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A Philosophical Dictionary, Volume 7   By: (1694-1778)

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First Page:

A PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY

VOLUME VII

By

VOLTAIRE

EDITION DE LA PACIFICATION

THE WORKS OF VOLTAIRE

A CONTEMPORARY VERSION

With Notes by Tobias Smollett, Revised and Modernized New Translations by William F. Fleming, and an Introduction by Oliver H.G. Leigh

A CRITIQUE AND BIOGRAPHY

BY

THE RT. HON. JOHN MORLEY

FORTY THREE VOLUMES

One hundred and sixty eight designs, comprising reproductions of rare old engravings, steel plates, photogravures, and curious fac similes

VOLUME XI

E.R. DuMONT

PARIS LONDON NEW YORK CHICAGO

1901

The WORKS of VOLTAIRE

"Between two servants of Humanity, who appeared eighteen hundred years apart, there is a mysterious relation. Let us say it with a sentiment of profound respect: JESUS WEPT: VOLTAIRE SMILED. Of that divine tear and of that human smile is composed the sweetness of the present civilization."

VICTOR HUGO .

LIST OF PLATES Vol. VII

OLD ROUEN frontispiece MONTESQUIEU THE DREAM OF HUMAN LIFE ANCIENT ROME

[Illustration: Old Rouen.]

VOLTAIRE

A PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY.

IN TEN VOLUMES

VOL. VII

JOSEPH MISSION

JOSEPH.

The history of Joseph, considering it merely as an object of curiosity and literature, is one of the most precious monuments of antiquity which has reached us. It appears to be the model of all the Oriental writers; it is more affecting than the "Odyssey"; for a hero who pardons is more touching than one who avenges.

We regard the Arabs as the first authors of these ingenious fictions, which have passed into all languages; but I see among them no adventures comparable to those of Joseph. Almost all in it is wonderful, and the termination exacts tears of tenderness. He was a young man of sixteen years of age, of whom his brothers were jealous; he is sold by them to a caravan of Ishmaelite merchants, conducted into Egypt, and bought by a eunuch of the king. This eunuch had a wife, which is not at all extraordinary; the kislar aga, a perfect eunuch, has a seraglio at this day at Constantinople; they left him some of his senses, and nature in consequence is not altogether extinguished. No matter; the wife of Potiphar falls in love with the young Joseph, who, faithful to his master and benefactor, rejects the advances of this woman. She is irritated at it, and accuses Joseph of attempting to seduce her. Such is the history of Hippolytus and Phædra, of Bellerophon and Zenobia, of Hebrus and Damasippa, of Myrtilus and Hippodamia, etc.

It is difficult to know which is the original of all these histories; but among the ancient Arabian authors there is a tract relating to the adventure of Joseph and Potiphar's wife, which is very ingenious. The author supposes that Potiphar, uncertain between the assertions of his wife and Joseph, regarded not Joseph's tunic, which his wife had torn as a proof of the young man's outrage. There was a child in a cradle in his wife's chamber; and Joseph said that she seized and tore his tunic in the presence of this infant. Potiphar consulted the child, whose mind was very advanced for its age. The child said to Potiphar: "See if the tunic is torn behind or before; if before, it is a proof that Joseph would embrace your wife by force, and that she defended herself; if behind, it is a proof that your wife detained Joseph." Potiphar, thanks to the genius of the child, recognized the innocence of his slave. It is thus that this adventure is related in the Koran, after the Arabian author. It informs us not to whom the infant belonged, who judged with so much wit. If it was not a son of Potiphar, Joseph was not the first whom this woman had seduced.

However that may be, according to Genesis, Joseph is put in prison, where he finds himself in company with the butler and baker of the king of Egypt... Continue reading book >>


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