Residence of Voltaire France

Abbé Desfontaines, engraving by Desrochers Abbé Desfontaines (1685-1745)

Voltaire had many enemies, but the Abbé Desfontaines is one of the most interesting. The Abbé was a writer for literary journals in Paris and in 1735 established his own literary weekly that offered critiques of published work.

In 1725 the Abbé Desfontaines was arrested on a charge that was punishable by burning at the stake. Voltaire used his influence to secure a pardon, but the Abbé was sent into exile. Again Voltaire went to his aid and obtained permission for the Abbé to return to Paris. The man owed his life to Voltaire. However, for the next twenty years Desfontaines ridiculed and attacked Voltaire's work and was one of Voltaire's most active enemies.

This situation is difficult to understand. Possibly Desfontaines hoped that his negative commentary on Voltaire's work would attract more readers to his own literary journal.

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