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Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 134.djvu/106

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VOLTAIRE IN THE NETHERLANDS.

which he was punished by the erasure of the name of his grandfather, the great Sully, from the "Henriade," which was about this time published under the name of the "Ligne." Voltaire was obliged to do himself justice; he challenged Rohan, but was immediately arrested by lettre de cachet, and carried to the Bastille on the 17th April 1726, and only released on promising to go to England.

During his stay in London, he occupied himself mainly with mathematics, and made himself familiar with the philosophy of Newton, of which he made a more special study afterwards at the Leyden University. He remained three years in London, then returned to Paris, made several journeys, and we find him settled at Leyden in 1736, under the assumed name of Revol, which he dropped when he found the pseudonym was useless. In a letter to the crown prince of Prussia (afterwards Frederick the Great), with whom he had that year entered into an active correspondence, he says that he is in a town where two simple citizens, Boerhaave and ‘s Gravesande attract from four to five hundred strangers. He further mentions that he is busy arranging an edition of all his works at Amsterdam,[1] and offers his services to Frederick, begging him to address the answer to Messrs. Servan et d'Arti, at Amsterdam.

Frederick, who had visited Holland several times, answered in a few days: "Je m'intéresserai toujours vivement à ce qui vous regarde; et la Hollande, pays qui ne m'a jamais déplu, me deviendra une terre sacrée puisqu'elle vous contient."

Voltaire was then very busy writing a work on the philosophy of Newton, and received great assistance from the learned 's Gravesande. Boerhaave, also, was useful to him in an illness: "J'ai été très-malade," he writes to Thieriot on the 17th January 1737; "je suis venu à Leyde, consulter le docteur Boerhaave sur ma santé, et 's Gravesande sur la philosophie de Newton." This contradicts the story that Boerhaave refused to attend Voltaire on the ground "that he would not assist any one who denied his Saviour." In the same letter he adds that he goes from time to time to Amsterdam to his publisher Ledet: "Il ma forcé de loger chez lui, quand je viens à Amsterdam voir comment va la philosophie Newtonienne. Il s’est avisé de prendre pour enseigne la tête de votre ami Voltaire. La modestie qu'il faut avoir, défend à ma sincérité de vous dire l'excès de considération qu’on a ici pour moi." To the Marquis d'Argens he sends, a few days later, a piece about Dutch manners, called "L'Epître du fils d’un bourgmestre sur la politesse Hollandaise," intended to have been published in the "Lettres Juives" of D'Argens. This, however, did not happen, and unfortunately it is now lost.

Voltaire left Holland for Paris at the end of February 1737, and was soon again settled at the Château de Cirey, with his friend the Marquis du Châtelet. From there he wrote a remarkable letter to Professor 's Gravesande. J.-B. Rousseau had spread the calumny that Voltaire, being driven from France, had gone to the university of Leyden to preach atheism, and had even had a public discussion with 's Gravesande on the existence of God. 's Gravesande had contradicted this in a Dutch newspaper, but Voltaire now complains that the refutation had not penetrated into France, and that the report had reached the highest quarters, and was seriously injuring him. He begs 's Gravesande to address himself to the Cardinal de Fleury, but the professor, while strenuously denying the truth of the report, excused himself from taking this step, on the ground that owing to his retired life, his name was not sufficiently known in France to have any influence; in fact, that he could not suppose people to know that there was at Leyden a man "whose name began with an apostrophe." Voltaire forwarded this letter to the Duc de Richelieu, who showed it to Cardinal de Fleury, and the minister De Maurepas, and it appears to have answered its purpose.

In 1739 Voltaire resolved to visit the Netherlands, with his friend Mme. du Châtelet, principally because her presence was required at Brussels for a lawsuit between her and the Comte de Honsbroek, about an inheritance left her by her uncle, the Marquis de Trichâteau. At Brussels they were received with open arms, and Voltaire and his friend soon became the favorite guests of the D'Arembergs and Chimays. The journey to Holland was given up for the present, and they remained some time at Brussels. Prince Frederick of Prussia had about that time written a remarkable book, "L'Anti-Machiavel," and had submitted the manuscript to the judgment of Voltaire in January 1740. The latter occupied himself at once with the publication of the book,

  1. The first edition of Voltaire's collected works came out in 1728, at P. Gosse and Neaulme's, at the Hague. Further editions appeared in 1732 and 1738 at Amsterdam, in 1740 at Paupie's, at the Hague, and in 1741, 1743, and 1764, at Amsterdam.