Jean de Chastellux: variola, Enlightenment and censure

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Chastellux castle Castle Epidemic Voltaire Jean de Chastellux

Voltaire’s pal

In 1592, Olivier de Chastellux raised a big tower (the d’Amboise tower). What about the alteration of the main building and the construction of the outhouses? It happened in the 18th century!

Hey, in the 18th century, we met Jean de Chastellux, Voltaire's friend and Enlightenment's fine mind. He took part in the American Revolutionary War and was allowed in the Académie Française in 1772…


Chastellux was a real mind of the Enlightenment, and nothing scared him: did you know he was the first French who was injected with the virus of variola? With success! In the beginning of the 18th century, an English noble lady, lady Montagu, saw an inoculation during a trip in Constantinople.

So she decided to inoculate her 6 years old son. The king, skeptical, tried the thing on prisoners under sentence of death, just to see. They didn’t die, so the royal family was inoculated too…

But in France and other countries, people was afraid of this ″criminal″ practice. And yet the variola struck, again and again… Chastellux’s inoculation didn’t make followers. Even Voltaire fell sick in 1723! Chastellux, for his part, happily shouted when he get the virus: ″I’m saved! And my example will save many others!″

Public happiness, my foot

Chastellux wrote a book, De la félicité publique (″Public bliss″, 1772), dealing with men’s history since centuries. In 1780, he published Voyages dans l'Amérique septentrionale (″A trip in Northern America″).

He also wrote one article for the French Encyclopedia, called ″Public happiness″. Abbot Foucher, the censor, excluded the article because ″it was full of modern philosophy″: and the word God appeared… one time only!

Poor Jean… Yes, but everything comes to an end! The Chastellux family was expelled from their castle during the French Revolution. They came back in 1810. The castle was damaged, so they had to restore it. In 1816, the building works began: they re-fit up the apartments in Troubadour style.

And also!