Edward Gibbon's Visit to Ferney

Gibbon also visited Voltaire at les Délices in 1757. Gibbon writes to Mrs. Gibbon, from Lausanne, 6 August 1763.

I made a little excursion some days ago to Geneva, not so much for the sake of the town which I had often seen before, as for a representation of Monsieur de Voltaire's . He lives now entirely at Fernay, a little place in France, but only two Leagues from Geneva. He has bought the estate, and built a very pretty tho' small house upon it. After a life passed in courts and Capitals, the Great Voltaire is now a meer country Gentleman, and even (for the honor of the profession) sometimes of a farmer. He says he never enjoyed so much true happiness. He has got rid of most of his infirmities, and tho' very old and lean, enjoys a much better state of health than he did twenty years ago. His playhouse is very neat and well contrived, situated just by his Chappel , which is far inferior to it, tho', he says himself, que son Christ est du meilleur faiseur, de tout le pays de Gex.

The play they acted was my favourite Orphan of China. Voltaire himself acted Gengis and Madame Denys Idamé; but I do not know how it happened: either my taste is improved or Voltaire's talents are impaired since I last saw him. He appeared to me now a very ranting unnatural performer. Perhaps indeed as I was come from Paris, I rather judged him by an unfair comparison, than by his own independent value. Perhaps too I was too much struck with the ridiculous figure of Voltaire at seventy acting a Tartar Conqueror with a hollow broken voice, and making love to a very ugly niece of about fifty. The play began at eight in the evening and ended (entertainment and all) about half an hour after eleven. The whole Company was asked to stay and set Down about twelve to a very elegant supper of a hundred Covers. The supper ended about two, the company danced till four, when we broke up, got into our Coaches and came back to Geneva, just as the Gates were opened. Shew me in history or fable, a famous poet of Seventy who has acted in his own plays, and has closed the scene with a supper and ball for a hundred people. I think the last is the more extraordinary of the two.

Thomas Orde (later Lord Bolton), "Le Héros de Ferney au theatre de Chatelaine", 1777.

"Ne pretends pas à trop, tu ne scaurois qu'écrire.
Tes Vers forcent mes pleurs, mais tes gestes me font rire."
-- Anon.

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