Les Délices, or "The Delights", was a Geneva home of Voltaire, a French Enlightenment writer and philosopher. Voltaire and his niece and lover, Madame Marie-Louise Denis (she was widowed), were looking for a new home. A place in Geneva meant that they could live beyond the long arm of the law of the French crown, an important consideration for Voltaire who was constantly in trouble with the authorities in France because of his writings. However, no Catholic, even a severely lapsed one like Voltaire, could own land in Protestant Geneva. But he could lease a property. Through the efforts of friends and business associates in Geneva, he was granted permission to live within the confines of the city. Jean-Jacques Millet, a banker in Geneva, had a country residence on the hillside of Saint Jean just outside the city gates. It had a commanding view, gardens stretching down to the banks of the Rhône, and it came fully furnished. On January 19, 1755, Voltaire and Mme. Denis visited the property and were taken with it. They especially liked a long gallery that could be used to stage their theatricals (though theatre was forbidden in Geneva as immoral). On February 1, 1755, Voltaire received his permission to live in Geneva. A month later, on March 1, 1755, after a complicated series of negotiations (Voltaire drove a hard bargain), he and his niece moved into the property. They set about immediately to improve what was already a superb residence. They planted many different kinds of plants and herbs, including asparagus (grown in a greenhouse), and many fruit trees, including apples and late-fruiting peaches. Four gardeners, twelve servants, and twenty artisans helped the couple whip their bit of Paradise into even better shape. Voltaire and his paramour were happy enough to rename the house "Les Délices", and he wrote a poem a couple of years later (1758) about his feelings for their new nest.
Here I am, by reason drawn to this retreat,/At peace, at liberty,/Freedom, that wise divinity,/Whom all mortals desire, whose loss we all regret,/Is here the source of my felicity.[...]/Study sustains me, and reason guides me with its light;/I speak what I think, and I do as I will.
Davidson, pp. 273–275. Pearson, pp. 241–246.
- Davidson, Ian. Voltaire: A Life. New York: Pegasus Books, 2010.
- Pearson, Roger. Voltaire Almighty: A Life in Pursuit of Freedom. London and New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2005.
- Wootton, David, Candide and Related Texts. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. 2000.
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- Institut et Musée Voltaire (French)