His spirit moved like a flame over the continent and the century, and stirs a million souls in every generation. Voltaire's junior contemporary Jean-Jacques Rousseau commented on how Voltaire's book Letters on the English played a great role in his intellectual development. Subsequently, when Rousseau sent Voltaire a copy of his book Discourse on Inequality , Voltaire replied, noting his disagreement with the views expressed in the book:.
No one has ever employed so much intellect to persuade men to be beasts.
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However, as it is more than sixty years since I lost that habit, I feel, unfortunately, that it is impossible for me to resume it. No more about Jean-Jacques' romance if you please.
I have read it, to my sorrow, and it would be to his if I had time to say what I think of this silly book. Voltaire speculated that the first half of Julie had been written in a brothel and the second half in a lunatic asylum. Paris recognized Voltaire's hand and judged the patriarch to be bitten by jealousy. In reviewing Rousseau's book Emile after its publication, Voltaire dismissed it as "a hodgepodge of a silly wet nurse in four volumes, with forty pages against Christianity, among the boldest ever known.
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In , Rousseau published Lettres de la montagne , containing nine letters on religion and politics. In the fifth letter he wondered why Voltaire had not been able to imbue the Genevan councilors, who frequently met him, "with that spirit of tolerance which he preaches without cease, and of which he sometimes has need". The letter continued with an imaginary speech delivered by Voltaire, imitating his literary style, in which he accepts authorship for the book Sermon of the Fifty —a book whose authorship Voltaire had repeatedly denied because it contained many heresies.
In , when a priest sent Rousseau a pamphlet denouncing Voltaire, Rousseau responded with a defense of Voltaire:. He has said and done so many good things that we should draw the curtain over his irregularities. This was met by a sharp retort from Rousseau:. How dare you mock the honors rendered to Voltaire in the temple of which he is the god, and by the priests who for fifty years have been living off his masterpieces?
On 2 July , Rousseau died one month after Voltaire's death. Louis XVI , while incarcerated in the Temple , had remarked that Rousseau and Voltaire had "destroyed France", by which he meant his dynasty. Voltaire perceived the French bourgeoisie to be too small and ineffective, the aristocracy to be parasitic and corrupt, the commoners as ignorant and superstitious, and the Church as a static and oppressive force useful only on occasion as a counterbalance to the rapacity of kings, although all too often, even more rapacious itself. Voltaire distrusted democracy, which he saw as propagating the idiocy of the masses.
But his disappointments and disillusions with Frederick the Great changed his philosophy somewhat, and soon gave birth to one of his most enduring works, his novella Candide, ou l'Optimisme Candide, or Optimism, , which ends with a new conclusion: "It is up to us to cultivate our garden. Candide was also burned and Voltaire jokingly claimed the actual author was a certain 'Demad' in a letter, where he reaffirmed the main polemical stances of the text.
He particularly had admiration for the ethics and government as exemplified by the Chinese philosopher Confucius. Voltaire is also known for many memorable aphorisms, such as " Si Dieu n'existait pas, il faudrait l'inventer " "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him" , contained in a verse epistle from , addressed to the anonymous author of a controversial work on The Three Impostors. But far from being the cynical remark it is often taken for, it was meant as a retort to atheistic opponents such as d'Holbach , Grimm , and others. The Scottish Victorian writer Thomas Carlyle argued that "Voltaire read history, not with the eye of devout seer or even critic, but through a pair of mere anti-catholic spectacles.
The town of Ferney, where Voltaire lived out the last 20 years of his life, was officially named Ferney-Voltaire in honor of its most famous resident in In the Zurich of , the theatre and performance group who would become the early avant-garde movement Dada named their theater The Cabaret Voltaire. A lateth-century industrial music group then named themselves after the theater. Astronomers have bestowed his name to the Voltaire crater on Deimos and the asteroid Voltaire. Voltaire was also known to have been an advocate for coffee, as he was reported to have drunk it 50—72 times per day.
It has been suggested that high amounts of caffeine acted as a mental stimulant to his creativity. In the s, the bibliographer and translator Theodore Besterman started to collect, transcribe and publish all of Voltaire's writings. Voltaire wrote between fifty and sixty plays, including a few unfinished ones.
The complex soul of France seemed to have divided itself into these two men, so different and yet so French. Nietzsche speaks of " la gaya scienza , the light feet, wit, fire, grace, strong logic, arrogant intellectuality, the dance of the stars"—surely he was thinking of Voltaire. Now beside Voltaire put Rousseau:all heat and fantasy, a man with noble and jejune visions, the idol of la bourgeois gentile-femme , announcing like Pascal that the heart has its reason which the head can never understand. In Chisholm, Hugh ed. Cambridge University Press.
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Poetry portal Biography portal. Cartesian Empiricism. Both tombs were opened in , and the remains were still there. An extract from the letter: 'The phrase "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" which you have found in my book Voltaire in His Letters is my own expression and should not have been put in inverted commas.
Please accept my apologies for having, quite unintentionally, misled you into thinking I was quoting a sentence used by Voltaire or anyone else but myself. To believe certain commentators — Norbert Guterman, A Book of French Quotations , — Hall was referencing back to a Voltaire letter of 6 February to an abbot le Riche where Voltaire supposedly said, "Reverend, I hate what you write, but I will give my life so that you can continue to write. You left, Sir, des Welches for des Welches. You will find everywhere barbarians obstinate.
The number of wise will always be small. It is true … it has increased; but it is nothing in comparison with the stupid ones; and, by misfortune, one says that God is always for the big battalions.
It is necessary that the decent people stick together and stay under cover. There are no means that their small troop could tackle the party of the fanatics in open country. I was very sick, I was near death every winter; this is the reason, Sir, why I have answered you so late.
I am not less touched by it than your memory. Continue to me your friendship; it comforts me my evils and stupidities of the human genre. Receive my assurances, etc. Here is what he writes in his "Atheism" article in the Dictionnaire philosophique : "Aristophanes this man that the commentators admire because he was Greek, not thinking that Socrates was Greek also , Aristophanes was the first who accustomed the Athenians to consider Socrates an atheist.
A whole people, whose bad government authorized such infamous licences, deserved well what it got, to become the slave of the Romans, and today of the Turks. Falconet, dated 15 February Pile assumptions on assumptions; accumulate wars on wars; make interminable disturbances succeed to interminable disturbances; let the universe be inundated by a general spirit of confusion; and it would take a hundred thousand years for the works and the name of Voltaire to be lost.
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Bigots and tyrants, who had never been moved by the wailings and cursing of millions, turned pale at his name. Walter de Gruyter. Klemme, Manfred Kuehn. Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.