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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

He could not assuage the despair of Maupertuis


Voltaire,

affrighted, still protesting his innocence, at last gave up the whole edition of the diatribe, which was burned before his eyes in the king's own closet. According to the poet's wily habit, some copy or other had doubtless escaped the flames. Before long _Le Docteur Akakia_ appeared at Berlin, arriving modestly from Dresden by post; people fought for the pamphlet, and everybody laughed; the satire was spread over all Europe. In vain did Frederick have it burned on the Place d'Armes by the hands of the common hangman; he could not assuage the despair of Maupertuis. "To speak to you frankly," the king at last wrote to the disconsolate president, "it seems to me that you take too much to heart, both for an invalid and a philosopher, an affair which you ought to despise. How prevent a man from writing, and how prevent him from denying all the impertinences he has uttered? I made investigations to find out whether any fresh satires had been sold at Berlin, but I heard of none; as for what is sold in Paris, you are quite aware that I have not charge of the police of that city, and that I am not master of it. Voltaire treats you more gently than I am treated by the gazetteers of Cologne and Lubeck, and yet I don't trouble myself about it."

Voltaire could no longer live at Potsdam or at Sans-Souci; even Berlin seemed dangerous: in a fit of that incurable perturbation which formed the basis of his character and made him commit so many errors, he

had no longer any wish but to leave Prussia, only he wanted to go without embroiling himself with the king. "I sent the Solomon of the North," he writes to Madame Denis on the 13th of January, 1753, "for his present, the cap and bells he gave me, with which you reproached me so much. I wrote him a very respectful letter, for I asked him for leave to go. What do you think he did? He sent me his great factotum Federshoff, who brought me back my toys; he wrote me a letter saying that he would rather have me to live with than Maupertuis. What is quite certain is, that I would rather not live with either one or the other."

Frederick was vexed with Voltaire; he nevertheless found it difficult to give up the dazzling charm of his conversation. Voltaire was hurt and disquieted; he wanted to get away--the king, however, exercised a strong attraction over him. But in spite of mutual coquetting, making up, and protesting, the hour of separation was at hand; the poet was under pressure from his friends in France; in Berlin he had never completely neglected Paris. He had just published his _Siecle de Louis XIV.;_ he flattered himself with the hope that he might again appear at court, though the king had disposed of his place as historiographer in favor of Duclos. Frederick at last yielded; he was on the parade, Voltaire appeared there. "Ah! Monsieur Voltaire," said the king, "so you really intend to go away?" "Sir, urgent private affairs, and especially my health, leave me no alternative." "Monsieur, I wish you a pleasant journey." Voltaire jumped into his carriage, and hurried to Leipsic; he thought himself free forever from the exactions and tyrannies of the King of Prussia.

The poet, according to his custom, had tarried on the way. He had passed more than a month at Gotha, being overwhelmed with attentions by the duke, and by the duchess, for whom he wrote the dry chronicle entitled _Les Annales de L'Empire_. He arrived at Frankfort on the 31st of May only: the king's orders had arrived before him.


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