Lot 529: LS in French, signed "Voltaire," one page both sides, 6.75 x 9, April 12, 1754. Letter to Jesuit priest Joseph de Menoux. In full (translated): "This whole affair, my dear and reverend Father, is as troublesome to me as it is to you. Not only the city of Paris but Europe has been flooded with letters allegedly written by us. It is all too certain, I tell you this confidentially, that the Jesuit whom I complained about to you in confidence and I dare to say in mild terms, had neither your discretion, nor your wisdom, nor your kindness. He should be blamed for being the cause of a very unpleasant scandal. You wouldn't believe how many anonymous letters, how many memoranda I've received on this subject. It's not the fault of all that confused writing that this matter, so simple, so innocent in itself, so unimportant in itself has given rise to quarrels which are connected to partisan disputes.
I throw everything into the fire. All I tell those who write me is that the letters are inventions; that I have the most tender veneration for you, and that your friendship honors me. I isolate myself in the treatments for my illnesses, in my solitude, and in work which is my consolation. It would be an even more flattering and precious consolation to me, if I could have the honor of seeing you at the waters. I still dare to hope that I'll be strong enough to go there. Your conversation and your friendship would certainly do me more good than all the mineral waters in the world.
I will bring you the Annales de l'Empire, but I fear that work might be a bit dry, and very far removed from the eloquence you employed in describing how to write history. I beg you to pay all my respects to Reverend Father Lesley." In very good to fine condition, with repaired separations to folds and seal-related paper loss to integral address leaf.
Voltaire found himself the subject of controversy after a pirated edition of Annals of the Empire was published at the Hague and Berlin by Jean Neaulme. Even worse than the act of piracy, the text had been purposefully edited to make Voltaire look bad and was riddled with typographical errors. Here, he hopes to earn the support of a priest close to the royal court who he believes could help him recover his reputation. Voltaire blames the whole affair on another Jesuit, Merat, who was speaking out publicly against him and continued to attribute the fabricated edition of the book to him. An interesting letter from one of the many controversial episodes of Voltaire's life.
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Wednesday, 9th March 2016
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