The Love Letters Project #5: Voltaire and Catherine Olympe Dunoyer

A love letter from Voltaire to Catherine Olympe Dunoyer.

Who better to write the world’s most memorable love letters than the world’s most famous writers? Picture a teenage François-Marie Arouet, imprisoned (as he would be many times) for his convictions. And the cause this time? His love of French refugee Catherine Olympe Dunoyer: 

The Hague 1713

I am a prisoner here in the name of the King; they can take my life, but not the love that I feel for you.

Yes, my adorable mistress, to-night I shall see you, if I had to put my head on the block to do it.

For heaven’s sake, do not speak to me in such disastrous terms as you write; you must live and be cautious; beware of Madame your mother as of your worst enemy.

What do I say?

Beware of everybody; trust no one; keep yourself in readiness, as soon as the moon is visible; I shall leave the hotel incognito, take a carriage or a chaise, we shall drive like the wind to Sheveningen; I shall take paper and ink with me; we shall write our letters.

If you love me, reassure yourself; and call all your strength and presence of mind to your aid; do not let your mother notice anything, try to have your pictures, and be assured that the menace of the greatest tortures will not prevent me to serve you.

No, nothing has the power to part me from you; our love is based upon virtue, and will last as long as our lives.

Adieu, there is nothing that I will not brave for your sake; you deserve much more than that.

Adieu, my dear heart!


Shortly after writing this letter, it’s believed that Arout kept his word and made his escape. It would be another 5 years before he would adopt the name history remembers him by – Voltaire (an anagram of his Latinized name AROVET LI). He would go on to become one the greatest writers of the French Enlightenment.

Images: Wikimedia Commons and History And Women.

Mike Sowden

Mike Sowden is a freelance writer based in the north of England, obsessed with travel, storytelling and terrifyingly strong coffee. He has written for online & offline publications including Mashable, Matador Network and the San Francisco Chronicle, and his work has been linked to by Lonely Planet, World Hum and Lifehacker. If all the world is a stage, he keeps tripping over scenery & getting tangled in the curtain - but he's just fine with that.