Sämtliche schriften und briefe series I, volume 17
Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften (ed)
pp 198-201

Date: 15/25 May 1699

Translated from the French

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[A I 17, p198]

Hanover, 15 May 1699

     The honour I have, Madam, of your acquaintance and commerce, is of such worth to me that I wish I were able to deserve and preserve it by something better than what my letters can furnish.
     Our admirable Queen continues to be happy.1 God grant that this will be the case for a long time, and that her happiness will spread to the general public. Indeed, her marriage could not have taken place in a better constellation than that of the general peace, in which one could apply this phrase VBIQVE PAX,2 found on a medal of Gallienus or Galliene, which is now the subject of a great dispute among the antique dealers of France, in which I am hardly interested, any more than I am in the one which has arisen among the genealogists of Paris, namely whether a certain title, by virtue of which the de Bouillon gentlemen claim to descend in a direct male line from the ancient counts of Auvergne, is genuine or just supposed. For my part, I always have a tendency to believe good things as long as they are not proved [A I 17, p199] to be incorrect. Regarding disputes, I am delighted that the one there was between Mr de Meaux and Mr de Cambrai has finished.3 I wrote a long time ago to a friend who asked me for my opinion,4 saying that I was not in a position to judge the nub of the matter, but that I would always have a high opinion of Mr de Meaux's soundness and of Mr de Cambrai's integrity. The outcome appears to have confirmed my conjecture. It seems that pleasure is essentially part of the notion of love, so that the one who truly loves with a pure love locates his pleasure in the good, happiness, and perfection of the other. Thus pure love can be detached from our mercenary interests, but not from our good. And consequently it is evident from this definition of love that to love God above all things with a pure love or benevolence is for one to locate his principal pleasure, that is, his happiness, in the good, happiness, perfection or glory of God.
     You are right, Madam, to say that the certainty of salvation is found neither in your religion nor in ours, because one can be damned in both. And Madam the Electress says very plausibly that it is not religion (understood by itself) which saves us, but a lively faith accompanied by charity. Even several of your doctors claim that one is saved by charity even if one utterly ignores the articles of faith.
     You are also right to say that your church can be good, although it has bad children, so long as it does not itself authorize what is malicious. Whether it does so or not is a matter into which I do not enter, and as I said above, I always have a tendency to excuse, to accept with a good grace, and to view in a good way everything that is susceptible to that. I do not regret this, although because of it I have very often displeased one side or the other. Ours has been angry that I did not see the Antichrist in yours, and yours was not satisfied that I strongly and ardently defended our side against the imputation of heresy. In a word, I will always be delighted if your gentlemen furnish us with means to excuse your church, and if they leave a small door open [A I 17, p200] for peace or reunion, of which posterity will be able to take advantage, assuming our time is not sufficiently fortunate for that. Indeed, it would be very reasonable to make the most of the reign of two princes as great and as wise as the Emperor and the King, both of whom have good intentions for that very thing. And to speak with Mr Pelisson,5 one does not see what the hold up is. The death of this excellent man has not been one of the lesser obstacles. For my part, I have two maxims: one, to make use of everything in order to contribute towards some good, the other, to be perfectly content when I am not successful, being convinced that in the latter case it is for the best, as currently God does not will it. I do my part so long as there is hope, and I am content with his part when there is hope no longer.
     I approve of the Apology Mr Arnauld has made for certain Catholics in England.6 But he was wise not to touch on others, and above all not to speak of the Gunpowder Plot, which is only too real, but that has got nothing to do with your Church.
     Miss de Scudéry7 was kind enough to inform me that she is thinking of publishing an anthology of certain poems by the late Mr Pelisson with a summary of his life. I am delighted about this, however I wrote to her [to say] that I wish her to be able to offer memoirs of her own for a long time yet.
     The Queen of the Romans8 humbled herself to make a word of reply for the tokens of my enthusiasm; I have grounds to thank her for that, and what you have written to her subject will provide the best and the most agreeable part of my letter.
     Madam the Electress9 is at present a few leagues from here, in a hunting house of the Duke of Celle, where the Princess of East Frisia is also staying, but [A I 17, p201] who has fallen ill with pleurisy.10 It is believed that the Elector will come there also, and even the Bishop of Osnabruck, for the place is not too far away. The piety of this young prince is highly praised. The Ecclesiastics of some countries need such an example, and the seculars also. You have a living example of the greatest and the most edifying kind in the Abbess of Maubuisson.11 God takes care to contrast the shining virtue of some persons of this eminence with the corruption of the century, as a kind of a barrier. Thus the church and the public find themselves interested in her conservation and long life. I would wish for it even if the interest of her admirable sister were not attached to that of the public. I wish also that both of them enjoy for a long time a person as precious as you, and I am sincerely,
     Madam, your very humble and very obedient servant.                              Leibniz


1. Wilhelmine Amalia of Brunswick-Lüneburg (1673–1742), who on 24 February 1699 married Joseph I, at the time King of the Romans.
3. Leibniz is referring to the dispute between François Fénelon (Archbishop of Cambrai) and Jacques Bénigne Bossuet (Bishop of Meaux) over disinterested love, which occurred between 1697 and 1699 following the publication of Fénelon's Explication des Maximes des Saints [Explanation of the Maxims of the Saints] (1697). The dispute was finally halted on 12 March 1699 by the condemnation of Fénelon's book by Pope Innocent XII.
4. Leibniz is perhaps thinking of a short text he wrote for Claude Nicaise in 1697. See A II 3, pp367-371. English translation in Leibniz on God and Religion, ed. and trans. Lloyd Strickland (London: Bloomsbury, 2016), 157-161.
5. Paul Pelisson-Fontanier (1624-1693), Court Historian to Louis XIV and one of Leibniz's correspondents.
6. Antoine Arnauld, Apologie pour les Catholiques, 2 vols. (Liege: Bronkart, 1681-2).
7. Madeleine de Scudéry (1607-1701), novelist and correspondent of Leibniz between 1697-1699.
8. Wilhelmine Amalia of Brunswick-Lüneburg.
9. Electress Sophie of Hannover (1630-1714).
10. Christine Charlotte of Württemberg (1645-1699); she died on 16 May 1699, the day after Leibniz composed his letter to de Brinon.
11. Louise, Abbess of Maubisson, was the sister of Electress Sophie. Marie de Brinon was Louise's secretary.

© Lloyd Strickland 2003. Revised 2020