Breathed most in ridicule,—which, as the wind,
Blew where it listed, laying all things prone,—
Now to o'erthrow a fool, and now to shake a throne.
The other, deep and slow, exhausting thought,
And hiving wisdom with each studious year,
In meditation dwelt—with learning wrought,
And shaped his weapon with an edge severe,
Sapping a solemn creed with solemn sneer:
- [In his youth Voltaire was imprisoned for a year (1717-18) in the Bastille, by the regent Duke of Orleans, on account of certain unacknowledged lampoons (Regnante Puero, etc.); but throughout his long life, so far from "shaking thrones," he showed himself eager to accept the patronage and friendship of the greatest monarchs of the age—of Louis XV., of George II. and his queen, Caroline of Anspach, of Frederick II., and of Catharine of Russia. Even the Pope Benedict XIV. accepted the dedication of Mahomet (1745), and bestowed an apostolical benediction on "his dear son." On the other hand, his abhorrence of war, his protection of the oppressed, and, above all, the questioning spirit of his historical and philosophical writings (e.g. Les Lettres sur les Anglais, 1733; Annales de l'Empire depuis Charlemagne, 1753, etc.) were felt to be subversive of civil as well as ecclesiastical tyranny, and, no doubt, helped to precipitate the Revolution.
The first half of the line may be illustrated by his quarrel with Maupertuis, the President of the Berlin Academy, which resulted in the production of the famous Diatribe of Doctor Akakia, Physician to the Pope (1752), by a malicious attack on Maupertuis's successor, Le Franc de Pompignan, and by his caricature of the critic Elie Catharine Fréron, as Frélon ("Wasp"), in L'Ecossaise, which was played at Paris in 1760.—Life of Voltaire, by F. Espinasse, 1892, pp. 94, 114, 144.]
And gathering wisdom——.—[MS.]