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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Before his friend's answer had reached Vauvenargues


In

tracing the tragic episodes of the war, Voltaire, set as his mind was on the royal favor, had wanted in the first place to pay homage to the friends he had lost. It was in the "eulogium of the officers who fell in the campaign of 1741" that he touchingly called attention to the memory of Vauvenargues. He, born at Aix on the 6th of August, 1715, died of his wounds, at Paris, in 1747. Poor and proud, resigning himself with a sigh to idleness and obscurity, the young officer had written merely to relieve his mind. His friends had constrained him to publish a little book, one only, the _Introduction de la connaissance de l'esprit humain, suivie de reflexions et de maximes_. Its success justified their affectionate hopes; delicate minds took keen delight in the first essays of Vauvenargues. Hesitating between religion and philosophy, with a palpable leaning towards the latter, ill and yet bravely bearing the disappointments and sufferings of his life, Vauvenargues was already expiring at thirty years of age, when Provence was invaded by the enemy. The humiliation of his country and the peril of his native province roused him from his tranquil melancholy. "All Provence is in arms," he wrote to his friend Fauris de St. Vincent, "and here am I quite quietly in my chimney-corner; the bad state of my eyes and of my health is not sufficient excuse for me, and I ought to be where all the gentlemen of the province are. Send me word then, I beg, immediately whether there is still any
employment to be had in our newly raised, levies, and whether I should be sure to be employed if I were to go to Provence." Before his friend's answer had reached Vauvenargues, the Austrians and the Piedmontese had been forced to evacuate Provence; the dying man remained in his chimney-corner, where he soon expired, leaving amongst the public, and still more amongst those who had known him personally, the impression of great promise sadly extinguished. "It was his fate," says his faithful biographer, M. Gilbert, "to be always opening his wings and to be unable to take flight."

Voltaire, quite on the contrary, was about to take a fresh flight. After several rebuffs and long opposition on the part of the eighteen ecclesiastics who at that time had seats in the French Academy, he had been elected to it in 1746. In 1750, he offered himself at one and the same time for the Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Inscriptions; he failed in both candidatures. This mishap filled the cup of his ill-humor. For a long time past Frederick II. had been offering the poet favors which he had long refused. The disgust he experienced at Paris through his insatiable vanity made him determine upon seeking another arena; after having accepted a pension and a place from the King of Prussia, Voltaire set out for Berlin.

But lately allied to France, to which he was ere long to deal such heavy blows, Frederick II. was French by inclination, in literature and in philosophy; he was a bad German scholar; he always wrote and


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