440
440
Voltaire, Francois Marie Arouet de
Estimate
7,00010,000
LOT SOLD. 9,375 USD
JUMP TO LOT
440
Voltaire, Francois Marie Arouet de
Estimate
7,00010,000
LOT SOLD. 9,375 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

THE JAMES S. COPLEY LIBRARY: ARTS & SCIENCES, INCLUDING THE MARK TWAIN COLLECTION

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Voltaire, Francois Marie Arouet de
Autograph letter signed ("V"), 4 pages (9 x 7 3/8 in.; 228 x 188 mm), Potsdam, 24 October 1750, to Henry-Lambert d'Herbigny, marquis de Thibouville; small piece torn from blank lower-right corner of each leaf, a few traces of prior mounting in blank upper margin, formerly folded, a bit of fold wear on last page with one small tear mended with archival tape. Cream cloth folding case, gilt-stamped title on green leather spine label, English translation laid in.
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Provenance

Louis-Simon Auger (1772–1829, presentation inscription to Etienne Cot in upper margin)

Literature

Besterman, ed., Complete Works of Voltaire, D4248

Catalogue Note

A delightful letter touching on his feelings about leaving France and his reactions to life in Prussia. He had recently taken up residence at the court of Frederick the Great.

Writing to his intimate friend Henri-Lambert d'Herbigny, marquis de Thibouville (1710–1784), Voltaire writes: "Not only am I a deserter, my dear Cataline, but I have moreover all the appearances of being a sloth. I will excuse myself first for my laziness by telling you that I worked on Rome sauvée; that I took it into my head to write an Italian opera based on the tragedy of Semiramis; that I have corrected nearly all my works, and all that doesn't count the time lost in learning the little German that one needs in order not to be at a loss while traveling, something difficult at my age. You will find it very ridiculous, and me too, that at 56 years of age, the author of the Henriade [a celebration of the life of Henri IV] takes a notion to want to speak German to the servants at inns ... My transmigration has greatly pained my heart. But it has causes so reasonable, so legitimate, and I dare say, so respectable, that in feeling sorry for myself because I am no longer in France, no one can blame me."

Voltaire is enthusiastic about his involvement in the theatre: "Catalina and the Duke d'Alencon will please you very much when you get to know them ... and the new roles of Rome sauvée will arrive at my niece's in a short time ... How can I better earn your pardon than by two tragedies and a drama? We were intended to rove the countryside together, like the ancient troubadors. I set up a theatre, I put on comedies wherever I am, in Berlin or Potsdam. It's a pleasant thing to have found a prince and princess [Henry and Amelia] of Prussia, both equal to Mlle. [the French actress Jeanne Catherine] Gaussin, declaiming without any accent and with much grace. Mlle. Gaussin is actually superior to the princess. But the latter has big blue eyes that nevertheless have their worth."

Of his life in Prussia, Voltaire declares: "I feel myself in France; they speak only our language ... I find people brought up in Konigsberg who know my verses by heart, who have no jealousy at all, who do not try to play unkind jokes on me. With regard to the life I lead in the service of the king ... it is the paradise of philosophers. It is beyond all expression. It is Caesar, it is Marcus Aurelius, it is Julian, it is sometimes the abbé of Chaulieu with whom one sups. It is the charm of retirement, the ease of country life, with all the little comforts ..."

Voltaire's enthusiasm for Frederick's court soon waned however, and by the time he left in March 1753, he and the king were enemies.

THE JAMES S. COPLEY LIBRARY: ARTS & SCIENCES, INCLUDING THE MARK TWAIN COLLECTION

|
New York