Front Page Titles (by Subject) PUBLISHER'S PREFACE. - The Works of Voltaire, Vol. I (Candide)
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PUBLISHER’S PREFACE. - Voltaire, The Works of Voltaire, Vol. I (Candide) 
The Works of Voltaire. A Contemporary Version. A Critique and Biography by John Morley, notes by Tobias Smollett, trans. William F. Fleming (New York: E.R. DuMont, 1901). In 21 vols. Vol. I.
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Students of Voltaire need not be told that nearly every important circumstance in connection with the history of this extraordinary man, from his birth to the final interment of his ashes in the Panthéon at Paris, is still matter of bitter controversy.
If, guided in our judgment by the detractors of Voltaire, we were to read only the vituperative productions of the sentimentalists, the orthodox critics of the schools, the Dr. Johnsons, the Abbé Maynards, Voltaire would still remain the most remarkable man of the eighteenth century. Even the most hostile critics admit that he gave his name to an epoch and that his genius changed the mental, the spiritual, and the political conformation, not only of France but of the civilized world. The anti-Voltairean literature concedes that Voltaire was the greatest literary genius of his age, a master of language, and that his historical writings effected a revolution. Lord Macaulay, an unfriendly critic, says: “Of all the intellectual weapons that have ever been wielded by man, the most terrible was the mockery of Voltaire. Bigots and tyrants who had never been moved by the wailings and cursings of millions, turned pale at his name.” That still more hostile authority, the evangelical Guizot, the eminent French historian, makes the admission that “innate love of justice and horror of fanaticism inspired Voltaire with his zeal in behalf of persecuted Protestants,” and that Voltaire contributed most powerfully to the triumphs of those conceptions of Humanity, Justice, and Freedom which did honor to the eighteenth century.
Were we to form an estimate of Voltaire’s character and transcendent ability through such a temperate non-sectarian writer as the Hon. John Morley, we would conclude with him that when the right sense of historical proportion is more fully developed in men’s minds, the name of Voltaire will stand out like the names of the great decisive movements in the European advance, like the Revival of Learning, or the Reformation, and that the existence, character, and career of Voltaire constitute in themselves a new and prodigious era. We would further agree with Morley, that “no sooner did the rays of Voltaire’s burning and far-shining spirit strike upon the genius of the time, seated dark and dead like the black stone of Memnon’s statue, than the clang of the breaking chord was heard through Europe and men awoke in a new day and more spacious air.” And we would probably say of Voltaire what he magnanimously said of his contemporary, Montesquieu, that “humanity had lost its title-deeds and he had recovered them.”
Were we acquainted only with that Voltaire described by Goethe, Hugo, Pompery, Bradlaugh, Paine, and Ingersoll, we might believe with Ingersoll that it was Voltaire who sowed the seeds of liberty in the heart and brain of Franklin, Jefferson, and Thomas Paine, and that he did more to free the human race than any other of the sons of men. Hugo says that “between two servants of humanity which appeared eighteen hundred years apart, there was indeed a mysterious relation,” and we might even agree that the estimate of the young philanthropist Édouard de Pompery was temperate when he said, “Voltaire was the best Christian of his times, the first and most glorious disciple of Jesus.”
So whatever our authority, no matter how limited our investigation, the fact must be recognized that Voltaire, who gave to France her long-sought national epic in the Henriade, was in the front rank of her poets. For nearly a century his tragedies and dramas held the boards to extravagant applause. Even from his enemies we learn that he kept himself abreast of his generation in all departments of literature, and won the world’s homage as a king of philosophers in an age of philosophers and encyclopædists.
He was the father of modern French, clear, unambiguous, witty without buffoonery, convincing without truculency, dignified without effort. He constituted himself the defender of humanity, tolerance, and justice, and his influence, like his popularity, increases with the diffusion of his ideas.
No matter what the reader’s opinion of Voltaire’s works may be, it will readily be conceded that without these translations of his comedies, tragedies, poems, romances, letters, and incomparable histories, the literature of the world would sustain an immeasurable loss, and that these forty-two exquisite volumes will endure as a stately monument, alike to the great master and the book-maker’s artcraft he did so much to inspire.
E. R. D.