Thursday, 07 February 2019 02:13

From Voltaire to René Hérault, May 1734

I’m surprised and pained, monsieur, that the yapping of my worthless enemies has imposed on a man as enlightened as yourself. Ought you to listen to the pious and idiotic clamouring of the superstitious imbeciles infected by Jansenism, who claim that by mocking the convulsions of the Quakers one is attacking God and the state? It is not for police prosecutors that I write: I write for men of intellect and education. Pay no heed, monsieur, to the idiotic crowd who sunt sicut equus et mulus quibus non est intellectus [are like horses and donkeys, incapable of understanding]: they grumble for a week without knowing why and then fall into total silence over things beyond their comprehension. Be so kind as consult such men as the following about my book [Philosophical Letters]: M. de Maupertuis, M. de Mairan, M. Boindin, M. de Fontenelle, M. du Fay, M. de Condamine. These are men who think, and whose sentiments gradually become those of the public, because in the long run the vulgar are always and in everything guided by a small number of superior minds, in both literature and politics.

My book has been translated into English and German, and has more admirers in Europe than worthless critics in France … I may have to seek in foreign countries the rest and consideration that I’m owed, at the very least, in my homeland. If so, I shall live where necessary in honour and without complaint. I shall miss only a few friends, and I shall never forget your goodness. I beg you to distinguish me, monsieur, from the crowd who are importuning you as a magistrate, and remember only, as I do, what a superior mind like yours owes to humanity. My gratitude will equal my attachment to you, and the tender and respectful zeal with which, as you know, I shall always be your very humble and obedient servant. Voltaire.

The image shows Cirey in the Haute Marne, where Voltaire was in hiding from the police at the time.

Last modified on Thursday, 07 February 2019 02:57