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Voltaire Foundation blog launched!

We have just launched a new blog, which will be regularly updated with eighteenth-century snippets (on our books and beyond). We hope you enjoy it!

News archive

Mme Du Châtelet and Voltaire’s Newtonian manuscripts

Digitised versions of Mme Du Châtelet and Voltaire’s manuscripts relating to their work on Newton can be viewed on the website of the Musée des lettres et manuscrits.

Tree huggers of the Enlightenment

Although the term ‘tree hugger’ first appeared in 1965, environmentalists – particularly those with arboreal leanings – have been around for centuries. Laura Auricchio is the co-editor of Invaluable trees: cultures of nature, 1660-1830. She is interviewed in this blog post and podcast.

Enhanced edition of Candide

René Pomeau’s definitive critical edition of Candide (OCV, vol.48) serves as the basis for a free, enhanced digital edition for the iPad. New features include high-resolution images of the BnF manuscript, illustrations from the eighteenth to the twentieth century and a reading by Denis Podalydès. Students will appreciate the two levels of editorial note (‘discovery’ and ‘research’) and the ‘Garden’ where they can share their work. Watch the video tour to find out more.

A list of early responses (April 2013).

Revue de la BnF No 42: Candide: Editer et (re)lire les classiques en numériques.

The University of Oxford features our edition.

‘I groan in silence’, by Michael Johnson

Read Michael Johnson’s imagined interview with Voltaire. Voltaire’s view of our modern world turns out to be strangely similar to his commentaries on the eighteenth century…

Letters show Frederick the Great’s advice on venereal disease

One of Europe’s most prominent historical figures advised a friend on where to go to treat his venereal disease, letters discovered by an Oxford University academic show.

Electronic Enlightenment free trial

Electronic Enlightenment, scholarly research project of the Bodleian Libraries offering unrivalled access to the web of correspondence between the greatest thinkers and writers of the long 18th century, is currently available for institutional free trial in order to assess its suitability for research and teaching.

Recommend Electronic Enlightenment to your librarian (pdf*) – a free institutional trial of EE is available now!

Recommandez Electronic Enlightenment à votre bibliothécaire (pdf*) – essai à titre gratuit!

Forthcoming sale of Mme Du Châtelet’s manuscripts

A forthcoming sale of Mme Du Châtelet’s manuscripts may teach us new things about her and Voltaire’s understanding of Newton. Please read the letter from Professor Nicholas Cronk, President of the Société des Etudes Voltairiennes, and Director of the Voltaire Foundation, to the French Minister of Culture, urging her of the importance of acquiring these documents for the benefit of the scholarly community.

‘Lessons from Voltaire, the enlightened European economist’, by P. Neiertz and N. Cronk

Where is the Voltaire of our times? As financial institutions and politicians wrangle over eurozone bonds and so on, they could do worse than think back to that great figure from Europe’s past. National indebtedness is after all not unique to the 21st century.

Read the rest of the article in the Financial Times (online).
Scans of the article in the print edition of the Financial Times, Friday 8 June 2012, page 13, and of that issue’s front page, drawing attention to the article.

‘Dette publique: la parole de Voltaire’, par Patrick Neiertz

Les experts ne sont d’accord que sur un seul point: le caractère exceptionnel de la crise financière que vivent les Etats occidentaux. Mais ne faut-il beaucoup d’égocentrisme historique pour croire la question de la dette des Etats réductible au seul XXIe siècle? Les Etats européens du siècle des Lumières étaient, eux aussi, chroniquement endettés. Non pas par des protections sociales généreuses ni même par leurs dépenses somptuaires. Mais par des guerres stupides, menées par des armées mercenaires ruineuses, pour des motifs dynastiques ou de pur orgueil national. La France était de toutes ces aventures belliqueuses qu’elle finançait par le déficit. Comment le comblait-elle? par l’appel aux banquiers; par la manipulation de l’inflation; par les défauts de paiement; et, naturellement, par la hausse des impôts. Ce catalogue paraît-il désuet aux dirigeants européens d’aujourd'hui?

Lire la suite de l’article dans Le Monde.

Voltaire’s English alter ego unmasked by new letters

14 newly discovered letters by Francois Voltaire have allowed an Oxford University team to shed light on his brief but important time in England.

Voltaire English letters discovered by Oxford academic
New light has been shed on the life of the French writer, Voltaire, by letters bought by the New York public library. The documents, which were written by the philosopher in the eighteenth century, give more details of the time he spent in England. Professor Nicholas Cronk, director of the Voltaire Foundation, describes how he came across the letters. He said the letters confirm that Voltaire was paid £200 by the British government for being a great poet.

Letters stress Voltaire’s links to English gentry
French author and philosopher Voltaire had surprisingly close ties to the aristocracy during his stay in England during the 1720s which helped shape his thinking, newly discovered letters reveal.

Letters reveal Voltaire’s exposure to English empiricism
Article on the discovery of new Voltaire letters by Professor Nicholas Cronk, who lectures in medieval and modern languages at Oxford University. The letters shine fresh light on the three years Voltaire spent in England in the late 1720s. “Sarkozy referred to Voltaire’s stay when he told French businessmen in Britain that they were following in Voltaire’s footsteps, so it is exciting to be able to add to the existing knowledge of this short but important visit”, Professor Cronk said. The letters are being put online by the University’s Voltaire Foundation as part of the Bodleian Library’s Electronic Enlightenment website. The website contains letters from more than 6,000 writers, politicians and thinkers from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Voltaire English letters discovered by Oxford academic
Article on 14 newly discovered letters which are being studied by Oxford University’s Voltaire Foundation. The Voltaire Foundation, led by Professor Nicholas Cronk, is carrying out a mammoth work of scholarship, which will have taken 50 years to produce a definitive collected work of all Voltaire’s writing. It is expected to be completed by 2018.

TV: Newsnight, BBC 2
Professor Nicholas Cronk of Oxford University’s Voltaire Foundation is interviewed about his discovery of new letters written by the French philosopher Voltaire during his stay in England. Professor Cronk says of one of the letters: ‘This is a letter in which Voltaire thanks Lord Bathurst for the many weekends he spent in his house, and that is very interesting because we didn’t really know about that, so this shows us Voltaire in a very important literary circle where he would have met Prior, Congreve, Pope, Swift ... Voltaire even thanks him for the time he spent in the library, so you catch Voltaire spending his weekends in a country house, working in the library, which is a nice little insight into Voltaire in England.’ (c.23:50 on the iPlayer clock)

GB: des lettres de Voltaire découvertes
An academic from Oxford University has discovered new letters written by Voltaire during his two years in England from 1726-8, which underline the influence of British intellectuals on the French philosopher’s ideas. Professor Nicholas Cronk, director of the Voltaire Foundation, explains his findings.

Voltaire en Angleterre, à travers 14 lettres inédites
Actualitté (France), 22/01/12

Ce que Voltaire doit à l’Angleterre
Courrier international (France), 20/01/12

La lettere dell’opportunista Voltaire
Corriere Della Sera (Italy), 20/01/12

Deux Discours de Rousseau: réécouter Céline Spector sur France Culture

A l’occasion du tricentenaire de sa naissance, les Nouveaux Chemins de la connaissance consacrent la première semaine de l’année 2012 au philosophe, écrivain et musicien Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Pour cette première émission, Adèle Van Reeth reçoit Céline Spector qui interviendra à propos des deux discours de Rousseau, le Discours sur les sciences et les arts et le Discours sur l’origine et les fondements des inégalités parmi les hommes.

Céline Spector est maître de conférences à l’Université de Bordeaux III Michel de Montaigne et auteur d’Au Prisme de Rousseau: usages politiques contemporains (SVEC 2011:08).

Il est né le devin Rousseau 1/4: les deux Discours.

New revised online edition of André Morellet’s correspondence

André Morellet (1727-1819), law reformer and political economist, played an important and at times decisive role in the dissemination of philosophical thought and in the principal debates of his day.

First published in print (Lettres d’André Morellet, 1991-1996), the Morellet correspondence was revised over several years by the editor, Dorothy Medlin, and published online through Electronic Enlightenment in December 2011. This new online edition brings together in one place all known letters, many only recently discovered by the editor and never previously published, with new and revised annotation.

Integrated in the Electronic Enlightenment project, the Morellet correspondence can now be read in context within the complex network of international correspondents of the long eighteenth century. This edition of correspondence considerably enriches our understanding of the society, literary circles and the history of ideas relating to the Enlightenment.

Revisions to Voltaire’s correspondence dedicated to Dr Paul O. LeClerc

The Voltaire Foundation and the Bodleian Libraries are privileged to honour Dr Paul O. LeClerc, President of the New York Public Library 1993-2011, by dedicating to him this first ever revision of Theodore Besterman’s monumental edition of Voltaire’s correspondence, published in digital form through Electronic Enlightenment.

We are extending and revising Besterman’s edition with the addition of 14 unpublished letters, and over 30 notes making significant revisions to existing editions. We also include high-quality images of all the Voltaire letters at the New York Public Library.

Dr LeClerc has published widely with the Voltaire Foundation. His study Voltaire and Crébillon père: history of an enmity appeared in 1973 in the series Studies on Voltaire and the eighteenth century; and his critical edition of Rome sauvée was published in the Œuvres complètes de Voltaire (volume 31A, 1992). Paul LeClerc also collaborated with D. Medlin and J.-C. David in the three-volume edition of the Lettres d’André Morellet, first published in 1991-1996, appearing in revised form in 2011 through Electronic Enlightenment.

In publishing through Electronic Enlightenment this digital supplement to Besterman’s great print edition, we pay tribute to Paul LeClerc’s qualities as scholar and as librarian.

‘Voltaire à Oxford: the Voltaire Foundation’, par Aurélie Julia

‘Arouet? Voltaire? Enfin, avez-vous un nom?
– Voltaire! Je commence mon nom et vous finissez le vôtre.’

Le dialogue se glace dans la loge d’Adrienne Lecouvreur en ce mois de janvier 1726. Furieux de découvrir l’influence d’un jeune gandin sur la belle comédienne, le chevalier de Rohan jette à la face de son rival une pique voulue mortifiante: que fabrique donc à la Comédie-Française un godelureau aux origines roturières? Quel privilège peut bien quémander ce misérable faquin? L’attaque verbale tourne cependant au désavantage de l’agresseur: le poète de la Ligue n’est jamais à court de réplique. D’exaspération, Rohan lève sa canne, s’apprête à châtier le malotru mais se ravise et quitte les lieux...

Lire la suite de l’article (pdf*).

Read an English translation of the article (pdf*).

Reproduit avec la permission de la Revue des deux mondes, octobre 2011

Voltaire Foundation awarded Prix Hervé Deluen

Oxford University’s Voltaire Foundation has become one of a select group of institutions outside France to receive an award from the Académie Française, in recognition of a 50-year project which is changing the existing image of Voltaire.

‘Voltaire the survivor’, by Michael Johnson

Everybody thinks they know all about Voltaire – they remember “Candide” from school days and they have seen his story adapted for the movies and Broadway. Today, 232 years after his death, he remains by far the best known of the 18th-century intellectual giants.

But the truth is, there is a lot more pure gold buried in his voluminous output. So much of his 15-million-word legacy is so exceptional and so little known.

Voltaire is one of those authors from the past who manages to resonate today. Perhaps his most important poem is the work dealing with the randomness of the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, echoing sentiments about the recent Haiti tragedy. The two earthquakes wreaked similar degrees of death and destruction.

Read the full article here (pdf*).

Reprinted with permission from the International Herald Tribune, 23-24 January 2010.

Voltaire’s Candide celebrates 250th anniversary

Experts from around the world gathered in Oxford to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Candide, Voltaire’s most famous satirical novel, published in 1759.

More advances in Oxford Enlightenment

Oxford University is leading the way in the field of Enlightenment with both the launch of the Besterman Centre for the Enlightenment and Electronic Enlightenment project launch.

Grant to publish 18th-century world history

The Voltaire Foundation at Oxford University has been awarded a substantial grant to produce the first scholarly edition of one of the first complete histories of the world.

Letter from the Chairman concerning the Complete Works of Voltaire