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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

For having offended Chevalier de Rohan


Voltaire

was not of an heroic nature, but excess of rage and indignation had given him courage; he had scarcely ever had a sword in his hand; he rushed to the fencers' and practised from morning till night, in order to be in a position to demand satisfaction. So much ardor disquieted Chevalier de Rohan and his family; his uncle, the cardinal, took precautions. The lieutenant of police wrote to the officer of the watch, "Sir, his Highness is informed that Chevalier de Rohan is going away to-day, and, as he might have some fresh affair with Sieur de Voltaire, or the latter might do something rash, his desire is for you to see that nothing comes of it."

Voltaire anticipated the intentions of the lieutenant of police he succeeded in sending a challenge to Chevalier de Rohan; the latter accepted it for the next day; he even chose his ground: but before the hour fixed, Voltaire was arrested and taken to the Bastille; he remained there a month. Public opinion was beginning to pity him. Marshal Villars writes in his memoirs,--

"The chevalier was very much inconvenienced by a fall which did not admit of his handling a sword. He took the course of having a caning administered in broad day to Voltaire, who, instead of adopting legal proceedings, thought vengeance by arms more noble. It is asserted that he sought it diligently, but too indiscreetly. Cardinal Rohan asked M. le Duc to have him put in the Bastille: orders to

that effect were given and executed, and the poor poet, after being beaten, was imprisoned into the bargain. The public, whose inclination is to blame everybody and everything, justly considered, in this case, that everybody was in the wrong; Voltaire, for having offended Chevalier de Rohan; the latter, for having dared to commit a crime worthy of death in causing a citizen to be beaten; the government, for not having punished a notorious misdeed, and for having put the beatee in the Bastille to tranquillize the beater."

Voltaire left the Bastille on the 3d of May, 1726, and was accompanied by an exon to Calais, having asked as a favor to be sent to England; but scarcely had he set foot on English territory, scarcely had he felt himself free, when the recurring sense of outraged honor made him take the road back to France. "I confess to you, my dear Theriot," he wrote to one of his friends, "that I made a little trip to Paris a short time ago. As I did not call upon you, you will easily conclude that I did not call upon anybody. I was in search of one man only, whom his dastardly instinct kept concealed from me, as if he guessed that I was on his track. At last the fear of being discovered made me depart more precipitately than I had come. That is the fact, my dear Theriot. There is every appearance of my never seeing you again. I have but two things to do with my life: to hazard it with honor, as soon as I can, and to end it in the obscurity of a retreat which suits my way of thinking, my misfortunes, and the knowledge I have of men."

Voltaire passed three years in England, engaged in learning English and finishing _La Henriade,_ which he published by subscription in 1727. Touched by the favor shown by English society to the author and the poem, he dedicated to the Queen of England his new work, which


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