Voltaire… True or false?

Art historians have developed sophisticated techniques to detect forgeries. Sotheby’s has its own ‘fraud-busting’ expert. Most of the world’s leading museums have whole departments devoted to distinguishing the real from the fake. Thanks to modern research methods, scores if not hundreds of famous paintings have been re-classified. Many pictures believed to have been painted by Rembrandt, for instance – several in national collections – are now re-labelled school of or follower of. Similarly, some paintings that were believed to be by an obscure master are now deemed to have been painted by the great Rembrandt himself. Documentary records such as inventories, letters, catalogues, or invoices, chemical analysis of canvas and paint, X-ray imaging, and carbon dating can all be valuable tools and precious auxiliaries to the museum curator. The style and quality of a painting are generally the strongest arguments for its authenticity. When material evidence supports the expert’s eye, the case is sealed. The same criteria apply, mutatis mutandis, to literary history and to the establishment of authorship.

Title page of Candide, deuxième partie (n.p., 1760) (Bibliothèque nationale de France).

Researching Candide, seconde partie, several years ago, I came across an index card in the old, printed catalogue at the British Museum Library with the handwritten note ‘spurious’ scrawled across the top. I was puzzled. It was the first time that I had encountered that word in the context of Voltaire’s writing. The word ‘apocryphal’ appeared on another card. Something was amiss. In all the eighteenth-century editions of Candide, seconde partie I consulted, the second part was bound alongside the first. Moreover, it was translated under Voltaire’s name into several languages. Both parts, 1 and 2, were printed together in the popular Modern Library edition. Countless undergraduates had read it. Had no one noticed that Candide, seconde partie was not the genuine article? I began wondering about the status of this bizarre continuation, which includes, in its second chapter, a scene of brutal homosexual rape. I soon perceived that in terms of style the second part had little in common with the original. Voltaire’s distinctive tone, combined with his verbal sophistication, his brush strokes as it were, are not easily mimicked. Unlike his imitator, Voltaire suggests obscenity without being vulgar.

Title page of H.-J. Dulaurens, Le Compère Mathieu, vol.1 (London, 1761) (Taylor Institution Library).

My research (conducted with the assistance of Gillian Pink) confirmed the hypothesis originally floated by Emile Henriot in 1925 that Candide, seconde partie was in fact written by the unfrocked monk Henri-Joseph Dulaurens (‘La seconde partie de Candide, Le Temps, 17 février 1925). Voltaire was aware of Dulaurens, whose satirical poem Les Jésuitiques (1761) must have caused him to chuckle when he read it. He commented on another work by Dulaurens, Le Compère Matthieu (1766), which he noted was written in the style of Rabelais (D14938): ‘Il y a un théatin qui a conservé son nom de Laurent qui est assez facétieux, et qui d’ailleurs est instruit: il est auteur du compère Matthieu, ouvrage dans le goût de Rabelais, dont le commencement est assez plaisant, et la fin détestable.’ But reading Voltaire is sometimes akin to entering a hall of mirrors. The distorted images flee before our eyes. Now and then we nevertheless catch his gaze. By way of a joke, he attributed his own Relation du bannissement des Jésuites de la Chine (1768) to ‘l’auteur du Compère Matthieu’ (D14915 to Charles Bordes). Et rira bien qui rie le dernier!

Title page of Relation du bannissement des Jésuites de la Chine (Amsterdam, 1768) (Taylor Institution Library).

The late Patrick Lee averred that every collected edition of Voltaire’s writings from 1728 until the last one printed before his death includes spurious, apocryphal, and misattributed works (‘The apocryphal Voltaire: problems in the Voltairean canon’ in: The Enterprise of Enlightenment. A Tribute to David Williams from his friends, ed. Terry Pratt, David McCallam, David Williams, Oxford, 2004, p.265-73). Voltaire himself noted with characteristic flamboyance: ‘On ferait une bibliothèque des ouvrages qu’on m’impute. Tous les réfugiés errants font de mauvais livres et les vendent sous mon nom à des libraires crédules. […] On me répond que c’est l’état du métier. Si cela est le métier est fort triste’ (letter to Damilaville, 17 December 1766, D13744). But what of the hundreds of works that Voltaire published under an assumed name? And what of those that appeared anonymously? And what of those that, for one reason or another, he did not include in his collected works. And what of his persistent denials and obfuscations? And what of his works published posthumously? Questions like these take us to the heart of Voltaire’s psychology as a literary artist. His protean nature both as a writer and a public figure has meant that every utterance must be approached warily. Take for instance his presumed denial over the authorship of Candide, seconde partie contained in the following paragraph, though this is not in fact deemed to have been written by Voltaire. The claw emerges from beneath the soft pad. At best, it would appear to bear the stamp of his ‘circle’.

Let us quote it and let the reader decide (Journal encyclopédique, août 1761, p.144): ‘Il y a quelque tems qu’il a paru en France une seconde partie de Candide: on n’en a pas lû quatre lignes, qu’on voit très-clairement que cette suite n’est pas de la même plume que la première. Quelle différence! ce seroit bien là le cas de dire: non licet omnibus adire Corinthum, mot usé à la vérité, mais trouve ici très-bien sa place. Quelques personnes malintentionnées, sans doute, ont fait courir le bruit que cette brochure étoit de Mr. Campigneulles. Il la désavoue formellement, mais il dit dans son désaveu que quelques Gens de Lettres l’ont trouvée assez bien pour parier qu’elle étoit d’un homme très-illustre en Europe: ces prétendus Gens de Lettres sont des imprudents à qui nous conseillons de retirer promptement leur enjeu.’

The monumental task of publishing Voltaire’s writings has been undertaken several times since his death in 1778. Each generation has approached the project with the resources at its disposal and with the most up-to-date scholarship; and each built on the successes (and shortcomings) of the last. Over time, many works have been added to the canon, and others removed. It was Gustave Lanson early in the last century who summarized the scientific approach to literary history in his ground-breaking article Comment Voltaire faisait un livre (1908). His method, briefly stated, consisted in the painstaking gathering and interpreting all the documents that have come down us to reconstruct plausibly, and coherently, the story of how each work was written.

Establishing the Voltairean canon along scientific lines has been the objective of the Voltaire Foundation’s edition of the Œuvres complètes de Voltaire (OCV) these past fifty years. It has been an ambitious enterprise. But since the early 1950s exciting new tools have become available, some due to the drive and energy of Theodore Besterman. For the first time it was possible to apply the scientific method rigorously to Voltaire’s entire œuvre. Et quel œuvre! No writer wrote as much as Voltaire. This month the most extensive publishing venture in Europe (et par conséquent de toute la terre!) draws to a close with the publication of the final volume in the collection: Textes attribués à Voltaire, numbered 147. In all, 205 volumes have been printed, representing the collaboration of scores of eminent scholars from around the world.

In his Epître à Horace, Voltaire wrote, ‘J’ai fait un peu de bien: c’est mon meilleur ouvrage.’ Volume 147 of the OCV is a tribute to the great man, his massive corpus of writings, and enduring presence in the modern mind. The Œuvres complètes is a monument to the European Enlightenment and to scholarship at its best.

Edouard Langille

The Russian Enlightenment Bible in Oxford

In October-November 2021 I had the privilege of holding a visiting fellowship at the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries to work on my current monograph project about the place of the Bible in eighteenth-century Russia.

What was the ‘Bible’ in eighteenth-century Russia? Although printed church books, including volumes containing the Biblical texts needed for worship, had been printed in Muscovy since the mid-sixteenth century, the first complete Bible was printed in Muscovy in the mid-seventeenth century, in 1663 – about two hundred years after the Gutenberg Bible was printed in the West. It was in Church Slavonic, the language based on Old Bulgarian that is used to this day in Russian Orthodox worship and church books; Church Slavonic, in the eighteenth century as today, differed significantly from spoken Russian without being completely incomprehensible with a bit of practice. The Slavonic Bible text was created in the Middle Ages and was, in theory, based on the Greek text throughout (the reality was rather more complicated, and in some cases Latin sources were used). The Slavonic version of the Old Testament therefore largely followed the Greek Septuagint, unlike Protestant Bibles like the German Luther Bible and the English King James Bible, which are based on the Hebrew text. In the first half of the eighteenth century, on the initiative of Peter the Great, an effort was made to revise the Slavonic Bible text, standardizing it and bringing it consistently into agreement with the Greek. This revision was first published in 1751 and is known as the Elizabeth Bible. The corrected 1756 edition of the Elizabeth Bible remains to this day the authorized version of the Bible used in the Russian Orthodox Church. While literary paraphrases of portions of the Bible, such as the Psalms, had been a major literary genre since the seventeenth century, full-blown translation into modern, spoken Russian remained essentially out of the question until the turn of the nineteenth century. The first full Russian edition of the New Testament appeared in 1822 on the presses of the Russian Bible Society, a non-Church organization with the support of the British and Foreign Bible Society; it elicited strong resistance, and a full Russian Bible, known as the Synodal version, appeared only in 1876.

However, despite increasingly frequent printings of the full Slavonic Bible from 1751 onward, very few copies of the Bible published as a single edition were likely to reach readers outside the Church. There were more frequent editions of the sections of the Bible most used in worship, like the Gospels. But even these editions were mostly for use within the Church. Only the Psalter was very likely to have been read by most literate Russians: it was the third and last in the sequence of standard textbooks used to teach children to read, following a primer and the breviary.

Psaltir’ (v Kievopecherskoi Lavre, 1807). The Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, Broxb. 2.5.

Among its extensive collection of Bible-related treasures, including a magnificent copy of the famous Gutenberg Bible, the Bodleian holds a small but significant array of editions of Russian and Slavonic Biblical books of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Most of these editions come from the collections of two eminent nineteenth-century scholars: Oxford’s first professor of Russian, William Morfill (1834-1909), and the orientalist Rev. Solomon Caesar Malan (1812-1894), who donated his library to Oxford’s former Indian Institute. Whereas Slavonic and Russian Biblical texts formed part of Morfill and Malan’s working collections, other editions ended up in the Bodleian for other reasons. One of my personal favourites is a beautiful Slavonic Psalter, printed in 1807 at the Kiev Monastery of the Caves. It is part of the Broxbourne collection, made up of books selected for their rare bindings.

Comparing the Broxbourne Slavonic Psalter with an early edition of the Russian Psalter published in 1822 by the Russian Bible Society illuminates the revolution that took place in the experience of reading the Bible at the turn of the nineteenth century. The Broxbourne Psalter is a pocket-sized, luxurious edition, printed in ornate Church Slavonic on gilt-edged pages, with images of Christ and the Mother of God stamped on its leather covers and its own leather carrying case. The Biblical text comes framed by the full authority of State and Church. The title page proclaims that the Psalter was printed on the orders of Emperor Alexander I and lists by name the entire imperial family at the time; these names recur at the very end of the volume in the pomiannik, or prayers for the commemoration of the living and the dead. In content it is a typical Malaia Psaltir’, or Little Psalter, meaning that the Psalms are divided into the 20 kathismata, or groups for liturgical reading, and accompanied by the corresponding prayers. The text of the Psalms is likewise preceded by catechetical material like the Athanasian Creed to ensure that the Psalms are read in the context of the Orthodox faith. By contrast the 1822 Kniga khvalenii ili Psaltir’ na rossiiskom iazyke (Book of Praises or Psalter in the Russian Language) is a simple, slim volume in Russian only.

Kniga khvalenii, ili Psaltir’ na rossiiskom iazyke, 6th edn (St Petersburg: v Tipografii Rossiiskago Bibleiskago Obshchestva, 1822). The Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, Ps. Russ. e. 1.

The title page looks like that of any other secular book. Although the book’s short foreword, addressed ‘To the Christ-loving Reader’, is signed by a metropolitan and two archbishops, it is almost entirely philological, explaining the necessity for and principles behind the present Russian translation. The text of the Psalms appears alone, without any indications of how it might be used in worship; the lines have been numbered for ease in citation. Holding these two volumes side-by-side, one can easily see how the Bible Society Psalter might well have been perceived as a shocking Protestant innovation designed to rip apart the Orthodox faith. The story is of course not so simple, since the Bible Society piously intended to spread the faith through their publications. Yet, in its material form, the Scriptural text itself appears to have been secularized. These two little books present in a nutshell the drama and ambiguities of Holy Scripture in an age of secularization.

– Kelsey Rubin-Detlev

Paul Rapin Thoyras and the art of eighteenth-century historiography

As I type this, experts reach out to us by all means available, on Twitter and talk-shows, to explain the best course of actions to curb a worldwide pandemic. We, lay people of a society as interconnected and literate as ever, have to navigate the flow of information and distinguish the dubiously self-appointed experts from those who are adequately equipped to steer decision-making at both state and individual level.

Epidemiology and social media were light years away from Paul Rapin Thoyras, the expatriate Huguenot historian whose œuvre is at the centre of my book Paul Rapin Thoyras and the art of eighteenth-century historiography. Yet, in the early eighteenth century, scholars also debated about how to discern and acknowledge a certain kind of expertise: who could produce reliable historical accounts. I reconstruct Rapin’s crafting of the persona of a historian as an ‘expert’ who weighed all available evidence and eventually emitted a plausible verdict, which others could in turn take up and challenge. The book accounts for how history-writing earned Rapin a badge of membership in the Republic of Letters, a self-appointed community of scholars who strove to advance learning in all domains. Such a Republic had to juggle emerging media (the periodical journals); editorial formats (serializations, abridgements, popularizations); and writers (journalists, hack writers, editorial all-rounders) to steer the reception of printed works beyond a narrowly envisioned scholarly circle to an audience that was increasingly literate and hungry for historical accounts.

Chapters One and Two survey how skeptics at the turn of the eighteenth century doubted that history could be a magistra vitae as it had always been conceived: personal bias stood in the way of an impartial reconstruction and history-writing seemed unable to attain the allegedly unequivocal knowledge of physics and mathematics. Rapin drew his pen to fight the mounting skepticism and rehabilitate history-writing as a discipline of probable reconstructions. This resulted in what I call the Histoire-project: commented abridgments of English primary sources (1714-1725); an essay on the English political parties (1717); and the a ten-volume Histoire d’Angleterre (1724-1728) which represented the culmination of his twenty-year enterprise.

Rapin’s historiographical trials are put to test in Chapter Three, to see how his musings on the Anglo-Saxons or the disentanglement of the Popish Plot also responded to ongoing political and religious debates in England. Striving for impartiality did not – does not? – equate to being neutral in things political. Rapin thought of history-writing as a means to understand the deep-seated roots of present issues and advocate for religious toleration.

Rapin’s achievements were extraordinary, yet his strategies and ambitions were common within the Republic of Letters – as were his previous occupations as soldier and tutor, and his multiple displacements: to England, the Netherlands, and ultimately Germany. His personal trajectory thus illuminates how scholars reconsidered the boundaries of their community in the face of the booming printing industry and the interconnected growth of a readership among the general public (chapters Two and Four). Fellow scholars provided Rapin with primary sources, intellectual support and publicity in a common effort to make history-writing a worthy scholarly endeavour.

Paul Rapin Thoyras, Histoire d’Angleterre, 10 vols. (La Haye, A. de Rogissart, 1724-1727), vol.1, title page.

Chapter Four follows the many afterlives of Rapin’s œuvre – continuations, translations, adaptations – to show how knowledge of the past was becoming a ‘widespread cultural currency’ (see note below). The impact and spread of Rapin’s œuvre are further gauged through English political newspapers: Whig and Tory party-writers quarried the history written by a foreigner for their domestic political crossfire. The Histoire was thus brought from the royal and scholarly cabinets also to an audience assembled in coffee houses for their daily news. Commentators on opposing sides of the religious and political spectrum equally strove to guide lay readers’ reception of Rapin, criticizing his works either for being ‘too French’ (in England), ‘too Anglophile’ (in France), or even the product of a motley crew of Dutch pamphleteers. History, traditionally written by retired gentlemen for the edification of their peers, was turning into a popular reading genre; and the Republic of Letters felt compelled to mediate the unscholarly in approaching the past.

This guiding was boldly taken up by authors of Enlightenment narratives, who through history-writing traced the emergence of a modern society from a supposed state of barbarity. Rapin’s crafting of historical expertise is compared in Chapter Five with Hume’s and Voltaire’s histoires philosophiques. Both avid readers of Rapin, they brandished his erudition in their respective historiographical works but claimed an expertise decidedly beyond that of the Republic of Letters. While Rapin detected biased interpretations of events by previous historians, Hume and Voltaire detected the change of mankind through the eras to dispense cures for the evils of current society. The Enlightenment pair hoped to eventually dispel all traces of superstition and intolerance by offering their counselling at royal courts and by widely distilling their wisdom through printed matter.

Clio’s altar, the frontispiece of vol.1 of the Histoire d’Angleterre.

Praising Hume’s History of England – written to challenge Rapin’s – Voltaire admired how the Scotsman ‘talked of barbarity as if it were an epidemic disease’. I wonder how Hume and Voltaire would react at seeing superstitious knowledge about the current pandemic spreading at pandemic speed. Rapin might have spoken his mind clearly only within a restricted circle of friends or in private correspondence, while he would painstakingly weigh evidence in the public arena. Despite the increasing pace of print and scholarship, in Rapin’s view knowledge was still manageable by scholars through ink skirmishes. The same that earned him a place on Clio’s altar in the eighteenth century, and a cover in the Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment series almost exactly 314 years after the signature of his contract for the Histoire d’Angleterre (23 December 1701).

Note: Daniel R. Woolf, ‘From hystories to the historical: five transitions in thinking about the past, 1500-1700’, Huntington Library quarterly 68:1-2 (2005), p.37.

–  Miriam Franchina (University of Trier)

Paul Rapin Thoyras and the art of eighteenth-century historiography is part of the Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment series, published in collaboration with the Voltaire Foundation, University of Oxford.

Launching CatCor: towards a digital edition of the letters of Catherine the Great

Catherine II by Fyodor Rokotov (1735-1808) after Alexander Roslin (1718-1793), Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg (Wikimedia Commons).

From the Washington Post to the London Times, Catherine the Great continues to make front page news. The reason? A letter. The subject? Immunization (already sensationally depicted in Season 1 of the television romp The Great). Writing in April 1787 to Count Piotr Rumiantsev, the governor-general of Ukraine, she advised him that one of his most important tasks was the ‘introduction of inoculation against smallpox, which, as is known, causes great harm, especially among the ordinary people’. A decade earlier the Empress had invited the English physician Thomas Dimsdale to St Petersburg to inoculate her, the heir Pavel Petrovich, and members of the court. The variolation technique, a type of immunization, proved successful and Dimsdale did not have to make use of the extraordinary provisions for escape Catherine had devised in the event of her death and an attack by a mob on the foreigners. Another aspect of Dimsdale’s legacy was a gift of Mr Thomas Anderson, sometimes mentioned in her correspondence. No Pretender to the Throne, Mr Tom was in fact her beloved English greyhound given to Catherine by the physician.

It is entirely typical of Catherine that below the headline topic she then goes on to give Rumiantsev detailed advice on how and whom to immunize and how to defray the cost by using local taxes. Catherine was the original micro-manager. She is also one of the most impressive letter-writers of the eighteenth century, an age when letters went global, sped all over continents thanks to new postal routes, and sent sailing across oceans by trading routes. She is comparable to other eighteenth-century ‘enlightened’ monarchs, especially Frederick II of Prussia, in producing an extensive epistolary output as both a tool of policy and a space for intellectual and personal engagement.  Catherine could do everything in a letter from charming a lover to planning a battle, from laying out a garden to playing realpolitik. Her correspondence contains strategic despatches to her generals, back-channelling diplomatic posts, swapping ideas with Voltaire and d’Alembert, point-scoring with Frederick the Great, and sparring with the sculptor Etienne Falconet about the design of the Bronze Horseman: she used her letters to formulate ideas and policies and to inform the world about her aspirations for Russia.

Catherine II, empress of Russia (d.1796), notes stated to be in her handwriting, undated, in French (fol.3). Bodleian Archives and Manuscripts catalogue MS. Montagu d. 20, fol.3. With thanks to Mike Webb of the Bodleian Libraries.

Her letters are of multi-faceted interest, providing a real-time and often blow-by-blow account of personal matters, affairs of state, aesthetics, and ideas, and covering the decades from her arrival as a bride in Russia in 1745 to her mustering of forces against the French Revolution in defence of Enlightenment and Absolutism. Early letters trace her involvement in a court conspiracy with the British ambassador Sir Charles Hanbury-Williams, and her letter about the putsch that put her on the throne – an absolute potboiler of a narration – remains a unique source on those events. She also understood that the artful projection of a civilized personality was itself a statement of cultural superiority. In a letter of 1772 she insinuated that her favourite Grigory Orlov’s cultural superiority would ensure his success at the Fokshani peace congress over the Ottomans: ‘Le comte Orlof, qui, sans exagération, est le plus bel homme de son temps, doit paraître réellement un ange vis-à-vis de ces rustres-là; sa suite est brillante et choisie, et mon ambassadeur ne hait point la magnificence ni l’éclat.’ Catherine needed to project her court’s strength and self-confidence, also manifested in civilised gaiety at Tsarskoe Selo: ‘Il est impossible d’être à la lettre d’une gaité plus folle et d’une folie plus sage que nous l’avons été.’

Count Grigory Orlov (1734-1783) by Fyodor Rokotov (Wikimedia Commons).

‘How many letters did Catherine write?’ is an obvious question and starting point. The best guesstimate is that close to 5,000 letters survive but the number might well rise to over 6,000 or on some accounts closer to 10,000. For reasons of dynastic politics, her letters were never properly collected into a scholarly edition. Many thousands of letters were published in batches or singly in the so-called Russian ‘thick journals’ in the second half of the nineteenth century and are scattered across more than 120 publications and therefore hard to use. To this day there is no definitive inventory of the correspondence. Bright spots have been editions of separate correspondences.  Properly edited collections include letters to Voltaire, Potemkin, de Ligne, and Gustave III of Sweden which have appeared in the past 20 years in French and Russian.  These are just the tip of the iceberg. In English, Kelsey Rubin-Detlev and I have produced a translated anthology, the first of its kind in any language, that can also work as a history of the reign and biography through letters (see also here). Nonetheless, because of their dispersal and inaccessibility, the letters are insufficiently appreciated and remain underused. The solution to the problem of accessing, reading, searching, and using this unique correspondence seemed to lie through the new resources of the Digital Age.

Some years ago, Kelsey Rubin-Detlev and I embarked on a project we dubbed CatCor, officially known as the Digital Correspondence of Catherine the Great. With several rounds of funding, the project advanced from an initial phase to the pilot being launched thanks to the dedication of a great team of research assistants and the expertise of our digital advisers. With nearly 1,100 letters fully marked up, CatCor now contains a critical mass of letters as well as much annotation. Her letters often move fast and are dense with information. As part of its scholarly utility, CatCor includes a new apparatus of editorial notes that facilitates the perusal of the letters with hyperlinks glossing names, places, events and objects mentioned in the correspondence. The pilot database provides new annotations on the letters and the visualization in the map can also generate lists of letters by place. It is possible to browse and filter letters by people, places, events, and objects mentioned.

There is also the sheer delight of browsing through a single correspondence. In this pilot containing a cross-section of letters from her reign, readers can take in virtually the entire set of letters Catherine wrote to Falconet, while extensively sampling the letters she wrote to Grimm, of a very different character stylistically and thematically. CatCor also also provides the most extensive and only inventory of letters with open access links to the print sources. This display of metadata (listed in the Calendar function), the first list of its kind ever to have been done, gives a good idea of the remaining work needed to achieve a comprehensive digital edition. We hope that CatCor will contribute to a new discussion of the perennially troublesome tension between theory and practice in Catherine’s engagement with the values of the European Enlightenment.

Please come and take a look.

And please let us have your feedback.

Andrew Kahn (e-mail)

Marketing Voltaire: Tobias Smollett and the first edition of Voltaire’s works in English translation

Authors – or rather authorial brand names – sell books. They also sell translations. From the 1730s onwards, the name ‘Voltaire’ was well enough known in England to ensure that translations of his work were many and various, even if their reception was mixed. By the 1760s, as the prefatory Advertisement in The Works of Mr de Voltaire suggests, Voltaire’s reputation across Europe and the sheer quantity and complexity of his writings made a ‘complete and regular translation’ of his works an attractive prospect for booksellers. It was also an ambitious and risky one.

Tobias Smollett (unknown artist, c.1770, National Portrait Gallery).

The circumstances of Smollett’s involvement in the project are unclear. Unlike Voltaire, he did not oblige posterity by leaving a voluminous correspondence. However, the ‘learned Doctor Smollett’, as he was wryly dubbed, was an obvious choice as editor. He was a successful novelist and historian, as well as the translator of Gil Blas and Don Quixote. Crucially, as founding editor of the Critical Review, he was also an influential literary ‘gate-keeper’ in the London book business. The lustre of the Smollett name on the title page beneath that of Voltaire would maximise the prestige and credibility of the initiative and reduce the risks. It seems probable that Smollett was approached by the conger of seven booksellers whose names appear in all the volumes of the first edition. If that was indeed the case, their gamble paid off handsomely. A second edition of volume 1 followed hard on the heels of the first, of which few copies survive, suggesting that demand quickly outstripped the booksellers’ expectations. Some volumes appeared in as many as 6 editions by 1781, while further translations claiming to extend the edition were published well after Smollett’s death in 1771. To this day, however, the 36 volumes of The Works of Mr. de Voltaire published between 1761 and 1769 are commonly called the ‘Smollett edition’.

Title page of volume 1 of the second edition, which appears as vol.1 in most sets of the 1st edition.

As anyone familiar with the Voltaire Foundation will know, the production of Voltaire’s collected works, translated or otherwise, is a vast collaborative enterprise. And Smollett was no Besterman. He was neither the prime mover, nor the sole editor of the edition. Nor did he claim to be. In a letter to an American admirer in 1763 he admitted only to ‘a small part of the translation’, while his editorial notes in the 19 volumes of prose works that he oversaw suggest that his enthusiasm for ‘our author’, as he called Voltaire, was (at best) qualified. Although the title page in volume 1 of the 1761 edition attributes it solely to ‘Dr. Smollet [sic], and others’, by volume 2, the name T. Smollet, M.D. is joined by that of T. Francklin, M.A., one of the four ‘gentlemen of approved abilities’ who had worked with Smollett to launch the Critical Review. According to Eugène Joliat, the editors worked independently, and The Works of Mr de Voltaire were divided into two sets of volumes: Smollett took on the prose works, Francklin, a minor dramatist and successful translator, oversaw the set devoted to plays and poetry. But the active involvement of both men ceased in 1763, long before the first edition was completed.

The ‘Smollett edition’, therefore, is something of a misnomer. But that is not to belittle Smollett’s active editorial contribution. In a letter to Richard Smith, a month before he left for France in June 1763, Smollett indignantly declares himself ‘mortified’ by the rumour that he had merely lent his name to booksellers: ‘a species of Prostitution of which I am altogether incapable’. The charge was repeated, however, in the Monthly Review the following October in a bilious critique of the enterprise by William Kenrick, who had a score to settle with ‘the forehorse in the team of dulness’. ‘Poor’ Voltaire, lamented Kenrick, was the ‘mangled and expiring victim’ of ‘unknown and desperate bravoes’ whose intertextual butchery was endorsed by ‘men of character’ ready to make ‘a strange, and most illiberal sacrifice to Mammon’.

Monthly Review, October 1763.

The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle ground. Despite his success, Smollett was perennially short of money and doubtless exacted a substantial reward for his services from the booksellers. Moreover, he took care to distance himself from the translations themselves. But, as Chau Le-Thanh has shown, the copious ‘notes historical and critical’ in 19 volumes of the prose works are certainly his, and his role as editor (perhaps Francklin’s too) probably extended beyond that. Alexander Carlyle, describing a meeting with Smollett in 1758, hints at a possible scenario. He found Smollett in a coffee house among ‘minions to whom he prescribed tasks of translation, compilation, or abridgement, which, after he had seen, he recommended to the booksellers’.  It seems likely that Smollett turned to this atelier of ‘understrappers [and] journeymen’, as he describes them in Humphry Clinker, and set them to work on the laborious ‘business of book-making’ involved in this complex translation project.

Pages 5-6 of the Advertisement to the ‘Smollett’ edition (2nd edition).

Booksellers are not alone in being attracted by the aura of an author’s name. Scholars are similarly beguiled. Interest in the so-called ‘Smollett’ edition has come almost entirely from the field of English Studies and focuses primarily on Smollett’s part in it. Voltaireans have largely echoed Kenrick’s undifferentiated disdain for texts not penned by ‘their’ author. This is a missed opportunity. The edition is a remarkable example of ‘multiple translatorship’, and it was very successful throughout the eighteenth century and beyond. Its aim, as the Advertisement tell us, was not simply to assemble translations, but to ‘correct’, ‘elucidate’ and ‘explain’. The texts, peritexts and long afterlife of The Works of Mr de Voltaire have much to tell us about how Voltaire’s œuvre was represented, re-presented, and received by generations of English readers who wanted and needed to discover ‘Voltaire’ in their own tongue.

Adrienne Mason

What’s blood got to do with it? Reimagining kinship in the Age of Enlightenment

To pass the time on a recent rainy drive to Pittsburgh with my family, we listened to an episode of The Ezra Klein Show that consisted of a conversation between Klein and American novelist Richard Powers. Powers is the author of, among many things, The Overstory, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel recently included in Barak Obama’s list of three books everyone should read. The main characters of the story are the trees, their stories told through the humans that form intimate relationships with them. While listening to the interview, I was struck by how, in describing the relationships between humans and trees (and plants, and other animals), Powers referred again and again to this vast network as one of kinship. He reframed kinship as an immense and powerful interspecies network that brings together all the matter that exists on earth.

In many ways Powers’ project, that of both re-imagining what kinship can be, and of exploring what these different forms of intimate communities can do, is also the project of Queering the Enlightenment. While firmly grounded in human interaction, my book establishes a strong link between kinship, knowledge production, and political critique in eighteenth-century France, arguing that one valid method of critique of the French monarchy was stories about queer intimate communities. Many eighteenth-century French authors were critical of the kinds of kinship that reproduced wealth and social hierarchies through practices such as primogeniture and arranged marriage, and so they turned to figures such as the orphan, the bastard, and the foreigner to imagine how the moving pieces of the family might be rearranged, and how these new kinship formations might change how we think about knowledge and power.

Each chapter of Queering the Enlightenment focuses on a single paradigm of intimacy as unearthed through readings of various canonical authors of eighteenth-century France. A chapter on Crébillon fils, for instance, shows how the author harnesses the power of cruising in his novels to propose that random hookups and one-night stands can lead to meaningful methods of sharing the human experience with others. Kinship, gender, and sexuality lose all fixed meaning in a world such as this one. Another chapter turns to several works of Pierre de Marivaux to examine the possibility of a feminine symbolic that emerges from the space of the maternal and circulates among women who nurture and care for other women. In so doing, it invites us to imagine a queer motherhood capable of nourishing the French Republic in ways unavailable to the bare-breasted Marianne that serves as a symbol of France to this day. Other chapters question the heteronormative family structure guided by analyses of the literature of Voltaire, Montesquieu, the abbé Prévost, and Françoise de Graffigny to see how certain outcast figures find hope in unlikely encounters, and how the relationships they form question the very idea of a cultural knowledge based on (sexual) reproduction.

François Boucher, Le Déjeuner (1739), Louvre Museum, Paris (Wikimedia Commons).

It is not without a hint of irony that I began this post with an incredibly banal scene of heteronormativity. What could be more normative than a family of three driving an SUV to the zoo while listening to a New York Times podcast? And so, to close, I would like to attempt what Voltaire, and Graffigny, and Crébillon, and the others did so eloquently almost three hundred years ago – I would like to take these pieces and see how we might understand them differently. Yes, we were a unit on the same journey to the same destination, but we were also three bodies sharing a space but experiencing the time in different ways. As one body drives, they may let their mind wander in and out of the podcast, thinking about the animals they would see, or the tasks they need to complete, or the bit of news they heard that they want to remember to tell their sibling; another might be riding, enjoying the beauty in the mountains and trees as they pass or wishing their arms were long enough to reach the stuffed animal or the used tissue on the floor – mentally exploring and learning from their interactions with the objects around them; still the third might be contemplating the ethics of visiting a zoo where animals are confined in spaces too small for their bodies, or drafting a blog post in their head, or maybe they are thinking about nothing at all. Or maybe the trees and mountains are watching them, wondering why they are there, or if the roads will ever decay to leave room for more flora to bloom. In any case, by decentering the experience of the nuclear family, we might be able to expand what we expect from kinship and intimacy, and we might be surprised at how such a perspectival shift can change what we think we know about the world.

– Tracy Rutler (Pennsylvania State University)

Tracy Rutler is the author of Queering the Enlightenment: Kinship and gender in eighteenth-century French literature, the November volume in the Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment series.

Mon été avec Voltaire: la numérisation de la collection Lambert-David

En mai 2021, on m’a approchée pour procéder à la numérisation de la collection Lambert-David, une série de manuscrits de Voltaire appartenant au professeur Peter Southam. Après une première phase de tests réalisée par un photographe professionnel, M. François Lafrance, le travail s’est déroulé dans les locaux de la Faculté des lettres et sciences humaines situés sur le campus principal de l’Université de Sherbrooke. Comme l’université ne dispose pas d’une salle et d’un équipement professionnel attitrés à la numérisation d’archives, les autres membres de l’équipe et moi-même avons rassemblé le matériel nécessaire pour entreprendre le projet. Tout au long du processus, j’ai pris soin de suivre les recommandations et les pratiques de trois institutions patrimoniales (Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Bibliothèque nationale de France et Musée Canadien de l’histoire) pour la numérisation des documents qui sont résumées dans le Recueil de règles de numérisation.* Je ferai ici un survol du processus de numérisation et de mon expérience de travail.

Le matériel et l’espace de travail

Pour numériser des documents, il existe deux types d’outils sur le marché: les numériseurs (scanner) et les appareils photo numériques. Le choix entre ces deux technologies dépend essentiellement de l’état des manuscrits qui composent la collection. Le numériseur possède plusieurs avantages: numérisation en très haute résolution, éclairage uniforme géré par l’appareil et aucune distorsion optique. Cependant, il est moins polyvalent que l’appareil photo (la surface de numérisation est limitée) et il est souvent beaucoup plus dispendieux. Dans le cadre de ce projet, nous avons opté pour l’appareil photo numérique. Voici donc une liste non exhaustive du matériel requis:

  • Un appareil photo numérique, de type DSLR et d’au moins 12 mégapixels (Recueil, p.10)
  • Un objectif: il est préférable d’opter pour un objectif de type zoom, c’est-à-dire avec une plage focale
  • Un support de stockage des données
  • Un ordinateur muni d’un logiciel de traitement d’images
  • Un trépied horizontal
  • Un système d’éclairage continu
  • Un arrière-plan de couleur neutre: blanc, gris ou noir
  • Une charte des couleurs: ColorChecker ou charte Q-13 (Recueil, p.12)

Notre objectif était de mettre en place un espace de travail temporaire à la fois efficace et économique. Plusieurs articles de l’équipement nous ont été donnés ou prêtés. L’appareil photo numérique (Canon Rebel T7) et son objectif (EF-S 18-55 mm) ont été empruntés au Comptoir de prêt du Service de soutien à la formation de l’Université de Sherbrooke. Le propriétaire de la collection, Pr. Southam, possédait déjà un trépied horizontal et M. Lafrance nous a gentiment imprimé un fond gris. Pour la captation et le traitement des images, j’ai utilisé mon ordinateur personnel équipé d’une vieille version de Photoshop et de Camera Raw. J’ai également installé le logiciel gratuit de Canon (EOS Utility), pour la captation des images à distance,ainsi que le logiciel de conversion de fichiers d’Adobe (Adobe Digital Negative Converter). L’utilisation d’un logiciel d’acquisition photo permet de régler les paramètres et déclencher l’appareil à distance évitant ainsi de toucher à l’appareil pendant la numérisation.

L’éclairage est un élément crucial pour prendre de belles photos. L’utilisation d’une lampe-éclair professionnelle est fortement conseillée (Recueil, p.12), mais il s’agit d’une pièce d’équipement très dispendieuse. Nous avons donc opté pour un éclairage en continu. J’ai d’abord emprunté quatre lampes DEL au Comptoir de prêt, mais comme il s’agit de matériel fortement en demande, j’ai terminé le projet avec un ensemble d’éclairage personnel composé de deux boîtes à lumière avec diffuseurs.

La pièce d’équipement qui a été la plus difficile à obtenir est la charte des couleurs. Bien que la ColorChecker soit plus fiable et plus facilement accessible, nous avons opté pour la charte Tiffen Q-13 de Kodak. Pour faciliter le traitement et s’assurer que chaque image est indépendante, la charte des couleurs devait se retrouver à côté de toutes les pages photographiées. Le format de la ColorChecker (12×9 cm) était donc peu pratique comparativement au format de la charte Q-13 (19×6 cm). De plus, par souci d’uniformité, il s’agissait de la même charte utilisée par le photographe François Lafrance lors de la première phase du projet.

Enfin, il fallait choisir un environnement de travail approprié. Il est préférable d’opter pour un local assez sombre (sans fenêtre) où la lumière ambiante est tamisée et constante. L’espace doit également être propre et exempt de poussière (Recueil, p.12). On dispose ensuite l’équipement en s’assurant de bien éclairer la surface de numérisation.

La démarche

Avant d’entamer le processus d’acquisition des images, il faut ajuster les paramètres de l’appareil photo. Il y a au moins quatre facteurs à prendre en considération: l’exposition, la balance des blancs, la netteté (mise au point) et le format d’enregistrement. L’exposition est influencée par trois paramètres: la sensibilité du capteur (ISO), l’ouverture du diaphragme et la vitesse d’obturation. Dans le cadre du projet, selon la suggestion du photographe François Lafrance, j’ai utilisé une ouverture de f/8, une vitesse de 1/100 et une sensibilité ISO de 100. Ces paramètres ne sont présentés ici qu’à titre indicatif et il peut être nécessaire de les ajuster selon la quantité de lumière disponible. L’important est d’avoir une image nette et bien exposée. J’ai également ajusté la balance des blancs en utilisant l’outil de EOS Utility et la charte des couleurs (cette étape fut effectuée au début de chaque séance de numérisation). Enfin, j’ai réglé les paramètres d’enregistrement dans un format RAW (CR2).

On peut maintenant procéder à la photographie des manuscrits. Il faut d’abord positionner le document sur la surface de numérisation. Il est important de bien le mettre à plat lorsque l’état du document le permet. Autrement dit, on doit respecter le manuscrit, sa préservation ayant priorité sur la qualité du fichier. On effectue ensuite le cadrage de l’image à l’aide de la ‘visée par l’écran’ du logiciel d’acquisition. J’ai affiché les grilles et les repères afin de m’aider à centrer le document. Il est conseillé de garder une marge minimum de 1 cm tout autour du manuscrit et de s’assurer que la charte des couleurs soit visible dans son entièreté. Il ne reste plus qu’à effectuer la mise au point et appuyer sur le déclencheur. Tous les documents ont été numérisés dans leur intégralité (recto et verso), même lorsque les pages ne contenaient aucun texte. Les fichiers ont été enregistrés sur un disque dur externe en prenant soin de les classer dans des dossiers bien identifiés.

Les fichiers (CR2) obtenus doivent ensuite être traités. Il fallait d’abord les convertir dans un format RAW universel (DNG) à l’aide du logiciel Adobe Digital Negative Converter. J’ai par la suite effectué quelques traitements à l’aide de Camera Raw(extension dePhotoshop). Pour chacune des images, j’ai effectué les traitements suivants: la balance des blancs, l’exposition et la correction de la déformation optique. J’ai ensuite ouvert le document dans l’interface de Photoshop et ajouté l’étiquette pour identifier le manuscrit. Toutes les images ont été enregistrées en format TIFF non compressé. Bien que je n’aie effectué aucun traitement de couleur (l’équipement à ma disposition ne me permettait pas de calibrer les appareils), j’ai pris soin de traiter et enregistrer les images dans l’espace colorimétrique recommandé dans le Recueil de règles de numérisation, soit Adobe RGB 1998 (p.11). Puisque la charte de couleur se retrouve sur chaque image, un tel traitement pourra être effectué a posteriori.

Des documents fragiles et précieux: les défis rencontrés

Pendant le processus de numérisation, j’ai rencontré des documents particuliers qui furent plus difficiles à numériser. Puisque l’intégrité et la préservation des archives ont priorité sur les copies numériques, les solutions devaient éviter toute altération du document original.

Correspondance Frédéric-Voltaire, f.1.

Le premier défi fut la numérisation d’un document qui avait été collé avec du ruban adhésif. Le ruban empêchait non seulement une bonne mise à plat, mais camouflait également une ligne de texte. Enlever le ruban adhésif aurait fortement endommagé le manuscrit. Après plusieurs discussions au sein de l’équipe et selon la suggestion du propriétaire, Pr. Southam, j’ai coupé une petite partie du ruban adhésif. Heureusement, cette manipulation a pu se faire sans altérer le document original.

Correspondance Decroze-Voltaire.

Le deuxième défi fut d’assurer une bonne mise à plat de documents pliés plusieurs fois. A la demande du propriétaire, j’ai aplati les documents en les compressant entre deux livres lourds. Ils ont ensuite été remis au propriétaire dans cet état (sans les replier) à la demande de celui-ci.

Vers de Voltaire.

Le troisième défi fut de photographier un manuscrit de très grande taille (41×78 cm). Le trépied de Pr. Southam ne me permettait pas de reculer suffisamment l’appareil pour capter le document dans son ensemble. J’ai d’abord essayé de procéder à main levée, mais l’instabilité et le manque d’éclairage rendaient l’exercice très difficile. J’ai donc utilisé un autre trépied que j’ai fabriqué avec mon père pendant mes vacances. Celui-ci me donnait une plus grande marge de manœuvre et me permettait d’éloigner davantage l’appareil du sujet à photographier. Enfin, pour assurer une bonne visibilité du texte dans l’image, j’ai également photographié le manuscrit en plus petites sections en suivant le sens de lecture.

Théâtre de Voltaire, t.1.

Le dernier défi, et non le moindre, fut la numérisation d’un document relié de 250 pages. La manipulation de ce document était très délicate et il était impossible de faire une mise à plat complète sans briser sa reliure. Une étudiante à la maîtrise en littérature de l’Université de Sherbrooke, Frédérika Jean, est donc venue m’aider. Elle tenait le document ouvert pendant que je prenais la photo. Pour faciliter le processus, le recto de toutes les pages a été photographié dans un premier temps et le verso dans un second temps.

Au cours de l’été, j’ai eu la chance de découvrir une collection exceptionnelle de manuscrits voltairiens. La numérisation de celle-ci permettra, à long terme, de faciliter son analyse et sa diffusion. Ce court article n’a pas la prétention de s’imposer comme outil de référence pour toute entreprise de numérisation. Il vise plutôt à conserver la mémoire technique et méthodologique de cette expérience en décrivant avec précision et transparence les étapes qui ont mené à la création des fichiers numériques de la collection Lambert-David. Cette expérience démontre bien qu’en combinant les efforts et les ressources de plusieurs intervenants, il est possible d’installer un espace de travail à la fois efficace et économique.

Espace de travail.

Je terminerai en remerciant toute l’équipe du ‘projet Voltaire’, Pr. Peter Southam, Dr Gillian Pink de la Voltaire Foundation, Pr. Louise Bienvenue, Pr. Nicholas Dion, Pr. Anick Lessard et M. Rock Blanchard, doyenne et directeur administratif de la Faculté des lettres et sciences humaines de l’Université de Sherbrooke, ainsi que tous les collaborateurs ayant participé de près ou de loin au projet. Un merci spécial à François Lafrance, Yvon Blouin – mon père, et Frédérika Jean pour leur aide précieuse. Cette expérience m’a non seulement permis de perfectionner mes compétences en numérisation d’archives, mais également d’en apprendre davantage sur un personnage et une période de l’histoire que je connaissais trop peu. Je peux maintenant presque dire que j’ai passé un été en compagnie de l’un des philosophes des Lumières les plus célèbres: Voltaire!

Une pièce d’équipement fabriquée sur mesure

Le trépied du Pr. Peter Southam fut adéquat pour l’ensemble du projet. Cependant, la hauteur maximale du trépied ne permettait pas de photographier les documents de très grande taille. La numérisation d’un seul document ne justifiait pas l’achat d’un nouveau trépied ou d’un nouvel objectif. Pendant mes vacances, mon père et moi avons entrepris de confectionner un autre support. Après avoir pris connaissance de mes besoins, mon père, un homme très ingénieux et talentueux, a été en mesure de fabriquer un trépied horizontal à l’aide d’objets recyclés. Nous y trouvons, entre autres, deux bâtons de hockey, un vieux trépied trouvé dans une vente à débarras, un ancien poteau de tente, une équerre combinée sans sa règle ainsi que différents éléments issus d’objets amassés au fil des années. Le tout a ensuite été peint afin de le rendre plus uniforme. Ce nouveau prototype de trépied horizontal permet d’éloigner suffisamment l’appareil photo du sujet photographié afin de numériser des documents de grande taille dans leur entièreté. De surcroît, il est facilement démontable et ajustable. Le résultat est pratique, économique et écologique!

Sonia Blouin

Le support fabriqué.

* Marie-Chantal Anctil, Michel Legendre, Tristan Müller, Dominique Maillet, Kathleen Brosseau et Louise Renaud, Recueil de règles de numérisation [en ligne] (Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Musée canadien de l’histoire, 2014), sur le site Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, http://collections.banq.qc.ca/bitstream/52327/2426216/1/4671601.pdf, consulté le 10 août 2022.

New resources for d’Holbach scholars

When was the last time you checked the ‘Digital d’Holbach’ page on the Voltaire Foundation website? More than two months ago? Well, in that case you may want to go back – and soon! – for quite a lot has changed as of late.

Paul Thiry, baron d’Holbach, by Louis Carmontelle.

D’Holbach aficionados and habitués of our blog may remember a post of mine from May 2021 in which I presented my Selected bibliography of d’Holbach-related publications. Well, to begin with, that bibliography has now been considerably enlarged thanks to the suggestions of various scholars who very kindly responded to my desperate call for addenda – special thanks to Gerhardt Stenger and Emmanuel Boussuge for their helpful suggestions! But that is but the tip of the iceberg!

On the ‘Resources for authors’ page, our followers will find a full list of pre-1789 editions of d’Holbach’s works, which is based on Jeroom Vercruysse’s seminal Bibliographie descriptive des imprimés du baron d’Holbach (rev. ed. Paris, 2017) and provides links, for every volume of every single edition, to digitised copies on Google Books, HathiTrust, and Gallica. This file, I hope, will be of use to anyone working on the Digital d’Holbach project and facilitate both the establishment of the base text and the collation of variants. (Well, when I say ‘for every volume of every single edition’ that is admittedly a bit of an overstatement… Some editions, marked in yellow in my file, are regrettably not available online. Should your university library own them and should they be willing to digitise them, please do let us know!)

Colleagues working on the Digital d’Holbach project will also be pleased to know that a first draft of the Digital d’Holbach Editorial Guidelines is now available on the Voltaire foundation website. These guidelines will take you through all the different, exciting phases of the editorial work, from the choice of the base text all the way down to penning the introduction. Like any human undertaking, however, they are also susceptible of improvement. Should you have any suggestions, please do get in touch. A Sample Treatment of the Base Text has also been uploaded as a separate file and should serve as a model for any English-language editions to come (We’ll upload a French counterpart shortly, ne vous inquiétez pas!)

Dulcis in fundo: a catalogue of d’Holbach’s library! Thanks to generous grants from the Leverhulme Trust, St Edmund Hall, and the University of Oxford, I have been able to hire three wonderful research assistants to work on the Tout d’Holbach project – more on that shortly. One of them, Gabriel O’Regan, has provided us with a fully searchable and very accurate transcription of the inventaire après décès of d’Holbach’s library, a tool which will be of enormous help to anyone trying to reconstruct the origins of d’Holbach’s ideas and pin down exactly the sources he used when penning his works. We now have great plans for taking this catalogue up a notch and turn it into an even more useful resource, but more on this another time!

Ruggero Sciuto

Voltaire à Sherbrooke: l’histoire de la collection Lambert-David

En mai 2021, on m’a approchée pour procéder à la numérisation d’une collection d’archives pour le ‘projet Voltaire’. Malgré le nom très révélateur, j’étais loin de me douter qu’il s’agissait d’un ensemble de manuscrits voltairiens comprenant quelques documents ‘inédits’. C’est lorsque j’ai consulté la première série de correspondance et aperçu le sceau de Voltaire que j’ai réalisé la valeur archivistique exceptionnelle de cette collection ainsi que la chance incroyable que j’avais d’y avoir accès. Le fait est que j’habite dans la ville de Sherbrooke au Québec, très loin du lieu où a résidé Voltaire. La première question me venant à l’esprit est: comment ces documents sont-ils arrivés jusqu’ici? Je me suis entretenue avec le propriétaire de la collection, le professeur Peter Southam de l’Université de Sherbrooke, pour en apprendre davantage sur l’histoire de la collection.

Sonia Blouin: Bonjour Pr. Southam, j’aimerais bien comprendre comment des manuscrits voltairiens sont-ils arrivés au Québec. Autrement dit, qui a assemblé la collection et comment est-elle parvenue jusqu’à vous?

P.S.: La collection a été assemblée par quatre générations de la famille de ma mère, Jacqueline Lambert-David, propriétaire du château de Ferney de 1848 à 1999. Mais pour comprendre l’origine de la collection, il faut remonter un peu plus loin…

Voltaire est décédé à Paris dans l’hôtel particulier de son proche ami, le marquis de Villette. Ce dernier a subséquemment acquis de Madame Denis la propriété de Ferney, château de Voltaire. Il avait conservé le cœur de Voltaire et le déposa dans un sanctuaire faisant partie d’une sorte de petit musée à la mémoire du philosophe qu’il avait aménagé dans le ‘Grand Salon’ et dans la chambre de Voltaire, au rez-de-chaussée du château. Depuis ce temps, le château est demeuré un lieu de mémoire visité par le public de façon régulière. Le marquis de Villette ne reste pas propriétaire du domaine très longtemps, mais ceux qui lui ont succédé à ce titre ont tenu à maintenir la tradition commémorative qu’il avait inaugurée. Le comte Jacques-Louis de Budé, qui acquit les lieux en 1785 et qui demeura propriétaire jusqu’à sa mort en 1844, a continué cette tradition en laissant le public visiter l’endroit pendant 60 ans. Durant les premières années de sa résidence à Ferney, ce dernier était en contact permanent avec l’ancien secrétaire de Voltaire, Jean-Louis Wagnière, qui fut élu à la mairie de Ferney en 1792 et qui résida au village jusqu’à sa mort en 1802. Wagnière avait gardé un grand nombre de manuscrits de son ancien maître. Comme plusieurs de ces manuscrits étaient clairement d’intérêt local, mettant en scène des personnages du pays de Gex encore vivants à cette époque, il n’est pas étonnant que Budé s’y soit intéressé. Un exemple serait la correspondance entre Voltaire et Louis Gaspard Fabry, subdélégué de l’intendant de Bourgogne et maire de Gex, concernant la terre de Ferney et plus généralement les affaires du pays de Gex. Par la suite, comme il était coutume quand un domaine changeait de mains que des papiers ayant trait à la propriété soient transférés en même temps, c’est probablement ainsi que mon ancêtre Claude-Marie David est entré en possession de certains manuscrits voltairiens lorsqu’il acheta le château de la succession de Jacques-Louis de Budé en 1848.

Lettre de Voltaire à Louis Gaspard Fabry, f.2v (D8607).

La collection d’archives voltairiennes fut par la suite développée par la fille et le gendre de Claude-Marie David, soit Hortense David et son mari le sculpteur Emile Lambert. En 1884, par l’entremise du libraire et archiviste-paléographe Etienne Charavay, ils ont acquis une quantité de correspondances de Voltaire appartenant à la collection du chimiste, industriel et grand collectionneur d’autographes, Augustin-Pierre Dubrunfaut (1797-1881). Il n’est pas sans rapport, qu’Emile Lambert travaillait à cette époque sur la statue ‘Voltaire à vingt-cinq ans’, une statue qui sera inaugurée en 1887 dans la cour d’honneur de la mairie du 9e arrondissement, à Paris. Le couple fit également l’acquisition de plusieurs autres manuscrits voltairiens datant d’avant et d’après l’établissement de Voltaire à Ferney.

De ma connaissance, mes grands-parents Pierre et Suzanne Lambert-David, qui se sont occupés de la collection après le décès d’Hortense en 1916, n’y ont pas ajouté de façon significative. La collection est demeurée non inventoriée, et dans un état plutôt désordonné jusqu’à ce que ma mère, Jacqueline Lambert-David, la prenne en charge à son tour au moment du décès de ma grand-mère en 1968. Jacqueline était passionnée de Voltaire et de l’histoire de Ferney. Elle était aussi une proche amie de certaines descendantes de Jacques-Louis de Budé. C’est par cette connexion qu’elle a acquis, dans les années 1950, un intéressant ensemble de manuscrits concernant un différend entre l’horloger Ambroise Decroze et le curé de Moëns, Phillip Ancien, auquel Voltaire s’était mêlé. Jacqueline avait épousé un Canadien pendant la Guerre et Ottawa est demeuré son principal lieu de résidence par la suite. Puisqu’elle ne passait pas plus qu’un mois ou deux par année à Ferney, la collection a petit à petit pris le chemin du Canada à mesure qu’elle entreprit de l’organiser, de l’étudier et de l’inventorier. Quelques années avant son décès en 1998, elle m’avait demandé de l’aider à assurer la conservation de la collection. C’est donc au cours des années 1990 que j’ai pris le relais et apporté la collection chez moi près de la ville de Sherbrooke au Québec.

S.B.: Ce récit démontre bien que votre famille avait un intérêt pour l’histoire de Voltaire et de Ferney…

P.S.: A part le fait d’habiter sa maison, une autre condition explique le vif intérêt de ma famille pour Voltaire. Pour comprendre, il faut se rappeler que le dernier combat de la vie du philosophe, mené à partir de 1770 jusqu’à sa mort en 1778, fut sa lutte pour l’émancipation des serfs du Jura. Le servage avait disparu partout ailleurs en France sauf dans le Jura, où les ‘hommes plantes’, comme Voltaire les appelait, sont demeurés sujets au droit de mainmorte jusqu’à la Révolution. Or Claude-Marie David ainsi que sa femme Hélène Bavoux sont nés de familles de paysans mainmortables du Haut-Jura et leur révérence pour la mémoire de Voltaire est en grande mesure attribuable à cet héritage.

Claude-Marie David, fils d’un paysan horloger réputé illettré, est né en 1799 dans le village de Lajoux, situé en haute montagne à seulement 35 km de Ferney. Dès l’âge de seize ans, il rejoint ses frères ainés travaillant à Genève dans l’horlogerie. Installé à Paris comme marchand lapidaire à partir de 1828, il pressent le grand essor de la production de montres qui nécessite la production de millions de contre-pivots en rubis. En prévision de cette nouvelle demande, il entreprit, en 1840, dans son village natal de Lajoux, la construction de la première usine lapidaire du Jura, dédiée à la production de pierres horlogères. Huit ans plus tard, sa vénération pour Voltaire a certainement compté dans sa décision d’acheter le château de Ferney. En juin 1854, il acheta de la famille de Budé les meubles, tableaux et effets mobiliers qui, du temps de Voltaire, garnissaient sa chambre et son salon, et il ouvrit ces pièces à la visite. A l’occasion du centenaire de la mort du philosophe, il fit ériger à ses frais le buste de Voltaire, d’après Jean-Antoine Houdon, sur la fontaine de la place principale du village, suscitant une polémique entre milieux ecclésiastiques et anticléricaux. En 1890, la même polémique fit rage quand Emile Lambert a offert ‘Le Patriarche de Ferney’ à la commune de Ferney. Cette statue en bronze qui trône aujourd’hui devant la mairie, fait pendant à la statue ‘Voltaire à vingt-cinq ans’, inaugurée trois ans plus tôt dans le 9e arrondissement de Paris. Au fond, il allait de soi qu’une famille aussi attachée à Voltaire s’intéresse à collectionner ses manuscrits.

S.B.: Depuis quand vous êtes-vous plus particulièrement penché sur les documents?

P.S.: Les documents sont en ma possession depuis les années 1990, mais à l’époque j’étais trop occupé pour y prêter attention. Je ne m’y suis penché que relativement récemment, car j’avais l’impression que tout ce que cette collection contenait d’intéressant avait déjà été publié. En effet, dans les années 1950, mes grands-parents avaient ouvert leur collection de manuscrits voltairiens à Theodore Besterman, le principal spécialiste de Voltaire de l’époque, qui dirigeait l’Institut et Musée Voltaire à Genève. Quand je me suis mis à examiner la collection plus attentivement, je me suis rendu compte que Besterman n’avait certainement pas tout vu. Par exemple, à la page 171 du volume XCIX de la première édition de son Voltaire’s Correspondance (Institut et Musée Voltaire, Les Délices, 1964),Besterman identifie 65 manuscrits appartenant au ‘défunt’ Pierre Lambert (mon grand-père est mort en 1961 à l’âge de 98 ans) alors que j’ai moi-même inventorié 119 lettres de Voltaire ou adressées à lui. Comment expliquer cette disparité?

Avant de répondre à cette question, il est important de souligner qu’une importante partie de ce que nous connaissons de la correspondance de Voltaire est fondée, non pas sur des originaux, mais sur des copies d’originaux. Je ne suis pas suffisamment spécialiste pour distinguer avec certitude les uns des autres, mais je sais que les copies sont particulièrement importantes quand les originaux ont disparu. Il me semble donc que Besterman aurait dû noter l’existence de lettres de la correspondance de Voltaire même s’il s’agissait de copies. Mon hypothèse concernant la disparité entre l’inventaire de Besterman et le mien est que mes grands-parents ne lui auraient tout simplement pas tout montré.

S.B.: Pouvez-vous nous parler de vos découvertes? Que retrouve-t-on dans la collection?

P.S.: La collection comprend d’abord de la correspondance (119 lettres) et 48 poèmes: certains de Voltaire et certains sur Voltaire ou satirisantce dernier. La collection comprend aussi deux ensembles de manuscrits voltairiens particulièrement intéressants. Premièrement, des manuscrits de divers passages de son Histoire de la guerre de 1741, totalisant 169 pages. Pour des raisons d’Etat, à l’exception de quelques extraits dans son Précis du siècle de Louis XV, ce livre ne fut pas publié de son vivant.

Le Temple de l’amitié, f.1.

Un deuxième ensemble particulièrement intéressant est le dossier que ma mère avait acquis de la famille de Budé, dans les années 1950, concernant la campagne menée par Voltaire en 1761 réclamant justice pour l’horloger Ambroise Decroze dont le fils avait été sauvagement battu par les hommes de main de Philippe Ancien, curé de Moëns (un village avoisinant Ferney). Cette ‘affaire’, en dépit de son rayonnement purement local, est particulièrement intéressante, car elle annonce le Voltaire de l’affaire Calas, précurseur de l’intellectuel moderne. Enfin, la collection regroupe une diversité d’autres manuscrits. On y trouve, entre autres, un manuscrit de 243 pages, Extrait des œuvres de Voltaire, de Jean-Pierre Lebreton.

Les quatre générations qui ont contribué au développement de cette collection cherchaient en priorité à rassembler des documents concernant Ferney et le pays de Gex. Par exemple, la correspondance suivie avec le subdélégué de l’intendant de Bourgogne, Louis Caspar Fabry – le représentant du pouvoir royal dans le Pays de Gex – traitant de projets d’assèchement des marais et de modernisation des pratiques agricoles. C’est le cas aussi des lettres aux marquis d’Ossun et autres représentants de la France à l’étranger qui avaient pour objet de mousser la vente des montres fabriquées à Ferney, dans la nouvelle manufacture ouverte par l’initiative de Voltaire.

Bon nombre de manuscrits traitent, par ailleurs, des années précédant l’installation de Voltaire à Ferney: les années passées à Cirey chez la marquise Du Châtelet et les relations entre Voltaire et Frédéric II de Prusse, y compris sa querelle avec le joaillier Abraham Hersch qui avait tant agacé Frédéric, et le fameux épisode de Francfort.

Quand je me suis rendu compte de l’intérêt de cette collection, j’ai compris qu’il fallait qu’elle soit mise à la disposition de la communauté scientifique et du public en général. Pour savoir comment procéder, j’ai contacté la personne que je voyais comme la plus apte à me conseiller, soit le directeur de la Voltaire Foundation d’Oxford, Nicholas Cronk. C’est comme cela que notre projet a vu le jour.

S.B.: Maintenant que les documents sont numérisés, quelles sont les prochaines étapes?
Extrait des œuvres de Voltaire par Lebreton.

P.S.: Grâce à votre travail de numérisation à haut niveau de résolution, la Voltaire Foundation (VF) détient maintenant ce qu’il lui faut pour éventuellement mettre la collection en ligne. D’après ce que je comprends, la VF est sur le point de compléter la publication de l’édition critique de l’ensemble de l’œuvre de Voltaire. Elle envisageait déjà, comme prochaine étape, la mise en ligne de manuscrits. La collection Lambert-David arrive donc, de façon providentielle, comme une sorte de projet-pilote. Il restera maintenant à Gillian Pink et à l’équipe de la VF d’entreprendre la lourde tâche de classification et de corrélation entre le contenu de cette collection et le corpus voltairien déjà connu. Finiront-ils par mettre l’ensemble de la collection en ligne ou seulement certaines parties? Il faudra que j’attende l’aboutissement du projet avant de décider définitivement de la suite.

Entre-temps, je travaille avec des collègues de l’Université de Sherbrooke à monter une exposition, prévue pour les premiers mois de 2022 au Centre d’Archives Mgr-Antoine-Racine à Sherbrooke, mettant en lumière cette collection et explorant l’influence de Voltaire au Québec et au Canada français. Ce dernier thème m’intéresse tout particulièrement et j’envisage en conséquence de laisser la collection à un centre d’archives du Québec. Je suis sûr que ma mère, qui a organisé les conférences ‘Demi-heure française’ à Ottawa dans les années 1960, serait en accord.

 – Sonia Blouin

Further work on English pamphlets that coopt ‘a Persian’ for political polemics

There is an almost unlimited potential for further work in the area of influences from Persia in the Enlightenment, an area that is explored in our very recent volume in the Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment series, Persia and the Enlightenment (2021). Each chapter can be considered a pointer in the direction of further research. For example, my chapter, ‘George Lyttelton’s Letters from a Persian’, reviews a number of English texts purporting to be written by ‘a Persian Traveller’. These texts started appearing in response to George Lyttelton’s Letters from a Persian in England, to his friend at Ispahan (1735), and are best understood in the context of an intense political fight between Prime Minister Robert Walpole and his opposition. I did not mention one such text, the anonymous Remarks of a Persian traveller on the principal courts of Europe with a dissertation upon that of England, the nation in general, and the Prime Minister. Written originally in the Persian language, and now translated into English and French (London: John Hughs, 1736), which I will discuss here.

[Anon.], Remarks of a Persian traveller, title page of the third edition (London, 1735).

As customary at the time, it insisted that the text, presented as a single letter, was written in Persian by a traveller named Ismael to his friend Ibrahim. The introduction declares that the translator expects to translate other writings by Ismael, particularly a narrative on ‘the History of that Hero of Asia, Thamas Kouli Kan’ (p.5). The author reports from visiting a coffee house in London: ‘I heard most of them celebrate the Praises of our invincible Kouli Kan, in a manner which convinced me that his Reputation was in as high esteem in England, as in Persia it self’ (p.21).

In fact, in 1741, The Complete History of Thamas Kouli Kan, Sovereign of Persia, was printed in London.* It was a translation of Jean-Antoine Du Cerceau’s Histoire de Thamas Kouli-Kan Sophi de Perse, which was first printed in 1740 (Amsterdam: Arkstee & Merkus). One interesting distinction of Remarks of a Persian traveller is that it presents the purported letter from Ismael to Ibrahim in French and English simultaneously, leading to the speculation that it could have been written by the translator of Jean-Antoine Du Cerceau’s Histoire.

Remarks of a Persian traveller is in a distinct way different from the other Persian letters mentioned in my chapter of Persia and the Enlightenment. Although as a single letter it is short, a substantial part of it is dedicated to Ismael’s observations while in the Ottoman Empire, Russia, Denmark, Prussia, Holland, and France, before turning its attention to England. The author, who appears to be knowledgeable about current European affairs, is particularly fond of the Russian and French regimes. Meanwhile, he describes the Ottomans as prejudiced and violent, and their political system as ‘tyrannical, and bloody’ (p.9).

The Complete History of Thamas Kouli Kan, frontispiece of the second edition, London, 1746.

The author of Remarks of a Persian is also relatively familiar with Persia. His choice for the purported Persian author of the letter, Ismael, is much more realistic as the name for a Persian in the eighteenth century than Montesquieu’s Usbek or Lyttelton’s Selim. His reference to Meszat, ‘A Town in the Province of Corassan, whither the Persians go in Pilgrimage’, denotes Mashhad in Khorasan, where the tomb of the eighth Shia Imam, Reza, is a main destination for pilgrims. He knows of Tahmasb Qoli Khan (later Nader Shah) who, as chapter four of Persia and the Enlightenment discusses, was a controversial figure in Europe. The author of Remarks of a Persian has a positive view of Nader referring to him as the ‘Invincible Thamas Kouli Kan [who] so happily governs our Country, and makes it his chief care with great Discernment and justice, to reward true Merit’ (p.9). The author’s remark about the Russians ‘being at all times friends [of the Persians]’, in conjunction with his reference to Shah Abbas III (p.9), is perhaps based on his up-to date information about the 1735 treaty of Ganja that established a counter-Ottoman alliance between Peter I of Russia and Nader, who at the time was Abbas III’s regent.

Particularly relevant to my chapter of Persia and Enlightenment is the author’s assessment of Lyttelton’s Letters from a Persian. To begin with, he refutes the authenticity of Lyttelton’s claim that the book was a collection of letters originally written by a Persian, arguing that it was ‘easily perceived, that the Name the Author had taken, was only a Mask which he made use of to cover his Designs’. He continues, ‘I found nothing in those Letters which savour’d of the true Genius of a Persian’ (p.23). The author of Remarks of a Persian accuses Lyttelton of attempting to disturb ‘the Publick Peace’, and claims that Lyttelton has ‘taken’ his ideas from Henry St. John Bolingbroke’s Dissertation upon Parties (p.23).

Frontispiece to Walpole’s A Dissertation upon Parties: in several letters to Caleb D’Anvers, Esq. (London, 1735).

The author is overt about his affection for Prime Minister Robert Walpole. The Prime Minister is described as an eloquent speaker, whose ‘harangues full of Force and Beauty, always filled with such Measures as might render his Country formidable to her Enemies, and serviceable to her Allies’. The author compliments Walpole’s ability to expand trade and keep Great Britain out of war (p.27-30). In fact, the letter ends not by Ismael saying farewell to his friend, but praising Walpole as a great man ‘who by the strength of his mighty Genius, alike admired abroad and at home, has acquired the Confidence of his Master, and is become not only the Glory of his Nation, but is also consider’d as one of those who contributes the most to the many Blessings She at this Day enjoys’ (p.32). Remarks of a Persian traveller further supports the assertion made in my chapter of Persia and the Enlightenment that Lyttelton’s Letters from a Persian had a wide reception in England, and because of its extensive influence, the author’s opponents felt obliged to attack it immediately after its publication. It also indicates that in eighteenth-century England, the Persian letter genre had turned into a popular and effective instrument of propaganda, widely utilized in the intense political rivalries surrounding Robert Walpole’s long ministry.

* The 1741 edition is mentioned in Catalogue of the printed books in the library of the Society of Writers to H.M. Signet in Scotland (Edinburgh: Neill and Company, 1762), p. 555. A second edition was published in 1742 (London: J. Brindley).

Cyrus Masroori (California State University, San Marcos)

A version of this blog was published in the Liverpool University Press blog in September 2021.

Cyrus Masroori is one of the editors of Persia and the Enlightenment, the September volume in the Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment series, along with co-editors Whitney Mannies and John Christian Laursen. The series is published in collaboration with the Voltaire Foundation, University of Oxford.