Philosophical Dictionary by Voltaire

Philosophical Dictionary


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subjects: Philosophy

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The Philosophical Dictionary is one of the most lively, amusing and various books of fact and illustration now in existence; comprising information adapted to every taste and lines of study, delivered with the wit, animation, and ease for which its gifted author was unrivalled. There is scarcely a topic which has instructed or amused the world of letters which is not treated of; not any part of the varied shores which bound with the ever-revolving tide of human opinion, left unexplored.

350 pages, with a reading time of ~5.5 hours (87,500 words), and first published in 1764. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, .

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A senior magistrate of a French town had the misfortune to have a wife who was debauched by a priest before her marriage, and who since covered herself with disgrace by public scandals: he was so moderate as to leave her without noise. This man, about forty years old, vigorous and of agreeable appearance, needs a woman; he is too scrupulous to seek to seduce another man’s wife, he fears intercourse with a public woman or with a widow who would serve him as concubine. In this disquieting and sad state, he addresses to his Church a plea of which the following is a pr–cis:

My wife is criminal, and it is I who am punished. Another woman is necessary as a comfort to my life, to my virtue even; and the sect of which I am a member refuses her to me; it forbids me to marry an honest girl. The civil laws of to–day, unfortunately founded on canon law, deprive me of the rights of humanity. The Church reduces me to seeking either the pleasures it reproves, or the shameful compensations it condemns; it tries to force me to be criminal.