Letters from England
Elizabeth Davis Bancroft
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The primary focal points of the "Letters" are comparsions of England and France in the realms of religion, politics, and the arts and sciences. While Voltaire clearly criticizes the French institutions of his day, he does not intend us to look at England as the ideal society. In religious matters, Voltaire derides the monolith of French Catholicism, acknowledging the relative harmlessness of English sectarianism - saying "if there were only one relgion in England, there would be danger of despotism…but there are thirty, and they live in peace and happiness". Politically, Voltaire admires the progress England has made since the Magna Carta, even though it means limited enfranchisement, and division of legislative power. In the arts and sciences, Voltaire examines the ingenuity of philosophers like Bacon, Newton, and Locke, and the ability of authors like Shakespeare, Pope, Swift, Wycherley, and others, to make their reputations and livings largely independent of a feudal patronage system.