Voltaire . . . a Notary by bus91538

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									     HiStory                             The Mix
                                                                         Dr. Bernard W. Hoeter
                                                            Assisted by David M. Porter Leggett




                         Voltaire . . .
                          a Notary?

     V
            oltaire was born François-                     adventurer. Fearing scandal, the                    name “Voltaire” in 1718, he began
                                                           Ambassador bowed to the wishes of                   his career as a philosopher, poet, and
            Marie Arouet in 1694, into                     Voltaire’s disapproving father and sent             satiric writer. By the time Louis XIV
            a comfortable bourgeois                        him back to Paris.                                  died in 1715, Voltaire was a young
                                                                                                               man of 21. The age of Enlightenment
     family whose patriarch, Voltaire’s                                                                        had started, and he witnessed its
     legal father, was a notaire.                                Voltaire has been hailed                      birth. Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, and
                                                                by many as the patriarch                       the encyclopaedists boldly spread the
         Rumours at the time held that his                                                                     spirit of critical discernment and the
                                                                   of the Age of Reason.                       joys of enlightenment to all classes of
     mother was the mistress of the Abbé1
     de Châteauneuf and that Voltaire was                       The Age of Enlightenment                       European society.
     the Abbé’s son.                                               was sceptical toward                             Voltaire has been hailed by
         From an early age, the Abbé de                           tradition and confident                      many as the patriarch of the Age of
     Châteauneuf took an interest in the                                                                       Reason. The Age of Enlightenment
                                                                        in the power                           was sceptical toward tradition and
     boy, financing his studies at the Jesuit
     school Louis-le-Grand	(Louis the                               of modern science.                         confident in the power of modern
     Great) in Paris, from 1704 to 1711.                                                                       science. Voltaire was a popularizer,
     There, the boy was well trained in                                                                        a man of letters, and one of the first
                                                                Here began the age-old battle
     Latin, Greek, and Law, as well as a                                                                       to make a fortune through writing. In
                                                           between a son who wished to become a
     smattering of the classical authors.                                                                      his younger years, he lived under the
                                                           philosopher and a father who refused to
                                                                                                               heavy-handed censorship of Louis XIV
          When the Abbé died, his brother,                 regard literature as a profession at all.
     the French ambassador to Holland,                          Monsieur Arouet instead wanted
     employed Voltaire as a secretary and                  his son to take over the notarial
     intelligence officer in the French                    business that had ensured the family’s
     Embassy in The Hague. Unfortunately                   prosperity. When Voltaire refused to do
     for the young Voltaire, he became                     so, he threatened to disinherit his son.
     infatuated with the daughter of an
                                                               Thus threatened, Voltaire indeed
     1	 	 he	Concordat	of	Bologna,	passed	between	
        T                                                  entered into the notarial business,
        Pope	Leo	X	and	Francis	1	of	France	in	             practising as a notaire royeux2 for 5
        1516,	gave	the	kings	of	France	the	right	to	
        appoint,	among	abbés	de	commendataires.	
                                                           years. As soon as his father died,
        An	abbé	was	usually	the	fourth	son	of	a	           however, Voltaire abandoned the
        nobleman,	who	received	income	from	a	              notarial profession. Taking the pen
        monastery	or	abbey	without	the	requirement	
        to render religious services. Title and rank
        went	to	the	first-born	son;	the	second	son	            S
                                                           2	 		 ee	Dr.	Hoeter’s	article	on	French	Notaires	
        became	a	diplomat;	the	third,	an	officer	in	           in The Scrivener,	Fall	2005	issue	
        the	army,	and	the	fourth,	an	abbé.		                   (www.notaries.bc.ca/scrivener).                 François-Marie	Arouet	aka	Voltaire


60                                                     The Society of Notaries Public of British Columbia                    Volume 17 Number 1 Spring 2008
 and XV, and thus spoke metaphorically        anointment because “he did not need
 of “purging the Iroquois,” even though       an oil wash to go to hell.”
 his readers knew full well he was                 The rector of the Paris cathedral of
 talking about the Catholic Church.           Saint-Sulpice refused to have Voltaire
      His ideas were, for such a time,        interred in his cemetery. Friends of
 very daring. He was widely known in          Voltaire had his body smuggled out of
 the literary community. With his friend,     Paris and buried in Troyes, where the
 the great encyclopaedist Diderot             Archbishop was more sympathetic.
 (1713 to 1784), he worked on the first       The inscription on his tombstone was
 Encyclopaedie. Voltaire campaigned           typical of his sardonic wit: “Glory, thy
 heavily for Diderot’s membership             name is Vanity.” During the French
 into the Académie des Sciences, but          Revolution of 1789, his remains were
 Diderot was never admitted.                  exhumed, brought back to Paris, and
                                              interred in the Pantheon.
      In 1750, Voltaire accepted the
 invitation of Frederick II of Prussia             Even today, Voltaire is
 to go to Potsdam. This friendship            controversial. He is remembered and
 with Frederick the Great lasted only         honoured as a courageous polemicist
 a few years. In 1753, Voltaire left          who fought for the rights of working
 Prussia in disgrace, even being placed       people, a man who denounced the
 under arrest in Frankfurt by the local       corruption of the French Church and
 Prussian agent.                              the ancien regime. Aaron Jean-Marie
                                              Lustiger, the cardinal and Archbishop
      Voltaire was a deist, rejecting         of Paris who died last year, believed
 the confines of French Catholicism           that “most of the wrongs of the world,
 and frequently attacking the Church’s        including Communism, Fascism, and
 dogma. He stood for many liberal             anti-Semitism, came straight from
 ideals: civil liberties, freedom of          the Enlightenment Age, from Voltaire,
 religion, and the right to fair trial. He    Diderot, and the Cult of Reason.”
 was a champion of reform and an
 ardent opponent of the ancien regime             One thing is for certain: Voltaire
 but, interestingly, was not a proponent      was, for 5 years at least, a practising
 of democracy or representative               member of the notarial community of
 government.                                  Paris. s

      Voltaire’s wit made him popular         Dr. Bernard Hoeter was the Secretary
 among many aristocratic families,            of The Society of Notaries Public of BC
 but also made him many enemies.              from 1969 to 1986.
 His first stint in the Bastille, in
                                              David Leggett is a uBC History student
 1717, arose from writings perceived
 to be insulting to Phillip II, Duke of       who assisted Dr. Hoeter in the process
 Orléans and Regent for Louis XV. In          of writing this article.
 a convoluted disagreement with the           Sources
 powerful de Rohan family, he was             Voltaire,	They	Burned	His	Books,
 assaulted by hired thugs, imprisoned         Hans Dichard, 2nd edition (1996).
 in the Bastille, and finally exiled to
 England in 1726.                             The	Life	of	Voltaire, Casper J. M.
                                              Newett (1914).
      It was in England that he honed
 his satiric style, writing a great           Encyclopedia Britannica, Volume 23,
 deal and contributing to the first           Edition of 1953.
 Encyclopaedia Britannica. He finally         Biography of Voltaire, George Boller
 returned to France in 1729, but would        (1989).
 be exiled from Paris for his writings
                                              Voltaire on en.wikipedia.org
 several more times in his life.
                                              (Wikimedia Foundation).
      On May 30, 1778, Voltaire
                                              Voltaire’s Kroenung (The	Crowning	of	
 was on his deathbed and already a
                                              Voltaire), Johannes Scherr (1947).
 forgotten man in Paris. The exact time
 and date of his death is unknown. A          Paris in the Past, Pierre Courthion
 satirist to the last, he refused the final   (translated by James Emmons).


Volume 17 Number 1 Spring 2008                              The Scrivener                 61

								
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