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I knew your prudence would suggest that Voltaire wouldn’t be safe from the minister [Chancellor de Fleury] if he returned to France [from Holland]. Even so, couldn’t he come to Cirey? It’s the Champagne country house where you’ll see the fewest people in the province, and it’s the most respectable place for me: if he were hidden elsewhere I’d be visiting him often and that would look odd and cause talk …

If he’s not at Cirey I won’t be able to monitor his conduct closely enough, and the kind of wisdom he needs at this stage of his fortunes can only be achieved by showing him the abyss that lies before him at every second …

I’ve just now received a letter that makes me terribly afraid he won’t return at all. I’m devastated. I have to confess that I’m very afraid he’s being as treacherous to me as he’s been towards the minister. Anyway, we’ll see if he comes back; but once again I don’t believe he will, and seriously I don’t possess the strength to survive the grief of it. I’ve done nothing wrong; the sad consolation is that I wasn’t born to be happy. I hardly dare to ask anything more of you, or else I’d beg you to make one last attempt to sway his heart. Tell him I’m very ill; that’s what I’m telling him myself—that he owes it to me to come back and save me from death. This is no lie; I’ve had a fever for two days and the violence of my imagination is sufficient to kill me in four …

If, as you say yourself, his happiness in life depends on the wisdom with which he acts at this point, we mustn’t lose sight of him for a moment. You wouldn’t blame me if you’d seen his last letter: he signed it and called me ‘Madame’. The difference was so shocking, I almost fainted with the pain. Write to him at Brussels!

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