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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Voltaire In Love

I just came across a wonderful book, Nancy Mitford's Voltaire in Love. First published in the 1960's it's almost a classic by now, but still very readable for someone interested in history, philosophy and gossip. It tells the unique love story of François-Marie Arouet, who himself as "Voltaire", and Emelie, Marquise du Châtelet. She was a married woman, eleven years younger than Voltaire, living the life of an upper class Parisian woman of society. Their affair was of course considered inappropriate, but they ignored the rules of acceptable conduct, went to the opera, dined at the most respectable inns, and even appeared together in the audience chamber of the King. Eventually they decided to live at the Chateau of Emilie's husband. Voltaire loaned the Marquis 40,000 francs at low interest to pay for the renovation and bought him a home in the country where he could hunt. Voltaire was a wealthy man; they wanted for nothing, and lived in luxury. He and Emilie collected a library of 21,000 books. Time was spent reading, analyzing, and discussing the work of many writers to determine what they believed was the truth on many subjects. The lovers obviously had similar values and supported each other's intellectual goals and achievements. Nevertheless they fought often and intensely. After Emilie's death in 1749, Voltaire wrote to a friend:"It is not a mistress I have lost but half of myself, a soul for which my soul seems to have been made."

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