Rousseou vs Voltaire:abusive language and childish behavior

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Rousseou vs Voltaire:abusive language and childish behavior

Post by Guest on Thu May 05, 2011 11:28 pm

It is amusing and illuminating to learn that even the greatest of the greats have resorted to using abusive language or else engaged in childish behavior.

It goes without saying that he [Voltaire] was vain: vanity is the spur of
development, and the secret of authorship. Usually Voltaire kept his
vanity under control; he frequently revised his writings according
to suggestions and criticism offered in good spirit. He was generous
in praise of authors who did not compete with him- Marmontel, Laharpe,
Beaumarchais. But he could be childishly jealous of competitors, as in
his slyly critical Eloge de Crebillon [ pere ]; Diderot thought he
had "a grudge against every pedestal." His jealousy led him
to scurrilous abuse of Rousseau: he called him "the clockmaker's boy,"
"a Judas who betrayed philosophy," "a mad dog who bites everybody," "a
madman born of a chance mating of Diogenes' dog with that of
Erasistratus." `He thought the first half of [Rousseou's romantic novel] Julie, ou La
Nouvelle Heloise had been composed in a brothel, and the second in
a madhouse. He predicted that [Rousseou's book on education] Emile would be forgotten after a

month's time. He felt that Rousseau had turned his back
upon that French civilization which, with all its sins and crimes, was
precious to Voltaire as the very wine of history.

[Rousseou's romantic novel] Julie succeeded with everyone except the philosophes. Grimm
called it "a feeble imitation" of [Richardson's novel] Clarissa, and predicted that it
would soon be forgotten. "No more about Jean-Jacques' romance,
if you please," growled Voltaire (January 21, 1761); "I have read
it, to my sorrow, and it would be to his if I had time to say what I
think of this silly book." A month later he said it in
Lettres sur La Nouvelle Heloise, published under a pseudonym. He
pointed out grammatical errors, and gave no sign of appreciating
Rousseau's descriptions of nature- though he would later imitate
Jean-Jacques by climbing a hill to worship the rising sun. Paris
recognized Voltaire's hand, and judged the patriarch to be bitten with

-Will Durant, Story of Civilizaton volume 10


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