No Comment, Quotation — December 1, 2007, 8:52 am

Voltaire on the Modern Sorcery

voltaire1

Le conseiller Courtin lui demanda de quel charme elle s’était servie pour ensorceler la reine: Galigaï, indignée contre le conseiller, et un peu mécontente de Marie de Médicis, répondit: « Mon sortilège a été le pouvoir que les âmes fortes doivent avoir sur les esprits faibles. » Cette réponse ne la sauva pas; quelques juges eurent assez de lumières et d’équité pour ne pas opiner à la mort; mais le reste, entraîné par le préjugé public, par l’ignorance, et plus encore par ceux qui voulaient recueillir les dépouilles de ces infortunés, condamnèrent à la fois le mari déjà mort et la femme, comme convaincus de sortilège, de judaïsme et de malversations. La maréchale fut exécutée (1617), et son corps brûlé.

Counselor Courtin asked her what magic she had used to cast a spell upon the queen: Galigaï, outraged against the counselor and a bit miffed with Maria de Medici, answered: “My magic spell was the power that strong spirits may have upon the weak.” This response did not save her, several judges were intelligent and just enough not to support the penalty of death, but the rest, influenced by public prejudice, by ignorance and still more by those who sought to reap the plunder of those unfortunates, sentenced both the already deceased husband and his wife to death—for sorcery, Judaism and miscreancy. The maréchale was executed (1617) and her body burned.

–Jean-Marie Arouet (Voltaire), Essai sur les mœurs et l’esprit des nations et sur les principaux faits de l’histoire, depuis Charlemagne jusqu’à Louis XIII, ch clxxiv, 7ème lettre (1756) in Œuvres complètes de Voltaire, vol. xii/3 (S.H. transl.)

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

June 2015

Loitering With Intent

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Polite Coup

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Findings

What Went Wrong

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Shooting Down Man the Hunter

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

[Browsings]
“Here, a long finger of snow replaced by gray patches of dirt and rock; there, a grayish blob of ice the texture of corduroy, where once a vibrant white patch of snow lay.”
Photograph by the author
Article
Legends of the Lost·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“A bond with reality has gone, and sometimes you wonder whether that fosters our feeling that movies are a fleeting art.”
Photograph by Alexander Perrelli
Article
What Went Wrong·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In the seventh year of his presidency, Barack Obama was presenting himself as a politician who followed the path of least resistance. This is a disturbing confession.”
Photograph by Pete Souza
Article
Surviving a Failed Pregnancy·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If this woman — who spent her days studying gray screens for early signs of gestation — could not see my pregnancy, what were the chances that anyone else would?”
Illustration by Leigh Wells
Article
Interesting Facts·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“My husband is forty-six. I am forty-five. He does not think that, in my forties, after cancer, chemotherapy, and chemically induced menopause, I can get pregnant again, but sisters, I know my womb. It’s proven.”
Photograph by McNair Evans

Number of British women killed last fall by lightning conducted through their underwire bras:

2

British women wear heels for fifty-one years on average, from the ages of twelve to sixty-three.

Thousands of employees of McDonald’s protested outside the company’s headquarters near Chicago, demanding their wages be increased to $15 per hour. “I can’t afford any shoes,” said one employee in attendance, “and I want Versace heels.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today