- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Classics (6 Oct. 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0099528894
- ISBN-13: 978-0099528890
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 386,506 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Voltaire in Love (Vintage Classics) Paperback – 6 Oct 2011
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"Mitford writes with a profound sympathy for the 17th and 18th century, and Voltaire in Love caps her career as the nonpareil popular biographer of that era" (Washington Post)
"One of the most blissfully entertaining books in our language" (New Yorker)
"Nancy Mitford softened the image of the leader of the French Enlightenment with a witty little book called Voltaire in Love. Mitford took pleasure in showing that the celebrated reformer was much more than a desiccated brainbox" (Independent)
Nancy Mitford's account of this famous love affair of the Enlightenment is, in the author's own words, 'a shriek from beginning to end'See all Product Description
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If you count yourself a lover of Voltaire -- the man and his writings -- then this book is truly a must-read for you. I've read much of his essays, philosophy, short stories, et cetera, and finally (to my immense delight) feel I "know" the man.
The personalities and temperaments of both Voltaire and Emilie were rather as I'd figured they would be, although there were a couple of genuine surprises -- some flattering, some not so flattering.
What continues to make me curious is how these two persons defined the word "love"...the dynamics of their relationship and love was interesting, and sometimes confusing, to say the very least. Ah well, I'm speaking of dead persons here. Respect for their personages and for the deceased prohibit me from going further. And besides, after nine years of marriage, I too admit the word "love" has a myriad of nuances.
Please enjoy this book! Ecrasez l'infame!
The book is primarily about the long affair between Voltaire and his mistress, Mme. Emilie du Chatelet, which was certainly a meeting of two exceptionally brilliant minds of the Enlightenment. Yet the book really covers the early adult years of Voltaire and does not cover his later successes and fame.
Voltaire, a graduate of Louise-le-Grand Jesuit School, was a brilliant but sarcastic student, who became popular with his witty poems and plays. Yet his satire often went to far which on more than one occassion resulted in imprisonment in the Bastile. Like Moliere, Voltaire wrote witty comedy that appealed to the sophisticated upperclasses. Yet early in his career he is forced into exile to London where he wrote plays for Queen Caroline and King George. Gradually his star rose in the French court of Louis XV. Queen Marie Leczinska found him charming and gave him a pension. Louis XV also gave him a pension but was less comfortable with Voltaire than was his wife and his father in law, Stanislas Leczinska, ex-king of Poland. The king's famous mistress, Mme. Jeanne-Antoinette de Pompadour, was an admirer of Voltaire also and there is some evidence that she came to his rescue when he ran afoul of the censors of Louis XV. Thus much of the book is about the highest levels of French society and their impact on the arts, sciences, and humanities.
As is the case with many bright and opinionated thinkers, rivalry and jealousy and ambition create the conditions for long lasting enemies. This is the case between Voltaire and Jean-Baptiste Rousseau, a philosopher whom Voltaire seemed to disdain. However Voltaire's primary rivalry was with Abbe Desfontaines. Abbe Desfontaines was found molesting male adolescent chimney sweeps and was sentenced to burn at the stake for sodomy. Voltaire was one of his only allies and Desfontaine was saved. Yet, amazingly, Desfontaine became extremely critical and bitter and vindictive toward Voltaire leading the reader to recognize that no good deed goes unpunished.
The attempts of Frederick II of Prussia to lure Voltaire into his court was amazing underhanded strategy. Frederick II, creating a completely male homosexual court, seemed to be obsessed with Voltaire and secretly tried to undermine him in France so that offers to come to Prussia would be more appealing.
The book however is primarily about the affair of Voltaire and Emilie du Chatelet. They were quite a pair, both studious and brilliant, who allowed each other ample space to think and create. Voltaire and Emilie both popularized the works of Sir Issac Newton and advanced the fields of science and mathematics. French scholarly society prefered to continue to support Descarte's theories, primarily because he was French, a loyalty that Voltaire saw as standing in the way of rational thought. The book takes us through the many journeys of Voltaire and Emily outside of their remote mansion in the countryside. We see Emilie struggle in a game of strategy with King Frederick II for the loyalty of Voltaire. We see Voltaire trying to be supportive during Emilie's outrageous gambling addition. Her son, Florent-Francois is virtually raised in a home with two fathers. Eventually Emilie falls into lust for the handsome bright Saint-Lambert and wishes to continue her 3 man life with a rich lenient legal husband, her older more mature lover who has become her best friend, and her younger sex toy boyfriend. Unfortunately she becomes pregnant with Saint-Lambert and at age 43 dies 2 days after giving birth.
Well written, well documented, engaging, entertaining, and full of witty satiric details, this is an accomplishment that you will enjoy.