The Works of Voltaire: A Contemporary Version [Introduction; Candide; Political Dissertations] - Vol. 1

By William F. Fleming; Voltaire | Go to book overview
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INTRODUCTION.

OLIVER H. G. LEIGH.

Voltaire wrote of himself, "I, who doubt of everything." If, in this laudable habit of taking second thoughts, some one should ask what were the considerations that prompted this exceptional reproduction of what is a literature rather than a one-man work, they are indicated in these Reasons Why :

I. Because the Voltaire star is in the ascendant. The most significant feature of the literary activity now at its height has been the vindication of famous historic characters from the misconceptions and calumnies of writers who catered to established prejudice or mistook biassed hearsay for facts. We have outgrown the weakling period in which we submissively accepted dogmatical portrayals of, for example, Napoleon as a demon incarnate, or Washington as a demi-god. We have learned that great characters are dwarfed or distorted when viewed in any light but that of midday in the open. Historians and biographers must hereafter be content to gather and exhibit impartially the whole facts concerning their hero, and thus assist their readers as a judge assists his competent jury.

2. Because, among the admittedly great figures

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