By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary
Author: Voltaire, 1694-1778
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

[TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE: Greek words in this text have been transliterated
and placed between +marks+.]

Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary

New York




This book does not demand continuous reading; but at whatever place one
opens it, one will find matter for reflection. The most useful books are
those of which readers themselves compose half; they extend the thoughts
of which the germ is presented to them; they correct what seems
defective to them, and they fortify by their reflections what seems to
them weak.

It is only really by enlightened people that this book can be read; the
ordinary man is not made for such knowledge; philosophy will never be
his lot. Those who say that there are truths which must be hidden from
the people, need not be alarmed; the people do not read; they work six
days of the week, and on the seventh go to the inn. In a word,
philosophical works are made only for philosophers, and every honest man
must try to be a philosopher, without pluming himself on being one.

This alphabet is extracted from the most estimable works which are not
commonly within the reach of the many; and if the author does not always
mention the sources of his information, as being well enough known to
the learned, he must not be suspected of wishing to take the credit for
other people's work, because he himself preserves anonymity, according
to this word of the Gospel: "Let not thy left hand know what thy right
hand doeth."


PREFACE BY VOLTAIRE                                      5

ADULTERY                                                11
ADVOCATE                                                16
ANCIENTS AND MODERNS                                    17
ANIMALS                                                 21
ANTIQUITY                                               24
ARTS                                                    27
ASTROLOGY                                               29
ATHEISM                                                 32
AUTHORITY                                               46
AUTHORS                                                 48

BANISHMENT                                              50
BANKRUPTCY                                              51
BEAUTY                                                  53
BISHOP                                                  55
BOOKS                                                   57
BOULEVERD                                               60
BOURGES                                                 61
BRAHMINS                                                62

CHARACTER                                               65
CHARLATAN                                               68
CIVIL LAWS                                              73
CLIMATE                                                 74
COMMON SENSE                                            78
CONCATENATION OF EVENTS                                 80
CONTRADICTIONS                                          83
CORN                                                    85
CROMWELL                                                88
CUSTOMS                                                 94

DEMOCRACY                                               96
DESTINY                                                 98
DEVOUT                                                 102

ECCLESIASTICAL MINISTRY                                103
EMBLEM                                                 106
ENGLISH THEATRE, ON THE                                110
ENVY                                                   112
EQUALITY                                               114
EXPIATION                                              118
EXTREME                                                122
EZOURVEIDAM                                            125

FAITH                                                  126
FALSE MINDS                                            128
FATHERLAND                                             131
FINAL CAUSES                                           133
FRAUD                                                  136
FREE-WILL                                              142
FRENCH                                                 146
FRIENDSHIP                                             150

GOD                                                    151

HELVETIA                                               156
HISTORY                                                157

IGNORANCE                                              163
IMPIOUS                                                166

JOAN OF ARC                                            168

KISSING                                                173

LANGUAGES                                              178
LAWS                                                   184
LIBERTY                                                187
LIBRARY                                                191
LIMITS OF THE HUMAN MIND                               194
LOCAL CRIMES                                           195
LOVE                                                   197
LUXURY                                                 200

MAN                                                    203
MAN IN THE IRON MASK                                   204
MARRIAGE                                               210
MASTER                                                 211
MEN OF LETTERS                                         214
METAMORPHOSIS                                          216
MOHAMMEDANS                                            220
MOUNTAIN                                               221

NAKEDNESS                                              222
NATURAL LAW                                            224
NATURE                                                 227
NECESSARY                                              231
NEW NOVELTIES                                          236

PHILOSOPHER                                            237
POWER, OMNIPOTENCE                                     240
PRAYERS                                                245
PRÉCIS OF ANCIENT PHILOSOPHY                           247
PREJUDICES                                             251

RARE                                                   255
REASON                                                 257
RELIGION                                               259

SECT                                                   267
SELF-ESTEEM                                            271
SOUL                                                   273
STATES, GOVERNMENTS                                    294
SUPERSTITION                                           297

TEARS                                                  299
THEIST                                                 301
TOLERANCE                                              302
TRUTH                                                  305
TYRANNY                                                308

VIRTUE                                                 309

WHY?                                                   313




A senior magistrate of a French town had the misfortune to have a wife
who was debauched by a priest before her marriage, and who since covered
herself with disgrace by public scandals: he was so moderate as to leave
her without noise. This man, about forty years old, vigorous and of
agreeable appearance, needs a woman; he is too scrupulous to seek to
seduce another man's wife, he fears intercourse with a public woman or
with a widow who would serve him as concubine. In this disquieting and
sad state, he addresses to his Church a plea of which the following is a

My wife is criminal, and it is I who am punished. Another woman is
necessary as a comfort to my life, to my virtue even; and the sect of
which I am a member refuses her to me; it forbids me to marry an honest
girl. The civil laws of to-day, unfortunately founded on canon law,
deprive me of the rights of humanity. The Church reduces me to seeking
either the pleasures it reproves, or the shameful compensations it
condemns; it tries to force me to be criminal.

I cast my eyes over all the peoples of the earth; there is not a single
one except the Roman Catholic people among whom divorce and a new
marriage are not natural rights.

What upheaval of the rule has therefore made among the Catholics a
virtue of undergoing adultery, and a duty of lacking a wife when one has
been infamously outraged by one's own?

Why is a bond that has rotted indissoluble in spite of the great law
adopted by the code, _quidquid ligatur dissolubile est_? I am allowed a
separation _a mensa et thoro_, and I am not allowed divorce. The law
can deprive me of my wife, and it leaves me a name called "sacrament"!
What a contradiction! what slavery! and under what laws did we receive

What is still more strange is that this law of my Church is directly
contrary to the words which this Church itself believes to have been
uttered by Jesus Christ: "Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it
be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery" (Matt.
xix. 9).

I do not examine whether the pontiffs of Rome are in the right to
violate at their pleasure the law of him they regard as their master;
whether when a state has need of an heir, it is permissible to repudiate
her who can give it one. I do not inquire if a turbulent woman,
demented, homicidal, a poisoner, should not be repudiated equally with
an adulteress: I limit myself to the sad state which concerns me: God
permits me to remarry, and the Bishop of Rome does not permit me.

Divorce was a practice among Catholics under all the emperors; it was
also in all the dismembered states of the Roman Empire. The kings of
France, those called "of the first line," almost all repudiated their
wives in order to take new ones. At last came Gregory IX., enemy of the
emperors and kings, who by a decree made marriage an unshakeable yoke;
his decretal became the law of Europe. When the kings wanted to
repudiate a wife who was an adulteress according to Jesus Christ's law,
they could not succeed; it was necessary to find ridiculous pretexts.
Louis the younger was obliged, to accomplish his unfortunate divorce
from Eleanor of Guienne, to allege a relationship which did not exist.
Henry IV., to repudiate Marguerite de Valois, pretexted a still more
false cause, a refusal of consent. One had to lie to obtain a divorce

What! a king can abdicate his crown, and without the Pope's permission
he cannot abdicate his wife! Is it possible that otherwise enlightened
men have wallowed so long in this absurd servitude!

That our priests, that our monks renounce wives, to that I consent; it
is an outrage against population, it is a misfortune for them, but they
merit this misfortune which they have made for themselves. They have
been the victims of the popes who wanted to have in them slaves,
soldiers without families and without fatherland, living solely for the
Church: but I, magistrate, who serve the state all day, I need a wife in
the evening; and the Church has not the right to deprive me of a benefit
which God accords me. The apostles were married, Joseph was married, and
I want to be. If I, Alsacian, am dependent on a priest who dwells at
Rome, if this priest has the barbarous power to rob me of a wife, let
him make a eunuch of me for the singing of _Misereres_ in his chapel.


Equity demands that, having recorded this note in favour of husbands, we
should also put before the public the case in favour of wives, presented
to the junta of Portugal by a Countess of Arcira. This is the substance
of it:

The Gospel has forbidden adultery for my husband just as for me; he will
be damned as I shall, nothing is better established. When he committed
twenty infidelities, when he gave my necklace to one of my rivals, and
my ear-rings to another, I did not ask the judges to have him shaved, to
shut him up among monks and to give me his property. And I, for having
imitated him once, for having done with the most handsome young man in
Lisbon what he did every day with impunity with the most idiotic
strumpets of the court and the town, have to answer at the bar before
licentiates each of whom would be at my feet if we were alone together
in my closet; have to endure at the court the usher cutting off my hair
which is the most beautiful in the world; and being shut up among nuns
who have no common sense, deprived of my dowry and my marriage
covenants, with all my property given to my coxcomb of a husband to help
him seduce other women and to commit fresh adulteries.

I ask if it is just, and if it is not evident that the laws were made by

In answer to my plea I am told that I should be happy not to be stoned
at the city gate by the canons, the priests of the parish and the whole
populace. This was the practice among the first nation of the earth, the
chosen nation, the cherished nation, the only one which was right when
all the others were wrong.

To these barbarities I reply that when the poor adulteress was presented
by her accusers to the Master of the old and new law, He did not have
her stoned; that on the contrary He reproached them with their
injustice, that he laughed at them by writing on the ground with his
finger, that he quoted the old Hebraic proverb--"He that is without sin
among you, let him first cast a stone at her"; that then they all
retired, the oldest fleeing first, because the older they were the more
adulteries had they committed.

The doctors of canon law answer me that this history of the adulteress
is related only in the Gospel of St. John, that it was not inserted
there until later. Leontius, Maldonat, affirm that it is not to be found
in a single ancient Greek copy; that none of the twenty-three early
commentators mentions it. Origen, St. Jerome, St. John Chrysostom,
Theophilact, Nonnus, do not recognize it at all. It is not to be found
in the Syriac Bible, it is not in Ulphilas' version.

That is what my husband's advocates say, they who would have me not only
shaved, but also stoned.

But the advocates who pleaded for me say that Ammonius, author of the
third century, recognized this story as true, and that if St. Jerome
rejects it in some places, he adopts it in others; that, in a word, it
is authentic to-day. I leave there, and I say to my husband: "If you are
without sin, shave me, imprison me, take my property; but if you have
committed more sins than I have, it is for me to shave you, to have you
imprisoned, and to seize your fortune. In justice these things should be

My husband answers that he is my superior and my chief, that he is more
than an inch taller, that he is shaggy as a bear; that consequently I
owe him everything, and that he owes me nothing.

But I ask if Queen Anne of England is not her husband's chief? if her
husband the Prince of Denmark, who is her High Admiral, does not owe her
entire obedience? and if she would not have him condemned by the court
of peers if the little man's infidelity were in question? It is
therefore clear that if the women do not have the men punished, it is
when they are not the stronger.


An advocate is a man who, not having a sufficient fortune to buy one of
those resplendent offices on which the universe has its eyes, studies
the laws of Theodosius and Justinian for three years, so that he may
learn the usages of Paris, and who finally, being registered, has the
right to plead causes for money, if he have a strong voice.


The great dispute between the ancients and the moderns is not yet
settled; it has been on the table since the silver age succeeded the
golden age. Mankind has always maintained that the good old times were
much better than the present day. Nestor, in the "Iliad," wishing to
insinuate himself as a wise conciliator into the minds of Achilles and
Agamemnon, starts by saying to them--"I lived formerly with better men
than you; no, I have never seen and I shall never see such great
personages as Dryas, Cenæus, Exadius, Polyphemus equal to the gods,

Posterity has well avenged Achilles for Nestor's poor compliment. Nobody
knows Dryas any longer; one has hardly heard speak of Exadius, or of
Cenæus; and as for Polyphemus equal to the gods, he has not too good a
reputation, unless the possession of a big eye in one's forehead, and
the eating of men raw, are to have something of the divine.

Lucretius does not hesitate to say that nature has degenerated (lib. II.
v. 1159). Antiquity is full of eulogies of another more remote
antiquity. Horace combats this prejudice with as much finesse as force
in his beautiful Epistle to Augustus (Epist. I. liv. ii.). "Must our
poems, then," he says, "be like our wines, of which the oldest are
always preferred?"

The learned and ingenious Fontenelle expresses himself on this subject
as follows:

"The whole question of the pre-eminence between the ancients and the
moderns, once it is well understood, is reduced to knowing whether the
trees which formerly were in our countryside were bigger than those of
to-day. In the event that they were, Homer, Plato, Demosthenes cannot
be equalled in these latter centuries.

"Let us throw light on this paradox. If the ancients had more intellect
than us, it is that the brains of those times were better ordered,
formed of firmer or more delicate fibres, filled with more animal
spirits; but in virtue of what were the brains of those times better
ordered? The trees also would have been bigger and more beautiful; for
if nature was then younger and more vigorous, the trees, as well as
men's brains, would have been conscious of this vigour and this youth."
("Digression on the Ancients and the Moderns," vol. 4, 1742 edition.)

With the illustrious academician's permission, that is not at all the
state of the question. It is not a matter of knowing whether nature has
been able to produce in our day as great geniuses and as good works as
those of Greek and Latin antiquity; but to know whether we have them in
fact. Without a doubt it is not impossible for there to be as big oaks
in the forest of Chantilli as in the forest of Dodona; but supposing
that the oaks of Dodona had spoken, it would be quite clear that they
had a great advantage over ours, which in all probability will never

Nature is not bizarre; but it is possible that she gave the Athenians a
country and a sky more suitable than Westphalia and the Limousin for
forming certain geniuses. Further, it is possible that the government of
Athens, by seconding the climate, put into Demosthenes' head something
that the air of Climart and La Grenouillère and the government of
Cardinal de Richelieu did not put into the heads of Omer Talon and
Jérome Bignon.

This dispute is therefore a question of fact. Was antiquity more fecund
in great monuments of all kinds, up to the time of Plutarch, than modern
centuries have been from the century of the Medicis up to Louis XIV.

The Chinese, more than two hundred years before our era, constructed
that great wall which was not able to save them from the invasion of the
Tartars. The Egyptians, three thousand years before, had overloaded the
earth with their astonishing pyramids, which had a base of about ninety
thousand square feet. Nobody doubts that, if one wished to undertake
to-day these useless works, one could easily succeed by a lavish
expenditure of money. The great wall of China is a monument to fear; the
pyramids are monuments to vanity and superstition. Both bear witness to
a great patience in the peoples, but to no superior genius. Neither the
Chinese nor the Egyptians would have been able to make even a statue
such as those which our sculptors form to-day.

The chevalier Temple, who has made it his business to disparage all the
moderns, claims that in architecture they have nothing comparable to the
temples of Greece and Rome: but, for all that he is English, he must
agree that the Church of St. Peter is incomparably more beautiful than
the Capitol was.

It is curious with what assurance he maintains that there is nothing new
in our astronomy, nothing in the knowledge of the human body, unless
perhaps, he says, the circulation of the blood. Love of his own opinion,
founded on his vast self-esteem, makes him forget the discovery of the
satellites of Jupiter, of the five moons and the ring of Saturn, of the
rotation of the sun on its axis, of the calculated position of three
thousand stars, of the laws given by Kepler and Newton for the heavenly
orbs, of the causes of the precession of the equinoxes, and of a hundred
other pieces of knowledge of which the ancients did not suspect even the

The discoveries in anatomy are as great in number. A new universe in
little, discovered by the microscope, was counted for nothing by the
chevalier Temple; he closed his eyes to the marvels of his
contemporaries, and opened them only to admire ancient ignorance.

He goes so far as to pity us for having nothing left of the magic of the
Indians, the Chaldeans, the Egyptians; and by this magic he understands
a profound knowledge of nature, whereby they produced miracles: but he
does not cite one miracle, because in fact there never were any. "What
has become," he asks, "of the charms of that music which so often
enchanted man and beast, the fishes, the birds, the snakes, and changed
their nature?"

This enemy of his century really believes the fable of Orpheus, and has
not apparently heard either the beautiful music of Italy, or even that
of France, which in truth does not charm snakes, but does charm the ears
of connoisseurs.

What is still more strange is that, having all his life cultivated
belles-lettres, he does not reason better about our good authors than
about our philosophers. He looks on Rabelais as a great man. He cites
the "Amours des Gaules" as one of our best works. He was, however, a
scholar, a courtier, a man of much wit, an ambassador, a man who had
reflected profoundly on all he had seen. He possessed great knowledge: a
prejudice sufficed to spoil all this merit.

There are beauties in Euripides, and in Sophocles still more; but they
have many more defects. One dares say that the beautiful scenes of
Corneille and the touching tragedies of Racine surpass the tragedies of
Sophocles and Euripides as much as these two Greeks surpass Thespis.
Racine was quite conscious of his great superiority over Euripides; but
he praised the Greek poet in order to humiliate Perrault.

Molière, in his good pieces, is as superior to the pure but cold
Terence, and to the droll Aristophanes, as to Dancourt the buffoon.

There are therefore spheres in which the moderns are far superior to the
ancients, and others, very few in number, in which we are their
inferiors. It is to this that the whole dispute is reduced.


What a pitiful, what a sorry thing to have said that animals are
machines bereft of understanding and feeling, which perform their
operations always in the same way, which learn nothing, perfect nothing,

What! that bird which makes its nest in a semi-circle when it is
attaching it to a wall, which builds it in a quarter circle when it is
in an angle, and in a circle upon a tree; that bird acts always in the
same way? That hunting-dog which you have disciplined for three months,
does it not know more at the end of this time than it knew before your
lessons? Does the canary to which you teach a tune repeat it at once? do
you not spend a considerable time in teaching it? have you not seen that
it has made a mistake and that it corrects itself?

Is it because I speak to you, that you judge that I have feeling,
memory, ideas? Well, I do not speak to you; you see me going home
looking disconsolate, seeking a paper anxiously, opening the desk where
I remember having shut it, finding it, reading it joyfully. You judge
that I have experienced the feeling of distress and that of pleasure,
that I have memory and understanding.

Bring the same judgment to bear on this dog which has lost its master,
which has sought him on every road with sorrowful cries, which enters
the house agitated, uneasy, which goes down the stairs, up the stairs,
from room to room, which at last finds in his study the master it loves,
and which shows him its joy by its cries of delight, by its leaps, by
its caresses.

Barbarians seize this dog, which in friendship surpasses man so
prodigiously; they nail it on a table, and they dissect it alive in
order to show the mesenteric veins. You discover in it all the same
organs of feeling that are in yourself. Answer me, machinist, has nature
arranged all the means of feeling in this animal, so that it may not
feel? has it nerves in order to be impassible? Do not suppose this
impertinent contradiction in nature.

But the schoolmasters ask what the soul of animals is? I do not
understand this question. A tree has the faculty of receiving in its
fibres its sap which circulates, of unfolding the buds of its leaves and
its fruit; will you ask what the soul of this tree is? it has received
these gifts; the animal has received those of feeling, of memory, of a
certain number of ideas. Who has bestowed these gifts? who has given
these faculties? He who has made the grass of the fields to grow, and
who makes the earth gravitate toward the sun.

"Animals' souls are substantial forms," said Aristotle, and after
Aristotle, the Arab school, and after the Arab school, the angelical
school, and after the angelical school, the Sorbonne, and after the
Sorbonne, nobody at all.

"Animals' souls are material," cry other philosophers. These have not
been in any better fortune than the others. In vain have they been asked
what a material soul is; they have to admit that it is matter which has
sensation: but what has given it this sensation? It is a material soul,
that is to say that it is matter which gives sensation to matter; they
cannot issue from this circle.

Listen to other brutes reasoning about the brutes; their soul is a
spiritual soul which dies with the body; but what proof have you of it?
what idea have you of this spiritual soul, which, in truth, has feeling,
memory, and its measure of ideas and ingenuity; but which will never be
able to know what a child of six knows? On what ground do you imagine
that this being, which is not body, dies with the body? The greatest
fools are those who have advanced that this soul is neither body nor
spirit. There is a fine system. By spirit we can understand only some
unknown thing which is not body. Thus these gentlemen's system comes
back to this, that the animals' soul is a substance which is neither
body nor something which is not body.

Whence can come so many contradictory errors? From the habit men have
always had of examining what a thing is, before knowing if it exists.
The clapper, the valve of a bellows, is called in French the "soul" of a
bellows. What is this soul? It is a name that I have given to this valve
which falls, lets air enter, rises again, and thrusts it through a pipe,
when I make the bellows move.

There is not there a distinct soul in the machine: but what makes
animals' bellows move? I have already told you, what makes the stars
move. The philosopher who said, "_Deus est anima brutorum_," was right;
but he should go further.


Have you sometimes seen in a village Pierre Aoudri and his wife
Peronelle wishing to go before their neighbours in the procession? "Our
grandfathers," they say, "were tolling the bells before those who jostle
us to-day owned even a pig-sty."

The vanity of Pierre Aoudri, his wife and his neighbours, knows nothing
more about it. Their minds kindle. The quarrel is important; honour is
in question. Proofs are necessary. A scholar who sings in the choir,
discovers an old rusty iron pot, marked with an "A," first letter of the
name of the potter who made the pot. Pierre Aoudri persuades himself
that it was his ancestors' helmet. In this way was Cæsar descended from
a hero and from the goddess Venus. Such is the history of nations; such
is, within very small margins, the knowledge of early antiquity.

The scholars of Armenia _demonstrate_ that the terrestrial paradise was
in their land. Some profound Swedes _demonstrate_ that it was near Lake
Vener which is visibly a remnant of it. Some Spaniards _demonstrate_
also that it was in Castille; while the Japanese, the Chinese, the
Indians, the Africans, the Americans are not sufficiently unfortunate to
know even that there was formerly a terrestrial paradise at the source
of the Phison, the Gehon, the Tigris and the Euphrates, or, if you
prefer it, at the source of the Guadalquivir, the Guadiana, the Douro
and the Ebro; for from Phison one easily makes Phaetis; and from Phaetis
one makes the Baetis which is the Guadalquivir. The Gehon is obviously
the Guadiana, which begins with a "G." The Ebro, which is in Catalonia,
is incontestably the Euphrates, of which the initial letter is "E."

But a Scotsman appears who _demonstrates_ in his turn that the garden of
Eden was at Edinburgh, which has retained its name; and it is to be
believed that in a few centuries this opinion will make its fortune.

The whole globe was burned once upon a time, says a man versed in
ancient and modern history; for I read in a newspaper that some
absolutely black charcoal has been found in Germany at a depth of a
hundred feet, between mountains covered with wood. And it is suspected
even that there were charcoal burners in this place.

Phaeton's adventure makes it clear that everything has boiled right to
the bottom of the sea. The sulphur of Mount Vesuvius proves invincibly
that the banks of the Rhine, Danube, Ganges, Nile and the great Yellow
River are merely sulphur, nitre and Guiac oil, which only await the
moment of the explosion to reduce the earth to ashes, as it has already
been. The sand on which we walk is evident proof that the earth has been
vitrified, and that our globe is really only a glass ball, just as are
our ideas.

But if fire has changed our globe, water has produced still finer
revolutions. For you see clearly that the sea, the tides of which mount
as high as eight feet in our climate, has produced mountains of a height
of sixteen to seventeen thousand feet. This is so true that some learned
men who have never been in Switzerland have found a big ship with all
its rigging petrified on Mount St. Gothard, or at the bottom of a
precipice, one knows not where; but it is quite certain that it was
there. Therefore men were originally fish, _quod erat demonstrandum_.

To descend to a less antique antiquity, let us speak of the times when
the greater part of the barbarous nations left their countries, to go to
seek others which were hardly any better. It is true, if there be
anything true in ancient history, that there were some Gaulish brigands
who went to pillage Rome in the time of Camillus. Other Gaulish brigands
had passed, it is said, through Illyria on the way to hire their
services as murderers to other murderers, in the direction of Thrace;
they exchanged their blood for bread, and later established themselves
in Galatia. But who were these Gauls? were they Berichons and Angevins?
They were without a doubt Gauls whom the Romans called Cisalpines, and
whom we call Transalpines, famished mountain-dwellers, neighbours of the
Alps and the Apennines. The Gauls of the Seine and the Marne did not
know at that time that Rome existed, and could not take it into their
heads to pass Mount Cenis, as Hannibal did later, to go to steal the
wardrobes of Roman senators who at that time for all furniture had a
robe of poor grey stuff, ornamented with a band the colour of ox blood;
two little pummels of ivory, or rather dog's bone, on the arms of a
wooden chair; and in their kitchens a piece of rancid bacon.

The Gauls, who were dying of hunger, not finding anything to eat in
Rome, went off therefore to seek their fortune farther away, as was the
practice of the Romans later, when they ravaged so many countries one
after the other; as did the peoples of the North when they destroyed the
Roman Empire.

And, further, what is it which instructs very feebly about these
emigrations? It is a few lines that the Romans wrote at hazard; because
for the Celts, the Velches or the Gauls, these men who it is desired to
make pass for eloquent, at that time did not know, they and their bards,
how either to read or write.

But to infer from that that the Gauls or Celts, conquered after by a few
of Cæsar's legions, and by a horde of Bourguignons, and lastly by a
horde of Sicamores, under one Clodovic, had previously subjugated the
whole world, and given their names and laws to Asia, seems to me to be
very strange: the thing is not mathematically impossible, and if it be
_demonstrated_, I give way; it would be very uncivil to refuse to the
Velches what one accords to the Tartars.



All the philosophers thought matter eternal but the arts appear new.
There is not one, even to the art of making bread, which is not recent.
The first Romans ate pap; and these conquerors of so many nations never
thought of either windmills or watermills. This truth seems at first to
contradict the antiquity of the globe such as it is, or supposes
terrible revolutions in this globe. The inundations of barbarians can
hardly annihilate arts which have become necessary. I suppose that an
army of negroes come among us like locusts, from the mountains of
Cobonas, through the Monomotapa, the Monoemugi, the Nosseguais, the
Maracates; that they have traversed Abyssinia, Nubia, Egypt, Syria, Asia
Minor, the whole of our Europe; that they have overthrown everything,
ransacked everything; there will still remain a few bakers, a few
cobblers, a few tailors, a few carpenters: the necessary arts will
survive; only luxury will be annihilated. It is what was seen at the
fall of the Roman Empire; the art of writing even became very rare;
almost all those which contributed to the comfort of life were reborn
only long after. We invent new ones every day.

From all this one can at bottom conclude nothing against the antiquity
of the globe. For, supposing even that an influx of barbarians had made
us lose entirely all the arts even to the arts of writing and making
bread; supposing, further, that for ten years past we had no bread,
pens, ink and paper; the land which has been able to subsist for ten
years without eating bread and without writing its thoughts, would be
able to pass a century, and a hundred thousand centuries without these

It is quite clear that man and the other animals can exist very well
without bakers, without novelists, and without theologians, witness the
whole of America, witness three quarters of our continent.

The newness of the arts among us does not therefore prove the newness of
the globe, as was claimed by Epicurus, one of our predecessors in
reverie, who supposed that by chance the eternal atoms in declining, had
one day formed our earth. Pomponace said: "_Se il mondo non è eterno,
per tutti santi è molto vecchio._"


Astrology may rest on better foundations than Magic. For if no one has
seen either Goblins, or Lemures, or Dives, or Peris, or Demons, or
Cacodemons, the predictions of astrologers have often been seen to
succeed. If of two astrologers consulted on the life of a child and on
the weather, one says that the child will live to manhood, the other
not; if one announces rain, and the other fine weather, it is clear that
one of them will be a prophet.

The great misfortune of the astrologers is that the sky has changed
since the rules of the art were established. The sun, which at the
equinox was in Aries in the time of the Argonauts, is to-day in Taurus;
and the astrologers, to the great ill-fortune of their art, to-day
attribute to one house of the sun what belongs visibly to another.
However, that is not a demonstrative reason against astrology. The
masters of the art deceive themselves; but it is not demonstrated that
the art cannot exist.

There is no absurdity in saying: Such and such a child is born in the
waxing of the moon, during stormy weather, at the rising of such and
such star; his constitution has been feeble, and his life unhappy and
short; which is the ordinary lot of poor constitutions: this child, on
the contrary, was born when the moon was full, the sun strong, the
weather calm, at the rising of such and such star; his constitution has
been good, his life long and happy. If these observations had been
repeated, if they had been found accurate, experience would have been
able after some thousands of years to form an art which it would have
been difficult to doubt: one would have thought, with some likelihood,
that men are like trees and vegetables which must be planted and sown
only in certain seasons. It would have been of no avail against the
astrologers to say: My son was born at a fortunate time, and
nevertheless died in his cradle; the astrologer would have answered: It
often happens that trees planted in the proper season perish; I answered
to you for the stars, but I did not answer for the flaw of conformation
you communicated to your child. Astrology operates only when no cause
opposes itself to the good the stars can do.

One would not have succeeded better in discrediting the astrologer by
saying: Of two children who were born in the same minute, one has been
king, the other has been only churchwarden of his parish; for the
astrologer could very well have defended himself by pointing out that
the peasant made his fortune when he became churchwarden, as the prince
when he became king.

And if one alleged that a bandit whom Sixtus V. had hanged was born at
the same time as Sixtus V., who from a pig-herd became Pope, the
astrologers would say one had made a mistake of a few seconds, and that
it is impossible, according to the rules, for the same star to give the
triple crown and the gibbet. It is then only because a host of
experiences belied the predictions, that men perceived at last that the
art was illusory; but before being undeceived, they were long credulous.

One of the most famous mathematicians in Europe, named Stoffler, who
flourished in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and who long worked
at the reform of the calendar, proposed at the Council of Constance,
foretold a universal flood for the year 1524. This flood was to arrive
in the month of February, and nothing is more plausible; for Saturn,
Jupiter and Mars were then in conjunction in the sign of Pisces. All the
peoples of Europe, Asia and Africa, who heard speak of the prediction,
were dismayed. Everyone expected the flood, despite the rainbow. Several
contemporary authors record that the inhabitants of the maritime
provinces of Germany hastened to sell their lands dirt cheap to those
who had most money, and who were not so credulous as they. Everyone
armed himself with a boat as with an ark. A Toulouse doctor, named
Auriol, had a great ark made for himself, his family and his friends;
the same precautions were taken over a large part of Italy. At last the
month of February arrived, and not a drop of water fell: never was month
more dry, and never were the astrologers more embarrassed. Nevertheless
they were not discouraged, nor neglected among us; almost all princes
continued to consult them.

I have not the honour of being a prince; but the celebrated Count of
Boulainvilliers and an Italian, named Colonne, who had much prestige in
Paris, both foretold that I should die infallibly at the age of
thirty-two. I have been so malicious as to deceive them already by
nearly thirty years, wherefore I humbly beg their pardon.




It seems to me that in the "Encyclopedic Dictionary" the opinion of the
Jesuit Richeome, on atheists and idolaters, has not been refuted as
strongly as it might have been; opinion held formerly by St. Thomas, St.
Gregory of Nazianze, St. Cyprian and Tertullian, opinion that Arnobius
set forth with much force when he said to the pagans: "Do you not blush
to reproach us with despising your gods, and is it not much more proper
to believe in no God at all, than to impute to them infamous
actions?"[1] opinion established long before by Plutarch, who says "that
he much prefers people to say there is no Plutarch, than to say--'There
is an inconstant, choleric, vindictive Plutarch'";[2] opinion
strengthened finally by all the effort of Bayle's dialectic.

Here is the ground of dispute, brought to fairly dazzling light by the
Jesuit Richeome, and rendered still more plausible by the way Bayle has
turned it to account.[3]

"There are two porters at the door of a house; they are asked: 'Can one
speak to your master?' 'He is not there,' answers one. 'He is there,'
answers the other, 'but he is busy making counterfeit money, forged
contracts, daggers and poisons, to undo those who have but accomplished
his purposes.' The atheist resembles the first of these porters, the
pagan the other. It is clear, therefore, that the pagan offends the
Deity more gravely than does the atheist."

With Father Richeome's and even Bayle's permission, that is not at all
the position of the matter. For the first porter to resemble the
atheists, he must not say--"My master is not here": he should say--"I
have no master; him whom you claim to be my master does not exist; my
comrade is a fool to tell you that he is busy compounding poisons and
sharpening daggers to assassinate those who have executed his caprices.
No such being exists in the world."

Richeome has reasoned, therefore, very badly. And Bayle, in his somewhat
diffuse discourses, has forgotten himself so far as to do Richeome the
honour of annotating him very malapropos.

Plutarch seems to express himself much better in preferring people who
affirm there is no Plutarch, to those who claim Plutarch to be an
unsociable man. In truth, what does it matter to him that people say he
is not in the world? But it matters much to him that his reputation be
not tarnished. It is not thus with the Supreme Being.

Plutarch even does not broach the real object under discussion. It is
not a question of knowing who offends more the Supreme Being, whether it
be he who denies Him, or he who distorts Him. It is impossible to know
otherwise than by revelation, if God is offended by the empty things men
say of Him.

Without a thought, philosophers fall almost always into the ideas of the
common herd, in supposing God to be jealous of His glory, to be
choleric, to love vengeance, and in taking rhetorical figures for real
ideas. The interesting subject for the whole universe, is to know if it
be not better, for the good of all mankind, to admit a rewarding and
revengeful God, who recompenses good actions hidden, and who punishes
secret crimes, than to admit none at all.

Bayle exhausts himself in recounting all the infamies imputed by fable
to the gods of antiquity. His adversaries answer him with commonplaces
that signify nothing. The partisans of Bayle and his enemies have
almost always fought without making contact. They all agree that Jupiter
was an adulterer, Venus a wanton, Mercury a rogue. But, as I see it,
that is not what needs consideration. One must distinguish between
Ovid's Metamorphoses and the religion of the ancient Romans. It is quite
certain that never among the Romans or even among the Greeks, was there
a temple dedicated to Mercury the rogue, Venus the wanton, Jupiter the

The god whom the Romans called _Deus optimus_, very good, very great,
was not reputed to encourage Clodius to sleep with Cæsar's wife, or
Cæsar to be King Nicomedes' Sodomite.

Cicero does not say that Mercury incited Verres to steal Sicily,
although Mercury, in the fable, had stolen Apollo's cows. The real
religion of the ancients was that Jupiter, _very good and very just_,
and the secondary gods, punished the perjurer in the infernal regions.
Likewise the Romans were long the most religious observers of oaths.
Religion was very useful, therefore, to the Romans. There was no command
to believe in Leda's two eggs, in the changing of Inachus' daughter into
a cow, in the love of Apollo for Hyacinthus.

One must not say therefore that the religion of Numa dishonoured the
Deity. For a long time, therefore, people have been disputing over a
chimera; which happens only too often.

The question is then asked whether a nation of atheists can exist; it
seems to me that one must distinguish between the nation properly so
called, and a society of philosophers above the nation. It is very true
that in every country the populace has need of the greatest curb, and
that if Bayle had had only five or six hundred peasants to govern, he
would not have failed to announce to them the existence of a God,
rewarder and revenger. But Bayle would not have spoken of Him to the
Epicureans who were rich people, fond of rest, cultivating all the
social virtues, and above all friendship, fleeing the embarrassment and
danger of public affairs, in fine, leading a comfortable and innocent
life. It seems to me that in this way the dispute is finished as regards
society and politics.

For entirely savage races, it has been said already that one cannot
count them among either the atheists or the theists. Asking them their
belief would be like asking them if they are for Aristotle or
Democritus: they know nothing; they are not atheists any more than they
are Peripatetics.

In this case, I shall answer that the wolves live like this, and that an
assembly of cannibal barbarians such as you suppose them is not a
society; and I shall always ask you if, when you have lent your money to
someone in your society, you want neither your debtor, nor your
attorney, nor your judge, to believe in God.


We are intelligent beings: intelligent beings cannot have been formed by
a crude, blind, insensible being: there is certainly some difference
between the ideas of Newton and the dung of a mule. Newton's
intelligence, therefore, came from another intelligence.

When we see a beautiful machine, we say that there is a good engineer,
and that this engineer has excellent judgment. The world is assuredly an
admirable machine; therefore there is in the world an admirable
intelligence, wherever it may be. This argument is old, and none the
worse for that.

All living bodies are composed of levers, of pulleys, which function
according to the laws of mechanics; of liquids which the laws of
hydrostatics cause to circulate perpetually; and when one thinks that
all these beings have a perception quite unrelated to their
organization, one is overwhelmed with surprise.

The movement of the heavenly bodies, that of our little earth round the
sun, all operate by virtue of the most profound mathematical law. How
Plato who was not aware of one of these laws, eloquent but visionary
Plato, who said that the earth was erected on an equilateral triangle,
and the water on a right-angled triangle; strange Plato, who says there
can be only five worlds, because there are only five regular bodies:
how, I say, did Plato, who did not know even spherical trigonometry,
have nevertheless a genius sufficiently fine, an instinct sufficiently
happy, to call God the "Eternal Geometer," to feel the existence of a
creative intelligence? Spinoza himself admits it. It is impossible to
strive against this truth which surrounds us and which presses on us
from all sides.


Notwithstanding, I have known refractory persons who say that there is
no creative intelligence at all, and that movement alone has by itself
formed all that we see and all that we are. They tell you brazenly:

"The combination of this universe was possible, seeing that the
combination exists: therefore it was possible that movement alone
arranged it. Take four of the heavenly bodies only, Mars, Venus, Mercury
and the Earth: let us think first only of the place where they are,
setting aside all the rest, and let us see how many probabilities we
have that movement alone put them in their respective places. We have
only twenty-four chances in this combination, that is, there are only
twenty-four chances against one to bet that these bodies will not be
where they are with reference to each other. Let us add to these four
globes that of Jupiter; there will be only a hundred and twenty against
one to bet that Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury and our globe, will not be
placed where we see them.

"Add finally Saturn: there will be only seven hundred and twenty chances
against one, for putting these six big planets in the arrangement they
preserve among themselves, according to their given distances. It is
therefore demonstrated that in seven hundred and twenty throws,
movement alone has been able to put these six principal planets in their

"Take then all the secondary bodies, all their combinations, all their
movements, all the beings that vegetate, that live, that feel, that
think, that function in all the globes, you will have but to increase
the number of chances; multiply this number in all eternity, up to the
number which our feebleness calls 'infinity,' there will always be a
unity in favour of the formation of the world, such as it is, by
movement alone: therefore it is possible that in all eternity the
movement of matter alone has produced the entire universe such as it
exists. It is even inevitable that in eternity this combination should
occur. Thus," they say, "not only is it possible for the world to be
what it is by movement alone, but it was impossible for it not to be
likewise after an infinity of combinations."


All this supposition seems to me prodigiously fantastic, for two
reasons; first, that in this universe there are intelligent beings, and
that you would not know how to prove it possible for movement alone to
produce understanding; second, that, from your own avowal, there is
infinity against one to bet, that an intelligent creative cause animates
the universe. When one is alone face to face with the infinite, one
feels very small.

Again, Spinoza himself admits this intelligence; it is the basis of his
system. You have not read it, and it must be read. Why do you want to go
further than him, and in foolish arrogance plunge your feeble reason in
an abyss into which Spinoza dared not descend? Do you realize thoroughly
the extreme folly of saying that it is a blind cause that arranges that
the square of a planet's revolution is always to the square of the
revolutions of other planets, as the cube of its distance is to the cube
of the distances of the others to the common centre? Either the
heavenly bodies are great geometers, or the Eternal Geometer has
arranged the heavenly bodies.

But where is the Eternal Geometer? is He in one place or in all places,
without occupying space? I have no idea. Is it of His own substance that
He has arranged all things? I have no idea. Is He immense without
quantity and without quality? I have no idea. All that I know is that
one must worship Him and be just.


Can one say that the parts of animals conform to their needs: what are
these needs? preservation and propagation. Is it astonishing then that,
of the infinite combinations which chance has produced, there has been
able to subsist only those that have organs adapted to the nourishment
and continuation of their species? have not all the others perished of


This objection, oft-repeated since Lucretius, is sufficiently refuted by
the gift of sensation in animals, and by the gift of intelligence in
man. How should combinations "which chance has produced," produce this
sensation and this intelligence (as has just been said in the preceding
paragraph)? Without any doubt the limbs of animals are made for their
needs with incomprehensible art, and you are not so bold as to deny it.
You say no more about it. You feel that you have nothing to answer to
this great argument which nature brings against you. The disposition of
a fly's wing, a snail's organs suffices to bring you to the ground.


Modern natural philosophers have but expanded these so-called arguments,
often they have pushed them to trifling and indecency. They have found
God in the folds of the skin of the rhinoceros: one could, with equal
reason, deny His existence because of the tortoise's shell.


What reasoning! The tortoise and the rhinoceros, and all the different
species, are proof equally in their infinite variety of the same cause,
the same design, the same aim, which are preservation, generation and

There is unity in this infinite variety; the shell and the skin bear
witness equally. What! deny God because shell does not resemble leather!
And journalists have been prodigal of eulogies about these ineptitudes,
eulogies they have not given to Newton and Locke, both worshippers of
the Deity who spoke with full knowledge.


Of what use are beauty and proportion in the construction of the snake?
They may have uses, some say, of which we are ignorant. At least let us
be silent then; let us not admire an animal which we know only by the
harm it does.


And be you silent too, seeing that you cannot conceive its utility any
more than I can; or avow that in reptiles everything is admirably

Some are venomous, you have been so yourself. Here there is question
only of the prodigious art which has formed snakes, quadrupeds, birds,
fish and bipeds. This art is sufficiently evident. You ask why the snake
does harm? And you, why have you done harm so many times? Why have you
been a persecutor? which is the greatest of all crimes for a
philosopher. That is another question, a question of moral and physical
ill. For long has one asked why there are so many snakes and so many
wicked men worse than snakes. If flies could reason, they would complain
to God of the existence of spiders; but they would admit what Minerva
admitted about Arachne, in the fable, that she arranges her web

One is bound therefore to recognize an ineffable intelligence which even
Spinoza admitted. One must agree that this intelligence shines in the
vilest insect as in the stars. And as regards moral and physical ill,
what can one say, what do? console oneself by enjoying physical and
moral good, in worshipping the Eternal Being who has made one and
permitted the other.

One more word on this subject. Atheism is the vice of a few intelligent
persons, and superstition is the vice of fools. But rogues! what are
they? rogues.


Let us say a word on the moral question set in action by Bayle, to know
"if a society of atheists could exist?" Let us mark first of all in this
matter what is the enormous contradiction of men in this dispute; those
who have risen against Bayle's opinion with the greatest ardour; those
who have denied with the greatest insults the possibility of a society
of atheists, have since maintained with the same intrepidity that
atheism is the religion of the government of China.

Assuredly they are quite mistaken about the Chinese government; they had
but to read the edicts of the emperors of this vast country to have
seen that these edicts are sermons, and that everywhere there is mention
of the Supreme Being, ruler, revenger, rewarder.

But at the same time they are not less mistaken on the impossibility of
a society of atheists; and I do not know how Mr. Bayle can have
forgotten one striking example which was capable of making his cause

In what does a society of atheists appear impossible? It is that one
judges that men who had no check could never live together; that laws
can do nothing against secret crimes; that a revengeful God who punishes
in this world or the other the wicked who have escaped human justice is

The laws of Moses, it is true, did not teach a life to come, did not
threaten punishments after death, did not teach the first Jews the
immortality of the soul; but the Jews, far from being atheists, far from
believing in avoiding divine vengeance, were the most religious of all
men. Not only did they believe in the existence of an eternal God, but
they believed Him always present among them; they trembled lest they be
punished in themselves, in their wives, in their children, in their
posterity, even unto the fourth generation; this curb was very potent.

But, among the Gentiles, many sects had no curb; the sceptics doubted
everything: the academicians suspended judgment on everything; the
Epicureans were persuaded that the Deity could not mix Himself in the
affairs of men; and at bottom, they admitted no Deity. They were
convinced that the soul is not a substance, but a faculty which is born
and which perishes with the body; consequently they had no yoke other
than morality and honour. The Roman senators and knights were veritable
atheists, for the gods did not exist for men who neither feared nor
hoped anything from them. The Roman senate in the time of Cæsar and
Cicero, was therefore really an assembly of atheists.

That great orator, in his harangue for Cluentius, says to the whole
senate in assembly: "What ill does death do him? we reject all the inept
fables of the nether regions: of what then has death deprived him? of
nothing but the consciousness of suffering."

Does not Cæsar, the friend of Cataline, wishing to save his friend's
life against this same Cicero, object to him that to make a criminal die
is not to punish him at all, that death _is nothing_, that it is merely
the end of our ills, that it is a moment more happy than calamitous? And
do not Cicero and the whole senate surrender to these reasons? The
conquerors and the legislators of the known universe formed visibly
therefore a society of men who feared nothing from the gods, who were
real atheists.

Further on Bayle examines whether idolatry is more dangerous than
atheism, if it is a greater crime not to believe in the Deity than to
have unworthy opinions thereof: in that he is of Plutarch's opinion; he
believes it is better to have no opinion than to have a bad opinion; but
with all deference to Plutarch, it was clearly infinitely better for the
Greeks to fear Ceres, Neptune and Jupiter, than to fear nothing at all.
The sanctity of oaths is clearly necessary, and one should have more
confidence in those who believe that a false oath will be punished, than
in those who think they can make a false oath with impunity. It is
indubitable that in a civilized town, it is infinitely more useful to
have a religion, even a bad one, than to have none at all.

It looks, therefore, that Bayle should have examined rather which is the
more dangerous, fanaticism or atheism. Fanaticism is certainly a
thousand times more deadly; for atheism inspires no bloody passion,
whereas fanaticism does: atheism is not opposed to crime, but fanaticism
causes crimes to be committed. Fanatics committed the massacres of St.
Bartholomew. Hobbes passed for an atheist; he led a tranquil and
innocent life. The fanatics of his time deluged England, Scotland and
Ireland with blood. Spinoza was not only atheist, but he taught atheism;
it was not he assuredly who took part in the judicial assassination of
Barneveldt; it was not he who tore the brothers De Witt in pieces, and
who ate them grilled.

The atheists are for the most part impudent and misguided scholars who
reason badly, and who not being able to understand the creation, the
origin of evil, and other difficulties, have recourse to the hypothesis
of the eternity of things and of inevitability.

The ambitious, the sensual, have hardly time for reasoning, and for
embracing a bad system; they have other things to do than comparing
Lucretius with Socrates. That is how things go among us.

That was not how things went with the Roman senate which was almost
entirely composed of atheists in theory and in practice, that is to say,
who believed in neither a Providence nor a future life; this senate was
an assembly of philosophers, of sensualists and ambitious men, all very
dangerous, who ruined the republic. Epicureanism existed under the
emperors: the atheists of the senate had been rebels in the time of
Sylla and Cæsar: under Augustus and Tiberius they were atheist slaves.

I would not wish to have to deal with an atheist prince, who would find
it to his interest to have me ground to powder in a mortar: I should be
quite sure of being ground to powder. If I were a sovereign, I would not
wish to have to deal with atheist courtiers, whose interest it would be
to poison me: I should have to be taking antidotes every day. It is
therefore absolutely necessary for princes and for peoples, that the
idea of a Supreme Being, creator, ruler, rewarder, revenger, shall be
deeply engraved in people's minds.

Bayle says, in his "Thoughts on the Comets," that there are atheist
peoples. The Caffres, the Hottentots, the Topinambous, and many other
small nations, have no God: they neither deny nor affirm; they have
never heard speak of Him; tell them that there is a God: they will
believe it easily; tell them that everything happens through the nature
of things; they will believe you equally. To claim that they are
atheists is to make the same imputation as if one said they are
anti-Cartesian; they are neither for nor against Descartes. They are
real children; a child is neither atheist nor deist, he is nothing.

What conclusion shall we draw from all this? That atheism is a very
pernicious monster in those who govern; that it is also pernicious in
the persons around statesmen, although their lives may be innocent,
because from their cabinets it may pierce right to the statesmen
themselves; that if it is not so deadly as fanaticism, it is nearly
always fatal to virtue. Let us add especially that there are less
atheists to-day than ever, since philosophers have recognized that there
is no being vegetating without germ, no germ without a plan, etc., and
that wheat comes in no wise from putrefaction.

Some geometers who are not philosophers have rejected final causes, but
real philosophers admit them; a catechist proclaims God to the children,
and Newton demonstrates Him to the learned.

If there are atheists, whom must one blame, if not the mercenary tyrants
of souls, who, making us revolt against their knaveries, force a few
weak minds to deny the God whom these monsters dishonour. How many times
have the people's leeches brought oppressed citizens to the point of
revolting against their king!

Men fattened on our substance cry to us: "Be persuaded that a she-ass
has spoken; believe that a fish has swallowed a man and has given him up
at the end of three days safe and sound on the shore; have no doubt that
the God of the universe ordered one Jewish prophet to eat excrement
(Ezekiel), and another prophet to buy two whores and to make with them
sons of whoredom (Hosea). These are the very words that the God of truth
and purity has been made to utter; believe a hundred things either
visibly abominable or mathematically impossible; unless you do, the God
of pity will burn you, not only during millions of thousands of millions
of centuries in the fire of hell, but through all eternity, whether you
have a body, whether you have not."

These inconceivable absurdities revolt weak and rash minds, as well as
wise and resolute minds. They say: "Our masters paint God to us as the
most insensate and the most barbarous of all beings; therefore there is
no God;" but they should say: therefore our masters attribute to God
their absurdities and their furies, therefore God is the contrary of
what they proclaim, therefore God is as wise and as good as they make
him out mad and wicked. It is thus that wise men account for things. But
if a bigot hears them, he denounces them to a magistrate who is a
watchdog of the priests; and this watchdog has them burned over a slow
fire, in the belief that he is avenging and imitating the divine majesty
he outrages.


[1] Arnobius, _Adversus Gentes._, lib. v.

[2] _Of Superstition_, by Plutarch.

[3] See Bayle, _Continuation of Divers Thoughts_, par. 77, art. XIII.

[4] See, for this objection, Maupertuis' Essay on Cosmology, first part.


Wretched human beings, whether you wear green robes, turbans, black
robes or surplices, cloaks and neckbands, never seek to use authority
where there is question only of reason, or consent to be scoffed at
throughout the centuries as the most impertinent of all men, and to
suffer public hatred as the most unjust.

A hundred times has one spoken to you of the insolent absurdity with
which you condemned Galileo, and I speak to you for the hundred and
first, and I hope you will keep the anniversary of it for ever; I desire
that there be graved on the door of your Holy Office:

"Here seven cardinals, assisted by minor brethren, had the master of
thought in Italy thrown into prison at the age of seventy; made him fast
on bread and water because he instructed the human race, and because
they were ignorant."

There was pronounced a sentence in favour of Aristotle's categories, and
there was decreed learnedly and equitably the penalty of the galleys for
whoever should be sufficiently daring as to have an opinion different
from that of the Stagyrite, whose books were formerly burned by two

Further on a faculty, which had not great faculties, issued a decree
against innate ideas, and later a decree for innate ideas, without the
said faculty being informed by its beadles what an idea is.

In the neighbouring schools judicial proceedings were instituted against
the circulation of the blood.

An action was started against inoculation, and parties have been

At the Customs of thought twenty-one folio volumes were seized, in which
it was stated treacherously and wickedly that triangles always have
three angles; that a father is older than his son; that Rhea Silvia lost
her virginity before giving birth to her child, and that flour is not an
oak leaf.

In another year was judged the action: _Utrum chimera bombinans in vacuo
possit comedere secundas intentiones_, and was decided in the

In consequence, everyone thought themselves far superior to Archimedes,
Euclid, Cicero, Pliny, and strutted proudly about the University


Author is a generic name which can, like the name of all other
professions, signify good or bad, worthy of respect or ridicule, useful
and agreeable, or trash for the wastepaper-basket.

       *       *       *       *       *

We think that the author of a good work should refrain from three
things--from putting his name, save very modestly, from the epistle
dedicatory, and from the preface. Others should refrain from a
fourth--that is, from writing.

       *       *       *       *       *

Prefaces are another stumbling-block. "The 'I,'" said Pascal, "is
hateful." Speak as little of yourself as possible; for you must know
that the reader's self-esteem is as great as yours. He will never
forgive you for wanting to condemn him to have a good opinion of you. It
is for your book to speak for you, if it comes to be read by the crowd.

       *       *       *       *       *

If you want to be an author, if you want to write a book; reflect that
it must be useful and new, or at least infinitely agreeable.

       *       *       *       *       *

If an ignoramus, a pamphleteer, presumes to criticize without
discrimination, you can confound him; but make rare mention of him, for
fear of sullying your writings.

       *       *       *       *       *

If you are attacked as regards your style, never reply; it is for your
work alone to make answer.

       *       *       *       *       *

Someone says you are ill, be content that you are well, without wanting
to prove to the public that you are in perfect health. And above all
remember that the public cares precious little whether you are well or

       *       *       *       *       *

A hundred authors make compilations in order to have bread, and twenty
pamphleteers make excerpts from these compilations, or apology for them,
or criticism and satire of them, also with the idea of having bread,
because they have no other trade. All these persons go on Friday to the
police lieutenant of Paris to ask permission to sell their rubbish. They
have audience immediately after the strumpets who do not look at them
because they know that these are underhand dealings.[5]

       *       *       *       *       *

Real authors are those who have succeeded in one of the real arts, in
epic poetry, in tragedy or comedy, in history or philosophy, who have
taught men or charmed them. The others of whom we have spoken are, among
men of letters, what wasps are among birds.


[5] When Voltaire was writing, it was the police lieutenant of Paris who
had, under the chancellor, the inspection of books: since then, a part
of his department has been taken from him. He has kept only the
inspection of theatrical plays and works below those on printed sheets.
The detail of this part is immense. In Paris one is not permitted to
print that one has lost one's dog, unless the police are assured that in
the poor beast's description there is no proposition contrary to
morality and religion (1819).


Banishment for a period or for life, punishment to which one condemns
delinquents, or those one wishes to appear as such.

Not long ago one banished outside the sphere of jurisdiction a petty
thief, a petty forger, a man guilty of an act of violence. The result
was that he became a big robber, a forger on a big scale, and murderer
within the sphere of another jurisdiction. It is as if we threw into our
neighbours' fields the stones which incommode us in our own.

Those who have written on the rights of men, have been much tormented to
know for certain if a man who has been banished from his fatherland
still belongs to his fatherland. It is nearly the same thing as asking
if a gambler who has been driven away from the gaming-table is still one
of the gamblers.

If to every man it is permitted by natural right to choose his
fatherland, he who has lost the right of citizen can, with all the more
reason, choose for himself a new fatherland; but can he bear arms
against his former fellow-citizens? There are a thousand examples of it.
How many French protestants naturalized in Holland, England and Germany
have served against France, and against armies containing their own
kindred and their own brothers! The Greeks who were in the King of
Persia's armies made war on the Greeks, their former compatriots. One
has seen the Swiss in the Dutch service fire on the Swiss in the French
service. It is still worse than to fight against those who have banished
you; for, after all, it seems less dishonest to draw the sword for
vengeance than to draw it for money.


Few bankruptcies were known in France before the sixteenth century. The
great reason is that there were no bankers. Lombards, Jews lent on
security at ten per cent: trade was conducted in cash. Exchange,
remittances to foreign countries were a secret unknown to all judges.

It is not that many people were not ruined; but that was not called
_bankruptcy_; one said _discomfiture_; this word is sweeter to the ear.
One used the word _rupture_ as did the Boulonnais; but rupture does not
sound so well.

The bankruptcies came to us from Italy, _bancorotto, bancarotta,
gambarotta e la giustizia non impicar_. Every merchant had his bench
(_banco_) in the place of exchange; and when he had conducted his
business badly, declared himself _fallito_, and abandoned his property
to his creditors with the proviso that he retain a good part of it for
himself, be free and reputed a very upright man. There was nothing to be
said to him, his bench was broken, _banco rotto, banca rotta_; he could
even, in certain towns, keep all his property and baulk his creditors,
provided he seated himself bare-bottomed on a stone in the presence of
all the merchants. This was a mild derivation of the old Roman
proverb--_solvere aut in aere aut in cute_, to pay either with one's
money or one's skin. But this custom no longer exists; creditors have
preferred their money to a bankrupt's hinder parts.

In England and in some other countries, one declares oneself bankrupt in
the gazettes. The partners and creditors gather together by virtue of
this announcement which is read in the coffee-houses, and they come to
an arrangement as best they can.

As among the bankruptcies there are frequently fraudulent cases, it has
been necessary to punish them. If they are taken to court they are
everywhere regarded as theft, and the guilty are condemned to
ignominious penalties.

It is not true that in France the death penalty was decreed against
bankrupts without distinction. Simple failures involved no penalty;
fraudulent bankrupts suffered the penalty of death in the states of
Orleans, under Charles IX., and in the states of Blois in 1576, but
these edicts, renewed by Henry IV., were merely comminatory.

It is too difficult to prove that a man has dishonoured himself on
purpose, and has voluntarily ceded all his goods to his creditors in
order to cheat them. When there has been a doubt, one has been content
with putting the unfortunate man in the pillory, or with sending him to
the galleys, although ordinarily a banker makes a poor convict.

Bankrupts were very favourably treated in the last year of Louis XIV.'s
reign, and during the Regency. The sad state to which the interior of
the kingdom was reduced, the multitude of merchants who could not or
would not pay, the quantity of unsold or unsellable effects, the fear of
interrupting all commerce, obliged the government in 1715, 1716, 1718,
1721, 1722, and 1726 to suspend all proceedings against all those who
were in a state of insolvency. The discussions of these actions were
referred to the judge-consuls; this is a jurisdiction of merchants very
expert in these cases, and better constituted for going into these
commercial details than the parliaments which have always been more
occupied with the laws of the kingdom than with finance. As the state
was at that time going bankrupt, it would have been too hard to punish
the poor middle-class bankrupts.

Since then we have had eminent men, fraudulent bankrupts, but they have
not been punished.


Ask a toad what beauty is, the _to kalon_? He will answer you that it is
his toad wife with two great round eyes issuing from her little head, a
wide, flat mouth, a yellow belly, a brown back. Interrogate a Guinea
negro, for him beauty is a black oily skin, deep-set eyes, a flat nose.
Interrogate the devil; he will tell you that beauty is a pair of horns,
four claws and a tail. Consult, lastly, the philosophers, they will
answer you with gibberish: they have to have something conforming to the
arch-type of beauty in essence, to the _to kalon_.

One day I was at a tragedy near by a philosopher. "How beautiful that
is!" he said.

"What do you find beautiful there?" I asked.

"It is beautiful," he answered, "because the author has reached his

The following day he took some medicine which did him good. "The
medicine has reached its goal," I said to him. "What a beautiful
medicine!" He grasped that one cannot say a medicine is beautiful, and
that to give the name of "beauty" to something, the thing must cause you
to admire it and give you pleasure. He agreed that the tragedy had
inspired these sentiments in him, and that there was the _to kalon_,

We journeyed to England: the same piece, perfectly translated, was
played there; it made everybody in the audience yawn. "Ho, ho!" he said,
"the _to kalon_ is not the same for the English and the French." After
much reflection he came to the conclusion that beauty is often very
relative, just as what is decent in Japan is indecent in Rome, and what
is fashionable in Paris, is not fashionable in Pekin; and he saved
himself the trouble of composing a long treatise on beauty.

There are actions which the whole world finds beautiful. Two of Cæsar's
officers, mortal enemies, send each other a challenge, not as to who
shall shed the other's blood with tierce and quarte behind a thicket as
with us, but as to who shall best defend the Roman camp, which the
Barbarians are about to attack. One of them, having repulsed the enemy,
is near succumbing; the other rushes to his aid, saves his life, and
completes the victory.

A friend sacrifices his life for his friend; a son for his father....
The Algonquin, the Frenchman, the Chinaman, will all say that that is
very _beautiful_, that these actions give them pleasure, that they
admire them.

They will say as much of the great moral maxims, of Zarathustra's--"In
doubt if an action be just, abstain..."; of Confucius'--"Forget
injuries, never forget kindnesses."

The negro with the round eyes and flat nose, who will not give the name
of "beauties" to the ladies of our courts, will without hesitation give
it to these actions and these maxims. The wicked man even will recognize
the beauty of these virtues which he dare not imitate. The beauty which
strikes the senses merely, the imagination, and that which is called
"intelligence," is often uncertain therefore. The beauty which speaks to
the heart is not that. You will find a host of people who will tell you
that they have found nothing beautiful in three-quarters of the Iliad;
but nobody will deny that Codrus' devotion to his people was very
beautiful, supposing it to be true.

There are many other reasons which determine me not to write a treatise
on beauty.


Samuel Ornik, native of Basle, was, as you know, a very amiable young
man who, besides, knew his New Testament by heart in Greek and German.
When he was twenty his parents sent him on a journey. He was charged to
carry some books to the coadjutor of Paris, at the time of the Fronde.
He arrived at the door of the archbishop's residence; the Swiss told him
that Monseigneur saw nobody. "Comrade," said Ornik to him, "you are very
rude to your compatriots. The apostles let everyone approach, and Jesus
Christ desired that people should suffer all the little children to come
to him. I have nothing to ask of your master; on the contrary, I have
brought him something."

"Come inside, then," said the Swiss.

He waits an hour in a first antechamber. As he was very naïve, he began
a conversation with a servant, who was very fond of telling all he knew
of his master. "He must be mightily rich," said Ornik, "to have this
crowd of pages and flunkeys whom I see running about the house."

"I don't know what his income is," answered the other, "but I heard it
said to Joly and the Abbé Charier that he already had two millions of

"But who is that lady coming out of the room?"

"That is Madame de Pomereu, one of his mistresses."

"She is really very pretty; but I have not read that the apostles had
such company in their bedrooms in the mornings. Ah! I think the
archbishop is going to give audience."

"Say--'His Highness, Monseigneur.'"

"Willingly." Ornik salutes His Highness, presents his books, and is
received with a very gracious smile. The archbishop says four words to
him, then climbs into his coach, escorted by fifty horsemen. In
climbing, Monseigneur lets a sheath fall. Ornik is quite astonished that
Monseigneur carries so large an ink-horn in his pocket. "Don't you see
that's his dagger?" says the chatterbox. "Everyone carries a dagger when
he goes to parliament."

"That's a pleasant way of officiating," says Ornik; and he goes away
very astonished.

He traverses France, and enlightens himself from town to town; thence he
passes into Italy. When he is in the Pope's territory, he meets one of
those bishops with a thousand crowns income, walking on foot. Ornik was
very polite; he offers him a place in his cambiature. "You are doubtless
on your way to comfort some sick man, Monseigneur?"

"Sir, I am on my way to my master's."

"Your master? that is Jesus Christ, doubtless?"

"Sir, it is Cardinal Azolin; I am his almoner. He pays me very poorly;
but he has promised to place me in the service of Donna Olimpia, the
favourite sister-in-law _di nostro signore_."

"What! you are in the pay of a cardinal? But do you not know that there
were no cardinals in the time of Jesus Christ and St. John?"

"Is it possible?" cried the Italian prelate.

"Nothing is more true; you have read it in the Gospel."

"I have never read it," answered the bishop; "all I know is Our Lady's

"I tell you there were neither cardinals nor bishops, and when there
were bishops, the priests were their equals almost, according to
Jerome's assertions in several places."

"Holy Virgin," said the Italian. "I knew nothing about it: and the

"There were not any popes any more than cardinals."

The good bishop crossed himself; he thought he was with an evil spirit,
and jumped out of the cambiature.


You despise them, books, you whose whole life is plunged in the vanities
of ambition and in the search for pleasure or in idleness; but think
that the whole of the known universe, with the exception of the savage
races is governed by books alone. The whole of Africa right to Ethiopia
and Nigritia obeys the book of the Alcoran, after having staggered under
the book of the Gospel. China is ruled by the moral book of Confucius; a
greater part of India by the book of the Veidam. Persia was governed for
centuries by the books of one of the Zarathustras.

If you have a law-suit, your goods, your honour, your life even depends
on the interpretation of a book which you never read.

_Robert the Devil_, the _Four Sons of Aymon_, the _Imaginings of Mr.
Oufle_, are books also; but it is with books as with men; the very small
number play a great part, the rest are mingled in the crowd.

Who leads the human race in civilized countries? those who know how to
read and write. You do not know either Hippocrates, Boerhaave or
Sydenham; but you put your body in the hands of those who have read
them. You abandon your soul to those who are paid to read the Bible,
although there are not fifty among them who have read it in its entirety
with care.

To such an extent do books govern the world, that those who command
to-day in the city of the Scipios and the Catos have desired that the
books of their law should be only for them; it is their sceptre; they
have made it a crime of _lèse-majesté_ for their subjects to look there
without express permission. In other countries it has been forbidden to
think in writing without letters patent.

There are nations among whom thought is regarded purely as an object of
commerce. The operations of the human mind are valued there only at two
sous the sheet.

In another country, the liberty of explaining oneself by books is one of
the most inviolable prerogatives. Print all that you like under pain of
boring or of being punished if you abuse too considerably your natural

Before the admirable invention of printing, books were rarer and more
expensive than precious stones. Almost no books among the barbarian
nations until Charlemagne, and from him to the French king Charles V.,
surnamed "the wise"; and from this Charles right to François Ier, there
is an extreme dearth.

The Arabs alone had books from the eighth century of our era to the

China was filled with them when we did not know how to read or write.

Copyists were much employed in the Roman Empire from the time of the
Scipios up to the inundation of the barbarians.

The Greeks occupied themselves much in transcribing towards the time of
Amyntas, Philip and Alexander; they continued this craft especially in

This craft is somewhat ungrateful. The merchants always paid the authors
and the copyists very badly. It took two years of assiduous labour for a
copyist to transcribe the Bible well on vellum. What time and what
trouble for copying correctly in Greek and Latin the works of Origen, of
Clement of Alexandria, and of all those other authors called "fathers."

The poems of Homer were long so little known that Pisistratus was the
first who put them in order, and who had them transcribed in Athens,
about five hundred years before the era of which we are making use.

To-day there are not perhaps a dozen copies of the Veidam and the
Zend-Avesta in the whole of the East.

You would not have found a single book in the whole of Russia in 1700,
with the exception of Missals and a few Bibles in the homes of aged men
drunk on brandy.

To-day people complain of a surfeit: but it is not for readers to
complain; the remedy is easy; nothing forces them to read. It is not any
the more for authors to complain. Those who make the crowd must not cry
that they are being crushed. Despite the enormous quantity of books, how
few people read! and if one read profitably, one would see the
deplorable follies to which the common people offer themselves as prey
every day.

What multiplies books, despite the law of not multiplying beings
unnecessarily, is that with books one makes others; it is with several
volumes already printed that a new history of France or Spain is
fabricated, without adding anything new. All dictionaries are made with
dictionaries; almost all new geography books are repetitions of
geography books. The Summation of St. Thomas has produced two thousand
fat volumes of theology; and the same family of little worms that have
gnawed the mother, gnaw likewise the children.


Boulevart, fortification, rampart. Belgrade is the boulevart of the
Ottoman Empire on the Hungarian side. Who would believe that this word
originally signified only a game of bowls? The people of Paris played
bowls on the grass of the rampart; this grass was called the _verd_,
like the grass market. _On boulait sur le verd._ From there it comes
that the English, whose language is a copy of ours in almost all the
words which are not Saxon, have called the game of bowls
"bowling-green," the _verd_ (green) of the game of bowls. We have taken
back from them what we had lent them. Following their example, we gave
the name of _boulingrins_, without knowing the strength of the word, to
the grass-plots we introduced into our gardens.

I once heard two good dames who were going for a walk on the
_Bouleverd_, and not on the _Boulevart_. People laughed at them, and
wrongly. But in all matters custom carries the day; and everyone who is
right against custom is hissed or condemned.


Our questions barely turn on geography; but let us be permitted to mark
in two words our astonishment about the town of Bourges. The
"Dictionnaire de Trévoux" claims that "it is one of the most ancient
towns of Europe, that it was the seat of the empire of the Gauls, and
gave kings to the Celts."

I do not wish to combat the ancientness of any town or any family. But
was there ever an empire of the Gauls? Did the Celts have kings? This
mania for antiquity is a malady from which one will not be healed so
soon. The Gauls, Germany, Scandinavia have nothing that is antique save
the land, the trees and the animals. If you want antiquities, go toward
Asia, and even then it is very small beer. Man is ancient and monuments
new, that is what we have in view in more than one article.

If it were a real benefit to be born in a stone or wooden enclosure more
ancient than another, it would be very reasonable to make the foundation
of one's town date back to the time of the war of the giants; but since
there is not the least advantage in this vanity, one must break away
from it. That is all I had to say about Bourges.


Is it not probable that the Brahmins were the first legislators of the
earth, the first philosophers, the first theologians?

Do not the few monuments of ancient history which remain to us form a
great presumption in their favour, since the first Greek philosophers
went to them to learn mathematics, and since the most ancient
curiosities collected by the emperors of China are all Indian?

We will speak elsewhere of the "Shasta"; it is the first book of
theology of the Brahmins, written about fifteen hundred years before
their "Veidam," and anterior to all the other books.

Their annals make no mention of any war undertaken by them at any time.
The words for _arms_, to _kill_, to _maim_, are not to be found either
in the fragments of the "Shasta" which we have, or in the "Ezourveidam,"
or in the "Cormoveidam." I can at least give the assurance that I did
not see them in these last two collections: and what is still more
singular is that the "Shasta" which speaks of a conspiracy in heaven,
makes no mention of any war in the great peninsula enclosed between the
Indus and the Ganges.

The Hebrews, who were known so late, never name the Brahmins; they had
no knowledge of India until after the conquests of Alexander, and their
settling in Egypt, of which they had said so much evil. The name of
India is to be found only in the Book of Esther, and in that of Job
which was not Hebrew. One remarks a singular contrast between the sacred
books of the Hebrews, and those of the Indians. The Indian books
announce only peace and gentleness; they forbid the killing of animals:
the Hebrew books speak only of killing, of the massacre of men and
beasts; everything is slaughtered in the name of the Lord; it is quite
another order of things.

It is incontestably from the Brahmins that we hold the idea of the fall
of the celestial beings in revolt against the Sovereign of nature; and
it is from there probably that the Greeks drew the fable of the Titans.
It is there also that the Jews at last took the idea of the revolt of
Lucifer, in the first century of our era.

How could these Indians suppose a revolt in heaven without having seen
one on earth? Such a jump from human nature to divine nature is barely
conceivable. Usually one goes from known to unknown.

One does not imagine a war of giants until one has seen some men more
robust than the others tyrannize over their fellows. The first Brahmins
must either have experienced violent discords, or at least have seen
them in heaven.

It is a very astonishing phenomenon for a society of men who have never
made war to have invented a species of war made in the imaginary spaces,
or in a globe distant from ours, or in what is called the "firmament,"
the "empyrean." But it must be carefully observed that in this revolt of
celestial beings against their Sovereign no blows were struck, no
celestial blood flowed, no mountains hurled at the head, no angels cut
in two, as in Milton's sublime and grotesque poem.

According to the "Shasta," it is only a formal disobedience to the
orders of the Most High, a cabal which God punishes by relegating the
rebellious angels to a vast place of shadows called "Ondera" during the
period of an entire mononthour. A mononthour is four hundred and
twenty-six millions of our years. But God deigned to pardon the guilty
after five thousand years, and their ondera was only a purgatory.

He made "Mhurd" of them, men, and placed them in our globe on condition
that they should not eat animals, and that they should not copulate with
the males of their new species, under pain of returning to ondera.

Those are the principal articles of the Brahmins' faith, which have
lasted without interruption from immemorial times right to our day: it
seems strange to us that among them it should be as grave a sin to eat a
chicken as to commit sodomy.

This is only a small part of the ancient cosmogony of the Brahmins.
Their rites, their pagodas, prove that among them everything was
allegorical; they still represent virtue beneath the emblem of a woman
who has ten arms, and who combats ten mortal sins represented by
monsters. Our missionaries have not failed to take this image of virtue
for that of the devil, and to assure us that the devil is worshipped in
India. We have never been among these people but to enrich ourselves and
to calumniate them.

Really we have forgotten a very essential thing in this little article
on the Brahmins; it is that their sacred books are filled with
contradictions. But the people do not know of them, and the doctors have
solutions ready, figurative meanings, allegories, symbols, express
declarations of Birma, Brahma and Vitsnou, which should close the mouths
of all who reason.


From the Greek word _impression_, _engraving_.

It is what nature has graved in us.

Can one change one's character? Yes, if one changes one's body. It is
possible for a man born blunderer, unbending and violent, being stricken
with apoplexy in his old age, to become a foolish, tearful child, timid
and peaceable. His body is no longer the same. But as long as his
nerves, his blood and his marrow are in the same state, his nature will
not change any more than a wolf's and a marten's instinct.

The character is composed of our ideas and our feelings: well, it is
substantiated that we give ourselves neither feelings nor ideas;
therefore our character does not depend on us.

If it depended on us, there is nobody who would not be perfect.

We cannot give ourselves tastes, talents; why should we give ourselves

If one does not reflect, one thinks oneself master of everything; when
one reflects thereon, one sees that one is master of nothing.

Should you wish to change a man's character completely, purge him with
diluents every day until you have killed him. Charles XII., in his
suppurative fever on the road to Bender, was no longer the same man. One
prevailed upon him as upon a child.

If I have a crooked nose and two cat's eyes, I can hide them with a
mask. Can I do more with the character which nature has given me?

A man born violent, hasty, presented himself before François I., King of
France, to complain of an injustice; the prince's countenance, the
respectful bearing of the courtiers, the very place where he is, make a
powerful impression on this man; mechanically he lowers his eyes, his
rough voice softens, he presents his petition humbly, one would believe
him born as gentle as are (at that moment at least) the courtiers,
amongst whom he is even disconcerted; but François I. understands
physiognomy, he easily discovers in the lowered eyes, burning
nevertheless with sombre fire, in the strained facial muscles, in the
compressed lips, that this man is not so gentle as he is forced to
appear. This man follows him to Pavia, is taken with him, led to the
same prison in Madrid: François I.'s majesty no longer makes the same
impression on him; he grows familiar with the object of his respect. One
day when pulling off the king's boots, and pulling them off badly, the
king, embittered by his misfortune, gets angry; my man sends the king
about his business, and throws his boots out of the window.

Sixtus V. was born petulant, stubborn, haughty, impetuous, vindictive,
arrogant; this character seemed softened during the trials of his
novitiate. He begins to enjoy a certain credit in his order; he flies
into a passion with a guard, and batters him with his fist: he is
inquisitor at Venice; he performs his duties with insolence: behold him
cardinal, he is possessed _dalla rabbia papale_: this fury triumphs over
his nature; he buries his person and his character in obscurity; he apes
the humble and the dying man; he is elected Pope; this moment gives back
to the spring, which politics have bent, all its long curbed elasticity;
he is the haughtiest and most despotic of sovereigns.

     _Naturam expella furca, tamen usque recurret._

                                 (Hor. L. I., ep. x).

     Drive away nature, it returns at the gallop.

                                 (DESTOUCHES, _Glorieux_, Act 3, Sc. 5.)

Religion, morality put a brake on a nature's strength; they cannot
destroy it. The drunkard in a cloister, reduced to a half-sétier of
cider at each meal, will no longer get drunk, but he will always like

Age enfeebles character; it is a tree that produces only degenerate
fruit, but the fruit is always of the same nature; it is knotted and
covered with moss, it becomes worm-eaten, but it is always oak or pear
tree. If one could change one's character, one would give oneself one,
one would be master of nature. Can one give oneself anything? do we not
receive everything? Try to animate an indolent man with a continued
activity; to freeze with apathy the boiling soul of an impetuous fellow,
to inspire someone who has neither ear nor taste with a taste for music
and poetry, you will no more succeed than if you undertook to give sight
to a man born blind. We perfect, we soften, we conceal what nature has
put in us, but we do not put in ourselves anything at all.

One says to a farmer: "You have too many fish in this pond, they will
not prosper; there are too many cattle in your meadows, grass lacks,
they will grow thin." It happens after this exhortation that the pikes
eat half my man's carp, and the wolves the half of his sheep; the rest
grow fat. Will he congratulate himself on his economy? This countryman,
it is you; one of your passions has devoured the others, and you think
you have triumphed over yourself. Do not nearly all of us resemble that
old general of ninety who, having met some young officers who were
debauching themselves with some girls, says to them angrily: "Gentlemen,
is that the example I give you?"


The article entitled "Charlatan" in the "Encyclopedic Dictionary" is
filled with useful truths agreeably presented. The Chevalier de Jaucourt
has there presented the charlatanry of medicine.

We will take the liberty of adding here a few reflections. The abode of
the doctors is in the large towns; there are barely any doctors in the
country. It is in the great towns that the rich invalids are;
debauchery, the excesses of the table, the passions, are the cause of
their maladies. Dumoulin, not the lawyer, the doctor, who was as good a
practician as the other, said as he was dying, that he left two great
doctors behind him, diet and river water.

In 1728, in the time of Law, the most famous charlatan of the first
species, another, Villars by name, confided to some friends that his
uncle who had lived nearly a hundred years, and who died only by
accident, had left him the secret of a water which could easily prolong
life to a hundred and fifty years, provided a man was temperate. When he
saw a funeral pass, he shrugged his shoulders in pity; if the defunct,
he observed, had drunk my water, he would not be where he is. His
friends to whom he gave generously of the water, and who observed the
prescribed regime in some degree, thrived on it and praised it. He then
sold the bottle for six francs; the sale was prodigious. It was water
from the Seine with a little nitre. Those who took it and who subjected
themselves to a certain amount of regime, above all those who were born
with a good constitution, recovered perfect health in a few days. He
said to the others: "It is your fault if you are not entirely cured:
correct these two vices and you will live at least a hundred and fifty
years." Some of them reformed; this good charlatan's fortune increased
like his reputation. The Abbé de Pons, the enthusiast, put him far above
the Maréchal de Villars: "The Maréchal kills men," he said to him, "but
you make them live."

People learned at last that Villars Water was only river water; they
would have no more of it; and went to other charlatans.

It is certain that he had done good, and that the only reproach one
could make against him was that he had sold Seine water a little too
dear. He led men to temperance by which fact he was superior to the
apothecary Arnoult, who stuffed Europe with his sachets against
apoplexy, without recommending any virtue.

I knew in London a doctor named Brown, who practised in Barbados. He had
a sugar refinery and negroes; he was robbed of a considerable sum; he
assembled his negroes: "My lads," he said to them, "the great serpent
appeared to me during the night, he told me that the thief would at this
moment have a parrot's feather on the end of his nose." The guilty man
promptly put his hand to his nose. "It is you who robbed me," said the
master; "the great serpent has just told me so." And he regained his
money. One can hardly condemn such a charlatanry; but one must be
dealing with negroes.

Scipio Africanus, this great Scipio very different otherwise from Dr.
Brown, willingly made his soldiers believe that he was inspired by the
gods. This great charlatanry was long the custom. Can one blame Scipio
to have availed himself of it? he was the man who perhaps did most
honour to the Roman Republic; but why did the gods inspire him not to
render his accounts?

Numa did better; it was necessary to police some brigands and a senate
which was the most difficult section of these brigands to govern. If he
had proposed his laws to the assembled tribes, the assassins of his
predecessor would have made a thousand difficulties. He addressed
himself to the goddess Egeria, who gave him some pandects from Jupiter;
he was obeyed without contradiction, and he reigned happily. His
instructions were good, his charlatanry did good; but if some secret
enemy had discovered the imposture, if he had said: "Exterminate an
impostor who prostitutes the name of the gods in order to deceive men,"
Numa ran the risk of being sent to heaven with Romulus.

It is probable that Numa took his measures very carefully, and that he
deceived the Romans for their benefit, with a dexterity suitable to the
time, the place, the intelligence of the early Romans.

Mahomet was twenty times on the point of failing, but he succeeded at
last with the Arabs of Medina; and people believed that he was the
intimate friend of the Archangel Gabriel. If to-day someone came to
Constantinople to announce that he was the favourite of the Archangel
Raphael, far superior to Gabriel in dignity, and that it was in him
alone people should believe, he would be impaled in the public place. It
is for charlatans to choose their time well.

Was there not a little charlatanry in Socrates with his familiar demon,
and Apollo's precise declaration which proclaimed him the wisest of all
men? How can Rollin, in his history, reason from this oracle? How is it
that he does not let the young idea know that it was pure charlatanry?
Socrates chose his time badly. A hundred years earlier, maybe, he would
have governed Athens.

All leaders of sects in philosophy have been somewhat charlatans: but
the greatest of all have been those who have aspired to domination.
Cromwell was the most terrible of all our charlatans. He appeared at
precisely the only time he could succeed: under Elizabeth he would have
been hanged; under Charles II. he would have been merely ridiculous. He
came happily at a time when people were disgusted with kings; and his
son, at a time when people were weary of a protector.


The sciences can barely be without charlatanry. People wish to have
their opinions accepted; the quibbling doctor wishes to eclipse the
angelic doctor; the recondite doctor wishes to reign alone. Each builds
his system of physics, metaphysics, scholastic theology; it is a
competition in turning one's merchandise to account. You have agents who
extol it, fools who believe you, protectors who support you.

Is there a greater charlatanry than that of substituting words for
things, and of wanting others to believe what you do not believe

One establishes whirlwinds of subtle matter, ramous, globulous,
striated, channelled; the other elements of matter which are not matter
at all, and a pre-established harmony which makes the clock of the body
sound the hour, when the clock of the soul shows it with its hand. These
chimeras find partisans for a few years. When this rubbish has passed
out of fashion, new fanatics appear on the itinerant theatre; they
banish germs from the world, they say that the sea produced the
mountains, and that men were once fish.

How much charlatanry has been put into history, either by astonishing
the reader with prodigies, by titillating human malignity with satire,
or by flattering the families of tyrants with infamous eulogy?

The wretched species that writes for a living is charlatan in another
way. A poor man who has no trade, who has had the misfortune to go to
college, and who thinks he knows how to write, goes to pay his court to
a bookseller, and asks him for work. The bookseller knows that the
majority of most people who live in houses want to have little
libraries, that they need abridgments and new titles; he orders from the
writer an abridgment of the "History by Rapin-Thoyras," an abridgment of
the "History of the Church," a "Collection of Witty Sayings" drawn from
the "Menagiana," a "Dictionary of Great Men," where an unknown pedant
is placed beside Cicero, and a _sonettiero_ of Italy near Virgil.

Another bookseller orders novels, or translations of novels. "If you
have no imagination," he says to the workman, "you will take a few of
the adventures in 'Cyrus,' in 'Gusman d'Alfarache,' in the 'Secret
Memoirs of a Gentleman of Quality,' or 'Of a Lady of Quality'; and from
the total you will prepare a volume of four hundred pages at twenty sous
the sheet."

Another bookseller gives the gazettes and almanacs for ten years past to
a man of genius. "You will make me an extract of all that, and you will
bring it me back in three months under the name of 'Faithful History of
the Times,' by the Chevalier de Trois Etoiles, Lieutenant of the Navy,
employed in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs."

Of this kind of book there are about fifty thousand in Europe; and it
all passes just like the secret of whitening the skin, of darkening the
hair, and the universal panacea.



Let the punishments of criminals be useful. A hanged man is good for
nothing, and a man condemned to public works still serves the country,
and is a living lesson.

       *       *       *       *       *

Let all laws be clear, uniform and precise: to interpret laws is almost
always to corrupt them.

       *       *       *       *       *

Let nothing be infamous save vice.

       *       *       *       *       *

Let taxes be always proportional.

       *       *       *       *       *

Let the law never be contradictory to custom: for if the custom be good,
the law is worthless.


Climate influences religion as regards customs and ceremonies. A
legislator will not have had difficulty in making the Indians bathe in
the Ganges at certain seasons of the moon; it is a great pleasure for
them. He would have been stoned if he had proposed the same bath to the
peoples who dwell on the banks of the Dwina near Archangel. Forbid pig
to an Arab who would have leprosy if he ate of this flesh which is very
bad and disgusting in his country, he will obey you joyfully. Issue the
same veto to a Westphalian and he will be tempted to fight you.

Abstinence from wine is a good religious precept in Arabia where orange
water, lemon water, lime water are necessary to health. Mohammed would
not have forbidden wine in Switzerland perhaps, especially before going
to battle.

There are customs of pure fantasy. Why did the priests of Egypt imagine
circumcision? it is not for health. Cambyses who treated them as they
deserved, they and their bull Apis, Cambyses' courtiers, Cambyses'
soldiers, had not had their prepuces lopped, and were very well. Climate
does nothing to a priest's genitals. One offered one's prepuce to Isis,
probably as one presented everywhere the first fruits of the earth. It
was offering the first fruits of life.

Religions have always rolled on two pivots; observance and creed:
observance depends largely on climate; creed not at all. One could as
easily make a dogma accepted on the equator as the polar circle. It
would later be rejected equally at Batavia and in the Orkneys, while it
would be maintained _unguibus et rostro_ at Salamanca. That depends in
no way on the soil and the atmosphere, but solely on opinion, that
fickle queen of the world.

Certain libations of wine will be precept in a vine-growing country, and
it will not occur to a legislator's mind to institute in Norway sacred
mysteries which cannot be performed without wine.

It will be expressly ordered to burn incense in the parvis of a temple
where beasts are slaughtered in the Deity's honour, and for the priests'
supper. This butcher's shop called "temple" would be a place of
abominable infection if it were not continually purified: and without
the assistance of aromatics, the religion of the ancients would have
caused the plague. Even the interior of the temple was decked with
festoons of flowers in order to make the air sweeter.

No cow will be sacrificed in the burning land of the Indian peninsula;
because this animal which furnishes necessary milk is very rare in an
arid country, its flesh is dry, tough, contains very little nourishment,
and the Brahmins would live very badly. On the contrary, the cow will
become sacred, in view of its rarity and utility.

One will only enter barefoot the temple of Jupiter Ammon where the heat
is excessive: one must be well shod to perform one's devotions in

It is not so with dogma. People have believed in polytheism in all
climates; and it is as easy for a Crimean Tartar as for an inhabitant of
Mecca to recognize a single God, incommunicable, non-begetting,
non-begotten. It is through its dogma still more than through its rites
that a religion is spread from one climate to another. The dogma of the
unity of God soon passed from Medina to the Caucasus; then the climate
cedes to opinion.

The Arabs said to the Turks: "We had ourselves circumcised in Arabia
without really knowing why; it was an old fashion of the priests of
Egypt to offer to Oshireth or Osiris a little part of what they held
most precious. We had adopted this custom three thousand years before we
became Mohammedans. You will be circumcised like us; like us you will be
obliged to sleep with one of your wives every Friday, and to give each
year two and a half per cent of your income to the poor. We drink only
water and sherbet; all intoxicating liquor is forbidden us; in Arabia it
is pernicious. You will embrace this regime although you love wine
passionately, and although it may even be often necessary for you to go
on the banks of the Phasis and Araxes. Lastly, if you want to go to
Heaven, and be well placed there, you will take the road to Mecca."

The inhabitants of the north of the Caucasus submit to these laws, and
embrace throughout the country a religion which was not made for them.

In Egypt the symbolic worship of animals succeeded the dogmas of Thaut.
The gods of the Romans later shared Egypt with the dogs, the cats and
the crocodiles. To the Roman religion succeeded Christianity; it was
entirely driven out by Mohammedanism, which perhaps will cede its place
to a new religion.

In all these vicissitudes climate has counted for nothing: government
has done everything. We are considering here second causes only, without
raising profane eyes to the Providence which directs them. The Christian
religion, born in Syria, having received its principal development in
Alexandria, inhabits to-day the lands where Teutate, Irminsul, Frida,
Odin were worshipped.

There are peoples whose religion has been made by neither climate nor
government. What cause detached the north of Germany, Denmark,
three-quarters of Switzerland, Holland, England, Scotland, Ireland, from
the Roman communion? Poverty. Indulgences and deliverance from purgatory
were sold too dear to souls whose bodies had at that time very little
money. The prelates, the monks devoured a province's whole revenue.
People took a cheaper religion. At last, after twenty civil wars,
people believed that the Pope's religion was very good for great lords,
and the reformed religion for citizens. Time will show whether the Greek
religion or the Turkish religion will prevail by the Ægean Sea and the


There are sometimes in common expressions an image of what passes in the
depths of all men's hearts. Among the Romans _sensus communis_ signified
not only common sense, but humanity, sensibility. As we are not as good
as the Romans, this word signifies among us only half of what it
signified among them. It means only good sense, plain reason, reason set
in operation, a first notion of ordinary things, a state midway between
stupidity and intelligence. "This man has no common sense" is a great
insult. "A common-sense man" is an insult likewise; it means that he is
not entirely stupid, and that he lacks what is called wit and
understanding. But whence comes this expression _common sense_, unless
it be from the senses? Men, when they invented this word, avowed that
nothing entered the soul save through the senses; otherwise, would they
have used the word _sense_ to signify common reasoning?

People say sometimes--"Common sense is very rare." What does this phrase
signify? that in many men reason set in operation is stopped in its
progress by prejudices, that such and such man who judges very sanely in
one matter, will always be vastly deceived in another. This Arab, who
will be a good calculator, a learned chemist, an exact astronomer, will
believe nevertheless that Mohammed put half the moon in his sleeve.

Why will he go beyond common sense in the three sciences of which I
speak, and why will he be beneath common sense when there is question of
this half moon? Because in the first cases he has seen with his eyes,
he has perfected his intelligence; and in the second, he has seen with
other people's eyes, he has closed his own, he has perverted the common
sense which is in him.

How has this strange mental alienation been able to operate? How can the
ideas which move with so regular and so firm a step in the brain on a
great number of subjects limp so wretchedly on another a thousand times
more palpable and easy to comprehend? This man always has inside him the
same principles of intelligence; he must have some organ vitiated then,
just as it happens sometimes that the finest _gourmet_ may have a
depraved taste as regards a particular kind of food.

How is the organ of this Arab, who sees half the moon in Mohammed's
sleeve, vitiated? It is through fear. He has been told that if he did
not believe in this sleeve, his soul, immediately after his death, when
passing over the pointed bridge, would fall for ever into the abyss. He
has been told even worse things: If ever you have doubts about this
sleeve, one dervish will treat you as impious; another will prove to you
that you are an insensate fool who, having all possible motives for
believing, have not wished to subordinate your superb reason to the
evidence; a third will report you to the little divan of a little
province, and you will be legally impaled.

All this terrifies the good Arab, his wife, his sister, all his little
family into a state of panic. They have good sense about everything
else, but on this article their imagination is wounded, as was the
imagination of Pascal, who continually saw a precipice beside his
armchair. But does our Arab believe in fact in Mohammed's sleeve? No. He
makes efforts to believe; he says it is impossible, but that it is true;
he believes what he does not believe. On the subject of this sleeve he
forms in his head a chaos of ideas which he is afraid to disentangle;
and this veritably is not to have common sense.


The present is delivered, it is said, of the future. Events are linked
to each other by an invincible fatality: it is Destiny which, in Homer,
is above even Jupiter. This master of gods and men declares roundly that
he cannot stop his son Sarpedon dying in his appointed time. Sarpedon
was born at the moment when he had to be born, and could not be born at
another moment; he could not die otherwise than before Troy; he could
not be buried elsewhere than in Lycia; had at the appointed time to
produce vegetables which had to be changed into the substance of a few
Lycians; his heirs had to establish a new order in his states; this new
order had to exert an influence over the neighbouring kingdoms; from it
resulted a new arrangement of war and peace with the neighbours of the
neighbours of Lycia: thus, step by step, the destiny of the whole world
has been dependent on Sarpedon's death, which depended on Helen being
carried off; and this carrying off was necessarily linked to Hecuba's
marriage, which by tracing back to other events was linked to the origin
of things.

If only one of these facts had been arranged differently, another
universe would have resulted: but it was not possible for the present
universe not to exist; therefore it was not possible for Jupiter to save
his son's life, for all that he was Jupiter.

This system of necessity and fatality has been invented in our time by
Leibnitz, according to what people say, under the name of
_self-sufficient reason_; it is, however, very ancient: that there is no
effect without a cause and that often the smallest cause produces the
greatest effects, does not date from to-day.

Lord Bolingbroke avows that the little quarrels of Madame Marlborough
and Madame Masham gave birth to his chance of making Queen Anne's
private treaty with Louis XIV.; this treaty led to the Peace of Utrecht;
this Peace of Utrecht established Philip V. on the throne of Spain.
Philip V. took Naples and Sicily from the house of Austria; the Spanish
prince who is to-day King of Naples clearly owes his kingdom to my lady
Masham: and he would not have had it, he would not perhaps even have
been born, if the Duchess of Marlborough had been more complaisant
towards the Queen of England. His existence at Naples depended on one
foolishness more or less at the court of London.

Examine the position of all the peoples of the universe; they are
established like this on a sequence of facts which appear to be
connected with nothing and which are connected with everything.
Everything is cog, pulley, cord, spring, in this vast machine.

It is likewise in the physical sphere. A wind which blows from the
depths of Africa and the austral seas, brings a portion of the African
atmosphere, which falls in rain in the valleys of the Alps; these rains
fertilize our lands; our north wind in its turn sends our vapours among
the negroes; we do good to Guinea, and Guinea does good to us. The chain
stretches from one end of the universe to the other.

But it seems to me that a strange abuse is made of the truth of this
principle. From it some people conclude that there is not a sole minute
atom whose movement has not exerted its influence in the present
arrangement of the world; that there is not a single minute accident,
among either men or animals, which is not an essential link in the great
chain of fate.

Let us understand each other: every effect clearly has its cause, going
back from cause to cause in the abyss of eternity; but every cause has
not its effect going forward to the end of the centuries. All events are
produced by each other, I admit; if the past is delivered of the
present, the present is delivered of the future; everything has father,
but everything has not always children. Here it is precisely as with a
genealogical tree; each house goes back, as we say, to Adam; but in the
family there are many persons who have died without leaving issue.

There is a genealogical tree of the events of this world. It is
incontestable that the inhabitants of Gaul and Spain are descended from
Gomer, and the Russians from Magog, his younger brother: one finds this
genealogy in so many fat books! On this basis one cannot deny that the
Great Turk, who is also descended from Magog, was not bound to be well
beaten in 1769 by Catherine II., Empress of Russia. This adventure is
clearly connected with other great adventures. But that Magog spat to
right or left, near Mount Caucasus, and that he made two circles in a
well or three, that he slept on the left side or on the right; I do not
see that that has had much influence on present affairs.

One must think that everything is not complete in nature, as Newton has
demonstrated, and that every movement is not communicated step by step
until it makes a circuit of the world, as he has demonstrated still
further. Throw into water a body of like density, you calculate easily
that after a short time the movement of this body, and the movement it
has communicated to the water, are destroyed; the movement disappears
and is effaced; therefore the movement that Magog might produce by
spitting in a well cannot influence what is passing to-day in Moldavia
and Wallachia; therefore present events are not the children of all past
events: they have their direct lines; but a thousand little collateral
lines do not serve them at all. Once more, every being has a father, but
every being has not children.


If some literary society wishes to undertake the dictionary of
contradictions, I subscribe for twenty folio volumes.

The world can exist only by contradictions: what is needed to abolish
them? to assemble the states of the human race. But from the manner in
which men are made, it would be a fresh contradiction if they were to
agree. Assemble all the rabbits of the universe, there will not be two
different opinions among them.

I know only two kinds of immutable beings on the earth, mathematicians
and animals; they are led by two invariable rules, demonstration and
instinct: and even the mathematicians have had some disputes, but the
animals have never varied.

The contrasts, the light and shade in which public men are represented
in history, are not contradictions, they are faithful portraits of human

Every day people condemn and admire Alexander the murderer of Clitus,
but the avenger of Greece, the conqueror of the Persians, and the
founder of Alexandria;

Cæsar the debauchee, who robs the public treasury of Rome to reduce his
country to dependence; but whose clemency equals his valour, and whose
intelligence equals his courage;

Mohammed, impostor, brigand; but the sole religious legislator who had
courage, and who founded a great empire;

Cromwell the enthusiast, a rogue in his fanaticism even, judicial
assassin of his king, but as profound politician as brave warrior.

A thousand contrasts frequently crowd together, and these contrasts are
in nature; they are no more astonishing than a fine day followed by

Men are equally mad everywhere; they have made the laws little by
little, as gaps are repaired in a wall. Here eldest sons have taken all
they could from younger sons, there younger sons share equally.
Sometimes the Church has commanded the duel, sometimes she has
anathematized it. The partisans and the enemies of Aristotle have each
been excommunicated in their turn, as have those who wore long hair and
those who wore short. In this world we have perfect law only to rule a
species of madness called gaming. The rules of gaming are the only ones
which admit neither exception, relaxation, variety nor tyranny. A man
who has been a lackey, if he play at lansquenet with kings, is paid
without difficulty if he win; everywhere else the law is a sword with
which the stronger cut the weaker in pieces.

Nevertheless, this world exists as if everything were well ordered; the
irregularity is of our nature; our political world is like our globe, a
misshapen thing which always preserves itself. It would be mad to wish
that the mountains, the seas, the rivers, were traced in beautiful
regular forms; it would be still more mad to ask perfect wisdom of men;
it would be wishing to give wings to dogs or horns to eagles.


The Gauls had corn in Cæsar's time: one is curious to know where they
and the Teutons found it to sow. People answer you that the Tyrians had
brought it into Spain, the Spaniards into Gaul, the Gauls into Germany.
And where did the Tyrians get this corn? Among the Greeks probably, from
whom they received it in exchange for their alphabet.

Who had made this present to the Greeks? It was formerly Ceres without a
doubt; and when one has gone back to Ceres one can hardly go farther.
Ceres must have come down on purpose from the sky to give us wheat, rye,
barley, etc.

But as the credit of Ceres who gave the corn to the Greeks, and that of
Isheth or Isis who bestowed it on the Egyptians, is very much fallen in
these days, we remain in uncertainty as to the origin of corn.

Sanchoniathon affirms that Dagon or Dagan, one of the grandsons of
Thaut, had the control of corn in Phoenicia. Well, his Thaut is of
about the same time as our Jared. From this it results that corn is very
old, and that it is of the same antiquity as grass. Perhaps this Dagon
was the first man to make bread, but that is not demonstrated.

Strange thing! we know positively that it is to Noah that we are under
an obligation for wine, and we do not know to whom we owe bread. And,
still more strange thing, we are so ungrateful to Noah, that we have
more than two thousand songs in honour of Bacchus, and we chant barely
one in honour of Noah our benefactor.

A Jew has assured me that corn came by itself in Mesopotamia, like the
apples, wild pears, chestnuts, medlars in the West. I want to believe
it until I am sure of the contrary; for corn must certainly grow
somewhere. It has become the ordinary and indispensable food in the good
climates, and throughout the North.

Some great philosophers whose talents we esteem and whose systems we do
not follow (Buffon) have claimed on page 195 of the "Natural History of
the Dog," that mankind has made corn; that our fathers by virtue of
sowing lolium and gramina changed them into wheat. As these philosophers
are not of our opinion about shells, they will permit us not to be of
theirs about corn. We do not believe that one has ever made tulips grow
from jasmin. We find that the germ of corn is quite different from that
of lolium, and we do not believe in any transmutation. When somebody
shows it to us we will retract.

Corn assuredly is not the food of the greater part of the world. Maize,
tapioca, feed the whole of America. We have entire provinces where the
peasants eat nothing but chestnut bread, more nourishing and of better
flavour than that of rye and barley which so many people eat, and which
is much better than the ration bread which is given to the soldier. The
whole of southern Africa does not know of bread. The immense archipelago
of the Indies, Siam, Laos, Pegu, Cochin China, Tonkin, a part of China,
Japan, the coast of Malabar and Coromandel, the banks of the Ganges
furnish a rice, the cultivation of which is much easier than that of
wheat, and which causes it to be neglected. Corn is absolutely unknown
for the space of fifteen hundred leagues on the coasts of the Glacial
Sea. This food, to which we are accustomed, is among us so precious that
the fear of seeing a dearth of it alone causes riots among the most
subjugated peoples. The corn trade is everywhere one of the great
objects of government; it is a part of our being, and yet this essential
commodity is sometimes squandered ridiculously. The powder merchants use
the best flour for covering the heads of our young men and women. But
over three-quarters of the earth bread is not eaten at all. People
maintain that the Ethiopians mocked at the Egyptians who lived on
bread. But since it is our chief food, corn has become one of the great
objects of trade and politics. So much has been written on this subject,
that if a husbandman sowed as much corn as the weight of the volumes we
have about this commodity, he might hope for the amplest harvest, and
become richer than those who in their gilded and lacquered drawing-rooms
ignore his exceeding labour and wretchedness.



Cromwell is painted as a man who was an impostor all his life. I have
difficulty in believing it. I think that first of all he was an
enthusiast, and that later he made even his fanaticism serve his
greatness. A novice who is fervent at the age of twenty often becomes a
skilful rogue at forty. In the great game of human life one begins by
being a dupe, and one finishes by being a rogue. A statesman takes as
almoner a monk steeped in the pettinesses of his monastery, devout,
credulous, clumsy, quite new to the world: the monk learns, forms
himself, intrigues, and supplants his master.

Cromwell did not know at first whether he would be an ecclesiastic or a
soldier. He was both. In 1622 he served a campaign in the army of
Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange, a great man, brother of two great
men; and when he returned to England, he went into the service of Bishop
Williams, and was his grace's theologian, while his grace passed as his
wife's lover. His principles were those of the Puritans; thus he had to
hate a bishop with all his heart, and not have a liking for kings. He
was driven from Bishop Williams' house because he was a Puritan; and
there is the origin of his fortune. The English Parliament declared
itself against the throne and against the episcopacy; some of his
friends in this parliament procured the nomination of a village for him.
Only at this time did he begin to exist, and he was more than forty
before he had ever made himself talked of. In vain was he conversant
with Holy Writ, in vain did he argue about the rights of priests and
deacons, and preach a few poor sermons and libels, he was ignored. I
have seen one of his sermons which is very insipid, and which bears
sufficient resemblance to the predications of the quakers; assuredly
there is to be found there no trace of that persuasive eloquence with
which later he carried the parliaments away. The reason is that in fact
he was much more suited to public affairs than to the Church. It was
above all in his tone and in his air that his eloquence consisted; a
gesture of that hand that had won so many battles and killed so many
royalists, was more persuasive than the periods of Cicero. It must be
avowed that it was his incomparable bravery which made him known, and
which led him by degrees to the pinnacle of greatness.

He began by launching out as a volunteer who wished to make his fortune,
in the town of Hull, besieged by the king. There he did many fine and
happy actions, for which he received a gratification of about six
thousand francs from the parliament. This present made by the parliament
to an adventurer made it clear that the rebel party must prevail. The
king was not in a position to give to his general officers what the
parliament gave to volunteers. With money and fanaticism one is bound in
the long run to be master of everything. Cromwell was made colonel. Then
his great talents for war developed to the point that when the
parliament created the Count of Manchester general of its armies, it
made Cromwell lieutenant-general, without his having passed through the
other ranks. Never did man appear more worthy of commanding; never were
more activity and prudence, more boldness and more resource seen than in
Cromwell. He is wounded at the battle of York; and while the first
dressing is being put on his wound, he learns that his general,
Manchester, is retiring, and that the battle is lost. He hastens to
Manchester's side; he finds him fleeing with some officers; he takes him
by the arm, and says to him with an air of confidence and grandeur: "You
are mistaken, my lord; it is not on this side that the enemy is." He
leads him back near the battlefield, rallies during the night more than
twelve thousand men, speaks to them in the name of God, quotes Moses,
Gideon and Joshua, at daybreak recommences the battle against the
victorious royal army, and defeats it completely. Such a man had to
perish or be master. Nearly all the officers of his army were
enthusiasts who carried the New Testament at their saddle-bow: in the
army as in the parliament men spoke only of making Babylon fall, of
establishing the religion in Jerusalem, of shattering the colossus.
Among so many madmen Cromwell ceased to be mad, and thought that it was
better to govern them than to be governed by them. The habit of
preaching as though he were inspired remained to him. Picture a fakir
who has put an iron belt round his waist as a penitence, and who then
takes off his belt to beat the other fakirs' ears: there you have
Cromwell. He becomes as intriguing as he was intrepid; he associates
himself with all the colonels of the army, and thus forms among the
troops a republic which forces the commander-in-chief to resign. Another
commander-in-chief is nominated, he disgusts him. He governs the army,
and by it he governs the parliament; he puts this parliament in the
necessity of making him commander-in-chief at last. All this was a great
deal; but what is essential is that he wins all the battles he engages
in in England, Scotland and Ireland; and he wins them, not in watching
the fighting and in taking care of himself, but always by charging the
enemy, rallying his troops, rushing everywhere, often wounded, killing
many royalist officers with his own hand, like a desperate and
infuriated grenadier.

Amid this frightful war Cromwell made love; he went, his Bible under his
arm, to sleep with the wife of his major-general, Lambert. She loved the
Count of Holland, who was serving in the king's army. Cromwell took him
prisoner in a battle, and enjoyed the pleasure of having his rival's
head cut off. His maxim was to shed the blood of every important enemy,
either on the field of battle, or by the executioner's hand. He always
increased his power, by always daring to abuse it; the profundity of his
plans took away nothing from his ferocious impetuosity. He goes into the
House of Parliament and, taking his watch, which he threw on the ground
and which he shattered to atoms: "I will break you," he said, "like this
watch." He returns there some time after, drives all the members out one
after the other, making them defile before him. Each is obliged, as he
passes, to make him a deep bow: one of them passes with his hat on his
head; Cromwell takes his hat from him and throws it on the ground:
"Learn to respect me," he says.

When he had outraged all kings by having his own legitimate king's head
cut off, and when he started to reign himself, he sent his portrait to a
crowned head; it was to Christine, Queen of Sweden. Marvell, a famous
English poet, who wrote very good Latin verse, accompanied this portrait
with six verses where he made Cromwell himself speak. Cromwell corrected
the last two as follows:

     _At tibi submittit frontem reverentior umbra,
     Non sunt hi vultus regibus usque truces._

This queen was the first to recognize him as soon as he was protector of
the three kingdoms. Almost all the sovereigns of Europe sent their
ambassadors _to their brother_ Cromwell, to this bishop's servant, who
had just caused a sovereign, their own kin, to perish at the hand of the
executioner. They vied with each in soliciting his alliance. Cardinal
Mazarin, to please him, drove out of France the two sons of Charles I.,
the two grandsons of Henry IV., the two first cousins of Louis XIV.
France conquered Dunkirk for him, and sent him the keys. After his
death, Louis XIV. and all his court wore mourning, excepting
Mademoiselle, who had the courage to come to the company in a coloured
habit, and alone maintained the honour of her race.

Never was a king more absolute than he was. He said that he had
preferred governing under the name of _protector_ rather than under that
of _king_, because the English knew the point to which a King of
England's prerogative extended, and did not know to what point a
protector's might go. That was to understand men, who are governed by
opinion, and whose opinion depends on a name. He had conceived a
profound scorn for the religion which had served to his fortune. There
is a certain anecdote preserved in the house of St. John, which proves
sufficiently the little account which Cromwell made of the instrument
which had produced such great effects in his hands. He was drinking one
day with Ireton, Fleetwood and St. John, great-grandfather of the
celebrated Lord Bolingbroke; they wished to uncork a bottle, and the
corkscrew fell under the table; they all looked for it and did not find
it. Meanwhile a deputation from the Presbyterian churches was waiting in
the antechamber, and an usher came to announce them. "Tell them," said
Cromwell, "that I have retired, _and that I am seeking the Lord_." It
was the expression which the fanatics used when they were saying their
prayers. When he had thus dismissed the band of ministers, he said these
very words to his confidants: "Those puppies think that we are seeking
the Lord, and we are only seeking the corkscrew."

There is barely an example in Europe of any man who, come from so low,
raised himself so high. But what was absolutely essential to him with
all his talents? Fortune. He had this fortune; but was he happy? He
lived poorly and anxiously until he was forty-three; from that time he
bathed himself in blood, passed his life in turmoil, and died before his
time at the age of fifty-seven. Let us compare this life with that of
Newton, who lived eighty-four years, always tranquil, always honoured,
always the light of all thinking beings, seeing increase each day his
renown, his reputation, his fortune, without ever having either care or
remorse; and let us judge which of the two had the better part.


Oliver Cromwell was regarded with admiration by the Puritans and
independents of England; he is still their hero; but Richard Cromwell,
his son, is my man.

The first is a fanatic who would be hissed to-day in the House of
Commons, if he uttered there one single one of the unintelligible
absurdities which he gave out with so much confidence before other
fanatics who listened to him open-mouthed and wide-eyed, in the name of
the Lord. If he said that one must seek the Lord, and fight the Lord's
battles; if he introduced the Jewish jargon into the parliament of
England, to the eternal shame of the human intelligence, he would be
nearer to being led to Bedlam than to being chosen to command armies.

He was brave without a doubt; so are wolves; there are even monkeys as
fierce as tigers. From being a fanatic he became an adroit politician,
that is to say that from a wolf he became fox, climbed by imposture from
the first steps where the infuriated enthusiasm of the times had placed
him, right to the pinnacle of greatness; and the impostor walked on the
heads of the prostrated fanatics. He reigned, but he lived in the
horrors of anxiety. He knew neither serene days nor tranquil nights. The
consolations of friendship and society never approached him; he died
before his time, more worthy, without a doubt, of execution than the
king whom he had conducted from a window of his own palace to the

Richard Cromwell, on the contrary, born with a gentle, wise spirit,
refused to keep his father's crown at the price of the blood of two or
three rebels whom he could sacrifice to his ambition. He preferred to be
reduced to private life rather than be an omnipotent assassin. He left
the protectorate without regret to live as a citizen. Free and tranquil
in the country, he enjoyed health there, and there did he possess his
soul in peace for eighty-six years, loved by his neighbours, to whom he
was arbiter and father.

Readers, give your verdict. If you had to choose between the destiny of
the father and that of the son, which would you take?



There are cases where one must not judge a nation by its customs and
popular superstitions. I suppose that Cæsar, having conquered Egypt,
wanting to make trade flourish in the Roman Empire, has sent an embassy
to China, by the port of Arsinoë, the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean. The
Emperor Yventi, first of his name, was then reigning; the annals of
China represent him as a very wise and learned prince. After receiving
Cæsar's ambassadors with all the Chinese politeness, he informs himself
secretly through his interpreters of the customs, science and religion
of this Roman people, as celebrated in the West as the Chinese people is
in the East. He learns first of all that this people's pontiffs have
arranged their year in so absurd a fashion that the sun has already the
heavenly signs of spring when the Romans are celebrating the first
festivals of winter.

He learns that this nation supports at great cost a college of priests
who know exactly the time when one should set sail and when one should
give battle, by inspecting an ox's liver, or by the way in which the
chickens eat barley. This sacred science was brought formerly to the
Romans by a little god named Tages, who emerged from the earth in
Tuscany. These peoples worship one supreme God whom they always call the
very great and very good God. Nevertheless, they have built a temple to
a courtesan named Flora; and almost all the good women of Rome have in
their homes little household gods four or five inches high. One of
these little divinities is the goddess of the breasts; the other the
goddess of the buttocks. There is a household god who is called the god
Pet. The emperor Yventi starts laughing: the tribunals of Nankin think
first of all with him that the Roman ambassadors are madmen or impostors
who have taken the title of envoys of the Roman Republic; but as the
emperor is as just as he is polite, he has private talks with the
ambassadors. He learns that the Roman pontiffs have been very ignorant,
but that Cæsar is now reforming the calendar; they admit to him that the
college of augurs was established in early barbarous times; that this
ridiculous institution, become dear to a people long uncivilized, has
been allowed to subsist; that all honest people laugh at the augurs;
that Cæsar has never consulted them; that according to a very great man
named Cato, never has an augur been able to speak to his comrade without
laughter; and that finally Cicero, the greatest orator and the best
philosopher in Rome, has just written against the augurs a little work
entitled "Of Divination," in which he commits to eternal ridicule all
the soothsayers, all the predictions, and all the sorcery of which the
world is infatuated. The emperor of China is curious to read Cicero's
book, the interpreters translate it; he admires the book and the Roman


Ordinarily there is no comparison between the crimes of the great who
are always ambitious, and the crimes of the people who always want, and
can want only liberty and equality. These two sentiments, Liberty and
Equality, do not lead direct to calumny, rapine, assassination,
poisoning, the devastation of one's neighbours' lands, etc.; but
ambitious might and the mania for power plunge into all these crimes
whatever be the time, whatever be the place.

Popular government is in itself, therefore, less iniquitous, less
abominable than despotic power.

The great vice of democracy is certainly not tyranny and cruelty: there
have been mountain-dwelling republicans, savage, ferocious; but it is
not the republican spirit that made them so, it is nature.

The real vice of a civilized republic is in the Turkish fable of the
dragon with many heads and the dragon with many tails. The many heads
hurt each other, and the many tails obey a single head which wants to
devour everything.

Democracy seems suitable only to a very little country, and further it
must be happily situated. Small though it be, it will make many
mistakes, because it will be composed of men. Discord will reign there
as in a monastery; but there will be no St. Bartholomew, no Irish
massacres, no Sicilian vespers, no inquisition, no condemnation to the
galleys for having taken some water from the sea without paying for it,
unless one supposes this republic composed of devils in a corner of

One questions every day whether a republican government is preferable to
a king's government? The dispute ends always by agreeing that to govern
men is very difficult. The Jews had God Himself for master; see what has
happened to them on that account: nearly always have they been beaten
and slaves, and to-day do you not find that they cut a pretty figure?


Of all the books of the Occident which have come down to us, the most
ancient is Homer; it is there that one finds the customs of profane
antiquity, of the gross heroes, of the gross gods, made in the image of
men; but it is there that among the reveries and inconsequences, one
finds too the seeds of philosophy, and above all the idea of the destiny
which is master of the gods, as the gods are masters of the world.

When the magnanimous Hector wishes absolutely to fight the magnanimous
Achilles, and with this object starts fleeing with all his might, and
three times makes the circuit of the city before fighting, in order to
have more vigour; when Homer compares fleet-of-foot Achilles, who
pursues him, to a man who sleeps; when Madame Dacier goes into ecstasies
of admiration over the art and mighty sense of this passage, then
Jupiter wants to save great Hector who has made so many sacrifices to
him, and he consults the fates; he weighs the destinies of Hector and
Achilles in the balance (Iliad, liv. xxii.): he finds that the Trojan
must absolutely be killed by the Greek; he cannot oppose it; and from
this moment, Apollo, Hector's guardian genius, is forced to abandon him.
It is not that Homer is not often prodigal, and particularly in this
place, of quite contrary ideas, following the privilege of antiquity;
but he is the first in whom one finds the notion of destiny. This
notion, therefore, was very much in vogue in his time.

The Pharisees, among the little Jewish people, did not adopt destiny
until several centuries later; for these Pharisees themselves, who were
the first literates among the Jews, were very new fangled. In
Alexandria they mixed a part of the dogmas of the Stoics with the old
Jewish ideas. St. Jerome claims even that their sect is not much
anterior to the Christian era.

The philosophers never had need either of Homer or the Pharisees to
persuade themselves that everything happens through immutable laws, that
everything is arranged, that everything is a necessary effect. This is
how they argued.

Either the world exists by its own nature, by its physical laws, or a
supreme being has formed it according to his supreme laws: in both
cases, these laws are immutable; in both cases everything is necessary;
heavy bodies tend towards the centre of the earth, without being able to
tend to pause in the air. Pear-trees can never bear pineapples. A
spaniel's instinct cannot be an ostrich's instinct; everything is
arranged, in gear, limited.

Man can have only a certain number of teeth, hair and ideas; there comes
a time when he necessarily loses his teeth, hair and ideas.

It would be a contradiction that what was yesterday was not, that what
is to-day is not; it is also a contradiction that what must be cannot

If you could disturb the destiny of a fly, there would be no reason that
could stop your making the destiny of all the other flies, of all the
other animals, of all men, of all nature; you would find yourself in the
end more powerful than God.

Imbeciles say: "My doctor has extricated my aunt from a mortal malady;
he has made my aunt live ten years longer than she ought to have lived."
Others who affect knowledge, say: "The prudent man makes his own

But often the prudent, far from making their destinies, succumb to them;
it is destiny which makes them prudent.

Profound students of politics affirm that, if Cromwell, Ludlow, Ireton
and a dozen other parliamentarians had been assassinated a week before
Charles I.'s head was cut off, this king might have lived longer and
died in his bed; they are right; they can add further that if the whole
of England had been swallowed up in the sea, this monarch would not
have perished on a scaffold near Whitehall; but things were arranged so
that Charles had to have his neck severed.

Cardinal d'Ossat was doubtless more prudent than a madman in Bedlam; but
is it not clear that the organs of d'Ossat the sage were made otherwise
than those of the scatter-brain? just as a fox's organs are different
from a stork's and a lark's.

Your doctor saved your aunt; but assuredly he did not in that contradict
nature's order; he followed it. It is clear that your aunt could not
stop herself being born in such and such town, that she could not stop
herself having a certain malady at a particular time, that the doctor
could not be elsewhere than in the town where he was, that your aunt had
to call him, that he had to prescribe for her the drugs which cured her,
or which one thinks cured her, when nature was the only doctor.

A peasant thinks that it has hailed on his field by chance; but the
philosopher knows that there is no chance, and that it was impossible,
in the constitution of this world, for it not to hail on that day in
that place.

There are persons who, frightened by this truth, admit half of it as
debtors who offer half to their creditors, and ask respite for the rest.
"There are," they say, "some events which are necessary, and others
which are not." It would be very comic that one part of the world was
arranged, and that the other were not; that a part of what happens had
to happen, and that another part of what happens did not have to happen.
If one looks closely at it, one sees that the doctrine contrary to that
of destiny is absurd; but there are many people destined to reason
badly, others not to reason at all, others to persecute those who

Some say to you: "Do not believe in fatalism; for then everything
appearing inevitable, you will work at nothing, you will wallow in
indifference, you will love neither riches, nor honours, nor glory; you
will not want to acquire anything, you will believe yourself without
merit as without power; no talent will be cultivated, everything will
perish through apathy."

Be not afraid, gentlemen, we shall ever have passions and prejudices,
since it is our destiny to be subjected to prejudices and passions: we
shall know that it no more depends on us to have much merit and great
talent, than to have a good head of hair and beautiful hands: we shall
be convinced that we must not be vain about anything, and yet we shall
always have vanity.

I necessarily have the passion for writing this, and you have the
passion for condemning me; both of us are equally fools, equally the
toys of destiny. Your nature is to do harm, mine is to love truth, and
to make it public in spite of you.

The owl, which feeds on mice in its ruins, said to the nightingale:
"Finish singing under your beautiful shady trees, come into my hole,
that I may eat you"; and the nightingale answered: "I was born to sing
here, and to laugh at you."

You ask me what will become of liberty? I do not understand you. I do
not know what this liberty is of which you speak; so long have you been
disputing about its nature, that assuredly you are not acquainted with
it. If you wish, or rather, if you are able to examine peaceably with me
what it is, pass to the letter L.


The word "devout" signifies "devoted"; and in the strict sense of the
term this qualification should belong only to monks and nuns who make
vows. But as in the Gospel there is no more mention of vows than of
devout persons, this title does not in fact belong to anyone. Everyone
should be equally righteous. A man who styles himself devout resembles a
commoner who styles himself a marquis; he arrogates to himself a quality
he does not possess. He thinks himself more worthy than his neighbour.
One can forgive such foolishness in women; their frailty and their
frivolity render them excusable; the poor creatures pass from a lover to
a director in good faith: but one cannot pardon the rogues who direct
them, who abuse their ignorance, who establish the throne of their pride
on the credulity of the sex. They resolve themselves into a little
mystic seraglio composed of seven or eight aged beauties, subdued by the
weight of their lack of occupation, and almost always do these persons
pay tribute to their new masters. No young woman without a lover, no
aged devout woman without a director. Oh! the Orientals are wiser than
we are! Never does a pasha say: "We supped yesterday with the Aga of the
Janissaries who is my sister's lover, and the vicar of the mosque who is
my wife's director."


The institution of religion exists only to keep mankind in order, and to
make men merit the goodness of God by their virtue. Everything in a
religion which does not tend towards this goal must be considered
foreign or dangerous.

Instruction, exhortation, menaces of pains to come, promises of immortal
beatitude, prayers, counsels, spiritual help are the only means
ecclesiastics may use to try to make men virtuous here below, and happy
for eternity.

All other means are repugnant to the liberty of the reason, to the
nature of the soul, to the inalterable rights of the conscience, to the
essence of religion and of the ecclesiastical ministry, to all the
rights of the sovereign.

Virtue supposes liberty, as the carrying of a burden supposes active
force. Under coercion no virtue, and without virtue no religion. Make a
slave of me, I shall be no better for it.

The sovereign even has no right to use coercion to lead men to religion,
which supposes essentially choice and liberty. My thought is subordinate
to authority no more than is sickness or health.

In order to disentangle all the contradictions with which books on canon
law have been filled, and to fix our ideas on the ecclesiastical
ministry, let us investigate amid a thousand equivocations what the
Church is.

The Church is the assembly of all the faithful summoned on certain days
to pray in common, and at all times to do good actions.

The priests are persons established under the authority of the sovereign
to direct these prayers and all religious worship.

A numerous Church could not exist without ecclesiastics; but these
ecclesiastics are not the Church.

It is no less evident that if the ecclesiastics, who are part of civil
society, had acquired rights which might trouble or destroy society,
these rights ought to be suppressed.

It is still more evident that, if God has attached to the Church
prerogatives or rights, neither these rights nor these prerogatives
should belong exclusively either to the chief of the Church or to the
ecclesiastics, because they are not the Church, just as the magistrates
are not the sovereign in either a democratic state or in a monarchy.

Finally, it is quite evident that it is our souls which are under the
clergy's care, solely for spiritual things.

Our soul acts internally; internal acts are thought, volition,
inclinations, acquiescence in certain truths. All these acts are above
all coercion, and are within the ecclesiastical minister's sphere only
in so far as he must instruct and never command.

This soul acts also externally. External actions are under the civil
law. Here coercion may have a place; temporal or corporal pains maintain
the law by punishing those who infringe it.

Obedience to ecclesiastical order must consequently always be free and
voluntary: no other should be possible. Submission, on the other hand,
to civil order may be coerced and compulsory.

For the same reason, ecclesiastical punishments, always spiritual, do
not reach here below any but those who are convinced inwardly of their
fault. Civil pains, on the contrary, accompanied by a physical ill, have
their physical effects, whether or no the guilty recognize their

From this it results obviously that the authority of the clergy is and
can be spiritual only; that it should not have any temporal power; that
no coercive force is proper to its ministry, which would be destroyed by

It follows from this further that the sovereign, careful not to suffer
any partition of his authority, must permit no enterprise which puts
the members of society in external and civil dependence on an
ecclesiastical body.

Such are the incontestable principles of real canon law, of which the
rules and decisions should be judged at all times by the eternal and
immutable truths which are founded on natural law and the necessary
order of society.


In antiquity everything is symbol or emblem. In Chaldea it starts by
putting a ram, two kids, a bull in the sky, to mark the productions of
the earth in the spring. Fire is the symbol of the Deity in Persia; the
celestial dog warns the Egyptians of the Nile floods; the serpent which
hides its tail in its head, becomes the image of eternity. The whole of
nature is represented and disguised.

In India again you find many of those old statues, uncouth and
frightful, of which we have already spoken, representing virtue provided
with ten great arms with which to combat vice, and which our poor
missionaries have taken for the picture of the devil.

Put all these symbols of antiquity before the eyes of a man of the
soundest sense, who has never heard speak of them, he will not
understand anything: it is a language to be learned.

The old theological poets were in the necessity of giving God eyes,
hands, feet; of announcing Him in the form of a man. St. Clement of
Alexandria records some verses of Xenophanes the Colophonian (Stromates
liv. v.), from which one sees that it is not merely from to-day that men
have made God in their own image. Orpheus of Thrace, the first
theologian of the Greeks, long before Homer, expresses himself
similarly, according to the same Clement of Alexandria.

Everything being symbol and emblem, the philosophers, and especially
those who had travelled in India, employed this method; their precepts
were emblems and enigmas.

_Do not stir the fire with a sword_, that is, do not irritate angry

_Do not hide the light under the bushel._--Do not hide the truth from

_Abstain from beans._--Flee frequently public assemblies in which one
gave one's suffrage with black or white beans.

_Do not have swallows in your house._--That it may not be filled with

_In the tempest worship the echo._--In times of public trouble retire to
the country.

_Do not write on the snow._--Do not teach feeble and sluggish minds.

_Do not eat either your heart or your brain._--Do not give yourself up
to either grief or to too difficult enterprises, etc.

Such are the maxims of Pythagoras, the sense of which is not hard to

The most beautiful of all the emblems is that of God, whom Timæus of
Locres represents by this idea: _A circle the centre of which is
everywhere and the circumference nowhere._ Plato adopted this emblem;
Pascal had inserted it among the material which he intended using, and
which has been called his "Thoughts."

In metaphysics, in moral philosophy, the ancients have said everything.
We coincide with them, or we repeat them. All modern books of this kind
are only repetitions.

It is above all among the Indians, the Egyptians, the Syrians, that
these emblems, which to us appear most strange, were consecrated. It is
there that the two organs of generation, the two symbols of life, were
carried in procession with the greatest respect. We laugh at it, we dare
treat these peoples as barbarous idiots, because they innocently thanked
God for having given them existence. What would they have said if they
had seen us enter our temples with the instrument of destruction at our

At Thebes the sins of the people were represented by a goat. On the
coast of Phoenicia a naked woman, with a fish's tail, was the emblem
of nature.

One must not be astonished, therefore, if this use of symbols reached
the Hebrews when they had formed a body of people near the Syrian

One of the most beautiful emblems of the Judaic books is this passage of
Ecclesiastes: "... when the grinders cease because they are few, and
those that look out of the windows be darkened, when the almond-tree
shall flourish and the grasshopper shall be a burden: or ever the silver
cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken
at the fountain...."

That signifies that the old men lose their teeth, that their sight is
dim, that their hair whitens like the flower of the almond-tree, that
their feet swell like the grasshopper, that they are no more fit for
engendering children, and that then they must prepare for the great

The "Song of Songs" is (as one knows) a continual emblem of the marriage
of Jesus Christ with the Church. It is an emblem from beginning to end.
Especially does the ingenious Dom Calmet demonstrate that the palm-tree
to which the well-beloved goes is the cross to which our Lord Jesus
Christ was condemned. But it must be avowed that a pure and healthy
moral philosophy is still preferable to these allegories.

One sees in this people's books a crowd of typical emblems which revolt
us to-day and which exercise our incredulity and our mockery, but which
appeared ordinary and simple to the Asiatic peoples.

In Ezekiel are images which appear to us as licentious and revolting: in
those times they were merely natural. There are thirty examples in the
"Song of Songs," model of the most chaste union. Remark carefully that
these expressions, these images are always quite serious, and that in no
book of this distant antiquity will you find the least mockery on the
great subject of generation. When lust is condemned it is in definite
terms; but never to excite to passion, nor to make the smallest
pleasantry. This far-distant antiquity did not have its Martial, its
Catullus, or its Petronius.

It results from all the Jewish prophets and from all the Jewish books,
as from all the books which instruct us in the usages of the Chaldeans,
the Persians, the Phoenicians, the Syrians, the Indians, the
Egyptians; it results, I say, that their customs were not ours, that
this ancient world in no way resembled our world. Go from Gibraltar to
Mequinez merely, the manners are no longer the same; no longer does one
find the same ideas; two leagues of sea have changed everything.


I have cast my eyes on an edition of Shakespeare issued by Master Samuel
Johnson. I saw there that foreigners who are astonished that in the
plays of the great Shakespeare a Roman senator plays the buffoon, and
that a king appears on the stage drunk, are treated as little-minded. I
do not desire to suspect Master Johnson of being a sorry jester, and of
being too fond of wine; but I find it somewhat extraordinary that he
counts buffoonery and drunkenness among the beauties of the tragic
stage: and no less singular is the reason he gives, that the poet
disdains accidental distinctions of circumstance and country, like a
painter who, content with having painted the figure, neglects the
drapery. The comparison would be more just if he were speaking of a
painter who in a noble subject should introduce ridiculous grotesques,
should paint Alexander the Great mounted on an ass in the battle of
Arbela, and Darius' wife drinking at an inn with rapscallions.

But there is one thing more extraordinary than all, that is that
Shakespeare is a genius. The Italians, the French, the men of letters of
all other countries, who have not spent some time in England, take him
only for a clown, for a joker far inferior to Harlequin, for the most
contemptible buffoon who has ever amused the populace. Nevertheless, it
is in this same man that one finds pieces which exalt the imagination
and which stir the heart to its depths. It is Truth, it is Nature
herself who speaks her own language with no admixture of artifice. It is
of the sublime, and the author has in no wise sought it.

What can one conclude from this contrast of grandeur and sordidness, of
sublime reason and uncouth folly, in short from all the contrasts that
we see in Shakespeare? That he would have been a perfect poet had he
lived in the time of Addison.

The famous Addison, who flourished under Queen Anne, is perhaps of all
English writers the one who best knew how to guide genius with taste. He
had a correct style, an imagination discreet in expression, elegance,
strength and simplicity in his verse and in his prose. A friend of
propriety and orderliness, he wanted tragedy to be written with dignity,
and it is thus that his "Cato" is composed.

From the very first act the verses are worthy of Virgil, and the
sentiments worthy of Cato. There is no theatre in Europe where the scene
of Juba and Syphax was not applauded as a masterpiece of skill, of
well-developed characters, of fine contrasts, and of pure and noble
diction. Literary Europe, which knows the translations of this piece,
applauded even to the philosophic traits with which the rôle of Cato is

The piece had the great success which its beauty of detail merited, and
which was assured to it by the troubles in England to which this tragedy
was in more than one place a striking allusion. But the appositeness of
these allusions having passed, the verse being only beautiful, the
maxims being only noble and just, and the piece being cold, people no
longer felt anything more than the coldness. Nothing is more beautiful
than Virgil's second canto; recite it on the stage, it will bore: on the
stage one must have passion, live dialogue, action. People soon returned
to Shakespeare's uncouth but captivating aberrations.


One knows well enough what antiquity has said of this shameful passion,
and what the moderns have repeated. Hesiod is the first classic author
who speaks of it.

"The potter is envious of the potter, the artisan of the artisan, the
poor man even of the poor man, the musician of the musician (or if one
would give another sense to the word _Aoidos_) the poet of the poet."

Long before Hesiod, Job had said: "Envy slayeth the silly one" (Job.
chap. v. verse 2).

I think that Mandeville, author of the "Fable of the Bees," was the
first to try to prove that envy is a very good thing, a very useful
passion. His first reason is that envy is as natural to man as hunger
and thirst; that it can be found in children, as well as in horses and
dogs. Do you want your children to hate each other, kiss one more than
the other; the secret is infallible.

He maintains that the first thing that two young women meeting each
other do is to cast about for what is ridiculous in each other, and the
second to flatter each other.

He believes that without envy the arts would be indifferently
cultivated, and that Raphael would not have been a great painter if he
had not been jealous of Michael Angelo.

Mandeville has taken emulation for envy, maybe; maybe, also, emulation
is only envy kept within the bounds of decency.

Michael Angelo might say to Raphael: "Your envy has only led you to work
still better than me; you have not decried me, you have not intrigued
against me with the Pope, you have not tried to have me excommunicated
for having put cripples and one-eyed men in paradise, and succulent
cardinals with beautiful women naked as your hand in hell, in my picture
of the last judgment. Your envy is very praiseworthy; you are a fine
envious fellow; let us be good friends."

But if the envious man is a wretch without talent, jealous of merit as
beggars are of the rich; if, pressed by the indigence as by the
turpitude of his character he writes you some "News from Parnassus,"
some "Letters of Madame la Comtesse," some "Années Littéraires," this
animal displays an envy that is good for nothing, and for which
Mandeville could never make an apology.

One asks why the ancients thought that the eye of the envious man
bewitched those who looked at it. It is the envious, rather, who are

Descartes says: "That envy impels the yellow bile which comes from the
lower part of the liver, and the black bile which comes from the spleen,
which is diffused from the heart through the arteries, etc." But as no
kind of bile is formed in the spleen, Descartes, by speaking thus, does
not seem to merit too much that his natural philosophy should be envied.

A certain Voët or Voëtius, a theological scamp, who accused Descartes of
atheism, was very ill with the black bile; but he knew still less than
Descartes how his detestable bile was diffused in his blood.

Madame Pernelle is right: "The envious will die, but envy never."
(Tartufe, Act v, Scene iii.)

But it is good proverb which says that "it is better to be envious than
to have pity." Let us be envious, therefore, as hard as we can.



It is clear that men, enjoying the faculties connected with their
nature, are equal; they are equal when they perform animal functions,
and when they exercise their understanding. The King of China, the Great
Mogul, the Padisha of Turkey, cannot say to the least of men: "I forbid
you to digest, to go to the privy and to think." All the animals of each
species are equal among themselves. Animals by nature have over us the
advantage of independence. If a bull which is wooing a heifer is driven
away with the blows of the horns by a stronger bull, it goes in search
of another mistress in another field, and lives free. A cock, beaten by
a cock, consoles itself in another poultry-house. It is not so with us.
A little vizier exiles a bostangi to Lemnos: the vizier Azem exiles the
little vizier to Tenedos: the padisha exiles the little vizier Azem to
Rhodes: the Janissaries put the padisha in prison, and elect another who
will exile good Mussulmans as he chooses; people will still be very
obliged to him if he limits his sacred authority to this little

If this world were what it seems it should be, if man could find
everywhere in it an easy subsistence, and a climate suitable to his
nature, it is clear that it would be impossible for one man to enslave
another. If this globe were covered with wholesome fruits; if the air,
which should contribute to our life, gave us no diseases and a premature
death; if man had no need of lodging and bed other than those of the
buck and the deer; then the Gengis-kans and the Tamerlans would have no
servants other than their children, who would be folk honourable enough
to help them in their old age.

In the natural state enjoyed by all untamed quadrupeds, birds and
reptiles, man would be as happy as they; domination would then be a
chimera, an absurdity of which no one would think; for why seek servants
when you have no need of their service?

If it came into the head of some individual of tyrannous mind and brawny
arm to enslave a neighbour less strong than he, the thing would be
impossible; the oppressed would be on the Danube before the oppressor
had taken his measures on the Volga.

All men would then be necessarily equal, if they were without needs; the
poverty connected with our species subordinates one man to another; it
is not the inequality which is the real misfortune, it is the
dependence. It matters very little that So-and-so calls himself "His
Highness," and So-and-so "His Holiness"; but to serve the one or the
other is hard.

A big family has cultivated fruitful soil; two little families near by
have thankless and rebellious fields; the two poor families have to
serve the opulent family, or slaughter it: there is no difficulty in
that. One of the two indigent families offers its arms to the rich
family in order to have bread; the other goes to attack it and is
beaten. The serving family is the origin of the servants and the
workmen; the beaten family is the origin of the slaves.

In our unhappy world it is impossible for men living in society not to
be divided into two classes, the one the rich that commands, the other
the poor that serves; and these two are subdivided into a thousand, and
these thousand still have different gradations.

When the prizes are drawn you come to us: "I am a man like you," you
say. "I have two hands and two feet, as much pride as you, nay more, a
mind as disordered, at least, as inconsequent, as contradictory as
yours. I am a citizen of San Marino, or of Ragusa, or Vaugirard: give
me my share of the land. In our known hemisphere there are about fifty
thousand million arpents to cultivate, some passable, some sterile. We
are only about a thousand million featherless bipeds in this continent;
that makes fifty arpents apiece: be just; give me my fifty arpents."

"Go and take them in the land of the Cafres," we answer, "or the
Hottentots, or the Samoyedes; come to an amicable arrangement with them;
here all the shares are taken. If among us you want to eat, be clothed,
lodged, warmed, work for us as your father did; serve us or amuse us,
and you will be paid; otherwise you will be obliged to ask charity,
which would be too degrading to your sublime nature, and would stop your
being really the equal of kings, and even of country parsons, according
to the pretensions of your noble pride."


All the poor are not unhappy. The majority were born in that state, and
continual work stops their feeling their position too keenly; but when
they feel it, then one sees wars, like that of the popular party against
the senate party in Rome, like those of the peasants in Germany, England
and France. All these wars finish sooner or later with the subjection of
the people, because the powerful have money, and money is master of
everything in a state: I say in a state; for it is not the same between
nations. The nation which makes the best use of the sword will always
subjugate the nation which has more gold and less courage.

All men are born with a sufficiently violent liking for domination,
wealth and pleasure, and with much taste for idleness; consequently, all
men want their money and the wives or daughters of others, to be their
master, to subject them to all their caprices, and to do nothing, or at
least to do only very agreeable things. You see clearly that with these
fine inclinations it is as impossible for men to be equal as it is
impossible for two predicants or two professors of theology not to be
jealous of each other.

The human race, such as it is, cannot subsist unless there is an
infinity of useful men who possess nothing at all; for it is certain
that a man who is well off will not leave his own land to come to till
yours; and if you have need of a pair of shoes, it is not the Secretary
to the Privy Council who will make them for you. Equality, therefore, is
at once the most natural thing and the most fantastic.

As men go to excess in everything when they can, this inequality has
been exaggerated. It has been maintained in many countries that it was
not permissible for a citizen to leave the country where chance has
caused him to be born; the sense of this law is visibly: "This land is
so bad and so badly governed, that we forbid any individual to leave it,
for fear that everyone will leave it." Do better: make all your subjects
want to live in your country, and foreigners to come to it.

All men have the right in the bottom of their hearts to think themselves
entirely equal to other men: it does not follow from that that the
cardinal's cook should order his master to prepare him his dinner; but
the cook can say: "I am a man like my master; like him I was born
crying; like me he will die with the same pangs and the same ceremonies.
Both of us perform the same animal functions. If the Turks take
possession of Rome, and if then I am cardinal and my master cook, I
shall take him into my service." This discourse is reasonable and just;
but while waiting for the Great Turk to take possession of Rome, the
cook must do his duty, or else all human society is perverted.

As regards a man who is neither a cardinal's cook, nor endowed with any
other employment in the state; as regards a private person who is
connected with nothing, but who is vexed at being received everywhere
with an air of being patronized or scorned, who sees quite clearly that
many _monsignors_ have no more knowledge, wit or virtue than he, and who
at times is bored at waiting in their antechambers, what should he
decide to do? Why, to take himself off.


Maybe the most beautiful institution of antiquity is that solemn
ceremony which repressed crimes by warning that they must be punished,
and which calmed the despair of the guilty by making them atone for
their transgressions by penitences. Remorse must necessarily have
preceded the expiations; for the maladies are older than the medicine,
and all needs have existed before relief.

It was, therefore, before all the creeds, a natural religion, which
troubled man's heart when in his ignorance or in his hastiness he had
committed an inhuman action. A friend killed his friend in a quarrel, a
brother killed his brother, a jealous and frantic lover even killed her
without whom he could not live. The head of a nation condemned a
virtuous man, a useful citizen. These are men in despair, if they have
sensibility. Their conscience harries them; nothing is more true; and it
is the height of unhappiness. Only two choices remain, either
reparation, or a settling in crime. All sensitive souls choose the
first, monsters choose the second.

As soon as religions were established, there were expiations; the
ceremonies accompanying them were ridiculous: for what connection
between the water of the Ganges and a murder? how could a man repair a
homicide by bathing himself? We have already remarked this excess of
aberration and absurdity, of imagining that he who washes his body
washes his soul, and wipes away the stains of bad actions.

The water of the Nile had later the same virtue as the water of the
Ganges: to these purifications other ceremonies were added: I avow that
they were still more impertinent. The Egyptians took two goats, and drew
lots for which of the two should be thrown below, charged with the sins
of the guilty. The name of "Hazazel," the expiator, was given to this
goat. What connection, I ask you, between a goat and a man's crime?

It is true that since, God permitted this ceremony to be sanctified
among the Jews our fathers, who took so many Egyptian rites; but
doubtless it was the repentance, and not the goat, which purified the
Jewish souls.

Jason, having killed Absyrthe his step-brother, comes, it is said, with
Medea, more guilty than he, to have himself absolved by Circe, queen and
priestess of Aea, who ever after passed for a great magician. Circe
absolves them with a sucking-pig and salt cakes. That may make a fairly
good dish, but can barely either pay for Absyrthe's blood or render
Jason and Medea more honourable people, unless they avow a sincere
repentance while eating their sucking-pig.

Orestes' expiation (he had avenged his father by murdering his mother)
was to go to steal a statue from the Tartars of Crimea. The statue must
have been very badly made, and there was nothing to gain on such an
effect. Since then we have done better, we have invented the mysteries;
the guilty might there receive their absolution by undergoing painful
ordeals, and by swearing that they would lead a new life. It is from
this oath that the new members were called among all nations by a name
which corresponds to initiates, _qui ineunt vitam novam_, who began a
new career, who entered into the path of virtue.

The Christian catechumens were called _initiates_ only when they were

It is undoubted that in these mysteries one was washed of one's faults
only by the oath to be virtuous; that is so true that the hierophant in
all the Greek mysteries, in sending away the assembly, pronounced these
two Egyptian words--"_Koth_, _ompheth_, watch, be pure"; which is a
proof at once that the mysteries came originally from Egypt, and that
they were invented only to make men better.

The sages in all times did what they could, therefore, to inspire
virtue, and not to reduce human frailty to despair; but also there are
crimes so horrible that no mystery accorded expiation for them. Nero,
for all that he was emperor, could not get himself initiated into the
mysteries of Ceres. Constantine, on the Report of Zosimus, could not
obtain pardon for his crimes: he was stained with the blood of his wife,
his son and all his kindred. It was in the interest of the human race
that such great transgressions should remain without expiation, in order
that absolution should not invite their committal, and that universal
horror might sometimes stop the villains.

The Roman Catholics have expiations which are called "penitences."

By the laws of the barbarians who destroyed the Roman Empire, crimes
were expiated with money. That was called _compounding_, _componat cum
decem, viginti, triginta solidis_. It cost two hundred sous of that time
to kill a priest, and four hundred for killing a bishop; so that a
bishop was worth precisely two priests.

Having thus compounded with men, one compounded with God, when
confession was generally established. Finally, Pope John XXII., who made
money out of everything, prepared a tariff of sins.

The absolution of an incest, four turonenses for a layman; _ab incestu
pro laico in foro conscientiæ turonenses quatuor_. For the man and the
woman who have committed incest, eighteen turonenses four ducats and
nine carlins. That is not just; if one person pays only four turonenses,
the two owed only eight turonenses.

Sodomy and bestiality are put at the same rate, with the inhibitory
clause to title XLIII: that amounts to ninety turonenses twelve ducats
and six carlins: _cum inhibitione turonenses 90, ducatos 12, carlinos
6_, _etc._

It is very difficult to believe that Leo X. was so imprudent as to have
this impost printed in 1514, as is asserted; but it must be considered
that no spark appeared at that time of the conflagration which reformers
kindled later, that the court of Rome slumbered on the people's
credulity, and neglected to cover its exactions with the lightest veil.
The public sale of indulgences, which followed soon after, makes it
clear that this court took no precaution to hide the turpitudes to which
so many nations were accustomed. As soon as complaints against the
Church's abuses burst forth, the court did what it could to suppress the
book; but it could not succeed.

If I dare give my opinion of this impost, I think that the various
editions are not reliable; the prices are not at all proportionate:
these prices do not agree with those which are alleged by d'Aubigné,
grandfather of Madame de Maintenon, in the "Confession de Sanci"; he
rates virginity at six _gros_, and incest with his mother and sister at
five _gros_; this account is ridiculous. I think that there was in fact
a tariff established in the datary's office, for those who came to Rome
to be absolved, or to bargain for dispensations; but that the enemies of
Rome added much to it in order to render it more odious.

What is quite certain is that these imposts were never authorized by any
council; that it was an enormous abuse invented by avarice, and
respected by those whose interest it was not to abolish it. The buyers
and the sellers were equally satisfied: thus, barely anybody protested,
until the troubles of the reformation. It must be admitted that an exact
note of all these imposts would be of great service to the history of
the human mind.


We shall try to extract from this word _extreme_ a notion which may be

One disputes every day if, in war, luck or leadership produces

If, in disease, nature acts more than medicine for curing or killing.

If, in jurisprudence, it is not very advantageous to come to terms when
one is in the right, and to plead when one is in the wrong.

If literature contributes to the glory of a nation or to its decadence.

If one should or should not make the people superstitious.

If there is anything true in metaphysics, history and moral philosophy.

If taste is arbitrary, and if there is in fact good taste and bad taste,
etc., etc.

To decide all these questions right away, take an example of what is the
most extreme in each; compare the two opposed extremes, and you will at
once discover which is true.

You wish to know if leadership can infallibly determine the success of
the war; look at the most extreme case, the most opposed situations, in
which leadership alone will infallibly triumph. The enemy's army is
forced to pass through a deep mountain gorge; your general knows it: he
makes a forced march, he takes possession of the heights, he holds the
enemy shut in a pass; they must either die or surrender. In this extreme
case, luck cannot have any part in the victory. It is therefore
demonstrated that skill can determine the success of a campaign; from
that alone is it proved that war is an art.

Now imagine an advantageous but less decisive position; success is not
so certain, but it is always very probable. You arrive thus, step by
step, to a perfect equality between the two armies. What will decide
then? luck, that is to say an unforeseen event, a general officer killed
when he is on his way to execute an important order, a corps which is
shaken by a false rumour, a panic and a thousand other cases which
cannot be remedied by prudence; but it still remains certain that there
is an art, a generalship.

As much must be said of medicine, of this art of operating on the head
and the hand, to restore life to a man who is about to lose it.

The first man who at the right moment bled and purged a sufferer from an
apoplectic fit; the first man who thought of plunging a knife into the
bladder in order to extract a stone, and of closing the wound again; the
first man who knew how to stop gangrene in a part of the body, were
without a doubt almost divine persons, and did not resemble Molière's

Descend from this obvious example to experiments that are less striking
and more equivocal; you see fevers, ills of all kinds which are cured,
without it being well proved if it be nature or the doctor who has cured
them; you see diseases of which the result cannot be guessed; twenty
doctors are deceived; the one that has the most intelligence, the surest
eye, guesses the character of the malady. There is therefore an art; and
the superior man knows the finenesses of it. Thus did La Peyronie guess
that a man of the court had swallowed a pointed bone which had caused an
ulcer, and put him in danger of death; thus did Boerhaave guess the
cause of the malady as unknown as cruel of a count of Vassenaar. There
is therefore really an art of medicine; but in all arts there are men
like Virgil and Mævius.

In jurisprudence, take a clear case, in which the law speaks clearly; a
bill of exchange properly prepared and accepted; the acceptor must be
condemned to pay it in every country. There is therefore a useful
jurisprudence, although in a thousand cases judgments are arbitrary, to
the misfortune of the human race, because the laws are badly made.

Do you desire to know if literature does good to a nation; compare the
two extremes, Cicero and an uncouth ignoramus. See if it is Pliny or
Attila who caused the fall of Rome.

One asks if one should encourage superstition in the people; see above
all what is most extreme in this disastrous matter, St. Bartholomew, the
massacres in Ireland, the crusades; the question is soon answered.

Is there any truth in metaphysics? Seize first of all the points that
are most astonishing and the most true; something exists for all
eternity. An eternal Being exists by Himself; this Being cannot be
either wicked or inconsequent. One must surrender to these truths;
almost all the rest is given over to dispute, and the justest mind
unravels the truth while the others are seeking in the shadows.

It is with all things as with colours; the weakest eyes distinguish
black from white; the better, more practised eyes, discern shades that
resemble each other.


What is this "Ezourveidam" which is in the King of France's library? It
is an ancient commentary which an ancient Brahmin composed once upon a
time, before the epoch of Alexander, on the ancient "Veidam," which was
itself much less ancient than the book of the "Shasta."

Let us respect, I tell you, all these ancient Indians. They invented the
game of chess, and the Greeks went among them to learn geometry.

This "Ezourveidam" was lastly translated by a Brahmin, correspondent of
the unfortunate French India Company. It was brought to me on Mount
Krapack, where I have long been observing the snows; and I sent it to
the great Library of Paris, where it is better placed than in my home.

Those who wish to consult it will see that after many revolutions
produced by the Eternal, it pleased the Eternal to form a man who was
called _Adimo_, and a woman whose name corresponds to that of life.

Is this Indian anecdote taken from the Jewish books? have the Jews
copied it from the Indians? or can one say that both wrote it
originally, and that fine minds meet?

The Jews were not permitted to think that their writers had drawn
anything from the Brahmins, for they had never heard tell of them. We
are not permitted to think about Adam otherwise than the Jews.
Consequently I hold my tongue, and I do not think at all.


_We have long pondered whether or no we should print this article, which
we found in an old book. Our respect for St. Peter's see restrained us.
But some pious men having convinced us that Pope Alexander VI. had
nothing in common with St. Peter, we at last decided to bring this
little piece into the light, without scruple._

One day Prince Pico della Mirandola met Pope Alexander VI. at the house
of the courtesan Emilia, while Lucretia, the holy father's daughter, was
in child-bed, and one did not know in Rome if the child was the Pope's,
or his son's the Duke of Valentinois, or Lucretia's husband's, Alphonse
of Aragon, who passed for impotent. The conversation was at first very
sprightly. Cardinal Bembo records a part of it.

"Little Pic," said the Pope, "who do you think is my grandson's father?"

"Your son-in-law, I think," answered Pic.

"Eh! how can you believe such folly?"

"I believe it through faith."

"But do you not know quite well that a man who is impotent does not make

"Faith consists," returned Pic, "in believing things because they are
impossible; and, further, the honour of your house demands that
Lucretia's son shall not pass as the fruit of an incest. You make me
believe more incomprehensible mysteries. Have I not to be convinced that
a serpent spoke, that since then all men have been damned, that Balaam's
she-ass also spoke very eloquently, and that the walls of Jericho fell
at the sound of trumpets?" Pic forthwith ran through a litany of all
the admirable things he believed.

Alexander fell on his sofa by dint of laughing.

"I believe all that like you," he said, "for I know well that only by
faith can I be saved, and that I shall not be saved by my works."

"Ah! Holy Father," said Pic, "you have need of neither works nor faith;
that is good for poor profane people like us; but you who are vice-god
can believe and do all you want to. You have the keys of heaven; and
without a doubt St. Peter will not close the door in your face. But for
myself, I avow I should need potent protection if, being only a poor
prince, I had slept with my daughter, and if I had used the stiletto and
the cantarella as often as your Holiness."

Alexander could take a jest. "Let us talk seriously," he said to Prince
della Mirandola. "Tell me what merit one can have in telling God that
one is persuaded of things of which in fact one cannot be persuaded?
What pleasure can that give God? Between ourselves, saying that one
believes what is impossible to believe is lying."

Pico della Mirandola made a great sign of the cross. "Eh! paternal God,"
he cried, "may your Holiness pardon me, you are not a Christian."

"No, by my faith," said the Pope.

"I thought as much," said Pico della Mirandola.


We have blind men, one-eyed men, squint-eyed men, men with long sight,
short sight, clear sight, dim sight, weak sight. All that is a faithful
enough image of our understanding; but we are barely acquainted with
false sight. There are hardly men who always take a cock for a horse, or
a chamber-pot for a house. Why do we often come across minds otherwise
just enough, which are absolutely false on important things? Why does
this same Siamese who will never let himself be cheated when there is
question of counting him three rupees, firmly believe in the
metamorphoses of Sammonocodom? By what strange singularity do sensible
men resemble Don Quixote who thought he saw giants where other men saw
only windmills? Still, Don Quixote was more excusable than the Siamese
who believes that Sammonocodom came several times on earth, and than the
Turk who is persuaded that Mahomet put half the moon in his sleeve; for
Don Quixote, struck with the idea that he must fight giants, can figure
to himself that a giant must have a body as big as a mill; but from what
supposition can a sensible man set off to persuade himself that the half
of the moon has gone into a sleeve, and that a Sammonocodom has come
down from heaven to play at shuttlecock, cut down a forest, and perform
feats of legerdemain?

The greatest geniuses can have false judgment about a principle they
have accepted without examination. Newton had very false judgment when
he commentated the Apocalypse.

All that certain tyrants of the souls desire is that the men they teach
shall have false judgment. A fakir rears a child who gives much promise;
he spends five or six years in driving into his head that the god Fo
appeared to men as a white elephant, and he persuades the child that he
will be whipped after his death for five hundred thousand years if he
does not believe these metamorphoses. He adds that at the end of the
world the enemy of the god Fo will come to fight against this divinity.

The child studies and becomes a prodigy; he argues on his master's
lessons; he finds that Fo has only been able to change himself into a
white elephant, because that is the most beautiful of animals. "The
kings of Siam and Pegu," he says, "have made war for a white elephant;
certainly if Fo had not been hidden in that elephant, these kings would
not have been so senseless as to fight simply for the possession of an

"The enemy of Fo will come to defy him at the end of the world;
certainly this enemy will be a rhinoceros, for the rhinoceros fights the
elephant." It is thus that in mature age the fakir's learned pupil
reasons, and he becomes one of the lights of India; the more subtle his
mind, the more false is it, and he forms later minds as false as his.

One shows all these fanatics a little geometry, and they learn it easily
enough; but strange to relate, their minds are not straightened for
that; they perceive the truths of geometry; but they do not learn to
weigh probabilities; they have got into a habit; they will reason
crookedly all their lives, and I am sorry for them.

There are unfortunately many ways of having a false mind:

1. By not examining if the principle is true, even when one deduces
accurate consequences therefrom; and this way is common.

2. By drawing false consequences from a principle recognized as true.
For example, a servant is asked if his master is in his room, by persons
he suspects of wanting his life: if he were foolish enough to tell them
the truth on the pretext that one must not lie, it is clear he would be
drawing an absurd consequence from a very true principle.

A judge who would condemn a man who has killed his assassin, because
homicide is forbidden, would be as iniquitous as he was poor reasoner.

Similar cases are subdivided in a thousand different gradations. The
good mind, the just mind, is that which distinguishes them; whence comes
that one has seen so many iniquitous judgments, not because the judges'
hearts were bad, but because they were not sufficiently enlightened.


A young journeyman pastrycook who had been to college, and who still
knew a few of Cicero's phrases, boasted one day of loving his
fatherland. "What do you mean by your fatherland?" a neighbour asked
him. "Is it your oven? is it the village where you were born and which
you have never seen since? is it the street where dwelled your father
and mother who have been ruined and have reduced you to baking little
pies for a living? is it the town-hall where you will never be police
superintendent's clerk? is it the church of Our Lady where you have not
been able to become a choir-boy, while an absurd man is archbishop and
duke with an income of twenty thousand golden louis?"

The journeyman pastrycook did not know what to answer. A thinker who was
listening to this conversation, concluded that in a fatherland of some
extent there were often many thousand men who had no fatherland.

You, pleasure loving Parisian, who have never made any great journey
save that to Dieppe to eat fresh fish; who know nothing but your
varnished town house, your pretty country house, and your box at that
Opera where the rest of Europe persists in feeling bored; who speak your
own language agreeably enough because you know no other, you love all
that, and you love further the girls you keep, the champagne which comes
to you from Rheims, the dividends which the Hôtel-de-Ville pays you
every six months, and you say you love your fatherland!

In all conscience, does a financier cordially love his fatherland?

The officer and the soldier who will pillage their winter quarters, if
one lets them, have they a very warm love for the peasants they ruin?

Where was the fatherland of the scarred Duc de Guise, was it in Nancy,
Paris, Madrid, Rome?

What fatherland have you, Cardinals de La Balue, Duprat, Lorraine,

Where was the fatherland of Attila and of a hundred heroes of this type?

I would like someone to tell me which was Abraham's fatherland.

The first man to write that the fatherland is wherever one feels
comfortable was, I believe, Euripides in his "Phaeton." But the first
man who left his birthplace to seek his comfort elsewhere had said it
before him.

Where then is the fatherland? Is it not a good field, whose owner,
lodged in a well-kept house, can say: "This field that I till, this
house that I have built, are mine; I live there protected by laws which
no tyrant can infringe. When those who, like me, possess fields and
houses, meet in their common interest, I have my voice in the assembly;
I am a part of everything, a part of the community, a part of the
dominion; there is my fatherland."?

Well now, is it better for your fatherland to be a monarchy or a
republic? For four thousand years has this question been debated. Ask
the rich for an answer, they all prefer aristocracy; question the
people, they want democracy: only kings prefer royalty. How then is it
that nearly the whole world is governed by monarchs? Ask the rats who
proposed to hang a bell round the cat's neck. But in truth, the real
reason is, as has been said, that men are very rarely worthy of
governing themselves.

It is sad that often in order to be a good patriot one is the enemy of
the rest of mankind. To be a good patriot is to wish that one's city may
be enriched by trade, and be powerful by arms. It is clear that one
country cannot gain without another loses, and that it cannot conquer
without making misery. Such then is the human state that to wish for
one's country's greatness is to wish harm to one's neighbours. He who
should wish that his fatherland might never be greater, smaller, richer,
poorer, would be the citizen of the world.


If a clock is not made to tell the hour, I will then admit that final
causes are chimeras; and I shall consider it quite right for people to
call me "_cause-finalier_," that is--an imbecile.

All the pieces of the machine of this world seem, however, made for each
other. A few philosophers affect to mock at the final causes rejected by
Epicurus and Lucretius. It is, it seems to me, at Epicurus and Lucretius
rather that they should mock. They tell you that the eye is not made for
seeing, but that man has availed himself of it for this purpose when he
perceived that eyes could be so used. According to them, the mouth is
not made for speaking, for eating, the stomach for digesting, the heart
for receiving the blood from the veins and for dispatching it through
the arteries, the feet for walking, the ears for hearing. These persons
avow nevertheless that tailors make them coats to clothe them, and
masons houses to lodge them, and they dare deny to nature, to the great
Being, to the universal Intelligence, what they accord to the least of
their workmen.

Of course one must not make an abuse of final causes; we have remarked
that in vain Mr. Prieur, in "The Spectacle of Nature," maintains that
the tides are given to the ocean so that vessels may enter port more
easily, and to stop the water of the sea from putrefying. In vain would
he say that legs are made to be booted, and the nose to wear spectacles.

In order that one may be certain of the true end for which a cause
functions, it is essential that that effect shall exist at all times
and in all places. There were not ships at all times and on all the
seas; hence one cannot say that the ocean was made for the ships. One
feels how ridiculous it would be to maintain that nature had worked from
all time in order to adjust herself to the inventions of our arbitrary
arts, which appeared so late; but it is quite evident that if noses were
not made for spectacles, they were for smelling, and that there have
been noses ever since there have been men. Similarly, hands not having
been given on behalf of glove-makers, they are visibly destined for all
the purposes which the metacarpal bones and the phalanges and the
circular muscle of the wrist may procure for us.

Cicero, who doubted everything, did not, however, doubt final causes.

It seems especially difficult for the organs of generation not to be
destined to perpetuate the species. This mechanism is very admirable,
but the sensation which nature has joined to this mechanism is still
more admirable. Epicurus had to avow that pleasure is divine; and that
this pleasure is a final cause, by which are ceaselessly produced
sentient beings who have not been able to give themselves sensation.

This Epicurus was a great man for his time; he saw what Descartes
denied, what Gassendi affirmed, what Newton demonstrated, that there is
no movement without space. He conceived the necessity of atoms to serve
as constituent parts of invariable species. Those are exceedingly
philosophical ideas. Nothing was especially more worthy of respect than
the moral system of the true Epicureans; it consisted in the removal to
a distance of public matters incompatible with wisdom, and in
friendship, without which life is a burden. But as regards the rest of
Epicurus' physics, they do not appear any more admissible than
Descartes' channelled matter. It is, it seems to me, to stop one's eyes
and understanding to maintain that there is no design in nature; and if
there is design, there is an intelligent cause, there exists a God.

People present to us as objections the irregularities of the globe, the
volcanoes, the plains of shifting sands, a few small mountains destroyed
and others formed by earthquakes, etc. But from the fact that the naves
of the wheels of your coach have caught fire, does it ensue that your
coach was not made expressly to carry you from one place to another?

The chains of mountains which crown the two hemispheres, and more than
six hundred rivers which flow right to the sea from the feet of these
rocks; all the streams which come down from these same reservoirs, and
which swell the rivers, after fertilizing the country; the thousands of
fountains which start from the same source, and which water animal and
vegetable kind; all these things seem no more the effect of a fortuitous
cause and of a declension of atoms, than the retina which receives the
rays of light, the crystalline lens which refracts them, the incus, the
malleus, the stapes, the tympanic membrane of the ear, which receives
the sounds, the paths of the blood in our veins, the systole and
diastole of the heart, this pendulum of the machine which makes life.


Bambabef the fakir one day met one of the disciples of Confutzee, whom
we call "Confucius," and this disciple was named "Ouang," and Bambabef
maintained that the people had need of being deceived, and Ouang claimed
that one should never deceive anybody; and here is the summary of their


We must imitate the Supreme Being who does not show us things as they
are; he makes us see the sun in a diameter of two or three feet,
although this star is a million times bigger than the earth; he makes us
see the moon and the stars set on the same blue background, whereas they
are at different depths. He requires that a square tower shall appear
round to us from a distance; he requires that fire shall seem hot to us,
although it is neither hot nor cold; in fine, he surrounds us with
errors suited to our nature.


What you name error is not one at all. The sun, placed as it is at
millions of millions of lis[6] beyond our globe, is not the sun we see.
We perceive in reality, and we can perceive, only the sun which is
depicted in our retina at a determined angle. Our eyes have not been
given us for appreciating sizes and distances, we need other aids and
other operations to appreciate them.

       *       *       *       *       *

Bambabef seemed very astonished at this proposition. Ouang, who was very
patient, explained to him the theory of optics; and Bambabef, who had a
quick understanding, surrendered to the demonstrations of Confutzee's
disciple, then he resumed the argument.


If God does not deceive us through the medium of our senses, as I
believed, avow at least that doctors always deceive children for their
good; they tell them that they are giving them sugar, and in fact they
are giving them rhubarb. I, a fakir, may then deceive the people who are
as ignorant as the children.


I have two sons; I have never deceived them; when they have been ill I
have told them that there was a very bitter medicine, and that they must
have the courage to take it; "it would harm you if it were sweet." I
have never allowed their masters and teachers to make them afraid of
spirits, ghosts, goblins, sorcerers; by this means I have made brave,
wise young citizens of them.


The people are not born so happily as your family.


All men are alike, or nearly so; they are born with the same
dispositions. One must not corrupt men's natures.


We teach them errors, I admit, but it is for their good. We make them
believe that if they do not buy the nails we have blessed, if they do
not expiate their sins by giving us money, they will become, in another
life, post-horses, dogs or lizards. That intimidates them, and they
become honest people.


Do you not see that you are perverting these poor people? There are
among them many more than you think who reason, who laugh at your
miracles, at your superstitions, who see quite well that they will not
be changed into either lizards or post-horses. What is the consequence?
They have enough sense to see that you are telling them impertinences,
and they have not enough to raise themselves toward a religion that is
pure and free from superstition, such as ours. Their passions make them
believe that there is no religion at all, because the only one that is
taught them is ridiculous; you become guilty of all the vices in which
they are plunged.


Not at all, for we do not teach them anything but good morality.


You would have yourselves stoned by the people if you taught them impure
morality. Men are so made that they want to do evil, but that they do
not want it preached to them. All that is necessary is that you should
not mix a wise moral system with absurd fables, because you weaken
through your impostures, which you can do without, the morality that you
are forced to teach.


What! you believe that one can teach the people truth without
strengthening it with fables?


I firmly believe it. Our literati are of the same stuff as our tailors,
our weavers and our husbandmen. They worship a God creator, rewarder,
avenger. They do not sully their worship, either by absurd systems, or
by extravagant ceremonies; and there are far less crimes among the
literati than among the people. Why not deign to instruct our workmen as
we instruct our literati?


You would be very foolish; it is as if you wanted them to have the same
courtesy, to be lawyers; that is neither possible nor proper. There must
be white bread for the masters, and brown bread for the servants.


I admit that all men should not have the same learning; but there are
some things necessary to all. It is necessary that all men should be
just; and the surest way of inspiring all men with justice is to inspire
in them religion without superstition.


It is a fine project, but it is impracticable. Do you think that men
will be satisfied to believe in a God who punishes and rewards? You have
told me that it often happens that the most shrewd among the people
revolt against my fables; they will revolt in the same way against
truth. They will say: "Who will assure me that God punishes and
rewards? where is the proof of it? what is your mission? what miracle
have you performed that I may believe you?" They will laugh at you much
more than at me.


That is where you are mistaken. You imagine that people will shake off
the yoke of an honest, probable idea that is useful to everyone, of an
idea in accordance with human reason, because people reject things that
are dishonest, absurd, useless, dangerous, that make good sense shudder.

The people are very disposed to believe their magistrates: when their
magistrates propose to them only a reasonable belief, they embrace it
willingly. There is no need of prodigies for believing in a just God,
who reads in man's heart; this idea is too natural, too necessary, to be
combated. It is not necessary to say precisely how God will punish and
reward; it suffices that people believe in His justice. I assure you I
have seen entire towns which have had barely any other dogma, and that
it is in those towns that I have seen most virtue.


Take care; in those towns you will find philosophers who will deny you
both your pains and your recompenses.


You will admit to me that these philosophers will deny your inventions
still more strongly; so you gain nothing from that. Though there are
philosophers who do not agree with my principles, there are honest
people none the less; none the less do they cultivate the virtue of
them, which must be embraced by love, and not by fear. But, further, I
maintain that no philosopher would ever be assured that Providence did
not reserve pains for the wicked and rewards for the good. For if they
ask me who told me that God punishes? I shall ask them who has told them
that God does not punish. In fine, I maintain that these philosophers,
far from contradicting me, will help me. Would you like to be a


Willingly; but do not tell the fakirs.


Let us think above all that, if a philosopher wishes to be useful to
human society, he must announce a God.


[6] A li is 124 paces.


Ever since men have reasoned, the philosophers have obscured this
matter: but the theologians have rendered it unintelligible by absurd
subtleties about grace. Locke is perhaps the first man to find a thread
in this labyrinth; for he is the first who, without having the arrogance
of trusting in setting out from a general principle, examined human
nature by analysis. For three thousand years people have disputed
whether or no the will is free. In the "Essay on the Human
Understanding," chapter on "Power," Locke shows first of all that the
question is absurd, and that liberty can no more belong to the will than
can colour and movement.

What is the meaning of this phrase "to be free"? it means "to be able,"
or assuredly it has no sense. For the will "to be able" is as ridiculous
at bottom as to say that the will is yellow or blue, round or square. To
will is to wish, and to be free is to be able. Let us note step by step
the chain of what passes in us, without obfuscating our minds by any
terms of the schools or any antecedent principle.

It is proposed to you that you mount a horse, you must absolutely make a
choice, for it is quite clear that you either will go or that you will
not go. There is no middle way. It is therefore of absolute necessity
that you wish yes or no. Up to there it is demonstrated that the will is
not free. You wish to mount the horse; why? The reason, an ignoramus
will say, is because I wish it. This answer is idiotic, nothing happens
or can happen without a reason, a cause; there is one therefore for your
wish. What is it? the agreeable idea of going on horseback which
presents itself in your brain, the dominant idea, the determinant idea.
But, you will say, can I not resist an idea which dominates me? No, for
what would be the cause of your resistance? None. By your will you can
obey only an idea which will dominate you more.

Now you receive all your ideas; therefore you receive your wish, you
wish therefore necessarily. The word "liberty" does not therefore belong
in any way to your will.

You ask me how thought and wish are formed in us. I answer you that I
have not the remotest idea. I do not know how ideas are made any more
than how the world was made. All that is given to us is to grope for
what passes in our incomprehensible machine.

The will, therefore, is not a faculty that one can call free. A free
will is an expression absolutely void of sense, and what the scholastics
have called will of indifference, that is to say willing without cause,
is a chimera unworthy of being combated.

Where will be liberty then? in the power to do what one wills. I wish to
leave my study, the door is open, I am free to leave it.

But, say you, if the door is closed, and I wish to stay at home, I stay
there freely. Let us be explicit. You exercise then the power that you
have of staying; you have this power, but you have not that of going

The liberty about which so many volumes have been written is, therefore,
reduced to its accurate terms, only the power of acting.

In what sense then must one utter the phrase--"Man is free"? in the same
sense that one utters the words, health, strength, happiness. Man is not
always strong, always healthy, always happy.

A great passion, a great obstacle, deprive him of his liberty, his power
of action.

The word "liberty," "free-will," is therefore an abstract word, a
general word, like beauty, goodness, justice. These terms do not state
that all men are always beautiful, good and just; similarly, they are
not always free.

Let us go further: this liberty being only the power of acting, what is
this power? It is the effect of the constitution and present state of
our organs. Leibnitz wishes to resolve a geometrical problem, he has an
apoplectic fit, he certainly has not liberty to resolve his problem. Is
a vigorous young man, madly in love, who holds his willing mistress in
his arms, free to tame his passion? undoubtedly not. He has the power of
enjoying, and has not the power of refraining. Locke was therefore very
right to call liberty "power." When is it that this young man can
refrain despite the violence of his passion? when a stronger idea
determines in a contrary sense the activity of his body and his soul.

But what! the other animals will have the same liberty, then, the same
power? Why not? They have senses, memory, feeling, perceptions, as we
have. They act with spontaneity as we act. They must have also, as we
have, the power of acting by virtue of their perceptions, by virtue of
the play of their organs.

Someone cries: "If it be so, everything is only machine, everything in
the universe is subjected to eternal laws." Well! would you have
everything at the pleasure of a million blind caprices? Either
everything is the sequence of the necessity of the nature of things, or
everything is the effect of the eternal order of an absolute master; in
both cases we are only wheels in the machine of the world.

It is a vain witticism, a commonplace to say that without the pretended
liberty of the will, all pains and rewards are useless. Reason, and you
will come to a quite contrary conclusion.

If a brigand is executed, his accomplice who sees him expire has the
liberty of not being frightened at the punishment; if his will is
determined by itself, he will go from the foot of the scaffold to
assassinate on the broad highway; if his organs, stricken with horror,
make him experience an unconquerable terror, he will stop robbing. His
companion's punishment becomes useful to him and an insurance for
society only so long as his will is not free.

Liberty then is only and can be only the power to do what one will. That
is what philosophy teaches us. But if one considers liberty in the
theological sense, it is a matter so sublime that profane eyes dare not
raise themselves to it.[7]


[7] See "Liberty."


The French language did not begin to have any form until towards the
tenth century; it was born from the ruins of Latin and Celtic, mixed
with a few Germanic words. This language was first of all the _romanum
rusticum_, rustic Roman, and the Germanic language was the court
language up to the time of Charles the Bald; Germanic remained the sole
language of Germany after the great epoch of the partition of 843.
Rustic Roman, the Romance language, prevailed in Western France; the
people of the country of Vaud, of the Valais, of the Engadine valley,
and of a few other cantons, still retain to-day manifest vestiges of
this idiom.

At the end of the tenth century French was formed; people wrote in
French at the beginning of the eleventh; but this French still retained
more of Rustic Roman than the French of to-day. The romance of
Philomena, written in the tenth century in rustic Roman, is not in a
tongue very different from that of the Norman laws. One still remarks
Celtic, Latin and German derivations. The words signifying the parts of
the human body, or things of daily use, and which have nothing in common
with Latin or German, are in old Gaulish or Celtic, such as _tête_,
_jambe_, _sabre_, _pointe_, _aller_, _parler_, _écouter_, _regarder_,
_aboyer_, _crier_, _coutume_, _ensemble_, and many others of this kind.
Most of the terms of war were Frank or German: _Marche_, _halte_,
_maréchal_, _bivouac_, _reitre_, _lansquenet_. All the rest is Latin;
and all the Latin words were abridged, according to the custom and
genius of the nations of the north; thus from _palatium_, palais; from
_lupus_, loup; from _Auguste_, août; from _Junius_, juin; from _unctus_,
oint; from _purpura_, pourpre; from _pretium_, prix, etc. Hardly were
there left any vestiges of the Greek tongue, which had been so long
spoken at Marseilles.

In the twelfth century there began to be introduced into the language
some of the terms of Aristotle's philosophy; and towards the sixteenth
century one expressed by Greek terms all the parts of the human body,
their diseases, their remedies; whence the words _cardiaque_,
_céphalique_, _podagre_, _apoplectique_, _asthmatique_, _iliaque_,
_empyème_, and so many others. Although the language then enriched
itself from the Greek, and although since Charles VIII. it had drawn
much aid from Italian already perfected, the French language had not yet
taken regular consistence. François Ier abolished the ancient custom of
pleading, judging, contracting in Latin; custom which bore witness to
the barbarism of a language which one did not dare use in public
documents, a pernicious custom for citizens whose lot was regulated in a
language they did not understand. One was obliged then to cultivate
French; but the language was neither noble nor regular. The syntax was
left to caprice. The genius for conversation being turned to
pleasantries, the language became very fertile in burlesque and naïve
expressions, and very sterile in noble and harmonious terms: from this
it comes that in rhyming dictionaries one finds twenty terms suitable
for comic poetry, for one for more exalted use; and it is, further, a
reason why Marot never succeeded in a serious style, and why Amyot could
render Plutarch's elegance only with naïveté.

French acquired vigour beneath the pen of Montaigne; but it still had
neither nobility nor harmony. Ronsard spoiled the language by bringing
into French poetry the Greek compounds which the doctors and
philosophers used. Malherbe repaired Ronsard's mischief somewhat. The
language became more noble and more harmonious with the establishment of
the Académie Française, and acquired finally, in the reign of Louis
XIV., the perfection whereby it might be carried into all forms of

The genius of this language is order and clarity; for each language has
its genius, and this genius consists in the facility which the language
gives for expressing oneself more or less happily, for using or
rejecting the familiar twists of other languages. French having no
declensions, and being always subject to the article, cannot adopt Greek
and Latin inversions; it obliges words to arrange themselves in the
natural order of ideas. Only in one way can one say "_Plancus a pris
soin des affaires de César._" That is the only arrangement one can give
to these words. Express this phrase in Latin--_Res Cæsaris Plancus
diligenter curavit_: one can arrange these words in a hundred and twenty
ways, without injuring the sense and without troubling the language. The
auxiliary verbs which eke out and enervate the phrases in modern
languages, still render the French tongue little suited to the concise
lapidary style. The auxiliary verbs, its pronouns, its articles, its
lack of declinable participles, and finally its uniform gait, are
injurious to the great enthusiasm of poetry, in which it has less
resources than Italian and English; but this constraint and this bondage
render it more suitable for tragedy and comedy than any language in
Europe. The natural order in which one is obliged to express one's
thoughts and construct one's phrases, diffuses in this language a
sweetness and easiness that is pleasing to all peoples; and the genius
of the nation mingling with the genius of the language has produced more
agreeably written books than can be seen among any other people.

The pleasure and liberty of society having been long known only in
France, the language has received therefrom a delicacy of expression and
a finesse full of simplicity barely to be found elsewhere. This finesse
has sometimes been exaggerated, but people of taste have always known
how to reduce it within just limits.

Many persons have thought that the French language has become
impoverished since the time of Amyot and Montaigne: one does indeed
find in many authors expressions which are no longer admissible; but
they are for the most part familiar expressions for which equivalents
have been substituted. The language has been enriched with a quantity of
noble and energetic expressions; and without speaking here of the
eloquence of things, it has acquired the eloquence of words. It is in
the reign of Louis XIV., as has been said, that this eloquence had its
greatest splendour, and that the language was fixed. Whatever changes
time and caprice prepare for it, the good authors of the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries will always serve as models.


Friendship is the marriage of the soul; and this marriage is subject to
divorce. It is a tacit contract between two sensitive and virtuous
persons. I say "sensitive," because a monk, a recluse can be not wicked
and live without knowing what friendship is. I say "virtuous," because
the wicked have only accomplices; voluptuaries have companions in
debauch, self-seekers have partners, politicians get partisans; the
generality of idle men have attachments; princes have courtiers;
virtuous men alone have friends. Cethegus was the accomplice of
Catilina, and Maecenas the courtier of Octavius; but Cicero was the
friend of Atticus.


During the reign of Arcadius, Logomacos, lecturer in theology of
Constantinople, went to Scythia and halted at the foot of the Caucasus,
in the fertile plains of Zephirim, on the frontier of Colchis. That good
old man Dondindac was in his great lower hall, between his sheepfold and
his vast barn; he was kneeling with his wife, his five sons and five
daughters, his kindred and his servants, and after a light meal they
were all singing God's praises. "What do you there, idolator?" said
Logomacos to him.

"I am not an idolator," answered Dondindac.

"You must be an idolator," said Logomacos, "seeing that you are not
Greek. Tell me, what was that you were singing in your barbarous
Scythian jargon?"

"All tongues are equal in the ears of God," answered the Scythian. "We
were singing His praises."

"That's very extraordinary," returned the theologian. "A Scythian family
who pray God without having been taught by us!" He soon engaged
Dondindac the Scythian in conversation, for he knew a little Scythian,
and the other a little Greek. The following conversation was found in a
manuscript preserved in the library of Constantinople.


Let us see if you know your catechism. Why do you pray God?


Because it is right to worship the Supreme Being from whom we hold


Not bad for a barbarian! And what do you ask of Him?


I thank Him for the benefits I enjoy, and even for the ills with which
He tries me; but I take good care not to ask Him for anything; He knows
better than us what we need, and besides, I am afraid to ask Him for
good weather when my neighbour is asking for rain.


Ah! I thought he was going to say something silly. Let us start again
farther back. Barbarian, who has told you there is a God?


The whole of nature.


That does not suffice. What idea have you of God?


The idea of my creator, of my master, who will reward me if I do good,
and who will punish me if I do ill.


Trash, nonsense all that! Let us come to essentials. Is God infinite
_secundum quid_, or in essence?


I don't understand you.


Brutish fool! Is God in one place, beyond all places, or in all places?


I have no idea ... just as you please.


Dolt! Is it possible for what has been not to have been, and can a stick
not have two ends? Does He see the future as future or as present? how
does He draw the being out of non-existence, and how annihilate the


I have never examined these things.


What a blockhead! Come, one must humble oneself, see things in
proportion. Tell me, my friend, do you think that matter can be eternal?


What does it matter to me whether it exists from all eternity or not? I
do not exist from all eternity. God is always my master; He has given me
the notion of justice, I must follow it; I do not want to be a
philosopher, I want to be a man.


These blockheads are troublesome. Let us go step by step. What is God?


My sovereign, my judge, my father.


That's not what I'm asking you. What is His nature?


To be potent and good.


But, is He corporeal or spiritual?


How should I know?


What! you don't know what a spirit is?


Not in the least: of what use would it be to me? should I be more just?
should I be a better husband, a better father, a better master, a better


It is absolutely essential you should learn what a spirit is. It is, it
is, it is ... I will tell you another time.


I'm very much afraid that you may tell me less what it is than what it
is not. Allow me to put a question to you in my turn. I once saw one of
your temples; why do you depict God with a long beard?


That's a very difficult question which needs preliminary instruction.


Before receiving your instruction, I must tell you what happened to me
one day. I had just built a closet at the end of my garden; I heard a
mole arguing with a cockchafer. "That's a very fine building," said the
mole. "It must have been a very powerful mole who did that piece of

"You're joking," said the cockchafer. "It was a cockchafer bubbling over
with genius who is the architect of this building." From that time I
resolved never to argue.


Happy Helvetia! to what charter do you owe your liberty? to your
courage, to your resolution, to your mountains.

"But I am your emperor."

"But I do not want you any longer."

"But your fathers were my father's slaves."

"It is for that very reason that their children do not wish to serve

"But I had the right belonging to my rank."

"And we have the right of nature."

Why is liberty so rare?

Because it is the chiefest good.



History is the recital of facts given as true, in contradistinction to
the fable, which is the recital of facts given as false.

There is the history of opinions which is hardly anything but a
collection of human errors.

The history of the arts can be the most useful of all when it joins to
the knowledge of the invention and the progress of the arts the
description of their mechanism.

Natural history, improperly called _history_, is an essential part of
natural philosophy. The history of events has been divided into sacred
history and profane history; sacred history is a series of divine and
miraculous operations whereby it pleased God once on a time to lead the
Jewish nation, and to-day to exercise our faith.


The first foundations of all history are the recitals of the fathers to
the children, transmitted afterward from one generation to another; at
their origin they are at the very most probable, when they do not shock
common sense, and they lose one degree of probability in each
generation. With time the fable grows and the truth grows less; from
this it comes that all the origins of peoples are absurd. Thus the
Egyptians had been governed by the gods for many centuries; then they
had been governed by demi-gods; finally they had had kings for eleven
thousand three hundred and forty years; and in that space of time the
sun had changed four times from east to west.

The Phoenicians of Alexander's time claimed to have been established
in their country for thirty thousand years; and these thirty thousand
years were filled with as many prodigies as the Egyptian chronology. I
avow that physically it is very possible that Phoenicia has existed
not merely thirty thousand years, but thirty thousand milliards of
centuries, and that it experienced like the rest of the world thirty
million revolutions. But we have no knowledge of it.

One knows what a ridiculously marvellous state of affairs ruled in the
ancient history of the Greeks.

The Romans, for all that they were serious, did not any the less envelop
the history of their early centuries in fables. This nation, so recent
compared with the Asiatic peoples, was five hundred years without
historians. It is not surprising, therefore, that Romulus was the son of
Mars, that a she-wolf was his foster mother, that he marched with a
thousand men of his village of Rome against twenty-five thousand
combatants of the village of the Sabines: that later he became a god;
that Tarquin, the ancient, cut a stone with a razor, and that a vestal
drew a ship to land with her girdle, etc.

The early annals of all our modern nations are no less fabulous; the
prodigious and improbable things must sometimes be reported, but as
proofs of human credulity: they enter the history of opinions and
foolishnesses; but the field is too vast.


In order to know with a little certainty something of ancient history,
there is only one means, it is to see if any incontestable records
remain. We have only three in writing: the first is the collection of
astronomical observations made for nineteen hundred consecutive years at
Babylon, sent by Alexander to Greece. This series of observations, which
goes back to two thousand two hundred and thirty-four years before our
era, proves invincibly that the Babylonians existed as a body of people
several centuries before; for the arts are only the work of time, and
men's natural laziness leaves them for some thousands of years without
other knowledge and without other talents than those of feeding
themselves, of defending themselves against the injuries of the air, and
of slaughtering each other. Let us judge by the Germans and by the
English in Cæsar's time, by the Tartars to-day, by the two-thirds of
Africa, and by all the peoples we have found in America, excepting in
some respects the kingdoms of Peru and of Mexico, and the republic of
Tlascala. Let us remember that in the whole of this new world nobody
knew how to read or write.

The second record is the central eclipse of the sun, calculated in China
two thousand one hundred and fifty-five years before our era, and
recognized true by our astronomers. Of the Chinese the same thing must
be said as of the peoples of Babylon; they already comprised a vast
civilized empire without a doubt. But what puts the Chinese above all
the peoples of the earth is that neither their laws, nor their customs,
nor the language spoken among them by their lettered mandarins has
changed for about four thousand years. Nevertheless, this nation and the
nation of India, the most ancient of all those that exist to-day, which
possess the vastest and the most beautiful country, which invented
almost all the arts before we had learned any of them, have always been
omitted right to our days in all so-called universal histories. And when
a Spaniard and a Frenchman took a census of the nations, neither one nor
the other failed to call his country the first monarchy in the world,
and his king the greatest king in the world, flattering himself that his
king would give him a pension as soon as he had read his book.

The third record, very inferior to the two others, exists in the Arundel
marbles: the chronicle of Athens is graved there two hundred and
sixty-three years before our era; but it goes back only to Cecrops,
thirteen hundred and nineteen years beyond the time when it was
engraved. In the history of antiquity those are the sole incontestable
epochs that we have.

Let us give serious attention to these marbles brought back from Greece
by Lord Arundel. Their chronicle begins fifteen hundred and eighty-two
years before our era. That is to-day (1771) an antiquity of 3,353 years,
and you do not see there a single fact touching on the miraculous, on
the prodigious. It is the same with the Olympiads; it is not there that
one should say _Græcia mendax_, lying Greece. The Greeks knew very well
how to distinguish between history and fable, between real facts and the
tales of Herodotus: just as in their serious affairs their orators
borrowed nothing from the speeches of the sophists or from the images of
the poets.

The date of the taking of Troy is specified in these marbles; but no
mention is made of Apollo's arrows, or of the sacrifice of Iphigenia, or
of the ridiculous combats of the gods. The date of the inventions of
Triptolemy and Ceres is found there; but Ceres is not called _goddess_.
Mention is made of a poem on the abduction of Prosperine; it is not said
that she is the daughter of Jupiter and a goddess, and that she is wife
of the god of the infernal regions.

Hercules is initiated into the mysteries of Eleusis; but not a word on
his twelve labours, nor on his passage into Africa in his cup, nor on
his divinity, nor on the big fish by which he was swallowed, and which
kept him in its belly three days and three nights, according to

Among us, on the contrary, a standard is brought from heaven by an angel
to the monks of Saint-Denis; a pigeon brings a bottle of oil to a church
in Rheims; two armies of snakes give themselves over to a pitched battle
in Germany; an archbishop of Mayence is besieged and eaten by rats; and,
to crown everything, great care has been taken to mark the year of these

All history is recent. It is not astonishing that we have no ancient
profane history beyond about four thousand years. The revolutions of
this globe, the long and universal ignorance of that art which transmits
facts by writing are the cause of it. This art was common only among a
very small number of civilized nations; and was in very few hands even.
Nothing rarer among the French and the Germans than to know how to
write; up to the fourteenth century of our era nearly all deeds were
only attested by witnesses. It was, in France, only under Charles VII.,
in 1454, that one started to draft in writing some of the customs of
France. The art of writing was still rarer among the Spanish, and from
that it results that their history is so dry and so uncertain, up to the
time of Ferdinand and Isabella. One sees by that to what extent the very
small number of men who knew how to write could deceive, and how easy it
was to make us believe the most enormous absurdities.

There are nations which have subjugated a part of the world without
having the usage of characters. We know that Gengis-khan conquered a
part of Asia at the beginning of the thirteenth century, but it is not
through either him or the Tartars that we know it. Their history,
written by the Chinese and translated by Father Gaubil, states that
these Tartars had not at that time the art of writing.

This art cannot have been less unknown to the Scythian Oguskan, named
Madies by the Persians and the Greeks, who conquered a part of Europe
and Asia so long before the reign of Cyrus. It is almost certain that at
that time of a hundred nations there were hardly two or three who used
characters. It is possible that in an ancient world destroyed, men knew
writing and the other arts; but in ours they are all very recent.

There remain records of another kind, which serve to establish merely
the remote antiquity of certain peoples, and which precede all the known
epochs, and all the books; these are the prodigies of architecture, like
the pyramids and the palaces of Egypt, which have resisted time.
Herodotus, who lived two thousand two hundred years ago, and who had
seen them, was not able to learn from the Egyptian priests at what time
they had been erected.

It is difficult to give to the most ancient of the pyramids less than
four thousand years of antiquity; but one must consider that these
efforts of the ostentation of the kings could only have been commenced
long after the establishment of the towns. But to build towns in a land
inundated every year, let us always remark that it was first necessary
to raise the land of the towns on piles in this land of mud, and to
render them inaccessible to the flood; it was essential, before taking
this necessary course, and before being in a state to attempt these
great works, for the people to have practised retreating during the
rising of the Nile, amid the rocks which form two chains right and left
of this river. It was necessary for these mustered peoples to have the
instruments for tilling, those of architecture, a knowledge of
surveying, with laws and a police. All this necessarily requires a
prodigious space of time. We see by the long details which face every
day the most necessary and the smallest of our undertakings, how
difficult it is to do great things, and it needs not only indefatigable
stubbornness, but several generations animated with this stubbornness.

However, whether it be Menes, Thaut or Cheops, or Rameses who erected
one or two of these prodigious masses, we shall not be the more
instructed of the history of ancient Egypt: the language of this people
is lost. We therefore know nothing but that before the most ancient
historians there was matter for making an ancient history.


I am ignorant of how I was formed, and of how I was born. For a quarter
of my life I was absolutely ignorant of the reasons for all that I saw,
heard and felt, and I was nothing but a parrot at whom other parrots

When I looked round me and within me, I conceived that something exists
for all eternity; since there are beings who exist to-day, I concluded
that there is a being who is necessary and necessarily eternal. Thus,
the first step I took to emerge from my ignorance crossed the boundaries
of all the centuries.

But when I tried to walk in this infinite quarry open before me, I could
neither find a single path, nor discern plainly a single object; and
from the leap I made to contemplate eternity, I fell back again into the
abyss of my ignorance.

I saw what was called "matter," from the star Sirius and the stars of
the Milky Way, as distant from Sirius as Sirius is from us, right to the
last atom that can be perceived with the microscope, and I am ignorant
as to what matter is.

The light which let me see all these beings is unknown to me; I can,
with the help of a prism, dissect this light, and divide it into seven
pencils of rays; but I cannot divide these pencils; I am ignorant of
what they are composed. Light is of the nature of matter, since it has
movement and makes an impression on objects; but it does not tend toward
a centre like all bodies: on the contrary, it escapes invincibly from
the centre, whereas all matter bears towards its centre. Light seems
penetrable, and matter is impenetrable. Is this light matter? is it not
matter? with what innumerable properties can it be endowed? I am
ignorant thereof.

Is this substance which is so brilliant, so swift and so unknown, are
these other substances which roll in the immensity of space, eternal as
they seem infinite? I have no idea. Has a necessary being, of sovereign
intelligence, created them out of nothing, or has he arranged them? did
he produce this order in Time or before Time? What even is this Time of
which I speak? I cannot define it. O God! Teach me, for I am enlightened
neither by other men's darkness nor by my own.

What is sensation? How have I received it? what connection is there
between the air which strikes my ear and the sensation of sound? between
this body and the sensation of colour? I am profoundly ignorant thereof,
and I shall always be ignorant thereof.

What is thought? where does it dwell? how is it formed? who gives me
thought during my sleep? is it by virtue of my will that I think? But
always during my sleep, and often while I am awake, I have ideas in
spite of myself. These ideas, long forgotten, long relegated to the back
shop of my brain, issue from it without my interfering, and present
themselves to my memory, which makes vain efforts to recall them.

External objects have not the power to form ideas in me, for one does
not give oneself what one has not; I am too sensible that it is not I
who give them to me, for they are born without my orders. Who produces
them in me? whence do they come? whither do they go? Fugitive phantoms,
what invisible hand produces you and causes you to disappear?

Why, alone of all animals, has man the mania for dominating his

Why and how has it been possible that of a hundred thousand million men
more than ninety-nine have been immolated to this mania?

How is reason so precious a gift that we would not lose it for anything
in the world? and how has this reason served only to make us the most
unhappy of all beings?

Whence comes it that loving truth passionately, we are always betrayed
to the most gross impostures?

Why is life still loved by this crowd of Indians deceived and enslaved
by the bonzes, crushed by a Tartar's descendants, overburdened with
work, groaning in want, assailed by disease, exposed to every scourge?

Whence comes evil, and why does evil exist?

O atoms of a day! O my companions in infinite littleness, born like me
to suffer everything and to be ignorant of everything, are there enough
madmen among you to believe that they know all these things? No, there
are not; no, at the bottom of your hearts you feel your nonentity as I
render justice to mine. But you are arrogant enough to want people to
embrace your vain systems; unable to be tyrants over our bodies, you
claim to be tyrants over our souls.


Who are the impious? those who give a white beard, feet and hands to the
Being of beings, to the great Demiourgos, to the eternal intelligence by
which nature is governed. But they are only excusably impious, poor
impious people against whom one must not grow wroth.

If even they paint the great incomprehensible Being born on a cloud
which can bear nothing; if they are foolish enough to put God in a mist,
in the rain, or on a mountain, and to surround him with little chubby,
flushed faces accompanied by two wings; I laugh and I pardon them with
all my heart.

The impious persons who attribute to the Being of beings preposterous
predictions and injustices would anger me if this great Being had not
given me a reason which quells my wrath. The silly fanatic repeats to
me, after others, that it is not for us to judge what is reasonable and
just in the great Being, that His reason is not like our reason, that
His justice is not like our justice. Eh! how, you mad demoniac, do you
want me to judge justice and reason otherwise than by the notions I have
of them? do you want me to walk otherwise than with my feet, and to
speak otherwise than with my mouth?

The impious man who supposes the great Being jealous, arrogant,
malignant, vindictive, is more dangerous. I would not want to sleep
under the same roof as this man.

But how would you treat the impious man who says to you: "See only
through my eyes, do not think; I announce to you a tyrannical God who
has made me to be your tyrant; I am his well-beloved: during all
eternity he will torture millions of his creatures whom he detests in
order to gladden me; I shall be your master in this world, and I shall
laugh at your torments in the other."

Do you not feel an itching to thrash this cruel, impious fellow? If you
are born gentle, will you not run with all your might to the west when
this barbarian utters his atrocious reveries in the east?


It is meet that the reader should be acquainted with the true history of
Joan of Arc surnamed "the Maid." The details of her adventure are very
little known and may give readers pleasure; here they are.

Paul Jove says that the courage of the French was stimulated by this
girl, and takes good care not to believe her inspired. Neither Robert,
Gaguin, Paul Emile, Polydore Vergile, Genebrard, Philip of Bergamo,
Papyre Masson, nor even Mariana, say that she was sent by God; and even
though Mariana the Jesuit had said it, that would not deceive me.

Mézerai relates "that the prince of the celestial militia appeared to
her." I am sorry for Mézerai, and I ask pardon of the prince of the
celestial militia.

Most of our historians, who copy each other, suppose that the Maid
uttered prophecies, and that her prophecies were accomplished. She is
made to say that "she will drive the English out of the kingdom," and
they were still there five years after her death. She is said to have
written a long letter to the King of England, and assuredly she could
neither read nor write; such an education was not given to an inn
servant in the Barois; and the information laid against her states that
she could not sign her name.

But, it is said, she found a rusted sword, the blade of which was
engraved with five golden _fleurs-de-lis_; and this sword was hidden in
the church of Sainte Catherine de Fierbois at Tours. There, certainly is
a great miracle!

Poor Joan of Arc having been captured by the English, despite her
prophecies and her miracles, maintained first of all in her
cross-examination that St. Catherine and St. Marguerite had honoured her
with many revelations. I am astonished that she never said anything of
her talks with the prince of the celestial militia. These two saints
apparently liked talking better than St. Michael. Her judges thought her
a sorceress, she thought herself inspired.

One great proof that Charles VII.'s captains made use of the marvellous
in order to encourage the soldiers, in the deplorable state to which
France was reduced, is that Saintrailles had his shepherd, as the Comte
de Dunois had his shepherdess. The shepherd made prophecies on one side,
while the shepherdess made them on the other.

But unfortunately the Comte de Dunois' prophetess was captured at the
siege of Compiègne by a bastard of Vendôme, and Saintrailles' prophet
was captured by Talbot. The gallant Talbot was far from having the
shepherd burned. This Talbot was one of those true Englishmen who scorn
superstition, and who have not the fanaticism for punishing fanatics.

This, it seems to me, is what the historians should have observed, and
what they have neglected.

The Maid was taken to Jean de Luxembourg, Comte de Ligny. She was shut
up in the fortress of Beaulieu, then in that of Beaurevoir, and from
there in that of Crotoy in Picardy.

First of all Pierre Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais, who was of the King of
England's party against his own legitimate king, claims the Maid as a
sorceress arrested on the limits of his diocese. He wishes to judge her
as a sorceress. He supported the right he claimed by a downright lie.
Joan had been captured on the territory of the bishopric of Noyon: and
neither the Bishop of Beauvais, nor the Bishop of Noyon assuredly had
the right of condemning anybody, and still less of committing to death a
subject of the Duke of Lorraine, and a warrior in the pay of the King of

There was at that time (who would believe it?) a vicar-general of the
Inquisition in France, by name Brother Martin.[8] It was one of the most
horrible effects of the total subversion of that unfortunate country.
Brother Martin claimed the prisoner as smelling of heresy (_odorantem
hæresim_). He called upon the Duke of Burgundy and the Comte de Ligny,
"by the right of his office, and of the authority given to him by the
Holy See, to deliver Joan to the Holy Inquisition."

The Sorbonne hastened to support Brother Martin, and wrote to the Duke
of Burgundy and to Jean de Luxembourg--"You have used your noble power
to apprehend this woman who calls herself the Maid, by means of whom the
honour of God has been immeasurably offended, the faith exceedingly
hurt, and the Church too greatly dishonoured; for by reason of her,
idolatry, errors, bad doctrine, and other inestimable evils have ensued
in this kingdom ... but what this woman has done would be of small
account, if did not ensue what is meet for satisfying the offence
perpetrated by her against our gentle Creator and His faith, and the
Holy Church with her other innumerable misdeeds ... and it would be
intolerable offence against the divine majesty if it happened that this
woman were freed."[9]

Finally, the Maid was awarded to Jean Cauchon whom people called the
unworthy bishop, the unworthy Frenchman, and the unworthy man. Jean de
Luxembourg sold the Maid to Cauchon and the English for ten thousand
livres, and the Duke of Bedford paid them. The Sorbonne, the bishop and
Brother Martin, then presented a new petition to this Duke of Bedford,
regent of France, "in honour of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, for
that the said Joan may be briefly put into the hands of the Church."
Joan was led to Rouen. The archbishopric was vacant at that time, and
the chapter permitted the Bishop of Beauvais to _work_ in the town.
(_Besogner_ is the term which was used.) He chose as assessors nine
doctors of the Sorbonne with thirty-five other assistants, abbots or
monks. The vicar of the Inquisition, Martin, presided with Cauchon; and
as he was only a vicar, he had but second place.

Joan underwent fourteen examinations; they are singular. She said that
she saw St. Catherine and St. Marguerite at Poitiers. Doctor Beaupère
asks her how she recognized the saints. She answers that it was by their
way of bowing. Beaupère asks her if they are great chatterboxes. "Go
look on the register," she says. Beaupère asks her if, when she saw St.
Michael, he was naked. She answers: "Do you think our Lord had nothing
to clothe him with?"

The curious will carefully observe here that Joan had long been directed
with other religious women of the populace by a rogue named Richard,[10]
who performed miracles, and who taught these girls to perform them. One
day he gave communion three times in succession to Joan, in honour of
the Trinity. It was then the custom in matters of importance and in
times of great peril. The knights had three masses said, and
communicated three times when they went to seek fortune or to fight in a
duel. It is what has been observed on the part of the Chevalier Bayard.

The workers of miracles, Joan's companions, who were submissive to
Richard, were named Pierrone and Catherine. Pierrone affirmed that she
had seen that God appeared to her in human form as a friend to a friend.
God was "clad in a long white robe, etc."

Up to the present the ridiculous; here now is the horrible.

One of Joan's judges, doctor of theology and priest, by name Nicholas
_the Bird-Catcher_, comes to confess her in prison. He abuses the
sacrament to the point of hiding behind a piece of serge two priests who
transcribed Joan of Arc's confession. Thus did the judges use sacrilege
in order to be murderers. And an unfortunate idiot, who had had enough
courage to render very great services to the king and the country, was
condemned to be burned by forty-four French priests who immolated her
for the English faction.

It is sufficiently well-known how someone had the cunning and meanness
to put a man's suit beside her to tempt her to wear this suit again, and
with what absurd barbarism this transgression was claimed as a pretext
for condemning her to the flames, as if in a warrior girl it was a crime
worthy of the fire, to put on breeches instead of a skirt. All this
wrings the heart, and makes common sense shudder. One cannot conceive
how we dare, after the countless horrors of which we have been guilty,
call any nation by the name of barbarian.

Most of our historians, lovers of the so-called embellishments of
history rather than of truth, say that Joan went fearlessly to the
torture; but as the chronicles of the times bear witness, and as the
historian Villaret admits, she received her sentence with cries and
tears; a weakness pardonable in her sex, and perhaps in ours, and very
compatible with the courage which this girl had displayed amid the
dangers of war; for one can be fearless in battle, and sensitive on the

I must add that many persons have believed without any examination that
the Maid of Orleans was not burned at Rouen at all, although we have the
official report of her execution. They have been deceived by the account
we still have of an adventuress who took the name of the "Maid,"
deceived Joan of Arc's brothers, and under cover of this imposture,
married in Lorraine a nobleman of the house of Armoise. There were two
other rogues who also passed themselves off as the "Maid of Orleans."
All three claimed that Joan was not burned at all, and that another
woman had been substituted for her. Such stories can be admitted only by
those who want to be deceived.


[8] Beuchot says: There was at that time in France an
Inquisitor-General, named Brother Jean or Jacques le Graverend. His
vice-inquisitor or vicar, who took part in Joan's trial, was not called
Brother Martin, but Brother Jean Magistri or the Master.

[9] This is a translation of the Latin of the Sorbonne, made long after.

[10] Beuchot says that Berriat Saint-Prix, in his "Jeanne d'Arc,"
proves, page 341 _et seq._, that the imputations against Brother Richard
are groundless, and that he could exercise no influence at the trial.


I ask pardon of the boys and the girls; but maybe they will not find
here what they will seek. This article is only for scholars and serious
persons for whom it is barely suitable.

There is but too much question of kissing in the comedies of Molière's
time. Champagne, in the comedy of "La Mère Coquette" by Quinault, asks
kisses of Laurette; she says to him--"You are not content, then; really
it is shameful; I have kissed you twice." Champagne answers her--"What!
you keep account of your kisses?" (Act I. Sc. 1.).

The valets always used to ask kisses of the soubrettes; people kissed
each other on the stage. Usually it was very dull and very intolerable,
particularly in the case of ugly actors, who were nauseating.

If the reader wants kisses, let him look for them in the "Pastor Fido";
there is one entire chorus where nothing but kisses is mentioned; and
the piece is founded solely on a kiss that Mirtillo gave one day to
Amarilli, in a game of blind man's buff, _un bacio molto saporito_.

Everyone knows the chapter on kisses, in which Jean de la Casa,
Archbishop of Benevento, says that people can kiss each other from head
to foot. He pities the people with big noses who can only approach each
other with difficulty; and he counsels ladies with long noses to have
flat-nosed lovers.

The kiss was a very ordinary form of salutation throughout ancient
times. Plutarch recalls that the conspirators, before killing Cæsar,
kissed his face, hand and breast. Tacitus says that when Agricola, his
father-in-law, returned from Rome, Domitian received him with a cold
kiss, said nothing to him, and left him confounded in the crowd. The
inferior who could not succeed in greeting his superior by kissing him,
put his mouth to his own hand, and sent him a kiss that the other
returned in the same way if he so wished.

This sign was used even for worshipping the gods. Job, in his parable
(Chap. xxxi.), which is perhaps the oldest of known books, says that he
has not worshipped the sun and the moon like the other Arabs, that he
has not carried his hand to his mouth as he looked at the stars.

In our Occident nothing remains of this ancient custom but the puerile
and genteel civility that is still taught to children in some small
towns, of kissing their right hands when someone has given them some

It was a horrible thing to betray with a kiss; it was that that made
Cæsar's assassination still more hateful. We know all about Judas'
kisses; they have become proverbial.

Joab, one of David's captains, being very jealous of Amasa, another
captain, says to him (2 Sam. xx. 9): "Art thou in health, my brother?
And he took Amasa by the beard with the right hand to kiss him," and
with his other hand drew his sword and "smote him therewith in the fifth
rib, and shed out his bowels on the ground."

No other kiss is to be found in the other fairly frequent assassinations
which were committed among the Jews, unless it be perhaps the kisses
which Judith gave to the captain Holophernes, before cutting off his
head while he was in bed asleep; but no mention is made of them, and the
thing is merely probable.

In one of Shakespeare's tragedies called "Othello," this Othello, who is
a black, gives two kisses to his wife before strangling her. That seems
abominable to honourable people; but Shakespeare's partisans say it is
beautifully natural, particularly in a black.

When Giovanni Galeas Sforza was assassinated in Milan Cathedral, on St.
Stephen's day, the two Medici in the Reparata church; Admiral Coligny,
the Prince of Orange, the Maréchal d'Ancre, the brothers Witt, and so
many others; at least they were not kissed.

There was among the ancients I know not what of symbolic and sacred
attached to the kiss, since one kissed the statues of the gods and their
beards, when the sculptors had shown them with a beard. Initiates kissed
each other at the mysteries of Ceres, as a sign of concord.

The early Christians, men and women, kissed each other on the mouth at
their _agapæ_. This word signified "love-feast." They gave each other
the holy kiss, the kiss of peace, the kiss of brother and sister, +agion
philêma+. This custom lasted for more than four centuries, and was
abolished at last on account of its consequences. It was these kisses of
peace, these agapæ of love, these names of "brother" and "sister," that
long drew to the little-known Christians, those imputations of
debauchery with which the priests of Jupiter and the priestesses of
Vesta charged them. You see in Petronius, and in other profane authors,
that the libertines called themselves "brother" and "sister." It was
thought that among the Christians the same names signified the same
infamies. They were innocent accomplices in spreading these accusations
over the Roman empire.

There were in the beginning seventeen different Christian societies,
just as there were nine among the Jews, including the two kinds of
Samaritans. The societies which flattered themselves at being the most
orthodox accused the others of the most inconceivable obscenities. The
term of "gnostic," which was at first so honourable, signifying
"learned," "enlightened," "pure," became a term of horror and scorn, a
reproach of heresy. Saint Epiphanius, in the third century, claimed that
they used first to tickle each other, the men and the women; that then
they gave each other very immodest kisses, and that they judged the
degree of their faith by the voluptuousness of these kisses; that the
husband said to his wife, in presenting a young initiate to her: "Have
an agape with my brother," and that they had an agape.

We do not dare repeat here, in the chaste French tongue,[11] what Saint
Epiphanius adds in Greek (Epiphanius, _contra hæres_, lib. I., vol. ii).
We will say merely that perhaps this saint was somewhat imposed upon;
that he allowed himself to be too carried away by zeal, and that all
heretics are not hideous debauchees.

The sect of Pietists, wishing to imitate the early Christians, to-day
give each other kisses of peace on leaving the assembly, calling each
other "my brother, my sister"; it is what, twenty years ago, a very
pretty and very human Pietist lady avowed to me. The ancient custom was
to kiss on the mouth; the Pietists have carefully preserved it.

There was no other manner of greeting dames in France, Germany, Italy,
England; it was the right of cardinals to kiss queens on the mouth, and
in Spain even. What is singular is that they had not the same
prerogative in France, where ladies always had more liberty than
anywhere else, but "every country has its ceremonies," and there is no
usage so general that chance and custom have not provided exceptions. It
would have been an incivility, an affront, for an honourable woman, when
she received a lord's first visit, not to have kissed him, despite his
moustaches. "It is a displeasing custom," says Montaigne (Book III.,
chap. v.), "and offensive to ladies, to have to lend their lips to
whoever has three serving-men in his suite, disagreeable though he be."
This custom was, nevertheless, the oldest in the world.

If it is disagreeable for a young and pretty mouth to stick itself out
of courtesy to an old and ugly mouth, there was a great danger between
fresh, red mouths of twenty to twenty-five years old; and that is what
finally brought about the abolition of the ceremony of kissing in the
mysteries and the agapæ. It is what caused women to be confined among
the Orientals, so that they might kiss only their fathers and their
brothers; custom long since introduced into Spain by the Arabs.

Behold the danger: there is one nerve of the fifth pair which goes from
the mouth to the heart, and thence lower down, with such delicate
industry has nature prepared everything! The little glands of the lips,
their spongy tissue, their velvety paps, the fine skin, ticklish, gives
them an exquisite and voluptuous sensation, which is not without analogy
with a still more hidden and still more sensitive part. Modesty may
suffer from a lengthily savoured kiss between two Pietists of eighteen.

It is to be remarked that the human species, the turtledoves and the
pigeons alone are acquainted with kisses; thence came among the Latins
the word _columbatìm_, which our language has not been able to render.
There is nothing of which abuse has not been made. The kiss, designed by
nature for the mouth, has often been prostituted to membranes which do
not seem made for this usage. One knows of what the templars were

We cannot honestly treat this interesting subject at greater length,
although Montaigne says: "One should speak thereof shamelessly: brazenly
do we utter 'killing,' 'wounding,' 'betraying,' but of that we dare not
speak but with bated breath."


[11] Or the English--_Translator._


There is no complete language, no language which can express all our
ideas and all our sensations; their shades are too numerous, too
imperceptible. Nobody can make known the precise degree of sensation he
experiences. One is obliged, for example, to designate by the general
names of "love" and "hate" a thousand loves and a thousand hates all
different from each other; it is the same with our pleasures and our
pains. Thus all languages are, like us, imperfect.

They have all been made successively and by degrees according to our
needs. It is the instinct common to all men which made the first
grammars without perceiving it. The Lapps, the Negroes, as well as the
Greeks, needed to express the past, the present and the future; and they
did it: but as there has never been an assembly of logicians who formed
a language, no language has been able to attain a perfectly regular

All words, in all possible languages, are necessarily the images of
sensations. Men have never been able to express anything but what they
felt. Thus everything has become metaphor; everywhere the soul is
enlightened, the heart burns, the mind wanders. Among all peoples the
infinite has been the negation of the finite; immensity the negation of
measure. It is evident that our five senses have produced all languages,
as well as all our ideas. The least imperfect are like the laws: those
in which there is the least that is arbitrary are the best. The most
complete are necessarily those of the peoples who have cultivated the
arts and society. Thus the Hebraic language should be one of the
poorest languages, like the people who used to speak it. How should the
Hebrews have had maritime terms, they who before Solomon had not a boat?
how the terms of philosophy, they who were plunged in such profound
ignorance up to the time when they started to learn something in their
migration to Babylon? The language of the Phoenicians, from which the
Hebrews drew their jargon, should be very superior, because it was the
idiom of an industrious, commercial, rich people, distributed all over
the earth.

The most ancient known language should be that of the nation most
anciently gathered together as a body of people. It should be, further,
that of the people which has been least subjugated, or which, having
been subjugated, has civilized its conquerors. And in this respect, it
is constant that Chinese and Arabic are the most ancient of all those
that are spoken to-day.

There is no mother-tongue. All neighbouring nations have borrowed from
each other: but one has given the name of "mother-tongue" to those from
which some known idioms are derived. For example, Latin is the
mother-tongue in respect of Italian, Spanish and French: but it was
itself derived from Tuscan; and Tuscan was derived from Celtic and

The most beautiful of all languages must be that which is at once, the
most complete, the most sonorous, the most varied in its twists and the
most regular in its progress, that which has most compound words, that
which by its prosody best expresses the soul's slow or impetuous
movements, that which most resembles music.

Greek has all these advantages: it has not the roughness of Latin, in
which so many words end in _um_, _ur_, _us_. It has all the pomp of
Spanish, and all the sweetness of Italian. It has above all the living
languages of the world the expression of music, by long and short
syllables, and by the number and variety of its accents. Thus all
disfigured as it is to-day in Greece, it can still be regarded as the
most beautiful language in the universe.

The most beautiful language cannot be the most widely distributed, when
the people which speaks it is oppressed, not numerous, without commerce
with other nations, and when these other nations have cultivated their
own languages. Thus Greek should be less diffused than Arabic, and even

Of all European languages French should be the most general, because it
is the most suited to conversation: it has taken its character from that
of the people which speaks it.

The French have been, for nearly a hundred and fifty years, the people
which has best known society, which the first discarded all
embarrassment, and the first among whom women were free and even
sovereign, when elsewhere they were only slaves. The always uniform
syntax of this language, which admits no inversions, is a further
facility barely possessed by other tongues; it is more current coin than
others, even though it lacks weight. The prodigious quantity of
agreeably frivolous books which this nation has produced is a further
reason for the favour which its language has obtained among all nations.

Profound books will not give vogue to a language: they will be
translated; people will learn Newton's philosophy; but they will not
learn English in order to understand it.

What makes French still more common is the perfection to which the drama
has been carried in this tongue. It is to "Cinna," "Phèdre," the
"Misanthrope" that it owes its vogue, and not to the conquests of Louis

It is not so copious and so flexible as Italian, or so majestic as
Spanish, or so energetic as English; and yet it has had more success
than these three languages from the sole fact that it is more suited to
intercourse, and that there are more agreeable books in it than
elsewhere. It has succeeded like the cooks of France, because it has
more flattered general taste.

The same spirit which has led the nations to imitate the French in their
furniture, in the arrangement of rooms, in gardens, in dancing, in all
that gives charm, has led them also to speak their language. The great
art of good French writers is precisely that of the women of this
nation, who dress better than the other women of Europe, and who,
without being more beautiful, appear to be so by the art with which they
adorn themselves, by the noble and simple charm they give themselves so

It is by dint of good breeding that this language has managed to make
the traces of its former barbarism disappear. Everything would bear
witness to this barbarism to whosoever should look closely. One would
see that the number _vingt_ comes from _viginti_, and that formerly this
_g_ and this _t_ were pronounced with a roughness characteristic of all
the northern nations; of the month of _Augustus_ has been made the month
of _août_. Not so long ago a German prince thinking that in France one
never pronounced the term _Auguste_ otherwise, called King Auguste of
Poland King Août. All the letters which have been suppressed in
pronunciation, but retained in writing, are our former barbarous

It was when manners were softened that the language also was softened:
before François Ier summoned women to his court, it was as clownish as
we were. It would have been as good to speak old Celtic as the French of
the time of Charles VIII. and Louis XII.: German was not more harsh.

It has taken centuries to remove this rust. The imperfections which
remain would still be intolerable, were it not for the continual care
one takes to avoid them, as a skilful horseman avoids stones in the
road. Good writers are careful to combat the faulty expressions which
popular ignorance first brings into vogue, and which, adopted by bad
authors, then pass into the gazettes and the pamphlets. _Roastbeef_
signifies in English _roasted ox_, and our waiters talk to us nowadays
of a "roastbeef of mutton." _Riding-coat_ means _a coat for going on
horseback_; of it people have made _redingote_, and the populace thinks
it an ancient word of the language. It has been necessary to adopt this
expression with the people because it signifies an article of common

In matters of arts and crafts and necessary things, the common people
subjugated the court, if one dare say so; just as in matters of religion
those who most despise the common run of people are obliged to speak and
to appear to think like them.

To call things by the names which the common people has imposed on them
is not to speak badly; but one recognizes a people naturally more
ingenious than another by the proper names which it gives to each thing.

It is only through lack of imagination that a people adapts the same
expression to a hundred different ideas. It is a ridiculous sterility
not to have known how to express otherwise _an arm of the sea_, _a scale
arm_, _an arm of a chair_; there is poverty of thought in saying equally
the _head of a nail_, the _head of an army_.

Ignorance has introduced another custom into all modern languages. A
thousand terms no longer signify what they should signify. _Idiot_ meant
_solitary_, to-day it means _foolish_; _epiphany_ signified
_appearance_, to-day it is the festival of three kings; _baptize_ is to
dip in water, we say _baptize with the name_ of John or James.

To these defects in almost all languages are added barbarous
irregularities. Venus is a charming name, _venereal_ is abominable.
Another result of the irregularity of these languages composed at hazard
in uncouth times is the quantity of compound words of which the simple
form does not exist any more. They are children who have lost their
father. We have _architects_ and no _tects_; there are things which are
_ineffable_ and none which are _effable_. One is _intrepid_, one is not
_trepid_. There are _impudent_ fellows, _insolent_ fellows, but neither
_pudent_ fellows nor _solent_ fellows. All languages more or less retain
some of these defects; they are all irregular lands from which the hand
of the adroit artist knows how to derive advantage.

Other defects which make a nation's character evident always slip into
languages. In France there are fashions in expressions as in ways of
doing the hair. A fashionable invalid or doctor will take it into his
head to say that he has had a _soupçon_ of fever to signify that he has
had a slight attack; soon the whole nation has _soupçons_ of colics,
_soupçons_ of hatred, love, ridicule. Preachers in the pulpit tell you
that you must have at least a _soupçon_ of God's love. After a few
months this fashion gives place to another.

What does most harm to the nobility of the language is not this passing
fashion with which people are soon disgusted, not the solecisms of
fashionable people into which good authors do not fall, but the
affectation of mediocre authors in speaking of serious things in a
conversational style. Everything conspires to corrupt a language that is
rather widely diffused; authors who spoil the style by affectation;
those who write to foreign countries, and who almost always mingle
foreign expressions with their natural tongue; merchants who introduce
into conversation their business terms.

All languages being imperfect, it does not follow that one should change
them. One must adhere absolutely to the manner in which the good authors
have spoken them; and when one has a sufficient number of approved
authors, a language is fixed. Thus one can no longer change anything in
Italian, Spanish, English, French, without corrupting them; the reason
is clear: it is that one would soon render unintelligible the books
which provide the instruction and the pleasure of the nations.


Sheep live very placidly in community, they are considered very
easy-going, because we do not see the prodigious quantity of animals
they devour. It is even to be believed that they eat them innocently and
without knowing it, like us when we eat a Sassenage cheese. The republic
of the sheep is a faithful representation of the golden age.

A chicken-run is visibly the most perfect monarchic state. There is no
king comparable to a cock. If he marches proudly in the midst of his
people, it is not out of vanity. If the enemy approaches, he does not
give orders to his subjects to go to kill themselves for him by virtue
of his certain knowledge and plenary power; he goes to battle himself,
ranges his chickens behind him and fights to the death. If he is the
victor, he himself sings the _Te Deum_. In civil life there is no one so
gallant, so honest, so disinterested. He has all the virtues. Has he in
his royal beak a grain of corn, a grub, he gives it to the first lady
among his subjects who presents herself. Solomon in his harem did not
come near a poultry-yard cock.

If it be true that the bees are governed by a queen to whom all her
subjects make love, that is a still more perfect government.

The ants are considered to be an excellent democracy. Democracy is above
all the other States, because there everyone is equal, and each
individual works for the good of all.

The republic of the beavers is still superior to that of the ants, at
least if we judge by their masonry work.

The monkeys resemble strolling players rather than a civilized people;
and they do not appear to be gathered together under fixed, fundamental
laws, like the preceding species.

We resemble the monkeys more than any other animal by the gift of
imitation, the frivolity of our ideas, and by our inconstancy which has
never allowed us to have uniform and durable laws.

When nature formed our species and gave us instincts, self-esteem for
our preservation, benevolence for the preservation of others, love which
is common to all the species, and the inexplicable gift of combining
more ideas than all the animals together; when she had thus given us our
portion, she said to us: "Do as you can."

There is no good code in any country. The reason for this is evident;
the laws have been made according to the times, the place and the need,

When the needs have changed, the laws which have remained, have become
ridiculous. Thus the law which forbade the eating of pig and the
drinking of wine was very reasonable in Arabia, where pig and wine are
injurious; it is absurd at Constantinople.

The law which gives the whole fee to the eldest son is very good in
times of anarchy and pillage. Then the eldest son is the captain of the
castle which the brigands will attack sooner or later; the younger sons
will be his chief officers, the husbandmen his soldiers. All that is to
be feared is that the younger son may assassinate or poison the Salian
lord his elder brother, in order to become in his turn the master of the
hovel; but these cases are rare, because nature has so combined our
instincts and our passions that we have more horror of assassinating our
elder brother than we have of being envious of his position. But this
law, suitable for the owners of dungeons in Chilperic's time is
detestable when there is question of sharing stocks in a city.

To the shame of mankind, one knows that the laws of games are the only
ones which everywhere are just, clear, inviolable and executed. Why is
the Indian who gave us the rules of the game of chess willingly obeyed
all over the world, and why are the popes' decretals, for example,
to-day an object of horror and scorn? the reason is that the inventor of
chess combined everything with precision for the satisfaction of the
players, and that the popes, in their decretals, had nothing in view but
their own interest. The Indian wished to exercise men's minds equally,
and give them pleasure; the popes wished to besot men's minds. Also, the
essence of the game of chess has remained the same for five thousand
years, it is common to all the inhabitants of the earth; and the
decretals are known only at Spoletto, Orvieto, Loretto, where the
shallowest lawyer secretly hates and despises them.

But I delight in thinking that there is a natural law independent of all
human conventions: the fruit of my work must belong to me; I must honour
my father and my mother; I have no right over my fellow's life, and my
fellow has none over mine, etc. But when I think that from Chedorlaomer
to Mentzel,[12] colonel of hussars, everyone loyally kills and pillages
his fellow with a licence in his pocket, I am very afflicted.

I am told that there are laws among thieves, and also laws of war. I ask
what are these laws of war. I learn that they mean hanging a brave
officer who has held fast in a bad post without cannon against a royal
army; that they mean having a prisoner hanged, if the enemy has hanged
one of yours; that they mean putting to the fire and the sword villages
which have not brought their sustenance on the appointed day, according
to the orders of the gracious sovereign of the district. "Good," say I,
"that is the 'Spirit of the Laws.'"

It seems to me that most men have received from nature enough common
sense to make laws, but that everyone is not just enough to make good


[12] Chedorlaomer was king of the Elamites, and contemporary with
Abraham. See Genesis ch. xiv.

Mentzel was a famous chief of Austrian partisans in the war of 1741. At
the head of five thousand men, he made Munich capitulate on February
13th, 1742.


Either I am very much mistaken, or Locke the definer has very well
defined liberty as "power." I am mistaken again, or Collins, celebrated
London magistrate, is the only philosopher who has really sifted this
idea, and Clark's answer to him was merely that of a theologian. But of
all that has been written in France on liberty, the following little
dialogue seems to me the most clear.

A: There is a battery of guns firing in your ears, have you the liberty
to hear them or not to hear them?

B: Without doubt, I cannot stop myself hearing them.

A: Do you want this gun to carry off your head and the heads of your
wife and daughter, who are walking with you?

B: What are you talking about? as long as I am of sound mind, I cannot
want such a thing; it is impossible.

A: Good; you hear this gun necessarily, and you wish necessarily that
neither you nor your family shall die from a cannon shot while you are
out for a walk; you have not the power either of not hearing or of
wishing to remain here?

B: Clearly.

A: You have consequently taken some thirty steps in order to be
sheltered from the gun, you have had the power to walk these few steps
with me?

B: Again very clearly.

A: And if you had been a paralytic, you could not have avoided being
exposed to this battery, you would necessarily have heard and received a
gun shot; and you would be dead necessarily?

B: Nothing is more true.

A: In what then does your liberty consist, unless it be in the power
that your self has exercised in performing what your will required of
absolute necessity?

B: You embarrass me; liberty then is nothing but the power of doing what
I want to do?

A: Think about it, and see if liberty can be understood otherwise.

B: In that case my hunting dog is as free as I am; he has necessarily
the will to run when he sees a hare, and the power of running if he has
not a pain in his legs. I have then nothing above my dog; you reduce me
to the state of the beasts.

A: What poor sophistry from the poor sophists who have taught you.
Indeed you are in a bad way to be free like your dog! Do you not eat,
sleep, propagate like him, even almost to the attitude? Do you want the
sense of smell other than through your nose? Why do you want to have
liberty otherwise than your dog has?

B: But I have a soul which reasons much, and my dog reasons hardly at
all. He has almost only simple ideas, and I have a thousand metaphysical

A: Well, you are a thousand times freer than he is; that is, you have a
thousand times more power of thinking than he has; but you do not think
otherwise than he does.

B: What! I am not free to wish what I wish?

A: What do you mean by that?

B: I mean what everyone means. Doesn't one say every day, wishes are

A: A proverb is not a reason; explain yourself more clearly.

B: I mean that I am free to wish as I please.

A: With your permission, that has no sense; do you not see that it is
ridiculous to say, I wish to wish? You wish necessarily, as a result of
the ideas that have offered themselves to you. Do you wish to be
married; yes or no?

B: But if I tell you that I want neither the one nor the other?

A: You will be answering like someone who says: "Some believe Cardinal
Mazarin to be dead, others believe him to be alive, and as for me I
believe neither the one nor the other."

B: Well, I want to be married.

A: Ah! that is an answer. Why do you want to be married?

B: Because I am in love with a beautiful, sweet, well-bred young girl,
who is fairly rich and sings very well, whose parents are very honest
people, and because I flatter myself I am loved by her, and very welcome
to her family.

A: That is a reason. You see that you cannot wish without reason. I
declare to you that you are free to marry; that is, that you have the
power to sign the contract, have your nuptials, and sleep with your

B: How now! I cannot wish without reason? And what will become of that
other proverb: _Sit pro ratione voluntas_; my will is my reason, I wish
because I wish?

A: That is absurd, my dear fellow; there would be in you an effect
without a cause.

B: What! When I play at odds and evens, I have a reason for choosing
evens rather than odds?

A: Yes, undoubtedly.

B: And what is that reason, if you please?

A: The reason is that the idea of even rather than the opposite idea
presents itself to your mind. It would be comic that there were cases
where you wished because there was a cause of wishing, and that there
were cases where you wished without any cause. When you wish to be
married, you evidently feel the dominating reason; you do not feel it
when you are playing at odds and evens; and yet there certainly must be

B: But, I repeat, I am not free then?

A: Your will is not free, but your actions are. You are free to act,
when you have the power to act.

B: But all the books I have read on the liberty of indifference....

A: What do you mean by the liberty of indifference?

B: I mean the liberty of spitting on the right or on the left, of
sleeping on my right side or on my left, of taking a walk of four turns
or five.

A: Really the liberty you would have there would be a comic liberty! God
would have given you a fine gift! It would really be something to boast
of! Of what use to you would be a power which was exercised only on such
futile occasions? But the fact is that it is ridiculous to suppose the
will to wish to spit on the right. Not only is this will to wish absurd,
but it is certain that several trifling circumstances determine you in
these acts that you call indifferent. You are no more free in these acts
than in the others. But, I repeat, you are free at all times, in all
places, as soon as you do what you wish to do.

B: I suspect you are right. I will think about it.[13]


[13] See "Free-Will."


A big library has this in it of good, that it dismays those who look at
it. Two hundred thousand volumes discourage a man tempted to print; but
unfortunately he at once says to himself: "People do not read all those
books, and they may read mine." He compares himself to a drop of water
who complains of being lost in the ocean and ignored: a genius had pity
on it; he caused it to be swallowed by an oyster; it became the most
beautiful pearl in the Orient, and was the chief ornament in the throne
of the Great Mogul. Those who are only compilers, imitators,
commentators, splitters of phrases, usurious critics, in short, those on
whom a genius has no pity, will always remain drops of water.

Our man works in his garret, therefore, in the hope of becoming a pearl.

It is true that in this immense collection of books there are about a
hundred and ninety-nine thousand which will never be read, from cover to
cover at least; but one may need to consult some of them once in a
lifetime. It is a great advantage for whoever wishes to learn to find at
his hand in the king's palace the volume and page he seeks, without
being kept waiting a moment. It is one of the most noble institutions.
No expense is more magnificent and more useful.

The public library of the King of France is the finest in the whole
world, less on account of the number and rarity of the volumes than of
the ease and courtesy with which the librarians lend them to all
scholars. This library is incontestably the most precious monument there
is in France.

This astounding multitude of books should not scare. We have already
remarked that Paris contains about seven hundred thousand men, that one
cannot live with them all, and that one chooses three or four friends.
Thus must one no more complain of the multitude of books than of the
multitude of citizens.

A man who wishes to learn a little about his existence, and who has no
time to waste, is quite embarrassed. He wishes to read simultaneously
Hobbes, Spinoza, Bayle who wrote against them, Leibnitz who disputed
with Bayle, Clarke who disputed with Leibnitz, Malebranche who differed
from them all, Locke who passed as having confounded Malebranche,
Stillingfleet who thought he had vanquished Locke, Cudworth who thinks
himself above them because he is understood by no one. One would die of
old age before having thumbed the hundredth part of the metaphysical

One is very content to have the most ancient books, as one inquires into
the most ancient medals. It is that which makes the honour of a library.
The oldest books in the world are the "Kings" of the Chinese, the
"Shastabad" of the Brahmins, of which Mr. Holwell has brought to our
knowledge admirable passages, what remains of the ancient Zarathustra,
the fragments of Sanchoniathon which Eusebius has preserved for us and
which bears the characteristics of the most remote antiquity. I do not
speak of the "Pentateuch" which is above all one could say of it.

We still have the prayer of the real Orpheus, which the hierophant
recited in the old Greek mysteries. "Walk in the path of justice,
worship the sole master of the universe. He is one; He is sole by
Himself. All beings owe Him their existence; He acts in them and by
them. He sees everything, and never has been seen by mortal eyes."

St. Clement of Alexandria, the most learned of the fathers of the
Church, or rather the only scholar in profane antiquity, gives him
almost always the name of Orpheus of Thrace, of Orpheus the Theologian,
to distinguish him from those who wrote later under his name.

We have no longer anything either of Museus or of Linus. A few passages
from these predecessors of Homer would well be an adornment to a

Augustus had formed the library called the Palatine. The statue of
Apollo presided over it. The emperor embellished it with busts of the
best authors. One saw in Rome twenty-nine great public libraries. There
are now more than four thousand important libraries in Europe. Choose
which suits you, and try not to be bored.


Someone asked Newton one day why he walked when he wanted to, and how
his arm and his hand moved at his will. He answered manfully that he had
no idea. "But at least," his interlocutor said to him, "you who
understand so well the gravitation of the planets will tell me why they
turn in one direction rather than in another!" And he again confessed
that he had no idea.

Those who taught that the ocean was salt for fear that it might become
putrid, and that the tides were made to bring our ships into port (The
Abbé Pluche in "The Spectacle of Nature"), were somewhat ashamed when
the reply was made to them that the Mediterranean has ports and no ebb.
Musschenbroeck himself fell into this inadvertence.

Has anyone ever been able to say precisely how a log is changed on the
hearth into burning carbon, and by what mechanism lime is kindled by
fresh water?

Is the first principle of the movement of the heart in animals properly
understood? does one know clearly how generation is accomplished? has
one guessed what gives us sensations, ideas, memory? We do not
understand the essence of matter any more than the children who touch
its surface.

Who will teach us by what mechanism this grain of wheat that we throw
into the ground rises again to produce a pipe laden with an ear of corn,
and how the same soil produces an apple at the top of this tree, and a
chestnut on its neighbour? Many teachers have said--"What do I not
know?" Montaigne used to say--"What do I know?"

Ruthlessly trenchant fellow, wordy pedagogue, meddlesome theorist, you
seek the limits of your mind. They are at the end of your nose.


Traverse the whole earth, you will find that theft, murder, adultery,
calumny are regarded as crimes which society condemns and curbs; but
should what is approved in England, and condemned in Italy, be punished
in Italy as an outrage against the whole of humanity? That is what I
call a local crime. Does not that which is criminal only in the
enclosure of some mountains, or between two rivers, demand of judges
more indulgence than those outrages which are held in horror in all
countries? Should not the judge say to himself: "I should not dare
punish at Ragusa what I punish at Loretto"? Should not this reflection
soften in his heart the hardness that it is only too easy to contract
during the long exercise of his office?

You know the _kermesses_ in Flanders; in the last century they were
carried to a point of indecency which might revolt eyes unaccustomed to
these spectacles. This is how Christmas was celebrated in some towns.
First there appeared a young man half naked, with wings on his back; he
recited the _Ave Maria_ to a young girl who answered him _fiat_, and the
angel kissed her on the mouth: then a child enclosed in a great
cardboard cock cried, imitating the cock's cry: _Puer natus est nobis._
A big ox bellowed _ubi_, which it pronounced _oubi_; a sheep bleated
_Bethlehem_. An ass cried _hihanus_, to signify _eamus_; a long
procession, preceded by four fools with baubles and rattles, closed the
performance. There remain to-day traces of these popular devotions,
which among more educated peoples would be taken for profanations. A
bad-tempered Swiss, more drunk maybe than those who played the rôles of
ox and ass, came to words with them in Louvain; blows were given; the
people wanted to hang the Swiss, who escaped with difficulty.

The same man had a violent quarrel at the Hague in Holland for having
stoutly taken Barneveldt's part against an extravagant Gomarist. He was
put into prison in Amsterdam for having said that priests are the
scourge of humanity and the source of all our misfortunes. "What!" he
said. "If one believes that good works make for salvation, one finds
oneself in a dungeon; if one laughs at a cock and an ass, one risks
being hanged." This adventure, burlesque though it is, makes it quite
clear that one can be reprehensible on one or two points in our
hemisphere, and be absolutely innocent in the rest of the world.


There are so many sorts of love that one does not know to whom to
address oneself for a definition of it. The name of "love" is given
boldly to a caprice lasting a few days, a sentiment without esteem,
gallants' affectations, a frigid habit, a romantic fantasy, relish
followed by prompt disrelish: people give this name to a thousand

If philosophers want to probe to the bottom this barely philosophical
matter, let them meditate on the banquet of Plato, in which Socrates,
honourable lover of Alcibiades and Agathon, converses with them on the
metaphysics of love.

Lucretius speaks of it more as a natural philosopher: Virgil follows in
the steps of Lucretius; _amor omnibus idem_.

It is the stuff of nature broidered by nature. Do you want an idea of
love? look at the sparrows in your garden; look at your pigeons; look at
the bull which is brought to the heifer; look at this proud horse which
two of your grooms lead to the quiet mare awaiting him; she draws aside
her tail to welcome him; see how her eyes sparkle; hark to the neighing;
watch the prancing, the curvetting, the ears pricked, the mouth opening
with little convulsions, the swelling nostrils, the flaring breath, the
manes rising and floating, the impetuous movement with which he hurls
himself on the object which nature has destined for him; but be not
jealous of him, and think of the advantages of the human species; in
love they compensate for all those that nature has given to the
animals--strength, beauty, nimbleness, speed.

There are animals, even, who have no enjoyment in possession. Scale
fish are deprived of this delight: the female throws millions of eggs on
the mud; the male coming across them passes over them, and fertilizes
them with his seed, without troubling about the female to whom they

Most animals that pair, taste pleasure only by a single sense, and as
soon as the appetite is satisfied, everything is extinguished. No
animal, apart from you, knows what kissing is; the whole of your body is
sensitive; your lips especially enjoy a voluptuousness that nothing can
tire; and this pleasure belongs to no species but yours: you can give
yourself up to love at any time, and the animals have but a fixed time.
If you reflect on these superiorities, you will say with the Count of
Rochester--"In a country of atheists love would cause the Deity to be

As men have received the gift of perfecting all that nature accords
them, they have perfected love. Cleanliness, the care of oneself, by
rendering the skin more delicate, increase the pleasure of contact; and
attention to one's health renders the organs of voluptuousness more
sensitive. All the other sentiments that enter into that of love, just
like metals which amalgamate with gold: friendship, regard, come to
help; the faculties of mind and body are still further chains.

Self-love above all tightens all these bonds. One applauds oneself for
one's choice, and a crowd of illusions form the decoration of the
building of which nature has laid the foundations.

That is what you have above the animals. But if you taste so many
pleasures unknown to them, how many sorrows too of which the beasts have
no idea! What is frightful for you is that over three-fourths of the
earth nature has poisoned the pleasures of love and the sources of life
with an appalling disease to which man alone is subject, and which
infects in him the organs of generation alone.

It is in no wise with this plague as with so many other maladies that
are the result of our excesses. It was not debauch that introduced it
into the world. Phryne, Lais, Flora, Messalina and those like them,
were not attacked by it; it was born in some islands where men lived in
innocence, and thence spread itself over the ancient world.

If ever one could accuse nature of despising her work, of contradicting
her plans, of acting against her designs, it is in this detestable
scourge which has soiled the earth with horror and filth. Is that the
best of all possible worlds? What! if Cæsar, Antony, Octavius never had
this disease, was it not possible for it not to cause the death of
François I.? "No," people say, "things were ordered thus for the best."
I want to believe it; but it is sad for those to whom Rabelais dedicated
his book.

Erotic philosophers have often debated the question of whether Heloïse
could still really love Abelard when he was a monk and emasculate? One
of these qualities did very great harm to the other.

But console yourself, Abelard, you were loved; the root of the hewn tree
still retains a remnant of sap; the imagination aids the heart. One can
still be happy at table even though one eats no longer. Is it love? is
it simply a memory? is it friendship? All that is composed of something
indescribable. It is an obscure feeling resembling the fantastic
passions retained by the dead in the Elysian fields. The heroes who,
during their lifetime, shone in the chariot races, drove imaginary
chariots when they were dead. Heloïse lived with you on illusions and
supplements. She kissed you sometimes, and with all the more pleasure
that having taken a vow at the Paraclet monastery to love you no longer,
her kisses thereby became more precious as more guilty. A woman can
barely be seized with a passion for a eunuch: but she can keep her
passion for her lover become eunuch, provided that he remains lovable.

It is not the same, ladies, for a lover who has grown old in service;
the externals subsist no longer; the wrinkles horrify; the white
eyebrows shock; the lost teeth disgust; the infirmities estrange: all
that one can do is to have the virtue of being nurse, and of tolerating
what one has loved. It is burying a dead man.


People have declaimed against luxury for two thousand years, in verse
and in prose, and people have always delighted in it.

What has not been said of the early Romans when these brigands ravaged
and pillaged the harvests; when, to enlarge their poor village, they
destroyed the poor villages of the Volscians and the Samnites? They were
disinterested, virtuous men; they had not yet been able to steal either
gold, silver, or precious stones, because there were not any in the
little towns they plundered. Their woods and their marshes produced
neither pheasants nor partridges, and people praise their temperance.

When gradually they had pillaged everything, stolen everything from the
far end of the Adriatic Gulf to the Euphrates, and when they had enough
intelligence to enjoy the fruit of their plundering; when they
cultivated the arts, when they tasted of all pleasures, and when they
even made the vanquished taste of them, they ceased then, people say, to
be wise and honest men.

All these declamations reduce themselves to proving that a robber must
never either eat the dinner he has taken, or wear the coat he has
pilfered, or adorn himself with the ring he has filched. He should throw
all that, people say, in the river, so as to live like an honest man.
Say rather that he should not have stolen. Condemn brigands when they
pillage; but do not treat them as senseless when they enjoy. Honestly,
when a large number of English sailors enriched themselves at the taking
of Pondicherry and Havana, were they wrong to enjoy themselves later in
London, as the price of the trouble they had had in the depths of Asia
and America?

The declaimers want one to bury in the ground the wealth one has amassed
by the fortune of arms, by agriculture, by commerce and by industry.
They cite Lacedæmon; why do they not cite also the republic of San
Marino? What good did Sparto to Greece? Did she ever have Demosthenes,
Sophocles, Apelles, Phidias? The luxury of Athens produced great men in
every sphere; Sparta had a few captains, and in less number even than
other towns. But how fine it is that as small a republic as Lacedæmon
retains its poverty.[14]

One arrives at death as well by lacking everything as by enjoying what
can make life pleasant. The Canadian savage subsists, and comes to old
age like the English citizen who has an income of fifty thousand
guineas. But who will ever compare the land of the Iroquois to England?

Let the republic of Ragusa and the canton of Zug make sumptuary laws,
they are right, the poor man must not spend beyond his powers; but I
have read somewhere:

"Learn that luxury enriches a great state, even if it ruins a

If by luxury you understand excess, everyone knows that excess in any
form is pernicious, in abstinence as in gluttony, in economy as in
generosity. I do not know how it has happened that in my village where
the land is ungrateful, the taxes heavy, the prohibition against
exporting the corn one has sown intolerable, there is nevertheless
barely a cultivator who has not a good cloth coat, and who is not well
shod and well fed. If this cultivator toiled in his fields in his fine
coat, with white linen, his hair curled and powdered, there, certainly,
would be the greatest luxury, and the most impertinent; but that a
bourgeois of Paris or London should appear at the theatre clad like a
peasant, there would be the most vulgar and ridiculous niggardliness.

When scissors, which are certainly not of the remotest antiquity, were
invented, what did people not say against the first men who pared their
nails, and who cut part of the hair which fell on their noses? They were
treated, without a doubt, as fops and prodigals, who bought an
instrument of vanity at a high price, in order to spoil the Creator's
handiwork. What an enormous sin to cut short the horn which God made to
grow at the end of our fingers! It was an outrage against the Deity! It
was much worse when shirts and socks were invented. One knows with what
fury the aged counsellors who had never worn them cried out against the
young magistrates who were addicted to this disastrous luxury.[16]


[14] Lacedæmon avoided luxury only by preserving the community or
equality of property; but she did not preserve either the one or the
other save by having the land cultivated by an enslaved people. The
existence of the equality or community of property supposes the
existence of an enslaved people. The Spartans had virtue, just like
highwaymen, inquisitors and all classes of men whom habit has
familiarized with a species of crime, to the point of committing them
without remorse.

[15] The sumptuary laws are by their nature a violation of the right of
property. If in a little state there is not a great inequality of
fortune, there will be no luxury; if this inequality exists, luxury is
the remedy for it. It is her sumptuary laws that have lost Geneva her

[16] If by luxury one understands everything that is beyond the
necessary, luxury is a natural consequence of the progress of the human
species; and to reason consequently every enemy of luxury should believe
with Rousseau that the state of happiness and virtue for man is that,
not of the savage, but of the orang-outang. One feels that it would be
absurd to regard as an evil the comforts which all men would enjoy:
also, does one not generally give the name of luxury to the
superfluities which only a small number of individuals can enjoy. In
this sense, luxury is a necessary consequence of property, without which
no society can subsist, and of a great inequality between fortunes which
is the consequence, not of the right of property, but of bad laws.
Moralists should address their sermons to the legislators, and not to
individuals, because it is in the order of possible things that a
virtuous and enlightened man may have the power to make reasonable laws,
and it is not in human nature for all the rich men of a country to
renounce through virtue procuring for themselves for money the
enjoyments of pleasure or vanity.


It needs twenty years to lead man from the plant state in which he is
within his mother's womb, and the pure animal state which is the lot of
his early childhood, to the state when the maturity of the reason begins
to appear. It has needed thirty centuries to learn a little about his
structure. It would need eternity to learn something about his soul. It
takes an instant to kill him.


The author of the "Siècle de Louis XIV."[17] is the first to speak of
the man in the iron mask in an authenticated history. The reason is that
he was very well informed about the anecdote which astonishes the
present century, which will astonish posterity, and which is only too
true. He was deceived about the date of the death of this singularly
unfortunate unknown. The date of his burial at St. Paul was March 3rd,
1703, and not 1704. (Note.--According to a certificate reported by
Saint-Foix, the date was November 20th, 1703.)

He was imprisoned first of all at Pignerol before being so on St.
Margaret's Islands, and later in the Bastille; always under the same
man's guard, Saint-Mars, who saw him die. Father Griffet, Jesuit, has
communicated to the public the diary of the Bastille, which testifies to
the dates. He had this diary without difficulty, for he held the
delicate position of confessor of prisoners imprisoned in the Bastille.

The man in the iron mask is a riddle to which everyone wishes to guess
the answer. Some say that he was the Duc de Beaufort: but the Duc de
Beaufort was killed by the Turks at the defence of Candia, in 1669; and
the man in the iron mask was at Pignerol, in 1662. Besides, how would
one have arrested the Duc de Beaufort surrounded by his army? how would
one have transferred him to France without anybody knowing anything
about it? and why should he have been put in prison, and why this mask?

Others have considered the Comte de Vermandois, natural son of Louis
XIV., who died publicly of the small-pox in 1683, with the army, and was
buried in the town of Arras.

Later it was thought that the Duke of Monmouth, whose head King James
II. had cut off publicly in London in 1685, was the man in the iron
mask. It would have been necessary for him to be resuscitated, and then
for him to change the order of the times, for him to put the year 1662
in place of 1685; for King James who never pardoned anyone, and who on
that account deserved all his misfortunes, to have pardoned the Duke of
Monmouth, and to have caused the death, in his place, of a man exactly
like him. It would have been necessary to find this double who would
have been so kind as to have his neck cut off in public in order to save
the Duke of Monmouth. It would have been necessary for the whole of
England to have been under a misapprehension; for James then to have
sent his earnest entreaties to Louis XIV. to be so good as to serve as
his constable and gaoler. Then Louis XIV. having done King James this
little favour, would not have failed to have the same consideration for
King William and for Queen Anne, with whom he was at war; and he would
carefully have preserved in these two monarchs' consideration his
dignity of gaoler, with which King James had honoured him.

All these illusions being dissipated, it remains to be learned who was
this prisoner who was always masked, the age at which he died, and under
what name he was buried. It is clear that if he was not allowed to pass
into the courtyard of the Bastille, if he was not allowed to speak to
his doctor, unless covered by a mask, it was for fear that in his
features might be recognized some too striking resemblance. He might
show his tongue, and never his face. As regards his age, he himself said
to the Bastille apothecary, a few days before his death, that he thought
he was about sixty; and Master Marsolan, surgeon to the Maréchal de
Richelieu, and later to the Duc d'Orléans, regent, son-in-law of this
apothecary, has repeated it to me more than once.

Finally, why give him an Italian name? he was always called Marchiali!
He who writes this article knows more about it, maybe, than Father
Griffet, and will not say more.


It is surprising to see so many scholars and so many intelligent and
sagacious writers torment themselves with guessing who can have been
the famous man in the iron mask, without the simplest, most natural,
most probable idea ever presenting itself to them. Once the fact as M.
de Voltaire reports it is admitted, with its circumstances; the
existence of a prisoner of so singular a species, put in the rank of the
best authenticated historical truths; it seems that not only is nothing
easier than to imagine who this prisoner was, but that it is even
difficult for there to be two opinions on the subject. The author of
this article would have communicated his opinion earlier, if he had not
believed that this idea must already have come to many others, and if he
were not persuaded that it was not worth while giving as a discovery
what, according to him, jumps to the eyes of all who read this anecdote.

However, as for some time past this event has divided men's minds, and
as quite recently the public has again been given a letter in which it
is claimed as proved that this celebrated prisoner was a secretary of
the Duke of Mantua (which cannot be reconciled with the great marks of
respect shown by M. de Saint-Mars to his prisoner), the author has
thought it his duty to tell at last what has been his opinion for many
years. Maybe this conjecture will put an end to all other researches,
unless the secret be revealed by those who can be its guardians, in such
a way as to remove all doubts.

He will not amuse himself with refuting those who have imagined that
this prisoner could be the Comte de Vermandois, the Duc de Beaufort, or
the Duke of Monmouth. The scholarly and very wise author of this last
opinion has well refuted the others; but he had based his own opinion
essentially merely on the impossibility of finding in Europe some other
prince whose detention it would have been of the very highest importance
should not be known. M. de Saint-Foix is right, if he means to speak
only of princes whose existence was known; but why has nobody yet
thought of supposing that the iron mask might have been an unknown
prince, brought up in secret, and whose existence it was important
should remain unknown?

The Duke of Monmouth was not for France a prince of such great
importance; and one does not see even what could have engaged this
power, at least after the death of this duke and of James II., to make
so great a secret of his detention, if indeed he was the iron mask. It
is hardly probable either that M. de Louvois and M. de Saint-Mars would
have shown the Duke of Monmouth the profound respect which M. de
Voltaire assures they showed the iron mask.

The author conjectures, from the way that M. de Voltaire has told the
facts, that this celebrated historian is as persuaded as he is of the
suspicion which he is going, he says, to bring to light; but that M. de
Voltaire, as a Frenchman, did not wish, he adds, to publish point-blank,
particularly as he had said enough for the answer to the riddle not to
be difficult to guess. Here it is, he continues, as I see it.

"The iron mask was undoubtedly a brother and an elder brother of Louis
XIV., whose mother had that taste for fine linen on which M. de Voltaire
lays stress. It was in reading the Memoirs of that time, which report
this anecdote about the queen, that, recalling this same taste in the
iron mask, I doubted no longer that he was her son: a fact of which all
the other circumstances had persuaded me already.

"It is known that Louis XIII. had not lived with the queen for a long
time; that the birth of Louis XIV. was due only to a happy chance
skilfully induced; a chance which absolutely obliged the king to sleep
in the same bed with the queen. This is how I think the thing came to

"The queen may have thought that it was her fault that no heir was born
to Louis XIII. The birth of the iron mask will have undeceived her. The
cardinal to whom she will have confided the fact will have known, for
more than one reason, how to turn the secret to account; he will have
thought of making use of this event for his own benefit and for the
benefit of the state. Persuaded by this example that the queen could
give the king children, the plan which produced the chance of one bed
for the king and the queen was arranged in consequence. But the queen
and the cardinal, equally impressed with the necessity of hiding from
Louis XIII. the iron mask's existence, will have had him brought up in
secret. This secret will have been a secret for Louis XIV. until
Cardinal Mazarin's death.

"But this monarch learning then that he had a brother, and an elder
brother whom his mother could not disacknowledge, who further bore maybe
the marked features which betrayed his origin, reflecting that this
child born during marriage could not, without great inconvenience and a
horrible scandal, be declared illegitimate after Louis XIII.'s death,
Louis XIV. will have judged that he could not use a wiser or juster
means than the one he employed in order to assure his own tranquillity
and the peace of the state; means which relieved him of committing a
cruelty which policy would have represented as necessary to a monarch
less conscientious and less magnanimous than Louis XIV.

"It seems to me, our author continues, that the more one knows of the
history of those times, the more one must be struck by these assembled
circumstances which are in favour of such a supposition."


[17] Voltaire.

[18] This note, given as a publisher's note in the 1771 edition, passes
among many men of letters as being by Voltaire himself. He knew of this
edition, and he never contradicted the opinion there advanced on the
subject of the man in the iron mask.

He was the first to speak of this man. He always combated all the
conjectures made about the mask: he always spoke as though better
informed than others on the subject, and as though unwilling to tell all
he knew.

There is a letter in circulation from Mlle. de Valois, written to the
Duke, afterward Maréchal de Richelieu, where she boasts of having
learned from the Duc d'Orléans, her father, under strange conditions,
who the man in the iron mask was; this man, she says, was a twin brother
of Louis XIV., born a few hours after him.

Either this letter, which it was so useless, so indecent, so dangerous
to read, is a supposititious letter, or the regent, in giving his
daughter the reward she had so nobly acquired, thought to weaken the
danger there was in revealing a state secret, by altering the facts, so
as to make of this prince a younger son without right to the throne,
instead of the heir-apparent to the crown.

But Louis XIV., who had a brother; Louis XIV., whose soul was
magnanimous; Louis XIV., who prided himself even on a scrupulous
probity, whom history has reproached with no crime, who indeed committed
no crime apart from letting himself be too swayed by the counsels of
Louvois and the Jesuits; Louis XIV. would never have detained one of his
brothers in perpetual prison, in order to forestall the evils announced
by an astrologer, in whom he did not believe. He needed more important
motives. Eldest son of Louis XIII., acknowledged by this prince, the
throne belonged to him; but a son born of Anne of Austria, unknown to
her husband, had no rights, and could, nevertheless, try to make himself
acknowledged, rend France with a long civil war, win maybe over Louis
XIII.'s son, by alleging the right of primogeniture, and substitute a
new race for the old race of the Bourbons. These motives, if they did
not entirely justify Louis XIV.'s rigour, serve at least to excuse him;
and the prisoner, too well-informed of his fate, could be grateful to
him for not having listened to more rigorous counsels, counsels which
politics have often employed against those who had pretensions to
thrones occupied by their competitors.

From his youth Voltaire was connected with the Duc de Richelieu, who was
not discreet: if Mlle. de Valois' letter is authentic, he knew of it;
but, possessed of a just mind, he felt the error, and sought other
information. He was in a position to obtain it; he rectified the truth
altered in the letter, as he rectified so many other errors.


I came across a reasoner who said: "Engage your subjects to marry as
soon as possible; let them be exempt from taxes the first year, and let
their tax be distributed over those who at the same age are celibate.

"The more married men you have, the less crime there will be. Look at
the frightful records of your registers of crime; you will find there a
hundred bachelors hanged or wheeled for one father of a family.

"Marriage makes man wiser and more virtuous. The father of a family,
near to committing a crime, is often stopped by his wife whose blood,
less feverish than his, makes her gentler, more compassionate, more
fearful of theft and murder, more timorous, more religious.

"The father of a family does not want to blush before his children. He
fears to leave them a heritage of shame.

"Marry your soldiers, they will not desert any more. Bound to their
families, they will be bound also to their fatherland. A bachelor
soldier often is nothing but a vagabond, to whom it is indifferent
whether he serves the king of Naples or the king of Morocco."

The Roman warriors were married; they fought for their wives and
children; and they enslaved the wives and children of other nations.

A great Italian politician, who further was very learned in oriental
languages, a very rare thing among our politicians, said to me in my
youth: "_Caro figlio_, remember that the Jews have never had but one
good institution, that of having a horror of virginity." If this little
race of superstitious intermediaries had not considered marriage as the
first law of man, if there had been among them convents of nuns, they
were irreparably lost.



"Unfortunate that I am to have been born!" said Ardassan Ougli, young
page of the great Sultan of the Turks. "If it were only the great Sultan
on whom I am dependent; but I am subject to the chief of my oda, to the
capigi pasha; and when I receive my pay, I have to bow down to one of
the tefterdar's clerks who deducts half of it. Before I was seven years
old I had cut off, in spite of myself, in ceremony, the end of my
prepuce, and it made me ill for a fortnight. The dervish who prays for
us is my master; an iman is still more my master; the mollah is still
more my master than the iman. The cadi is another master; the
cadi-leskier is master still more; the mufti is much more master than
all these together. The grand vizier's kaia can with a word have me
thrown into the canal; and the grand vizier, finally, can have my neck
wrung at his pleasure, and stuff the skin of my head, without anybody
even taking notice.

"How many masters, great God! even if I had as many bodies and as many
souls as I have duties to accomplish, I could not attend to everything.
Oh, Allah! if only you had made me a screech-owl! I should live free in
my hole, and I should eat mice at my ease without masters or servants.
That assuredly is man's real destiny; only since he was perverted has he
masters. No man was made to serve another man continuously. Each would
have charitably aided his fellow, if things were as they should be. The
man with eyes would have led the blind man, the active man would have
acted as crutch to the cripple. This world would have been the paradise
of Mohammed; and it is the hell which is exactly under the pointed

Thus did Ardassan Ougli speak, after receiving the stirrup-leather from
one of his masters.

After a few years Ardassan Ougli became pasha with three tails. He made
a prodigious fortune, and he firmly believed that all men, excepting the
Great Turk and the Grand Vizier, were born to serve him, and all women
to give him pleasure in accordance with his caprice.


How has it been possible for one man to become another man's master, and
by what species of incomprehensible magic has he been able to become the
master of many other men? On this phenomenon a great number of good
volumes have been written; but I give the preference to an Indian fable,
because it is short, and because the fables have said everything.

Adimo, the father of all the Indians, had two sons and two daughters by
his wife Procriti. The elder son was a giant, the younger was a little
hunchback, the two daughters were pretty. As soon as the giant was
conscious of his strength, he lay with his two sisters, and made the
little hunchback serve him. Of his two sisters, one was his cook, the
other his gardener. When the giant wanted to sleep, he started by
chaining his little hunchback brother to a tree; and when the brother
escaped, he caught him in four strides, and gave him twenty strokes with
a length of ox sinew.

The hunchback became submissive and the best subject in the world. The
giant, satisfied to see him fulfilling his duties as subject, permitted
him to lie with one of his sisters for whom he himself had taken a
distaste. The children who came of this marriage were not entirely
hunchbacked; but they had sufficiently misshapen forms. They were
reared in fear of God and the giant. They received an excellent
education; they were taught that their great uncle was giant by divine
right, that he could do with his family as pleased him; that if he had a
pretty niece or great-niece, she was for him alone without a doubt, and
that no one could lie with her until he wanted her no longer.

The giant having died, his son, who was not by a long way as strong and
as big as he, thought nevertheless that he, like his father, was giant
by divine right. He claimed to make all the men work for him, and to lie
with all the women. The family leagued itself against him, he was beaten
to death, and the others turned themselves into a republic.

The Siamese, on the contrary, maintain that the family had started by
being republican, and that the giant did not come until after a great
number of years and dissensions; but all the authors of Benares and Siam
agree that mankind lived an infinity of centuries before having the
intelligence to make laws; and they prove it by an unanswerable reason,
which is that even to-day when everyone plumes himself on his
intelligence, no way has been found of making a score of passably good

It is indeed still an insoluble question in India whether republics were
established before or after monarchies, whether confusion appeared more
horrible to mankind than despotism. I do not know what happened in order
of time; but in that of nature it must be agreed that all men being born
equal, violence and adroitness made the first masters, the laws made the


In our barbarous times, when the Franks, the Germans, the Bretons, the
Lombards, the Spanish Muzarabs, knew not how either to read or write,
there were instituted schools, universities, composed almost entirely of
ecclesiastics who, knowing nothing but their own jargon, taught this
jargon to those who wished to learn it; the academies came only a long
time afterwards; they despised the foolishness of the schools, but did
not always dare to rise against them, because there are foolishnesses
that are respected provided that they concern respectable things.

The men of letters who have rendered the greatest services to the small
number of thinking beings spread over the world, are the isolated
writers, the true scholars shut in their studies, who have neither
argued on the benches of the universities, nor told half-truths in the
academies; and almost all of them have been persecuted. Our wretched
species is so made that those who walk on the well-trodden path always
throw stones at those who are showing a new road.

Montesquieu says that the Scythians rent their slaves' eyes, so that
they might be less distracted while they were churning their butter;
that is just how the inquisition functions, and in the land where this
monster reigns almost everybody is blind. In England people have had two
eyes for more than two hundred years; the French are starting to open
one eye; but sometimes there are men in power who do not want the people
to have even this one eye open.

These poor persons in power are like Doctor Balouard of the Italian
Comedy, who does not want to be served by anyone but the dolt
Harlequin, and who is afraid of having too shrewd a valet.

Compose some odes in praise of My Lord Superbus Fadus, some madrigals
for his mistress; dedicate a book on geography to his door-keeper, you
will be well-received; enlighten mankind, you will be exterminated.

Descartes was forced to leave his country, Gassendi was calumniated,
Arnauld dragged out his days in exile; every philosopher is treated as
the prophets were among the Jews.

Who would believe that in the eighteenth century a philosopher was
dragged before the secular tribunals, and treated as impious by the
tribunals of arguments, for having said that men could not practise the
arts if they had no hands? I do not despair that soon the first person
who is so insolent as to say that men could not think if they had no
heads will be immediately condemned to the galleys; "for," some young
graduate will say to him, "the soul is a pure spirit, the head is only
matter; God can put the soul in the heel, as well as in the brain;
therefore I denounce you as impious."

The greatest misfortune of a man of letters is not perhaps being the
object of his confrères' jealousy, the victim of the cabal, the despised
of the men of power; but of being judged by fools. Fools go far
sometimes, particularly when bigotry is added to ineptitude, and to
ineptitude the spirit of vengeance. The further great misfortune of a
man of letters is that ordinarily he is unattached. A bourgeois buys
himself a small position, and there he is backed by his colleagues. If
he suffers an injustice, he finds defenders at once. The man of letters
is unsuccoured; he resembles a flying-fish; if he rises a little, the
birds devour him; if he dives, the fish eat him.

Every public man pays tribute to malignity, but he is paid in honours
and gold.


Is it not very natural that all the metamorphoses with which the world
is covered should have made people imagine in the Orient, where
everything has been imagined, that our souls passed from one body to
another? An almost imperceptible speck becomes a worm, this worm becomes
a butterfly; an acorn transforms itself into an oak; an egg into a bird;
water becomes cloud and thunder; wood is changed into fire and ash;
everything in nature appears, in fine, metamorphosed. Soon people
attributed to souls, which were regarded as light figures, what they saw
in more gross bodies. The idea of metempsychosis is perhaps the most
ancient dogma of the known universe, and it still reigns in a large part
of India and China.


Some people have accused Milton of having taken his poem from the
tragedy of "The Banishment of Adam" by Grotius, and from the "Sarcotis"
of the Jesuit Masenius, printed at Cologne in 1654 and in 1661, long
before Milton gave his "Paradise Lost."

As regards Grotius, it was well enough known in England that Milton had
carried into his epic English poem a few Latin verses from the tragedy
of "Adam." It is in no wise to be a plagiarist to enrich one's language
with the beauties of a foreign language. No one accused Euripides of
plagiarism for having imitated in one of the choruses of "Iphigenia" the
second book of the Iliad; on the contrary, people were very grateful to
him for this imitation, which they regarded as a homage rendered to
Homer on the Athenian stage.

Virgil never suffered a reproach for having happily imitated, in the
Æneid, a hundred verses by the first of Greek poets.

Against Milton the accusation was pushed a little further. A Scot, Will
Lauder by name, very attached to the memory of Charles I., whom Milton
had insulted with the most uncouth animosity, thought himself entitled
to dishonour the memory of this monarch's accuser. It was claimed that
Milton was guilty of an infamous imposture in robbing Charles I. of the
sad glory of being the author of the "Eikon Basilika," a book long dear
to the royalists, and which Charles I., it was said, had composed in his
prison to serve as consolation for his deplorable adversity.

Lauder, therefore, about the year of 1752, wanted to begin by proving
that Milton was only a plagiarist, before proving that he had acted as a
forger against the memory of the most unfortunate of kings; he procured
some editions of the poem of the "Sarcotis." It seemed evident that
Milton had imitated some passages of it, as he had imitated Grotius and

But Lauder did not rest content there; he unearthed a bad translation in
Latin verse of the "Paradise Lost" of the English poet; and joining
several verses of this translation to those by Masenius, he thought
thereby to render the accusation more grave, and Milton's shame more
complete. It was in that, that he was badly deceived; his fraud was
discovered. He wanted to make Milton pass for a forger, and he was
himself convicted of forging. No one examined Masenius' poem of which at
that time there were only a few copies in Europe. All England, convinced
of the Scot's poor trick, asked no more about it. The accuser,
confounded, was obliged to disavow his manoeuvre, and ask pardon for

Since then a new edition of Masenius was printed in 1757. The literary
public was surprised at the large number of very beautiful verses with
which the Sarcotis was sprinkled. It is in truth nothing but a long
declamation of the schools on the fall of man: but the exordium, the
invocation, the description of the garden of Eden, the portrait of Eve,
that of the devil, are precisely the same as in Milton. Further, it is
the same subject, the same plot, the same catastrophe. If the devil
wishes, in Milton, to be revenged on man for the harm which God has done
him, he has precisely the same plan in the work of the Jesuit Masenius;
and he manifests it in verses worthy maybe of the century of Augustus.
("Sarcotis," I., 271 _et seq._)

One finds in both Masenius and Milton little episodes, trifling
digressions which are absolutely alike; both speak of Xerxes who covered
the sea with his ships. Both speak in the same tone of the Tower of
Babel; both give the same description of luxury, of pride, of avarice,
of gluttony.

What most persuaded the generality of readers of Milton's plagiarism was
the perfect resemblance of the beginning of the two poems. Many
foreigners, after reading the exordium, had no doubt but that the rest
of Milton's poem was taken from Masenius. It is a very great error and
easy to recognize.

I do not think that the English poet imitated in all more than two
hundred of the Jesuit of Cologne's verses; and I dare say that he
imitated only what was worthy of being imitated. These two hundred
verses are very beautiful; so are Milton's; and the total of Masenius'
poem, despite these two hundred beautiful verses, is not worth anything
at all.

Molière took two whole scenes from the ridiculous comedy of the "Pédant
Joué" by Cyrano de Bergerac. "These two scenes are good," he said as he
was jesting with his friends. "They belong to me by right: I recover my
property." After that anyone who treated the author of "Tartufe" and "Le
Misanthrope" as a plagiarist would have been very badly received.

It is certain that generally Milton, in his "Paradise", has in imitating
flown on his own wings; and it must be agreed that if he borrowed so
many traits from Grotius and from the Jesuit of Cologne, they are
blended in the crowd of original things which are his; in England he is
always regarded as a very great poet.

It is true that he should have avowed having translated two hundred of a
Jesuit's verses; but in his time, at the court of Charles II., people
did not worry themselves with either the Jesuits, or Milton, or
"Paradise Lost", or "Paradise Regained". All those things were either
scoffed at, or unknown.


I tell you again, ignorant imbeciles, whom other ignoramuses have made
believe that the Mohammedan religion is voluptuous and sensual, there is
not a word of truth in it; you have been deceived on this point as on so
many others.

Canons, monks, vicars even, if a law were imposed on you not to eat or
drink from four in the morning till ten at night, during the month of
July, when Lent came at this period; if you were forbidden to play at
any game of chance under pain of damnation; if wine were forbidden you
under the same pain; if you had to make a pilgrimage into the burning
desert; if it were enjoined on you to give at least two and a half per
cent. of your income to the poor; if, accustomed to enjoy possession of
eighteen women, the number were cut down suddenly by fourteen; honestly,
would you dare call that religion sensual?

The Latin Christians have so many advantages over the Mussulmans, I do
not say in the matter of war, but in the matter of doctrines; the Greek
Christians have so beaten them latterly from 1769 to 1773, that it is
not worth the trouble to indulge in unjust reproaches against Islam.

Try to retake from the Mohammedans all that they usurped; but it is
easier to calumniate them.

I hate calumny so much that I do not want even to impute foolishness to
the Turks, although I detest them as tyrants over women and enemies of
the arts.

I do not know why the historian of the Lower Empire maintains that
Mohammed speaks in his Koran of his journey into the sky: Mohammed does
not say a word about it; we have proved it.

One must combat ceaselessly. When one has destroyed an error, there is
always someone who resuscitates it.


It is a very old, very universal fable that tells of the mountain which,
having frightened all the countryside by its outcry that it was in
labour, was hissed by all present when it brought into the world a mere
mouse. The people in the pit were not philosophers. Those who hissed
should have admired. It was as fine for the mountain to give birth to a
mouse, as for the mouse to give birth to a mountain. A rock which
produces a rat is a very prodigious thing; and never has the world seen
anything approaching this miracle. All the globes of the universe could
not call a fly into existence. Where the vulgar laugh, the philosopher
admires; and he laughs where the vulgar open their big, stupid eyes in


Why should one lock up a man or a woman who walked stark naked in the
street? and why is no one shocked by absolutely nude statues, by
pictures of the Madonna and of Jesus that may be seen in some churches?

It is probably that the human species lived long without being clothed.

People unacquainted with clothing have been found in more than one
island and in the American continent.

The most civilized hide the organs of generation with leaves, woven
rushes, feathers.

Whence comes this form of modesty? is it the instinct for lighting
desires by hiding what it gives pleasure to discover?

Is it really true that among slightly more civilized nations, such as
the Jews and half-Jews, there have been entire sects who would not
worship God save by stripping themselves of all their clothes? such
were, it is said, the Adamites and the Abelians. They gathered quite
naked to sing the praises of God: St. Epiphanius and St. Augustine say
so. It is true that they were not contemporary, and that they were very
far from these people's country. But at all events this madness is
possible: it is not even more extraordinary, more mad than a hundred
other madnesses which have been round the world one after the other.

We have said elsewhere that to-day even the Mohammedans still have
saints who are madmen, and who go naked like monkeys. It is very
possible that some fanatics thought it was better to present themselves
to the Deity in the state in which He formed them, than in the disguise
invented by man. It is possible that they showed everything out of
piety. There are so few well-made persons of both sexes, that nakedness
might have inspired chastity, or rather disgust, instead of increasing

It is said particularly that the Abelians renounced marriage. If there
were any fine lads and pretty lasses among them, they were at least
comparable to St. Adhelme and to blessed Robert d'Arbrisselle, who slept
with the prettiest persons, that their continence might triumph all the

But I avow that it would have been very comic to see a hundred Helens
and Parises singing anthems, giving each other the kiss of peace, and
making agapæ.

All of which shows that there is no singularity, no extravagance, no
superstition which has not passed through the heads of mankind. Happy
the day when these superstitions do not trouble society and make of it a
scene of disorder, hatred and fury! It is better without doubt to pray
God stark naked, than to stain His altars and the public places with
human blood.


B: What is natural law?

A: The instinct which makes us feel justice.

B: What do you call just and unjust?

A: What appears such to the entire universe.

B: The universe is composed of many heads. It is said that in Lacedæmon
were applauded thefts for which people in Athens were condemned to the

A: Abuse of words, logomachy, equivocation; theft could not be committed
at Sparta, when everything was common property. What you call "theft"
was the punishment for avarice.

B: It was forbidden to marry one's sister in Rome. It was allowed among
the Egyptians, the Athenians and even among the Jews, to marry one's
sister on the father's side. It is but with regret that I cite that
wretched little Jewish people, who should assuredly not serve as a rule
for anyone, and who (putting religion aside) was never anything but a
race of ignorant and fanatic brigands. But still, according to their
books, the young Thamar, before being ravished by her brother Amnon,
says to him:--"Nay, my brother, do not thou this folly, but speak unto
the king; for he will not withhold me from thee." (2 Samuel xiii. 12,

A: Conventional law all that, arbitrary customs, fashions that pass: the
essential remains always. Show me a country where it was honourable to
rob me of the fruit of my toil, to break one's promise, to lie in order
to hurt, to calumniate, to assassinate, to poison, to be ungrateful
towards a benefactor, to beat one's father and one's mother when they
offer you food.

B: Have you forgotten that Jean-Jacques, one of the fathers of the
modern Church, has said that "the first man who dared enclose and
cultivate a piece of land" was the enemy "of the human race," that he
should have been exterminated, and that "the fruits of the earth are for
all, and that the land belongs to none"? Have we not already examined
together this lovely proposition which is so useful to society
(Discourse on Inequality, second part)?

A: Who is this Jean-Jacques? he is certainly not either John the
Baptist, nor John the Evangelist, nor James the Greater, nor James the
Less[19]; it must be some Hunnish wit who wrote that abominable
impertinence or some poor joker _bufo magro_ who wanted to laugh at what
the entire world regards as most serious. For instead of going to spoil
the land of a wise and industrious neighbour, he had only to imitate
him; and every father of a family having followed this example, behold
soon a very pretty village formed. The author of this passage seems to
me a very unsociable animal.

B: You think then that by outraging and robbing the good man who has
surrounded his garden and chicken-run with a live hedge, he has been
wanting in respect towards the duties of natural law?

A: Yes, yes, once again, there is a natural law, and it does not consist
either in doing harm to others, or in rejoicing thereat.

B: I imagine that man likes and does harm only for his own advantage.
But so many people are led to look for their own interest in the
misfortune of others, vengeance is so violent a passion, there are such
disastrous examples of it; ambition, still more fatal, has inundated the
world with so much blood, that when I retrace for myself the horrible
picture, I am tempted to avow that man is a very devil. In vain have I
in my heart the notion of justice and injustice; an Attila courted by
St. Leo, a Phocas flattered by St. Gregory with the most cowardly
baseness, an Alexander VI. sullied with so many incests, so many
murders, so many poisonings, with whom the weak Louis XII., who is
called "the good," makes the most infamous and intimate alliance; a
Cromwell whose protection Cardinal Mazarin seeks, and for whom he drives
out of France the heirs of Charles I., Louis XIV.'s first cousins, etc.,
etc.; a hundred like examples set my ideas in disorder, and I know no
longer where I am.

A: Well, do storms stop our enjoyment of to-day's beautiful sun? Did the
earthquake which destroyed half the city of Lisbon stop your making the
voyage to Madrid very comfortably? If Attila was a brigand and Cardinal
Mazarin a rogue, are there not princes and ministers who are honest
people? Has it not been remarked that in the war of 1701, Louis XIV.'s
council was composed of the most virtuous men? The Duc de Beauvilliers,
the Marquis de Torci, the Maréchal de Villars, Chamillart lastly who
passed for being incapable, but never for dishonest. Does not the idea
of justice subsist always? It is upon that idea that all laws are
founded. The Greeks called them "daughters of heaven," which only means
daughters of nature. Have you no laws in your country?

B: Yes, some good, some bad.

A: Where, if it was not in the notions of natural law, did you get the
idea that every man has within himself when his mind is properly made?
You must have obtained it there, or nowhere.

B: You are right, there is a natural law; but it is still more natural
to many people to forget it.

A: It is natural also to be one-eyed, hump-backed, lame, deformed,
unhealthy; but one prefers people who are well made and healthy.

B: Why are there so many one-eyed and deformed minds?

A: Peace! But go to the article on "Power."


[19] Jean=John: Jacques=James.




Who are you, Nature? I live in you; for fifty years have I been seeking
you, and I have not found you yet.


The ancient Egyptians, who lived, it is said, some twelve hundred years,
made me the same reproach. They called me Isis; they put a great veil on
my head, and they said that nobody could lift it.


That is what makes me address myself to you. I have been able to measure
some of your globes, know their paths, assign the laws of motion; but I
have not been able to learn who you are.

Are you always active? are you always passive? did your elements arrange
themselves, as water deposits itself on sand, oil on water, air on oil?
have you a mind which directs all your operations, as councils are
inspired as soon as they are assembled, although their members are
sometimes ignoramuses? I pray you tell me the answer to your riddle.


I am the great everything. I know no more about it. I am not a
mathematician; and everything is arranged in my world according to
mathematical laws. Guess if you can how it is all done.


Certainly, since your great everything does not know mathematics, and
since all your laws are most profoundly geometrical, there must be an
eternal geometer who directs you, a supreme intelligence who presides
over your operations.


You are right; I am water, earth, fire, atmosphere, metal, mineral,
stone, vegetable, animal. I feel indeed that there is in me an
intelligence; you have an intelligence, you do not see it. I do not see
mine either; I feel this invisible power; I cannot know it: why should
you, who are but a small part of me, want to know what I do not know?


We are curious. I want to know how being so crude in your mountains, in
your deserts, in your seas, you appear nevertheless so industrious in
your animals, in your vegetables?


My poor child do you want me to tell you the truth? It is that I have
been given a name which does not suit me; my name is "Nature", and I am
all art.


That word upsets all my ideas. What! nature is only art?


Yes, without any doubt. Do you not know that there is an infinite art in
those seas and those mountains that you find so crude? do you not know
that all those waters gravitate towards the centre of the earth, and
mount only by immutable laws; that those mountains which crown the
earth are the immense reservoirs of the eternal snows which produce
unceasingly those fountains, lakes and rivers without which my animal
species and my vegetable species would perish? And as for what are
called my animal kingdom, my vegetable kingdom and my mineral kingdom,
you see here only three; learn that I have millions of kingdoms. But if
you consider only the formation of an insect, of an ear of corn, of
gold, of copper, everything will appear as marvels of art.


It is true. The more I think about it, the more I see that you are only
the art of I know not what most potent and industrious great being, who
hides himself and who makes you appear. All reasoners since Thales, and
probably long before him, have played at blind man's buff with you; they
have said: "I have you!" and they had nothing. We all resemble Ixion; he
thought he was kissing Juno, and all that he possessed was a cloud.


Since I am all that is, how can a being such as you, so small a part of
myself, seize me? Be content, atoms my children, with seeing a few atoms
that surround you, with drinking a few drops of my milk, with vegetating
for a few moments on my breast, and with dying without having known your
mother and your nurse.


My dear mother, tell me something of why you exist, of why there is


I will answer you as I have answered for so many centuries all those who
have interrogated me about first principles: I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT THEM.


Would not non-existence be better than this multitude of existences made
in order to be continually dissolved, this crowd of animals born and
reproduced in order to devour others and to be devoured, this crowd of
sentient beings formed for so many painful sensations, that other crowd
of intelligences which so rarely hear reason. What is the good of all
that, Nature?


Oh! go and ask Him who made me.



Do you not say that everything is necessary?


If everything were not necessary, it would follow that God had made
useless things.


That is to say that it was necessary to the divine nature to make all
that it has made?


I think so, or at least I suspect it; there are people who think
otherwise; I do not understand them; maybe they are right. I am afraid
of disputes on this subject.


It is also of another necessary that I want to talk to you.


What! of what is necessary to an honest man that he may live? of the
misfortune to which one is reduced when one lacks the necessary?


No; for what is necessary to one is not always necessary to the other:
it is necessary for an Indian to have rice, for an Englishman to have
meat; a fur is necessary to a Russian, and a gauzy stuff to an African;
this man thinks that twelve coach-horses are necessary to him, that man
limits himself to a pair of shoes, a third walks gaily barefoot: I want
to talk to you of what is necessary to all men.


It seems to me that God has given all that is necessary to this species:
eyes to see with, feet for walking, a mouth for eating, an oesophagus
for swallowing, a stomach for digesting, a brain for reasoning, organs
for producing one's fellow creature.


How does it happen then that men are born lacking a part of these
necessary things?


It is because the general laws of nature have brought about some
accidents which have made monsters to be born; but generally man is
provided with everything that is necessary to him in order to live in


Are there notions common to all men which serve to make them live in


Yes. I have travelled with Paul Lucas, and wherever I went, I saw that
people respected their father and their mother, that people believed
themselves to be obliged to keep their promises, that people pitied
oppressed innocents, that they hated persecution, that they regarded
liberty of thought as a rule of nature, and the enemies of this liberty
as enemies of the human race; those who think differently seemed to me
badly organized creatures, monsters like those who are born without eyes
and hands.


Are these necessary things in all time and in all places?


Yes, if they were not they would not be necessary to the human species.


So a belief which is new is not necessary to this species. Men could
very well live in society and accomplish their duty to God, before
believing that Mahomet had frequent interviews with the angel Gabriel.


Nothing is clearer; it would be ridiculous to think that man could not
accomplish his duty to God before Mahomet came into the world; it was
not at all necessary for the human species to believe in the Alcoran:
the world went along before Mahomet just as it goes along to-day. If
Mahometanism had been necessary to the world, it would have existed in
all places; God who has given us all two eyes to see the sun, would have
given us all an intelligence to see the truth of the Mussulman religion.
This sect is therefore only like the positive laws that change according
to time and place, like the fashions, like the opinions of the natural
philosophers which follow one after the other.

The Mussulman sect could not be essentially necessary to mankind.


But since it exists, God has permitted it?


Yes, as he permits the world to be filled with foolishness, error and
calamity; that is not to say that men are all essentially made to be
fools and miscreants. He permits that some men be eaten by snakes; but
one cannot say--"God made man to be eaten by snakes."


What do you mean when you say "God permits"? can nothing happen without
His order? permit, will and do, are they not the same thing for Him?


He permits crime, but He does not commit it.


Committing a crime is acting against divine justice, it is disobeying
God. Well, God cannot disobey Himself, He cannot commit crime; but He
has made man in such a way that man may commit many crimes: where does
that come from?


There are people who know, but I do not; all that I know is that the
Alcoran is ridiculous, although from time to time it has some tolerably
good things; certainly the Alcoran was not at all necessary to man; I
stick by that: I see clearly what is false, and I know very little that
is true.


I thought you would instruct me, and you teach me nothing.


Is it not a great deal to recognize people who deceive you, and the
gross and dangerous errors which they retail to you?


I should have ground for complaint against a doctor who showed me all
the harmful plants, and who did not show me one salutary plant.


I am not a doctor, and you are not ill; but it seems to me I should be
giving you a very good prescription if I said to you: "Put not your
trust in all the inventions of charlatans, worship God, be an honest
man, and believe that two and two make four."


It seems that the first words of Ovid's "Metamorphoses," _In nova fert
animus_, are the motto of the human race. Nobody is touched by the
admirable spectacle of the sun which rises, or rather seems to rise,
every day; everybody runs to see the smallest little meteor which
appears for an instant in that accumulation of vapours, called the sky,
that surround the earth.

An itinerant bookseller does not burden himself with a Virgil, with a
Horace, but with a new book, even though it be detestable. He draws you
aside and says to you: "Sir, do you want some books from Holland?"

From the beginning of the world women have complained of the fickleness
that is imputed to them in favour of the first new object which presents
itself, and whose novelty is often its only merit. Many ladies (it must
be confessed, despite the infinite respect we have for them) have
treated men as they complain they have themselves been treated; and the
story of Gioconda is much older than Ariosto.

Perhaps this universal taste for novelty is one of nature's favours.
People cry to us: "Be content with what you have, desire nothing that is
beyond your estate, restrain your curiosity, tame your intellectual
disquiet." These are very good maxims; but if we had always followed
them, we should still be eating acorns, we should be sleeping in the
open air, and we should not have had Corneille, Racine, Molière,
Poussin, Lebrun, Lemoine or Pigalle.


Philosopher, _lover of wisdom_, that is to say, _of truth_. All
philosophers have had this dual character; there is not one in antiquity
who has not given mankind examples of virtue and lessons in moral
truths. They have all contrived to be deceived about natural philosophy;
but natural philosophy is so little necessary for the conduct of life,
that the philosophers had no need of it. It has taken centuries to learn
a part of nature's laws. One day was sufficient for a wise man to learn
the duties of man.

The philosopher is not enthusiastic; he does not set himself up as a
prophet; he does not say that he is inspired by the gods. Thus I shall
not put in the rank of philosophers either the ancient Zarathustra, or
Hermes, or the ancient Orpheus, or any of those legislators of whom the
nations of Chaldea, Persia, Syria, Egypt and Greece boasted. Those who
styled themselves children of the gods were the fathers of imposture;
and if they used lies for the teaching of truths, they were unworthy of
teaching them; they were not philosophers; they were at best very
prudent liars.

By what fatality, shameful maybe for the Western peoples, is it
necessary to go to the far Orient to find a wise man who is simple,
unostentatious, free from imposture, who taught men to live happily six
hundred years before our vulgar era, at a time when the whole of the
North was ignorant of the usage of letters, and when the Greeks were
barely beginning to distinguish themselves by their wisdom?

This wise man is Confucius, who being legislator never wanted to
deceive men. What more beautiful rule of conduct has ever been given
since him in the whole world?

"Rule a state as you rule a family; one can only govern one's family
well by setting the example.

"Virtue should be common to both husbandman and monarch.

"Apply thyself to the trouble of preventing crimes in order to lessen
the trouble of punishing them.

"Under the good kings Yao and Xu the Chinese were good; under the bad
kings Kie and Chu they were wicked.

"Do to others as to thyself.

"Love all men; but cherish honest people. Forget injuries, and never

"I have seen men incapable of study; I have never seen them incapable of

Let us admit that there is no legislator who has proclaimed truths more
useful to the human race.

A host of Greek philosophers have since taught an equally pure moral
philosophy. If they had limited themselves to their empty systems of
natural philosophy, their names would be pronounced to-day in mockery
only. If they are still respected, it is because they were just and that
they taught men to be so.

One cannot read certain passages of Plato, and notably the admirable
exordium of the laws of Zaleucus, without feeling in one's heart the
love of honourable and generous actions. The Romans have their Cicero,
who alone is worth perhaps all the philosophers of Greece. After him
come men still more worthy of respect, but whom one almost despairs of
imitating; Epictetus in bondage, the Antonines and the Julians on the

Which is the citizen among us who would deprive himself, like Julian,
Antoninus and Marcus Aurelius, of all the delicacies of our flabby and
effeminate lives? who would sleep as they did on the ground? who would
impose on himself their frugality? who, as they did, would march
barefoot and bareheaded at the head of the armies, exposed now to the
heat of the sun, now to the hoar-frost? who would command all their
passions as they did? There are pious men among us; but where are the
wise men? where are the resolute, just and tolerant souls?

There have been philosophers of the study in France; and all, except
Montaigne, have been persecuted. It is, I think, the last degree of the
malignity of our nature, to wish to oppress these very philosophers who
would correct it.

I quite understand that the fanatics of one sect slaughter the
enthusiasts of another sect, that the Franciscans hate the Dominicans,
and that a bad artist intrigues to ruin one who surpasses him; but that
the wise Charron should have been threatened with the loss of his life,
that the learned and generous Ramus should have been assassinated, that
Descartes should have been forced to flee to Holland to escape the fury
of the ignorant, that Gassendi should have been obliged to withdraw
several times to Digne, far from the calumnies of Paris; these things
are a nation's eternal shame.


I suppose that the man who reads this article is convinced that this
world is formed with intelligence, and that a little astronomy and
anatomy suffices to make this universal and supreme intelligence

Can he know by himself if this intelligence is omnipotent, that is to
say, infinitely powerful? Has he the least notion of the infinite, to
understand what is an infinite power?

The celebrated historian philosopher, David Hume, says in "Particular
Providence": "A weight of ten ounces is lifted in a balance by another
weight; therefore this other weight is of more than ten ounces; but one
can adduce no reason why it should weigh a hundred ounces."

One can say likewise: You recognize a supreme intelligence strong enough
to form you, to preserve you for a limited time, to reward you, to
punish you. Do you know enough of this power to demonstrate that it can
do still more?

How can you prove by your reason that this being can do more than he has

The life of all animals is short. Could he make it longer?

All animals are the prey of each other: everything is born to be
devoured. Could he form without destroying?

You do not know what nature is. You cannot therefore know if nature has
not forced him to do only the things he has done.

This globe is only a vast field of destruction and carnage. Either the
great Being has been able to make of it an eternal abode of delight for
all sentient beings, or He has not been able. If He has been able and if
He has not done so, fear to regard him as malevolent; but if He has not
been able, fear not to look on Him as a very great power, circumscribed
by nature in His limits.

Whether or no His power is infinite does not regard you. It is a matter
of indifference to a subject whether his master possesses five hundred
leagues of land or five thousand; he is subject neither more nor less.

Which would be the greater insult to this ineffable Being, to say: "He
has made miserable men without being able to dispense with them, or He
has made them for His pleasure?"

Many sects represent Him as cruel; others, for fear of admitting a
wicked God, have the audacity to deny His existence. Is it not better to
say that probably the necessity of His nature and the necessity of
things have determined everything?

The world is the theatre of moral ill and physical ill; one is only too
aware of it: and the "All is good" of Shaftesbury, Bolingbroke and Pope,
is only a witty paradox, a poor joke.

The two principles of Zarathustra and Manes, so carefully scrutinized by
Bayle, are a still poorer joke. They are, as has been observed already,
Molière's two doctors, one of whom says to the other: "Grant me the
emetic, and I will grant you the bleeding." Manichæism is absurd; and
that is why it has had so many supporters.

I admit that I have not been enlightened by all that Bayle says about
the Manichæans and the Paulicians. That is controversy; I would have
preferred pure philosophy. Why discuss our mysteries beside
Zarathustra's? As soon as you dare to treat of our mysteries, which need
only faith and no reasoning, you open precipices for yourself.

The trash in our scholastic theology has nothing to do with the trash in
Zarathustra's reveries.

Why debate original sin with Zarathustra? There was never any question
of it save in St. Augustine's time. Neither Zarathustra nor any
legislator of antiquity had ever heard speak of it.

If you dispute with Zarathustra, put under lock and key the old and the
new Testaments which he did not know, and which one must revere without
desiring to explain them.

What then should I have said to Zarathustra? My reason cannot admit two
gods who fight, that is good only in a poem where Minerva quarrels with
Mars. My feeble reason is much more content with a single great Being,
whose essence was to make, and who has made all that nature has
permitted Him, than it is satisfied with two great Beings, one of whom
spoils the works of the other. Your bad principle Ahriman, has not been
able to upset a single one of the astronomical and physical laws of the
good principle Ormuzd; everything progresses in the heavens with the
greatest regularity. Why should the wicked Ahriman have had power over
this little globe of the world?

If I had been Ahriman, I should have attacked Ormuzd in his fine grand
provinces of so many suns and stars. I should not have limited myself to
making war on him in a little village.

There is much evil in this village: but whence have you the knowledge
that this evil is not inevitable?

You are forced to admit an intelligence diffused over the universe; but
(1) do you know, for instance, if this power reaches right to foreseeing
the future? You have asserted it a thousand times; but you have never
been able either to prove it, or to understand it. You cannot know how
any being whatever sees what is not. Well, the future is not; therefore
no being can see it. You are reduced to saying that He foresees it; but
foreseeing is conjecturing. This is the opinion of the Socinians.

Well, a God who, according to you, conjectures, can be mistaken. In your
system He is really mistaken; for if He had foreseen that His enemy
would poison all His works here below, He would not have produced them;
He would not have prepared for Himself the shame of being continually

(2) Do I not do Him much more honour by saying that He has made
everything by the necessity of His nature, than you do Him by raising an
enemy who disfigures, who soils, who destroys all His works here below?

(3) It is not to have an unworthy idea of God to say that, having formed
thousands of millions of worlds where death and evil do not dwell, it
was necessary that evil and death should dwell in this world.

(4) It is not to disparage God to say that He could not form man without
giving him self-esteem; that this self-esteem could not lead him without
misguiding him almost always; that his passions are necessary, but that
they are disastrous; that propagation cannot be executed without desire;
that desire cannot animate man without quarrels; that these quarrels
necessarily bring wars in their train, etc.

(5) When he sees part of the combinations of the animal, vegetable and
mineral kingdoms, and this globe pierced everywhere like a sieve, from
which escape in crowds so many exhalations, what philosopher will be
bold enough, what scholastic foolish enough to see clearly that nature
could stop the effects of volcanoes, the inclemencies of the atmosphere,
the violence of the winds, the plagues, and all the destructive

(6) One must be very powerful, very strong, very industrious, to have
formed lions which devour bulls, and to have produced men who invent
arms to kill at one blow, not only bulls and lions, but even each other.
One must be very powerful to have caused to be born spiders which spin
webs to catch flies; but that is not to be omnipotent, infinitely

(7) If the great Being had been infinitely powerful, there is no reason
why He should not have made sentient animals infinitely happy; He has
not done so, therefore He was not able.

(8) All the sects of the philosophers have stranded on the reef of moral
and physical ill. It only remains to avow that God having acted for the
best has not been able to act better.

(9) This necessity settles all the difficulties and finishes all the
disputes. We have not the impudence to say--"All is good." We say--"All
is the least bad that is possible."

(10) Why does a child often die in its mother's womb? Why is another who
has had the misfortune to be born, reserved for torments as long as his
life, terminated by a frightful death?

Why has the source of life been poisoned all over the world since the
discovery of America? why since the seventh century of our era does
smallpox carry off the eighth part of the human race? why since all time
have bladders been subject to being stone quarries? why the plague, war,
famine, the inquisition? Turn in every direction, you will find no other
solution than that everything has been necessary.

I speak here to philosophers only and not to theologians. We know well
that faith is the thread in the labyrinth. We know that the fall of Adam
and Eve, original sin, the immense power given to the devil, the
predilection accorded by the great Being to the Jewish people, and the
baptism substituted for the amputation of the prepuce, are the answers
which explain everything. We have argued only against Zarathustra and
not against the university of Conimbre or Coïmbre, to which we submit in
our articles.


We do not know any religion without prayers, even the Jews had some,
although there was not among them any public form, until the time when
they sang canticles in their synagogues, which happened very late.

All men, in their desires and their fears, invoked the aid of a deity.
Some philosophers, more respectful to the Supreme Being, and less
condescending to human frailty, for all prayer desired only resignation.
It is indeed what seems proper as between creature and creator. But
philosophy is not made to govern the world; she rises above the common
herd; she speaks a language that the crowd cannot understand. It would
be suggesting to fishwives that they should study conic sections.

Even among the philosophers, I do not believe that anyone apart from
Maximus of Tyre has treated of this matter; this is the substance of
Maximus' ideas.

The Eternal has His intentions from all eternity. If prayer accords with
His immutable wishes, it is quite useless to ask of Him what He has
resolved to do. If one prays Him to do the contrary of what He has
resolved, it is praying Him to be weak, frivolous, inconstant; it is
believing that He is thus, it is to mock Him. Either you ask Him a just
thing; in this case He must do it, and the thing will be done without
your praying Him for it; entreating Him is even to distrust Him: or the
thing is unjust, and then you outrage Him. You are worthy or unworthy of
the grace you implore: if worthy, He knows it better than you; if
unworthy, you commit a crime the more in asking for what you do not

In a word, we pray to God only because we have made Him in our own
image. We treat Him like a pasha, like a sultan whom one may provoke and

In short, all nations pray to God: wise men resign themselves and obey

Let us pray with the people, and resign ourselves with the wise men.


I have spent nearly forty years of my pilgrimage in two or three corners
of this world seeking the philosopher's stone that is called Truth. I
have consulted all the adepts of antiquity, Epicurus and Augustine,
Plato and Malebranche, and I have remained in my poverty. Maybe in all
these philosophers' crucibles there are one or two ounces of gold; but
all the rest is residue, dull mud, from which nothing can be born.

It seems to me that the Greeks our masters wrote much more to show their
intelligence than that they used their intelligence in order to learn. I
do not see a single author of antiquity who had a coherent system, a
clear, methodical system progressing from consequence to consequence.

When I wanted to compare and combine the systems of Plato, of the
preceptor of Alexander, of Pythagoras and of the Orientals, here, more
or less, is what I was able to gather:

Chance is a word empty of sense; nothing can exist without a cause. The
world is arranged according to mathematical laws; it is therefore
arranged by an intelligence.

It is not an intelligent being such as I am, who directed the formation
of this world, for I cannot form a mite; therefore this world is the
work of a prodigiously superior intelligence.

Does this being, who possesses intelligence and power in so high a
degree, exist necessarily? It must be so, for either the being received
existence from another, or from its own nature. If the being received
existence from another, which is very difficult to imagine, I must have
recourse to this other, and this other will be the prime author. To
whichever side I turn I have to admit a prime author, potent and
intelligent, who is such necessarily by his own nature.

Did this prime author produce things out of nothing? that is not
imaginable; to create out of nothing is to change nothing into
something. I must not admit such a production unless I find invincible
reasons which force me to admit what my intelligence can never

All that exists appears to exist necessarily, since it exists. For if
to-day there is a reason for the existence of things, there was one
yesterday, there was one in all time; and this cause must always have
had its effect, without which it would have been during eternity a
useless cause.

But how shall things have always existed, being visibly under the hand
of the prime author? This power therefore must always have acted; in the
same way, nearly, that there is no sun without light, so there is no
movement without a being that passes from one point of space to another

There is therefore a potent and intelligent being who has always acted;
and if this being had never acted, of what use would his existence have
been to him?

All things are therefore eternal emanations of this prime author.

But how imagine that stone and mud are emanations of the eternal Being,
potent and intelligent?

Of two things one, either the matter of this stone and this mud exist
necessarily by themselves, or they exist necessarily through this prime
author; there is no middle course.

Thus, therefore, there are only two choices to make, admit either matter
eternal by itself, or matter issuing eternally from the potent,
intelligent eternal Being.

But, either subsisting by its own nature, or emanated from the producing
Being, it exists from all eternity, because it exists, and there is no
reason why it should not have existed before.

If matter is eternally necessary, it is therefore impossible, it is
therefore contradictory that it does not exist; but what man can affirm
that it is impossible, that it is contradictory that this pebble and
this fly have not existence? One is, nevertheless, forced to suppress
this difficulty which astonishes the imagination more than it
contradicts the principles of reasoning.

In fact, as soon as you have imagined that everything has emanated from
the supreme and intelligent Being, that nothing has emanated from the
Being without reason, that this Being existing always, must always have
acted, that consequently all things must have eternally issued from the
womb of His existence, you should no more refuse to believe in the
matter of which this pebble and this fly, an eternal production, are
formed, than you refuse to imagine light as an eternal emanation from
the omnipotent Being.

Since I am a being with extension and thought, my extension and my
thought are therefore necessary productions of this Being. It is evident
to me that I cannot give myself either extension or thought. I have
therefore received both from this necessary Being.

Can He give me what He has not? I have intelligence and I am in space;
therefore He is intelligent, and He is in space.

To say that this eternal Being, this omnipotent God, has from all time
necessarily filled the universe with His productions, is not to deprive
Him of His liberty; on the contrary, for liberty is only the power of
acting. God has always acted to the full; therefore God has always made
use of the fullness of His liberty.

The liberty that is called _liberty of indifference_ is a phrase without
idea, an absurdity; for it would be determination without reason; it
would be an effect without a cause. Therefore, God cannot have this
so-called liberty which is a contradiction in terms. He has therefore
always acted through this same necessity which makes His existence.

It is therefore impossible for the world to be without God, it is
impossible for God to be without the world.

This world is filled with beings who succeed each other, therefore God
has always produced beings who succeed each other.

These preliminary assertions are the basis of the ancient Oriental
philosophy and of that of the Greeks. One must except Democritus and
Epicurus, whose corpuscular philosophy combated these dogmas. But let us
remark that the Epicureans relied on an entirely erroneous natural
philosophy, and that the metaphysical system of all the other
philosophers holds good with all the systems of natural philosophy. The
whole of nature, excepting the vacuum, contradicts Epicurus; and no
phenomenon contradicts the philosophy which I have just explained. Well,
is not a philosophy which is in accord with all that passes in nature,
and which contents the most careful minds, superior to all other
non-revealed systems?

After the assertions of the ancient philosophers, which I have
reconciled as far as has been possible for me, what is left to us? a
chaos of doubts and chimeras. I do not think that there has ever been a
philosopher with a system who did not at the end of his life avow that
he had wasted his time. It must be admitted that the inventors of the
mechanical arts have been much more useful to mankind than the inventors
of syllogisms: the man who invented the shuttle surpasses with a
vengeance the man who imagined innate ideas.


Prejudice is an opinion without judgment. Thus all over the world do
people inspire children with all the opinions they desire, before the
children can judge.

There are some universal, necessary prejudices, which even make virtue.
In all countries children are taught to recognize a rewarding and
revenging God; to respect and love their father and their mother; to
look on theft as a crime, selfish lying as a vice before they can guess
what is a vice and what a virtue.

There are then some very good prejudices; they are those which are
ratified by judgment when one reasons.

Sentiment is not a simple prejudice; it is something much stronger. A
mother does not love her son because she has been told she must love
him; she cherishes him happily in spite of herself. It is not through
prejudice that you run to the help of an unknown child about to fall
into a precipice, or be eaten by a beast.

But it is through prejudice that you will respect a man clad in certain
clothes, walking gravely, speaking likewise. Your parents have told you
that you should bow before this man; you respect him before knowing
whether he merits your respect; you grow in years and in knowledge; you
perceive that this man is a charlatan steeped in arrogance,
self-interest and artifice; you despise what you revered, and the
prejudice cedes to judgment. Through prejudice you have believed the
fables with which your childhood was cradled; you have been told that
the Titans made war on the gods, and Venus was amorous of Adonis; when
you are twelve you accept these fables as truths; when you are twenty
you look on them as ingenious allegories.

Let us examine briefly the different sorts of prejudices, so as to set
our affairs in order. We shall be perhaps like those who, at the time of
Law's system, perceived that they had calculated imaginary riches.


Is it not strange that our eyes always deceive us, even when we have
very good sight, and that on the contrary our ears do not deceive us?
Let your well-informed ear hear "You are beautiful, I love you"; it is
quite certain that someone has not said "I hate you, you are ugly": but
you see a smooth mirror; it is demonstrated that you are mistaken, it
has a very uneven surface. You see the sun as about two feet in
diameter; it is demonstrated that it is a million times bigger than the

It seems that God has put truth in your ears, and error in your eyes;
but study optics, and you will see that God has not deceived you, and
that it is impossible for objects to appear to you otherwise than you
see them in the present state of things.


The sun rises, the moon also, the earth is motionless: these are natural
physical prejudices. But that lobsters are good for the blood, because
when cooked they are red; that eels cure paralysis because they wriggle;
that the moon affects our maladies because one day someone observed that
a sick man had an increase of fever during the waning of the moon; these
ideas and a thousand others are the errors of ancient charlatans who
judged without reasoning, and who, being deceived, deceived others.


Most historical stories have been believed without examination, and this
belief is a prejudice. Fabius Pictor relates that many centuries before
him, a vestal of the town of Alba, going to draw water in her pitcher,
was ravished, that she gave birth to Romulus and Remus, that they were
fed by a she-wolf, etc. The Roman people believed this fable; they did
not examine whether at that time there were vestals in Latium, whether
it were probable that a king's daughter would leave her convent with her
pitcher, whether it were likely that a she-wolf would suckle two
children instead of eating them; the prejudice established itself.

A monk writes that Clovis, being in great danger at the battle of
Tolbiac, made a vow to turn Christian if he escaped; but is it natural
to address oneself to a foreign god on such an occasion? is it not then
that the religion in which one was born acts most potently? Which is the
Christian who, in a battle against the Turks, will not address himself
to the Holy Virgin rather than to Mohammed? It is added that a pigeon
brought the holy phial in its beak to anoint Clovis, and that an angel
brought the oriflamme to lead him; prejudice believed all the little
stories of this kind. Those who understand human nature know well that
Clovis the usurper and Rolon (or Rol) the usurper turned Christian in
order to govern the Christians more surely, just as the Turkish usurpers
turned Mussulman in order to govern the Mussulmans more surely.


If your nurse has told you that Ceres rules over the crops, or that
Vistnou and Xaca made themselves men several times, or that Sammonocodom
came to cut down a forest, or that Odin awaits you in his hall near
Jutland, or that Mohammed or somebody else made a journey into the sky;
if lastly your tutor comes to drive into your brain what your nurse has
imprinted on it you keep it for life. If your judgment wishes to rise
against these prejudices, your neighbours and, above all, your
neighbours' wives cry out "Impious reprobate," and dismay you; your
dervish, fearing to see his income diminish, accuses you to the cadi,
and this cadi has you impaled if he can, because he likes ruling over
fools, and thinks that fools obey better than others: and that will last
until your neighbours and the dervish and the cadi begin to understand
that foolishness is good for nothing, and that persecution is


Rare in natural philosophy is the opposite of dense. In moral
philosophy, it is the opposite of common.

This last variety of rare is what excites admiration. One never admires
what is common, one enjoys it.

An eccentric thinks himself above the rest of wretched mortals when he
has in his study a rare medal that is good for nothing, a rare book that
nobody has the courage to read, an old engraving by Albrecht Durer,
badly designed and badly printed: he triumphs if he has in his garden a
stunted tree from America. This eccentric has no taste; he has only
vanity. He has heard say that the beautiful is rare; but he should know
that all that is rare is not beautiful.

Beauty is rare in all nature's works, and in all works of art.

Whatever ill things have been said of women, I maintain that it is rarer
to find women perfectly beautiful than passibly good.

You will meet in the country ten thousand women attached to their homes,
laborious, sober, feeding, rearing, teaching their children; and you
will find barely one whom you could show at the theatres of Paris,
London, Naples, or in the public gardens, and who would be looked on as
a beauty.

Likewise, in works of art, you have ten thousand daubs and scrawls to
one masterpiece.

If everything were beautiful and good, it is clear that one would no
longer admire anything; one would enjoy. But would one have pleasure in
enjoying? that is a big question.

Why have the beautiful passages in "The Cid," "The Horaces," "Cinna,"
had such a prodigious success? Because in the profound night in which
people were plunged, they suddenly saw shine a new light that they did
not expect. It was because this beauty was the rarest thing in the

The groves of Versailles were a beauty unique in the world, as were then
certain passages of Corneille. St. Peter's, Rome, is unique.

But let us suppose that all the churches of Europe were equal to St.
Peter's, Rome, that all statues were Venus dei Medici, that all
tragedies were as beautiful as Racine's "Iphigénie", all works of poetry
as well written as Boileau's "Art Poétique", all comedies as good as
"Tartufe", and thus in every sphere; would you then have as much
pleasure in enjoying masterpieces become common as they made you taste
when they were rare? I say boldly "No!"; and I believe that the ancient
school, which so rarely was right, was right when it said: _Ab assuetis
non fit passio_, habit does not make passion.

But, my dear reader, will it be the same with the works of nature? Will
you be disgusted if all the maids are so beautiful as Helen; and you,
ladies, if all the lads are like Paris? Let us suppose that all wines
are excellent, will you have less desire to drink? if the partridges,
pheasants, pullets are common at all times, will you have less appetite?
I say boldly again "No!", despite the axiom of the schools, "Habit does
not make passion": and the reason, you know it, is that all the
pleasures which nature gives us are always recurring needs, necessary
enjoyments, and that the pleasures of the arts are not necessary. It is
not necessary for a man to have groves where water gushes to a height of
a hundred feet from the mouth of a marble face, and on leaving these
groves to go to see a fine tragedy. But the two sexes are always
necessary to each other. The table and the bed are necessities. The
habit of being alternately on these two thrones will never disgust you.

In Paris a few years ago people admired a rhinoceros. If there were in
one province ten thousand rhinoceroses, men would run after them only to
kill them. But let there be a hundred thousand beautiful women men will
always run after them to ... honour them.


At the time when all France was mad about Law's system, and Law was
controller-general, there came to him in the presence of a great
assembly a man who was always right, who always had reason on his side.
Said he to Law:

"Sir, you are the biggest madman, the biggest fool, or the biggest rogue
who has yet appeared among us; and that is saying a great deal: this is
how I prove it. You have imagined that a state's wealth can be increased
tenfold with paper; but as this paper can represent only the money that
is representative of true wealth, the products of the land and industry,
you should have begun by giving us ten times more corn, wine, cloth,
canvas, etc. That is not enough, you must be sure of your market. But
you make ten times as many notes as we have of silver and commodities,
therefore you are ten times more extravagant, or more inept, or more of
a rogue than all the comptrollers who have preceded you. This is how I
prove my major."

Hardly had he started his major than he was conducted to Saint-Lazare.

When he came out of Saint-Lazare, where he studied much and strengthened
his reason, he went to Rome; he asked for a public audience of the Pope,
on condition that he was not interrupted in his harangue; and he spoke
to the Pope in these terms:

"Holy Father, you are an antichrist and this is how I prove it to Your
Holiness. I call antichrist the man who does the contrary to what Christ
did and commanded. Now Christ was poor, and you are very rich; he paid
tribute, and you exact tribute; he submitted to the powers that were,
and you have become a power; he walked on foot, and you go to
Castel-Gandolfo in a sumptuous equipage; he ate all that one was so good
as to give him, and you want us to eat fish on Friday and Saturday, when
we live far from sea and river; he forbade Simon Barjona to use a sword,
and you have swords in your service, etc., etc., etc. Therefore in this
sense Your Holiness is antichrist. In every other sense I hold you in
great veneration, and I ask you for an indulgence _in articulo mortis_."

My man was put in the Castello St. Angelo.

When he came out of the Castello St. Angelo, he rushed to Venice, and
asked to speak to the doge.

"Your Serenity," he said, "must be a scatter-brain to marry the sea
every year: for firstly, one only marries the same person once;
secondly, your marriage resembles Harlequin's which was half made,
seeing that it lacked but the consent of the bride; thirdly, who has
told you that one day other maritime powers will not declare you
incapable of consummating the marriage?"

He spoke, and was shut up in the Tower of St. Mark's.

When he came out of the Tower of St. Mark's, he went to Constantinople;
he had audience of the mufti; and spoke to him in these terms:

"Your religion, although it has some good points, such as worship of the
great Being, and the necessity of being just and charitable, is
otherwise nothing but a rehash of Judaism and a tedious collection of
fairy tales. If the archangel Gabriel had brought the leaves of the
Koran to Mahomet from some planet, all Arabia would have seen Gabriel
come down: nobody saw him; therefore Mahomet was a brazen impostor who
deceived imbeciles."

Hardly had he pronounced these words than he was impaled. Nevertheless
he had always been right, and had always had reason on his side.


I meditated last night; I was absorbed in the contemplation of nature; I
admired the immensity, the course, the harmony of these infinite globes
which the vulgar do not know how to admire.

I admired still more the intelligence which directs these vast forces. I
said to myself: "One must be blind not to be dazzled by this spectacle;
one must be stupid not to recognize the author of it; one must be mad
not to worship Him. What tribute of worship should I render Him? Should
not this tribute be the same in the whole of space, since it is the same
supreme power which reigns equally in all space? Should not a thinking
being who dwells in a star in the Milky Way offer Him the same homage as
the thinking being on this little globe where we are? Light is uniform
for the star Sirius and for us; moral philosophy must be uniform. If a
sentient, thinking animal in Sirius is born of a tender father and
mother who have been occupied with his happiness, he owes them as much
love and care as we owe to our parents. If someone in the Milky Way sees
a needy cripple, if he can relieve him and if he does not do it, he is
guilty toward all globes. Everywhere the heart has the same duties: on
the steps of the throne of God, if He has a throne; and in the depth of
the abyss, if He is an abyss."

I was plunged in these ideas when one of those genii who fill the
intermundane spaces came down to me. I recognized this same aerial
creature who had appeared to me on another occasion to teach me how
different God's judgments were from our own, and how a good action is
preferable to a controversy.

He transported me into a desert all covered with piled up bones; and
between these heaps of dead men there were walks of ever-green trees,
and at the end of each walk a tall man of august mien, who regarded
these sad remains with pity.

"Alas! my archangel," said I, "where have you brought me?"

"To desolation," he answered.

"And who are these fine patriarchs whom I see sad and motionless at the
end of these green walks? they seem to be weeping over this countless
crowd of dead."

"You shall know, poor human creature," answered the genius from the
intermundane spaces; "but first of all you must weep."

He began with the first pile. "These," he said, "are the twenty-three
thousand Jews who danced before a calf, with the twenty-four thousand
who were killed while lying with Midianitish women. The number of those
massacred for such errors and offences amounts to nearly three hundred

"In the other walks are the bones of the Christians slaughtered by each
other for metaphysical disputes. They are divided into several heaps of
four centuries each. One heap would have mounted right to the sky; they
had to be divided."

"What!" I cried, "brothers have treated their brothers like this, and I
have the misfortune to be of this brotherhood!"

"Here," said the spirit, "are the twelve million Americans killed in
their fatherland because they had not been baptized."

"My God! why did you not leave these frightful bones to dry in the
hemisphere where their bodies were born, and where they were consigned
to so many different deaths? Why assemble here all these abominable
monuments to barbarism and fanaticism?"

"To instruct you."

"Since you wish to instruct me," I said to the genius, "tell me if there
have been peoples other than the Christians and the Jews in whom zeal
and religion wretchedly transformed into fanaticism, have inspired so
many horrible cruelties."

"Yes," he said. "The Mohammedans were sullied with the same
inhumanities, but rarely; and when one asked _amman_, pity, of them and
offered them tribute, they pardoned. As for the other nations there has
not been one right from the existence of the world which has ever made a
purely religious war. Follow me now." I followed him.

A little beyond these piles of dead men we found other piles; they were
composed of sacks of gold and silver, and each had its label: _Substance
of the heretics massacred in the eighteenth century, the seventeenth and
the sixteenth._ And so on in going back: _Gold and silver of Americans
slaughtered_, etc., etc. And all these piles were surmounted with
crosses, mitres, croziers, triple crowns studded with precious stones.

"What, my genius! it was then to have these riches that these dead were
piled up?"

"Yes, my son."

I wept; and when by my grief I had merited to be led to the end of the
green walks, he led me there.

"Contemplate," he said, "the heroes of humanity who were the world's
benefactors, and who were all united in banishing from the world, as far
as they were able, violence and rapine. Question them."

I ran to the first of the band; he had a crown on his head, and a little
censer in his hand; I humbly asked him his name. "I am Numa Pompilius,"
he said to me. "I succeeded a brigand, and I had brigands to govern: I
taught them virtue and the worship of God; after me they forgot both
more than once; I forbade that in the temples there should be any image,
because the Deity which animates nature cannot be represented. During my
reign the Romans had neither wars nor seditions, and my religion did
nothing but good. All the neighbouring peoples came to honour me at my
funeral: that happened to no one but me."

I kissed his hand, and I went to the second. He was a fine old man about
a hundred years old, clad in a white robe. He put his middle-finger on
his mouth, and with the other hand he cast some beans behind him. I
recognized Pythagoras. He assured me he had never had a golden thigh,
and that he had never been a cock; but that he had governed the
Crotoniates with as much justice as Numa governed the Romans, almost at
the same time; and that this justice was the rarest and most necessary
thing in the world. I learned that the Pythagoreans examined their
consciences twice a day. The honest people! how far we are from them!
But we who have been nothing but assassins for thirteen hundred years,
we say that these wise men were arrogant.

In order to please Pythagoras, I did not say a word to him and I passed
to Zarathustra, who was occupied in concentrating the celestial fire in
the focus of a concave mirror, in the middle of a hall with a hundred
doors which all led to wisdom. (Zarathustra's precepts are called
_doors_, and are a hundred in number.) Over the principal door I read
these words which are the précis of all moral philosophy, and which cut
short all the disputes of the casuists: "When in doubt if an action is
good or bad, refrain."

"Certainly," I said to my genius, "the barbarians who immolated all
these victims had never read these beautiful words."

We then saw the Zaleucus, the Thales, the Aniximanders, and all the
sages who had sought truth and practised virtue.

When we came to Socrates, I recognized him very quickly by his flat
nose. "Well," I said to him, "here you are then among the number of the
Almighty's confidants! All the inhabitants of Europe, except the Turks
and the Tartars of the Crimea, who know nothing, pronounce your name
with respect. It is revered, loved, this great name, to the point that
people have wanted to know those of your persecutors. Melitus and
Anitus are known because of you, just as Ravaillac is known because of
Henry IV.; but I know only this name of Anitus. I do not know precisely
who was the scoundrel who calumniated you, and who succeeded in having
you condemned to take hemlock."

"Since my adventure," replied Socrates, "I have never thought about that
man; but seeing that you make me remember it, I have much pity for him.
He was a wicked priest who secretly conducted a business in hides, a
trade reputed shameful among us. He sent his two children to my school.
The other disciples taunted them with having a father who was a currier;
they were obliged to leave. The irritated father had no rest until he
had stirred up all the priests and all the sophists against me. They
persuaded the counsel of the five hundred that I was an impious fellow
who did not believe that the Moon, Mercury and Mars were gods. Indeed, I
used to think, as I think now, that there is only one God, master of all
nature. The judges handed me over to the poisoner of the republic; he
cut short my life by a few days: I died peacefully at the age of
seventy; and since that time I pass a happy life with all these great
men whom you see, and of whom I am the least."

After enjoying some time in conversation with Socrates, I went forward
with my guide into a grove situated above the thickets where all the
sages of antiquity seemed to be tasting sweet repose.

I saw a man of gentle, simple countenance, who seemed to me to be about
thirty-five years old. From afar he cast compassionate glances on these
piles of whitened bones, across which I had had to pass to reach the
sages' abode. I was astonished to find his feet swollen and bleeding,
his hands likewise, his side pierced, and his ribs flayed with whip
cuts. "Good Heavens!" I said to him, "is it possible for a just man, a
sage, to be in this state? I have just seen one who was treated in a
very hateful way, but there is no comparison between his torture and
yours. Wicked priests and wicked judges poisoned him; is it by priests
and judges that you have been so cruelly assassinated?"

He answered with much courtesy--"_Yes._"

"And who were these monsters?"

"_They were hypocrites._"

"Ah! that says everything; I understand by this single word that they
must have condemned you to death. Had you then proved to them, as
Socrates did, that the Moon was not a goddess, and that Mercury was not
a god?"

"_No, these planets were not in question. My compatriots did not know at
all what a planet is; they were all arrant ignoramuses. Their
superstitions were quite different from those of the Greeks._"

"You wanted to teach them a new religion, then?"

"_Not at all; I said to them simply--'Love God with all your heart and
your fellow-creature as yourself, for that is man's whole duty.' Judge
if this precept is not as old as the universe; judge if I brought them a
new religion. I did not stop telling them that I had come not to destroy
the law but to fulfil it; I had observed all their rites; circumcised as
they all were, baptized as were the most zealous among them, like them I
paid the Corban; I observed the Passover as they did, eating standing up
a lamb cooked with lettuces. I and my friends went to pray in the
temple; my friends even frequented this temple after my death; in a
word, I fulfilled all their laws without a single exception._"

"What! these wretches could not even reproach you with swerving from
their laws?"

"_No, without a doubt._"

"Why then did they put you in the condition in which I now see you?"

"_What do you expect me to say! they were very arrogant and selfish.
They saw that I knew them; they knew that I was making the citizens
acquainted with them; they were the stronger; they took away my life:
and people like them will always do as much, if they can, to whoever
does them too much justice._"

"But did you say nothing, do nothing that could serve them as a

"_To the wicked everything serves as pretext._"

"Did you not say once that you were come not to send peace, but a

"_It is a copyist's error; I told them that I sent peace and not a
sword. I have never written anything; what I said can have been changed
without evil intention._"

"You therefore contributed in no way by your speeches, badly reported,
badly interpreted, to these frightful piles of bones which I saw on my
road in coming to consult you?"

"_It is with horror only that I have seen those who have made themselves
guilty of these murders._"

"And these monuments of power and wealth, of pride and avarice, these
treasures, these ornaments, these signs of grandeur, which I have seen
piled up on the road while I was seeking wisdom, do they come from you?"

"_That is impossible; I and my people lived in poverty and meanness: my
grandeur was in virtue only._"

I was about to beg him to be so good as to tell me just who he was. My
guide warned me to do nothing of the sort. He told me that I was not
made to understand these sublime mysteries. Only did I conjure him to
tell me in what true religion consisted.

"_Have I not already told you? Love God and your fellow-creature as

"What! if one loves God, one can eat meat on Friday?"

"_I always ate what was given me; for I was too poor to give anyone

"In loving God, in being just, should one not be rather cautious not to
confide all the adventures of one's life to an unknown man?"

"_That was always my practice._"

"Can I not, by doing good, dispense with making a pilgrimage to St.
James of Compostella?"

"_I have never been in that country._"

"Is it necessary for me to imprison myself in a retreat with fools?"

"_As for me, I always made little journeys from town to town._"

"Is it necessary for me to take sides either for the Greek Church or the

"_When I was in the world I never made any difference between the Jew
and the Samaritan._"

"Well, if that is so, I take you for my only master." Then he made me a
sign with his head which filled me with consolation. The vision
disappeared, and a clear conscience stayed with me.



Every sect, in whatever sphere, is the rallying-point of doubt and
error. Scotist, Thomist, Realist, Nominalist, Papist, Calvinist,
Molinist, Jansenist, are only pseudonyms.

There are no sects in geometry; one does not speak of a Euclidian, an

When the truth is evident, it is impossible for parties and factions to
arise. Never has there been a dispute as to whether there is daylight at

The branch of astronomy which determines the course of the stars and the
return of eclipses being once known, there is no more dispute among

In England one does not say--"I am a Newtonian, a Lockian, a Halleyan."
Why? Those who have read cannot refuse their assent to the truths taught
by these three great men. The more Newton is revered, the less do people
style themselves Newtonians; this word supposes that there are
anti-Newtonians in England. Maybe we still have a few Cartesians in
France; that is solely because Descartes' system is a tissue of
erroneous and ridiculous imaginings.

It is likewise with the small number of truths of fact which are well
established. The records of the Tower of London having been
authentically gathered by Rymer, there are no Rymerians, because it
occurs to no one to combat this collection. In it one finds neither
contradictions, absurdities nor prodigies; nothing which revolts the
reason, nothing, consequently, which sectarians strive to maintain or
upset by absurd arguments. Everyone agrees, therefore, that Rymer's
records are worthy of belief.

You are Mohammedan, therefore there are people who are not, therefore
you might well be wrong.

What would be the true religion if Christianity did not exist? the
religion in which there were no sects; the religion in which all minds
were necessarily in agreement.

Well, to what dogma do all minds agree? to the worship of a God and to
integrity. All the philosophers of the world who have had a religion
have said in all time--"There is a God, and one must be just." There,
then, is the universal religion established in all time and throughout

The point in which they all agree is therefore true, and the systems
through which they differ are therefore false.

"My sect is the best," says a Brahmin to me. But, my friend, if your
sect is good, it is necessary; for if it were not absolutely necessary
you would admit to me that it was useless: if it is absolutely
necessary, it is for all men; how then can it be that all men have not
what is absolutely necessary to them? How is it possible for the rest of
the world to laugh at you and your Brahma?

When Zarathustra, Hermes, Orpheus, Minos and all the great men say--"Let
us worship God, and let us be just," nobody laughs; but everyone hisses
the man who claims that one cannot please God unless when one dies one
is holding a cow's tail, and the man who wants one to have the end of
one's prepuce cut off, and the man who consecrates crocodiles and
onions, and the man who attaches eternal salvation to the dead men's
bones one carries under one's shirt, or to a plenary indulgence which
one buys at Rome for two and a half sous.

Whence comes this universal competition in hisses and derision from one
end of the world to the other? It is clear that the things at which
everyone sneers are not of a very evident truth. What shall we say of
one of Sejan's secretaries who dedicated to Petronius a bombastic book
entitled--"The Truths of the Sibylline Oracles, Proved by the Facts"?

This secretary proves to you first that it was necessary for God to send
on earth several sibyls one after the other; for He had no other means
of teaching mankind. It is demonstrated that God spoke to these sibyls,
for the word _sibyl_ signifies _God's counsel_. They had to live a long
time, for it is the very least that persons to whom God speaks should
have this privilege. They were twelve in number, for this number is
sacred. They had certainly predicted all the events in the world, for
Tarquinius Superbus bought three of their Books from an old woman for a
hundred crowns. "What incredulous fellow," adds the secretary, "will
dare deny all these evident facts which happened in a corner before the
whole world? Who can deny the fulfilment of their prophecies? Has not
Virgil himself quoted the predictions of the sibyls? If we have not the
first examples of the Sibylline Books, written at a time when people did
not know how to read or write, have we not authentic copies? Impiety
must be silent before such proofs." Thus did Houttevillus speak to
Sejan. He hoped to have a position as augur which would be worth an
income of fifty thousand francs, and he had nothing.[20]

"What my sect teaches is obscure, I admit it," says a fanatic; "and it
is because of this obscurity that it must be believed; for the sect
itself says it is full of obscurities. My sect is extravagant, therefore
it is divine; for how should what appears so mad have been embraced by
so many peoples, if it were not divine?" It is precisely like the
Alcoran which the Sonnites say has an angel's face and an animal's
snout; be not scandalized by the animal's snout, and worship the angel's
face. Thus speaks this insensate fellow. But a fanatic of another sect
answers--"It is you who are the animal, and I who am the angel."

Well, who shall judge the suit? who shall decide between these two
fanatics? The reasonable, impartial man learned in a knowledge that is
not that of words; the man free from prejudice and lover of truth and
justice; in short, the man who is not the foolish animal, and who does
not think he is the angel.


_Sect_ and _error_ are synonymous. You are Peripatetic and I
Platonician; we are therefore both wrong; for you combat Plato only
because his fantasies have revolted you, and I am alienated from
Aristotle only because it seems to me that he does not know what he is
talking about. If one or the other had demonstrated the truth, there
would be a sect no longer. To declare oneself for the opinion of the one
or the other is to take sides in a civil war. There are no sects in
mathematics, in experimental physics. A man who examines the relations
between a cone and a sphere is not of the sect of Archimedes: he who
sees that the square of the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle is
equal to the square of the two other sides is not of the sect of

When you say that the blood circulates, that the air is heavy, that the
sun's rays are pencils of seven refrangible rays, you are not either of
the sect of Harvey, or the sect of Torricelli, or the sect of Newton;
you agree merely with the truth demonstrated by them, and the entire
universe will ever be of your opinion.

This is the character of truth; it is of all time; it is for all men; it
has only to show itself to be recognized; one cannot argue against it. A
long dispute signifies--"Both parties are wrong."


[20] Reference to the Abbé Houtteville, author of a book entitled--"The
Truth of the Christian Religion, Proved by the Facts."


Nicole in his "Essais de Morale," written after two or three thousand
volumes of ethics ("Treatise on Charity," Chap. II), says that "by means
of the wheels and gibbets which people establish in common are repressed
the tyrannous thoughts and designs of each individual's self-esteem."

I shall not examine whether people have gibbets in common, as they have
meadows and woods in common, and a common purse, and if one represses
ideas with wheels; but it seems very strange to me that Nicole should
take highway robbery and assassination for self-esteem. One should
distinguish shades of difference a little better. The man who said that
Nero had his mother assassinated through self-esteem, that Cartouche had
much self-esteem, would not be expressing himself very correctly.
Self-esteem is not wickedness, it is a sentiment that is natural to all
men; it is much nearer vanity than crime.

A beggar in the suburbs of Madrid nobly begged charity; a passer-by says
to him: "Are you not ashamed to practise this infamous calling when you
are able to work?"

"Sir," answered the beggar, "I ask for money, not advice." And he turned
on his heel with full Castillian dignity.

This gentleman was a proud beggar, his vanity was wounded by a trifle.
He asked charity out of love for himself, and could not tolerate the
reprimand out of further love for himself.

A missionary travelling in India met a fakir laden with chains, naked as
a monkey, lying on his stomach, and having himself whipped for the sins
of his compatriots, the Indians, who gave him a few farthings.

"What self-denial!" said one of the lookers-on.

"Self-denial!" answered the fakir. "Learn that I have myself flogged in
this world in order to return it in another, when you will be horses and
I horseman."

Those who have said that love of ourselves is the basis of all our
opinions and all our actions, have therefore been quite right in India,
Spain, and all the habitable world: and as one does not write to prove
to men that they have faces, it is not necessary to prove to them that
they have self-esteem. Self-esteem is the instrument of our
conservation; it resembles the instrument of the perpetuity of the
species: it is necessary, it is dear to us, it gives us pleasure, and it
has to be hidden.



This is a vague, indeterminate term, which expresses an unknown
principle of known effects that we feel in us. The word _soul_
corresponds to the Latin _anima_, to the Greek +pneuma+, to the term of
which all nations have made use to express what they did not understand
any better than we do.

In the proper and literal sense of the Latin and the languages derived
from Latin, it signifies _that which animates_. Thus people have spoken
of the soul of men, of animals, sometimes of plants, to signify their
principal of vegetation and life. In pronouncing this word, people have
never had other than a confused idea, as when it is said in
Genesis--"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and
breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living
soul; and the soul of animals is in the blood; and kill not my soul,

Thus the soul was generally taken for the origin and the cause of life,
for life itself. That is why all known nations long imagined that
everything died with the body. If one can disentangle anything in the
chaos of ancient histories, it seems that the Egyptians at least were
the first to distinguish between the intelligence and the soul: and the
Greeks learned from them to distinguish their +nous+, their +pneuma+,
their +skia+. The Latins, following their example, distinguish _animus_
and _anima_; and we, finally, have also had our _soul_ and our
_understanding_. But is that which is the principle of our life
different from that which is the principle of our thoughts? is it the
same being? Does that which directs us and gives us sensation and
memory resemble that which is in animals the cause of digestion and the
cause of their sensations and of their memory?

There is the eternal object of the disputes of mankind; I say eternal
object; for not having any first notion from which we can descend in
this examination, we can only rest for ever in a labyrinth of doubt and
feeble conjecture.

We have not the smallest step where we may place a foot in order to
reach the most superficial knowledge of what makes us live and of what
makes us think. How should we have? we should have had to see life and
thought enter a body. Does a father know how he has produced his son?
does a mother how she conceived him? Has anyone ever been able to divine
how he acts, how he wakes, how he sleeps? Does anyone know how his limbs
obey his will? has anyone discovered by what art ideas are marked out in
his brain and issue from it at his command? Frail automatons moved by
the invisible hand which directs us on this stage of the world, which of
us has been able to detect the wire which guides us?

We dare question whether the soul is "spirit" or "matter"; if it is
created before us, if it issues from non-existence at our birth, if
after animating us for one day on earth, it lives after us into
eternity. These questions appear sublime; what are they? questions of
blind men saying to other blind men--"What is light?"

When we want to learn something roughly about a piece of metal, we put
it in a crucible in the fire. But have we a crucible in which to put the
soul? "The soul is _spirit_," says one. But what is spirit? Assuredly no
one has any idea; it is a word that is so void of sense that one is
obliged to say what spirit is not, not being able to say what it is.
"The soul is matter," says another. But what is matter? We know merely
some of its appearances and some of its properties; and not one of these
properties, not one of these appearances, seems to have the slightest
connection with thought.

"Thought is something distinct from matter," say you. But what proof of
it have you? Is it because matter is divisible and figurable, and
thought is not? But who has told you that the first principles of matter
are divisible and figurable? It is very probable that they are not;
entire sects of philosophers maintain that the elements of matter have
neither form nor extension. With a triumphant air you cry--"Thought is
neither wood, nor stone, nor sand, nor metal, therefore thought does not
belong to matter." Weak, reckless reasoners! gravitation is neither
wood, nor sand, nor metal, nor stone; movement, vegetation, life are not
these things either, and yet life, vegetation, movement, gravitation,
are given to matter. To say that God cannot make matter think is to say
the most insolently absurd thing that anyone has ever dared utter in the
privileged schools of lunacy. We are not certain that God has treated
matter like this; we are only certain that He can. But what matters all
that has been said and all that will be said about the soul? what does
it matter that it has been called entelechy, quintessence, flame, ether?
that it has been thought universal, uncreated, transmigrant, etc.?

In these matters that are inaccessible to the reason, what do these
romances of our uncertain imaginations matter? What does it matter that
the Fathers of the first four centuries thought the soul corporeal? What
does it matter that Tertullian, by a contradiction frequent in him, has
decided that it is simultaneously corporeal, formed and simple? We have
a thousand witnesses to ignorance, and not one that gives a glimmer of

How then are we so bold as to assert what the soul is? We know certainly
that we exist, that we feel, that we think. Do we want to take a step
beyond? we fall into a shadowy abyss; and in this abyss we are still so
madly reckless as to dispute whether this soul, of which we have not the
least idea, was made before us or with us, and whether it perishes or is

The article SOUL, and all the articles of the nature of metaphysics,
must start by a sincere submission to the incontrovertible dogmas of
the Church. Revelation is worth more, without doubt, than the whole of
philosophy. Systems exercise the mind, but faith illumines and guides

Do we not often pronounce words of which we have only a very confused
idea, or even of which we have none at all? Is not the word _soul_ an
instance? When the clapper or valve of a bellows is out of order, and
when air which is in the bellows leaves it by some unexpected opening in
this valve, so that it is no longer compressed against the two blades,
and is not thrust violently towards the hearth which it has to light,
French servants say--"The soul of the bellows has burst." They know no
more about it than that; and this question in no wise disturbs their
peace of mind.

The gardener utters the phrase "the soul of the plants," and cultivates
them very well without knowing what he means by this term.

The violin-maker poses, draws forward or back the "soul of a violin"
beneath the bridge in the belly of the instrument; a puny piece of wood
more or less gives the violin or takes away from it a harmonious soul.

We have many industries in which the workmen give the qualification of
"soul" to their machines. Never does one hear them dispute about this
word. Such is not the case with philosophers.

For us the word "soul" signifies generally that which animates. Our
ancestors the Celts gave to their soul the name of _seel_, from which
the English _soul_, and the German _seel_; and probably the ancient
Teutons and the ancient Britons had no quarrels in their universities
over this expression.

The Greeks distinguished three sorts of souls--+psychê+, which signified
the sensitive soul, the soul of the senses; and that is why Love, child
of Aphrodite, had so much passion for Psyche, and why Psyche loved him
so tenderly: +pneuma+, the breath which gives life and movement to the
whole machine, and which we have translated by _spiritus_, spirit;
vague word to which have been given a thousand different meanings: and
finally +nous+, the intelligence.

We possessed therefore three souls, without having the least notion of
any of them. St. Thomas Aquinas (Summation of St. Thomas. Lyons edition,
1738) admits these three souls as a peripatetic, and distinguishes each
of these three souls in three parts. +psychê+ was in the breast,
+pneuma+ was distributed throughout the body, and +nous+ was in the
head. There has been no other philosophy in our schools up to our day,
and woe betide any man who took one of these souls for the other.

In this chaos of ideas there was, nevertheless, a foundation. Men had
noticed that in their passions of love, hate, anger, fear, their
internal organs were stimulated to movement. The liver and the heart
were the seat of the passions. If one thought deeply, one felt a strife
in the organs of the head; therefore the intellectual soul was in the
head. Without respiration no vegetation, no life; therefore the
vegetative soul was in the breast which receives the breath of air.

When men saw in dreams their dead relatives or friends, they had to seek
what had appeared to them. It was not the body which had been consumed
on a funeral pyre, or swallowed up in the sea and eaten by the fishes.
It was, however, something, so they maintained; for they had seen it;
the dead man had spoken; the dreamer had questioned him. Was it
+psychê+, was it +pneuma+, was it +nous+, with whom one had conversed in
the dream? One imagined a phantom, an airy figure: it was +skia+, it was
+daimôn+, a ghost from the shades, a little soul of air and fire, very
unrestricted, which wandered I know not where.

Eventually, when one wanted to sift the matter, it became a constant
that this soul was corporeal; and the whole of antiquity never had any
other idea. At last came Plato who so subtilized this soul that it was
doubtful if he did not separate it entirely from matter; but that was a
problem that was never solved until faith came to enlighten us.

In vain do the materialists quote some of the fathers of the Church who
did not express themselves with precision. St. Irenæus says (liv. v.
chaps. vi and vii) that the soul is only the breath of life, that it is
incorporeal only by comparison with the mortal body, and that it
preserves the form of man so that it may be recognized.

In vain does Tertullian express himself like this--"The corporeality of
the soul shines bright in the Gospel." (_Corporalitas animæ in ipso
Evangelio relucescit_, DE ANIMA, cap. vii.) For if the soul did
not have a body, the image of the soul would not have the image of the

In vain does he record the vision of a holy woman who had seen a very
shining soul, of the colour of air.

In vain does Tatien say expressly (_Oratio ad Græcos_, c. xxiii.)--"The
soul of man is composed of many parts."

In vain is St. Hilarius quoted as saying in later times (St. Hilarius on
St. Matthew)--"There is nothing created which is not corporeal, either
in heaven, or on earth, or among the visible, or among the invisible:
everything is formed of elements; and souls, whether they inhabit a
body, or issue from it, have always a corporeal substance."

In vain does St. Ambrose, in the sixth century, say (On Abraham, liv.
ii., ch. viii.)--"We recognize nothing but the material, except the
venerable Trinity alone."

The body of the entire Church has decided that the soul is immaterial.
These saints fell into an error at that time universal; they were men;
but they were not mistaken over immortality, because that is clearly
announced in the Gospels.

We have so evident a need of the decision of the infallible Church on
these points of philosophy, that we have not indeed by ourselves any
sufficient notion of what is called "pure spirit," and of what is named
"matter." Pure spirit is an expression which gives us no idea; and we
know matter only by a few phenomena. We know it so little that we call
it "substance"; well, the word substance means "that which is under";
but what is under will be eternally hidden from us. What is _under_ is
the Creator's secret; and this secret of the Creator is everywhere. We
do not know either how we receive life, or how we give it, or how we
grow, or how we digest, or how we sleep, or how we think, or how we

The great difficulty is to understand how a being, whoever he be, has


The author of the article SOUL in the "Encyclopedia" (the Abbé Yvon)
followed Jaquelot scrupulously; but Jaquelot teaches us nothing. He sets
himself also against Locke, because the modest Locke said (liv. iv, ch.
iii, para. vi.)--"We possibly shall never be able to know whether any
mere material being thinks or no; it being impossible for us, by the
contemplation of our own ideas without revelation, to discover whether
Omnipotency has not given to some systems of matter, fitly disposed, a
power to perceive and think, or else joined and fixed to matter, so
disposed, a thinking immaterial substance: it being, in respect of our
notions, not much more remote from our comprehension to conceive that
God can, if he pleases, superadd to matter a faculty of thinking, than
that he should superadd to it another substance with a faculty of
thinking; since we know not wherein thinking consists, nor to what sort
of substances the Almighty has been pleased to give that power which
cannot be in any created being but merely by the good pleasure and
bounty of the Creator, for I see no contradiction in it, that the first
eternal thinking Being should, if he pleased, give to certain systems of
created senseless matter, put together as he thinks fit, some degrees of
sense, perception and thought."

Those are the words of a profound, religious and modest man.

We know what quarrels he had to undergo on account of this opinion which
appeared bold, but which was in fact in him only a consequence of his
conviction of the omnipotence of God and the weakness of man. He did not
say that matter thought; but he said that we have not enough knowledge
to demonstrate that it is impossible for God to add the gift of thought
to the unknown being called "matter", after according it the gift of
gravitation and the gift of movement, both of which are equally

Locke was not assuredly the only one who had advanced this opinion; it
was the opinion of all antiquity, who, regarding the soul as very
unrestricted matter, affirmed consequently that matter could feel and

It was Gassendi's opinion, as may be seen in his objections to
Descartes. "It is true," says Gassendi, "that you know what you think;
but you are ignorant of what species of substance you are, you who
think. Thus although the operation of thought is known to you, the
principle of your essence is hidden from you; and you do not know what
is the nature of this substance, one of the operations of which is to
think. You are like a blind man who, feeling the heat of the sun and
being informed that it is caused by the heat of the sun, thinks he has a
clear and distinct idea of this luminary; because if he were asked what
the sun was, he could reply that it is a thing which heats, etc."

The same Gassendi, in his "Epicurean Philosophy," repeats several times
that there is no mathematical evidence of the pure spirituality of the

Descartes, in one of his letters to the Palatine Princess Elisabeth,
says to her--"I confess that by the natural reason alone we can make
many conjectures on the soul, and have gratifying hopes, but no
certainty." And in that sentence Descartes combats in his letters what
he puts forward in his works; a too ordinary contradiction.

In fine we have seen that all the Fathers of the first centuries of the
Church, while believing the soul immortal, believed it at the same time
material; they thought that it is as easy for God to conserve as to
create. They said--"God made the soul thinking, He will preserve it

Malebranche has proved very well that we have no idea by ourselves, and
that objects are incapable of giving us ideas: from that he concludes
that we see everything in God. That is at the bottom the same thing as
making God the author of all our ideas; for with what should we see in
Him, if we had not instruments for seeing? and these instruments, it is
He alone who holds them and guides them. This system is a labyrinth, one
lane of which would lead you to Spinozism, another to Stoicism, another
to chaos.

When one has had a good argument about spirit and matter, one always
finishes by not understanding each other. No philosopher has been able
with his own strength to lift this veil stretched by nature over all the
first principles of things. Men argue, nature acts.



Before the strange system which supposes animals to be pure machines
without any sensation, men had never thought that the beasts possessed
an immaterial soul; and nobody had pushed recklessness to the point of
saying that an oyster has a spiritual soul. Everyone concurred peaceably
in agreeing that the beasts had received from God feeling, memory,
ideas, and no pure spirit. Nobody had abused the gift of reason to the
point of saying that nature had given the beasts all the organs of
feeling so that they might not feel anything. Nobody had said that they
cry when they are wounded, and that they fly when pursued, without
experiencing pain or fear.

At that time people did not deny the omnipotence of God; He had been
able to communicate to the organized matter of animals pleasure, pain,
remembrance, the combination of a few ideas; He had been able to give to
several of them, such as the monkey, the elephant, the hunting-dog, the
talent of perfecting themselves in the arts which were taught to them;
not only had He been able to endow nearly all carnivorous animals with
the talent of warring better in their experienced old age than in their
too trustful youth; not only, I say, had He been able to do these
things, but He had done them: the universe bore witness thereto.

Pereira and Descartes maintained that the universe was mistaken, that
God was a juggler, that He had given animals all the instruments of life
and sensation, so that they might have neither life nor sensation,
properly speaking. But I do not know what so-called philosophers, in
order to answer Descartes' chimera, leaped into the opposite chimera;
they gave liberally of pure spirit to the toads and the insects.

Between these two madnesses, the one refusing feeling to the organs of
feeling, the other lodging a pure spirit in a bug, somebody thought of a
middle path. It was instinct. And what is instinct? Oh, oh, it is a
substantial form; it is a plastic form; it is I do not know what! it is
instinct. I shall be of your opinion so long as you will call the
majority of things, "I do not know what"; so long as your philosophy
begins and ends with "I do not know what", I shall quote Prior to you in
his poem on the vanity of the world.

The author of the article SOUL in the "Encyclopedia" explains
himself like this:--"I picture the animals' soul as an immaterial and
intelligent substance, but of what species? It must, it seems to me, be
an active principle which has sensations, and which has only that.... If
we reflect on the nature of the soul of animals, it supplies us with
groundwork which might lead us to think that its spirituality will save
it from annihilation."

I do not know how one pictures an immaterial substance. To picture
something is to make an image of it; and up till now nobody has been
able to paint the spirit. For the word "picture", I want the author to
understand "I conceive"; speaking for myself, I confess I do not
conceive it. I confess still less that a spiritual soul may be
annihilated, because I do not conceive either creation or non-existence;
because I have never been present at God's council; because I know
nothing at all about the principle of things.

If I wish to prove that the soul is a real being, someone stops me by
telling me that it is a faculty. If I assert that it is a faculty, and
that I have the faculty of thinking, I am told that I am mistaken; that
God, the eternal master of all nature, does everything in me, and
directs all my actions and all my thoughts; that if I produced my
thoughts, I should know the thought I will have in a minute; that I
never know it; that I am only an automaton with sensations and ideas,
necessarily dependent, and in the hands of the Supreme Being, infinitely
more compliant to Him than clay is to the potter.

I confess my ignorance, therefore; I avow that four thousand tomes of
metaphysics will not teach us what our soul is.

An orthodox philosopher said to a heterodox philosopher--"How have you
been able to come to the point of imagining that the soul is mortal by
nature, and eternal only by the pure wish of God?"

"By my own experience," said the other.

"How! are you dead?"

"Yes, very often. I suffered from epilepsy in my youth, and I assure you
that I was completely dead for several hours. No sensation, no
remembrance even of the moment that I fell ill. The same thing happens
to me now nearly every night. I never feel the precise moment that I go
to sleep; my sleep is absolutely dreamless. I cannot imagine by
conjecture how long I have slept. I am dead regularly six hours out of
the twenty-four. That is a quarter of my life."

The orthodox then asserted that he always thought during his sleep
without knowing anything about it. The heterodox answered him--"I
believe through revelation that I shall always think in the other life;
but I assure you I think rarely in this one."

The orthodox was not mistaken in asserting the immortality of the soul,
for faith and reason demonstrate this truth; but he might be mistaken in
asserting that a sleeping man always thinks.

Locke admitted frankly that he did not always think while he was asleep:
another philosopher has said--"Thought is characteristic of man; but it
is not his essence."

Let us leave to each man the liberty and consolation of seeking himself,
and of losing himself in his ideas.

It is good, however, to know, that in 1730 a philosopher[21] suffered a
severe enough persecution for having confessed, with Locke, that his
understanding was not exercised at every moment of the day and night,
just as he did not use his arms and his legs at all moments. Not only
did court ignorance persecute him, but the malignant influence of a few
so-called men of letters was let loose against him. What in England had
produced merely a few philosophical disputes, produced in France the
most cowardly atrocities; a Frenchman suffered by Locke.

There have always been in the mud of our literature more than one of
these miscreants who have sold their pens, and intrigued against their
benefactors even. This remark is rather foreign to the article
SOUL; but should one miss an opportunity of dismaying those who
make themselves unworthy of the name of men of letters, who prostitute
the little mind and conscience they have to a vile self-interest, to a
fantastic policy, who betray their friends to flatter fools, who in
secret powder the hemlock which the powerful and malicious ignoramus
wants to make useful citizens drink?

In short, while we worship God with all our soul, let us confess always
our profound ignorance of this soul, of this faculty of feeling and
thinking which we possess from His infinite goodness. Let us avow that
our feeble reasonings can take nothing away from, or add anything to
revelation and faith. Let us conclude in fine that we should use this
intelligence, the nature of which is unknown, for perfecting the
sciences which are the object of the "Encyclopedia"; just as watchmakers
use springs in their watches, without knowing what a spring is.



On the testimony of our acquired knowledge, we have dared question
whether the soul is created before us, whether it comes from
non-existence into our body? at what age it came to settle between a
bladder and the intestines _cæcum_ and _rectum_? if it brought ideas
with it or received them there, and what are these ideas? if after
animating us for a few moments, its essence is to live after us into
eternity without the intervention of God Himself? if being spirit, and
God being spirit, they are both of like nature? These questions seem
sublime; what are they? questions about light by men born blind.

What have all the philosophers, ancient and modern, taught us? a child
is wiser than they are; he does not think about things of which he can
form no conception.

You will say that it is sad for our insatiable curiosity, for our
inexhaustible thirst for happiness, to be thus ignorant of ourselves! I
agree, and there are still sadder things; but I shall answer you:

     _Sors tua mortalis, non est mortale quod optas._

                                         --Ovid, Met. II. 56

     "You have a man's fate, and a god's desires."

Once again, it seems that the nature of every principle of things is the
Creator's secret. How does the air carry sound? how are animals formed?
how do some of our limbs constantly obey our wills? what hand puts ideas
in our memory, keeps them there as in a register, and pulls them out
sometimes when we want them and sometimes in spite of ourselves? Our
nature, the nature of the universe, the nature of the least plant,
everything for us is sunk in a shadowy pit.

Man is an acting, feeling, thinking being: that is all we know of him:
it is not given to us to know what makes us feel and think, or what
makes us act, or what makes us exist. The acting faculty is as
incomprehensible for us as the thinking faculty. The difficulty is less
to conceive how a body of mud has feelings and ideas, than to conceive
how a being, whatever it be, has ideas and feelings.

Here on one side the soul of Archimedes, on the other the soul of an
idiot; are they of the same nature? If their essence is to think, they
think always, and independently of the body which cannot act without
them. If they think by their own nature, can the species of a soul which
cannot do a sum in arithmetic be the same as that which measured the
heavens? If it is the organs of the body which made Archimedes think,
why is it that my idiot, who has a stronger constitution than
Archimedes, who is more vigorous, digests better and performs all his
functions better, does not think at all? It is, you say, because his
brain is not so good. But you are making a supposition; you do not know
at all. No difference has ever been found between healthy brains that
have been dissected. It is even very probable that a fool's cerebellum
will be in better condition than Archimedes', which has worked
prodigiously, and which might be worn out and shrivelled.

Let us conclude therefore what we have already concluded, that we are
ignoramuses about all first principles. As regards ignoramuses who pride
themselves on their knowledge, they are far inferior to monkeys.

Now dispute, choleric arguers: present your petitions against each
other; proffer your insults, pronounce your sentences, you who do not
know one word about the matter.



Warburton, editor and commentator of Shakespeare and Bishop of
Gloucester, making use of English freedom, and abuse of the custom of
hurling insults at one's adversaries, has composed four volumes to prove
that the immortality of the soul was never announced in the Pentateuch,
and to conclude from this same proof that Moses' mission is divine. Here
is the précis of his book, which he himself gives, pages 7 and 8 of the
first volume.

"1. The doctrine of a life to come, of rewards and punishments after
death, is necessary to all civil society.

"2. The whole human race (_and this is where he is mistaken_), and
especially the wisest and most learned nations of antiquity, concurred
in believing and teaching this doctrine.

"3. It cannot be found in any passage of the law of Moses; therefore the
law of Moses is of divine origin. Which I am going to prove by the two
following syllogisms:

_First Syllogism_

"Every religion, every society that has not the immortality of the soul
for its basis, can be maintained only by an extraordinary providence;
the Jewish religion had not the immortality of the soul for basis;
therefore the Jewish religion was maintained by an extraordinary

_Second Syllogism_

"All the ancient legislators have said that a religion which did not
teach the immortality of the soul could not be maintained but by an
extraordinary providence; Moses founded a religion which is not founded
on the immortality of the soul; therefore Moses believed his religion
maintained by an extraordinary providence."

What is much more extraordinary is this assertion of Warburton's, which
he has put in big letters at the beginning of his book. He has often
been reproached with the extreme rashness and bad faith with which he
dares to say that all the ancient legislators believed that a religion
which is not founded on pains and recompenses after death, can be
maintained only by an extraordinary providence; not one of them ever
said it. He does not undertake even to give any example in his huge book
stuffed with a vast number of quotations, all of which are foreign to
his subject. He has buried himself beneath a pile of Greek and Latin
authors, ancient and modern, for fear one might see through him on the
other side of a horrible multitude of envelopes. When criticism finally
probed to the bottom, he was resurrected from among all these dead men
in order to load all his adversaries with insults.

It is true that towards the end of his fourth volume, after having
walked through a hundred labyrinths, and having fought with everybody he
met on the road, he comes at last to his great question which he had
left there. He lays all the blame on the Book of Job which passes among
scholars for an Arab work, and he tries to prove that Job did not
believe in the immortality of the soul. Later he explains in his own way
all the texts of Holy Writ by which people have tried to combat this

All one can say about it is that, if he was right, it was not for a
bishop to be right in such a way. He should have felt that one might
draw dangerous inferences; but everything in this world is a mass of
contradiction. This man, who became accuser and persecutor, was not made
bishop by a minister of state's patronage until immediately after he had
written his book.

At Salamanca, Coimbre or Rome, he would have been obliged to recant and
to ask pardon. In England he became a peer of the realm with an income
of a hundred thousand _livres_; it was enough to modify his methods.



The greatest benefit we owe to the New Testament is that it has revealed
to us the immortality of the soul. It is in vain, therefore, that this
fellow Warburton tried to cloud over this important truth, by
continually representing in his legation of Moses that "the ancient Jews
knew nothing of this necessary dogma, and that the Sadducees did not
admit it in the time of our Lord Jesus."

He interprets in his own way the very words that have been put into
Jesus Christ's mouth: "... have ye not read that which was spoken unto
you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and
the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living"
(St. Matt. xxii. 31, 32). He gives to the parable of the wicked rich man
a sense contrary to that of all the Churches. Sherlock, Bishop of
London, and twenty other scholars refuted him. English philosophers even
reproached him with the scandal of an Anglican bishop manifesting an
opinion so contrary to the Anglican Church; and after that, this man
takes it into his head to treat these persons as impious: like the
character of _Arlequin_ in the comedy of the _Dévaliseur de maisons_,
who, after throwing the furniture out of the window, sees a man carrying
some of it off, and cries with all his might "Stop thief!"

One should bless the revelation of the immortality of the soul, and of
rewards and punishments after death, all the more that mankind's vain
philosophy has always been sceptical of it. The great Cæsar did not
believe in it at all, he made himself quite clear in full senate when,
in order to stop Catalina being put to death, he represented that death
left man without sensation, that everything died with him; and nobody
refuted this view.

The Roman Empire was divided between two principal sects: that of
Epicurus which asserted that deity was useless to the world, and that
the soul perished with the body: and that of the Stoics who regarded the
soul as part of the Deity, which after death was joined again to its
origin, to the great everything from which it emanated. Thus, whether
one believed the soul mortal, or whether one believed it immortal, all
the sects were agreed in laughing at pains and punishments after death.

We still have a hundred monuments of this belief of the Romans. It is by
virtue of this opinion graved profoundly in their hearts, that so many
simple Roman citizens killed themselves without the least scruple; they
did not wait for a tyrant to hand them over to the executioners.

The most virtuous men even, and those most persuaded of the existence of
a God, hoped for no reward, and feared no punishment. Clement, who later
was Pope and saint, began by himself doubting what the early Christians
said of another life, and consulted St. Peter at Cæsarea. We are far
from believing that St. Clement wrote the history that is attributed to
him; but this history makes evident the need the human race had of a
precise revelation. All that can surprise us is that so repressive and
salutary a doctrine has left a prey to so many horrible crimes men who
have so little time to live, and who see themselves squeezed between two



A deformed child is born absolutely imbecile, it has no ideas and lives
without ideas; we have seen examples of this. How shall this animal be
defined? doctors have said that it is something between man and beast;
others have said that it had a sensitive soul, but not an intellectual
soul. It eats, drinks, sleeps, wakes, has sensations; but it does not

Is there another life for this creature, or is there none? The question
has been posed, and has not yet been completely answered.

Some say that this creature must have a soul, because its father and
mother had one. But by this reasoning one would prove that if it came
into the world without a nose it would be deemed to have one, because
its father and its mother had noses.

A woman gives birth to child with no chin, its forehead is receding and
rather black, its nose is slim and pointed, its eyes are round, it bears
not a bad resemblance to a swallow; the rest of its body, nevertheless,
is made like ours. The parents have it baptised; by a plurality of votes
it is considered a man and possessor of an immortal soul. But if this
ridiculous little figure has pointed nails and beak-like mouth, it is
declared a monster, it has no soul, and is not baptised.

It is well known that in London in 1726 there was a woman who gave birth
every week to a rabbit. No difficulty was made about refusing baptism to
this child, despite the epidemic mania there was for three weeks in
London for believing that this poor rogue was making wild rabbits. The
surgeon who attended her, St. André by name, swore that nothing was
more true, and people believed him. But what reason did the credulous
have for refusing a soul to this woman's children? she had a soul, her
children should be provided with souls also; whether they had hands,
whether they had paws, whether they were born with a little snout or
with a face; cannot the Supreme Being bestow the gift of thought and
sensation on a little I know not what, born of a woman, shaped like a
rabbit, as well as to a little I know not what, shaped like a man? Shall
the soul that was ready to lodge in this woman's foetus go back again
into space?

Locke makes the sound observation, about monsters, that one must not
attribute immortality to the exterior of a body; that the form has
nothing to do with it. This immortality, he says, is no more attached to
the form of his face or his chest, than to the way his beard is dressed
or his coat cut.

He asks what is the exact measure of deformity by which you can
recognize whether or no a child has a soul? What is the precise degree
at which it must be declared a monster and deprived of a soul?

One asks still further what would be a soul which never has any but
fantastic ideas? there are some which never escape from them. Are they
worthy or unworthy? what is to be done with their pure spirit?

What is one to think of a child with two heads? without deformity apart
from this? Some say that it has two souls because it is provided with
two pineal glands, with two _corpus callosum_, with two _sensorium
commune_. Others reply that one cannot have two souls when one has only
one chest and one navel.[22]

In fine, so many questions have been asked about this poor human soul,
that if it were necessary to answer them all, this examination of its
own person would cause it the most intolerable boredom. There would
happen to it what happened to Cardinal de Polignac at a conclave. His
steward, tired of never being able to make him settle his accounts, made
the journey from Rome, and came to the little window of his cell
burdened with an immense bundle of papers. He read for nearly two hours.
At last, seeing that no reply was forthcoming, he put his head forward.
The cardinal had departed nearly two hours before. Our souls will depart
before their stewards have acquainted them with the facts: but let us be
exact before God, whatever sort of ignoramuses we are, we and our


[21] Voltaire himself.

[22] The Chevalier d'Angos, learned astronomer, has carefully observed a
two-headed lizard for several days; and he has assured himself that the
lizard had two independent wills, each of which had an almost equal
power over the body. When the lizard was given a piece of bread, in such
a way that it could see it with only one head, this head wanted to go
after the bread, and the other wanted the body to remain at rest.


The ins and outs of all governments have been closely examined recently.
Tell me then, you who have travelled, in what state, under what sort of
government you would choose to be born. I imagine that a great
land-owning lord in France would not be vexed to be born in Germany; he
would be sovereign instead of subject. A peer of France would be very
glad to have the privileges of the English peerage; he would be
legislator. The lawyer and the financier would be better off in France
than elsewhere.

But what country would a wise, free man, a man with a moderate fortune,
and without prejudices, choose?

A member of the government of Pondicherry, a learned man enough,
returned to Europe by land with a Brahmin better educated than the
ordinary Brahmin. "What do you think of the government of the Great
Mogul?" asked the councillor.

"I think it abominable," answered the Brahmin. "How can you expect a
state to be happily governed by the Tartars? Our rajahs, our omrahs, our
nabobs, are very content, but the citizens are hardly so; and millions
of citizens are something."

Reasoning, the councillor and the Brahmin traversed the whole of Upper
Asia. "I make the observation," said the Brahmin, "that there is not one
republic in all this vast part of the world."

"Formerly there was the republic of Tyre," said the councillor, "but it
did not last long; there was still another one in the direction of
Arabia Petrea, in a little corner called Palestine, if one can honour
with the name of republic a horde of thieves and usurers sometimes
governed by judges, sometimes by a species of kings, sometimes by
grand-pontiffs, become slave seven or eight times, and finally driven
out of the country which it had usurped."

"I imagine," said the Brahmin, "that one ought to find very few
republics on the earth. Men are rarely worthy of governing themselves.
This happiness should belong only to little peoples who hide themselves
in islands, or among the mountains, like rabbits who shun carnivorous
beasts; but in the long run they are discovered and devoured."

When the two travellers reached Asia Minor, the councillor said to the
Brahmin: "Would you believe that a republic was formed in a corner of
Italy, which lasted more than five hundred years, and which owned Asia
Minor, Asia, Africa, Greece, Gaul, Spain and the whole of Italy?"

"She soon became a monarchy, then," said the Brahmin.

"You have guessed right," said the other. "But this monarchy fell, and
every day we compose beautiful dissertations in order to find the cause
of its decadence and downfall."

"You take a deal of trouble," said the Indian. "This empire fell because
it existed. Everything has to fall. I hope as much will happen to the
Grand Mogul's empire."

"By the way," said the European, "do you consider that there should be
more honour in a despotic state, and more virtue in a republic?"

The Indian, having had explained to him what we mean by honour, answered
that honour was more necessary in a republic, and that one had more need
of virtue in a monarchical state. "For," said he, "a man who claims to
be elected by the people, will not be if he is dishonoured; whereas at
the court he could easily obtain a place, in accordance with a great
prince's maxim, that in order to succeed a courtier should have neither
honour nor character. As regards virtue, one must be prodigiously
virtuous to dare to say the truth. The virtuous man is much more at his
ease in a republic; he has no one to flatter."

"Do you think," said the man from Europe, "that laws and religions are
made for climates, just as one has to have furs in Moscow, and gauzy
stuffs in Delhi?"

"Without a doubt," answered the Brahmin. "All the laws which concern
material things are calculated for the meridian one lives in. A German
needs only one wife, and a Persian three or four.

"The rites of religion are of the same nature. How, if I were Christian,
should I say mass in my province where there is neither bread nor wine?
As regards dogmas, that is another matter; the climate has nothing to do
with them. Did not your religion begin in Asia, whence it was driven
out? does it not exist near the Baltic Sea, where it was unknown?"

"In what state, under what domination, would you like best to live?"
asked the councillor.

"Anywhere but where I do live," answered his companion. "And I have met
many Siamese, Tonkinese, Persians and Turks who said as much."

"But, once again," persisted the European, "what state would you

The Brahmin answered: "The state where only the laws are obeyed."

"That is an old answer," said the councillor.

"It is none the worse for that," said the Brahmin.

"Where is that country?" asked the councillor.

"We must look for it," answered the Brahmin.


The superstitious man is to the rogue what the slave is to the tyrant.
Further, the superstitious man is governed by the fanatic and becomes
fanatic. Superstition born in Paganism, adopted by Judaism, infested the
Christian Church from the earliest times. All the fathers of the Church,
without exception, believed in the power of magic. The Church always
condemned magic, but she always believed in it: she did not
excommunicate sorcerers as madmen who were mistaken, but as men who were
really in communication with the devil.

To-day one half of Europe thinks that the other half has long been and
still is superstitious. The Protestants regard the relics, the
indulgences, the mortifications, the prayers for the dead, the holy
water, and almost all the rites of the Roman Church, as a superstitious
dementia. Superstition, according to them, consists in taking useless
practices for necessary practices. Among the Roman Catholics there are
some more enlightened than their ancestors, who have renounced many of
these usages formerly considered sacred; and they defend themselves
against the others who have retained them, by saying: "They are
indifferent, and what is merely indifferent cannot be an evil."

It is difficult to mark the limits of superstition. A Frenchman
travelling in Italy finds almost everything superstitious, and is hardly
mistaken. The Archbishop of Canterbury maintains that the Archbishop of
Paris is superstitious; the Presbyterians make the same reproach against
His Grace of Canterbury, and are in their turn treated as superstitious
by the Quakers, who are the most superstitious of all in the eyes of
other Christians.

In Christian societies, therefore, no one agrees as to what superstition
is. The sect which seems to be the least attacked by this malady of the
intelligence is that which has the fewest rites. But if with few
ceremonies it is still strongly attached to an absurd belief, this
absurd belief is equivalent alone to all the superstitious practices
observed from the time of Simon the magician to that of Father

It is therefore clear that it is the fundamentals of the religion of one
sect which is considered as superstition by another sect.

The Moslems accuse all Christian societies of it, and are themselves
accused. Who will judge this great matter? Will it be reason? But each
sect claims to have reason on its side. It will therefore be force which
will judge, while awaiting the time when reason will penetrate a
sufficient number of heads to disarm force.

Up to what point does statecraft permit superstition to be destroyed?
This is a very thorny question; it is like asking up to what point one
should make an incision in a dropsical person, who may die under the
operation. It is a matter for the doctor's discretion.

Can there exist a people free from all superstitious prejudices? That is
to ask--Can there exist a nation of philosophers? It is said that there
is no superstition in the magistrature of China. It is probable that
none will remain in the magistrature of a few towns of Europe.

Then the magistrates will stop the superstition of the people from being
dangerous. These magistrates' example will not enlighten the mob, but
the principal persons of the middle-classes will hold the mob in check.
There is not perhaps a single riot, a single religious outrage in which
the middle-classes were not formerly imbrued, because these middle
classes were then the mob; but reason and time will have changed them.
Their softened manners will soften those of the lowest and most savage
populace; it is a thing of which we have striking examples in more than
one country. In a word, less superstition, less fanaticism; and less
fanaticism, less misery.


Tears are the mute language of sorrow. But why? What connection is there
between a sad idea and this limpid, salt liquid, filtered through a
little gland at the external corner of the eye, which moistens the
conjunctiva and the small lachrymal points, whence it descends into the
nose and mouth through the reservoir called the lachrymal sack and its

Why in women and children, whose organs are part of a frail and delicate
network, are tears more easily excited by sorrow than in grown men,
whose tissue is firmer?

Did nature wish compassion to be born in us at sight of these tears
which soften us, and lead us to help those who shed them? The woman of a
savage race is as firmly determined to help the child that cries as
would be a woman of the court, and maybe more, because she has fewer
distractions and passions.

In the animal body everything has an object without a doubt. The eyes
especially bear such evident, such proven, such admirable relation to
the rays of light; this mechanism is so divine, that I should be tempted
to take for a delirium of burning fever the audacity which denies the
final causes of the structure of our eyes.

The use of tears does not seem to have so well determined and striking
an object; but it would be beautiful that nature made them flow in order
to stir us to pity.

There are women who are accused of weeping when they wish. I am not at
all surprised at their talent. A live, sensitive, tender imagination can
fix itself on some object, on some sorrowful memory, and picture it in
such dominating colours that they wring tears from it. It is what
happens to many actors, and principally to actresses, on the stage.

The women who imitate them in their own homes add to this talent the
petty fraud of appearing to weep for their husbands, whereas in fact
they are weeping for their lovers. Their tears are true, but the object
of them is false.

One asks why the same man who has watched the most atrocious events
dry-eyed, who even has committed cold-blooded crimes, will weep at the
theatre at the representation of these events and crimes? It is that he
does not see them with the same eyes, he sees them with the eyes of the
author and the actor. He is no longer the same man; he was a barbarian,
he was agitated by furious passions when he saw an innocent woman
killed, when he stained himself with his friend's blood. His soul was
filled with stormy tumult; it is tranquil, it is empty; nature returns
to it; he sheds virtuous tears. That is the true merit, the great good
of the theatres; there is achieved what can never be achieved by the
frigid declamations of an orator paid to bore the whole of an audience
for an hour.

David the capitoul, who, without emotion, caused and saw the death of
innocent Calas on the wheel, would have shed tears at the sight of his
own crime in a well-written and well-spoken tragedy.

It is thus that Pope has said in the prologue to Addison's Cato:--

     "Tyrants no more their savage nature kept;
     And foes to virtue wondered how they wept."


The theist is a man firmly persuaded of the existence of a Supreme Being
as good as He is powerful, who has formed all beings with extension,
vegetating, sentient and reflecting; who perpetuates their species, who
punishes crimes without cruelty, and rewards virtuous actions with

The theist does not know how God punishes, how he protects, how he
pardons, for he is not reckless enough to flatter himself that he knows
how God acts, but he knows that God acts and that He is just.
Difficulties against Providence do not shake him in his faith, because
they are merely great difficulties, and not proofs. He submits to this
Providence, although he perceives but a few effects and a few signs of
this Providence: and, judging of the things he does not see by the
things he sees, he considers that this Providence reaches all places and
all centuries.

Reconciled in this principle with the rest of the universe, he does not
embrace any of the sects, all of which contradict each other; his
religion is the most ancient and the most widespread; for the simple
worship of a God has preceded all the systems of the world. He speaks a
language that all peoples understand, while they do not understand one
another. He has brothers from Pekin to Cayenne, and he counts all wise
men as his brethren. He believes that religion does not consist either
in the opinions of an unintelligible metaphysic, or in vain display, but
in worship and justice. The doing of good, there is his service; being
submissive to God, there is his doctrine. The Mahometan cries to
him--"Have a care if you do not make the pilgrimage to Mecca!" "Woe unto
you," says a Recollet, "if you do not make a journey to Notre-Dame de
Lorette!" He laughs at Lorette and at Mecca; but he succours the needy
and defends the oppressed.


What is tolerance? it is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed
of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's
folly--that is the first law of nature.

It is clear that the individual who persecutes a man, his brother,
because he is not of the same opinion, is a monster. That admits of no
difficulty. But the government! but the magistrates! but the princes!
how do they treat those who have another worship than theirs? If they
are powerful strangers, it is certain that a prince will make an
alliance with them. François I., very Christian, will unite with
Mussulmans against Charles V., very Catholic. François I. will give
money to the Lutherans of Germany to support them in their revolt
against the emperor; but, in accordance with custom, he will start by
having Lutherans burned at home. For political reasons he pays them in
Saxony; for political reasons he burns them in Paris. But what will
happen? Persecutions make proselytes? Soon France will be full of new
Protestants. At first they will let themselves be hanged, later they in
their turn will hang. There will be civil wars, then will come the St.
Bartholomew; and this corner of the world will be worse than all that
the ancients and moderns have ever told of hell.

Madmen, who have never been able to give worship to the God who made
you! Miscreants, whom the example of the Noachides, the learned Chinese,
the Parsees and all the sages, has never been able to lead! Monsters,
who need superstitions as crows' gizzards need carrion! you have been
told it already, and there is nothing else to tell you--if you have two
religions in your countries, they will cut each other's throat; if you
have thirty religions, they will dwell in peace. Look at the great Turk,
he governs Guebres, Banians, Greek Christians, Nestorians, Romans. The
first who tried to stir up tumult would be impaled; and everyone is

Of all religions, the Christian is without doubt the one which should
inspire tolerance most, although up to now the Christians have been the
most intolerant of all men. The Christian Church was divided in its
cradle, and was divided even in the persecutions which under the first
emperors it sometimes endured. Often the martyr was regarded as an
apostate by his brethren, and the Carpocratian Christian expired beneath
the sword of the Roman executioners, excommunicated by the Ebionite
Christian, the which Ebionite was anathema to the Sabellian.

This horrible discord, which has lasted for so many centuries, is a very
striking lesson that we should pardon each other's errors; discord is
the great ill of mankind; and tolerance is the only remedy for it.

There is nobody who is not in agreement with this truth, whether he
meditates soberly in his study, or peaceably examines the truth with his
friends. Why then do the same men who admit in private indulgence,
kindness, justice, rise in public with so much fury against these
virtues? Why? it is that their own interest is their god, and that they
sacrifice everything to this monster that they worship.

I possess a dignity and a power founded on ignorance and credulity; I
walk on the heads of the men who lie prostrate at my feet; if they
should rise and look me in the face, I am lost; I must bind them to the
ground, therefore, with iron chains.

Thus have reasoned the men whom centuries of bigotry have made powerful.
They have other powerful men beneath them, and these have still others,
who all enrich themselves with the spoils of the poor, grow fat on their
blood, and laugh at their stupidity. They all detest tolerance, as
partisans grown rich at the public expense fear to render their
accounts, and as tyrants dread the word liberty. And then, to crown
everything, they hire fanatics to cry at the top of their voices:
"Respect my master's absurdities, tremble, pay, and keep your mouths

It is thus that a great part of the world long was treated; but to-day
when so many sects make a balance of power, what course to take with
them? Every sect, as one knows, is a ground of error; there are no sects
of geometers, algebraists, arithmeticians, because all the propositions
of geometry, algebra and arithmetic are true. In every other science one
may be deceived. What Thomist or Scotist theologian would dare say
seriously that he is sure of his case?

If it were permitted to reason consistently in religious matters, it is
clear that we all ought to become Jews, because Jesus Christ our Saviour
was born a Jew, lived a Jew, died a Jew, and that he said expressly that
he was accomplishing, that he was fulfilling the Jewish religion. But it
is clearer still that we ought to be tolerant of one another, because we
are all weak, inconsistent, liable to fickleness and error. Shall a reed
laid low in the mud by the wind say to a fellow reed fallen in the
opposite direction: "Crawl as I crawl, wretch, or I shall petition that
you be torn up by the roots and burned?"


"Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered,
Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause
came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.
Everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice.

"Pilate saith unto Him, What is truth? And when he had said this he went
out, etc." (St. John xviii. 37.)

It is a sad thing for the human race that Pilate went out without
waiting for the answer; we should know what truth is. Pilate had very
little curiosity. The accused led before him, says he is king, that he
was to be king; and Pilate does not inquire how that can be. He is
supreme judge in Cæsar's name, he has power of life and death; his duty
was to probe the sense of these words. He ought to say--"Tell me what
you understand by being king. How were you born to be king and to bear
witness to the truth? It is maintained that truth reaches but with
difficulty to the ear of kings. I am judge, I have always had great
trouble in finding it. While your enemies are howling against you
without, give me some information on the point; you will be doing me the
greatest service that has ever been done a judge; and I much prefer to
learn to recognize truth, than to accede to the Jews' clamorous demand
to have you hanged."

We shall not dare, to be sure, seek what the author of all truth would
have been able to reply to Pilate.

Would he have said: "Truth is an abstract word which most men use
indifferently in their books and judgments, for error and falsehood?"
This definition would have been marvellously appropriate to all makers
of systems. Similarly is the word "wisdom" taken often for folly, and
"wit" for nonsense.

Humanly speaking, let us define truth, while waiting for a better
definition, as--"a statement of the facts as they are."

I suppose that if one had given only six months to teaching Pilate the
truths of logic, he would assuredly have made this conclusive syllogism.
One must not take away the life of a man who has only preached good
morality: well, the man who has been impeached has, on the showing of
his enemies even, often preached excellent morality; therefore he should
not be punished with death.

He might have drawn this further argument.

My duty is to disperse the riotous assemblage of a seditious people who
demand a man's death, unreasonably and without legal form; well, that is
the position of the Jews in this instance; therefore I must drive them
away and break up their meeting.

We suppose that Pilate knew arithmetic; hence we will not speak of those
forms of truth.

As regards mathematical truths, I think it would have taken at least
three years before he could have learned higher geometry. The truths of
physics combined with those of geometry would have demanded more than
four years. We spend six, ordinarily, in studying theology; I ask twelve
for Pilate, seeing that he was pagan, and that six years would not have
been too much for eradicating all his old errors, and six years more for
making him fit to receive a doctor's hood.

If Pilate had had a well-balanced mind, I should have asked only two
years to teach him metaphysical truth; and as metaphysical truth is
necessarily allied to moral truth, I flatter myself that in less than
nine years he would have become a real scholar and a perfectly honest

I should then have said to Pilate:--Historical truths are merely
probabilities. If you had fought at the battle of Philippi, that is for
you a truth which you know by intuition, by perception. But for us who
dwell near the Syrian desert, it is merely a very probable thing, which
we know by hearsay. How much hearsay is necessary to form a conviction
equal to that of a man who, having seen the thing, can flatter himself
that he has a sort of certainty?

He who has heard the thing told by twelve thousand eyewitnesses, has
only twelve thousand probabilities, equal to one strong probability,
which is not equal to certainty.

If you have the thing from only one of these witnesses, you know
nothing; you should be sceptical. If the witness is dead, you should be
still more sceptical, for you cannot enlighten yourself. If from several
witnesses who are dead, you are in the same plight. If from those to
whom the witnesses have spoken, your scepticism should increase still

From generation to generation scepticism increases, and probability
diminishes; and soon probability is reduced to zero.


One gives the name of tyrant to the sovereign who knows no laws but
those of his caprice, who takes his subjects' property, and who
afterwards enrols them to go to take the property of his neighbours.
There are none of these tyrants in Europe.

One distinguishes between the tyranny of one man and that of many. The
tyranny of many would be that of a body which invaded the rights of
other bodies, and which exercised despotism in favour of the laws
corrupted by it. Nor are there any tyrants of this sort in Europe.

Under which tyranny would you like to live? Under neither; but if I had
to choose, I should detest the tyranny of one man less than that of
many. A despot always has his good moments; an assembly of despots
never. If a tyrant does me an injustice, I can disarm him through his
mistress, his confessor or his page; but a company of grave tyrants is
inaccessible to all seductions. When it is not unjust, it is at the
least hard, and never does it bestow favours.

If I have only one despot, I am quit of him by drawing myself up against
a wall when I see him pass, or by bowing low, or by striking the ground
with my forehead, according to the custom of the country; but if there
is a company of a hundred despots, I am exposed to repeating this
ceremony a hundred times a day, which in the long run is very annoying
if one's hocks are not supple. If I have a farm in the neighbourhood of
one of our lords, I am crushed; if I plead against a relation of the
relations of one of our lords, I am ruined. What is to be done? I fear
that in this world one is reduced to being either hammer or anvil; lucky
the man who escapes these alternatives!



It is said of Marcus Brutus that, before killing himself, he uttered
these words: "O virtue! I thought you were something; but you are only
an empty phantom!"

You were right, Brutus, if you considered virtue as being head of a
faction, and assassin of your benefactor; but if you had considered
virtue as consisting only of doing good to those dependent on you, you
would not have called it a phantom, and you would not have killed
yourself in despair.

I am very virtuous says this excrement of theology, for I have the four
cardinal virtues, and the three divine. An honest man asks him--"What is
the cardinal virtue?" The other answers--"Strength, prudence, temperance
and justice."


If you are just, you have said everything; your strength, your prudence,
your temperance, are useful qualities. If you have them, so much the
better for you; but if you are just, so much the better for the others.
But it is not enough to be just, you must do good; that is what is
really cardinal. And your divine virtues, which are they?


Faith, hope, charity.


Is it a virtue to believe? either what you believe seems true to you,
and in this case there is no merit in believing; or it seems false to
you, and then it is impossible for you to believe.

Hope cannot be a virtue any more than fear; one fears and one hopes,
according as one receives a promise or a threat. As for charity, is it
not what the Greeks and the Romans understood by humanity, love of one's
neighbour? this love is nothing if it be not active; doing good,
therefore, is the sole true virtue.


One would be a fool! Really, I am to give myself a deal of torment in
order to serve mankind, and I shall get no return! all work deserves
payment. I do not mean to do the least honest action, unless I am
certain of paradise.


Ah, master! that is to say that, if you did not hope for paradise, and
if you did not fear hell, you would never do any good action. Believe
me, master, there are two things worthy of being loved for themselves,
God and virtue.


I see, sir, you are a disciple of Fénélon.


Yes, master.


I shall denounce you to the judge of the ecclesiastical court at Meaux.


Go along, denounce!


What is virtue? Beneficence towards the fellow-creature. Can I call
virtue things other than those which do me good? I am needy, you are
generous. I am in danger, you help me. I am deceived, you tell me the
truth. I am neglected, you console me. I am ignorant, you teach me.
Without difficulty I shall call you virtuous. But what will become of
the cardinal and divine virtues? Some of them will remain in the

What does it matter to me that you are temperate? you observe a precept
of health; you will have better health, and I am happy to hear it. You
have faith and hope, and I am happy still; they will procure you eternal
life. Your divine virtues are celestial gifts; your cardinal virtues are
excellent qualities which serve to guide you: but they are not virtues
as regards your fellow-creature. The prudent man does good to himself,
the virtuous man does good to mankind. St. Paul was right to tell you
that charity prevails over faith and hope.

But shall only those that are useful to one's fellow-creature be
admitted as virtues? How can I admit any others? We live in society;
really, therefore, the only things that are good for us are those that
are good for society. A recluse will be sober, pious; he will be clad in
hair-cloth; he will be a saint: but I shall not call him virtuous until
he has done some act of virtue by which other men have profited. So long
as he is alone, he is doing neither good nor evil; for us he is nothing.
If St. Bruno brought peace to families, if he succoured want, he was
virtuous; if he fasted, prayed in solitude, he was a saint. Virtue among
men is an interchange of kindness; he who has no part in this
interchange should not be counted. If this saint were in the world, he
would doubtless do good; but so long as he is not in the world, the
world will be right in refusing him the title of virtuous; he will be
good for himself and not for us.

But, you say to me, if a recluse is a glutton, a drunkard, given to
secret debauches with himself, he is vicious; he is virtuous, therefore,
if he has the opposite qualities. That is what I cannot agree: he is a
very disagreeable fellow if he has the faults you mention; but he is not
vicious, wicked, punishable as regards society to whom these infamies do
no harm. It is to be presumed that were he to return to society he would
do harm there, that he would be very vicious; and it is even more
probable that he would be a wicked man, than it is sure that the other
temperate and chaste recluse would be a virtuous man, for in society
faults increase, and good qualities diminish.

A much stronger objection is made; Nero, Pope Alexander VI., and other
monsters of this species, have bestowed kindnesses; I answer hardily
that on that day they were virtuous.

A few theologians say that the divine emperor Antonine was not virtuous;
that he was a stubborn Stoic who, not content with commanding men,
wished further to be esteemed by them; that he attributed to himself the
good he did to the human race; that all his life he was just, laborious,
beneficent through vanity, and that he only deceived men through his
virtues. "My God!" I exclaim. "Give us often rogues like him!"


Why does one hardly ever do the tenth part of the good one might do?

Why in half Europe do girls pray to God in Latin, which they do not

Why in antiquity was there never a theological quarrel, and why were no
people ever distinguished by the name of a sect? The Egyptians were not
called Isiacs or Osiriacs; the peoples of Syria did not have the name of
Cybelians. The Cretans had a particular devotion to Jupiter, and were
never entitled Jupiterians. The ancient Latins were very attached to
Saturn; there was not a village in Latium called Saturnian: on the
contrary, the disciples of the God of truth taking their master's title,
and calling themselves "anointed" like Him, declared, as soon as they
could, an eternal war on all the peoples who were not anointed, and made
war among themselves for fourteen hundred years, taking the names of
Arians, Manicheans, Donatists, Hussites, Papists, Lutherans, Calvinists.
And lastly, the Jansenists and the Molinists have had no more poignant
mortification than that of not having been able to slaughter each other
in pitched battle. Whence does this come?

Why is the great number of hard-working, innocent men who till the land
every day of the year that you may eat all its fruits, scorned,
vilified, oppressed, robbed; and why is it that the useless and often
very wicked man who lives only by their work, and who is rich only
through their poverty, is on the contrary respected, courted,

Why is it that, the fruits of the earth being so necessary for the
conservation of men and animals, one yet sees so many years and so many
countries where there is entire lack of these fruits?

Why is the half of Africa and America covered with poisons?

Why is there no land where insects are not far in excess of men?

Why does a little whitish, evil-smelling secretion form a being which
has hard bones, desires and thoughts? and why do these beings always
persecute each other?

Why does so much evil exist, seeing that everything is formed by a God
whom all theists are agreed in naming "good?"

Why, since we complain ceaselessly of our ills, do we spend all our time
in increasing them?

Why, as we are so miserable, have we imagined that not to be is a great
ill, when it is clear that it was not an ill not to be before we were

Why and how does one have dreams during sleep, if one has no soul; and
how is it that these dreams are always so incoherent, so extravagant, if
one has a soul?

Why do the stars move from west to east rather than from east to west?

Why do we exist? why is there anything?


We declare to the scholars that, being like them prodigiously ignorant
about the first principles of all things, and about the natural,
typical, mystic, allegorical sense of many things, we refer these things
to the infallible judgment of the Holy Inquisition of Rome, Florence,
Madrid, Lisbon, and to the decrees of the Sorbonne of Paris, perpetual
council of the Gauls.

Our errors springing in no wise from malice, but being the natural
consequence of human frailty, we hope that they will be pardoned to us
in this world and the other.

We beseech the small number of heavenly spirits who are still shut up in
France in mortal bodies, and who, from there, enlighten the universe at
_thirty sous_ the sheet, to communicate their luminousness to us for the
tenth volume which we reckon on publishing at the end of Lent 1772, or
in Advent 1773; and for their luminousness we will pay _forty sous_.

This tenth volume will contain some very curious articles, which, if God
favours us, will give new point to the salt which we shall endeavour to
bestow in the thanks we shall give to these gentlemen.

Executed on Mount Krapack, the thirtieth day of the month of Janus, the
year of the world

according to Scaliger                    5722
according to Riccioli                    5956
according to Eusebius                    6972
according to the Alphonsine Tables       8707
according to the Egyptians             370000
according to the Chaldeans             465102
according to the Brahmins              780000
according to the philosophers        infinity


[23] The Philosophical Dictionary was first published as "Questions on
the Encyclopedia," then reprinted as "Reason by Alphabet," and then
finally, with many additions, became the "Philosophical Dictionary."


This text had three occurrences of "François I" followed by a
superscripted "er". These have be rendered as François Ier in this text.

The following words used an "oe" ligature in the original:


Variations in spelling and hyphenation have been left as in the original.

There is one occurrence of "Vistnou" and one of "Vitsnou". One of these
is clearly an error, but each has been left as in the original.

The symbol representing infinity has been replaced with the word
"infinity" on page 316, the last line of the text.

The following corrections have been made to the original text:

    page 17: Nestor, in the "Iliad," wishing to insinuate himself
    as a wise conciliator into the minds of Achilles and
    Agamemnon{original had "Agamamemnon"},

    page 40: Atheism is the vice of a few intelligent persons, and
    superstition{original had "superstitution"} is the vice of

    page 42: if it is a greater crime not to believe in the
    Deity{original had "Diety"} than to have unworthy opinions

    page 54: They will say as much of the great moral maxims, of
    Zarathustra's--"In doubt if an{original had "in"} action be
    just, abstain...";

    page 58: What time and what trouble for copying correctly in
    Greek and Latin the works of Origen{original had "Origin"}, of
    Clement of Alexandria, and of all those other authors called

    page 101: we shall be convinced that we must not be vain about
    anything, and yet we shall always{original had "aways"} have

    page 128: All that certain tyrants{original had "tryants"} of
    the souls desire is that the men they teach shall have false

    page 166: and to surround him with little chubby, flushed faces
    accompanied{original had "accompained"} by two wings; I laugh
    and I pardon them with all my heart.

    page 171: And an unfortunate{original had "unforunate"} idiot,
    who had had enough courage to render very great services to the

    page 220: Try to retake from the Mohammedans all that they
    usurped; but it is easier to calumniate{original had
    "calcumniate"} them.

    pafe 224: It was allowed among the Egyptians{original had
    "Egyptains"}, the Athenians and even among the Jews, to marry
    one's sister on the father's side.

    page 251: Your parents have told you that you should bow before
    this man; you respect him before knowing whether he merits your
    respect;{original had colon} you grow in years and in

    page 280: (Corporalitas animæ in ipso Evangelio relucescit, De
    Anima,{original had period} cap. vii.)

    page 295: "She soon became a monarchy, then,{original had
    period}" said the Brahmin.

    page 315: we refer these things to the infallible{original had
    "infallable"} judgment of the Holy Inquisition of Rome,
    Florence, Madrid, Lisbon,

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and 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 Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS 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 Doctrine Publishing'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.

+ 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 Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.