Voyage to PaphosVoyage à Paphos

Carole Dornier

1The Voyage to Paphos was published anonymously in the December 1727 issue of Mercure de France. In two letters to Denis Dodart, one in December 1726 and the other in January 1727, Montesquieu speaks of a “little work” for which he requests a critical commentary from his correspondent (OC, t. XVIII, n° 252 et 256). The chronological proximity of these letters with the publication of a writing in the same vein as The Temple at Gnidus, of which no manuscript is extant, explains the highly dubious attribution to Montesquieu.

2This is an allegorical and gallant tale of mythological inspiration. Diphile arrives on the Isle of Paphos, consecrated to Venus. A nymph, Zélide, shows him around. The visit of the isle is the occasion of allegories defining a decorous and refined art of love, of satirical allusions to the silly aspect of contemporary French gallantry and of poor lovers. The alliance of Venus and Paphos with Bacchus celebrates the mixture of wine and love. The narrative is unfinished, as is announced in the introductory paragraph that speaks of a torn manuscript which is lacking its title page, page one and the ending.

3Numerous aspects of the Voyage à Paphos recall The Temple of Gnidus and have led critics to compare the two works to discuss the attribution to Montesquieu. It is said he would not have written a second story on the same themes and following a similar outline. Moreover, the Voyage à Paphos is very inferior to The Temple of Gnidus because of the dissonant admixture of contemporary mores and allegories, not to mention the prosaic style and errors of taste, and the incoherences in the narrative’s chronology. But there are possible allusions found in the correspondence (already cited) and two sources – a supplement of La France littéraire and the passage of the work of O’Gilvy on the nobility of Guyenne and Gascogne relative to Charles Louis Secondat – have made it possible to defend the attribution to Montesquieu.



Mercure de France, December 1727,

Montesquieu, Œuvres complètes, André Masson (ed.); t. III, 1955, p. 237-262.

OC, t. IX, Œuvres et écrits divers II, 2006, p. 543-573 (among the texts of uncertain attribution; text established by Cecil P. Courtney, presented and annotated by Carole Dornier).


Henri Gabriel O’Gilvy, Nobiliaire de Guienne et de Gascogne, Bordeaux, 1858, p. 259,

Louis Vian, Histoire de Montesquieu, Paris, 1878, p. 92-94,

Jeannette Geffriaud-Rosso, Montesquieu et la féminité, Pisa: Goliardica, 1977, p. 445-449,

Robert O’Reilly, “The Spurious Attribution of the Voyage à Paphos and an Appreciation of Montesquieu’s Temple de Gnide”, Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, SVEC 189 (1980), p. 229-237, (, 2021).