"The Enlightenment Illuminated" (Talleyrand at the Deathbed of Voltaire)
"Even [Voltaire's] deathbed was turned into a semipublic event...There was something slightly worshipful about Talleyrand's visit. [He] was led into a small room, almost completely darkened except for one shuttter, strategically opened to permit a single ray of sunlight to play on the cracked, puckish features of Voltaire. Voltaire gathered conversational momentum, so that it seemed to his impressionable young admirer that the famous esprit took wing. Words "flew from him so rapid, so neat, yet so distinct and so clear...He spoke quickly and nervously with a play of features I have never seen in any man except him...His eye kindled with vivid fire, almost dazzling." Everything was as anticipated: the brilliantly animated cranium talked and talked at his silent and devoted disciple. It was one of the decisive moments of Talleyrand's life. "Every line of that remarkable countenance is engraved in my memory," he remembered in his own old age. "I see it now before me - the small firey eyes staring from sunken sockets not unlike those of a chameleon." And although in the time it took to get to the Palais-Royal after the audience, Talleyrand forgot exactly WHAT it was that Voltaire had said to him, he never forgot the manner in which it was addressed nor the peculiar gentleness of his leave-taking."
Simon Schama (from "Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution")
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