The incapacity of doctors to stop the spread of smallpox, made Voltaire lose confidence in them.  His friend, Mr de Maisons, died of the same illness from which he, himself, had recovered.

He wrote:  “Mr de Maisons died in my arms, not through the doctors’ ignorance, but through their negligence.  He perished through lack of help, surrounded by his friends.  What can you say about doctors who leave him in danger at six o’clock in the morning, and who agree to meet each other at his house at midday?  They are guilty of his death;  they left without help for six hours, a man whom an instant’s abandon could kill:  let this be a lesson to those who have friends assailed by the same illness.”

Later, when Mme du Chatelet’s son is suffering from the same thing, he will again rant against the doctors and their “ignorant tyranny”.  He will put them all in the same basket, excepting only Gervani, to whom he owed his cure.

However, if Gervani had cured Voltaire of smallpox, he hadn’t given him good health.  In the eyes of Voltaire, it was this that was Gervani’s crime.

It had been a year since Voltaire had had smallpox, and he was in worse health than before he had caught it.  He cursed both medicine and doctors, and decided that diet was better than remedies.

He wrote to Mme de Bernieres:  “Conserve your health;  I repeat again, it depends on you much more than on all of the world’s doctors;  remain strict, and your health will be as good as it is dear to me.”

The advice is good, so why didn’t he follow it himself?  He confesses his Achilles heel:  he is unable to deprive himself “of pies and sweet things”.

Voltaire does away with doctors so as to be able to treat himself as he sees fit.  At the mercy of his own inspiration, he will find himself disarmed against all of the health problems caused by a life of feverish work and worry.

According to one of his biographers, work seemed to be necessary to him.  Most of the time, he worked with his secretary eighteen to twenty hours a day.  He usually only slept a few hours, and woke several times during the night.  When an idea came to him, he rushed to write it down.

If he was writing a play, “he was feverish”.  His imagination tormented him and left him no rest.  He said:  “I have the devil in my body.  It is true that you have to have him to be able to write verse.”

The only excesses he committed were work excesses.  Impatient and passionate, he wanted to immediately finish whatever he had conceived.  He conceived several works at the same time, and even filled in any intervals between them by different productions.

This devouring ardour constantly needed new foods.  His action was never interrupted by social distractions, business occupations, the tumult of his trips, the dissipation of the courts, or even in the middle of his sexual seductions or among the storms of his passions.

Third part tomorrow.

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