Voltaire in Love

Voltaire in Love

Voltaire in Love

Voltaire in Love



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The inimitable Nancy Mitford’s account of Voltaire’s fifteen-year relationship with the Marquise du Châtelet—the renowned mathematician who introduced Isaac Newton’s revolutionary new physics to France—is a spirited romp in the company of two extraordinary individuals as well as an erudite and gossipy guide to French high society during the Enlightenment. Mitford’s story is as delicious as it is complicated. The marquise was in love with another mathematician, Maupertuis, while she had an unexpected rival for Voltaire’s affections in the future Frederick the Great of Prussia (and later in the philosophe’s own niece). There was, at least, no jealous husband to contend with: the Marquis du Châtelet, Mitford assures us, behaved perfectly. The beau monde of Paris was, however, distraught at the idea of the lovers’ brilliant conversation going to waste on the windswept hills of Champagne, site of the Château de Cirey, where experimental laboratories, a darkroom, and a library of more than twenty-one thousand volumes enabled them to pursue their amours philosophiques. From time to time the threat of impending arrest would send Voltaire scurrying across the border into Holland, but his irrepressible charm—and the interventions of powerful friends—always made it possible for him resume his studies with the cherished marquise.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590175934
Publisher: New York Review Books
Publication date: 11/06/2012
Series: NYRB Classics Series
Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format: eBook
Pages: 280
File size: 434 KB

About the Author

Nancy Mitford (1904–1973) was born into the British aristocracy and, by her own account, brought up without an education, except in riding and French. She managed a London bookshop during the Second World War, then moved to Paris, where she began to write her celebrated and successful novels, among them The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate, about the foibles of the English upper class. Mitford was also the author of four biographies: Madame de Pompadour (1954), Voltaire in Love (1957), The Sun King (1966), and Frederick the Great (1970)—all available as NYRB Classics. In 1967 Mitford moved from Paris to Versailles, where she lived until her death from Hodgkin’s disease.

Adam Gopnik has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1987, writing often on French life and literature. His many books include Paris to the Moon, an anthropology of modern French manners, and The Table Comes First, an essay on the philosophy of eating. He has also written introductions to new editions of works by authors such as Balzac, Alain-Fournier, Hugo, and Maupassant. In 2012, Gopnik was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France.

Table of Contents

Introduction vii

Acknowledgements xxi

Author's Note xxiii

1 Voltaire and Emilie 1

2 The Young Voltaire 9

3 Voltaire in England 22

4 Émilie Inherits Voltaire 29

5 The Richelieu Wedding 36

6 Cirey 44

7 'Les Amours Philosophiques' 55

8 Frederick Appears on the Scene 64

9 Exit Linant, Enter Mme Denis 73

10 The Battle of Desfontaines 79

11 Mme de Grafigny's Story 89

12 Various Journeys 108

13 Frederick Comes to the Throne 116

14 Voltaire Fails for the Académie Française 130

15 Voltaire and Frederick 142

16 A Happy Summer at Cirey 149

17 Voltaire at Court 157

18 The Philosophers in Bad Odour 169

19 An Invitation 181

20 Lunéville 187

21 'Sémiramis' 197

22 Miscellaneous Works 208

23 'C'est vous qui me l'avez tuée' 216

Epilogue 224

Bibliography 225

Index 227

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