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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Voltaire, I Fart in Your General Direction: The Memoirs of Duc de Sainte-Simon

Like Voltaire, Saint-Simon saw the end of France's immemorial glory approaching, though he viewed that end from a sharply different angle. In his memoirs, the Duc treats Voltaire like a scurrilous upstart and dismantles any claim he might have to literary eminence. Voltaire, whose real name was Arouet, was the son of a notary who had served as the Duc's lawyer, and was therefore a lowborn fellow. He was exiled, wrote the Duc,

for writing monstrously satirical, monstrously impudent verses. I should not waste time over such trifles, had not this Arouet, now a famous poet and academician under the pseudonym Voltaire, also become, after many disastrous adventures, something of a personage in the world of letters, even winning a kind of reputation among certain sorts of people.

In Saint-Simon's estimation, the most celebrated writer of his time is transformed into a jumped-up homunculus, a guttersnipe whom no person of true distinction would regard with anything but contempt.

link: The Claremont Institute - Highborn Fools


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