Philosophical Dictionary, by Voltaire


Samuel Ornik, a native of Basle, was, as is well known, a very amiable young man, who, moreover, knew his German and Greek New Testament by heart. At the age of twenty his parents sent him to travel. He was commissioned to carry books to the coadjutor at Paris in the time of the Fronde. He arrived at the archbishop’s gate and was told by the Swiss that monseigneur saw no one. “My dear fellow,” said Ornik, “you are very rude to your countrymen; the apostles allowed every one to approach, and Jesus Christ desired that little children should come unto him. I have nothing to ask of your master; on the contrary, I bring him something.” “Enter, then,” said the Swiss.

He waited an hour in the first ante-chamber. Being quite artless he attacked with questions a domestic who was very fond of telling all he knew about his master. “He must be pretty rich,” said Ornik, “to have such a swarm of pages and footmen running in and out of the house.” “I don’t know,” answered the other, “what his income is, but I hear Joli and the Abbé Charier say that he is two millions in debt.” “But who is that lady who came out of a cabinet and is passing by?” “That is Madame de Pomèreu, one of his mistresses.” “She is really very pretty, but I have not read that the apostles had such company in their bedchambers in a morning.” “Ah! that, I believe, is monsieur, about to give audience.” “Say sa grandeur, monseigneur.” “Well, with all my heart. . . . .” Ornik saluted sa grandeur, presented his books, and was received with a most gracious smile. Sa grandeur said three words to him, and stepped into his carriage, escorted by fifty horsemen. In stepping in, monseigneur dropped a sheath and Ornik was astonished that monseigneur should carry so large an inkhorn. “Do you not see,” said the talker, “that it is his dagger? every one that goes to parliament wears his dagger?” Ornik uttered an exclamation of astonishment, and departed.

He went through France and was edified by town after town. From thence he passed into Italy. In the papal territories he met a bishop with an income of only a thousand crowns, who went on foot. Ornik, being naturally kind, offered him a place in his cambiatura. “Signor, you are no doubt going to comfort the sick?” “Sir, I am going to my master.” “Your master? He, no doubt, is Jesus Christ.” “Sir, he is Cardinal Azolino; I am his almoner. He gives me a very poor salary, but he has promised to place me with Donna Olimpia, the favorite sister-in-law of nostro signore.” “What! are you in the pay of a cardinal? But do you not know that there were no cardinals in the time of Jesus Christ and St. John?” “Is it possible!” exclaimed the Italian prelate. “Nothing is more true; you have read it in the Gospel.” “I have never read it,” replied the bishop; “I know only the office of Our Lady.” “I tell you there were neither cardinals nor bishops, and when there were bishops the priests were almost their equals, as St. Jerome, in several places, assures us.” “Holy Virgin!” said the Italian, “I knew nothing about it; and what of the popes?” “There were no popes either.” The good bishop crossed himself, thinking he was with the evil one, and leaped from the side of his companion.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01