed dogmatically, and therefore

6as to be attacDed dogmatically also4 #he surren-

der of the 6ritten legend has never hindered its

champions from taDing ground 6hich implied some

esoteric revelation, that proves to be some special

interpretation of the 6ritten legend4 $o long as

HH oltaire4

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the thinDer is busy disproving the position that a

man 6ho happens to live on a certain part of the

globe is a being of such singular and eceptional

conseQuence in the universe as to be held 6orthy by

supreme heavenly po6ers of receiving a miraculous

message and the promise of this and that unspeaD-

able privilege in indescribable 6orlds to come, so long

he is not liDely to 6eigh very fairly the eMects of the

belief in such po6er, messages, and privileges, on

the education and advancement of this 6orld4 #he

modern historic "ustice 6hich is done to atholi-

cism is due to the establishment of a series of con-

victions that civili>ation is a structure 6hich man by

his o6n right arm has raised for himself, that it has

been eposed to many an era of storm and stress,

and to manifold inuences 6hich have been perpetu-

ally destroying portions of the great ediNce, adding

fresh parts, modifying the old, by an interminable

succession of changes, resounding and volcanic, or

still and imperceptible! that the danger of destruc-

tion 6as never so terrible as in the days of the dis-

solution of the old &oman society! that in this

prolonged crisis the hristian hurch emerged, Nrst

by its organi>ation and the ability of some of its

chiefs, and net by the attraction of legends that

harmoni>ed 6ith the needs of a darD, confused, and

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terror-stricDen time! that the many barbarous and

absurd articles of belief incorporated in the hris-

tian profession by the sophists of the 'ast, received

from time to time humane modiNcation in the hands

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 H

of the 6iser churchmen of the +est, 6hose practical

 "udgment 6as perpetually softening do6n the crude,

savage, unilluminated doctrines 6hich had naturally

sprung up in the dismal age 6hen the atholic

system acQuired substance and shape4 . "ust recog-

nition of all these things is only easy to one 6hose

epectations from humanity are moderate, 6ho per-

ceives ho6 tardy and diPcult is the accomplishment

of each smallest step in the long process, and ho6

helpful are even the simplest beliefs of rude times

in transforming men from vagrant animals into

beings 6ith a consciousness of Ned common rela-

tions to6ards some ob"ect of common 6orship, and

so planting the Nrst germs of social consolidation

and gro6th4

oltaire 6as, from the circumstances in 6hich he

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6as placed, too busy proving the purely human

origin of atholicism to have a mind free to eamine

ho6 much, if 6e suppose it to be of purely human

origin, it has done for those 6ho accepted it4 %er-

haps 6e ought rather to praise than blame him for

abstaining from planting himself at the historic

point of vie6, before settling the previous Question

6hether the historic point of vie6 is permitted in

considering the religious movements of 'urope4

ntil oltaire and others had divested the current

religion of its supernatural pretensions, it 6as

impossible for any thinDer, 6ho declines to try to

taDe the second step before he has already taDen the

Nrst, to survey the operations of such a religion as

HF oltaire4

a merely secular force4 #his surely is a Neld of

thought 6here no serious inQuirer could content

himself 6ith a mere 6orDing hypothesis4 If the

supernatural claims of atholicism are 6ell founded,

then the historic method of treating it is either a

frivolous diversion or else a grave and mischievous

heresy4 #he issue being of this moment, everybody

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6ho studies the philosophy of history 6ith eMect

must have made up his mind in one 6ay or the

other4 oltaire had made up his mind very deNn-

itely, and the conclusion to 6hich, for adeQuate or

inadeQuate reasons, he came in this matter 6as one

of the most inuential agencies in preparing men9s

minds for the construction and general reception

of a sounder historical philosophy than 6as 6ithin

his o6n reach4 #hat he di3 not see the deduction

from his 6orD is a limitation of vision that he shares

6ith most of the men to 6hom it has fallen to over-

thro6 old systems, and clear the ground on 6hich

the net generation has raised ne64


7aving said thus much on the general causes and

conditions of oltaire9s attacD, 6e may net briey

eamine his method4 . brief eamination suPces,

because, liDe all his contemporaries, he 6as so very

imperfectly acQuainted 6ith the principles of scien-

tiNc criticism, and because his 6eapons, though

sharp and deadly enough for their purpose, are

no6 liDely to become more and more thoroughly

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+ar .gainst Intolerance4 H5

antiQuated4 In criticism he 6as, as has often been

remarDed, the direct descendant of 3ayle4 #hat is,

his instruments 6ere purely literary and dialectical4

7e eamined the various sacred narratives as if he

had been revie6ing a contemporary historian4 7e

delights in the minute cavils of literary %yrrhonism,

and re"oices in the artiNce of imposing the signiN-

cance of the letter, 6here his adversaries strove for

interpretation of the spirit4 .s if, for instance, any-

thing could be more childish than to attacD baptism

by asDing 6hether hristianity consists in thro6ing

6ater on the head, 6ith a little salt in it4 7e is

perfectly content 6ith the eposure of a fallacy in

6ords, 6ithout seeDing to epose the root fallacy

of idea4 0othing short of the blindest partisanship

can pretend to Nnd in this a proper or adeQuate

method4 #he utmost that can be said, and no "ust

historian ought to forget to say it, is that it 6as not

more improper nor inadeQuate than the orthodo

method of defence4 3ayle9s commentary on the

6ords, ompel them to come in, 6ould not satisfy

the modern reQuirements of scriptural eegesis, but it

6as Quite good enough to confound those 6ho con-

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tended that the tet 6as a direct 6arrant and in"unc-

tion from heaven for the bitterest persecution on

earth4 3ut the unfair parry of unfair thrust, etenu-

ate it as 6e may, count it inevitable as 6e may, even

recDoning up such advantages from it as 6e can,

and in the present case they 6ere enormous, can

never be any pattern or masterpiece of retort ! and it

H C oltaire4

is folly to allo6 admiration for the social merit of

oltaire9s end to blind us to the logical demerit of

his means4 It is deliberately to thro6 a6ay the

advantage of our distance from the contest, and to

sell for a momentary self-indulgence in the spirit of

party the birthright of a free and eQuitable historic

vision4 Let men not fail to do "ustice to the gains of

humanity 6on by the emancipation of the eighteenth

century ! but 6e shall be 6orse oM than if they had

never been transmitted, if they are allo6ed to bind

us to approve of every detail of the many move-

ments by 6hich the Nnal triumph 6as obtained4

 #he Dey to his method of attacD is given us in a

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sentence in one of his letters to d9.lembert4 It is

never by means of metaphysics, he says, that you

6ill succeed in delivering men from error ! you must

prove the truth by facts4 In other 6ords, the sub-

lime abstract reasoning of a $pino>a 6ill do far less

to dispel the narro6 ideas, unfounded beliefs, and

false restrictive conceptions 6hich cripple the human

intelligence so long as it is in bondage to a theolog-

ical system, than a direct disproval of the alleged

facts on 6hich the system professes to rest4 It is

only by dealing immediately 6ith these that you

can maDe the repulse of error a real Question, sub-

stantially interesting to ordinary men4 .l6ays

remembering that oltaire9s intelligence 6as prac-

tical rather than speculative, and, besides this, that

from the time 6hen he commenced his attacD in

earnest the ob"ect 6hich he had at heart 6as the

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 H*

overthro6 of a crushing practical institution, 6e

may agree that in such a humor and 6ith such a

purpose the most eMective 6ay of harassing so active

and pestilent a foe 6as to carry the 6ar into the

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enemy9s Quarters, and to use those Dinds of argu-

ments 6hich the greatest number of men 6ould be

liDely to Nnd cogent4 +e may complain that ol-

taire never rises from the ground into the region

of the higher facts of religion ! and this is Quite true4

It 6ould have been controversially futile if he had

done so4 #here 6as no audience in those times for

the discussion of the higher facts! and the reason

of this 6as that the spiritual instructors and cham-

pions themselves thrust into the front place legends,

miracles, and the 6hole of the peculiarly vulgar part

of the theological apparatus, 6hich it 6ould have

been as absurd to controvert metaphysically, as it

6ould be to try to elevate a 2old-coast negro from

his fetish 6orship by the transcendental parts of


It nearly al6ays happens that the defenders of a

decaying system, 6hen they Nnd themselves sur-

rounded by the 6holly uncongenial atmosphere of

rationalistic method, fall bacD, not on the noblest,

but on the ignoblest parts of their system4 /is-

tressed by the light, they shrinD hurriedly into darD-

est recesses of the familiar caves, partly because they

have a sense of especial security in a region that

they Dno6 so 6ell, and partly because they have

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misgivings lest the surrender of articles or practices

H G oltaire4

in 6hich they only half believe, should by too

stringent process of logical compulsion lead to the

destruction of others in 6hich they believe 6ith all

their hearts4 $uch tactics may or may not be politic,

but 6e can at least be Quite certain that they tend

neither to elevation of religion, nor discovery of

truth, nor proNt and sincerity of discussion4 If a

set of doctrines be attacDed from many Quarters in an

un6orthy manner, and taDen at their 6orst instead

of at their best, 6e may be Quite sure that this is as

much due to the defenders as to the assailants4 It

6as not oltaire9s fault that the controversy turned

on issues 6hich a more modern opponent 6ould not

care to dispute4 7e is constantly ippant and trivial,

and constantly manifests gross irreverence, but it

6as the 6riters 6hom he 6as combating, 6riters liDe

$anche> of the $tercorists, 6ho had opened frivolous

and unbecoming Questions that could hardly be

eposed 6ith gravity4 7e 6as maDing 6ar on an

institution, and it 6as not his concern to Nght on

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ground 6hich his adversary had never thought, and

6as too blind and demorali>ed to be able to thinD, of

taDing up4 It 6as not his fault that the upholders of

the creed he attacDed made a stand upon the letter of

sacred documents, upon prophecy and miracle and

special intervention, upon the virtues of relics and

the liQuefaction of the blood of $aint ;anuarius4

 #he same 6ise man 6ho forbade us to ans6er a

fool according to his folly, also en"oined upon us to

ans6er a fool according to his folly, and the moral

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 HA

commentator agrees that each prescription is as sage

as its contradictory4

If truth means anything it 6as 6orth 6hile to

put to rout the distortions of truth 6ith 6hich the

hurch lo6ered the understanding of its votaries4

If truth means anything, then it 6as 6orth 6hile to

reply to the allegation that the history of the hris-

tian hurch is a long 6itness of the goodness of

heaven and the ever-present guidance of its heavenly

founder, by a record of the actual facts ! of the sim-

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plicity, eQuality, absence of multiplied rites, orders,

and dogmas, among the primitive members of the

congregation, and of the radical diMerences bet6een

the use of apostolic times and of times since ! of the

incurable 6ant of authority for all those tales of

demons being cast out, pious inscriptions in letters

of gold found graven on the hearts of martyrs,

and the rest, 6hich gro6 rare in proportion as 6e

dra6 nearer to the times 6hen the evidence for them

6ould have been preserved ! of the infamous char-

acter of many hristian heroes, from onstantine

do6n6ards, and of the promptitude 6ith 6hich the

hristians, as soon as ever they had po6er, dyed

their hands in the blood of their persecutors ! of the

stupefying circumstances that after a revelation 6as

made to the human race by no less a prodigy than

the incarnation of supreme po6er in a mortal body,

and the miraculous maintenance of this event and its

signiNcance in the tradition, doctrine, and discipline

of the atholic church, yet the 6hole of .sia, the

HFB oltaire4

6hole of .frica, all the possessions of the 'nglish

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and /utch in .merica, all the uncivili>ed Indian

tribes, all the southern lands, amounting to one-Nfth

part of the globe, still remain in the clutches of the

demon, to verify that holy saying of many being

called but fe6 chosen4

It may be said that this Dind of argument really

proves nothing at all about the supernatural origin

or character of the hristian revelation, for 6hich

you must seeD the responses not of ecclesiastical his-

tory but of the human heart4 .nd that may be a fair

thing to say, but then this contention of the ne6

revelation being only a message to the heart has only

been heard since oltaire thrust aside the very dif-

ferent contention of his day4 #hose various beliefs

6ere universally accepted about the progress of the

hurch, 6hich 6ere true in no sense 6hatever, literal

or spiritual, mystical or historical4 %eople accepted

traditions and records, sacred and profane, as literal,

accurate, categorical declarations and descriptions

of a long series of things done and suMered4 =ore-

over, the modern argument in favor of the super-

natural origin of the hristian religion, dra6n from

its suitableness to our needs and its divine response

to our aspirations, must be admitted by every candid

person resorting to it to be of eactly eQual force

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in the mouth of a =ahometan or a Nre-6orshipper

or an astrolater4 If you apply a sub"ective test of

this Dind, it must be as good for the sincere and

satisNed votaries of one creed, as it is for those of

I=%'&I.L- %.L4.O' .# %O#$/.=

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 HF1

any other4 #he needs and aspirations of the =a-

hometan 6ould not be satisNed by fetishism or poly-

theism, nor those of the developed polytheist by

totem 6orship4 It 6ould be ridiculous for so small

a minority of the race as the professors of hris-

tianity to assume that their aspirations are the abso-

lute measure of those of humanity in every stage4

 #he argument can never carry us beyond the rela-

tivity of religious truth4

0o6 the )rench apologist a hundred years ago

dealt in the most absolute possible matter4 hris-

tianity to him meant a set of very concrete ideas

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of all sorts ! any one 6ho accepted them in the con-

crete and literal form prescribed by the hurch

6ould share inNnite bliss, and any one 6ho re"ected

them, 6hether deliberately or from never having

been so happy as to hear of them, 6ould be inNnitely

tormented4 If this theory be right, then oltaire

must naturally be abhorred by all persons 6ho hold

it, as a perverse and mischievous hinderer of light4

If it be 6rong, and 6e must observe that from its

terms this is not one of the marvellously multiplying

beliefs of 6hich 6e hear that they may be half

6rong and half right, then oltaire may taDe ranD

6ith other useful epellers of popular error4 'very-

body must admit ho6 imperfect is all such treat-

ment of popular error! ho6 little rich, ho6 little

comprehensive, ho6 little full4 (et the surgeon

6ho has couched his patient9s cataract has surely

done a service, even if he do not straight6ay carry

ol4 FH1C

HFH oltaire4

him to en"oy the restored faculty on some high

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summit of far and noble prospect4

oltaire9s attacD 6as essentially the attacD of the

'nglish deists, as indeed he is al6ays 6illing enough

to admit, pursued 6ith far less gravity and honest

search for truth, but, it is hardly necessary to say,

6ith far more adroitness, rapidity, and grace of

manner than any of them, even than 3olingbroDe4

.s 6e have seen, he insisted on thro6ing himself

upon the facts in the records that are least easily

reconciled 6ith a general sense of probability and

evidence, as gradually developed in men by eperi-

ence4 7e placed the various incidents of the 3ible,

the interpretation of them by the hurch, the state-

ment of doctrine, the characters of prominent actors,

in the full light of common eperience and of the

maims 6hich eperience has made second nature4

I al6ays speaD humanly, he says mocDingly, I

al6ays put myself in the place of a man 6ho, having

never heard tell either of ;e6s or hristians, should

read these booDs for the Nrst time, and not being

illuminated by grace, should be so unhappy as to

trust unaided reason in the matter, until he should

be enlightened from on high4

It is superuous to detail the treatment to 6hich

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he sub"ected such mysteries of the faith as the

inheritance of the curse of sin by all follo6ing gen-

erations from the Nrst fall of man! the appearance

from time to time, among an obscure oriental tribe,

of prophets 6ho foretold the coming of a divine

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 HF

deliverer, 6ho should 6ash a6ay that fatal stain

by sacriNcial epiation! the choice of this specially

cruel, treacherous, stubborn and rebellious tribe, to

be the favored people of a deity of spotless mercy

and truth! the advent of the deliverer in circum-

stances of etraordinary meanness and obscurity

among a generation that greeted his pretensions 6ith

incredulity, and Nnally caused him to be put to death

6ith ignominy, in spite of his appeal to the prophets

and to the many signs and 6onders 6hich he

6rought among them! the rising of this deliverer

from the dead, the ascription to him in the course of

the net three or four centuries of claims 6hich he

never made in person, and of propositions 6hich he

never advanced 6hile he 6alDed on the earth, yet

6hich must no6 be accepted by every one 6ho

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6ould after death escape a pitiless torment 6ithout

end ! the truly miraculous preservation amid a Nery

s6arm of heresies, intricate, minute, subtle, barely

intelligible, but very soul-destroying, of that little

fragile thread of pure belief 6hich can alone guide

each spirit in the divinely appointed path4 'posed

to the light, 6hich they 6ere never meant to endure,

of ordinary principles of evidence founded on ordi-

nary eperience, the immortal legends, the prophe-

cies, the miracles, the mysteries, on 6hich the

spiritual faith of 'urope had hung for so many

generations, seemed to shrivel up in unlovely disso-

lution4 #he authenticity of the tets on 6hich the

salvation of man depends, the contradictions and

HFF oltaire4

inconsistencies of the documents, the incompatibility

bet6een many acts and motives epressly approved

by the holiest persons, and the "ustice and mercy

6hich are supposed to sit enthroned on high in their

bosoms, the forced constructions of prophecies and

their stultifying futility of fulNlment, the etraordi-

nary frivolousness of some of the occasions on 6hich

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the divine po6er of thaumaturgy 6as deliberately

and solemnly eerted, these 6ere among the points

at 6hich the messenger of $atan at )erney 6as

permitted sorely to buMet the hurch4 +hat is the

date of the .postles9 reed ? +hat of the so-called

.thanasian reed? 7o6 6ere the seven sacra-

ments instituted one after another? +hat 6as the

diMerence bet6een the synais and the mass? .nd

so forth through many hundreds of pages4

.long 6ith rationalistic Questions in scriptural

and ecclesiastical history, are many more as to doc-

trine, and the assumption on 6hich doctrine rests!

Questions as to the #rinity, as to redemption by the

shedding of innocent blood, as to the daily miracle

of transubstantiation, as to the resurrection of the

body, as to the eistence of an entity called soul

independently of that matter 6hich, apart from

miracle, seems an inseparable condition of its mani-

festation4 7is arguments on all these sub"ects con-

tain a strange miture of shallo6 mocDery and "ust

ob"ection4 #he Questions 6hich he suggests for the

doctors as to the resurrection of the body may serve

for an eample4 .mong them are these :

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+ar .gainst Intolerance4 HF5

. 3reton soldier goes to anada4 It happens

by a not uncommon chance that he falls short of

food ! he is forced to eat a piece of an IroQuois 6hom

he has Dilled over night4 #he IroQuois had fed on

 ;esuits for t6o or three months, a great part of his

body had thus become ;esuit4 $o there is the body

of the soldier 6 : th IroQuois, ;esuit, and 6hatever

he had eaten before, entering into it4 7o6 then

6ill each resume eactly 6hat belongs to him ?

In order to come to life again, to be the same per-

son you 6ere, you must have a lively and present

recollection ! it is memory that maDes your identity4

7aving lost memory, ho6 are you to be the same

man ? .gain, considering that only certain mate-

rial elements are proper for the composition of the

human body, 6here is earth enough to be found to

remaDe all the bodies needed for so many hundreds

of generations ? .nd supposing that by a prodigious

miracle the 6hole human race could be resuscitated

in the alley of ;ehoshaphat, 6here are all the

spirits mean6hile ?

.nother very favorite mode of approaching the

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beliefs, incidents, and personages of ;e6ish and

hristian history 6as to sho6 that they had counter-

parts in some pagan fables or systems, in the booDs of

hinese philosophers or 3rahminical sages4 #he in-

ference from this identity or correspondence bet6een

some ;udaical practices and myths, and the practices

and myths of .rabians, 'gyptians, 2reeDs, &omans,

7indoos, 6as that they 6ere in all cases eQually the

HFC oltaire4

artiNcial creations of impostors preying on the credu-

lity of men, the Nrst prophet or diviner having

been the Nrst rogue 6ho met the Nrst fool4 It is

curious to observe ho6 the modern argument from

constantly etending discoveries in comparative

mythology tends to the demolition of the special pre-

tensions of ;udaical myths of all sorts, by the very

opposite inference to that on 6hich the oltairean

school rested4 oltaire urged that as these myths

resembled one another in this and that important

feature, therefore they 6ere all eQually spurious,

false, and absurd4 #he modern, on the contrary,

6ould hold them all eQually genuine, eQually free

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from the taint of imposture in priest or people, and

eQually faithful representations of the mental states

6hich produced and accepted them4 #he 6eaDening

of the particular sanctity and ob"ective reality of

any one form of these common primitive 6ays of

thinDing about the action of non-human agents

6ould be "ust as strong, 6hether 6e taDe the ne6

or the old vie6 of the generation of myths, but the

diMerence of the eMect of the t6o vie6s upon the

 "ustice and fertility of historic spirit is immeasura-

ble4 #here is no sign, ho6ever, that oltaire 6as

ever seriously conscious of the importance of a right

consideration of the mental conditions of primitive

peoples4 #his study had been commenced in his o6n

time by de 3rosses, the inventor of the term fetish-

ism, and pronounced by competent modern authori-

ties to have been a po6erful and original thinDer

+ar .gainst Intolerance HF*

tipon the facts of the infancy of civili>ation4 (et

oltaire treated the speculations of this industrious

inQuirer 6ith the same ignorant contempt and scorn

that the theological enemies of geology 6ere once

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accustomed to besto6 on men 6ho chipped bits of

rocD and cherished fossils4 Oddly enough, ol-

taire9s carelessness and 6ant of thought on these

matters left him 6ith that very theory of the nature

of the development of cultivation, on 6hich the

theological school insists to this day as against the

scientiNc ethnologists4 #he Question is 6hether

the earliest men 6ere savages, or partially civili>ed !

in other 6ords, 6hether civili>ation has consisted in

a certain uniform progression from a state a little

above the brutes, or 6hether the savage is not a

being 6ho has degenerated from a partial degree of

civili>ation4 #he progression theory 6as no doubt

in a general 6ay a characteristic doctrine of the

men of the eighteenth century, for 6hich de

=aistre, an ardent and most ingenious advocate of

the degeneration theory, reviled them 6ith his usual

heartiness4 (et his eagerness to depress revelation

by ealting natural theology led oltaire to the

essentially theological position that the earliest men

had a clear and lofty idea of a $upreme 3eing, and

a ready appreciation of "ustice and charity in their

relations 6ith one another, until the vile ambition of

priestly and prophetic impostors succeeded in setting

upon their necDs the yoDe of systems 6hich cor-

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HFG oltaire4

rupted the heart and conscience, and sophisticated a

pure and simple faith4

7e did not hold that men 6ere conscious of the

one 2od as they 6ere conscious of light, or that

they had perceptions of such a being, as they had

perceptions of the ground they tilled4 #he idea 6as

derived by process of natural logic from the contem-

plation of astonishing natural eMects, of harvest and

dearth, of fair days and tempests, of benefactions

and scourges4 #hey sa6 all these things and felt

the 6orD of a master4 ;ust as in each community

there 6ere men 6ho by the force of their reason

found out that triangles 6ith the same base and of

the same height are eQual, and others 6ho in so6ing

and reaping and tending their ocDs perceived that

the sun and moon returned pretty nearly to the point

from 6hich they had started, and that they never

travelled beyond a certain limit to north or south,

so there 6as a third man 6ho considered that men,

animals, stars could not have made themselves, and

6ho sa6 that therefore a $upreme 3eing must eist !

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6hile a fourth, strucD by the 6rongs that men

inicted on one another, concluded that if there

eists a being 6ho made the stars, the earth and

men, such a being must confer favor on the virtuous,

and punishments on the 6icDed4 #his idea, ol-

taire declares, is so natural and so good that it 6as

most readily embraced4 #he various forms of

revelations 6ere only so many corruptions of that

simple, serviceable, and self-proving monotheism,

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 HFA

and so 6ere the conceptions of polytheism4 7e had

no notion that monotheism is a later development

of the theological spirit than polytheism4 nable to

deny that the 2reeDs and the &omans, about 6hom

he Dne6 so little and talDed so much, had plurality of

gods, he dre6 a distinction bet6een one $upreme

3eing and all the rest, and contended that you may

search all their records in vain for a single fact or

a single 6ord to counterbalance the many passages

and monuments 6hich attest their belief of the sover-

eignty of the one deity and his superiority over all

the rest4 +e do not Dno6 6hether this 6as a for-

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tuitous Dind of gro6th in his o6n mind, or 6hether

it 6as a scrap of recollection from the painstaDing

pages in 6hich ud6orth had 6orDed at the estab-

lishment of that eplanation of polytheism4 ol-

taire too often 6rites on these 6eighty sub"ects, as

if trusting to a memory that snatched eMectively

at plausible theories, 6hile losing much of their

evidence and all their deeper bearings4

It 6ould be not a little etraordinary, if 6e did

not constantly remember that oltaire9s strength did

not lie in speculation or systematic thought, that he

sa6 none of the ob"ections to this account of things,

and that he 6as content 6ith so limited an observa-

tion of the facts4 If de /rosses had magnanimously

suMered himself to be cheated in the transaction of

the fourteen cords of 6ood, oltaire 6ould perhaps

have read his booD candidly, and if he had read it

Other6ise than 6ith a foregone resolution to despise

H5B oltaire4

it, he 6ould have come upon a number of circum-

stances entirely fatal to his smooth theory that many

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gods are al6ays subordinate to the one, because

he 6ould have had to consider those states of the

human mind in 6hich there are no spiritual gods at

all, but in 6hich every ob"ect 6hatever is invested

6ith volition and po6er4 In one place he sho6s

something liDe a recognition of the true nature of

the process4 I have al6ays been persuaded, he

says in a letter to =airan, that the phenomena of

the heavens have been in the main the source of the

old fables4 #hunder 6as heard on the inaccessible

summit of a mountain ! therefore there must be gods

d6elling on the mountain, and launching the thun-

der4 #he sun seems to speed from east to 6est,

therefore he has Nne coursers4 #he rain does not

touch the head of one 6ho sees a rainbo6, so the

rainbo6 is a toDen that there 6ill never again be a

deluge4 3ut then oltaire 6as no systematic

thinDer, and thus there 6as no security that any

given right idea 6hich came into his mind 6ould

either remain present to him, or 6ould be follo6ed

up and placed along 6ith other ideas in a scientiNc

order4 .part from this, ho6ever, it is etraordinary

that oltaire9s etreme acuteness did not suggest to

him the Question, ho6 it 6as that the artless and

clear belief in one 2od became more and more

obscured by the gro6ing multitude of other gods, "ust

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in proportion as the primitive tribes became more

civili>ed in all the arts of life4 If the nomad pro-

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 H51

genitors of the 2reeDs had only one god, ho6 6as it

that, as Dno6ledge, social feeling, love of beauty,

and all the other ennobling parts of man became

more fully developed, the po6er of superstition

6aed greater, and temples and images 6ere multi-

plied ?

.gain, the theologist might, consistently 6ith his

deliberate principle of resort to the miraculous, con-

tend that this Nrst conception of a single supreme

po6er, in the fact of the eistence of 6hich he is

entirely at one 6ith oltaire, 6as directly implanted

by a supernatural force4 3ut oltaire, debarred

from such an eplanation as this, 6as driven silently

to assume and imply the truly incredible position

that the rudest savages, being 6hat 6e Dno6 them,

urgently occupied in the struggle for means of sub-

sistence, leading lives purely animal, possessed of no

vocabulary for any abstract idea, should yet by one

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leap of natural logic have risen to one of the very

highest pinnacles of speculation, and both felt and

epressed the idea of cause in the most general and

comprehensive of all its forms4 $urely this assump-

tion, measured by any of those standards of eperi-

ence or probability to 6hich he professed to appeal,

6as as much of a miracle as those 6hich he so deci-

sively repudiated4

In one of his letters oltaire declared that LocDe

6as the only reasonable metaphysician that he Dne6,

and that net to him he placed 7ume4 /id he ever

read, 6e may 6onder, that masterly essay on the

H5H oltaire4

0atural 7istory of &eligion, 6here 7ume not

only combats 6ith his usual vigor and eMectiveness

the idea of the belief in one omniscient, omnipotent,

and omnipresent spirit being the primary religion of

men, and sho6s that polytheism precedes mono-

theism, but also traces the origin of all religion to its

rudiment, in that universal tendency among man-

Dind to conceive all beings liDe themselves, and to

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transfer to every ob"ect those Qualities 6ith 6hich

they are familiarly acQuainted, and of 6hich they

are intimately conscious ? #he greater the Dno6l-

edge 6e acQuire of the spiritual rudiments of primi-

tive people, the more certainly is it established that

the idea of theism as the earliest and most elemen-

tary belief, 6hich oltaire had picDed up from

3olingbroDe and %ope, is untenable, and that 7ume

has been more and more fully 6arranted in saying

that the only point of theology on 6hich the consent

of manDind is nearly universal is that there is an

invisible, intelligent po6er in the 6orld, but 6hether

this po6er be supreme or subordinate, 6hether con-

Nned to one being or distributed among several,

6hat attributes, Qualities, connections, or principles

of action, ought to be ascribed to these beings, con-

cerning all these points there is the 6idest diMerence

in the popular systems of theology4 #his might

be placing natural theology very lo6, but 7ume at

any rate placed it 6here he did and described it as he

did, because he had Dno6ledge enough of the condi-

tion of various nations in various parts of their his-

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 H5

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tory, and 6as suPciently penetrated 6ith a cautious

and scientiNc spirit, to abstain from the unsupported

and purely metaphysical con"ectures of men liDe

oltaire and &ousseau4 +ell might the Deen-eyed

de =aistre describe him from the atholic point

of vie6 as the most dangerous and the guiltiest of

all those pestilent 6riters, the one 6ho employed

most talent 6ith most coolness to do most mischief4

If oltaire had studied 7ume, moreover, he might

have learned ho6 futile and inappropriate it is in the

long run to eamine a religion other6ise than in its

most fundamental and comprehensive general ideas,

and ho6 narro6 and superNcial 6ould every philo-

sophic appreciation ultimately Nnd 6hat he called

refutation by facts4 )or his o6n immediate pur-

pose, 6hich 6as to cover the hurch and its creed

6ith ridicule, the method of collecting all the

ludicrous, immoral and inconsistent circumstances in

the $criptures and their current interpretation, 6as,

as 6e have already said, a 6eapon potent enough4

oltaire, ho6ever, not only did not use, he never

understood nor perceived, the fact that a religion

rests for its Nnal base on a certain small number of

ideas, or that it is only by touching these, by loosen-

ing the Nrmness of their hold, by revealing their

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6ant of coherency and consistency 6ith other

accepted ideas, that 6e can epect to shaDe the

superstructure4 )or eample, if only the oPcial

eponents of religion had not been so Nrmly bent on

maDing the feeblest of all their ramparts into their

H5F oltaire4

very citadel, it 6ould have been a very small thing

to urge the truly singular Quality of such miracles

as those of the 6ater made 6ine at ana, of the

cursing of the barren Ng-tree, of the unfortunate

s6ine 6ho rushed violently do6n a steep place and

6ere choDed4 #hese 6ere legends that from the

right point of vie6 of religion 6ere not 6orth

defending, any more than from the right point of

vie6 of truth they 6ere 6orth attacDing4 #he

details of the use of a supernaturally conferred

po6er may best be let alone, until the probability of

the eistence and besto6al of such po6er has been

discussed and decided4 #he important issue and

matter of vital concern turned upon the general idea

of the miraculous! yet this 6as 6hat oltaire, per-

haps from an instinctive consciousness of the little

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capacity he possessed for genuine speculation, post-

poned to the really secondary purpose of disparaging

particular cases of miraculous performance4

+e are no6 touching 6hat, before 7ume, 6as

the central defect of the eighteenth-century attacD,

 "udged philosophically rather than practically4 #he

movement 6as a reaction against a certain set of

ideas 6hich had been incorporated in the hristian

system, as that system 6as elaborated by the oriental

sophisters4 (et the eact conict bet6een the old

ideas and the ne6 6as never conceived, much less

6as it epressed, in clear comprehensive formulas4

onseQuently the most general terms for the debate

6ere neither sought nor found, and hence the

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 H55

oppressive narro6ness, the stiing 6ant of free air,

throughout the controversy4 #he truth or falsehood

6hich it is good for us to discover in connection

6ith a religion resides not in detail, but in the largest

general ideas of the sub"ect4 #hese dra6 all else

along 6ith them4 Let us taDe an illustration from

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a characteristic of the anti-hristian attacD 6hich

has already been mentioned4 #he oltairean school,

as 6e have before observed, habitually derided the

sacred importance attached by the hurch in all ages,

from $aint %aul do6n6ards, to the practice of con-

tinence4 3ut there is no sign, so far as the present

6riter9s Dno6ledge goes, that they ever 6ere near

perceiving the origin of that superstition lying deep

do6n for so many centuries in the human mind4

 #he sanctity of continence 6as only one product of

the old far-spreading conviction of all the evil and

unholiness essentially inherent in matter4 #his con-

viction, 6hich has itself a history and genesis 6ell

6orth tracing, probably accounts for more of the

peculiar manifestations contained in hristianity

than any one principle of belief besides4 )rom this

metaphysical idea sprang the 6hole theory of asceti-

cism ! it had much to do indirectly 6ith the Nrst

establishment of the doctrine of the divinity of

hrist! it entered into the triumph of indispensable

grace4 #he speculative origin of practices and sen-

timents 6hich the heads of the 6estern hurch

valued, modiNed, and sagaciously used for ecclesias-

tical or political reasons, ought never to be lost sight

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H5C oltaire4

of, because their duration has depended on the cir-

cumstance of the original speculative idea remaining

deeply sunD, though not often put into articulate

form, in the minds of the faithful, and of all others

6hom these practices and sentiments have inu-

enced4 One Dey to the central movement of the

eighteenth century is the dispersion of this associa-

tion of evil and corruption from matter4 #here 6as

energetic and triumphant progress in the discovery

of the la6s of matter, in their most stupendous, over-

6helming, and ma"estic order4 #here 6as a steady

tendency to resolve mental manifestations into func-

tions of matter4 #here 6as a general inclination to

forget those depressing facts connected 6ith the de-

cay and dissolution of matter, 6hich, in the dismal

times 6hen the hurch 6as founded, had been thrust

into a prominence so humiliating to human dignity4

 #he general movement 6as carried too far by

etreme spirits, but on the 6hole it 6as a salutary

and much-needed protest against the limitation of

Dno6ledge 6ithin airy cloudlands 6here no true

Dno6ledge 6as to be reached, and of emotion 6ithin

transcendental aspirations 6here the deep reality of

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human relations faded into dim distance4

It is only 6hen controversy is conducted 6ith

reference to ground ideas of this Dind, that the par-

ties to it can be sure of being on the same plane, and,

if they are not on the same plane, one of the least

mischiefs is that their arguments y over one

another9s heads4 oltaire failed, partly from 6ant

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 H5*

of historic Dno6ledge, partly from insuPcient depth

of nature, to see 6hat these ground ideas 6ere,

against 6hich he 6as Nghting4 #hus, to taDe

another instance, he failed to see that the belief in the

eertion of supernatural po6er, even on occasions

6hich strucD him as so frivolous, and in a manner

undoubtedly incompatible 6ith "ustice, 6as merely

an incidental result of a profoundly rooted idea of

the closeness, constancy, and mied holiness and

ma"esty, of the relations bet6een man and an a6ful

being other than man, endo6ed 6ith po6ers denied

to us, and animated by motives inscrutable to us4

7e chose, if 6e are not 6rong in using a term that

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may imply much conscious deliberation, to identify

his o6n conception of deity 6ith the conception of

deity in the Nrst four centuries of the hristian

era, simply because the ob"ect of each 6as called by

a common name4 7e found that the actions attribu-

ted to the $upreme 3eing 6hom the hurch revered,

6ere un6orthy of a personage endo6ed 6ith the

Qualities 6hich he ascribed to a supreme po6er, in

his o6n version of that culminating conception4 7e

6as thus never on the same plane of thought or

argument, but he never 6as near Nnding this out4

 #he 2od 6hom he conceived 6as incapable, from the

very nature attributed to him by his 6orshippers,

of the various transactions, lofty and mean, sublime

and puerile, described in the documents on 6hich

atholicism relied, and the tradition by 6hich it

corroborated and interpreted them4 #he ground

ol4 FH 1*

H5G oltaire4

idea of the belief in the miraculous 6as an etremely

anthropomorphic notion of a divinity, possessed of

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complete po6er, but using it in obedience to motives

6hich Nnite understandings cannot pretend to

fathom or measure4 $uch a notion 6as the natural

gro6th of the human mind, amid such a set of cir-

cumstances as attended the development and estab-

lishment of hristianity4 =en sat in darDness,

forlorn and 6ithout hope, and it is not hard for us

to imagine the eultation 6ith 6hich some greater

spirit 6ould produce, and all others 6ould embrace,

the idea of this misery and darDness being no more

than an outer accident, the mysterious and incom-

9prehensible dispensation of a divine being, ever alive

to the destinies of men, but holding them in the hol-

lo6 of an unseen hand, and guiding them in 6ays

that are not as our 6ays ! ever remote from corporeal

vision, but operating at a multitude of points on the

spirit of each man through grace, and Nnally, by a

consummating miracle repeated daily some thou-

sands of times, severing this spirit from the proba-

tion of esh, and prolonging its eistence indepen-

dently of the body through all eternity in modes of

being, none the less real for being impossible to

conceive4 #o oltaire this 6as unspeaDable foolish-

ness4 #he prodigies of grace, of the resurrection

of the body, of the incarnation of divinity, 6ere

inconsistent 6ith9the Qualities 6hich he imputed to

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the creator of the universe, and hence he contented

himself 6ith mocDing at them ! the real state of the

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 H5A

case 6as simply that a number of inuences had

dra6n men aside from that conception of the creator,

6ith 6hich such prodigies 6ere not inconsistent,

but 6ere on the contrary logically and inseparably


 #his failure to rise to the highest ideas involved

in the great debate eplains, along 6ith much

besides, t6o striDing facts connected 6ith it4 It

eplains the intense acerbity of the conict, and

the aming depth of the chasm 6hich divided and

divides the t6o camps in )rance4 )or the best

natures are most violently irritated and outraged by

mocDing and satiric attacD upon the minor details,

the accidents, the outside of the ob"ects of faith,

6hen they 6ould have been aMected in a very diMer-

ent 6ay by a contrast bet6een the loftiest parts of

their o6n belief and the loftiest parts of some other

belief4 =any persons 6ho 6ould listen to a grave

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attacD on the consistency, reasonableness, and eleva-

tion of the currently ascribed attributes of the

2odhead, 6ith something of the respect due to the

profound solemnity of the sub"ect, 6ould turn 6ith

deaf and implacable resentment upon one 6ho

should maDe merry over the s6ine of 2adara4

 #he same circumstance, secondly, eplains the

absence of permanent Quality about all that oltaire

6rote upon religion4 )or instance, men 6ho sym-

pathi>e 6ith him in his aims, and even for their saDe

forgive him his method, 6ho have long ago strucD

the tents under 6hich they once found shelter in the

1CB oltaire4

lands of belief, to 6hom atholicism has become as

etinct a thing as =ahometanism, even they 6ill turn

6ith better chance of ediNcation to the great masters

and teachers of the old faith, than to the Nery pre-

cursor of the ne64 .nd 6hy, if not for the reason

that 6hile he dealt mainly 6ith the lo6er religious

ideas, or 6ith the higher ideas in their lo6est forms,

they put these into the second place, and move 6ith

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an inspiring eultation amid the loftiest and most

general conceptions that Nne imaginations and a

soaring reason could discover among the spiritual

treasures of their religion4 #hey turned to the

diviner mind, and eercised themselves 6ith the

6eightiest and most universal circumstances of

the destiny of manDind4 #his is 6hat maDes their

thought and eloQuence of perpetual 6orth, because

the circumstances 6ith 6hich they deal are perpetu-

ally present, and the elements of life and character

to 6hich they appeal perpetually operative4 #he

a6ful la6 of death, the impenetrable secret of the

Nrst cause, the Nerce play of passion and universal

distribution of pain, the momentariness of guilt and

eternity of remorse, the anguish of bereavement that

choDes and rends, the hopeless inner desolation

6hich is the unbroDen lot of myriads of the forlorn

of the earth, these ghostly things ever laying siege

to the soul 6ere Dno6n to a 3ossuet or a %ascal, and

resolved by a series of ideas about the unDno6able

po6er and the government of the 6orld, 6hich are

no longer the mighty 6eapons of eorcism they once

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 HC1

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6ere, but they are at any rate of due magnitude

and proportion, sublime, solemn, never un6orthy4

+e touch the hands of those 6ho have 6alDed

6ith the =ost 7igh, and they tell us many moving

6onders ! 6e looD on faces that have shone in rays

from the heaven of noble thoughts ! 6e hear solemn

and melodious 6ords from men 6ho received

ans6ers from oracles that to us are very mute, but

the memory of 6hose po6er is still upon us4 7ence

the 6orD of these glo6ing mortals lives even for

those to 6hom their faith is dead, 6hile the 6ords

that oltaire 6rote on religion are lifeless as the

Infamous 6hich they so meritoriously sle64 .s

6e have said, he never Dne6 the deeper things of

atholicism4 #his is 6hat he 6rote about the

immortal /ante : 'verybody 6ith a sparD of good

sense ought to blush at that monstrous assemblage

in hell of /ante and irgil, of $aint %eter and

=adonna 3eatrice4 #here are to be found among

us, in the eighteenth century, people 6ho force them-

selves to admire feats of imagination as stupidly

etravagant and as barbarous as this! they have

the brutality to oppose them to the masterpieces of

genius, 6isdom, and eloQuence, that 6e have in our

language4 O tempora, O fudiciumS #o 6hich

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prodigy of criticism 6e can only eclaim 6ith the

echo, O tempora, O indiciumS

HCH oltaire4


Let us see shortly 6hat 6as oltaire9s o6n solu-

tion of those facts of life 6ith 6hich religion has to

deal4 #he atholic solution 6e Dno6, and can def-

initely analy>e and describe! but the vagueness of

oltairean deism deNes any attempt at detailed

eamination4 +e can perceive a supernatural eist-

ence, endo6ed 6ith indeNnable attributes, 6hich are

Ned sub"ectively in the individual consciousness of

each believer, and 6hich therefore can never be set

forth in a scheme of general acceptance4 #he ol-

tairean deist and such persons eist in ample

numbers to this day hardly ever taDes the trouble

to reconcile 6ith one another the various attributes

6hich he imputes at various times to some great

master po6er of the universe4 #here is scarcely one

of these attributes to 6hich, 6hen it comes to be

deNnitely described, he does not encounter aMronting

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contradiction in the real occurrences that arise from

time to time to search and try all our theories, deisti-

cal, or other4 #he phenomena of moral and phys-

ical evil on the earth, and the arrival of disasters

6hich maDe no discrimination bet6een their victims,

are constantly dealing sore blo6s to the conceptions

6hich the deist loves to erect in moments of opti-

mistic epansion, of the clemency, "ustice, and illim-

itable po6er of a being 6ho governs the universe,

and is a something outside and independent of it4

 #hese optimist conceptions, vague, unveriNed, free

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 HC

of deNnite relations 6ith any moral or social system,

and furnishing no principle of active human asso-

ciation as the atholic idea of deity had done, con-

stitute the favorite religion or religiosity of those

classes in all modern countries, 6hich have found

the oltairean Dind of ob"ection to the hristian

revelation insuperable, and 6hich are so fortunate

as to en"oy a full measure of material prosperity4

 #o these classes the blacD side of life is strange and

a matter of hearsay ! and hence the a6D6ardness of

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reconciling their complacent theory 6ith the horror

of facts is never forced upon them4 In their o6n

happiness they love to superadd the luury of thanD-

fulness to the bounty of a being to 6hom they o6e

all, and to s6ell the tide of their o6n emotions by

meditation on his inNnite and unspeaDable perfec-

tions4 %roof they reQuire none, beyond the loveli-

ness and variety of eternal nature, the innocence

and delight of all young creatures, the order of the

seasons bearing us their copious fruit, the vivid intel-

ligence and serviceable po6er of man, 6ho is the

divinely appointed recipient of all these multitudi-

nous favors4 7ence in proportion as this sort of

deism stirs the soul of a man, the more closely are

his inmost thoughts reserved for contemplation of

the relations bet6een the $upreme 3eing and his

o6n individuality4 It is a creed 6hich is specially

adapted for, and has been generally sei>ed by, those

6ith 6hom the 6orld has gone very 6ell, o6ing to

their o6n laudable eertion, and 6ho are inclined to

HCF oltaire4

believe that the eisting ordering of society is funda-

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mentally the best possible4 It is the superlative dec-

oration of optimism4

 #he mass of men, those 6ho d6ell in dens and

6hose lives are bitter, have never, in spite even of

&ousseau9s teaching, accepted deism4 .n opportu-

nity for trying the eperiment had occurred in the

fourth century, and the lesson should not be for-

gotten4 /eism had been the prevailing opinion in

religion, but, as the most instructive of all the histo-

rians of the dissolution of the empire observes, it

6as generally felt that deism did not supply the void

occasioned by the absence of the multitude of sym-

pathetic divinities of the pagan system4 Its inuence

6as cold and inanimate4 #he common people are

6ont to crave a revelation, or else they Nnd atheism

a rather better synthesis than any other4 #hey either

cling to the miraculously transmitted message 6ith

its hopes of recompense, and its daily communi-

cation of the divine voice in prayer or sacrament,

or else they maDe a 6orld 6hich moves through

space as a blacD monstrous ship 6ith no steersman4

 #he bare deistic idea, of a being endo6ed at once

6ith sovereign po6er and sovereign clemency, 6ith

might that cannot be resisted and "ustice that cannot

be impugned, 6ho loves man 6ith inNnite tender-

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ness, yet sends him no 6ord of comfort and gives

him no 6ay of deliverance, is too hard a thing for

those 6ho have to endure the hardships of the

brutes, but yet preserve the intelligence of men4

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 HC5

omment concevoir un /ieu, la bonte meme,

Eui prodigua ses biens a ses enfans Qu9il aime,

't Qui versa sur eu les mau a pleines mains?

Euel ceil peut penetrer dans ses profonds desseins ?

/e 19etre tout parfait le mal ne pouvait naitre S

II ne vient point d9autrui puisQue /ieu seul est maitre :

II eiste pourtant4 O tristes verites S

O melange etonnant de contrarietes S

n /ieu vint consoler notre race aRigee!

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II visita la terre et ne 19a point changee S

n sophiste arrogant nous dit Qu9il ne 19a pu!

II le pouvait, dit 19autre, et ne 19a point voulu!

II le voudra, sans doute! et tandis Qu9on raisonne,

/es foudres souterraines engloutissent Lisbonne,

't de trente cites dispersent les debris,

/es bords sanglans du #age a la mer de adi4 1

. bald deism has undoubtedly been the creed of

some of the purest and most generous men that have

ever trod the earth, but none the less on that account

is it in its essence a doctrine of self-complacent

individualism from 6hich society has little to hope,

and 6ith 6hich there is little chance of the bulD

of society ever sympathi>ing4 In truth, one can

scarcely call it a creed4 It is mainly a name for a

particular mood of Nne spiritual ealtation! the

epression of a state of indeNnite aspiration and

supreme feeling for lofty things4 .re you going to

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convert the ne6 barbarians of our 6estern 6orld

6ith this fair 6ord of emptiness ? +ill you s6eeten

the lives of suMering men, and taDe its heaviness

from that droning piteous chronicle of 6rong and

cruelty and despair, 6hich everlastingly saddens the

1 %oeme sur le /esastre de Lisbonne4 J'uvres, v, p4 54

HCC oltaire4

compassionating ear liDe moaning of a midnight

sea! 6ill you animate the stout of heart 6ith ne6

Nre, and the Nrm of hand 6ith fresh "oy of battle,

by the thought of a being 6ithout intelligible attri-

butes, a mere abstract creation of metaphysic, 6hose

mercy is not as our mercy, nor his "ustice as our

 "ustice, nor his fatherhood as the fatherhood of men?

It 6as not by a cold, a cheerless, a radically deprav-

ing conception such as this, that the hurch became

the refuge of humanity in the darD times of old, but

by the representation, to men sitting in bondage and

confusion, of godliDe natures moving among them

under Ngure of the most eternally touching of

human relations, a tender mother ever interceding

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for them, and an elder brother laying do6n his life

that their burdens might be loosened4

+e have spoDen of oltairean deism, and the

epression is a convenient one to distinguish from

the various forms of mystic theology, 6hich gloomily

disclaim any pretence to be rational, the halting-place

of spirits too deeply penetrated 6ith the rational-

istic ob"ections of oltaire to accept revelation, and

either too timorous or too conNdent to acQuiesce in

a neutral solution4 It is un"ust, ho6ever, to attrib-

ute to oltaire himself a perfect adherence to the

deistical idea4 )or the Nrst half of his life there is

no doubt that it oated in his mind, as in so many

others, in a random manner, as the true eplanation

of the 6orld4 7is introduction to the teaching of

0e6ton 6ould give a Nrmer shape to such a belief4

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 HC*

7e has indeed told us that it 6as so4 7e mentions

that in the course of several intervie6s he had 6ith

/octor $amuel larDe in 1*HC, this philosopher

never pronounced the name of 2od 6ithout a curi-

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ous air of a6e and self -collection, and he commemo-

rates the impression 6hich the sight of this habit,

and reection upon its signiNcance, made upon him4

$till it 6as not a very active or vital element of

belief 6ith him even then, but rather of the nature

of the sublimest of poetic Ngures4

Oui, dans le sein de /ieu, loin de ce corps mortel,

L9esprit semble ecouter la voi 19Nternel4

learly this Dind of epression means very little,

and has no source in the deeper seats of the 6riter9s

feeling4 . considerable number of oltaire9s deis-

tical e"aculations, and on these occasions he thre6

into them a measure of real unction, may be fairly

traced to the etraordinary polemical utility of an

idea of spotless purity, entire "ustice, inehaustible

mercy, as an engine of battle against men 6ho in the

sacred name of this idea 6ere the great practitioners

of intolerance and 6rong4

Ignorer ton etre supreme,

2rand /ieu S c9est un moindre blaspheme,

't moins digne de ton courrou

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Eue de te croire impitoyable,

/e nos malheurs insatiable,

 ;alou, in "uste comme nous,

LorsQu9un devot atrabilaire

0ourri de superstition,

. par cette aMreuse chimere,

orrompu sa religion,

HCG oltaire4

Le voila stupide et farouche:

Le Nel decoule de sa bouche,

Le fanatisme arme son bras :

't dans sa piete profonde

$a rage immolerait le monde

. son /ieu, Qu9il ne connait pas4

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 #o have a conception of perfect goodness 6as a

manifest convenience in confronting men 6ho 6ere

to be proved masters of badness4 3ut 6hen the

pressure of circumstance forced oltaire to seeD in

earnest for an eplanation of the 6orld, 6hich he

had formerly been content to taDe in an easy 6ay

upon trust, then the deism, 6hich had been barely

more than nominal at best, 6as transformed into

a very diMerent and far sincerer mood4 It 6ould

obviously be a gross blunder from a logical point to

confound optimism 6ith deism, but it is clear that

6hat shooD oltaire9s conviction of the eistence of

a deity 6as the a6aDening in him of a Deener sense

of the calamities that aRict the race of man4 %er-

sonal misfortunes perhaps had their share4 It 6as

after the loss of =adame du hatelet, and after the

rude dispersion of his illusions as to )redericD, 6hen

he barely Dne6 6hither to turn for shelter or a

home, that the optimism 6hich he had learnt in 'ng-

land began to lose its hold upon him4 +e must do

him the "ustice to add that he 6as yet more sensible

of disasters 6hich aMected others4 #he horrid tide

of 6ar 6hich devastated 'urope and .merica, the

yet more hateful tide of persecution for opinion

6hich s6ept over )rance, and the cruel maladmin-

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+ar .gainst Intolerance4 HCA

istration of "ustice 6hich disgraced her tribunals,

stirred all that 6as best in him to the very depths4

 #he only non-dramatic poem of his 6hich has

strength, sincerity, and profundity of meaning

enough Nrmly to arrest the reader9s attention, and

stimulate both thought and feeling, is that Nne and

po6erful piece 6hich he 6rote on the occasion of

the great earthQuaDe of Lisbon4 7ere he thre6 into

energetic and passionately argumentative verse the

same protest against the theory that 6hatever is is

best, 6hich he after6ards urged in a very diMerent

form in the reNned insolence of andide4 7e

approaches more nearly than a Quarter of a century

before he 6ould have thought possible, to the deep

gloom of the %ascal against 6hose terrible pictures

he had then so 6armly protested4 7e sees manDind

imprisoned in a circle of appalling doom, from 6hich

there is no 6ay of escape4 nliDe %ascal, he can

Nnd no solution, and he denounces that mocDery of

a solution 6hich cries that all is 6ell in accents stied

6ith lamentation4 7e protests against the delusion

of forcing the course of the 6orld9s destiny into a

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moral formula, that shall contain the terms of "us-

tice and mercy in their human sense4

.u cris demi-formes de leurs voi epirantes,

.u spectacle eMrayant de leurs cendres fumantes,

/ire>-vous : 9est 19eMet des eternelles lois,

Eui d9un /ieu libre et bon necessitent le choi?

/ire>-vous, en voyant cet amas de victimes :

/ieu s9est venge, leur mort est le pri de leurs crimes?

Euel crime, Quelle faute ont commis ces enfans

H*B oltaire4

$ur le sein maternel ecrases et sanglans?

Lisbonne, Qui n9est plus, eut-elle plus de vices

Eue Londres, Que %aris, plonges dans les delices?

Lisbonne est abimee, et #on danse a %aris4

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7e eQually refuses, though not in terms, to comfort

himself by the reection that, in default of a better,

the current ragged theory of the providential govern-

ment of the universe, because it may be possible,

must be true4 7e can Nnd no ans6er, and confesses

his belief that no ans6er is to be found by human

eMort4 +hatever side 6e taDe, 6e can only shudder !

there is nothing that 6e Dno6, nothing that 6e have

not to fear4 0ature is mute, and 6e interrogate her

in vain ! the booD of destiny is closed to our eyes4

L9homme, etranger a soi, de I9homme est ignore4

Eue suis-"e? ou suis-"e? ou vais-"e?et d9ou suis-"e tire?

.to es tourmentes sur cet amas de boue,

Eue la mort engloutit, et dont le sort se "oue,

=ais atomes pensans, atomes dont les yeu,

2uides par la pensee, ont mesure les cieu,

.u sein de 19inNni nous elani"ons notre etre,

$ans pouvoir un moment voir et nous connaitre4


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Le passe n9est pour nous Qu9un triste souvenir!

Le present est aMreu, s9il n9est point d9avenir,

$i la nuit du tombeau detruit 19etre Qui pense4

7e abandons %lato and re"ects 'picurus4 3ayle

Dno6s more than they, as, 6ith the balance in his

hand, he teaches men to doubt! 6ise enough, great

enough, to be 6ithout a system4

In a note he adds to this gloriNcation of 3ayle,

6hom he styles the advocate-general of the philos-

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 H*1

ophers the thinDer in 6hose pages all opinions are

set forth, all the reasons 6hich shaDe them and all

6hich uphold are eQually investigated, 6hile he

abstains from giving any conclusions4 'lse6here

he eplains that 6hen he describes reason as having

made immense progress in 2ermany, he does not

refer to those 6ho openly embrace the system of

$pino>a ! but the good folD 6ho have no Ned prin-

ciples on the nature of things, 6ho do not Dno6 6hat

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is, but Dno6 very 6ell 6hat is not, these are my true


It 6ould not be diPcult to Nnd a score of passages

in 6hich the 6riter assumes or declares certainty on

this high matter to be attainable, and to be entirely

in one direction4 7is opinions undoubtedly shifted

6ith the veering of his moods, but on the 6hole these

aioms of suspense marD the central point to 6hich

they constantly tended to return, and at 6hich they

rested longest4 #hat darD 6ord, $hut thine eyes and

thou shalt see, opened no road for him4 #he saying

that the =ost 7igh may be easily Dno6n, provided

one does not press for deNnition, oMered no treasure

of spiritual acQuisition to the man 6ho never let go,

even if he did not al6ays accurately appreciate,

LocDe9s in"unction to us to be careful to deNne our

terms4 +e cannot label oltaire either spiritualist

or materialist4 #he success 6ith 6hich he evades

these t6o appellations is one of the best available

tests of a man9s capacity for approaching the great

problems 6ith that care and positive "udgment,

H*H oltaire4

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6hich are Quite as proper to them as to practical

aMairs or to physical science4

 #hus 6ith reference to the other great open Ques-

tion, he habitually insisted that the immortality of

the soul can never possibly be demonstrated, and

that this is 6hy it has been revealed to us by relig-

ion, 6hich is perhaps oltaire9s 6ay of saying that

it is no near concern of his4 $ometimes he argued

from considerations of general probability4 #he

brutes feel and thinD up to a certain point, and men

have only the advantage over them of a greater com-

bination of ideas ! the more or less maDes no diMer-

ence in Dind4 +ell, nobody thinDs of giving an

immortal soul to a ea ! 6hy should you give one any

the more to an elephant, or a monDey, or my ham-

pagne valet, or a village ste6ard 6ho has a trie

more instinct than my valet ? .gain, he retorted sig-

niNcantly on those 6ho contended 6ith a vehemence

of pre"udice Dno6n in some places even to this day,

that belief in the immortality of the soul is an indis-

pensable condition of probity: as if the Nrst ;e6s

accepted that dogma, and as if there 6ere no honest

men among them, and no instruction in virtue4

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In Nne, then, 6e search oltaire in vain for a

positive creed, 6hich logic may hold in coherent

bonds, or social philosophy accept as a religious

force4 #he old 6ord about his faith must be pro-

nounced true4 It remains a creed of negation4 3ut

still, be it al6ays understood, negation of darDness4

.nd this inevitably leads in the direction of the day4

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 H*

It 6as an indispensable step in the process of trans-

ition4 =en, it is constantly being said since the

violent breaDing-up of )rench society, 6ill never

consent to live on no better base than articles of

denial and formulas of suspense, for are not the

deepest parts of human character moved by strong

yearning for relationship 6ith the unDno6able? It

may be so, and if it be, the oltairean movement 6as

the great instrument in leading, not merely a scanty

group of speculative intellects, but vast bodies, large

nations, of common folD to perceive, or dimly to con-

 "ecture, that this ob"ect of adoration 6hich their

eyes strain after is unDno6able, and that there is no

attainable eternal correlative of their deep desire4

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oltaire never 6ent so far in the direction of asser-

tion as &ousseau, and he never 6ent so far in the

direction of denial as 7olbach4 .nd, 6hatever 6e

may say generally of the horror of the 6orld for

the spirit that denies, all that 6as best and most truly

progressive in )rench society during the eighteenth

century, #urgot and ondorcet no less than 3eau-

marchais, sho6ed itself content to follo6 him in this

middle path4 7is appreciation of religion 6as 6ant-

ing in a hundred vital things, "ust as some may say

that Luther9s 6as, but it contained the one idea 6hich

the deepest spirit of the time prompted men to desire,

the decisive repudiation of the religious notions of

the past4 +e must call this negative, no doubt, but

no 6ord should frighten us a6ay from seeing ho6

much positive aspiration lay underneath4 +hen men

ol4 FH1G

H*F oltaire4

are in the mood of )rance a century and a Quarter

since, 6hen all that an old civili>ation has besto6ed

on them of 6hat is best and strongest, rises up

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against all that the same civili>ation has beQueathed

to them of 6hat is pestilent and dangerous, they are

never nice critics4 #hey do not decline a reinvigor-

ating article of faith, because it is not a system, nor

do they measure a deliverer by syllogism4 #he

smallest chinD may shine liDe light of the sun to pris-

oners long held in blacD and cavernous recesses4

+hen 3ayle9s /ictionary came out, 6e read, so

great 6as the avidity to have sight of it, that long

before the doors of the =a>arin library 6ere open,

a little cro6d assembled in the early morning of each

day, and there 6as as great a struggle for the Nrst

access to the precious booD, as for the front ro6

at the performance of a piece for 6hich there is a

rage4 #his 6as the beginning of an immense

impulse of curiosity, eager to Nll the vacuum occa-

sioned by the slo6 subsidence of the old religion,

6hich had once covered not only faith, but science,

history, dialectic, and philosophy, all in a single syn-

thesis4 It 6as this impulse 6hich oltaire both rep-

resented and accelerated4 In these periods of agita-

tion, men forgive all to one 6ho represents 6ithout

compromise or diminution their o6n dominant pas-

sions4 ehemence of character counts for more

than completeness of doctrine, and they crave a

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battle-cry, not a dissertation4 #hey need to have

their o6n sentiment aggressively presented, and

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 H*5

their o6n defects of boldness or courage at once

rebuDed and supplemented by a leader 6hose pur-

pose can never be mistaDen, and 6hose 6ords are

never nipped by the frost of intellectual misgiving4

.ll through the century there 6as slo6ly gro6ing

up an inner )rance, full of angry disgust against the

past4 Its germ 6as the cro6d eager to read 3ayle4

Its outcome 6as the night of the fourth of .ugust,

1*GA, 6hen the civil order of society 6as overthro6n

bet6een a sunset and a da6n4 oltaire, as 6e have

seen, studiously abstained from any public 6ord

upon things political, but it 6as he 6ho in the long

interval bet6een these t6o events held men by a

6atch6ord to 6hich the political decay of the coun-

try gave such meaning, that of hatred to the old4

.nd there 6as no such steadfast symbol of the old

as the hurch, to him and his school a lurid beacon

on a monster-haunted shore4

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oltaire9s selection of the hurch as the ob"ect of

his attacDs marDs an important diMerence bet6een

him and the other great revolutionary precursor4

&ousseau9s $avoyard icar 6as perfectly 6illing to

accept the cultus of hristianity, even 6hen he had

ceased to accept its dogma4 7e regarded all par-

ticular religions as so many salutary institutions, all

good so long as they 6ere the organs for a due serv-

ice of 2od4 7e actually celebrated mass 6ith more

veneration after the acQuisition of his ne6 princi-

ples, than he had been accustomed to do 6hen he

supposed that the mass 6as an occasion of personal

H*C oltaire4

divine presence4 #his Dind of teaching 6as clearly

to perpetuate and transN forever the form of relig-

ion 6hich each country, or any given set of men in it,

might possess4 It 6as to stereotype belief, as it is

stereotyped among the millions in the 'ast4 +hence

6as reform to come, 6hence any ray of ne6 light,

6hence a principle of gro6th and activity for the

intelligence of men? 7o6 on these terms is truth

to 6in the battle at a single point? #his 6as the

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beginning of a fatal substitution of bland emotional

complacency for robust cultivation of the reason, and

Nrm reverence for its lessons as the highest that 6e

can learn4 oltaire no doubt did in practice many a

time come to terms 6ith his adversary 6hile he 6as

yet on the 6ay 6ith him ! but disagreeable as these

tempori>ings are to us 6ho live in an easier day,

they never deceived any one, nor could they ever be

mistaDen for the establishment of intellectual treason

as a principle, or of philosophic indiMerence as a

clima4 .s has been said, though he 6rites in the

midst of the old regime, in the face of the 3astille,

and 6ith the fetters of the enemy in some sort actu-

ally upon him, he still Nnds a thousand means of

reaching you4 7e is al6ays the representative of

reason, and never of sentimentalism4 7e 6as not

above superNcial compromises in matters of con-

duct, and these it is hard or impossible to condone !

but at any rate he is free from the deeper and more

penetrating reproach of erecting hypocrisy into a

deliberate doctrine4

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 H**

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+e do not Dno6 ho6 far he ever seriously

approached the Question, so much debated since the

overthro6 of the old order in )rance, 6hether a

society can eist 6ithout a religion ? 7e says in one

place that to believe 2od and spirits corporeal is an

old metaphysical error, but absolutely not to believe

in any god 6ould be an error incompatible 6ith 6ise

government4 3ut even this much 6as said for the

saDe of introducing a taunt against the orthodo,

6ho by a strange contradiction had risen up 6ith

fury against 3ayle for believing it possible that a

society of atheists could hold together, 6hile they

insisted 6ith "ust as much violence that the empire of

hina 6as established on a basis of atheism4 7is

natural sagacity 6ould most liDely have sho6n him

that this is one of the sterile problems, 6ith 6hich

the obstructive defender of things as they are tries

to dra6 the soldier of improvement a6ay from his

strongest posts4 +hether a society can eist 6ith-

out religion or not, at least its eistence as a struc-

ture for 6hose duration 6e can be anious, must

depend on the number of men in it 6ho deal hon-

estly 6ith their o6n understandings4 .nd, further,

is no man to be counted to have a religion 6ho, liDe

oltaire, left great Questions open, and put them

aside, as all Questions, that must from the limitations

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of human faculty eternally remain open, 6ell deserve

to be put aside ? =ust 6e ever call an unDno6n 2od

by one name? .re there so fe6 tasDs for one on

H*G oltaire4

earth, that he must strain all his soul to N the regi-

men of high heaven ?

oltaire, there is every reason to thinD, did in an

informal Dind of 6ay suppose in the bottom of his

heart that there is nothing in human nature to hinder

a very advanced society from holding perfectly 6ell

together, 6ith all its opinions in a constant state of

analysis4 +hatever 6e may thinD of it, this dream

of 6hat is possible, if the activity of human intelli-

gence 6ere only suPciently stimulated and the condi-

tions of social union 6ere once so ad"usted as to give

it fair play, unQuestionably lies at the root of the

revolutionary ideas 6ith all those 6ho 6ere Nrst

stirred by oltaire rather than by &ousseau4 on-

dorcet, for instance, manifestly depends 6ith the

Nrmest conNdence upon that possibility being real-

i>ed4 It is the idea of every literary revolutionist,

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as distinguished from the social or economic revolu-

tionist, in )rance at the present day4 #he Dno6l-

edge that this 6as the case, added to the sound

conviction that men can never live by analysis alone,

gave its Nre to de =aistre9s po6erful attacD, and

its immense force to 3urDe9s plea for 6hat he called

pre"udice4 3ut the indispensable synthesis need

never be immovably Ned, nor can it soon again be

one and single for our civili>ation ! for progress con-

sists in gradual modiNcations of it, as increase of

Dno6ledge and unforeseen changes in the current of

human aMairs disclose imperfections in it, and 6her-

ever progress is a la6 the stages of men9s advance

+ar .gainst Intolerance4 H*A

are uneQual4 .bove all, it is monstrous to suppose

that because a man does not accept your synthesis,

he is therefore a being 6ithout a positive creed or a

coherent body of belief capable of guiding and

inspiring conduct4

 #here are ne6 solutions for him, if the old are

fallen dumb4 If he no longer believes death to be

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a stroDe from the s6ord of 2od9s "ustice, but the

leaden footfall of an inevitable la6 of matter, the

humility of his a6e is deepened, and the tenderness

of his pity made holier, that creatures 6ho can love

so much should have their days so shut round 6ith

a 6all of darDness4 #he purifying anguish of

remorse 6ill be stronger, not 6eaDer, 6hen he has

trained himself to looD upon every 6rong in thought,

every duty omitted from act, each infringement of

the inner spiritual la6 6hich humanity is constantly

perfecting for its o6n guidance and advantage, less

as a breach of the decrees of an unseen tribunal, than

as an ungrateful infection, 6eaDening and corrupt-

ing the future of his brothers4 .nd he 6ill be less

eMectually raised from inmost prostration of soul

by a doubtful sub"ective reconciliation, so meanly

comfortable to his o6n individuality, than by hear-

ing full in the ear the sound of the cry of humanity

craving sleepless succor from her children4 #hat

s6elling consciousness of height and freedom 6ith

6hich the old legends of an omnipotent divine ma"-

esty Nll the breast, may still remain ! for ho6 shall

the universe ever cease to be a sovereign 6onder of

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HGB oltaire4

over6helming po6er and superhuman Nedness of

la6? .nd a man 6ill be already in no mean para-

dise, if at the hour of sunset a good hope can fall

upon him liDe harmonies of music, that the earth

shall still be fair, and the happiness of every feeling

creature still receive a constant augmentation, and

each good cause yet Nnd 6orthy defenders, 6hen the

memory of his o6n poor name and personality has

long been blotted out of the brief recollection of men


7.%#'& I4

='#7O/$ .0/ ='&I#$ .$ 7I$#O&I.04

 #7' activity of the foremost men of the eighteenth

century in the composition of history is too remarD-

able a circumstance, not to deserve some attempt at

eplanation4 #here 6ere historians in previous ages,

but in the eighteenth century there 6as both in

)rance, and after6ards in 'ngland, a special and

etraordinary development in this direction4 %ar-

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tially no doubt this 6as due to the general movement

of curiosity, the 6idespread desire for all Dinds of

Dno6ledge, 6hich 6as in the air4 =en 6ere emanci-

pating themselves from the trammels of an authority

6hich had not 6idened the limits of inQuiry in the

same proportion as human faculties had strength-

ened, and, amid the universal epansion of intelli-

gent interest and the eager scrutiny of all the ob"ects

of Dno6ledge 6hich the ne6 da6n 6as baring to

sight, it 6as not possible that the order of political

and social facts in former epochs should be neg-

lected4 #his, ho6ever, does not suPciently eplain

6hy such a man as 7ume betooD himself to the com-


HGH oltaire4

position of history, or 6hy 2ibbon found himself

best able to attacD hristianity by tracing some of

the most important parts of its annals, or 6hy ol-

taire, 6ho lived so entirely and intensely in the

present, should have thought it 6orth 6hile to give

so much labor to presentation of the past4 It is a

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striDing fact, 6hich must be something more than an

accident, that the best secular histories 6hich remain

from this period, one of them the most striDing

monument in historical literature, 6ere 6ritten by

the most marDed assailants of reigning superstition4

+as it not, indeed, to be epected that as the darD

clouds of an absorbing consciousness of the super-

natural cleared a6ay, men of understanding 6ould

be more and more dra6n to6ards study of human

action, and that the advance of society under purely

natural and positive conditions 6ould immediately

sei>e a foremost place among the ob"ects of eperi-

ential inQuiry? It is too constantly maintained

by persons 6ith something of a vested interest in

darDness, that those 6ho do not 6orship the gods

are indiMerent to the happiness of men4 (et the

history of intellectual progress 6ould seem to sho6

that it 6as not until the commencement of a rapid

decline in the acceptance of terrorist and "ealous

deities and incomprehensible dogmas, that serious

attention 6as given to some of the sub"ects in

6hich a sound Dno6ledge is among the most indis-

pensable conditions of the advancing 6elfare of

men4 )or instance, as soon as the hold of ancient

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=ethods and =erits as 7istorian4 HG

versions of the supernatural 6as loosened over the

stronger spirits, by the middle of the century there

instantly tooD place an astonishing development of

activity in the physical sciences4 #he interest of his-

toric and economic studies 6as at least as pressing4

3ecoming a6are that men had made their o6n

6orld, thinDers found the consideration of the proc-

ess by 6hich this 6orld is made, and the order of

society established and developed, forced upon them

6ith an entirely ne6 signiNcance4 #he dry bones of

the ancient valley of annalists and chroniclers 6ere

made to live, and the great 6orD of the reconstruc-

tion of the past 6as begun, 6ith an alertness and per-

severance that has not been surpassed even in an age

of far purer and "uster historical intelligence4 It

6as Quite reasonable that the conviction of each act

in the universe, from the crash of an empire to the

fall of a sparro6 to the ground, being due to an arbi-

trary and inscrutable decree, should prevent the rise

of history from the level of annals into the region

of philosophy4 #he decay of this theory of the gov-

ernment of the universe 6as as reasonably the cause

of a ne6 mode of looDing at the long records of the

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race, and 6e Nnd ourselves moving in a day of his-

torical masterpieces4

oltaire has told us the circumstances under 6hich

he 6as led to approach the philosophy of history4

=adame du hatelet, 6hose mind 6ould fain have

reached every Dind of Dno6ledge, but 6ho 6as

especially apt for metaphysics and geometry, had

HGF oltaire4

conceived an aversion for history4 +hat does it

matter to me, she 6ould asD, a )rench 6oman

living on my estate, to Dno6 that 'gil succeeded

7aQuin in $6eden, and that Ottoman 6as the son

of Ortogrul ? I have read 6ith pleasure the history

of the 2reeDs and the &omans! they oMered me

certain great pictures 6hich attracted me4 3ut I

have never yet been able to Nnish any long history of

our modern nations4 I can see scarcely anything in

them but confusion ! a host of minute events 6ithout

connection or seQuence, a thousand battles 6hich

settled nothing4 I renounced a study 6hich over-

6helms the mind 6ithout illuminating it4 #o this

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franD statement of the case, to 6hich so many thou-

sands of persons in all epochs 6ould so heartily sub-

scribe, oltaire replied by pointing out that perhaps

the study of history 6ould be no 6aste of time, if

by cutting a6ay all the details of 6ars, as tedious

as they are untrust6orthy, all the frivolous negoti-

ations 6hich have been nothing but pieces of pur-

poseless cheating, all the minute incidents 6hich

stie great events, and by retaining those 6hich paint

manners, you made of this chaos a general and 6ell-

arranged picture ! in short, if you tried to disengage

from the concourse of events the history of the

human mind4 0ot all the faults of eecution ought

to blind us to the merit of this notion of the true

6ay of studying history, or to the admirable clear-

ness of vision 6ith 6hich oltaire, not only in this

but in all his other historical pieces, adhered to his

=ethods and =erits as 7istorian4 HG5


o6n t6o leading principles! Nrst, that la6s, arts,

manners, are the chief matter and concern of his-

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tory ! and second, that details 6hich lead to nothing

are in history 6hat baggage is to an army, impedi-

menta, for 6e must looD at things in large, for the

very reason that the human mind is small and sinDs

under the 6eight of minutiae4 =inutiae ought to be

collected by annalists, or in some Dind of diction-

aries 6here one might Nnd them at need4 In this

last point oltaire, as might be epected, 6as more

 "ust than 3olingbroDe, 6ho had said some6hat pet-

ulantly that he had rather taDe the /arius 6hom

.leander conQuered for the son of 7ystaspes, and

maDe as many anachronisms ^ as a ;e6ish chronol-

oger, than sacriNce half his life to collect all the

learned lumber that Nlls the head of an antiQuary4

 #he antiQuary9s is a vocation liDe another, and the

highest Dind of history can only ourish on condition

that the humbler ancillary Dind ourishes also, and

that there are patient and scrupulous men to marD

the diMerence bet6een /arius odomannus and

/arius the son of 7ystaspes4

+e may say that three Dinds of men 6rite his-

tory : the ga>etteer or annalist, the statesman, and the

philosopher4 #he annalist9s business is to investi-

gate and record events, and his highest merits are

clearness, accuracy, and simplicity4 #he political

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historian seeDs the superNcial and immediate causes

of great transactions, and he serves us by mied pen-

etration and soundness of "udgment4 #he historical

HGC oltaire4

philosopher is concerned only 6ith groups of events,

the changes and movements that transform commu-

nities, and 6ith the trains of conditions that lead to

such movements4 #he ma"ority of historians, from

the illustrious 3acon do6n to the compiler of a man-

ual, illustrate the Nrst Dind4 #hucydides and #aci-

tus, among the ancients, a =achiavelli or a )inlay,

among moderns, may illustrate the second Dind4

.s oltaire 6as sometimes ga>etteer and sometimes

statesman, so =ontesQuieu tooD the statesman9s

point of vie6 in his reections on the decline of

&ome, and that of the philosopher in the $pirit of

La6s4 It is the statesman or man of the 6orld, 6ho,

after recounting aesar9s failure on one occasion to

comply 6ith the etiQuette of the senate, proceeds to

maDe the follo6ing reection, that 6e never oMend

men more, than 6hen 6e shocD their ceremonies and

usages: seeD to oppress them, and that is some-

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times a proof of the importance you attach to them !

but shocD their customs, and that is al6ays a marD

of contempt4 It is the philosopher, feeling for the

causes of things and their order, 6ho being led to

inQuire into the spirit or meaning of La6s, under-

stands such an inQuiry to involve a comparative

investigation of the relations bet6een la6s and

physical climate, the Quality of ground, situation and

etent of territory, the mode of life of the people,

agricultural, hunting, or pastoral ! bet6een la6s and

the freedom of the constitution, the religion, 6ealth,

trade, moral ideas, and manners, of the inhabitants !

=ethods and =erits as 7istorian4 HG*

above all, historically, bet6een la6s and their origin

and the order of things on 6hich they 6ere Nrst


In a similar 6ay 6e may divide oltaire9s histor-

ical pieces into t6o main classes4 Indeed, if 6e

count the .nnals of the 'mpire, 6hich he 6rote

to please the /uchess of $ae-2otha, he may ranD

also under the third remaining head among the

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annalistic historians4 #his, ho6ever, is too unsatis-

factory a piece of 6orD for us to care either to clas-

sify or to remember it4 #he sub"ect 6as not of his

o6n selection, he Dne6 comparatively little about

it, his materials 6ere etremely scanty and imperfect,

and he composed it at a time 6hen his 6hole mind

6as violently perturbed by his recent Quarrel 6ith

)redericD, and torn by aniety 6here he should Nnd

a home in rest and freedom4 It 6as the only 6orD

he ever 6rote, for 6hich he perhaps had no heart,

and the least observant reader 6ill notice ho6 vast

a diMerence this made in the temper of its composi-

tion4 Indeed, oltaire 6as not born to be a simple

chronicler4 #he realistic and practical leanings of

his intellect naturally gave him a distaste for the col-

lection of mere uninterpreted and unapplied facts4

7is clear comprehensiveness, the product of a vig-

orous imagination 6ith strong sense, as naturally

impelled him to group circumstances, and to intro-

duce the 6idest possible generality among them4

7e has one of the peculiar gifts of the historian, as

distinguished from the ga>etteer, of thro6ing rapid

HGG oltaire4

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glances over a 6ide Neld on the suggestion of a

minor fact as he passes by it, and of converting 6hat

to others 6ould be the mere unconsidered tries of

narrative into something possessed of its due meas-

ure of vitality and signiNcance4 7e Nlls his pages

6ith reections that are usually not brought from

very far depths, but 6hich are almost al6ays lively,

 "ust, and in real matter4 %erhaps this is not an

unmied good, for it is not unconnected 6ith an

etraordinary evenness and light facility of style,

6hich tends to dra6 the reader some6hat too rapidly

and too smoothly over ground that had been rugged

enough to the actual travellers4 It tends therefore

tacitly to plant a false impression about the tardi-

ness, diPculty, peril, and inNnitely varied possibil-

ities of the social movements 6hich are history9s

ob"ect and material4 %erhaps a reader has a better

idea of the true manner in 6hich events march, from

omines or larendon, than from all the elegance

and manifold graces of oltaire, and 6e sometimes

feel inclined to repeat de =aistre9s angry demand

for that grave and unhasting dignity 6hich is the

life of history4

+e have already noticed one of the diMerences

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bet6een oltaire and &ousseau, 6hich arose from

the predominance of sentiment over reason in the

latter4 In the present connection another fact 6ell

6orth noticing is that &ousseau 6as entirely 6ant-

ing in either taste or serious regard for history4 #he

past seems to have been to him a Dind of blurred

=ethods and =erits as 7istorian4 HGA

tablet, confused and indecipherable, interposed

bet6een the vision of men and the only thought or

Dno6ledge 6hich it is good for them to possess4

oltaire9s reading of this tablet 6as inadeQuate

enough, in many respects it 6as even a grave dis-

tortion of the truth! but 6ith that sound sense in

6hich &ousseau 6as so absolutely deNcient, he felt

ho6 irrational it 6as, in the Nrst place, to shut our

eyes deliberately to the course and meaning of all

the foregone action of the race, and, in the second,

to leave unattacDed and unturned the strong posi-

tion 6hich the traditional parables of the past and

their undisturbed interpretation conferred upon the

champions of orthodoy and absolutism4 &ousseau,

being a sentimentalist, appears to have discerned

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nothing of this4 7is ideas all involved a breach 6ith

the past, as oltaire9s did, but oltaire deserves

credit for perceiving that, to maDe this eMective,

you must at least Nnd out as 6ell as you can 6hat

the past 6as4

)or his four 6orDs in the class of political history

he had the best attainable authorities and material,

and no one 6as ever more diligent in putting them to

the best possible use4 1 7is acute sense, strengthened

1 #he dates of the publication of oltaire9s historical

6orDs are these: harles @II4, 1*1! $iecle de Louis

@I4, 1*5H Ja portion of It in 1*AK! .nnales de r 'mpire,

i*5-5Fi 'ssai sur les =teurs, 1*5* Jsurreptitiously in 1*5FK!

7istoire de &ussie, %t4 I in 1*5A, %t4 II in 1*C ! %recis du

$itcle de Louis @4, 1*CG ! 7istoire du %arlement de %aris,

1*CA4 ol4 FH 1A

HAB oltaire4

by contact 6ith the 6orld and its most active person-

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ages, made him 6hat 6e may almost call prema-

turely scientiNc in his demand for adeQuate evidence

and proof4 It is rather striDing, for eample, to Nnd

him anticipating more recent ob"ections to the trust-

6orthiness of #acitus, pointing out the etraordinary

improbabilities in his account of #iberius, 0ero, and

the others4 #here is all the diMerence, he says,

bet6een a faithful historian eQually free from adula-

tion and hatred, and a malicious 6it 6ho poisons

everything through the medium of a concise and

energetic style4 .re 6e to believe, he asDs else-

6here, on the story of a man 6ho lived long after

 #iberius, that this emperor, nearly eighty years old,

6ho had up to that time been decent almost to auster-

ity, yet passed all his time in debaucheries hitherto

unDno6n, and so monstrous as to need ne6 names

for them? .nd in the same 6ay he Questions the

alleged atrocities of 0ero and aligula, as 6ell as

the motives imputed to /omitian by #acitus for the

freQuency 6ith 6hich he sent to inQuire after the

health of .gricola4 #hese historic doubts sprang

from none of the political "udgment or feeling 6hich

propounds them in more modern times, but purely

from scientiNc incredulity4 7istory, he once

6rote, is after all nothing but a parcel of tricDs

that 6e play the dead4 7e did not hold this

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slightly splenetic theory, in 6hich assuredly there is

a painful truth, to absolve him from the duty of

doing 6hat he could to belie it, and to maDe history

=ethods and =erits as 7istorian4 HA1

as correct and as faithfully representative of actual

occurrences, as careful inQuiry from those most

liDely to Dno6 the characters of the most prominent

actors could maDe it4 In the composition of the

$iecle de Louis @4 he had of course the advan-

tage of Dno6ing all these leaders of the public activ-

ity personally and at Nrst hand, 6hile if he had not

that advantage to the same etent in the $iecle de

Louis @I4, he at least mied on intimate terms

6ith many 6ho had been intimate 6ith the court of

the great monarch4 )or the history of &ussia he

6as amply provided 6ith documents and authentic

narratives from the &ussian court, at 6hose solici-

tation he undertooD a 6orD 6hich 6as the Nrst full

introduction of that hitherto barbarous and unDno6n

country to the literature of civili>ed 'urope4 7is

letters to $chouvalof, the imperial chamberlain,

attest the unremitting industry 6ith 6hich he sought

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for every Dind of information that might be useful

to him4 #hat enlightened spirit 6hich no6 reigns

among the principal nations of 'urope, reQuires that

6e should go to the bottom, 6here in former times a

historian barely thought it 6orth 6hile to sDim the

surface4 %eople 6ish to Dno6 ho6 a nation gre6

together! 6hat 6as its population before the epoch

of 6hich you treat ! the diMerence in the number of

the regular army then and in former times! the

nature and gro6th of its commerce ! 6hat arts have

sprung up 6ithin the country, and 6hat have been

introduced from else6here and been perfected there !

HAH oltaire4

6hat used to be the ordinary average revenue of the

state, and 6hat it is no6 ! the birth and etension of

its navy! the proportion in numbers bet6een its

nobles and its ecclesiastics and monDs, and bet6een

the latter and the cultivators of the soil, etc4 'ven

importunities of this Dind continued over a space of

some years, and the copious responses 6hich they

brought never consoled oltaire for not having

made the "ourney to the &ussian capital in his proper

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person4 I should have learnt more from you in a

fe6 hours of conversation, he 6rote to $chouvalof,

than all the compilers in the 6orld 6ill ever teach

me4 In 6riting the 7istory of harles @II4 of

$6eden, one of the most delightful of his booDs,

the art of 6hich is none the less because it is so little

ostentatious and striDing and seems so easy, he had

procured a large Quantity of material from )abrice,

6ho Dne6 the $6edish Ding during his detention at

3ender and subseQuently, and met oltaire in Lon-

don4 #his material 6as supplemented in later years

by information picDed up at Luneville from the

e-%olish Ding $tanislaus, 6ho 6as indebted to

harles for his sovereignty, that true $3pov ad6pov4

.s for the portraits of men, oltaire declared,

they are nearly all the creations of fancy ! 9tis a

monstrous piece of charlatanry to pretend to paint

a personage 6ith 6hom you have never lived4

0apoleon, in the memorable campaign of 1G1H, com-

ing to various places 6hich oltaire had occasion to

describe in his 7istory of harles @II4, found

=ethods and =erits as 7istorian4 HA

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his account 6eaD and inaccurate, and thre6 it aside

in favor of .dlerfeldt4 #his 6as to be epected

from the very merit of the booD! for ho6 should

a picture, painted in large for the general instruc-

tion of the 6orld, satisfy the minute reQuirements

of strategical topography? It 6as precisely ol-

taire9s ob"ect to separate history from geography,

statistics, anecdote, biography, tactics, and to invest

it 6ith an independent character and Quality apart

from all these4

It is another of the distinctions of his ne6 method

of 6riting history that, 6ith the eception of the

booD on harles @IL, he thro6s persons and per-

sonal interests into a second place, as being no more

than instruments or convenient names for critical

turning-points in the large movements of peoples4

In the narration of the rise of &ussia to a place

among civili>ed nations, the character of %eter the

2reat inevitably comes into marDed prominence,

because 6hen a population lies on the stagnant level

of barbarism, the Nrst man 6ho summons them to

undertaDe the tasD of national elevation constitutes

an element of paramount importance in their annals4

In proportion, ho6ever, as they rise to the fulNlment

of this surpassing 6orD, the importance of the heroic

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individual diminishes ! as the national self-conscious-

ness and collective po6ers become greater, the Ngure

of the individual sho6s less4

oltaire 6as al6ays conscious, though not so

clearly as 6riters are no6, of the great historical

HAF oltaire4

principle that besides the prominent men of a gen-

eration there is a something at 6orD underneath, a

moving current on 6hose ood they are borne4 7e

never Ned this current by any of the names 6hich

no6 fall so glibly from our lips, tendency of the

times, tenor of public opinion, spirit of the age, and

the liDe, by 6hich 6e give a collective name to

groups of sentiments and forces, all maDing in 6hat

seems to be a single direction4 3ut although

unnamed, this singular and invisible concurrence of

circumstance 6as yet a reality to him4 #he age 6as

something besides its heroes, and something besides

its noisiest and most resounding occurrences4 7is

divisions of the great epochs of humanity are

undoubtedly open to much criticism, because the

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principles on 6hich he dre6 the dividing lines have

lost their force in ne6 generations4 It 6as to be

epected that they 6ould do so ! and his four great

epochs 6ere not liDely to remain the four great

epochs of a posterity, 6hich has partially learnt the

lesson that he had not learnt at all, that perfection

in the Nne arts is not the highest marD of an age in

6hich humanity may glory4 0evertheless, 6e are

bound to recogni>e that a ne6 6ay of regarding

human action, as 6ell as a ne6 6ay of composing

history, 6as being introduced by a 6riter 6hose Nrst

paragraph declared that he proposed to himself a

greater ob"ect than an account of the life of Louis

@I4 ! that he designed to paint for the instruction

of posterity, not the actions of a single man, but the

=ethods and =erits as 7istorian4 HA5

spirit of men ! and that 6hile all periods must be

aliDe to one 6ho only desires to Nll his memory 6ith

facts, discrimination among them cannot be dis-

pensed 6ith for one 6ho thinDs4

7ence also the propriety of discrimination among

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the various Dinds of fact 6hich are at the historian9s

disposal, and in this order oltaire9s 6hole soul

revolted against the reigning practice and prescrip-

tion4 I 6ould rather have details, he 6rote to

one of his intimates so early in his career as 1*5,

about &acine and /espreau, =oliere, 3ossuet,

/escartes, than I 6ould about the battle of $teinDirD4

 #here is nothing left but the names of men 6ho led

battalions and sQuadrons4 #here is no return to the

human race from a hundred engagements! but the

great men I have spoDen of prepared pure and ever-

lasting pleasures for mortals still unborn4 . canal-

sluice, a picture by %oussin, a Nne tragedy, a truth

established, are all of them things a thousand times

more precious than the 6hole mass of annals of the

court, and than all the narratives of campaigns4

)rom this and from a multitude of other passages,

as 6ell as from his actual compositions, 6e per-

ceive that the activity of a court and the manoeuvres

of an army 6ere no longer in oltaire9s eyes the Nt

substance of history4 One reason for this might be

his lively sense of the impossibility of Dno6ing the

character and motives of people 6ith 6hom one has

not lived, or the real cause of even the most momen-

tous intrigues and negotiations in 6hich one has not

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HAC oltaire4

taDen a personal share4 . still deeper reason 6ould

be his most rational conviction that these matters

are only of moment to us for their larger results

and unmistaDable outcome, and from the profoundly

true and important principle that the progress of

intellectual enlightenment, material prosperity, and

moral elevation is not only a feature in the history

of a nation, but does itself constitute that history,

6hile all records of other transactions in the course

of its annals, achievements in diplomacy, feats of

arms, revolutions in policy, have no true historic

value, ecept for the light they shed upon this

economic, intellectual and moral progress, and are

not 6orth studying ecept in that light4 +e may

see the immediate eMects of oltaire9s inuence most

marDedly of all in 2ibbon, but in a less important

shape in the general account of the =iddle .ges

6hich &obertson contributed to his 7istory of

harles 4 J1*CAK, and 6hich remained for many

years the most instructive piece that our literature

possessed upon the character and spirit of the feudal

system and other features of the =iddle .ges4

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.dam )erguson9s 'ssay on the 7istory of ivil

$ociety J1*C*K bears traces of the same inuence4

In both of these cases much also must be added for

the Dindred authority of =ontesQuieu4 One has

some hesitation in adding 7ume to the list in the

present connection, because his history, the compo-

sition of 6hich etended from 1*5H to 1*C, ought

perhaps to be counted rather the direct and indepen-

=ethods and =erits as 7istorian4 HA*

dent outcome of the )rench philosophic spirit, than

of the )rench historic spirit 6hich itself proceeded

from the philosophy! and because, moreover,

7ume, as a historian, has some of oltaire9s most

serious defects, 6ithout that breadth and si>e 6hich

constituted his greatest merit, though it is needless

to point out ho6 many merits 7ume had of his o6n4

It is 6orth remarDing that in some pages 6hich he

6rote on 7ume9s 7istory, oltaire gave it a "oyful

6elcome, as might be epected, and particularly to

those parts 6hich 6e no6 esteem most lightly, such

as the contemptuous account of rom6ell4

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 #o return, ho6ever, to the point from 6hich 6e

have digressed4 One very direct conseQuence of the

historical principle 6e have described, and of the

6ay in 6hich it 6as illustrated in the histories of

Louis @I4 and Louis @4, and most of all in the

'ssay on =anners, 6as the degradation of 6ar

from the highest to the lo6est place among the

ob"ects of the historian9s regard4 +ar began for the

Nrst time to be systematically considered and treated

as a mere instrument and means, and not as one

of the most serious of social ends4 +e can never

honor oltaire too long nor too deeply for the

vehemence and sincerity of his abhorrence of the

military spirit4 0o6here do 6e feel more distinctly

that he marDed the end of the mediseval temper, than

in his noble protests against the glory of bloodshed4

 #he great orators of the hurch to the very last

donned the robes of their most sumptuous rhetoric,

HAG oltaire4

6hen they 6ere called to consecrate the virtues of

the victorious soldier4 #he pages of the Old #esta-

ment supplied them 6ith a hundred baleful heroes

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to 6hom they might liDen their 6arrior, and a hun-

dred cruel and bloody tropes 6ith 6hich they might

decorate the funeral oration4 $o long as the atroci-

ties of the 7ebre6 chiefs and people, their treach-

eries and slaughters, 6ere held sacred and celebrated

6ith unction, it 6as not liDely that the voice of the

peacemaDer could maDe itself heard4

oltaire not only held up these demorali>ing rec-

ords to the odium they deserve! he directly taed

the clergy 6ith their failure to discharge the very

highest part of their duty4 Of the Nve or si thou-

sand sermons of =assillon, he asDed, are there a

couple 6here you could picD out a 6ord or t6o

against the scourge and crime of 6ar? 3ourdaloue

preached against impurity, but 6hat sermon did he

ever direct against the murder, rapine, brigandage,

and universal rage, 6hich desolate the 6orld?

=iserable physicians of souls, you declaim for Nve

Quarters of an hour against the mere pricDs of a pin,

and say no 6ord on the curse 6hich tears us into

a thousand pieces S %hilosophers and moralists, burn

your booDs : so long as the caprice of a handful of

men 6ill cause the massacring in all loyalty of thou-

sands of our brothers, the part of the human race

6hich is devoted to heroism 6ill contain all that is

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most frightful in human nature4 +hat concern to

me are humanity, benevolence, modesty, temperance,

=ethods and =erits as 7istorian4 HAA

gentleness, 6isdom, piety, so long as half an ounce

of lead shatters my body, and I die at t6enty

in torments unspeaDable, surrounded by Nve or si

thousand dead or dying, 6hile my eyes, opening for

the last time, see the to6n I 6as born in delivered

to Nre and s6ord, and the last sounds that reach my

ears are the shrieDs of 6omen and children epiring

in the ruins and the 6hole for the pretended inter-

ests of a man that 6e do not Dno6 ? 7is rebuDe

to =ontesQuieu is still more distinctively modern4

 #he author of the 'sprit des Lois had said that

among societies it sometimes happens that natural

defence possibly involves the necessity of attacD,

6hen a nation perceives that a longer peace 6ould

place another nation in a position to destroy it4 If

ever there 6as a 6ar evidently un"ust, oltaire

replies, it is that 6hich you propose ! it is to go and

Dill your neighbor for fear your neighbor should be

in a condition to attacD you! that is to say, you

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must run the risD of ruining your country, in the

hope of ruining 6ithout reason some other country4

If your neighbor gro6s too po6erful during

a time of peace, 6hat hinders you from gro6ing

po6erful liDe him? If he has made alliances, maDe

alliances on your side4 If, having less religion, he

has all the more manufacturers and soldiers for it,

imitate him in so sage an economy4 If he drills his

sailors better, drill yours too! all that is perfectly

 "ust4 3ut to epose your people to the most horrible

misery, in the idea, 6hich is so often chimerical, of

BB oltaire4

crushing your dear brother, the most serene border-

ing prince S 9t6as never for a president of a paciNc

order to give you such a piece of counsel4 #he

booD in 6hich this sound vie6 of "ustice and epe-

diency in the dealings of nations 6ith one another

6as pressed upon the attention of )rance, 6as pub-

lished in 1*CF, Nve years before the birth of the

man 6ho turned the tide bacD, and made the inter-

national policy of )rance a synonym both for

iniQuity and folly4 On the I5th of .ugust, 1*CA,

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oltaire concluded his letter to d9.lembert 6ith his

usual vivacity: .dieu! my compliments to the

devil, for it is he 6ho governs the 6orld4 If he had

Dno6n that, 6hile he 6as 6riting, 0apoleon 3ona-

parte had come into the 6orld, and could at the

same time have foreseen the ne6comer9s destiny, he

might have said the same thing more seriously4 ol-

taire never played the sentimentalist4 7e Dne6

that there are compleities of aMairs 6hich only the

s6ord can cut4 3ut he 6as the Nrst inuential

6riter 6ho deliberately placed 6ar among retro-

grade agencies, and deliberately d6elt upon peaceful

industry as the true life of nations4

/iplomacy and its comple subterranean proc-

esses, 6hich have occupied so etremely dispropor-

tionate a space in 6ritten history, and 6hich are

in acted history responsible for so much evil, 6ere in

the same 6ay informally relegated to the region of

inhuman occupations4 Its methods 6ere the tor-

tuous and depressing methods of the same past,

=ethods and =erits as 7istorian4 B1

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6hich had made the many the playthings and un-

happy instruments of the fe6, and had never inter-

rupted the triumphant manoeuvres of craft and sub-

tlety by a 6hisper for the claims of humanity and

 "ustice4 oltaire scarcely ever speaDs of negotiations

bet6een contending po6ers 6ithout a shre6d thrust,

half contemptuous and half angry4 #he plain 6here

some negotiations tooD place in the struggles among

the descendants of harles the 2reat is still called

the )ield of Lies ! a name, he says, that might 6ell

be common to most spots 6here men have negotiated4

.nd this represents his general tone in speaDing of

a branch of activity 6hich may interest the pro-

fessional diplomatist in all its details, but 6hich,

as he thought, can only concern the historical stu-

dent in its results4 7ere oltaire represented a

marDed tendency, 6hich 6aes stronger as societies

gro6 more penetrated 6ith popular forces, to divest

diplomacy of a professional Quality, and to thro6

the ad"ustment of the relations bet6een nations as

entirely as possible into the hands of plain men of

Nrm and upright character, and full Dno6ledge of

the special matters at issue4

It is, ho6ever, 6hen 6e come to the ground idea

of the 'ssay on =anners 1 that 6e feel the full

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breath of the modern spirit, and perceive that at

i-=oeurs, is untranslatable by any single 'nglish 6ord4

 #he full title is 'ssai sur les =ceurs et I9'sprit des

0ations, et sur les principau faits de I97istoire depuis

harlemagne "usQu9 a Louis @III4

 ;OH oltaire4

length 6e are nearing the 6ide epanse of the sea4

 #here 6e emerge absolutely from the narro6 con-

ception of universal history, 6ith 6hich 3ossuet

had familiari>ed men9s minds in the /iscourse on

niversal 7istory4 #his famous piece, 6hich has

had at least as much praise as it merits, if 6e are to

consider reason as 6ell as eloQuence, 6as funda-

mentally and in substance no more than a bit of

theological commonplace splendidly decorated4 3os-

suet indeed spoDe of the concatenation of human

aMairs, but only in the same sentence 6ith the

seQuence of the counsels of 2od4 #he gorgeous

rhetorician of the hurch 6as not liDely to rise

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philosophically into the larger air of universal his-

tory, properly so called4 7is eloQuent discourse is a

vindication of divine foresight, by means of an

intensely narro6 survey of such sets of facts as

might be thought not inconsistent 6ith the deity9s

Ned purpose to maDe one Nnal and decisive revela-

tion to men4 0o one 6ho looDs upon the vast

assemblage of stupendous human circumstances,

from the Nrst origin of man upon the earth, as

merely the ordained antecedent of 6hat, seen from

the long procession of all the ages, Ngures in so

diminutive a consummation as the atholic church,

is liDely to obtain a very eMective hold of that

broad seQuence and many-linDed chain of events, to

6hich 3ossuet gave a right name, but 6hose real

meaning he never 6as even near sei>ing4 7is merit

is that he did in a small and rhetorical 6ay, 6hat

=ethods and =erits as 7istorian4 B

=ontesQuieu and oltaire after6ards did in a truly

comprehensive and philosophical 6ay! he pressed

for6ard general ideas in connection 6ith the

recorded movements of the chief races of manDind4

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)or a teacher of history to leave the bare chronicler9s

road so far as to declare, for eample, the general

principle, inadeQuate and overstated as it is, that

religion and civil government are the t6o points

on 6hich human things revolve, even this 6as a

clear step in advance and to dismiss the long

series of emperors from .ugustus to .leander

$everus in t6o or three pages 6as to sho6 a rare

sense of large historic proportion4 .gain, 3ossuet9s

epressions of the concatenation of the universe,

of the interdependence of the parts of so vast a

6hole, of there coming no great change 6ithout

having its causes in foregoing centuries, and of the

true ob"ect of history being to observe in connection

6ith each epoch those secret dispositions of events

6hich prepared the 6ay for great changes, as 6ell

as the momentous con"unctures 6hich more imme-

diately brought them to pass all these phrases

seem to point to a true and philosophic survey4 3ut

they end in themselves, and lead no6hither4 #he

chain is an arbitrary and one-sided collection of

facts4 #he 6riter does not cautiously follo6 and

feel after the successive linDs, but forges and chooses

and arranges them after a pattern of his o6n, 6hich

6as Ned independently of them4 . scientiNc term

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BF oltaire4

or t6o is not enough to disguise the purely theo-

logical essence of the treatise4

3ossuet9s /iscourse is moreover constructed

6holly on the theory that a special revelation 6as

delivered to the ;e6s, and in tracing their course 6e

have fast hold of the chain by 6hich it has pleased

heaven to communicate to earth all the truths 6e pos-

sess as to the highest things4 $uch a conception

sties a modern reader4 #he Nrst pages of the

'ssay on =anners, sometimes placed separately

as the %hilosophy of 7istory, prove that 6e have

escaped from the cave4 #he chosen people fell into

ranD 6ith other peoples, that eQually supposed them-

selves to be chosen by their o6n peculiar gods4 #hey

lose the to6ering pre-eminence in virtue and light

and divine favor 6ith 6hich their o6n records and

3ossuet9s interpretation had so splendidly invested

them4 +e Nnd that their pretensions 6ere not

uniQue, but universal among nations in such a stage !

that their virtues 6ere not singular, though some of

their vices seem so4 In a 6ord, if some of oltaire9s

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details are crude and rudimentary, at least he has

the merit of sho6ing to his unaccustomed readers

6hat vast epochs of time, 6hat uncounted multi-

tudes of men, 6hat varied movements of the human

spirit, surround the little specD of ;udaism4

 #he bulD of the 'ssay 6as composed in 1*FB,

but it is probable that this preliminary eamination

of other oriental nations, their practices, institu-

tions, and religious ideas, 6as suggested by =ontes-

=ethods and =erits as 7istorian4 B5

Quieu9s memorable booD, 6hich appeared in 1*FG,

some years before the publication of the 'ssay on

=anners4 It is in point of eecution much less

satisfactory than 6hat follo6s, for oltaire9s Dno6l-

edge of 2reeD and 7ebre6 6as inadeQuate, and he

fell into various errors 6hich his adversaries happily

possessed scholarship enough to epose4 In the

modern provinces of the booD, 6hich constitute the

important part of it, he 6as much more entirely at

home in his sub"ect4 7ere his familiarity 6ith

detail, considering the vast Quantity of his other

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employments, is etremely surprising, and perhaps

in no other booD of eQual generality have there

been discovered so fe6 serious inaccuracies, though

none have encountered more hostile critics4

%re"udice, alas, spares truth and light no more

6hen it narro6s the vision of a free-thinDer, than

6hen it distorts the faculty of the devout4 3eing a

reaction against 3ossuet9s unreasonable ealtation of

the ;e6s and their history, oltaire9s conception of

the place due to them partooD of the inevitable fault

of all reactions, and left out of sight considerations

6hich it is eminently unscientiNc not to remember4

(ou never Nnd, he says, a generous action in the

annals of the 7ebre6s! they Dne6 neither hospi-

tality nor liberality nor clemency4 #heir sovereign

bliss is to practice usury 6ith foreigners, and this

spirit of usury is so rooted in their hearts, that it is

the continual ob"ect of the Ngures they employ in the

eloQuence 6hich is peculiar to them4 #heir glory

ol4 FH HB

BC oltaire4

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is to deliver to Nre and slaughter the small villages

of 6hich they may be able to taDe possession4 #hey

assassinate their masters 6hen they are slaves, and

they never Dno6 ho6 to pardon 6hen they are

victorious ! they are the enemies of the human race4

 #his is as great an eaggeration on one side, as

3ossuet9s ealtation of them and their deeds 6as on

the other side4 +e ought to admit 6hat abominable

traits the character and history of this race unfortu-

nately present, 6ithout forgetting ho6 much is

o6ing to them for preserving in its sublimest shape

and investing 6ith the most deeply impressive

images and associations, that idea of monotheism

6hich, if destined to be superseded by other ideas

more commensurate 6ith the limits of human intel-

ligence, must still be counted the germ of much that

is purest and loftiest and most inspiring among the

ideals of 6estern civili>ation4

 #he same Dind of etreme pre"udice 6hich drove

oltaire into maintaining of the ;e6s, not that they

6ere a people 6hom 6e should do very ill either to

imitate or admire, but nothing less than that they

6ere the enemies of the human race, found vent in

such assertions as that if any one could have restored

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the empire to its strength, or at all events retarded

its fall, that man 6as the 'mperor ;ulian4 . his-

torian may "ustly contend, if he thinDs that the

evidence 6arrants him, that ;ulian belongs to the

type of virtuous reactionists, "ust as 6e may say

it of +esley or the chiefs of the #ractarians4 3ut

=ethods and =erits as 7istorian4 B*

to maDe such an assertion as that the repression of

hristianity after the middle of the fourth century,

even supposing it to have been possible of achieve-

ment, could have given bacD to the rapidly declining

empire a strength of 6hich all the roots 6ere lifeless,

6as to falsify history for the saDe of ealting the

name of an apostate4 . &oman aristocrat, blind to

the real operation and comparative value of the

forces at 6orD, might be pardoned for holding hris-

tianity guilty of the general dissolution around

him ! but it 6as a strange phantasy for a philosopher

of the eighteenth century to suppose that the hris-

tian system, in the shape 6hich it had assumed by

 ;ulian9s time, did not oMer principles of Nrmer asso-

ciation, than the mere rites of a paganism 6hich

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6as spontaneously decaying 6ith a rapidity that

increased day by day4 #here is no stronger illus-

tration of the t6ist 6hich polemical fury may give

to the most acute intelligence, than this belief of

oltaire9s, that an organi>ation 6hich had attracted

to itself every able and statesmanliDe intellect of

the time, could do less for the regeneration of the

empire than the initiated disciple of %latonist


7is account of the history of the hurch is com-

posed in the same vein, and 6e may see 6here

2ibbon, 6ho 6as a reader of oltaire, dre6 the

inspiration of the solemn sneer 6ith 6hich he sapped

solemn creed4 $o many frauds, so many errors,

so many disgusting absurdities, says oltaire,

BG oltaire4

6ith 6hich 6e have been inundated for seventeen

hundred years, have been unable to do any harm to

our religion4 It is unQuestionably divine, since

seventeen centuries of imposture and imbecility have

not destroyed it4 oltaire thought as ill as pos-

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sible of the century to 6hich he belonged ! 6e cannot

therefore charge him 6ith the inconsistency 6hich

marDs some of his most prominent disciples, 6ho

6hile they accepted such an account of the vileness

of the hurch as he had given them, did not scruple

to believe that, as if by miracle, seventeen centuries

of steady depravation 6ere per saltum to be follo6ed

by an eighteenth and other centuries of boundless

virtue and enlightenment4 $till it is 6onderful that

he should have been able to appreciate the admirable

character of the best sovereign of the thirteenth cen-

tury, Louis I@4, and to describe his motives and his

achievements so generously, and yet should never

have thought of the education and surrounding spir-

itual conditions by 6hich such a character had been

formed4 If the po6er of atholicism for evil 6as so

great and decisive, it 6ould have been reasonable

to suppose that it had some share also in moulding

to good those 6ho came forth from it the very o6er

of humanity4 3ut oltaire did not Dno6 ho6 much

a man is the product of a system operating on, and

6ith, the individual predisposition, or he 6ould not

have chidden $t4 Louis for remaining on the level

of the pre"udice of his time, instead of changing the

spirit of his age4 7o6 should $t4 Louis have risen

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=ethods and =erits as 7istorian4 BA

from the pre"udice of his age, 6hen it 6as eactly

that pre"udice 6hich had formed him, and of 6hich

he represented the 6orthy side?

'ven 6ithout this inconsistency, the fundamental

error is bad enough4 +e get very 6earied of the

persistent identiNcation of the hurch throughout

the darD ages 6ith fraud and imposture and sinister

self-seeDing, 6hen 6e have once learned, 6hat is

undoubtedly the most important principle in the

study of those times, that it 6as the churchmen

6ho Dept the icDering light of civili>ation alive

amid the raging storms of uncontrolled passion and

violence4 #he truth is that oltaire never reali>ed

civili>ation as an organism, 6hich if not surrounded

6ith the proper conditions of life 6ill perish, and

6hich 6ill prosper and 6a stronger eactly in

proportion as it is nourished4 #hat the light 6as

more than once very near sinDing in the +est under

the 6aves of barbarism, as it has actually sunD in

the eastern portions of the empire, seems to have

been an all-important fact 6hich he either never

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sa6, or 6hich, if he sa6 it, never impressed him

as assuredly it ought to have done4

 #his is the more curious, as he 6as able to per-

ceive, in a 6ay in 6hich it 6ere much to be 6ished

that more recent historians might sho6 an eQual

discernment, that 6e ought to use the terms of civ-

ili>ation, 6ith all their comple and accumulated

associations, in an etremely modiNed sense in

speaDing of the centuries bet6een the Nfth and the

1B oltaire4

thirteenth, "ust as it is the gravest mistaDe to suppose

that, because you can epress the results of the vari-

ous contests of those times in terms of philosophy,

therefore the actors in any one of them 6ere both

conscious of its most general bearings, and 6ere ani-

mated by large and philosophical inclinations4 )or

eample, after he has told us ho6 +illiam the on-

Queror sent to the %ope 7arold9s battle-standard and

a small portion of the small treasure that an 'nglish

Ding might possess in those times, he proceeds to

reduce the transaction to 6hat he conceived to be its

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true proportions, in the follo6ing manner : #hus,

he says, a barbarian, the son of a harlot, the mur-

derer of a legitimate Ding, shares the plunder of

this Ding 6ith another barbarian! for if you taDe

a6ay the names of duDe of 0ormandy, Ding of

'ngland, and pope, all is reduced to the action of a

0orman brigand and a Lombard receiver of plun-

der4 #his being the case, the secular possessors of

po6er being so rude, petty, and barbarous, their con-

tests being those of bears and 6olves, their

rapacity and violence being tempered by fe6 of

those ideas of "ustice 6hich form the bonds of soci-

ety in its more advanced stages, it ought to have

strucD even the most ardent enemy of ecclesiastical

pretensions as a thing in the highest degree unphilo-

sophical,to pour all the ill epithets of usurpation upon

the virtuous eMorts of the great churchmen, 6ho

6ere least touched by the spirit of violence, to taDe

a6ay as much po6er as they could from barbarous

=ethods and =erits as 7istorian4 11

princes and nobles, 6ho 6ere most impregnated 6ith

that and all other darD spirits4 #he smaller the dif-

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ference bet6een the least moral and the most moral

orders in a community, the more desirable it is that

the order 6ith even a small advantage should acQuire

as much po6er as possible! for the reason that so

near an approach to eQuality in morals is most liDely

to occur 6hen the average is lo6, and 6hen there-

fore the need to prevent it from falling any lo6er

is most urgent4 2ranting that the ecclesiastics 6ere

only slightly the superiors of the barbarous laymen,

this is all the better ground for re"oicing that they

succeeded in converting their ascendency of moral

idea into an ascendency of political fact4

In short, oltaire9s great panorama, magniNcent as

it is and most royally planned, is not dra6n in lines

and 6ith color that eplain the story or lay bare the

principles of its progress4 #he plan is imposed from

6ithout, "ust as in 3ossuet9s case, not carefully

sought from 6ithin the facts themselves4 +hat is

meant then by the assertion that oltaire9s 'ssay

is one of the foundations of modern history? If he

gives no eplanation of t 1 U course of history, none

to himself probably, and none to us assuredly, 6hat

is his merit ? #his : that he has fully placed before

us the history 6hich is to be eplained! that he has

presented the long eternal succession of facts in

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their true magnitude and in a deNnite connection!

that he did not 6rite a history of )rance, or of the

papacy, or of the =ahometan po6er, or of the cru-

1H oltaire4

sades, but that he sa6 the advantage, as 6e see the

unavoidable necessity, of comprehending in a single

idea and surveying in a single 6orD the various

activities, the rise and fall of po6er, the transfer-

ence from one to another of political predominance,

the contributions to the art of living, among the

societies 6hich 6ere once united in a single empire4

 #he history of each of these societies, 'ngland,

)rance, $pain, Italy, the 3y>antine 'mpire, is fol-

lo6ed in relation to the history of 'urope, 6hich is

indeed composed of these co-ordinate parts4 #he

movement of communities since the dissolution of the

&oman 'mpire is ehibited in a collective form, and

that it should be ehibited and accepted in this

form 6as obviously a preliminary step to an organic

treatment of the multiplied la6s of social physics4

#here are some events, he 6rote in a note to his

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best poem, 6hich have eMects, and others 6hich

have none4 It is 6ith the chain of events as it is 6ith

a genealogical tree, 6here 6e perceive branches

that become etinct at the Nrst generation, and others

that continue the race4 =any events remain 6ithout

any Nliation4 It is thus that in every machine there

are eMects necessary to the movement, 6hile others

are indiMerent, follo6ing the operation of the Nrst,

and leading to nothing4 #he 6heels of a vehicle

serve to maDe it go! but 6hether they raise a little

more or a little less dust, the "ourney is accom-

plished eQually4 $uch is the general order of the

6orld, that the linDs of the chain are not deranged

=ethods and =erits as 7istorian4 1

by a little more or a little less of irregularity4 #he

Ngures in this passage serve adeQuately to describe

his o6n treatment4 +e see in the 'ssay the lines

of the genealogical tree, but 6e do not learn the la6s

of the transmission of Qualities from one stocD to

another! 6e see the linDs of the chain, but not the

conditions 6hich fastened each to the other ! condi-

tions, indeed, only to be grasped through a scientiNc

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study of human nature 6hich oltaire had never

made! and Nnally 6e see the to6ering car dra6n

slo6ly along a devious road by s6eat and strain of

millions, but 6e Dno6 not 6hy it 6ent by this road

rather than another4 In a 6ord, the inner machinery

of societies and of their movement remains as far

from our sight as it ever 6as4 #he study of those

economic and material forces 6hich have so pro-

found an inuence upon social transformations, 6as

in its infancy, and the 'conomists, 6ho really sa6

that there are deNnite la6s regulating the play of

these forces, unfortunately mied up 6ith their

speculations a number of chimerical fancies, 6hich

oltaire 6as too acute to accept, but not patient

enough to sift4 In this respect he is as defective as

2ibbon, in 6hose booD, so "ustly famous for its

splendid breadth of conception and industrious elab-

oration of detail, 6e have much of that meagre phi-

losophy 6hich consisted in the eposure of false-

hood, but little of the true science 6hich sho6s us

the numerous organs of society in connection 6ith

their actual play and function4 0either 2ibbon nor

1F oltaire4

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oltaire made any contribution, nor seems to have

been a6are of the importance of contributing, to that

study of the fundamental conditions of the social

union, 6hich .ristotle commenced, and 6hich both

3odin in the siteenth century and =ontesQuieu in

the eighteenth had so meritoriously continued4 0ev-

ertheless, it 6as much to lead men to study the his-

tory of modern 'urope as a 6hole, and 6e may say

of oltaire in connection 6ith history 6hat he said

of orneille in connection 6ith tragedy It is so

great a merit to have opened the career, and invent-

ors are so much above other men, that posterity

pardons their greatest faults4

7.%#'& II4

 #7' %7IL.0#7&O%I$# O) )'&0'(4

OL#.I&', as 6e have seen, tooD possession of )er-

ney in 1*5G, and he lived here almost 6ithout a

breaD for something liDe t6enty years4 7is estate

6as a feudal seigniory in the district of 2e, on the

very frontier of $6it>erland, but in )rance, though

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en"oying immunity from )rench taation4 7e built

a ne6 manor-house, and in his capacity of lord of the

manor replaced the dilapidated little church of the

estate by a ne6 one, very small, very plain, and about

6hich, not6ithstanding its famous inscription of

6hich he so often boasted, /eo ereit oltaire

much more noise has been made, than so simple and

natural a proceeding at all calls for4 =adame /enis

Dept house for him, and according to the %aris gos-

sips of the time, on an etravagant scale, 6hich often

produced ruptures bet6een the t6o4 2uests 6ere

incessant and the hospitality ungrudging4 7e com-

plained during the $even (ears9 +ar of the embar-

rassment of being a )renchman, 6hen he had to

entertain daily at dinner &ussians, 'nglish, and


1 C oltaire4

2ermans4 7e protests that he is 6eary of being

hotel-Deeper in general for all 'urope, and so 6eary

6as he at one time of this noisy and costly post,

that the establishment 6as partially suspended for

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up6ards of a year4 One of the most generous of

oltaire9s many generous acts 6as his reception into

his house of a child 6ho had no other claim on him

than that of being the great-granddaughter of the

uncle of orneille4 . soldier ought to succor the

niece of his general, he said4 7e tooD the liveliest

interest in the little maid9s education, though she

appears to have been a sulDy pupil, and eventually

he married her 6ith due do6er to one /upuits4

 #he bustle and epense of his establishment became

greater than ever, and in the spring of 1*CG %aris

6as as much electriNed by ne6s of a revolution at

)erney, as she has been since by some revolutions in

her o6n streets4 =adame /enis and the t6o /upuits

had suddenly made their 6ay to %aris, and for a

year and a half oltaire 6as left in peace, part of

6hich he employed sensibly in having his house

cleaned from cellar to garret, a bit of ne6s 6hich

is handed do6n to our times, since, according to

2rimm, the domestic arrangements of the manor-

house at )erney interested at that moment more or

less every court in 'urope4 In the autumn of 1*CA

=adame /enis returned, and 6ith her the old stir

and etravagance 6ere resumed, for oltaire 6as

one of the best-humored of men to his family and

friends, and could deny his niece nothing4 +e have

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 #he %hilanthropist of )erney4 1*

more than one description of this too immortal niece4

 #hey are all eQually unattering4 7er homeliness

of appearance amounted to the ugliness that is bitter4

$he 6as destitute of 6it, and had a vulgar soul4

3orn to be the insipid gossip of a bourgeois circle,

says one charitable 6riter, but having by chance the

Nrst man in the nation for an uncle, she learned to

chatter about literature and the theatre, as a parrot

learns4 $he 6rote a comedy ! but the players, out of

respect for oltaire, declined to act in it4 $he 6rote

a tragedy! but the one favor 6hich the repeated

entreaties of years could never 6ring from oltaire

6as that he 6ould read it4 $he had histrionic as

6ell as dramatic ambition, and here 6orDed a mir-

acle, for her representation of =erope once dre6

oods of tears from some 'nglish ladies4 7er aMec-

tation of intellect had not cooled the reality of simple

sensation, and if she loved art, she 6as said not to

despise gallantry4 .t any rate, though she 6as only

siteen years younger than her uncle, she needed

continual festivities and cro6ds of guests4

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)erney 6as rather a diPcult spot for a +oman

6ith a passion for the hum of cities4 )or Nve months

in the year, says oltaire, my deserts are, on the

admission of &ussians, 6orse than $iberia itself!

6e see thirty leagues of mountain, sno6, and preci-

pices : it is 0aples in summer, Lapland in 6inter4

One year he marDs 6ith 6ord of bitterness sno6

falling thicD in the middle of =ay4 )our feet of

sno6 in the courtyard constituted a normal 6inter

1 G oltaire4

state4 7e commemorates 6ith enthusiasm ho6 one

day, through these four feet of sno6, he sa6 porters

bringing him a hamper of champagne from a friend !

for the more generous sort of 3urgundy 6ith 6hich

he ordinarily recruited himself had fallen short, and

he had been reduced to the humble vintage of


 (et in the midst of a thousand discomforts and

hardships 6e never hear him 6ishing to be bacD in

%aris4 It remained to him the accursed city, as it

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had been before his "ourney to 'ngland4 7e al6ays

thought 6ith horror of its cabal, intrigue, frivolity,

and sovereign indiMerence to the ruin of the Ding-

dom and the shedding of innocent blood4 #here can

be no doubt that this 6ise eile prolonged his days4

7e 6as constantly complaining of illness, and he

passed months at a time in bed, 6hich may in truth

have been the best possible preservative of life for

one of his temperament4 (et in spite of this avoid-

ance of society, this passion for his study, the man

of ordinary capacity, 6ith no more than an ordinary

6orDing day, may marvel ho6 amid so many dis-

tractions the master of the house contrived to 6rite

so many scores of pieces, large and small, and so

many hundreds of letters, grave and gay4 Of these

letters nearly seven thousand are already in print,

and =4 3euchot, most carefully informed of all ol-

taire9s editors, thinDs there are liDely to be Quite as

many more still in undiscovered eistence4 )erney

6as the centre of the most universal and varied cor-

OL#.I&' .# $''0#(

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 #he %hilanthropist of )erney4 1A

respondence that any one man has ever carried on4

)redericD the 2reat 6as not the only cro6ned head

6ith 6hom oltaire interchanged royal communi-

cation4 atherine II4 of &ussia, of .nhalt-erbst

by birth, 6as the helpful patroness of /iderot and

d9.lembert, and 6as al6ays eager to hear some

6ord from the patriarch of their encyclopaedic

church, only praying him not to thinD her too impor-

tunate4 hristian II4 of /enmarD apologi>es for

not being able at a stroDe to remove all the obstacles

that lie in the 6ay of the civil liberty of his sub"ects4

2ustavus III4 of $6eden is elated by the thought

that oltaire sometimes casts a glance on 6hat is

going on in the 0orth, and protest that this is their

greatest encouragement to do as 6ell as they can

in all 6ays4 ;oseph II4 6ould fain have called at

)erney, 6hile travelling incognito through )rance,

but fear of his mother9s displeasure held him bacD,

the high and devout nature of =aria #heresa al6ays

Nnding oltaire9s mocDery of sacred things deeply

repugnant, as 6e may easily believe4

3esides sovereigns 6ho 6rote to him as to an

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eQual, every young aspirant to literary distinction,

ho6ever unDno6n and obscure, sought a criticism

from )erney4 #6enty years before he settled do6n

here, oltaire had been consulted by auvenargues,

and had replied 6ith 6ords of painstaDing and gen-

erous counsel4 It 6as al6ays the same 6ith him4

0o young author ever solicited advice in vain, and

he 6as never sparing either of trouble or praise4

HB oltaire4

 #he =arQuis of hastellu sent him a9 copy of his

)elicite %ubliQue, and 6as raised to the seventh

heaven by a letter of thanDs, in 6hich oltaire tells

him : I covered the margin of my copy 6ith notes,

as I al6ays do 6hen a booD charms and instructs

me! I even tooD the liberty of not al6ays sharing

the author9s opinion4 I am very old and very feeble,

but such reading maDes me young again4 .nd the

letter contains a large number of points 6here he

thinDs the author in error4

3esides Dings and the 6riters of booDs, plain

men also besought his dictum on high matters4 .

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burgomaster of =iddleburg, he informs =adame

du /eMand, 6hom I do not Dno6, 6rote to me

a little 6hile since, to asD me in conNdence 6hether

there is a 2od or not ! 6hether, in case there be one,

7e taDes any heed of us ! 6hether matter is eternal !

6hether it can thinD ! 6hether the soul is immortal !

and begging me to ans6er by return of post4 One

may suspect that a little coloring is added here by

the master hand, but the substantial facts are prob-

able enough4 7e corresponded 6ith cardinals, mar-

shals of )rance, and bishops, and he corresponded

6ith 7elvetius and 6ith /iderot, 6ho, greatly to

the indignation of the business-liDe patriarch, had a

bad habit of leaving letters to ans6er themselves4 If

t6o cavalry oPcers fell to disputing over the mess-

table as to the propriety of using some bit of old

)rench, it 6as to )erney that the reference 6as

instantly made4 +e get an idea of the Dind of

 #he %hilanthropist of )erney4 H1

imperial authority 6hich attached to oltaire9s "udg-

ment, from the eagerness 6ith 6hich #urgot sought,

6ithout revealing his name, an opinion from )eney

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as to the 6orth of a translation 6ith 6hich he

lightened the heavy burden of his intendance at

Limoges, a translation of the 'clogues and fourth

booD of the 'neid into )rench metric verse4

#hey say, 6rote 1 irgot, that he is so busy 6ith

his 9 'ncyclopaedia,9 as neither to speaD nor to 6rite,

to any one4 If #urgot could have seen oltaire9s

correspondence for 1**B, he 6ould have found out

ho6 far this rumor 6as from the truth, and in fact

he did get an ans6er to his o6n letter! but it can

hardly have been very much more satisfactory than

silence 6ould have been, for oltaire, 6hile profuse

in praise of the Ndelity and spirit of the translation,

unfortunately did not detect that it 6as meant for

anything more ambitious than simple prose 6ith

enthusiasm in it4 .s #urgot especially valued in

the patriarch his superb ear, the blo6 6as as

sharp as it 6ell could be4 7e 6as little concerned

or surprised on learning the fallacious reasoning of

the poet in political economy4 &easoning, he

adds, has never been oltaire9s strong point4

.nd that 6as true in matters of abstract science, but

he 6as an unrivalled populari>er of the results of

other people9s reasoning, from 0e6ton9s %rincipia

do6n to =iddleton9s )ree 'nQuiry, and this pop-

ulari>ation 6as 6hat the conditions of the time

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caused to be most ardently demanded4 #he proof of

ol4 FH H1

HH oltaire4

the demand 6e may see in the etraordinary respect

and curiosity, or disliDe and alarm, 6ith 6hich ol-

taire for the t6enty cro6ning years of his life 6as

regarded throughout the 6hole of civili>ed 'urope4

It is impossible to read the multitudinous volumes

of oltaire9s correspondence, and they are being

added to every t6o or three years, 6ith entire satis-

faction4 #hey are 6ittier than any other letters in

the 6orld4 )or lightness, s6iftness, grace, spon-

taneity, you can Nnd no second to them, at ho6ever

long an interval4 3ut they abound in many things

6hich are disagreeable in the letters of an old man

6ho had so true an interest in the spread of virtue,

Dno6ledge, and the other conditions of human dig-

nity4 #hese, ho6ever, may be passed over as the

innocent and unconscious unseemliness of a very gay

nature living in a very free age4 It is less easy to

banish the unpleasant impressions 6ith 6hich 6e

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Nnd him playing the eQuivocal part of being all

things to all men4 One 6ould have been pleased to

have a little more stiMness, a little less pliancy of

phrase4 +e 6ould not go through the 6orld insist-

ing on grim %uritanic earnestness at every moment

of a man9s life, but oltaire9s lively complaisance

6ith all sorts of un6orthy people is something 6orse

than unedifying4 One can hardly help sympathi>ing

6ith d9.lembert9s remonstrance, (ou have rather

spoiled the people 6ho persecute us4 9#is true you

have had greater need than anybody else to Deep

them Quiet, and that you have been obliged to oMer a

 #he %hilanthropist of )erney4 H

candle to Lucifer to save yourself from 3eel>ebub,

but Lucifer has only gro6n the prouder, 6ithout

3eel>ebub gro6ing the less malignant4 #he truth

probably is that oltaire did not al6ays taDe much

thought of Lucifer or 3eel>ebub4 )or one thing,

he 6as, as 6e have said more than once, intensely

sympathetic by temperament, and in 6riting to a

friend, or even an acQuaintance only, he 6as for the

moment animated by a lively good 6ill and aniety

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to be in harmony 6ith his correspondent4 #here

6as nothing false in these purring pleasantries, 6ith

6hich he amused all correspondents aliDe4 #hey

came as naturally from his mobile and genial con-

stitution, as an eQuality of prosaic moroseness comes

from persons of fundamentally diMerent constitu-

tions4 )or another thing, the old fashion of his

youth never dropped a6ay from him, and the elab-

orate courteousness and friendly ardor of manner,

6hich he had learned among the aristocratic friends

of the days of the &egency and after6ards at %aris

and ersailles, did not desert him in the solitudes of

the ;ura4 7e 6as to the last a man of Quality, as

6ell as a crusher of the Infamous, and to the last

he Dept up the tone of one 6ho had been a gentle-

man of the chamber to one Ding, and court-cham-

berlain to another4 oltaire9s temperament and

earliest surroundings fully eplain 6hat 6as a more

public, as 6ell as more serious, falling a6ay from

the rigorous integrity 6hich men are no6 accus-

tomed to demand from the leaders of unpopular

HF oltaire4

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causes4 7is sins in this order are nearly as numer-

ous as his public acts4 &ousseau, perhaps 6e may

say 6ithout breach of charity, as much from vanity

as principle, preNed his name to all that he 6rote,

and he paid the penalty in a life of 6andering and

persecution4 oltaire in his later days as invariably

sheltered himself behind the anonymous, and not

only disclaimed 6orDs of 6hich it 6as notorious

that he 6as the author, but insisted that his friends

should impute them to this or that dead name4

0obody 6as deceived4 +hile he got un6elcome

credit for a multitude of pieces that 6ere not his

o6n, assuredly nothing really his ever failed to be

set do6n to its true author4 +e can only say that

this 6as the evil practice of the time, and that ol-

taire 6as here little 6orse than #urgot and many

another man of general virtuousness, to 6hom the

ferocity of authority 6ould not even allo6 freedom

enough to plead for tolerance, much less to utter

uncertiNed opinion4 #ime, said d9.lembert,

apologi>ing for some 6hiM of orthodoy 6hich ol-

taire scented in one or t6o articles in the 'ncyclo-

paedia, 6ill maDe people distinguish 6hat 6e

thought from 6hat 6e said4 ondorcet, as 6e

Dno6, deliberately defended these deceptions, 6hich

did not deceive, 6hile they did protect4 7e con-

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tended that if you rob a man of his natural right of

publishing his opinions, then you lose your o6n right

to hear the truth from the man9s lips4 ndoubtedly

all la6s admit that duress introduces ne6 conditions

 #he %hilanthropist of )erney4 H5

into the determination of 6hat is right and 6rong

in action, or at least that it mitigates pains and pen-

alties, and the position of every claimant for free

speech 6as in those days emphatically a position of

duress4 #he choice lay bet6een disavo6al on the

one hand, and on the other abstention from pro-

claiming truths by 6hich only society could gain

the freedom it so much needed! bet6een strict

anonymity and leaving the darDness unbroDen4 .nd

6e must remember that disingenuous tricDs to con-

ceal authorship 6ere not assuredly so unpardonable,

6hen resorted to as protectives against imprison-

ment, conNscation, and possible peril of life, as they

are no6 among ourselves, 6hen they serve no more

defensible purpose than sheltering men 6ho have

not the courage of their opinions, against one or

t6o paltry social deprivations4

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 #he monstrous proceedings against La 3arre, and

the ease 6ith 6hich in this and numerous other cases

the "urisprudence of the tribunals lent itself to the

cruelty of fanatics, no doubt ecited in oltaire a

very genuine alarm for his o6n safety, and prob-

ably 6ith good reason4 +e Dno6 that he could not

venture to visit Italy, in conseQuence of his "ust fear

lest the InQuisition should thro6 their redoubtable

foe into prison, and the parliaments of #oulouse and

.bbeville had perpetrated "uridical murders as iniQ-

uitous as any of the proceedings of the 7oly OPce4

.nd though it is easy and right for the young, 6ho

live in a time 6hen you are not imprisoned or hanged

HC oltaire4

or decapitated for holding unpopular opinions, to call

out for manliness to the uttermost in these things, one

must maDe allo6ance for an occasional Nt of timor-

ousness in a man of eighty, 6hom nature had never

cut out for a martyr4 (et more than once, these

Nts committed oltaire to acts 6hich 6ere as great

a scandal to the devout as to the atheists4 #hat

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he should rebuild the ruinous little chapel of his

estate 6as not much more remarDed, than it 6ould

be for a %rotestant landlord to subscribe to repair

the atholic church on an Irish property containing

only atholic tenants4 #he gorgeous ceremony 6ith

6hich in his Quality of lord he commemorated its

opening, made everybody laugh, not ecepting the

chief performer, for he actually tooD the opportunity

of lifting up his voice in the ne6 temple and preach-

ing a sermon against theft4 #he bishop of .nnecy in

$avoy, his diocesan, 6as furious at this mocDery, and

urged the minister at %aris to banish oltaire from

)rance4 In order to avert the blo6, oltaire tried to

maDe a nominal peace 6ith the hurch by confessing,

and participating in the solemnity of an 'aster com-

munion J1*CGK4 #he bishop 6rote him a long letter

of unctuous impertinences, to 6hich oltaire replied

by asDing very tartly 6hy the discharge of so ordi-

nary a duty called for this insolent congratulation4

 #he philosophers of %aris 6ere bitterly scandali>ed,

and some of them 6rote to the patriarch of the sect

to remonstrate4 'ven d9.lembert, his o6n familiar

friend, could not refrain from protest4 oltaire

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 #he %hilanthropist of )erney4 H*

<:ould give no better reasons for his strange lapse

than 6e may hear given every day in our o6n coun-

try, by men 6ho practise hypocritical compliances

for the saDe of a little ignoble ease, and thus per-

petuate the yoDe4 7e o6ed an eample to his parish,

as if the eample of feigning a belief 6hich he repu-

diates could be a good eample for one to set in

any parish4 It 6as very 6ell to shirD these observ-

ances in %aris, because there in the tide of business

one Nnds an ecuse or is not missed, but in the

country no such ecuse oMers itself4 One must stand

6ell 6ith the cure, be he Dnave or dunce4 One must

respect the t6o hundred and Nfty timorous con-

sciences around one4 .nd so forth, do6n that 6ell-

6orn list of pleas by 6hich men maDe aniety about

the consciences of others a substantial reason for

treachery to their o6n4 oltaire, besides all these,

honestly added the one true reason, that he did not

mean to be burned alive, and that the only 6ay of

maDing sure against such a fate 6as to close the

lips of spies and informers4

 #he bishop Dne6 perfectly 6ell that the sQuire,

6ho had made his 'aster communion in so remarD-

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able manner in 1*CG, 6as the author of the %hilo-

sophical /ictionary, of 6hich a brand-ne6 edition,

amended and revised, made its appearance in 1*CA!

and he appears to have forbidden the priest of )er-

ney to confess or administer the eucharist to the

chief of the ocD4 oltaire 6as at once sei>ed 6ith

a fever, and summoned the priest to administer

 " HG oltaire4

ghostly comfort4 #he priest pleaded the horrible

rumors of the 6orld as to the damnable booDs of

6hich the sicD man 6as alleged to be the author4

oltaire replied by 6arning him very peremptorily

that in refusing to administer the viaticum he 6as

infringing the la6, and the conseQuence 6as that

he did duly receive the viaticum, after 6hich he

signed a solemn act in the presence of a notary,

declaring that he pardons his various calumniators !

that if any indiscretion pre"udicial to the religion of

the $tate should have escaped him, he seeDs for-

giveness from 2od and the $tate ! and Nnally he for-

gave the bishop of .nnecy, 6ho had calumniated

him to the Ding, and 6hose malicious designs had

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come to naught4 #he priest and notary after6ards

falsiNed this ama>ing declaration so as to appease the

bishop, and came to oltaire praying him not to

betray them4 I prove to them, he says, that they

6ill be damned, I give them something to drinD, and

they go a6ay delighted4 . younger philosopher

of his school remarDs 6ith his accustomed gravity on

this most singular transaction, that the satisfaction

of forcing his priest to administer by fear of the

secular "udges, and of insulting the bishop of .nnecy

in a "uridical manner, cannot ecuse such a pro-

ceeding in the eyes of the free and Nrm man, 6ho

6eighs calmly the claims of truth and the reQuire-

ments of prudence, 6hen la6s contrary to natural

 "ustice render truth dangerous and prudence indis-

pensable4 #o 6hich reection 6e may perhaps add

 #he %hilanthropist of )erney4 HA

another, suggested by the cruel eperience of the

hurch in )rance 6ithin Nve and t6enty years from

oltaire9s impious communion, that if any order,

secular or spiritual, constrains its adversaries under

penalties to the commission of base acts, then if the

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chances of time should ever transfer the po6er to the

other side, that order has only itself to blame for

6hatever 6rong may marD the retaliation4 #here is

no more dangerous policy in aMairs of state than to

strip your opponent of self-respect, and this the

descendants of the persecutors found out to their

etreme cost, 6hen in 1*A they had to deal 6ith

the descendants of the persecuted4

One other curious piece of sportiveness in his

dealings 6ith the hurch deserves to be noticed4 In

the year 1**B the post of temporal father of the

order of apuchins for the district of 2e became

vacant4 oltaire applied for it and the general at

&ome, perhaps listening to a 6ord from 2anganelli,

or else from the /uchess of hoiseul, sent to )erney

the letters patent conferring upon its patriarch this

strange dignity, and also aPliating him to the order4

+hat 6ere oltaire9s motives in so odd a transac-

tion, it is not very hard to divine4 %robably, he

thought even this humble oPce 6ould be some pro-

tection against persecution4 #hen it gave him an

opportunity of harassing his enemy, the bishop of

.nnecy4 #hirdly, it amused that 6himsical element

of farce and mischief 6hich 6as al6ays so irrepres-

sible in him, from the early days 6hen he is said

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B oltaire4

to have nearly damned his o6n play by appearing

on the stage as the high-priest9s train-bearer, and

burlesQuing that august person9s solemn gait4 ol-

taire Nlled his letters 6ith inNnite pleasantries about

the ne6 apuchin, and seemed as much pleased at

the idea of 6earing the cord of $aint )rancis, as he

had been 6ith the gold Dey of a %russian chamber-

lain4 One of his Nrst en"oyments 6as to 6rite letters

to his episcopal foe, signed 6ith a cross and his

name : AG oltaire, apucin indigne4 . story is

told by 2rimm of a visitor arriving at )erney, and

being greeted by the patriarch 6ith the ne6s that

he 6ould Nnd his host a changed man4 One gro6s

a bigot in one9s old age ! I have a habit of having

some pious 6orD read to me 6hen I sit do6n at

table4 .nd in fact, some one began to read a ser-

mon of =assillon, oltaire thro6ing in eclama-

tions on the beauty, eloQuence, imagination of the

preacher4 $uddenly after three or four pages, he

called out OM 6ith =assillon S and launched forth

during the rest of the meal 6ith his usual verve and

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fanciful etravagance of imagination4 It is pro-

foundly unedifying, but not the less characteristic4

oltaire, there can be little doubt, never designed

a social revolution, being in this the representative

of the method of 7obbes4 7is single ob"ect 6as to

reinstate the understanding in its full rights, to

emancipate thought, to etend Dno6ledge, to erect

the standard of critical common sense4 7e either

could not see, or else, as one sometimes thinDs, he

 #he %hilanthropist of )erney4 1

closes his eyes and refuses for his part to see, that

it 6as impossible to revolutioni>e the spiritual basis

of belief 6ithout touching the social forms, 6hich

6ere inseparably connected 6ith the old basis by the

strong bonds of time and a thousand Nbres of ancient

association and common interest4 &ousseau began

6here oltaire left oM4 7e informs us that in the

days 6hen his character 6as forming, nothing 6hich

oltaire 6rote escaped him, and that the %hilo-

sophical Letters, that is, the Letters on the 'ng-

lish, though assuredly not the 6riter9s best 6orD,

6ere 6hat Nrst attracted him to study, and implanted

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a taste 6hich never after6ards became etinct4 #he

correspondence bet6een oltaire and the prince of

%russia, after6ards the great )redericD, inspired

&ousseau 6ith a passionate desire to learn ho6 to

compose 6ith elegance, and to imitate the coloring

of so Nne an author4 #hus oltaire, 6ho 6as eight-

een years his elder, gave this etraordinary genius

his Nrst productive impulse4 3ut a sensibility of

temperament, to 6hich perhaps there is no parallel

in the list of prominent men, impelled &ousseau

to thinD, or rather to feel, about the concrete 6rongs

and miseries of men and 6omen, and not the abstract

rights of their intelligence4 7ence the t6o great

revolutionary schools, the school 6hich appealed to

sentiment, and the school 6hich appealed to intelli-

gence4 #he oltairean principles of the strictest

political moderation and of literary common sense,

negative, merely emancipatory, found their political

H oltaire4

outcome, as )rench historians early pointed out, in

the onstituent .ssembly, 6hich 6as the creation of

the upper and middle class, 6hile the spirit of &ous-

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seau, ardent, generous, passionate for the relief of

the suMering, over6helmed by the cro6ding forms

of manhood chronically degraded and 6omanhood

systematically polluted, came to life and po6er in

the onvention and the sections of the ommune of

%aris 6hich overa6ed the onvention4

It 6ill not do, 6rote d9.lembert to oltaire

as early as 1*CH, to speaD too loudly against ;ean

 ;acQues or his booD, for he is rather a Ding in the

7alles4 #his must have been a ne6 6ord in the

ears of the old man, 6ho had gro6n up in the habit

of thinDing of public opinion as the opinion, not of

marDets 6here the common people bought and sold,

but of the galleries of ersailles4 'cept for its

theology, the age of Louis @I4 al6ays remained

the great age to oltaire, the age of pomp and lit-

erary glory, and it 6as too diPcult a feat to cling on

one side to the 2rand =onarch, and to stretch out a

hand on the other to the $ocial ontract4 It 6as

too diPcult for the man 6ho had been embraced by

0inon de 19'nclos, 6ho 6as the correspondent of

the greatest sovereigns in 'urope, and the intimate

of some of the greatest nobles in )rance, to feel

much sympathy 6ith 6ritings that made their author

Ding of the 7alles4 )redericD oMered &ousseau

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shelter, and so did oltaire ! but each of them dis-

liDed his 6orD as 6armly as the other4 #hey did not

 #he %hilanthropist of )erney4

understand one 6ho, if he 6rote 6ith an eloQuence

that touched all hearts, repulsed friends and pro-

voDed enemies liDe a madman or a savage4 #he very

language of &ousseau 6as to oltaire as an un-

Dno6n tongue, for it 6as the language of reason

clothing the births of passionate sensation4 'mile

only 6earied him, though there 6ere perhaps Nfty

pages of it 6hich he 6ould have had bound in

morocco4 It is a stale romance, he cries, 6hile the

$ocial ontract is only remarDable for some

insults rudely thro6n at Dings by a citi>en of 2en-

eva, and for four insipid pages against the hristian

religion, 6hich are simply plagiari>ed from 3ayle9s

centos4 #he author is a monster of ingratitude and

insolence, the arch-scoundrel and chief of charlatans,

the lineal descendant of the dog of /iogenes the

cynic, and other evil things not readily to be named

in a polite age4 %artly no doubt this etreme irrita-

tion 6as due to the insults 6ith 6hich ;ean ;acQues

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had repulsed his oMers of shelter and assistance, had

repudiated oltaire9s attempts to defend him, and

had held up oltaire himself as a proper ob"ect for

the persecutions of 2eneva4 3ut there 6as a still

deeper root of discrepancy, 6hich 6e have already

pointed out4 &ousseau9s eaggerated tone 6as an

oMence to oltaire9s more "ust and reasonable spirit,

and the feigned austerity of a man 6hose life and

manners he Dne6, assumed in his eyes a disagreeable

shade of hypocrisy4 3esides these things, he 6as

clearly apprehensive of the storms 6hich &ousseau9s

F oltaire4

etraordinary hardihood had the very natural eMect

of raising in the circles of authority, though it is

true that the most acute observers of the time

thought that they noticed a very perceptible increase

of oltaire9s o6n hardihood, as a conseQuence of the

eample 6hich the other set him4

 #he rivalry bet6een the schools of &ousseau and

oltaire represents the dead-locD to 6hich social

thought had come ! a dead-locD of 6hich the catas-

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trophe of the &evolution 6as both epression and

result4 .t the time of oltaire9s death there 6as not

a single institution in )rance 6ith force enough to

be 6orth a month9s purchase4 #he monarchy 6as

decrepit ! the aristocracy 6as as feeble and impotent

as it 6as arrogant! the bourgeoisie 6as not 6ith-

out aspiration, but it lacDed courage and it possessed

no tradition ! and the hurch 6as demorali>ed, Nrst

by the direct attacD of oltaire and the not less

po6erful indirect attacD o#: the 'ncyclopaedia, and

second by the memory of its o6n cruelty and self-

ishness in the generation "ust closing4 3ut ol-

taire9s theory, so far as he ever put it into its most

general form, 6as that the temporal order 6as safe

and Nrm, and that it 6ould endure until criticism had

transformed thought and prepared the 6ay for a

regime of enlightenment and humanity4 &ousseau,

on the contrary, directed all the engines of passion

against the 6hole temporal fabric, and 6as so little

careful of freedom of thought, so little conNdent in

the plenary ePcacy of rational persuasion, as to insist

 #he %hilanthropist of )erney4 5

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upon the etermination of atheists by la64 #he

position of each 6as at once irrefragable and impos-

sible4 It 6as impossible to eMect a stable reconsti-

tution of the social order until men had been accus-

tomed to use their minds freely, and had gradually

thro6n oM the demorali>ing burden of superstition4

3ut then the eisting social order had become intol-

erable, and its forces 6ere practically etinct, and

conseQuently such an attacD as &oussseau9s 6as inev-

itable, and 6as at the same time and for the same

reasons irresistible4 #o overthro6 the po6er of

the hurch only 6as to do nothing in a society per-

ishing from material decay and political emascula-

tion4 (et to regenerate such a society 6ithout the aid

of moral and spiritual forces, 6ith 6hose activity

the eistence of a dominant ecclesiastical po6er 6as

absolutely incompatible, 6as one of the 6ildest feats

that ever passionate sophist attempted4

If, ho6ever, it must be admitted that each of these

t6o famous destroyers 6as attempting an eQually

desperate tasD, it is the contention of these pages

that oltaire 6as the more right and far-sighted

of the t6o in his perception of the conditions of the

problem4 +e have no6 for various adeQuate rea-

sons acQuired the habit of looDing upon the hurch

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and speaDing of it, as an organi>ation outside of

society, or at least as a separate organi>ation and

independent integer 6ithin4 #he truth is that in a

atholic country liDe )rance before the &evolution,

the hurch more than the secular order actually 6as

C oltaire4

the society, as it had been, though to a far 6ider

degree, throughout 'urope in the days of 7ilde-

brand and Innocent4 #hat is to say, it furnished the

strongest of the ideas, sentiments, hopes, and asso-

ciations 6hich bound men together in a single com-

munity4 #he monarchy, the nobles, the old historic

)rench tradition, the various bodies and processes of

la6, 6ere s6ept a6ay by the &evolution, virtually

never to return in spite of the transient appear-

ances to the contrary: #he hurch 6as s6ept a6ay

also, but only for a year or t6o ! and so little eMec-

tual 6as the &evolution, 6hich 6as in fact &ous-

seau9s &evolution, in permanently modifying its posi-

tion, that those )renchmen at the present day 6ho

most soberly "udge the future of their country and

looD deepest into its state, clearly perceive that the

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battle to be fought in the order of ideas is a battle

bet6een the ne6 moral and social ideas of the 6orD-

men, and the old moral and social ideas 6hich

atholicism has implanted in the breasts of the peas-

ants, and on 6hich the middle class privately and

unconsciously lean for the support of their o6n con-

sciences, though they may have put a6ay atholic

dogma4 +e may see here, once more, the help 6hich

%rotestantism gave to the dissolution of the old

society, by the increased room it gave, apart from

the speciNc inuence of a more democratic dogma,

for that gradual intellectual epansion throughout

a community, 6hich for those 6ho have faith in the

reasoning faculty is the one sure secret of social

 #he %hilanthropist of )erney4 *

advance4 #he sub"ection of the spiritual po6er to

the temporal, 6hich has commonly follo6ed the

establishment of the %rotestant communion, has very

liDely retarded the Nnal disappearance of many ideas

6hich foster anti-social tendencies ! but the sub"ec-

tion of the spiritual po6er in such a set of circum-

stances has the eMect of softening shocDs4 %rot-

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estantism in the siteenth century, if it could have

been accepted in )rance, 6ould have been a more

edifying dissolvent than oltairism 6as in the eight-

eenth ! but it is certain that the loosening of theo-

logical ideas and the organi>ation connected 6ith

them and upholding them, 6as the Nrst process

to6ards maDing truly social ideas possible, and their

future reali>ation a thing 6hich good men might

hope for4 0apoleon, the great organ of political

reaction, Dne6 6hat he 6as about in paying 6riters

for years to denigrate the memory of oltaire,

6hose very name he abhorred4

In saying, ho6ever, that &ousseau9s attacD 6as

inevitable, 6e have perhaps said that it 6as indis-

pensable! for 6here a society is not able to resist

an assault upon its fundamental conditions, 6e may

be tolerably sure that the time has arrived 6hen

either these conditions must be dispersed, or else

the society must fall into rapid dissolution4 +e may

refute &ousseau9s sophisms as often and as conclu-

sively as 6e please, and may d6ell as forcibly as 6e

Dno6 ho6 upon the untold penalties 6hich )rance

has paid, and is still doomed to pay, for 6hatever

ol4 FH HH

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G oltaire4

beneNts he may have besto6ed on her4 3ut after

all this, the beneNts remain, and they may be briey

set do6n as t6o in number4 In the Nrst place he

spoDe 6ords that can never be unspoDen, and Din-

dled a hope that can never be etinguished ! he Nrst

inamed men 6ith a righteous conviction that the

evils of the eisting order of things reduced civili>a-

tion to a nullity for the great ma"ority of manDind,

and that it cannot for ever be tolerable that the mass

should 6ear a6ay their lives in unbroDen toil 6ithout

hope or aim, in order that the fe6 may live selNsh

and vacuous days4 &ousseau presented this senti-

ment in a shape 6hich made it the negation of

society ! but it 6as much to induce thinDers to asD

themselves, and the bondsmen of society to asD their

masters, 6hether the last 6ord of social philosophy

had been uttered, and the last eperiment in the rela-

tions of men to one another decisively tried and ir-

revocably accepted4 $econd, by his fervid eloQuence

and the burning conviction 6hich he Dindled in the

breasts of great numbers of men, he inspired energy

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enough in )rance to a6aDen her from the torpor as

of death 6hich 6as stealing so rapidly over her4

0obody 6as more Deenly a6are of the presence of

this breath of decay in the air than oltaire 6as4 It

had sei>ed such hold of the vital parts of the old

order, that, but for the Nery spirit and unQuenchable

ardor of the men 6ho read &ousse9au as men of old

had read the gospel, but for the spirit and ardor

6hich animated the onvention, and made it aliDe

 #he %hilanthropist of )erney4 A

in the tasDs of peace and the tasDs of 6ar one of

the most eMective and formidable assemblies that the

6orld has ever beheld, 6e do not see 6hat there 6as

to stop )rance from sinDing lo6er and lo6er into

impotence, until at last the po6ers 6ho vainly threat-

ened the republic 6ith partition, might in the course

of time actually have consummated the threat against

the monarchy4 #his may seem impossible to us 6ho

live after the &evolution and after 0apoleon! but

6e must remember the designs of partitioning %rus-

sia in the middle of the century, the accomplishment

of a partition of the Italian possessions of the house

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of .ustria in 1*5, and the partition of %oland ! and

6hy 6as )rance to be eternal, any more than the

3y>antine 'mpire, or the po6er of the house of

.ustria, or the po6er of $pain, had been eternal?

It 6as the Nre Dindled by &ousseau9s passion that

saved her ! for even of the onstituent, 6hich 6as

oltairean, the very soul 6as =irabeau, 6ho 6as


It 6ill be seen that in one sense &ousseau 6as a

far more original personage than his Nrst chief and

inspirer4 7e contributed ne6 ideas, of etremely

eQuivocal and perilous character, but still ne6, to the

multitudinous discussions 6hich 6ere thro6ing all

the social elements into confusion4 #hese ideas

might indeed have been found substantially in the

6ritings of previous thinDers liDe =ontaigne and

LocDe! but &ousseau9s passion invested them 6ith

a Quality 6hich 6as virtually to constitute them a

F oltaire4

fresh and original force4 oltaire contributed initia-

tive and a temperament, 6hich made his propagation

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of ideas that 6ere not ne6, as important a fact in

social if not in intellectual history, as if he had been

possessed of superlative gifts in speculation4 #his

has also to be remembered 6hen 6e thinD of com-

paring him 6ith /iderot, 6ho, 6hile his eQual in

industry, 6as greatly his superior both in fresh

simplicity of imagination, and in grasp and breadth

of positive Dno6ledge4 +hoever 6ill taDe the

trouble to turn over some of the thirty-Nve volumes

of the 'ncyclopaedia, may easily see ho6 that

gigantic undertaDing J1*51-1*C5K, in 6hich ol-

taire al6ays tooD the most ardent and practical inter-

est, assisted the movement that oltaire had com-

menced4 It seemed to gather up into a single great

reservoir all that men Dne6, and this fact of mere

mechanical collocation 6as a sort of substitute for a

philosophic synthesis4 .s omte says, it furnished

a provisional rallying-point for eMorts the most

divergent, 6ithout reQuiring the sacriNce of any

points of essential independence, in such a 6ay to

secure for a body of incoherent speculation an eter-

nal looD of system4 #his enterprise, the history of

6hich is a microcosm of the 6hole battle bet6een

the t6o sides in )rance, enabled the various oppo-

nents of theological absolutism, the oltaireans,

&ousseauites, atheists, and all other sorts and condi-

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tions of protesting men, to confront the hurch and

its doctrine 6ith a similar semblance of organic unity

 #he %hilanthropist of )erney4 F1

and completeness4 #he 'ncyclopaedia 6as not

simply negative and critical4 It 6as an uneampled

manual of information, and 6as the means of spread-

ing over the country some Dno6ledge of that active

scientiNc culture, 6hich 6as producing such abun-

dant and astonishing discoveries4 #he t6o streams

of dissolvent inuences, negative criticism on the

one hand, and positive Dno6ledge and scientiNc

method on the other, 6ere led into a single channel

of multiplied volume and force4 #here 6as no real

nor logical connection bet6een the t6o elements,

and 6hile one of them has daily gro6n less service-

able, the other has daily gro6n more absorbingly

po6erful, so as no6 to be itself the eMective indirect

substitute for that direct negative criticism, 6ith

6hich the 'ncyclopaedic design had once thro6n it

into alliance4

/iderot, the third chief of the attacD, does even

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fuller "ustice than &ousseau to oltaire9s share in

stimulating thought and opening the mind of

)rance ! and in spite of the etravagance of its Nrst

clause, there is a glimpse of true discrimination in

the characteristic sentence +ere I to call him

the greatest man nature has produced, I might Nnd

people to agree 6ith me! but if I say that she has

never yet produced, and is never liDely to produce

again, a man so etraordinary, only his enemies 6ill

contradict me4 #his panegyric 6as specially dis-

interested, because oltaire9s last years had been not

least remarDable for his bitter antipathy to the


dogmatic atheism and dogmatic materialism of that

school 6ith 6hich /iderot 6as most intimate per-

sonally, and 6ith 6hose doctrines, if he did not at all

times seem entirely to share them, he had at any rate

a 6armer sympathy than 6ith any other system of

that negative epoch, 6hen every chief thinDer 6as

so vague positively, so 6eaD constructively, and

only the subalterns, liDe d97olbach and 7elvetius,

presumed to push on to conclusions4

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 #he story of oltaire9s many long-sustained and

unagging endeavors to procure 6hatever redress

might be possible for the victims of legal in"ustice,

has been very often told, and mere commemoration

of these "ustly reno6ned achievements may suPce

here4 #he 6orst of the 6orthy sort of people, he

once said, is that they are such co6ards4 . man

groans over 6rong, he shuts his lips, he taDes his

supper, he forgets4 oltaire 6as not of that tem-

per4 7e 6as not only an etremely humane man!

etraordinary vividness of imagination, lacD of

6hich is at the root of so much cruelty, and unparal-

leled sympathetic Quality, thinness of 6hich eplains

so much appalling indiMerence, animated him to a

perseverance in protecting the helpless, 6hich

entitles him to a place by the side of 7o6ard and the

noblest philanthropists4 #here 6ere three years in

6hich the chief business of his life 6as to procure

the rehabilitation of the name of the unfortunate

2alas, and the payment of a money recompense to

his family4 7e agitated the 6hole 6orld 6ith indig-

 #he %hilanthropist of )erney4 F

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nation and pity by means of narratives, pleas, short

statements and long statements, passionate appeals

and argumentative appeals4 %o6erful ministers, Nne

ladies, la6yers, men of letters, 6ere all constrained

by his importunate solicitations to lend an ear to the

cause of reason and tolerance, and to lift up an arm

in its vindication4 #he same tremendous enginery

6as again brought into play in the case of $irven4

In the case of La 3arre and his comrade d9'tallonde,

his tenacity 6as still more ama>ing and heroic4 )or

t6elve years he persevered in the attempt to have

the memory of La 3arre rehabilitated4 One of the

 "udicial authorities concerned in that atrocious

eploit, strucD 6ith horror at the thought of being

held up to the eecration of 'urope by that terrible

avenger, conveyed some menace to oltaire of 6hat

might befall him4 oltaire replied to him by a hi-

nese anecdote4 I forbid you, said a tyrannical

emperor to the chief of the tribunal of history, to

speaD a 6ord more of me4 #he mandarin began

to 6rite4 +hat are you doing no6 ? asDed the

emperor4 I am 6riting do6n the order that your

ma"esty has "ust given me4 #here 6as a something

ineorable as doom about oltaire9s unrelenting

perseverance in getting 6rong deNnitely stamped

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and transNed4 If he did not succeed in obtaining

 "ustice for the memory of La 3arre, and in procur-

ing for d9'tallonde free pardon, at least he never

abandoned the endeavor, and he 6as "ust as ardent

and un6earied in the t6elfth year, as he had been

FF oltaire4

6hile his indignation 6as freshly Dindled4 7e 6as

more successful in the case of Lally4 ount Lally

had failed to save India from the 'nglish, had been

taDen prisoner, and had then in a magnanimous 6ay

asDed his captors to allo6 him to go to %aris to

clear himself from various charges, 6hich the too

numerous enemies he had made 6ere spreading

against his character and administration4 #he

)rench people, infuriated at the loss of their posses-

sions in India and anada, 6ere crying for a victim,

and Lally, after a process tainted 6ith every Dind

of illegality, 6as condemned to death by the parlia-

ment of %aris J1*CCK on the vague charge of abuse

of authority, eactions, and veations4 #he mur-

dered man9s son, Dno6n in the days of the &evolu-

tion as Lally #ollendal, 6as "oined by oltaire in

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the honorable 6orD of procuring revision of the

proceedings ! and one of the last cro6ning triumphs

of oltaire9s days 6as the ne6s brought to him

on his dying bed, that his long eMort had availed4

 #he death of Lally is the parallel in )rench history

to the eecution of 3yng in the history of 'ngland,

and, oddly enough, oltaire 6as very actively occu-

pied in trying to avert that crime of our government,

as 6ell as the crimes of his o6n4 7e had Dno6n

3yng 6hen he 6as in 'ngland4 $ome one told him

that a letter from &ichelieu, 6ho had been 3yng9s

opponent at =inorca, 6ould be useful, and oltaire

instantly urged the /uDe to allo6 him to for6ard

a letter he had, stating &ichelieu9s conviction of his

 #he %hilanthropist of )emey4 F5

defeated enemy9s bravery and good "udgment4 ol-

taire insists that this letter turned four votes on the

court-martial4 7e informs a correspondent, more-

over, of the fact that 3yng had instructed his eec-

utor to epress his deep obligation both to oltaire

and &ichelieu4 7umanity is erroneously counted

among commonplace virtues4 If it deserved such

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a place, there 6ould be less urgent need than, alas,

there is, for its daily eercise among us4 In its

pale shape of Dindly sentiment and bland pity it is

common enough, and is al6ays the portion of the

cultivated4 3ut humanity armed, aggressive, and

alert, never slumbering and never 6earying, moving

liDe ancient hero over the land to slay monsters, is

the rarest of virtues, and oltaire is one of its


7is interest in public transactions in his latest

years 6as Deener than ever4 #hat fruit of %olish

anarchy, the 6ar bet6een &ussia and #urDey 6hich

broDe out in 1*CG, ecited his imagination to a pitch

of great heat, and the despatch in the spring of 1**B

of a sQuadron from ronstadt, for the so-called

liberation of 2reece, made him 6eep for "oy4 7e

implored )redericD not to leave to atherine alone

the burden of so glorious a tasD4 $uperstition had

had seven crusades ! 6as it not a noble thing to

undertaDe one crusade to drive the barbarous #urDs

from the land of $ocrates and %lato, $ophocles and

'uripides? )redericD replied very sensibly that

/ant>ic 6as more to him than the %iraeus, and that

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FC oltaire4

he is a little indiMerent about the modern 2reeDs,

6ho, if ever the arts should revive among them,

6ould be "ealous to Nnd that a 2aul by his 7enri-

ade had surpassed their 7omer! that this same

2aul had beaten $ophocles, eQualled #hucydides,

and left far behind him %lato, .ristotle, and the

6hole school of the %orch : 6hich 6as, perhaps,

not Quite so sensibly said4

 #he successes of &ussia against #urDey in 1**B

roused the aniety of .ustria and %russia, and the

solution of 6hat 6e Dno6 as the 'astern Question

6as indeNnitely postponed by the device of parti-

tioning %oland J.ugust 5, 1**HK, the alternative

to the acQuisition of the 6hole of that country by

&ussia, the least civili>ed of the three po6ers4

Of this memorable transaction oltaire heartily

approved, and he gave thanDs that he had lived to

see such glorious events4 7e insisted, decidedly

against the Ding9s 6ill, that )redericD had devised

the scheme, for he found it full of genius, and to

all seeming he discerned none of the eecration

6hich the event he had "ust 6itnessed 6as destined

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to raise in his o6n country in years to come4 7is

friendship 6ith t6o of the chief actors may have

biassed his "udgment! but oltaire seldom allo6ed,

indeed by the conditions of his temperament he 6as

unable to allo6, personal considerations of this Dind

to obscure his penetrating sight4 7e may 6ell have

thought the partition of %oland desirable, for the

reasons 6hich a statesman of to-day may Nnd ade-

 #he %hilanthropist of )erney4 F*

Quate: the country9s hopeless political anarchy, its

crushing material misery, the oppressive po6er of

the hurch, the inevitable and standing peril to

'urope of the eistence of such a centre of con-

agration4 It is 6orth remarDing that &ousseau

6as much more Deenly alive to the gravity of the

event, that he protested against 6hat had been done,

and that his inuence has been one of the main

causes of the illogical sympathy of democratic

'urope for one of the most pestilent of aristocratic


 #he accession of #urgot to po6er in 1**F stirred

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an ardent sympathy in oltaire4 LiDe the rest of

the school, he looDed upon this as the advent of the

political messiah, and he shared the etreme hopes

of that great and virtuous man9s most sanguine

lieutenants4 7e declared that a ne6 heaven and a

ne6 earth had opened to him4 7is sallies against

the economists 6ere forgotten, and he no6 entered

into the famous controversy of the free trade in

grain 6ith all his usual Nre4 7is fervor 6ent too

far for the sage minister, 6ho prayed him to be

some6hat less eager in alarming uninformed pre"u-

dice4 $till he insisted on hoping all things4

ontemple la brilliante aurore

Eui t9 announce enNn les beau "ours4

n nouveau monde est pres d9eclore!

.te disparait pour tou"ours4

ois 19auguste philosophic,

he> toi si long temps poursuivie,

/ieter ses triomphantes lois4

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FG oltaire4

 ;e lui dis : .nge tutelaire

Euels dieu repandent ces bienfaits?

est un seul homme4

+hen it proved that one man alone, Qui ne

chercha le vrai Que pour faire le bien, 6as no match

for the mountain torrent of ignorance, pre"udice,

selNshness, and usage, and #urgot fell from po6er

J=ay, 1**CK, oltaire sunD into a despair for his

country, from 6hich he never arose4 I am as one

dashed to the ground4 0ever can 6e console our-

selves for having seen the golden age da6n and

perish4 =y eyes see only death in front of me, no6

that =4 #urgot is gone4 It has fallen liDe a thunder-

bolt on my brain and my heart aliDe4 #he rest of

my days can never be other than pure bitterness4

 #he visit to %aris 6as perhaps a falsiNcation of

this prophecy for a moment4 In 1**G, yielding

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either to the solicitations of his niece, or to a momen-

tary desire to en"oy the triumph of his reno6n at

its centre, he returned to the great city 6hich he

had not seen for nearly thirty years4 7is reception

has been described over and over again4 It is one

of the historic events of the century4 0o great cap-

tain returning from a prolonged campaign of diP-

culty and ha>ard cro6ned by the most glorious

victory, ever received a more splendid and far-

resounding greeting4 It 6as the last great commo-

tion in %aris under the old regime4 #he net great

commotion 6hich the historian has to chronicle is

the ever-memorable fourteenth day of ;uly, eleven

 #he %hilanthropist of )erney4 FA

years later, 6hen the 3astille fell, and a ne6 order

began for )rance, and ne6 Questions began for all


 #he agitation of so much loud triumph and inces-

sant acclamation proved more violent than oltaire9s

feeble health could resist, and he died, probably from

an over-dose of laudanum, on the thirtieth of =ay,

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1**G4 7is last 6riting 6as a line of re"oicing to the

young Lally, that their eMorts had been successful

in procuring "ustice for the memory of one 6ho had

been put to death un"ustly4 7o6 far oltaire real-

i>ed the nearness of vast changes 6e cannot tell4

 #here is at least one remarDable prophecy of his,

in the 6ell-Dno6n letter to hauvelin : 'very-

thing 4that I see appears the thro6ing broadcast of

the seed of a revolution, 6hich must inevitably come

one day, but 6hich I shall not have the pleasure

of 6itnessing4 #he )rench al6ays come late to

things, but they do come at last4 Light etends so

from neighbor to neighbor, that there 6ill be a

splendid outburst on the Nrst occasion, and then

there 6ill be a rare commotion4 #he young are very

happy ! they 6ill see Nne things4 . less sanguine

tone marDs the close of the apologue in 6hich &ea-

son and #ruth, her daughter, taDe a triumphant

 "ourney in )rance and else6here, about the time of

the accession of #urgot4 .h, 6ell, says &eason,

let us en"oy these glorious days ! let us rest here,

if they last ! and if storms come on, let us go bacD

to our 6ell4 +hether this meant much or little

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5B oltaire4

none can Dno64 It 6ould be shallo6 to believe that

such men as oltaire, 6ith faculty QuicDened and

outlooD 6idened in the high air to 6hich their fame

raises them, really discerned no more than 6e, 6ho

have only their uttered 6ords for authority, can

perceive that they discerned4 2reat position often

invests men 6ith a second sight 6hose visions they

locD up in silence, content 6ith the 6orD of the day4

)7' '0/4

I0/'@ O) $3;'#$


7I$#O&I.L $#/I'$:

harles @II4 of $6eden, ols4 @@, @@I4

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.ge of Louis @I4, ols4 @@II, @@III4

%eter the 2reat, ols4 @@@I, @@@4

 #he7enriade, the 'pic of )rance, ol4 @@@III4

=orley9s oltaire, ol4 @LII4

$hort $tudies of Leaders in &eligious, %olitical,

$ocial, and other movements4 $ee ols4 @@I,

@@III, @@@, @@@I@! also the historical


/&.=.#I +O&$


=erope, and others, ol4 @4

=ahomet, and others, ol4 @I4

.hire, and others, ol4 @II4

 #he $cotch +oman, and others, ol4 @III4

aire, and others, ol4 @I@4

/edicatory Letters, %refaces, 'ssays and criti-

cisms on the ancient and modern drama,

ols4 @@@II, @@@III, @@@I@! see also

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in /ramas and %hilosophical /ictionary4

7I$#O&I.L +O&$

.0I'0# .0/ =O/'&0 7I$#O&(: ols4 @@I to

@@@, inclusive4

 #7' +.& O) 1*F1: ol4 @@@III4

7I$#O&I.L =I$'LL.0I'$: ols4 @@I, @@III,

@@@, @@@I-@@@III, @@@I@4 $ee #oler-