Letters on England Discussion Questions - Voltaire Essay Example

Letter 5 is devoted to the Anglican religion, which Voltairecompares favorably to ("With regard to the morals ofthe English clergy, they are more regular than those of France"),but he criticizes the ways in which it has stayed true to theCatholic rituals, in particular ("The English clergy have retaineda great number of the Romish ceremonies, and especially that ofreceiving, with a most scrupulous attention, their tithes. Theyalso have the pious ambition to aim at superiority").

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In the letter 25, which was not included with the originaltwenty-four, Voltaire criticizes certain ideas of bytaking citations from his and giving his own opinion on thesame subject. The most important difference between the twophilosophers is in their conception of man. Pascal insists on themiserable aspect of man who must fill the emptiness of his lifewith amusements, while Voltaire accepts the optimistic view.

Letters on England: Voltaire, Des Gahan ..

Letter 8 talks about the British parliament, which he comparesto both and France. In termsof Rome, Voltaire criticizes the fact that Britain has entered (whereas Rome did not), but he praisesBritain for serving liberty rather than tyranny (as in Rome). Interms of France, Voltaire responds to French criticism concerningthe of by highlighting the British judicial process as opposed tothe outright murders of or , or themultiple attempts on the life of .


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In order to do full justice to this illustrious writer, it is necessary to take into account the exceptionally and almost heretical or treasonable breadth of his opinions, and his candor and courage in making them public. A comparison has been instituted between him and Voltaire in this respect; and both men occupied a high social position and were in good worldly circumstances. The same indeed may be predicated of La Boetie himself and of Francois Hotman, however dissimilar and unequal; and these indications combine to show that the political principles which arrived at so violent a climax in 1789 had already more than germinated two centuries before. It is in no way remarkable that all great writers should be advocates of personal liberty; but it is so that those who had so clear an interest in the preservation of the status quo, and, in the case of Montaigne, were in such close contact with the court, should have leant without disguise to the anti-monarchical side. Our own Shakespeare was half a republican at heart; but he found it convenient to leave his persons of the drama to speak on his behalf. In France, England, and throughout Europe the same spirit of inquiry and doubt was in progress, destined in different countries to accomplish different results.

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Lettres anglaises (: or ) is a series of essayswritten by basedon his experiences living in between 1722 to 1734. It was firstpublished under the name Lettresphilosophiques in 1734. In 1778, Voltaire, who wasfluent in English, rewrote and published the work as Letters onthe English. However, most modern English versions are basedon a translation of the text rather than Voltaire'sEnglish one.

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I found, in fact, that the text of 1877, which my late father kindly undertook to revise, was still disfigured by innumerable errors and misprints, legacies from the antecedent impressions, and originally due to the negligence of Cotton or his imperfect knowledge of French, and that the Letters had been so poorly translated, that it was imperative to do the work over again so far as I had the means; and the English versions of the foreign quotations in the text have been similarly subjected to elaborate revision. The mistakes in the names of persons and places are now rectified to the utmost extent of my power; without permitting myself to hope that all the original carelessness of Montaigne, or his translators, and editors’ faults, are set right,—I entertain the expectation that the book in its present form will prove at least infinitely more worthy of the author than any of its predecessors.

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The present owner of the copyright interest in the now scarce edition of 1877, having requested me to see the book once more through the press, I have taken the opportunity to introduce as many additions and corrections as possible; I have given the letter of Montaigne to Henry III., not previously found in any English edition; and a facsimile is supplied of that addressed to Henry IV. in 1590, and first printed by M. Achille Jubinal, 8vo, 1850. The other illustrations which accompanied the edition of 1877 have been reproduced, and I have spared no reasonable pains to render the book on its reappearance as satisfactory as possible to English readers.