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Letters Concerning the English Nation (Oxford World's Classics) 1st Edition

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199555321
ISBN-10: 019955532X
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Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Director of the Voltaire Foundation, Nicholas Cronk is Fellow and Tutor in French at St Edmund's Hall and Faculty Lecturer, Oxford.
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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (September 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019955532X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199555321
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 0.4 x 5.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #147,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Before this 1994 Oxford University Press Edition, ENGLISH-language Readers of Voltaire's famous Book had to make do with Translations from the FRENCH 'Lettres Philosophiques'. Voltaire, however, began writing the Book during his two and a half year stay in ENGLAND, and wrote over half the Letters in ENGLISH. This first critical Edition of the 'Letters' in ENGLISH (the remaining eight Letters are presented in contemporary Translation) are immediately more fresh, more witty, more pointed, more fluid, more Voltairean, than the pallid Translations of other Editions on offer, and, with their characteristic 18th century Spelling (e.g. today's words ending in 'c' ending in 'k', like 'Publick') and Orthography (Nouns capitalised, proper Nouns italicised), give one the pleasurable Feeling of reading a Contemporary of Swift's or Pope's.
Anyone hoping for a Bill Bryson-like Travelogue into the Manners and distinctive Details of the ENGLISH, or a FRENCH 'Gulliver's Travels', will be disappointed. The 'Letters' are a Travelogue of Enlightenment Ideas, and can be divided into three Sections - Religion (Voltaire celebrating the Tolerance of many Religions in ENGLAND compared to the Catholic Tyranny in FRANCE); Philosophy/Science (offering a breathless Digest of exciting new Theories and Discoveries by Locke and Newton), and Literature (decrying the barbarous Irregularities of English theatre compared to the coolly classical French, but praising the occasional poetic Vividness and greater dramatic Force of Shakespeare - how nice of him!). Voltaire often distorts political Conditions in ENGLAND (e.g. the economic Persecution of Catholics) to extol the Country as a Beacon of Liberty.
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Format: Paperback
This book is, justifiably, not as famous as _Candide_, but is still a great sample of Voltaire's thinking--and therefore a great example of Enlightenment discourse. In these letters Voltaire criticizes France by praising England, and begins to develop ideas about religion, democracy, and social convention that he continued to work on throughout his life. For my taste, _Philosophical Dictionary_ is more exciting, but these letters are more inviting, and also give insight into the connections between England and France that obviously lie at the heart of their historical antipathy.
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