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Volumes seeking sponsors

Lettres sur les Anglais (volumes 6A, 6B)

The Lettres sur les Anglais (also known as the Lettres philosophiques) is one of the key masterpieces of the European eighteenth century, a manifesto of Enlightenment thinking that helped to shape a way of understanding the world which remains influential to this day. It also marked a turning-point in Voltaire’s career when the poet and dramatist established himself as a prose writer of the first rank.

Drawing on the experiences of his stay in England (1726-1728), the Lettres are made up of a series of short articles, covering a range of themes, from religion and politics to literature, and they aim to present an overall view of contemporary English culture. Voltaire experiments with a new type of cultural history, suggesting the interconnection of religious tolerance, political freedom and a dynamic literary culture.

The first edition to appear was an English translation, Letters concerning the English Nation (London, 1733); the original French version followed, Lettres écrites de Londres sur les Anglais (London, 1734); and thirdly, a rather different French edition was published the same year under the title Lettres philosophiques: this French edition was immediately censored. The work continued to be published throughout the century, but it was a work with a scandalous reputation, and the title Lettres philosophiques had to be avoided for legal reasons.