Jacob Vernet, Geneva and the Philosophes

BookJacob Vernet, Geneva and the Philosophes

Jacob Vernet, Geneva and the Philosophes

Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 321


January 1st, 1994

Access Token


Other Formats



Jacob Vernet (1698-1789) was the most important and influential Genevan pastor of his day, successively holding the posts of Professor of Belles-Lettres (1739) and of Theology (1756) at the city’s Académie. A ‘liberal’ theologian, he had personal contacts with several of the leading philosophes, all of which turned sour after a time. 
This book describes Vernet’s contacts with Montesquieu, d’Alembert, Voltaire and Rousseau. It also investigates a charge made repeatedly by his enemies, namely that he was a hypocrite who disguised his real beliefs. Vernet’s religious and philosophical opinions are thus reviewed as expressed in his major works, Traité de la vérite de la religion chrétienneInstruction chrétienne and Lettres critiques d’un voyageur anglais. The connection between Vernet’s ideas and the social and political situation in his native Geneva is also studied in depth. 
The pastor’s relations with Montesquieu have often been seen as a cause for congratulation, for he edited the first edition of De l’Esprit des lois, but a close reading of Montesquieu’s correspondence shows that this episode was far from being an unqualified success. Similarly, Vernet’s contacts with Rousseau give pause for thought: the relevant evidence that he was on occasion somewhat devious in his dealings with the great author is reviewed comprehensively. 
Particular attention is given to Vernet’s relations with Voltaire. In 1760 the pastor was vilified in the second of the Dialogues chrétiens, accused of greed and dishonesty. But did Voltaire actually write the second Dialogue? If not, who did? These intriguing questions are discussed in detail, special attention being given to Vernet’s own essays of self-justification, the Lettre à Monsieur le Premier Sindic(1760) and Mémoire à Mr. le Premier Sindic (1766, both of which are reproduced in appendices. 
Jacob Vernet’s long life and many works give a fascinating insight into the problems and inconsistencies of liberal Protestantism during the various stages of the Enlightenment. 


Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Title Page4
Copyright Page5
Preface and acknowledgements14
1. The early years: education, travel and first contacts with Voltaire (1698-1733)24
i. Education, Paris and controversy with Hocquiné (1698-1733)24
ii. Vernet's travels (1728-1733)43
iii. First contacts with Voltaire58
2. Vernet's career develops: theologian, professor of Belles-lettres, author and editor (1733-1754)64
i. Vernet back in Geneva: the 1730S64
ii. The Traité de la véritéde la religion chrétienne77
iii. Vernet and Voltaire: contact re-established89
iv. Vernet's illness92
v. Vernet, Montesquieu and the first edition of De l'esprit des lois96
vi. Vernet critic of Rousseau111
vii. The Instruction chrétienne113
viii. Vernet meets Rousseau121
ix. Literary collaboration with Voltaire123
3. The rift with Voltaire begins (1754-1760)126
i. Vernet's letter of warning126
ii. Geneva before Voltaire's arrival131
iii. Voltaire's first problems in Geneva138
iv. Uneasy peace143
v. Hostilities begin: the 'âme atroce' affair146
vi. The 'Genève' article167
vii. The Lettre à d'Alembert174
viii. Voltaire and Vernet: hostility deepens188
4. The Dialogues chrétiens and Vernet's reply197
i. Vernet and the Dialogues197
ii. Vernet's alleged stealing of a manuscript by Giannone202
iii. Vernet's sale of a book at an unfair priee209
iv. Vernet and the unauthorised publication of a manuscript by Turrettini212
v. Vernet the alleged editor of the Essai sur l'histoire universelle215
5. Voltaire, Vernet and the theatre221
i. The battle lines are drawn221
ii. The 1760 season of theatricals226
iii. Official action is taken against Voltaire's theatricals233
iv. Voltaire's riposte: the theatre and a morality fit for a civilised society238
6. The authorship of the Dialogues chrétiens248
i. The style and content of the Dialogues249
a. The first dialogue249
b. The second dialogue256
ii. Vernet's views on the authorship of the second dialogue258
iii. A possible author of the second dialogue: Gabriel Cramer261
iv. Voltaire, Rigollet and the publishing of the Dialogues273
7. The Lettres critiques d'un voyageur anglais284
i. The different editions of the Lettres critiques284
ii. The first edition: preface and letter one288
iii. Letter two292
iv. The second edition302
a. The Calas affair302
b. Letter three304
c. Letter four307
d. Letter five309
e. Letter six311
f. The Observations sur deux articles du Journal encyclopédique313
v. The third edition318
a. Letters 8-10319
b. Letter eleven323
c. Observations sur un chapitre de l'Essai sur l'Histoire générale de Mr. de Voltaire, intitulé Genève et Calvin, au tome XIII, de ses Œuvres325
d. Letter twelve333
e. Letter thirteen344
f. Two final additions347
8. Vernet and Rousseau355
i. 1759-61: mutual admiration355
ii. Rousseau officially condemned: Vernet equivocates359
iii. Vernet's 1762 letter to Rousseau363
iv. Vernet's confidential report on Rousseau371
v. The gulf widens376
vi. The Lettres de la montagne380
9. Hostilities with Voltaire continue393
i. From uneasy peace to open war: the Questions sur les miracles, Eloge de l'hypocrisie and Lettre curieusede M. Robert Covelle393
ii. The Mémoire présenté à Mr. le premier sindic403
iii. Continuing hostility427
iv. La Guerre civile de Genève430
v. The Lettre d'un citoyen434
vi. The Réflexions sur les mœurs, la religion, et le culte439
vii. Voltaire's reply: the Lettre à M. Jean Vernet, pasteur et professeur and Dieu et les hommes459
10. The last years466
i. Vernet and d'Alembert: the final skirmishes466
ii. Vernet as theologian475
iii. Vernet's reputation at Geneva479
iv. Vernet and the philosophes: continued sniping484
v. 'S' Tartufe Vernet'?487
1. Vernet's Lettre à Monsieur le premier sindic502
2. Vernet's Mémoire à Mr. le premier sindic525
3. The pastors of Geneva asked about the necessity of public worship549
4. Vernet and the Anecdotes ecclésiastiques551