Sunday, 11 August 2019 01:27

From Émilie to Count Algarotti [in London], May 1736

Do you have the translation of the Essay on Man? Apparently it’s a great success in Paris, translated by Prévost. The Abbé du Resnel is publishing his own translation in verse. All this is quite astonishing, when you think they burned [Voltaire’s] Philosophical Letters. The more I read Pope’s work, the more I like it. In the fourth Epistle, which you refused to read with me at Cirey, I found a line that I very much like: ‘An honest man’s the noblest work of God.’

Voltaire was shocked by these two lines: ‘All reason’s pleasure, all the joys of sense/lie in three words, health, peace, and competence.’ Here is his reply:

Pope, wise English poet, so exalted
For his Parnassian moral thought, decrees
That life’s sole blessings are: to work with ease,
Enjoy good health and rest. He’s to be faulted!
What? In treasures that the gods devise—
Man’s happiest gifts, sent from heaven above—
This sad Englishman does not count love?
Pity Pope; he’s neither gay nor wise.

Last modified on Sunday, 11 August 2019 01:37