Open main menu

Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 134.djvu/103

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

"That I would it were my Lady Clementina instead," answered Malcolm with a smile.

She held her peace.

When he left her, Malcolm hurried to Scaurnose and arranged with Blue Peter for his boat and crew the next night. Returning to his grandfather, he found a note waiting him from Mrs. Courthope to the effect that, as Miss Caley, her ladyship's maid, had preferred another room, there was no reason why, if he pleased, he should not reoccupy his own.

From Temple Bar.



Before proceeding to collect a few particulars about Voltaire’s different journeys to Holland, it will be necessary briefly to describe those circumstances of his life which first induced him to visit that country.

François-Marie Arouet was born at Paris, November 21st, 1694. His father, after having been for many years a notary, was treasurer of the Chamber of Accounts at Paris; his mother, Marguerite d’Aumard, was of an old noble family. It has been said that she possessed a small property in Poitou, from which her second son derived his name, but modern enquirers have been unable to establish its existence, and it appears more probable that the name Voltaire was simply an anagram of his usual signature, Arouet l. J. (le Jeune.) From his early youth he received an excellent education, and neither his father nor his godfather, the Abbé de Châteauneuf, spared anything to develop his extraordinary gifts. The abbé, who was much attached to Ninon de l’Enclos, introduced the youth to her, and he soon became a favorite in her brilliant circle. Though of a weak constitution, his mind was so precocious that he already wrote good poetry at the age of twelve. He was accustomed to take for the subject of his epigrams his elder brother, who was developing into a desperate fanatic, and whom he called mon Janséniste de frère, and these verses gave the Abbé Le Jay occasion to say that he would one day be the standard-bearer of impiety. When the father heard, to his vexation, that his younger son was a poet, he exclaimed: 'My sons are two madmen; one in verse, and one in prose.' The pleasure-loving abbé brought his godchild into the company of his friends the Duc de Sully, the Marquis de la Fare, and other gay and witty gentlemen, whose greatest amusement consisted in the so-called petits soupers. The life which resulted from this, added to Voltaire’s love of poetry, and his dislike to the legal profession, which his father wished him to follow, gave rise to quarrels between them, and ended in his being sent to the Hague, to serve as page in the suite of the French ambassador, then the Marquis de Châteauneuf, elder brother of the abbé.

Voltaire arrived at the Hague in September 1713, at the age of nineteen. He took up his quarters at the French Embassy, a large building situated on the Prinsessegracht (Boschkant) — the site now occupied by the Roman Catholic church — and he very soon made a sensation by his wit, his poetry, and, above all, his love adventures. There lived then at the Hague a Madame Dunoyer, a clever but very singular woman, who had been unhappily married in Paris to a French nobleman and writer, named Dunoyer, and had fled to Holland with her two daughters. Originally a strict Protestant she had even been imprisoned for two years on account of her religion. She abjured it at the time of her marriage, but resumed it in Holland, where she was living in destitute circumstances, principally by the profits of her pen. Her most lucrative publication consisted of certain periodical letters, a pretended correspondence between two journalists, one in France and the other in Holland, which appeared for several years at the Hague and at Amsterdam, under the title of 'La Quintessence des Nouvelles Historiques, Critiques, Politiques, Morales et Galantes' (principally the latter), and of 'Le Mercure Galant.' It was a doubly profitable speculation, for she was paid not only for what she printed, but also for much that she consented to suppress.

Her youngest daughter, Olympe, who went by the name of Mlle. Pimpette, was a clever, beautiful, and coquettish girl. Young Arouet was soon caught in her nets, and desperately in love. He committed all sorts of follies with a complete indifference to the remarks of the inhabitants of the Hague, and was even on the point of eloping with his beloved Olympe, at whose feet the painter Schlesinger has represented him,[1] when the mother, who

  1. This picture belonged to Mr. Hoffman’s collection, and is now in the possession of the Baroness de Wassenaer, his daughter.