Philosophical Letters: Letters Concerning the English Nation

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Courier Corporation, Jan 1, 2003 - Literary Collections - 150 pages
Best known for his philosophical novel Candide, Voltaire ranked among the leading intellectuals of the Enlightenment period. His two-and-a-half-year sojourn in England left a profound impression, and these letters — written as though explaining English society to a French friend — focus on the country's religion and politics, with commentaries on Quakers, the Church of England, Presbyterians, Anti-Trinitarians, Parliament, the government, and commerce. They also include essays on Locke, Descartes, and Newton. Voltaire was much influenced by English tolerance, and his observations on the subject sounded a revolutionary note among European readers that resonated for long afterward. First published in English in 1733, Philosophical Letters was condemned by the French government as "likely to inspire a license of thought most dangerous to religion and civil order." It remains a landmark of the Age of Reason.
 

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Contents

ON THE QUAKERS
3
ON THE QUAKERS
8
ON THE QUAKERS
11
ON THE QUAKERS
16
ON THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND
22
ON THE PRESBYTERIANS
25
ON THE SOCINIANS OR ARIANS OR ANTITRINITARIANS
27
ON THE PARLIAMENT
30
ON DESCARTES AND NEWTON
60
ON THE SYSTEM OF ATTRACTION
66
ON NEWTONS OPTICS
75
ON INFINITY AND ON CHRONOLOGY
79
ON TRAGEDY
85
ON COMEDY
90
ON PERSONS OF RANK WHO CULTIVATE LEARNING
95
ON THE EARL OF ROCHESTER AND MR WALLER
99

ON THE GOVERNMENT
34
ON COMMERCE
39
ON INOCULATION WITH SMALLPOX
41
ON CHANCELLOR BACON
46
ON MR LOCKE
52
ON MR POPE AND SOME OTHER FAMOUS POETS
105
ON THE CONSIDERATION OWED TO MEN OF LETTERS
110
ON ACADEMIES
114
ON THE PENSEES OF M PASCAL
119
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About the author (2003)

François-Marie Arouet known as Voltaire, was born in Paris in 1694. He was educated by the Jesuits at the Collège Louis-le-Grand (1704-1711), where he learned Latin and Greek; later in life he became fluent in Italian, Spanish, and English. By the time he left school, Voltaire had decided he wanted to be a writer. His father then obtained a job for him as a secretary to the French ambassador in the Netherlands. Most of Voltaire's early life revolved around Paris. From early on, Voltaire had trouble with the authorities for critiques of the government and religious intolerance. These activities were to result in two imprisonments and a temporary exile to England. The name "Voltaire", which the author adopted in 1718, is an anagram of "AROVET LI," the Latinized spelling of his surname, Arouet, and the initial letters of "le jeune" ("the young"). The name also echoes in reverse order the syllables of the name of a family château in the Poitou region: "Airvault". The adoption of the name "Voltaire" following his incarceration at the Bastille is seen by many to mark Voltaire's formal separation from his family and his past. Voltaire continued to write plays, such as Mérope (or La Mérope française) and began his long research into science and history. From 1762, he began to champion unjustly persecuted people, the case of Jean Calas being the most celebrated. This Huguenot merchant had been tortured to death in 1763, supposedly because he had murdered his son for wanting to convert to Catholicism. His possessions were confiscated and his remaining children were taken from his widow and were forced to become members of a monastery. Voltaire, seeing this as a clear case of religious persecution, managed to overturn the conviction in 1765. n February 1778, Voltaire returned for the first time in 20 years to Paris. He soon became ill again and died on 30 May 1778.

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