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Voltaire's little life in Cirey castle

The castle | LaurPhil / CC-BY
Castle Voltaire Mme du Châtelet Cirey castle

Poor Voltaire! He published his Lettres philosophiques in 1734: oh horrors! The king threatened him with an imprisonment in Bastille jail and his book was forbidden.

The writer ran away and his friend the marquise of Châtelet welcomed him in her Cirey castle. When he arrived, Voltaire found a damaged castle...

It needed repairing! So Voltaire added a gallery, a laboratory and a new wing. He even embellished the apartments, with his own money and lent to the marquis... 40 000 francs! Famous scientists often came here to assist the marquise in her works (she was an outstanding physician and mathematician, who translated Newton's Principles!).

A friend of her, madame de Graffigny, often came in Cirey. She described the apartments: Voltaire's one had a small antechamber flanked by a bedroom hanged with crimson velvet; there were des lambris, des tableaux, des glaces, des encoignures de laque admirables, des porcelaines, des choses infinies dans ce goût-là, chères, recherchées, which means "panelings, paintings, mirrors, nice lacquer corner furniture, porcelains, in short very expensive things."

Voltaire said himself, with humour: Nous sommes des philosophes très voluptueux!, "we are voluptuous philosophers!" Then, we had a gallery with Venus and Hercules' statues.

In the marquise's apartments, hanged with yellow and blue, Graffigny wrote: Je n'en reviens pas, les du Châtelet n'ont jamais été riches, pourtant., "I can't believe it, the Du Châtelet aren't rich, though..."

We even had a bathroom with pale green panelling, clair, gai, divin ("clear, divine"). Mrs. De Graffigny lived in a room exposed to the wind. She said: A Cirey, tout ce qui n'est pas de l'appartement de la dame et de Voltaire est d'une saloperie à dégoûter!, which means "In Cirey, Voltaire and the lady's apartments are the nicest thing in the castle; other rooms are simply trash!"

Whoa... Anyway, they worked on morning, evening, night. They gathered at 11AM for coffee, then after lunch everyone went to work, until 9PM, for dinner. Then they had fun with the magic lantern, puppets show and above all, plays given in the small theatre under the mansard roof... plays written by Voltaire, of course!

About the the author

I'm fond of strolls and History, with juicy and spicy details!