previous next
[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.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Providence, R. I. (Rhode Island, United States) (1)
France (France) (1)

Visualize the most frequently mentioned Pleiades ancient places in this text.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Voltaire (3)
Au Roi (1)
Comtesse Barri (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1773 AD (1)
1766 AD (1)
1763 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: