Page 1


THE

FRIENDS OF VOLTAIRE


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JEAN-LEROND D'ALEMBERT.

From

ami

Engraxiing after Pnios.


THE

FKIENDS OF VOLTAIRE BY S.

TALLENTYRE

G.

LIFE OF VOLTAIBE

*

II

AUTHOR OF THB WOMEN OF THE SALONS

'

'

faut que les §,mes pensantes se frottent

faire jaillir

'

ETC.

Hi^uu

i-

pour

'

Tune centre I'autre

de la lumi^re.'

VoLTAiEE

:

Letter to the

Due

d' XJzes^

December

4, 1751.

WITH POETEAITS Y; OF THE '^\ I^NIVERSITY ^ OF

^/!

\,wo9:\^

LONDON SMITH, ELDER, & CO., 15 WATERLOO PLACE 1906

[All

rights r«i«rT*d]

t


BEESE


np7ios ItoG

CONTENTS PAGE I.

II.

III.

D'Alembert

Diderot

:

the Thinker (1717-1783)

:

the Talker (1713-1784)

Wit

GalianT: the

IV. Vauvbnargues

.

.

Host

(1723-1789)

:

:

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

THE ARISTOCRAT (1743-1794)

.

96

.

118

.

160

.

176

...

the Playwright (1732-1799)

Index

1

.32

.

the Contradiction (1715-1771)

IX. Beaumarchais

.

62

VIII. Turgot: the Statesman (1727-1781)

X. CONDORCET

.

(1728-1787)

VI. Grimm: the Journalist (1723-1807)

:

'

the Aphorist (1715-1747)

:

V. D'Holbach: the

VII. Helvetius

.

.

.

.

206

.

236

.

268

299

294995


POETEAITS D'Alembert

Frontispiece

From an Engraving

after Pvjos.

Diderot

To face ^.32

From an Engraving

by Henriquez, after the Portrait by

Vanloo.

Galiani From a

Vauvenargues From a

62

96

Print in the Bibliotheque Rationale, Paris.

,,118

D'HOLBACH From a

„ Print.

Portrait in the Musde Cond4, Chantilly.

Grimm

From an Engraving, after

150

Carmontelle, in the Bibliothhque

Rationale, Paris.

,,176

HELvinus From an Engraving

by St. Aubin, after the Portrait by

Vanloo.

,,206

TURGOT From an Engraving

by

Tje

Beau, after the Portrait by

Troy.

Beaumarghais From an

236

268

Engraving, after Michon, in the Bibliotltique

Nationale^ Paris.

CONDORCBT From an Engraving Aubin.

.

.

by Lemvrt, after

the Bust

by

St.


SOME SOUECES OP INFOEMATION D'Alembert. Joseph Bertrand. (Buvres et Correspondance inedites. B'Alembert, Correspondance avec d'Alembert. Marquise du Deffand. Diderot and the Encyclopaedists. John Morley. Eloge de d'Alembert. Condorcet. (Euvres. Diderot. Diderot. Beimach. Diderot, THomme et rEcrivain. Ducros. Scherer. Diderot et Catherine II. Toumewx. FerdinandŠ Galiani, Correspondance, Diderot.

Etude,

etc.

Perrey

Maugras. Lettres de I'Abbe Galiani.

Eugene

Asse.

Correspondance. Madame d'Epvnay. Jeunesse de Madame d'Epinay. Perrey et Maugras. Dernieres Annees de Madame d'Epinay. Perrey et Maugras. Memoires. Marmontel. Memoires. Morellet. Causeries du Lundi. Savnte-Beuve. Vauvenargues. Paleologue. (Euvres et ^loge de Vauvenargues. D. L. Gilbert. Melchior Grimm. Scherer, Eousseau. John Morley. Miscellanies. John Morley. Correspondance Litt^raire. Grimm et Diderot. Turgot. L4on Say.

Memoires

Turgot.

et

W. B. Hodgson.

Turgot. Vie de Turgot. Condorcet. Correspondance inedite de Condorcet et Turgot. La Marquise de Condorcet. Guillois. Vie de Condorcet. Bobinet. (Euvres.

C.

Henry.

et


X

THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

Beaumarchais

et

Son Temps.

Beaumarchais. Hallays. Th^&tre de Beaumarchais. La Fin de TAncien E^gime.

French Eevolution. Critical Essays.

Correspondance.

Lominie.

Imbert de Smnt-Ama/nd.

Ca/rlyle.

Garlyle.

VoUwire. du XVIII'^ Sieele.

•Portraits Litt^raires

Corn's de Litterature.

La

Ha/rpe.

La

Harpe. Darmron.

M^moire sm* Helvetius. Le Salon de Madame Helvetius.

Guillois.

Histoire de la Philosophic Moderne.

Buhle. Burton. The Private Correspondence of Garrick with Celebrated Persons. Memoires pour servir 4 I'Histoire de la Philosophic. Damiron. Letters. Laurence Sterne. Life of Hume.


THE FRIENDS OF VOLTAIRE I

UALEMBERT: THE THINKER Of

that vast intellectual

the

way

for the

movement which prepared

most stupendous event in history,

the French Kevolution, Voltaire was the creative spirit.

Q But

there

was a group of men,

who new heaven and

less

not less great,

also heralded the

the

the

new

earth

;

famous but

coming of

who were

in

a strict sense friends and fellow-workers of Voltaire,

although one or two of them were personally

little

known to him whose aim was his aim, to destroy from among the people ignorance, the curse of God,' and who were, as he was, the prophets and the makers of a new dispensation That many of these light bringers were them;

'

selves full of darkness, is true

brought the light not the

less,

enough and in

;

but they their

B

own


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

2

breasts burnt one cleansing flame, the passion for

humanity.

For the

rest,

they were the typical

most enthralling age in

human

men

history— each

of the

with his

story as well as his public purpose,

and

his

part to play on the glittering stage of the social life

of old France, as well as in the great events

which moulded her destiny and affected the

fate of

Europe.

Foremost among them was d'Alembert. Often talked about but little known, or vaguely

remembered only

as the patient

moiselle de Lespinasse, Jean

lover of

Made-

Lerond d'Alembert,

the successor of Newton, the author of the Preface

of the Encyclopaedia, deserves an enduring fame.

On

a

November evening

in the year 1717,

one

hundred and eighty-nine years ago, a gendarme^ going his round in Paris, discovered on the steps of

the

church of Saint-Jean Lerond, once the

baptistery of Notre-Dame, a child of a few hours

The story runs that the baby was richly clad, and had on his small person marks which would

old.

lead to his identification. that he

was abandoned

But the

fact remains

in mid-winter, left without

food or shelter to take his feeble chance of

life

and

of the cold charity of some such institution as the

Enfants Trouv^s.

It

was no thanks

to the

mother


D'ALEMBEET: THE THINKER

who bore him

that the gendarme

had compassion on

man had

the

working for a

baby hurriedly christened

woman whom he

nursed him

infancy.

The

after his

Jean Baptiste Lerond, took him to a

cradle,

first

who found him

helpless

his

3

^for

six

could trust, and

weeks say some

few days say others

—in

the

who

authorities,

little

village of

Cremery near Montdidier.

At the end of the time there returned

who had

a certain gallant General Destouches,

been abroad

in

He went

duties.

the

execution of

to visit

his

Madame de

to Paris

military

Tencin, and

from her learnt of the birth and the abandonment of their son.

No

study of the eighteenth century can be

complete without mention of the extraordinary

women who were born with and fortunately died with

that marvellous age,

it.

Cold,

calculating,

and corrupt, with the devilish cleverness of a Machiavelli, with the natural instinct of love used for gain

and

for trickery,

instinct of maternity

and with the natural

wholly absent, d'Alembert's

mother was the most perfect type of this monstrous Small, keen, alert, with a

class.

like

sharp face

a bird's, brilliantly eloquent, bold, subtle,

tireless,

a great minister of intrigue, and insatiably

ambitious she

little

who

—such was

assisted at

Madame de

was the meetings of statesmen, and Tencin.

It

B 2


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

4

gave Marshal Eichelieu a plan and a line duct.

was she who managed the

It

of con-

of her

afiairs

brother Cardinal de Tencin, and, through him, tried to effect peace

in the midst of the

who fought

between France and Frederick

Seven Years' War.

the Naval Minister

;

up

on her

heart, saying,

and

to FonteneUe

the

'

moment

it

was she who summed

when she

Here

is

A

laid her

of his birth she had only

to

be rid of

long procession of lovers had

—and she did not mean to be father had better —

be a worry If the

instincts

He

Madame de nurse,

did.

left

her

But the child would

wholly incapable of shame.

follow them.

hand

nothing but brain.'

one wish with regard to her child him.

was she

the hideous incompetence of Maurepas,

herself

From

It

worried

well, let

He employed

!

him

Molin,

Tencin's doctor, to find out the baby's

Anne Lemaire, and claim

the

little

creature

from her.

The great d'Alembert years after

told

Madame Suard many

how Destouches drove

with the baby

('

all

round Paris

with a head no bigger than an

apple') in his arms, trying to find for suitable

foster-mother.

Lerond seemed take

him.

At

little

him a Jean Baptiste

be dying, and no one would last, however, Destouches dis-

to

Kue Michel-Lecomte, a poor whose motherly soul was touched by

covered, living in the glazier's wife,

But


D'ALEMBEET: THE THINKER the infant's piteous plight, and love and care, and kept

him

who took him to her

there for

fifty

years.

much less with Madame de Tencin. wife who was d'Alem-

History has concerned

Madame Kousseau

6

itself

than with

was the glazier's bert's real mother after all. If she was lowborn and ignorant, she had yet the happiest of Yet

all

to

it

acquirements

keep

it.

—she knew how

The

had ever

'

who

who may talk

defined a

torments himself during

a fool

his life that people

of Europe,

first intellects

for this simple person,

philosopher as

win love and

d'Alembert, universally

great

acclaimed as one of the

to

dead,' the tender reverence

him when he

of

is

which true greatness,

and only true greatness perhaps, can bear towards

homely goodness.

From her he learnt the blessFrom his association

ing of peace and obscurity.

with her he learnt his noble idea

difficult in

any

and

self-

age, but in that age of degrading luxury

indulgence well nigh impossible to

enjoy

superfluities

necessaries.

while

His hidden

life

to

do that

life's

work.

last, in

it

other

men want

the

in

above her husband's shop made

he knew no other home.

—that it

is

sinful

dark

possible for

attic

him

For nearly half a century

When

he

left

her roof at

obedience to the voice of the most master-

ful of all

human

passions, he

still

retained for her

the tenderest affection, and bestowed

upon her and


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEB

6

her grandchildren the kindness of one or the kindest hearts that ever beautified a great intelligence.

Jean Baptiste was put to a school in

Little

Faubourg

the

Madame

Saint- Antoine,

where he passed

as

Kousseau's son. General Destouches paid

the expenses of this schooling, took a keen pleasure in the child's brightness

and precocity, and came

One day he persuaded Madame de Tencin to accompany him. The seven-year-old Jean Baptiste remembered that scene all his life. often to see him.

'

Confess, Madame,' says Destouches,

had

listened to

the boy's clever

master's questions,

such a I see

me

is

that

Madame

child.' it

'

it

answers to his

was a pity to abandon

rose at once.

'

Let us go.

going to be verj^ uncomfortable for

She never came again.

here.'

Destouches died in 1726, nine years old. livres,

when they

He

left

when

his son

was

the boy twelve hundred

and commended him to the care of his Through them, at the age of twelve,

relatives.

Jean Baptiste received the great favour of being admitted to the College of the Four Nations,

founded by Mazarin, and in 1729 the most exclusive school in France.

scholar

did

its

it

Fortunately for

its

new

was something besides fashionable, and

best to satisfy his extraordinary thirst for

knowledge. Jansenists,

His teachers were

and nourished

their

all

priests

and

apt scholar on


D'ALEMBEET: THE THINKER

7

him with the fashionable theories of Descartes. How soon was it that they began to hope and dream that in the gentle student called Lerond, living on a narrow pittance above a tradesman's shop, they had found a new Pascal, a mighty enemy of the Archfiend

Jansenist literature, imbuing

Jesuitism

?

But beneath there

tested

already

lay

strength

his

and

timid and modest exterior

an

intellect

marvellous

of

a relentless logic that

clearness,

and weighed every principle

instilled

him, every theory masquerading as a

fact.

in

He

quickly became equally hostile to both Jesuit and

was at school that he learnt to hate with an undying hatred, religion the religion that in forty years launched, on account of the

Jansenist.

It

—

Bull Unigenitus, forty thousand that

made men

lettres

de cachet,

forget not only their Christianity

but their humanity, and give themselves over

body and soul fanaticism.

At

to

devouring fever called

the

school

also

he

conceived

his

passion for mathematics, that love of exact truth

which no Jansenist

make him regard

priest,

however

subtle, could

as a dangerous error.

When

he was eighteen, in 1735, he took his degree of Bachelor of Arts and changed his name. D'Alembertis thought to be an anagram on Baptiste Lerond.

Anaejrams were

fashionable,

and one


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

8

Arouet,

elected to be called Voltaire,

who had

made such an

alteration of good

went on studying his studies

had

omen. D'Alembert

at the College,

but throughout

mathematics were wooing him from

all

The taste, however, was so unluother pursuits. crative, and the income from twelve hundred livres so small, that a profession became a necessity. The young man conscientiously qualified for a But he loved only good causes and barrister. '

'

was naturally shy. He never appeared at the Bar. Then he bethought him of medicine. He

But again and again the

would be a doctor! siren

voice

back

to

of

dominant taste called him

his

His

her.

friends

— those

omniscient

friends always ready to put a spoke in the

of genius

member rich.

—entreated

his poverty,

He

carried

yielded to

all his

him

to

wheel

be practical, to

re-

and to make haste to grow them so far that one day he

geometrical books to one of their

houses, and went back to the garret at

Madame

Eousseau's to study medicine and nothing else in the world. But the geometrical problems dis-

turbed his sleep. One master-passion in the breast, Like Aaron's serpent, swallowed all the rest.

Fate wanted d'Alembert, the great mathematician, not some prosperous, unproductive mediocrity of a Paris apothecary.

The crowning blessing of


D'ALEMBERT: THE THINKER

be born with a bias to some pursuit, was

life,

to

this

man's to the

He

9

full.

yielded to Nature and to God.

He brought

back the books he had abandoned, flung aside those for which he had neither taste nor aptitude, and

at twenty

gave himself to the work for which

he had been created.

Some

artist

should put on canvas the picture

of this student, sitting in his ill-aired garret with its

narrow prospect of

delicate, obscure

earthly

own

— or

'

three

ells

of sky,' poor,

rich, rather, in the purest of

enjoyments, the pursuit of truth for

sake.

He

could not afford to buy

its

many

of

the books he needed, so he borrowed them from

public libraries.

He

anticipating with joy the

work of the day

the

left

work

of the

morrow.

For the world he cared nothing, and of him knew nothing. Fame ? he did not want

Wealth?

—he

could do without

was, there was no time

it.

it it.

Poor as he

when he even thought

of

taking pupils, or using the leisure he needed for

study in making money by a professorship.

to

To give knowledge was make knowledge easier

his

work and

for others

he

his

aim

left

;

to

some lesser man. His style had seldom the grace and clearness which can make, and which in many of his fellow-workers did make, the abstrusest reasoning charm like romance.

D'Alembert

left


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

10

Diderot to put his thought into irresistible words, and Voltaire and Turgot to translate it into im-

mortal deeds.

When he was

two-and-twenty, in 1739, d'Alem-

bert began his connection with the

In 1743 he published his

Sciences.

Dynamics.' it

Now

little

Academy

of

Treatise

on

'

read and long superseded,

placed him at one bound, and at six-and-twenty

years old,

among

the

first

geometricians of Europe.

Modest, frugal, retiring as he was and remained, he

was no more only the loving and patient disciple of In 1746 science. He was its master and teacher. his

'

Treatise on the

a prize in the

him

Theory of Winds gained him '

Academy of Berlin, and

first

brought

into relationship with Frederick the Great.

Two

years later,

when her son was

of daily

growing renown, Madame de Tencin died.

The

when he had become famous and she would fain have acknowledged him, he had restory that,

pudiated her, saying he had no mother but the glazier's wife, d'Alembert, declares

always denied.

endearments

'

—

it

to recover her.'

I should never

Madame

Suard,

have refused her

would have been too sweet to me That answer is more in keeping

with a temperament but too gentle and forgiving, than the spirited repulse. also

with the

life

of

It

was

in

keeping

Madame de Tencin

that

even death should leave her indifferent to her


— D'ALEMBEET: THE THINKER

11

She thought no more of him, he

child.

the one than in the other.

said, in

Her money she

left

to

her doctor. the

If

glazier's it

studious poverty oi

attic

the

in

life

spared d'Alembert acquaintances,

did not deprive

Then

the

him of

living in Paris,

friends.

some

six-and-thirty years

author of the 'Philosophical Thoughts,'

old, the

and the most fascinating scoundrel

With

Denis Diderot.

the

in France,

quiet d'Alembert,

morals almost austere and of hidden, frugal

what could a Diderot have

was

in

common?

of

life,

Some-

thing more than the attraction of opposites drew

them

The vehement and all-embracing

together.

imagination of the one iired the calm reason of the other.

The hot head and the cool one were laid and the result was the great Encyclo-

together, pgedia.

The

first

idea of the pair was modest enough

to translate into

of Chambers.

that no

French the English Encyclopaedia

But had not brother Voltaire

man who

could

make an adequate

lation ever wasted his time in translating

?

said

trans-

They

The thing it must must not only be spontaneous work wholly surpass all its patterns and prototypes. It must be not an Encyclopsedia, but the Encyclopaedia. Every man of talent in France must bring soon out-ran so timid an ambition.

;


THE FEIBNDS OF VOLTAIRE

12

a stone towards the building of the great Temple. From Switzerland, old Voltaire shall pour forth

shall lend

the glow of his passion, and

it

—d'Holbach,

Grimm

Helvetius shall contri-

his journalistic versatility.

bute

Eousseau

encouragement, incentive.

inspiration,

Turgot,

Morellet,

Marmontel,

La Harpe, de Jaucourt, Duclos.

Eaynal,

And

the Preliminary Discourse shall be the

work of d'Alembert. An envious enemy once dismissed him scornfully as Chancelier de Parnasse,

Qui

Yet

if

se croit

un grand homme

et fit

une preface.

he had written nothing but that Preface

he would

still

have had noble

titles to

fame.

It

contained, as he himself said, the quintessence of

twenty years' study.

and formal,

it

was usually cold now. With warmest

If his style

was not

so

eloquence and boldest brush he painted the picture

human mind From the lofty

of the progress of the

since the in-

vention of printing.

heights man's

intellect

had scaled there stood out yet mightier him to dare Advance advance It

heights for

!

!

ever preface said anything, great Encyclopaedia says

and

fire,

Clothed with light

that dearest son of d'Alembert's genius

went forth

At

this.

!

the Preface to the

to illuminate

first

and to astound the world.

the Encyclopaedia

was not only heard


D'ALEMBERT: THE THINKER by the common

13

was splendidly set forth with the approbation and Privilege du Roi. Even the wise and thoughtful melancholy of d'Alembert's temperament may have been cheered

gladly

by such good naturally

people, but

fortune, while the sanguine Diderot

convinced

felt

it

would

last for ever.

Both worked unremittingly. bert in

the salons in Paris, and for the

all

his

His authorship

immediately flung open to d'Alem-

of the Preface

life

first

he began to go into society.

Frederick the Great

made him a

time

Then

rich and splendid

Academy. Consider that though the man was famous he was still very poor. The little pension which was his all offer,

'

is

the Presidency of the Berlin

hardly enough to keep

me

if I

have the happi-

ness or the misfortune to live to be old.'

From

the

Government of his country he feared everything and hoped nothing. He was only thirty-five years A new world was opened to him. The of age. glazier's attic

he could exchange for a palace, and

the homely kindness of an for the magnificent

Was

king.

it

illiterate

foster-mother

endearments of a philosophic

only the painful example of friend

Voltaire's angry wretchedness as Frederick's guest

that

made him

offer

so lavish

and so

was rather that he had the rare wisrecognise happiness when he had it and did

dazzling

dom to

refuse an

?

not mistake

It

it

for

some phantom

will-o'-the-wisp


U

THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

whom I

distance clothed with light.

enjoy

is

he wrote,

perfect,'

so

no risk of disturbing King's goodness

.

.

it. .

...

I

'

*The peace I dare run

do not doubt the

only that the conditions

essential to happiness are not in his power.'

Any man who tent that

chimeras bert's

most

is

offered in place of quiet con-

fleeting

—fame

and unsubstantial of

and glory

—should

all

read d'Alem-

answer to Frederick the Great.

Frederick's royal response to

a pension of twelve hundred

it

was the

offer of

livres.

In September 1754 the fourth volume of the Encyclopaedia was hailed by the world with a burst of enthusiasm and applause, and in the Decem-

ber of that year d'Alembert received as a reward for his indefatigable labours a chair in the

Academy.

He had

that he spoke his

made

only accepted

mind

court to no man.

he took his

seat,

freely

on

it

French

on condition

all

points and

The speech with which

though constantly interrupted

with clapping and cries of delight, was not good, said

Grimm.

spoken

at the

All d'Alembert's addresses and eloges

Academy

leave posterity, indeed,

as cold as they left the astute

German

journalist.

The man was a mathematician, a creature of The passion that was to rule that reason reason. and dominate his Hfe was not the gaudy and shallow passion of the orator.


D'ALEMBERT: THE THINKER

15

In 1756 he went to stay with the great head of his party, Voltaire, at the DeHces, near Geneva.

The Patriarch was sixty-two years old, but with At his the activity and the enthusiasm of youth. constantly house and at his table d'Alembert met and observed deeply the Calvinistic pastors of

He

Geneva.

returned to Paris with his head

of the most famous article the Encyclopaedia

full

was

to

At the back

know.

of his

mind was a

certain request of his host's, that he should also

make a few remarks on would confer on the

No

article

in

the benefits that play-acting

Calvinistic temperament.

that

'huge

folio

dictionary'

brewed so fierce a storm or had consequences so

memorable and far-reaching 'Geneva.'

as d'Alembert's article

In his reserved and formal

punctiliously complimented

the

style

he

descendants

of

Calvin as preferring reason to faith, sound

sense to

dogma, and as having a

weighed

religion which,

was nothing but a perfect Socinianism. Voltaire laughed long in his sleeve, and in private executed moral capers of delight. The few words on the advantages of play-acting, which he had and

tested,

begged might be added, had not been forgotten. The Genevan pastors took solemn and heartburning counsel together, and on the head of the quiet worker in the

attic in Paris there burst

a hurricane

which might have beaten down coarser natures


!

THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

16

and frightened stouter hearts. Calvinism fell upon him, whose sole crime had been to show her the logical

outcome of her doctrines, with the

fury of a desperate cause. at least give the

fierce

Ketract! retract! or

names of those of our pastors who

made you believe in the rationalism of our creed As for the remarks on plays, why, Jean Jacques Eousseau, our citizen and your brother sopher, shall

rhetoric of the immortal 'Letter

with

all

philo-

answer those, and in the dazzling

on Plays'

give,

the magic and enchantment of his sophist's

genius, the case against the theatre.

Then, on March

8,

1759, the paternal govern-

ment of France, joining hands with Geneva, suppressed by royal edict that Encyclopaedia of which a very few years earlier it had solemnly approved. The accursed thing was burnt by the hangman. The printers and publishers were sent to the

The permit to continue pubHshing the work was rescinded. The full flowing fountain of knowledge was dammed,

galleys

or to death.

and the

self-denial

wasted.

The gentle

of d'Alembert's patient heart,

which

harmed

living creature, fell stricken

torrent

of

filthy

poured upon him.

had

life

never

beneath the

fury which the gutter press

His Majesty

— —

Majesty, King Louis the Fifteenth Encyclopaedia, forsooth,

'

his

besotted

finds in the

maxims tending

to de-


D'ALEMBEET: THE THINKER

17

stroy Eoyal authority and to establish indepen-

dence

.

corruption of morals, irreligion, and

.

.

Sycophant and toadying Paris went Furious and blaspheming, passionate

unbelief.'

with him.

Diderot came out to meet the

Dancing with

foe.

rage, old Voltaire at Delices could only calm himself

enough

to hold a

pen

and pour out incentives fight

till

shrank back into his I

do not know

if

he wrote,

tinued,'

to his brothers in Paris to

To him injustice was ever the But not to d'Alembert. He

the death.

bugle-call to battle.

'

in his shaking fingers

shell,

dumb and wounded.

the Encyclopedia will be con'

be continued by me.'

but

I

am

Even the

ments of his chief could not

He had

sure

;

will not

stirring

and they had

he would bring them the light

That Diderot considered him

no more.

incite-

alter his purpose.

offered sight to the blind,

chosen darkness

it

traitor

He would

and apostate did not move him.

not

quarrel with that affectionate, hot-headed brother

worker, but for himself that chapter of his finished,

life

was

and he turned the page.

In the very same year he gave to a thankless

world his

'

Elements of Philosophy

;

'

and he again

refused Frederick the Great's invitation to ex-

change persecuting Paris for the Presidency of the Berlin

Academy.

But there was no reason why c


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

18

he should not escape from his troubles for a time

and become Frederick's

visitor.

In 1762 he went to Berlin for two months, and

found the great King a clever, generous, and

But though he continued to beg stay with him permanently, and

devoted friend.

d'Alembert

to

and promises, the wise and was wholly proof against the In the same year he refused royal blandishments. a yet more dazzling offer to be tutor to Catherine was lavish of

gifts

judicious visitor

—

the Great's

only

ties,

He had

son.

already in Paris, not

which might be broken, but a

tie,

which

he found indissoluble. In 1765, three years after Catherine's offer had

been made and declined, d'Alembert, when he was forty-eight years illness,

required larger in his

old,

which, said

was attacked by a severe accommodating doctor,

his

and

airier

rooms

good old nurse's home.

from the famihar

those

He was moved

Eue Michel-Lecomte

Boulevard du Temple. Lespinasse joined

than

to

the

There Mademoiselle de

him and nursed him back

to

health.

In

all

the story of d'Alembert's

life,

in that

age of unbridled licence, no woman's name is connected with his save this one's. Fifteen years earlier

he had made the acquaintance of

du Deffand.

To

the blind

old

Madame worldling, who


D'ALEMBEKT: THE THINKER

19

loved Horace Walpole and wrote immortal

letters,

he stood in the nature of a dear and promising

For many years he was always about her

son.

house.

His wit and his charm, seasoned by a

gentle spice of irony and a delightful talent for telling stories

and enjoying them

endeared him to the old

was boredom.

On

himself, naturally

woman whose

his side,

one hell

he came because he

and stayed because he loved Mademoide Lespinasse. The history of that menage^

liked her, selle

of the brilliant, impulsive, undisciplined

girl,

with

her plain face and her matchless charm, and of the

woman

blind old

she tended, deceived, and out-

witted, has been told in fiction as well as in history.

How when Madame

du Deffand was

asleep,

her poor companion held for herself reunions of the bright, particular stars of her mistress's firma-

how

woman, rising a little too early one day, came into the room and with her sightless eyes saw all, is one of the famihar anec-

ment, and

the old

dotes of literature.

Long

before this dramatic denouement^ d'Alem-

had been something But now Mademoiselle saw friends. She flung to it herself cast adrift on the world. her reputation, and yielded, not so much to the entreaties of d'Alembert's love, as to the more pitiful

bert and Julie de Lespinasse

more than

pleading his solitude and sickness

made

to the c 2


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

20

warm him

maternity in her woman's heart.

She nursed

back to convalescence, and then lived beneath

the same roof with

Picture the

him

man

Eue

in the

Belle Chasse.

with his wide, wise

intelli-

gence and his diffident and gentle nature, and the

woman

with her brilliant intuition and her quick,

glowing impulse.

add

feeling,

awkward

Many

To

passion,

style she

his exact logic she could

sympathy

;

his

could endow with

frigid

and

and

fire.

life

of his manuscripts are covered with her

handwriting.

Some, she certainly inspired.

had read widely and

She

keenly, and her lover

had weighed, pondered, considered. For him, who had for himself no ambition, she could dare and hope all. The perpetual Secretaryship of the Academy shall

felt

be turned from a dream to a fact

!

In that

age of women's influence no woman had in her frail hands more to give and to withhold than this poor companion, whose marvellous power over men and destinies lay not in her head,

but in her heart.

The true complement of a d'Alembert, daring where he was timid, fervent where he was cold, a woman's feeling to quicken his man's reason

—

here should have been indeed the marriage of true minds. Oh, I must feel your brain prompt mine, Your heart anticipate my heart. You must be just before, in fine. See and make me see, for your part,

New

depths of the divine

!


'

D'ALEMBERT: THE THINKER Yet d'Alembert's

is

21

the most piteous love-story

had yielded to his sadness and his loneliness, she had never loved Only a year after she had joined him, him. d'Alembert, alluding to some rumours which had been afloat concerning their marriage, wrote bitin

If Mademoiselle

history.

terly,

'

What should /do

with a wife and children ?

But there was only one

real

obstacle

to

their

Across Mademoiselle's undisciplined heart

union.

there lay already the shadows of another passion.

From

the

Belle Chasse

the

first

household in the Kue

the

had been absolutely dominated by

woman.

'

In love,

who

loves

least,

rules.'

D'Alembert was in bondage while she was free. To keep her, he submitted to humours full of bitterness

and sharpness

different affection

—the caprices

which gives nothing and exacts

In her hands, he was as a child

all.

sophies went to the winds prostrate.

had a It

How

soon was

his philo-

his very reason

;

it

;

was

he began to guess he

rival in her heart ?

was not

till

out for certain that

came

of that in-

after her death that less

he found

than two years after she

him she had given herself, body and soul, to the young Marquis de Mora. But what he did not know, he must have greatly suspected. It was he who wrote her letters and ran her to

errands.

Grimm

recorded

in

the

'

Literary


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

22

Correspondence

'

had acquired over '

ascendency she

the prodigious all

No luckless Savoyard

his thoughts

of Paris

wearisome commissions as the

.

.

and

actions.

does so

.

first

many

geometrician

of Europe, the chief of the Encyclopa3dic

sect, the

dictator of our Academies, does for Mademoiselle.'

He would post her fervent outpourings to the man who had supplanted him, and call for the replies at the post-office that she

hour or two

earlier.

a character,

might receive them an

What wonder

that over such

a nature like Mademoiselle's rode

roughshod, that she hurt and bruised him a hun-

dred times a day, and wounded while she despised

him ?

No woman

ever truly loves a

man who does

not exact from her not only complete fidelity to himself, but fidelity to all that

in her

own

is

nature.

D'Alembert had indeed in virtue of his defects. If it to her sins,

it

full

was a crime

was nobihty

to

measure the to be tender

be gentle to her

He

bore and forbore with her endAlways patient and good-humoured, think-

sufferings. lessly.

best and highest

ing greatly of her and httle of himself, abundant in

compassion for her ruined nerves

querulous surely were

feverishness

of her

some of the noble

ill

and

health

the

—here

traits of a good read to her, watched by her, tended her, and in the matchless society they gathered round

love.

He


— D'ALEMBEET: THE THINKER them was abundantly content she might be all. Their

had not

in

the least

Many

world.

be nothing, that

to

together in the

life

23

Eue

Belle Chase

shocked their easy-going

persons comfortably maintained

heedless of that

was the merest friendship amply proven fact that where

people avoid

they avoid also the appearance

that their association

evil,

The eighteenth century, indeed, even if it saw any difference between vice and virtue, which is doubtful, did not in the least mind if its of

evil.

favourites were vicious or virtuous, provided they

were not

dull.

D'Alembert and Mademoiselle de

Lespinasse did not

mit

life

the

fall

man had

under that ban.

led

was over

modest room in that dingy

The

her-

for ever. In her

Mademoiselle

street,

held every night the most famous salon in Paris.

Most of the salons may be exhaustively described as having been nourished on a Sucre

and a great deal of

But

wit.

alone was light, food, and

Madame du

eau

to this one wit

Mademoiselle did

air.

not require to give dinners like or suppers like

little

Madame

Deffand

;

Necker,

neither for

give the mental limitations of

to make men forMadame Eecamier,

had she need or

pale,

the beauty which, later,

with her grace,

use.

infinite,

and her

was

Tall,

unconscious

divine

tact,

and

slender,

her mental

sympathy, her

passage


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEB ^^ough 'Abtle

the social

of her age has left the

life

To be her

perfume of some delicate flower.

i^end was to feel complete, understood, satisfied. her,

fc

a

to

as

sister

of

consolation,

came

fcndorcet, marquis, mathematician, philosopher;

the pupil of Eousseau and the creator

-^fent-Pierre, ^'

'

to help to the

'^vS

hd

La Harpe, whom she Academy Henault, whom she

Paul and Virginia

;

'

;

charmed from Madame du DefFand

And

Marmontel.

'^astellux,

quietly

if^fte's

made

of

effacing

which

himself, with that true greatness ;4?aid to be

Turgot,

;

is

never

account, was Mademoi-

little

lover and the noblest intellect of

them

all,

d'^^embert.

There

is

no more delightful

ter than this exquisite talent for his spare

modesty.

With

form always dressed from head to foot

in clothes of one colour,

the aim of d'Alembert

was both physically and mentally, escape notice.

True,

must needs marvel

when he

as

simplicity

it

were, to

talked, the listener

at the breadth, the variety, the

exhaustless interests of the mind, and

and straightforwardness.

not want to talk much.

He

charac-

trait in his

He

its

perfect

But he did

liked better to listen.

preferred in society, as he preferred in

to think while other

No

men

said

and

life,

did.

social pleasures could either supersede the

work of

his

life,

or

make compensation

for the


D'ALEMBEKT: THE THINKER

He had

sorrows of his soul. his lot with

i<^

already thrown

i

Mademoiselle when he published th

most daring of

books,

all his

'

Destruction of the Jesuits.' shattered his

life

The History of th Her treachery hfhi

when he sum of money

for five years,

Frederick the Great for a

a.ske< Ts^hic

would enable him to travel and heal his broke In 1770, with young Condorc health and heart. for his

companion, he

at Ferney,

and spent

left

Paris for Italy, stoppc

his

whole leave of abfsenr

with Voltaire.

was an oasis in the desert of the feveri existence to which he had condemned himself, It

mighty speculation, in splendid visions

of

future of the race, in passionate argument on the

immortality of the soul and the being and nature of God, he forgot his personal sorrows.

dominated and the heart was

still.

The mind

What

nights

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;Voltaire with

the three must have spent together his octogenarian's intellect as

young Marquis,

boy's, the

keen and bright as a

sharp-set to learn,

and

d'Alembert with his 'just mind and inexhaustible imagination'

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;when

they could get rid of that

babbling inconsequence, Voltaire's niece, Denis, and

sit

Madame

hour after hour discussing, planning,

The quiet d'Alembert went, as quiet people often do, far beyond his impulsive and outspoken companions in speculative daring. Though

dreaming

!


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

26

there

not an anti- Christian line in any of his

is

pubHshed writings except

his correspondence, yet

the scepticism of this gentle mathematician far

exceeded that of him

who

is

accounted the Prince

of Unbelievers, and where his host

convinced

d'Alembert only

Deist,

probabilities in favour of Theism,

Voltairian than Voltaire.

It

the Church of Anti- Christ

was a hotly thought the

and was

far

more

was the old Pontiff of

who stopped

a conver-

had spoken of the very existence of God as a moot point, by sending the servants out of the room, and then sation at his table wherein d'Alembert

turning to his guests with

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

'

And now, gentlemen,

continue your attack upon God.

want

as I

do not

be murdered or robbed to-night by

to

servants, they

The

But

my

had better not hear you.'

visit lasted in all

two months.

D'Alem-

bert abandoned the Italian journey, offered

King

Frederick his change, and returned to Paris.

In 1772 he was the

made Perpetual Secretary

French Academy.

of

He, whose needs, said

Grimm, were always the measure of his ambitions, had scaled heights, not beyond his deserts, but beyond his wishes. He was also a member of the Academies of Prussia, Eussia, Portugal, Naples, Turin, Norway, Padua, and of the literary scientific

academies of Sweden and Bologna. of

all

ambition

is

to

But if the end '

be happy at home,' d'Alembert


:

D'ALEMBEET: THE THINKER had was

When

the Perpetual Secretaryship

new and

dazzling possession, the Per-

failed. still

a

petual Secretary found

whom

27

he was

at

home

the

woman

to

captive soul and body, in the throes

of another passion.

False to de Mora, as she had

been

she was then writing to de

false

to him,

Guibert those love-letters which have given her a place beside Sappho and Elo'isa and have added a classic to literature.

It

to listen to self-reproaches

was d'Alembert's part

whose

justice he

might

well guess, to look into the depths of a tenderness in

which he had no

share.

Once he gave her

portrait with these lines beneath

his

it

Et

dites quelquefois

De

tous ceux que j'aimai, qui m'aima

en voyant cette image

comme

lui ?

all the feelings she had had not brought her wretched-

She herself said that of inspired, his alone ness.

In 1775 de Guibert was married. riage

was Mademoiselle's death-blow.

of the soul

became a

The marThe fever Some-

disease of the body.

times bitterly repentant and sometimes only captious

and

difficult

;

now, her true

tenderness and charm

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

despairing

;

and now,

self

full

of

reckless, selfish,

d'Alembert's patience and goodness

were inexhaustible.

True

to

his

character,

stood aside that to the last her friends might

he

visit


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

28

her, that to the last she

might help and

feel for

them.

though

But

the

spirit

still

triumphed

at

moments over the body, the end was near. When her misery was dulled by opium, d'Alembert was always watching, unheeded, at her bedside.

was the attitude of his life. conscious, he was there still.

When

she became

Before she died,

she asked his pardon; but de Guibert's

name upon her

last

lips.

It

She died on

was the

May

23,

1776, not yet forty-five years old.

taken by

D'Alembert's grief seems to have

many

surprise

short-sighted friends

who had

sup-

posed that quiet exterior to hide a cold, or an

He was

unawakened, heart. His

broken.

and

life

meaning.

its

had

lost at

utterly crushed

once

its

and

inspiration

For the sake of Mademoiselle

he had grown old without family and without hope. ships,

His friends, in that age of noble frienddid their best to comfort him.

But

his

wounds were deeper than they knew. super-refinement of selfishness moiselle

had

With a or cruelty. Made-

him her Correspondence.

She had not preserved in it one single line of the many letters he had himself written to her, while it contained

left

full

and certain proofs of her double

infidelity.

He who

has

lost

only those of whose faith and


D'ALEMBEET: THE THINKER truth he

human

is

29

sure, has not yet reached the depth of

desolation.

After a while, d'Alembert tried to return to his first affection

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;that cold but

his mathematical

pronounced the

At the Academy he who had

studies.

eloge of

faithful mistress,

Louis de Sacy,

been the lover of the Marquise de Lambert. the

first

time he looked into his heart and wrote,

and thus of others

for the first time

he touched the hearts

the cold style took

;

clumsy periods welled

fire,

and beneath the

tears.

But the writer was consumed grief

For

to the soul with

This was not the

and weariness.

could use sorrow as a spur to

man who

new endeavour and

Before the persecutions which

to nobler work.

had assailed the Encyclopaedia he had bowed his head and taken covert, and the death of his mistress broke not only his heart, but his spirit and From Madame Marmontel and from his life. Thomas, he derived, fort

:

it

is

said,

Condorcet was as a son

some ;

sort of

but with Made-

moiselle's death the light of her society

had gone

who remained were but

out.

The

stars

in

a dark sky.

old.

He

suffered

friends

com-

pale

DAlembert was growing

from a cruel disease and could

not face the horrors of the operation which might

have relieved courage,'

it.

said

Those are fortunate who have

'

he

;

'

for

myself, I have none.'


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

30 It

was

life,

not death, he dreaded.

What

use then

to suffer only to prolong suffering ?

The mental enlightenment he had given the world, the wider knowledge which he had lived to impart, consoled this all.

He was

dying thinker scarcely at

to his last

hour what he had been

when Mademoiselle took his

ill-fated

compassion on

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;a

child, affection-

dependence and loneliness

ate, solitary, tractable,

weighed down by

with the great mind always

the supersensitiveness of a child's

heart and with a child's clinging need of care and tenderness.

He

died on October 29, 1783.

The man whose only reason for dreading poverty had been lest he should be forced to reduce his charities,

left,

as

might

expected, a very small fortune. his residuary legatee,

and made

have been

Condorcet was his eloge in

both

the Academies.

Diderot himself was dying his old friend's death. out,' said

he.

sometimes his

'

A

when he heard

Euler, d'Alembert's brother, rival,

only a few months.

geometrician, survived

And

Voltaire, the quick

life-giving spirit of the vast

of

great light has gone

movement

and

him and

of which

was the Logic, the Eeason, the Thought, had already died to earth, though he d'Alembert

lived to everlasting fame.

D'Alembert owes his greatest reputation to


D'ALEMBEET: THE THINKER geometry.

But, as

Grimm

31

said, in that

depart-

ment only geometricians can exactly render him his due He added to the discoveries of the Eulers :

.

.

.

'

and. the Newtons.'

To

the general public

his great title to glory lies in the

mighty help he

gave to that great monument of Voltairian philo-

The Preface was 'a

sophy, the Encyclopaedia.

work

which he had no model.'

for

By

it,

he

in-

troduced to the world that book which Diderot produced, and which, except the Bible and the

Koran,

may be justly book

said to have been the

most

which gave France, and, through France, Europe, that new light and influential

in history

;

knowledge which brought with them a nobler civilisation

rights of

and a recognition of the universal

man.

In himself, d'Alembert was always rather a

To the made

great intelligence than a great character.

magnificence of the one he owed

him immortal, and to

all

that has

the weakness of the other the

sorrows and the failures of his

life.

For

character and not by intellect the world

is

it

is

by

won.


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

32

n DIDEROT: THE TALKER Some hundred and eighty odd years ago, in a little town in France, a wild boy slipped out of his room at midnight,

and crept downstairs in

his stocking-

away

feet with the wicked intent of running

Paris.

by the father '

to

This time-honoured escapade was defeated

appearance of Master Denis's with

the

household

Where are you going ?

join the Jesuits.'

'

'

there myself to-morrow.'

keys in his hand.

says he.

Certainly

And

resolute

;

'

To

will

I

Paris, to

take you

Denis retires tamely

and ignominiously to bed.

The next

morning the good

master-cutler in the

scapegrace to the capital, as entered

him

at

old father (a

town of Langres) escorted he

had

his

desired,

Harcourt College, stayed himself

for a fortnight at a neighbouring inn to see that

the boy adhered to his intentions

;

and then went

The adventure was redeemed from the commonplace in that this scapegrace would fain have run away, not from school, but to it and home.

;


";nM!:!li:i"ii"''tli|!

''llWfiilllitIi

DENIS DIDEROT.

From an Engraving

by Henriquez, after the Portrait by Vavloo.


â&#x20AC;&#x201D; DIDEEOT: THE TALKEB that he

33

was acting under an influence much more

powerful than the cheap, adventurous fiction which

When

generally prompts such schemes.

he was

twelve years old the Jesuits had tonsured Denis's

hot head, and no doubt designed

contained

all it

for their service.

At the

college Denis spent his time in learning

a great deal for himself, and doing, with brilliant ease and the most complete good-nature, a great

work

of

deal

of

his

astoundingly

himself

He

careless.

make him

He was

school-fellows.

and

clever

learnt mathematics,

exact, Latin,

astoundingly

which could not

and English.

With

that

charming readiness to do the stupid boys' lessons

them {blanchir les chiffons des autres, the talent came to be called when he grew older),

for

with his inimitable love of

his jolly,

life,

happy-

go-lucky disposition, his open hand and heart,

and

his

merry

should surely have been

face, this

the most popular schoolboy that ever lived.

One of

his friends

Cardinal, and protege of

was Bernis

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;to

Madame de Pompadour

and the pair would dine together head

at a

at six sous a

neighbouring restaurant.

The schooldays were practical

mated

be poet.

to

profession.

master- cutler

Denis

that

all

at it

too

Langres

was time

But Denis declines

to

The

short.

soon to

inti-

choose a

be a doctor,

D


THE FRIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

34

because he has no turn for murder or a lawyer, because he has no taste for doing other people's ;

business.

In

brief,

He wants

thing.

he does not want to be any-

to learn, to study, to look

round

But a shrewd old tradesman is not going to give, even if he could afford to give, any son of Denis had at home his the money to do that. a younger brother, who was to be a priest (' that

him.

cursed

the

saint,'

hereafter), a

sister,

graceless

good and

Denis

called

sensible

like

him her

and a mother, who was tender and foolish

father,

over her truant boy, after the fashion of mothers all

the world over.

feed.

Here were three mouths

Denis loved his father with

all

petuous affection of his temperament.

the

to

im-

He was

delighted when, some years later, he went back to

Langres and a fellow-townsman grasped him by

arm saying M. Diderot, you are a good man, but if you think you will ever be as good a man as your father, you are much mistaken.' But Diderot had never the sort of affection that conthe

sists in

:

'

doing one's utmost for the object of the

affection.

He

preferred

to

be a care and a

trouble to his family and to live by his wits, harum-scarum, merry, and poor. He chose that

and abided by the choice for ten years. Three times in that period the old servant of the family tramped all the way from Langres to life,


DIDEKOT: THE TALKER Paris with

little

of

stores

36

money hidden

in her

naughty scapegrace of a Master Denis; but except for this, he lived on his wits in the most literal sense of the term. dress for

He made

dear,

this

and translations; he wrote

catalogues

sermons and thought himself well paid at eats the

homily; he became a tutor

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

until the

when he threw up

pupil's stupidity bored him,

He

the situation and went hungry to bed.

indeed so far

commanded

Then he sought

he could endure

his employer;

am making men

once

himself as to remain in

months.

this capacity for three

fifty

it

no more.

'I

of your children, perhaps; but

they are fast making a child of me.

am

I

only

too well off and comfortable in your house, but I

must leave

And he

it.'

left.

One Shrove Tuesday he in his wretched lodgings,

by

his landlady.

kept

it,

that, if

never refuse a

He

took a

man

in need.

By

to give,

enjoyed indeed

his father

to sponge

fell

all

on

his

A bright lines

from

cheerfulness.

the blessings of a sanguine

into all

was paying

restore

he would

the next morning

even the recollection of a few apt

nature, and

hunger

that day, and

as usual again.

Horace, would always

He

vow

he had anything

he was as light-hearted idea,

fainted from

and was restored and fed

its faults.

The

facts that

his debts, that often he

had

his friends for a dinner, or trick a D 2


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

36

tradesman for an advantage he could not buy,

him nor made him work.

neither troubled

no doubt to

his credit that

It is

he never stooped, as

he might easily have done, to be the literary of

parasite

some great man, to prostitute

talents to praise

his

and fawn on some ignoble patron.

But though that gay, profligate existence has been often made to sound romantic on paper, it was squalid and shabby enough in reality, with

shabbiness which

that

of the soul.

is

In the year 1743, when Diderot was thirty years old, he must needs

lodging with a poor

in

fall

woman and

He was

love.

who Anne

her daughter

kept themselves by doing fine needlework.

Champion (Nanette, Diderot called her) was not only exquisitely fresh and pretty, but she was good, simple, and honest. To gain access to Toinette

her Diderot stooped to one of the tricks to which

had made him used.

He

pretended that he was going to enter a Jesuit seminary, and employed Nanette to make him the necessary his life

outfit.

His mouth of gold did the

perhaps,

him him

talk in

influence

who '

as never

the

rest.

No

one,

did not live with Diderot and hear

flesh

man and

talked,' fall

who

did not

know

under the personal

of

his magnetic and all-compeUing charm, will ever fully understand it. Utterly '

unclean, scandalous,

shameless' as

many

honest


DIDEROT: THE TALKER and upright people knew him

them

to be,

37

he fascinated

Something indeed of that fascination

all.

still

lingers about

may

cling to a coarse, stained parchment.

the facts of his

him, as the scent of a flower

as briefly

life,

Eead

and coldly stated

some biographical dictionary, and most men will easily dismiss him as a great genius and a in

great

Eead the thousand anecdotes

scoundrel.

that have gathered about his name, of the love his contemporaries bore him, of his generosity, his

glowing

and

affections, his passionate pity for sorrow,

his hot zeal for

humanity, and

it

is

mighty part

understand not only the

easy to

Diderot

played in the great movement which prepared men for

freedom and the French Eevolution, but also

his insistent claims

A little

on

their love

and forgiveness.

seamstress could not, in the nature of

things, resist

him

long.

to Langres to obtain

The hopeful lover went

his father's

consent to his

marriage, which was of course refused.

At the

date of his wedding, November 6, had published scarcely anything, had no certain sources of income, and very few uncertain ones.

1743, Denis

He

was, moreover, at

first

so jealous of his dearest

Nanette that he made her give up her trade of needlework,

as

it

her too

brought

contact with the outer world.

her mother's savings; and

The

much

into

pair lived

on

then Denis translated


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

38

a history of Greece from the English, and kept the

wolf from the door a

longer.

little

was often asked out to

more hardly on the wife The ever popular Diderot dine with his friends, and

always went

home Nanette

Poverty

fell,

as ever,

than on the husband.

;

while at

dry bread, to be sure that

feasted on

this fine lover of hers

should be able to have his cup of coffee and his

game

of chess at the cafe of the Eegency as usual.

Of course Denis took advantage of her His writings contain

self-sacrifice.

mental

expressed

pity,

in

the

talent for

much

most

senti-

beautiful

language, for the condition and the physical disad-

vantages of

women

;

and he spoke of himself most

comfortably as a good husband and father, and

But he began

honestly believed that he was both.

to neglect his wife directly his first passion for

her was spent.

She was not perfect,

it is

true.

Of

a certain rigidity in her goodness, and a certain bourgeois narrowness in her view of

be justly accused.

But

it

life,

she

may

remains undeniable that

she was thrifty and unselfish at home, while her

husband was

and self-indulgent abroad, that she saved and worked for her children, while he wrote fine pages on paternal devotion, and that profligate

he never gave her the consideration and forbearance he demanded /r^m her as a matter of course. Before her

first

child

was born the poor

girl

had


DIDEKOT: THE TALKEB

39

her mother, and had no one in all the world to depend on but that most untrustworthy creature

lost

on

earth, a genius of

bad character.

In the year 1745 Denis sent her to Langres for

a long

visit to

his parents, to effect if possible a

reconciliation with them.

The man who strong passions,' vow,' and

called himself

'

the apologist of

who thought marriage

'

a senseless

was always very near to the position that there is no such thing as an absolute rule of right and wrong,' would not be likely to be faith'

He was

ful.

not faithful.

There soon loomed

on the scene a Madame Puisieux (the wife of a barrister),

aged about

five- and-twenty,

charming,

Diderot plunged head-

accomplished, dissolute.

long into love with her, as he plunged headlong

To be

into everything.

extravagant

sure, she

and always

gratify her

demands

teristically,

an

'

was abominably money.

wanting

To

Diderot wrote, most charac-

Essay on Merit and Virtue,' and

brought Merit and Virtue the sum he received in payment. insatiable.

Day

But Madame's love of Between a Good

fine clothes

her lover composed for her the

Thoughts,' which

first

'

Philosophical

made him famous, which

were paid the compliment of burning, and

which

was

Friday and Easter

for

his mistress received fifty louis.

The

history of the inspiration of masterpieces


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEB

40

would

afford a peculiarly interesting insight into

human nature. It may be set down to the credit of Madame Puisieux (history knows of nothing else to

her credit) that her rapacity at least forced ne'er-do-weel

this incorrigible

and

first

his destiny,

turned Diderot, the most deUghtful scamp

Diderot

into

the capital,

in

upon the

hard-working

man of genius. came home presently, having earned

philosopher and

Nanette

the love and admiration of the

Langres, and put up with

;

Madame

family at

Puisieux as

Other children were born to her,

best she could.

and died

little

only one,

little

Angelique, survived.

Of

the quantity of Diderot's love for this child there is

no doubt

tionable.

;

is

it

Self-indulgent to himself, he

indulgent to her.

when they both and

history.

letters left

only the quality that

was weakly

She was apt at learning,

felt inclined,

Later,

about her

ques-

is

when

he taught her music

she was

ill,

of ardent affection

full

so,

he wrote ;

but he

her mother to nurse her and went off gaily to

amuse himself with

his friends,

credit for having

given 'orders which marked

attention and interest

and then took great

in her, before

he went out

and dined with Grimm under the

trees in the

'

Tuileries.

Of course Angelique loved the natured father

much

lively

good-

the better of the two.

Of


DIDEBOT: THE TALKEK

41

her mother the daughter herself said afterwards,

with a sad truth, that she would have had a happier

she could have cared less for her

life if

husband.

However, Denis was working now, and working meant, or should mean, ease and competence.

The Philosophical Thoughts had made men turn and look at him. True, their audacious freedom was not pleasing to the government but what did a Diderot care for that? His ideas rolled off his pen as the words rolled off his '

'

;

tongue.

'

do not compose,

I

wrote once. tions,

'

am no

I

I read, or I converse.

or I give

answ^ers.'

The

author,' he

I ask ques-

lines should

they are literally true accounts for as a writer,

and for

all his

all his

be

That

placed as a motto over each of his works.

defects

charm.

In 1749 he happened to be talking about a certain

famous operation

for cataract,

wrote down his reflections on blind, atheism, said Diderot, religion.

He

Use of Those

sent his

Who

'

See

party of which his

'

it.

is

substitutes

a

man born

surely a natural

to the great chief of the

Philosophical Thoughts

'

had

Voltaire replied

he were blind, he should have

recognised a great InteUigence

many

To

Letter on the Blind for the '

proclaimed himself a member. that, for his part, if

and afterwards

for

sight;

who provided

so

and the friendship


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEB

42

between Arouet and Denis was started with a will.

On

July

of

a prisoner in the fortress

No

was not wholly surprised. astonished

found himself

1749, Diderot

24,

Yincennes.

man was

literary

being imprisoned in those

at

He days.

Diderot was perfectly aware that since the publi'Philosophical Thoughts'

cation of the

been suspect of the police his

'

Letter on the Blind

'

;

he had

he was also aware that

contained a sneer on the

subject of a fine lady, the chere amie of d'Argenson,

War

the dise

For company he had Para-

Minister.

'

own buoyant temperament.

Lost' and his

He made

a pen out of a toothpick, and ink out of

the slate

scraped from the side of his window,

mixed with wine; and with characteristic goodnature wrote

down

this simple recipe for writing

materials on the wall of his cell for the benefit of future sufierers.

Better than

and

Voltaire's

relative

of

all,

he was the friend of Voltaire,

Madame du

the

Chatelet was a near

governor of

Vincennes.

After

twenty-one days of wire-pulUng, Socrates Diderot, as

Madame du

Chatelet called him,

as the fruit of her efforts, castle of Vincennes,

society of his wife

and

books

to

his

from the

was removed,

fortress to the

put on parole, allowed the

and children, with pen, ink, heart's

content.

One day


Madame

DIDEROT: THE TALKER

43

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

in attire too

Puisieux came to see him

magnificent to be entirely for the benefit

of a poor dog of a prisoner like myself, thinks Denis.

That night he climbed over the high wall of the

and finding her, as he had

enceinte of the castle,

expected, amusing herself with another admirer at Sifete,

had

renounced her as easily and hotly as he

fallen in love

famous seau.

He had

with her.

visitor in Vincennes,

one far more

Jean Jacques Eous-

As they walked together in the wood of

Vincennes, Denis, with his overrunning fecundity of idea, suggested to Jean Jacques,

it

is said,

matter for that essay, sometimes called the against Civilisation,' which

When

first

imprisonment

his

months Diderot, sellers of Paris,

at the

was

'

the

Essay

made him famous. had

lasted

three

angry urging of the book-

released.

In 1745 one of those booksellers, Le Breton,

him the scheme of a book

had suggested

to

should be

books.'

Enterprising England had

in the field.

To Francis Bacon belongs

been

first

all

'

that

the honour of having originated the idea of an Encyclopaedia.

Chambers, an Englishman,

first

a French trans-

worked out that idea. It was lation of Chambers that Le Breton took to Diderot, and it was Diderot who breathed upon it the breath of

That

life.

this

knavish bookseller's

choice should


THE FRIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

44

have

fallen

out of

men upon

all

him, might

have inclined even so whole-hearted a sceptic as Denis himself to believe in an Intelligence behind

He was hungry and

world.

the

poor,

and

must have work that would bring him bread.

There were indeed thousands of persons in that position; but out of those thousands there

was

only one with the hot, sanguine courage to undertake so risky a scheme, with the to

work

it

in the face of

Diderot

it

fiery patience

make

it

its

himself do, and

he could not do.

all

were, he saw

about most things.

He

all

In

he could

He

could

could study the

and industries of France,

thirty years of labour, of

once.

at

possibilities

it

trades

the mighty

became.

saw

another second, as

write

'

overwhelming odds, and

with the exuberant genius to masterpiece

'

if it

took him

which the mere thought

would daunt most men; by giving

their history

he could glorify for ever those peaceful arts which

make

a nation truly great and happy.

He

could

write on Gallantry, on Genius, on Libraries, on

Anagrams. subject

For

his

fertile

was too great or too

spirit

small.

tolerance he could bring to bear

scarcely

Against

any in-

the concentrated energy of a profound conviction.' Eeligion itself he could attack in so far as it interfered with men's liberty; and miracle he must attack, '


DIDEROT: THE TALKER because, in the words of Voltaire, cease to be persecutors If

absurd.'

till

'

45

Men

will not

they have ceased to be

he had, just to appease the authori-

book a chance of a hearing, to truckle here and there to prejudice and superstition, well, Diderot could lie as heartily and as and

ties,

to give the

cheerfully as he did all things.

But the inexact schoolboy of Harcourt College was no mathematician, and knew his limitations.

With

saw

the freemasonry of genius he

flashing glance that d'Alembert

He stormed

above the

was the man

him the parentage of

share with child.

this

and

breast

his

lips

'

woke

in

'

his soul in his

d'Alembert's quiet

an enthusiasm which was

reflex of his

wonderful

overwhelmed, prayed,

pressed, bewitched him, and with

eyes

to

the calm savant in his attic

shop,

glazier's

in a single

at least

some

own.

For three years the two worked night and day at the preliminaries

of their

scheme.

In 1750

Diderot poured out, with the warmth and glow of

a

woman

work.

in love, the Prospectus

and Plan of

The overwhelmingness of

his

his enthusiasm

had forced a privilege for it from the authorities. Also in 1750 appeared d'Alembert's Preface, and the first volume was launched on the world. From this time until 1765 the history of Diderot and of the Encyclopaedia is the same thing.


THE FBIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

46

he worked at

fifteen years

For

it

unremittingly

The idea possessed and dominated him. In a garret on the fifth floor in his lodging in the Eue Taranne, wrapped in through storm and sunshine.

an old dressing-gown, with wild hair, bare neck,

message

and bent back, the

must deliver

he

through the Encyclopaedia bubbled into his heart

and went straight from his heart to his pen. '

This thing will surely produce a great revo-

lution in the

human

ate exultation

For

mind,' he said of

We

'

:

who

this Diderot,

it

in passion-

have served humanity.'

shall

disbelieved so loudly and

truculently in God, believed hopefully in the im-

provement of human kind, and had for the race so vast and so generous a pity that he sacrificed to

it

the coarse pleasures his coarse nature loved,

his time, his peace, his worldly safety,

and

advancement, his

his friend.

In 1762 a Eoyal Edict of matchless imbecility suppressed the

two volumes of the book,

first

the same time begging

its

at

promoters to continue

to bring out others!

peared until 1757.

Every year a volume apThe success of the thing was

prodigious, and with reason, for far,

men had

it

said what, so

only dared to think.

history, quite innocently, of the taxes

of

taille,

of corvee

everlasting fame

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;and

; '

it

It

gave the

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;of

gabelle,

they stood 'damned to

showed the infamous abuses


DIDEROT: THE TALKER of the game-laws

;

it

47

manifested the miracles of

As by a magnet the genius had drawn to him, as contributors, all science.

of France

;

of Diderot the genius

while always at his side, co-editing,

restraining his

imprudence, yet working as he

was d'Alembert. And then, in 1759, came the great suspenD'Alembert had written his famous article sion.

worked

'

himself,

mad

Geneva,' and that

emotionalist, Jean Jacques

Eousseau, in the most famous treachery in the

on the philosophic

history of literature, turned

party in his Letter to d'Alembert 'On

The

authorities of France

Plays.'

united with insulted

Calvinism and with Eousseau, and declared the Encyclopsedia

accursed

and

would have been bad enough; yet one thing worse. insult,

d'Alembert

fell

That

forbidden.

but there was

Beaten down by storm and

back from the fray and

left

Diderot to fight the battle alone.

He

started

up

in a second, raging

and went out with his

pen, he

and cursing,

his life in his hand.

slashed,

Seizing

hewed, hacked, with that

weapon on every side. Yincennes and the Bastille loomed ominously he was never sure reckless

;

one day, says his daughter, of being allowed to continue the next

;

but he went on.

The

authori-

might burn, but they could not destroy they might prohibit, but they could not daunt a Diderot.

ties

;


;

THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

48

In 1764, despite galleys and bonfires, kings, ministers,

and

lettres

de cachet, the last ten volumes

were ready to appear in a single issue and to

crown

his life's labour,

crushing blow.

last

when

When

fate struck

him a

the manuscript of the

had been burnt he discovered that the false Le Breton, fearing for his own safety, had cut out all such passages as he thought might endanger it articles

and had thus mutilated and ruined the ten volumes past recall.

Diderot burst,

literally,

into

Despair and frenzy seized him. the end

He

?

Was

Not while he had breath

rage.

this to

be

body

in his

!

attacked Le Breton with an unclean fury not

often matched, as

of

tears

and

in

1765 the volumes appeared,

whole as his talent and energy could make

them.

choose

and

It

was Diderot who said that

between

friend,

Eacine,

if

bad husband,

he must father,

but sublime poet; and Eacine, good

husband, father, and friend, but dull ordinary

man, he would choose the Eacine, what remains

man

of genius

?

?

first.

Nothing.

The work

is

'

Of the wicked

Of Eacine, the

eternal.'

When

one

considers his Herculean labours for the Encyclopaedia,

one

is

almost tempted to judge him as he

judged Eacine. All the time, too, he was busy in

ways.

many

other

There has surely never been such a good-


'

DIDEEOT: THE TALKER

man

natured attic

The study door

of letters.

was open not only

Grub

the

to

all

of

Paris.

to all

his

purified

his

in the

but

friends,

vagrants and

Street

Diderot

49

parasites

friend

d'Hol-

bach's

German-French and profusely helped

dearest

Grimm

in the

he corrected proofs

'

Literary Correspondence

and was,

paedist,

;

Helvetius, Eaynal, and

for

Galiani, gave lessons in metaphysics to a princess,

his

for himself, not only

but a novelist, an

art-critic,

German

an encyclo-

and a play-

He also wrote dedicatory epistles for needy

wright.

musicians,

'

reconciled brothers, settled lawsuits,

He

solicited pensions.'

planned a comedy for an

unsuccessful dramatic author,

and, in roars of

laughter, indited an advertisement of a hair-wash to oblige

an

the

still

young man who came

suppress

'

bears telling afresh, of to

him with a personal

Diderot himself.

satire against

the satirist,

The story has

illiterate hairdresser.

been told often, but

'

I thought,' says

you would give me a few crowns to I can do better for you than that,' '

it.'

says Diderot, not in the least annoyed. it

to

hates

the brother of the

me; take

assistance.'

'

down, and I

He

did,

it

But

I

to

Duke

'

Dedicate

of Orleans,

him and he

do not know the

will give

Prince.'

who you '

Sit

will write the dedication for 3^ou.'

and so ably, that the

satirist

obtained a

handsome sum. E


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

50

Another day he composed

for the benefit of a

woman, who had been deserted by the Due de Vrilliere,

a most touching appeal to the Duke's '

feelings.

While

I lived in the light of

But of

I did not ask your pity.

there only remains to I

must

her

la

me your

all

your passion

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;and

that

The Duke

sent

portrait

to-morrow for bread.'

sell

your love,

fifty louis.

hardly necessary to say that Diderot's

It is

friends availed themselves as freely of his purse as

In return for his mighty expendi-

of his brains.

ture of time, talent, and energy for the Encyclo-

pedia he never received more than the princely

sum

As

of one hundred and thirty pounds a year.

he was the sort of person who always took a carriage

who had

he wanted one,

if

in miniatures

and

ohjets d'art

which he found

positively imperative to gratify, as

play and always lost

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

as, in brief,

deny himself or anybody

else

a pretty taste it

he loved high

he could never

anything

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

it

was

physically impossible he should ever be solvent.

One leaving

any

graceless hanger-on turned

him one

natural

<

enough

'

Have you

very busy

day.

'

back

history?'

'Well,'

says

;

Diderot,

from a humming-bird.'

ever heard of the Formica creature

he was

M. Diderot, do you know

to tell a pigeon

little

as

it

leo ?

burrows a hole

It is

a

in the

earth like a funnel, covers the surface with a fine


DIDEROT: THE TALKER

61

number of stupid insects to it, takes them, sucks them dry, and says, " M. Diderot, I have the honour to wish you a very good mornsand, attracts a

may be

said of Diderot that he could

ing."

'

love,

but not respect

It

;

and that

is

the inevitable

attitude one takes towards himself.

In 1755, during his work at the Encyclopgedia

and

innumerable

for those

much

who had

idle persons

have worked for themselves, poor

better

Nanette went on a second fatal

visit to

Langres

and gave her husband the opportunity of in love with Mademoiselle Volland,

and

falling

starting

a memorable correspondence.

Sophie Volland was a rather elderly young lady, with

spectacles,

and a good deal of

real

Whether Diderot, who was now a man of forty-two, was ever literally in love with her, or whether he was less than lover but more than friend,' remains uncertain. His letters to her are warmly interesting, frank, cleverness and erudition.

'

natural, spontaneous, with quisite beauty

one fault

many

and thoughtfulness.

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; that

fatal fault

man

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

all

at

but

but some

all

to tell Mademoiselle.

to trip over

show her

is

his irrepressible indecency.

He had much seem

There

without which Diderot

would not have been Diderot loftier

passages of ex-

The words

each other in his anxiety to

he had done and

felt.

He was now B 2


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

52

The Encyclopasdia had thrown open

famous.

to

him, cutler's son though he was, the doors of the

he had with Eousseau in

salons \ a great quarrel

1757

—the dingy

interest nor

details of

profit

in

which there

recalling

is

—made

neither

him the

talk of the cafes.

But

this loud, explosive

social light.

He

Denis was scarcely a

said himself that he only liked

company in which he could say anything. And what Diderot meant by anytJiing was considered indecorous even in that freest of

Good

ages.

old

Madame

all

free-spoken

Geoffrin lost her patience

with him, not only for his licence, but for talking so movingly about duty

and neglecting

all

his

own. She was not going to ignore his Mademoiselle

She treated him

VoUand.

and advised

his wife

Madame Necker

— 'qui

to

'

like a beast,'

do the same.

he

As

said,

for

raffole

de moi,' said the

—she

too 'judged great

complacent Denis himself

men by

their conduct and not by their talents,' which was very awkward indeed for a Diderot. There was a third house where he visited much

more

often

and got on much better

;

but that was

Madame d'Epinay was its mistress, Grimm was its presiding genius. His with the cool German had a senti-

not because

but because friendship

mentality and a demonstrativeness which English-

men

find

hard to forgive, but which were sincere


DIDEEOT: THE TALKER enough not the

trol of his impulsive,

Grimm bade first

critic

in

on

pictures,

and became

France who made criticism

when Grimm was away, almost

work of the 'Literary Correspondence'

the

on

fell

Because

him, Denis began in 1759 writing his

eloquent;' while, all

took complete con-

generous colleague.

or criticisms

'Salons,'

'the

Grimm

less.

53

Diderot's

too

When

his dearest friend

steps

turned

much

good-natured

less

was not

shoulders.

there, Diderot's

often towards

Madame

d'Epinay's house.

In 1759 he place

at

first

spent an

autumn

which he was perfectly

where he soon became a regular

Baron d'Holbach was and not ashamed very

liberal,

; '

first

of

but he was

at

at the only

home, and

visitor. all

'an

atheist,

also very rich,

very hospitable, with a charming

country house at Grandval, near Charenton, where

he entertained the free-thinkers of

where

all nations,

and

was equally celebrated for its cook and its conversation. The former was so good that Denis was always over-eating himself; and his table

the latter was, in a moral sense, so

enjoyed

it

bad

that he

to the utmost.

The Grandval household was fettered by none of the tiresome rules which are apt to make visiting, when one has passed the easily adaptable season of youth, a hazardous experiment. The


THE FRIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

54

'fulfilled

hostess

The

visitors

were

no duties and exacted none.' as free as in their

Diderot would get up at

six,

own homes.

take a cup of tea,

open the windows to admit the air and sunshine, and then fall to work. At two came dinner.

fling

The house was always for the first time. life

full of

people

In that free

style,

and colour, Diderot recorded

who met now glowing with

to Mademoiselle

Volland the Eabelaisian conversation which

made

these dinners so long, and, to him, so delightful.

He

reported to her verbatim the amazing liberty

of speech which distinguished

them, just as he

reported to her in minutest detail the indigestions for

which the too excellent cook was responsible.

The unbridled law continually

talk of d'Holbach's mother-in-

set the table in a roar.

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; of bonhomie and â&#x20AC;&#x201D;laughing one minute and crying the next,

himself was at his best de-vivre

warm

Diderot

full

joie-

in generous pity for sorrow,

irritated

or

quick to be

appeased, pouring out torrents of

splendid ideas and then of grossest ribaldry, his

mouth speaking always from

the fulness of his

heart, utterly indiscreet, brilliant, ingenuous, delightful;

of his

an orator 'drunk with the exuberance

own

verbosity,'

who could argue

that black

was white, and then that white was black again, and whose seduction and danger lay in the fact that he always fully believed both impossibilities


DIDEEOT: THE TALKEB

No

himself.

subject that was started found

'He

cool or neutral. Voltaire;

'

When

65

is

him

too hot an oven,' said

everything gets burnt in him/

the dinner was over he would thrust his

arm through

his host's

He

with him.

and walk

in the

at least did his best to

garden

imbue the

dogmatic atheism of d'Holbach with luxuriance

At seven they came back

and warmth.

to the

house, and supper was followed by picquet and

by

talk

till

they went to bed.

Among many

other visitors

whom

Diderot met

while he was what he called 'veuf at Grandval

were at

least

Garrick, and

four Englishmen

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;Sterne,

Wilkes,

Hume.

Diderot has been well called the most English

Frenchmen of the eighteenth century. He began his literary career by making translations of the

In a passion of admiration he

from our language.

had

fallen at the feet of the

and imitated 'Pamela' his

own,

'

The Nun

;

'

a very bad novel of

in another,

He had

in the style of Sterne.

was

divine Eichardson,'

'

Jacques, the

he tried to accustom France to romance

Fatalist,'

citizens,

in

'

he

said, to

read and to esteem Bacon.

familiar with the

Tillotson,

taught his fellow-

and Locke

;

He

works of Pope, Chaucer, and he has left a noble and

famous criticism upon Shakespeare: 'He is like the St. Christopher of Notre-Dame, an unshapen


THE FRIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

56

Colossus, rudely carven, but beneath

we can

walk without our brows

all

whose

legs

touching

him;

To

Garrick, Diderot paid exaggerated homage,

and went into raptures over the wonderful play of He admired Wilkes's morals as well as his face. his mind,

As

for

and

1768 wrote him a flattering

in

Hume, he

letter.

liked the delightful Diderot better

than any other philosopher he met in France. is

Diderot

who

tells

d'Holbach's table,

'

a thing as an atheist

I ;

d'Holbach's replying,

unfortunate Sterne,

;

you are

whose

'

Hume

the story of

do not believe there I '

It

saying at is

such

have never seen one,' and of

Then you have been a sitting

now with

Tristram Shandy

'

little

seventeen.'

was delighting

France in general and Diderot in particular when its

author was at Grandval, on his return

home

sent Denis English books.

In 1761 Diderot produced a play. of the Family

'

is, it

The Father must be confessed, a sad bore

with his lachrymose moralities rating

compared

to

'

;

'

but he

The Natural

is

exhila-

Son,' Diderot's

second play, which was acted in 1771. versal Denis was no playwright.

The

uni-

In 1772 he published the ten volumes of plates which he had laboriously prepared to supplement the text of the Encyclopasdia

when he was the Great.

;

and in

May

1773,

sixty years old, he visited Catherine


DIDEEOT: THE TALKEJl

He had had

relations with her for

67

some

years.

One fine day, in 1765, it had suddenly occurred to him that his dearest Angelique, over whom he had poured such streams of paternal sentiment, would have positively no dot. Her fond, improvident father had, of course, never attempted to

save anything for her, and, disposition,

must have known

save anything. in the w^orld,

he knew his own

if

too he never would

The only thing he had of value besides his head, was his library.

Catherine the Great was a magnificent patron of letters

;

would

his

accepted the

sum equal

books to her

She delightedly

!

She gave him for them a

offer.

to about seven

hundred pounds, and

appointed him her librarian at a

thousand

made

livres a year, fifty years'

first

a

time in his history Diderot found

When

himself rich.

to visit her,

how

a patron so munificent asked

could he decline

Encyclopgedists were herself used

the fashion.

and loved

Paris,

May

her

warm

?

All the

admirers

;

she

say modestly that Yoltaire had

to

made her on

of

salary

payment being

in advance.

For the

him

He

and Diderot was her especial protege. sell

Denis hated long journeys

but go he must.

10, 1773.

He

stopped

at

He

left

France

The Hagueâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;

where he characteristically admired the beauty of and at last arrived at the women, and the turbot

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

St.

Petersburg.


!

THE FBIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

68

For a monarch who complained that she might have been the head of Medusa everyone turned

stone

to

when she entered

must have been a

room

the

—Diderot

refreshing

singularly

guest.

It was one of the most charming traits in his character that he respected persons no more than

All etiquette fled before

a child does, or a dog. breezy,

his

impulsive

clothes he arrived in

had to present

He was he

were so shabby, her Majesty

and as much

He

arguments

as

he liked, which was a

till

recollect her august position, ;

had

the Empress

a table in front of her for safety.

'

what

he would hammer the Imperial

knees black and blue,

cry

said

suit.

In the heat and excitement of

very great deal. his

very

him immediately with a court

with her every afternoon.

liked,

The

personality.

'

between men everything

If

to put

he ever did

Allons

'

she would

permissible.'

is

He

evolved the most magnificent, impossible schemes for the

government of her empire

have upset she.

it

During

a guest.

in a

week

if

— which

would

she had tried them, said

his stay, his dearest

In March 1774, Denis

Grimm was

left

;

also

and by the

time he reached Paris again, was persuaded that

he had enjoyed himself very

Four years flesh the

later, in

much

1778, he

indeed. first

saw

in the

great elder brother of his order,

master-worker in

the

temple slowly

lifting

the its


DIDEROT: THE TALKER gorgeous towers towards the light

had not always agreed on paper

:

69

their

been the same, but not the road to

to the capital, Diderot Villettes'

Few

served

but

;

speare,

of

house on what

details

him

of their is

it

went is

:

He

is

necessary talent

triumph

his last

to see

now

him

in

the

the Quai Voltaire.

interviews have been pre-

said that they discussed Shake-

and that when Diderot '

we only

' ;

to understand each other/

when he came on

Accordingly,

'

it.

are not so far apart,' says old Voltaire

want a conversation

They goal had But we

Voltaire.

left,

Voltaire said

clever, but he lacks one very

— that

of dialogue.'

On

his part,

Diderot compared Voltaire to a haunted castle falling into ruins

—'but

one can easily see

it

is

by a magician.' Diderot was himself growing Voltaire died. old he had acquired, he thought in Eussia, the inhabited

still

;

seeds of a lung disease.

Angelique married a

M. de Vandeul, on the strength of the vided by the sale of the library.

poor

soul,

embittered.

had become not a It is the careless

Madame little

Diderot,

worried and

who make

worn, and Diderot was almost to the engaging, light-hearted scamp whose

dot pro-

the care last

the

troubles are

always flung on to some patient scapegoat. In 1783, or 1784, the death of Mademoiselle

VoUand gave him

a real grief.

Twenty years before


â&#x20AC;&#x201D; THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

60

had written to her with an exquisite eloquence of the calm and gentle approach of the great rest, One longs for the end of life as, after Death lie

:

hard

'

toil,

He had soul

He

one longs for the end of the day.' truth

proved in himself the

own

of his

words.

not even a hope of the immortality of the

but he had worked hard, the evening was

;

come, and he was weary. writing the

'

too lovable,

He was still working He was still his all

Life of Seneca.'

spontaneous

talking with that

self,

marvellous inspiration of which the best of his

books can convey

A

little idea.

moved

fortnight before he died he

new home, given him by Catherine the Eue Eichelieu, opposite the

into a

the Great, in birthplace

of

Moliere and almost next door to the house where Voltaire

had

lived with

after her death.

to see him,

The

I dare say

Chatelet,

came

it

would produce good

would,' said Denis,

'

but

it

effect.

would

be a most impudent

lie.'

Madame de Vandeul

records that she heard

say

:

'

The

and

and suggested that a retractation of

his sceptical opinions '

Madame du

cure of Saint- Sulpice

first

In his

step towards

last

conversation

philosophy

is

him un-

behef.'

The end came very suddenly.

On

the last day

of July 1784, he was supping with his wife and

daughter, and at dessert took an apricot.

Nanette


DIDEEOT: THE TALKER

'Mais que diable de mal

gently remonstrated.

veux-tu que cela

me

fasse ?

'

words and perfectly

his last

61

They were

he cried.

He

characteristic.

died as he sat, a few minutes later.

be great means to be good, then Denis

If to

little man. But if to be great means do great things in the teeth of great obstacles,

Diderot was a to

then none can refuse him a place in the temple of the Immortals.

His to

it,

on art

fiction,

and

their

is

taken from rottenness, has returned

and the drama,

Nephew

'

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; nearly

matchless of letters to

His plays were damned

justly dead.

appearance.

all

His moving criticisms on

his satirical dialogue, all

Eameau's

the printed talk of this most

talkers

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;are

rarely

Mademoiselle Yolland will

the proper study of

'

mankind

is

last so

man.

His

read.

But

long as it is

as

the father of the Encyclopaedia that Denis Diderot

merits eternal recognition.

almost every relation of for

life

Guilty as he was in

towards the individual,

mankind, in the teeth of danger and of

infi-

delity, at the ill-paid sacrifice of the best years

his first

exuberant

life,

of

he produced that book which

levelled a free path to

knowledge and enfran-

chised the soul of his generation.


THE FRIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

62

III

GALIANI: THE WIT. '

How

can you say I do not

Voltaire to

Madame

know

d'fipinay.

'

Galiani I

? '

wrote

have read him

;

therefore I have seen him.'

Of that Brotherhood of Progress, united by a love, sometimes for each other and always for mankind,

if

Voltaire

thinker, Galiani

was the

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

;

and d'Alembert the

was certainly the

day he was celebrated laugh

leader,

and ponder

as the

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;by

his

wit.

In his

man who made

famous

'

own

Paris

Dialogues on

remembered as the gay little buffoon of the eighteenth century and the author of a most amusing correspondence. Voltaire went on to declare the Abbe must be as much like Corn

his

'

and in our day he

is

Dialogues as two jets of

other

;

and Diderot swore that

fire if

are like each

he had written

a word of the book, he must have written exactly as

it

it

was.

Light, sparkUng, irresponsible, like the brilliant

babble of some precocious child, not in the


'

a!y^l^ THE ABBE FERDINAND From a Print.

GALIANI,


^'^ I

The

"r^


GALIANI: THE WIT

63

hampered by respect for the convenances^ as quick and flashing as sunshine on diamonds, as bubbling and spontaneous as a dancing little mountain torrent, perfectly free from the bitterness, the malignity, and the sarcasm which make least

Voltaire's jests so terrible

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;the

talk

and the writ-

The dear little dwarfs figure and

ing of Galiani are alike unique.

Abbe

'

of the

women, with

his

'

his great head, his crafty Italian brain to conceive

a brilliant scheme and his easy flow of wit to present

it

to his world, stands out alone against the

horizon of the eighteenth century.

Ferdinand Galiani in

first

Abruzzo, on December

saw the

light at Chieti,

1728.

He was born

2,

with a silver spoon in his mouth, in two senses at least.

His father was Eoyal Auditor in one

of the provinces of the Neapolitan Government;

was Monseigneur Celestin Galiani, first chaplain to the King of Naples, and a most wealthy, learned, and enlightened churchman. and

his uncle

Little

Ferdinand was eight when he was sent to

be educated, with

his elder brother, Bernard,

this uncle's supervision at Naples.

two children were taught Celestins, as

back

at the convent of the

on behalf of the King

When

to his

For a time the

Monseigneur was in Eome,

tiating a peace Sicilies.

under

own

of the

nego-

Two

he returned, he took the boys palace and gave them the best


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

64

and the most delightful of

way

visitors

soon recog-

was through nephew that to

to the uncle's heart

the precocious brain of the

Ferdinand was

teach

forms of learning, the

The

society of clever people.

nised that the

all

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

little

delight

to

Monseigneur.

Whatever brother Bernard may have been, Ferdinand was surely the aptest and sharpest of

He heard

infant prodigies.

discussed around

commerce

antiquarianism, history, literature,

not one seed of information

Many

years after

only one

man

in

fell

;

him and

on barren ground.

Grimm declared that there was Paris who really knew Latin,

and he was the Abbe Galiani.

He was

still

boy when he represented

a mere

Bernard at a meeting of the Academy of Naples

and read an

article

on the Immaculate Conception.

The worthy Academicians, naturally shocked such a serious,

little

attempting a subject so

creature

forbade him to read

thinks young Ferdinand,

'

I

it.

can

'Very

wait.'

cutioner of Naples died soon after.

was famous

at

for its eloges funebres.

well,'

The exe-

The Academy

And

behold,

there appears, in wicked and most unmistakable travesty of the Academical funeral orations, the

The Academy was very indignant, the world very much amused, and Galiani had made his bow to the public in the role he was never to relinquish. He confessed all eloge of the executioner

!


GALIANI: to the

Minister,

First

THE WIT

Tanucci.

65

Tanucci intro-

duced him to the King and Queen of Naples, who were delighted, and then appeased the Academy

by condemning the delinquent to ten

days' spiritual

exercises in a neighbouring convent.

At tical

boy was already an ardent PoliEconomist. As England was the country sixteen the

where that science was brought to perfection, he learnt English, translated Locke's 'Essay on Money,' and set to work to write one himself. All the time he was studying diligently the ancient

commerce of the Mediter-

navigation, peoples, and

ranean, throwing off a satire here, a mocking set of verses there, and cultivating that pretty talent for

epigram and

When

'

story-telling.

Money

'

was

finished,

Monseigneur, without mentioning '

Why

do not

such as that

yoii ?

'

give your said

the

mind

told his secret,

he at once

its

it

to

authorship.

to serious

King's

praised the thing extravagantly.

he read

works

chaplain,

When

and

Galiani

Monseigneur was so delighted that

set to

work

at Court to procure this

promising nephew something really worth having.

At two-and -twenty years

old,

having never studied

theology and having taken minor orders only, and

with the sole object of obtaining these emoluments, Galiani found himself the possessor of the benefice

of Centola and the abbey of Saint-Laurent, while


THE FBIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

66

a dispensation from

Eome gave him

the

title

of

Monseigneur and the honour of the mitre. Soon after, the admiring Court of Naples also presented

him with the

rich abbey of Saint Catherine of

Celano.

The wonder

is,

laughter (like the

not that Galiani writhed with little

Punchinello his friends

dubbed him) when he alluded to the religion of his fathers,

but that to the end of his days he saw

in that religion, beneath its

its

shameless venality and

hideous moral corruptions, some saving truth

to bless

and comfort man's

laughed at the credulity of

soul.

When

all

Paris

Madame Geoffrin, whose

death was said to have been brought about from over-devotion to her religious duties,

who wrote '

it

was Galiani

that he considered that unbelief

the greatest effort the

was

mind of man could make and wishes. ... As

against his natural instincts

the

soul

nearly sions

grows

all his

old,

belief

reappears.'

philosophic friends,

if

his

Unlike

own

illu-

were few, he was careful to leave undisturbed

those of happier people.

In respect to the emoluments he received from

Eome, and on which he fattened all his life, it may be justly said that he took them as a man takes a fortune out of a business he knows to be rotten, congratulating himself on his own perspicacity, and believing that beneath the rottenness there


GALIANI: THE WIT the

still lies

67

making of a true and honest

enter-

prise.

The Neapolitan Government having adopted all

the ideas suggested in

'

Money,' the fortunate

young gentleman who had written it started off in excellent spirits, in November 1751, for Eome, The Pope, and all the Florence, and Venice. grandees, savants^ and litterateurs in Italy petted and made much of the agreeable

little

prodigy.

In June 1753 his uncle, Celestin, died, leaving

Ferdinand his fortune. Naples, the spirit and

Galiani

had gathered about him.

society that Monseigneur

But there was never any time

was enough

for this wit to

of himself that he

declared he had right.

He

had

in his life

when

He

be wit only.

it

said

the vices, and his friends

all

the tastes.

all

remained in

still

the delight of the brilliant

The

were

friends

soon began to make a collection of the

up by Vesuvius, classified them, wrote a beautiful dissertation on them, and sent them to the Pope with the inscription. Holy Father, stones thrown

command

that these stones he

the Fourteenth was

replied

benefice,

Then, of

by giving

Amalfi, course,

Benedict

bread.

a comfortable person

loved a joke and thought

He

made

the

little

worth

its

Abb^

Geological

reward.

yet another

three hundred

worth the

it

ducats.

Academy

Herculaneum must do something more

OF THE

J

UNIVERSiTY

.

of

for such a It

'<^

who

2


;

THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

68

than merely make him a

lively geologist

of

its

body

:

In 1758

honour

presented him with a pension.

it

this spoilt child of

fortune had the

composing Pope Benedict's

of

member

funeral

Then he was made Chancellor to the King, and, in 1759, Secretary to the Embassy in oration.

Paris.

was the turning-point of

It

greatest

event

of

his

his

life,

But

history.

and the for

that

appointment, he might have been nothing, after

but some

all,

brilliant little local light,

with his

sparkling Southern talents only employed for the

advantage of Italy and certainly never heard of

To

beyond her borders.

it

he owed

all his

and the gayest and most successful epoch existence.

man

To

it

the world owes

himself, the

'

thirty years old,

own

country.

in his

picture of the

Dialogues on Corn,' and the

Correspondence with Galiani was at

its

fame

Madame

first

d'fipinay.

pleased to go.

But he was

and had never yet been out of

his

She had done generously by him,

and he was extremely the secretaryship

rich.

On

the other hand,

involved further large emolu-

ments, and Galiani was not one of those rare, wise

people

who know how

easy

it is

to be rich

enough

he had not learned from the possession of money

how

very

little

it

can buy.

Paris

was then not

only the capital of France, but the social capital of


GALIANI: THE WIT She was

the world. glory.

69

at the height of

Ee volutions had not

her ancient

shattered her splendid

buildings or the delicate fabric of the most easy, polished, accomplished society under heaven.

She

Her language

was the finishing school of Europe. was the language of many Courts, of Frederick of Prussia, and of the letters of Catherine the From her printing presses she poured Great. forth, almost daily, masterpieces of literature, or

pamphlets which were to change dynasties and

On

shake kingdoms.

her throne sat Louis the

Fifteenth, as rotten as the society of

which he was

the head, but, like that society, with a rottenness

covered by a magnificence which awed investigaChoiseul was the minister in

tion into silence.

name, and

Madame de Pompadour

in reality

;

and

over the salons^ then in the height of their power

and

distinction, presided

cline of their

who in the dethe dawn of their

women

beauty revealed

'

intelligence.'

Such a world should have pleased Galiani, or any happy Southerner who loved to bask in the warmth of prosperity and shrug his shoulders at But at first it the possibility of future disaster. did not.

He was

His health,

cold and homesick.

he wrote, would certainly not survive the unequal chmate.

Foreign

customs, bad

water, everything here

is

detestable

air,

noxious to

my

Italian


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

70

Then Choiseul received the petted wit of the Neapohtan parties coldly, nonchalantly, And Versailles Versailles was yet indifferently. more objectionable. When Galiani was presented temperament

!

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

there

in

foot

June

overladen with

figure

of the

dress

the

period,

women

laughter and the

Why

with his

1760.

four-and-a-half-

the

men

gala

ridiculous

open

burst into

sneered behind their fans.

should that cruel age, which had no com-

passion on the helplessness of

children,

little

on

poverty, on misfortune, on weakness, and which,

when it

as

it

mock

did not

at

foreigner,

no one

laughers.

'

is

more

Sire,'

he said to the King,

than

a

match

heart.

that

ficial .

.

.

for

French

as

'

the

you now

the secretary

cruel

For a whole

pleaded passionately for his bitterly of the

;

'

The King was delighted

the secretary retired with his

had

?

was

will arrive later.'

in

whom

to say the world)

see only a sample of the secretary

ringing

deformed

sensibilities of a

(which

ever heard of before Galiani

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; why should

an absurd dwarf of an abbe,

in Paris

from

suffering, fled

from a disease one might catch

such an age pity the little

moral

recall.

;

but

laughter

year

He

he

wrote

a mobile and super-

race full at once of passion and lightness.

My

clothes,

thinking, and all

my character, my way of my natural defects will always


!

GALIANI: THE WIT

make me

71

insupportable to this people and to

myself.'

From being

man

in Naples,

secretary at

the most popular and successful

he was in Paris the insignificant

whom,

as he passed by,

with the tongue in the cheek. indeed

mock

His

for ever.

own

men mocked

They did not

sharp tongue was

bound to win him respect and reputation. First it was a jest uttered here and then a story, with ;

his

own

little

inimitable gesticulation, told there.

secretary

is

going to be amusing

!

This

Further,

he was always accompanied by his dme damnee^ the

most

something

intelligent of

monkeys, who was only

less entertaining

than his master.

The

master, moreover, could play on the clavecin, and

Even for the Parisians of that day his conversation was free, naif, unhampered. The man has ideas, as we all have, on sing to

it,

wonderfully.

the liberty of the Press and the Masses, on the

Deluge that

is

those ideas so

coming that

romance or sounds

after us

the

;

only he can put

expression reads like a

like a jest

Then he was introduced to Baron Gleichen, and to Grimm, the first journalist in Europe. Grimm made him known to Madame d'Epinay and his acquaintance with her, with Madame Necker, with Madame Geoffrin, and with Made;

moiselle de Lespinasse, implied an introduction to


â&#x20AC;&#x201D; THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

72

the society of

witty Paris, and of

all

He became

England.

who had

all

travelling

the friend of d'Alembert,

just published his

'

Elements of Philo-

sophy,' of Diderot, of d'Holbach, of Helvetius, of

ficent '

Saint

icicle,

Seasons

He met

and of Marmontel.

Morellet,

Lambert,

still

that magni-

writing

his

and stealing Madame d'Houdetot from

'

He knew

Eousseau.

that picturesque

and

Suard, Thomas, Eaynal, and ill-fated

young Spaniard, the

Marquis de Mora. In a word, by 1760, Galiani was launched the gayest

summer

skiff

little

that

ever danced into a

The Parisian climate improved in the twinkling of an eye the bad water became drinkable the light and fickle people turned into one loving and worthy to be loved.' Some fool of a wit, who had declared that the Abbe would sea.

;

;

'

never succeed at Court because he thought too loud and spoke too low, must needs eat his words.

However low he spoke now, the audience always heard. They expected a hon mot or a naivete, every time he opened his mouth, and he did not disappoint them.

Instead of a poor little dwarf from that God-forsaken Naples, the secretary became 'the prettiest little Harlequin Italy

has produced,'

'

head of Machiavelli,' Napolitain,'

'

incomparable

the '

Machiavellino,'

Plato, with the verve

Abbe,' '

^

the

ce drole de

and gestures


GALIANI: THE WIT In a word,

of Harlequin.'

women raved about him well

!

was the mode. The he understood them so lie

and fought among each other

sence at their parties. his

73

Duchess

*

If Choiseul

for his pre-

remained cold,

the gentlest, amiablest, civil

little

came out of a fairy egg,' said Horace Walpole was as fond of her Abbe as were her society sisters. Galiani was asked everywhere and went everywhere. He had found his true element at last. How tame and provincial creature

that

ever

the Neapolitan parties looked

and

restricted

Italy!

Paris

now

!

How

dull

were ambitions that limited one to

was the theatre of Europe

a crowded audience of

all

—with

nations watching, half

laughing and half afraid, the next move in her

There was hardly ever a more effective actor on her boards than this buffoon, this keen-set httle wit, this jester, with here and there, now and then, as if by accident, some

breathless tragi-comedy.

poignant meaning, some thrilling prophecy beating

beneath his brief

jests,

and

startling

his hearers to a

and sudden gravity.

In spite of the facts that Galiani was busy learning French,

and working

making a Commentary on Horace,

at the duties of his secretaryship with

an entirely superfluous energy, his Paris began

custom

early in

to stop in

bed

the morning. till

social life in It

was

his

the middle of the day


THE FRIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

74

and thus receive his friends; tenir son lit de justice, he called it. Sometimes he would wrap himself up, and

sit

on the bed with his

He

like a tailor.

deal too

much,

'flashes

of

little

legs crossed

talked a great deal

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;a

great

had no friend began

some people; he

said

When

silence.'

his

speaking he waited impatiently to leap into the conversation himself;

and when the friend

tempted to make himself heard, says the Abbe,

answer

me back

you

'

; '

listened to

me

;

'

Let

me

at-

finish,'

have plenty of time to

will

but he took good care that that

time never came. fully in later years,

'

'

'

Paris,' is

he used

to say regret-

the only place where they

and one of his biographers declares

pathetically that he died of

'

paroles rentrees et

non

ecoutees.'

No wonder

he was so

full

of

life

in

the

The talk of the morning was always followed by more talk in the evening. On Thursdays, it was Madame Geoffrin's turn

French

to

capital.

receive.

This

'nurse

of

philosophy,'

this

calm, placid, old hostess with her quiet, ortho-

dox

principles,

and her prudent, regular

could no more help loving this of

a

wit than could her

was 'her abbe, her

As

for him,

little

little

lighter

life,

libertine

sisters.

abbe, her petite

He

chose.'

he loved her without after-thought,

and with the whole-hearted impetuosity of

his


GALIANI: THE WIT

He

nature.

declared that she inspired him with

her

that

wit,

arm-chairs were

Apollo and he was the Sibyl.

;

of

stories, to

wilder

her,

and did

all

to

life.

was

There

tripods

but he went away laughing at her

and loving her and respecting the end of his

the

Her very primness

egged him on to more reckless buffooneries

75

respected, but

woman whom he

another

whom

he did not

love.

also

With her

one intense, overmastering passion centred on her husband,

Madame Necker was

vinist pastor's daughter,

One female '

soaked in

'

for ever the Cal-

rigid, frigid,

and good.'

friend spoke of her acrimoniously as starch,'

and Galiani him self complained,

without by any means intending a compliment, of her 'cold demeanour of decency.' ribald, rollicking person as

How

such a

himself ever gained

admittance to a Puritan household would be a

wonder

in our

himself

wrote,

day

;

but in that day

one was

only to

if,

as Galiani

know

virtu-

ous people, the number of one's friends would

be

alarmingly

reduced.

Necker 's salon was not

And

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;andâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;Madame

for herself or her acquaint-

was for her husband. Across the dinnertable on those Fridays the lively and daring Italian would defend with his rapid, reckless tongue the causes which his heavy host could only ance

;

it

maintain

with

his

pen.

Leaning

after

dinner


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

76

against the lighting

chimney corner, with

his sparkling eyes

keen pale

with his dwarfs

up

his

face,

figure dressed always with an

and nicety, Galiani would

infinite

fight single-handed that

battle against the Economists, his

special antipathies,

and

neatness

fight

it,

own and Necker's too, against

such

No wonder

men Madame Necker overlooked her visitor's peccaThe little Abbe had such a resistless dilloes. as Thomas, Eaynal, and Morellet.

torrent of logic

If the other side

!

had reason

in its favour,

no one had a chance of advancing

that reason.

Directly anyone else began to talk,

Galiani slipped away, and, there being no Opposition,

Parliament rose.

After the orthodoxy of the decency of

Madame

Madame

and

GeofFrin

Necker, the gatherings

of Baron d'Holbach at Grandval might have been

supposed to have afibrded Galiani an agreeable contrast.

Not content with disbelieving himself,

the Baron's

scepticism

proselytising kind

was of that eager and

which must

ing the faith of others. it

He

for ever

be destroy-

delivered himself of

with a daring irreverence that made even the

Italian

Abbe shudder, though, heaven knows

I

he

talked freely enough himself, and had listened to free

enough

talk from others.

He was

here, as

he had been

at the Neckers', almost alone in the

Opposition.

It delighted

him

to lean over

the


'

GALIANI: THE WIT

77

and assure these persons who were for pushing throne and Church, King and priest, down the abyss as fast as might be, that he loved despotism, table

'

bien cru, bien vert, bien ^pre.'

who

It

was Galiani

alone perceived that these wild theories, con-

when translated into deeds, destroy those who conceived them, and

ceived in salons^ must, first

of

all

that a change in the Constitution,

a very beautiful thing thing in the

doing.

generations,' he said,

Posterity ties.

merely a

is

And why

when

done, was a very vile

It

worries two or three

'

'

and only obliges

possibility,

should

out for possibilities

which might be

posterity.

and we are

realities

reali-

put themselves

?

One day at d'Holbach's, the conversation on the Deity became so outrageous, that, with every Messieurs man's hand against him, Galiani rose. les Philosophes,' says he, you go too fast. If I were the Pope, I should hand you over to the '

'

Inquisition

;

if

the King, to the Bastille.

have the good luck to be neither, I

shall

But

come

dinner next Thursday, and you shall listen to as patiently as I

to

me

have listened to you.'

Thursday came.

Abbe

as I

After dinner and coffee, the

takes an armchair, crosses his legs, removes

wig (the night being sultry), and, with those lively gesticulations which he can no more help

his

than he can help breathing,

tells

a story.


'

THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

78

'Please suppose, gentlemen, that one of you,

who

is

the most convinced that this world

is

the

happens to be playing at dice,

result of chance,

not in a gambling hell but in one of the best

houses in Paris.

His adversary, casting one, two,

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;many

always throws number times game has gone on a little while, my friend Diderot, we will say, who is losing his money, will certainty call out, "The dice are This is some swindlers' den " What, cogged three, four

After the

six.

!

!

philosopher,

what ?

Because ten or twelve throws

come out of the box so that you lose half a dozen francs, you are firmly convinced that this is

of dice

the result of a clever design, an artificial combination, a complicated roguery

;

and

yet, seeing in

the universe a mighty

number

of combinations a

thousand times more

difficult,

more complicated,

and more

you do not suspect that Nature's cogged, and that above there is a

useful,

dice are also

great Arranger It

?

was a most happy

illustration,

if

not a

convincing argument.

But the age which was swayed by the eloquence of Eousseau always preferred an example to a reason: while the class

who laughed

later at

'The Marriage of Figaro'

might certainly be counted on to enjoy a joke against

itself.

There

was a fourth

salon

where

Galiani


GALIANI: THE WIT

79

was much

more at home than at Grandval, or under the prim wings of Madame Necker or the motherly feathers of Madame GeoiFrin. At Madame d'Epinay's alone, he was perfectly natural, his rollicking, buffooning, all-daring able, as only a Southerner is able, to self entirely ridiculous

self,

make him-

without being at

all

con-

temptible.

Madame

d'Epinay was that clever wife of a

who had been

ruined Farmer General,

petted

Madame

Eousseau, and played with by Voltaire.

d'Houdetot was her sister-in-law constant

associate

;

;

Grimm was

by

Diderot was her

her lover

;

and

Galiani became, and remained for twenty years,

her most sincere and admiring friend.

A Platonic when one

friendship

is

perhaps only possible

or other of the Platonists

is

in love with

Grimm, with his well-regulated

a third person.

head and heart, was not only perfectly able to keep a to retain

fickle

woman

true to him, but himself

an honest regard for the Abbe and to

use his opinions and his wit for the

'

Literary

Correspondence.'

Madame

d'Epinay's salon was of

all salons

the

most thoroughly characteristic of the time and the people. No one had any duty but to amuse himself. From early in the morning, a few charming

and accomphshed women, who always relegated


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

80

husbands

their children to servants, their stupid

and

to oblivion,

their households to chance, talked

which the

delightfully over their embroidery (with

demanded they should toy) to men, of whom among many astounding characteristics, not

fashion

astounding

the least

is

their prodigious idleness

coupled with their prodigious literary production. Galiani himself

Madame came

was the greatest attraction

in

on a dripping country afternoon

Chevrette, or in some Paris, there

murky

came with him,

makes one

forget the cares of

who was

dearest friend,

at

at

he

La

winter twilight in said Diderot, light,

brightness, gaiety, folly, mirth

d'Ette,

When

d'Epinay's circle could claim.

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; everything

which

Mademoiselle

life.

once her hostess's worst and

looked up from her embroidery

frame with her stealthy eyes aglow to welcome an

Madame

d'Epinay was,

as ever, gay, caressing, insouciante.

Diderot was

acquisition so delightful.

in ecstasies (he

was always

something) at the

an ecstasy about

in

He was

little Italian's arrival.

a perfect treasure on a wet day

!

If the toy-shops

made Galianis, everybody would buy one The Abbe takes his seat, cross-legged as I

and from that head which was

*a

library of

anecdotes,' reels out a dozen stories, acting all

usual,

them

with an inimitable hveliness, while his hearers

laugh

till

they cry.


GALIANI: THE WIT

A few of have

those stories sound dull in print, or

lost point

with their youth

gust modern taste by their

But the man who dubbed

r Europe,' d'Holbach,

'

;

many more

dis-

elegant indecency. Paris,

'the Cafe de

the maitre dJhotel of philo-

and the vaunted

sophy,'

81

liberty of the Apostles of

the Social Contract, 'the right of interfering in

other people's business,' wit.

title

of

was Galiani too who defined the death of

It

Maria Theresa as ;

of Europe voice as heard.

proves his

still

It

'

over the

map

and Sophie Arnould's exquisite

lost

the

'

'

an ink-bottle

most beautiful asthma

was Galiani who

the cart-horse, and

man's stable.

spilt

was

It

'

he ever

said that suffering

was

ennui the horse in the rich Galiani

who

Jesuits lengthened the Creed

declared that the

and shortened the

Decalogue that they might succeed better in the world, and Galiani

had changed the

who name

affirmed that the priests

of the Sacrament from

Penitence to Confession, because they thought sufficient to

avow

their

sins

it

without correcting

was Galiani who proved that he knew intimately one side of the life around them.

him,

Finally,

it

when he declared

that the

women

of the

eighteenth century loved with their minds, not

with their hearts.

Always inimitably good-humoured, never bored, never weary, ready to play on the clavecin or sing G


yy

THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

82

most charming voice in the world

in the

audience should

tire

if

the

of his conversation, seeing

the ridiculous side of any subject in a flash, prompt

with an anecdote to

— sion vius,'

men

'

the

little

the most unforeseen occa-

fit

creature born at the foot of Vesu-

clown, harlequin, Punchinello

him

called

—was,

and

tury

— there certainly were

—many agreeable

only often dined out,

without counter-

There will be and have

part in social history.

been

is,

— whatever

in the eighteenth cen-

young gentlemen who not but who entirely lived and

fattened on a pretty taste in stories and hons mots,

and a constant readiness

to

make

selves for the benefit of

an

idle

of being bored

;

fools of

them-

audience afraid

but there was rarely,

if

ever, a

buffoon of such vast and solid erudition, of mental capacities so great

and so varied, and of mental

achievements so momentous, as the

While the

salons were petting

Abbe

Galiani.

and spoiling him,

while he seemed to be doing nothing but talk from

morning

till

night and from night until morning,

while he was regarded as such a complete and irresistible

joke that people laughed at his very

name, he had yet worked so hard as Secretary to the Embassy and Charge d' Affaires that he raised the whole diplomatic corps to tion,

and advanced the

a worthier posi-

interests of

Naples with

a steadiness and persistency usually allotted to a


GALIANI: THE WIT very different character. Fifteenth presented

monds.

83

His Majesty Louis the

him with a box

Choiseul's light indifference

a cool consideration.

rire ?

But

after

man was

All the time the

Was

writing, observing, thinking.

pour

set in dia-

changed into

he a politician

He seemed to be everything pour rire. who knows ? The men who had

all,

laughed the most heartily at his absurdities, turned

and looked

at

him again with a wonder

in their

eyes.

In 1765 he obtained a year's leave of absence

and went home

to take the baths of Ischia.

In

1766, on the invitation of the Marquis Caraccioli, Italian It

Ambassador, he went to stay

must be recorded

in

regretfully that the

did not find Britain or the British at taste.

David

Hume

London.

said indignantly that

he only remained two months talked himself the whole time,

in

Abbe

all to

his

though

our country,

and would not

allow an Englishman to put in a word, yet

when

he came away he dogmatised on the character of the nation all the rest of his life as if he had never studied anything

else.

That he did not share the

Anglomania of Voltaire

is

certainly true.

Some

years later, to one of his correspondents, he defined the English rather happily as

'

the best educated

nation in the world, and consequently the greatest, the most troublesome, and the most melancholy.'

q2

:

i

'^


84

THE FKIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

But some

at least of his letters abuse

It

freely.

no doubt,

was,

as

England very

difficult

the

for

Britons to understand a Galiani as for a Galiani to understand

them and not ;

at all wonderful that

he carried away from our shores an impression of

an Englishman as a

solid,

who

emotionless person,

resented buffoonery as an insult, never uttered a joke

or saw one, and had

all

the qualities which

make

a nation mighty and an individual disagreeable.

The Abbe was a somewhat graver man himHe was now self when he came back to Paris. thirty-eight years old, a little less free of tongue,

a thought

less sceptical

His letters

in religion.

of the time contain grave observations on the

Seven Years' War, and on the condition of the

But he was

Paris Parliament. salons,

still

still

about the

Parisian to the finger-tips, and he

still

loved Paris from his soul.

And

in 1769, like a clap of thunder,

came

the

foudroyant news of his recall to Naples. Eecalled!

The

hostesses

each other in dismay.

end of

all

things

some

if

party question,

is

amusements Hke

this

of Paris looked at

Eecalled

!

It is surely the

political exigency,

some

allowed to interfere with our !

Is

it

Choiseul,

who has pro-

tected the Economists, while Galiani hated them,

who

has done this thing

?

The exact reason

was then matter of speculation, and

is

so

for

it

still.


'

GALIANI: THE WIT It

85

was enough, more than enough, that

up

and go out of

his trunks

it

was a

Abbe must pack

fact that this dear, merry, little

light into darkness,

out of the sunshine of social favour in which he

had basked and purred and gambolled, into the gloom of the provincial obscurity from which he had come. was struck with dismay, Galiani himwas overwhelmed by the greatest calamity of

If Paris self

his

life.

He

declared that he had never wept at

anything, not even the death of his relations, so

much

as at leaving Paris.

from

Paris,'

my

heart.'

he cried,

He

that wearisome '

'

'

They have torn me

swore that the only good thing

Mr. Sterne, the English author,

ever uttered was

when he

" It

said to me,

is

better to die in Paris than to live in Naples."

He wrung

his hands,

and bemoaned out loud,

He

according to his temperament. departure by letters to

Madame

followed his

d'fipinay

d'Alembert which are really pathetic. also leaving

he was

was

tied

by an attachment,

He was

woman to whom not Platonic. He

from everything

mistress, career, work, play

despair seized his soul.

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

He

^life

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; friends

itself.

and

No wonder

went, and in parting

camp of the Economists, whom he be the enemy responsible for his over-

flung into the

believed to

and to

behind him in Paris a

torn, in brief,

]

and they have torn out ]


;!

THE FEIENDS OP VOLTAIRE

86

throw,

a

bomb whose

explosion rang through

Europe. In 1770 there appeared in Paris the

The taxation

on the Corn Trade.'

'

Dialogues

of,

or free

had long been a vexed question, the minds of politicians but in the intelligent Frenchmen. Free Food

trade in, grain

not only in

minds of

all

cried the Economist, rich in the support of Turgot

and of Choiseul.

Tax

it

!

replied their opponents,

mighty with the strength of Terrai, the graceless Controller-General, and the growing influence of

Necker.

Through the wit and the

parties, in the midst of

ardent secretarial duties and of continual literary studies,

at

somehow,

what time

had brought

it

some time

at

would be

to bear

difficult to

on the question

shrewdness and brilliancy, observation

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;though how and sayâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; Galiani

all

his Italian

the learning and

taught him by his uncle,

and the

judgment and the wisdom taught him by Heaven.

No man would light, social

have believed that such a merry,

person could have pondered so deeply

no one had believed

The book was in the form of a dialogue between a Marquis and a Chevalier. It was as gay and rollicking as the little Abbe's own talk. In fact, it was his own talk but it was something much more. It was much more even than a pamphlet on a passing question, on a matter it.

;


;

GALIANI: THE WIT of local

87

momentary importance, Eead between and in the margin,' it was an able work '

the lines

on the science of government, what Grimm called justly 'the production of a sound

and enlightened

philosopher, and of a statesman.'

In

exposed his theory that a not only his business '

You must

study

men

man

it

the author

human

but the

in

heart

^

before you can rule them.'

This knowledge he denied to Turgot

warned France,

know

of State must

;

solemn prophecy to be

|

and he

|

fulfilled'

too soon, to beware in her rulers, not the rogues

—they soon colours — but

and the knaves their

true

He

wishes

'

but he

is

show themselves

I'honnete

all

men

well, so all

homme trompL men trust him

deceived as to the means of doing

The work was received with the

well.'

wildest enthu-

*'

In far Ferney, the spirited old Patriarch

siasm.

of Literature

jumped

almost

for joy,

a wit and a

style so inimitable.

reasoned

agreeably before.

so

made famine

has ever

work

in

so

literally, at

No man

... 'No man amusing. ... If the

does not diminish the price of bread,

give pleasure to the whole nation.

and Moliere have combined Excellent

!

excellent

!

And

ever

.

to write

in the

the master himself wrote for his

'

.

it.

it

will

Plato

.

.' .

.

same year, 1770, Questions on the

Encyclopaedia the article on Grain wherein Galiani '

was not

forgotten.

\


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

88

Grimm and Madame

Diderot, who, with

nay, had helped to correct '

d'fipi-

proofs of the

the

Dialogues,' declared impetuously to Mademoiselle

Volland that he had gone down on his knees to

Grimm

implore Galiani to publish them. if

said that

he were Controller- General he should attach the

Abbe

to France, if

livres per

it

annum,

'

cost the

King

forty thousand

without any other stipulation

but that he should amuse himself and come twice

me

a week to chat with

Government.' brilliant

Parisian journalist,

and consequently disciples, ''

over the

Even Freron,

my

Freron,

the

who hated

Voltaire's

all

affairs of

filie

Voltaire

colleagues

and

could not help praising the thing in his

Frederick the Great wrote the

Literary Year.'

author a flattering

letter.

The book's foes advertised it even better than its friends. At first, the leaders in the Economist camp looked at each other in dismay. Granted that they had justice and reason on their side, what could justice and reason do in the Paris of 1770 against that bubbhng, sparkling wit? The capital must, first of

then, to

all,

be amused.

What

use,

advance the always doubtful argument

that a writer cannot be at once gay and trust-

worthy, that

if

he

is

really

worth hearing he can

never be heard without a yawn

The Abbe

Morellet,

as

?

large as Galiani

was


;

!

GALIANI: THE WIT small,

and

light,

was employed

Abbe was The good

as ponderous in style as the

man wrote

answer him.

to

with such haste and

his refutation

was comworn off from much rubbing against the side

ardour that the skin of his pletely

89

of his desk.

And,

may, or may

not,

after

He

no one read him.

all,

be right

finger

little

he

;

certainly dull

is

Then Turgot took up a mightier pen and wielded a mightier influence.

and a greater man than

terested, a better

Statesman of

the

Abbe was but

that

company

the Wit, Turgot

disin-

Galiani,

of which

the

sought, as did

good and the progress of humanity

Galiani, the

but he sought

it

by a

labour of his whole ness of the

Noble and

book

;

diiferent road,

He

life.

and by the

recognised the clever-

a bad cause, said he, could not

be maintained with more grace and cleverness.

my

But

brother the

little

Abbe

is

wrong, not the

In the ' Dialogues there peeped out, thought

less.

'

Turgot, something of the comfortable indifierence of those

who

because

it

of

are content to leave the world as

it is

goes so smoothly with them, something

the laziness

naturally to a

and

little

the

selfishness

that

come

writer himself so comfortably

beneficed and mitred.

Galiani lacked, in fact,

Turgot's 'instincts of the heart which teach the head.'

Eight

or

wrong

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Vhonnete

homme trompe

/


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

90

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;Turgot

had put his soul into the great cause of humanity, and Galiani had only put his What wonder that they saw the same mind. perhaps

world with

and would have worked

different eyes,

out the salvation of faUing France, by methods not only opposite but opposed Galiani went back

?

to Naples.

For many months,

for years, his letters are full of his book, that effort

which, even

was no

misdirected, proved that he

if

drone in the hive, that he too had that one great virtue

common

to all the philosophers

ing half their sins

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; he had

of responsibility towards

answered

and redeem-

heard the trumpet-call his

fellows,

and

it.

After Paris, Naples was not merely dull, extinction. fate to

had

The poor

little

Madame d'Epinay

all jesting letters.

and Galiani was

it

was

Abbe bemoaned

his

in the

most touching of

True, there was society here,

its lion.

But what society

!

There

was Lady Orford, Eobert Walpole's daughter-inlaw,

who had

a country house close to Galiani's at

Santo Sorio, at the foot of Vesuvius, and there

was

Sir

William Hamilton,

to be, the

now

British

envoy and,

husband of Lady Hamilton.

Presently

there came, too, the Marquis of Lansdowne,

who

was amiable, which, said Galiani, is a very rare thing for an Englishman, and Secretary of State, '

which

is

a very

common

thing.'


'

GALIANI: THE WIT

91

But the Abbe hated the English and he was The Court of Naples gave him more lucrative posts and though he described ;

bored to death.

himself as avide without being avare, which meant

was greedy

that he

spending

it

money and

of

—money, even w^hen

ennui^ certainly never destroys his

museum

and weapons Paris

does not beget

it

He

it.

turned to

of medals and bronzes, pictures

full

— and

that

He hankered

!

yet lavish in

bored him

after

for ever.

it

Paris,

too. '

What

is

the good of inoculation here,' he grumbled, after

expressing delight in that discovery, itself is

not worth while?

'

'

What

dismally to d'Holbach in 1770.

... no ment ... no here

edicts

... no

a

'

when !

life

'

Dear

he wrote

'Nothing amusing

suspensions of pay-

quarrels about anything

about religion.

—not even

how I regret you Madame Daubiniere

Paris,

In 1771 died there that

living

!

to

whom he had been attached by no Platonic tie, and whom he had not hesitated to recommend to the good

offices

of

Madame

d'Epinay

and

;

in the

same

year the death of Helvetius, the rich and amiable ex-Farmer-General, battalion.'

we who

liness

left

a blank in the line of our

'Let us love each other the better,

remain,' says Galiani.

Advance no heart

'

!

;

Fire

!

'

He was

'

Close the lines.

always declaring he had

but it was there, under the lava of world-

and mockery, as Pompeii and Herculaneum


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

92

own

lay hid beneath the lava of his

He

Vesuvius.

was soon busy procuring a post at Court for brother Bernard

his unsuccessful

had a large

bookworm

family,

little

that

talents

Bernard died, and up

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;Bernard,

who

money, and the dull

bring no more.

Abbe

starts the

in

Then a new

There are three stupid nieces to be married,

role.

widow

to say nothing of the

The

!

indefatigable

uncle found the girls eligible husbands, although

one of them, as he wrote frankly, was as ugly as a

hunchback. Then he discovered some one his sister-in-law.

Madame

my box

d'Epinay,

If this goes on,'

'

people will clap

'

to

marry

he wrote to

when I go into

at the theatre.'

Presently the King of Naples gave him yet two more posts entailing not only emoluments but work and he resumed his literary labours, wrote a pamphlet on the Instincts and Habitual Tastes

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

'

of

Man,'

called

'

a

comic

opera,

The Imaginary

to

Socrates,'

amusing pamphlet, written distract the Neapolitans

Paisiello's

music,

and another most

in a single night, to

from their fright on the

eruption of Vesuvius in 1779.

In 1781 he visited Eome, and was courted by all

the great people;

and when he came home

Naples gave him another rich abbey and another

most lucrative

civil

appointment.

comparatively young man.

He was

still

a

Fortune had over-


GALIANI: THE WIT turned her horn at his things

accomplished,

feet.

the

'

93

The torment of

plague of

all

nought to

desire/ might well have been Galiani's.

But he

had the rare power of finding happiness where it most often hides in small and common things.

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

The monkey which had amused his leisure he replaced by a couple of cats, and it afforded infinite amusement to watch their gambols their habits, and write long dissertations on natural history of the animal to

Madame

had him and the

d'fipinay

in Paris.

His friendship with her had lasted without

break or blot for nearly five-and-twenty years. If happiness

meant only exemption from

then well for Galiani that no heart more nearly than sponsible

little

person.

woman

this light,

But that

suffering,

ever held his bright,

irre-

side of existence

which brings the deepest sorrow brings too the

who is spared the first, misses the Madame Daubiniere had touched neither soul nor his life Madame d'Epinay only aroused

highest joy, and second. his

;

a capacity for a friendship which, as he loved no one,

had certainly assumed some of the absorption

When

of a passion.

in the presence

she died in 1783, he stood

of a great and a most genuine

She had represented the Paris he would see no more to answer her letters had been a and she was dead! large occupation in his life sorrow.

;

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;


THE FRIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

94

He

turned to his work as his last hope, to the one

means that was left of making life endurable. In 1785 he was attacked by apoplexy, and two years But it was not later he travelled for his health.

The dead are so bored,' he said in his they have asked me to come old jesting manner and cheer them a little.' In the October of 1787 the King and Queen of Naples commanded him to meet them at Portici. improved.

'

;

He

'

went, but he was long past receiving pleasure

The Sovereigns were struck with his altered appearance, and begged him to Queen Caroline wrote him a consult a doctor. letter imploring him to renounce his scepticism from such honours.

and make ready

He answered

for heaven.

dignity and respect

;

with

but no physician for either

He body could aid him now. gaiety to the last. As he had loved in

the soul or the

kept his life

to

be surrounded by

He

his deathbed.

no sorrow

friends, they

were about

declared to them that he

in dying, save that

felt

he would fain have

book on Horace. The night before his death Gatti, his friend and doctor, told him he had refused an invitation to the opera from the Ambassador of France to be near his

lived to publish his

friend.

'

Ah,' says Galiani,

as Harlequin

?

'

you

still

look on

me

Well, perhaps I shall prove more

amusing than the opera.'

And he did.

Two hours


GALIANI: THE WIT

95

before his death General Acton, the Prime Minister, called to see him.

receive him.

him

My

'

Tell his Excellency I cannot

carriage

is

at the door.

Warn

to prepare his own.'

He

died on October 30, 1787, aged nearly fifty-

nine.

Dagonet, King's Fool at Arthur's Court, could not avert his master's ruin, but, noblest of Fools, he tried.

all

Galiani, with his laughing bells

'Dialogues,' spoke his message and could not help starving France, nor

jingling in those in jests

even postpone by an hour the raid on the bakers' shops in the Faubourg did his best.

St.

Antoine.

But

he, too,


THE FRIENDS OP VOLTAIEE

96

IV

VAUVENARGUES: THE APRORIST The proverb

is

indigenous to Spain, verse to Italy,

and the aphorism

to

France.

In that form of

own

speech in which, in Vauvenargues'

words.

La Eochefoucauld had 'turned men from virtue by persuading them that it is never genuine,' Vauvenargues vindicated human goodness, showed man that the best way to reform the world is to reform himself, and taught him how to use the freedom Voltaire gave him. In his delicate thoughtfulness, in his conviction

that

man's

happiness

depends

upon

his

character and not upon his circumstances, in his mistrust of the cold god, Eeason, and his belief in the soundness

of the intuitions of the heart,

Vauvenargues stands alone among

He

stands alone, too,

nearness to

among them

Voltaire's

affections.

his compeers.

in his personal

The

testimony to Vauvenargues' character

compelled the reverence of him

is

noblest that

it

who reverenced


LUC DE CLAPIERS, MARQUIS DE VAUVENARGUES.

From a

Print in the Bibliotheqxie Nationale, Paris.


^esELie;^ Of THE

^4Ul'0RH}h


VAUVENARGUES THE APHORIST

97

:

nothing; and the finest compliment ever paid to

was to be loved by a Vauvenargues. Born on August 6, 1715, at Aix in Provence in a mean house which still stands and

Voltaire

Luc de Vauvenargues came of a poor family of provincial noblesse and was from the first what he remained to the last, is

to-day a grocer's shop

delicate in constitution

and with limited prospects

of worldly success.

His very imperfect education he received at the College of Aix, where his small Latin and less

Greek were frequently interrupted by But he had a possession which education

— a good

is

in

ill

health.

itself

an

father.

Joseph de Clapiers had been created Marquis de Vauvenargues in 1722,

when Luc was seven

years old, for having been the only magistrate in

Aix who did not run away from the place and

his

duty when a pestilence devastated the countryside in 1720.

For

companions,

Luc

had

younger

own

age, a coarse,

undisciplined boy,

named Victor

brothers and a cousin of his clever, selfish,

two

who was to become the crabbed old Friend of Men and the great father of a greater son. The boys had little in common

Eiquetti '

Mirabeau,

'

but genius, and were attracted to each other by

H


— THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

98

At

their very unlikeness.

Luc was reading

sixteen,

with passionate transport that splendid painting of '

virtue' 'Plutarch's

Lives' (in a translation) and

then the letters of Brutus to Caesar, 'so

with dignity, he,

'

loftiness, passion,

that I never could read

had already plunged tinent

life

filled

and courage,' said

them

calmly.'

Victor

into that blusterous, incon-

which was

to bring ruin to his

own

family and quite spoil the effect of his loud-voiced

schemes for the good of mankind.

When

both were seventeen the pair parted for

Luc must choose one of

a while.

professions open to his caste

—the

the only two

Church or the

Army.

The Church would not do, because, boy though he was, he was already philosopher and thinker ay, in the noblest sense of the word free-thinker too. Then it must be the Army!

Picture this

new

subaltern of the King's

Own

Eegiment, in the loveliest pale grey uniform, faced with Eoyal blue, with the most splendid braidings,

and the very buttonholes sewn with gold with his

tall,

silk,

boyish figure, his handsome face, his

proud and pensive grace '—for all the world like the soldier-hero of a woman's novel. But he was '

already something very different from that.

handsome

The

face bespoke a noble nature, ambitious

for all great things, strong

and ready

world, to play his part therein

if it

to begin the

be the part of


VAUVENARGUES THE APHORIST

99

:

a

man

of Deeds alone

—or

the Deeds be but

if

foundation for the Thoughts.

His

first

Marshal

campaign was

Villars,

land of dreams

in Italy in

who was on

his last.

The boy was

!

filled

1733 with Italy

!

the

with splendid

visions of following Hannibal across the mountains

—with young his

sanguine hopes of gloriously doing

duty and meeting immediate, glorious rewards.

—and

For three years he knew the intoxication the horrors

of

—of a victorious campaign.

a sudden he

found

himself

And

then

condemned

at

one-and-twenty to the vicious idleness, the low pleasures, life.

The

and the deadening routine of a garrison rich oflScers were of course

that magnet, the Court, to keep studies

and prepare

attendance on

drawn by

up their military war by dancing

for the next

women and

flattering the Minister

The poor ones reand the King at Versailles. mained on duty with not enough of it to keep them out of mischief, and with, for the most part,

debased

tastes,

tions precluded

because their intellectual limita-

them from

higher.

The contamination of that useless existence even a Vauvenargues did not wholly escape. For a brief while he was as other men are. But the pleasures of a garrison town could not long Already he was hold such a nature as his.

but twenty-two

he had that love of solitude H 2


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

100

German

which, says a great

philosopher,

is

wel-

comed or avoided as a man's personal value Already

great or small.

men

an age when other

at

scarcely realise they have a soul

was dominated by the dignity

;

is

idea

of

this

man

value and

its

and deep within him was the passion and

resolution to exercise to the full

its

powers and

possibilities.

With

companions he was wholly simple,

his

and friendly

natural,

—without

of that conscious superiority

good people

the faintest

once useless as a moral influence

at

and objectionable

as companions.

'Father,' his

Marmontel said

brother officers used to call him.

'he held

our souls in his hands.'

all

taint

which makes many

He

soon

resumed, by correspondence, his friendship with Victor Mirabeau

— the

;

and

in their discussions

view he takes of

this passion is

sure test of a man's character

— each

on love

always a

letter- writer

showed the yawning gulf that divided him from the other. If

Vauvenargues ever met the woman worthy

to hold his heart, to be, in the finest

and highest

understanding of those words, his companion and completion,

he had

felt

is

But

it.

Milton and a visions

not known. to

He

writes of love as

some pure

souls

if

as to a

John the Divine are revealed in the Eden and the New Jerusalem wherein St.


!

VAUVENARGUES THE APHOEIST

lOi

:

they never

walked.

Yauvenargues'

letters

to

Mirabeau treat of the subject with such an exquisite dignity and refinement with such noble silences

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;that there

never found the his ideals,

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

is

at least

no doubt that

woman who would have

he was spared the bitterness of loving

Cousin Victor easily perceived that

young

different

up

he

who broke them.

one

ful

if

realised

soldier

was

from the

to Paris, then

fitted for

thought-

of a garrison town.

life

Take up

!

this

something widely

Come

letters as a career

Win

the smiles of the Court, and a pension from

the

Privy Purse

But Yauvenargues not only

!

preferred literature

to

fame, but he loved his

Thinker as nature

the

own

sham

called literary

profession.

had made him, thinker,

moralist, aphorist as

he has come down the ages,

he was

man

in

first

of

all

a

of action, and so sound

thought because he was so strong in deeds.

maxims were hewn from life.' When the death of the Emperor Charles YI. in 1740 shook

All his

the kingdoms

'

of Europe

as

a child shakes

its

marbles in a bag, Luc de Yauvenargues shouldered

knapsack and went out to Bohemia under the command of Belle-Isle. Eeady to dare and to do,

his

knowing no career more glorious than arms, he looked round him and drew from keen experience his views of the world. brave, young, high-spirited,


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

102

The philosopher in a study, weighing the pros and cons of motives he knows by hearsay, of deeds of which he has read, of passions he has never felt,

may be

a very fine thinker, but will hardly be

chosen as a sound guide to practice.

The explorer who has faced the torrent and the mountain,

the burning sun of

hunger and cold and

who

thirst,

the

has

desert,

himself

fought with beasts at Ephesus, will have a knowledge of the country he has discovered, which

no books and lectures, no geographical or topographical knowledge can ever give to the cleverest

The worth and the use of

student at home.

Vauvenargues' axioms on

had

fact that he

life

lie

largely in the

been there himself.

The very brief triumph of the capture of Prague in 1742 was succeeded by the horrors of the great mid- winter march from Prague to Egra. The King's Own sufiered terribly. Death, defeat, famine, Vauvenargues

young comrade, de him.

Its

idea of the

'

Seytres,

immature and

warm feeling

of Vauvenargues'

nimity

knew not

as

names but

In the spring of 1742 he had

realities.

'

stilted style it

clothed.

iloge of

gives

little

Morley speaks

sweetness and equaand records how hardship but wise and tender. All

'patient

as a friend

made him

and wrote an

as

lost a

;

not sour,'

through that fearful march, in

this strange soldier's


VAUYENARGUES THE APHORIST

103

:

knapsack were the manuscripts of Discourses on Fame and Pleasure,' 'Counsels to a Young '

Man,' and a

Meditation on Faith.'

'

Of many of

maxims on patience and the brave endurance

his

of suffering, he must have found at this time cruel

personal need.

The handsome young

who had

officer

France in the prime of his hopes and returned to

it

with his health

his

left

manhood,

utterly ruined,

both his legs frost-bitten, and his lungs seriously affected.

he gathered together the strength he had him and the pluck that never failed him, re-

Still,

left

joined his regiment in

Germany

in 1743, fought

nobly for his fallen cause at Dettingen, and

re-

turned to the garrison of Arras at the end of the year, an invalid for Tt

his

life.

was now obvious he could no longer pursue

Though he wrote with a keen and courage had come to be re-

calling.

bitter truth

that

garded as a popular delusion, patriotism as a

and that 'one sees

prejudice,

disgust, ennui, neglect,

effeminacy as

position,

courage if

arrest it

murmuring

;

luxury and

have produced the same effrontery

and

peace;

army only

in the

by

those

the

who

should,

progress of

their example,' yet

he could, have been

from

the still

evil,

their

en-

he would,

soldier to the end.

For


â&#x20AC;&#x201D; THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

104

a time he thought of diplomacy. tions soon

Great posi-

was one of

teach great minds,'

He would have been

axioms.

'

well

fitted.

his

But

merit was not of the slightest help to advance-

ment.

To fawn on the King and

prostitute one's life

way

here was the

and to

the Mistress, to

one's talents to a Court

Vauvenargues

promotion.

wrote to the King and corresponded with Amelot

who answered most amiably and

the Minister, affably

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and

did nothing at

wrote Vauvenargues to him directness taught in it is

'

all.

camps,

at '

Permit me, last,

to assure

with

sir,'

the

you that

a moral impossibility for a gentleman, with

nothing but zeal to the King.'

commend him,

Amelot, stung a

little,

ever to reach

promised the

next vacant post, and this time promised sincerely.

Vauvenargues retired to learn his

new

to

Provence and to quiet, There he was attacked

business.

by confluent small-pox, which blind and wholly disfigured painfully as

'

him nearly felt

one of those accidents which prevent

soul from

the

:

left

a misfortune he

showing

itself.'

But worse than

any disfigurement, the partial blindness made, of course, a diplomatic career

an impossibility for

ever.

Before the campaign of 1743, Vauvenargues

had introduced himself to Arouet de Voltaire, by a letter in which the obscure soldier-critic com-


VAUVENAEGUES pared Corneille is

as

generous

his

THE APHORIST

own

so delightful in Voltaire's

more

is

105

disadvantageously with Eacine.

Nothing

Nothing

:

recognition

of

other men's.

honour than

to his

genius

his high ad-

miration for the moral gifts of a Vauvenargues

who was young enough

to be his son,

who was

poor, forlorn, a nobody, and whose fine qualities of lofty highmindedness, serenity found, alas

own

nature.

It is so

that he could admire

much

the

more

Voltaire's

to his credit

what he could never

imitate,

and appreciate what was wholly foreign

He

temperament.

rejoiced

ability of that letter.

man no

as you,'

'

he replied,

the

in

It is the '

and

delicacy, patience

no counterpart in

!

to

to

his

thoughtful

part of such a

have preferences but

exclusions.'

The campaign of 1743 had interrupted their But they resumed it now, and,

relationship.

behold

!

it

had turned

into friendship.

Voltaire was at this time as the author of the riade,'

'

fifty

years old, famous

English Letters,' the

a few brilliant plays,

and

also

But he was already attitude what he had not yet become wit and versifier.

output and in active deed.

He

as

'

Hen-

Court

in mental

in mental

could recognise

in this Vauvenargues not only a friend and a literary critic,

but a thinker and a philosopher.

Vauvenargues sent him by degrees most of

his


!

THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

106

writings,

and Voltaire's

as they

were enthusiastic, were in themselves a

criticisms thereon, as sincere

powerful persuasion to the

man

of words

own

profession

though

all,

deeds to become

while the Master's whole-hearted

;

devotion to his noblest of

man of

bring no bread but the

it

and of

bread of affliction

— the best and the

tears

—was

a further

strong inducement to Vauvenargues to join the

This soldier-thinker can

great brotherhood too. tell

to

men what

to

do what they

'follement

To

do when we have made them

will

He is, he has confessed

!

amoureux de

free

as

it,

myself!

la liberte' as I

the individual soul he can give the help and

the courage I have tried to give to the race, and to the riddle of the painful earth wiser, tenderer,

Vauvenargues was Voltaire

would

lose.

not, in fact,

The young

to adopt literature as a profession,

world

he can bring a

and braver solution than mine an

intellect

a

soldier decided

and began the

afresh.

encourage-

Everything, save only Voltaire's

ment, was

against

such

a decision.

Marquis de Vauvenargues

—from

but very mistaken and

unrobust

would have kept

his son at

idle, invalid life in

home

The old

a very natural tenderness

to lead a safe,

Provence, with a

stroll

on the

terrace of the Vauvenargues' country-house

for

exercise, a thick-headed provincial neighbour for


â&#x20AC;&#x201D; VAUVENARGUES

THE APHOBIST

:

107

mental recreation, and his own aches and pains for

an

'

other

(on

relations

of Myrtle in 'The

principle

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; We

His

interest.

the

Conscious Lovers'

never had one of our Family before that

from

descended

Persons

Did

that

anything')

objected to letters for one of Us as a low walk, leading directly to the Bastille. the

The

moment was an

was

Encyclopaedia

himself was not

It

was true that

inglorious one for literature.

yet

unconceived.

Voltaire

mighty influence he

the

was to become. Writing did pay badly, and the young Marquis was deadly poor. Greatest objection of all was his own strong leaning to a life of action, and he himself first wrote of literature as being as '

'

repugnant

But necessity knows no

him

to

'

as to his family.

law.'

That momentary bitterness passed. is

It

was

his part

him by misfortune, by

fate,

by God

the worst of faults,' said he.

allotted to

no longer to act

men how

one's caste than

own

to fight

himself, but

He

to act.

of his relatives.

his

'Despair

'

It

is

ill

teach

other

better to derogate from

from one's

disappointment. against

to

thrust aside the objections

genius.'

'A

fortune

.

great .

.

He

silenced

soul

and the

loves battle

pleases him, independently of the victory.'

In May, 1745, he came up to Paris, and in a very humble lodging, where the Eue Larrey and


THE FBIENDS OF VOLTAIKE

108

now

Scliool of Medicine are

the

began

situated,

the world afresh.

Anyone who supposes

and

from his circumstances should consider the

book

one

the

life

not from himself,

of Vauvenargues,

which

with

come

his discontent to

he

and

enriched

has

humanity. Disappointed,

a failure

disfigured,

career he had loved,

for the

career he

had

tried

cast off

;

useless

;

incapable of the

by

his

own

people

solitary in a great city; often in pain of

;

body,

and because the work he had chosen was not the

work Nature had originally chosen for him, often in pain of mind too if ever man had an excuse for cursing God and fate, it was surely Luc de

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

Vauvenargues.

La Eochefoucauld,

still

and assailed

strike

himself,

the

it

with cold malignities which

despair into the soul;

and Voltaire

man

of letters in

most successful

history, turned at faith

and prosperous, with

and honour, had denied human

friends, position,

virtue,

rich

upon

life

with gibes, and sneered

and happiness as alike chimaeras.

But Vauvenargues looked out on the world which had given him nothing, with serene and patient eyes, and in a single book, as direct, strong,

and simple

as his

own

nature, evolved one of the

most wise and comforting, one of the most sane.


VAUVENAEGUES serene,

THE APHOEIST

:

and practical schemes of

life,

109

given to our

race.

The great I

?

questions.

Whence came

thoughtful

man

Why am

I

?

he asked

I?

Whither go himself

as

must, but being a doer long before

he was a thinker, he wasted

little

Among

seeking to answer them.

time in vainly-

his papers are a

Prayer as well as the Meditation.' For simple '

he had ever reverence and envy questions a deep respect

;

faith

solemn

for all

and though he had no

formulated religion, was yet deeply religious.

with him to be religious meant to this life aright,

a

and the next

Do Well.

But Live

will take care of itself.

The thought of death deceives us, it makes us one must live as if one would never die.' To waste time and energy in idle discussion and speculation on another world when there is so much to do to set this one straight, found no '

forget to live

:

countenance from this

man

of Deeds.

Do, not

dream, was his motto for ever.

There

is

not a page in his book

scarcely a line

—which

is

does not bear witness to

his strong faith in men's his passionate

— there

honour and goodness,

to

conviction that out of worst evil

one can get good, that the cruellest misfortunes ennoble and purify if one will let them, and our griefs

may be

for ever

our gains.

wrote was fevered with disease.

The hand that No rich man,


— THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

110

announcing glibly how comfortable

this,

In the most vicious of

poor.

the least vicious of

ages

that age's

Vauvenargues had preserved his lofty character,

all

and

his

be

to

it is

—and

in not

environments

high ideals and

and

in sickness, sorrow,

disappointment he practised daily the courage he preached. Instead of mockery

generation

men's

follies

this

—the

man, and

besetting sin of his

this

man

and absurdities only

alone,

infinite

had

for

compas-

Of him has been aptly quoted Bacon's beautiful phrase, he had an aspect as though he sion.

'

pitied men.'

His philosophy remains for ever to

balm and tonic hand of compassion on the burning head the touch of a friend, who knows the unquiet heart at once cool

— the fore-

—the

strong grasp of help to raise the feeble from his

weakness and despair, and to make him do what

he can.

Some speech,

of the axioms have

if

become part of men's

not part of their soul.

'

Great thoughts come from the heart.'

'

We

should comfort ourselves for not having

we comfort ourselves for not having fine positions; we can be above both by the heart.' 'Great men undertake great things because fine talents, as

they are great, and fools because they think them easy.'


— VAUVENARGUES 'Would you say

:

THE APHORIST

great

'

Who

'

Envy

'

Few

can bear is

first

false ones.'

can dare

all,

Then

things?

accustom yourself never to say

111

all.'

confessed inferiority.'

sorrows are without remedy

despair

is

more deceptive than hope.' Who gives his word lightly, breaks it.' He who has great feeling, knows much.' To the passions one owes the best things

of

:

'

'

'

the mind.'

Into that

snare of

mad

all his

devotion to wit which was the

compeers, Vauvenargues never

He worshipped

at the shrine of a diviner goddess

There

called Truth.

fell.

not a single example

is

even in his maxims, when the temptation would naturally be strongest

—of

his sacrificing fidelity

to smartness.

In February 1746, after he had been

less

than

a year in Paris, he published anonymously that

book by which he has gone down the ages and up to the gods, and which contains only the 'Introduction to the Knowledge of the Human Mind,' some ' Eeflections,' the ' Counsels to a

Man,' a few critical Faith,'

and the

'

Clear, clean,

and

articles, the

its

'Meditation on

Maxims.'

and vigorous in

brief as a military order

a friend that

Young

author

'

it

wanted

style,

as sharp

was well said by first

of

all to

get


'

THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

112

along quickly and drag

baggage

little

and better said by himself

that,

*

when an

not bear a simple form of expression, for rejecting It

it is

him

;

idea will the sign

it.'

was not the

sort of

present fame, or money.

As he worked ill

after

work

He

likely to bring

did not expect them.

in his miserable lodgings,

warmed, already a prey

suffering often acutely

him and

ill lit

and

to consumption,

from the old

frost-bites

—no

such hopes had buoyed him.

had

told other

sake

—and he

would

find,

men

to

do

But he did what he worked for the work's

found what he had told them they

joy in the working and satisfaction in

a noble aim, be

it

unrewarded

for ever.

The book dropped from the press perfectly Eeflections and moralities in the Paris

stillborn.

of 1746

to abuse

No

No, thank you.

!

it.

No

one even troubled

one, except Marmontel,

Yauvenargues' personal friend, reviewed Voltaire loudly pronounced

it

who was it.

But

one of the best books

The age ... is not worthy of you, but it has you, and I bless Nature. A year ago I said you were a great man, and you have be-

in the language

trayed

my

After Yauvenargues' death he

secret.'

wrote of him, age of

'

:

'

How

littleness ?

'

did you soar so high in this

and spoke of the

characteristic of a profoundly sincere ful

mind, wholly above

all

'

Maxims

'

as

and thought-

jealousies

and party


VAUVENAEGUES

113

For sixty years the book lay germinating

spirit.

hard and barren

in a

THE APHOEIST

:

soil,

unworthy of

and

it;

then rose fresh and strong from oblivion to the

and growing fame

just

been well said towards

'

it

enjoys to-day.

to give the soul of

has

It

man an impetus

truth.'

Though

his tastes, his poverty,

alike precluded

and

his health

Yauvenargues from joining

in the

and the salons during

socialities of the cafes

his

saw sometimes Marmontel and Marmontel was only a boy who had just started literary life

brief

life

in Paris, he

d'Argental, and often Voltaire. still

on a capital of taire

;

angel,'

six louis

and the patronage of Vol-

and d'Argental, Voltaire's dear

was the nephew

of

Madame

'

guardian

de Tencin, and,

Marmontel was plane of intellect and character

perhaps, the author of her novels.

on a very

different

from Vauvenargues

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;while

the

one was a lusty

boy beginning the world, the other was a patient But in those bare thinker who was leaving it. and dreary surroundings, in the disfigured invalid of whom men had never heard, even the commonplace cleverness of a Marmontel worshipped a hero.

Long years

after,

alterable serenity

he speaks of Vauvenargues' '

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; of

his brave

and tender

'

un-

heart.

With him one learnt to live and learnt to die.' As for Voltaire, one can picture him just elected to the French Academy, the proteg^ of

'


114

THE FRIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

Madame

de Pompadour, the

dearest

young Frederick the Great, and most astonishing dull room,

man

fast

friend

of

becoming the

in Europe, entering into the

full of liveliness

and animation,

and

ay,

too of real kindness and sympathy, while the

full

invalid sat

by the

fireside listening silently awhile,

and then striking across the Master's brilliant volubility with some quiet truth which he had long proved and pondered. That he found Volconversation a powerful stimulus to his

taire's

own mind, and

a very real delight,

is

not doubt-

There are few Yoltaires in the world, and

ful.

it

was one of Vauvenargues' misfortunes that, save Victor Mirabeau, he had known scarcely anyone

who was But

his intellectual equal.

if

Voltaire roused the mind, Vauvenargues

strengthened the soul.

After his death, Voltaire

wrote of him that he had always seen him

'

the

most unfortunate and the most tranquil of men.' It

was

this

lucky genius of an Arouet who brought

his fumings

over

and

this, his

tion of the

his impatience, his irritableness

chagrins about that, for the consola-

man

to

whose

been as a drop in the ocean.

sufferings his

seems the elder of the two, as certainly the wiser, as he

own had

Vauvenargues always it

were.

He was

as

was

certainly the far

when

those few friends

inferior genius.

What were

his thoughts


!

VAUVENAKGUES had

left

him?

THE APHORIST

:

115

on their testimony that he

It is

never uttered a complaining or a bitter word.

His writings contain not an angry

God and

rebellion against

people

who grumbled

only once, there a

moment

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

Fate.

It

perhaps

line

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;not

was the happy

always

it

in arms,

on

a striving against destiny.

is

In

of relaxation from bodily pain he wrote

my

dear Saint-Vincens

and I

am

here at

my

:

all

all

and to beg

your

Provence

is

He went

fireside.'

to offer his feeble help to the service

loved,

Once,

is.

to an intimate friend, 'I have need of affection,

one

he had

for the smallest post in his old

active career.

came realisation. He was too Only thirty-two, he saw life ill to be of any use. slipping from him, and leaving him at that fireside a wreck, only fit for the hulks. But he bore his dark hour unseen,' and troubled no man with his But

in a second

'

troubles.

His disease gained on him daily now. last

year he was too

to die bravely

by

ill

to write.

How

For the

far harder

inches, unable even to do one's

work, than to rush a smihng hero upon the swords in a glorious

by

disease,

men and it

moment

of exaltation, unweakened

and uplifted by the applause of

of one's

own

just

heart

Vauvenargues saw death coming slowly while was yet a great way off, and was not afraid.


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

116

No

saint this, beholding in fervid ecstasy the vision

come

of a world to

;

but a strong

man who had

done his best with the world he had, and had

unknown

written of that

hope.

'

My

born again

passions and thoughts die but to be

new

and the dissolution of others,

my

me

least

this ex-

against the decay

and

to think of

died.

The date was May one of the

to

body/

lived to do his duty

and thus he

Voltaire.

bed but

strength and freshness:

perience of death reassures

He had

my

every night I die on

:

take again

future only in patient

honourable in the

But from

and the period

28, 1747,

life

of his friend

sycophancy of Pope

his

and King, from a foul and noisy Court, from feverish bickerings with his

Madame du

and the coarse worldliness of

his old

Ch^telet,

Duchesse du

Maine, Yauvenargues' death recalled him to his truer his

self,

life.

and roused him to the

No

said, affected

real

work

other loss he ever suffered,

it

of is

him more profoundly.

If the fact that

Yauvenargues loved him bears

high testimony to the character of Yoltaire, the virtue of Yauvenargues, like the virtue of Addison,

may

well give

'

reputation to an age.'

Flippant and

and supremely

whom Duty was

false, at

silly,

the

once supremely clever eighteenth century, to

a mockery and

Wit was a god,


VAUVENAEGUES is

in

some

sort

and the high visionary

by

:

THE APHOEIST

redeemed by the brave, ideals

117

silent life,

he proved practical and not

fulfilling

himself,

of

this

soldier

aphorist.

While of

all

the Brothers of Progress, Yau-

venargues alone approached Truth as a suppliant,

and thus gained, face.

surely, the nearest vision of her


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

118

V

UHOLBACH: THE HOST In the most sociable

city, in

the most sociable

age in the history of the world, there

who stands out Kue Eoyale at

par

as the host

and

Paris

is

one

man

In the

excellence.

in his country house at

Grandval, near Charenton, Baron d'Holbach enter-

more than

tained for

celebrity of

all

thirty years the wit

nations.

and the

His name runs like a

thread through the English memoirs and letters of the mid-eighteenth century.

There was not a

Frenchman or a Frenchwoman of fame and fashion who had not dined at the Eue Eoyale on the immortal Thursdays and Sundays, or driven down from Paris to Grandval for a few days of a com-

pany and a conversation unequalled and, perhaps, unrivalled.

But All

the

He was taire,

it

not only or chiefly as the Host of

is

World the

'

that

maitre

banned and

d'Holbach

d' hotel

is

remarkable.

of philosophy.'

exiled, could

Vol-

only encourage


PAUL-HENRI-THIRY, BARON D'HOLBACH. Portrait in the Musee CoiuU, Cliantilhj.

From a


D'HOLBACH: THE HOST children

his

from lonely Cirey or

119

Geneva.

far

D'Holbach was here,

in the midst of them.

Comfortable,

liberal,

cultured,

the

freest

of

all free thinkers, and yet always in the smiling good favour of the authorities, not shy and retiring like d'Alembert, not wild and imprudent like

Diderot, without a profession to distract

him from

appointed metier^ with a well-stocked mind,

his

an enormous income, a

fine library,

a pretty wife,

a first-rate cook, and an admirable cellar

here was the

man

to bind us together

place, a first

and

to

common ground,

appHed only

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;why,

intended by Fate to be the link

make

where, in words to be

Head

to the

for us a meeting-

of our Party,

In very wantonness of childish mirth

We

puffed Bastilles,

and thrones, and shrines away,

Insulted Heaven, and liberated earth.

Was

it

for

good or

evil ?

Who

shall say ?

Paul-Henri-Thiry d'Holbach was born in 1723 at Heidelsheim, in the Palatinate.

His father, said

Jean Jacques Eousseau when he had quarrelled with the son, was a parvenu.

Another of Paul-

Henri's guests announced that his host was called

Baron because he was

'

of

German

origin,

had a

small estate in Westphalia, and an income of sixty

thousand

livres.*

Very

tainty of his family.

little is

known with

He was brought up

cer-

in Paris,


â&#x20AC;&#x201D; THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIKE

120

first

French of the French,

Parisian of the Parisians.

He seems to have visited

and was from the

Germany

as a very

young man, and

He made

to

have studied

bow to the literary world by translating German scientific works into French. At his death Grimm wrote natural science there.

in the

'

Literary Correspondence

his

that the rapid

'

made

progress natural history and chemistry had

France was largely owing to

for thirty years in

the Baron d'Holbach.

As a young man remained

all his

life

Baron was what he

the

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;a

compiler, an annotator,

a transcriber, rather than the possessor of any

Boy and man he

great original talent of his own.

had for

in perfection

human

quality

that gift which surely

makes

happiness more than any other single

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;a

devoted love of learning.

He was

always rich enough to buy the books and the leisure to gratify that love.

and

lived in an age

in the midst of brilliantly accomplished

and women.

He

He

A

did.

by no

He

should have found

life delightful.

serene, easy, generous nature, troubled

agitating ambitions, everything seems to have

fallen out

from the

desires.

For him,

Voltaire's

first

and

co-operators,

according to his modest

him alone among

for

the

path

knowledge flowered pleasantly others

men

all

to

light

the way.

and

The

look out eagerly from their portraits


D'EOLBACH: THE HOST

121

furrowed foreheads and burning eyes

and

—or

with

hke d'Alembert or Condorcet. Only the good Baron is seated at his ease in his pleasant, sumptuous garden, surveying life calmly

faces noble

and

sad,

leisurely.

In 1752 or

Which

things are a parable.

753,

when he was about

3

thirty

years old, he began writing articles for that Encyclopaedia

which

on almost

set

all its

other contri-

butors the ban of Government ill-favour.

Paul-Henri

Only

—writing

always judiciously under a

— gained

nothing but pleasure and ap-

pseudonym

probation from his excellent papers on mineralogy

and chemistry. friendships

with his

mortal book. wife.

He formed He

the happiest life-long

fellow-writers

that

in

im-

married a pretty and charming

She died, in August

Mademoiselle d'Aine.

1754, after a very brief married travelled abroad with

Grimm

life.

D'Holbach

for a while.

In 1755, he obtained a special dispensation

from the Pope, and married sister.

Mademoiselle

and began

his

deceased wife's

Charlotte-Suzanne

to live with her a life

d'Aine,

which presented

the very rare combination of perfect domestic con-

tentment and the most brilliant social success. In the very heart and core of Paris, Kue

Eoyale

hutte

Saint-Eoch,

the Baron held in his

town house what Eousseau bachique,'

Diderot

'

calls the

the synagogue

'club holof the

Eue


â&#x20AC;&#x201D; THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

122

Eoyale/ and Garat

the Institute of France before

'

Here, at two o'clock every Sun-

there was one.'

day and Thursday, unless the d'Holbachs were in the country, their friends were certain to find a free

and

affluent hospitality, the

of

society

foreigners

the

who

capital,

visited

as in the very

it,

the

most

intellectual

most distinguished

a host as liberal in idea

good cheer

which he made

to

his

guests welcome, and the most daring speculative

conversation of the eighteenth century. But, after

all,

that d'Holbach

was not

it

and

his friends

characteristic setting.

Eue Eoyale

in the

found their most

Grandval, near Charenton,

remains not only the most influential salon of the age, the great headquarters of a great party

arsenal in which were forged the

and the

armaments which

destroyed a king, a dynasty, and a state religion,

but also

the

country house of the period.

When Talleyrand, declared that life

much quoted phrase, no one knew how delightful a thing in that

could be unless he had belonged to the upper

classes before the Eevolution,

thinking of the

life at

There was a

fine

he might have been

Grandval in particular.

and charming

the most delightful of gardens.

chdteaii,

and

Grandval was just

near enough to Paris, and just far enough away

which

is

to say,

it

was absolute country, within

easy reach of town, in an age

when

the suburb


— — D'HOLBACH: THE HOST was

when the social drawbacks the word 'suburban' had no

not, or, at least,

comprehended d'Aine,

in

The

existence.

'

123

estate actually belonged to

d'Holbach's

lively as

mother-in-law,

any romp of

fifteen,'

Madame

who was

as

always thoroughly

enjoying herself, determined her guests should do

wisdom

the same, and with the rare to

it in their own way. Madame d'Holbach was

them

to leave

do

She played on the

ing.

pretty, gay,

lute,

adored her husband

and children, and hated philosophy. like to talk

it

— and

well,

by

live,

do as you

all

itself to

rules,

it

Live and

!

come what may

have been the Grandval bothered

If her guests

they are always talking

means, so they shall like

and charm-

let

— these would

if

it

had ever

have anything so tiresome as

rules.

The d'Holbach children were adorable or despatched to governesses and servants if they even threatened to become less than adorable.

were two

little

boys and a couple of

There

little girls,

the

elder 'as pretty as a cherub,' said Diderot, and

the younger

'

a ball of

fat, all

Then there was an ami de

pink and white.' la maison,

hold fixture, a chimney-corner habitue

man named Hope, and nicknamed a shrivelled, withered, pessimistic

a house-

— a Scotch-

Hoop person, who

Pere

'

sufiered, or said

he

suffered,

from

'

Ufe-weariness


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

124

and bad health, who was an excellent foil to what Sterne called the 'joyous sett' in which he found himself,

and the perpetual and dismally good-

natured butt of

Madame

The Baron had

d'Aine's rippling jokes.

He

the virtues of the host.

all

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

was not only rich and generous with that cook and cellar beyond reproach. In those days to be a perfect entertainer something more

An

than this was required. a

still

more agreeable

agreeable talker, and

listener, really learned,

with the most pleasing

human weakness

but

for

a

scandal, as easy-going as his mother-in-law

little

and

even

his wife, entirely simple in

faintest

manner, with no

touch of pretension or affectation, a hon

vivant in the pleasantest and most harmless sense

of the phrase

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;who

would not delight

been among his guests

to

have

?

There were generally three or four of them staying in the house, and sometimes very

more.

Diderot was here often for weeks together,

and sometimes

for months.

room always reserved

He had

for him.

most intimate confidence, dity,

many

and inspiration were

his

a special bed-

In d'Holbach's

abundance, fecun-

in piquant contrast to

the Baron's calm learning and well-regulated sense.

Here too came, but not very

often,

Diderot's

Too enjoy Grandval's freedom and

partner in the Encyclopaedia, d'Alembert.

shy and retiring to


D'HOLBACH liveliness as

his party

THE HOST

:

a recreation, d'Alembert's

was not

to

clever

company

and in

silence,

work

for

be advanced, as his brethren

certainly advanced their work, in

125

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;but

by

speculative talk

always in solitude, in

simplicity.

Turgot, like d'Alembert, was from time to time

Turgot was beginning to

a guest, but a rare one.

Do, what most of his friends were

How

still

discussing

to do.

Little Galiani

down very

skipped

often from

the Italian Embassy, and the Paris he worshipped,

amuse the Baron's house-party by telling it those stories, 'like dramas,' which no one ever found

to

too long.

head to him.

'

man

That

a pantomime from his

is

his feet,' said admiring Diderot, watching

Abb^

After 1761, the heavy

Morellet, the

would-be refuter of Galiani's wit on the Corn

Laws, was constantly at the Baron's

my

theories

satisfaction.

'

developing

to his

own

great

His audience have not

left

their

on public economy

'

on record. Grimm, Diderot's dear Damon, was here very

feelings

often,

with that slightly nauseous affection for the frankly vain Denis,

his Pythias, which, said

made d'Holbach

jealous.

be allowed to read

Grimm's times

'

jealous, one

may

disgusted.'

chere amie,

accompanied

For

Madame

him.

d'Epinay, some-

Her sister-in-law.


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

126

Madame

d'Houdetot, often drove

down

to

Grand-

val with her

superb Marquis de Saint-Lambert

in her train.

Pitted

deeply with the smallpox,

with a cast in her eye, and a

much

wine, the secret of

little

Madame

given to too d'Houdetot's

charm is hard to be found by this generation. But in that one, it was not only Eousseau who discovered

it

to his cost.

Saint-Lambert's

'

faith

him falsely true to her for so many years that it came to be considered quite praiseworthy, and he would have been admitted unfaithful kept

to

Madame

d'Houdetot's

constant

passion for

Madame du

Chatelet

Grandval as

lover,

if

his

'

and his poem on the Seasons had not given him the entree as a literary character as well. '

His

rival,

'

Jean Jacques Eousseau, was also an

habitue at d'Holbach's.

The peaceful Baron could

agree even with that fretful child of genius, until

one unlucky day, when, Grandval having suffered gladly and politely a cure's reading of his

own

stupid tragedy, Jean Jacques bounces furiously out of his armchair, seizes

author, and throws

it

to

the manuscript from

its

the groundâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; Do you not '

you ? Go back to The kindhest and politest of hosts tries to smooth the ruflBed plumage of both playwright and Eousseau. If the cure was appeased is not a matter of moment. Jean Jacques burst see these people are laughing at

your curacy.*


â&#x20AC;&#x201D; D'HOLBACH: THE HOST out of the house in a rage, and despite of

Grimm and

127

the efforts

all

of Diderot, as well as of d'Holbach

himself, never returned to his misfortunes

our doing

'He imagined

it. .

.

.

all

and thought we

had incited ... all Europe against him,' says Grimm. He did try, however, to make some amends to his good host by portraying him in the

'New

Eloisa' in the character of

benevolent,

'

and

active,

patient,

Wolmar

tranquil,

friendly,

trustful.'

Marmontel came here very often: and that dreadful,

Abbe Eaynal, be found seeking ideas among

garrulous old bore, the

was constantly

to

the Baron's guests for his 'History of the

Two

which received, and did not deserve, the

Indies,'

advertisement of burning.

The cautious Buffon soon edged away from this salon^ as he also edged away from the gatherings The monstrous things these people of Helvetius. talk about might come to the ears of the authorities accompanied by the fact that the politic author of the Natural History was among the talkers

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

'

'

!

Helvetius himself was

often at d'Holbach's, until

the storm of fury and hatred which assailed his

book On the Mind banished him, astounded and '

'

embittered, to his estates in Burgundy.

Madame

Geoffrin, with her

prim

httle

cap tied

under her firm old chin, drove down to play


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

128

picquet with the Baron and to scold Diderot for neglecting his wife.

was

It

partly

owing

to

the

influence

of

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;himself greatly bitten by the Anglomania creeping into fashionâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; that the Baron enter-

Diderot just

tained Englishmen so largely both in Paris and in

the country.

In the years 1762-64-66 Sterne accepted the

whom

hospitality of the host,

he called

who

protector of wits and the sqavans to so large

the great

are no wits,'

an extent that he could say the Baron's

house was as his own.

To be

sure, d'Holbach's

must have admirably suited

'joyous sett'

Parson

'

Yorick,

who had 'no

religion

but

appearance,' and a domestic morality very

than

better

worst of

the

the

this

in

little

Baron's French

convives.

The

'

broad, unmeaning face

'

of

Hume,

the

was sometimes to be seen at d'Holbach's where he found himself for the first time

historian, table,

with thinkers not too narrow, but too emancipated,

was the Baron who, speaking from experience, warned Hume against nourishing in his bosom a serpent like Eousseau, and from d'Holbach's house, says Hume's biographer, for his liking.

It

Burton, that the story of

between Prance

'

Hume and in a moment.*

the famous

Eousseau spread

quarrel all

over


D'HOLBACH: THE HOST

129

David Garrick came to Grandval, and delighted an age and a company passionately devoted to histrionic talent.

A sprightly

Madame Eiccoboni

used to write accounts of d'Holbach's society to

when he had gone back

the actor

to

England

;

and

whenever she saw the Baron looked bored or

made

worried,

that expression a text on which to

moralise on the worthlessness of riches.

The Baron did not often appear anything but placid, however, and there are very few of his guests

who even

hint at anything in himself or his

gatherings which was not smooth and delightful.

Horace Walpole, indeed, bach's.*

But then Horace was the intimate friend of

Madame du and

DefFand,

all their

at least

talks of 'dull d'Ol-

who

loathed

'

les

'

philosophes

ways and works, and on one occasion

was so unlucky

as to find himself at one

of the Baron's dinner parties, not only the solitary

Englishman out of a party of twelve, but next to 'I dreaded opening my that tedious Eaynal. French before so many people and so many servants,' says Horace and to avoid being bored by the Two Indies,' he made signs to Eaynal

mouth

in

;

'

that he

was

deaf.

After dinner, Eaynal discovered

the trick, and naturally was not pleased.

John Wilkes, with past,

and

his ugly face, his flaming

his irresistible charm, also sat at the

Baron's cosmopolitan board;

as

did Benjamin


THE FBIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

130

Franklin, Lord

—Non-

and Priestley

Shelburne,

conformist, chemist,

and one of the founders

modern scientific criticism. Some of these people, of

ot

course, only dined,

or were merely invited to spend a long day in

but many

the Grandval grounds and gardens;

became part of the house party for days, Galiani, for weeks, like Grimm, for months,

like like

Diderot, or for ever, like Father Hoop.

In the forenoon, the guests were

left entirely

own devices, and unless by special arrange-

to their

ment, never met each other or their host until dinner-time at half-past one or

them had arrived with a pockets or, it might be, up

chef-d'oeuvre in

their sleeves.

in the pleasant solitude of these

Galiani,

no doubt, was

'

Some of

two.

their

Here,

morning hours,

settling the question of the

Corn Laws,' Grimm engrossed with

his

'

Literary

Hoop arranging his pessimism into a regular system. (Madame d'Aine had thoughtfully provided Hoop with a bedroom Correspondence,' and

overlooking the moat, so that he could at any

moment put himself into

his principles into practice it.)

and throw

Diderot, beside his open

and with the solace of a cup of

tea,

windows

wrote for

Mademoiselle Volland those descriptions of

Grandval to which

As

for the

all

Baron

narrators of

—the

it

life

at

are indebted.

Baron always seemed


D'HOLBACH: THE HOST to

131

have plenty to do in that magnificent

where he could invariably for the

and verse

find chapter

maddest of Diderot's

theories,

library,

but where

known

the actual nature of his occupation was

only to Diderot himself, to a certain very useful friend called Naigeon, who, having been painter

and

sculptor,

pher, and to

had

finally settled into

La Grange,

a philoso-

the d'Holbach children's

tutor. It is charitable to

also

performed

since

it

is

their

certain

other time of day.

women

suppose that the duties

the

in

they performed

But

morning,

none at any

in this age, if a

woman

was witty and charming, her metier was considered to be fulfilled, and she not only did nothing practical for the good of humanity, but, better

still,

never even

something.

felt

she ought to be doing

Madame d'Holbach had

her lute and

her embroidery frame, the kindest of clever husbands, those engaging babies, and a perpetual

What more could be expected of Of Madame d'Aine, it is not recorded

house party. her

?

that she

had any other

role

than that of adding to

the gaiety of her household.

At about half-past one, then, the work of the day was done, and hosts and guests met in the salon,

and went

exquisitely

in to dinner

arranged

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;the

famous dinner,

and appointed;

servants K 2


â&#x20AC;&#x201D; THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

132

and perfectly au fait in their the most delicate wines, and the most

numerous, duties

;

noiseless,

A

irreproachable of chefs.

couple of Englishmen,

men and women

perhaps, and half a dozen French

had driven down

to

it

from Paris.

There were

generally from twelve to fifteen persons at table,

and sometimes more. Good as the fare was much too good for the health of some of the diners

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the only intoxication '

at this table

'

'

was

of ideas.' talk ranged

from the history and customs

of the Chinese to

the final annihilation of the

The

human lowe,'

race.

Sometimes

it

on

lit

and the company divided

'

Clarissa Har-

itself into

For and

Against Sentiment as understood by the bookseller Eichardson.

Occasionally the meal was given up to

buffoonery, and

Madame

d'Aine led the

jokes of such a character that scientious in declaring in his

if '

way with

Morellet

Memoirs

'

is

con-

that all

freedoms, except freedoms as to speculation, were

banished from d'Holbach's gatherings, he must certainly have been deaf.

One day, a

the round of the Paris

cafes,

story going

holds the table

The Baron, says Grimm, amusingly credulous of gossip as he was

curious and laughing.

was as

sceptical of everything else.

question of ton or of mode of literature.

;

Another day,

and a

it is

a

third, of art or


— '

D'HOLBACH: THE HOST

133

There was scarcely one of d'Holbach's convives there was not one of Voltaire's co-operators

who

did not contribute, at one time or another,

Book of

a masterpiece, or at least a

the

Moment,

for d'Holbach's table to discuss.

In 1755,

the famous article on ' Existence

it is

in the Encyclopaedia,

by young Turgot, our

*

shy,

which brings the heads of the older Encyclopaedists together over the walnuts and the wine, and inspires them with prophecies of a great rare guest,

future for

itself

its

Three or four years

quiet author.

great suppression of that Encyclopaedia

later, the

inflames the passions

of the party, goads

Diderot to fury, and d'Alembert to despair.

In 1759, the

'

Candide of the Master

of

our

impossible,

sets the

'

table in a roar of delight.

'

The

Social Contract

impassioned

Jean

Jacques

sounds for us, in 1762, the trumpet-note of battle in that sonorous free,

and

is

opening sentence

everywhere in

:

'

Man

chains.'

is

born

The next

year, the guests give their ever-generous admiration to a far wiser

—one

work

of the mightiest

weapons ever forged against the greatest of human curses The Treatise on Tolerance.' In 1765, d'Alembert comes out of his shell again with his '

'

'

'

History of the Destruction of the Jesuits

Diderot

neck

is

for ever finger

in ideas.

deep in ink

;

'

—up

while to the


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

134

Only, at the head of the table, d'Holbach, host

and president, always applauding, encouraging, (and sometimes

Yet

himself produces nothing.

he does not go, as

left

is

it

producers,

not because

He

were, with his guests.

it

goes far beyond them.

party

the

financing)

also

women

Here, the

the table after dinner as

of the

they do in

England, to exchange what Diderot called their

Then the conversation took, not the kind of freedoms which Morellet declared 'little

confidences.'

he did not hear, but speculative

liberties

which, said

would have brought down thunderbolts on the house a hundred times if they ever fell for that.'

he,

'

At d'Holbach's

table,

with d'Holbach pushing,

urging, with a quiet, invincible persistence, with

Diderot waving the citing,

the

holbachique'

'club

dogma, every

leading,

flag,

so-called

tribunal of their

own

that failed to satisfy

it,

dragged

in-

every

of existence, every

fact

court before them

creed, into

pleading,

;

judged by the

reason, and cast

away

all

as fagots for the burning.

Grandval did not speculate, as did Voltaire and his guests at Ferney,

the nature of the off:

asked not.

not,

What

is

on the attributes of God and

Soul.

What

the Soul

for

began where he

is

God ?

?

but.

in each case answered.

Gagged

It

but. Is there a

Have we a Soul

left

God ? ?

and

No.

hundreds of years, Grandval used


D'HOLBACH: THE HOST

18§

the newly seized freedom of thought and speech as

mob

a very Httle later the political

liberty.

used

its

social

and

The bloody extremes of the

Terror, and the speculative

extremes of d'Hol-

bach's table, were alike the result of long slavery

and repression. That d'Holbach

at

least

was strongly and

honestly persuaded of the truth of his

own unbelief,

and was convinced that he did well

to destroy in

men

those faiths which, looking back on history,

he saw were responsible for the intolerable miseries of religious persecution,

is

bach was an honest man.

not doubtful.

D'Hol-

It is true, indeed, that

he was not one of the highest intellectual capacity. His seems to have been just the kind of clever

—much men—which

more common among women than is the dupe of its own cleverness, and easily led by it into absurdities which both wise people, and very simple ones, detect and avoid.

mind

Set the problem of deriving Everything from

Nothing,

it

is

not marvellous that the Grandval

talkers descended sometimes to the wildest nonsense.

Horace Walpole said acidly that they soon

turned his head with a new system of antediluvian deluges which they have invented to prove the '

eternity

of matter.

I prefer the Jesuits.'

.

.

.

Nonsense

No wonder

for

poor

nonsense,

little

GaUani

(he was an Abbe, though he very often forgot

it)


THE FRIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

136

more circumspect gatherings of Madame Geoffrin, that the wise Turgot also turned away from Grandval, and d'Alembert drew back from an atheism so positive and arrogant.

fled to the

By it

was

the time the philosophers joined the four, five, or even six o'clock.

some hours

to construct

Man and

women

It does take

the Universe

of Chaos, with nothing but blind Force to

out

help us

Then came

!

for

the host himself, and

some few of the other men of the party, a walk in the beautiful gardens. Most of the Baron's however, sat indoors with the women,

guests,

Nature and exercise being both greatly out of fashion in the eighteenth century.

When drawing

the walkers returned

in,

and there were

lights

the evening

was

and cards on the

Some of the guests rested on long chairs. Some played picquet, some billiards, some tric-trac. Some visited their host's picture gallery or his

table.

He was himself cheerful. He loved to

famous cabinet of natural history. always pleasant, courteous,

mummy,'

as he called Father Hoop, and, perhaps, other Fathers, certain Jesuit

rally gently

priests,

'

the old

whom,

in defiance of all his

he generously made Old

Madame

company with her fectly

own

principles,

free of his house.

d'Aine

entertained

the whole

perfectly indecorous

good-natured

wit.

Madame

and per-

d'Holbach,


â&#x20AC;&#x201D; D'HOLBACH: THE HOST always

douce

'

honnete,'

et

'

187

aimable/ and

tres

exquisitely

dressed (the description

d'Epinay's),

accepted her mother's

Madame

is

buffooneries

with absolute complacency. Coarse as this society was in

worse as

was

it

than the worst in

one

social

respect

at

Except

superior.

speech

its

in its easy condonation of vice

least

for

game proposed by

was

it

an

their

own day

of our

sets

immeasurably

occasional desultory hosts,

the

guests at

Grandval were expected to bring, and did bring, their

own

entertainment with them in their

To be bored would have been

heads.

own

to confess

For the costly freaks of amuse-

oneself stupid.

ment, the elaborately idiotic devices of modern times to prevent the visitor having to

an instant on

his

own

Grandval had no need.

fall

back

for

resources or inteUigence, If materialism

was

its

creed, there was, as has been justly said, a great

deal of

'

indirect spiritualism

'

in its practice.

lengthy dinners were feasts of reason those intellectual costly meats

extravagances)

and wines, and the

were only interludes fruitful

the

talk

on

(in spite

new world beginning

of

well as of

flavoured jests

in the midst of brilliant

literature,

history, politics,

and and

for France.

Supper came about nine champagne,' Diderot

as

ill-

Its

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; 'wit,

described

it.

gaiety,

and

Then more


;

THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

138

conversation, until sometimes the party were

ardently philosophising with their

still

bedroom candle-

sticks in their hands.

When

d'Holbach had been entertaining, ap-

parently without a break, for at least ten years, he

took what seemed to his friends the foolhardy, not to say desperate, resolve of crossing the Channel.

To bury himself

in

what Diderot

of England' for two thing, the

men

is

'

the depths

a very different

Baron will find, from entertaining English-

(and those quite the most enlightened of their

species) in Paris

delighted

He

!

and pleased even

did find

it so.

If

England

soothed wounded Helvetius,

Voltaire,

critical

disgusted d'Holbach. first

months

called

Grimm, she thoroughly

He gave

Diderot his vivid

impressions of her, and Diderot retailed them,

red-hot, for Sophie

VoUand and

for posterity.

The Baron was hospitably received and entertained in this island by a rich and generous host, whose name has not transpired he had the best of ;

health during his

visit,

and he paid that

visit in

August, when even the British climate can be very

had the pleasure of calling on his he went to Oxford and Cambridge some of the prettiest English counties,

tolerable; he

guest, Garrick travelled in

;

and he was bored

Our

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;to extinction. bad manners he found worse ever found them before, and

confessedly

than anyone had


D'HOLBACH: THE HOST was dreadfully disgusted faces

with, people

'on whose

one never sees friendliness, confidence, or

gaiety, but is

139

there in

which

all

inscription, "

common between you and me ?

aristocracy struck

common

wear the

him

as cold

'

where people

The

'

and haughty, the

As

people as rough and violent.

dinner parties,

What

"

sit

for the

according to their

rank, and formality and ceremony are beside each guest,' after the gracious ease of Grandval, the

may be

forgiven for finding

them

This people Then the public entertainments sad and melancholy, especially in places built :

is

Baron

intolerable. '

You can hear a pin drop. A hunand silent women promenade round

for pleasure.

dred

an

stiff

discoursing

orchestra

the

most

delicious

and the promenade can only be compared the processions of the Egyptians round the

music,' to

'

mausoleum of Osiris.' Then the gambling: credible sums in perfect have exhausted

Ennui

.

.

.

silence.

By

lose in-

thirty they

the pleasures, even beneficence.

conducts them to the Thames, unless

they prefer a

At

all

'Englishmen

pistol.'

the universities, the good Baron found

many

rich do-nothings drinking and sleeping half the day;' at Court, corruption; among the people,

'

no public education and great inequality of riches. The King, to be sure, was powerful chiefly to do


THE FRIENDS OP VOLTAIRE

140

good, but

he was much the master.

still

With

regard to religion, 'the Christian religion,' said the Baron, 'is almost extinct in England/

This

was an advantage from his point of view. But then, though there were innumerable Deists, like Hume, there was not an atheist, or not an avowed one.

The

travelling

he praised

facilities

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;there

were always post-horses in plenty; and meals at inns, he found himself

but with no

now and But, in

the

served promptly,

again the Baron has us on the hip. after

England:

back

at

must be owned that

It

affability.'

'

all, it

there

made one

so

Paris about August 1, 1765,

by September

He

20.

very

great good

delighted

D'Holbach,

France.

to

was

to

get

who had

left

had returned there

dined that same evening

with his dear Diderot and a whole colony of English,

'

who had

morgue and sadness

left their

on the banks of the Thames.'

Two

years after his return, there appeared,

not only to the horror of Court, Church, and

Government, but to the horror of the philosophers also,

a book called

Examination

of

'

the

Christianity Unveiled, or an

Principles

and

Effects of

Eevealed Eeligion.' It

purported to be by a person called Boulanger.

It asserted Christianity to

be unnecessary for the

maintenance of law and order

;

declared

its

dogmas


;

D'HOLBACH: THE HOST incoherent,

its

and

fanatics,

and

disastrous.

and

fit

only to

its political

make

enthusiasts

results infinitely fatal

upon the thing tooth and nail. Impiety Unveiled,' he called it. It was not ChrisVoltaire

'

morals

Ul

tianity,

fell

but the perversions of Christianity, with

which he quarrelled.

In the margin of his

copy of the book he wrote That

as they are brief.

condemned

was both discussed and

d'Holbach's table,

at

Galiani

certain.

it

own

criticisms as scathing

is

practically

at least professed Christianity;

Turgot practised

—there board— who,

There are many men

it.

were some even round d'Holbach's having themselves relinquished a

faith, are yet

greatly averse to hearing that faith blasphemed

and who would

fain leave for the souls of others

the consolations their reason denies to their own.

D'Holbach, to be sure, would commend the thing. '

A

proselytising atheist,' as his friends

known him to be effort to make men

he must approve

had long

this daring

think as he did.

Soon came talk of other books from the same hand it might be certainly from a hand as bold.

In 1767 appeared a pamphlet called The Mind of the '

;

1768 Priests Unmasked,' and Portable Theology.' The last was condemned to be burnt. Then came whispers of yet another work on. the Clergy

same

'

in

lines,

'

'

but on a far larger scale, written with an


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

142

even greater daring, with

'

the zeal of a missionary

for atheism,' with a passion, a fanaticism, an enthu-

siasm, usually associated with the teer

'

of

some narrow

sect

;

'

heated pulpi-

and yet having

in

it,

too,

something of the serenity, the calm and confident faith

wholly

the believer

of

Who

belief.

satisfied

AM.

has written it?

with his

Mirabaud,

Perpetual Secretary to the French Academy,

on the

is

to

But the

be the name,

it is

real author

Diderot, whose Encyclopaedic labours

?

said,

bring him in touch with Paris,

the literary

men

in

impulsively positive that he has not the

is

slightest

factotum

all

title-page.

Naigeon

idea.

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

is

the

the

Baron's

abroad on some business of the Baron's to.

Most of the company

book unseen.

The extremists of the

and cannot be appealed

condemn

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;Naigeon,

party are always the worst enemies the party has to dread.

glass

At the head of

the Baron,

thoughtfully,

volent, leisurely air,

custom in saying

his table, fingering his

is

little

with his bene-

only following his usual

and listening much.

In August 1770, there was published in London

and Amsterdam

The System of Nature, or The Laws of the Physical and Moral World,' by Mirabaud, Perpetual Secretary to the French Academy. The best kept literary secret in history is the authorship of

'

the

remains a secret

'

still.

Letters

of Junius,' for that

But the Baron d'Holbach's


D'HOLBAGH: THE HOST authorship of

'

The System of Nature

'

among the most piquant concealments

He had begun by criticisms,

143

mostly adverse, on his

certainly

in literature.

and

sitting

is

listening to '

Christianity

Unveiled' and the pamphlets which followed

which were

all

Many

from his pen.

it,

people start

a literary career under as thick a veil of anonymity.

A

few have died

still

under the disguise.

But no

book has ever attracted such howls of rage and imprecation, such a storm of universal loathing

and opprobrium while

its

author sat in perfect peace and comfort,

beloved by serene.

'The System of Nature,'

as did

all his fellows, safe,

D'Holbach, said

Grimm

unsuspected, and

long

when

after,

d'Holbach was dead and the secret out, never ran

any danger from

his

books, save the danger of

being bored by them. Naigeon, confidence.

La Grange, and Diderot were Diderot was more than in

most of the Baron's works System of Nature'

and

fire

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;he

of his genius.

suspect of

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

in his

it.

certainly to

'

To The

some of the colour Poor Diderot was always lent

anything rash

and extreme.

'The

System of Nature' was published quite early in August.

On

the 10th of that month, Denis

slipped off to Langres

and the baths of Bour-

The Baron went on having dinner parties. On the 18th, the book was condemned to be burnt.

bonne.


THE FRIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

144

The Baron continued

men read

it,

to a roar

it

secretly from one to the

of horror and hatred swelled

the roar of the great multitude, always

and

deafening heard,

and passed

murmurs

other, the

went on dining

From nature

'

it

'

God

against

'

;

it

God

'

and

against

sin

had wrought irreparable harm it

a letter to the

in

'

;

to

in his article

in the Philosophical Dictionary

Eichelieu, that famous confession

while

;

Due de

/ think

it

very

to sustain the doctrine of the existence of a

punishing and rewarding of this opinion.' to be

a

'

passionately refuted

wrung from him,

good

He

friends.

accompaniment.

to that

swore

philosophy

on

bitter

Ferney, Voltaire pronounced the work

a philippic ;

d'Holbach

it,

and scathing, the

distinct,

close,

Above

terrible.

condemnations of his own guests and

'

Then, as

to dine in peace.

'

the

God

:

society has need

Galiani declared

Abbe

'

Mirabaud

this

Terrai of metaphysics

:

'

he causes

the bankruptcy of knowledge, of happiness, and

of the

human

infamous

from

it

as

La Harpe Young Goethe

mind.'

book.'

from a spectre.

It

called

it

said

he

'this fled

caused Frederick

the Great to break with the philosophic party.

Grimm, indeed but this was after d'Holbach's death, when it was no longer dangerous to hold such opinions intentions,

—praised

the purity of

its

author's

and the passages of 'imposing

elo-


D'HOLBACH: THE HOST

145

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

book contained though these, he added, Grimm-hke, were by Diderot.' Who reads The System of Nature now ? It never was in any sense a great book. But it certainly was one of the three or four most famous books of an age richer in them than any other age quence

the

'

'

'

in history.

It

*

was, after

simply the logical

all,

outcome, the natural, though the extreme result of the rationalistic criticism of the

years which preceded

fifty

or sixty

The philosophers had

it.

sought to define God. D'Holbach said aloud, what the fool of David's time said in his heart, There is no God.' '

In Part

I.

he disposed of Kings as

Then he

luxurious, war-making, and tyrannical.

expounded

his

efiete,

Men

views on Happiness.

will

never be happy

till

they are enlightened, and

never enlightened

till

they have ceased to believe

in a

Study Nature, and obey Nature's laws

God.

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; that

the

is

way

to

felicity,

way there be. Mind is Matter.

if

Then he went on to Mind. All Of Free Will he denied the existence,

as twelve

years earlier his friend Helvetius had denied his

book

'

On

the Mind.'

Still,

even

if

it

in

one cannot

help one's wrong-doing, punishments there must be, for the

good of society

;

only such punish-

ments should be reformative and never his protest against torture

and the

cruel.

In

brutahsing

L


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

146

public executions, one sees for a

effect of

the

man behind

With regard

the book.

Immortality of the Soul, since there thing as soul,

doctrine of Hell

from

is

useless even

as

contains

II.

what

a

false

deterrent

God

to

be found in

the Existence

That there

literature.

He who

a Force behind Matter, I admit.

not admit

this,

must be a madman.

I will not go. belief in a Deity

own

right as his his

As

at

all.

is

does

But further

depending on a

for morality

窶馬ot

most

certainly the

is

burning and outspoken attack on

do

The

sin.

Part

of

to the

no such

is

cannot be immortal.

it

moment

Nature bids

man do

Let each try to

best interest.

utmost for the greatest good of the greatest

number, and there stands established a high and an unselfish

ideal.

Preached, as these doctrines were, in a style

vehement and abundant, with much Teutonic pomposity and rhetoric, it could soon

not a

little

be said of d'Holbach that he had

'

atheism to chambermaids and to

More learned

critics disliked his

as his matter.

the book,'

says

accommodated hairdressers.'

manner

as

much

'Four times too many words in Voltaire

acidly.

But the un-

educated, or the half-educated, prefer both their oratory and their literature rich and fruity.

Simple and learned alike would, or should,


D'HOLBACH: THE HOST

147

had they known him, have given the author credit for the certain fact that no sordid end, no '

personal consideration, attached him to his dismal system.'

danger,

anonymity shielded him from kept from him fame and celebrity too,

If his it

and gave him the wholesome, but not soothing, experience of hearing expressed to his face cisms of the kind generally only

He

one's back. glories of

as his,

;

and had money been an

by the publication of such works

he can only have

Long

made behind

did not gain even the painful

martyrdom

object to him,

criti-

before

the

lost

it.

tumult

'

The

System

of

had passed away, the Baron was busy supplementing it. In 1772 appeared Good Nature

'

raised

'

Sense, or Natural Ideas opposed to Supernatural Ideas,'

which was a

sort of simplification of

'

The

Then appeared It was burnt. The Social System,' which tried to establish a rule

System of Nature.' '

of morality totally unfounded on religion.

was burnt

too.

Then there was

That

a translation from

Hobbes. The last, or one of the last, of d'Holbach's pubHshed works was entitled Universal Morality, or the Duties of Man founded on his Nature.' This appeared in 1776. He had the pleasure of '

watching

all

the bonfires from a distance where

there was not the least danger of scorching.

In 1781 one of his daughters was married. L 2


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

148

Her

father

was now

fifty-eight years

Did

old.

philosophy, as Galiani inquired (Galiani had re-

turned to Italy in 1769),

with

old appetite

its

caustic fashion

Grimm

?

eat at his table

still

—that the guests

said

his

had gone before

of

solve

that, to

In 1771 died Helvetius

;

In 1783, d'Alembert,

taire himself.

the

for

existence of the soul, which they so often.

somewhat

his expenses to

on a future world,

questions

those

Some

children.

Grimm's

in

fell off

when the Baron had to retrench establish

convives

themselves

and

the

had discussed in

1778 Vol-

who had

in-

deed long ceased to frequent the Baron's society, or any society, laid

down

the burden of his

life.

In the next year, Diderot, the friend of his heart, the fruitful inspiration of his work, was

away from d'Holbach's It is

side for ever.

must have been with

with

all

this

society, as

societies at last: the sight of

chairs stops the mirth, glide others, dear

called

and among

and dead.

it

vacant

the living guests

When

one has more

memories than hopes, the time has come to give

up such the

That time came even to

gatherings.

Host of

his generation.

By

his

own

he had to the end the wife he loved. survived him.

He

had,

even disposition which assets

—a

is

fireside

She long

too, that tranquil

and

surely one of the best of

possession indeed.


;'

D'HOLBACH: THE HOST

149

The Baron was as prudent in the time of his death as he had been in the conduct of his life.

He

died on January 21 of that annus mirahilis,

Five years more, and he would have seen

1789. his

own

principles enthroned with the Goddess of

Eeason

at

Kotre-Dame, and

as, in

part at least,

the consequence of her reign, the streets of Paris

running with blood.

Directly after his death, the

secret of his authorship

became public property.

It is permissible only

now life

at

as his guests

窶馬ot

all,

as the author of

but as the

to think of

d'Holbach

and friends thought of him '

in

The System of Nature

liberal patron of letters, the best

and kindliest of good, easy men.

One may be

permitted to hate as bitterly as Voltaire did the unreasonableness of his philosophy of pure reason

and yet

to regard the philosopher with gratitude

and appreciation,

as the

man who

played in the

great intellectual revival of his time

one of the

homeliest, yet one of the most necessary of parts.

For d'Holbach provided the

rendez-vous.


;

THE FRIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

150

VI

GRIMM: THE JOURNALIST The

great Encyclopaedia of Diderot and d'Alembert

was

to bring light to the people

Correspondence

'

who knew

man whose shrewd great

man

'

Literary-

to bring

that they were preparing

Literary Correspondence

lived to see

the

Grimm was

mighty changes, but who did not the

;

The Encyclopsedia was the con-

light to kings.

ception of those

of Melchior

'

'

them was the work of a live to see

eyes foresaw

little,

The Encyclopaedia

all.

is

but

dead, as a

having finished his work.

dies,

'Correspondence'

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;which

who The

could not cure those

royal maladies, blindness, ignorance, and hardness of heart

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

still

lives a

gay

little

life

as the

most

perfect contemporary record of any literary epoch in history.

In 1753, the

sensibilities of sentimental Paris

were most agreeably touched by the pathetic story of a young gentleman who, having had his suit rejected

by a charming opera-dancer, Mademoiselle


FREDERIC-MELCHIOR GRIMM. From an Engraving, after Carmontelle, in the Natianale, Paris.

Bibliothdque


GRIMM: THE JOUENALIST Fel, straightway

161

took to his bed and to a trance in

which he passed whole nights and days, speaking, hearing, or answering, as

if

'

without

he were dead.'

The Abb6 Eaynal and Jean Jacques Eousseau constituted themselves his nurses. They were both too romantic, and too much the children of their time, to try the common-sense expedient of leaving the rejected lover severely alone, or of

throwing a bucket of cold water over him.

when Eousseau saw a as

he

left

harden a

up

ing

his

doctor's face

the patient's room, his heart began to

And, sure enough, one

little.

gets

the invalid,

ordinary course tions

on the

smile

But

malady

of

life

to his

dresses,

fine

morn-

resumes

his

and never again mennurses

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; even

to

thank

them. Frederic Melchior sentimental

fool.

He

Grimm ^

was,

was, however, no

indeed,

one of the

most keen-witted of his great nation, though, like

many

other children of the Fatherland, he had

on the surface of

his worldly

of Teutonic sentimentality. the

wisdom a

fine layer

If the Briton finds

sentiment mawkish, not so the Frenchman.

Grimm's extraordinary disease became

his pass-

port into the most exclusive circles in Paris.

Born

at

Eatisbon on September 26, 1723, with

a poor Lutheran pastor for a father, he had always

known

that he

must make

his

own way

in

life,

and


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

152

had always made continued

the

friendship

When

he was

wrote a play,

was a '

On

and astute

he

find

leaving Leipzig he went to live in

the Schombergs'

tutor to his

friend's

Frederick the Great had already

Grimm heard

soon learnt to speak

and read

opportunity of his

to Paris,

of

left,

critic to

the French language the fashion

first

he

Banise,' which, before

'

younger brother.

the

University

the

a student there, he

still

sufficiently just

pitiable.'

at

the Schombergs' house, as

made

useful

one of Baron Schomberg's sons, and

friend in

Leipzig.

At school he found a

it.

life

and remained there

and

nothing

it. ;

;

as at

else,

he

In 1748 came

he took his pupil the

after

boy had

returned to his family.

To say always idiom.

fell

He

that

on

Grimm throughout his feet,

always

fell

on

his existence

would be a misleading

The moment

his head.

he found himself thrown into a new stances, his

calm judgment

skilfully

to the very best advantage.

At

twenty-five years old, rather

set of

arranged them

this

tall

circum-

time he was

and imposing

dandy in his dress (his enemies declared that he powdered his face and scented himself like a woman), with very little money in hand, no prospects, and a retrospect of

looking, something of a

that dismal failure ling

tutorship.'

'

Banise,'

and that

'

thin travel-

In a very short time he got


;

GEIMM: THE JOUENALIST himself appointed as reader to the

153

Duke

of Saxe-

was thin enough here too but the Duke was a great person, and the Duchess was the friend and the correspondent of Voltaire,

The

Gotha.

and

salary

to be, for the rest of her

life,

the friend and

Grimm

correspondent of Melchior

as well.

He

was not long in finding a situation much more lucrative and responsible. In 1749, he became secretary, guide, and friend to a certain dissipated young dog of a Comte de Frise, or Frisen, who was always borrowing

money

of his famous uncle, Marshal Saxe, and

certainly needed a prudent

Grimm

to look after

him. If

Grimm was

because honesty

is

only,

or principally, honest

the best policy,

if

he did his

duty because in the long run duty is the surest road to happiness, yet the facts remain that he did act uprightly, and that he had settled principles,

a

course of conduct and a strong

strict

line of action, in

an age when no motives, good,

bad, or indifferent, produced such happy results in his friends.

Beneath that veneer of German emotionalism he was, perhaps, something cold and selfish, stern and reserved. But if he was never ardent, he was always faithful just.

He

;

if

he was not generous, he was

occupied in his

life

many

positions of


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIKE

154

came out of

great trust and responsibility, and

them

all

with honour.

One can love a Diderot,

but one must needs respect a Grimm.

He had

plenty of

work

to

do in

Besides

Paris.

the impossible task of keeping Frisen in order, he

had

his

own way and

friends to cultivate.

fortune to

make and

his

own

His passion for Mademoiselle

Pel was not his only introduction to Parisian society.

Jean Jacques Eousseau (then a copying

music

for

his

pauper

brilliant

support

and

dreaming

masterpieces of which he had not yet written a line)

introduced him to d'Holbach and to

He

Madame

became fast friends with Madame GeofFrin (to whose tranquil commonsense his judicious and well-ordered mind particularly appealed), with Helvetius, and with Marmontel he began a life-long friendship with Diderot, and once a week at Frisen's house, in the Faubourg St. Honore, he gave the most delightful d'fipinay.

soon

;

bachelor dinner to his friends, played exquisitely

on the clavecin

for their benefit, took their

amuse-

ment at his German-French in perfectly good part, and was entirely witty and agreeable, while keeping always a certain reserve and remaining entirely

master of the situation. In a very short time the poor

German

tutor

was one of the most sought after persons in Paris, feted and petted by all the great people, and minded


GEIMM: THE JOUKNALIST to live

his

no longer

own head and

165

as bear-leader to boys, but

by

pen.

His taste for music gave him a golden opportunity.

Shall

we have French music was

at the opera,

on the had been one of religion. The French side had all the money, the fashion, and the women, and the Italian or Italian?

Paris

as hotly divided

question, said Eousseau, as

if

the affair

side a very little party of real connoisseurs.

Grimm

joined the Italians and wrote on their behalf, in

1753, a pamphlet called

The

'

Prophet

Little

Boehmischbroda,' in which the style

is

of

profanely

imitated from the prophets of the Old Testament.

As Madame de Pompadour was on the French side, which she protected by force and by summarily dismissing the Italian singers

pamphlet did no harm

made Grimm famous.

how

We

this

have

And

this

spot,

to

it,

it

and asked

have more wit than

Bohemian, having made so

successful a literary venture in a small part,

looked round

the

French music; but

to

Voltaire read

Bohemian dares ?

on the

now

with his clever eyes for a larger one.

In 1754, he travelled for a time with d'Holbach,

who had

and in the following Grimm's guardianship had not

just lost his wife

year Frisen,

whom

;

been able to save from the fatal consequences of his depravity, died, and left his mentor a free

man.


THE FEIENDS OP VOLTAIBE

156

In 1755 he began what was to be the work of his Kfe

and

is

his true title to glory, the

'

Literary

Correspondence.'

The idea of communicating of Europe by letter, news of the and philosophy of cultivation,

to the sovereigns literature, science,

Paris, that centre of the world's

was not a new one.

In limiting the

freedom of the press, sovereigns had limited their

own

freedom.

Newspapers were

official bulletins,

not daring to utter unacceptable truths or unpalatable opinions on any truths. as their subjects,

kind.

yawned over journals of

this

So King Frederick the Great originated the

idea of paying an intelligent

him

Kings, as well

direct the

Theriot,

man

in Paris to write

news and the gossip of the

Voltaire's

friend,

filled

capital.

the post

very

unsuccessfully, and Frederick complained bitterly that Theriot never

had a cold

scribbling four pages of

in his

head without

rodomontade

La Harpe occupied

to tell

him

same position to the Czarevitch Paul, and Suard and the Abbe Eaynal, Grimm's nurse and friend, to the Duchess about

it.

the

of Saxe-Gotha.

The idea was good, but it had been badly worked out. As Diderot and d'Alembert quickened into

so '

mighty life the little Encyclopaedia of Chambers,

Grimm

breathed vitality into the languishing

Literary Correspondence.'

He saw

in

it, first

of


;'

GEIMM: THE JOURNALIST all,

too,

157

germ of a great career but he saw in it, an influence which, by informing the minds

the

;

of kings, might change the destiny of kingdoms.

To teach

the people was difficult in those days

to teach

their

rulers

was well nigh impossible.

Here, then, was a chance, the one splendid chance, of showing them the progress of the world, the

ominous advance of knowledge and of the old order towards the new. Eaynal handed over to

Grimm

the correspondence he had established with

the Courts of the north and south of this small connection

and with

Germany

Grimm began

;

his

work.

The Literary Correspondence remains to-day the only literary review which has survived the passage of time, and is still not merely a great name, but a great living work. The Spectator '

'

'

and the

'

Tatler

eternally fresh

'

of Addison and Steele are kept

by an

exquisite

charm of

style;

but they rarely aspired to serious criticism, and

modes and manners, not The Literary Correof literature or of science. spondence is as much to-day as on the day it was written, the guide-book to the letters, the art, and are mainly a record of

'

'

the

drama of

door to

its

Paris; a

the eighteenth century; the open

society

and

book which

to the is

mind

of cultivated

equally indispensable to

the scholar or to the novelist writing of

its

period,


;

THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

158

and which is certainly both the most instructive and the most amusing literary compilation extant.

Of no

despatched to

had no fixed

its

was

subscribers twice a month.

It

in manuscript,

price, its readers

they chose for

make them

and

it

settled length

or as

it,

pay.

much as Grimm could

paying as

much

as

His old friend the Duchess of

Saxe-Gotha was, as has been seen, one of

his first

The Landgrave of Hesse, the Queen

subscribers.

of Sweden, and Catherine the Great of Eussia soon

joined his select and limited

Augustus,

King

of

Poland,

Stanislas

clientele.

the

Margrave

of

Anspach, and the Grand Duke of Tuscany joined later.

Frederick the Great, after

his

unlucky

experience with Theriot, was extremely dilatory

and

vacillating in having anything to

when he did add

his

name

to the

list

do with

it

of subscribers

he never paid his subscription and harried Grimm to insert the scandals

and the on

dits of the cafes

and the Court, which Grimm declined

to do.

For greater security, the sheets did not go through the post, but through the legations of

The thing was, in fact, a secret, and a well-kept secret, for more than half a century, and never knew the danger of print until it was published in 1812, under the Empire,

the various countries.

with

many

meantime,

cautious Napoleonic omissions. its

secrecy and the limited

In the

number of


GRIMM: THE JOURNALIST

159

readers gave the discreet

Grimm, who declared that the most enlightened reasoning was not worth a night in the Bastille, and who was cautious to its

the very fibre of his bones, the opportunity of

being at once candid, impartial, and

He

set forth a flaming prospectus,

an 'unlimited '

safe.

truthfulness.'

The

promising

sheets shall be

dedicated to confidence and frankness

To

were.

! '

those distant Courts and Kings there

went forth every fortnight the inimitable cisms

who

of

They

the

most bold,

He

ever breathed.

just,

and cool

criti-

critic

not only analysed, with

extraordinary brilliancy and fairness, the writings of Voltaire, of friend Eousseau, and of Bufibn, but

he sat in discerning judgment on the works English novelists and poets.

which have not undying.

As

lived,

He

criticised

in criticisms

to the value

of

books

which are

and the longevity

of

the productions, he was sometimes, naturally and inevitably, mistaken

have

been

but as a rule his opinions

confirmed

weathered the

He

;

by

posterity

and

have

test of time.

also described to his readers the condition

of the drama, the plots of the plays, the art of the

Of course he was clever enough if the season was rather a dull one, to fill out his pages players.

with extracts from a tragedy or from a novel; sometimes,

it

is

said,

the

ingenious

man gave


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

160

which had

quotations from works

never been

written.

He

with

dealt

not think

it

medical questions, and

did

beneath his dignity to examine the

merits of a mouth-wash.

He

many pages

wrote

on Tronchin, the great physician, and on inocuHere, surely, was one of the chances to lation. enlighten kings

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;kings

who, more than any other

men, suffered and died from the ignorant tyranny of their physicians, and who had to wait eighteen centuries before any man told them that class of

was a valuable property, and health a kingdom be taken by temperance, soberness, and chastity. fresh air

to

If there

was a

as ventriloquism,

scientific

marvel in the

its

must

also receive

Then there was the news

day, and of Academical disputes,

Grimm had

tell

and the music,

;

Italian, of the capital,

comment.

such

why, of course, Grimm must

his correspondents about that

French or

air,

of the

and, though

declared he would not report them,

occasional piquant anecdotes with a sufficient spice

them to have pleased King Frederick. He further drew pen-portraits of celebrities. Nothing could be more fair and shrewd than Grimm's character- sketches. He solves in them of scandal in

the supreme difficulty

and

charitable.

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;how to

be

at

once honest


GEIMM: THE JOUENALIST

161

Next there is an epigram to be reported. While a charade that has amused a Parisian fine lady is surely good enough for a German duchess !

were supposed to be excluded, and

Politics

they were excluded in the sense that there were

no remarks on public events become so notorious that the not add to

its

readers'

'

Correspondence

knowledge of them.

though, or because, he wrote for governors,

adduced

his theories

had

until those events

did

'

But

Grimm

on government, he himself

believing in the divine rights neither of the 'Social

Contract

To

nor of kings.

'

his views

on

tole-

rance, finance, and education, he gave utterance soberly, thoughtfully,

subscription

list

and

at length.

He had

a

in his paper for Voltaire's unfor-

tunate proteges, the Calas flow freely, as he

;

and

if his

pen was

to

had promised, how could he

stay his indignation against the trial and the sacrifice

of the Chevalier de la Barre

To

?

the friend and intimate of the philosophers,

the most ordinary event suggested philosophical reflections.

appearing

;

His religious views could hardly help

but Grimm's was a quiet agnosticism,

and had nothing in common with the excited tainties of Diderot's unbelief.

his theories

on women, on

and he aired them

same

all.

art,

He

had, of course,

and on languages

He brought

tantalising fashion in

cer-

which

;

out, in the

serials are

M

now


162

THE FEIENDS

produced

in

rot's

two

weekly

Oi'

VOLTAIRE

illustrated newspapers, Dide-

novels.

He was

himself not only the

first critic

of his

day, but he was thinker as well as chronicler,

and

worldling

and

reporter

scholar,

savant.

Foreigner though he was, he had learnt to write the French language in a style inimitably clear,

His

supple, and forcible.

command

of irony alone

Add

should have been a fortune to him. his singularly wise,

calm head, and

position as the friend of the

and the nobility of Paris and

politicians.

his unrivalled

women

of the salons

as well as of its writers

Further, this critic of music was

himself a musician, this

He

an author.

self

to this,

momentous and

judge of authors him-

lived

in one

of the most

periods in the history

thrilling

of this earth, and in one of the most stimulating

and was able to write wholly without fear of consequence for readers of whose

of her

cities,

intelligent interest

before

he was sure, while he had ever

him the magnificent hope of

so opening the

hearts and feeding the knowledge of those readers that they might turn and do

and be a

blessing,

Consider that *

Grimm

all

their people

and not a curse, to their lands. this, and it is not marvellous

remains the

Literary Correspondence

the world.

good unto

first '

the

journalist first

and the

newspaper

in


GEIMM: THE JOURNALIST hardly necessary to say that

It is

him

paille, his friends called later,

gave

it

enormous amount of work.

editor an

gence;

163 its

Chaise de

in allusion to his dili-

when he began

to

Grimm

travel,

suggested the nickname should be altered to chaise

He had many

de paste.

him.

secretaries

One, Meister, was attached to him

and benefited largely under

life,

working under all his

When

his will.

he was away from Paris the good-natured Diderot

made a

brilliant substitute

;

and Madame d'fipinay

took up a delicate pen to become the surely the most charming, of

Only a few months

Grimm had been

and

women journalists.

after his arrival in Paris

introduced to this

eyed, bright-witted, and

a worthless husband.

first,

all

little

black-

too seductive wife of

In 1752, at Frisen's table,

he had heard her name insulted, and had fought a duel for

from

its

honour.

By

1755, on his return

journey with d'Holbach, he became a

his

familiar figure in her salon.

First her wise

and

masterful friend, he was soon her despotic lover. It is

always a vexed point of morals to deter-

mine how

can come out of wrong, how

far right

bad can be said to be good must certainly be conceded in

far a cause initially

in its results.

It

Grimm's case that, having put himself into a false position and remaining there, he acted not only sensibly

and

discreetly,

but even honestly and

M

2


THE FBIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

164

conscientiously. silly,

as are so

He found Madame d'Epinay many clever women, and he in-

on her behaving with judgment and disOne of his first acts was to demand that cretion. sisted

her old lover, Francueil,

whom

she

still

permitted

to visit her as a friend, should be given his dis-

With Duclos, man

missal.

character rough,

he bade her break

of

letters,

and

dissipated,

and of

unscrupulous,

Then he turned

entirely.

to

Eousseau. It

has been justly said of

lost a friend save

Grimm

Jean Jacques.

that he never

In 1756

Madame

d'Epinay, acting on one of those excessively foolish

impulses which she herself

felt

be wholly

to

fasci-

and which had already more than once shipwrecked her life, gave Eousseau the little

nating,

Hermitage in the forest of Montmorency, close to her

own country-house of La Chevrette. Grimm had not known Eousseau for

six years

He looked up suddenly from the Correspondence.' You have done Eousservice,' he bad a told seau Madame d'fipinay

without knowing his heart.

'

'

sternly,

'

and yourself a worse.'

In 1757, that

had a house

belle laide,

close

to

Madame La

Still, it

d'Houdetot, also

Chevrette, and

attracted the notice of Eousseau.

summer day

was done. there

After a brief

of dehght, she grew tired of her

vehement admirer, or her

lover, Saint-Lambert,


GEIMM: THE JOUKNALIST grew

tired of

him

a storm

ous

At any rate, there houses in the Montmorency

for her.

burst over those three forest

166

of

Paris

All

recriminations.

and scandal-

passions

fierce

watching.

stood

Diderot plunged impulsively into that angry sea.

Eousseau accused Madame

which no

woman

self-respecting

terms

in

d'fipinay,

could have for-

given, of being the writer of a certain fatal anony-

mous

letter

Grimm had

and she forgave him.

;

been appointed secretary to the Duke of Orleans,

and was absent on duty not spare his ness.

'

in Westphalia.

He

did

weakyou have

mistress's pusillanimous

little

Your excuses

are

committed a very great

feeble

fault,'

.

.

.

he wrote.

Hurry-

ing home, he dealt with Eousseau in terms of un-

He made Madame

mistakable plainness. cast

him

off there,

carried her off to

at

d'Epinay

once, and for ever, and

Geneva on the excuse, a just

excuse in every sense, of her health.

But the consequences of her folly were not ended. Eousseau defamed her character in the '

Confessions,'

scurrility

and

in that unique masterpiece of

he speaks of

fury increases daily.'

Grimm

as

'

a tiger whose

Diderot declared that Jean

Jacques made him believe in the existence of the devil

and of

notice

of

hell.

But Grimm wrote an obituary

Eousseau

in his

'Correspondence' of

admirable justice and moderation, and spoke of


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

166

him

as

'

embittered by sorrows which were of his

own making but not the less real,' and as at once too weak and too strong to bear the burden

Grimm

of

It

life.'

'

a soul

quietly

must be allowed

that

could be magnanimous.

Having saved Madame d'Epinay from her it remained to him to save her from herself.

friends,

At Geneva he put her under the care of the great and good Tronchin, and made her write '

He

Correspondence.'

for the

helped her to manage the

miserable remains of the fortune her husband's

mad

extravagance had

left her,

supervised the

education of her children, and even showed her the

harm

she did them by speaking disrespectfully

of their father.

but

it

His love was not fervent, perhaps,

corrected her

follies

made her do and be her

and her weakness, and

best.

It

had

at least

some

of the tokens of a good and honourable feeling.

These

visits to

Geneva were undoubtedly the

happiest time in her lasted

life.

eight months,

On

this first one,

from February

to

which

October

Grimm often saw and talked with and Grimm greatly appreciated the

1759, she and Voltaire

;

society of the solid

and sensible Genevans and the

cultivated Tronchins.

Mademoiselle Fel came to

stay with Voltaire at Les Delices, and

when Grimm

saw her there he proved convincingly the truth that 'the man's love, once gone, never returns.'


GEIMM: THE JOUENALIST But

167

passion was not even for

his real

Madame

His dominant taste was his ambition

d'Epinay.

;

his dearest mistress, his career.

Already secretary to the Duke of Orleans, on the last evening of his stay at Geneva, he heard

made Envoy France. True, M.

the satisfactory news that he was for Frankfort at the

Court of

rArnbassadeur, as Diderot called him, soon lost his post

by joking

person; but none the

official

in

an

in a despatch at the expense of less

he was rising

Presently he was busy settling

the world.

M. d'Epinay 's bankruptcy and helping Madame

to

arrange a satisfactory marriage for her daughter.

Tyran

Blanc he was called by her and her

le

But, after

circle.

all,

has met her master.

He was the Duchess

Grimm.

less faithful.

;

In 1762

appointed him her

and when she died her husband

Frederick the Great

travelling in

forgetting his

society

one

Councillor of Legation, with a pension.

He met

the

for her if she find

of Saxe-Gotha

charge d'affaires

turn

she

as Melchior

any sense

in

happy

till

is

with her as the years went by,

less

though not

woman

Well

and upright

as I'udicious

made him

no

'

Germany

in

1769

grievance that

Correspondence

newspaper,

fellow-countryman's

fell

'

;

when he was and Frederick,

Grimm would into

not

a scandalous

under the

encyclopasdical

spell

of his

knowledge


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

168

and

Grimm,

dignified affability.

said Meister,

had

the rare talent of living with great people without losing any of the freedom

and independence of

his

character.

When

he was nearly

fifty

years old, in 1771,

he resumed an employment of his youth, and, at a very large salary, consented to be tutor to the

Hereditary Prince of Hesse, a boy about nineteen.

The pair went

to

England and were well received

at its ultra-German Court.

with sense

'

'

Grimm was

delighted

the simplicity, the naturalness, and the

good

The Landgravine, her diamonds that her

of the English character.

young Hesse's mother,

sold

son might prolong his country.

And

then

visit

in

so

delightful a

Grimm brought him back

to

mind and manners in the society of d'Holbach and Diderot, of Madame Necker and Madame Geoffrin. Paris and formed his

In 1773, tutor and pupil went to

St.

Petersburg

to attend the marriage of Wilhelmina, the Prince

of Hesse's sister, with the Czarevitch Paul.

very short time the skilful

Grimm had

In a

gained the

Even Diderot's warm heart and glowing genius (he was staying at the Eussian Court when Grimm arrived great Catherine's interest and consideration.

win her so well as the German's delicate tact and keen perceptions. Herself before there) did not

all

things a great statesman,

how

should she not


GRIMM: THE JOURNALIST

169

respect the shrewd judgment, the strength, and

the determination of a

Grimm ?

be clever and wise!

It

Two

eighteenth century.

It is so rare to

was most rare

or three times a

'Grimm dined with her Majesty en those dinners at which

all

in

the

week

petit comite

men were

equal, and at

hamper the converAfterwards she talked alone with him by

which no servants appeared sation.

He

the hour together.

how, when he

to

Madame

told

he would pace

left her,

his

Geoffrin

room

all

night with the splendid ideas she had suggested

coursing through his sleepless brain of 1773-74 passed

for me,'

But when

continuelle'

he

:

'

The winter

said, 'en ivresse

Catherine would have

permanently attached him to her service, his stern

good sense helped him

There

to refuse.

is

Court — a post dead- weight on genius Court of a Catherine or a Frederick— and as

knew

at

no such

^be it

the

Grimm

have never seen you hesitate about anything,' Madame d'Epinay had once written to him when you have once decided with your ;

it.

'

I

'

just, strong

mind,

it is

for ever.'

His refusal was unalterable, and he returned to Paris.

He was

sure enough of his firmness to visit

his royal friend again,

He had

two years

later, in

1776.

been acting tutor once more, to the two

Counts EomanzofF to Naples to

this time.

He had

embrace Galiani,

to

taken them

Ferney to see


170

THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

Voltaire,

and to Berlin

arrived in Petersburg

They

to see Frederick. in

time for

marriage of the Czarevitch, of whose with Wilhelmina of Hesse,

the second

first

marriage,

Grimm had been

the

Catherine received him with

principal promoter.

the same flattering interest and offers, but he

was

Then she gave him the title of Colonel to the intense amusement of King Frederick and appointed him her general them

as deaf to

as before.

agent in Paris at a salary of ten thousand

livres.

After his return to the capital this appoint-

ment formed a very large occupation in his life. His frequent absences had naturally not been thing in the world

the best

Correspondence,' but

worse thing

if

it

Diderot

for

the

'

Literary

would have been a much

—Grimm's

'patient milch-

cow whom he can milk an essay from or a volume from when he lists had not been there to do his '

work. The Diderot's

Correspondence rightly appears with '

name

as well as

Grimm's on

In these latter years, indeed,

page. often

'

had

to

its

its

title-

readers

be content, not with Diderot, but

with a mere Meister

;

and when Grimm did write

was sometimes carelessly and in a Not quite the first, or the last, perhaps, commit that literary enormity, he occasionally

himself

it

hurry. to

reviewed books he had not taken the trouble to read.


â&#x20AC;&#x201D; ; '

GEIMM: THE JOUENALIST His

and from Catherine,

to

letters

171 after the

first

few years, were not conveyed through the

post,

but by special messenger, and are therefore

Grimm's contain indeed

delightfully outspoken.

a

good deal of

Catherine's to

are

flattery

and exaggeration; but She used

spontaneous enough.

say she was as

'frankly an original as the

The pair wrote

most determined Englishman.'

sometimes in French and sometimes in German.

They had nicknames for most of the crowned heads in Europe. Of Brother George of England Catherine had always spoken with contempt, and considered his loss of the American colonies as a But much of the correspondence State treason.' was devoted to mere homely details. As her agent, '

'

Grimm bought

the imperial rouge for the imperial

cheeks, pictures, books, and bon-bons.

long journeys in her interest architects

when

:

He

took

he supplied her with

she caught a fever for building

and presently, having been discreet matchmaker for the Hesses and the Czarevitch, he was commissioned to play the same delicate part for the Czarevitch's daughters.

He was d'Antin.

living

in the

Eue de

His love of music was

on young Mozart's kindest

now

and most

visits to Paris,

influential

still

la

Chauss^e

strong,

Grimm was

patron.

and his

The next

few years saw the deaths of many old friends


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

172

of Voltaire, of Diderot, of Frederick the Great, of

Madame

d'Holbach, and of trying to conciliate

come

and the worst receded.

him

to the last true to

true to anyone else.

volatile,

of her nature had

the best qualities

to the fore

little

under Grimm's masterful

self-deceived deceiver,

influence

men, poor

all

For ever

d'Epinay.

She was

she had never been

as

Grimm adopted

her grand-

daughter and married her to the Comte de Bueil.

So

and

far, his

own If

successful.

life

had been singularly happy

he had loved unwisely, he had

taken care that the affection should never be of that inordinate kind which

He

is its

own punishment.

had, too, one of the dearest solaces of declin-

young people growing up about him. As to his career, he was not only attached to the royal house of Orleans, but he was by now ing

in seeing

life

Catherine's

Councillor of State,

potentiary to the

Duke

He

fine collection of

Pleni-

of Saxe-Gotha, and Baron

of the Viennese Empire.

with a

Minister

He was

a rich man,

books, pictures, and vertu.

should have died before 1789. In

that

Bastille.

year came the

Of

liberty,

stunning

Grimm had

fall

of the

talked easily

enough, but he had also been shrewd enough to

doubt

its

promises.

He had

at least nothing of

the calm confidence of the fine ladies of the old

regime

who drove out from modish

Paris through


GEIMM: THE JOUBNALIST

173

the Faubourg Saint- Antoine to look at the ruins of

the great prison, as at a sight prepared

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

for their

wary German the destruction amusement. To The of the Bastille spelt the ruin of France. Eevolution sped on Vengeance rushing through the

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

drawn sword

the night with a

In 1790 came

Who

if

not this correspondent

fled to

Frankfort; but in two

should be suspect

of kings?

in her hand.

the great emigration of the nobles.

Grimm

months' time he plunged again into the whirlpool of Paris, to rescue the

Comtesse de Bueil, his dear

adopted grandchild, then in sore

her to Aix-la-Chapelle

;

He

straits.

took

but in October 1791 he

returned himself to the capital, to get the Empress's letters out of

France

if

he could.

He found he had

already been denounced in the committees as carrying on a correspondence with her able to the Eevolution.' lay,

he saw, in

'

'

little favour-

His only chance of safety

He had

extreme circumspection.'

but, none the

by nature to the by a generous pity, history tells of an interview he had with the royal saint, Madame Elisabeth, in which he tried to assist both her and

that quality

full

;

less, stirred

Marie Antoinette. the fatal

He

could do nothing

;

fate

Bourbon character were too strong

and

for the

Bourbons to be saved. In 1792 Grimm,

owed her much,

who had

said

loved her long and

farewell to Paris for ever,


â&#x20AC;&#x201D; THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

174

leaving behind him, as he said, the fruit of the

wisdom of his whole finding himself as

life

and

naked

as

when he came

He and Madame de

the world.

and

his entire fortune,

into

Bueil lodged over

a chemist's shop in Dusseldorf, and even had to sleep in the Natural History

Museum

of that town.

Grimm's whole income was Catherine's pension of two thousand roubles added to

Hamburg.

Minister at

her generosity indeed often

and in 1796 she made him Eussian

it,

acts of her

;

life.

This was one of the last

She died, and

left

her friend and

servant yet the poorer for her loss.

At Hamburg he had a necessitated

its

removal.

which

disease of the eye

Then he

Gotha

retired to

and lived with the Comtesse de Bueil

in a

house

given him by the

Duke of Saxe-Gotha, the munificent

Duke providing

furniture, linen, kitchen utensils

The Countess's two young daughters The music he had loved was still a resource to him, and he seems to everything.

acted as Grimm's secretaries.

have kept

to the last

something of his old power

and mastery over others. Goethe found him, when he saw him in 1801, still an agreeable man of the world and rich in interest and experience, but unable to conceal a profound bitterness at the thought of his misfortunes. Under the Directory

some of him.

his confiscated property

But

it

was restored

could hardly benefit him;

to

he no


GRIMM: THE JOURNALIST longer lived, he only existed.

He,

175

who had been

born when the Kegent Orleans ruled France and the old order was at the supreme height of

its

magnificence and depravity, was roused from the

dotage of his

last

days to hear the thunder of the

cannon of Jena and

Austerlitz, or the story of the

peace concluded between

Catherine's grandson,

Alexander, and Napoleon Bonaparte upon the

raft

at Tilsit.

Grimm

died on December

aged

1807,

19,

eighty-four.

No adroit,

unpleasing

contrast,

managing man,' with

and steady prudence,

this

'

methodical,

his cold uprightness

to a reckless, out-at-elbows

Diderot, or a mad, miserable Eousseau.

and caution

ness

even accounted

;

would have no beggars laid

by

and

uin-omantic virtues

are

selfish

Thrifti-

but,

after all, the

world

man

to relieve if every

for himself.

was the Encyclopaedists' mission to teach the people to reform their kings, it was Grimm's If

it

to teach those kings to reform themselves as careful

and judicious as he was.

He

tried

to ;

be

but

from long and close association with them he himself

caught at

rulers

last that disease

epidemic among

— oblivion to unpleasant consequences and a future — and never recovered from the

relentless

fearful

shock which opened his eyes

at last.


— THE FEIENDS OP VOLTAIRE

176

VII

HELVilTIUS: THE CONTRADICTION Most of the reforming philosophers of the eighteenth century were better in word than deed. Helvetius wrote himself materialist,

down

and in every action of

utterance the

lie.

been, a courtier

self-seeker

his life

and

gave his

Helvetius was, as Voltaire had

—not

the teacher of kings,

like

Grimm, but their friend and servant. Helvetius alone was at once of that body, which of all bodies the philosophers most hated, the Farmers-General

—the

extortionate tax-gatherers of old France

and of a practical philanthropy Voltaire himself might have envied.

He

belonged to a family famous in the medical His great-grandfather, a religious

profession.

refugee from the Palatinate, had been a

quack, practising in Holland.

clever

His grandfather

introduced ipecacuanha to the doctors of Paris, and his father, having saved Louis XV. 's life in

some childish complaint, was made physician to the Queen and Councillor of State. Still, the


C^

A lJEi;^/Ii:Ti.TJS

I'irlfirJ .V JmI,-

1„^

CLAUDE-ADRIEN HELVETIUS.

From an Engraving

by St. Aubin, after the Portrait by Vanloo.

LS'.^An«.ai


â&#x20AC;&#x201D; HELVETIUS: THE CONTRADICTION family fortunes were but mediocre.

177

Little Claude-

who was born in 1715, was at first eduat home by a mother full of sweetness and

Adrien, cated

'

Her

goodness.'

tenderness, perhaps,

was an

ill

preparation for the harsher, wider world of the

famous school of Saint Louis-le-Grand, whither Claude-Adrien was presently sent. taire's old school, and

master, Pere Poree,

new boy with first

it

was

It

was Vol-

Voltaire's old school-

who helped

the shy, sensitive,

kindliness and encouragement, and

roused in him a love of

letters.

Grimm, who

nearly always has his pen pointed with malice

when he

writes of Helve tins, records that poor

Claude-Adrien always seemed stupid at school

through being the victim of a chronic cold in the

head

:

an unromantic

afiliction,

genius itself uninteresting.

which would make

Young

Helvetius was

no genius, however. After leaving school he was sent to an uncle,

who was

a superintendent of taxes at Caen, to

learn finance.

tragedy of

There he wrote the usual boyish

promise

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; never

to

be performed

and was made a member of the Caen Literary Academy. The Young, shyness soon disappeared. sensitive and the usual youthful

healthy, and handsome,

verses,

loving literature

much

and women more, an excellent dancer and fencer, clever, cool, agreeable, and much minded to get


THE FKIENDS OF VOLTAIEB

178

on in the world, young Helvetius comes up to Paris. in 1738, being the son of his

At three-and-twenty, father,

and having the necessary

financial equip-

ment, he was made Farmer-General, a post certain

two or three thousand a year, and with the requisite extortion and un-

to bring in possibly,

scrupulousness, a good deal more. Paris,

in the years

was certainly the most

between 1738 and 1751, delightful

In the early part of

seductive city in the world. that period,

Madame

d'Alembert and the

and the most

de Tencin, the mother of of the

sister

Cardinal,

was

forming the youth of the capital in her famous salon.

In the later period,

was revealing

to

it

of worldly success

The Court was triguing. liest lilt

;

Madame de Pompadour

by her example the whole secret

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;a

clear

head and a cold heart.

eternally laughing, play-acting, in-

For the few, the world went with the live-

and

for the

many

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;the many were dumb.

Helvetius was one of the few.

de Tencin's, one day sow

'

Now at Madame

gathering in order that he might

; '

now

in the foyer of the Comedie,

where Mademoiselle Gaussin, the charming comic actress, nourished a hopeless passion for him now at ;

the opera, seeing for the

first

time BufFon, Diderot,

d'Alembert, and joining hotly in the question of

French or

Italian music,

which agitated the capital

a thousand times more than national glory or


HELVfiTIUS: THE CONTRADICTION

shame little

now

;

at

Madame

179

de Pompadour's famous

dinners of the Entresol, or at Court, daintily

Queen of reality and the poor Queen en titre the new young FarmerGeneral was Everywhere where Everybody who is Anybody goes, and Nowhere where Nobody goes. Be sure there was a fashionable shibboleth then as there is now, and be sure Helvetius prattled it and lived up to it. Grimm declared that if the word gallant had not been in the French language, it would certainly have had to be invented in order distinguishing between the

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

*

'

to describe him.

One day,

society heard of

him dancing

at the

opera under the mask of the famous dancer, Dupre.

The

next, he

was whispered

to be the lover of a

modish Countess, who had taken Atheism

women little

as other

took Jansenism, Molinism, or a craze for

dogs, and passionately

imbued her lover with

the exhilarating doctrine of All from Nothing to

Then he posed

as the amant-en-titre ot

the Duchesse de Chaulnes.

For the passions were

Nothing.

only a pose

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

like the

opera dancing.

was merely minded to get on

Helvetius

in the world,

and was

looking about for the shortest cut to glory.

He

soon saw, or thought he saw, a pleasant road thereto called Verse. Voltaire,

now

retired to Cirey, science,

Madame du Ch^telet, had made

and

poetry the fashion. K 2


THE FRIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

180

The young Farmer-General racked his sharp brains a little, and as a result sent Voltaire some long, dismal cantos on HappiI too will be a poet

!

'

The master repHed with the kindliest critiand offered advice so keen and excellent that

ness/ cism, if

made, not born, Helvetius' verses

poets were

might

still

But, after

live.

always unsatisfactory.

made

ralship

all,

advice

Helvetius'

by post

is

Farmer-Gene-

periodical tours in the provinces an

On

agreeable necessity.

a journey through

Cham-

pagne, what more natural than to stop awhile at Cirey,

where Voltaire was writing

'

Mahomet,' and

Madame du Chatelet was the most delightful of blue-stocking hostesses ? Between Arouet of fiveand-forty and Claude- Adrien of five-and- twenty a warm friendship was cemented. All Voltaire's correspondence from 1738 until 1771

with letters to Helvetius. his

'

very dear

philosopher.'

If

child,'

'

is

studded

The young man was

my

rival,

my

poet,

my

he took so large and liberal a

view of Helvetius' talents as to declare a poet, he had as

much

that, as

imagination as Milton,

only more smoothness and regularity

(!),

yet

he

was not afraid to wrap up the pill of many a shrewd home truth in the fine sugar-plums of compliments. But, glory

?

after

all,

is

poetry the easiest

way

to

Claude-Adrien, returned to Paris, walking


HELV:6TIUS:

the CONTEADIGTION

181

through the Tuileries gardens one day, saw the hideous Maupertuis, the geometrician, surrounded

women, adoring him, and immediately decided to abandon verse and be a geometrician instead. But before he had

by

all

the charming and pretty

taken a couple of steps in this direction, the publication electrified

of

the

'Spirit

of

Laws'

in

1748

Europe, and changed his mind.

be sure, when, three years

earlier,

To

Montesquieu

had brought the book up to Paris and asked the

young Farmer-General's judgment on it, Helvetius had replied that it was altogether unworthy of the author of the 'Persian Letters,' and had strongly recommended him not to publish it. Well, that advice can be conveniently forgotten. Helvetius paid Montesquieu the sincerest of flattery

by resolving on the spot

all

to be a philo-

sopher himself. If,

between these eventful years of three-and-

had been nothing but an astute, ambitious young manabout-town, seeking the likeliest way to fame and

twenty and six-and-thirty, Helvetius

fortune,

he would have been undistinguishable

from hundreds of others around him, and not worth distinguishing.

But, at his worst, there

was something in him which was never in that selfish crowd which thronged the galleries of Versailles.


THE FBIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

182

As

tax-gatherer,

it

was

fession to extract the uttermost farthing

did not do

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and

he

Nay, he pleaded in high places for

it.

the wretches

and pro-

his interest

it

was

When

his business to ruin.

in

Bordeaux they rebelled against an iniquitous new tax on wine, he encouraged the rebellion. Though he was constantly at Court and in a position expenditure, he

which entailed lavish personal

pensioned Thomas, the poet, out

pocket

;

dramatist.

letters to Saurin, hereafter

The Abbe Sabatier de Castres

declared himself to have been

the recipient of

and generous charity.

his delicate

novelist

own

his

and by an annuity of a thousand ecus

opened the world of the

of

Marivaux, the

and playwright, who was personally very

uncongenial to Helvetius, received from him a yearly It

sum

of two thousand livres.

was

in

afterwards told cealed,

Helvetius'

Hume,

house in Paris, as he

the historian, that he con-

coming and going

for

Prince Charles Edward, the

time

him

'

when

the danger

in Paris than in

'

nearly two years,'

Young

was greater

London

'

Pretender, at a in

harbouring

on account of the

clause in the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle of the year

1748, which stipulated that France should shelter

no member of the family

in her domains.

hke many another generous dupe, victim to the Stuart grace and charm vetius,

:

'

Helfell

I

a

had


;

HELV:fiTIUS: all his

THE CONTRADICTION

my

correspondence pass through

met with

his

upon

partisans

183

hands

the Pont Neuf;

had incurred all this danger and trouble for the most unworthy of all mortals,' was so frightened when for a poor coward who and found

at last I

'

he embarked on his expedition to Scotland he had

literally to

attendants. this

that

'

be carried on board by his

(It is fair to

say that Helvetius

made

statement only on the testimony of a third

person whose name

is

quality, indeed, his host

hope of

faint

The

not given.)

sole

ended by finding in

Britain, the guest for

whom

good this

he had

risked his safety and spent his money, was that he

was no bigot.' As this meant he had learnt a contempt of all religions from the philosophers in '

Paris,'

'

not everyone would consider even this an

advantage.

In 1740,

Madame

de Grafiigny, famous as the

gossiping visitor at Cirey with

Madame du Paris,

and

whom

Chatelet quarrelled,

there, in

the

Eue

Voltaire and

had arrived

d'Enfer, near

in

the

up her salon. To insure its success, Madame, who was five-and-forty, fat and unbeautiful, had with her a charming niece, Luxembourg, had

set

Mademoiselle Anne Catherine de Ligniville,

was then one-and-twenty, gent.

A

fair,

handsome,

who

intelli-

year or two before, her aunt had adopted

and so rescued her from a convent,

to

which the


THE FRIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

184

having nineteen living

fact of the unfortunate girl

brothers and sisters

In 1747,

by her

'

had condemned

her.

Madame de Graffigny attained celebrity Turgot did her

Letters from a Peruvian.'

the honour of criticising

them

frequented her

:

which rapidly became famous, and at which, 1750, Helvetius, still young, rich, agreeable,

5a/(>7z,

in

and unmarried, became a constant

was there perpetually.

year, he

of hel

esprit^'

people called

be thought a

hel

'

C^nie,'

came '

it

in 1750.

He

soon

admire something besides her writings.

Minette,' as she

woman

Helvetius liked to

it.

and

which was produced

to

The sheepfold

was de rigueur 'Peruvian' and her play

esprit,

to admire the hostess's

For a

visitor. '

nicknamed her

niece,

was such a

as fashionable eighteenth-century society

rarely produced

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; such

a

woman

able society rarely produces.

as

any fashion-

Strong in mind and

body, good, straightforward and serene, refreshingly unconventional in an age

which had no god

but the convenances, not half so clever as that accomplished old

fool,

times more sensible

her aunt, and a hundred

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; such

was Mademoiselle de

Ligniville,

Helvetius studied her in his calm manner for a year, and at the end of

it

he resigned his Farmer-Generalship with

income

;

Then

proposed to her. its

rich

bought, to pacify his father, the post of


HELV:6tIUS: the CONTBADICTION

185

Queen Marie Leczinska, and the of Vore and Lumigny in Burgundy, and,

maitre d'hotel to estates

on June 17, 1751, married Mademoiselle de Ligniville, who was a Countess of the Holy Eoman Empire, satisfactorily connected with the nobility,

and had not a

single franc to her dot.

All these actions caused something very like

consternation in

the

world in which Helvetius

The man Give up a Farmer-Generalship must be mad So you are not insatiable, then, like the rest of them ? says Machault, the Conlived.

!

'

!

'

As

troller-General.

one

might as

While

to

well

to the estates in

be buried

marry a woman who

is

Burgundy, at

alive

by now

once

!

certainly

not a day less than two-and-thirty, has not an ecu,

and has a

hungry brothers and

tribe of

sisters

w^ere, is certainly not the act

clinging to her, as

it

of a sane person

Followed by the mingled pity

!

and contempt of left

all Paris,

Helvetius and his wife

immediately for Vore, and settled down to the

eight happiest years of their lives.

Vore was one of those country estates which would still be called dull. In those days, before railways, with a starving peasantry at

its

gates,

with rare posts of the most erratic description,

and with the

vilest

impassable roads between one

country house and another, called

it

might have been

not merely dull, but dismal.

But, after


;

THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIBE

186

happiness

all,

is

what one

not where one

is,

is.

Perfectly content with each other, the Helvetius

would have been

contented

a

in

wilderness.

Minette, says a biographer, asked nothing better

than to adore her husband and perpetually to him.

sacrifice herself to

If

it

was not

in his calmer nature to adore

anyone, his love for her is

on the testimony of the

His married happi-

whole eighteenth century.

said

Helvetius,'

tentedly,

my

and

'bewildered

ness

'

do

country

a

wife,

my

'Good husband, good

do.'

good man,'

'Those

it.

neighbour

discon-

even pronounce the words,

not

my

husband^

astonished'

child,

we

others

good

friend,

as

father,

unfavourable Grimm.

wrote

The

easy prosperity of Helvetius' love for his wife,

freedom from storm and

stress, left

a lighter thing than

had been forged

fire

if it

it,

doubtless,

and beaten by the blows of

affliction

was thus with

qualities.

verse.

It

rather than lovable

;

all his

in the

and

re-

Kind,

charming, rather than great

equable, because nothing in his destiny

move

its

came

to

the deep waters, or because there were no

deep waters to be moved: these were the keynotes to Helvetius' character.

The was

first

born

child of the marriage, a daughter,

in

1752,

daughter, in 1754.

and

the

second,

also

a

Father and mother devoted


HELVETIUS: THE CONTEADICTION

though

their

in

education of the

the

tliemselves to

187 girls,

little

time polite society considered

that parents had sufficiently obliged their children by bringing them into the world, and that further

favours, such as a judicious training, were entirely

superfluous.

The household was completed by two super-

whom

annuated secretaries,

Helvetius kept, very

because he wanted them,

characteristically, not

but because he feared no one

them

would want One of them, Baudot, had known

either.

from a

his master

he were one faults

would

me

tell

finds

'but I

tranquilly,

Sometimes sociable

me,'

in

to

him

as if

visitors

if

observed Helvetius

Who

some of them.

have

them

of

and spoke

'I have certainly not all the

still.

Baudot

child,

else

keep him

I did not

came

an age, not very

'

?

to Vore, but for so

Though they

often.

were always made generously welcome, they must have known they were menage.

Still,

they were useful,

to these married lovers

were alone they

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;just

spent

not necessary to

in

only to prove

how much happier

as the four

Paris

if

that

they

gay winter months

doubled

the

delights

of

peaceful Vore.

The day there began with work. Helvetius was now firmly minded to achieve glory by means of philosophy fame and sport, it is said, were the

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

188

only

passions

lie

He

had.

morning writing and thinking. he had neither

In composition Diderot nor

hot haste of

the

the glittering inspiration of Voltaire.

indeed painfully and laboriously

born writes when he a

man

for

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; as

He

wrote

the author

weary and disinclined

is

whom

always writes

whole

the

spent

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

as

nature has intended

Sometimes one of the

another occupation.

incompetent secretaries had to wait for hours with his

pen

in

his

hand, while his master wrestled

with the refractory thought in his brain, or waited

come down from on high. His wife had not much sympathy with his philosophies. The philosophers talked so much, and as yet had done so little But in everything else she was entirely at one with her husband. It would be absurd to pretend that before the Ee volution there were no noblemen in France who did their duty by their country estates and for

the inspired phrase to

!

tenants,

who looked

after the

poor on their lands,

and, so far as they could, realised and acted to the is

of their

responsibilities

up

There

position.

always more goodness in the world than there

appears to be, because goodness nature modest and retiring. scientious

of

its

very

But that the con-

landowner was then a rare and sur-

phenomenon when Helvetius and prising

is

is

proved by the fact that

his

wife began

to

devote


HELVETIUS: THE CONTEADICTION themselves

and

turned

of

acts

to

stared

at

everyone

benevolence,

To-day,

them.

189

indeed,

Helvetius might not be counted extraordinarily charitable.

But

he can be

fairly

is

it

not by modern standards

Compare him with the

judged.

immense majority of the great financial magnates of his day and country, and he stands proven a philanthropist indeed.

When

he

bought Yore, he had given a

first

M. de Vasconcelles, a poor gentleman who owed the estate a large sum, a receipt for the whole,

putting to

it

into his

my

keep

him

help

'

Take

this

people from bothering you

further settled a to

hands saying,

handsome

; '

paper

and he

money on him, family. One of his

gift of

to educate his

next actions was to bring a good doctor to the place, establish

him on

it,

and himself pay

for

the medical services thus rendered the peasants.

Daily he and Minette visited the poor, accom-

panied by this doctor and a Sister of Mercy.

He

factory

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;and

Voltaire. to

up

also set

in

so,

the place

perhaps,

supplied an idea to

He encouraged and

farm their land

;

There are a dozen

individuals

he helped.

Jesuit priest,

who

helped the farmers

acted as unpaid judge in their

disputes; and in hard times debts.

a stocking manu-

let

them

off their

stories of the private

One day,

it

is

a ruined

has abused his confidence and


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

190

and

friends,

gives liim

Do

one

finds

Helvetius

kindness.

not say

fifty

injured

me, and he would a

further

it

louis

for

feel

Jesuit's

his

old

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;he

has

humiliated

at

Could delicacy go

from me.'

gift

the

comes from me

enemy.

'

receiving

of

?

Another day, when he was driving, a woodman leading a horse and cart was irritatingly slow in getting out of the

way

'All right,' said the man,

lost his patience.

am

'I

a coquin and you are an honest man, I suppose,

because I '

Helvetius

of the carriage.

am on

foot

and you are in a

carriage.'

I beg your pardon,' says Helvetius, with his fine

instincts instantly

excellent lesson, for

he gave the

was

less

man

you have given me an which I ought to pay and

awake,

a

'

;

'

sum which, though handsome,

generous than the apology.

When

famine came to Vore, Helvetius' deep

purse and wise judgment were both to the

Did the man accomplish his heart

was kind,

though he relieved his

it

less

fore.

good because, though

was not warm; because,

was that in temperament which saved him from suffer-

ing with it? either a cool

suffering, there

If the

philanthropist

must have

head or a hot heart, better the cool

head a thousand

times.

He

will

do much

less

harm.

Many

of Helvetius' charities were performed


HELVETIUS: THE CONTEADICTION through his

valet,

whom he

his wife,

bade say nothing about Sometimes he concealed

them, even after his death.

from

191

and she concealed from him, the

good deeds of which each had been guilty. A peasant had been imprisoned for poaching on Helvetius' grounds, and his gun confiscated. Helvetius went to him, bought back his gun, paid his fine,

and had him

set free,

begging his silence

because Minette had warned him to be severe with the

man

as

That warning troubled

he deserved.

her generous heart.

She too went to the

gave him money to pay his his

gun, and vowed him

fine

culprit,

and repurchase

Whether the

to secrecy.

peasant kept the secrets (as well as the price of

two

fines

and two guns), and husband and wife

confessed to each other, history does not relate.

There character his

'

is,

indeed, a reverse side to Helvetius'

as enlightened landowner.

Carlyle, in

Essay on Diderot,' quotes Diderot's

'

Voyage

a Bourbonne,' in which the ex-Farmer-General

is

portrayed as a cruelly

strict preserver, living in

the midst of peasants

who broke

his

windows,

plundered his garden, tore up his palings, and

hated him so savagely that he dared not go out shooting save with an armed escort of four-and-

twenty keepers.

Diderot added

had swept away a

little

poor

people

had

that Helvetius

village of huts

built

on

the

which the

fringe

of

his


THE FRIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

192

preserves

that

;

the

good

philosopher

coward, and the unhappiest of men.

But

was

a

must

it

be remembered that Diderot did not speak from first-hand observation, but drew, and said he drew, all

his information

from a

neighbour of Helvetius.

Madame

Now

de Noce, a

happy, unsociable

people like Helvetius and his wife are not likely to

be popular in a limited country society, which

would expect much from them, and get practically Saint-Lambert and Marmontel both nothing. speak of Helvetius'

liberality,

unostentatious benevolence. his

intimate for

closest

Morellet,

many

years,

testimony, and especially mentions his

poachers.

One

story illustrating

and

generosity,

it

who was adds like

mercy

to

has been told.

Another runs that Helvetius found a man poaching under the very windows of his house, and at naturally inclined to wrath, curbed himself

first

you wanted game, why did you not ask me would have given it to you.' Perhaps the truth of the whole matter

'

:

?

If I

lies in

The keen sportsman and preserver did sometimes lose his temper and forget his that anecdote.

compassion

:

his better self

soon recalled

it,

and

that rare disposition of humility and love for his fellows hastened to

make amends.

In 1755, the book to which he had devoted those long, laborious mornings at Vore (by which


HELVl^TIUS: THE CONTEADICTION must certainly achieve glory,

I it '

was

at all!)

De

I'Esprit

'

finished at last.

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;not

Croker translated serious

if I

was

It

new theory

out to prove a

and a new system of morality. There are no such things.

rightly understood,

Selfishness

is

of

human

Virtue and Self-interest,

of

the

other.

and the passions are the

sole

main-

springs of our deeds. destiny, as Novalis

is

So

far

from character being

to declare, destiny

Everybody

character.

is

the

environment and his education.

of

as

the explanation of the one,

misunderstood,

self-interest,

What

Wit,'

'

action,

his

'

much more

but something

vice?

cases

to be called

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; On the Mind.'

It set

and

to achieve

be translated

to it,

am

193

free will to

be an honest

brought up

thieves,

to

man

is

in all

creature of

Free Will

?

has the child

thieve

in

a slum

?

Change his condition, and you change him. Leave him, and he will steal as certainly as fire burns and the waves beat on the shore. As for the vaunted superiority of the

over the brutes, tion

'

'

little

intelligence

an accident of physical organisa-

can account for

only a

human

better,

that.

and the

We

are as the brutes,

difference

is

wholly of

degree, not of kind.

Put these

and

theories, with their

showy falsehood

on the library table of any clever man, and get him to do his best to their substratum of truth,

o


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

194

prove them by sophistry and ingenuity, by

by subterfuge, by

illustration

how, so that he prove them to

trick,

—somehow, anythe —and the hilt

result will be pretty well what Helvetius made it. There was scarcely a good story, or a bad one, he had heard in his early gay life in Paris that he

did not bring

and enliven

in,

by hook or by crook,

Madame

his paradox.

de Graffigny

told Bettinelli that nearly all the notes '

sweepings '

'

were the

of her salon.

On the Mind

'

entertaining or nothing

is

culties presented solely that

demolished

to point

they

may be

easy, inaccurate, trifling

sinuating and caressing

.

.

.

made

diffi-

wittil}^

a style

;

'

in-

for light minds,

young people and women,' says Damiron a book which fashion might skip at its toilette, and then, on the strength of remembering two or three of ;

its

of

dubious anecdotes, claim a complete knowledge its

bizarre

hizarrerie

philosophy.

—a jeu

He was merely possible

For

it

was

— and Helvetius

d' esprit

concerned to see

theories

could be

made

how

but

a

knew

it.

far his im-

plausible,

and

wrote them to catch the public ear, and turn their author into the lion and darling of the season.

When

the

thing

Tercier, the censor,

was ready he

who

passed

it,

took

it

to

suggesting only

the omission of a few too complimentary references to free-thinking

Hume.

Helvetius cut them out.


THE CONTEADICTION

HELVlfiTIUS: Malesherbes, during

its

195

printing, observed uneasily '

book contained some very strong things insolent remarks, for instance, on that dear, crusted old despotism under which we all live, and certainly a suggestion that any means to overthrow tyranny are permissible. But, all the same, in May 1768 it received its privilege. Majesty was that the

'

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

graciously pleased to accept a copy from the author,

our maitre

It

It

d'hotel.

the philosophers.

was already

would not have

theories

in the

And everybody began

had had a

little

hands of to read.

been wonderful,

more

if

the

vraisemblance, that

most people, particularly people who had devoted their lives

and

and

who had men might be free

their fortunes to others,

laboured in poverty that other

rich, should object to see their self-denial set

down

as self-interest,

and to be informed that the

highest aspiration of their soul was really nothing

but a morbid condition of the body.

But, con-

sidering their manifest absurdity,

wonderful

it

is

that these assertions were taken seriously.

Madame du

Deffand, indeed, might naturally

say that in making self-interest the mainspring of conduct, Helvetius had revealed everybody's secret.

He had

so certainly discovered hers.

But Turgot,

whose life was to do good, had better have laughed at an absurdity than have risen up to condemn it as 'philosophy without logic,

literature without 2


!

THE FRIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

196

and morality without goodness/ A Condorcet, whose long devotion to duty was rewarded taste,

only with ruin and death, need not have troubled to loathe

sat

down

to

some of the most inspired pages of his Savoyard Vicar still glow with the hatred with

refute '

Eousseau immediately

it.

it

:

'

which

inspired him.

it

poohed

it.

Grimm

wisely only pooh-

Voltaire grumbled that his pupil

had

promised a book on the Mind, and presented a treatise

on Matter; that he had 'put friendship

bad passions,' and, much worse than all, has actually compared me me to two such feeble, second-rate luminaries as Crebillon and Fontenelle No wonder that he found the title, De I'Esprit,'

among

the

— —

'

equivocal, the matter unmethodical, all the things false

and

all

new

the old ones truisms.

For a very short time, however, approved or disapproved, taken as folly or mistaken for reason,

book went its way gaily. It bade fair to become what Helvetius had meant it to be the success of a season. But for the besotted stupidity the

of the Government,

anything

it

never would have been

else.

One unlucky day virtuous than wise,

the Dauphin,

came out of

who was more his

room with

a copy in his hand and fury in his face.

'

I

am

going to show the Queen the sort of thing her maitre

d! hotel prints.


HELVISTIUS:

On August

THE CONTEADICTION

10,

197

1758, the privilege for

its

Tercier was deprived 'On the Mind' was furiously the religious papers. The avocat

publication was revoked.

of

his

office.

attacked in

Fleury, pronounced

general,

The Archbishop of Paris At

of the Encyclopaedia.' declared

struck at the roots of Christianity.

it

Court, Helvetius was child of perdition,

all

the accursed thing.

Pope attacked

it

at

once 'regarded as a

and the Queen pitied

had produced

as if she

'an abridgment

it

Anti-Christ.'

his

mother

Eome banned

On January 31, 1759, the own hand in a letter.

with his

On February 6 the Parliament of Paris condemned it. On February 10 it was publicly burned by the hangman, with Voltaire's

'

April 9 the Sorbonne censured to contain

'

JSfatural it,

Law.'

On

and declared

the essence of the poisons of all '

it

modern

literature.

Helvetius, from being the happiest of easy-

going, benevolent philosophers, found himself, as it

were in a second, in a position of great danger,

and what CoUe

in his Journal called

'

cruel pain.

His friends hotly urged upon him a retractation to soften

the

certain

His mother begged

her

own

punishment awaiting him. from him with

tears.

Only

a sterner and a braver soul, refused,

Minette,

though

it

'

a great personage

'

besought her, to add

entreaties to that end.


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

198

had to be done. Something of a coward this Helvetius, as CoUe suggested now, as Diderot had suggested before ? The rich and easy life he had Still, it

But, after

led does not breed courage certainly. all,

Helvetius only did what Voltaire and

better

day.

man He produced

declared

Father

.

.

was

it

a

'

many

a

do in that

Letter from the Eeverend

which he stated that he perfect innocence and simplicity,

Jesuit,'

.

in

had written in and (this was undoubtedly had the

essential to

true) that

he had not

slightest idea of the effect his

book would

He

create.

added, in the

stiff

phraseology of the

was an exceedingly man and very sorry indeed. The amende

time, words to the effect that he religious

was so far accepted that the Parliament simply condemned him to give up his stewardship, and exiled him for two years to Yore.

What itself,

both.

the

or for '

On

book could never have done for its author, persecution did for them

the

Mind became not

the success of

'

a season, but one of the most famous books of

The men who had hated

the century.

it,

and had

not particularly loved Helvetius, flocked round

him now.

tentional or unintentional.

an omelette

!

'

man

'

all injuries,

What

in-

a fuss about

he had exclaimed when he heard

of the burning. secute a

him

Voltaire forgave

How for

abominably unjust to per-

such an airy

trifle

as

that!


HELVETIUS: THE CONTBADICTION '^''

what you

I disapprove of

199

say, but I will defend to

the death your right to say

now.^But he soon came,

was

it,'

his attitude

a Voltaire would

as

come, to swearing that there was no more materialism in

'

On

the

Mind

'

than in Locke, and a

thousand more daring things in 'The Spirit of

Turgot and Condor cet forgave the philo-

Laws.'

D'Alem-

sophy, in their pity for the philosopher.

made common cause with the man with whom he had nothing else in common. Eousseau inbert

stantly stopped writing

roundly swore

On

'

books of the age.

the Mind was one of the great Though Eome had censured it, '

cardinals wrote to condole with

treatment

almost

its

author on the

had received. It was translated into European languages. Presently, Eng-

it

all

land published an edition of her own. vetius,

surely Paris,

Diderot

refutation.

his

when

that

two

years' exile

name?

only in

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;was

And

Hel-

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;a punishment

over,

returning to

found himself the most distinguished

man

in

the capital.

In their

(Eue

hotel in the

fine

Helvetius,

christened

the

and

it,

cockers of Paris

!)

municipality of

Eue

Morellet,

1792

Saint -Helvetius,

re-

the

he and his wife received the

flower of French society.

them

Eue Sainte-Anne

Turgot introduced to

who soon became

a daily

visitor,

rode with them in the Bois, and stayed with them


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIBE

200 in

country.

the

To

their

Tuesday dinners

at

two o'clock came Condorcet, d'Alembert, Diderot, d'Holbach, Galiani, Marmontel, Saint-Lambert, Eaynal, Gibbon, and

human

of the

Humeâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;'

mind,'

says

the States-General

Only time-

Garat.

serving Buffon, in order not to offend the Court,

gave up visiting at the house. If Galiani found the religious, or irreligious, views of the salon

Madame

too free,

his hostess shared his opinion,

and would often purposely disturb a too daring conversation by drawing aside one of the coterie to talk with her a part. still,

he had ever been, listener rather than

as

talker

;

friends,

Helvetius himself was

or talker chiefly

when he

laid before his

with a naivete and simplicity wholly at

variance with the sophistry and artificiality of his

had encountered in it that it had suggested. Sometimes, directly dinner was over, he slipped out to the opera, and left his wife to do the

writing, the difficulties he

morning, or some theories which

When

honours alone.

they were not entertaining

themselves, they rarely went out, unless

on Fridays his

wife,'

to

said

unsociability.

Madame

Necker's.

it

were

'Jealous ot

Grimm, accounting for this 'Happy with her,' is perhaps a acid

truer solution.

But

if

the Court

their

was

own still

entourage

was thus

bitterly hostile.

satisfactory,

Though Hel-


; '

HELVETIUS: THE CONTRADICTION vetius, of course,

knew very

had been the advertisement

owed

everything,

still, its

201

well that that hostility

which

to

his

book

injustice rankled.

Admiring England invited him

to her shores

and on March 10, 1764, he landed there, accomby his two daughters, Elizabeth and Genevieve, who, being only ten and twelve years

panied

respectively,

father '

to

were certainly rather young

be seeking husbands for them among

members of our august and

immaculate

the

for their

incorruptible senate,' as Horace Walpole declared that he was.

King George

All the great people, including the Third,

with

received the persecuted philosopher

empressement.

'

Savants

and

flocked to be introduced to him.

him a '

sensible

the worthiest

many more

Gibbon found

man, an agreeable companion, and creature

in

the

(remembering the compliments the

politicians

it

it

contained and

would have contained but

for

On

the

that wretched censor) naturally thought

Mind

'

Hume

world.'

the most pleasing of writings, and

entered into an agreement

with

'

had even

author to

its

on would Hume's philosophical works into French. (This bargain was never concluded.) Warburton, indeed, declined to meet this French rogue and atheist' at dinner. But Helvetius, as a whole, translate

it

into English, if he,

his part,

translate

'


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

202

had every reason

and he came

to like Englishmen,

back to France, Diderot told Mademoiselle Yolland, as madly attached to England as d'Holbach was the reverse. to

'

This poor Helvetius,' says Diderot,

excuse him, 'saw only in England the per-

book had brought him

secutions his

There

may

A year

in France.'

certainly be truth in that. later, in

1765, he went to stay with

Frederick the Great.

That astute monarch had not

at all

approved of

'

On

the Mind.'

to punish a province, I

sophers to govern,' said v^tius, as

'

If I

wanted

would give it to philohe. But he found Hel-

the world found him, a thousand

all

times better than his book, and observed very

had much better have

justly that in writing he

consulted his heart than his head.

But that was what Helvetius could never

When

he

got

back

to

Yore, to

do.

Minette

and the

little

spotless

and disinterested members of parliament

to

daughters (he had not found any

marry them and enjoy their fortunes of fifty pounds apiece), he settled down to

thousand

literature again

and wrote, with seven

years' severe

and unremitting labour, On Man, his Intellectual Faculties, and his Education,' which was a sort of '

On

Mind and an answer to the and foes had brought work. If he had been persistently

defence of

'

criticisms

both

against that

the

friends

'


a

HELVETIUS: THE CONTKADICTION lively '

on

'

Mind,' he was

When

Man.'

was published,

it

only a few friends

fended

persistently

who had

203

dull

on

after his death,

loved

author de-

its

Mademoiselle de Lespinasse voiced a

it.

very general opinion when she declared herself '

staggered

'

at its preposterous length

;

and Grimm

(of course) declared that, for his part,

rather have

ten lines of the

dear

he would

little

Abbe

Galiani than ten volumes such as that.

Meanwhile,

it

solace chagrins

had given Helvetius the best

and declining

regular occupation.

He was

life

can have

not old, and he was

framed, says Guillois, to be a centenarian. at that

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; But

epoch men spent their health and strength

with such fearful prodigality in their youth, that they rarely lived beyond what

and-fifty

when he became

powers.

Sport,

life,

now

called

Helvetius was not more than five-

middle age.

his

is

conscious of failing

which had been the delight of

lost its zest.

The bankrupt condition of

his country, her light-hearted descent to ruin, lay

heavily

now on

a soul framed by nature to take the

world serenely and to see the future occupied,

it

is

true, to the

fair.

He was

end in those works of

benevolence and kindness which pay an almost certain interest in happiness to

them.

Then, too, to the

who might have

last,

him who invests in there was his wife,

loved a better

man

than he, but


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

204

who

love, fortunately for

most people, not being

worth — spent on him the fidelity

given entirely to

and devotion of her

On December

life.

He

26, 1771, Helvetius died.

Church of Saint-Eoch, in Paris. Minette, a very rich widow, bought a house in Auteuil, where, visited by Turgot, Condorcet, Benjamin Franklin, Morellet, and the famous

was buried

in the

young doctor, Cabanis, she lived to love those her husband had loved, and to do good to those he Franklin, it is said, would fain had benefited.' have married her. And Turgot who knows? '

Elizabeth and Genevieve, esses,

enormously rich heir-

were married on the same day, a year

after

their father's death, each to a Count.

In 1772,

'On Man' was

published, with the

reception which has been recorded.

poem, the

'

Happiness,' also

first

Lambert

time, with

—the

prose,

now

That early

publicly appeared for

a prose preface by Saintsaid

Galiani, being

much

better than the verse.

To '

On

Helvetius' works, or rather to his work, for

the

Mind

'

is

the only one that counts,

is

now

generally meted the judgment which should have

been meted to

it

when

it

appeared.

Catch

thistle-

down, imprison it, examine it beneath a microscope, and a hundred learned botanists will soon be confabulating and fighting over

it.

Put

it

in the


HBLVETIUS: THE CONTRADICTION free air

and sunshine

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;and,

lo

!

it is

gone.

205 '

On

Mind' was but thistledown, and the winds

the

have blown

it

away.

But the man who wrote because, though he wrote

it

it,

deserves recollection

he and Turgot alone

among their compeers realised in practice that the way to do good to mankind is to do good

best

man, here and to-day, and that the surest means to relieve the sorrows of the world is

to individual

to help the at the gate.

one poor Lazarus lying,

full

of sores,


THE FBIENDS OF VOLTAIBE

206

VIII

TURGOT: THE STATESMAN Among at

Voltaire's

friends Turgot

and Condorcet

were not merely great, but

least

also

good

Even Condorcet, though himself of virtuous and noble life, had not that high standard of living, that sterner modern code of purity and upright-

men.

ness,

which were remarkably Turgot's.

But Turgot was something more even than the best

man

of his party.

He was

the best worker.

While Voltaire clamoured and wept while d'Alembert thought,

Grimm

for

humanity,

wrote, Diderot

and Condorcet dreamed and died, Turgot

talked,

laboured.

Broad and bold in aim, he was yet con-

what he could. Of him it might never L'amour du mieux t'aura interdit du bien.'

tent to do

be said

To do tools

'

one's best here

and now, with the wretched

one has to hand, in the teeth of indolence,

obstinacy, and the spirit of routine, to compromise

where one cannot overcome, and instead of sitting picturing some golden future, to do at once the little

one can

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;that was

this statesman's policy.


ANNE-ROBERT-JACQUES TURGOT. From, an Engraving by Le Beau, after the Portrait by Troy.


;

TUEGOT: THE STATESMAN

207

was so far successful, that all men now allow that if any human power could have stemmed the avalanche of the French Eevolution, it would have It

been the reforms of Turgot. His father was the Provost of Merchants in Paris,

and has earned the gratitude of Parisians

by and by

by enlarging the Quai de I'Horloge and joining a bridge to the opposite

bank of the

erecting the fountain in the St.

Seine,

Eue de

it

Grenelle de

Germain.

Anne Eobert Jacques was timid, shy

creature.

little

his third son,

and a

His mother, who, en

vraieParisienne, thought everything of appearance

and manners, worried him on the subject

of his

clumsiness and stupidity, which naturally

made

the child self-conscious and increased the faults

When

fourfold.

visitors arrived to flatter

Madame

Anne Eobert hid under the sofa or the table and when he was removed from his retreat, could produce no company

by admiring her

children, ;

manners at

all.

No wonder the mother

never even

suspected the strong intellect and the wonderful character that so

Anne

Eobert's

with Voltaire's

on

May

brothers.

much awkwardness birth

visit to

was

concealed.

contemporaneous

England, and took place

The child had already two The eldest was bound, after the foolish

10,

1727.

custom of the day,

to follow his father's profession


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

208

the second brother

Anne Kobert

for

must go

there

into the

was nothing

army left

and

;

but the

Church.

He

and

followed Voltaire

Helvetius

at

the

school of Louis-le-Grand, and when sufficiently advanced, moved on to the College of Plessis.

As a schoolboy

pocket-money disappeared

his

with the usual rapidity, but not in the usual way. This shy

little

panions, to sixteen

student gave

1743

in

is

was 1750, he was

the time he

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; until

At

a divinity student.

Saint-Sulpice,

he went in 1748 on leaving

com-

to his poorer

From

buy books.

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; that

it

Plessis,

whither

he took his

degree as a Theological Bachelor, and from there entered the Sorbonne.

The Sorbonne, which was swept away by the Eevolution, was a very ancient Theological College and in some respects not unlike an English

Young Turgot found there Morellet and Lomenie de Brienne, besides a certain Abbe university.

de Cice, to first

whom

in

of his writings, a

In

1749, Turgot

Sorbonne, in which Latin

lectures,

Advantages of the

1749 he addressed one of the

Mind

'

Letter on Paper Money.'

was

role

made

choosing for his

of

the

themes,

'The

The Advance of All the time he was reading,

Christianity,'

of Man.'

Prior

he had to deliver two

thinking, observing on his

and

own

'

account, studying


TUEGOT: THE STATESMAN especially Locke, Bayle, Clarke, priest

he soon knew

and

could not be.

lie

209

To be

sure,

the fact that his friend Lomenie de Brienne sceptic will not prevent

A

Voltaire.

is

a

him becoming a cardinal

and Archbishop of Toulouse

;

he would have been

Archbishop of Paris had his Majesty not been so painfully particular as to

demand

that the Primate

of the capital should at least believe in a God.

Turgot was of other metal and was not

But

minded to

to live a

lie.

All his friends begged

him

keep to the lucrative career assigned him,

surely,

says

'You

by Providence!

will

be a bishop,'

Cice comfortably, 'and then you can be a

statesman at your

leisure.'

The argument was very seductive but this student was in every respect unlike other students, with a character breathing a higher and finer air ;

than

Morellet records, not without the

theirs.

suspicion of a sneer, that from their coarse boyish

jokes he

shrank as one shrinks from a blow.

Even Condorcet, himself

so pure in

at people wasting time in

quenching the desires of

life,

laughed

the flesh; but Turgot vindicated purity as well as practised

it,

as of conduct,

and reached a

which

in

level of principle,

the eighteenth century

was unfortunately almost unique. His father, wiser than most parents

in like

circumstances, countenanced his objections to the

p


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

210

He had

priesthood.

already studied law, as well

In 1750 he

as theology.

left

the Sorbonne, and

Lom^nie gave a farewell dinner in his rooms, with Turgot and Morellet of the party, and the lighthearted guests planned a game of tennis behind the church of the Sorbonne for the year 1800.

Before then the Sorbonne The year 1800 itself had perished with Church, monarchy, and nobility; shallow Brienne, having done mighty !

mischief, ill-earned

had poisoned himself in the chateau his wealth had been gained to restore;

Morellet

was

writing revolutionary pamphlets;

and Turgot was dead. In 1752, two years after he

Anne Eobert obtained

left

the Sorbonne,

the legal post of

Deputy

Counsellor of the Procurator-General, and a year

was made Master of Bequests. One must picture him at this time as a tall, broad-shouldered, rather handsome man, with that later

old boyish constraint in strict

his

manner, and that

high-mindedness which his

own

generation

could not be expected to find attractive. these qualities that he

away by dreams and friends, that

was not

visions, as

Add

in the least carried

were nearly

even then he saw the world as

and meant to do with though in

lofty

he never

fell

it

to

what he could

all his it

was,

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

that,

aim he may have been an ideahst,

into the idealist's fault of believing


TURGOT: THE STATESMAN that,

do

because there or

everything,

practical

—what

everything to do, he must

is

nothing.

Just,

a wholesome

visionary Eousseaus, ay, and Voltaires is

He was

!

said that

reasonable,

contrast to your

your impulsive

to

not a brilliant person, this

;

it

he was slow in everything he under-

Nor had he given over

took.

211

the vigour of his

youth and the strength of his understanding to any one party.

He was he

first

Paris

He was

studying them

all.

about three or four and twenty when

began to go into the

—when

intellectual society of

Montesquieu, d'Alembert,

Helvetius, found the stiffness of

manner more than

redeemed by the wealth of the mind. he was introduced to

Galiani,

Madame de

Presently

Graffigny,

and

complimented her by writing a long review of her 'Letters from

own

a Peruvian,' which, as giving his

views on education, on marriage, and on the

fashionable avoidance of parenthood, retains interest.

It is

strange to hear a pre-Eevolutionary

Frenchman urging love-marriages are sometimes deceived,

never to choose' all is

the

great

all its

—and

it

is

— Because '

we

concluded we ought

strange also that, out of

reformers with

whom

his

name

associated, Turgot alone perceived the fearful

havoc which neglect of family duties makes in the well-being of the State.

He was presented to Madame de Graffigny by her p 2


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEB

212

niece, Mademoiselle de Ligniville.

The bright and

charming Minette naturally did not find it at all difficult to draw Anne Eobert of five-and-twenty from the intellectual society of her aunt's salon to a game of battledore and shuttlecock a deux. professed himself

watching the pair,

Morellet,

pained and astonished that their friendship did not

end as nearly

Most

all

such friendships do and should. biographers have sought the

ol Turgot's

why Mademoiselle de Ligniville became Madame Helvetius and not Madame Turgot and reason

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

found

have not nothing.

It

it.

As

for

Turgot, he said

remains idle to speculate whether he

conceived for her a passion, which his gaucherie

and shyness, perhaps, prevented her from returnor whether he had already devoted his

ing

;

to

his

public duty,

and

life

thought that private

happiness would be deterrent and not spur to his

work

for the race.

affection is

An unhappy

one of the

or an unrequited

finest incentives to

and success one can have. had it. The only certain

It

may be

labour

that Turgot

facts are that Minette married Helvetius, and that Turgot remained her

life-long friend.

In 1754 he made the acquaintance of Quesnay and of de Gournay, the political economists, who

and thought. He soon began writing articles for the Encyclopedia,

influenced not a

little

his life


TUEGOT: THE STATESMAN

213

though he never joined in that battle-cry Encyclopasdists, ^crasez rinfdme,

ol the

and was wholly

without sympathy for the atheism of d'Holbach

and the materialism of Helvetius.

may be

have been, in the broadest accepta-

said to

tion of the term, a Christian

be

and

called,

Turgot, indeed,

;

or rather he would

a Christian to-day.

call himself,

was not of Eome nor yet of Protestantism, but that in whose honest doubt there lives more faith than in half the creeds. He But

his Christianity

certainly gave

man

religion of the wise

When

expression to

little

it.

It

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;which he never

was the tells.

he was on a geologising tour in Switzer-

land, in 1760, he

of Antichrist at

was warm

saw the great Pontiff of the Church Delices. That generous old person

in delight

and admiration

for his guest.

D'Alembert

had

bert's friends

must always be welcome.

Turgot's article on

had made

introduced him, and

'

d'Alem-

And

then

Existence in the Encyclopaedia '

even more impression on this impres-

sionable Voltaire than on the world of letters in general. at

once.

He

took this young disciple to his heart

Well, then,

disciple,

he

sopher,'

and

at least

is '

much

if

a

fitter

he

is

not precisely a

most 'lovable philoto instruct

me

than I

him It was Voltaire who was dazzled by the young man's splendid possibilities, not the young man who was dazzled by Voltaire's

am

to instruct

!

'


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

2U

Turgot was

matchless fame and daring genius.

never dazzled

it

;

was

his misfortune, to see

his greatness, if

men

it

was

also

and the world exactly

as they are.

In 1761 he was

of Limoges.

was the great opportunity; he had wanted

It

practical

dream. '

made Intendant

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;not

work

to

think,

Voltaire wrote of

to

or

write,

him afterwards

to

as one

qui ne chercha le vrai que pour faire le bien.'

He wanted

to

Do

;

and here was everything

to

be

done.

The picture of provincial France before the

Ee volution has been painted is

often,

but the subject

one of which the painter can never

which he can never do

tire

and

to

justice.

The Limoges which Turgot found was one of the most beautiful districts of France and one of the most wretched. Here, on the one side, rose

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

the chateaux of the great absentee noblemen, who,

always at Court,

left behind them middlemen to wring from the poor innumerable dues, with which

my

lord, forsooth,

and make a nobles

who

fine

must pay figure

his debts of

at Versailles.

new young Intendant

able

light,

who would

The few

did live on their country estates ex-

pected their social

honour

to

be an agree-

as his predecessors

had been,

keep, for the elite of the neighbourhood, an open house where one would naturally find


TUEGOT: THE STATESMAN good wine, rich

and

fare,

delightful,

216

doubtful

company.

On

the other hand were the

clergy

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;often

ignorant, but generally cunning enough to play

on the deeper ignorance of their flock by threats of the Hereafter, and to keep from them that knowledge which

the death-blow of superstition.

is

Picture a peasantry Then whose homes were windowless, one-roomed huts there were the poor.

of

peat

who

or clay;

plenty,

on

bread;

who had

roots,

chestnuts,

neither

teachers nor doctors

;

and a

schools

who were

of pestilence and famine possession of their lords,

in

subsisted,

times of

little

black

nor hospitals,

the constant prey

whose bodies were the and whose dim souls were ;

Consider that these

the perquisites of the priests.

people were not allowed to fence such miserable pieces of land as

they might possess,

should interfere with

manure

their

my

lord's

wretched crops,

the flavour of his

game

;

lest

hunting; nor to they should spoil

nor to weed them,

they should disturb his partridges. if

such land could have borne any

permission was required to allow build a shed to store villages, in

it in.

lest

Consider that, fruit, its

a special

owners to

Consider that their

which they herded

like beasts,

were

by roads so vile they would have rendered commerce difficult.

separated from other villages that

they

lest


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEB

216

trammels had not made it impossible. Consider that these people had been scourged for

if

legal

by hundreds of unjust and made by and for the benefit of

generations laws,

senseless their op-

and that they were now the victims of taxes whose very name has become an indictment, pressors,

and whose description

a justification of the

is

French Kevolution.

On taille

the one flank they were

—the tax on the

whipped by the

income and property of the

poor, which absorbed one-half of the net products

of their lands

— and

on the other by the

corvee^

which compelled them to give yearly twelve or fifteen days'

unpaid labour on the roads and the

use of a horse and cart,

if

they had them.

demanded from each parish soldiers (the rich being exempt as

milice

its

The

quota of

usual),

and

compelled the parishes to lodge passing detach-

ments of military and to lend

draw the military equipages. The gahelle, or tax on salt, forced each poor man to buy seven pounds of salt per annum whether, as in one province, it was a halfpenny a pound, or, as in another, it was sixpence and let the noble, the priest, and the Government official go free. Toll-gates were so numerous in the country that it is said fish brought cattle to

from Harfleur to Paris paid eleven times its value on the journey. Wine was taxed corn was taxed. ;


TUEGOT: THE STATESMAN But

was not

this

all.

If these

cruelly unjust, they were settled

217

taxes were

and regular.

Irregular taxes could be levied at any at the caprice of the despot at Versailles,

more

moment who no

realised the condition of his peasantry than

an ordinary Briton of Hottentots.

realises the condition of a tribe

One, called with an exquisite irony

Tax of the Joyful Accession, had been raised when Louis the Fifteenth reached the throne of Another France to topple it down the abyss. was the vingtieme, or tax on the twentieth part of the

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

a franc, which could be doubled or trebled at the pleasure of the Government.

Apart altogether from the taxes, the peasantry were subject to

exempt from

tithes exacted

all taxation, to

by the Church,

itself

large fees for christen-

ing and marrying, for getting out of the misery of this

world and avoiding worse misery in the next.

The clergy were on the spot to exact these dues, just as the middleman was on the spot to exact the dues for the nobles. Some of these dues and seigneurial rights are so shameful and disgusting that their very terms are unrepeatable. Even that vile age permitted many of them to lapse and become a dead letter; but the number, and the full

measure of the iniquity of those that were

insisted on, has never

been counted, and

be known until the Day of Judgment.

will

never


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

218

What

would hundreds of years of such

effect

oppression have on the character of the oppressed? Hopeless, filthy, degraded, superstitious with the

made them

the

easy

prey of their unscrupulous clergy and

left

them

craven superstition which

wholly sensual and stupid; as animals, without the animals' instinctive joy of

the

morrow

;

the children

life

and

fearlessness of

with no ambitions for themselves or

who turned

them

to curse

brought them into such a world

;

for

having

with no time to

dream or love, no time for the tenderness which makes Hfe, life indeed they toiled for a few cruel

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

years because they feared to die, and died because

they feared to

was sent

Such were the people Turgot

live.

to redeem.

What wonder

many men gave up such a task in despair that many even good men found it easier to prophesy a Golden Age in luxurious that

;

Paris than to fight

hand

when he

spent there the most vigorous he did not do there his most

hand against the awful odds of such an awful reality ? Turgot was thirtyfour when he went to Limoges, and forty-seven

He

left it.

years of his

life

to

;

if

famous work, he did his noblest. He began at once. It was nothing to him that his

own

caste shot out the lip

and scorned him. Cold and awkward in manner, regular and austere in habit,

and as pure

as a

good woman, of course


;

TUEGOT: THE STATESMAN But

they hated him. the clergy

who

219

was much to him that

it

ruled the people were also his foes,

that that very people themselves were so dull and

and

hopeless, that they too suspected his motives

concluded that because for them every change

had always been would

alwaj^s

for

the worse,

every change

Slowly, gradually, he gained

be.

the favour of the priest and the love of the flock.

He

could not turn their hell into heaven

could not lifted in

be.

make

he

what Condorcet, upwould dream it yet might

earth at

noble vision,

:

all

But he could do something. In 1765, he procured for Limoges an edict re-

storing free trade in grain in that province. sailles,

wholly abandoned to

its

Ver-

amusements, did

not in the least care whether edicts were granted or whether they were revoked.

He

perceived that the Court was not minded to be

plagued with his reforms it

Turgot did care.

;

and he plagued

gave him what he wanted

Then he turned

it

till

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; to go away.

to the other taxes.

The

exist-

ence of a privileged class which pays nothing and

devours

much by

monstrous thing.

but

it

will take a

its

shameful exactions,

Taille is the

in

the

a

crowning iniquity

Eeign of Terror to

meantime Turgot,

is itself

kill

it.

teeth of the

In the besotted

ignorance and opposition of the wretched beings


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

220

he was trying to help, could and did see that

was

it

fairly administered.

In place of the personal service demanded by the corvee, he substituted a money- tax

which was

;

and With regard to the milice, he proposed wide changes. But since the Government would not rouse itself to act on the proposals, he took advantage of its self-indulgent indifierence and permitted evasions of the law when an unlucky creature drew a black ticket in the conscription in Limoges, the new Intendant permitted him to find a substitute or to pay a fee. He also built barracks, which removed the necessity for quarterbetter also for the roads.

better for the taxed

;

ing the soldiers on the poor.

The fearful trammels which industry and doomed labour part removed.

;

vation of the potato;

own

he became

;

He

In the

promoted the

and by having

it

culti-

served

table proved to the ignorance of

the peasants that

and

roads

he founded a veterinary college.

daily at his

he in

Agricultural Society in the

first

teeth of strong opposition he

food.

crippled trade and

to sterility,'

He made new

President of the district

'

it

was

at least safe for

also introduced the

growth of

human clover,

entirely suppressed a worrying little tax

cattle.

He

first

on

brought to Limoges a properly

quahfied midwife,

who taught her

business to


!

TUKGOT: THE STATESMAN women.

other

Hospice de

dancy

This was the beginning of the

During Turgot's Inten-

la Maternite.

china

the

221

of

clay,

which

famous

the

Limoges pottery was afterwards made, was

dis-

covered.

Besides these public acts, he was engaged in

hundreds of small individual others,

he educated

at his

whose father had been

Among

charities.

own expense

entirely ruined

a youth

by taxation

The youth was Vergniaud, wards the stirring orator of the Ee volution. and famine.

after-

In his home-life Turgot remained most frugal

and laborious, treating

his servants

with a benevo-

lence then accounted contemptible, and working

out his quiet schemes with an thoroughness.

When

infinite patience

he was offered the richer

Intendancy of Lyons, he would not take as he said of himself,

though he was

pulsory instrument of great little

good.

man

evil,'

Only a little, it might

did the

little

and

he could

it. '

Here,

the com-

he was doing a be.

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;what

But if every a

different

world In 1765, he paid a Galas case,

visit

and

in the

made famous by Voltaire, spoke on

the

vehemence unusual

to

side of tolerance with a

him.

to Paris,

and Mademoiselle de Condorcet was friends.

Morellet, d'Alembert,

Lespinasse were

still

his

in his closest intimacy,

and destined hereafter to


— THE FEIBNDS OF VOLTAIEE

222

write his Life lives,'

'

one of the wisest and noblest of

says John Stuart Mill,

'

delineated

by one of

the noblest and wisest of men.'

Adam

In Paris, he met

As a

economist.

result

Smith, the political

of

their

acquaintance

Turgot produced in the next year his

'

Eeflections

on the Eeformation and Distribution of Wealth,' fertile in

conception, arid in style, and anticipat-

many

ing

through

of the ideas familiar to English readers

Adam

But the

Smith's

'

Wealth of

insistent claims of

and pity narrowed the study that

his

Limoges on

same

his time

hours for study, even for

would serve

well.

it

cleared the province of wolves,

logous to that

Nations.'

by which Edgar

In 1767 he

by a system anaWales of the

rid

pest.

Then, in 1770, Limoges and their fight with want.

When

its

Intendant began

Turgot came to the

province, the wretched place in arrears

lessened.

was a million francs for its taxes. Some he had certainly The work he had started was just

beginning to bear

when years'

there

its first little

came the withering

famine.

Its

horrors

harvest of good, blast of the

were

two

unthinkable.

Turgot wrote to Terrai, the Controller-General, that

it

was impossible

arrears without ruin taxed.

to extort the taxes ay,

and with ruin

and the

—to

the

The people could not only not pay what


!

TUEGOT: THE STATESMAN

223

was demanded of them, but they had nothing

God knows they had

existence.

and

barren necessities of their

for the

to sell

bitter practice to

on

subsist

own

by long

learnt

enough

little

But now they must surely sit down and die. Strong and calm, Turgot rose up again. From the Parliament at Bordeaux he obtained permission to levy a tax on the rich in aid of the

He

sufferers.

himself opened workshops in which

he gave work, and paid for

would

it,

not in coin, which

certainly be spent at the nearest cabaret,

but in leather tickets which could be exchanged for food at the

own

cheap provision shops, also of his

institution.

Far beyond

his age in every practical

scheme

for the benefit of mankind, he was beyond our

own age

in that he clearly perceived that the free

soup-kitchen, and all the sentimental philanthropy

which gives money

in

lieu

of work, instead of

paying money for work, must be demoralising,

and

in the long

relieves. effect of

'

Such

run create more misery than distributions,' said he,

Even through a famine he

district

have the

accustoming the people to mendicity.' sent to prison every

beggar he could lay hands on.

beyond

'

it

Then, again far

he induced the ladies of the and to teach the poor girls needlework his

so to give

age,

;

them

'

the best and most useful kinds


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

224

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;the

means to earn.* The fight was long and hard. But it had its reward. The people came to love him who had helped them who had given them, not the to help themselves of alms

;

bread and scornful dole of charity, but the

bitter

power

to

earn a livelihood and their

first taste

of self-respect.

On May

10,

1774, Louis the Sixteenth suc-

ceeded to the throne of sixty-six kings

made

July 20, Turgot was

and thus

called to wider

and on

;

Minister of Marine

and

fuller

work.

The

Limogian peasants clung about his knees with tears,

and the Limogian nobles rejoiced openly at

his departure.

The one leave-taking was

as great

a compliment as the other.

The merits of got, with a

this

'

virtuous philosophic Tur-

whole reformed France in his head,'

had not been

in the least the reason of his pro-

But schoolfellow Cice had whispered pleasant things of him to Madame Maurepas, the motion.

wife of the Minister

;

and Madame had

the matter with her husband,

who was

settled

a lively

shrewd old man of seventy-four, not inconvenienced by any idea of duty, and with a very strong sense of humour.

Turgot was Minister of Marine for just five weeks but in that time he had eighteen months' ;

arrears of wages paid to a

gang of workmen

at


â&#x20AC;&#x201D; TUEGOT: THE STATESMAN and made many plans

Brest,

for the

225

improvement

more than twenty years ago, at the Sorbonne, he had significantly compared to fruits which cling to the parent tree, only until they are ripe.' On August 24, 1774, he was made Controller-General of Finances in

of the colonies, which

*

the place of Terrai. It

sounded a fine position, but was

represented

all

France in little.

it ?

Limoges

A ruined Treasury,

a starving people, in high places corruption and exaction, and

in

low places misery such as has

rarely been seen since the world began. Terrai, profligate

and dissolute

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

'

What

does

he want with a muff?' said witty Mademoiselle

Arnould when he had appeared with winter

had

' ;

his

hands are always

left to his

one

in our pockets

in '

successor, debt, bankruptcy, chaos.

The King was not quite twenty, weak with the amiable weakness which is often more disastrous in a ruler than vice. The Queen was nineteen, careless and gay, loving pleasure and her own way, and meaning to have both in spite of all the controllers

disturbed

in the

by

his protege if

danger

world.

principles,

Maurepas, being un-

would readily abandon

he perceived for himself the

in that patronage.

new heaven enlightened among the

that he saw in Turgot's appointment a

and a new

earth,

and the

least

Voltaire, indeed, wrote

Q


— THE FKIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

226

people dreamt that the Millennium had come, but Voltaire was but a voice crying in the wilderness, in the councils of State the people

and lot

had neither

nor part. realising to the full the

Once again Turgot,

the impossibilities even, of his position,

difficulties,

resolved to

do what he could.

Within a few

hours of his appointment he wrote a long letter

urging the absolute necessity of

the King,

to

economy

privileges, exemptions,

plead

denouncing bribes,

in every department,

— equality

and pleading

—daring

to

No

in the imposition of taxes.

bankruptcy, no increase of taxation, no loans

was to be the motto of

this '

I feel all the perils to

He was

wrote.

—what be

sense!

'a

I expose myself,'

he

not even religious in the sense

—that

who never

goes

Maurepas.

'

'

Controller ship.

officials

were expected to

'You have given me a

religious.

happily,

which

his

Sire,'

to

Mass,'

Controller

grumbled Louis to

answered the Minister, very

Terrai always went.'

The new ControUership was still a nine days' wonder when Turgot restored throughout France what he had restored in Limoges free trade in

grain.

In 1770 he had written on the subject

some famous Letters '

'

in

answer to Terrai's revo-

cation of the edict and the witty

'

Dialogues

GaHani which supported that revocation.

'

of

Then,


;

TUEGOT: THE STATESMAN bolder of

still,

official

227

he suppressed an abominable piece

jobbery, the Pot de

Vin, or bribe of

100,000 crowns which the Farmers-General had always presented to the Controller when he signed a

new

edict.

If the

Farmers turned away

sulkily,

angry with a generosity they were by no means prepared to imitate, from the country came a long burst of passionate applause. '

It is

only M.

Turgot and I who love the

people,' said the King.

Well, this poor Louis did

love them, but his was not the love that could

stand firm

by the man

thing for

the

sent to save them.

people,

nothing

by

'

Every-

was The kingdom

them,'

Turgot's motto, and, perhaps, his mistake.

King was to be the lever to raise his and the weak tool broke in the Minister's hand. The first disaster of Turgot's ControUership was the disaster that spoiled his Intendancy. In 1774-6 scarcity of bread made many distrust his edict restoring to them free trade in grain. With his firm hand over Louis's shaking one he suppressed the bread riots of that winter,

as

it

was never given to a Bourbon to suppress anything. But he would not in justice suppress, though he might have suppressed, Necker's adverse pamphlet on the question, called The Legislathough half the tion and Commerce of Grain '

;

'

Encyclopaedists,

and many of Turgot's personal

q2


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

228 friends,

were led thereby to adopt the opinions of

Genevan banker.

the solid

In the January of 1775, Turgot presented his Budget. The deficit left by Terrai was enormous.

Let us pay then, said Turgot's sound commonthe legitimate

sense,

contracts

of Government, the

not by your dear old remedy, taxation, for

by limitGovernment and of the

ruined country can yield no more, but in^^

the expenses of that Ofiicials

Court.

and courtiers alike took as a

judgment from Heaven the after this

fact, that

very shortly

monstrous proposal, the audacious pro-

poser was sharply attacked by the gout. Turgot's ControUership lasted in

twenty

all

months, and for seven of them he was very

When

he was blamed once for overworking himself to force everybody's hand,

and trying

you not know,' he answered simply,

we

ill.

die of gout at fifty

? '

'

in

His present

'

Why, do

my

family

illness

kept

him in his room many weeks, but did not prevent him from dictating an enormous correspondence, and trying urgently

to

persuade his master to

begin his economical reforms

by having

his

coming

coronation ceremonies performed cheaply at Paris, instead of expensively at

good

Eheims

and

to

make

by omitting from him to extirpate Of course Louis was too weak for these

his professions of tolerance

the service heretics.

;

the oath binding


TUEGOT: THE STATESMAN

229

drastic measures; he characteristically contented

himself by mumbling the oath, and the senseless

expenses of the coronation were as large as ever.

But Turgot, undaunted, went on working.

In

January 1776 he presented to the King what have been justly called the Six Fatal Edicts

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;the

first

for the suppression of corvee, four for the suppres-

sion of the offices interfering with the provision-

ing of Paris, and the sixth for the suppression of

jurandes or the government of privileged corporations.

The

battle,

and embodied one of the great aims of

first

and sixth were the

Turgot's administration

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

to

make

real cause of

the nobility and

clergy contribute to the taxes.

A

shrill

outcry of indignation rang through

Make

Versailles.

us pay

The Court had

Us I

!

always scorned Turgot with his shy, quiet manner, his gentle aloofness,

and the

reflection cast, in the

by the purity of his life on its own manner of living. But now it hated him. Eeduce Tax us ! Curtail our extravagances most odious

taste,

!

our expenditure! abolished a

What

next?

number of our very

He

has already

best sinecures and

lessened the salaries attached to several enticing little

offices

where we were enormously paid

doing nothing gracefully

!

He

for

has given posts to

persons fitted for them instead of to our noble and

incompetent relations

!

If

one of

v>s

(even

when


!

THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

280

Due d'Orleans do something—well— illegal, he one of us

the

is

himself) wants to will not allow it

As though the makers of law could not be breakers

they chose

if

indignantly in

its

And

!

unpaid-for

mured, connived at the person

who had

Versailles rustled

silks,

fall

its

whispered, mur-

of this quiet, strong

not a thought in

common

with

them nor a thought of himself. But he had a more dangerous enemy than the Court

—the

Quick-witted, wilful, im-

Queen.

petuous, with a husband whose slow, hesitating

must needs

intellect she

enough

despise, clever

love to meddle with great things, but

enough

to

meddle well

not wise

^Marie Antoinette took her

deep step down the stairway of ruin when

first

she chose to be Turgot's

have

let

him,

as,

but for her,

have saved France ?

wanted

enemy

instead of Turgot's

Could he have saved her too,

friend.

to

if

infinitely

she would

men thought he might

God knows. Marie Antoinette

be amused, and her particular amuse-

ment, gambling, was very expensive;

the

to

she

was

good-natured and impetuously in love at

moment with Madame de Lamballe, and wanted

for her the revival of the old post of Superintendent

of the Household, with

And

its

enormous emoluments.

at her side stood Turgot, saying,

repas had long since deserted him. easier,

and

safer for one's

own

'

No.'

It

Mau-

was much

interest, to give the


TUBGOT: THE STATESMAN

231

Queen what she wanted and have done with it. As for Louis, he was, as usual, weak with the weakness that brought him to the guillotine and ended the French monarchy. Turgot

so

far

Edicts were registered of Paris.

him

controlled

that

the six

by the unwilling Parliament

Then Monsieur, afterwards Louis the

Eighteenth, expressed in a pamphlet of very feeble

wit the feelings of the upper classes against this

That paltry

terrible reformer.

turned

the

King

against his

Maurepas showed him a sharp on

Turgot's

calculations as

and some forged

letters

had already Minister, when

skit

financial criticism

Controller-General,

purporting to come from

Turgot and containing expressions offensive to the

Not man enough

Eoyal Family. to

to take

them

Turgot and demand explanation, the wretched

King went on

distrusting

him and giving him

feeble hints to resign.

But

until there

his place,

sake

of

was a better man

Turgot would take no France

he would

to

hints.

push those

occupy For the Edicts

through, and gain his principles before he lost his

power.

Then another

friend failed him.

the brave old hero,

and said,

who was

Malesherbes,

hereafter to defend

who, as Condorcet found on every subject 'many fors and

to die for his King, but


;

THE FRIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

232

but never

againsts

one to make him decide/

resigned his post in Turgot's government.

'

are fortunate,' says hapless Louis gloomily, I wish I could.'

able to resign.

coming up

was

to fall

On

But the

fast.

first

'

You

to

be

The storm was

man on whom

it

remained calm and staunch.

King appoint Amelot

April 30, 1776, Turgot wrote to his

him not

begging

a

note

as

Malesherbes' successor, and containing

ominous words

'

:

Do

to

not forget, Sire, that

these it

was

weakness that brought the head of Charles the First to the block.'

made no answer.

Louis

Finally,

the match was put to the tinder of the Queen's

wrath by Turgot's dismissal from worthless protege, de Guines

oflBce

of her

and the Minister, was whispered, had also declined to pay a debt she had incurred for jewellery, as against the new ;

it

had himself made. Eules for a Queen This must certainly be the end of Queens or of rules he

!

Ministers

!

In this case,

only Turgot's

fall

came

it

was the end of both

first.

As he was

sitting writing, on May 12, 1776, Bertin arrived to announce to him that he was no longer Controller-General. He had been drawing

up an quietly,

cessor,

edict; laying

'My it

Assembly.

down

his

pen he observed

successor will finish it.' His suchas been well said, was the National


;;

TUEGOT: THE STATESMAN

Two

233

Antoinette

wrote

exultantly to her mother of his dismissal.

What

days

later,

Marie

did she care for the just reproaches of the

King

and of the whole nation, which that old killjoy, Mercy Argenteau, declared that this deed would bring on her head ? She would have liked her enemy turned out of Bastille the

Duke. short,

and her

Her

!

bitter

little

18, Turgot

he

desire,'

triumph was so

punishment so long

said,

!

took farewell of his master

in language nobly dignified

one

and sent to the

very day that de Guines was made a

Poor Queen

On May

office

'is

and touching.

'My

you may find I have warned you of

that

have judged wrongly, that I imaginary dangers.'

Clugny

was

appointed

Controller-General

and jurandes were re-established the edict The establishing free trade in grain was revoked. Court rejoiced aloud; the Paris Parliament was corvee

delighted.

;

Old Voltaire at Ferney, indeed, wept

was death before death, that a thunderbolt had fallen on his head and his heart and the wise knew that nothing could save France and said that

this

now. Turgot retired quietly into private

life.

That

he was disappointed, not for himself, but for his country, is very true. True, too, he was angered at

the backstairs

policy which

had dismissed


!

THE FRIENDS OP VOLTAIRE

234

beyond this, there was so much he could have done, which now he could never do Faithful to his life-long principle of gathering up But

him.

far

the fragments that remain, he

Adam

Smith,

met and talked with Franklin, went

to see

much, corresponded with often

Hume

read and studied

Voltaire

when he came

to

and

made

Paris in 1778,

experiments in chemistry and physics, and was active in private benevolence.

Was

the brief evening

of his

life

The one human affection which, in its makes loneliness impossible, was not best

was

his only as a

solitary

?

perfection, his

;

or at

dream or a memory.

But

in the great family of earth's toiling children

he must have known there were many to love and bless him, many he had saved from wrong or from

whom

sorrow, some

men.

into

not

he had made from beasts

Another blessing

was hisâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;he did

long survive his active labours.

March

A

He

died

21, 1781, aged fifty-four. failure,

failure beside

Turgot

this

life?

It

may be

which many a success

could

not

save

is

so; but a paltry.

France

Eevolution, but he gave her, and

all

from

her

countries,

working theories on government, on the liberty of the press, on the best means of helping the poor, on the use of riches, on civil, political, and rehgious liberty, which are still invaluable. practical,


TURGOT: THE STATESMAN

He modern future

been justly

has

political

economy

said ;

to

to

have founded

have bequeathed to

generations *the idea of the freedom of

industry

;

and

'

to

have made ready the way

the reforms which are the glory of our

Among more

235

own

for

day.

Voltaire's fellow-workers there are far

dazzling personalities.

But from

their fiery

words, exalted visions, and too glorious hopes one turns with a certain sense of relief to this quiet, strong, practical

man, and understands why the

people, whose instinct in judging the character of their rulers

seldom betrays them in the long run,

specially acclaimed

Turgot as a

friend.


â&#x20AC;&#x201D; THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

IX

BEAUMARCHAIS: THE PLAYWRIGHT Some men do great things incidentally and unPierre Augustin Caron de Beauintentionally. marchais bothered his clever head scarcely at all with schemes for the well-being of his country

was

Httle

concerned

much with one man

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

with humanity and

very

Yet by a special irony of destiny the author of 'The Marriage of Figaro' played one of the chief parts in the ^himself.

prelude to the drama of the Kevolution.

Born

on January 24, 1732, the son of a watchmaker with a large family, Pierre Augustin in Paris

Caron early learnt his a

little

father's

trade, picked

Latin at a technical school at

up

Alfort and

the rest of his education from experience

and from

the world.

A

lively,

impudent, good-looking boy, young

Caron was from the cleverness which

is

first

clever with that smart

as distinct

wisdom, as kindness

is

from genius or from

distinct

from sympathy


PIERRE-AUGUSTIN-CARON DE BEAUMARCHAIS.

From an

Engraving, after Michon, in the Bibliotheaue Nationals, Paris.


BEAUMAECHAIS

He was

THE PLAYWRIGHT

:

as sharp over

his

watchmaking

as over

He had

his first

everything he undertook in Hfe. lawsuit

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;the

first

he made in

many

of so

his trade,

!

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;over a discovery

and won

escapades.

life.

But he was

it.

young, gay, musical, and Parisian. only a part of his

237

His trade was

There were debts and

Then the watches took

to disappearing

mysteriously out of old Caron's shop

;

and

finally

old Caron turned his scapegrace out of doors,

till

the mother pleaded, not in vain, for the prodigal's return.

Then the

prodigal

smallest of watches for

The King was pleased

ring.

and the King's of course,

Caron,

tall,

the

loveliest

to desire one also,

;

while the courtiers could

be out of the fashion.

and made watchmaker to

his Majesty.

In 1755, another piece of luck befell him.

Caron was one of the luckiest of

A

Pierre

handsome, audacious, was presented

at Versailles,

through his

and

de Pompadour's

daughters, Mesdames, followed

example

their father's

not,

made

Madame

human

(This

beings

all

life.)

young married woman, who had noticed him admiringly at Versailles, came to his shop to have her watch mended. Caron took it back to her house in person. A few months later the charming person's elderly husband sold to Caron his post at Court, and on November 9, 1755, pretty

^m^'


.

THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

238

a patent was accorded to the watchmaker's son

him one of the Clerk Controllers of the

declaring

'

Pantry of our Household.' post,

this

agreeable

exceedingly

it

handsomely

eiFective

little

Nothing to do,

of Pharaoh's butler. sure you do

only be looking

An

and

!

Caron,

magnificent,

preceded the King's roast with a sword clanking at his

At the end of a few months

side.

his

predecessor in this arduous occupation died, and young Caron married the charming widow, Madame Francquet, who was certainly older than himself,

but not the

less

agreeable to a very young

man

for that.

His marriage could not, at

one of interest

;

least,

have been

or he was so far disinterested that

he neglected to complete the marriage settlements, and when Madame Caron died, in ten months' time, is

Caron found himself penniless.

said,

a very small property, but

it

She had,

it

was apparently

so small as to be invisible, for

discovered as

its

whereabouts.

no one has ever But it is memorable

having suggested to Caron the name by which

he now called himself, and has been ever since

known

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;Beaumar ch

ais

In a very short time the young widower (he was only twenty-five) reappeared at Versailles, not as a watchmaker or butler, but as a musician. All the social talents

had Caron

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

tact,

impu-


BEAUMAKCHAIS

:

THE PLAYWEIGHT

239

dence, a witty tongue, a delightful voice, added to

a real talent for the harp, which was the fashionable instrument of the moment.

Mesdames

killed

a great deal of the too ample royal leisure with

Madame

music

;

down

to the

horn and the comb.

This delightful

man

to teach us the

young parvenu harp

!

He

concerts,

Adelaide played every instrument

is

the very

not only did that, but he organised

of which he was himself the bright,

particular star.

On one for

him

occasion the King was so impatient

to begin to play, that

he pushed towards

him his own armchair while on another, Mesdames declined the present of a fan on which the painter had portrayed their concerts without the figure of Beaumarchais. Of course the The beautiful insolence courtiers were jealous. ;

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

of his manners, the perfectly good-natured conceit (surely one of the most exasperating of the minor

made him enemies. One scornful young noble handed this new favourite, this royal vices) naturally

instructor, his '

up

Sir,'

watch

to look at.

says Beaumarchais,

my trade

I

'

since I have given

have become very awkward in such

matters.' '

Do

not refuse me, I beg.'

Beaumarchais takes the watch, pretends to

examine

it,

and drops

it.

'

Sir,'

says he, with a


THE FRIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

240

bow

owner,

to the

ness,'

and, turning

'

on

on the

in fragments

I

warned you of

is

'

To

'

asked

to

much

art

of

buy himself a brevet of bought

also

receiving

to

and

it

of

own

to ask

;

there

had

making money, and

that in

nobility.

1761 he could

He would have of Woods and

other Masters

objected so

such a bourgeois into their

order, that even the patronage of his

says

Figaro's father

the post of Master

Forests, but that the lustily

for the

courtier,'

financier

him the

'received' so

be a

Soon he made friends with and Court banker,

already.

of

'

match

at least a

accept, to take,

Paris-Duverney,

watch

floor.

the secret in three words.'

the secret

clumsi-

his heel, leaves the

The new courtier was 'I was born old ones. Figaro.

my

Mesdames, and

wit displayed in an amusing pamphlet,

could not gain the bourgeois his point.

bought the

post of

So he

Lieutenant-General of the

King's Preserves instead, and in that capacity sat

solemnly in a long robe once a week in judgment

on the poachers of the neighbourhood of Paris. In 1764, he made a journey into Spain, where sisters, who had married a Spaniard, and another had just been jilted with a peculiar insolence and brutahty by a man called

one of his

was

living,

Clavijo.

Beaumarchais brought Clavijo to book

the day of the wedding was fixed,

when

;

the shifty


BEAUMAECHAIS

THE PLAYWRIGHT

:

Beaumarchais

absconded a second time.

suitor

241

the episode famous in his account of the

made

which

affair,

appeared

Goezman

against

in

in

Fourth Memoir

his

February 1774, and which

naturally does not tend to the discredit of

M. Pierre

Augustin Caron. Besides protecting his sister and exposing her

was carrying out mission from Duverney and recovering

betrayer, this energetic person

a secret

bad debts of old

Caron's.

Then, too, he was

enormously enjoying Spanish society, and writing

whom

love-letters to a pretty Creole, Pauline,

had

left in

Paris and

condescend to

marry

really turn out

was

further

richest

to

whom if

he

he may magnificently

her estates in

St.

Domingo

be worth consideration.

He

corresponding with Voltaire, and,

and most

fruitful of all his

Spanish trans-

actions, studying the Spanish stage.

He came home

in 1765.

After his return, he

appeared, in 1767, as a playwright, making his

debut in one of those heavy and tearful dramas in the unfortunate style of Diderot's

No

one reads or acts

'

Eugenie

'

'

Natural Son.'

now

;

but when

the adaptable Caron had shortened and altered it

it,

mildly pleased the playgoing Parisians for a few

evenings.

In 1768, Beaumarchais married another widow,

Madame Leveque, having abandoned

Pauline, or

R


!

THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

242

having been abandoned by her on the score of his

Madame Leveque was

mercenariness.

young, and when

and

rich

she suddenly died three years

were not wanting envious enemies to accuse this aspiring Caron of having poisoned

later there

both his wives. The fact that their deaths left him the poorer might have exonerated him, if his character did not

own

Voltaire,

;

who was watching

his rise in the

who

with a keen interest, and

human passionate man

like

'

world

made

rarely

nature—

mistake in judging impetuous,

Voltaire said

but, as

A

a

quick,

Beaumarchais

gives a wife a blow, or even two wives two blows,

but he does not poison them.' It

may be

who touched so

noted, moreover, that all the

adored

his life

this Caron.

women He was

handsome and good-natured and successful certainly but some women seem !

little selfish

;

love that quality in a

man

it

gives

a scope for denying themselves.

A to

them

so great

And

then he

was always so brave and gay His success

He

now

deserted

him

for a little while.

offended the King

by suggesting a mot with a meaning Figaro, it seems, was getting apt in them already which a duke gave forth at one of

the

little

suppers of

Madame Dubarry and which

displeased his Majesty, who, to be sure, to dread hidden meanings.

had reason


BEAUMARCHAIS

:

THE PLAYWRIGHT

243

Then came the afiair Goezman. In 1770 Duverney died, and Beaumarchais immediately quarrelled with his heir, the Comte and plunged into a lawsuit over a sum of fifteen thousand francs. Beaumarchais won de

la Blache,

the first move in the game. more than one iron in the

out fiercely with the

But unluckily he had fire just then.

Due de Chaulnes

He

moiselle Mesnard, with the result that the

was clapped

into a fortress,

Duke

and Beaumarchais

La Blache

the prison of For-l'Eveque.

fell

over a Made-

into

seized his

opportunity, brought his lawsuit before the Parlia-

ment of

Paris, represented

dumb and

imprisoned

Beaumarchais as the greatest scoundrel unhanged,

won

his cause, seized Beaumarchais' furniture,

and

entirely ruined him.

Beaumarchais seldom

lost

his

coolness

courage, and he did not lose them now.

and

While

had been let out on leave three He had taken these chances to try to win over to his side Goezman, who was Judge-Eeporter in the lawsuit with la Blache, and

in For-l'Eveque he

or four times.

a most unfavourable judge to Beaumarchais.

By

the simple and time-honoured expedient of hand-

some bribes

to the wife,

to gain the husband's

man

perfectly

Beaumarchais attempted

good

understands

marchais lose his cause, she

will.

that, is

Madame Goezshould

Beau-

to return his gifts

Âť 2


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

.2U

of a watch set in diamonds, and of money.

cause

The

She returns the watch and money,

is lost.

save only a certain fifteen louis, to which, for

some absurd raisonnement defemme^ she considers herself entitled, and with which she will by no Then Councillor Goezman comes means part. forward and accuses M. de Beaumarchais of seeking to corrupt his integrity.

This ridiculous situation Beaumarchais seized as a golden opportunity to restore his credit before

the world, to dazzle

it

with his wit, to entice

with his audacity, and to

man to

make

it

of matchless cleverness he was.

it

own him the He appealed

public opinion, nominally to judge between

himself and Goezman, in reality to judge between

him, Goezman, la Blache, the Paris Parliament,

and

all

his

enemies and rivals whomsoever, in

four famous Memoirs, which divided Paris into

two

hostile

camps and fixed on him the delighted

attention of Europe.

Except by name, and

for a brilliant quotation

here and there, few people know the Goezman Memoirs now. But in fire, wit, and irony, they are little, if

at

all,

Beaumarchais

inferior to the lives.

comedies by which

In both are the same gay

surprises of situation, banter

and mockery, parry and thrustâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; every page as light and elusive as thistledown borne on a summer breeze. Their


BBAUMAECHAIS cleverness gained senile

THE PLAYWEIGHT

:

245

him the admiration not only of a Old Ferney

King, but of Voltaire as well.

declared he had never been so much amused in his '

'

life.

He

has

What

all

a

man

!

the qualities

me he has poisoned and amusing

he wrote to d'Alembert.

'

;

and again,

'

his wife,

he

is

'

much

Don't

tell

too lively

for that.'

Madame Dubarry had

charades acted in her

apartment, in which an interview between Beau-

marchais and

Madame Goezman was

represented

The Memoirs were read aloud in Of the Fourth, six thousand copies were Horace Walpole delighted sold in a single day. in them. Madame du DeiFand gossiped of them.

on the

stage.

the cafes.

Bernardin de Saint-Pierre prophesied for Beaumarchais the reputation of Moliere.

What when

did

it

avail then,

on February 26, 1774,

some three years, to give judgment against him, sentence him to civic degradation, prohibit him from the occupation of any public function, and condemn the Memoirs to the case

be burnt as

He was parler,

had

lasted

scandalous,

faut obeir,'

defamatory?

Le monde a beau The day after says Voltaire.

the victor not the il

libellous, less.

'

the sentence had been pronounced, the Prince de

Due de Chartres feted the criminal, and a delightful woman fell in love with him. Marie Antoinette named her latest coiffure after a Conti and the


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

246

He was

joke in the Memoirs.

when he appeared

in

public that

Lieutenant of Police, advised

more. Sartine,

It is

'

'

one should be a

wit had ruined

Sartine,

the

to appear

no

little

modest

still.'

The

in attempting to destroy this

itself.

ban was worse than

Its

Beaumarchais was the fashion.

The King, on

him

not enough to be condemned,' says

Maupeou Parliament useless.

so wildly applauded

to

be sure, had to enjoin silence

this 'terrible advocate,'

a revision of his suit;

but he promised him

and then employed him,

March, 1774, as his secret agent in England to run to earth a person who had threatened to publish in

a

scandalous

Beaumarchais

pamphlet on succeeded

in

Madame Dubarry. his mission. He

But when he returned to France, Louis the Fifteenth was dying, so for all his pains his reward was, as he said, swollen legs and an empty purse.' always

succeeded.

'

Soon, however, news came of a libel against

Marie Antoinette which was being prepared in London. Off starts Beaumarchais again, pursues the libeller (a shifty Jew) to Nuremberg, goes on to

Vienna to procure from Maria Theresa an extra-

dition treaty against him,

is

himself thrown into

prison for a month, and then liberated with profusest apologies and the offer of a thousand ducats. All his adventures were delightfully romantic and


â&#x20AC;&#x201D; BEAUMAECHAIS picturesque

;

:

and with

THE PLAYWEIGHT his eye for scenic effect,

took care they should lose nothing in the

A year later, in

247

he

telling.

1775, he came to England on

another and far more important secret mission con-

nected with the rebellion of the American colonies. It

was the one enterprise of

his

life, it is

which he put more heart than head.

He

said, into

attended

parliamentary debates, and was constantly at the

house of Wilkes.

'

All sensible people in England,'

he wrote to Louis the Sixteenth in September 1775, 'are convinced that the English colonies are

He

lost.'

advised that, while France siiould

not openly embroil

herself

with England, she

should send secret aid to the insurgents.

For

this

purpose, financed by his country, he equipped

war three

for

ships

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

and when he returned

American Hortalez

interest

&

his

'

navy

to Paris

'

he called

it

he traded in the

under the name of Eoderigue,

Co.

England was naturally angry when she found out as

how

she had been tricked, and America, so far

money acknowledgments were concerned, was

not a

little

ungrateful.

But the clever instrument,

Beaumarchais, came out of the

affair

with his

usual flourish and distinction, and would

have

deserved a paragraph in history, even had he not

earned a page in literature.

On February

23, 1775, there

was produced

at


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

248

Comedie Fran^aise

the old

in the

Eue

des Fosses,.

Saint-Germain des Pres, opposite the famous Cafe Procope, a play called The Barber of Seville.' '

Accepted by the Comedie rran9aise in 1772, its first performance, fixed for Shrove Tuesday 1773, lad been stopped

moment

that

t

by the

its

authorities because just

author was unluckily serving

term of imprisonment for fighting the Due de iiaulnes.

Before the next date fixed for

its

debut,

had been condemned by the Maupeou Parlia* The third for the afiair with la Blache. pt ju§^t

_

was no

luckier.

The

irrepressible creature

published the Fourth

Goezman Memoir

Vtd now, when the performance

c©Tf:K8iofF,

it

was a

failure.

!

really did

La Harpe declared people, its bad

i^fnU IL inordinate length bored j

^,

>

irritated

them, and

its false

morality shocked

The parterre was loudly and vulgarly disgusted, and the boxes yawned behind their fans. them.

By Beaumarchais ? He was but mediocre before, we remember, in Eugenie.' Watchmaker, courtier, '

advocate, secret agent, this

wright

—but

clearly

no play-

!

In twenty-four hours Caron had laid violent hands on his 'Barber,' shortened him, enlivened him, cut out his distasteful jokes and his dubious moralities,

and 'under the pressure of a discon-

tented and disappointed public

'

turned him into


'

BEAUMAECHAIS At

a masterpiece.

THE PLAYWRIGHT

:

its

second performance the

play was applauded to the skies. the whole winter season. to

print

with

it

Barber of

its

It

ran through author

It delighted its

title-page

Comedy

Seville,

sented and

249

in

'The

running:

Four Acts, repre-

failed at the Comedie rran9aise.'

It'l

drew on him one of his dear lawsuits, and enabled^ him to place the rights of dramatists over their works on a new and firm basis, and to found thiO Far above dW* first Society of Dramatic Authors. '^â&#x20AC;˘.

it

led the

way

to

Jne

Figaro.'

'

-^

The Barber of Seville is^' time-honoured one of the amorous old guard} ^^i who falls in love with his ward; only BeUtiThe subject of

'

'

*

marchais' guardian defect, indeed, of

He

fell

his personce the

cleverness. finer

a wit, not a

genius,

He

It

into Sheridan's fa

mouthpieces of his

own

wholly lacked the far higher and

the

character, which

fool.

both his great plays that

characters are wits.

and made

is

exquisite fidelity

made Shakespeare

to

life

and

give to each

of his creatures the special kind of cleverness, and

no other, proper to its nature. Not the less, Beaumarchais writes with a

light-

ness and efiervescence which are without counter-

part in dramatic literature.

'

The Barber of Seville

was taken, it is said, from an opera of Sedaine's, and was itself originally designed to be a comic


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

250

Nothing but a quarrel with the composer of the score prevented it from first appearing in that form in which it is to-day most familiar to the

opera.

world.

Yet

hardly needs an accompaniment of

it

The airs and the singing are there already in the gay bizarrerie of situation, the laughing swing of repartee, and the brilliant The characters, recitative of the longer speeches. called by Spanish names and dressed in Spanish clothes, are thoroughly and essentially French. Its exquisite delicacy of touch and its rippling mocking gaiety declare it, in fact, not only the work of a Frenchman, but one of the most Gallic lively music.

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

pieces that have ever held the stage.

It inaugu-

new order of comedy, and introduced a new character the Barber, who was also

rated a it

:

hero,

and moralist

wit,

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the character of Figaro.

Beaumarchais was not at

down and

into

tranquilly

He must

all

enjoy his

the

man

first

to sit

dramatic

up by writing another, but he must with enormous difficulty, at the risk of much money, and three years' hard work, become the editor of the first triumph.

not

only follow

it

complete edition of Voltaire's works ever given to the public.

Then, too, he must prepare the reorganisation

of

the

ferme generate with the Minister,


BEAUMAECHAIS Vergennes.

THE PLAYWEIGHT

:

251

him when they

Actresses consulted

were out of an engagement, and dramatic authors

when

their liberties

were endangered.

Goezman Memoirs can

of the

The author

surely help a poor

simpleton engulfed in a lawsuit, and the friend of Duverney, the rich

man who began the world may well assist a ruined

in a tradesman's shop,

speculator

!

Inventors, impatient to air their dis-

them

coveries, carried his

action over

legal

first

own.

him who had brought

to

Girls deceived

assistance of the

by

a discovery of

his

their lovers begged the

man who had

held up Clavijo to

infamy.

One of the most fortunate characteristics Beaumarchais possessed was his power of suddenly changing his occupation, and one of his most extraordinary characteristics was his love of doing so.

'

Shutting the drawer of an

called this faculty.

He

affair,'

he himself

shut the drawer with a

bang, and perfectly good-natured, self-conceited,

and

successful, turned

London

to

interfere

from a secret agency in

with the marriage of

the

Prince of Nassau, and from the marriage to assist the Lieutenant of the Police in censuring the

works of

his brother-playwrights,

and from that

mouth

of Figaro such

censorship to put into the sentiments

portance

as,

'

except

Printed in

follies

those

are

places

without im-

where

their


'

THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

252

circulation to

forbidden

is

.

.

without the liberty

blame no praise can be flattering.' By 1778, 'The Marriage of Figaro' was

and

finished;

in

was received by the But it contained that which

1781

Comedie Fran^aise.

no censor

—not even

1782, he read is

.

it,

it

dull Louis

and flung

detestable, this shall never

it

— could

from him.

be played

In

pass.

'This

!

But that prohibition was not enough for BeauForbidden fruit is ever the most tantalis-

marchais.

ing and delicious.

Daintily tied with pink ribbons

he sent a copy of the play to an-./ther to that.

He announced

this salon

;

a reading of

and it

and, coquettishly and without offering any reason,

abandoned the reading little

at the last

moment.

In a

while he had raised aU Paris on the tip-toe of

excitement.

Not

to

have scanned at

or two of ' The Marriage of Figaro

least a scene

was to confess Then the author read the Grand Duke of Eussia, and of it to the Comtesse de Lam'

oneself out of the fashion.

the whole of

it

to

recited selections

and to Marshal Kichelieu, 'before bishops and archbishops.'

balle

After

all,

Louis was very weak, and public

The First Gentleman of the Chamber permitted the thing to be rehearsed, more

opinion very strong.

or less publicly, in the theatre of the Hotel des

Menus

Plaisirs.

AU

the

world

and

his

wife


;

BEAUMAECHAIS

:

THE PLAYWEIGHT

253

crowded thither. The Comte d'Artois was actually his way when, with an awakening of his feeble obstinacy, the King sent a mandate forbidding the

on

performance.

Even Madame de Campan, kindly

old sycophant of the Court, confessed that there

were angry whispers of

'

and murmurs of

'

sion,'

tyranny

'

and

an attack on

'

oppresliberty.'

Beaumarchais, stung to the quick, swore that

it

should be played, ay, even if it was in the choir of The pressure on Louis was great Notre-Dame the Court was in want of a new sensation, and to be made to laugh at its own follies was a very !

new one

indeed.

In three months, the Comte de Vaudreuil, the leader of Marie Antoinette's societe intime of the Little Trianon, obtained the royal permission to

have

it

acted in his house at Gennevilliers, by the

company from d'Artois

and

the the

Comedie, before the Comte

bosom The Queen

Queen's

Duchesse de Polignac.

friend,

herself

the in-

tended to have been present, but was prevented

by an

indisposition.

When

accorded, Beaumarchais

the permission was

was

in

England.

He

hurried home, saw to the performance himself,

and made his own conditions. On September 26, 1783, three hundred persons, the very flower of Court society, crowded into Vaudreuil's theatre,

and would have died of


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

254

suffocation if the resourceful

Beaumarchais had

not broken the panes of the windows with his cane.

It

was

said

he had made a

hit in

two

The aristocratic audience received his

senses.

play with rapturous applause.

He

adroitly followed

by presenting his piece to a tribunal of censors who, for some unknown reason, 'felt sure it would be a failure,' and expressed themselves satisfied with it after they had made a few up

his success

Finally, a reluctant per-

insignificant omissions.

mission was

1784,

wrung from

seven months

the King, and on April 27,

after

the

performance at

The Marriage of Figaro was first publicly performed at the new Comedie Fran9aise, built on the site of the Hotel de Conde, and now GenneviUiers,

known

'

'

as the Odeon.

The play was

to begin at half-past five in the

afternoon, but from early in the

were besieged by crowds, in

morning the doors which cordons Mens

elbowed Savoyards, and the classes and the masses

began

their

persons

long struggle.

were suffocated

La Harpe.

Scudery,' said caustic all

be

In the press three

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;'one

more

than

for

Great ladies sat

day in the dressing rooms of the actresses to sure of securing

seats,

and duchesses were

delighted to obtain a footstool in the gallery, a part of the house to which, as a rule, ladies never

went.

The

theatre

was Ht by a new method.


BEAUMAECHAIS

:

THE PLAYWEIGHT

255

The famous Dazincourt played Figaro and Mol^, Almaviva. The author himself was in a private box between two abbes who had promised to ad;

minister

very spiritual succour

'

in case of death.

'

Then the curtain rose. The " Marriage of Figaro," said Napoleon, was the Eevolution already in action.' As in the Barber of Seville,' the atmosphere and '

'

'

'

the clothes are Spanish, the spirit and essence wholly

The

French.

story

who

of Figaro, the servant

outwits his lord and wins Suzanne,

whom his master

has tried to steal from him, forms a plot simple

Count Almaviva, the master,

enough.

certainly

is

one of the best representations of the great noble of the old regime ever put on the stage.

Continually

worsted in argument by his valet, and perpetually in the

most ridiculous

situations,

the dignity of good breeding

himself puts

it,

'

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

as

he never loses

Beaumarchais

the corruption of his heart takes

Figaro

nothing from the hon ton of his manners.' is,

of course, democracy with

last,

and stung

of wrongs. '

Barber

')

to courage

its

wits

and action by

The Countess

(the

awake

at

centuries

Eosina of the

and Suzanne are the most charming and

seductive reproductions of the eighteenth-century

woman ful

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

'

spirituelles et rieuses,' coquettish, grace-

and gay.

The

chief fault of the play

is

the

episode of Marceline, in which the playgoer wearily


THE FKIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

256

recognises two, too familiar friends

mother and the

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;the

baby with

mislaid

long-lost

the usual

convenient birth-mark on the right arm.

The morals of the piece are throughout the morals

of

pressed.

'

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

time

delicately

indelicacy,

ex-

Figaro hardly ever says anything

in-

the very air

he

but intrigue

convenant,

breathes.

the

'

in

is

The ripening fruit,' writes

hanging on the

on the point of

tree,

never

falling.'

falls

Saint- Amand,

but seems always

Virtue, of a kind, does

triumph in the long run, but Beaumarchais knew his audience so well that

up

to the last

he kept them fearing, or hoping, that If its unpleasant situations,

the

precocious

distasteful

it

moment

would

not.

and the character of

page Cherubino (a particularly

one to English ideas), gave spice to the

own

modern reader can enjoy the sparkhng and rippling stream of mocking gaiety without stirring up the mud it hides. One wit in

its

day, the

situation leads to another with the

naturalness,

unexpected.

and yet that other Moralisings

and

is

most complete

always perfectly

soliloquies,

spell ruin in other plays, are in this

which

one rich in

briUiancy and aptness.

Those who as yet know 'The Marriage of Figaro' only by name, can

purchase for a few pence one of the most exhilarating draughts of intellectual

given to the world.

champagne ever


;

THE PLAYWEIGHT

257

not only as literature that the

play-

BEAUMAEOHAIS But

it

It

lives.

is

:

was the Eevolution already

There are hardly six consecutive

in

action.

which do

lines

not contain some indictment against the old order there

not an aphorism which does not push,

is

with a laugh, some abuse is

down

the abyss.

one thing more amazing than

Beaumarchais,

'

and that

is

One can but marvel

right.

so clearly hearing

its

my

still

There

play,' said

He was

success.'

its

'

that the old order,

sentence of death, took that

sentence only as a stupendous joke,

'

laughed

its

laugh' over 'Figaro,' and applauded the war-

last

rant for

its

own

execution

till

its

hands tingled

again.

The '

fine ladies

heard their vapours defined as

the malady that prevails only in boudoirs

my

mocking second

Figaro says to Bazile flattered?

as other :

Hear the

men

truth,

of censors :

who had

wretch,

since

that tribunal

Provided I do not mention in

or anyone

you

licensed the play heard the

ings, authority, religion, poHtics,

...

to be

liar.'

With what a roar of laughter words

and

when

see him,

'Are you a Prince

have not the money to pay a

'

'

surrounded by sycophants, saw himself

lord,

for a

;

my

morahty,

writ-

officials

a claim to anything, I

who has

can print everything freely under the inspection of two or three censors

; '

and with what amused S


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

258

self-complacency little

minds fear

it

axiom

listened to the

' :

Only

little writings.'

Nobility, The hereditary noble hstened to this money, rank, place, all that makes people so '

:

proud

What have you done for so much good You have given yourself the trouble

!

fortune?

;

and the bourgeois

to be

born

whom

merit had opened no path to glory, heard

'

with a strange

me,

thrill

his side, to

at

Figaro continue,

'

While

for

a crowd of nobodies, I have had need

lost in

of more knowledge and calculation simply to exist,

than has been employed to govern for a

hundred

all

the Spains

years.'

Did the Minister who had

the snug

filled

Government with his own relations and friends see nothing but a joke in They

posts in the

:

thought of fit

for

it

me

for a situation,

but unluckily I was

they wanted an accountant

;

obtained the

place'?

'

'Intelligence

a dancer

;

a help to

advancement ?

Your lordship is laughing at mine. Be commonplace and cringing, and you can get anywhere.' To succeed in life, le savoir-faire vaut '

mieux que

le

savoir'

The ubiquitous Englishman of the audience heard Figaro announce of the

Goddam

Enghsh language.'

listened to '

'

To pretend

The

'

to

be

'

the basis

political

world

a scathing definition of diplomacy: to

be ignorant of what everyone

else


;

:

BEAUMAECHAIS

THE PLAYWRIGHT

:

knows, and to know what everyone

know ...

and hollow ...

...

to

break

to set spies seals

there's diplomacy, or

and

The audience trooped out

Par

le sort

.

.

.

five

its

till

lips

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;the ten

and

still

seventh couplet of the

the

ears

letters

into the night

with enthusiastic admiration on its

traitors

I'm a dead man.'

performance lasted from half-past

ringing in

only empty

is

and pension

intercept

259

does not

else

seem deep when one

to

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

;

vaudeville L'un

de

la naissance,

est roi, Tautre est berger

Le hasard

fit

leur distance

L'esprit seul peut tout changer.

The

had

writer, certainly,

as

little

idea as his

audience that his was to be the wit to change

From

everything.

the

man we have

first

to last,

always with

advance in the world and of itself; whose argument

Beaumarchais was us,

let that is

who means

to

world take care

that posterity having

done nothing for him, he need do nothing for posterity;

the

true

time-server, just

audacious

what less courageous people only dare to think, and earning thereby their gratitude and applause. Caron had reaped place and fortune from the old order, and was not at all minded to enough

to say

overthrow

it.

Tyranny

for tyranny,

he preferred

the despotism of the King to the despotism of the

mob.

If

he revenged himself in

his play for the s

2


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

260

and humiliations from which even his that was cleverness had not been able to save him Overturn Throne and Church! absolutely all. slights

Such a houleversement would very likely overturn Caron de Beaumarchais too, and was not to be thought

Yet

of.

was

it

this

expression to the

man who gave principles

to

light popular

which Voltaire

and

his friends devoted their lives, their ardour,

and

their genius.

It

was surely a cruelty of

that the Master could not Its

author might miss

its

fate

see 'Figaro.'

live to

significance,

but Voltaire

—never. Beaumarchais, indeed, had merely caught the accent of his age, as a child catches the accent of its

and

nurse,

'

wrote revolutionary literature, as

M. Jourdain spoke prose, without knowing it.' In 'The Marriage of Figaro' he said what all men were

feeling,

but not what he

He wished

felt.

be a successful playwright, and he was one

;

to

but

he did not mean to be one of the greatest and most inflijlential of Eevolutionists and he was

that too.

Hefo owed up

the success of

'

The Marriage

by generously founding a fashionable

of Figarc

'

charity.

o be

known

later as the Benevolent Maternal Institution, and the King followed up

the

succps he had always disHked by punishing

1


BEAUMAECHAIS an imprudent

letter

THE PLAYWEIGHT

:

Caron had written

and which had

paper,

offended

261

in a news-

by

Monsieur,

writing on a playing card, as he sat at his game,

an order for Beaumarchais' imprisonment.

By one

of those charming

little

surprises for

which the old regime was so celebrated, Beaumarchais, of fifty-three, found himself locked up in St.

Lazare, then a house of correction for juvenile

offenders.

laughter,

At first Paris went into roars of and then she became very angry indeed.

In a few days she obtained the release of her playwright

;

and Louis, with the inconceivable

in-

consistency that distinguished his career, not only

gave him enormous monetary compensation, but permitted as a further reparation, Seville

'

The Barber of

to be played at the Little Trianon.

That point

'

representation

of

Beaumarchais'

marked the success.

crowning Dazincourt

company of royal and noble amateurs. Marie Antoinette was rehearsing the part of Eosina with Madame de Campan when she first trained the

heard of the opening of a grimmer drama, the

Diamond Necklace. On August 1785, Cardinal de Kohan was arrested. On

the

was played

in

scandal of the

19th,

the

'The Barber of

theatre

of

Beaumarchais Eosina, the

Seville'

15,

the Little Trianon, with lucky in

the

audience,

Comte de Vaudreuil

the

Queen

as

as Almaviva, the


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

262

Due de Guiche

as Bartholo,

and the Comte d'Artois

as Figaro.

The Queen was Did

terrible

Bazile's

concert her '

At

infinitely vivacious in

her part.

Calumny

definition of

dis-

?

a mere breath, skimming the ground

first

like a swallow,

but sowing poison as

it

flies

.

.

.

it takes root, creeps up, makes its way, goes from mouth to mouth then, all of a sudden, one knows not how. Calumny is standing upright, rearing its head, hissing, swelling, growing visibly. .

.

.

:

spreads

It .

.

.

its

wings, takes

bursts, thunders,

flight,

crashes,

thanks to

heaven, a general outcry,

crescendo,

a

universal

What

proscription. If

chorus

of

devil could resist

Queen or audience found

round

eddies

and

becomes, a

public

hatred

and

'

it ?

in the

words too

awful an application and prophecy, history does not relate.

How events,

strange,

with the knowledge of after

sound in the mouth of d'Artois the words

:

am happy to be forgotten, being sure that a great man does enough good when he does no 'I

harm.

As

servant, does

who

are

virtues

one

requires

in

a

your Excellency know many masters

worthy of being valets?' and,

strange of lest I

the

to

all,

'

most

I hasten to laugh at everything,

should have to weep at everything,'


BEAUMAECHAIS

:

THE PLAYWRIGHT

The performance of the was the

He was

flicker

last

of the dying

own

Beaumarchais'

pleasure.

Barber

'

light

'

263

at Trianon

fire

of royal

began to

fail.

shortly involved in a famous dispute with

Mirabeau about the Paris Water Company, in

which that great genius brought out his mighty guns of irony and invective and in one fierce blast blew,

as

were, Beaumarchais' nimble-witted

it

head from his shoulders.

my

diatribes

pun

at

my

watching. beau's

'

'

Mirabelles,' has

Figaro

he

expense no more.

'

has dubbed

Well, he shall

?

AU

Paris stood

Dazzling, burning, and terrible, Mira-

sun was

rising

above the horizon, and

Beaumarchais' star was fading in the stormy sky.

Then he had another lawsuit, in which he entered the lists as the champion of wronged beauty. His opponent was Bergasse, the young lawyer, who had his reputation to make at some one's '

'

expense, and

made

it

at Beaumarchais'.

In 1786, Caron married Mademoiselle Willer-

maula,

who had

long been his mistress, and by

he had a daughter, Eugenie. For them, he built a splendid house looking on to the Bastille, near the Porte Saint-Antoine, which became one

whom

of the sights of Paris.

In 1787, he produced a very feeble opera, 'Tarare,'

On

which had a small temporary

July 14, 1789, the

Bastille

success. fell.

Not


'

THE FBIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

264

only the fine house was in danger, but

owner

He had

as well.

its

written 'Figaro'?

fine

Yes.

But he had been the courtier and the secret agent His pluck and energy did not in the of kings. In the midst of the uproar he

least desert him.

was writing a new play, ' The Guilty Mother.' La Harpe (no wonder his friends called him

La Harpie) declared and perhaps little

too severe.

sort of third

and

grown up

of

to the

'

silly

'

Barber

'

is

;

but

forms a

'

and Figaro,' '

The same chaThe Guilty Mother Barber and the Countess

most sequels.

grown

the Eosina of the

Almaviva

downright

The Guilty Mother

volume

appear,

'

thorough-going verdict '

falls as fiat as

racters is

this

was

it

'

Figaro

old.

'

; '

while

Cherubino

has

young man into. Beaumarchais had built a theatre the Theatre du Marais near his house, in which he proposed his new piece into the very objectionable

such a boy would grow

should appear.

On June produced,

1792, the day before

6,

its

it

was

to be

author was denounced before the

National Assembly by Chabot. He had indeed, with a view to making at once a coup for his country and for himself, and though he was now sixty years old

bring into sacre

and getting deaf, undertaken to France sixty thousand guns to mas-

patriots,'

'

shouted unreasonable patriotism.


BEAUMAECHAIS On August 10

:

THE PLAYWRIGHT was

house

his

265

prison,

and on August 30 he was freed by Manuel brother

Commune),

just

massacres.

After

After

harrowed to

as well as Procurator

litterateur,

(his

of the

two days before the September all,

his star

hiding in barns fields,

on

searched;

August 23 he was taken to the Abbaye

had not yet declined. and roaming 'over

panting for his

life,'

England, where very luckily

London merchant,

whom

to

for

he escaped himself a

he was in debt, pre-

vented his returning to Paris and the guillotine

by shutting him up

In March, 1793, he did return,

sword of

to the

a good his

citizen.'

Bench

in the King's

justice, if I

'

to offer

Prison.

my

head

cannot prove I

am

That he did not thus pay for

imprudence proves that there was as much

that

head as had ever come out of

Three months

in

it.

Beaumarchais was sent as

later,

the emissary of the Eevolutionary Government to fetch those sixty thousand guns

which had been

He had many

highly dramatic

left in

Holland.

and, being

whoUy modern

in his belief in self-advertisement,

he once more

escapes and adventures

made

the most of

;

them.

In

his

absence the

Government which had sent him, by one of those little mistakes which make its history so vivacious, declared him an emigre!

During the Terror he was

at

Hamburg,

in


THE FRIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

266

direst poverty

and

in mortal anxiety as to the fate

of his wife, his daughter, and his sister Julie.

They escaped with their lives but when Beaumarchais was at last taken off the list of emigres and returned to Paris in 1796, he found house and ;

fortune

alike

creditors,

and

He was

ruins,

in his

door

his

besieged

by

famous garden a wilderness.

sixty-four years old

done more in his

and had already

than a hundred ordinary

life

men compress into a hundred ordinary careers. And now he must start afresh He saw his daughter married revived his old !

;

social tastes,

produced

'

The Guilty Mother,' and

took the keenest interest, both in prose and verse, in that

young Lieutenant of

He

Bonaparte.

also

Artillery,

Kapoleon

published two very anti-

The watchmaker's son, who had charmed Mesdames at Versailles, was to the end witty, gay, bold, and Christian

letters

in

of

praise

Voltaire.

practical.

On

the morning of

May

18, 1799, his friends

found him dead of apoplexy.

To die in his bed was surely not the least of his clevernesses. Caron de Beaumarchais was not a very unusual

at last

type of character or even of intellect use he

made

;

but in the

of his brains, of his qualities and of

man in a million. His marvellous enterprise and industry enabled

his circumstances,

he was a


BBAUMAKCHAIS him

build

to

on very

THE PLAYWEIGHT

:

more than one

267

successful career

ordinary foundations.

His luck, that

astonishing luck which followed

him from the

cradle to the grave, seems to have prevented such

dangerous qualities as his conceit, his pugnaciousness,

and

his love of intrigue

and speculation, from

bringing their usual fatal results.

handsome of

manner

face, a fine figure, a '

and

used to their utmost advantage. his contemporaries

he was a

gifts as

a

parvenu grandeur

'

real kindness

Such

and generosity, he

For himself and

brilliantly successful

individuality.

For thrust,

posterity,

he

is

the

man who, with

a single

pushed open that door, which by long

labour and bitter sacrifice Voltaire and the Encyclopaedists

had

unbarred,

Eevolution and the Day.

upon

the

great


THE FEIENDS OP VOLTAIEE

X CONDORCET: THE ARISTOCRAT Voltaire was the son of a lawyer, and Diderot the son of a cutler

;

d'Alembert was a no-man's child

educated in a tradesman's family Galiani were

;

Grimm and which

foreigners in the country to

Of all Voltaire's fellowship only Vauvenargues and Condorcet came from the order their work was pledged not to benefit but they gave their talents.

Condorcet alone lived to experience

to destroy.

the extreme consequences of his principles, and

paid for them by imprisonment and death. Aristocrat

whom

who

lost his life

he had devoted

it

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

The

through the People to this

was Jean Antoine

Nicolas de Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet.

Born

in 1743, at Eibemont, a

town

in Picardy,

Condorcet belonged to a noble family highly connected both with the Church and the Army. His father was a captain of cavalry and designed his son for

the same aristocratic

post.

But he

when the child was four; and a devout mother vowed him to the Virgin and au blanCy died


JEAN-ANTOINE-NICOLAS DE CARITAT, MARQUIS DE CONDORCET. From an Engraving by Lemort, after the Bust by St. Aubin.


>.

OF


'

CONDOECET: THE ARISTOCRAT dressed

him

in white frocks like a little girl, so

could neither run nor

that the luckless Caritat

jump

269

as nature

bade him, and owed to his mother's

piety a weakness in his limbs from which he never

recovered.

His

What

first

were

schoolmasters

soil

their mightiest

the

intellects

and

fiercest

of at least four of

opponents

Diderot, Turgot, and Condorcet eleven, Caritat

with his

Jesuits.

one to make of the fact that they had

is

as virgin

At

the

home

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;Voltaire,

?

was under

influence pressing

their supervision,

him

to their

way

of thought, with an uncle a bishop, and Cardinal

de Bernis a relative.

At

thirteen,

he was sent to

Eheims, to be more completely under their control.

At

fifteen,

he came up to Paris, and began

at the

College of Navarre to study mathematics and to

think for himself; and

when once a mind has

begun to do that, nothing can stop His treatment of a particularly

it.

difficult

theme

brought him the acquaintance of d'Alembert, who first saw in the boy, who was to be to him as a son, a kindred genius, a future colleague at the

Academy.

Caritat

was only seventeen when he

in-

troduced himself to his other great friend, Turgot, Letter on Justice and Virtue writing him a '

which already proclaimed thinker of a high order.

An

this college student '

a

Essay on the Integral


'

270

THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

Calculus,'

which he presented

Sciences

at the

when he was twenty-two,

Academy

attracted to

of

him

the flattering notice of the famous mathematician,

There was in

Lagrange.

it

not only the ardour

of youth and a buoyant fecundity of idea, but a

profundity of learning not at Caritat

lodging in six,

he

all

youthful.

was now no longer a student, but still In 1769, when he was twentyParis.

entered

the

Academy

opposition to the wishes of

of

Sciences

all his relatives,

in

who

never pardoned him, he said, for not becoming a captain of cavalry.

The man who ought, by the solemn unwritten laws of the family compact, to have been a heavy dragoon, was soon acknowledged as one of the finest original thinkers of his age, the friend of

d'Alembert and of Voltaire, and something yet greater than a thinker

man's friend

—greater

than any great

— a practical reformer and a generous

lover of human-kind.

The character of Condorcet

he who with Turgot has been said to have been the highest intellectual and moral personality of his century '

—has

in

it

much

not only infinitely good, but also

infinitely attractive.

somewhat shy

Perfectly simple

in the social

and modest,

world which he himself

defined as 'dissipation without pleasure, vanity

without motive, and idleness without

rest,'

among


;

CONDOECET: THE AEISTOCEAT

no one could have been more gay,

his intimates

witty,

and

271

Though

natural.

might find him cold,

his

acquaintances

knew

his friends

well what a

tender and generous soul shone in the thoughtful eyes.

If

he listened to a

critically almost,

tale of

sorrow coldly and

while others were commiserating

the unfortunate, Condorcet was remedying the misfortune.

Though he never could

man how

he knew better than any

and were

no use

to prove

it

principles were stern, all his deeds

if all his

So quiet in

gentle.

profess affection,

his tastes that

he had

for riches, wholly without the arrogance

and the blindness which distinguished his class, he had its every merit and not one of its faults ;

and he well deserved the

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

'

title

Voltaire gave

him

The man of the old chivalry and the old

virtue.'

In 1770, when he was twenty-seven, he went with d'Alembert to stay at Ferney. delighted with him.

own

heart,

Here was a man

own hatred and his own zeal

with his

and fanaticism

with better chances of serving did not this

add,

as

he might

young Condorcet

a Voltaire could never

pure in Hfe and hated a without

jealousy,

Voltaire

it

after his

of oppression for humanity,

The Patriarch

!

have

added,

had a thousand compass lie

without

;

was

that

virtues

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;that

that he

vanity,

he was was wholly

and without


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

272

meanness.

Caritat soon worshipped at the feet of

a master of

whom

his friendship

with d'Alembert

had already proclaimed him a pupil, while Voltaire quiet, practical help for the

enlisted his guest's

rehabilitation of the Chevalier

de la Barre, for

process of d'Etallonde;

the revision of the

honoured him by becoming his editor and ant in the critical

'

and

assist-

Commentary on Pascal which

Condorcet produced

'

later.

Because his humility was the humility of a just

mind and

modesty of the kind that scorns to

his

cringe, Condorcet's admiration for his host did not

make him meanly was Condorcet who

blind him to his literary faults or

them

spare

and while

;

warm

spoke in

it

eulogy of his

'

dear and illustrious

chief as working not for his glory but for his cause,

it

was

also

Condorcet

who

production of Voltaire's senility, times the three friends of France

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the

deprecated that '

would talk over the future

two older men who had done

much to mould that who had much to do.

future and the '

You

young man

will see great days,'

old Voltaire wrote afterwards to his guest will

make The

Some-

Irene.'

;

'

you

them.'

visit lasted

a fortnight, and was a liberal

education indeed.

Three years

later, in

1773, Condorcet received

the crown of his success as a mathematician and


CONDOECBT: THE AEISTOCEAT

273

was made Perpetual Secretary of the Academy of Sciences, where he wrote eloges of the savants who had belonged to it, with the noble motto for ever in his mind, 'One owes to the dead only

what

useful to the living

is

So

truth.'

Condorcet had been a mathematician

far,

Knowledge might free and redeem the world

alone.

—justice and

in time

;

but the time was long.

Beneath that

quiet exterior, palpitating through his leisurely,

exact studies at the College of Navarre and the

Academy, there throbbed in this man's breast a vaster and fiercer passion than any passion Scientific

for learning

—the passion

human-kind. Where come by that ruling idea of him a field of labour which he for

did young Condorcet

opened

his that

must

till

to

his days, unremittingly, before

all

night Cometh

which should

the

when no man can work that idea steel him to endure, exulting, the

cruellest torments of life

and death

human nature, mentation of human happiness ? perfectibility of

— the '

infinite

the infinite aug-

'

The

was Condorcet, the the friend of Turgot was Condorcet,

friend of d'Alembert

geometrician

;

the reformer.

In August, 1774, Turgot was made ControllerGeneral.

He

appointed Condorcet his Inspector

of Coinage at a salary of 240Z. a year, a payment

which Condorcet never accepted. T


;

THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

274

had work

Tlie pair

do,

to

The vexed

could do, and do together. of Trade in '

Grainâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;

'

for a

which only they subject

moment,' says Eobinet,

the whole question of the Eevolution lay in this

question of Grain

'

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;incited

what they took

for

to

them

to fierce battle

be the cause of freedom

against the cause of that well-meaning

Condorcet attacked Necker with

place, Necker.

a rare,

and wrote two

fierce malignity,

ing pamphlets on the subject which

many

commonsting-

made him

enemies.

But there

were

other reforms waiting the

doing, less in importance

To

importance now.

then and greater in

curtail the advantages of

the privileged classes, to open for

commerce the

rivers of central France, to abolish the slave trade, Taille

and Corvee^ Vingtieme and

make

the nobility

share in the

were the tasks into which

and

his soul.

this

and to

taxation

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;these

noble put his

That every reform meant

himself, that all his interests privileges

Gabelle,

life

loss to

were vested in the

he sought to destroy, that every human

drew him towards the old order, makes his work for the new, more excellent than that of tie

his fellow-workers.

They had nothing

Condorcet had everything to

to gain

lose.

In May, 1776, a Queen of one-and-twenty

demanded

that

'

le sieur

Turgot

fiit

chass^,

m^me


CONDORCET: THE ARISTOCRAT envoye k

la Bastille

for her

way,

own

'

275

and, in part, she had her

;

ruin and that of France.

Con-

dorcet renounced his Inspectorship of Coinage

;

he

would not serve under another master. Turgot's death in 1781 was the first great sorrow of his His other friend, d'Alembert,

life.

French Academy

seat in the

last,

him a

and in the

;

with that quiet and generous devotion

which says

and does much.

little

him the task of providing

left to

1782

for

Condorcet tended him to

next year he too died. the

in

won

D'Alembert

annuities for

two

old servants, and Condorcet accepted the obhgation as a privilege,

and

fulfilled it

own poverty and ruin. He was now not a

little

scrupulously in his

lonely.

His relatives

resented his choice of a profession

still

;

his best

the great Master of their party

were dead had preceded them. From social duties falsely He so called Caritat had long ago freed himself. was three and forty years old, occupied in writing friends

;

'

'

that

own

Life of Turgot

'

principles

and

'

is

a declaration of his

policy, in contributing to the

Encyclopasdia, and in

he

which

many

public labours,

when

met Mademoiselle Sophie de Grouchy. the supreme blessing of life be a happy

first

If

marriage, then Condorcet was indeed.

Mademoiselle

was

younger than himself, very

man

a fortunate

full

girfish

twenty in

years

face T 2

and


!

THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

276

with a bright cultivated mind, and a rare He found in her capacity for love and tenderness. figure,

what haps

is

uncommon even

his wife

she shared his

was

work and

approved of his

happy marriages

in

From

also his friend.

per-

the

first

his love for his fellow-men,

and was true not only

sacrifices,

but to his example of unselfish courage

to him,

and unflinching devotion, to the end of her life. For the moment for what a brief moment

^—their world looked smiling enough. Condorcet abandoned himself to his happiness,

man who

with the deep passion of a strong

has

For

never wasted his heart in lighter feelings. a dowry

— so

French marriage

essential to a

For the opinion of

wholly forgot to stipulate. friends,

who

his

considered a married geometrician as

a sort of freak of Nature, he cared nothing

when they saw pardon was as

The two

—he

his wife,

him

little to

settled

and forgave him,

and

;

their

as their blame.

on the Quai de Conti in a

house where Caritat had previously lived with his mother.

At

her salon

{le

that Hotel des

Monnaies Sophie held

foyer de la Republique,

men

called

it),

where she received, with a youthful charm and grace, friends,

not only her husband's French political

but

Ambassador,

also

Lord

Wilkes,

Stormont the

Garrick,

English

Sterne,

Eobertson, Gibbon, Mackintosh, and

Adam

Hume, Smith.


CONDOEGET: THE AEISTOCEAT Large and shy, with a in his

manner,

who was woman in at

its

it

little

277

awkwardness even

was not Condorcet but his wife She was the one

socially successful.

a thousand who estimated social success

low, just value, and was great in

her husband to be

much

Only two years

knowing

greater.

after their marriage, in 1788,

Condorcet entered the arena as one of the

and most noteworthy of Eights.

On

all

earliest

champions of Women's

the ground of their equal intelligence

he claimed for them equal privileges with men, and ignored the very suggestion that their bodily weakness and inferiority are reproduced in their minds.

He No

judged, in

fact, all

women from one woman.

nobler testimony can be borne to the intellect

and character of the Marquise de Condorcet than to say that she deserved as an individual

example made her husband think of her It is

not a

little

though so wholly the relationship,

marriage an

evil.

warmly

the

for

what her

sex.

curious to note that Condorcet, faithful

thought

and happy himself

in

the indissolubility

of

In later years, he pleaded

condemnation

of

mercenary

marriages by public opinion, as one of the best

means of lessening the

inequalities of wealth.

In 1790, the profound happiness of his wedded life

was crowned by the birth of

a daughter.

his only child,

Before that, the fierce whirlpool of


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

278 politics

had

drawn him

into

and he had

it,

addressed the electors of the States-General and

appeared publicly as the enemy of sacerdotahsm

and aristocracy, with great principles

all his

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;the

natural rights of of the

the mutable nature

man and

constitutions

He was made member

govern him. cipality

gospel based on two

which

of the muni-

of Paris, and in that, his

first

public

function, flung the gauntlet before his caste

and

broke for ever with an order of which the smug selfishness

General

We

was admirably

who

said

typified

him,

to

'Why

by a Farmeralter things?

are very comfortable.'

The

fall

of the Bastille,

the

insurrection of

October, the journey of the Eoyal Family to Paris,

he had watched with the calm of one

who knows

must needs be, who

realises the

that such things

necessity of painful

means

to a glorious end.

To

monarchy he was not at first opposed. If the King were but a man But when in June, 1791, came the ignominious flight to Varennes, Conthe

!

dorcet rose in a fierce,

still

wrath and proclaimed

the necessity for a EepubHc.

himself from us, '

we

'

are freed from him,' said he.

This flight enfranchises us from

Nearly

all

and he stood

The King has freed all

our obligations.'

the Marquis's friends broke with him, alone.

Before his ripened views on

royalty were fully known,

it

had been proposed


CONDOECET: THE ARISTOCEAT

279

that he should be the tutor of the Dauphin, and to

Sophie that she should be the gouvernante.

band and wife were

in different places

Hus-

when

the

proposals were

made

spoken

each other on the subject, they

with

;

but, though they

had never

declined the offers almost in the same words.

Condorcet's friends misunderstood

If

him and parted

at the parting of the ways, his wife never did.

In 1791, he was elected

member

for Paris in

the Legislative Assembly and became in quick succession its

its

Secretary and

President, he

presented to

Scheme, startlingly modern in

its it

President.

As

his Educational

its

demands

that

education should be free and unsectarian.

By

the. order of the

Assembly, in 1792, there

was burnt in Paris an immense number of the brevets and patents of nobility among them the

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

patent of Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, Marquis

de Condorcet

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

at the

very moment when at the

bar of the tribune Condorcet himself demanded

same measure should be adopted all over France. Not one dissentient voice was raised against the scheme; who, indeed, should dissent A few from it when a marquis proposed it ? months later he was elected Member of the National Convention for the Department of Aisne, and the extremist of the Legislative Assembly that the

found himself

all

too moderate for the Convention.


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIBE

280

Then came the trial of the King. There was never a time when Condorcet could be called either an orator or a leader of men. Though he had written most of its official addresses, he had appeared but

little

before the Legislative

Nervousness caused

Assembly.

him always

to

read any speeches he did make, and a delicate voice robbed

them of

their

His

effectiveness.

deeds and his character earned him a hearing and applause

;

and sometimes his complete self-devotion

and the white heat of his enthusiasm discounted his

manner and touched

thing of his

own

his hearers with some-

But he was,

deathless passion.

as d'Alembert said, a volcano covered with snow,

and that audience of

his,

coarse in fibre,

mad

for

excitement, overwrought, uncontrolled, must needs see the

mountain in flames, vomiting lava and

death.

To be a great orator one must have supreme degree the a lesser degree. lofty ideals of

qualities one's hearers

in

a

have in

The thoughtful reason and the

Condorcet found

little

counterpart

A Marat Or a Fouquier-Tinville even,

in the parliaments of the Eevolution.

or a Danton for us

!

drunk with blood, with his wild hair flung back, and his words shaking with passion but not this ;

noble, with the '

stoical

Eoman

high courage of his caste, his face,'

his

stern truthfulness, his


â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

;;

CONDOECET: THE AEISTOCEAT unworldly enthusiasms.

Worse than

281

Con-

all,

dorcet never was for a cause, but always for a

and since he followed no party blindly, he was in turn abused by all. He proved in his own history that to be a great principle

;

demagogue

is

it

essential to

be without too

scrupulousness and the more delicate virtues successfully to lead the vulgar the

not to be too

much

Condorcet,

monarchy

although

monarch.

still

that

;

requisite

is

of a gentleman.

as a possible

France, had

first

a

fine

he

had broken

with

form of government

no personal

for

feeling against the

Firmly convinced of his culpability, he

was equally convinced that the Convention was not legally competent to judge its King at all and proposed that he should be

tried

by a tribunal

chosen by the electors of the Departments of France.

But

to take the judging of

its

sovereign

from the Convention was to take the prey whose blood he has tasted from the great

When

tiger.

moment came, Condorcet was

the

at Auteuil

he hastened to Paris, and arrived at the Assembly a few moments before the King.

What

a strange contrast was this Marquis

mind justly country and

serene in strong purpose, with his 'just fixed,'

great in his compassion for his

not without compassion for his King

Bourbon,

'

who

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; to that poor

means well had he any

fixed


â&#x20AC;&#x201D; THE FRIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

282

meaning/ and in

whom

Condorcet himself described

an admirable but rarely quoted description as

standing before his judges, frightened

;

courageous, but without dignity.'

On January question

if

Condorcet

uneasy, rather than

'

15,

1793,

the

to

momentous

the prisoner at the bar were guilty,

answered.

'

Yes

: '

he had

conspired

On the 17th and 18th

against liberty.

the vote

was taken on the nature of the punishment to be awarded.

Consider the judgment-hall

the fierce faces and wild natures of

maddening draught of power.

among them

men who,

Consider that

this noble alone represented

a class

they hated worse than they hated royalty that it,

if

he had forsworn

he had

still its

it,

broken with

high bearing,

possession and self-control.

its

We

for

had drunk the

centuries starved of their liberties, first

with

filled

it,

itself,

denied

maddening

self-

vote for death

know better ? An Orleans sitteth and speaketh against his own kin why not a noble, then, who owes him nothing ? Condorcet shall

you dare

to

;

rises

in his place

and pronounces

severest penalty in the penal code

The punishment of death principles, and I shall not vote for death.

'

for exile

which is it.

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;the

is

against

not

my

I propose

further that the decision of the Convention shall

be

ratified

On

by an appeal

to the people.'

Saturday, January 19, 1793, the execution


GONDOECET: THE AEISTOCRAT

283

of the King having been fixed for the Monday,

Condorcet implored his colleagues to neutralise the fatal eiSect of their decision on the other

European Powers by abolishing the punishment of

With

death altogether.

the Terror then struggling

to the birth in her wild breast,

one of the greatest

children of his country begged for the suppression of that penalty as the most fecting

human-kind

ferocity

'

eflScacious

way of per-

in destroying that leaning to

which has long dishonoured

Punish-

it.

ments which admit of correction and repentance are the only ones

fit

for regenerated humanity.'

In the roar of that fierce storm of

human

was unheeded, but not unheard. There were those who looked up at the for his ruin. speaker, and remembered his words passions, the quiet voice

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

How his

far,

danger

is

up

to this point, Condorcet realised

hard to

say.

A Louis,

with the fatal

blindness of kingship, might believe to the last that his person really was inviolable, that from

the tumbril itself loyal hands would deliver his

majesty from the insult of a malefactor's death.

But a Condorcet

?

The immediate result of his part in the King's trial was that his name was struck from the roll of the Academies of St. Petersburg and Berlin. insult

touched him so

single allusion to

it

little

that there

in his writings.

is

That not a


â&#x20AC;&#x201D; '

THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

284

In the month succeeding the King's death, a Commission of nine members of the Convention, of

whom

Condorcet was one, laid before

project for the to

New

it

their

Constitution of the Year

II.,

which Condorcet had written an elaborate PreHerault de

The project was not taken.

face.

S^chelles

made

a

new

ing criticism upon Citizens

it

In his bold and scath-

one.

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;his

'

Appeal

on the Project of the

Condorcet signed his

New

to the

French

Constitution

'

own condemnation.

On July 8, 1793, Chabot denounced that Appeal '

at the Convention. '

This ex-Marquis, he said,

a coward, a scoundrel, and an Academician.'

pretends that his Constitution

is

'

is

He

better than yours

;

that primary assemblies ought to be accepted; therefore I

propose that he ought to be arrested

and brought logical

to the bar.'

On

the strength of this

reasoning and without evidence of any

kind against him, the Convention decreed that Condorcet's papers should be sealed and that he

should be put under arrest and on the

who were

to

list

of those

be tried before the Eevolutionary

Tribunal on the coming third of October.

was further condemned to be liors la If

it

is

in his absence

He

and declared

loi.

doubtful whether Condorcet realised

the probable effect of his opinion and vote in the

matter of the King's

trial,

he had reahsed to the


CONDOECET: THE AEISTOCRAT the jeopardy in which the

Appeal

285

would had looked always, not to the effect his deeds might have on his own destiny, but to their effect on the destiny full

But he looked now,

place him.

the mass, then, having done

be trampled under

rise

do

his part for

he must be content

feet,

its

dead body some might

it,

'

as he

If the unit could but

of the race.

to

'

happy,

if

on

his

and catch a glimpse

of a Promised Land.

But yet he must save himself

if

he could.

For seven years, through storms of which the story still shakes men's souls, he had known in his

own home, the Eue de

first

marriage.

When

on the Quai de Conti and then in the deep, calm joys of his happy

Lille,

the troubles of

from without, through the

fiercest of

man and wife may be happy alone which

rise

from

life

their

characters which

can wholly destroy the beauty of serene tenderness of the

such troubles

It is those evils

still.

own

come only

woman who

life.

In the

kept for ever,

some of the virgin freshness of the girl, who united to strength gentleness, and to courage quietness, who was at once modest and clever,

it is

said,

simple and intelligent, Condorcet was given a rich share of the best earth has to

offer.

Their salon, of course, was no more.

The

beating of the pitiless storm had driven their

Englishmen to covert

in happier England.

But


THE FEIBNDS OF VOLTAIEE

286 it is

only

when one

is

discontented with one's rela-

tives that there is crying

These two

To go

to

to a

their child.

to lose.

Eue de

escaped

From

Auteuil.

him

much

to the

He

death.

had each other and

still

Condorcet had

need of acquaintances.

first

there,

would be courting

Lille

to his country

two friendly doctors took

Yernet, the

widow

of the sculptor,

asked her to shelter a proscribed man. if

When

he was good and virtuous.

not lose a moment, you can

tell

me

and

She only

they answered, 'Yes,' she consented at once.

later.'

at

house in the Eue Servandoni, belonging

Madame

inquired

home

'Do

about him

Eegarding the value of the works of her

husband there have been many opinions, but as to

work there can be only one. Perfectly aware that she was endangering her life for a fugitive whom she had never seen, and who had not the slightest claim upon her generosity, she sheltered him for nine months, providing him all the time with every necessary of the value of her

life

and without the smallest hope of repayment. he did leave her at last, he had to steal

When

away from her

self-sacrificing care

fuge, like a thief.

by a

subter-

Strong, simple and energetic,

high in courage and devotion,

Madame Yernet

is

one of the unsung heroines of history. Condorcet's

condition was

destitute

indeed


CONDOECET: THE AEISTOCBAT As an outkw

all his

money had been

fate

For

seized.

himself that might have been bearable the

287

;

even to

he foresaw too clearly he could be

different â&#x20AC;&#x201D; for

himself.

Madame Vernet was

One

Sarret,

to

in-

whom

privately married and

who

lived in the house, speaks of the fugitive's gentleness, patience,

and

resignation.

He had

given to

his country his talents, his time, his fortune, his

and when she turned and rent him, he had her nothing but compassion and the strong

rank for

;

hope of a day that would dawn upon her clear and fair, after the storm was past.

But

in the

knowledge that he had brought

ruin and disgrace on what he loved best in the

world, Condorcet sounded one of the great deeps

human suffering. As the wife of an outlaw, Madame de Condorcet was not only penniless, of

but could not even sleep in the dependent on her was her years old, a young

sister,

capital.

Wholly

girl

of three

little

and an old governess.

young and brought up in a class unused to work, in the sense of work to But there was make money, for generations.

She was herself

still

in her soul

great courage of a great love.

The

talents

the

which had once charmed her salon

means of livelihood. When her house at Auteuil was invaded by Kepublican soldiers, Madame softened their hearts and earned she

now turned

to a


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIKE

288

a

by taking

pittance

a week, disguised as a peasant, she foot

Twice

portraits.

their

came on

from Auteuil to Paris, passed through the

gates with the

crowds thronging to the

fierce

by

executions in the Place de la Eevolution, and painting miniatures of prisons, of proscribed

the

men

condemned

lying hidden in strange

retreats, or of middle-class citizens,

to support her little household.

she would creep to the

the

in

made enough

Then, sometimes,

Eue Servandoni, and

for a

few minutes forget parting, death, and the terrors of the

unknown future,

before he

unhappy

died, that

He

in her husband's arms.

might well write, as he did write but a

little

while

even then he was not

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;he had served

his

all

country and had had

her heart.

He

spent the long days of his hiding almost

entirely in writing.

He began by an

exposition

of his principles and conduct during the Revolution,

and gave an account of

career.

He was

writing

it

his

whole public

when, on October

3,

1793, he was tried, in his absence, before the

Eevolutionary Tribunal, with Vergniaud, Brissot,

and

others,

accused of conspiring

against

the

unity of the Eepublic, declared an emigrant, and

condemned

On

to death.

the 31st of the same

of the Girondins.

month came

the

fall

Though not himself a Girondin


— '

CONDOECET: THE AEISTOCEAT

289

they had been once his friends, and in their ruin

he saw the immediate presage of his

own meant

that also of

to her at once.

'

Madame

The law

hi

I cannot

;

;

and

his

He went if I am disI am hors la

Vernet.

clear

is

covered here you will die as I

own ;

shall.

remain here longer.'

She answered

that though he might be hors la hi he

outside the law of humanity

;

was not and bade him stay

where he was. His wife, in her peasant's dress, came to him then for one of those brief moments, stolen from

She knew him

Heaven.

That

well.

'

Justification

of his conduct, his Apologia, that looking back on

deeds and sacrifices meant to bring the Golden

Age

to

men and which had

brought, or so

seemed, the hell of the Terror

was no Look on

this

it fit

to work for him now. Look ahead! that new country which your pure patriotism and your self-devotion, ay, and this Terror itself shall have helped to make that warless world of

equal rights and ever widening knowledge, the beautiful

dream of a

which may yet be

On is

sinless

and sorrowless

realised, in part.

the manuscript of the

written in her

earth,

the History

Justification

'

there

my request to write of the Human Mind'

hand Left '

'

at

of the Progress In the very shadow of death, Condorcet told

the story of men's

advance toward

life,

of the

u


!

.

THE FRIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

290

evolution of their understanding from the earliest

Calm, just, and serene, with not

times until now.

an intemperate

line,

not an angry thought, the

had been written by some tranquil philosopher who had seen his plan for man's redemption adopted, and had received for his '

Progress

'

reads as

if it

labour honours, peace, and competence. indeed, like

is its

many

salvation for

own

too sanguine idealism.

enthusiasts, thought his

man

the only

way

;

Its fault,

Condorcet,

own way

of

he believed his

magnificent dream to be the only possible

Utopia.

Beneath the guillotine and in social convul-

which history has no through and past them, in that sions for

parallel,

he looked

last great chapter,

in the exalted spirit of noble prophecy, to that

Golden Age which must surely come But 'The Progress of the Human Mind' is something more than a splendid hope, more than the greatest and most famous of

its

author's works.

It bears

highest testimony to the

him who

in the

supreme hour of

character of his individual

could thus forget himself, and in the midst of personal ruin, foresee with exultant joy the life

salvation of the race.

remains for ever among the masterpieces which men cannot afford to forget. It

During

his hiding

Condorcet also wrote

'

The


CONDOECET: THE AKISTOCEAT

291

Letter of Junius to William Pitt' in which he

expresses his aversion to Pitt, and an essay, never printed,

'On

the Physical Degradation

He

Eoyal Kaces.'

of

the

also planned a universal philo-

sophical language.

The Letter of a Wife a poem in

In December, 1793, he wrote Polish Exile in Siberia to his

which another

exile

'

'

bade farewell

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

to the

woman

he loved.

The death-shadows were creeping closer now. In March, 1794, he finished The Progress of But before that he had the Human Mind.' '

decided to leave

was too

Madame Vernet

;

her danger

Early in January he had begun

great.

writing his last wishes, the 'Advice of a Proscribed Father to his Daughter.'

The

little girl

was the child of too deep a love not to be inTo what was he leaving her? finitely dear. Throughout these cruel months, the last drop in his cup of bitterness had been the strong conviction that his wife would share his own fate, was doomed,

my

daughter

to himself

like himself, to the guillotine. is

destined to lose everything,'

child,

If

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;even

he could not frame the dread thought

in plainer words.

then he

'

left

But

if

even that thing must be,

Madame Vernet

the guardian of his

begging that she might have

a

liberal

education which would help her to earn her u 2

own


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

292

livelihood, and, in particular, that she

English, so that

if

might learn

need came she could seek the

help of her mother's English friends.

To

the

little girl

herself he left

words of calm

and beautiful counsel, which are in themselves a Some of that 'light that never was possession.

on sea or land'

lies

surely on those tender and

gracious lines, something of the serene illumination that shines from a dying face.

In the early morning of April

5,

1794, the

Marquis de Condorcet laid down his pen for the last time.

At

ten o'clock on that day he slipped out of

the house

Madame

in the

Eue Servandoni, unknown

Vernet, and in spite of the passionate

protests of Sarret, her husband,

out into the street,

who

followed him

praying him to return.

dorcet was in his usual disguise

;

Con-

many months'

confinement indoors, and the old weakness his

limbs,

at the door

made walking a

make him

return.

He was

but no persuasions

heard rumours

made immediately

to

Vernet's house and, were he found there,

she must be ruined.

The

;

He had

of a domiciliary visit to be

Madame

difficulty.

in

almost of the fatal prisons of the

Carmes and the Luxembourg could

to

Sarret implored

fugitive reached the

Maine barrier

in

vain.

in safety

and turned in the direction of Fontenay-aux-Eoses.


!

CONDOECET: THE ARISTOCRAT At every step

But

increased.

and

his pain

difficulty in

293

walking

at three o'clock in the afternoon

he safely reached the country house of

his old

friends, the Suards.

Madame Suard may be remembered as the very enthusiastic and vivacious little lady who once visited Voltaire, who has left behind her entertaining Letters,' and who has recorded Voltaire's warm love and admiration for her friend Condorcet. 'Our dear and good Condorcet,' Madame Suard '

had called him.

She and her husband (who was

a well-known journalist and wit) had been his intimate friends in prosperity; better than It

must

come

to

them

in justice

in his

how need

could he do ?

be said of the Suards that

the accounts of their conduct are confused.

But

the generally accepted, as well as the most pro-

does not redound to their credit.

bable, story

True, they had

many

excuses

;

but there has never

been any act of treachery for which the treacherous have not been able to adduce a plausible reason. Condorcet asked for one night's lodging, and

M. Suard replied that such

hospitality

would be

quite as dangerous for Condorcet himself as for

them.

Still,

they could give him money, some

ointment for a chafed leg due to his long walk,

and a copy of Horace Further,

we

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

will not lock

to

amuse

his

leisure

our garden-gate to-night


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

294

you can make use him away. With this, they sent it Madame Vernet, searching for him in that

so that in case of urgent need

of

!

neighbourhood a

little

while after, declared that

she tried the garden-gate and found

Her own

immovable.

should not

her, she

make

hospitality

not known.

him. the

use of

was

he should return

if

fail

attempted to is

rusty and

door, in lawless Paris,

open night and day that, to

it

Whether he Suards'

timid

One would think of

Condorcet that he did not.

The day of April 6 he spent in sufferings and privations which can only be guessed. On April 7, a tall man, gaunt and famished, with a wound in his leg, went into an inn of Clamart and asked for an omelette. Mine host, looking at him suspiciously, inquired how many

The Marquis, of the number of eggs a

eggs he would have in his omelette.

with no kind of idea

working-man, or any

man

for that matter, expects

in his omelette, said a dozen.

M. Crepinet, the

innkeeper, was a shrewd person as well as one of the municipals of

workman

this

the answer.

!

the

Commune.

Your name ?

Papers ?

I

A

queer

Peter Simon, was

have none.

Occupation

?

Well, on the spur of the moment, a carpenter.

His hands, whose only tool had been a pen, gave

him

the

lie.

Crepinet,

pleased with

his

own


CONDOECET: THE AEISTOCEAT sharpness,

had

295

this strange carpenter arrested

and marched toward Bourg-la-Eeine. How in these supreme moments Condorcet felt and acted, is not on record. But in the great crises

men

unconsciously produce that character

which they have formed

in the trivial

and he who would be great moments must be a great character by daily

life,

fireside

and in the dull routine of

round of at great

his

own

his ordinary

The strong, quiet Condorcet was surely strong and quiet still the victim of his foes,' as he had said, but never their instrument or their dupe.' On that weary way, a compassionate vinedresser took pity on his limping condition, and lent him a horse. On the morning of April 8, 1794, when the jailor of the prison of Boufg-la-Eeine came to hand over the new prisoner to the gendarmes who had arrived to take him to Paris, the Marquis de Condorcet was found dead in his cell. With a powerful preparation of opium and stramonium prepared by his friend Cabanis, the celebrated physician, and which Condorcet had long carried about with him in his ring, he had cheated the guillotine.' It was remembered afterwards, that when he left the Suards' house, he had turned If I have one night before me, I fear no saying, work.

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

'

'

'

'

man

;

but I will not be taken to

Paris.'


THE FRIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

296

That he who gave his life to the people should have defrauded them, as it were, of his death, one discord in the clear harmony of

strikes the

this true soul.

Better that a Condorcet, like

many

a lesser

man, should have mounted the guillotine as a king mounts his throne, proud to die for the cause for

which he had

phemy and

lived,

and hearing through the

blas-

the execrations of the rabble below,

the far-off music of a free and

For many months the

had no news of

happy people.

woman who

his death.

loved him

She hoped against

hope that he had escaped, and was in safety in

To support her little household she took a fine-linen shop in the Kue St. Honore, and in the entresol set up her little studio where she Switzerland.

continued her portrait-painting. In January, 1794, for the good and safety of their

child,

she had

heroically petitioned

the

municipality for a divorce from her husband, and

obtained

it

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; six weeks after his death.

When

the

news of that death reached her, both her health and her strong heart faltered. But Doctor certain

Cabanis,

who

saved her

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

afterwards married her young

for further effort

sister,

and longer work.

Full of courage and resignation she rose again, wrote a preface

to

up

'The Progress of the

Human Mind,' educated her child, and when in 1795


OONDORCBT: THE ARISTOCRAT

297

some of her fortune was restored, immediately began paying the pensions which d'Alembert had asked Condorcet to give his old servants.

In later days she had a

salon in Paris,

little

saw her daughter happily married, and died in 1822. In every stupendous change which France experienced between the fall of Eobespierre and the death of Napoleon Bonaparte, she remained faithful to the principles

had devoted Through

his genius

which her husband

to

and

his

life.

the Marquise de Condorcet had

all,

happy woman.

been, and had counted herself, a

Wrung with such sorrows as do not fall to the lot of many of her sex, she had had a blessing which is the portion of far fewer of them

;

she had inspired

a great devotion, and had been worthy of

To Condorcet same judgment

as

is

meted now

was meted

to

in

him

some in

it.

sort the

life.

Since he never gave himself blindly to any

one

faction,

all

condemned him. tionist

;

factions

To

have

distrusted

the Eoyalist he

to the Eevolutionist he

is

is

an

and

a Eevoluaristocrat.

The thinker cannot forgive him that his thought led him to deeds and words the man of action cannot forget that he was thinker and dreamer to While the Church can never pardon the end. his persistent hostility to theology, his vehement ;

opposition to

Eoman

Catholicism, as the religion


THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

298 '

many

where a few rogues make

unbeliever

human

is

dupes,'

the

impatient with his serene faith in

kind, his unshattered trust in the good-

ness, not of

God, but of man.

Far in advance of his time of our time too

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

in his views

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;in

some respects

on the rights of men

and of women, on the education of children, and in his steady abhorrence of all limitation of

Voltaire called is still

'

what

the noble liberty of thinking,' he

condemned

for

an unpractical idealism, and

for his passionate conviction that all errors are the fruit of

bad

But he

laws. at least stands out clearly to

partial observer

as

one of the very few whose

lofty disinterestedness

the

fire

any im-

came un scorched through

of the Terror.

In private

life,

stern to duty

and yet tenderer

than any woman in his quiet, deep affections, patient

and strong with the

fine

endurance of

with the capacity (that capacity which as

genius) for the highest form of

steel is

and

as rare

human

love,

he showed a great character beside which even his great intellect seems a small thing and a mean. In the breadth and the generosity of his selfsacrifice for the public good,

he remains for ever one of the noblest, not only of the Friends of Voltaire, but of the sons of France.


;

; '

INDEX 'Advance, The, of the Mind of Man (Turgot), 208 Advantages, The, of Christianity (Turgot), 208 Advice of a Proscribed Father, The (Condorcet), 291 '

'

'

Madame

Aine,

123, 131,

54,

d',

132, 136

'

;

on Dynamics

'

and

Theory

of

Winds,' 10 death of his mother, 10; acquaintance with Diderot, 11 writes Preface to Encyclopsedia, 12-13 ; offered Presidency 13-14; Berlin Academy, of ;

'

'

member of

the French Academy,

14 ; visits Voltaire, 15 ; writes Geneva,' 15-16 retires from EncyclopaBdia, 16-17 publishes 'Elements of Philosophy,' 17; visits Berlin, 18 ; his attachment to Mile, de Lespinasse, 18-23 their salon, 23-24 publishes History of the Destruction of the Jesuits,' 25 second visit to Voltaire, 25-26; made Perpetual Secretary of Academy, 26 illness and death of Mile, de Lespinasse, 27-28 his unhappiness and death, 29-30 his work and character, 30-31 Appeal to the French Citizens •

;

;

;

;

*

;

;

;

*

Banise

'

(Grimm), 152 of

Seville,

The' (Beau-

marchais), 247-50, 261-2

Beaumarchais, Caron de, birth and early life, 236-7 first marriage, 238 at Court, 238-40 ; visits Spain, 240-1 ; produces Eugenie,' 241 second marriage, 241-2; the Goezman lawsuit and 'Memoirs,' 243-6; acts as produces secret agent, 246-7 'Barber of Seville,' 247-50; edits Voltaire's Works, 250 various employments, 251 advertises Figaro,' 252 produces it at Gennevilliers, 253-4 and at the Com^die, 254-60; imprisoned in St. Lazare, 261 ; sees Barber of Seville ' at Trianon, 261-2 ; quarrels with Mirabeau, 263 third marriage, 263 ; his part in the Revolution, 263-6; produces Guilty Mother,' 266 ; death and character, 266-7 Beaumarchais, Madame (Mme. Francquet), 237-8 Madame (Mme. Beaumarchais, L6v6que)» 241-2 Beaumarchais, Madame (Mile. Willermaula), 263, 266 Beaumarchais, Mademoiselle Eugenie, 263, 266 Bergasse (lawyer), 263 Bernis, Cardinal de, 33, 269 Blache, Comte de la, 243, 244 Blind, Letter on the ' (Diderot), 41,42 Brienne,Lom6nie de, 208, 209, 210 Bueil, Comtesse de, 172, 173, 174 Buffon, Comte de, 127, 200 ;

;

'

;

Alembert, Jean Lerond d', 45, 47, 72, 124-5, 133, 136, 199, 213, 269, 271, 275 ; birth and parentage, 24 ; at Madame Kousseau's, 4-6 education, 6-8 ; mathematical studies, 8-9 publishes Treatise

;

'

Barber

(Condorcet), 284-5 Argental, Comte d', 113 Artois, Comte d', 253, 262

;

;

'

;

;

'

;

'

'


;;

; ' ' ;

THE FRIENDS OF VOLTAIRE

300

Destruction of the Jesuits, History of the (d'Alembert), 25, 133 Diderot, Ang61ique. See Vandeul, Mme. de Diderot, Denis, 11, 17, 30, 88, 125,

Cabanis, Doctor, 204, 295, 296 Catherine the Great, 18, 56-8, 158, 168-70, 171, 174 Charles Edward Stuart, Prince,

*

'

182-3 Chatelet,

Madame

du, 42, 180

128, 130, 131, 138, 143, 163, 165, 168, 170, 191-2, 199, 202 ; education, 32-3; early life in Paris,

Due de, 243 Due de, 69, 70,

Chaulnes,

Choiseul, 73, 83 Christianity Unveiled ' (d'Holbach), 140-1 Cic^, Abb6 de, 208, 209, 224

34-6

marriage, 37-8 episode Puisieux, 39 writes Essay on Merit and Virtue and Philosophical Thoughts,' 39 ; birth of his daughter, 40 writes Letter on the Blind,' 41 prisoner in Vincennes, 42-3 works at Encyclopasdia, 43-8 miscellaneous labours, 49-51 episode of Mile. Volland, 51

'

Clavijo, 240-1 ' Clergy, The

Mind

of

the

'

(Gali-

;

94 '

(Con-

j

272 Condorcet, Mademoiselle de, 277, 291-2,296-7 Condorcet, Marquis de, 24, 25, 29, 30, 196, 199, 221-2 ; his position and birth, 268 education, 269270 ; character, 270-1 ; visits Voltaire, 271-2 made Secredorcet),

52-3 visits Grand53-6 produces plays, 56 visits Catherine the Great, 56-8 sees Voltaire, 58-9 illness and death, 60-1 estimate of his visits salons,

I

val,

:

i

;

;

j

work and character, 61

I

Diderot, Madame (Mile. Anne Toinette Champion), 36-9, 40-1,

;

Academy

272-3

;

of

Sciences,

work with Turgot, 274 of French Academy,

; *

marriage, 275 - 7 ; as Women's Eights champion, 277 as a politician, 278-9 at the trial of Louis XVI., 280-3

275

;

;

;

i

;

member

'

'

Commentary on Pascal

tary of

;

'

'Commentary on Horace' ani), 73,

;

'

(d'Holbach), 141

'

;

Mme.

of

51, 60-1 Dynamics, Treatise on bert),

;

'

(d'Alem-

10

;

'Elements

of

Philosophy'

I

Appeal and is proscribed, 284-6 in hiding, 286292 ; writes Progress of Human Mind,' &c., 289-91 his wanderings, 292-5; arrest and death, 295 work and character, 297-8 Condorcet, Marquise de (Mile, de Grouchy), 275-7, 285-6, 287-8, 289, 296-7 Corn Trade, Dialogues on the (Galiani), 62, 68, 86-90, 226 'Corn Trade, Letters on the' (Turgot), 226 Counsels to a Young Man (Vauvenargues), 103, 111 writes

'

'

;

;

(d'Alembert), 17, 72 Encyclopaedia, The, 11-13, 14, 15-17, 43-8, 56, 121, 133, 150, ^213 '

'

'

Correspondence 68

Epinay,

Madame

;

with

d' (Galiani),

Epinay (Madame

d'),

52-3, 79-80,

93, 125, 163-7, 172 '

Eugenie

'

Existence

*

Fame and

'

(Beaumarchais), 241 (Turgot), 133, 213 '

Pleasure, Discourses

on (Vauvenargues), 103 'Father of the Family, '

The'

(Diderot). 56 Fel, Mademoiselle (opera dancer),

DaubiniÂŁ:re,

Dazincourt

Madame,

85, 93

(actor), 255,

261

Deffand, Madame du, 18-19, 195 Destouches, General, 3, 4, 6

150-1, 166 Figaro, The Marriage of (Beaumarchais), 252-60 Franklin, Benjamin, 129-30, 204 *

'


;;;

;

INDEX

172-3 ; last years and death, 174-5 ; his mission, 175 Guilty Mother, The' (Beaumarchais), 264, 26G

Frederick the Great, 10, 13-14, 17-18, 88, 144, 156, 158, 167-8,

202

301

tion,

,

Fr6ron, Elie (journalist), 88 Frise, or Frisen, Comte de, 153,

155

Happiness ' (Helvetius), 180, 204 Helvetius, Claude Adrien, 91, 127, 212 ; his family and education, '

Galiani, Abbe, 125, 130, 135-6, 144, 148 ; his characteristics, 62-3 ; birth and education, 63-4 ; at the Academy of Naples, 64-5 ; literary work, 65 ; religion, 66 ; posts and pensions, 67-8 ; appointed Secretary in Paris, 68-9 ; his reception there, 70-1 ; his popularity, 71-3 ; as a conversationalist, 73-4 ; at the salons, 74-80; his wit, 81-2; his work, 82-3 ; visits London, 83-4 ; recalled to Naples, 84-6 publishes 'Dialogues on Corn Trade,' 86-7 ; its reception, 87-90; life at Naples, , 90-3 friendship with Mnie. d'Epinay, 93 ; illness and death, 94-5 his mission, 95 Galiani, Bernard, 63-4, 92 Galiani, Celestin, 63-4, 67 Garrick, David, 55, 56, 129 Geneva ' (d'Alembert), 15-16, '

47

Madame,

52,

66, 74-5,

127-8

Charles Edward, 182-3; meets and marries Mile, de Ligniville, 183-5 his hfe and good works at Vor6, 185-92; his book 'On the Mind,' 192-4; effects of its publication, 195-9 ;

his

199-200 201-2 and

in Paris,

salofi

England,

visits

;

Frederick the Great, 202 ; his book On Man,' 202-3 ; declining years, 203 death, 204 ; his '

;

work and Helvetius,

position,

204-5

Madame

(Mile,

183-92, 200, 203-4, 212

Ligniville),

197,

de

199-

Holbach, Baron d', 53, 55, 56, 76-7, 155 his position in the eighteenth century, 118 and among Voltaire's friends, 119 early life, 120-1 marriage, 121 salon in the Kue Royale, 121-2 life and society at Grandval, 122-138; visit to England, 138-9 ; opinion of the English, publishes 139-40 Christianity Unveiled,' 140-1; and 'The of Nature,' System 141-4 ; its 144-5 ; its philoreception, 145-6; publishes sophy, other books, 147 ; his last years and 148-9 his death, ; character in contrast to his book, 149 Holbach, Madame d', 121, 123, 131, 136-7 Hope (Pke Hoop), 123-4, 130 Houdetot, Madame d', 125-6, 164-5 David, Hume, 55, 56, 83, 128, 182, 200, 201 ;

Goezman Memoirs Good Sense

Graffigny,

'

'

{Beaumar-

243-6 (d'Holbach), 147 de, 183-4,

Madame

211-12

*

;

Grimm, Melchior,

49, 52-3, 58, his 71, 79, 88, 125, 130, 144-5 Fel, Mile. affair with love 150-1; birth and early life, 151-2; character, 152-4; life Literary in Paris, 154-5 ; his Correspondence,' 156-63 ; his ;

'

attachment to Mme. d'Epinay, 163-6; visits Geneva, 166-7; and Frederick the Great, 167-8 and England, 168; and i^e Eussian Court, 168-70; corresponds with Catherine the Great, 171 his conduct in the Revolu;

;

;

;

chais), 241, '

life in Paris, 178-9; Voltaire, 180; relations with Montesquieu, 181 ; his charities, 182 ; assists Prince

;

Geoffrin, '

176-8;

visits


''

''

THE FEIENDS OF VOLTAIEE

302 'Imaginary

Socrates,

UoU

The'

(Galiani), 92 •

Instincts

and Habitual Tastes

Man, The '

'

'

(actor),

255

Molin, Doctor, of

4,

Money, Essay on

11

(Galiani), 65, 67 Montesquieu, 181 Morellet, Abbe, 88-9, 125, 199-200, 208, 210 •

(Galiani), 92

Integral Calculus, Essay on (Condorcet), 269-70 Introduction to the Knowledge of the Human Mind' (Vauvenargues), 111

'

•Natural Son, The

'

(Diderot), 56,

241 Necker (Jacques), 75-6, 227-8, 274 Necker (Madame), 52, 75-6

'Junius, Letter of, to William Pitt (Condorcet), 290-1 ' Justice and Virtue, Letter on (Condorcet), 269 'Justification, The' (Condorcet), 288, 289 '

La Harpb, Jean FranQois

'

208 Paris-Duverney 241, 243 '

de, 156,

Diderot),

49,

'

13, 31,

The' (d'Alembert),

12,

45

Unmasked' (d'Holbach), 141 'Progress of the Human Mind, History of the' (Condorcet), 289-90, 291, 296 Prophet, The Little, of Boehmischbroda (Grimm), 155 Puisieux, Madame, 39-40, 43 •Priests

Malesheebes, 195, 231-2

Man, On (Helv6tius), 202-3, 204 Marie Antoinette, 225, 230-1, 232, 233, 245, 246, 253, 261-2, 274-5 Marmontel, Jean Francois, 112, 113, 127 Maurepas, Comte de, 224, 225, 226, 231 Meditation on Faith (Vauven'

'

argues), 103, 109, 111 Meister (Grimm's helper), 163, 170 •Merit and Virtue, Essay on' (Diderot), 39 Mind, On the (Helvaius), 127, 193-9, 202-3, 204-5 Mirabeau, Gabriel Honors, Comte '

de,

'

•Preface,

278, 280-3

'

The

Thoughts,

Degradation of the Races, Essay on the (Condorcet), 291 PoUsh Exile, Letter of a (Condorcet), 291 Pompadour, Madame de, 155, 178 Por6e, P^re, 177 'Portable Theology' (d'Holbach), 141

228-9, 231-2, 233, 252-3, 260-1,

'

240,

Eoyal

79, 150, 156-63, 170 Louis XV., 16-17, 69, 70, 83, 237, 239, 242, 246 Louis XVI., 224, 225, 226, 227,

'

Philosophical

(financier),

'Physical

63,

Louis XVIII., 231

(Tur-

(Diderot), 39, 41

'

(Grimm and

'

got),

264 Le Breton (publisher), 43, 48 Lespinasse, Mademoiselle de, 1824, 27-28 Literary Correspondence, The

*

Paper Money, Letter on

'

'

Eameau's Nephew (Diderot), 61 Baynal, Abbe, 127, 129, 151, 156, 157 Reflections (Vauvenargues), 111 Rousseau, Jean Jacques, 16, 43, 47, 126-7, 128, 133, 151, 154, 164-6, 196, 199 Rousseau, Madame, 5-6 '

'

'

263

Mirabeau, Victor Eiquetti, Marquis de, 97-8, 100-1

Saint-Lambert, Marquis 126, 164-5

de,

72,


'

'

INDEX Sarret, 287, 292 Saxe-Gotha, Duchess 158, 167 *

Seneca, Life of

*

Social System,

'

Comte de, 253, 261 Vauvenargues, Luc de Clapiers, Marquis de, character of his writing, 96; birth and education, 97-8 as a soldier, 98-100 campaign in Bohemia, 101-2 invalided, 103-4 ; friendship with Voltaire, 104-7 ; settles in Paris, 107-8; his philosophy, 108-11; his book, 111-13; friends in Paris, 113-14 ; illness and death, 115-17 Vergniaud, Pierre, 221, 288

153, 156,

(Diderot), 53

The' (d'Holbach),

;

147

Suard,

Madame, 293-4 of Nature, The

System

'

(d'Hol-

bach), 141-7, 149

Taeabe (Beaumarchais), 263 Tencin, Madame de, 3-4, 6, 10-11, 178 Tercier (press censor), 194, 197 Terrai, Abb6, 225 Theory of Winds, Treatise on the (d'Alembert), 10 Theriot, 156 Turgot, Anne Eobert Jacques, 8990, 125, 133, 136, 184, 195-6, 204, 273-4, 275 his character and work, 206-7; birth and education, 207-8; at the Sorbonne, 208-10; at Madame de Graffigny's, 211-12 visits Voltaire, 213-14; as Intendant of Limoges, 214-24 Minister of Marine, 224-5; ControllerGeneral, 225-32 his dismissal, 232-3 ; last years and death, 233-4 ; position among Vol*

VoUand, Letters to Mademoiselle

(Diderot), 54, 61, 130, 138 Voltaire, Arouet de, 1, 17, 62, 96-7, 225-6, 233, 250, 260; visited by d'Alembert, 15, 25-6 ; friend-

ship with Diderot, 41-2, 55, 58-9 opinion of Galiani's Dialogues,' 87 ; friendship with Vauvenargues, 104-7, 113-14 opinion of Vauvenargues' Maxims,' 112-13 of d'Holbach's System of Nature,' 144, 146; and of Grimm's Little Prophet,' 155 ; '

;

'

;

'

'

;

visited

by

Grimm and Mme.

d'Epinay, 166; friendship with Helv^tius, 179-80; opinion of his book 'On the Mind,' 196, 198-9 visited by Turgot, 213214, 234 opinion of Beaumarchais, 242 and of the Goezman Memoirs,' 245 ; visited by Con-

;

'

51, 52, 54,

59 '

;

taire's friends,

286, 287, 289,

291, 292, 294

VoUand, Mademoiselle,

;

Turgot, Life of 222, 275

Madame,

Vernet,

'

'

'

303

Vaudreuil,

of,

Sterne, Laurence, 55, 56, 85, 128 Suard, J. B., 156, 293-4 *

235

;

(Condorcet), 221-

;

;

*

dorcet, 271-2

Universal Morality (d'Holbach), '

Walpole, Horace, 129, 135 Wealth, Eeflections on the Reformation and Distribution of *

Vandeul, Madame de (Ang61ique Diderot),.40-1, 57, 59, 60

Spottiswoode

'; ; ;

<Sc

[

(Turgot), 222

Wilkes, John, 55, 56, 129, 247

Co. Ltd., PrinterSyNew-street Square, London.


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The friends of voltaire  

Evelyn Beatrice Hall

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Evelyn Beatrice Hall

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