Voltaire 1774

To Catherine the Great: “I'll Never Love Another Empress”

Source: M. Beuchot, editor, Oeuvres de Voltaire, Vol LXIX, correspondence vol XIX. Paris, Chez Lefevre, 1834;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitch Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2012.

August 9, 1774


I am positively in disgrace at your court. Your Imperial Majesty has dumped me for Diderot or Grimm or some other favorite; you showed no consideration for my age. This would be fine if Your Majesty was a French coquette, but how can a victorious and legislating empress be so flighty?

For your sake I have feuded with all the Turks, and even with the marquis de Pugachev, and as my reward you ignore me. What’s done is done, and I'll never love another empress the rest of my life.

And yet, on reflection I might very well have deserved my disgrace. I am an indiscreet old man who allowed himself to be touched by the prayers of a subject of yours named Rose, Livonian by nationality, merchant by profession, and deist in religion who came to Ferney to learn French. Perhaps she wasn’t worthy of the bounties I requested you grant her.

I accuse myself as well of having pestered you by means of a Frenchman whose name I've forgotten, who bragged of running to Petersburg in order to be useful to your majesty and who was doubtless quite useless.

Finally, I am trying to discover what crimes I committed to justify your indifference. I know that every passion has an end; this idea would cause me to die of pique if I weren’t close to death from old age.

May your majesty thus deign to receive this letter as my final wish, as my last will and testament.

Signed, your admirer, your forgotten one, your old Russian of Ferney.