FRANCOIS-MARIE AROUET DE VOLTAIRE - LETTER SIGNED - HFSID 285188
Signed letter from Paris written just weeks before his death in 1778, fearing that hypocritical priests will deny him a church burial. This letter to the Count of Rochefort, written in fine French (fully translated) and in a beautiful hand, shows that the sage had lost none of his mental acuity
Letter signed: "V", 2 pages (integral leaf) 4½x7 folded, 9x7 open flat. Paris, 1778 April 16. To the Comte de Rochefort. In French, fully translated: "I must apologize for having written so formally to Madame Dix-Neuf Ans ["Nineteen Years"]. I apologize for taking so long to thank you for your pleasant letter, sir, but I have had lately a very violent fever, following two fatal illnesses from which I escaped. I think that Monsieur the Abbey of Beauregard, preacher of Versailles, so-called former Jesuit, would willingly refuse me a burial, which is very unfair, because they say that I would not ask for more than to bury him; and he owes me, it seems, the same courtesy. I do not think whatsoever that the master and mistress of the house mocked this abbey of Beauregard. It is good that they do not indulge in the fury of his zeal, which is that to which all honest persons limit themselves. These poor ex-Jesuits are allowed to hate a man who, not long ago, forced them to return to their capital, of which they had acquired, to seven small children at the service of the king. The devout never forgive this type of sacrilege. I sent six young officers to them who they then robbed. It is true that I did not preach about Lent, but in truth, I observed it more rigorously than all the monks of Europe; hence I am more diaphanous and thinner than all of Loyola's disciples. I look like Lazarus leaving his tomb.I am happy to hear, sir, that you are healthy and that your affairs are in order. I will take interest in all that concerns you until the day I die. Your kindness will console me until these last days of my life." François-Marie Arouet (1694-1778), who wrote under the pen name Voltaire, was a leader of the Enlightenment. French by birth, though often living abroad, he was a lifelong advocate of limited government and of religious freedom, especially critical of the Catholic priesthood. He wrote plays, poems, novels, histories and philosophical essays. Perhaps his best known works are his novel Candide (1759) and his Philosophical Dictionary, usually dated 1764 but a lifelong project. His ideas influenced the American and French Revolutions, though he did not live to see the culmination of either. His fears expressed in this letter were certainly justified. The church denied him a Christian burial, and he was hurriedly buried by friends. In 1791, the French National Assembly ordered his body exhumed, and he was re-interred with high honors in the Pantheon in Paris. Lightly toned. 2 vertical 1 horizontal fold creases. Bottom edge ragged. Corners lightly creased. 2 nail-size stains at upper left edge. Otherwise fine condition. Accompanied by PSA/DNA LOA.
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