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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Voltaire at last obtained permission to revisit France

was entirely consecrated to

the glory of France; three successive editions were disposed of in less than three weeks. Lord Bolingbroke, having returned to England and been restored to favor, did potent service to his old friend, who lived in the midst of that literary society in which Pope and Swift held sway, without, however, relaxing his reserve with its impress of melancholy. "I live the life of a Bosicrucian," he wrote to his friends, "always on the move and always in hiding." When, in the month of March, 1729, Voltaire at last obtained permission to revisit France, he had worked much without bringing out anything. The riches he had thus amassed appeared ere long: before the end of the year 1731 he put _Brutus_ on the stage, and began his publication of the _Histoire de Charles XII.;_ he was at the same time giving the finishing touch to _Eriphyle_ and _La Mort de Caesar_. _Zaire,_ written in a few weeks, was played for the first time on the 13th of August, 1732; he had dedicated it to Mr. Falkner, an English merchant who had overwhelmed him with attentions during his exile. "My satisfaction grows as I write to tell you of it," he writes to his friend Cideville in the fulness of joy: "never was a piece so well played as _Zaire_ at the fourth appearance. I very much wished you had been there; you would have seen that the public does not hate your friend. I appeared in a box, and the whole pit clapped their hands at me. I blushed, I hid myself; but I should be a humbug if I did not confess to
you that I was sensibly affected. It is pleasant not to be dishonored in one's own country."

Voltaire had just inaugurated the great national tragedy of his country, as he had likewise given it the only national epopee attempted in France since the _Chansons de Geste;_ by one of those equally sudden and imprudent reactions to which he was always subject, it was not long before he himself damaged his own success by the publication of his _Lettres philosophiques sur les Anglais_.

The light and mocking tone of these letters, the constant comparison between the two peoples, with many a gibe at the English, but always turning to their advantage, the preference given to the philosophical system of Newton over that of Descartes, lastly the attacks upon religion concealed beneath the cloak of banter--all this was more than enough to ruffle the tranquillity of Cardinal Fleury. The book was brought before Parliament; Voltaire was disquieted. "There is but one letter about Mr. Locke," he wrote to M. de Cideville; "the only philosophical matter I have treated of in it is the little trifle of the immortality of the soul, but the thing is of too much consequence to be treated seriously. It had to be mangled so as not to come into direct conflict with our lords the theologians, gentry who so clearly see the spirituality of the soul that, if they could, they would consign to the flames the bodies of those who have a doubt about it." The theologians confined themselves to burning the book; the decree of Parliament delivered on the 10th of June, 1734, ordered at the same time the arrest of the author; the bookseller was already in the Bastille. Voltaire was in the country, attending the Duke of Richelieu's second marriage; hearing of the danger that threatened him, he took fright and ran for refuge to Bale. He soon left it to return to the castle of Cirey, to the Marchioness du Chatelet's, a woman as learned as she was impassioned, devoted

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