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July 1770. “A servant soon came, and conducted me into the cabinet or • closet where his Master had just been writing: this is never shown when he is at home; but having walked out, I was allowed that privilege. From thence I passed to the Library, which is not a very large one, but well filled. Here I found a whole-length Figure in marble of himself, recumbent, in one of the windows; and many curiosities in another room; a Bust of himself, made not two years since; his Mother's picture;
that of his Niece, Madam Denis; his Brother, M. Dupuis; the • Calas Family; and others. It is a very neat and elegant House; not large, nor affectedly decorated.
'I should first have remarked, that close to the Chapel, between that and the house, is the Theatre, which he buil years ago; where he treated his friends with some of his own Tragedies: it is now only used as a receptacle for wood and lumber, there having been no play acted in it these four years. "The servant told me his Master was 78' (76 gone), “but very 6 well.
“Il travaille,” said he, “pendant dix heures chaque jour, “ Ile studies ten lours every day; writes constantly without
spectacles, and walks out with only a domestic, often a mile or “two—Et le voilà, là bas, And see, yonder he is !"
He was going to his workmen. My heart leaped at the sight of so extraordinary a man. He had just then quitted his Garden, and was crossing the court before his House. Seeing my chaise, and me on the point of mounting it, he made a sign to his servant who had been my cicerone, to go to him ; in order, 'I suppose, to inquire who I was. After they had exchanged a 'few words together, he,' M. de Voltaire, ' approached the place where I was standing motionless, in order to contemplate his
person as much as I could while his eyes were turned from me; but on seeing him move towards me, I found myself • drawn by some irresistible power towards him; and, without knowing what I did, I insensibly met him half-way.
'It is not easy to conceive it possible for life to subsist in a form so nearly composed of mere skin and bone as that of M. de Voltaire. Extremely lean old Gentleman! “He complained of decrepitude, and said, He supposed I was anxious to form ' an idea of the figure of one walking after death. However, ' his eyes and whole countenance are still full of fire; and
April 1776. 'though so emaciated, a more lively expression cannot be 'imagined.
'He inquired after English news; and observed that Poetical squabbles had given way to Political ones; but seemed to think the spirit of opposition as necessary in poetry as in politics. “ Les querelles d'auteurs sont pour le bien de la littérature, comme “ dans un gouvernement libre les querelles des grands, et les clameurs “ des petits, sont nécessaires à la liberté." And added, “When “ critics are silent, it does not so much prove the Age to be cor
rect, as dull.” He inquired what Poets we had now; I told " him we had Mason and Gray. “They write but little," said "he: “and you seem to have no one who lords it over the rest, “ like Dryden, Pope, and Swift.” I told him that it was one • of the inconveniences of Periodical Journals, however well executed, that they often silenced modest men of genius, while
impudent blockheads were impenetrable, and unable to feel the critic's scourge: that Mr. Gray and Mr. Mason had both been “illiberally treated by mechanical critics, even in newspapers ; 6 and added, that modesty and love of quiet seemed in these gen'tlemen to have got the better even of their love of fame.
• During this conversation, we approached the buildings that he was constructing near the road to his Château. “ These,"
said he, pointing to them, “are the most innocent, and perhaps “the most useful, of all my works.” I observed that he had
other works, which were of far more extensive use, and would * be much more durable, than those. He was so obliging as to show me several farmhouses that he had built, and the plans of others : after which I took my leave.?41
No. 2. A Reverend Mr. Sherlock sees Voltaire, and even
dines with him (April 1776). Sherlock's Book of Travels, though he wrote it in two languages, and it once had its vogue, is now little other than a Dance of Will-o'-wisps to us. A Book tawdry, incoherent, indistinct, at once flashy and opaque, full of idle excrescences and exuberances ;-as is the poor man himself. He was “Chaplain
41 Burney's Present State of Music (London, 1773), pp. 55-62. YOL. VI.
April 1776 to the Earl of Bristol, Bishop of Derry;" gyrating about as ecclesiastical Moon to that famed Solar Luminary, what could you expect 142 Poor Sherlock is nowhere intentionally fabulous; nor intrinsically altogether so foolish as he seems : let that suffice us. In his Dance of Will-o'-wisps, which in this point happily is dated,—26th-27th April 1776,—he had come to Ferney, with proper introduction to Voltaire: and here (after severe excision of the flabby parts, but without other change) is credible account of what he saw and heard. In Three Scenes; with this Prologue -as to Costume, which is worth reading twice :
Voltaire's Dress. “On the two days I saw him, he wore white cloth shoes, white woollen stockings, red breeches, with a nightgown and waistcoat of blue linen, flowered, and lined with yellow. · He had on a grizzle wig with three ties, and over it a silk nightcap embroidered with gold and silver.'
SCENE I. The Entrance-Hall of Ferney (Friday, 26th April 1776);
exuberant Sherlock entering, Letter of Introduction having preceded.
He met me in the hall; his Nephew M. d’Hornoï (Grandnephew; Abbé Mignot, famous for burying Voltaire, and Madame Denis, whom we know, were his Uncle and Aunt) — Grandnephew, ' Counsellor in the Parlement of Paris, held him by the
arm. He said to me, with a very weak voice: “You see a very “ old man, who makes a great effort to have the honour of seeing
you. Will you take a walk in my Garden? It will please you, “ for it is in the English taste :-it was I who introduced that “ taste into France, and it is become universal. But the French parody your Gardens; they put your thirty acres into three."
'From his Gardens you see the Alps, the Lake, the City of • Geneva and its environs, which are very pleasant. He said:
Voltaire. “It is a beautiful prospect." He pronounced these words tolerably well. Sherlock. “How long is it since you were in England ?"
42 Title of his Book is, Letters from an English Traveller; translated from the French Original (London, 1780). Ditto, Letters from an English Træveller ; written originally in French : by the Rev. Martin Sherlock, A.M., Chaplain to the Earl of Bristol, &c. (a new Edition, 2 voll., London, 1802.) forgot his
Voltaire. “Fifty years, at least.” (Not quite; in 1728 left; in 1726 had come).43 D’Hornoi. “ It was at the time when you printed the First Edition of your Henriade." "We then talked of Literature; and from that moment he
age and infirmities, and spoke with the warmth of a man of thirty. He said some shocking things against Moses and against Shakspeare.' (Like enough!) We then talked of Spain.
Voltaire. “It is a Country of which we know no more than “ of the most savage parts of Africa ; and it is not worth the “ trouble of being known. If a man would travel there, he “ must carry his bed, &c. On arriving in a Town, he must go “ into one street to buy a bottle of wine; a piece of a mule” (by way of beef) “ in another; he finds a table in a third,—and he
sups. A French Nobleman was passing through Pampeluna : “ he sent out for a spit; there was only one in the Town, and " that was lent away for a wedding.”
D’Hornoi. “ There, Monsieur, is a Village which M. de Vol46 taire has built !" Voltaire. “Yes, we have our freedoms
Cut off a little corner, and we are out of France. I “ asked some privileges for my Children here, and the King has
granted me all that I asked, and has declared this Pays de Gex
exempt from all Taxes of the Farmers-General; so that salt, “ which formerly sold for ten sous a pound, now sells for four. “ I have nothing more to ask, except to live.”—We went into the · Library (had made the round of the Gardens, I suppose).
SCENE II. In the Library. Voltaire. “ There you find several of your countrymen” (he had Shakspeare, Milton, Congreve, Rochester, Shaftesbury, Bolingbroke, Robertson, Hume, and others). “Robertson is your Livy; “ his Charles Fifth is written with truth. Hume wrote his His
tory to be applauded, Rapin to instruct; and both obtained
their ends." Sherlock. “Lord Bolingbroke and you agreed “ that we have not one good Tragedy.”
Voltaire. « We did think so. Cato is incomparably well written : Addison had a great deal of taste ;-but the abyss April 1776. “ between taste and genius is immense! Shakspeare had an
43 Suprà, ü, 586.
amazing genius, but no taste: he has spoiled the taste of the “ Nation. He has been their taste for two hundred years; and « what is the taste of a Nation for two hundred
will be so “ for two thousand. This kind of taste becomes a religion; “there are, in your Country, a great many Fanatics for Shakspeare."
Sherlock. “Were you personally acquainted with “ Lord Bolingbroke ?"
Voltaire. “ Yes. His face was imposing, and so was his “ voice; in his Works, there are many leaves, and little fruit; “ distorted expressions, and periods intolerably long.” (Taking down a Book.) “There, you see the Koran, which is well read, “ at least.” (“It was marked throughout with bits of paper.') “ There are Historic Doubts, by Horace Walpole” (which had
also several marks'); “here is the Portrait of Richard III. ; you “ see he was a handsome youth." Sherlock (making an abrupt transition). “You have built a Church ?”
Voltaire. “True; and it is the only one in the Universe in “ honour of God” (Deo erexit Voltaire, as we read above): "you “ have plenty of Churches built to St. Paul, to St. Geneviève, “ but not one to God.” Exit Sherlock (to his Inn; makes jotting as above;—is to dine at Ferney tomorrow).
SCENE III. Dinner-Table of Voltaire. The next day, as we sat down to Dinner, our Host in the above shining costume," he said, in English tolerably pronounced:
Voltaire. “We are here for liberty and property!" (parody of some old Speech in Parliament, let us guess,—liberty and property, my Lords !) “This Gentleman,—whom let me present to “Monsieur Sherlock,-is a Jesuit" (old Père Adam, whom I keep for playing Chess, in his old, unsheltered days); "he wears “ his hat: I am a poor invalid, I wear my nightcap.”
*I do not now recollect why he quoted these verses, also in English, by Rochester, on Charles Second :
“ Here lies the mutton-eating King,
Whose promise none relies on;
Nor ever did a wise one."