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sonal liberty. 'Quelle leçon de voir, dans un café, un ou deux milords, un chevalier baronnet, un cordonnier, un tailleur, 'un marchand de vin, et quelques autres gens de même trempe,' all seated round the same table and familiarly discussing, pipe in mouth, public affairs ! ‘Les Cafés'-unlike their degenerate descendants the public-houses of to-day—'sont comme le siège 'de la liberté anglaise. His enthusiasm for the English character is thoroughly exploited in his ‘Philosophe anglais
ou Histoire de Monsieur Cleveland fils naturel de Cromwell,' which appeared before 1739. Cleveland is an absurd and impossible person who wanders over oceans and continents as a sort of missionary of progress without his philosophy once failing him. He suffers from only one weakness, 'le spleen, 'espèce de délire frénétique qui est plus commun parmi les ' Anglais que parmi les autres peuples de l'Europe. .. c'est ' la plus dangereuse et la plus terrible des maladies.' He however triumphs over the haunting temptation of suicide caused by le spleen as an English philosopher may be expected to do.
In process of time Prévost returned to France and as cha plain to the Prince de Conti, by means of whose influence he had become a secular priest, continued the remarkable journal
Le Pour et le Contre' devoted to the diffusion of English ideas in France which he had commenced during his exile. Le · Pour et le Contre' was a sort of encyclopædic review of everything English. The foreword promises 'un ouvrage périodique 'd'un goût nouveau, dans lequel on s'explique librement sur 'tout ce qui peut intéresser la curiosité du public. He proposes to satisfy the recently formed taste of his compatriots -he had largely created it himself—for precise, varied, abundant information. Among his proposed topics, two take important places, ‘le caractère des dames distinguées par
le mérite' and 'les faits avérés qui paraîtront surpasser le 'pouvoir de la nature.' He is chronicler and gazetteer, gives prescriptions against smallpox and apoplexy, discusses volcanic eruptions, Egyptian mummies and giant aloes, and sweetens his pages with erotic verses and 'échos mondains.' He never forgets his principal object.
Ce qui sera tout à fait particulier à cette feuille, je promets d'y insérer chaque fois quelque particularité intéressante touchant le génie des Anglais, les curiosités de Londres et des autres parties de l'ile, les progrès qu'on y fait tous les jours dans les sciences et les arts, et de traduire même quelquefois les plus belles scènes de leurs pièces de théâtre.'
Certainly Voltaire's way as an interpreter of England to France was made straight before him.
It was during the first year of the publication of ‘Le Pour et le Contre' in London that that illustrious man's Lettres 'Anglaises’ appeared. Of this important work, M. Texte says:
À tous égards, les “ Lettres Philosophiques” ou “ Anglaises "car Voltaire a employé les deux titres—sont une œuvre capitale. D'elles datent la campagne ouverte contre le christianisme qui va remplir le siècle : d'elles enfin, et surtout, cet esprit nouveau, dédaigneux des questions d'art, réformateur et raisonneur, batailleur et pratique, plus soucieux de politique ou de science que de poésie ou d'éloquence, curieux pardessus tout d'une littérature d'action et de propagande d'esprit du siècle, qui se cherchait depuis trente ans, s'est reconnu dans ce livre. Les “ Lettres Anglaises” sont les lettres de majorité du xviiio siècle.
'Elles marquent aussi, dans le développement de l'influence Anglaise, un pas décisif. Il faut en croire ici les contemporains : “Cet ouvrage, a dit Condorcet, fut parmi nous l'époque d'une révolution ; il commença a y faire naître le goût de la philosophie et de la littérature anglaises, à nous intéresser aux mours, à la politique, aux connaissances commerciales de ce peuple, à répandre sa langue parmi nous." Du moins Voltaire eut-il le mérite de redire avec esprit, verve et cynisme quelques vérités éparses chez ses précurseurs, et qui n'étaient pas encore du domaine public.'
M. Texte is certainly right in discounting Condorcet's excessive estimation of the intrinsic originality of Voltaire's propaganda. The effect of that propaganda can hardly be estimated too highly. In those days practically everyone who could read, read Voltaire, and much that in the works of his precursors would have speedily been forgotten lost its heaviness and pedantry and acquired new life when reproduced by his magic pen.
Voltaire disembarked at Greenwich on May the 30th, 1726. The day was Whit-Monday. The Greenwich Fair was being held and it happened to be the King's birthday. The weather, as he notes, was beautiful and he observed with the liveliest interest the two lines of merchant ships drawn up to salute the royal barge which, rowed by men in gorgeous liveries and preceded by boats containing the Court musicians, floated
slowly by. The bosom of the Thames presented a scene of unbroken pageant and on every side could be discerned the signs of freedom and prosperity. It was a pretty welcome from England, in which even the climate was persuaded by the Muses to join, to the man who was to take knightly service on her behalf in the field of letters. Voltaire had plenty of money in his pocket; he was in good spirits, having just been liberated from the Bastille. Still young-he was thirty-two-he was also enjoying one of his brief respites from the ill-health which pursued him all his life. He was to dine that night with Bolingbroke, whose friendship he had already acquired during Bolingbroke's exile at La Source, and he had also a letter in his pocket from Horace Walpole the elder to Bubb Dodington the great patron of literature among the Whigs.
While in England he enjoyed and extended these advantages. He frequented politicians both Whig and Tory and succeeded in collecting £2000 in subscriptions for the ‘Henriade,' which he completed during his English visit and dedicated to Queen Caroline. He was, however, more interested in savants and men of letters than in politicians. In 1727 he assists at Newton's funeral and makes friends with Mrs.Conduit, the great man's niece. He frequents the meetings of the Royal Society and also Quaker meetings at Hampstead. He reads the English philosophers, Bacon, Locke, Hobbes, Cudworth, Berkeley, Woolston, Tindal. With some of these he becomes intimate, as also with Clarke, whose 'metaphysical imagina'tion ’alarms him. He makes friends with Pope, Young, and Gay. Although he never mastered English for purposes of conversation, he acquired it sufficiently to write and publish an Essay on the Civil Wars of France. And also upon the 'Epick poetry of the European nations from Homer down to 'Milton,' a copy of which work presented by him to Sir Hans Sloane, the president of the Royal Society, may be seen in the British Museum. Of these essays Mr. Churton Collins says that they are composed 'not in such English as we should
expect to find written by one who had acquired the language, but in such English as would in truth have reflected no 'discredit on Dryden or Swift.'
Considering the brevity of his sojourn among us—not quite three years-and that during that time he also completed and published the 'Henriade,' collected notes for his 'Charles XII,'
wrote his Brutus,' the first act of which was sketched in English prose, not to speak of the ‘Lettres Anglaises' themselves, his activity seems to have been perfectly super-human. He possessed like so many Frenchmen that enviable quality le travail facile. Also he never digs below a certain depth, and his brilliant nimble intelligence was not prone to hesitation. No doubt he played the 'sedulous ape' to thinkers like Bolingbroke and Clarke-'picked up' innumerable philosophical perquisites from their conversation. Yet he was no mere plagiarist although his vanity prompted him to conceal his 'sources. Everything that passed through his mind was transformed in its passage. Truisms as they flashed through his brain became epigrams, his lambent wit flickered round the dry bones of theological controversy till they arose and positively danced with vitality in his crisp and caustic pages. On his arrival in England he found the controversy between the Deists and the apologists of Christianity at its height. The great champion of eighteenth century orthodoxy, Bishop Butler, was still to come, and for the moment the Deists had the best of the fight.
Anthony Collins' 'Discourse on the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion ' had appeared in 1724 and had made an enormous impression on the public mind. It furnished much matter for denunciation from the pulpit and even for acrimonious discussion in the press. In 1725 appeared the first of Woolston's Six Discourses on the Miracles of Christ.' The book was dedicated to the Bishop of London and made an even greater sensation than Collins' attack. Voltaire became intimate with Woolston and gave in the ' Dictionnaire Philo
sophique' a long and enthusiastic account of his labours, and when Woolston was imprisoned and fined for his heterodox views Voltaire made himself responsible for a third of the fine.
No doubt it was not from the English that Voltaire learned his doubts of Christianity. Their scepticism was already to be found in Fontenelle and Bayle, not to mention his own early works. But he found in the English deistic controversy not only encouragement for his own ideas but also an open, serious, methodical and argumentative exposition of them. There were indeed plenty of anti-religious arguments in Bayle, but they were hidden under rhetoric and commonplace. A favourite disguise of the early French free-thinkers was to pose as extravagant advocates of the dark and mysterious certitudes of faith. After you had shown that all observation and all reasoning led to sceptical conclusions, you wound up by remarking that the orthodox belief so irrefutable and widely held could only owe its vigour to the supernatural virtue of faith depending not on the feeble efforts of human reason but on a direct infusion of supernatural grace. The pages of Fontenelle's 'Histoire des Oracles,' in particular, abound with this trick. The attitude of authority in France armed with the Bastille may have justified, as it certainly explained, this strategy. In England, although Deists were occasionally fined and imprisoned, the appeal was ostensibly to discussion and argument. Dissenters from Christianity spoke out their mind clearly and indeed crudely.
La liberté de penser, quelque répandue qu'elle fut en France, n'y faisait point partie, comme en Angleterre, de l'esprit public, évitait de s'étaler ouvertement, et ne prenait pas d'allures aussi aggressives. Voltaire trouva donc, sur ce point, l'Angleterre en progrès sur la France. Et de même, il trouva dans les livres anglais toute une philosophie nouvelle, très affirmative et très précise, dont Bayle lui-même ne renfermait que le germe, et qu'il vulgarisa parmi nous. . . . En ce sens donc, l’Angleterre a fait de Voltaire, sceptique, mondain et bel esprit, un philosophe qu'il n'était pas. La philosophie anglaise a donné un corps à son incroyance. Suivant le mot de M. John Morley, “quand il quitta la France, c'était un poète ; quand il y revint, c'était un sage.'
Montesquieu in his ' Notes de Voyage' says that there is no religious belief in England, that if a man mentions the subject, his hearers burst into laughter. Montesquieu obviously exaggerates. Nevertheless both the intellectual and moral standards of the Anglican clergy had fallen very low, the elimination of the Nonjurors, who held fast to the high church doctrines and lofty spirituality of the great Caroline divines, had had a disastrous effect on their spiritual character and popular prestige. Apart from a few praiseworthy exceptions the Georgian bishops with their huge incomes differed but little from other great Whig nobles except that they were rather more assiduous courtiers and sycophants. The Free-thinkers of the first half of the century, on the contrary, were remarkable men. They were thoroughly sincere, having nothing to gain and in many cases everything to lose by the expression of unpopular opinions. They had immense energy and a truly