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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
From the ‘Life of Voltaire’
By James Parton (1822–1891)
 
AFTER this interesting experience of court life in a foreign country, where the king was king, he [Voltaire] was to become a courtier at Versailles, where the man who governed the king’s mistress was king.  1
  Again it was the Duke de Richelieu, First Gentleman of the Chamber, who broke in upon the elevated pursuits of Cirey, and called him to lower tasks and less congenial scenes. The royal children were coming of age. The marriage of the Dauphin to the Infanta of Spain, long ago agreed upon, was soon to be celebrated, the prince having passed his sixteenth year; and it devolved upon the First Gentleman to arrange the marriage festival. This was no light task; for Louis XIV. had accustomed France to the most elaborate and magnificent fêtes. Not content with such splendor as mere wealth can everywhere procure, that gorgeous monarch loved to enlist all the arts and all the talents; exhibiting to his guests divertisements written by Molière, performed with original music, and with scenery painted by artists. Several of his festivals have to this day a certain celebrity in France, and have left traces still noticeable. There is a public ground in Paris, opposite the Tuileries, which is called the Place of the Carousal. It was so named because it was the scene of one of this King’s fêtes, in which five bodies of horsemen—or quadrilles, as they were called—took part. One of these bodies were dressed and equipped as Roman knights, and they were led by the King in person. His brother, the Duke of Orleans, commanded a body of Persian cavalry; the Prince of Condé, a splendid band of Turks; the Duke of Guise, a company of Peruvian horse; and a son of Condé shone at the head of East-Indian horsemen in gorgeous array. Imagine these five bodies of horse galloping and manœuvring, entering and departing, charging and retreating, like circus riders in an extremely large and splendid tent; and in the midst, on a lofty platform, three queens in splendid robes,—the mother of Louis, the wife of Louis, and the widow of Charles I., who lived and died the guest of the King of France. There were grand doings at this festival. There were tournaments, games of skill and daring, stately processions, concerts, plays, and buffooneries, with a ball at the close.  2
  That pageant, splendid as it was, was “effaced,” as the French say, by one which the King gave only two years after at Versailles, probably the most sumptuous thing of the kind ever seen. On the 5th of May, the most beautiful month of the year in France, the King rode out to Versailles with all his court, which then included six hundred persons, each attended by retainers and servants, the whole numbering more than two thousand individuals and as many horses. The festival was to last seven days, and the King defrayed the expenses of every one of his guests. In the park and gardens of Versailles, miracles had been wrought. Theatres, amphitheatres, porticoes, pavilions, seemed to have sprung into being at the waving of an enchanter’s wand. On the first day there was a kind of review, or march-past, of all who were to take part in the games and tourneys. Under a triumphal arch the three queens appeared again, resplendent, each attended by one hundred ladies, who were attired in the brilliant manner of the period; past these marched heralds, pages, squires, carrying the devices and shields of the knights, as well as banners upon which verses were written in letters of gold. The knights followed in burnished armor and bright plumes; the King at their head in the character of Roger, a famous knight of old. All the crown diamonds glittered upon his coat and the trappings of his horse. Both he and the animal sparkled and blazed in the May sun; and we can well imagine that a handsome young man, riding with perfect grace the most beautiful of horses, must have been a very pretty spectacle, despite so much glitter. When this procession of squires and knights had passed and made their obeisance to the queens, a huge car followed, eighteen feet high, fifteen wide, and twenty-four long, representing the Car of the Sun,—an immense vehicle, all gilding and splendor. Behind this car came groups exhibiting the Four Ages,—of Gold, of Silver, of Brass, and of Iron; and these were followed by representations of the celestial signs, the seasons, and the hours. All this, the spectators inform us, was admirably performed to the sound of beautiful music; and now and then persons would step from the procession, and the music would cease while they recited poems, written for the occasion, before the queens. Imagine shepherds, blacksmiths, farmers, harvesters, vine-dressers, fauns, dryads, Pans, Dianas, Apollos, marching by, and representing the various scenes of life and industry!  3
  The procession ends at last. Night falls. With wondrous rapidity four thousand great torches are lighted in an inclosure fitted up as a banqueting-place. Two hundred of the persons who had figured in the procession now bring in various articles of food: the seasons, the vine-dressers, the shepherds, the harvesters, each bear the food appropriate to them; while Pan and Diana advance upon a moving mountain, and alight to superintend the distribution of the exquisite food which had been brought in. Behind the tables was an orchestra of musicians, and when the feast was done the pleasures of the day ended with a ball. For a whole week the festival continued; the sports varied every day. There were tourneys, pageants, hunts, shooting at a mark, and spearing the ring. Four times the King gained the prize, and offered it to be competed for again. There were a great number of court fools at this festival, as we still find clowns at a circus. Indeed, when we attend a liberally appointed circus, we are looking upon a show resembling in many particulars the grand doings in the park of Versailles when Louis XIV. entertained his court and figured as chief of the riders.  4
  Most of the performances could have been procured by money lavishly spent; and in order to reproduce them, the Duke de Richelieu needed little assistance from the arts. But there were items of the programme which redeemed the character of this festival, and caused it to be remembered by the susceptible people of France with pride. Molière composed for it a kind of show play, called the ‘Princesse d’Elide’; a vehicle for music, ballet, and costume, with here and there a spice of his comic talent. A farce of his, the ‘Forced Marriage,’ was also played; and the first three acts of his ‘Tartuffe’—the greatest effort of French dramatic genius in that age, if not in any age—were performed for the first time. There was only one man in France who could help a “First Gentleman” to features of the coming fête at all resembling these; and to him that First Gentleman applied. Voltaire entered into the scheme with zeal. In April 1744, Cirey all blooming with flowers and verdure, he began to write his festive divertisement, the ‘Princesse de Navarre,’ the hero of which was a kind of Spanish Duke de Richelieu. “I am making,” he wrote, “a divertisement for a Dauphin and Dauphiness whom I shall not divert; but I wish to produce something pretty, gay, tender, worthy of the Duke de Richelieu, director of the fête.” It was his chief summer work, and he labored at it with an assiduity that would have sufficed to produce three new tragedies. He very happily laid the scene of his play in an ancient château close to the borders of the Spanish province of Navarre; an expedient which enabled him to group upon the stage both Frenchmen and Spaniards, with their effective contrasts of costume, and to present to the Spanish bride and her court, pleasing traits of their own countrymen. The poet and the First Gentleman arranged the processions, the ballets, the tableaux, the fête within a fête; exchanging many long letters, and pondering many devices. There is good comic writing in this piece; and there are two characters—a rustic Spanish baron and his extremely simple-minded daughter—that are worthy of a better kind of play and occasion.  5
  This was the year in which the King of France first braved the hardships of the field, accompanied by his mistress, the Duchesse de Châteauroux, and attended by that surprising retinue of courtiers and comedians often described. I need not pause to relate how, after being present at warlike operations, he fell dangerously sick of a fever; how the mistress and the First Gentleman took possession of the King’s quarters, and barred the door against priests and princes; how, as the King grew worse, the alarmed mistress tried to come to a compromise with the royal confessor, the keeper of the King’s conscience, saying to him in substance, “Let me go away without scandal,—that is, without being sent away,—and I will quietly let you into the King’s chamber;” how the cautious Jesuit contrived to get through a long interview without saying either yes or no to this proposal; how at length, when the King seemed near his end, she was terrified into yielding, and the King, fearing to lose his absolution and join some of the bad kings in the other world, sent her a positive command to depart, as if she had been, what the priest officially styled her, a concubine; how the King, having recovered, humbly courted her return, calling upon her in person at her house; and how, while she affected to hesitate, and dictated terms of direst vengeance, even the exile of every priest, courtier, and minister who had taken the least part in her disgrace, she died of mingled rage, mortification, and triumph, leaving both the King and the First Gentleman perfectly consolable.  6
  The impressive fact is, that none of these things impaired the spell of the King’s divinity. During the crisis of his fever all France seemed panic-stricken; and when he recovered, the manifestations of joy were such as to astonish the King himself, inured as he was to every form and degree of adulation from his childhood. “What have I done,” cried the poor man, “to be loved so?” It was at this time that he received his name of Louis the Well-Beloved, by which it was presumed that he would go to posterity, along with Louis the Fat and Philip the Long,—titles so helpful to childish memory. On his return to Paris in September 1744, “crowned with victory,” and recovered from the borders of the tomb, the fêtes were of such magnitude and splendor that Madame du Châtelet came to Paris to witness them, with her poet in her train. He brought his ‘Princesse de Navarre’ with him, however, and was soon in daily consultation with composer, ministers, First Gentleman, and friends, as to the resources of an extemporized theatre.  7
  A curious street adventure befell madame and himself on the night of the grand fireworks, which they rode in from a château near the city to witness. They found all the world in the streets. Voltaire gave an account of their night’s exploits to the President Hénault, whose visit to Cirey they now returned in an unusual manner:—“There were two thousand backing carriages in three files; there were the outcries of two or three hundred thousand men, scattered among those carriages; there were drunkards, fights with fists, streams of wine and tallow flowing upon the people, a mounted police to augment the embroglio; and by way of climax to our delights, his Royal Highness [Duke de Chartres] was returning peacefully to the Palais-Royal with his great carriages, his guards, his pages: and all this unable to go back or advance until three in the morning. I was with Madame du Châtelet. Her coachman, who had never before been in Paris, was about boldly to break her upon the wheel. Covered as she was with diamonds, she alighted, calling upon me to follow, got through the crowd without being either plundered or hustled, entered your house [Rue St. Honoré], sent for some roast chicken at the corner restaurant, and drank your health very pleasantly in that house to which every one wishes to see you return.”  8
  It was a busy time with him during the next six months, arranging the details of the fête, with Rameau the composer, with scene-painters, with the Duke de Richelieu and the Marquis d’Argenson. We see him cutting down eight verses to four, and swelling four verses to eight, to meet the exigencies of the music. We see him deep in converse with Richelieu upon the complicated scenes of his play,—suggesting, altering, abandoning, curtailing numberless devices of the stage manager.  9
  On this occasion also, as before going to Prussia, he took care to secure some compensation in advance. It was not his intention to play courtier for nothing. He was resolved to improve this opportunity, and to endeavor so to strengthen himself at court that henceforth he could sleep in peace at his abode, in Paris, or in the country, fearless of the Ane of Mirepoix. To get the dull, shy, sensualized King on his side was a material point with him. He wrote a poem on the ‘Events of the Year’ (1744), in which the exploits of the King upon the tented field, and his joyful recovery from sickness, were celebrated in the true laureate style. He also took measures to have this poem shown to the King by the Cardinal de Tencin, “in a moment of good-humor.” He made known to two of his friends in the ministry, M. Orry and the Marquis d’Argenson, precisely what he wanted. He wanted an office which would protect him against confessors, bishops, and Desfontaines,—say, for example, gentleman-in-ordinary of the king’s chamber; a charge of trifling emolument, less duty, and great distinction. He would then be a member of the King’s household, not to be molested on slight pretext by a Mirepoix, nor to be calumniated with impunity by a journalist. But since such offices were seldom vacant, he asked to be appointed at once writer of history (historiographe) to the King, at a nominal salary of four hundred francs a year.  10
  M. Orry thought this very modest and suitable; the Marquis d’Argenson was of the same opinion: and both engaged to aid in accomplishing his wishes. If he could add to these posts an arm-chair in the French Academy, which in good time he also meant to try for, he thought he might pursue his natural vocation in his native land without serious and constant apprehension.  11
  But first, the fête! That must succeed as a preliminary. In January 1745 he took up his abode at Versailles to superintend the rehearsals, conscious of the incongruity of his employment. “I am here,” he wrote to Thierot, “braving Fortune in her own temple; at Versailles I play a part similar to that of an atheist in a church.” To Cideville, also:—“Do you not pity a poor devil who at fifty is a king’s buffoon, and who is more embarrassed with musicians, decorators, actors, singers, and dancers than the eight or nine electors will soon be in making a German Cæsar? I rush from Paris to Versailles; I compose verses in the post-chaise; I have to praise the King highly, Madame the Dauphiness delicately, the royal family sweetly. I must satisfy the court, and not displease the city.”  12
  In the very crisis of the long preparation, February 18th, 1745, seven days before the festival, Voltaire’s Jansenist of a brother, the “Abbé Arouet,” Receiver-of-Fees to the Chamber of Accounts, died at Paris, aged two months less than sixty years. The brothers, as we know, had been long ago estranged, and had rarely met of late years. The parish register, still accessible, attests that the funeral was attended, February 19th, by “François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire, bourgeois of Paris”; not yet gentleman-in-ordinary. The receiver-of-fees died, as he had lived, in what was called the odor of sanctity; presenting to the view of young and old that painful caricature of goodness which has for some centuries, in more than one country, made virtue more difficult than it naturally is. From his will, which also exists, we learn that if he did not disinherit his brother, he came as near it as a French brother could without doing violence to the sentiment and custom of his country. After giving legacies to cousins, friends, and servants, he leaves one half the bulk of his estate to his nephew and nieces, and the other half to his brother; but with a difference. Voltaire was to enjoy his half “in usufruct only,” the capital to fall finally “to his nephew and nieces aforesaid.” He took care also to prevent his brother from gaining anything by the decease of any of the heirs. As the receiver-of-fees, besides bequeathing his valuable office to a relative, died worth, as French investigators compute, about two hundred thousand francs, Voltaire received an increase to his income of perhaps six thousand francs a year.  13
  From his brother’s grave, without waiting to learn these particulars, he was obliged to go post-haste to Versailles, towards which all eyes were now directed. The marriage festival, a tumult of all the splendors, began February 23d, 1745. The ‘Princess of Navarre’ succeeded to admiration. A vast and beautiful edifice had risen, at the command of Richelieu, in the horse-training ground near the palace of Versailles, so constructed that it could serve as a theatre on one evening and a ball-room on the next, both equally magnificent and complete. The stage was fifty-six feet in depth; and as the boxes were so arranged as to exhibit the audience to itself in the most effective and brilliant manner, the words spoken on the stage could not be always perfectly heard. But this was not so important, since the play was chiefly designed as a vehicle for music, dancing, costume, and picture. At six in the evening the King entered and took the seat prepared for him in the middle of the theatre, followed in due order by his family and court, arrayed in the gorgeous fashion of the time. These placed themselves around him, a splendid group, in the midst of a great theatre filled with the nobility of the kingdom, all sumptuous and glittering. The author of the play about to be performed was himself thrilled by the picturesque magnificence of the spectacle which the audience presented; and he regretted that a greater number of the people of France could not have been present to behold the superb array of princes and princesses, noble lords and ladies, adorned by masterpieces of decorative art, which the beauty of the ladies “effaced.” He wished that more people could observe the noble and becoming joy that filled every heart and beamed in all those lovely eyes.  14
  But since nothing can be perfect, not even in France, this most superb audience was so much elated with itself that it could not stop talking. There was a buzz and hum of conversation, reminding the anxious author of a hive of bees humming and buzzing around the queen. The curtain rose; but still they talked. The play, however, being a mélange of poetry, song, music, ballet, and dialogue, everything was enjoyed except the good verses here and there, which could scarcely be caught by distant ears. Every talent in such a piece meets its due of approval except that of the poet, who imagines the whole before any part of it exists. At half-past nine the curtain fell upon the closing scene; when the audience, retiring to the grounds without, found the entire façade of the palace and adjacent structures illuminated. All were enchanted. The King himself, the hardest man in Europe to amuse, was so well pleased that he ordered the play to be repeated on another evening of the festival. “The King is grateful to me,” wrote Voltaire to his guardian angel, D’Argental. “The Mirepoix cannot harm me. What more do I need?”  15
  He was exhausted with the long strain upon his nervous system. “So tired am I,” he wrote to Thierot, “that I have neither hands, feet, nor head, and write to you by the hand of another.” But he soon had the consolation of receiving the King’s promise of the next vacancy among the gentlemen-in-ordinary, and his immediate appointment as writer of history at an annual salary of two thousand francs. Thus the year consumed in these courtly toils, he thought, was not without its compensations. Nor did he relax his vigilance, nor give ministers peace, until these offices were securely his by letters patent and the King’s signature.
*        *        *        *        *
  16
  When he accepted the office of historiographer, he was far from anticipating an increase of labor through it. But in truth, no poet laureate ever won his annual pipe of sack by labors so arduous as those by which Voltaire earned this salary of two thousand francs. Several volumes of history attest his diligence. During the first two or three years of his holding the place he was historiographer, laureate, writer of royal letters and ministerial dispatches, complimenter of the royal mistress, and occasionally court dramatist and master of the revels.  17
  The marriage festivities at Versailles drew to a close, and all that brilliant crowd dispersed. From the splendors of the court he was suddenly called away to attend the son of Madame du Châtelet through the small-pox. He assisted to save the future Duke du Châtelet for the guillotine, applying to his case his own experience of the two hundred pints of lemonade. That duty done and his forty days of quarantine fulfilled, he returned to court, where the minister for foreign affairs had a piece of work for his pen. Elizabeth, Empress of Russia, had offered her mediation to the King of France, and the task of writing the King’s reply, accepting the offer, was assigned to Voltaire, who performed it in the loftiest style of sentimental politics. If Louis XV. took the trouble to glance over this composition, he must have been pleased to find himself saying that “kings can aspire to no other glory than that of promoting the happiness of their subjects,” and swearing that he “had never taken up arms except with a view to promote the interests of peace.” It was an amiable, effusive letter, in the taste of the period,—being written by the man who made the taste of the period. Later in the summer he drafted a longer dispatch to the government of Holland, remonstrating against its purpose of sending aid to the King of England against the Pretender. It was he also who wrote the manifesto to be published in Great Britain on the landing of the French expedition under the Duke de Richelieu, in aid of the Pretender. Whenever, indeed, during 1745, 1746, and 1747, the ministry had occasion for a skillful pen, Voltaire was employed. We perceive in this part of his correspondence the mingled horror and contempt that war excited in his mind. “Give us peace, monseigneur,” is the burden of his cry to the Marquis d’Argenson in confidential notes; and we see him, with his usual easy assurance, suggesting such marriages for the royal children as would “render France happy by a beautiful peace, and your name immortal despite the fools.”  18
  Whatever philosophers may think of war, few citizens can resist the contagious delirium of victory after national defeat and humiliation. The King of France again, in 1745, was posed by his advisers in the part of conqueror. From a hill, he and the Dauphin looked on while Marshal Saxe won the decisive and fruitful victory of Fontenoy, over the English Duke of Cumberland and the forces of the allies, with a loss of eight thousand men on each side. Voltaire received the news at Paris, late in the evening, direct from D’Argenson, who was with the King in the field. He dashed upon paper a congratulatory note to the minister: “Ah! the lovely task for your historian! In three hundred years the kings of France have done nothing so glorious. I am mad with joy! Good-night, monseigneur!”…  19
  His poem ‘Fontenoy,’ of three hundred lines or more, was scattered over the delirious city damp from the press, and in a few days was declaimed in every town of the kingdom. Edition after edition was sold. “Five editions in ten days!” The author, as his custom was, added, erased, altered, corrected; offending some by omitting their names, offending others by inserting names odious to them; working all one night to make the poem a less imperfect expression of the national joy; not forgetting to dedicate it to the King, and to get a copy placed in his hands. “The King deigns to be content with it,” he wrote. Thousands of copies were sold in the first month, and there were two burlesques of the poem in the second.  20
  In the very ecstasy of the general enthusiasm, he still repeats, in a private note to D’Argenson, “Peace, monseigneur, peace, and you are a great man, even among the fools!”  21
  He was now in high favor, even with the King, who had said to Marshal Saxe that the ‘Princesse de Navarre’ was above criticism. The marshal himself gave Madame du Châtelet this agreeable information. “After that,” said the author, “I must regard the King as the greatest connoisseur in his kingdom.” He renewed his intimacy with his early patron, the Duchesse du Maine, who still held court at the château of Sceaux near by. By great good luck, too, as doubtless he regarded it at the time, he was acquainted with the new mistress, Pompadour, before she was Pompadour. He knew her when she was only the most bewitching young wife in France, cold to her rich and amorous young husband, and striving by every art that such women know to catch the King’s eye as he hunted in the royal forest near her abode. Already, even while the King was sleeping on histrionic straw on the field near Fontenoy, it was settled that the dream of her life was to be realized. She was to be Petticoat III.  22
  This summer, during the King’s absence at the seat of war, Voltaire was frequently at her house, and had become established in her favor. She was a gifted, brilliant, ambitious woman, of cold temperament, who courted this infamy as men seek honorable posts which make them conspicuous, powerful, and envied. In well-ordered nations, accomplished men win such places by thirty years’ well-directed toil in the public service. She won her place, and kept it nineteen years, by amusing the least amusable of men. She paid a high price. In return, she governed France, enriched her family, promoted her friends, exiled her enemies, owned half a dozen châteaux, and left an estate of thirty-six millions of francs.  23
  With such and so many auxiliaries supporting his new position, the historiographer of France, if he had been a younger man, might have felt safe. But he knew his ground. Under personal government nations usually have two masters, the king and the priest, between whom there is an alliance offensive and defensive. He had gained some favor with the King, the King’s ministers, and the King’s mistress. But the priest remained hostile. The King being a coward, a fit of the colic might frighten him into turning out the mistress and letting in the confessor; and suppose the colic successful, instantly a pious and bigoted Dauphin became king, with a Mirepoix as chief priest! Moreover, to depend upon the favor of either king or mistress is worse than basing the prosperity of an industrial community upon a changeable fraction in a tariff bill.  24
  Revolving such thoughts in an anxious mind, Voltaire conceived a notable scheme for going behind the Mirepoix, and silencing him forever by capturing the favor of the Pope. Benedict XIV. was a scholar, a gentleman of excellent temper, and no bigot. He owed his election to his agreeable qualities. When the cardinals were exhausted by days and nights of fruitless balloting, he said, with his usual gayety and good-humor, “Why waste so much time in vain debates and researches? Do you want a saint? elect Gotti. A politician? Aldovrandi. A good fellow? take me.” And they took him.  25
  It was soon after the close of the fête at Versailles that Voltaire consulted the Marquis d’Argenson, minister for foreign affairs, upon his project of getting, as he expressed it, “some mark of papal benevolence that could do him honor both in this world and the next.” The minister shook his head. He said it was scarcely possible to mingle in that way things celestial and political. Like a true courtier of the period, the poet betook himself to a lady, Mademoiselle du Thil, a connection of Madame du Châtelet, and extremely well disposed toward himself. She had a friend in the Pope’s household, the Abbé de Tolignan, whom she easily engaged in the cause. D’Argenson also bore the scheme in mind when he wrote to the French envoy at Rome. Voltaire meanwhile read the works of his Holiness, of which there are still accessible fifteen volumes, and in various ways “coquetted” with him, causing him to know that the celebrated Voltaire was one of his readers. The good-natured Pope was prompt to respond. The Abbé de Tolignan having asked for some mark of papal favor for Voltaire, the Pope gave two of his large medals to be forwarded to the French poet, the medals bearing the Pope’s own portrait. His Holiness also caused a polite letter to be written to him by his secretary, asking his acceptance of the medals. Then the French envoy, ignorant of these proceedings, also applied to the Pope on behalf of Voltaire, requesting for him one of his large medals. The Pope, ignorant of the envoy’s ignorance, replied, “To St. Peter’s itself I should not give any larger ones!” The envoy was mystified, and Voltaire, on receiving a report of the affair, begged the minister for foreign affairs to write to the envoy in explanation.  26
  The two large medals reached the poet in due time. He thought Benedict XIV. the most plump-cheeked holy father the church had enjoyed for a long time, and one who “had the air of knowing very well what all that was worth.” He wrote two Latin verses as a legend for the Pope’s portrait, to the effect that Lambertinus, officially styled Benedict XIV., was the ornament of Rome and the father of the world, who by his works instructed the earth, and adorned it by his virtues. Emboldened by success, he ventured upon an audacity still more exquisite, and one which would not be concealed in the archives of the foreign office. All Europe should know the favor in which this son of the Church was held at the papal court. He resolved to dedicate to the Pope that tragedy of “Mahomet” which the late Cardinal de Fleury had admired and suppressed….  27
  The coming of Marmontel to Paris added one more to the ever increasing number of young writers whom Voltaire had assisted to form. The new men of talent were his own, and they were preparing to aid him in future contests with hostile powers. The Marquis de Vauvenargues, the young soldier who was compelled by ill health to abandon the career of arms, in which he was already distinguished, and now aspired to serve his country in the intellectual life, had been for some time one of Voltaire’s most beloved friends. His first, his only work, ‘Introduction to the Knowledge of the Human Mind,’ was just appearing from the press, heralded by Voltaire’s zealous commendation. “My dear Master,” the young disciple loved to begin his letters; and Voltaire, in writing to him, used all those endearing expressions which often make a French letter one long and fond caress. He sank into the grave in 1747, but his name and his work survive. It is evident from his correspondence that he was of a lofty and generous nature, capable of the true public spirit,—the religion of the new period.  28
  Marmontel reached Paris in time to witness a day of triumph for Voltaire, which had been long deferred. There was a vacancy at the French Academy early in 1746. Mirepoix’s voice was not heard on this occasion; and Voltaire, without serious trouble, succeeded in obtaining a unanimous election to the chair. This event could not have been at that time any increase of honor to an author of his rank. He valued an academic chair for himself and for his colleagues, such as Marmontel, d’Alembert, and others, as an additional protection against the Mirepoix. Members of the Academy had certain privileges in common with the officers of the king’s household. They could not be compelled to defend a suit out of Paris; they were accountable to the king directly, and could not be molested except by the king’s command. Above all, they stood in the sunshine of the king’s effulgent majesty; they shared in the mystic spell of rank, which no American citizen can ever quite understand, and of which even Europeans of to-day begin to lose the sense. He was a little safer now against all the abuses of the royal power, usually covered by lettres de cachet.  29
  May 9th, 1746, was the day of his public reception at the Academy, when, according to usage, it devolved upon him to deliver a set eulogium upon his departed predecessor. The new member signalized the occasion by making his address much more than that. His eulogy was brief, but sufficient; and when he had performed that pious duty, he struck into an agreeable and very ingenious discourse upon the charms, the limits, the defects, and the widespread triumphs of the French language. With that matchless art of his, he contrived in kingly style to compliment all his “great friends and allies,” while adhering to his subject with perfect fidelity. Was it not one of the glories of the French language that a Frederic should adopt it as the language of his court and of his friendships, and that Italian cardinals and pontiffs should speak it like natives? His dear Princess Ulrique, too,—then Queen of Sweden,—was not French her native tongue? There were some wise remarks in this address; as, for example, where he says that eminent talents become of necessity rarer as the whole nation advances: “In a well-grown forest, no single tree lifts its head very high above the rest.” He concluded with the “necessary burst of eloquence” respecting the late warlike exploits of the king; in which, however, he gave such prominence to the services in the field of the Duke of Richelieu, a member of the Academy, that the First Gentleman almost eclipsed the monarch.  30
  He was now at the highest point of his court favor. An epigram of his, written at this period, conveys to us his sense of the situation, and renders other comment superfluous:—

        “Mon ‘Henri Quatre’ et ma ‘Zaïre,’
      Et mon Americaine ‘Alzire,’
Ne m’ont valu jamais un seul regard du roi;
  J’eus beaucoup d’ennemis avec très-peu de gloire
Les honneurs et les biens pleuvent enfin sur moi
      Pour une farce de la foire.”
  
        (My ‘Henry Fourth’ and my ‘Zaïre,’
        With my American ‘Alzire,’
  No smile have ever won me from the king;
    Too many foes were mine, too little fame:
  Now all men gifts and honors on me fling,
    Since with a farce I to the market came.)
  31
 
 
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