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Voltaire's Romances, Complete in One Volume   By: (1694-1778)

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VOLTAIRE'S ROMANCES

TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH.

A NEW EDITION ,

WITH NUMEROUS ILLUSTRATIONS.

[Illustration: M. de VOLTAIRE.]

I choose that a story should be founded on probability, and not always resemble a dream. I desire to find nothing in it trivial or extravagant; and I desire above all, that under the appearance of fable there may appear some latent truth, obvious to the discerning eye, though it escape the observation of the vulgar. Voltaire.

COMPLETE IN ONE VOLUME.

NEW YORK:

PUBLISHED BY PETER ECKLER,

35 FULTON STREET.

1889.

[Illustration: Ancient writing implements, Pompeii.]

PUBLISHER'S PREFACE

Voltaire wrote what the people thought, and consequently his writings were universally read. He wittily ridiculed established abuses, and keenly satirized venerable absurdities. For this he was consigned to the Bastile, and this distinction served to increase his popularity and extend his influence. He was thus enabled to cope successfully with the papal hierarchy, and laugh at the murmurs of the Vatican. The struggle commenced in his youth, and continued till his death. It was a struggle of light against darkness of freedom against tyranny; and it ended in the triumph of truth over error and of toleration over bigotry.

Educated by the Jesuits, he early learned their methods, and his great ability enabled him to circumvent their wiles. The ceremonious presentation of his tragedy of Mahomet [1] to Pope Benedict XIV., is an example of his daring audacity; his success with the "head of the church" shows his intellectual superiority whilst the gracious reply of "his Holiness" fitly illustrates the pontiff's vanity. From priest to bishop, from cardinal to pope, all felt his intellectual power and all dreaded his merciless satire.

[Illustration: Voltaire at seventy.]

He was famous as poet, dramatist, historian, and philosopher. An experienced courtier and polished writer, he gracefully and politely conquered his clerical opponents, and with courteous irony overthrew his literary critics. From his demeanor you could not judge of his thoughts or intentions, and while listening to his compliments, you instinctively dreaded his sarcasms. But venture to approach this grand seigneur, this keen man of the world, this intellectual giant, and plead in favor of human justice appeal to his magnanimity and love of toleration and you then had no cause to question his earnestness, no reason to doubt his sincerity. His blood boiled, says Macaulay,[2] at the sight of cruelty and injustice, and in an age of religious persecution, judicial torture, and arbitrary imprisonment, he made manful war, with every faculty he possessed, on what he considered as abuses; and on many signal occasions, placed himself gallantly between the powerful and the oppressed. "When an innocent man was broken on the wheel at Toulouse, when a youth, guilty only of an indiscretion, was beheaded at Abbéville, when a brave officer, borne down by public injustice, was dragged, with a gag in his mouth, to die on the Place de Grêve, a voice instantly went forth from the banks of Lake Leman, which made itself heard from Moscow to Cadiz, and which sentenced the unjust judges to the contempt and detestation of all Europe."

"None can read these stories of the horrible religious bigotry of the day," says Alex. A. Knox, in The Nineteenth Century ,[3] "without feeling for Voltaire reverence and respect."

The following extract from the above named Review will explain the religious cruelty to which Macaulay refers:

"Jean Calas, a Protestant, kept a small shop in Toulouse. He had a scape grace of a son, Marc Antoine by name, who hanged himself in his father's shop. The poor father and mother were up stairs at the time, at supper, in company with the second son. The evidence was so clear that a coroner's jury at a public house would not have turned round upon it... Continue reading book >>




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