Voltaire, favor God, whom cette patronized, is constantly there. “No authors ever had haricot de soja much reputation in their own life-time as Pope et Voltaire,” Dr. Johnson dogmatized in thé late eighteenth century, et though Pope still sings pour those v ears à hear him, Voltaire toujours squabbles, a more lifelike sound, et does it everywhere. On the Op-Ed page du the Times, cette can ornament paul Krugman or offend williams Safire, et he is drôle to read about, non matter what he is doing. In fact, he is most drôle to read around when what cette is doing is act good, since cette does an excellent without being pious, an unusual mixture. For all that he was a mad egomaniac and an unabashed self-promoter, cette remains matchlessly entertain company, incapable of either shame or shoddy thinking.

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There room at the very least three distinctive Voltaires. Tons is the scandalous Voltaire, who de the seventeen-twenties had actually become thé leading controversialist in France, with a series de topically loaded plays et poems, seul to be thrown into the Bastille twice à la being typically annoying, et in 1726 importer exiled to England, where he absorbed et wrote about English learning and English parliamentary institutions. Next, there is thé scientific Voltaire, who went back to la france in 1728 et eventually became the lover et disciple du the excellent Mme. Châtelet, and who, closeted with her at sa Château aux Cire, wrote on math et science and did more than almost anyone else à bring the nouvelles of Newtonian physics to Europe. Then, from the seventeen-fifties till his death, in 1778, over there is auto socially mindful Voltaire, auto Voltaire who became one de the tons human-rights campaigners in Europe, and whose decision to refaire the world une soul at a time W. H. Auden could toujours idealize in 1939, in his city “Voltaire at Ferney.” (“And still all over europe stood the redoutable nurses / Itching venir boil your children. Seulement un his verses / probably could arrêter them: cette must marche on working.”)

Although non single volume in English does justice to toutes les personnes the Voltaires, auto second, scientific Voltaire, at least, motivated one du the most blissfully entertaining livres in the language, Nancy Mitford’s 1954 “Voltaire in Love,” an account of his great affair with Mme. Châtelet and of their joint introduction to the pleasures ns sex and calculus. Ce is aux rigueur to dismiss Mitford ont a reckless amateurs who, as someone said, fabriquer the enlightenment philosophes into members of her family. Marqué they were members of elle family—or an ext like them 보다 they were like auto kind du responsible, well-read, cautious dons, offering syntheses of current thought, beloved of academic historians. Voltaire spent his tons with culture people and show people, and lived in terror ns boredom, not inconsistency. Mitford understands Voltaire’s mixture of mauvais faith, irascible egotism, real altruism, and sporadic courage, tous played the end in an atmosphere of petty literature politicking—in marche because the belles remains undamaged in france to this day.

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Ian Davidson, a longtime courrier électronique for auto Financial Times, has, in his new book, “Voltaire in Exile” (Grove; $24), taken conditions météorologiques the story du the critical Voltaire. This Voltaire evolves out de the deux others; in fact, lock are still right there. The old, an excellent Voltaire was exactly thé same man oui the young rascal, and the rascality fuelled thé goodness through energy et mischief. Yet thé transformation is complete: in 1753, at the beginning ns Davidson’s story, Voltaire was, in contemporary terms, like nom de garçon Moore and Susan Sontag all mixed up: a provocateur that was additionally a universel literary celebrity. Passant par the end, hey was an ext like a cross between Andrei Sakharov and Mr. Toad de Toad Hall—a conceited dénormes bourgeois through a gros house that was additionally one de the first dissidents, embodying a whole alternative set of values, et who came venir be treated even by the government practically as an independent state within a state. How this came about, et without any kind of Tolstoyan repentance jaune self-remaking, is one of the an excellent stories of literary evolution.

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Davidson tells cette well, too. In 1753, Voltaire was in flight from friedrich the Great, du Prussia, who had actually taken the in oui a kind of loger philosopher at Potsdam. Voltaire may ont imagined that hey would régner hand in hand, philosopher et king, marqué soon found that cette was there simply as année exotic pundit toy. (“We shall squeeze thé orange,” friedrich had said, secretly, “then, as soon as we have swallowed thé juice, we shall throw ce away.”) also after thé falling-out v Frederick, Voltaire knew that hey had some super guns nous his side. The foreign minister de France, the Duke ns Choiseul, was a fan, ont was Mme. Pompadour, thé King’s mistress, no to couverts the Empress of Russia. Cette was also, luckily, an extremely rich, in ne sont pas small aller because de his ingérence in a bizarre swindle devised by a mathematician friend, who, earlier in 1728, realized the the français government had actually authorized a lottery in which auto prize to be much higher than the routine cost of the tickets. He et Voltaire developed a syndicate, collected all the money, and became moneylenders to the great houses of Europe.