Voltaire: passing nods from the Dauphine

Thievery begins at the top? The right of kings and card sharps. He was unhappy at Versailles. He wrote to Madame Denis complaining that he was bored to death by court society and the conversation of the great. ” I have,” he wrote, “to deal with twenty actors, the opera, the ballet, the decorations. And for what purpose? To get a passing nod from the Dauphine.” He ended by refering to Versailles as “the place that I abhor.”

It began with the Duc Richelieu suggesting that it might be useful to his career if he wrote a play celebrating the marriage of the Dauphin with the Infanta of Spain and in order to adjust his verses to the music especially composed for the occasion by Pierre Rameau, he was accorded a tiny little room in the palace.

---Voltaire frequented the Café de la Régence where he played chess with Philidor and Jean-Jacques Rousseau as well as once, in 1748, having played a correspondence game with Fredrick the Great of Prussia by courier.....(1840):The Régence was established as a rendezvous for the literati of the day, under the government of the Duke of Orleans, and like Will's in London, became, from its eligible position, the haunt of the most celebrated esprits of France during the eighteenth century. Voltaire, the two Rousseaus, the profligate Duc de Richelieu, Marshal Saxe, Chamfort, St. Foix, Benjamin Franklin, Marmontel, Philidor, and Grimm, are but a few of the men of note who constantly frequented the Régence in early times. The very chairs and tables acquired name and fame from classical association; and, till quite recently, the master of the establishment might be heard commanding his attendants, in tones of pride to "Serve Jean Jacques," -- "Look to Voltaire," -- the identical tables at which this pair of philosophes were wont daily to play chess, being still at that time in existence, named from the departed great.... Read More:http://www.edochess.ca/batgirl/voltaire.html

The climax was reached when they were all at Fontainbleu playing cards in one of the salons. Madame du Chatelet enjoyed gambling, but chess was the only game in which Voltaire indulged. Nor did he relish late hours and overheated rooms. Madame du Chatelet was seated at the card table of Duc de Richelieu with other courtiers. Voltaire took a chair and sat behind her, hoping that the game would soon be over. When she had lost eighty thousand livres his patience snapped: “Why”, he hissed at her, “must you persist in playing with a gang of cheats?” Realizing that his remark had been overheard and that the outrgaged courtiers would obtain a letter de cachet against him, entailing a third period of incarceration in the Bastille, he and Madame du Chatelet left the card table, hurried to their rooms where they gathered a few things together, and escaped that very night to Sceaux, where they were hidden by the Duchesse du Maine until the storm subsided.

Cezanne. The Card Players.

Why did Voltaire detest cards and gambling? Perhaps the answer is to be found :

…which (Walter ) Benjamin notes in his chapter on Gambling and Prostitution: compares the elation of the winner “with the expression of love by a woman who has been truly satisfied by a man” . It is no coincidence that he couples the type of the gambler with the type of the prostitute. For Benjamin, and for those he choses to include in his collection, The Arcades Project, gambling is erotic in nature: “‘The passion for gambling thus serves an autoerotic satisfaction, wherein betting is foreplay, winning is orgasm, and losing is ejaculation, defecation, and castration.’…

---It is a wondrous thing to contemplate the notion that pivotal moments in history can hinge on the ideas and actions of a single person. It is also worth noting, though perhaps not quite as wondrous to contemplate, the fact that to this day I can’t stand in front of a urinal without thinking of Marcel Duchamp. It is conceivable, I suppose, that I would similarly be reminded of Voltaire if I ever found myself standing in front of a guillotine.--- Read More:http://www.chromeneversleeps.com/?p=287

In vain did Voltaire strive to avert vengeance by writing adulatory verses to madame de Pompadour. The Queen was incensed by this tribute to her rival, and the King, feeling that his private affairs were not fit subject for public poems, was also annoyed. Realizing that punishment was coming, Voltaire drove with Madame du Chatelet to Cirey and eventually crossed the frontier into Lorraine and took refuge with King Stanislas at Luneville.

But, hardly a revolutionary, Voltaire was part and parcel of this structure of royalty in fact ultimately reinforcing its the system of oppression it exposed the contradictory nature of his loyalty;the satire which Voltaire directed against the shams and follies of his age, contrasting with his almost subservient conformity in regard to the established order, did expose him to charges of insincerity. After all, he was capable of stratagems and evasions as tortuous as those of the Pope himself. His sallies and epigrams were often cruel, and he took pleasure in shocking the feelings of ordinary men.

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The Card Players. Theodor Rombouts. Read More:http://www.liveinternet.ru/community/3860098/post145197108/

La Pucelle has often been condemned as an outrageous lampoon, and it must be agreed that Joan of Arc is not a fit subject for salacious ridicule. He was pugnacious and litigious and his quarrels with Jean Jacques Rousseau were attended by a degree of publicity which, it must regretfully be admitted, was not wholly unwelcome to him.  Yet, however monkey-like may have been his gestures, jokes, and impulses, his deep and wide influence was founded on a passionate hatred of stupidity and injustice. His life-long motto, his signature tune was “Ecrasez l’infame” by which he meant a battle to the death with every form of intellectual, doctrinal or social tolerance.

Under his influence, men of letters began to question all established institutions and conventions. He was pioneer and patron of a mighty intellectual rebellion. He marks an epoch in himself.


Walter Benjamin: “It gives and takes away; its logic is not our logic. It is dumb and blind and deaf. It is almighty. It is a God. . . . It has its votaries and its saints, who love it for itself, not for what it promises, and who fall down in adoration when its blow strikes them. It strips them ruthlessly, and they lay the blame on themselves, not on their duty. ‘I played  a bad game,’ they say. They find fault with themselves; they do not blaspheme their God.” Anatole France, Le Jardin d’Epicure (Paris), Time is the great leveler of victories.

Consider Benjamin’s reference to Anatole France in The Arcades Project in his Konvolute on Prostitution and Gambling:

“Well, what is gambling, I should like to know, but the art of producing in a second the changes that Destiny ordinarily effects only in the course of many hours or even many years, the art of collecting into a single instant the emotions dispersed throughout the slot-moving existence of ordinary men, the secret of living a whole lifetime in a few minutes—in a word, the genie’s ball of thread? Gambling is a hand-to-hand encounter with Fate. . . . “The fascination of danger is at the bottom of all great passions. There is no fullness of pleasure unless the precipice is near. It is the mingling of terror with delight that intoxicates. And what more terrifying than gambling?” .

Read More:http://www.thelemming.com/lemming/dissertation-web/home/presence-of-mind.html


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