Rousseou vs Voltaire Part 2

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Rousseou vs Voltaire Part 2

Post by Guest on Thu May 05, 2011 11:35 pm

It grieved Rousseau to learn that Voltaire was producing plays at
Tourney, and that many citizens of Geneva were crossing the
frontiers into France to witness these performances- some even to take
part in them. His resentment found an added casus belli when his
letter to Voltaire on the Lisbon earthquake was printed in a Berlin
Journal (1760), apparently through Voltaire's careless lending of
the manuscript to a friend. Now (June 17) Rousseau sent to Voltaire
one of the most extraordinary letters in the correspondence of this
turbulent age. After reproaching Voltaire for the unauthorized
publication, he proceeded:

I don't like you, monsieur. To me, your disciple and enthusiast, you
have done the most painful injuries. You have ruined Geneva as a
reward for the asylum that you received there. You have alienated my
fellow citizens from me as a reward for the praises I gave you among
them. It is you who make it unbearable for me to live in my own
country; you who will compel me to die on foreign soil, deprived of
all the consolations of the dying, and thrown dishonored upon some
refuse heap, while all the honors that a man can expect will attend
you in my native land. In short, I hate you, since you have willed
it so; but I hate you with the feelings of one still capable of loving
you, if you had desired it. Of all the feelings with which my heart
was filled for you, there remains only admiration for your fine
genius, and love for your writings. If I honor in you only your
talents it is not my fault. I shall never be found wanting in the
respect which is due them, nor in the behavior which that respect

Voltaire did not answer, but privately he called Rousseau
"charlatan," "madman," "little monkey," and "miserable
fool." In correspondence with d'Alembert he showed himself
quite as sensitive and passionate as Jean-Jacques.

I have received a long letter from Rousseau. He has gone
completely mad.... He writes against the stage after having written
a bad comedy himself; he writes against France, which nourishes him;
he finds four or five rotten staves from the barrel of Diogenes and
climbs into them in order to bark at us; he abandons his friends. He
writes to me- to me!- the most insulting letter that a fanatic ever
scrawled.... If he were not an inconsequential poor pygmy of a man,
swollen with vanity, there would be no great harm done; but he has
added to the insolence of his letter the infamy of intriguing with
Socinian pedants here in order to prevent me from having a theater
of my own at Tourney, or at least preventing the citizens from playing
there with me. If he meant by this base trick to prepare for himself a
triumphant return to the low streets whence he sprang, it is the
action of a scoundrel, and I shall never pardon him. I would have
avenged myself on Plato if he had played a trick of that sort on me;
even more on the lackey of Diogenes. The author of the Nouvelle
Aloisa is nothing but a vicious knave. `100655
In these two letters of the two most famous writers of the
eighteenth century
we see, behind the supposedly impersonal currents
of the time, the nerves that felt keenly every blow in the conflict,
and the common human vanity that throbs in the hearts of
philosophers and saints.

The book that Voltaire misnamed had been for three years
Rousseau's refuge from his enemies, his friends, and the world.
Begun in 1756, it was finished in September, 1758, was sent to a
publisher in Holland, and appeared in February, 1761, as Julie, ou La
Nouvelle Heloise, Lettres de deux amants, recueillies et publiees
par J.-J. Rousseau. The letter form for a novel was already old,
but was probably determined in this instance by the example of
Richardson's Clarissa..................

-Will Durant, Story of Civilization volume 10


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