Étienne Noël Damilaville

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Étienne Noël Damilaville
Damilaville Etienne.PNG
Buste présumé d'Étienne Noël Damilaville, Marie-Anne Collot ; Musée du Louvre.
Born21 November 1723
Died13 December 1768(1768-12-13) (aged 45)

Étienne Noël Damilaville 21 November 1723 – 13 December 1768) was an 18th-century French man of letters, friend of Voltaire, Diderot and d'Alembert.[1] He served in various military and administrative functions of the Ancien Régime,[2] he was a member of the bodyguard of King Louis XV, and then a senior civil servant in the tax office responsible for supervising the Vingtième. His official roles meant that his correspondence was unexamined by censors, enabling him to circulate letters between leading thinkers of the day,[3] most particularly during the Sirven affair.

The Encyclopédie[edit]

Damilaville authored three articles in the Encyclopédie - Population, Peace and The Vingtième.


Damilaville is believed to have coauthored Vingtieme with Diderot, his trusted associate,[4] his treatise is largely a discussion on the nature of government, of civil society and of the economy. Like Montesquie, Damilaville makes a clear distinction between the state, as an aggregate of people in society, and government;[5] the treatise uses this dichotomy between the state and government to rationalize the necessity of taxes; however, Damilaville also argues tax simplification or reform.[5] What is important[according to whom?] in his contention for tax simplification is the purpose of having or raising taxes on participants in society. According to Damilaville, tax burdens should not be understood through the vice of ratios of an individuals' income, rather in through the ratio of taxes that concern an individual's sustenance after their monies have been deducted.[citation needed]

Friendship with Voltaire[edit]

Voltaire regarded him as a very close friend, and wrote him at least 539 letters over eight years,[6] they only actually met, for the first time, after they had been corresponding for five years, on 20 August 1765, when Damilaville visited Ferney.[7]

Opinion of Damilaville was not universally positive: Melchior Grimm said of him:[8]

He had neither grace, nor mental wit, and he lacked the worldly savoir-faire which makes up for it, he was sad and heavy, and his lack of basic education always showed through.


  1. ^ Davidson, Ian: Voltaire-A Life, Profile Books, 2010 pp.304-5
  2. ^ Biography in French
  3. ^ Davidson, Ian: Voltaire-A Life, Profile Books, 2010 pp.328-9
  4. ^ Young, Nigel (2010-06-01). "Response: Our Encyclopedia of Peace focuses on positive action, not platitudes". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-11-30.
  5. ^ a b "Encyclopedic Liberty: Political Articles in the Dictionary of Diderot and D'Alembert". Online Library of Liberty. Liberty Fund. Retrieved 2018-11-30.
  6. ^ Davidson, Ian, Voltaire-A Life, Profile Books, 2010 p.305
  7. ^ Davidson, Ian, Voltaire-A Life, Profile Books, 2010 p.344
  8. ^ Davidson, Ian, Voltaire-A Life, Profile Books, 2010 p.304


  • Emmanuel Boussuge et Françoise Launay, « L'ami D'Amilaville », Recherches sur Diderot et sur l'Encyclopédie [fr], 2014, n° 49, (p. 25–41).
  • Emmanuel Boussuge et Françoise Launay, "Étienne Noël D'Amilaville (1723–1768)", Les collaborateurs de l'Encyclopédie, projet d'Edition Numérique Collaborative et Critique de l'Encyclopédie' (6 January 2015)

External links[edit]