A few hours from now, Prince Harry will marry Meghan Markle. She’s a lovely woman, and I am certain she will be good wife to Harry and Harry, a good husband to her.
They will live at Nottingham Cottage, which is a little house and could be called a starter home. I am certain they have already made it inviting and very much theirs.
I’m glad Prince Charles will walk Meghan down the second half of the aisle. He will therefore play a meaningful role in Harry and Meghan’s wedding ceremony. He may well become a second father to Meghan.
I am publishing a page entitled Canadiana 1. It should be revised taking into account a group called Canada First and a figure: William McDougall. McDougall and his party were pushed back to North Dakota by Métis led by Louis Riel, in 1869, when they attempted to enter the Red River Colony. They wanted to build a White and Protestant Canada West and spread hatred as a means to achieve their goal. French Canadians were not wanted west of the province of Québec.
Music video of ‘À la claire fontaine‚’ (By the clear fountain/spring) performed by Vancouver choir musica intima, arrangement by Stephen Smith. My [huntn] own urban re-interpretation of the traditional French folk song.
It would be difficult to understand some of the plays of William Shakespeare and other works of English or French literature without taking into account such significant events as the Conquest of England, by William, Duke of Normandy, at the Battle of Hastings (1066), and the Hundred Years’ War. In the 12th century, at least two authors, Marie de France and Walter of England wrote in Anglo-Norman, and French would be used at court, and perhaps elsewhere, until the conclusion of the Hundred Years’ War.
Let us go back to the literature that followed the Battle of Hastings, fought on 4 October 1066. On that day, William, Duke of Normandy, defeated England’s King Harold (Harold Godwinson), who was killed in battle. The throne of England had been promised to William, Duke of Normandy, hence the battle. Following the Battle of Hastings, many Normans settled in England, two of whom, discussed later in this post, are important writers who penned their work in Anglo-Norman, a transitional language.
William, Duke of Normandy, defeated Harold, King of England, and became William I, King of England. But England, as a territory, remained as it was. The Normans who settled in England would soon speak a form of English.
Yet Latin and French words had been introduced into English. The word ‘curfew’ is an anglicised form of couvre-feu and jeopardy, an anglicised form of jeu parti a term used in a game resembling chess. It probably meant ‘checkmate’ or ‘échec et mat,’ from the Arabic « al cheikh mat » (see D’où vient …).
The Bayeux Tapestry depicting the Battle of Hastings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Marie de France
Walter of England
The best-known Anglo-Norman author is Marie de France, a 12th-century writer whose portrait, an illumination, is featured above. The second is Walter of England (Gualterus Anglicus). His French name would have been Gaut(h)ier d’Angleterre.
Marie de France, who lived in England but was born in France, is famous for her collection of lais: the lais of Guigemar, Chevrefoil (honeysuckle), Lanval, Yonec, Laustic, and other lais. Marie also wrote a book of Æsopic fables. Her fables were ‘Æsopic,’ but as we have seen in earlier posts, Æsop’s fables originate in the SanskritPanchatantra(3rd century BCE); its Arabic retelling, Kalīlah wa Dimnah, by Ibn al-Muqaffa (750 CE), and other sources.
The Lais of Marie de France
The Lais of Marie de France are rooted in the Breton lai, and their themes are love (early courtly love), and chivalry. Breton lais reflect the literature of Ireland and countries where Gaelic is or was spoken. The origin of the word lai has not been ascertained, but whatever the meaning of lai, Marie’s works are examples of courtly love and chivalric literature. Marie de France could well be France’s first major author.
Marie’s lais can be associated with the songs of the troubadours whose native land was Provence and whose subject matter, was chivalry and courtly love. Troubadours (langue d’oc) flourished until the Black Death (1346 – 1353), the plague. In northern France, they were called trouvères and spoke langued’oil.
Walter of England also lived in England in the 12th century, following the Battle of Hastings. He wrote Æsopic fables in Anglo-Norman. The history of fables is shrouded in mystery, so Walter has been considered the ‘anonymous Neveleti,’ the 17th-century fabulist whose collection of fables, the Mythologia Æsopica, in Latin, was used by French fabulist Jean de La Fontaine. However, the attribution to an anonymous ‘Neveleti’ has been ruled false. La Fontaine used Isaac Nicholas Nevelet’s Mythologia Æsopica.
Nevertheless, Walter of England would be the author of a collection of 62 fables in verse. The “62 fables is more accurately called the verseRomulus.” (See Walter of England [Gualterus Anglicus], Wikipedia). However, this seems to be anotherfalse attribution. There was no Romulus. The medieval Æsop originated in Walter of England’s fables and elsewhere. Could it be that ‘Romulus’ meant Latin, from Rome?
John Lydgate and Robert Henryson
When English fabulist John Lydgate produced his Isopes Fabules, the first fable collection written in English, his source was long believed to be the verse Romulus, which it isn’t. As mentioned above, there was no Romulus. Lydgate’s source would probably be Walter of England’s collection of Æsop’s fables. In other words, John Lydgate’s English-language fables adapted Walter of England’s verse fables. Walter’s “The Cock and the Jewel” was used by Robert Henryson in his 15th-century Morall Fabillis, written in Scots. (See Walter of England [Gualterus Anglicus], Wikipedia).
In short, after the Battle of Hastings, Normandy or France was briefly remembered by Marie de France and Walter of England. In the 12th century, ‘Æsopic’ fables were told in Anglo-Norman, a transitional language but one that has survived in literature.
Gone are knights in shining armour and short fables. From literature written in the Anglo-Norman period, we will glimpse the literary legacy of the Hundred Years’ War, Geoffrey Chaucer. An amused public is reading the lengthy anthropomorphicRoman de Renart, while Chaucer translates at least part of the 22,000-line Roman de la Rose, an allegoricalpoem epitomising courtly love.
Sources and Resources
Four of Marie’s lais are a Project Gutenberg [EBook #46234] EN publication
Marie’s Medieval Romances and some lais are a Project Gutenberg [EBook #11417]
In my post on Art in 19th-century England, I mentioned the Arts and Crafts movement, but realized that the Arts and Crafts movement had to be discussed separately. The Arts and Crafts movement grew into an international movement whose members and supporters valued the decorative arts and design. North American Mission style furniture, still a favourite in many homes, is considered an outgrowth of the Arts and Crafts movement.
The Arts and Crafts movement is sometimes viewed as a validation of the applied arts. In this regard, it has often been associated with William Blake‘s (28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827) rejection of the “Dark Satanic Mills,” of the industrial age, which it was to a large extent.
William Morris design adapted by Charles Fairfax, c. 1870 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Arts and Crafts movement, however, was also a precursor. It is one of the birthplaces of design and other applied arts. Moreover, because they rejected the industrial age, some members of the movement advocated socialism. Persons working in factories were looked upon as machines and made to work 60 hours a week in an unhealthy environment. Walter Crane (15 August 1845 – 14 March 1915), known mainly as a prolific illustrator, but also a member of the Arts and Crafts movement, was associated with the international Socialist movement and opposed this kind of abuse. William Morris (24 March 1834 – 3 October 1896) was a “socialist activist.” (See William Morris, Wikipedia.)
The Red House was built in Bexleyheath (London). Morris intended it to be his permanent home, but its location was not sufficiently central. Morris therefore moved his family to the more conveniently located Bloomsbury, where he established his company, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. (1861-1875), the future Morris & Co.
William Morris is not associated with Japonism, except indirectly. Walter Crane’s illustrations were Japonist, but Crane was an eclectic artist. He also designed tiles and wallpaper. As for William Morris, he epitomizes eclecticism, but he was, first and foremost, a medievalist. He and Sir Edward Burne-Jones met as students at Oxford University and were both attracted to medievalism.
Morris and Burne-Jones shared their interest in the Middle Ages with French author Victor Hugo (26 February 1802 – 22 May 1885) whose Hunchback of Notre-Dame or Notre-Dame de Paris (1831) is a favourite. Morris and Burne-Jones may in fact have been influenced by Victor Hugo. Medievalism was a characteristic of French Romanticism as was exoticism, such as orientalism.
Hugo’s Les Orientales(1829) is an example of orientalism. So are many of Jean-Léon Gérôme‘s (11 May 1824 – 10 January 1904) paintings, a few of which I have used in recent posts. Gérôme was an académicien at about the time académiciens started to fall into disrepute.
When I started rewriting this post, I looked up the entry “Daniel Rabel,” in Wikipedia to get information on the “grotesque” in 17th-century France. The grotesque is associated with the Middle Ages: Quasimodo (the hunchback), gargoyles, misericords, but it resurfaces. I have written posts on stage and costume designer Daniel Rabel‘s “grotesque” ballets de cour. These will be listed separately.
Allow me to finish The Red House. I had nearly forgotten writing about Daniel Rabel, but I remember the Red House.
For the moment, however, we will glimpse the art of British artists, some of whom had been or were members of the Arts and Crafts movement (1890 – 1920) or had benefited from the broadening of objects and styles considered artistic introduced by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, founded in 1848. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood conferred acceptability to areas of the visual arts that had seemed marginal in earlier years, such as history painting and the illustration of books, children’s literature especially, and artwork that was reproduced, or prints.
Such movements broke with the constraints of academic painting and introduced a democratization of art. The “beautiful” could be found in a piece of textile or wallpaper, the decoration of a room, or to put it in a nutshell: design. Given the breadth of this subject, I will show art by Walter Crane, Arthur Rackham and Sir John Tenniel. This particular post is an illustrated introduction.
Tenniel, White Rabbit, dresses as herald, blowing trumpet (37)
Town mouse and country mouse by Arthur Rackham (Photo credit: Google Images)
Centuries of Childhood
acceptance of childhood
As it flourished, the illustration of children’s literature reflected a major transformation. Childhood was not born until recently, which can be explained, at least in part, by the high mortality rate among children. Too few reached adulthood. Besides, children’s literature had been put into the service of education. It was didactic and moralistic, or so people thought. (See Philippe Ariès and Centuries of Childhood, Wikipedia.) It was as though children were born tainted with the original sin, a condition baptism did not correct fully.
In literature, Æsopic fables flourished long before Beatrix Potter (Peter Rabbit). There are several illustrators of Æsopic fables who are also, to a large extent, illustrators of Jean de La Fontaine. Jean de La Fontaine retold a large number of Æsopic fables that had been taken away from the realm of oral tradition beginning with Latin author Phædrus (1st century CE) and Greek author Babrius (2nd century CE). (See Phædrus [fabulist], Wikipedia.) These were supposedly didactic, but the Horatian ideal, to inform and to delight, was not always served. Children were delighted and did not necessarily identify with the careless behaviour of a mere grasshopper. The tale was not about the behaviour of children; it was about the behaviour of a grasshopper. Children knew the difference.
Illustrations have solid roots in Western culture. Jean de France, duc de Berry paid a fortune for his illustrated Très Riches Heures. But it could well be that Japonism triggered the British Golden Age of illustration and its large European counterpart. Japan had isolated itself in the 17th century (1633–39). No one could enter or leave Japan under penalty of death. That period of Japan’s history is called the Sakoku period, which ended in 1853 with the forcible entry of the Black Ships of Commodore Matthew Perry.
However, as of 1860, Europe was flooded with Japanese prints. As prints, these were not the unique works of art Europeans created (beginning with the 8th-century Book of Kells). After the invention the printing press, certain books were still illuminated by hand. But, as of 1501, printers no longer left room on a page for an illustrator to illuminate a printed text. The hand-painted printed books produced during the period that spans the invention of printing and the demise of hand-painted books are called incunabula(les incunables).
Contrary to Europeans, the Japanese printed their artwork and these were considered by Europeans to be genuine artwork, despite duplication. Even Vincent van Gogh could afford a Japanese print of which he liked both the style and the subject matter. He did not learn a printing technique, but Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Mary Cassatt did. Art had become affordable and it spread to design, to use a broad term. Moreover, certain artists’ Japonism consisted in including the objects of the Orient in their paintings: white and blue porcelain, fans, screens… Many artists also liked the beau idéal Japan proposed.
Ironically, appreciation of Japan’s beau idéal contributed to the emergence of Art Nouveau, Art Deco and, eventually, modernism. Art Nouveau flourished during the golden years of illustration. However, the most significant element Japonism brought to European art was an acceptance of art reproduced: prints.
Japanese artists reproduced their art, called ukiyo-e, using wood block printing. Consequently, they did not adhere to the notion that a work of art should be unique and original. Apprenticeship consisted in attempting to master the art of one’s master. For Japanese artists, beauty was not a matter of taste. They supported the concept of a beau idéal, which meant that, in their eyes, beauty was one of a kind, but not the artwork.
As it happens, a poster by Toulouse-Lautrec may cost millions. Several copies were made, but few are available and the art of Toulouse-Lautrec is considered beautiful by a large number of art lovers. Although beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there is a significant degree of unanimity with respect to the beauty of certain works of art.
Jean de La Fontaine‘s Fables were illustrated from the moment they proved successful. As well, given that many were rewritings of Æsopic fables, the stories they told had the merit of being familiar. La Fontaine had several illustrators, the most famous of whom is Gustave Doré. But Doré’s illustrations are monochrome. Wood engravings and etchings, an intaglio technique, may be coloured, but prints are often monochrome art. (See Wood engravingand Etching, Wikipedia.)
However, we are beginning with John Tenniel, Arthur Rackham, and Walter Crane. Walter Crane illustrated The Baby’s own Æsop. (See Gutenberg [EBook #25433] and Laura Gibbs’ mythfolklore.net.aesopica). Early illustrations were not coloured. Gustave Doré‘s, illustration of La Fontaine are monochrome pieces. Prints, such as the oriental prints that flooded Europe after the Sakoku period, could be coloured, in which they differed substantially from monochrome prints. Both Arthur Rackham and Sir John Tennielproduced monochrome as well as coloured illustrations and both illustrated Lewis Carroll‘sAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
They and Walter Crane are our artists, as space and the nature of weblogs do not allow me to feature Beatrix Potter—who illustrated the books she wrote, the Peter Rabbit stories, Kate Greenaway, and others. All are listed at the foot of this post. Pictures can be found by clicking on the name of the artist. Their work may also be seen at Wikimedia.org. Write the name of the artist and specify Wikimedia.org. However, the art of other illustrators may be shown in future posts.
Sir John Tenniel engaged in nonsense art and Lewis Carroll, in literary nonsense, but Carroll did not write limericks. Nonsense is an umbrella term and, although limericks can be used in children’s literature, they may be not suitable for children. Unlike Walter Crane’s The Baby’s own Æsop, “Hercules and the Waggoner” a fable by Æsop and La Fontaine, and Rudyard Kipling’s “Small boy of Quebec,” which is witty and delightfully naïve, limericks may be crude. But Walter Crane produced Toy Books inspired by Japanese art.
The Little Red Riding Hood by Walter Crane (Gutenberg [EBook #19993])
I must close this very incomplete post, but we have seen a significant expansion of the areas that could be considered legitimate art, from illustrations to design. Japonism played a role in this expansion and it also played a role in the democratization of art as did the Arts and Crafts movement.
Towering figures: Montesquieu, Voltaire and Rousseau
Montesquieu (18 January 1689 – 10 February 1755), François-Marie Arouet (21 November 1694 – 30 May 1778), who renamed himself Voltaire, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (28 June 1712 – 2 July 1778) are the three figures who dominate the Age of Enlightenment in France, the 18th century. They were its most prominent philosophes (intellectuals).
There were other philosophes, such as the encyclopédistes, Denis Diderot (5 October 1713 – 31 July 1784) and Jean le Rond d’Alembert (16 November 1717 – 29 October 1783). Many are associated with la Querelle des bouffons (“Quarrel of the Comic Actors”), a paper war waged between 1752 and 1754 and opposing reason and sentiment. Others, I will not mention to avoid a truly lengthy post.
A Constitutional Monarchy
The philosophes, however, could not have envisaged the events of the French Revolution and, in particular, the death by guillotine of Louis XVI (23 August 1754 – 21 January 1793), Marie-Antoinette (2 November 1755 – 16 October 1793), and Louis-Philippe II, Duke of Orleans (13 April 1747 – 6 November 1793), also known as Philippe Égalité. A revolution and a regicide, they could not have predicted.
The constitutional government held as a model, was England’s Constitutional Monarchy. A constitution limits the power of a monarch. Given his advocacy of a constitution, Montesquieu opposed absolute monarchy, which was France’s government. However, the word monarchy could include the concept of a constitution, spoken inaudibly.
After the death, in 1715, of Louis XIV, France had heirs to the throne: the illegitimate children of Louis XIV’s mistresses whom Louis had legitimized. However, the royal family quarrelled and it was decided that the next king would not be a légitimé. He would be the grandson of Louis XIV, the future Louis XV (15 February 1710 – 10 May 1774), but he was only five when the Sun King passed away. A regent (the Regency) would therefore rule France until 1723. He was Louis-Philippe, duc d’Orléans, the son of Philippe I, duc d’Orléans, Louis the XIV’s brother, known as Monsieur.
Voltaire thrown into the Bastille
Voltaire was a bit of a rebel as an adolescent. For instance, he would not attend law school, his father’s wish. He wanted to be a man of letters. He produced a few obnoxious verses on the Regent’s “incestuous” love life. Such audacity had a major impact on the remainder of Voltaire’s life. He would keep fleeing. Voltaire was thrown into the Bastille prison, in Paris, where he spent 11 months, or 18 months. Sources differ. He was imprisoned without the benefit of a trial or the opportunity to defend himself.
Justice would become his cause. Upon his release, he was sent on a retreat. The Duke de Béthune invited him to the château de Sully.
Voltaire would not have suffered this gratuitous imprisonment had he lived in England where there was a constitution and a bill of habeas corpus. England had its MagnaCarta, its great charter or liberties since the 13th century.
In 1718, Voltaire feared being sent to the Bastille once again, but the Regent sent him to Sully. So, the plea for justice expressed in Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws (1748) would be Voltaire’s plea. It nearly summarizes his life, and England would be a source of inspiration.
The lettre de cachetwas an infamy. It made it possible to incarcerate a man without the benefit of a trial and the possibility of his defending himself. The letter was signed by the king, or by his regent, countersigned by an official, sealed (le cachet) and then delivered. It was arbitrary, which fully explains why Montesquieu insisted that “[a] man is innocent until a jury finds him guilty.”
As we have seen, Voltaire had spent 11 to 18 months (sources differ) in the Bastille because of verses that had offended the Regent. He had a narrow escape in 1718. The Regent spared him the Bastille by sending him to Sully, the duc de Béthune’s castle. However, in 1726, after insulting the chevalier de Rohan-Chabot, Voltaire, who was at Sully, was beaten by men hired by the chevalier who had also obtained a lettre de cachet.
Voltaire was exiled to England where he spent the following two years (sources differ), from 1726 to 1728. During his stay in England, he learned English, mingled with fine minds, met the King of England, and drew information and inspiration for his Lettres philosophiques(The Letters on England).
The Letters on England
The Letters Concerning the English(a translation, not by Voltaire) were first published in London, in 1733. A year later, the letters were published in the original French (London, 1734), but a French version was also published in France. The Letters were censored immediately. Prudence dictated that the 25 letters be entitled Lettres philosophiques, rather than Lettres anglaises or Lettres sur les Anglais, and that, henceforth, they be published abroad. As I wrote above, Voltaire kept fleeing. The complete text of both the English translation and a French edition may be read online:
The Letters on the English are difficult to summarize as they consist in 25 short articles, letters, on various subjects. The topics are listed under Wikipedia’s entry on the Letters on the English. I would therefore invite you to supplement the quotations I have inserted below this summary and the quotations inserted below.
In the first seven Letters on England, Voltaire discusses religions or sects: the Quakers (1–4), the Anglicans (5), the Presbyterians (6), and the Socinians (7). Socinians are nontrinitarians. Socinians are Deists, as was Voltaire who also became a Freemason the year of his death. Deists believe in a single creator of the universe and reject the knowledge of religious authorities. They favour tolerance. (See Deism, Wikipedia.)
On the Quakers (Letter I), Voltaire quotes a Quaker who says that Quakers are not baptised:
“Friends [Quakers]… swear not; Christ indeed was baptised by John, but He himself never baptised anyone. We are the disciples of Christ, not of John.” Friends are not circumcised.
They have no communion. “Only that spiritual one,” replied he, “of hearts.”
“We never swear, not even in a court of justice, being of opinion that the most holy name of God ought not to be prostituted in the miserable contests betwixt man and man.”
“Quakers have no priests (Letter II): “Why should we abandon our babe to mercenary nurses, when we ourselves have milk enough for it?”
On the Church of England (Letter V)
“England is properly the country of sectarists. Multæ sunt mansiones in domo patris mei (in my Father’s house are many mansions). An Englishman, as one to whom liberty is natural, may go to heaven his own way.”
In this letter, we read that: “With regard to the morals of the English clergy, they are more regular than those of France[.]”
The ceremonies of the Church of England are at times too “Romish.”
On the Presbyterians (Letter VI)
Voltaire speaks of another Cato, the first being Cato the Younger (95 – 46 BCE), a Stoic:
“The latter [Voltaire’s Cato] affects a serious gait, puts on a sour look, wears a vastly broad-brimmed hat and a long cloak over a very short coat, preaches through the nose, and gives the name of the whore of Babylon to all churches where the ministers are so fortunate as to enjoy an annual revenue of five or six thousand pounds, and where the people are weak enough to suffer this, and to give them the titles of my lord, your lordship, or your eminence.”
“These gentlemen, who have also some churches in England, introduced there the mode of grave and severe exhortations.”
Of Parliament (Letter VIII)
Voltaire uses ancient Rome as a point of reference.
“But here follows a more essential difference between Rome and England, which gives the advantage entirely to the latter—viz., that the civil wars of Rome ended in slavery, and those of the English in liberty. The English are the only people upon earth who have been able to prescribe limits to the power of kings by resisting them; and who, by a series of struggles, have at last established that wise Government where the Prince is all-powerful to do good, and, at the same time, is restrained from committing evil; where the nobles are great without insolence, though there are no vassals; and where the people share in the Government without confusion.”
“The Romans never knew the dreadful folly of religious wars, an abomination reserved for devout preachers of patience and humility.”
“House of Lords and that of the Commons divide the legislative power under the king, but the Romans had no such balance.”
Of the Government (Letter IX) (taxes)
“Liberty in England sprang from the quarrels of tyrants. The barons forced King John and King Henry III to grant the famous Magna Charta, the chief design of which was indeed to make kings dependent on the Lords; but then the rest of the nation were a little favoured in it, in order that they might join on proper occasions with their pretended masters. This great Charter, which is considered as the sacred origin of the English liberties, shows in itself how little liberty was known.”
On the subject of taxes, Voltaire writes that: “When the Bill has passed the Lords and is signed by the king, then the whole nation pays, every man in proportion to his revenue or estate, not according to his title, which would be absurd.”
“No one is exempted in this country from paying certain taxes because he is a nobleman or a priest. All duties and taxes are settled by the House of Commons, whose power is greater than that of the Peers, though inferior to it in dignity.”
Letter X is on Trade
In the above letters on England, Voltaire praises:
England’s religious pluralism (tolerance);
its balance between the monarchy and the parliament, i.e. a constitutional monarchy; and
its Magna Carta, the charter of liberties that has long protected the English.
The Letters on England continued
Voltaire goes on to praise inoculation which the English have accepted and which prevents smallpox: death or disfigurement. He praises Lord Bacon (Letter XII) and Mr Locke (Letter XIII).
“Philosophers will never form a religious sect, the reason of which is, their writings are not calculated for the vulgar, and they themselves are free from enthusiasm.” (XIII)
Voltaire admired not only England’s scientists and intellectuals, but also Descartes.
“Descartes was injuriously accused of being an atheist, the last refuge of religious scandal: and he who had employed all the sagacity and penetration of his genius, in searching for new proofs of the existence of a God, was suspected to believe there was no such Being.” (Letter XIV)
“The progress of Sir Isaac Newton’s life was quite different. He lived happy, and very much honoured in his native country, to the age of fourscore and five years. It was his peculiar felicity, not only to be born in a country of liberty, but in an age when all scholastic impertinences were banished from the world. Reason alone was cultivated, and mankind could only be his pupil, not his enemy.” (Letter XIV)
“Descartes gave sight to the blind.” (Letter XIV)
[I have left out a few letters, devoted to great minds.]
In England merit is rewarded:
“Merit, indeed, meets in England with rewards of another kind, which redound more to the honour of the nation.” (Letter XXIII)
[I have left out a few letters.]
In the following letter, Voltaire discusses the English Royal Society (XXIV) and other learned societies. He praises the French Academy.
Letter XXV is devoted to Pascal who insists that man is “miserable.” It has been omitted from the English edition I used, but can be read in French. Lettres philosophiques pdf FR
Let me now summarize the letters I omitted using Britannica:
“A stay in England (1726–28) led to the Lettres philosophiques (1734; Letters on England), which—taking England as a polemical model of philosophical freedom, experimental use of reason, enlightened patronage of arts and science, and respect for the new merchant classes and their contribution to the nation’s economic well-being—offered a program for a whole civilization, as well as sharp satire of a despotic, authoritarian, and outdated France.”
In the Letters Concerning the English, Voltaire expresses his admiration for a country where tolerance allows religious pluralism.
“Take a view of the Royal Exchange in London, a place more venerable than many courts of justice, where the representatives of all nations meet for the benefit of mankind. There the Jew, the Mahometan, and the Christian transact together, as though they all professed the same religion, and give the name of infidel to none but bankrupts. There the Presbyterian confides in the Anabaptist, and the Churchman depends on the Quaker’s word.” (Letter VI)
Religion is a crucial component of the Letters concerning the English, which led to censorship. Publication of his Lettres philosophiques forced him to go into hiding. He would otherwise have been imprisoned.
However, Voltaire admired French literature as well as many British authors. He is eclectic in his choice of authors and texts and shows a surprizing knowledge of both the literature of France and that of England. Would that merit be rewarded in France! Descartes was not given a pension. Fortunately, members of the Académie française were remunerated.
I have introduced the famous lettre de cachet as a biographical element. In Voltaire’s days, an individual could have another individual incarcerated by obtaining a lettre de cachet, signed by the king and sealed. Next, I would like to tell about Jean Calas. France had l’affaire Dreyfus, but it also had l’affaire Calas.
Candide, a novella and Voltaire’s jewel, will be introduced latter.
Yesterday, I decorated an appreciation post by inserting a picture of one tile, William Morris‘s Columbine Tile.
So let me now honour its creator: William Morris (24 March 1834 – 3 October 1896). I found a picture of this tile on a website you can access by clicking on William Morris. Moreover, the tile is on the market.
William Morris is remembered mainly as a textile designer. I became acquainted with his work when I visited the Metropolitan Music of Art, in New York. But my interest grew when I realized that he was the illustrator of the 1896 Kelmscott Press edition of the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343 – 25 October 1400).
Morris’s illustrations are reminiscent of illuminated medieval books, books enhanced by enluminures or illuminations are now prized chiefly because of their fine calligraphy and their enluminures. As I noted a few days ago, we remember John Amos Comenius because he published the first illustrated textbook.
However, let us return to William Morris to tell that he was also a writer. Among other works, he wrote News from Nowhere (1890), a book considered as utopian. He was also a predecessor to J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis and J. K. Rowling, in that he published a fantasy novel entitled The Well at the World’s End (1896).
In the world of fine arts, Morris is associated with two Movements:
Pre-Raphaelites championed the art of Michelangelo and, particularly, the paintings of Raphael, or Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (6 April or 28 March 1483 – 6 April 1529), not to mention Leonardo da Vinci. So here we are once again at the Renaissance court of Urbino, the court where Castiglione observed courtly behaviour. Il Libro del Cortegiano (The Book of the Courtier), published in Venice in 1528, is a description of courtly life as Castiglione knew it from his long stay at the court of Urbino. The Louvre houses Raphael’s portrait of Castiglione.
The Arts and Crafts Movement
As for the Arts and Crafts Movement, William Morris founded the Movement. He had been inspired by the writings of John Ruskin (1819–1900), the foremost art critic of his time. Members of the Movement were traditionalists and advocates of fine design and decoration, values often belittled by artists whose works require a neutral background in order to be best shown. Beauty is everywhere, including in the manner one sets food on a plate.
Design for Trellis wallpaper by William Morris, 1862 (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)
William Morris is also associated with Sir Edward Burne-Jones (28 August 1833 – 17 June 1898), a friend and a business partner. Sir Edward Burne-Jones’s paintings can be mistaken for medieval works.
The tile I have shown is a classic on the art of gradation. The design is dark at the very bottom, which sits it, so to speak, and then, as we near the top, the blues mutate progressively to lighter and nuanced shades of blue.