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Voltaire in Love (Vintage Classics) Paperback – 6 Oct 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • 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)

Product Description


"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)

Book Description

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'

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If there were more historical biographies written like this then kids would really learn it at school. She tells a good story, makes the characters interesting and you have an idea of the gestation of ideas and philosophy.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm a great fan of Nancy Mitford, but was disappointed in this book. She, I felt, overdid the erudition, and the whole thing became a little boring - not her usual attention-keeping style. Sorry, I would give this one a miss, as I didn't learn anything I didn't already know.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
loved this book. Will read again
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9b19d570) out of 5 stars 12 reviews
43 of 43 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b1aa1f8) out of 5 stars Voltaire is so Adorable, Do Admit! 28 July 2000
By P A Brown - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Nancy Mitford is not the author to look to if you like your history full of facts and wars and power politics. Nancy Mitford takes a difference approach, one more concerned with how simply delightful things (especially French things) were before that really vulgar revolution took all the fun out of being an aristocrat. She sees Voltaire as not only the pre-eminent humanist philosopher and writer of his time, but also as a sentimental fool who just could not help but run off with the lovely, but rather too intellectual Marquise de Chatelet. They kept getting into all sorts of elegant French trouble with the censors and the court, all the while being dreadfully brilliant about the whole state of the world. Delicious scamps! Miss Mitford's historic accuracy is not in question, nor are her skills as a writer or biographer. But she is more of a gossip than not, and is certainly more of an unmitigated snob about the French aristocracy than some down-to-earth readers might like. I for one adore this cosy, catty biography, and find it a welcome anecdote to the tons of weighty tomes on Voltaire and his endless epistolary relationships. Miss Mitford writes pastry -- light, airy and fluffy and yummy. She lets the others serve up full-course histories, heavy, balanced, probably good for you, but so often bland as oatmeal as just as charming.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b1aa444) out of 5 stars Solid biographies::the love story is the backdrop 29 April 2002
By Cynthia - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I couldn't put this book down, and tore through it in a matter of days. Despite being a voracious reader, it's (sadly) seldom that such a book comes along for me. The main draw for me in purchasing this book is being an avid fan of Voltaire. I had wondered just how strongly the "love story" element of the book would play out, as I'd known prior to purchasing this book that all of the intimate correspondence between Voltaire and Emilie has been lost. I'm not a "love story" kind of person, and was hoping this book would provide more of a strong picture into the personalities, foibles, strengths, habits, and routines of Voltaire primarily, and Emilie secondarily. I was not disappointed.
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!
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b1aa684) out of 5 stars a must for scholars 4 July 2000
By bethwindsor@earthlink.net - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the literature and history of an absolutely fascinating time period, the eighteenth century. This work is especially interesting not only, of course, to those who study the life and writings of Voltaire, but also to those, like myself, who study the life of Frederick the Great of Prussia. As usual, Mitford's writing style is intriguing and the reader is provided with unforgettable and very human portrayals of the principals. This book is a real "must" for any student of both literature and history. Enjoy!
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b1aa9e4) out of 5 stars MITFORD-IZED !!! 11 Aug. 2001
By Michael Saint Thomas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A real 'Talent To Annoy' Nancy Mitford brings to light a Voltaire that the classic historian normally omits. However, it is to her credit that she superbly presents a view of history thru a man and an era of events in a real sense of humanist expression. Ms. Mitford's social perception of Voltaire is unequaled ! Her attention to detail and it's colourization is incrediable, although perhaps not entirely historically accurate, but why complain at all....especially when her very style of writing just entraces the reader in such a manner that one shall want to read and reread as much as possible any book by Nancy, or for that matter any written work by any of the fascinating Mitford sisters....!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b1aac00) out of 5 stars Voltaire, his brilliant mistress, and the rest of the Enlightenment 15 Aug. 2007
By C. Collins - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Nancy Mitford's Voltaire in Love is an entertaining book, full of historic characters, revealing both their best and worst attributes in politics, society, the arts, and the bedroom.

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.
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