F-31 Voltaire and Other Thinkers
625-628, #2 (difficult)
T-4 An Age of Elegance and Wit
600, 636-637, #4
R-6 Enlightened Despots
M-10 Baroque/Enlightenment Test
#1. VOLTAIRE, WHO MADE PEOPLE STOP AND THINK
People grew tired of squabbling Protestants and squabbling Catholics. Gradually, they began to see that both sides acted crazy. A new age was born--an age of logical thinking. People called it the Enlightenment, because they thought they had finally begun to see the light. It is also sometimes called the Age of Reason. It lasted from the late 1600s to the late 1700s.
Moliere (mole-YARE), the leading French author, wrote a play called Tartuffe (tar-TOOF). It shows how a sneaky Puritan steals his friend*s property and tries to steal his wife. Moliere urged people to think carefully before they believed a person's holy words.
The most famous thinker during the Enlightenment was Voltaire (vol-TARE). He campaigned for freedom of thought, and probably declared "I do not agree with a word you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." His biting humor landed him in prison a few times, and he had to leave France several times. In the following selection, he shows how ridiculous the Baroque wars must appear to the rest of the world--especially the rational Chinese.
Enlightenment thinkers became fascinated with China, which had practiced religious toleration for centuries. Chinese fads sprang up in Europe. Tea drinking became popular. Chinese wallpaper decorated people's homes. Chinese designs changed the furniture. Ming pottery brought the art of porcelain-making to Europe. (The famous Blue Willow pattern comes from this time.) And the new American government used the Chinese civil service system to decide who qualified for government jobs.
The four Christians in this story are:
--a Lutheran missionary from Denmark
--a Calvinist minister from the Dutch East Indies
--a Catholic monk of the stern Jesuit group
--a Catholic monk of the earlier Dominican group
from A TREATISE ON TOLERATION by VOLTAIRE
In the early years of the reign of the great Emperor*
Kam-hi a mandarin+ of the city of Canton heard from his house a great noise, which proceeded from the next house. He inquired if anybody was being killed, and was told that the almoner of the Danish missionary society, a chaplain from Batavia, and a Jesuit were disputing. He had them brought to his house, put tea and sweets before them, and asked why they quarreled.
The Jesuit replied that it was very painful for him, since he was always right, to have to do with men who were always wrong; that he had at first argued with the greatest restraint, but had at length lost patience.
The mandarin, with the utmost discretion, reminded them that politeness was needed in all discussion, told them that in China men never became angry, and asked the cause of the dispute.
The Jesuit answered: "My lord, I leave It to you to decide. These two gentlemen refuse to submit to the decree of the Council of Trent."#
"I am astonished," said the mandarin. Then, turning to the refractory@ pair, he said: "Gentlemen, you ought to respect the opinions of a large gathering. I do not know what the Council of Trent is, but a number of men are always better informed than a single one. No one ought to imagine that he is better than others, and has a monopoly of reason. So our great Confucius teaches; and believe me, you will do well to submit to the Council of Trent."
The Dane then spoke. "My lord speaks with the greatest wisdom," he said; "we respect great councils, as is proper, and therefore we are in entire agreement with several that were held before the Council of Trent."
"Oh, If that is the case," said the mandarin, "I beg your pardon. You may be right. So you and this Dutchman are of the same opinion, against this poor Jesuit."
"Not a bit," said the Dutchman. "This fellow's opinions are almost as extravagant as those of the Jesuit yonder, who has been so very amiable* to you. I can't bear them."
"I don't understand," said the Mandarin. "Are you not all three Christians? Have you not all three come to teach Christianity in our empire? Ought you not, therefore, to hold the same dogmas?"
"It is this way, my lord," said the Jesuit; "these two are mortal enemies, and are both against me. Hence it is clear that they are both wrong, and I am right."
"That is not quite clear," said the Mandarin; "strictly speaking, all three of you may be wrong. I should like to hear you all, one after the other."
The Jesuit then made a rather long speech, during which
the Dane and the Dutchman shrugged their shoulders. The mandarin did not understand a word of it. Then the Dane spoke; the two opponent regarded each other with pity, and the mandarin again failed to understand. The Dutchman had the same effect. In the end they all spoke together and abused other roundly. The good mandarin secured silence with great difficulty, and said: "If you want us to) tolerate your teaching here, begin by being yourselves neither intolerant nor intolerable,"
When they went out the Jesuit met a Dominican friar, and told him that he had won, adding that truth always triumphed. The Dominican said: "Had I been there, you would not have won; I should+ have convicted you of lying and idolatry." The quarrel became warm, and the Jesuit and Dominican took to pulling each other's hair. The mandarin, on hearing of the scandal, sent them both to prison. A sub-mandarin said to the judge: "How long does your excellency wish them to be kept in prison?" "Until they agree," said the judge. "Then" said the sub-mandarin, they are in prison for life." "In that case, said the judge, "until they forgive each other." "They will never forgive each other," said the other; "I know them." "Then," said the mandarin, "let them stop# there until they pretend to forgive each other."
#Catholic meeting which condemned Protestantism
#2. PHILLIS WHEATLEY, WHO ROSE ABOVE ALL OBSTACLES
Somewhere in western Africa, raiders from a neighboring tribe snatched a seven-year-old girl out of her father's arms, and sold her into slavery. She ended up in Boston, where the Wheatley family bought her and called her Phillis. They soon realized they had a genius on their hands. They released her from all but light housekeeping duties, and educated her with their own children. In a few months she was reading the most difficult English and Latin. She particularly loved English poetry and Greek mythology.
People of the Enlightenment held great faith in education, for learning would abolish the old superstitions, fears, hatreds and errors. Yet they thought of education for men only. Colonial American women did not bother with much learning, but Phillis continued her lessons. When the Wheatley son went to college (which did not allow women), she had him repeat the lessons to her. She became probably the most educated woman in America at that time--when most women could not yet even write their names.
Her friends included John Hancock and George Washington. At nineteen, she published her first book of poetry. She toured Europe, and was invited to the court of King George III of England; instead, she hurried back to Boston where Mrs. Wheatley lay dying. As a freed woman, Phillis married and had three daughters. But she had to work to support her lazy husband. Her health had always been poor, and the overwork killed her at age thirty-one. She died before finishing her second book. Her last daughter died a few days later, and was buried in her arms.
She was female. She was black. She was a slave. She was a teenager. English was not her native language. Phillis overcame all of these obstacles--any one of which stopped most people.
Because of her slavery experience, Phillis felt intense interest in freedom, and wrote poems in support of George Washington and the American Revolution. She even invented a new goddess, Columbia, to guard over America. Other people followed her lead, and wrote poems and songs about Columbia.
A new type of religion had developed, called Deism (DEE-izm). The Deists believed in one god--not a trinity. They compared God to a great watchmaker, who creates a perfect machine, sets it in motion, and then can relax. Deists believed that everything happens according to God's natural laws, which men can discover by research. They did not believe in miracles, as the Puritans did. Deists argued that if he was any kind of god at all, he could create a perfect universe, and not have to keep tinkering with the machinery to keep it running right.
In the following poem, Phillis voices her belief in Deism. It is difficult, for poets of the Enlightenment used a very formal style--which often included lots of Greek mythology. But notice how she distrusts confusion and darkness. and admires order and light. She was a true woman of the Enlightenment.
from THOUGHTS ON THE WORKS OF PROVIDENCE
by PHILLIS WHEATLEY
...When the morning glows with rosy charms,
Or the sun slumbers in the ocean's arms...
Ador'd for ever be the God unseen,
Which round the sun revolves this vast machine,* *earth
Though to his eye its mass a point appears:
Ador'd the God that whirls surrounding spheres...
That Wisdom, which attends Jehovah's ways,
Shines most conspicuous in the solar rays:
Without them, destitute+ of heat and light, +deprived
This world would be the reign of endless night:
In their excess how would our race# complain, #human race
Abhorring@ life: how hate its length'ned chain! @dreading
From air adust what num'rous ills would rise?
What dire* contagion taint the burning skies? *awful
What pestilential vapors, fraught with death,
Would rise, and overspread the lands beneath?
Hail, smiling morn, that from the orient main+ +eastern seacoast
Ascending dost adorn the heav'nly plain!
So rich, so various are thy beauteous dies,# #colors
That spread through all the circuit of the skies,
That, full of thee, my soul in rapture soars,
And thy great God, the cause of all adores...
But see the sons of vegetation rise,
And spread their leafy banners to the skies.
All-wise Almighty providence we trace
In trees, and plants, and all the flow'ry race:
As clear as in the nobler frame of man,
All lovely copies of the Maker's plan.
The pow'r the same that forms a ray of light,
That call'd creation from eternal night.
"Let there be light," he said: from his profound@ @deep place
Old Chaos heard, and trembled at the sound:
Swift as the word, inspir'd by pow'r divine
Behold the light around its maker shine,
The first fair product of th' omnific* God, *all-creating
And now through all his works diffus'd+ abroad. +spread
As reason's pow'rs by day our God disclose,# #reveal
So we may trace him in the night's repose:@ @rest
Say what is sleep? and dreams how passing strange!
When action ceases, and ideas range
Licentious* and unbounded o'er the plains, *uncontrolled
Where Fancy's queen+ in giddy triumph reigns. +imagination
Hear in soft strains the dreaming lover sigh
To a kind fair,# or rave in jealousy; #fair one
On pleasure now, and now on vengeance bent,
The lab'ring passions struggle for a vent.
What pow'r, O man! thy reason then restores,
So long suspended in nocturnal hours?@ @nighttime
What secret hand returns the mental train,* *train of thought
And gives improv'd thine active pow'rs again?
From thee, O man, what gratitude should rise!
And, when from balmy sleep thou op'st thine eyes,
Let thy first thoughts be praises to the skies.
How merciful our God who thus imparts+ +gives
O'erflowing tides of joy to human hearts...
Infinite Love wher'er we turn our eyes
Appears: this ev'ry creature's wants supplies;
This most is heard in Nature's constant voice,
This makes the morn, and this the eve rejoice;
This bids the fost'ring rains and dews descend
To nourish all, to serve one gen'ral end,
The good of man: yet man ungrateful pays
But little homage,# and but little praise. #respect
To him, whose works array'd with mercy shine,
should rise, how constant, how divine!
#3. AN AGE OF ELEGANCE AND WIT
The Enlightenment was both an age of reason, and age of elegance. These two may seem contradictory to us; but to people at that time, both formed the highmark of civilization. The Baroque King Louis XIV of France had already led the way in elegance. All through the Enlightenment, men and women wore enormous wigs, bright colors, and lots of lace. Those who could afford the time spent their afternoons gathered in some lady's drawing room discussing philosophy, science, art, and literature--as well as gossip. Often there would be three or four musicians playing dainty little pieces by Haydn (HI-den) or Mozart (MO-tsart). People with less time and money might gather at a coffee house or café for lunch or teatime. It was a sociable age. Rich or poor, people came together in their finest clothes to discuss ideas.
For the Enlightenment was the heyday of the gentleman. Just as power had gradually filtered down through the social classes, so had the public's idea of how to behave.
TO ACT NOBLY was an upper-class ideal which guided the Medieval knights. A person acting nobly would be far more generous than expected, would protect the honor of women and children, and would fight to the death if his own honor were insulted.
TO ACT ROYALLY was the ideal of Renaissance kings--and copied by other people in the Renaissance. A person acting royally would do everything in a flashy way, and would demand respect for it.
TO ACT GENTLEMANLY was a middle-class ideal. A gentleman followed the rules--rules of grammar, rules of etiquette, rules of law. (In fact, there grew such a demand for grammar rules that the French set up a government committee to judge the fitness of each new word. Since the English language went by no rules, teachers applied Latin rules to satisfy the demand.)
In this civilized age, satire became popular. the newspapers were full of it. Satire is different from most humor, because it sounds completely serious--though the reader knows that the author means exactly the opposite of what he says.
Jonathan Swift wrote a satire on politics called Gulliver's Travels. The small people in his book compete for public office by a jumprope contest. Those who, on command, jump the highest and crawl the lowest get to wear a lot of silly ribbons and medals. In another adventure, Gulliver meets the Yahoos--smelly, loud, violent people who act less civilized than the horses. The Yahoos are the lowest of all creatures, for they will fight wars and kill their own species. Swift wrote "A Modest Proposal," suggesting that the problems of the poor would be lessened if the rich ate the poor babies and paid the parents for the meat. As he calmly explained the benefits of this policy, readers gradually realized that ignoring the poor was just as cruel.
Here is another example of satire by Swift. He wrote it for cooks and butlers and maids, but it will work for anyone who has chores around the house.
from DIRECTIONS FOR SERVANTS by JONATHAN SWIFT
Masters and ladies are usually quarreling with the servants for not shutting the doors after them: but neither masters nor ladies consider, that those doors must be open before they can be shut, and that the labor is double to open and shut the doors; therefore the best, the shortest, and easiest way is to do neither. But if you are so often teased* to shut the door that you cannot easily forget it, then give the door such a clap as you go out, as will shake the whole room, and make everything rattle in it, to put your master and lady in mind that you observe their directions....
When you carry up a dish of meat, dip your fingers in the sauce, or lick it with your tongue, to try whether it be good and fit for your master's table....
Ever wear your hat in the house, but when your master calls; and as soon as you come into his presence, pull it off to show your manners....
When you wait behind a chair at meals, keep constantly wriggling the back of the chair, that the person behind whom you stand may know you are ready to attend him....
When you are in haste, sweep the dust into a corner of the room, but leave your brush+ upon it that it may not be seen, for that would disgrace you....
When you sweep your lady's room, never stay#, to pick up foul smocks,@ handkerchiefs, pinners, pin-cushions, tea-spoons, ribbons, slippers, or whatever lieth in your way; but sweep all into a corner, and then you may take them up in a lump and save time....
I am very much offended with those ladies who are so proud and lazy, that they will not be at the pains of stepping into the garden to pluck a rose, but keep an odious implement* sometimes in the bed-chamber itself, or at least in a dark closet adjoining, which they make use of to ease their worst necessities; and, you are the usual carriers away of the pan, which maketh not only the chamber, but even their clothes offensive, to all who come near. Now, to cure them of this odious+ practice, let me advise you, on whom this office# lies, to convey away this utensil, that you will do it openly, down the great stairs, and in the presence of the footmen; and, if anybody knocks, to open the street-door, while you have the vessel filled in your hands: this, if anything can, will make your lady take the pains of evacuating her person in the proper place, rather than expose her filthiness to all the men servants in the house....
Brush down the cobwebs with a broom that is wet and dirty, which will make them stick the faster to it, and bring them down more effectually....
When you wash@ any of the rooms towards the street, over night throw the foul water out of the street-door; but, be sure not to look before you, for fear those on whom the water lights might think you uncivil, and that you did it on purpose. If he who suffers, breaks the windows in revenge, and your lady chides you, and gives positive orders that you should carry the pail down, and empty it in the sink, you have an easy remedy. When you wash an upper room, carry down he pail so as to let the water dribble on the stairs all the way down to the kitchen; by which, not only your load will be lighter, but you will convince your lady, that it is better to throw the water out of the windows, or down the street-door steps: besides, this latter practice will be very diverting* to you and the family in a frosty night, to see a hundred people falling on their noses or backsides before your door, when the water is frozen.
Neoclassic thinkers believed that truth is eternal. Ancient Greeks discovered some eternal truths; modern scientists are discovering others. It doesn't matter when a truth was discovered; it had been true and operating all along. That is why we study the past, as well as the present--to learn the great and eternal truths that can guide us through life.
Neoclassicism spilled over into three periods:
Baroque--Orderly garden designs (Versailles)
Enlightenment--Architecture, sculpture, music (Haydn, Mozart)
Romanticism--Lingering sentimental neoclassicism of Canova and Keats
John Keats, one of the finest English poets, died of tuberculosis at age twenty-five. Like other Romantic poets of the early 1800s, he wrote about his love of nature--but unlike the others, he summed up neoclassic thinking.
In the first selection, he looks at the painting on an ancient Greek vase--human actions and emotions forever frozen in time. In the second selection, Keats explains why he filled his poems with lush beauty--including the beauty of nature.
from ODE ON A GRECIAN URN by JOHN KEATS
...Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on.
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal--yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!...
O Attic* shape! Fair attitude! With brede+ *of Athens
Of marble men and maidens overwrought, +border
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!# #shepherd scene
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty,"--that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
from ENDYMION by JOHN KEATS
A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower* quiet for us, and a sleep *shady place
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence,+ of the inhuman dearth# +despite discouragement
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days, #lack
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall@ @coffin covering
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon* *gift
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills+ +brooks
That for themselves a cooling covert# make #thicket
'Gainst the hot season: the mid-forest brake@ @ferns
Rich with the sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
An endless fountain of immortal drink.
Pouring into us from the heaven's brink....
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