In Voltaire’s Garden

Isabelle Mayault at the LRB:

UIG538515 Ferney near Geneva, Switzerland, 1786. The chateau where Francois Marie Arouet de Voltaire (1694-1778), French writer and pholosopher, embodiment of the Enlightenment, settled after 1758, viewed from the garden. From The European Magazine, (London, 1786). Engraving.; Universal History Archive/UIG; out of copyright

The château at Ferney recently reopened to the public after three years of restoration and refurbishment. Except for the planes high above the lawns, flying in and out of Geneva airport, not much has changed at the château since Voltaire lived here between 1760 and his death in 1778. It’s easy to imagine him taking an afternoon stroll among the plane trees, Mont Blanc in the background, after a morning in bed dictating his voluminous correspondence to his private secretary. During his twenty years at Ferney, he wrote 6000 letters.

When Voltaire first visited, Ferney was a small village of 130 inhabitants, but it had at least one advantage to a polemicist used to falling out with the authorities: its strategic location just on the French side of the border with the republic of Geneva.

more here.