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[23] universe by his virtues;1 he could address Louis the
chap. II.} 1763.
Fifteenth as a Trajan; and when the French king took a prostitute for his associate, it was the aged Voltaire who extolled the monarch's mistress as an adorable Egeria.2 ‘The populace which has its hands to live by,’ such are the words, and such the sentiments of Voltaire, and as he believed of every landholder, ‘the people has neither time nor capacity for selfinstruc-tion; they would die of hunger before becoming philosophers. It seems to me essential that there should be ignorant poor.3 Preach virtue to the lower classes; when the populace meddles with reasoning, all is lost.’4

The school of Voltaire did not so much seek the total overthrow of despotism as desire to make his philosophy its counsellor; and shielded the vices of a libidinous oligarchy by proposing love of self as the cornerstone of morality. The great view which pervades his writings is the humanizing influence of letters, and not the regenerating power of truth. He welcomed, therefore, every thing which softened barbarism, refined society, and stayed the cruelties of superstition; but he could not see the hopeful coming of popular power, nor hear the footsteps of Providence along the line of centuries, so that he classed the changes in the government of France among accidents and anecdotes. Least of all did he understand the tendency of his own untiring labors. He would have hated the thought of hastening a democratic revolution; and, in mocking the follies and vices of French institutions, he harbored

1 Au Roi d'angleterre, George ler, en lui envoyant la tragedie d'oedipe.

2 Voltaire à Madame la Comtesse du Barri, 20 Juin, 1773.

3 ‘II me paralt essentiel qu'il y ait des gueux ignorans.’

4 ‘Quand la populace se mele de raisonner, tout est perdu.’ Voltaire a M. Damilaville, ler Avril, 1766.

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