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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Young Arouet was shut up in the Bastille


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beautiful letter addressed to the Regent and disavowing all the satirical writings which had been attributed to him, brought Arouet back to Paris at the commencement of the year 1717; he had been enjoying it for barely a few months when a new satire, entitled _J'ai vu_ (I have seen), and bitterly criticising the late reign, engaged the attention of society, and displeased the Regent afresh. Arouet defended himself with just cause and with all his might against the charge of having written it. The Duke of Orleans one day met him in the garden of the Palais-Royal. "Monsieur Arouet," said he, "I bet that I will make you see a thing you have never seen." "What, pray, monseigneur?" "The Bastille." "Ah! monseigneur, I will consider it seen." Two days later, young Arouet was shut up in the Bastille.

I needs must go; I jog along in style, With close-shut carriage, to the royal pile Built in our fathers' days, hard by St. Paul, By Charles the Fifth. 0 brethren, good men all, In no such quarters may your lot be cast! Up to my room I find my way at last A certain rascal with a smirking face Exalts the beauties of my new retreat, So comfortable, so compact, so neat. Says he, "While Phoebus runs his daily race, He never casts one ray within this place. Look at the walls, some ten feet thick or so; You'll find it all the

cooler here, you know." Then, bidding me admire the way they close The triple doors and triple locks on those, With gratings, bolts and bars on every side, "It's all for your security," he cried. At stroke of noon some skilly is brought in; Such fare is not so delicate as thin. I am not tempted by this splendid food, But what they tell me is, "'Twill do you good So eat in peace; no one will hurry you." Here in this doleful den I make ado, Bastilled, imprisoned, cabined, cribbed, confined, Nor sleeping, drinking, eating-to my mind; Betrayed by every one, my mistress too! O Marc Rene! [M. d'Argenson] whom Censor Cato's ghost Might well have chosen for his vacant post, O Marc Rene! through whom 'tis brought about That so much people murmur here below, To your kind word my durance vile I owe; May the good God some fine day pay you out!

Young Arouet passed eleven months in the Bastille; he there wrote the first part of the poem called _La Henriade,_ under the title of _La Ligue;_ when he at last obtained his release in April, 1718, he at the same time received orders to reside at Chatenay, where his father had a country house. It was on coming out of the Bastille that the poet took, from a small family-estate, that name of Voltaire which he was to render so famous. "I have been too unfortunate under my former name," he wrote to Mdlle. du Noy er; "I mean to see whether this will suit me better."

The players were at that time rehearsing the tragedy of _OEdipe,_ which was played on the 18th of November, 1718, with great success. The daring flights of philosophy introduced by the poet into this profoundly and terribly religious subject excited the enthusiasm of the roues; Voltaire was well received by the Regent, who granted him an honorarium. "Monseigneur," said Voltaire, "I should consider it very kind if his Majesty would be pleased to provide henceforth for my board, but I beseech your Highness to provide no more for my lodging." Voltaire's acts of imprudence were destined more than once to force him into leaving Paris; he all his life preserved such a horror of prison, that it made him commit more than one platitude. "I have a mortal aversion for prison," he wrote in 1734; once more, however, he was to be an inmate of the Bastille.


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