Voltaire Quotes 111 Sourced Quotes

François-Marie Arouet (November 21, 1694 – May 30, 1778), famous using his pen name Voltaire, was a French writer, deist and philosopher.

Here are 111 real Voltaire quotes ordered by their popularity online. The most quoted quotes on the web appear first. Questionable and fake quotes are excluded. Sources and related information are shown after each quote. We hope you find these quotes useful. If there is anything we can do to improve this article, your feedback is welcome. If you find these quotes helpful, please share them.

1. “Ne ressemblons-nous pas presque tous à ce vieux général de quatre-vingt-dix ans, qui, ayant rencontré de jeunes officiers qui faisaient un peu de désordre avec des filles, leur dit tout en colère: ‘Messieurs, est-ce là l’exemple que je vous donne?’”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Dictionnaire philosophique portatif (1764) Do not most of us resemble that old general of ninety who, having come upon some young officers debauching some girls, said to them angrily: "Gentlemen, is that the example I give you?"
 • "Character" (1764).

2. “Si Dieu n'existait pas, il faudrait l'inventer.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.
 • Épître à l'Auteur du Livre des Trois Imposteurs (10 November 1770).

3. “‘Si Dieu n'existait pas, il faudrait l'inventer.’ Mais toute la nature nous crie qu'il existe; qu'il y a une intelligence suprême, un pouvoir immense, un ordre admirable, et tout nous instruit de notre dépendance.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: "If God did not exist, he would have to be invented." But all nature cries aloud that he does exist: that there is a supreme intelligence, an immense power, an admirable order, and everything teaches us our own dependence on it.
 • Voltaire quoting himself in his Letter to Prince Frederick William of Prussia (28 November 1770), translated by S.G. Tallentyre, Voltaire in His Letters (1919).

4. “‘A false science makes atheists, a true science prostrates men before the Deity’”

—Voltaire

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Source: The critical review, or annals of literature, Volume XXVI, by A Society of Gentlemen (1768) p. 450

5. “Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: The best is the enemy of the good.
 • "La Bégueule" (Contes, 1772)
 • Variant translations: The perfect is the enemy of the good.
The better is the enemy of the good.
 • Note: Voltaire cites this saying in his poem "La Bégueule" ("The prude woman") while ascribing it to an unnamed "Italian sage"; he also gives the saying (without attribution) in Italian (Il meglio è l'inimico del bene) in the article "Art Dramatique" ("Dramatic Art", 1770) in the Dictionnaire philosophique.

6. “Aime la vérité, mais pardonne à l'erreur.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Love truth, but pardon error.
 • "Deuxième discours: de la liberté," Sept Discours en Vers sur l'Homme (1738).

7. “Le paradis terrestre est où je suis.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Paradise on earth is where I am.
 • Le Mondain (1736).

8. “Le superflu, chose très nécessaire.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: The superfluous, a very necessary thing.
  • Poem Le Mondain (1736).

9. “Le secret d'ennuyer est celui de tout dire.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: 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).

10. “Il vaut mieux hasarder de sauver un coupable que de condamner un innocent.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: It is better to risk sparing a guilty person than to condemn an innocent one.
 • Zadig (1747).

11. “On dit quelquefois: ‘Le sens commun est fort rare.’”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Dictionnaire philosophique portatif (1764) People sometimes say: "Common sense is quite rare."
 • "Common Sense" (1765)
 • Note: The better known variant of this quote is "Common sense is not so common," found in the Philosophical Dictionary entry "Common sense" [sens commun].

12. “Tous les genres sont bons, hors le genre ennuyeux.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: All styles are good except the boring kind.
 • L'Enfant prodigue: comédie en vers dissillabes (1736), Preface.

13. “Si Dieu nous a faits à son image, nous le lui avons bien rendu.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: If God has made us in his image, we have returned him the favor.
 • Notebooks (c.1735-c.1750).

14. “Il est dangereux d’avoir raison dans des choses où des hommes accrédités ont tort.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: It is dangerous to be right in matters where established men are wrong.
 • "Catalogue pour la plupart des écrivains français qui ont paru dans Le Siècle de Louis XIV, pour servir à l'histoire littéraire de ce temps," Le Siècle de Louis XIV (1752)
 • Note: The most frequently attributed variant of this quote is: It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.

15. “I cannot imagine how the clockwork of the universe can exist without a clockmaker.”

—Voltaire

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Source: As attributed in More Random Walks in Science : An Anthology (1982) by Robert L. Weber, p. 65.

16. “Qu’est-ce que la tolérance? c’est l’apanage de l’humanité. Nous sommes tous pétris de faiblesses et d’erreurs; pardonnons-nous réciproquement nos sottises, c’est la première loi de la nature.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Dictionnaire philosophique portatif (1764) What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly — that is the first law of nature.
 • "Tolerance" (1764).

17. “On doit des egards aux vivants; on ne doit aux morts que la verite.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: We should be considerate to the living; to the dead we owe only the truth.
 • Letter to M. de Grenonville (1719).

18. “C'est un poids bien pesant qu'un nom trop tôt fameux.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Quite a heavy weight, a name too quickly famous.
 • La Henriade, chant troisième, l.41 (1722).

19. “On dit que Dieu est toujours pour les gros bataillons.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: It is said that God is always on the side of the big battalions.
 • Letter to François-Louis-Henri Leriche (6 February 1770)
 • Note: In his Notebooks (c.1735-c.1750), Voltaire wrote: God is not on the side of the big battalions, but on the side of those who shoot best.

20. “Qui plume a, guerre a.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: To hold a pen is to be at war.
 • Letter to Jeanne-Grâce Bosc du Bouchet, comtesse d'Argental (4 October 1748)
 • This remark also appears in a letter to Marie-Louise Denis (22 May 1752): To hold a pen is to be at war. This world is one vast temple consecrated to discord [Qui plume a, guerre a. Ce monde est un vaste temple dédié à la discorde].

21. “Quand il s’agit d’argent, tout le monde est de la même religion.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: When it is a question of money, everybody is of the same religion.
 • Letter to Mme. d'Épinal, Ferney (26 December 1760) from Oeuvres Complètes de Voltaire: Correspondance (Garnier frères, Paris, 1881), vol. IX, letter # 4390 (p. 124).

22. “L'homme est libre au moment qu'il veut l'être.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Man is free at the instant he wants to be.
 • Source Brutus, act II, scene I (1730).

23. “C'est une des superstitions de l'esprit humain d'avoir imaginé que la virginité pouvait être une vertu.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: It is one of the superstitions of the human mind to have imagined that virginity could be a virtue.
 • Notebooks (c.1735-c.1750)
 • Note: This quotation and the three that follow directly below are from the so-called Leningrad Notebook, also known as Le Sottisier; it is one of several posthumously published notebooks of Voltaire.

24. “Ce corps qui s'appelait et qui s'appelle encore le saint empire romain n'était en aucune manière ni saint, ni romain, ni empire.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: This agglomeration which was called and which still calls itself the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.
 • Essai sur l'histoire générale et sur les mœurs et l'esprit des nations, Chapter 70 (1756).

25. “Il est défendu de tuer; tout meurtrier est puni, à moins qu’il n’ait tué en grande compagnie, et au son des trompettes.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Questions sur l'Encyclopédie (1770–1774) It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.
 • "Rights" (1771)

26. “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.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: 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.
• Note: This attribution to Voltaire appears in Strauss' Familiar Medical Quotations (1968), p. 394, and in publications as early as 1956 http://books.google.pt/books?id=lCtCAQAAIAAJ&q=%22Doctors+are+men+who+prescribe+medicine+of%22&dq=%22Doctors+are+men+who+prescribe+medicine+of%22&hl=pt-PT&sa=X&ei=mbnWUsvDIfTB7Aaw_YD4Dw&redir_esc=y; the quotation in French does not, however, appear to be original, and is probably a relatively modern invention, only quoted in recent (21st century) published works, which attribute it to "Voltaire" without citing any source.

27. “Les mortels sont égaux; ce n'est pas la naissance, C'est la seule vertu qui fait la différence.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: All men are equal; it is not their birth,
But virtue itself that makes the difference.
 • Eriphile, act II, scene I (1732); these lines were also used in Mahomet, act I, scene IV (1741).

28. “Prier Dieu c'est se flatter qu'avec des paroles on changera toute la nature.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: To pray to God is to flatter oneself that with words one can alter nature.
 • Notebooks (c.1735-c.1750).

29. “La superstition est à la religion ce que l’astrologie est à l’astronomie, la fille très folle d’une mère très sage. Ces deux filles ont longtemps subjugué toute la terre.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Superstition is to religion what astrology is to astronomy, the mad daughter of a wise mother. These daughters have too long dominated the earth.
 • "Whether it is useful to maintain the people in superstition," Treatise on Toleration (1763).

30. “Ils ne se servent de la pensée que pour autoriser leurs injustices, et n'emploient les paroles que pour déguiser leurs pensées.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Men use thought only as authority for their injustice, and employ speech only to conceal their thoughts.
 • Dialogue xiv, Le Chapon et la Poularde (l763); reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).

31. “Un bon mot ne prouve rien.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: A witty saying proves nothing.
 • Le dîner du comte de Boulainvilliers (1767): Deuxième Entretien.

32. “Je meurs en adorant Dieu, en aimant mes amis, en ne haïssant pas mes ennemis et en détestant la superstition.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: I die adoring God, loving my friends, not hating my enemies, and detesting superstition.
 • Déclaration de Voltaire, note to his secretary, Jean-Louis Wagnière (28 February 1778).

33. “Laissez lire, et laissez danser; ces deux amusements ne feront jamais de mal au monde.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.
 • "Liberty of the Press," Dictionnaire philosophique (1785-1789).

34. “On parle toujours mal quand on n'a rien à dire.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: One always speaks badly when one has nothing to say.
 • "Commentaires sur Corneille," Oeuvres complètes de Voltaire (1827).

35. “Nous cherchons tous le bonheur, mais sans savoir où, comme les ivrognes qui cherchent leur maison, sachant confusément qu'ils en ont une.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: We all look for happiness, but without knowing where to find it: like drunkards who look for their house, knowing dimly that they have one.
 • Notebooks (c.1735-c.1750)
 • A variation on this remark can be found in the same notebook: Men who look for happiness are like drunkards who cannot find their house but know that they have one [Les hommes qui cherchent le bonheur sont comme des ivrognes qui ne peuvent trouver leur maison, mais qui savent qu'ils en ont une].

36. “Un peuple qui trafique de ses enfants est encore plus condamnable que l’acheteur: ce négoce démontre notre supériorité; ce qui se donne un maître était né pour en avoir.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: A people that sells its own children is more condemnable than the buyer; this commerce demonstrates our superiority; he who gives himself a master was born to have one.
 • Essai sur les Moeurs et l'Espit des Nations (1753), ch. CXCVII: Résumé de toute cette histoire jusqu’au temps où commence le beau siècle de Louis XIV http://www.voltaire-integral.com/Html/13/02ESS197.html#197

37. “En effet, l'histoire n'est que le tableau des crimes et des malheurs.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Indeed, history is nothing more than a tableau of crimes and misfortunes.
 • L'Ingénu, ch.10 (1767)
 • Quoted in The End, part 13 of A Series of Unfortunate Events

38. “La morale est la même chez tous les hommes, donc elle vient de Dieu; le culte est différent, donc il est l’ouvrage des hommes.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Dictionnaire philosophique portatif (1764) Morality is everywhere the same for all men, therefore it comes from God; sects differ, therefore they are the work of men.
 • "Atheist" (1764).

39. “La foi consiste à croire ce que la raison ne croit pas.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Dictionnaire philosophique portatif (1764) Faith consists in believing what reason cannot.
 • "The Flood" (1764).

40. “Les hommes vertueux ont seuls des amis.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Dictionnaire philosophique portatif (1764) Virtuous men alone possess friends.
 • "Friendship" (1764).

41. “Le préjugé est une opinion sans jugement.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Dictionnaire philosophique portatif (1764) Prejudice is an opinion without judgement.
 • "Prejudices" (1764).

42. “Un ministre est excusable du mal qu’il fait, lorsque le gouvernail de l’État est forcé dans sa main par les tempêtes; mais dans le calme il est coupable de tout le bien qu’il ne fait pas.”

—Voltaire

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Source: A minister of state is excusable for the harm he does when the helm of government has forced his hand in a storm; but in the calm he is guilty of all the good he does not do.

43. “Elle [la nation juive] ose étaler une haine irréconciliable contre toutes les nations; elle se révolte contre tous ses maîtres. Toujours superstitieuse, toujours avide du bien d’autrui, toujours barbare, rampante dans le malheur, et insolente dans la prospérité.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: The Jewish nation dares to display an irreconcilable hatred toward all nations, and revolts against all masters; always superstitious, always greedy for the well-being enjoyed by others, always barbarous — cringing in misfortune and insolent in prosperity.
 • Essai sur les Moeurs et l'Esprit des Nations (1753), Introduction, XLII: Des Juifs depuis Saül http://www.voltaire-integral.com/Html/11/07INTFIN.html#i42

44. “En aimant tant la gloire, comment pouvez-vous vous obstiner à un projet qui vous la fera perdre?”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: While loving glory so much how can you persist in a plan which will cause you to lose it?
 • Letters of Voltaire and Frederick the Great (New York: Brentano's, 1927), transl. Richard Aldington, letter 130 from Voltaire to Frederick II of Prussia, October 1757. http://perso.orange.fr/dboudin/VOLTAIRE/39/1757/3426.html.

45. “Il y a des vérités qui ne sont pas pour tous les hommes et pour tous les temps.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: There are truths which are not for all men, nor for all times.
 • Letter to François-Joachim de Pierre, cardinal de Bernis (23 April 1764).

46. “Quoi que vous fassiez, écrasez l'infâme, et aimez qui vous aime.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Whatever you do, crush the infamous thing, and love those who love you.
 • Letter to Jean le Rond d'Alembert (28 November 1762); This was written in reference to crushing superstition, and the words "écrasez l'infâme" ("Crush the Infamy") became a motto strongly identified with Voltaire.

47. “Religion may be purified. This great work was begun two hundred years ago: but men can only bear light to come in upon them by degrees.”

—Voltaire

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Source: The critical review, or annals of literature, Volume XXVI, by A Society of Gentlemen (1768) p. 450

48. “J'ai toujours fait une prière à Dieu, qui est fort courte. La voici: Mon Dieu, rendez nos ennemis bien ridicules! Dieu m'a exaucé.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: I always made one prayer to God, a very short one. Here it is: "O Lord, make our enemies quite ridiculous!" God granted it.
 • Letter to Étienne Noël Damilaville (16 May 1767).

49. “Il est bien malaisé (puisqu’il faut enfin m’expliquer) d’ôter à des insensés des chaînes qu’ils révèrent.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.
 • Le dîner du comte de Boulainvilliers (1767): Troisième Entretien.

50. “C’est une grande question parmi eux s’ils [les africains] sont descendus des singes ou si les singes sont venus d’eux. Nos sages ont dit que l’homme est l’image de Dieu: voilà une plaisante image de l’Être éternel qu’un nez noir épaté, avec peu ou point d’intelligence! Un temps viendra, sans doute, où ces animaux sauront bien cultiver la terre, l’embellir par des maisons et par des jardins, et connaître la route des astres il faut du temps pour tout.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: It is a serious question among them whether they [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.
 • Les Lettres d'Amabed (1769): Septième Lettre d'Amabed http://www.voltaire-integral.com/Html/21/10AMABED.html.

51. “J'aime fort la vérité, mais je n'aime point du tout le martyre.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: I am very fond of truth, but not at all of martyrdom.
 • Letter to Jean le Rond d'Alembert (8 February 1776).

52. “Toutes les histoires anciennes, comme le disait un de nos beaux esprits, ne sont que des fables convenues.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Ancient histories, as one of our wits has said, are but fables that have been agreed upon.
 • Jeannot et Colin (1764)

53. “He advanced toward me without moving his hat, or making the least inclination of his body; but there appeared more real politeness in the open, humane air of his countenance, than in drawing one leg behind the other, and carrying that in the hand which is made to be worn on the head. ‘Friend,’ said he, ‘I perceive thou art a stranger, if I can do thee any service thou hast only to let me know it.’ ‘Sir,’ I replied, bowing my body, and sliding one leg toward him, as is the custom with us, ‘I flatter myself that my curiosity, which you will allow to be just, will not give you any offence, and that you will do me the honor to inform me of the particulars of your religion.’ ‘The people of thy country,’ answered the Quaker, ‘are too full of their bows and their compliments; but I never yet met with one of them who had so much curiosity as thyself. Come in and let us dine first together.’”

—Voltaire

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Source: The History of the Quakers (1762): "The History of the Quakers" in The Works of Voltaire (1762), Vol 13, as translated by Tobias George Smollett, Thomas Francklin, et al., later published as "The Religion of the Quakers", in The Works of Voltaire: A Contemporary Version with Notes (1901), Vol. 39, as modernized by William F. Fleming Voltaire's account of meeting the Quaker Andrew Pit.

54. “I opened with that which good Catholics have more than once made to Huguenots. ‘My dear sir,’ said I, ‘were you ever baptized?’ ‘No, friend,’ replied the Quaker, ‘nor any of my brethren.’ ‘Zounds!’ said I to him, ‘you are not Christians then!’ ‘Friend,’ replied the old man, in a soft tone of voice, ‘do not swear; we are Christians, but we do not think that sprinkling a few drops of water on a child's head makes him a Christian.’ ‘My God!’ exclaimed I, shocked at his impiety, ‘have you then forgotten that Christ was baptized by St. John?’ ‘Friend,’ replied the mild Quaker, ‘once again, do not swear. Christ was baptized by John, but He Himself never baptized any one; now we profess ourselves disciples of Christ, and not of John.’ ‘Mercy on us,’ cried I, ‘what a fine subject you would be for the holy inquisitor! In the name of God, my good old man, let me baptize you.’”

—Voltaire

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Source: The History of the Quakers (1762): "The History of the Quakers" in The Works of Voltaire (1762), Vol 13, as translated by Tobias George Smollett, Thomas Francklin, et al., later published as "The Religion of the Quakers", in The Works of Voltaire: A Contemporary Version with Notes (1901), Vol. 39, as modernized by William F. Fleming Voltaire's account of his conversations with Andrew Pit.

55. “It was in the reign of Charles II that they obtained the noble distinction of being exempted from giving their testimony on oath in a court of justice, and being believed on their bare affirmation. On this occasion the chancellor, who was a man of wit, spoke to them as follows: ‘Friends, Jupiter one day ordered that all the beasts of burden should repair to be shod. The asses represented that their laws would not allow them to submit to that operation. 'Very well,' said Jupiter; 'then you shall not be shod; but the first false step you make, you may depend upon being severely drubbed.'’”

—Voltaire

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Source: The History of the Quakers (1762): "The History of the Quakers" in The Works of Voltaire (1762), Vol 13, as translated by Tobias George Smollett, Thomas Francklin, et al., later published as "The Religion of the Quakers", in The Works of Voltaire: A Contemporary Version with Notes (1901), Vol. 39, as modernized by William F. Fleming

56. “I cannot guess what may be the fate of Quakerism in America; but I perceive it loses ground daily in England. In all countries, where the established religion is of a mild and tolerating nature, it will at length swallow up all the rest.”

—Voltaire

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Source: The History of the Quakers (1762): "The History of the Quakers" in The Works of Voltaire (1762), Vol 13, as translated by Tobias George Smollett, Thomas Francklin, et al., later published as "The Religion of the Quakers", in The Works of Voltaire: A Contemporary Version with Notes (1901), Vol. 39, as modernized by William F. Fleming

57. “Books, like conversation, rarely give us any precise ideas: nothing is so common as to read and converse unprofitably. We must here repeat what Locke has so strongly urged—Define your terms.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Dictionnaire philosophique portatif (1764) "Abuse of Words" (1764)
• C.f. Locke: "The names of simple ideas are not capable of any definition; the names of all complex ideas are. It has not, that I know, been yet observed by anybody what words are, and what are not, capable of being defined; the want whereof is (as I am apt to think) not seldom the occasion of great wrangling and obscurity in men's discourses, whilst some demand definitions of terms that cannot be defined; and others think they ought not to rest satisfied in an explication made by a more general word, and its restriction, (or to speak in terms of art, by a genus and difference), when, even after such definition, made according to rule, those who hear it have often no more a clear conception of the meaning of the word than they had before."
 • An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689) Book III, chapter 4.

58. “Sa réputation s’affermira toujours, parce qu’on ne le lit guère.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Dictionnaire philosophique portatif (1764) His reputation will go on increasing because scarcely anyone reads him.
 • "Dante" (1765).

59. “Une compagnie de graves tyrans est inaccessible à toutes les séductions.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Dictionnaire philosophique portatif (1764) A company of solemn tyrants is impervious to all seductions.
 • "Tyranny" (1764).

60. “La vertu suppose la liberté, comme le transport d’un fardeau suppose la force active. Dans la contrainte point de vertu, et sans vertu point de religion. Rends-moi esclave, je n’en serai pas meilleur. Le souverain même n’a aucun droit d’employer la contrainte pour amener les hommes à la religion, qui suppose essentiellement choix et liberté. Ma pensée n’est pas plus soumise à l’autorité que la maladie ou la santé.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Questions sur l'Encyclopédie (1770–1774) Virtue supposes liberty, as the carrying of a burden supposes active force. Under coercion there is no virtue, and without virtue there is no religion. Make a slave of me, and I shall be no better for it. Even the sovereign has no right to use coercion to lead men to religion, which by its nature supposes choice and liberty. My thought is no more subject to authority than is sickness or health.
 • "Canon Law: Ecclesiastical Ministry" (1771).

61. “En général, l’art du gouvernement consiste à prendre le plus d’argent qu’on peut à une grande partie des citoyens, pour le donner à une autre partie.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Questions sur l'Encyclopédie (1770–1774) In general, the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other.
 • "Money" (1770).

62. “La vertu s'avilit à se justifier.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Virtue debases in justifying itself.
 • Oedipe, act II, scene IV (1718).

63. “Les anciens Romains élevaient des prodiges d'architecture pour faire combattre des bêtes.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: The ancient Romans built their greatest masterpieces of architecture for wild beasts to fight in.
 • Letter addressed to "un premier commis" [name unknown] (20 June 1733), from Oeuvres Complètes de Voltaire: Correspondance [Garnier frères, Paris, 1880], vol. I, letter # 343 (p. 354).

64. “Où est l'amitié est la patrie.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Where there is friendship, there is our natural soil.
 • Letter to Nicolas-Claude Thieriot (1734).

65. “Tout homme sensé, tout homme de bien, doit avoir la secte chrétienne en horreur.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Every sensible man, every honorable man, must hold the Christian sect in horror.
 • Examen important de milord Bolingbroke (1736): Conclusion.

66. “Usez, n’abusez point; le sage ainsi l’ordonne. Je fuis également Épictète et Pétrone. L’abstinence ou l’excès ne fit jamais d’heureux.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Use, do not abuse; as the wise man commands. I flee Epictetus and Petronius alike. Neither abstinence nor excess ever renders man happy.
 • "Cinquième discours: sur la nature de plaisir," Sept Discours en Vers sur l'Homme (1738).

67. “Une seule partie de la physique occupe la vie de plusieurs hommes, et les laisse souvent mourir dans l'incertitude.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: A single part of physics occupies the lives of many men, and often leaves them dying in uncertainty.
 • "A Madame la Marquise du Châtelet, Avant-Propos," Eléments de Philosophie de Newton (1738).

68. “Ne peut-on pas remonter jusqu’à ces anciens scélérats, fondateurs illustres de la superstition et du fanatisme, qui, les premiers, ont pris le couteau sur l’autel pour faire des victimes de ceux qui refusaient d’etre leurs disciples?”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: May we not return to those scoundrels of old, the illustrious founders of superstition and fanaticism, who first took the knife from the altar to make victims of those who refused to be their disciples?
 • Letter to Frederick II of Prussia (December 1740), published in Oeuvres complètes de Voltaire, Vol. 7 (1869), edited by Georges Avenel, p. 105; as translated by Richard Aldington

69. “Le premier qui fut roi fut un soldat heureux: Qui sert bien son pays n'a pas besoin d'aïeux.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: The first who was king was a fortunate soldier:
Who serves his country well has no need of ancestors.
 • Mérope, act I, scene III (1743). Borrowed from Lefranc de Pompignan's "Didon".

70. “Les habiles tyrans ne sont jamais punis.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Clever tyrants are never punished.
 • Mérope, act V, scene V (1743).

71. “Les opinions ont plus causé de maux sur ce petit globe que la peste et les tremblements de terre.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Opinions have caused more ills than the plague or earthquakes on this little globe of ours.
 • Letter to Élie Bertrand (5 January 1759).

72. “Il faut toujours en fait de nouvelles attendre le sacrement de la confirmation.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: When we hear news, we should always wait for the sacrament of confirmation.
 • Letter to Charles-Augustin Ferriol, comte d'Argental (28 August 1760]]).

73. “Les hommes seront toujours fous; et ceux qui croient les guérir sont les plus fous de la bande.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Men will always be mad, and those who think they can cure them are the maddest of all.
 • Letter to Louise Dorothea of Meiningen, duchess of Saxe-Gotha Madame (30 January 1762).

74. “Le doute n'est pas un état bien agréable, mais l'assurance est un état ridicule. Ce qui révolte le plus dans le Système de la nature ( après la façon de faire des anguilles avec de la farine), c'est l'audace avec laquelle il décide qu'il n'y a point de Dieu , sans avoir seulement tenté d'en prouver l'impossibilité.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is an absurd one. What is most repellent in the System of Nature [of d'Holbach] — after the recipe for making eels from flour — is the audacity with which it decides that there is no God, without even having tried to prove the impossibility.
 • Letter to Frederick William, Prince of Prussia (28 November 1770). English: in S.G. Tallentyre (ed.), Voltaire in His Letters. New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1919. p. 232. French: Au prince royal de prusse, le 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.

75. “It is very strange that men should deny a creator and yet attribute to themselves the power of creating eels.”

—Voltaire

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Source: From the Philosophic Dictionary, as quoted in The life of Pasteur (1902).

76. “Où est le prince assez instruit pour savoir que depuis dix-sept cents ans la secte chrétienne n’a jamais fait que du mal?”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Where is the prince sufficiently educated to know that for seventeen hundred years the Christian sect has done nothing but harm?
 • Letters of Voltaire and Frederick the Great (New York: Brentano's, 1927), transl. Richard Aldington, letter 160 from Voltaire to Frederick II of Prussia, 6 April 1767 http://perso.orange.fr/dboudin/VOLTAIRE/45/1767/6824.html.

77. “La vie est hérissée de ces épines, et je n'y sais d'autre remède que de cultiver son jardin.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Life is bristling with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to cultivate one's garden.
 • Letter to Pierre-Joseph Luneau de Boisjermain (21 October 1769), from Oeuvres Complètes de Voltaire: Correspondance [Garnier frères, Paris, 1882], vol. XIV, letter # 7692 (p. 478).

78. “C'est une plaisante chose que la pensée dépende absolument de l'estomac, et malgré cela les meilleurs estomacs ne soient pas les meilleurs penseurs.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Thought depends largely on the stomach. In spite of this, those with the best stomachs are not always the best thinkers.
 • Letter to Jean le Rond d'Alembert (20 August 1770).

79. “Que les supplices des criminels soient utiles. Un homme pendu n’est bon à rien, et un homme condamné aux ouvrages publics sert encore la patrie, et est une leçon vivante.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Let the punishments of criminals be useful. A hanged man is good for nothing; a man condemned to public works still serves the country, and is a living lesson.
 • "Civil and Ecclesiastical Laws," Dictionnaire philosophique (1785-1789)
 • Note: The Dictionnaire philosophique was a posthumously published collection of articles combining the Dictionnaire philosophique portatif (published under various editions and titles from 1764 to 1777), the Questions sur l'Encyclopédie (published from 1770 to 1774), articles written for the Encyclopédie and the Dictionnaire de l'Académie française, the manuscript known as l'Opinion sur l'alphabet and a number of previously published miscellaneous articles.

80. “Toutes les sectes des philosophes ont échoué contre l’écueil du mal physique et moral. Il ne reste que d’avouer que Dieu ayant agi pour le mieux n’a pu agir mieux.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: All philosophical sects have run aground on the reef of moral and physical ill. It only remains for us to confess that God, having acted for the best, had not been able to do better.
 • "Power, Omnipotence," Dictionnaire philosophique (1785-1789).

81. “L'homme doit être content, dit-on; mais de quoi?”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Man ought to be content, it is said; but with what?
Pensées, Remarques, et Observations de Voltaire; ouvrage posthume (1802)
 • Note: This is from a volume of posthumously published "Thoughts, remarks and observations" believed to be by Voltaire. http://www.voltaire-integral.com/Html/31/04_Pensees.html.

82. “La superstition met le monde entier en flammes; la philosophie les éteint.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Superstition sets the whole world in flames; philosophy quenches them.
 • Dictionnaire philosophique (1822), "Superstition".

83. “Le public est une bête féroce: il faut l’enchaîner ou la fuir.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: The public is a ferocious beast: one must chain it up or flee from it.
 • Letter to Mademoiselle Quinault, quoted in Charles Sainte-Beuve, "Lettres inédites de Voltaire," Causeries de Lundi (20 October 1856) http://www.voltaire-integral.com/Grimm/Cayrol2.html; an English translation can be found on this page: http://www.humanistictexts.org/voltaire.htm.

84. “The king [Frederic] has sent me some of his dirty linen to wash; I will wash yours another time.”

—Voltaire

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Source: Reply to General Manstein. Voltaire writes to his niece Dennis, July 24, 1752, "Voilà le roi qui m'envoie son linge à blanchir"; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).

85. “I asked my guide how it was possible the judicious part of them could suffer such incoherent prating? ‘We are obliged,’ said he, ‘to suffer it, because no one knows, when a brother rises up to hold forth, whether he will be moved by the spirit or by folly. In this uncertainty, we listen patiently to every one. We even allow our women to speak in public; two or three of them are often inspired at the same time, and then a most charming noise is heard in the Lord's house.’ ‘You have no priests, then?’ said I. ‘No, no, friend,’ replied the Quaker; ‘heaven make us thankful!’ Then opening one of the books of their sect, he read the following words in an emphatic tone: ‘God forbid we should presume to ordain any one to receive the Holy Spirit on the Lord's day, in exclusion to the rest of the faithful!’”

—Voltaire

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Source: The History of the Quakers (1762): "The History of the Quakers" in The Works of Voltaire (1762), Vol 13, as translated by Tobias George Smollett, Thomas Francklin, et al., later published as "The Religion of the Quakers", in The Works of Voltaire: A Contemporary Version with Notes (1901), Vol. 39, as modernized by William F. Fleming Further account of his conversations with Andrew Pit.

86. “Tel homme qui dans un excès de mélancolie se tue aujourd’hui aimerait à vivre s’il attendait huit jours.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Dictionnaire philosophique portatif (1764) The man, who in a fit of melancholy, kills himself today, would have wished to live had he waited a week.
 • "Cato" (1764).

87. “Il est triste que souvent, pour être bon patriote, on soit l'ennemi du reste des hommes.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Dictionnaire philosophique portatif (1764) It is sad that often, to be a good patriot, one must be the enemy of the rest of mankind.
 • "Country".

88. “Tous les hommes seraient donc nécessairement égaux, s’ils étaient sans besoins. La misère attachée à notre espèce subordonne un homme à un autre homme: ce n’est pas l’inégalité qui est un malheur réel, c’est la dépendance.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Dictionnaire philosophique portatif (1764) All men would then be necessarily equal, if they were without needs. It is the poverty connected with our species which subordinates one man to another. It is not inequality which is the real misfortune, it is dependence.
 • "Equality" (1764).

89. “Telle est donc la condition humaine que souhaiter la grandeur de son pays, c’est souhaiter du mal à ses voisins.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Dictionnaire philosophique portatif (1764) Such then is the human condition, that to wish greatness for one's country is to wish harm to one's neighbors.
 • "Fatherland" (1764).

90. “Voulez-vous avoir de bonnes lois; brûlez les vôtres, et faites-en de nouvelles.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Dictionnaire philosophique portatif (1764) If you want good laws, burn those you have and make new ones.
 • "Laws" (1765).

91. “Définissez les termes, vous dis-je, ou jamais nous ne nous entendrons.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Dictionnaire philosophique portatif (1764) Define your terms, you will permit me again to say, or we shall never understand one another.
 • "Miracles" (1764).

92. “The institution of religion exists only to keep mankind in order, and to make men merit the goodness of God by their virtue. Everything in a religion which does not tend towards this goal must be considered foreign or dangerous.”

—Voltaire

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Source: Dictionnaire philosophique portatif (1764) "The Ecclesiastical Ministry"

93. “On en trouve [l'argent] toujours quand il s’agit d’aller faire tuer des hommes sur la frontière: il n’y en a plus quand il faut les sauver.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Questions sur l'Encyclopédie (1770–1774) Money is always to be found when men are to be sent to the frontiers to be destroyed: when the object is to preserve them, it is no longer so.
 • "Charity" (1770).

94. “Le divorce est probablement de la même date à peu près que le mariage. Je crois pourtant que le mariage est de quelques semaines plus ancien.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Questions sur l'Encyclopédie (1770–1774) Divorce is probably of nearly the same age as marriage. I believe, however, that marriage is some weeks the more ancient.
 • "Divorce" (1771).

95. “Il faut vingt ans pour mener l’homme de l’état de plante où il est dans le ventre de sa mère, et de l’état de pur animal, qui est le partage de sa première enfance, jusqu’à celui où la maturité de la raison commence à poindre. Il a fallu trente siècles pour connaître un peu sa structure. Il faudrait l’éternité pour connaître quelque chose de son âme. Il ne faut qu’un instant pour le tuer.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Questions sur l'Encyclopédie (1770–1774) It requires twenty years for a man to rise from the vegetable state in which he is within his mother's womb, and from the pure animal state which is the lot of his early childhood, to the state when the maturity of reason begins to appear. It has required thirty centuries to learn a little about his structure. It would need eternity to learn something about his soul. It takes an instant to kill him.
 • "Man: General Reflection on Man" (1771).

96. “Rien n’est si ordinaire que d’imiter ses ennemis, et d’employer leurs armes.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Questions sur l'Encyclopédie (1770–1774) Nothing is so common as to imitate one's enemies, and to use their weapons.
 • "Oracles" (1770).

97. “L'étymologie est une science où les voyelles ne font rien et les consonnes fort peu de chose.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Etymology is a science in which vowels signify nothing at all, and consonants very little.
 • Quote attributed by Max Müller (1823–1900), Lectures on the Science of Language (2003), Kessinger Publishing, p. 238.

98. “The English have only one sauce, melted butter.”

—Voltaire

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Source: Remark to Adam Smith, as attributed in P. J. O'Rourke, On The Wealth of Nations (2007), p. 184.

99. “L'adjectif est l'ennemi du substantif.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info:  • Variants: The adjective is the enemy of the noun.
 • Quote attributed in Arthur Schopenhauer (translated by Mrs Rudolf Dircks), Essays of Schopenhauer (2004), Kessinger Publishing, p. 31

100. “Ainsi, presque tout est imitation. L’idée des Lettres persanes est prise de celle de l’Espion turc. Le Boiardo a imité le Pulci, l’Arioste a imité le Boiardo. Les esprits les plus originaux empruntent les uns des autres. Michel Cervantes fait un fou de son don Quichotte; mais Roland est-il autre chose qu'un fou? Il serait difficile de décider si la chevalerie errante est plus tournée en ridicule par les peintures grotesques de Cervantes que par la féconde imagination de l'Arioste. Métastase a pris la plupart de ses opéras dans nos tragédies françaises. Plusieurs auteurs anglais nous ont copiés, et n'en ont rien dit. Il en est des livres comme du feu de nos foyers; on va prendre ce feu chez son voisin, on l’allume chez soi, on le communique à d’autres, et il appartient à tous.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Thus, almost everything is imitation. The idea of The Persian Letters was taken from The Turkish Spy. Boiardo imitated Pulci, Ariosto imitated Boiardo. The most original minds borrowed from one another. Miguel de Cervantes makes his Don Quixote a fool; but pray is Orlando any other? It would puzzle one to decide whether knight errantry has been made more ridiculous by the grotesque painting of Cervantes, than by the luxuriant imagination of Ariosto. Metastasio has taken the greatest part of his operas from our French tragedies. Several English writers have copied us without saying one word of the matter. It is with books as with the fire in our hearths; we go to a neighbor to get the embers and light it when we return home, pass it on to others, and it belongs to everyone
 • "Lettre XII: sur M. Pope et quelques autres poètes fameux," Lettres philosophiques (1756 edition)
 • Variants:
He looked on everything as imitation. The most original writers, he said, borrowed one from another. Boyardo has imitated Pulci, and Ariofio Boyardo. The instruction we find in books is like fire; we fetch it from our neighbour, kindle it as home, communicate it to others, and it becomes the property of all.'''
 • Historical and Critical Memoirs of the Life and Writings of M. de Voltaire (1786) by Louis Mayeul Chaudon, p. 348
What we find in books is like the fire in our hearths. We fetch it from our neighbors, we kindle it at home, we communicate it to others, and it becomes the property of all.
 • As translated in Geary's Guide to the World's Great Aphorists (2008), by James Geary, p. 373.

101. “Mais qu’un marchand de chameaux excite une sédition dans sa bourgade; qu’associé à quelques malheureux coracites il leur persuade qu’il s’entretient avec l’ange Gabriel; qu’il se vante d’avoir été ravi au ciel, et d’y avoir reçu une partie de ce livre inintelligible qui fait frémir le sens commun à chaque page; que, pour faire respecter ce livre, il porte dans sa patrie le fer et la flamme; qu’il égorge les pères, qu’il ravisse les filles, qu’il donne aux vaincus le choix de sa religion ou de la mort, c’est assurément ce que nul homme ne peut excuser, à moins qu’il ne soit né Turc, et que la superstition n’étouffe en lui toute lumière naturelle.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: But that a camel-merchant should stir up insurrection in his village; that in league with some miserable followers he persuades them that he talks with the angel Gabriel; that he boasts of having been carried to heaven, where he received in part this unintelligible book, each page of which makes common sense shudder; that, to pay homage to this book, he delivers his country to iron and flame; that he cuts the throats of fathers and kidnaps daughters; that he gives to the defeated the choice of his religion or death: this is assuredly nothing any man can excuse, at least if he was not born a Turk, or if superstition has not extinguished all natural light in him.
 • Referring to Muhammad, in a letter to Frederick II of Prussia (December 1740), published in Oeuvres complètes de Voltaire, Vol. 7 (1869), edited by Georges Avenel, p. 105.

102. “Il y a eu des gens qui ont dit autrefois: Vous croyez des choses incompréhensibles, contradictoires, impossibles, parce que nous vous l’avons ordonné; faites donc des choses injustes parce que nous vous l’ordonnons. Ces gens-là raisonnaient à merveille. Certainement qui est en droit de vous rendre absurde est en droit de vous rendre injuste. Si vous n’opposez point aux ordres de croire l’impossible l’intelligence que Dieu a mise dans votre esprit, vous ne devez point opposer aux ordres de malfaire la justice que Dieu a mise dans votre coeur. Une faculté de votre âme étant une fois tyrannisée, toutes les autres facultés doivent l’être également. Et c’est là ce qui a produit tous les crimes religieux dont la terre a été inondée.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Formerly there were those who said: You believe things that are incomprehensible, inconsistent, impossible because we have commanded you to believe them; go then and do what is unjust because we command it. Such people show admirable reasoning. Truly, whoever is able to make you absurd is able to make you unjust. If the God-given understanding of your mind does not resist a demand to believe what is impossible, then you will not resist a demand to do wrong to that God-given sense of justice in your heart. As soon as one faculty of your soul has been dominated, other faculties will follow as well. And from this derives all those crimes of religion which have overrun the world.
 • Questions sur les miracles (1765)

103. “La nôtre [religion] est sans contredit la plus ridicule, la plus absurde, et la plus sanguinaire qui ait jamais infecté le monde.Votre Majesté rendra un service éternel au genre humain en détruisant cette infâme superstition, je ne dis pas chez la canaille, qui n’est pas digne d’être éclairée, et à laquelle tous les jougs sont propres; je dis chez les honnêtes gens, chez les hommes qui pensent, chez ceux qui veulent penser... Je ne m’afflige de toucher à la mort que par mon profond regret de ne vous pas seconder dans cette noble entreprise, la plus belle et la plus respectable qui puisse signaler l’esprit humain.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Ours is assuredly the most ridiculous, the most absurd and the most bloody religion which has ever infected this world. Your Majesty will do the human race an eternal service by extirpating this infamous superstition, I do not say among the rabble, who are not worthy of being enlightened and who are apt for every yoke; I say among honest people, among men who think, among those who wish to think. ... My one regret in dying is that I cannot aid you in this noble enterprise, the finest and most respectable which the human mind can point out.
 • Letters of Voltaire and Frederick the Great (New York: Brentano's, 1927), transl. Richard Aldington, letter 156 from Voltaire to Frederick II of Prussia, 5 January 1767 http://perso.orange.fr/dboudin/VOLTAIRE/45/1767/6651.html
 • Often misquoted as "Christianity is...", while in the context, Voltaire was referring specifically to Catholicism.

104. “Tous les autres peuples ont commis des crimes, les Juifs sont les seuls qui s'en soient vantés. Ils sont tous nés avec la rage du fanatisme dans le cœur, comme les Bretons et les Germains naissent avec des cheveux blonds. Je ne serais point étonné que cette nation ne fût un jour funeste au genre humain.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: All of the other people have committed crimes, the Jews are the only ones who have boasted about committing them. They 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.
 • Lettres de Memmius a Cicéron (1771).

105. “L'amour est de toutes les passions la plus forte, parce qu'elle attaque à la fois la tête, le cœur et le corps.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Love is of all the passions the strongest, for it attacks simultaneously the head, the heart, and the body.
 • Le Dernier Volume Des Œuvres De Voltaire: Contes - Comédie - Pensées - Poésies - Lettres (1862)

106. “Being of opinion that the doctrine and history of so extraordinary a sect as the Quakers were very well deserving the curiosity of every thinking man, I resolved to make myself acquainted with them, and for that purpose made a visit to one of the most eminent of that sect in England, who, after having been in trade for thirty years, had the wisdom to prescribe limits to his fortune, and to his desires, and withdrew to a small but pleasant retirement in the country, not many miles from London. Here it was that I made him my visit. His house was small, but neatly built, and with no other ornaments but those of decency and convenience.”

—Voltaire

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Source: The History of the Quakers (1762): "The History of the Quakers" in The Works of Voltaire (1762), Vol 13, as translated by Tobias George Smollett, Thomas Francklin, et al., later published as "The Religion of the Quakers", in The Works of Voltaire: A Contemporary Version with Notes (1901), Vol. 39, as modernized by William F. Fleming

107. “You have already heard that the Quakers date their epoch from Christ, who, according to them, was the first Quaker. Religion, say they, was corrupted almost immediately after His death, and remained in that state of corruption about sixteen hundred years. But there were always a few of the faithful concealed in the world, who carefully preserved the sacred fire, which was extinguished in all but themselves; till at length this light shone out in England in 1642. It was at the time when Great Britain was distracted by intestine wars, which three or four sects had raised in the name of God, that one George Fox, a native of Leicestershire, and son of a silk-weaver, took it into his head to preach the Word, and, as he pretended, with all the requisites of a true apostle; that is, without being able either to read or write. He was a young man, about twenty-five years of age, of irreproachable manners, and religiously mad. He was clad in leather from head to foot, and travelled from one village to another, exclaiming against the war and the clergy.”

—Voltaire

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Source: The History of the Quakers (1762): "The History of the Quakers" in The Works of Voltaire (1762), Vol 13, as translated by Tobias George Smollett, Thomas Francklin, et al., later published as "The Religion of the Quakers", in The Works of Voltaire: A Contemporary Version with Notes (1901), Vol. 39, as modernized by William F. Fleming

108. “This new patriarch Fox said one day to a justice of peace, before a large assembly of people. ‘Friend, take care what thou dost; God will soon punish thee for persecuting his saints.’ This magistrate, being one who besotted himself every day with bad beer and brandy, died of apoplexy two days after; just as he had signed a mittimus for imprisoning some Quakers. The sudden death of this justice was not ascribed to his intemperance; but was universally looked upon as the effect of the holy man's predictions; so that this accident made more Quakers than a thousand sermons and as many shaking fits would have done. Cromwell, finding them increase daily, was willing to bring them over to his party, and for that purpose tried bribery; however, he found them incorruptible, which made him one day declare that this was the only religion he had ever met with that could resist the charms of gold. The Quakers suffered several persecutions under Charles II; not upon a religious account, but for refusing to pay the tithes, for ‘theeing’ and ‘thouing’ the magistrates, and for refusing to take the oaths enacted by the laws. At length Robert Barclay, a native of Scotland, presented to the king, in 1675, his ‘Apology for the Quakers’; a work as well drawn up as the subject could possibly admit. The dedication to Charles II, instead of being filled with mean, flattering encomiums, abounds with bold truths and the wisest counsels. ‘Thou hast tasted,’ says he to the king, at the close of his ‘Epistle Dedicatory,’ ‘of prosperity and adversity: thou hast been driven out of the country over which thou now reignest, and from the throne on which thou sittest: thou hast groaned beneath the yoke of oppression; therefore hast thou reason to know how hateful the oppressor is both to God and man. If, after all these warnings and advertisements, thou dost not turn unto the Lord, with all thy heart; but forget Him who remembered thee in thy distress, and give thyself up to follow lust and vanity, surely great will be thy guilt, and bitter thy condemnation. Instead of listening to the flatterers about thee, hearken only to the voice that is within thee, which never flatters. I am thy faithful friend and servant, Robert Barclay.’ The most surprising circumstance is that this letter, though written by an obscure person, was so happy in its effect as to put a stop to the persecution.”

—Voltaire

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Source: The History of the Quakers (1762): "The History of the Quakers" in The Works of Voltaire (1762), Vol 13, as translated by Tobias George Smollett, Thomas Francklin, et al., later published as "The Religion of the Quakers", in The Works of Voltaire: A Contemporary Version with Notes (1901), Vol. 39, as modernized by William F. Fleming

109. “William Penn, when only fifteen years of age, chanced to meet a Quaker in Oxford, where he was then following his studies. This Quaker made a proselyte of him; and our young man, being naturally sprightly and eloquent, having a very winning aspect and engaging carriage, soon gained over some of his companions and intimates, and in a short time formed a society of young Quakers, who met at his house; so that at the age of sixteen he found himself at the head of a sect. Having left college, at his return home to the vice-admiral, his father, instead of kneeling to ask his blessing, as is the custom with the English, he went up to him with his hat on, and accosted him thus: ‘Friend, I am glad to see thee in good health.’ The viceadmiral thought his son crazy; but soon discovered he was a Quaker. He then employed every method that prudence could suggest to engage him to behave and act like other people. The youth answered his father only with repeated exhortations to turn Quaker also. After much altercation, his father confined himself to this single request, that he would wait on the king and the duke of York with his hat under his arm, and that he would not ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ them. William answered that his conscience would not permit him to do these things. This exasperated his father to such a degree that he turned him out of doors. Young Penn gave God thanks that he permitted him to suffer so early in His cause, and went into the city, where he held forth, and made a great number of converts; and being young, handsome, and of a graceful figure, both court and city ladies flocked very devoutly to hear him. The patriarch Fox, hearing of his great reputation, came to London — notwithstanding the length of the journey — purposely to see and converse with him. They both agreed to go upon missions into foreign countries; and accordingly they embarked for Holland, after having left a sufficient number of laborers to take care of the London vineyard.”

—Voltaire

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Source: The History of the Quakers (1762): "The History of the Quakers" in The Works of Voltaire (1762), Vol 13, as translated by Tobias George Smollett, Thomas Francklin, et al., later published as "The Religion of the Quakers", in The Works of Voltaire: A Contemporary Version with Notes (1901), Vol. 39, as modernized by William F. Fleming

110. “William inherited very large possessions, part of which consisted of crown debts, due to the vice-admiral for sums he had advanced for the sea-service. No moneys were at that time less secure than those owing from the king. Penn was obliged to go, more than once, and ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ Charles and his ministers, to recover the debt; and at last, instead of specie, the government invested him with the right and sovereignty of a province of America, to the south of Maryland. Thus was a Quaker raised to sovereign power. He set sail for his new dominions with two ships filled with Quakers, who followed his fortune. The country was then named by them Pennsylvania, from William Penn; and he founded Philadelphia, which is now a very flourishing city. His first care was to make an alliance with his American neighbors; and this is the only treaty between those people and the Christians that was not ratified by an oath, and that was never infringed. The new sovereign also enacted several wise and wholesome laws for his colony, which have remained invariably the same to this day. The chief is, to ill-treat no person on account of religion, and to consider as brethren all those who believe in one God. He had no sooner settled his government than several American merchants came and peopled this colony. The natives of the country, instead of flying into the woods, cultivated by degrees a friendship with the peaceable Quakers. They loved these new strangers as much as they disliked the other Christians, who had conquered and ravaged America. In a little time these savages, as they are called, delighted with their new neighbors, flocked in crowds to Penn, to offer themselves as his vassals. It was an uncommon thing to behold a sovereign ‘thee'd’ and ‘thou'd’ by his subjects, and addressed by them with their hats on; and no less singular for a government to be without one priest in it; a people without arms, either for offence or preservation; a body of citizens without any distinctions but those of public employments; and for neighbors to live together free from envy or jealousy. In a word, William Penn might, with reason, boast of having brought down upon earth the Golden Age, which in all probability, never had any real existence but in his dominions.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: The History of the Quakers (1762): "The History of the Quakers" in The Works of Voltaire (1762), Vol 13, as translated by Tobias George Smollett, Thomas Francklin, et al., later published as "The Religion of the Quakers", in The Works of Voltaire: A Contemporary Version with Notes (1901), Vol. 39, as modernized by William F. Fleming Variants:
• No oaths, no seals, no official mummeries were used; the treaty was ratified on both sides with a yea, yea — the only one, says Voltaire, that the world has known, never sworn to and never broken.
 • As quoted in William Penn : An Historical Biography (1851) by William Hepworth Dixon
William Penn began by making a league with the Americans, his neighbors. It is the only one between those natives and the Christians which was never sworn to, and the only one that was never broken.
 • As quoted in American Pioneers (1905), by William Augustus Mowry and Blanche Swett Mowry, p. 80
It was the only treaty made by the settlers with the Indians that was never sworn to, and the only one that was never broken.
 • As quoted in A History of the American Peace Movement (2008) by Charles F. Howlett, and ‎Robbie Lieberman, p. 33.

111. “L’Éternel a ses desseins de toute éternité. Si la prière est d’accord avec ses volontés immuables, il est très inutile de lui demander ce qu’il a résolu de faire. Si on le prie de faire le contraire de ce qu’il a résolu, c’est le prier d’être faible, léger, inconstant; c’est croire qu’il soit tel, c’est se moquer de lui. Ou vous lui demandez une chose juste; en ce cas il la doit, et elle se fera sans qu’on l’en prie; c’est même se défier de lui que lui faire instance ou la chose est injuste, et alors on l’outrage. Vous êtes digne ou indigne de la grâce que vous implorez: si digne, il le sait mieux que vous; si indigne, on commet un crime de plus en demandant ce qu’on ne mérite pas. En un mot, nous ne faisons des prières à Dieu que parce que nous l’avons fait à notre image. Nous le traitons comme un bacha, comme un sultan qu’on peut irriter ou apaiser.”

—Voltaire

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Source and Related Info: Questions sur l'Encyclopédie (1770–1774) The Eternal has his designs from all eternity. If prayer is in accord with his immutable wishes, it is quite useless to ask of him what he has resolved to do. If one prays to him to do the contrary of what he has resolved, it is praying that he be weak, frivolous, inconstant; it is believing that he is thus, it is to mock him. Either you ask him a just thing, in which case he must do it, the thing being done without your praying to him for it, and so to entreat him is then to distrust him; or the thing is unjust, and then you insult him. You are worthy or unworthy of the grace you implore: if worthy, he knows it better than you; if unworthy, you commit another crime by requesting what is undeserved.
In a word, we only pray to God because we have made him in our image. We treat him like a pasha, like a sultan whom one may provoke or appease.
 • "Prayers" (1770).

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