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Bidding Information
Lot #    19657
Auction End Date    1/8/2008 11:45:30 AM (mm/dd/yyyy)
Title Information
Title (English)    Un chrétien contre six juifs
Author    Voltaire
City    Londres [i.e. Amsterdam]
Publisher    [Marc-Michel Rey]
Publication Date    1777
Collection Information
Independent Item    This listing is an independent item not part of any collection
Description Information
   [2], 188 pp. octavo 180:120 mm., wide margins, light age staining. A very good copy bound in contemporary boards.
Paragraph 1    The imprint is false; printed in Amsterdam by Marc-Michel Rey (cf. BN catalog).
   Famous response of Voltaire to the well known Lettres de plusieurs Juifs Portugais etc. of Abbé Antoine Guénée (1717-1803). Abbé Guené, had defended the Bible against the attacks of Voltaire, embodied in De Pinto's apology together with the correspondence to which it gave rise. Voltaire replied in this work without actually taking up the Jewish question.

Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet; 16941778) was a French philosopher. No writer contributed so much as Voltaire to the destruction of the traditional beliefs fundamental to European society before the French Revolution: belief in the divine right of monarchy, in the legitimacy of the privileges of the nobility, and in the infallibility of the Church. Voltaire's philosophical convictions were those of a deist, not an atheist. It is also noteworthy that he attacked the biblical belief in the unity of mankind; to blacks, for instance, he attributed an inferior and separate origin. The better to ridicule the established Church, or, in his own words "Écraser l'Infâme," Voltaire preferred to concentrate his attacks on the Old Testament and its followers, the Jews; this he did in such a manner that in antisemitic campaigns in the following centuries he was used as an authority and frequently quoted. From the psychological point of view it seems that the antisemitism of Voltaire, far from being a tactical stratagem, expressed in the facility of his attacks against the Jews, was primarily a result of his hatred for the Church. For instance, it is characteristic of Voltaire that in his polemics with Isaac de Pinto, he forgot the habitual formula which followed his usual way of signing, "Écrasez l'Infâme," and signed instead: "Voltaire, chrétien gentilhomme de la chambre du Roi très-chrétien." Historically speaking, Voltaire's outlook was a powerful contribution to the creation of the mental climate which made possible the emancipation of the Jews, but at the same time it prepared the ground for the future racial antisemitism. Just after Voltaire's death, Zalkind Hourwitz, librarian to the king of France, wrote: "The Jews forgive him all the evil he did to them because of all the good he brought them, perhaps unwittingly; for they have enjoyed a little respite for a few years now and this they owe to the progress of the Enlightenment, to which Voltaire surely contributed more than any other writer through his numerous works against fanaticism." Two centuries later this judiciously balanced judgment seems to have been only partially warranted. Recent scholars such as A. Hertzberg have seen Voltaire as one of the founders of modern secular anti-Semitism.

   EJ; JE
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Listing Classification
18th Century:    Checked
Holland:    Checked
Language:    French
Manuscript Type
Kind of Judaica