Pierre Bayle chez lui in Le Carla

Le Carla, a medieval fortified village near Foix in the Ariège, was the birthplace of Pierre Bayle, and the fitting location of a two-day meeting – open to all – on the subject of Huguenot travels and correspondence (November 9th-10th).

Bayle kept fond memories of his home town throughout his life and regretted not having taken more interest in the local agricultural and apicultural preoccupations. Out of nostalgia, he even devotes a few articles in his Dictionnaire historique et critique to local towns or local phenomena. Despite his long period of exile in Rotterdam (1681-1706), he never really settled down in the city: he never learnt to speak Dutch and never got used to the bitterly cold winters, nor to the custom of beer-drinking. After all, he was used to the warm climate of the French south and to drinking wine with his meals. The thick tobacco smoke that engulfed Dutch taverns also made everyday life difficult for him, bringing on migraines so debilitating that they forced him to abandon his journalistic activities in 1687. His reluctance to accept integration into Dutch society was also fuelled by his hope that political negotiations might make it possible for the exiled Huguenots to return to France, in all freedom of conscience. For an unparallelled insight into Bayle’s time in Rotterdam (and much more), delve into the Correspondance de Pierre Bayle (15 vols) – the first complete edition of his letters.

Antony McKenna at the Maison Pierre Bayle.

Antony McKenna presents the critical edition of the Correspondance de Pierre Bayle in November 2017 at the Maison Pierre Bayle.

A great number of local people from many different professional backgrounds attended the meeting, located very appropriately at the Maison Pierre Bayle – appropriate as the Maison was established on the site of the original Bayle family home. Surrounded by Bayle’s own works and a large library of critical works dedicated to his life and writings (and even a life-size puppet representing the philosopher with quill in hand), the sessions were both intense and stimulating: a rare opportunity to take Bayle outside the circle of university specialists.

Following the initiative of the mayor, Jean-Luc Couret, back in the 1990s, the village of Le Carla (now officially renamed Le Carla-Bayle) has been beautifully restored and is now considered to be one of the most important cultural centres of the region. It hosts many lectures open to the general public and a myriad of activities surrounding these lectures. A number of painters, sculptors and potters have also established their studios in the village and a vibrant arts festival takes place each spring. The original Protestant church (or temple in French) is still in place and in use, just as it was when Bayle’s father and elder brother served as its ministers.

Here are are some of the highlights of the November meeting :

Thursday 9 November

  • a discussion of the critical edition of Elie Richard’s Relations des voyages faits en France, en Flandres, en Hollande et en Allemagne, 1708 (Paris, Honoré Champion, 2017), chaired by Kees Meerhoff.
  • a ‘Café littéraire’ organised par l’Estive on La passion des Anabaptistes, by Ambre and David Vandermeulen.

Friday 10 November

  • a discussion by Yves Moreau of the critical edition of the correspondence of Jacob Spon (1647–1685), which was the subject of his thesis at the University of Lyon 2, 2013.
  • Antony McKenna presented the critical edition of the Correspondance de Pierre Bayle (Oxford, Voltaire Foundation, 1999-2017, 15 vols), which was completed in June of this year.
  • a traditional vin d’honneur was offered by the mayor in the Maison Pierre Bayle.

– Antony McKenna



Correspondence of Enlightenment thinker reaches its 10th volume

Laurent Angliviel de La Beaumelle, portrait by Engelmann

Laurent Angliviel de La Beaumelle, portrait by Engelmann

From his childhood in the rural region of Cévennes in south-central France, La Beaumelle became one of the great eighteenth-century polymaths, and his career took him as far afield as Geneva, Copenhagen, Berlin, Paris and Amsterdam. During his lifetime he distinguished himself as a translator of Horace and Tacitus; he was also an author, a journalist, a historian, and the editor of Mme de Maintenon’s Mémoires. He was a champion of tolerance and one of Calas’ foremost defenders, as well as a polemicist dreaded by Voltaire for his sharp critical eye and clever pen. He was, strikingly, the only Huguenot man of letters at the time.

His Correspondance générale de La Beaumelle, edited by Hubert Bost, Claude Lauriol and Hubert Angliviel de La Beaumelle, bears witness to contemporary social events and intellectual developments in politics, literature, philosophy, history and religion.

The 10th volume of a projected eighteen-volume edition will publish soon, and follows the turbulent period of February to December 1756. At the beginning of 1756 La Beaumelle was in Amsterdam, a city that allowed him the freedom – unlike Paris – to publish the Mémoires de Maintenon. In early March he returned to Paris, having been granted permission to distribute subscribers’ copies of the first edition of the Mémoires, and, crucially, assured beforehand of his personal security.

At the Prix de la Fondation Edouard Bonnefous prize-giving ceremony, 2 December 2013.

At the Prix de la Fondation Edouard Bonnefous prize-giving ceremony, 2 December 2013. From left to right: Hubert Angliviel de La Beaumelle, Claude Lauriol, Hubert Bost.

After arranging the distribution of the second edition and obtaining oral permission to write a third, La Beaumelle was dealt a severe blow: he was arrested and placed in the Bastille. The charge? Writing a passage that offended the Viennese court, a passage suspected to have been brought to the attention of the authorities by Voltaire. His imprisonment was not one of shackles and locked cells, however, as La Beaumelle was free to take daily strolls, and to receive books and letters as well as visitors. Though officially pardoned in October 1756, La Beaumelle was still in prison at end of the year, waiting for the requisite release documentation.

When the Correspondance générale de La Beaumelle was awarded the prestigious the 2013 Prix de la Fondation Edouard Bonnefous de l’Institut de France, on the recommendation of the Académie des sciences morales et politiques, it was a mark of recognition of the editors’ momentous work in bringing to light the rich correspondence of this Enlightenment figure.

At the Prix de la Fondation Edouard Bonnefous prize-giving ceremony, 2 December 2013.

At the Prix de la Fondation Edouard Bonnefous prize-giving ceremony, 2 December 2013.

The Voltaire Foundation is enormously proud to publish this towering work of scholarship, and we congratulate our editors, Hubert Bost, Claude Lauriol and Hubert Angliviel de La Beaumelle, for their sustained and meticulous work.

– LR