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"You know that these two nations are at war about a few acres of snow somewhere around Canada, and that they are spending on this beautiful war more than all Canada is worth."

Older comments[edit]

At the end of Candide Voltaire says 'IL faut cultiver le jardin'. What is meant by this?

"The garden should be cultivated" can be taken to mean or imply many things; perhaps most applicably in relation to that tale, that the garden of thoughts or ideas one should cultivate sense and weed out nonsense, or that in the garden of the world, one must weed out the vile for the desirable to flourish and survive, but arguments could be made for other meanings and implications. ~ Kalki 15:27, 9 Sep 2004 (UTC)
As I get older I come more and more to the view that this is not a metaphor at all, or at least not only a metaphor, but words of sage practical advice. Voltaire was sixty-five in 1759 when Candide was published. Also, from about 1750 onwards, there was a revolution in French landscape garden|French garden design, which was wound up with Enlightenment ideals and theories. Voltaire was fully party to this discussion, and practiced what he preached. A very rich man, he bought the lordship of Fernex, a small village near the Swiss border, in 1758, and proceeded to develop the whole area as if it were his garden. He began by changing the name of the town to Ferney - "too many towns ending with X in this part of the world" - built a large chateau for himself, complete with landscaped and formal gardens, a lake, terraces and an orangery as well as a working farm. He went on to develop the town itself, draining the marshes, building more than 100 houses, funding the erection of a church, school, water reservoir and town fountain. He instigated regular markets and encouraged artisans to settle there, and during the famine of 1771 he personally fed the inhabitants of the town, which by his death in 1778 had grown from a hundred or so to over a thousand inhabitants. This is gardening on a very large scale. Voltaire was involved in the design, supervised the works himself, and was to be found from time to time with his sleeves rolled up, gardening.
Voltaire's literary output remained as prodigious as ever during the development of Ferney, and I think that he actually practiced what he is heartily recommending to us in the novel. Activity in a garden, even on a small scale, allows any amount of ideals and theories to be tested in a very practical way, by interacting directly with the laws of nature to produce an aesthetically satisfactory result. It is very easy to see a philosopher, especially a productive one, in a garden. He was serious, in other words. (-Concord113) 01:22, 21 June 2011 (UTC)

Are these Voltaire?[edit]

Frequently attributed to Voltaire on the 'net, but never with a source, and never with the French, are these two:- "Let us read and let us dance - two amusements that will never do any harm to the world." and "There are some that only employ words for the purpose of disguising their thoughts."

  • The second quote is listed in both Bartlett's Quotations and the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations as being from Dialogue, XIV, "Le Chapon et la Poularde" (1766). Oxford includes the original French: Ils ne se servent de la pensée que pour autoriser leurs injustices, et n'emploient les paroles que pour déguiser leurs pensées. The translation for this is given as: [Men] use thought only to justify their injustices, and speech only to conceal their thoughts. InvisibleSun 13:10, 20 October 2005 (UTC)
    • I have sourced the statement "Let us read," etc. and added it to the Voltaire quotes. InvisibleSun 01:04, 22 October 2005 (UTC)

I heard a speaker give it with different wording, but he attributed the following to Voltaire: "History is only the pattern of silken slippers descending the stairs to the thunder of hobnailed boots climbing upward from below." I think he began the quote as, "History is the patter of silk slippers . . ." Any opinions on this? Source?

Anyone heard of this? "One day everything will be well, that is our hope. Everything's fine today, that is our illusion."

Text of letter[edit]

From the main article:



6 février.

Vous avez quitté, monsieur, des Welches pour des Welches. Vous trouverez partout des barbares têtus. Le nombre des sages sera toujours petit. Il est vrai qu’il est augmenté ; mais ce n’est rien en comparaison des sots ; et, par malheur, on dit que Dieu est toujours pour les gros bataillons. Il faut que les honnêtes gens se tiennent serrés et couverts. Il n’y a pas moyen que leur petite troupe attaque le parti des fanatiques en rase campagne.

J’ai été très malade, je suis à la mort tous les hivers ; c’est ce qui fait, monsieur, que je vous ai répondu si tard. Je n’en suis pas moins touché de votre souvenir. Continuez-moi votre amitié ; elle me console de mes maux et des sottises du genre humain.

Recevez les assurances, etc.

Wikiquote is not meant to be a repository of complete texts. Such things should go in frsource, probably. However, a graver concern is that the only references I seem to find for this text are from wikimedia projects (mostly, French wikipedia and mirrors). Where can this text be found, published by a reputable source? It's fine if it's not online, if it's a book, I would greatly appreciate an ISBN, if it's a journal, details of name, date, publisher. Especially when this text is used to prove a point, I would like some kind of proof of its lineage to Voltaire. Thanks ~ MosheZadka (Talk) 10:16, 20 October 2005 (UTC)

Several remarks here:

1) The Wikiquote page on Evelyn Beatrice Hall, besides discussing the apocryphal quote of Voltaire, provides links that discuss the matter further. The use of the above-cited letter can be traced to Norbert Guterman's "A Book of French Quotations" (1963), in which he claims that this letter of Voltaire contained the phrase "Monsieur l'abbé, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to write." Guterman said that this would have been the likely source for Hall's now famous summation of Voltaire's thought. Hall said, however, that Voltaire was addressing himself to Claude Adrien Helvétius (concerning his book "De L'Esprit"), whereas this letter is addressed to a Monsieur le Riche. Just to complicate matters more, Helvétius was not an abbé. I have yet to discover who le Riche was.

2) I find it interesting that this letter, although it does not have the remark cited by Guterman, does in fact have another well-known remark of Voltaire: "It is said that God is always on the side of the big battalions" [On dit que Dieu est toujours pour les gros bataillons]. Considering how many letters Voltaire had written, it seems quite a coincidence that this should be so. (Bartlett's cites this letter to le Riche for the "big battalions" quote.) Is it possible that Guterman, compiling a book of quotations, mixed up his references in providing sources?

3) This letter is quoted in full, as above, in the French Wikipedia article "Tolérance." footnote to article

4) In any case, considering how thoroughly the Evelyn Beatrice Hall page and its links deal with the matter of the misattributed quotation, I think there's no more need to cite the letter on the page of Voltaire quotes; and I will edit for the same. InvisibleSun 03:51, 29 October 2005 (UTC)

The perfect is the enemy of the good[edit]

The article has:


Original: Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien. Source: "Dramatic Art," Dictionnaire philosophique (1764)


There is a problem with this type of attribution. There are essentially two different things called "Dictionnaire philosophique".

The first is a book, published during Voltaire's lifetime, from 1764 onwards, in many editions, with different titles, including "Dictionnaire philosophique portatif" (1764), "La Raison par alphabet", "Questions sur l'Encyclopédie par des amateurs" (1770), "L'Opinion par alphabet", "Dictionnaire philosophique". In none of these, to my knowledge, is there an essay on Dramatic Art, much less the quoted text in question. See, eg. [1, pp. xxii--xxix], [2].

The second Dictionnaire philosophique is included as part of various versions of the Complete Works of Voltaire. This second Dictionnaire contains much that Voltaire never himself published under this title. According to [3]:


Les éditeurs de Kehl (Condorcet et Decroix) ont refondu, dans ce Dictionnaire: 1° les Questions sur l'Encyclopédie; 2° L'Opinion par alphabet; 3° les articles insérés dans l'Encyclopédie; 4° plusieurs articles destinés par l'auteur au Dictionnaire de l'Académie; et 50 divers fragments séparés.


See also [1, pp. xvi--xvii], [2, pp. 7--8]

I therefore have a challenge. Could someone please tell me the publisher and year of the book in which the quote appears, the page number and the context, eg. the sentences before and after the quote.


[1] Voltaire, Dictionnaire philosophique, comprenant les 118 articles parus sous ce titre du vivant de Voltaire avec leures suppléments parus dans les Questions sur l'Encyclopédie, Introduction, relevé des variants et notes par Julien Benda, Text établi par Raymond Naves, Garnier Frères, 1961, printed 1965.

[2] Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary, Translated by Theodore Besterman, Penguin Books, 1972, ISBN 0-14-044257-X.

[3] L'association Voltaire intégral, Oeuvres Complètes de Voltaire, Dictionnaire philosophique, Préface de la cinquième édition. (1765.)

leopardi 13:53, 14 December 2005 (UTC)

  • This quote, which Bartlett's and The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations cite as from "Dramatic Art" in the Dictionnaire philosophique, would appear to be based on the following:

1) In the 1772 poem, La Bégueule, [1] Voltaire begins with the lines:

Dans ses écrits un sage Italien
Dit que le mieux est l’ennemi du bien;

The footnote (# 22) on this page states: "Voltaire cite le vers italien dans son article Art dramatique du Dictionnaire philosophique."

2) The second Dictionnaire philosophique (as you have cited it in # 3 of your post) has an article "Art Dramatique" [2], which concludes with these lines:

C’est bien ici qu’on peut dire:

Il meglio è l’inimico del bene

It would seem to me, then, that the best way to present this quote would be to say that it is from La Bégueule, where it is in French, rather than from Art Dramatique. InvisibleSun 17:40, 14 December 2005 (UTC)

  • Thanks for your prompt reply. It would appear then, that the main Wikipedia article contains a number of incorrect attributions, especially in relation to dates.

The following articles appear in "Dictionnaire philosophique portratif" (1764 and later editions of "Dictionnaire philosophique") and are therefore correctly attributed in the main article:

"Atheist," "Character," "Equality," "Fatherland," "Prejudices," "Tolerance," "Tyranny."

The following article appears in "Dictionnaire philosophique portratif" (1765 and later editions of "Dictionnaire philosophique") and should be dated 1765 in the main article:

"Common Sense."

The following articles probably appear only in the Dictionnaire philosophique portion of the Complete Works, since they do not appear in my references [1] or [2]:

"Charity, [3]" "Divorce, [4]" "Dramatic Art, [5]" "Liberty of the Press, [6]"
"Man: General Reflection on Man, [7]" "Money [8]," "Oracles, [9]"
"Power, Omnipotence, [10]" "Prayers, [11]" "Rights. [12]"

The date of 1764 seems to be simply wrong for these articles. Each one of these could have been written at a different time for different purposes.

leopardi 15:06, 19 December 2005 (UTC)

  • In order to further refine the dating of the quotes from the Dictionnaire philosophique, they can be broken down into three categories based on the complicated publication history:

1) The Dictionnaire philosophique portatif, originally published in 1764. Later editions included additional articles and sometimes omitted previous material. It was printed through 1777 and went under a number of titles: Dictionnaire philosophique portatif; La Raison par alphabet; Dictionnaire philosophique, ou la Raison par alphabet; La Raison par alphabet, ou supplement au Questions sur l'Encyclopédie; and Fragments sur divers sujets par ordre alphabetique.

2) The Questions sur l'Encylopédie, in various editions from 1770 through 1774, including articles originally written as far back as 1752 and including a number of articles from the Dictionnaire philosophique portatif/La Raison par l'alphabet, some of them extensively rewritten.

3) The posthumous "édition de Kehl," 1785-1789, edited by Beaumarchais and others, which combined the above two categories and added: Opinion sur l'alphabet (an unpublished manuscript); articles Voltaire had written for l'Encyclopédie and for the Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française; and a number of previously published miscellaneous articles by Voltaire, dating over a long period. These works were all combined under the title Dictionnaire philosophique, as you had mentioned in your note above.

A brief summary of the history of the Dictionnaire philosophique can be found here: [13] and a thorough summary can be found in Beuchot's preface to the 1829 publication of the complete works of Voltaire [14]. Beuchot mentions that of all the articles now in the Dictionnaire philosophique, he could date all but about 40. He believed that these undated articles were all or mostly from the lost manuscript known as Opinion sur l'alphabet.

The Questions sur l'Encyclopédie can be found online: [15]. It contains a number of the quotes which, as you had cited above, are not found in the Dictionnaire philosophique portatif. Of the 20 quotes from the Dictionnaire currently on the Wikiquote Voltaire page, I have now been able to provide dates for all but three. This is based on Beuchot's dates provided in the online Dictionnaire philosophique [16] as well as the ones you had found in your sources. These quotes will thus be subdivided in Wikiquote as belonging to one of the three categories listed above. The Dictionnaire philosophique portatif quotations can all be dated back to 1764 or 1765. Some of the Questions sur l'Encyclopédie quotations have been dated by Beuchot to 1770 and 1771. The remaining Questions sur l'Encyclopédie quotations can be roughly dated from its publication dates of 1770-1774. This leaves the so-far undated three quotations (from the articles Civil and Ecclesiatic Laws, Liberty of the Press and Power/Omnipotence). These undated quotes, since no earlier source has been found for them, would be placed in the category of the Dictionnaire philosophique (i.e, the posthumous Kehl edition) and dated as such. In the case of one of the Questions sur l'Encyclopédie quotes, the previously discussed "Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien," I am going to transfer it to La Bégueule for reasons also discussed above. InvisibleSun 05:58, 2 January 2006 (UTC)


Some translation suggestions I have in skimming through a few of the quotes:

Le paradis terrestre est où je suis.
I am in earthly heaven.
Qui plume a, guerre a.
He who has pen, has war.

Notes: I don't know if the translations in the article are "official" or not, so I'm not sure if this post has any meaning. I also did not go through the whole list...these are only a few that have caught my eye so far. Setjw 23:21, 12 April 2006 (UTC)

Some of the translations have been in use for a long time; but I wouldn't consider them official all the same. Most of the quotations had not included the original French. Many of them had been placed, without sources, in the Attributed section. I then set about working on several tasks: 1) finding sources for as many of the attributed quotes as I could, placing the results in either the Sourced or Misattributed sections; 2) reviewing quotes already listed as Sourced to see if any corrections needed to be made; and 3) providing the original French for as many of the quotes as I could find. Whenever I thought that translations strayed far from the original or resulted in a questionable meaning, I changed them. One of the reasons I wanted to provide the French was to let us judge for ourselves as to accuracy of translation as well as skill in phrasing. This means that of the translations on the page, some are traditional, some are my own, and some are a bit of each. So there's nothing really official about the translations; nor is there reason for anyone to hold back on making corrections.

If I could presume to give opinions or advice on your suggestions, I would say:

1) "Qui plume a, guerre a" is difficult to translate into English, which is why I had settled for its standard translation. Your translation comes closer to the original phrasing. I would propose adding the indefinite articles, i.e., "Whoever has a pen, has a war." It would sound more natural, I think, to say it that way.

2) As for the other quote you mentioned, I would suggest that it alters the meaning to say "I am in earthly heaven." The meaning as I see it is that Paradise is something I take with me wherever I go. In the original it is the last line of a poem, Le Mondain [17]:

C’est bien en vain que, par l’orgueil séduits,
Huet, Calmet, dans leur savante audace,
Du paradis ont recherché la place:
Le paradis terrestre est où je suis.

Preserving the original ten syllables of each line, I would translate it as this:

It is quite in vain that, seduced by pride,
Huet and Calmet, in learned boldness,
Have discovered the site of Paradise:
For paradise on earth is where I am.

This context shows better what Voltaire was saying; since only the final line, however, is the one that is quotable, I would eliminate the "For" and simply say: "Paradise on earth is where I am." What would be your opinion on that?

My apologies for writing at such length. InvisibleSun 03:09, 13 April 2006 (UTC)

I was unaware of the context of the second quote, so I agree with your translation of it. Maybe if I had looked up the source of the quote I would have not been so...critical, I suppose. Anyways, I like your translation because it gives it a sense of "poesie"...

As for the other quote, I definitely agree that it is very difficult to translate. I don't think any English translation will ever fit the harshness/punctual effect the words have. Maybe it's a question of opinion, but I consider "Whoever has a pen, has a war" a little "soft", if you know what I mean. I agree it sounds more natural, but Voltaire's "inversions" provide an un-natural feel to the text. What do you think? Maybe we should look for some less "literal" translations (i.e. your "to hold", which is not in the original quote).

A final note, thanks so much for the work you've done! And don't worry about the length of your responses =)...
Setjw 14:04, 14 April 2006 (UTC)

Voltaire's views on race[edit]

A WP user transwikied a page of quotes to Wikisource improperly without doing anything to preserve edit history. I feel they should be transwikied here before I delete them but it is a mess with no translator info and unknown copright status. I do not want to dump this on your page, nor do I wany anythin potentially useful to be lost. So I hope that you do not mind if I dump it on your talk page here. Hopefully this is an acceptable compromise. If anyone has a dual admin at en.WP the above heading was the name of the article and you should be able to extract the edit history if you need it. s:User:BirgitteSB-- 18:08, 3 December 2006 (UTC)

Voltaire's views on race were mostly expressed in his work Essai sur les mœurs.

The Voltaire article on WP has been on my watchlist for a long while. Observing all the controversy on this subject in that article, I knew that it would be just a matter of time before it showed up here as well. With Voltaire as part of my watchlist here, I've been working, among other things, on incorporating all new entries for sourcing, placing in chronological order, finding and including the original French, etc. So I'll work on this also, but not adding all of it by any means: the sheer volume of the quotes is highly redundant and disproportionate to the total quotes on the page. It's disproportionate as well in that this particular subject was only a fraction of Voltaire's concerns in general. I'll select those quotes which express themselves the most succinctly and essentially, which will suffice.

It's been a problem with transwikied quotes, as I've sometimes noticed, that they are given to just this sort of massive redundancy, exhaustively quoting everything that can be found on one particular subject. On Wikiquote, however, we realize it's bad for an article to quote the same opinions over and again just because someone had in fact said them all. It's overkill in every sense: it harms the articles, making them obsessive and disproportionate on particular subjects; and it's pointless, since there's no need to make the same points many times. - InvisibleSun 18:43, 3 December 2006 (UTC)

Black people[edit]

Voltaire held that Black people, whom he called "animals", were a peculiar species of human because of what he perceived as great differences from other humans, both physically and mentally:

I see monkeys, elephants, negroes, who all seem to have some gleam of an imperfect reason. They have a language that I do not hear, and all their actions appear to also refer to a certain end. If I judged things by the first effect they make on me, I would have the leaning one to believe that of all these beings it is the elephant which is the reasonable animal. —Voltaire, Traité de Métaphysique>> (1734)

I thus suppose myself arrived to Africa, surrounded by negroes, Hottentots, and other animals. —Voltaire, Traité de Métaphysique (1734)

What I met of different in the negroes animals? (…) their feeling and thinking faculty grows with their bodies, and weakens with them, perishes with them. That we pours the blood of a monkey and a negro, there will be soon in one and the other a degree of exhaustion which will put them out of state to recognize me; soon after their external directions do not act any more, and finally they die. Finally I see men who appear superior to me than these negroes, as these negros are it with the monkeys, and as the monkeys are it with oysters and other animals of this species. —Voltaire, Traité de Métaphysique (1734)

Their round eyes, their flat nose, theirs lips always thick, their differently-shaped ears, the wool of their head, the measure itself of their intelligence, puts between them and other species of human prodigious differences. And that which shows that they do not owe this difference to their climate, it is that Negroes, transported in the coldest countries, there produce animals of their species, and that the mulattos are only a bastard race of a Black man and of a White woman, or of a White man and of a Black woman. —Voltaire, Essai sur les mœurs (1756) Tome 1, page 7

It is not improbable that in the hot countries monkeys subjugated girls. Herodotus, in the Book II, said that during his trip in Egypt there was a woman who publicly coupled herself whith a goat in the province of Mendès (...) It is thus necessary that these couplings were common; and until one is better cleared up, it is to be supposed that monsterous species have been born from these abominable loves. But if they existed, they could not influence mankind; and, similar to the mules, who do not generate, they could not denature the other races. —Voltaire, Essai sur les mœurs (1756) Tome 1, page 8

The same providence which produced the elephant, the rhinoceros and Negroes, gave birth in another world to moose, condors, animals who believed a long time they have the navel on the back, and men of a character which is not ours. —Voltaire, Essai sur les mœurs (1756) Tome 1, page 38

Whites, negroes, reds, Lapps, Samoyèdes and Albinos, do not certainly come from the same ground. The difference between all these species is also marked than a greyhound and a barbet spaniel; there is thus just a slab badly informed and heading who can claim that all the men go down from the Indian Adimo and his wife. —Voltaire, Essai sur les mœurs (1756) Tome 2, page 49

We looked a them in the same eye that we see the Negroes, like a lower species of men. —Voltaire, Essai sur les mœurs (1756)

The nature subordinated to this principle these various degrees and these characters of the nations, that we seldom sees change. It is by there that the Negroes are the slaves of the other men. We buy them on the coasts of Africa like animals. —Voltaire, Essai sur les mœurs (1756)

The race of the Negroes is a species of men different from ours … we can say that if their intelligence is not from another species of our understanding, she is much lower. They are not able of a great attention, they combine little and do not appear made nor for the advantages, nor for the abuses of our philosophy. They are originate from this part of Africa like the elephants and the monkeys; they think they are born in Guinea to be sold to the whites and to serve them. —Voltaire, Essai sur les mœurs (1756) Tome 16, pages 269–270

He also wrote of the culture of Native Americans:

All the rest of this vast continent [of America] was shared, and still is, by small societies to whom the arts are unknown. All these peoples live in huts; they wear the skin of animals in cold climates, and go nearly naked in the temperate ones. Some feed from hunting, others on roots that they knead. They have not seeked another way of life, because one does not desire that which one does not know. Their industry has been unable to go beyond their urgent needs. Samoyèdes, Lapps, habitants of the north of Siberia, those of Kamtschatka, are even less advanced than the people of the America. Most of the Negroes, all Kaffirs, are plunged in the same stupidity, and they will stagnate a long time. —Voltaire, Essai sur les mœurs (1756) Tome 1, page 11

Voltaire expressed much the same views in his personal correspondence:

It is a serious question among them whether [the Africans] are descended from monkeys or whether the monkeys come from them. Our wise men have said that man was created in the image of God. Now here is a lovely image of the Divine Maker: a flat and black nose with little or hardly any intelligence. A time will doubtless come when these animals will know how to cultivate the land well, beautify their houses and gardens, and know the paths of the stars: one needs time for everything.[1] —Voltaire, Lettres d'Annabed


Voltaire's viewpoint on Jews reveals virulent anti-Semitism on his behalf:

If we read the history of the Jews written by an author of another nation, we would have sorrow to believe that there were indeed fugitive people of Egypt which came by express order from God immoler seven or eight small nations that they didn't know; to cut the throat without mercy of a woman, old men and children with the udder, and to reserve only the small girls; that these holy people were punished of his God when it had been enough criminal to save only one man devoted to the anathema. We would not believe that so abominable people (Jews) had been able to exist on the earth. But as this nation itself brings back all its facts in its holy books to us, it should be believed. —Voltaire, Essai sur les mœurs (1756) Tome 1, pages 158–159

[The Jewish nation] dares spread an irreconcilable hatred against all nations; it revolts against all its masters. Always superstitious, always avid of the well-being enjoyed by others, always barbarous, crawling in misfortune, and insolent in prosperity. Here are what were the Jews in the eyes of the Greeks and the Romans who could read their books. —Voltaire, Essai sur les mœurs (1756) Tome 1, page 186

If these Ismaélites (Arabs) resembled to the Jews by the enthusiasm and the thirst for plundering, they were prodigiously higher by courage, by the nobility of soul, by the magnanimity: their history, or true or fabulous, before Mahomet, is filled of examples of friendship, such as Greece invented some in the fables of Pilade and Oreste, of Thésée and Pirithous. The history of Barmécides is only one continuation of amazing generosities which raise the heart. These features characterize a nation. We do not see on the contrary, in all annals of the Hebrew people, no generous action. They do not know nor hospitality, nor liberality, nor leniency. Their sovereign happiness is to exert wear with the foreigners; and this spirit of wear, principle of any cowardice, is so natural in their hearts, that it is the continual object of the figures that they employ in the species of eloquence which is proper for them. Their glory is to put at fire and blood the small villages they can seize. They cut the throat of the old men and the children; they hold only the girls nubiles; they assassinate their Masters when they are slaves; they can never forgive when they are victorious: they are enemy of the human mankind. No courtesy, no science, no art improved in any time, in this atrocious nation. —Voltaire, Essai sur les mœurs (1756) Tome 2, page 83

You seem to me to be the maddest of the lot. The Kaffirs, the Hottentots, and the Negroes of Guinea are much more reasonable and more honest people than your ancestors, the Jews. You have surpassed all nations in impertinent fables in bad conduct and in barbarism. You deserve to be punished, for this is your destiny.[2] —Voltaire, From a letter to a Jew who had written to him, complaining of his antisemitism in L'Essai sur le Moeurs

… [Jews] are, all of them, born with raging fanaticism in their hearts, just as the Bretons and the Germans are born with blond hair. I would not be in the least bit surprised if these people would not some day become deadly to the human race.[2] —Voltaire, Lettres de Memmius a Ciceron (1771)

I know that there are some Jews in the English colonies. These marranos go wherever there is money to be made... But whether these circumcised who sell old clothes claim that they are of the tribe of Naphtali or Issachar is not of the slightest importance. They are, simply, the biggest scoundrels who have ever dirtied the face of the earth." —Voltaire, Letter to Jean-Baptiste Nicolas de Lisle de Sales, December 15, 1773. Correspondance. 86:166

None of these quotes support a charge of "virulent anti-semitism": that strikes me as an almost hysterical exaggeration. Anti-Jewish prejudice, perhaps. Anti-Judaism, certainly. But a lot of this material refers to the stories told in the Hebrew Bible, which any philosophe would have regarded with distaste if not disgust.
What is more, Voltaire wrote admiringly of "The Extraordinary Tolerance of the Jews" in his 1763 Treatise on Tolerance. In the recent Cambridge translation, for example we find the following: "In a word, if one is to examine Judaism closely, one will be surprised to find, in the midst of barbaric horrors, a most extraordinary spirit of tolerance. Yes, it is a paradox, but nearly all people have been governed by some measure of contradiction; happy are those whose society is gentle though their laws be bloody." (p. 63)
This is hardly the sort of thing a "virulent anti-semite" would have written.--Cliodule 16:44, 24 March 2010 (UTC)

I've removed this original apology from the main page "Note: Despite the apparent antisemitic sentiment in this quote, Voltaire wrote much that attacked hatred of the Jews. He considered all of "antiquity" to share the qualities he lists above as belonging to the Jewish people, and is not attempting to insult all Jews." That Voltaire attacked hatred of Jews shows nothing about his position on Jews themselves. If he considered the conduct of Jews a mere 'sign of the times', then let him say so. With the option to generalize he doesn't, so let his words stand faithfully for each to discern their proper context.Aero13792468 01:26, 5 March 2011 (UTC)

In my earlier response to s:User:BirgitteSB, I had mentioned that I would add some of the above transwikied quotes to this article. Now that I have begun to do this, I have discovered that these translations are so poor as to be unusable. Examples:

What I met of different in the negroes animals?

There is thus just a slab badly informed and heading who can claim that all the men go down from the Indian Adimo and his wife.

Their sovereign happiness is to exert wear with the foreigners.

Finally I see men who appear superior to me than these negroes, as these negros are it with the monkeys, and as the monkeys are it with oysters and other animals of this species.

And so on. I have therefore followed the link provided by this user for 18th Century Racism and have found better translations. I then chose three of these quotations as being all that an article this size would need or could justify proportionally. Finally, I found the original French for these quotes and provided links to the text sources. - InvisibleSun 08:48, 28 December 2006 (UTC)

Voltaire's pessimistic quote[edit]

The one where he admits happiness is but a dream? —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) January 12, 2007 at 7:10 (UTC)

"Happiness is but a dream and sorrow is real." [Le bonheur n'est qu'un rêve et la douleur est réelle.] - Voltaire, letter to M. le marquis de Florian, Verney (16 March 1774), from Oeuvres Complètes de Voltaire: Correspondance [Garnier frères, Paris, 1882, ed. Georges Bengesco], vol. XVI, letter # 9067 (p. 583) - InvisibleSun 23:08, 12 January 2007 (UTC)

"History is the lie commonly agreed upon."[edit]

This is very similar to another quote attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte. 20:33, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

I was thinking of moving the quote from Unsourced to Misattributed; but since the attribution to Napoleon is also uncertain, I decided to leave it as an Unsourced quote on the Voltaire page. It does, however, resemble the following Sourced quote on the Napoleon page (see under Memoirs of Napoleon): "What then is, generally speaking, the truth of history ? A fable agreed upon." - InvisibleSun 20:42, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

Here is another one found on the net: "The Best Way to Be Boring is to Leave Nothing Out" - is this really Voltaire? -- 09:46, 26 February 2008 (UTC)

It's already on the Voltaire page:

*Le secret d'ennuyer est celui de tout dire.
** The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.

** "Sixième discours: sur la nature de l'homme," Sept Discours en Vers sur l'Homme (1738) - InvisibleSun 14:11, 26 February 2008 (UTC)


I have seen this quote attributed to Voltaire on several websites: "Ice-cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn't illegal." Anyone know where it is from? == Answer : the sentence does not exist in French (no reported written sources). It seems to be a English pseudo-quote, spreading from a fake/joke into the internet. ==


Got this quote: "Give me 10 minutes to talk away my ugly face and I'll bed the Queen of France", but no idea wheter it really is Voltaire. Would like to see the context, though.


  • Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.
  • Doctors are men who pour drugs of which they know little, to cure diseases of which they know less, into human beings of whom they know nothing.
  • God created sex. Priests created marriage.
  • History is the lie commonly agreed upon.
  • I decided to be happy, it is excellent for one's health.
    • Original: J'ai décidé d'être heureux, c'est excellent pour la santé.
  • I was only abused by lawyers twice in my life — once when I was sued by one and once when I hired one.
  • If you see a Swiss banker jumping out of a window, follow him, there is sure to be a profit in it.
  • Is it any wonder that there are atheists in the world, when the church behaves so abominably?
  • Marriage is the only adventure open to the cowardly.
  • No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.
  • Now is no time to be making new enemies.
    • When asked on his deathbed by a priest to renounce the devil and turn to God.
  • Prejudices are what fools use for reason.
  • The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the diseases.
  • The man who leaves money to charity in his will is only giving away what no longer belongs to him.
    • Source: Letter
  • The multitude of books is making us ignorant.
  • The perfect form of government is democracy tempered by assassination.
  • Think for yourselves, and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.
    • Source reputed to be the Essay on Tolerance, but not found there
      • I have found "The Works of M. de Voltaire: Miscellanies in history, literature and philosophy" (1762) original edition (p. 114) -- Indeed, "On Toleration" essay title.
  • To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid; you must also be well-mannered.

no time to make new enemies[edit]

apparently Voltaire said "This is no time to make new enemies." when asked on his deathbed to forswear Satan.

i assume this is myth but does anyone know when it came about? it would be good to add it in wikiquotes.

My understanding is this was said by Machiavelli. Considering Voltaire was the same kind of guy, it's possible the quote has been attributed to him. But I'm searching for documentation attributing it to Machiavelli.

"Cherish those who seek the truth but beware of those who find it."[edit]

This quote is frequently attributed to Voltaire, but I couldn't find any mention of it here. It would be nice to now if it's a real quote or misattribution.

This one is by André Gide: "Croyez ceux qui cherchent la vérité, doutez de ceux qui la trouvent". --Omnipaedista (talk) 03:17, 3 November 2013 (UTC)

The most courageous decision you make each day is the decision to be in a good mood[edit]

Attributed to Voltaire (very sharp quote), very quoted, but I have never seen the precise location of this quote.

Re: the above, the oldest (c. 2001) example I can find is in this file, which appears to be an excerpt from Teaching for Excellence by Robert E. Glenn: [18]. I also find lots of later examples with the word "courageous" changed to "important". Szarka (talk) 16:52, 24 May 2013 (UTC)

"I must die, abandoned of God and of man."[edit]

Hello there. This one is a quote that some people on the net claim Voltaire made at his deathbed. I want to know whether that is true or false, because I've seen that people have different versions about his last words. Robert E. Lucas, for instance, claims that he said "Now is no time to be making new enemies". Thanks in advance. --Goose friend (talk) 07:01, 18 August 2013 (UTC)

It depends on whom you believe. In Explication du Catéchisme (1821), it is claimed that Voltaire cried, Je suis donc abandonné de Dieu et des hommes! on his deathbed, but I for one find it very hard to take these accounts given by Christians seriously. Take the following passage, this time from 2001 (J. Phillips, Exploring Psalms, Vol. I, p. 33) —
For two long months the wretched man [Voltaire] was tormented with such agony of soul that he was seen to gnash his teeth in rage against God and man. At other times he would whimper like a kitten. He would turn his face to the wall and cry out: "I must die—abandoned of God and of men." As his end drew near, his spiritual condition became so frightful that his unbelieving friends feared to approach his bed, but still they mounted their guard so that others might not see how dreadful was the end of an infidel.
A GoogleBooks search for "I must die—abandoned of God and of men" gives several hits (e.g., one from a jornal of 1880, The Christian Foundation, &c.), but predictably only from Christian publications.
The story where Voltaire says (when asked to renounce Satan) "This is no time to make new enemies" sounds more plausible, to the non-believers at any rate, but it is equally open to question. Incidentally, this is why atheist Richard Dawkins wants to have, on his deathbed, a tape recorder switched on. As Bertrand Russell put it, referring to deathbed conversions, Religious people, most of them, think that it's a virtuous act to tell lies about the deathbeds of agnostics and such. As a matter of fact, it doesn't happen very often. ~ DanielTom (talk) 12:38, 18 August 2013 (UTC)
It sounds more like an urban myth.
I just seek the truth. Voltaire saying "Je meurs en adorant Dieu, en aimant mes amis, en ne haïssant pas mes ennemis et en détestant la superstition"[1] sounds indeed more real if one takes into account what Voltaire himself wrote in his Philosophical Dictionary, rejecting the Catholic church, but telling to Jesus "I take you for my only master."[1]

Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.[edit]

Current entry is:

   Le doute n'est pas une condition agréable, mais la certitude est absurde.
       Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is [an] absurd [one].
           Letter to Frederick II of Prussia (6 April 1767).

The French original is incorrect as is the attribution. I take my evidence from:

Letter to Frederick William, Prince of Prussia, 1770 Nov 28. In S.G. Tallentyre (ed.), Voltaire in His Letters. New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons. 1919. p.232

A Frédéric-Guillaume. In Oeuvres complètes de Voltaire, Tome Trente-Troisième; edition de Ch. Lahure et Cie. Paris : Librairie de L. Hachetteet Cie. 1861. p.291

Au prince royal de prusse, le 28 novembre. In Oeuvres complètes de Voltaire, Tome Dixième. Paris : Chez Furne. 1836. p. 522.

Au prince royal de prusse, 28 novembre. In M. Palissot (ed.), Oeuvres de Voltaire: Lettres Choisies du Roi de Prusse et de M. de Voltaire, Tome II. Paris : Chez Baudoiun. 1802. p. 419.

Unfortunately, both these errors are repeated often on the web and in books. The given French statement appears to be a back translation into French from a popular English translation of Voltaire's original statement. The original French is: Le doute n'est pas une état bien agréable, mais l'assurance est un état ridicule.

Belastro (talk) 03:50, 5 September 2013 (UTC)

"not allowed to criticize" misattributed quote[edit]

I don't know where it came from originally. I first heard a version around 2005 from a mainstream media outlet which allegedly was from a reporter who had been stationed all over the world and spoke from experience (he was referring to some Arab country, I believe). I did an internet search of the quote and the year 2010 and easily found this on reddit from 2010, allegedly from Voltaire. Similarly this quote used in 2009. I also found it on a feminist site critical of one form of what they consider patriarchal behavior here. (Have searched for reporter quote but not found either.)

So let's not damn the quote because one bad actor used it. Now maybe there is some variation from Voltaire. I tried a few variations in books google but didn't find anything relevant. It would be nice to pin it down. Carolmooredc (talk) 19:32, 15 October 2013 (UTC)

It originally came from Kevin Strom in 1993,_kevin/kevin_strom_works/Kevin_Strom_1991-1994/Kevin_A._Strom_19930814-ADV_All_America_Must_Know_the_Terror_That_Is_Upon_Us.html The sites you linked to are just misattributing it to Voltaire. Drsmoo (talk) 00:21, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

New quote about doctors[edit]

Today I have found a quote supposedly by Voltaire: "Doctors are men who prescribe medicine of which they know little, to cure diseases of which they know less, for human beings of which they know nothing." I can't verify this one. It appears on many websites, but none of them reveals the source. If it is misattributed, it should be mentioned in the section. (sorry for my bad english, I didn't use it much in the past 2 years) -- 16:07, 15 January 2014 (UTC)

This attribution to Voltaire appears in Strauss' Familiar Medical Quotations (1968), p. 394, and in publications as early as 1956 [19]. In trying to find the original in French, I came across the following: "Les médecins administrent des médicaments dont ils savent très peu, à des malades dont ils savent moins, pour guérir des maladies dont ils ne savent rien.", which is also often quoted and attributed to Voltaire, but only in rather recent publications, which leads me to think Voltaire never did write it. I will add this to the main article under "Attributed" if no one opposes, though. Thanks for your comment. ~ DanielTom (talk) 16:53, 15 January 2014 (UTC)