Early Modern Literature

Voltaire: Candide

800px-Voltaire_-_Candide_-_Dambrun_-_MoreauCandide (French: Candide, ou l'optimisme) is a 1759 satirical novella by Voltaire. It's eponymous hero is a young man who lives a sheltered existence on his uncle's estate under the tutelage of Doctor Pangloss, a philosopher who subscribes to Leibniz's dictum that 'all is for the best, in the best of all possible worlds.'

When Candide is forced out into the wider world, he is confronted with a series of episodes which illustrate the bankruptcy of this optimistic worldview, most famously the Lisbon earthquake of 1755.

Candide at online book stores
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Free online texts
English translations
Gutenberg: Candide, EPUB, HTML, MOBI and TXT formats.
Internet Archive: Candide, or All for the Best, translated by Walter Jerrold (1898). EPUB, MOBI, PDF and TXT formats.
Standard Ebooks: Candide. AZW3, EPUB, KEPUB and Advanced EPUB formats.
University of Adelaide (Internet Archive): Candide, translated by William F. Fleming. EPUB, MOBI and HTML formats.
Wikisource: Candide, translated by Tobias Smollett. HTML and other formats.
French texts
Gutenberg: Candide, ou, l'optimisme. EPUB, HTML, MOBI and TXT formats.
Wikisource: Candide, multiple editions. HTML and other formats.

Other Resources
BBC Radio 4 In Our Time: Voltaire's Candide. Melvyn Bragg with David Wootton, Nicholas Cronk, Caroline Warman.
Librivox: Candide (multiple versions). Free public domain audiobooks.
Wikipedia: Voltaire - Candide

Further reading
Bloom's Western Canon: Candide is listed.
Leibniz: The Monadology and The Theodicy.
Swift: Gulliver's Travels - a satirical influence whose author Voltaire had met.
Voltaire: Philosophical Letters - discusses the execution of Admiral Byng, an event later worked into the plot of Candide.
French Language resources 


Voltaire: Philosophical Letters on the English

D'après_Maurice_Quentin_de_La_Tour _Portrait_de_Voltaire_(c._1737 _musée_Antoine_Lécuyer)The Philosophical Letters or Letters on the English (French: Lettres philosophiques) is a 1733 work by Voltaire, revised  in 1778, composed as a series of letters reflecting on his sojourn in England from 1726 to 1728.

Voltaire's thoughts on English literature include a number of leading writers of the day who he met while in London, such as Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift. His account of English political and religious institutions, Newtonian science, and the empiricism of Bacon and Locke, quickly became a formative influence on continental liberalism.

Letters on England at online book stores
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Free online texts
English translations
Gutenberg: Letters on England. EPUB, HTML, MOBI and TXT formats.
Internet Archive: French and English Philosophers, Descartes, Voltaire, Rousseau, Hobbes (includes Letters on England). Harvard Classics Vol. 34. EPUB, MOBI, PDF and TXT formats.
Internet History Sourcebooks: Letters on the English or Lettres Philosophiques. HTML format.
Liberty Fund: The Works of Voltaire, Vol. XIX (Philosophical Letters). EPUB, HTML, MOBI and PDF formats.
Wikisource: Letters Concerning the English Nation. English translation. HTML and other formats.
French texts
Wikisource: Lettres Philosophiques. HTML and other formats.

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Montesquieu: The Persian Letters

Persianische_BriefeThe Persian Letters (French: Lettres persanes) is a 1721 epistolary novel by Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesqueieu.

The work contains the correspondence of Usbek and Rica two fictional Turkish travellers on a visit to Europe from 1711 onwards, a form which provides a vehicle for much satire of contemporary Western society. The travellers' penetrating observations on the people they encounter contrast with Usbek's disastrous relations with his own harem, to provide a sombre commentary on the difficulty of achieving self-knowledge.

The Persian Letters at online book stores
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Free online texts

English translations
Internet Archive: Persian Letters, Vol I | Vol II. Translated by John Davidson.EPUB, MOBI, PDF and TXT formats.
Wikisource: Persian Letters, translated by by John Davidson (1899). HTML and other formats.
French texts
Gutenberg: Lettres Persanes - Tome I | Tome II. EPUB, MOBI, HTML and TXT formats.
Wikisource: Lettres Persanes. HTML and other formats.

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Montesquieu: The Spirit of the Laws

Charles_MontesquieuThe Spirit of the Laws (French: De l'esprit des lois) is a 1748 political treatise by Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu. Setting out to explain the principles underlying the laws of different nations, Montesquieu was innovative in the breadth of his comparative approach, and in considering natural factors such as climate. This nevertheless sometimes led him to pernicious conclusions, such as his belief that slavery, though wrong, was more tolerable in tropical regions.

Montesquieu's political recommendations were strongly influenced by his experiences in England, although it has often been insisted that he misunderstood English arrangements - generations of British schoolchildren have been taught that he missed the role of the Lord Chancellor as a member of the executive, legislature and judiciary. Nevertheless, his doctrine of the separation of powers was a decisive influence on the constitution of the United States.

The Spirit of the Laws at online book stores
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Free online texts
English texts
Internet Archive: Montesquieu - The Spirit of the Laws, Rousseau - On the Origin of Inequality, On Political Economy, The Social Contract. Britannica Great Books of the Western World edition. EPUB, MOBI, PDF and TXT formats.
Liberty Fund: The Spirit of the Laws. EPUB, HTML, MOBI and PDF formats.
Wikisource: The Spirit of the Laws, translated by Thomas Nugent (1758). HTML and other formats.
French texts
Gutenberg: Esprit des Lois. EPUB, HTML, MOBI and TXT formats.
Wikisource: De L'Esprit des Lois. Multiple editions. HTML and other formats.

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Pascal: The Provincial Letters

800px-Blaise_Pascal_VersaillesThe Provincial Letters (French: Lettres provinciales) were published by Blaise Pascal from 1656 to 1657. Under the pseudonymous guise of Louis de Montalte, a Parisian writing to a correspondent in the country, he launched a blistering satirical attack on Jesuit theology. Although banned by the French Crown, the eighteen letters were widely read and influential.

The Provincial Letters at online book stores
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Free online texts
English translations
Internet Archive: The Provincial Letters, Pensees, Scientific Letters. The former translated by Thomas M'Crie. Great Books of the Western World edition. EPUB, MOBI, PDF and TXT formats.
University of Adelaide (Internet Archive): The Provincial Letters, translated by Thomas M'Crie. EPUB, MOBI and HTML formats.
Wikisource: The Provincial Letters, translated by Thomas M'Crie. HTML and other formats.
French texts
Wikisource: Les Provinciales. HTML and other formats.

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Daniel Defoe: A Journal of the Plague Year

Walter George Bell, via Wikimedia CommonsA Journal of the Plague Year is a 1722 novel by Daniel Defoe, which purports to be an eyewitness account of the great plague which struck London in 1665. It contains much authentic detail based on extensive research. Its place between history and fiction has consequently been the subject of a longstanding and inconclusive debate.

A Journal of the Plague Year at online book stores
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Free online texts
Gutenberg: A Journal of the Plague Year. EPUB, HTML, MOBI and TXT formats.
Internet Archive: A Journal of the Plague Year, Everyman's Library edition. EPUB, MOBI, PDF and TXT formats.
University of Adelaide (Internet Archive): A Journal of the Plague Year. EPUB, MOBI and HTML formats.
Wikisource: A Journal of the Plague Year. Ongoing transcription project.

Other Resources

Librivox: A Journal of the Plague Year. Public domain audiobook.
London Fictions: A Journal of the Plague Year, review by Dermot Kavanagh.
Medical History: A Journal of the Plague Year, Oxford World Classics edition reviewed by Alice Ford-Smith.
Wikipedia: Daniel Defoe - A Journal of the Plague Year

Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes
Daniel Defoe: Robinson Crusoe - Moll Flanders - two novels which also purport to be authentic first person accounts.
Samuel Pepys: Diary - an actual eyewitness account of the 1665 plague.
Bloom's Western Canon: A Journal of the Plague Year is included.


Daniel Defoe: Robinson Crusoe

Robinson_Crusoe_1719_1st_editioncropRobinson Crusoe is a 1719 novel by Daniel Defoe. Like several of Defoe's works, it purported to be a genuine autobiography, in this case that of an English seaman, shipwrecked for many years on a desert island off the coast of South America, who nevertheless manages to maintain a civilised existence with the help of a native servant, Friday.

The novel proved immediately and enduringly popular, inspiring a genre of castaway stories, sometimes known as Robinsonades. Modern critics have often interpreted Crusoe as representing an emergent economic individualism. 

Robinson Crusoe at online book shops
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Free online texts
Gutenberg: The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. EPUB, HTML, MOBI and TXT format.
Internet Archive: Robinson Crusoe. EPUB, MOBI, PDF and TXT formats.
University of Adelaide: The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner. EPUB, HTML and MOBI formats.
Wikisource: Robinson Crusoe. HTML and other formats.

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Cervantes: Don Quixote

Don_Quichotte_Honoré_Daumier cc Wikipedia user YelkrokoyadeDon Quixote is a Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes, published in two volumes in 1605 and 1615. It is one of the most highly regarded novels ever written, and its satire of earlier prose romances influenced the realism of the developing form.

The title character is an elderly gentlemen of La Mancha who is driven out of his wits by his reading of popular chivalric romances, and embarks on a series of picarasque adventures, accompanied by the more worldly Sancho Panza. The work has been subjected to many interpretations. Some suggest that like the earlier picaresque genre, it reflects the breakdown of feudalism and the emergence of commercial society.

Don Quixote at online book stores
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Free online texts

English translations

Gutenberg: The History of Don Quixote, Part One | Part Two, translated by John Ormsby (1885). HTML, EPUB, MOBI and TXT formats.

Gutenberg: The History of Don Quixote de la Mancha, translated by Peter Motteux. HTML, EPUB, MOBI and TXT formats.

Internet Archive: The Ingenious Gentleman, Don Quixote of La Mancha, translated by John Ormsby (1885). EPUB, TXT, MOBI (Kindle) and PDF formats.

Standard Ebooks: Don Quixote, translated by John Ormsby. AZW3, EPUB, KEPUB and Advanced EPUB formats.

University of Adelaide (Internet Archive): Don Quixote, translated by John Ormsby (1885), with illustrations by Gustav Doré. HTML, EPUB and MOBI (Kindle) formats.

Wikisource: English translation by John Ormsby. HTML and other formats.

Spanish texts

Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes: Don Qvixote [sic] de la Mancha. First Part. Second part. Edition of Rodolfo Schevill and Adolfo Bonilla. HTML format.

Centro Virtual Cervantes: Don Quijote de la Mancha. HTML format.

Wikisource: Spanish text. HTML and other formats.

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Spenser: The Faerie Queene

800px-Etty_Britomart_1833The Faerie Queene is an epic poem by Edmund Spenser in six books, of which the first three were published in 1590, with the rest appearing in 1596. Spenser drew on Arthurian legend and contemporary Italian epic to create a poem celebrating the court of Elizabeth I, who appears in the form of the Faerie Queene herself, Gloriana, whose knights pursue a series of quests with strong allegorical elements.

The Faerie Queene at Amazon

Free online texts

Gutenberg: The Faerie Queene, Book I. HTML, EPUB, Kindle and TXT formats. See also this alternative edition.

Internet Archive: Spenser's Faerie Queene, illustrated by Walter Crane. George Allen (1895-97). EPUB, TXT, MOBI, PDF and other formats.

Internet Archive: The Faerie Queene, Vol. I | Vol. II. Clarendon Press (1909). EPUB, TXT, MOBI, PDF and other formats.

Internet Archive: The Faerie Queene, Vol. I | Vol II. Everyman's Library Edition (1910). EPUB, TXT, MOBI, PDF and other formats.

University of Adelaide (Internet Archive): The Faerie Queene. HTML, EPUB, TXT and Kindle formats.

Wikisource: The Faerie Queene - incomplete. HTML and other formats.

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Milton: Paradise Lost

William_Blake_-_The_Temptation_and_Fall_of_Eve_(Illustration_to_Milton's_'Paradise_Lost')_-_Google_Art_ProjectParadise Lost is an epic poem by John Milton, originally published in 1667 in ten books, with a second edition in twelve books following in 1667.

It tells the story of Satan's fall from heaven and the temptation of Adam and Eve. Blake wrote of Milton that 'he was of the Devil's party without knowing it' because of his portrayal of Satan as a charismatic antihero. Many critics have seen an underlying tension between Milton's affirmation of divine authority against Satan's rebellion and his support for an English Commonwealth founded on rebellion against the Stuart monarchy.

Paradise Lost at Amazon: United States | Canada | United Kingdom | France | Germany | Spain | Italy

Free online texts

Dartmouth College: Paradise Lost. HTML format.

Gutenberg: Paradise Lost. HTML, EPUB, Kindle and TXT formats.

Internet Archive. English Minor Poems, Paradise Lost, Samson Agonistes, Areopagitica. Britannica Great Books edition. EPUB, TXT, MOBI and PDF formats.

Standard Ebooks: Paradise Lost. AZW3, EPUB, KEPUB and Advanced EPUB formats.

University of Adelaide (Internet Archive): Paradise Lost. HTML, EPUB, TXT and Kindle formats.

Wikisource: Paradise Lost. Multiple editions. HTML and other formats.

Other Resources

Librivox: Paradise Lost | Paradise Lost (version 2) - public domain audiobooks.

Wikipedia: John Milton - Paradise Lost

The Great Conversation: Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

Milton: Paradise Regained

The Bible: Genesis, Revelation.

Homer: The Iliad and the Odyssey.

Virgil: The Aeneid

Edmund Spenser: The Faerie Queene.

John Aubrey: Brief Lives - includes a life of Milton.

Alexander Pope: The Rape of the Lock.

Samuel Johnson: Lives of the English Poets.

William Blake: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

Percy Bysshe Shelley: A Defence of Poetry.

Mary Shelley: Frankenstein.

John Keats: Endymion.

Harold Bloom's Western Canon - Paradise Lost is included.