Wednesday, 29 May 2019 03:04

From Voltaire to Thiériot, 3 November 1735

We have the Marquis Algarotti with us [at Cirey], a young man who knows the language and morals of every country, who writes poetry like Ariosto, and knows his Locke and Newton. He reads us dialogues that he has written on the interesting parts of philosophy. Even I have undertaken my little course in metaphysics, because it behoves one to take account of the things in this world.

We’ve been reading stanzas of Jeanne la Pucelle [Voltaire’s risqué satire on Joan of Arc], or else one of my tragedies, or a chapter of The Century of Louis XIV. From there we’ve come back to Newton and Locke—not without champagne and excellent meals, because we’re very voluptuous philosophers; and if not, we’d be quite unworthy of you and your delightful Pollion.

So there’s a pretty exact account of my present life. And that’s why I'm not with you, my dear Thiériot. But be assured that life is the sweeter to me because I know how agreeable yours is to you. My happiness sends its very best regards to yours. Pay court to your charming benefactor on my behalf.

With our friend, drink health to me
In champagne whose vivacity
Sparkles as brightly as his mind;
Whilst here at our suppers refined
I drink with sublime Émilie
To you in ambrosia divine.

Image: Le Déjeuner d’Huitres, the Oyster Lunch. In this painting of the period one sees that champagne is drunk from coupe-shaped glasses. Note the airborne stopper after a servant cuts the pack-thread that held it to the bottle neck.