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Quaker Studies

Article Title

Voltaire's Convincement

Abstract

The aim of this essay is to trace the evolution of Voltaire's perspective toward Quakers and Quakerism during the course of his life. The record begins when in 1726 he was forced into exile and chose to go to England. In the course of his three-year stay there, he wrote letters to his friend-letters which were published in 1733 in English under the title 'Letters Concerning the English Nation' and in French with the title 'Lettres Philosophiques'. Four of the 25 letters are devoted to Quakerism. We endeavour to depict, through his writing, Voltaire's changing attitude toward Quakerism from one of mild disdain􀂭 through ambivalence and fmally to outright admiration. This unfolding begins with a summary of his letters on Quakers and proceeds to a description of French attitudes toward Quakerism in the early 18th century. The essay culminates in an account of miscellaneous reactions to Voltaire's letters and eventually to what we feel was his 'convincement', as this is reflected in his later writings.

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