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While in this deplorable condition, Maupertuis was found by the Prince of Lichtenstein, an Austrian officer who had met him in Paris. The prince rescued him from his brutal captors and supplied him with clothing. He was, however, taken to Vienna as a prisoner of war, where he was placed on parole. Voltaire, whose unamiable nature was pervaded by a very marked vein of malignity, made himself very merry over the misfortunes of the philosopher. As Maupertuis glided about the streets of Vienna for a time in obscurity, the newspapers began to speak of his scientific celebrity. He was thus brought into notice. The queen treated him with distinction. The Grand-duke Francis drew his own watch from his pocket, and presented it to Maupertuis265 in recompense for the one he had lost. Eventually he was released, and, loaded with many presents, was sent to Brittany.

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“For a long time my heart had been swelling. I could not restrain my tears at hearing all these indignities. ‘Why do you cry?’ said he. ‘Ah! ah! I see that you are in low spirits. We must dissipate that dark humor. The music waits us. I will drive that fit out of you by an air or two on the flute.’ He gave me his hand and led me into the other room. I sat down to the harpsichord, which I inundated with my tears.”

“The terror in Vienna was dreadful. I will not attempt to describe the dismay the tidings excited among all ranks of people. Maria Theresa, trembling for her two sons who were in the army, immediately dispatched an autograph letter to Frederick with new proposals for a negotiation.”“I have passed my winter like a Carthusian monk. I dine alone. I spend my life in reading and writing, and I do not sup. When one is sad, it becomes, at last, too burdensome to hide one’s grief continually. It is better to give way to it than to carry one’s gloom into society. Nothing solaces me but the vigorous application required in steady and continuous labor. This distraction does force one to put away painful ideas while it lasts. But alas! no sooner is the work done than these fatal companions present themselves again, as if livelier than ever. Maupertuis was right; the sum of evil does certainly surpass that of good. But to me it is all one. I have almost nothing more to lose; and my few remaining days—what matters it much of what complexion they be?”


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