The Works of Voltaire: A Contemporary Version [The Henriade: Letters and Miscellanies] - Vol. 38

The Works of Voltaire: A Contemporary Version [The Henriade: Letters and Miscellanies] - Vol. 38

Read FREE!

The Works of Voltaire: A Contemporary Version [The Henriade: Letters and Miscellanies] - Vol. 38

The Works of Voltaire: A Contemporary Version [The Henriade: Letters and Miscellanies] - Vol. 38

Read FREE!

Excerpt

"The Henriade," the only French epic, was begun when the author was a prisoner in the Bastille. The second Canto, describing the Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day, came to Voltaire in a dream, so he told his friend Wagnière, adding that he retained the lines until he had the chance to write them and "he never found anything to change in it." The poem was ten years in the making. It was ready for printing in 1723, when he was in his thirtieth year. He had received a number of subscriptions for it before he realized that the tone of the Dedication and the poem would bring it under the ban of the censors.

The Dedication is unique of its kind. The young king, Louis XV., had just attained his majority.

"SIRE: Every work in which the great deeds of Henry IV. are spoken of, ought to be offered to your majesty. It is the blood of that hero which flows in your veins. You are king only because he was a great man, and France, that wishes you as much virtue as he possessed, and more happiness, flatters itself that the life and the throne which you owe to him will engage you to imitate him.

"Fortunate in having known adversity, he felt for the miseries of men, and softened the rigors of a rule from which he had suffered himself. Other kings have courtiers ; he had friends. His heart was full of tenderness for his true servants.

"That king, who truly loved his subjects, never regarded their complaints as sedition, nor the remonstrance of magistrates as encroachment upon the sovereign authority. Shall I say it, sire? Yes; truth commands me so to do. It is a thing very shameful to kings, this astonishment we experience when they sincerely love the happiness of their people. May you one day accustom us to regard that virtue as something appertaining to your crown! It was the true love of Henry IV. for France which made him adored by his subjects. . . . . . ."

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