my thanks for your recent epistle. It was well-received. That being said, I detect a hint of melancholy in your writing. I suspect you may be dwelling on lost loves and missed opportunities. And perhaps a pinch of ennui.
Un enfant humain pauvre. I wish to provide you with some cod liver oil for the soul. However, before that, I will respond to your question regarding when I might be willing to see the white cliffs of Dover again. I must tell you honestly that the atmosphere in Albion is difficult for me to bear in these times. As you know, Slovenly Peter in Downing Street has created quite the mess for all of us. Travel will be more like during the reign of Queen Victoria. Forms, questions, and yet more forms before you can set even one paw on the continent. While I do appreciate that we Brits do love a good queue, even our legendary patience may be tested by these developments. As such, I’ve decided to travel around a little bit more. I will make sure to continue writing you; don’t worry.
I promised you a balm for your soul. Here it is. At the end of my last letter, as you know, I had just arrived in Ferney. This morning, I made a first excursion to Voltaire’s rococo castle. The rooms could be said to be playful. They are certainly heavily ornamted with lichen, sea shells, and creepers. The colours are also sensational. Here a dying blue, there a gently smoldering pink. Everywhere else, yellows, greens, pale reds, and even the occasional dash of violet. The furniture isn’t exactly self-congratulory, nor would one suggest that it is minimalistic. There are comfortable upholstered chairs and couches with silk cushions. They seem made to allow for lounging and falling into reveries. Masterfully-crafted miniature tables in various types of wood with gold and silver detailing adorn almost every room. There is also more than one desk with secret compartments for love letters.
This is a place where pleasure and luxury reside, though not necessarily comfort. What a delight! One gets a sense of coquetry, fun, almost of comedy. I suspect that the lord of the house with his telling smile whose outright laugh remained rare enough to be shocking would have left a very similar impression. Seigneur Voltaire is a poet whose poems are as difficult to enjoy as his plays nowadays, though they do contain beautiful turns of phrase.
His greatness and his courage are to be found in his historical and philosophical works. He was the first in modernity to write of culture and morals and not of battles, political decisions, or intrigues at court. The first true cultural historian. His brilliance shone particularly bright when he was defending the freedom of the individual from the influences of the state and the church or providing his support to those falsely imprisoned or even when he was creating prosperity for the whole region of Ferney through his economic actions.
Voltaire once wrote of himself: ‘I am flexible as an eel, lively as a lizard, and work continually like a squirrel’. A man after our own hearts, Lush. I would even go so far as to say that he is an electric ray, full of energy and able to react to the slightest touch with a flurry of paralysing blows until his final days on Earth. Of course, he was also a generous host and friend.
I can imagine that his style might not always appeal to you. For us 21st century beings, his attitude to life alone is inspiration enough to fight off the enemies of truth and the charlatans whom pray for us to be crushed. As such, I recommend you read Jean Orieux’ biography of Voltaire. The dark clouds of melancholy that hang over you will be dispersed by the sheer force of French genius. I wish you, dear Lush, courage and dignity in the face of the unknown.