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years have elapsed since the French revolution. No oaths, no promises, can be said to be binding that are extorted by superior power, whether exercised against the person, or fortune, or comforts of the victim. Is the rack the best argument of the holy and pious truths of the Christian religion? Yet is the rack trifling compared with the persecution, the calumny, that Voltaire had to experience throughout his long career-a period of upwards of fifty years. His unwearied industry, his rank as a tragic poet, his position in society as a French gentleman, his independent fortune, were all necessary to be combined in one individual to enable him to assail with success the mass of priestly power and courtly corruption. He did more than any other man could have done. He excited indignation, contempt, and derision, and the force of his ridicule was owned by men who scorned to be moved by his arguments. As a philosopher, he was the first to afford an example of a private citizen who, by his wishes and his endeavours, embraced the general history of man in every country and in every age, opposing error and oppression of every kind, and defending and promulgating every useful truth. The history of whatever has been done in Europe, in favour of reason and humanity, is the history of his labour and beneficent acts. If the liberty of the press be increased ; if the Catholic clergy have lost their dangerous power, and have been deprived of some of their most scandalous wealth ; if the love of humanity be now the common language of all governments; if the continent of Europe have been taught that men possess a right to the use of reason ; if religious prejudices have been eradicated from the higher classes of society, and in part effaced from the hearts of the common people : if we have beheld the masks stripped from the faces of those religious sectaries who were privileged in imposing on the world; and if reason for the first time has begun to shed its clear and uniform light over all Europe—we shall everywhere discover, in the history of the changes that have been effected, the name of Voltaire.

It only remains to explain to the reader, that the French edition of the Philosophical Dictionary from which this translation is made, is a far more comprehensive collection than the one originally published under that name by Voltaire. It contains not only that work, but the contents of another publication called “Questions on the Encyclopædia ;" of a manuscript dictionary entitled a “ Dictionary of Opinion;" the articles of Voltaire_inserted in the French Encyclopædia; a few designed for the Dictionary of the French Academy; and various minor pieces of a still more miscellaneous nature. Like all other dictionaries of facts and opinions connected with the progress of knowledge, time has made some havoc connected with a portion of its contents. Several articles are superseded by the extension of physical and economical science since they were written, as well as by increased information in every direction. These necessary omissions are augmented by leaving out a portion of disquisition which never could interest out of France, nor even in France any longer; including remarks on very local and obsolete laws; on minute peculiarities of the French language, and critical observations on the passing drama, and on French poetry, which have been repeated from other sources almost to satiety. Some repetitions, also, for which the French editors claim indulgence in a work thus got together, are carefully removed. These, and a few other kindred reductions, will reduce the work only about one-eighth of the original ; and by giving a small but remarkably clear type, the publisher is able to supply the public with a work for Ten Shillings which before cost Fifty; and at the same time, for elegance and neatness, will be found worthy a place in the collection of every man of liberal and independent mind, who esteems genius, reverences truth, and detests priest craft, superstition, and tyranny.




From the French of Voltaire.


from alpha; one is first, the other is

second, and no one knows why. The letter A has been accounted sacred

How can it have happened that terms in almost every nation, because it was the are still wanting to express the portal of first letter. The Egyptians added this to all the sciences? The knowledge of their numberless superstitions; hence it} numbers, the art of numeration, is not was that the Greeks of Alexandria called { called the one-two : yet the first rudiment it hier'alpha; and, as omega was the last of the artof expressing our thoughts has not of the letters, these words alpha and omega in all Europe obtained a proper designation. signified the beginning and the end of all The alphabet is the first part of gramthings. This was the origin of the caba-mar; perhaps those who are acquainted listic art, and of more than one mysterious with Årabic, of which I have not the folly.

slightest notion, can inform me whether The letters served as cyphers, and to that language, which is said to contain no express musical notes. Judge what an fewer than eighty words to express a infinity of useful knowledge must thus horse, has one which signifies the alphabet. have been produced. A, b, c, d, e, f, g, I protest that I know no more of were the seven heavens; the harmony of Chinese than of Arabic; but I have read, the celestial spheres was composed of the } in a small Chinese vocabulary, that this seven first letters; and an acrostic ac- } nation has always had two words to excounted for everything among the ever- press the catalogue or list of the characvenerable Ancients.

ters of its language; one is ko-tou, the

other hai-pien : we have neither ko-tou A, B, C, OR ALPHABET. nor hai-pien in our Occidental tongues.

The Greeks, who were no more adroit Why has not the alphabet a name in { than ourselves, also said alphabet. Seneca any European language? Alphabet sig- the philosopher used the Greek phrase to viñes nothing more than A, B, and Ă, designate an old man who, like me, asks B, signifies nothing, or bat indicates two questions on grammar, calling him Skedon sounds, which two sounds have no rele- analphabetos. Now the Greeks had this tion to each other. Beta is not formed ? same alphabet from the Phenicians-from

that people called the letter nation by the { to Colchis to establish a trade in sheep, Hebrews themselves, when the latter, at skins,—whence we have the fable of the so late a period, went to settle in their golden fleece,—they communicated their neighbourhood.

letters to the people of the country, who It may well be supposed that the Phe- still retain them with some alteration. nicians, by communicating their charac- They have not adopted the alphabet of ters to the Greeks, rendered them a great the Turks, to whom they are at present service in delivering them from the subject, but whose yoke, thanks to the embarrassment occasioned by the Egyp- Empress of Russia, I hope they will tian mode of writing taught them by { throw off. Cecrops. The Phenicians, in the capacity It is very likely (I do not say it is of merchants, sought to make everything certain-God forbid !) that neither Tyre easy of comprehension; while the Egyp- nor Egypt, nor any other country situated trans, in their capacity of interpreters of near the Mediterranean Sea, communithe Gods, strove to make everything cated its alphabet to the nations of difficult.

Eastern Asia. If, for example, the I can imagine I hear a Phenician Tyrians, or the Chaldeans, who dwelt merchant landed in Aehaia saying to a near the Euphrates, had communicated Greek correspondent, “ Our characters their method to the Chinese, some traces are not only easy to write, and commu- of it would have remained; we should nicate the thoughts as well as the sound have had the signs of the twenty.two, of the voice; they also express our re- twenty-three, or twenty-four letters : spective debts. My aleph, which you whereas they have a sign for each word choose to pronounce alpha, stands for an in their language ; and the number of ounce of silver, beta for two ounces, tau į their words, we are told, are eighty for a hundred, sigma for two hundred : I thousand. This method has nothing in owe you two hundred ounces ; I pay you common with that of Tyre; it is seventya tat, and shall owe you another tau; { nine thousand nine hundred and seventythus we shall soon make our reckoning." } six times more learned and more embar. It was most probably by mutual traffic, rassing than our

Besides this which administered to their wants, that { prodigious difference, they write from the society was first established among men; } top to the bottom of the page; while the and it is necessary that those between Tyrians and the Chaldeans wrote from whom commerce is carried on, should right to left, and the Greeks, like ourunderstand one another.

selves, wrote from left to right. The Egyptians did not apply them- Examine the Tartar, the Hindoo, the selves to commerce until a very late Siamese, the Japanese characters; you period; they had a horror of the sea ; it will not find the least resemblance to the was their Typhon. The Tyrians, on the Greek or Phenician alphabet. contrary, were navigators from time im- Yet all these nations, and not these memorial; they brought together those alone, but even the Hottentots and Cafnations which Nature had separated, and { fres, pronounce the vowels and consonants repaired those calamities into which the as we do, because the larynx in them is revolutions of the world frequently plunged { essentially the same as in usmjust as the a large portion of mankind. The Greeks throat of the rudest boor is made like tin their turn, carried to other nations that of the finest opera singer, the differheir commerce and their convenient ence, which makes of one a rough, dis alphabet, which latter was altered a little, cordant, insupportable bass, and of the sa the Greeks had altered that of the other a voice sweeter than the nightinTyrians. When their merchants, who gale's, being imperceptible to the most were afterwards made demi-gods, went acute anatomist; or as the brain of a fool


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is for all the world like the brain of a persons say that it was that of Lower great genius.

Brittany : may surely, without When we said that the Tyrian mer- offending either the people of Brittany or chants taught the Greeks their A, B, C, } those of Samaria, admit no original we did not pretend that they also taught tongue. them to speak. It is probable that the May we not also, without offending any Athenians already expressed themselves one, suppose that the alphabet originated in a better manner than the people of} in cries and exclamations? Infants of Lower Syria ; their throats were more themselves articulate one sound when an flexible, and their words were a more { object catches their attention, another happy assemblage of vowels, consonants, } when they laugh, and a third when they and dipthongs. The language of the are whipped — which they ought not Phenician people was rude and gross, { to be. consisting of such words as Shasiroth, As for the two little boys whom the Ashtaroth, Shabaoth, Chotiket, Thopheth, Egyptian king Psammeticus (which, by &c. enough to terrify a songstress from the by, is not an Egyptian word) brought the opera of Naples. Suppose that the up, in order to know what was the primiRomans of the present day had retained tive language, it seems hardly possible the ancient Etrurian alphabet, and some that they should both have cried bee bee Dutch traders brought them that which when they wanted their breakfast. they now use; the Romans would do From exclamations formed by vowels very well to receive their characters, but} -as natural to children as croaking is to it is not at all likely that they would frogs——the transition to a complete alphaspeak the Batavian language. Just so } bet is not so great as it may be thought. A would the people of Athens deal with the mother must always have said to her sailors of Capthor, who had come from child the equivalent of come, go, take, Tyre or Berith ; they would adopt their leave, hush !"&c. These words represent alphabet as being better than that of} nothing; they describe nothing ; but a Misraim or Egypt, but would reject gesture makes them intelligible. their speech.

From these shapeless rudiments we Philosophically speaking, and setting have, it is true, an immense distance to aside all inferences to be drawn from the travel before we arrive at syntax. It is Holy Scriptures, which certainly are not almost terrifying to contemplate that from here the subject of discussion,-is not the the simple word come, we have arrived at primitive language a truly laughable such sentencesas the following:- Mother, chimera?

I should have come with pleasure, and What would be thought of a man who } should have obeyed your commands, which should seek to discover what had been are ever dear to me, if I had not, when the primitive cry of all animals; and {running towards you, fallen backwards, how it happens that, after a series of ages, which caused a thorn to run into my left sheep bleat, cats mew, doves coo, linnets { leg. whistle? They understand one another It appears to my astonished imaginaperfectly in their respective idioms, and tion that it must have required ages to much better than we do. Every species adjust this sentence, and ages more to put has its language ; that of the Esquimaux it into language. Here we might tell or was never that of Peru; there has no more { endeavour to tell the reader how such been a primitive language, or a primitive words are expressed and pronounced in alphabet, than there have been primitive every language of the earth, as father, oaks or primitive grass.

mother, land, water, day, night, eating, Several Rabbis assert that the Sama- } drinking, &c., but we must, as much as ritan was the original tongue; other possible, avoid appearing ridiculous.

The alphabetical characters denoting | Isuac, and Jacob, you will, by these at once the names of things, their number, words, do things, the nature and force of and the dates of events, the ideas of men, } which are such that the evil spirits subsoon became mysteries even to those who mit to those who pronounce them; but had invented the signs. The Chaldeans, } if you call him by another name, as God the Syrians, and the Egyptians, attributed of the roaring sea, &c. no effect will be something divine to the combination of produced. The name of Israel rendered the letters and the manner of pronouncing in Greek will work nothing; but prothem. They believed that names had a {nounce it in Hebrew with the other words force-virtue, independently of the required, and you will effect the conthings which they represented : they went juration." so far as to pretend that the word which The same Origen had these remarkable signified power was powerful in itself, words :-" There are names which are that which expressed an angel was angelic. powerful from their own nature. Such and that which gave the idea of God was are those used by the Sages of Egypt, the divine. The science of numbers natu- Magi of Persia, and the Brahmins of rally became a part of necromancy, and } India. What is called magic is not a no magical operation could be performed vain and chimerical art, as the Stoics and without the letters of the alphabet. Epicureans pretend. The names Sabaoth

Thus the clue to all knowledge led to and Adonai were not made for created every error. The Magi of every country beings, but belong to a mysterious theoused it to conduct themselves into the logy which has reference to the creator ; labyrinth which they had constructed, and hence the virtue of these names when which the rest of mankind were not per- they are arranged and pronounced acmitted to enter. The manner of pro cording to rule,” &c. nouncing vowels and consonants became It was by pronouncing letters accordthe most profound of mysteries, and oftening to the magical method, that the moon the most terrible. There was, among the was made to descend to the earth. Virgil Syrians and Egyptians, a manner of pro. must be pardoned for having faith in this nouncing JEHOVAH, which would cause nonsense, and speaking of it seriously in a man to fall down dead.

his eighth eclogue: St. Clement of Alexandria relates that Carmina de coelo possunt deducere lunam, Moses killed a king of Egypt on the spot Pale Phæbe, drawn by verse, from heav'n descends. by sounding this name in his ear, after

Deyden's Virgil. which he brought him to life again by In short, the alphabet was the origin pronouncing the same word. St. Clement of all man's knowledge, and of all his is very exact; he cites the author, the errors. learned Artapanus. Who can impeach the testimony of Artapanus ?

ABBE, Nothing tended more to retard the The word abbé, let it be remembered, progress of the human mind than this signifies father. If you become one, you profound science of error which sprung render a service to the state ; you doubtup among the Asiatics with the origin of less perform the best work that a man truth. The universe was brutalized by can perform; you gire birth to a thinking the very art which should have enlight- being: in this action there is something ened it. Of this we have great examples } divine. But if you are only Monsieur in Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Ter- l'abbé, because you have had your head tullian, &c. &c.

shaved, wear a small collar, and a short Origen, in particular, expressly says, cloak, and are waiting for a fat benefice, “ If, when invoking God, or swearing by you do not deserve the name of abbé. him, you call him the God of Abraham The ancient monks gave this name to

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