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in all nations of the earth, where letters have flourished, falle wit has fuccccded true genius.
It is here that our Author concludes the present memoir. For though the following ages, down to the conclufion of the Eastern empire, produced poets, whose works are extant, and not all contemptible; such as Dionyfius Periegetes, Oppian, Nonnus, Quinctus Calaber, Coluthus, Tryphiodorus, and others, not to mention Christian poets, and several whose fragments we have in the Anthologics; yet as these are all much inferior to their predecessors, and are all scattered far and wide through a long tract of time, that forms no fixed epocha or period, M. MeriAN passes them by. He promises us, however, that he will follow, in another memoir, the fugitive muses to Latium, and visit them in Rome, the mistress of the world. He does not tell us when he will take this trip; but whenever it is, we fhall willingly be of the party, for we think him exceeding good company in such a journey. Concerning the Philosophy of History, by M. WEGUELIN,—the
Fifth and Last Memoir. We have already given our opinion of the chiaro obscuro manner of this Academician, in which the obfcuro lo predominates, that it requires a great deal of analytic labour to come at the valuable fun and substance of what is contained in his Memoirs. The matters, treated in this last Memoir, are the difference between truth and probability ;-the various degrees of the latter, and the application of the rules that must guide us in its pursuit to a great diversity of cases and objects that occur in historywriting. There are several streaks of light in this piece that furnith matter of useful reflexion.
Memoir concerning an expedition executed by the troops of the emperor Otho the Great, before the city of Troyes in Champagne. By M. de FRANCHEVILLE.
AR T. VII. Mémoires et Anecdotes pour servir à l'Histoire de Voltaire depuis sa
Naissance jalqu'à la Mort, &c.—Memoirs relative to the History of M. de VOLTAIRF; from his Birth to his Death, preceded by his Eulogy, which obtained the Prize of the French Academy in the Year 1779,-and followed by the Pieces that were published on Occasion of his last Visit to Paris, and his Tragedy of Irene.
Paris. 12mo. 1780. THE anecdotes and memoirs which, alone, we propose to
give an account of here, make but a small part of this publication. Some of them are trite and stale, others are new, or not generally known; and they are all, more or less, a proper object of curiosity, as they regard an extraordinary man, who divided too violently the suffrages of Europe to render it 6
postible that his character should be justly appreciated so soon after his demise. --How far we may depend upon the truth of these anecdotes, we cannot pretend to say: the work is anonymous, and the Author is unknown to us; but he seems to be well informed, well acquainted with his subject : and he tells us several things that may prove interesting to those who make much of Voltaire: we shall pick up here and there, for the entertainment of Tuch, a handful of these anecdotes.
It is well known, that the first period of Voltaire's youth was hot passed in obscurity.--He was very early in life admitted to the company of the abbé Chaulieu, the marquis de la Fare, the duke de Sully, the abbé Courtin; and he used often to say, that his father thought him undone, because he kept good com pany and made verses. – But we never should have thought, that at any period, or moment of his life, Voltaire was thoughtlefs of literary fame, and therefore the following anecdote did not a little surprise us : When Oedipus was offered to the comedians, they discovered a reluctance to act a piece, which seemed to contend for the prize with a tragedy of Corneille, on 'the same subject; it was, however, brought upon the stage, by dint of influence, and splendid protection, in the year 1718. The young bard was so little awed by this critical moment, and so little attentive to the success of his tragedy, that he was playing tricks, upon the stage, during the representation, and carried, in a ludicrous manner, the train, or rather the tail, of the highpriest, in a scene in which that grave personage made a very tragical appearance. The duchers de Villars asked, who was the young man that was thus playing off the powers of pleafantry and ridicule against the success of the piece ; and being told it was the author himself, she sent for him immediately, and commenced an intimacy with him, into which the marshal entered with cordiality, for his part, and which lasted as long as their lives.
Voltaire used to say, that when he began to compose his Oedipus and his Henriade, he had no hopes of finishing them, and neither knew the rules of tragic nor of epic poetry. The latter was begun at the country.seat of M.de Caumartin, superintendant of the finances, whose extraordinary veneration for the memory of Henry IV. transmitted a high degree of enthufialm into the fancy of the young bard, and animated him to undertake the arduous work. Having read, one day, several cantos of this poem, at the house of the young president Des Maisons, the company affailed the poet with a multitude of objections, which so much irritated his natural impatience (which never could bear contradiation or opposition of any kind), that he threw his manuscript into the fire, and it would have perished in the fames, had it not been snatched from them by the presi
dent Henault, at the expence of a fine pair of ruffles, which were burnt in the undertaking.
His tragedy of Mariamne, at its first reprefentation in 1722, was put out of countenance by the pleasantry of a cabal, which was formed in opposition to the growing reputation of the Auther. While Mariamne was putting to her lips the fatal chip, the cabal cried out, filence—the queen drinks, and the piece fell, The mortifications Voltaire received from this cabal, determined him to publish his Henriade in England; where his work, by the influence of the king and the princess of Wales (afterwards queen Caroline), was honoured with a numerous subscription. His tragedy of Brutus, though one of his most vigorous productions, was severely criticized.-His Zara drew many tears, but excited, though very unjustly, more hisses : it was parodied at the Italian Theatre of the Fair; and when its Author, by the intervention of some friends, was candidate for a vacant place in the French academy, Mr. Boze declared, that the writer of Brutus and Zara could never come into confideration for a preferment of that kind. If this be true, it is an indelible reproach either on the taste or candour of Mr. Boze.
About this time Voltaire applied himself to studies of a more serious kind. - He composed his Elements of the Philosophy of Newton; and his embracing the ideas of this great man, in natural philofophy, and of Mr. Locke in metaphyfics, exposed him to the resentment and opposition of a new set of adversaries; for the French were as yet Cartefians, almost to a man. It was on this occafion that Voltaire, in a letter to Sir Everard Falkner, hit off a curious line of the character of that people in the following remarkable passage: 'It is generally imagined that the French are fond of what is new : but this is only true with refpect to ragouts and modes; for new discoveries in science are proscribed among us; and truths and inventions must be old before they can get admittance.'
There is an anecdote, relative to this publication, which our Author has not mentioned, and which (considering the title of his work) had a right to a place in it. It is pretty generally known, that Voltaire composed this Lilliputian miniature of the Newtonian philosophy to facilitate his admiffion to the Aca. demy of Sciences; a literary honour that he fought with eagerness, but never obtained. When, therefore, his philosophical Vade Mecum was published, he sent presents of it to all the academicians, and to all the gentlemen and ladies who dabbled in philosophy in the great city of Paris and its purlieus. The title of the piece was, La Philosophie de Newton mise à la Portée de tout le Monde.-i. e. The Philosophy of Newton adapted to every Capacity. A literary wag (the abbé Desfontaines) knowing the presents that had been made of the book, and bearing'
no good- will to the author, raised an universal laugh against him, by observing to the public, that there was a press-error in the title of Mr. Voltaire's book; and that, instead of à la portée (within the reach), it was necessary to read à la porte (at the door); because the author had, in effect, laid his book, or the Philosophy of Newton, at every body's door.
The anecdotes of Voltaire's life, relative to his literary labours; his advancement to the place of chamberlain to the king, by the interest of Madame de Pompadour; his connections and misunderstandings with the king of Prufiia; and the various Deps, by which he arose to opulence and reputation, are well known, and therefore need not be repeated here. Our Author relates them with fimplicity and truth; and his narration of the last scene, that concluded the life of this singular man, is equally impartial. There is, indeed, no gravity of recital that can prevent its appearing one of the most ridiculous farces that could posiibly be exhibited in such a serious moment. We mali give it in the words of our Author, only with such abridgments as are necessary to reduce it within the bounds of an extract.
Had Voltaire remained at Ferney, where he felt the calm pleasure of a delicious rural retirement, far' removed from the noise of folly, embellished by acts of beneficence, and enjoyed with a kind of dignity, amidst the homage that was paid, by a multitude of admirers, to his wit and genius, his enemies would have bebeld his end with a certain mixture of humanity and respect; and would, at least, have been deprived of that ample vengeance, which they drew from the ridicule that covered his setting fun.-But a strange inquietude, increased by the importunate and urgent solicitations of his friends, brought him from Ferney to Paris, about the beginning of the year 1778, accompanied by his niece Madame Denis, and Madame de Villette. He lodged in the house of the latter; and, for a whole week after his arrival, he received the visits of courtiers and citizens, in his night-gown and night-cap. His apartments had the aspect of a levée.- Nobles, ladies, philosophers, poets, comedians, reps, and musicians - known and unknown-conducted thither by admiration or curiosity, were presented to the Bard of Ferney; who, in the intervals of each visit, retired to his cabinet to dictate to his secretary the corrections he was making in his tragedy of Irene; the representation of which was one of the principal objects that brought him to Paris.
The 12th of February, two days after he came to Paris, the French Academy sent a deputation of three of their members to compliment him on his arrival.-The 13th, the company of comedians performed the fame ceremony; and their speech, not inferior to that of their predecessors, was answered with the greatest affability by the aged poet, who told them, that he
lived now only for them and by them--meaning, no doubt, that the only comfort he expected in the remainder of his days was to see Irene well acted.--Several repartees and bons mots passed on this occasion between M. de Voltaire, Madame Vestris, and Mademoiselle Arnoux, ladies of the ton, who came at the tail of the deputation.
These oblations of incenfe, mingled with lively conversation, and exertions of wit, made a fad waste in the animal spirits of the aged bard, and exhausted him so, that hand-bills were sometimes sent about in the morning to inform the public, that, on such a day, there would be no general audience. However, even on these excepted days, particular favourites, such as Madame Necker, Madame Vestris the actress, and Dr. Franklin were admitted. The embraces and expressions of affection and tenderness that passed between Dr. FRANKLIN and VOLTAIRE have been mentioned in all the European and American newspapers, and have produced various effects upon the muscles of the face, according to the respective notions or creeds of each reader.
It was a painful task for the celebrated bard of Ferney, after many years spent in a peaceful retirement, where he was reposing his aged head upon his literary laurels, to be obliged (for lo he thought himself) to maintain the reputation he had acquired, by perpetual fallies of wit, humour, and elegant repartee; and thus to shew, that he had loft none of his urbanity or court-manners among his milk-maids and peasants. He was, moreover, obliged to restrain the effufions of another kind of humour, which had its free course at Ferney.—This prodigality of animal spirits, on the one hand, and these efforts of self-government on the other, exhausted his strength; and these attacks being seconded by the fuffocations of Aattery coming from mouths innumerable, and of all kinds, (which made him cry out, they ftifie me! but it is with roses !) reduced him to the greatest weakness.
This was still farther increased by a certain fermentation, ' which several poignant satires, that were addressed to him amidf a multitude of panegyrics, produced in his mind. Among thefe there was a poeni full of wit and bitter malignity, wbich represented him as a rare animal, that was to be seen at the marquis of Villette's, and whose qualities are described with a great deal of humour, and in such a manner as to render the application caly.
The clergy, if we may credit our Author (and the thing is not at all improbable), were deeply and painfully affected by the honourable reception which this old champion of infidelity met with at Paris; and as they knew that neither the King nor monieur (the count de Provence) were difposed to patronize him, they employed all the means that zeal and fagacity could luge