Voltaire’s Valet: The Career of Sebastian G. Longchamps from Servant to Map Publisher

Franz Reitinger

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7557/4.2418

Keywords

eighteenth century; map publishing; rococo cartography; social advancement; Louis-Charles Desnos; Sébastien G. Longchamp/Longchamps; Jean-Baptiste Nolin; Voltaire

Abstract

Sebastian G. Longchamps (1718–1793) is a well-established figure among the variety of minds who gathered around Voltaire. Longchamps’s recollections are the major surviving source of information for Voltaire’s Cirey period. Given the immense body of literature dedicated to Voltaire’s life and work, however, no serious attempt to enquire into the disappearance of his long-term ‘shadow’ has been made. This has led to the paradoxical situation that Longchamp’s, or more accurately, Longchamps’s personality has been split into two identities. Literary scholars have long been familiar with the Memoires of Voltaire’s servant Longchamp. Map historians, in turn, have come across numerous maps by a somewhat obscure publisher named Longchamps. The confusion was made complete by the uncertainties caused from the different versions of Longchamps’s first and last names. At the root of this confusion was a legal investigation instituted by Voltaire’s niece, Madame Denis, which, although only a short anecdote in Voltaire’s biography, had a significant impact on Longchamps’s life. This article attempts to take a closer look at the metamorphosis that Longchamps’s personality underwent in order to highlight some of his principal motives, incentives and constraints.

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