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him in 1750. He had apartments assigned to him at Potsdam, a pension of 20,000 trancs, a chamberlain's gold key, and a cross of merit. His duties were to correct his majesty's writings, which was rather an irksome occupation. The professions of Frederick were not sincere ; and Voltaire could not always prevent expressions escaping him which were reported to the king, and were far from complimentary. To correct Frederick’s French verses without laughing at them was impossible, The history of his residence in Prussia is briefly sketched in Voltaire's “Mémoires." Voltaire at last got away, “ with a promise," as he says, “ to return, and the firm resolution never to see him again :" his residence in Prussia was three years. On his return, an odd adventure befel him at Frankfort. He was arrested by a person named Freytag, the resident of the king of Prussia at Frankfort, who demanded of him, in his barbarous French, "l'ouvre de poeshie" of the king his master. A few copies of this precious volume of Frederick's poetry had been printed privately and distributed by the king among his favourites ; Voltaire had been honoured with one. The poetry had been left behind at Leipzig, and Voltaire was obliged to wait at Frankfort till it came, when it was delivered up to the resident. Frederick probably feared that Voltaire would make some use of the book of poetry to his prejudice, as it contained many satirical reflections on crowned heads and other persons. Even after the surrender of the book, Voltaire and his niece Madame Denis, who had joined him at Frankfort, were detained by Freytag on some miserable pretexts, and kept prisoners in an hotel for twelve days. He was robbed of part of his property, and compelled to pay the expenses of his detention. At last, orders came from Berlin, and Voltaire and his niece were allowed to continue their journey to Mayence. It was not long after this adventure of Frankfort, while the memory of the treatment which he had received from the King of Prussia was fresh, that Voltaire wrote those “ Memoires " which affix infamy on the name of Frederick.
After a short time, Voltaire fixed himself at Colmar for a few months (1754), while Madame Denis was at Paris for the purpose of ascertaining if he could safely return there. A new trouble now befel him. A Dutch bookseller had obtained in some way an unfinished MS. of the “ Essai sur les Mæurs et l'Esprit des Nations," and published it under the title of “ Abrégé d'Histoire Universelle, par M. Voltaire.” The Dutch publisher had suppressed some parts of the work, which made it appear an attack on crowned heads and priests. However, Vol. taire got the genuine MS. from Paris, and showed that the passages had been suppressed with a malignant design to injure him.
At length, wearied with his rambling, unsettled life, after spending a few years in the territory of Lausanne and in that of Geneva, he bought an estate at Tourney and another at Ferney, both in the Pays des Gex, and he finally settled at Ferney, where he spent the last twenty years of his life. He rebuilt the house, laid out gardens, kept a good table, and had crowds of visitors from all parts of Europe.
In his retirement of Ferney, removed from illusion, and whatever could excite momentary or personal passion, we shall see him yield entirely to his prevailing and incessant love of fame, to the still more potent necessity his mind felt of being productive, and to his zeal for the destruction of prejudice, which was indeed the most powerful and active of all the sensations he felt. This peaceful life, seldom disturbed, and then by the threats of persecution, rather than persecution itself, we shall see adorned not only, like his youth, by the exercise of private benevolencema quality common to all men whose hearts have not been hardened and minds corrupted by misfortune or vanity—but by those acts of enlightened and boid benevolence, which, while they relieve the sufferings of certain individuals, are of service to the whole human race.
The first work he sent from his retreat was the “Orphan of China,” a tragedy written during his residence in Alsatia, at a time when he hoped he might have been allowed to live at Paris, and was desirous of theatrical success to secure his friends and impose silence on his foes.
This play is the triumph of virtue over power, and of the laws over arms. Till then, Mahomet excepted, no poet had successfully made one of these men, whose fame appears awful, and whose characters present the picture of extraordinary strength of soul, in love without degradation. Voltaire a second time conquered this difficulty: the love of Gengis Khan is interesting in despite of the violence and ferocity of his character, because it is true and impassioned, because it wrests from him a confession of the vacancy his heart felt amid all his power, and because he at last sacrifices his love of fame, and his thirst of conquest to the charms, before unknown to him, of pacific virtues.
The repose of Voltaire was soon disturbed by the publication of the "Maid of Orleans." This poem, in which licentiousness and philosophy are combined, and truth assumes the mask of satiric and voluptuous humour, was begun about the year 1730, but had never been finished. The author had entrusted what he had written of it only to a few friends, and to some princes. The rumour of its existence had brought down menaces on him; and, by not finishing it, he took the surest means to avoid the dangerous temptation of making it public. Copies unfortunately got abroad, one of which fell into inimical and selfish hands, and the work appeared not only with such defects as the author had left, but with lines added by the edi. tors full of grossness and ill-taste, and with satiric traits which might endanger the safety of Voltaire. The desire of gain, the pleasure of attributing their own wretched verses to a great poet, and the more malignant pleasure of exposing him to persecution, were the motives of this act of infidelity, the honour of which was divided between La Beaumelle and the ex-Capuchin Maubert.
They succeeded only so far as to trouble that repose for a moment which they wished to destroy. His friends evaded the persecution, by proving the work to be spurious, and the hatred of the editors served him whom it meant to wound.
This, however, obliged Voltaire to finish the poem, and present a work to the world, at which the author of Mahomet and the age of Louis XIV. need not blush. The work excited lively feelings of enthusiasm in a numerous class of readers, while the foes of Voltaire affected to decry it as unworthy of a philosopher, and alniost as a blemish on the writings and the life of a poet.
But, if it be useful to render superstition ridiculous in the eyes of men addicted to voluptuousness, and by the very weakness which hurries them into dissipation destined some time to become the unfortunate victims or the dangerous tools of this vile tyrant of men, if affectation of austerity in manners, if the excessive value attached to their purity, be serviceable only to hypocrites, who wearing the mask of chastity, may neglect every other virtue, and cast a sacred veil over the most pernicious vices of society, such as intolerance and persecution, we shall then only behold in the author of the “Maid of Orleans " the foe of hypocrisy and superstition.
Two works, very different in themselves, appeared at the same epoch ; the poem on “ Natural Law," and the poem of the Destruction of Lisbon.” To display morals, the principles of which reason teaches all men, which are sanctioned by their hearts, and which remorse informs them it is their duty to practise ; to show that these are the principles which God, the common father of men, alone could impart, since they alone are uniform ; to prove that the duty of individuals is muiually to pardon their mistakes, and that of sovereigns to prevent the pernicious tendencyof those vain opinions which fanaticism and hypocrisy support, by wisely treating them all with indifference; such is the purport of the poem on “ Natural Law.”
This work, the finest which man ever consecrated to the Deity, excited the anger of the devotees, who called it the poem of natural religion ; though religion is only mentioned in order to oppose intolerance. It was burnt by the parliament of Paris, which began to terrified, as well at the progress of reason as at that of Molinism. Under the conduct, at this period, of men who were either blinded by pride or false policy, it imagined it would be more easy to impede the advancement of knowledge, than to merit the applause of the enlightened. It felt not the want itself had of the good opinion of the public; it misconstrued those who were to be its guides, and declared itself the enemy of men of letters, at that precise moment when the suffrage of these men in France, and even over all Europe, began to acquire influence.
However, the poem of Voltaire, which has since been commented on in various celebrated books, is still that in which the connection between morality and the being of a God is most clearly demonstrated. Thirty years later, and the book which was burnt as impious would almost have appeared a work of religion.
In the poem on the “ Destruction of Lisbon,” Voltaire indulged those sentiments of terror and melancholy which this dreadful accident inspired. He led the tranquil sect of optimists amid these fearful ruins, combated their cold and puerile doctrine with the indignation of a philosopher deeply sensible of the sufferings of mankind, exposed the difficulties on the origin of evil in their full force, and avowed it is impossible for them to be solved by man.
This poem, in which at the age of more than sixty the mind of Voltaire, warmed by a love of humanity, displays all the strength and fire of youth, was not the onlv work in which he opposed optimism. He published “ Candide," the first of phi. losophic romances ; which species of writing he brought from England, and added to its perfection. It is a kind of composition which appears easy of execution, but it requires an uncommon talent; that of expressing by a jest, a flight of the fancy, or by the incidents of the ro:rance, the result of profound philosophy, without ceasing to be natural, pleasing, and accurate. Hence it is necessary to select such effects as need neither development nor proof, and at once to avoid commonplace unworthy of repetition, and abstraction which is too deep or too new, and which is not adapted to the multitude : that is, it is necessary to be, without appearing to be, a philosopher.
“Candide" was soon followed by a free translation of the “ Book of Ecclesiastes," and a part of the “Song of Solomon."
Madame de Pompadour had been persuaded that it would be profoundly politic for her to assume the mask of devotion, by which she might shield herself from the scruples and inconstancy of the king, and at the same time calm the hatred of the people. She wished to make Voltaire an actor in this farce. The Duke de la Valiere proposed to him to translate the “ Psalms," the book of “ Proverbs," “Solomon's Song,” and the“ Ecclesiastes.” The edition was to have been printed at the Louvre, and the author to have returned to Paris under the protection of the religious favourite. But Voltaire could not act the hypocrite, not even to be made a cardinal, some hopes of which were given him about this time. Such proposals generally came too late; and were they made in time, the policy of them would not be very certain. He who must be a dangerous enemy, might become a still more dangerous ally. Let us suppose Calvin or Luther called to the purple, when they might have accepted the dignity without disgrace, and let us imagine what would have been the consequence. The baubles of vanity do not satiate souls impelled
by the ambition of reigning over the minds of men : they do but supply new arms,
Voltaire, however, was tempted to make essays in translation; not to recover his religious repute, but to exercise himself in another species of composition. When they appeared, the devout imagined he only had intended to parody that which he had translated, and exclaimed it was shameful. They did not imagine that Voltaire had softened and purified the text; that his “ Ecclesiastes” had less of the doctrine of materialism ihan the original ; and that his “Song of Songs was less indecent than the sacred text. These works were therefore once more burnt, for which Voltaire avenged himself by a satiric and humorous letter, in which he mocked at the hypocrisy of morals, the peculiar vice of the modern nations of Europe, which has contributed more than is imagined to destroy that energy of character by which the ancients were distinguished.
In 1757, the first edition of his works, actually made under his own inspection, was printed. He revised it with rigorous attention, selected some of his numerous fugitive pieces with severity, but with judgment, and added his immortal “Essay on the Manners and Spirit of Nations."
Voltaire had long complained that among the moderns, especially, the history of a country was that of its kings, or its chiefs; that it spoke only of wars, treaties, and civil commotions; and that the history of morals, arts, sciences, legislation, and political government, had been almost forgotten. Those very ancients in whose writings we find most of morals, and internal politics, have only in general added to the history of wars, that of popular factions. We imagine, while we read such historians, that the human race was created only to exhibit the political or military talents of a few individuals; and that the object of society is not the happiness of the species, but the pleasure of having revolutions to read, or to relate.
Voltaire formed the plan of a history which should contain all that was most important for men to know; such as the effects produced on the peace and happiness of nations, their prejudices, knowledge, virtues, and vices, and the customs and the arts of different ages.
He chose the period from Charlemagne to the present century ; but, not confining himself solely to European nations, he interested and instructed the reader by an abridged retrospect of the state of the other parts of the globe ; the revolu. tions they had undergone, and the opinions by which they had been governed.
It was to reconcile Madame du Châtelet to the study of history, that he undertook this immense labour, which obliged him to read books of erudition, such as would have been supposed incompatible with the liveliness of his fancy, and the activity of his mind. The supposition that he should serve the human race supported him, and erudition was not dull to a man who, having the sagacity to detect and amuse himself with the ridiculous, found an inexhaustible source of this in the speculative or practical doctrines of our ancestors ; and in the follies of those who have transmitted or commented on them, while admiring them either with sincerity or hypocrisy equally laughable.
Such a work could please none but philosophers. It was accused of being frivolous, because it was clear, and read without labour ; and of being inaccuraie, because there are some errors of names and dates discoverable in it, which in themselves are things absolutely indifferent. Yet it has been proved, by the very reproaches of his bitterest critics, that, in a history so extensive, no writer was ever more exact. He was often taxed with partiality, because he exclaimed against those prejudices which pusillanimity or meanness had too long respected; and it is easy io show that, far from exaggerating the crimes of sacerdotal despotism, he has rather
diminished their number, and softened their atrocity. In fine, it was taker. amiss that, in a picture of the wickedness and folly of man, he has sometimes indulged in strokes of pleasantry; and that he has not always spoken seriously of human extravagance; as if that which is often dangerous, ceased therefore to be absurd.
This work placed Voltaire in the class of original historians; and he has the honour of having effected a revolution in the manner of writing history, by which England indeed has hitherto only profited. Hume, Robertson, Gibbon, and Watson, may, in some respecis, be considered as his scholars. The history of Voltaire has another advantage ; which is, that it may be taught in England as well as in Russia, and in Virginia as consistently as at Bern or Verice. He has inserted none but such truths as every species of government may adopt. He only requires that human reason should have the right of improving itself; that the citizen should enjoy his natural freedom; and that the laws should be mild and the religion tolerant. He addresses himself to all mankind, and says nothing which may not enlighten them all, without offence to any of those opinions which are so connected with the constitution and individual interest of a country as not to yield to reason, till such time as the destruction of more general error shall have rendered the approach of truth less difficult.
Voltaire was still at Berlin when Diderot and d'Alembert formed the design of writing the “Encyclopedia,” and pub.ished the first volume of it. A work whose object it was to include the truths of all the sciences, and to trace the lines of communication between them, undertaken by two men who joined murh wit and a free daring philosophy to extensive and profound knowledge, appeared to the penetrating eye of Voltaire the most formidable stroke that could be aimed at ignorance and prejudice. The “Encyclopedia" became the book of all men who wished to instruct themselves; but particularly of those who, without being habitually employed in cultivating their minds, yet are desirous of the power of acquiring a ready information on every object which excites in them either a transient or durable interest. It was a mass to which those, who had not time to form ideas for themselves, might have recourse for the ideas of the most enlightened and celebrated writers ; in which, in short, the errors, that are respected by prejudice, would either be betrayed by the weakness of their proofs, or shaken by the near neighbourhood of truths which sap their foundations.
Voltaire, having retired to Ferney, gave a small number of literary articles to the " Encyclopedia ;" he prepared some of those on philosophic subjects, but with less zeal, because he felt that the editors had less need of his assistance there, and because that, in general, though his great works in verse had been formed to constitute his glory, he had scarcely ever written in prose but with views of universal utility. Meanwhile, the same reasons which interested Voltaire for the progress of the “ Encyclopedia,” raised to that work innumerable enemies. Composed or applauded by the greatest men of the nation, it became a species of line which separated the most distinguished literati, and those who had the honour of being their disciples or their friends, from that crowd of obscure and jealous writers, who, in the sorrowful incapacity of giving either new truths or new pleasures to the world, hate and calumniale men to whom nature has been more bountiful.
A work in which it was necessary to treat freely and boldly of divinity, of morality, of jurisprudence, of legislation, and of public economy, could not but terrify all religious or political parties, and all the subordinate powers which feared to see their pretensions and utility discussed. The insurrection was general. The " Journal of Trévoux," the “ Ecclesiastic Gazette," the “ Satiric Journals,” the Jesuits and the Jansenists, the clergy, the parliaments, all, without ceasing to hate