1694-1778 Voltaire.

Zadig, and other stories online

. (page 1 of 16)
Online Library1694-1778 VoltaireZadig, and other stories → online text (page 1 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on library shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project
to make the world's books discoverable online.

It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject
to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. Whether a book is in the public domain may vary country to country. Public domain books
are our gateways to the past, representing a wealth of history, culture and knowledge that's often difficult to discover.

Marks, notations and other marginalia present in the original volume will appear in this file - a reminder of this book's long journey from the
publisher to a library and finally to you.

Usage guidelines

Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the
public and we are merely their custodians. Nevertheless, this work is expensive, so in order to keep providing this resource, we have taken steps to
prevent abuse by commercial parties, including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for
personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort to Google's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the
use of public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Maintain attribution The Google "watermark" you see on each file is essential for informing people about this project and helping them find
additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it.

+ Keep it legal Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just
because we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States, that the work is also in the public domain for users in other
countries. Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of
any specific book is allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Google Book Search means it can be used in any manner
anywhere in the world. Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About Google Book Search

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Google Book Search helps readers
discover the world's books while helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. You can search through the full text of this book on the web

at http : //books . google . com/|

y Google


/9a iT


y Google

y Google

y Google

y Google

From a portrait by La Tour


y Google

t)eatb'0 nDo^ern Xanduage Seded







Whbn Professor of Frbnch
Harvard Univbrsity



Digitized by LjOOQ IC

Copyright, 1905,
By D. C. Heath & Co.


Printed in U. S. A.

y Google

? •■' ■y-rj'



Voltaire writes in 1768 regarding an edition of his
works in forty-five quarto volumes that had just ap-
peared: "Lorsque je consid^re tous ces ^normes fatras
que j'ai composes, je suis tent^ de me cacher dessous et

♦ Biography. — The events of Voltaire's life in barest outline are
^ as follows : Francois-Marie Arouet who assumed later the name of
^ Voltaire, was bom at Paris 21 Nov., 1694. — Becomes a pupil at
i- the Jesuit College Louis-le-Grand, 1704. — Frequents the society of
N? the Temple and for a number of years leads the life of a libertine
-^ of the Regency. — Accused of libelling the Regent and confined for
eleven months in the Bastille, 171 7. — His tragedy (Edipe is per-
formed with great success, 17 18. — Publishes at Rouen the first
edition of his epic poem La Ligue^ afterwards called La Henriade^
1723. — Quarrels with the Due de Rohan who hires men to waylay
and beat him, 1725. — Voltaire wishes to fight a duel with his in-
sulter but the Rohans have him arrested and put into the Bastille,
1726. — Released after a short confinement on condition that he go
to England. — Spends nearly three years in England where he is
welcomed by the best English society, Bolingbroke, Pope, Swift,
etc., 1726-1729. — Immense success at Paris of V.'s tragedy Zaire
which shows influence of Shakespeare, 1732. — Writes his Histoire
de Charles XII, I73i' — Publishes his Lettres sur les Anglais or
Lettres philosophiques (1734), in which under cover of describing
English society V. attacks the abuses of French society and gov-
ernment. — The government orders the work burned by the public
hangman and V. is forced to go into concealment. — Enters into a
liaison with Madame du Chitelet and spends a great part of the
years following with her at her Chateau de Cirey. — First perform-

y Google


je demeure tout honteux. . . . J'ai toujours dit qu'on
n'allait pas k la post^rit^ avec un aussi gros bagage."
Posterity, as Voltaire foresaw, has made its selection ;
but this selection has scarcely been the one he would
have anticipated. The Henriade which seemed to
Frederick the Great superior as an epic to the Aeneid is
forgotten. The tragedies which in the eyes of contem-
poraries were worthy to rank with those of Corneille and
Racine have retained little more than a historical
interest The thousands of pages in which Voltaire

ance of his tragedy, Alzire^ 1736. — Becomes interested in science
and publishes EUments de la philosophie de Newton^ 1738. — Per-
formance of Mirope, his greatest dramatic success next to Zaire,
1743- — Wins the favor of the court and of Madame de Pompa-
dour. — Elected member of the Academy, royal historiographer,
etc., 1746. — Writes Zadig, I747' — Death of the Marquise du
Ch^telet, 1749. — V. accepts invitation of Frederick the Great to
visit Prussia and arrives at Potsdam, 10 July, 1750. — Publishes at
Berlin his Siicle de Louis XIV, I75i« — Quarrels with Frederick and
leaves Prussia, 26 March, 1753. — Takes with him a volume of
Frederick's verse and the king in order to get the volume back
has the poet arrested at Frankfort. — Buys the estate of Femey
in France near the Swiss frontier, 1758. — Makes it his ordinary
place of residence from 1 760-1 778. — Candide, 1759. — Rupture
with J. J. Rousseau, 1760. — Takes an active part in the Calas
affair, 1 762-1 765. — Calas who had been condemned and executed
(March, 1762) by the Parliament of Toulouse for the murder of his
son, is finally, as a result of V.'s efforts declared innocent by a
decree of the royal court of appeal at Paris (March, 1765) and the
Calas family is rehabilitated. — V. publishes an edition of Cor-
neille with a carping commentary, the purpose being to provide a
dowry for Marie Corneille, a distant connection of the poet, 1764.—
VInginu, roman, 1768. — Lettre de M, Voltaire d V Acadimie fran-
faise, violent attack on Shakespeare, apropos of Letoumeur*s trans-
lation, 1776.

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


assails Christianity are comparatively little read nowa-
days even by that anti-clerical party in France that has
fallen heir to Voltaire's spirit. His historical writings

— especially the Histoire de Charles XII and the SQcle
de Louis XIV — have fared better; but the works in
which Voltaire makes his chief appeal to the modern
reader are the somewhat secondary forms of composition
in which he was least hampered by academic convention

— the epistle and epigram, the satire and the "philo-
sophical" tale and, we should hasten to add what is, on

The death of Louis XV. opens Paris to Voltaire — Arrives at
the capital, Feb., 1778 and is received with extraordinary enthu-
siasm. — The French Comedy performs his tragedy Irine and at
the end his bust is crowned in his presence. — Exhausted by the
excitement and unwonted exertion, Voltaire now in his eighty-fourth
year, dies in the midst of a " splendid and ghastly triumph '*
(Macaulay) during the night 30-31 May, 1778. — Burial is refused
him by the church at Paris and he is finally buried at the Abbaye
de Scelli^res in Champagne through the influence of his nephew,
I'Abb^ Mignot. — His remains are brought back to Paris during
the Revolution (11 July, 1791) and placed in the Pantheon.

The most important editions of Voltaire are the Kehl edition in
70 volumes (1785-90); the Beuchot edition in 70 volumes (1828),
and the Moland edition in 50 volumes (1877-83). For full biblio-
graphical information consult Voltaire : Bibliographie de ses osuvres
par Georges Bengesco, 4 vols. 1882.

A few of the more important works on Voltaire are the following :
G. Desnoireterres, Voltaire et la Sociiti frangaise au XVI 11* siicle
8 vols., 1867-75. John Morley, Voltaire^ 1874. D. F. Strauss,
Voltaire f seeks Vorirage^ 2 Aufl., 1870. Consult also the manuals of
French literature by G. Lanson, Bruneti^re, Petit de JuUeville (edi-
tor) and E. Faguet, XVIII' Steele.

For Voltaire's relations with Frederick the Great, see Macaulay's
essay on Frederick and Carlyle's Life.

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


the whole, his most notable literary achievement — -'his
collected correspondence. ^

A number of Voltaire's philosophical tales have ranked
almost from their first appearance as masterpieces of
light narrative. In Zadig especially he has carried the
eighteenth century conte to its final perfection. In the
conte^ a setting that is usually somewhat fantastic and
remote, and situations and characters that neither author
nor reader is supposed to take too seriously, are made
the vehicle of light satire; this satire is conveyed in a
style that is itself all point and brilliancy — the so-called
style coupi in such marked contrast with the longer and
more elaborate sentences of the age of Louis XIV. The
whole is most often seasoned to the taste of the time by
a dash of license. This latter element is almost com-
pletely absent from Zadig^ which differs notably in this
respect from Candide^ perhaps the most famous of all
Voltaire's stories. However, it is not so much the
licentious tone of Candide as the gaiety with which
Voltaire depicts the folly and wretchedness of human
kind that gives the book its peculiar Mephistophelian

Voltaire says in one of his letters that a man to be
happy needs to have the "body of an athlete and the soul
of a sage." He himself had neither. He was a life-long
invalid, but an invalid of the not uncommon kind that,
as he says of himself, "buries all his doctors" and out-
lives most of his athletic friends. So far from being a
sage, Voltaire has like Rousseau, his great companion

* Both in quality and extent Voltaire's correspondence is one of the most
remarkable monuments in literature. The Moland edition contains 10,465
letters and the collection is far from complete.

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


figure in eighteenth century thought, such various and
grave blemishes of character that, as M. Bruneti^re puts it,
we are tempted when we think of the one always to prefer
the other. Yet here again Voltaire atones in part for
his lack of real w i<;Hnm and hj^ moral shortcomin gs ^11%
by his admirable good sense in dealing with details and
by no small amount of active beneficence. It was his
efforts in behalf of the Galas family and other victims of
injustice, his transformation of Ferney from a forlorn
hamlet of fifty inhabitants to a flourishing community of
twelve hundred that gave him the right to say of him-
self in his old age :

" J'ai fait un peu de bien; c'est mon meilleur ouvrage.**

Voltaire claimed to believe in the Deity but the quality
of his religious faith is sufficiently revealed in his saying
that "if God did not exist we should have to invent
him." In Zadig we have Voltaire in his most edifying
mood, and in the closing chapters he actually seems to
be attempting a justification of the ways of God to man.
Yet even here we should not forget that much of the
point of the story lies in the persistent "But—" that
Zadig keeps opposing to the explanations of the Angel
Jesrad. In his ordinary moods Voltaire is inclined to
refer the unaccountable happenings of life, not to an in-
scrutable Providence, but to what he terms His Sacred
Majesty, Chance. His real philosophy finds expression
not so much in the utterances of the Angel Jesrad as in
the sardonic agnosticism of Candide, the disillusioned
optimist, and especially in Candide's famous final sum-
ming up of all wisdom: "II faut cultiver hotre jardin."

Voltaire would himself have defined his life-work as
the warfare upon prejudice — a warfare that hb is

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


prepared if necessary to carry on in the next world as
he has in this:

" S*ils ont des pr^juges, j*en gu^rirai les ombres."
He lived in an intensely rationalistic age, and like the
other men of his time, was prone to neglect both what
is above and what is below the reason, to set down as
mere prejudice everything that cannot give a satisfactory
account of itself when summoned to the bar of a super-
ficial good-sense. "Is there anything more respect-
able than an ancient abuse" asks Sdtoc. "Reason is
still more ancient " Zadig replies. But for the modern
student who has acquired that sympathetic understand-
ing of the past practically unknown to the eighteenth
century, the ancient custom or belief that Voltaire would
discard as an abuse has always its reason and often its
justification in history. "Prejudice," as Taine puts it
"is frequently a reason that is ignorant of itself." Simi-
larly Burke praises the English people for its "unalter-
able perseverance in the wisdom of prejudice."

Voltaire's own attack was mainly upon what is above
the reason, on what he conceived to be prejudice in
matters of religion. Faith in the supernatural — espe-
cially as embodied in the forms and beliefs of the Catho-
lic Church — was in his eyes synonymous with super-
stition and intolerance. His chief strength in his
warfare upon the church lay in his powers of mockery
and ridicule; and this strength had its root in large
measure in what must be accounted Voltaire's chief
weakness — his utter lack of respect and reverence. At
times he and his followers carried on their crusade
against Catholicism in a spirit that would justify one in
applying to them the saving of Dean Swift: "Some men

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


under the notion of weeding out prejudices, eradicate
virtue, honesty and religion."

It was especially during the last twenty years of his
life that Voltaire assumed a more important role than
that of mere man of letters; as "patriarch" of Ferney
he became the head of a European coalition of free-
thinkers and treated on almost even terms with poten-
tates like Frederick the Great and Catherine of Russia,


** A king that ruled as he thought fit
The universal monarchy of wit."

Macaulay thus describes in his own rhetorical fashion
the closing period of Voltaire's career: "He took refuge
on the beautiful shores of Lake Leman. There, loosed
from every tie which had hitherto restrained him, and
having little to fear from courts or churches, he began
his long war upon all that, whether for good or evil, had
authority over man ; for what Burke said of the Con-
stituent Assembly was eminently true of this its great
forerunner: Voltaire could not build: he could only pull
down: he was the very Vitruvius of ruin. He has be-
queathed to us not a single doctrine to be called by his
name, not a single addition to the stock of our positive
knowledge. But no human teacher ever left behind him
so vast and terrible a wreck of truths and falsehoods, of
things noble and things base, of things useful and things
pernicious. From the time when his sojourn beneath the
Alps commenced, the dramatist, the wit, the historian,
was merged in a more important character. He was
now the patriarch, the founder of a sect, the chief of a
conspiracy, the prince of a wide intellectual common-
wealth." Macaulay adds elsewhere in the same essay:

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


" In truth of all the intellectual weapons which have evei
been wielded by man, the most terrible was the mockery
of Voltaire. Bigots and tjrrants, who had never been
moved by the wailing and cursing of millions, turned pale
at his name. Principles unassailable by reason, princi-
ples which had withstood the fiercest attacks of power,
the most valuable truths, the most generous sentiments,
the noblest and most graceful images, the purest reputa-
tions, the most august institutions, began to look mean
and loathsome as soon as that withering smile was turned
upon them. To every opponent, however strong in his
cause and talents, in his station and his character, who
ventured to encounter the great scoffer, might be ad-
dressed the caution which was given of old to the Arch-
angel :

" I forewarn thee, shun
His deadly arrow ; neither vainly hope
To be invulnerable in those bright arms,
Though temper*d heavenly ; for that fatal dint,
Save Him who reigns above, none can resist."

If one were writing of Voltaire for Frenchmen, one
would need to lay emphasis on his deficiencies — his
temperamental irreverence and his lack of sense for
everything that transcends the ordinary reason. A
superficial Voltairianism is to-day one of the chief perils
of France. The French Philistine has a natural leaning
toward the kind of shallow free-thinking that Flaubert
has immortalized in his figure of M. Homais, and which
has led someone to say that Voltaire is the king of wits
and the god of fools. On the other hand, in presenting
Voltaire to English or American readers, the proper
point of view is rather that of Matthew Arnold who re-
Digitized by VjOOQ IC


marks that we are in no danger of catching Voltaire's
vices and are seriously in need of many of his virtues,
Voltaire will always occupy an important place in litera-
ture as one of the most finished of prose writers, and as
the foremost wit of the wittiest age the world has ever
seen. In addition to this general value, he has the
special merit of being in an unusual degree representa-
tive of his race. He is certainly not the greatest French-
man, but it is hard to avoid agreeing with the two most
eminent of modern critics, Goethe and Sainte-Beuve,^
that he is the most typical.

* For both Goethe^s and Sainte-Beuve's opinion of Voltaire see Causeries
du lundif vol. xv, p. 210 (note).

y Google

Digitized by LjOOQIC I



y Google

y Google






PARSADI ^>'^ "^
Le 18 du mois de schewal, Tan 857 de PH^girt.* .^' '

Charme des prunelles, tourment des coeurs, lumiere
de Tesprit, je ne baise point la poussiere de vos pieds,
parce que vous ne marchez guere, ou que vous mar-
chez sur des tapis dlran ou sur des roses. Je vous
offre la traduction d'un livre d'un ancien sage qui, s
ayant le bonheur de n'avoir rien a faire, eut celui de
s'amuser a ecrire Thistoire de Zadig, ouvrage qui dit
plus qu'il ne semble dire. Je vous prie de le lire et
d'en juger; car, quoique vous soyez dans le prin-
temps de votre vie, quoique tous les plaisirs vous lo
cherchent, quoique vous soyez belle, et que vos talents
ajoutent a votre beaute, quoiqu'on vous loue du soir
au matin, et que par toutes ces raisons vous soyez en
droit de n'avoir pas le sens commun, cependant vous
avez Tesprit tres sage et le gout tres fin et je vous ai is
entendue raisonner mieux que de vieux derviches i
longue barbe et a bonnet pointu. Vous etes discrete
et vous n'etes point defiante; vous etes douce sans
etre faible; vous etes bienfaisante avec discernement j


Digitized by VjOOQ IC


vous aimez vos amis, et vous ne vous faites point d'en-
nemis. Votre esprit n'emprunte jamais ses agrements
des traits de la medisance; vous ne dites de mal ni
n'en faites, malgre la prodigieuse facilite que vous
5 y auriez. Enfin votre ame m'a toujours paru pure
comme votre beaute. Vous avez meme un petit fonds
de philosophie qui m'a fait croire que vous prendriez
plus de gout qu'une autre a cet ouvrage d'un sage.
II fut ecrit d'abord en ancien chaldeen, que ni vous

10 ni moi n'entendons. On le traduisit en arabe, pour
amuser le celebre sultan Ouloug-beb. C'etait du
temps ou les Arabes et les Persans commengaient a
ecrire des Mille et une nuits, des Mille et un jours,
etc. Ouloug aimait mieux la lecture de Zadig; mais

25 les sultanes aimaient mieux les Mille et un. Comment
pouvez-vous preferer, leur disait le sage Ouloug, des
contes qui sont sans raison, et qui ne signifient rien?
— C'est precisement pour cela que nous les aimons,
repondaient les sultanes.

20 Je me flatte que vous ne leur ressemblerez pas, et
que vous serez un vrai Ouloug. J'espere meme que,
quand vous serez lasse des conversations generates,
qui ressemblent assez aux Mille et un, a cela pres
qu'elles sont moins amusantes, je pourrai trouver une

25 minute pour avoir I'honneur de vous parler raison.
Si vous aviez ete Thalestris^ du temps de Scander,
fils de Philippe; si vous aviez ete la reine de Sabee
du temps de Soleiman, c'eussent ete ces rois qui au-
raient fait le voyage.

30 Je prie les vertus celestes que vos plaisirs soient
sans melange, votr^ beaute durable, et votre bonheur
sans fin. Sadi. ,

Digitized by VjOOQ IC



*Du temps du roi Moabdar il y avait a Babylgn^.
un jeune homme nomme Zadig, ne avec un"^ beau '^
naturel fortifie par Teducation. Quoique riche et
jeune, il savait moderer ses passions; il n'affectaif* .^(7 ,
rien; il ne voulait point tou jours avoir raison, et s
savait respecter la faiblesse des hommes. On etait
etonne de voir qu'ayec beaucoup d'esprit il n'insultat
jamais par des railleries a ces propos si vag^es, si '
rompus, si .tumultueux, a ces medisances temeraires,
a ces decisions ignorantes, a ces turlupinades^ gros- lo
sieres, a ce vain bruit de paroles, qu'on appelait con-
versation dans Baby lone. II avait appris, dans le
premier livre de Zoroastre, que I'amour-propre est
un ballon gonfle de vent, dont il sort des tempetes
quand on lui a fait une piqure? Zadig surtout ne se is
vantait pas de mepriser les femmes et de les sub-
juguer. II etait genereux; il ne craignait point
d'obliger des ingrats, suivant ce grand precepte de
Zoroastre: Quand tu manges, donne d manger aux ^^^
, chiens, dussent-ils te mordre, II etait aussi sage 20^-.
qu'on pent Tetre; car il cherchait a vivre avec des
sages. Instruit dans les sciences des anciens Chal-
deens, il n'ignorait pas les principes physiques de la
nature, tels qu'on les connaissai^alors, et savait de


Digitized by VjOOQ IC


la metaphysique ce qu'on en a su dans tous les ages,

c^est-a-dire fort peu de chose. II etait fermement

persuade que Tannee etait de trois cent soixante et

cinq jours et un quart, malgre la nouvelle philosophie

5 de son temps ; et que . le soleil etait au centre du

( monde; et quand les principaux mages lui disaient,

s avec une hauteur insultante, qu'il avait de mauvais

sentiments, et que c'etait etre ennemi de Tfitat que

de croire que le soleil tournait sur lui-meme, et que

10 Tannee avait douze mois, il se taisait sans colere et
sans dedain.

Zadig, avec de grandes richesses, et par cons equent
avec des amis, ayant de la sante, une figure aimable,
un esprit juste et modere, un cceur sincere, et noble,

*5 crut qu'il pouvait etre heureux. II devait se marier

^-,c^ a Semire, que sa beaute, sa naissance et sa fortune

rendaient le premier parti de Babylone. II avait

pour elle un attachement solide et vertueux, et Semire

Taimait avec passion. lis touchaient au moment for-

20 tune qui allait les unir, lorsque, se promenant en-
semble vers une porte de Babylone, sous les palmiers
qui ornaient les rivages de I'Euphrate, ils virent venir

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Online Library1694-1778 VoltaireZadig, and other stories → online text (page 1 of 16)