Voltaire in Love
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The meeting of Voltaire, successful financier, famous poet and troublemaker, and the enchanting amateur physicist and countess Emilie du Chatelet, was a meeting of both hearts and minds. In the Chateau de Cirey, the two brilliant intellects scandalised the French aristocracy with their passionate love affair and provoked revolutions both political and scientific with their groundbreaking work in literature, philosophy and physics. Nancy Mitford's account of the love affair of the Enlightenment is, in the author's own words, 'a shriek from beginning to end'.
(1727–97), 23 Wolff, Christian, Baron de, 64, 113, 118 Wortley Montagu, Lady Mary (1689–1762), 62 Young, Edward, 24
scissors, their nails and hair must have been in a disgusting state. Their supper, under an oak-tree, consisted of millet and acorns washed down with water. What a contrast is the life of a civilized man, surrounded by the children of his taste: Correggios, Poussins, and Gobelins hang on his walls; his silver is by Germain, his statues by Bouchardon. When he wishes for distraction he sends for his carriage and goes to see Camargo dance at the Opera; there all the senses are catered for. People
Monarch, taking more trouble than he ever had for the Comédie Française and the 4,000 educated Parisian playgoers. Émilie too was working hard. She had a new tutor, Père Jacquier, who was to wean her from the ideas of Leibnitz and put her back on the wholesome diet of Newton. In July 1744 President Hénault, the Queen’s great friend and the lover since all time of Mme du Deffand, spent a day at Cirey on his way to the watering-place, Plombières. Voltaire and Émilie were delighted by his admiration
as Mme du Châtelet was not. Snobbishness did not impel her to spend her time with Mlle de la Roche-sur-Yonne; she found a delightful circle of friends with whom to laugh, gossip, and play comète. She was not trying to translate Newton in a house where there were fifty other people, packed like sardines. Stanislas had arranged for her to have a charming room to herself, with no fermier-général snoring away the other side of a curtain and to this room the Vicomte d’Adhémar came and went as he
with him. But Voltaire felt that he must get away from ‘abominable Lunéville, the cause of her death’ as soon as he could. He also clung very much to du Châtelet at this time. When the funeral was over, the two men and Émilie’s son went to Cirey. At first Voltaire felt comforted there, but in a day or two the atmosphere of a house which he and Émilie had embellished together, where they had been so happy for years, and where he had expected to die in her arms made his grief more real and terrible