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Dear guardian angel of two unfortunates, at last I’ve received news of your friend from the border; he arrived without accident and is in good health [Voltaire fled France into Belgium on 22 December to escape outrage over a new, controversial poem, ‘The Man of the World’]. His fragile health doesn’t suffer so much when he’s travelling because he does less work. Nonetheless, when I look out at the ground covered in snow, at this dark and heavy weather, and when I think of the climate into which he’s headed, and his dreadful susceptibility to the cold, I’m ready to die of misery. I could endure his absence if I weren’t so worried about his health …

As soon as you receive this letter, write to him as Monsieur Revol, merchant, at Brussels. From there he goes to Amsterdam, where they’re to print a complete edition of his Works … but his main concern is that no one should know he’s in Holland. Everyone must be led to think he’s gone to Prussia …

I’m absolutely against his going to Prussia and I’m begging you on my knees—he would be lost in that country, he’d go for months without my getting any news of him; I’d die of anxiety before he could return. The climate there is terribly cold …

His affairs are not so desperate, and you’ve been encouraging me to think they’ll be settled within a few months, so why go so far? In spring I could see him again at the court of Madame de Lorraine [at the palace of Lunéville] or wherever she happens to be, or on the estate of a third party—because there are no orders out against him to prevent it. This hope keeps me alive; if you take it away, you’ll kill me.

Apologies for the poor quality of the portrait of d'Argental.

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