Wednesday, 20 March 2019 01:27

Voltaire to Monsieur de Cideville, 16 April 1735


Truly my dear friend I haven’t thanked you enough for the lovely group of poems that you sent me. I’ve just reread it with fresh pleasure. How I love the naivety of the pictures you paint! How happy and rich your imagination is! And what gives such inexpressible charm to it all is that everything comes from the heart. You’re always inspired by either love or friendship …

I lead a dissipated life in Paris and all poetic ideas have fled. Business and duties crush my imagination. I should pay you a visit in Rouen to revive me. Verse is no longer fashionable in Paris. Everyone’s started playing geometers or physicists. People are toying with reason. Sentiment, imagination and the graceful arts are banished. Any man who’d lived under Louis XIV and happened upon today’s society would not recognise the French: he’d think the Germans had taken over the country. Everywhere you look, literature is in decline. It’s not that I mind natural philosophy being cultivated, but I wouldn’t like it to become so tyrannical as to exclude all the rest. In France, it’s simply a fashion that’s replaced preceding ones and will be superseded in its turn. But no art, no science, should ever be in fashion. They must all go hand in hand, and be cultivated all the time. I’ve no desire to pay homage to fashion; I want to be able to go from a physics experiment to an opera or a play, and never allow my taste to be blunted by study. Your taste, my dear Cideville, will always underpin mine, but we ought to see each other; I need to spend a few months with you, but destiny separates us just when everything ought to bring us together … Vale. V.

Last modified on Wednesday, 20 March 2019 01:30