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To A. C. Middleton:—I have read your communication in the Investigator of the 13th inst., requesting information about Meslier, other than that given by Voltaire, and will relate what has fallen in my reach. Naigeon, in his "Ancient and Modern Philosophy," under the head "Meslier," after giving a brief account of his life and an extract from his "Testament," blames Voltaire for not publishing the whole of Meslier's work. Your remark, that "this extract is Deistical," refers only to the first part of his work. The second part, that Naigeon accused Voltaire of suppressing, was Atheistical. "Nobody had ever heard of this Meslier before," because this was his first, if not only publication, (his "Testament," not Good Sense.) He was, according to Naigeon, a poor Cure's son of a blacksmith, and names two persons who were acquainted with him. Naigeon does not mention d'Holbach in this work.
S. Marechal, "Dictionaire des Athees," mentions Meslier, and gives the inscription on his tomb-stone! It also gives all the works of d'Holbach, or Olbeck, as he calls him, among which is "Le Bon Sens;" it also attributes to him "Christianity Unveiled," supposed to be by Boulanger. This work is in the Astor Library, New York. I recently called for it, but was told by the clerk that he had "orders" from the Trustees not to take it from the shelves only for persons of mature age; I, as I am a young man, had to forego the pleasure of reading it. Alas! that bigotry should control our finest library! Most of the French Liberal works are placed in their Index Expurgatorius.
Poignot, or Poignon, in his Catalogue of books condemned to be burnt, (Livres condamnes au feu,) makes mention of Meslier's "Testament," and gives his birth, age, residence, &c. In a letter like this, through a newspaper, I must be brief, and cannot be expected to give extracts. The authors I refer to, but give the name of the works where they may be found. I see no more reason for denying Meslier's existence, because d'Holbach used his name, than for pursuing the same course with M. de Mirabaud. We have the evidence of his contemporaries, friends, and his tombstone; but nowhere do I find "God Sense" attributed to him. Yours, &c. D. D. LUM.
Brooklyn, (N. Y.,) May 17, 1857.
- Dyer D. Lum, “Cure Meslier,” The Boston Investigator 27, no. 5 (May 27, 1857): 2.