The Poison Pen

Voltaire was stirring up trouble even after he died. According to a tradition in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was fatal to publish his complete works:

  • Beaumarchais, the first editor to produce such a collection, lost a million francs in stock speculations and died suddenly in 1798.
  • Desser published a 10-volume octavo edition and died shortly afterward of phthisis, and his friend who financed the project died in poverty of the same disease.
  • Cérioux and his wife published a 60-volume edition and were ruined financially by it.
  • Dalibon and René, editors of two separate editions, were forced to take jobs as workmen in printing plants.
  • Touquet died suddenly at Ostend in 1831, and his partner, Garnery, was ruined and died.
  • Deterville, who began as a wealthy publisher, went blind (!).
  • Daubrée accused a woman of stealing a book; she assassinated him.

Over the course of 70 years, it is said, at least eight publishers went bankrupt publishing complete editions of Voltaire’s writings.

See Curse of the Ninth.