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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

It is not the arguers who do harm


rashly put his name to his book; Voltaire was more prudent. One day, having been imprisoned for some verses which were not his, he had taken the resolution to impudently repudiate the paternity of his own works. "You must never publish anything under your own name," he wrote to Helvetius; "La Pucelle was none of my doing, of course. Master Joly de Fleury will make a fine thing of his requisition; I shall tell him that he is a calumniator, that La Pucelle is his own doing, which he wants to put down to me out of spite."

Geneva refused asylum to the proscribed philosopher; he was warned of hostile intentions on the part of the magnific signiors of Berne. Neuchatel and the King of Prussia's protection alone were left; thither he went for refuge. Received with open arms by the governor, my lord Marshal (Keith), he wrote thence to the premier syndic Favre a letter abdicating his rights of burghership and citizenship in the town of Geneva. "I have neglected nothing," he said, "to gain the love of my compatriots; nobody could have had worse success. I desire to indulge them even in their hate; the last sacrifice remaining for me to make is that of a name which was dear to me."

Some excitement, nevertheless, prevailed at Geneva; Rousseau had partisans there. The success of _Emile_ had been immense at Paris, and was destined to exerciso a serious influence upon the education of a whole generation. It is good,"

wrote Voltaire, "that the brethren should know that yesterday six hundred persons came, for the third time, to protest on behalf of Jean Jacques against the Council of Geneva, which had dared to condemn the Vicaire savoyard." The Genevese magistrates thought it worth while to defend their acts; the _Lettres ecrites de la Campagne,_ published to that end, were the work of the attorney-general Robert Tronchin. Rousseau replied to them in the _Lettres de la Montagne,_ with a glowing eloquence having a spice of irony. He hurled his missiles at Voltaire, whom, with weakly exaggeration, he accused of being the author of all his misfortunes. "Those gentlemen of the Grand Council," he said, "see M. de Voltaire so often, how is it that he did not inspire them with a little of that tolerance which he is incessantly preaching, and of which he sometimes has need? If they had consulted him a little on this matter, it appears to me that he might have addressed them pretty nearly thus: 'Gentlemen, it is not the arguers who do harm; philosophy can gang its ain gait without risk;' the people either do not hear it at all or let it babble on, and pay it back all the disdain it feels for them. I do not argue myself, but others argue, and what harm comes of it? We have arranged that my great influence in the court and my pretended omnipotence should serve you as a pretext for allowing a free, peaceful course to the sportive jests of my advanced years; that is a good thing, but do not, for all that, burn graver writings, for that would be too shocking. I have so often preached tolerance! It must not be always required of others and never displayed towards them. This poor creature believes in God, let us pass over that; he will not make a sect. He is a bore; all arguers are. If all bores of books were to be burned, the whole country would have to be made into one great fireplace. Come, come, let us leave those to argue who leave us to joke; let us burn neither people nor books and remain at peace, that is my advice. That, in my opinion, is what might have been said, only in better style, by M. Voltaire, and it would not have been, as it seems to me, the worst advice he could have given."

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