Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary
The Philosophical Dictionary
Selected and Translated by H.I. Woolf
New York: Knopf, 1924

Scanned by the Hanover College Department of History in 1995.
Proofread and pages added by Jonathan Perry, March 2001.

New Novelties

IT seems that the first words of Ovid's " Metamorphoses," In nova fert animus, are the motto of the human race. Nobody is touched by the admirable spectacle of the sun which rises, or rather seems to rise, every day; everybody runs to see the smallest little meteor which appears for an instant in that accumulation of vapours, called the sky, that surround the earth.

An itinerant bookseller does not burden himself with a Virgil, with a Horace, but with a new book, even though it be detestable. He draws you aside and says to you: " Sir, do you want some books from Holland? "

From the beginning of the world women have complained of the fickleness that is imputed to them in favour of the first new object which presents itself, and whose novelty is often its only merit. Many ladies (it must be confessed, despite the infinite respect we have for them) have treated men as they complain they have themselves been treated; and the story of Gioconda is much older than Ariosto.

Perhaps this universal taste for novelty is one of nature's favours. People cry to us: "Be content with what you have, desire nothing that is beyond your estate restrain your curiosity, tame your intellectual disquiet." These are very good maxims; but if we had always followed them, we should still be eating acorns, we should be sleeping in the open air, and we should not have had Corneille, Racine, Moliere. Poussin, Lebrun, Lemoine or Pigalle.

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