The Age of Voltaire: A History of Civilization in Western Europe from 1715 to 1756, with Special Emphasis on the Conflict between Religion and Philosophy (The Story of Civilization IX)
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The Age of Voltaire, the ninth volume of The Story of Civilization, is an in-depth examination of France and England in the first half of the eighteenth century. In this masterful work, listeners will encounter the English ideas that inspired the Enlightenment in France; the salons of Paris, where the wits and thinkers of all Europe gathered to exchange ideas; the philosophes-- intellectuals and artists who consulted with kings and queens; Voltaire himself, the incarnation of the Enlightenment; Mme. Pompadour, who seduced Louis XV and through him influenced French policy; the Augustan Age in English literature; and the growing parasitism of the aristocracy and rising power of the commercial class.
judgment… was involuntarily crooked…. With such defects it is surprising that the only man he was able to seduce was M. le Duc d’Orléans, who had so much intelligence, such a well-balanced mind, and so much clear and rapid perception of character87 —which should have led the acidulous author to doubt the perspicacity of his jealousy. We must confess, however, that Duclos agrees with Saint-Simon.88 Dubois was in his sixtieth year when the Regency gave him power. He was a bit dilapidated, having
and assassinations. In 1741 he accepted an invitation from Frederick the Great to join the Berlin Academy; there, in 1759, he succeeded Maupertuis in charge of mathematics. Frederick’s mother liked him, but found him strangely reticent. “Why don’t you speak to me?” she asked. “Madame,” he replied, “I come from a country where if you speak you are hanged.”3 The Russians, however, could be gentlemen. They continued his salary for a long time after his departure; and when a Russian army, invading
the indestructibility of superstition, or noting the high birth rate of simplicity. Usually in public he wore a wig, but when he lost himself in the ecstasy of monologue he might remove it, play with it, or rest it on his lap. He was absorbed in being, and had no time for seeming. He yielded to no one in appreciation of his character. He admitted, “I get excited for a moment”; but “a moment later I am myself again, the frank, gentle, just, indulgent, honest, charitable, obliging man. Continue,
II. THE ANTIPHILOSOPHES The war became bloodier when cassocks and courtesies were discarded and the journalists set their sights on the philosophes; now all the wit and vocabulary of Paris were brought to bear and to kill. We have seen how Voltaire in 1725 went to some trouble to save Pierre Desfontaines from the statutory punishment for homosexual acts, which was death. Desfontaines never forgave him. In 1735 he began a periodical publication, Observations sur les écrits modernes, which
morality it can tear a society to pieces. VOLTAIRE. Some of the finest men of my time found reason a sufficient morality. BENEDICT. That was before the individualistic intellect had time to overcome the effects of religion. A few men, like Spinoza and Bayle, d’Holbach and Helvétius, may have led good lives after abandoning the religion of their fathers; but how do we know that their virtues were not the result of their religious education? VOLTAIRE. There were hundreds of people among my