If the English visit may be regarded as having finished Voltaire's education, the Cirey residence was the first stage of his literary manhood. He had written important and characteristic work before, but had not decided a direction. He now obtained a settled home for many years and, taught by his numerous brushes with the authorities, he began his future habit of keeping out of personal harm's way, and of at once denying any awkward responsibility, which made him for nearly half a century at once the leader of European heretics in regard to all established ideas. It was not till the summer of 1734 that Cirey, a half-dismantled country house on the borders of Champagne, France and Lorraine, was fitted up with Voltaire's money and became the headquarters of himself, of his hostess, and now and then of her accommodating husband.
Many pictures of the life here, some of them not a little malicious, survive. Emilie's temper was violent, and after a time she sought lovers who were not so much des cérébraux as Voltaire. Nevertheless, it provided him with a safe and comfortable retreat, and with every opportunity for literary work. In March 1735 the hat was formally taken off him, and he was at liberty to return to Paris, a liberty of which he availed himself sparingly. At Cirey he wrote indefatigably and did not neglect business. The principal literary results of his early years here were the Discours en vers sur l'Homme, the play of Aizire and L'Enfant prodigue (1736), and a long treatise on the Newtonian system which he and Madame du Chatelet wrote together. But, as usual, Voltaire's extraordinary literary industry was shown rather in a vast amount of fugitive writings than in substantive works, though for the whole space of his Cirey residence he was engaged in writing, adding to, and altering the Puerile.
In the very first days at Cirey he had written a pamphlet with the title of Treatise on Metaphysics. In March 1736 he received his first letter from Frederick II of Prussia, then crown prince. He was soon again in trouble, this time for the poem, Le Mondain, and he at once crossed the frontier and made for Brussels. He spent about three months in the Low Countries, but in March 1737 returned to Cirey and continued writing, making experiments in physics (he had at this time a large laboratory), and busying himself with iron-founding, the chief industry of the district.
The best-known accounts of Cirey life, those of Madame de Grafigny, date from the winter of 1738-39; they are very amusing, depicting the frequent quarrels between Madame du Chatelet and Voltaire, his intense suffering under criticism, his constant dread of the surreptitious publication of the Pucelle (which nevertheless he could not keep his hands from writing or his tongue from reciting to his visitors), and so forth. The chief and most galling of his critics at this time was the Abbé Desfontaines, and the chief of Desfontaines's attacks was entitled La Voltairomanie, in reply to a libel of Voltaire's called Le Préservatif.
Both combatants had, according to the absurd habit of the time, to disown their works, Desfontaines's disavowal being formal and needing all Voltaire's own influence both at home and abroad to bring it about. For he had as little notion of tolerance towards others as of dignity in himself.
In April 1739 a journey was made to Brussels, to Paris, and then again to Brussels, which was the headquarters for a considerable time, owing to some law affairs, of the Du Chatelets. Frederick, now king of Prussia, made not a few efforts to get Voltaire away from Madame du Chatelet, but unsuccessfully, and the king earned the lady's cordial hatred by persistently refusing or omitting to invite her.
At last, in September 1740, master and pupil met for the first time at Cleves, an interview followed three months later by a longer visit. Brussels was again the headquarters in Source | Copyright