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Voltaire in Love

3.71  ·  Rating Details  ·  235 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
The inimitable Nancy Mitford’s account of Voltaire’s fifteen-year relationship with the Marquise du Châtelet—the renowned mathematician who introduced Isaac Newton’s revolutionary new physics to France—is a spirited romp in the company of two extraordinary individuals as well as an erudite and gossipy guide to French high society during the Enlightenment. Mitford’s story i ...more
Paperback, 280 pages
Published November 6th 2012 by NYRB Classics (first published December 1st 1957)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,000)
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Kelly
I’ve written before about why I love Nancy Mitford’s biographies so much. First off, she writes exactly the sort of narrative history that floats my boat: history that treats the past as, first and foremost, an endless, rich vein of gold to be mined for storytelling yarn, fascinating characters and plots so good that you need the excuse of Hey-It-Actually-Happened to get people to suspend their disbelief.* Secondly, her writing has, for the most part, exactly the right touch for the upper class ...more
Sketchbook
Oct 10, 2013 Sketchbook rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Voltaire believed that any historical study, writes
Mitford, should be composed like a play, with "a beginning,
a middle and an end - and not be a mere collection of facts : 'If
you want to bore the reader, tell him everything.' " Mitford's story of Voltaire & Emilie is polished entertainment.

Even when their love affair "turned imperceptibly into
a marriage," and both had other romances, "chains had been
forged which could not be broken." Adds the worldly Mitford:
After ten years they knew that "
...more
Jenny McPhee
Dec 06, 2012 Jenny McPhee rated it it was amazing
ÉMILIE DU CHÂTELET: THE LADY WHO WAS A GREAT MAN, My December post at Bookslut

In a 1740 letter to an English friend, Voltaire expressed his regret at being unable to visit him, as he could not live without, even for a short period, “that lady whom I look upon as a great man and as a most solid and respectable friend. She understands Newton; she despises superstition and in short she makes me happy.” The famous French poet, playwright, and polemicist was then midway through his extraordinary fift
...more
Sherwood Smith
Though I'm not lit on fire by her fiction, I find Nancy Mitford quite interesting in essays, letters, and especially when she writes about history. I suspect one has to take her judgments on character with the proverbial dash of salt (well, I know one does; her view of Madame Maintenon, for example, in her work on Louis XIV is a fine example of the born aristocrat's contempt for an ambitious mushroom—and worth reading because it shows just how Maintenon was regarded by the court) so I kept resor ...more
Margaret
Voltaire in Love by Nancy Mitford recounts the relationship between Voltaire and Madame du Chatelet. Voltaire and Madame du Chatelet both are brilliant and confrontational, and their clashing personalities creates a whole lot of relationship drama (between them as well as their peers) while Madame du Chatelet works to translate the works of Issac Newton. Voltaire and du Chatelet's intellectual relationship outlives their romantic one in many ways, and their work in translating Newton also descri ...more
RH Walters
Jan 14, 2013 RH Walters rated it really liked it
I was smitten with this book, read snatches out loud and felt imbued with the wit and daring of the people in it. I reveled in Voltaire’s cheekiness and du Chatelet’s intense passion for science and her lovers. Voltaire said, “when I see a clock I believe in a clock-maker.” When I told Bruce I drank all our soda he dryly said “I guess Voltaire would’ve drank all the Coke.” After long enchantment, however, the hectic vanity and selfishness of the lovers seemed to exhaust Mitford, and me. Still a ...more
Tony
Apr 06, 2014 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
VOLTAIRE IN LOVE. (1957). Nancy Mitford. ****.
Although Voltaire’s works are discussed at length, this chronicle focuses on his relationship with the Marquise du Chatelet, known to history as Emilie. “To look at she was quite unlike the general idea of an eighteenth century Marquise. Mme. Du Deffand, who never forgave her for carrying off the greatest entertainer of the age, has left a descrition of her which is certainly too catty but may have some truth: thin, dry and flat-chested, huge arms an
...more
Seamus
Aug 21, 2013 Seamus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. While it is not a military history book, It still has to due with my favorite period in history. It involves my one of my favorite authors and i came away extremely impressed that Emile was able to translate all of that math and concepts into French from Latin.
It was an odd relationship but normal for its time. Heck today's relationships would be pretty odd if a person from that period heard of some of the present day ones.
It was a GOOD READ...
Alicia
What a disappointment. I wanted to read this book because I was intrigued to learn that Voltaire’s lover for 16 years, Marquise Emilie du Chatelet, was a mathematician, physicist, and author during the Age of Enlightenment. Her major achievement is considered to be her translation and commentary on Isaac Newton's work Principia Mathematica. Voltaire often referred to her as his muse and the only true love of his life.

Emilie lived together with her husband (the Marquis du Chatelet) and her lover
...more
russell barnes
Oct 16, 2014 russell barnes rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biog
This is a very strange thing indeed, so much so it's hard to work out where to begin. Suffice to say this is a biography that only Nancy Mitford could've written.

Like many of her novels it treats all the characters as close friends, with all the assumed knowledge of backstory and history that involves. Whilst this is a bit disorientating at the start of a comic novel, it's utterly baffling when dealing with a succession of 17th Century French nobility, and you only really come to grips with all
...more
Gerardo
Jul 28, 2014 Gerardo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Todos conocemos al multifacético intelectual de la Ilustración Francesa, Voltaire, o al menos hemos escuchado hablar de él. Además de ser historiador y filósofo afamado por su astucia literaria y sus continuos ataques a las instituciones y a la sociedad de su país natal, François-Marie Arouet era también conocido por sus numerosos amoríos.

En Voltaire enamorado –publicada por primera vez en 1957-, la escritora inglesa Nancy Mitford (1904-1973) profundiza en la relación de once años entre el filós
...more
Wayne
Sep 26, 2011 Wayne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: francophiles of course.
Recommended to Wayne by: Nancy Mitford's other books
POST-READ:

An Absolutely Delicious Read!!!!
Not only do you get to see how very intelligent thinking people get to manage and mis-manage their lives and effect all those around them,
but you get some insight into how the French lived at that particular period of History. What an amazing people they are/were!!!
You won't approve of all of it.
eg.,the seeming total disregard of French parents to the future happy lives of their children. Which today compares to our parents' total disregard to the people
...more
Lucy
Jul 03, 2013 Lucy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
No puede decirse que el libro aporte más que una perspectiva algo insustancial sobre dos personajes vitales en la historia del pensamiento moderno. No obstante, con frecuencia, la vida cotidiana, sobre todo la relativa a los desaires, enamoramientos y disputas más o menos banales sobre asuntos de índole diversa, se pierden entre grandes nombres y obras magnas. En este sentido, Nancy Mitford aporta una perspectiva nueva al narrar, con sutilieza, pero con una mirada irónica, precisamente esos elem ...more
Amy
Jun 01, 2013 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A delightful biography of two fascinating yet exhausting people written as only Nancy Mitford could-- with droll wit and a dull poker aimed right at the foibles of the subjects. Voltaire teeters on the brink of death with every illness, but rallies as soon as something more interesting comes up; Emilie is a brilliant scientist who appears to have irritated nearly everyone with whom she came into contact, including Voltaire. Yet their relationship persisted through infidelities to each other, pol ...more
Lena
Jun 02, 2016 Lena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pure pleasure. The book is so witty and live with details and, well, gossip, that people really come to life. Mme du Chatelet and her famous lover are portraited with their little flaws and passions but also as great people of their century. There is also a great deal of other second-role characters that plunge you deep into this fascinating age.
Besides, I've learnt a new English word --- "libel" --- because there is so many of it in the story.
Razia Khan
Ok,so this was probably the first book I've read on Voltaire since high school, when I would typically read much more widely. It's also a Nancy Mitford book on Voltaire, which puts an entirely different slant on it. She wrote a very lively history. It reads much more like a novel and was sufficiently entertaining, but I did often find myself wondering if I could afford the luxury of reading a book on a not very compelling subject (especially when there's tonnes more to read). I'm glad I did read ...more
Raechel Manrodt
Jul 10, 2016 Raechel Manrodt rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
A book I wouldn't normally pick up, but was initially struck by a few fine wry lines of Mitford's early on. Quickly, her snark dissipated and (a well cultivated) tedium set in.

If you're already enthralled by Voltaire, this might be a curious read.
Kathleen Dixon
Don't read this review if you're a fan of biographies or of Nancy Mitford.

I say that because I'm a very poor biography reader - it's the very occasional one that can hold me for the entire book. This, unfortunately fits with the regular ones, and, as the book is due back at the library and I have already renewed it once and there are so many other books to read, I am returning it unfinished.

I did enjoy Mitford's writing style, and I did enjoy learning about Voltaire, who hitherto has been just a
...more
Booknblues
The biographical account of Voltaire and his mistress, Emilie the Marquise du Chatelet.
MariMel
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lisa
May 05, 2016 Lisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Had I not read Bodanis' book, I would likely have found this more enjoyable than I did. Since the writing, more correspondence has been discovered and further research has been done. The epilogue that tied up the characters and what happened to them after Emilie's demise was an interesting touch, tying it in to recently read books that took place in or were histories of The French Revolution.
Fred
Apr 03, 2014 Fred rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I always enjoy Nancy Mitford (and Jessica Mitford, for that matter) - the writing makes figures who would otherwise be decidedly inaccessible and not terribly sympathetic to an Anglo-biased guy in the 21st century, entirely appealing for being sieved through a very sharp, stylish, and perceptive mid-20th-century high-Anglo mind and made charming thereby: brava!
Elisabeth Watson
Feb 08, 2013 Elisabeth Watson rated it really liked it
Qualifies, I think, as a "romp." Accessible and rich, and a wonderful authorial voice--something all too many biographies lack. Above all, I loved Mitwords warmth and acceptance of these truly obnoxious-sounding people.
Angelina Goodman
mitford tells it like no other and i'm a fan of all her biographies. her writing is never dry and she's not afraid to state her opinion. the details of 18th century life in france are fascinating.
Carin
May 06, 2013 Carin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Although it's a comprehensive treatement of V's life, it feels a little dated, and does not dig into the complexity of his relationship with Emilie in a satisfying way.
E.C. McCarthy
Sep 05, 2014 E.C. McCarthy rated it liked it
"There is nothing so much calculated to soothe the heart and mend the troubles of a writer as the launching of a new work." (p.197)
christina
The only book I've ready by a Mitford - surprisingly lively, wry voice + great, vivid subject.
Simon
It's Nancy Mitford AND Voltaire. I mean, how deluxe can you get?
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NYRB Classics: Voltaire in Love, by Nancy Mitford 1 6 Oct 30, 2013 09:41PM  
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Nancy Mitford, CBE (28 November 1904, London – 30 June 1973, Versailles), styled The Hon. Nancy Mitford before her marriage and The Hon. Mrs Peter Rodd thereafter, was an English novelist and biographer, one of the Bright Young People on the London social scene in the inter-war years. She was born at 1 Graham Street (now Graham Place) in Belgravia, London, the eldest daughter of Lord Redesdale and ...more
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“Men, in general, are so treacherous, so envious, and so cruel that it is a comfort to find one who is only weak.” 1 likes
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