On the Earthquake of Lisbon, to M. Tronchin of Lyons

24 November 1755

[ Tallentyre's commentary: "M. Tronchin de Lyons" was one of the honourable family of which Dr. Theodore Tronchin was the most famous member.

"The Earthquake of Lisbon," on All Saints' Day, 1755, which destroyed thirty thousand persons in six minutes, drew from Voltaire not only the mockery of Candide, but one of the most beautiful and serious of his writings, The Poem of on the Disaster of Lisbon. The disaster is the subject of many of his letters of this period, and profoundly touched his soul.

"In the best of all possible worlds"-- a scornful version of the "Whatever is, is right" of Pope's Essay on Man. ]

Les Délices, November 24, 1755

This is indeed a cruel piece of natural philosophy! We shall find it difficult to discover how the laws of movement operate in such fearful disasters in the best of all possible worlds-- where a hundred thousand ants, our neighbours, are crushed in a second on our ant-heaps, half, dying undoubtedly in inexpressible agonies, beneath débris from which it was impossible to extricate them, families all over Europe reduced to beggary, and the fortunes of a hundred merchants -- Swiss, like yourself -- swallowed up in the ruins of Lisbon. What a game of chance human life is! What will the preachers say -- especially if the Palace of the Inquisition is left standing! I flatter myself that those reverend fathers, the Inquisitors, will have been crushed just like other people. That ought to teach men not to persecute men: for, while a few sanctimonious humbugs are burning a few fanatics, the earth opens and swallows up all alike. I believe it is our mountains which save us from earthquakes.

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