Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d'Argens
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
By addressing his polemical writings to a general readership he helped to spread the ideas of the Enlightenment more widely. He wrote about philosophy, history and religion, and simplified the innovative empirical arguments of philosophers such as Voltaire, Pierre Bayle and Bernard de Fontenelle.
He entered the army at the age of fifteen, and, after a dissipated and adventurous youth, was disinherited by his father. He then settled for a time in Amsterdam, where he wrote some historical compilations and began his more famous Lettres juives (The Hague, 6 vols, 1738-1742), Lettres chinoises (The Hague, 6 vols, 1739-1472), and Lettres cabalistiques (2nd ed., 7 vols, 1769); also the Mémoires secrets de la république des lettres (7 vols, 1743-1478), afterwards revised and augmented as Histoire de l'esprit humain (Berlin, 14 vols, 1765-1768).
He was invited by Prince Frederick (afterwards Frederick the Great) to Potsdam, and received high honours at court. He was appointed to "Kammerherr" and Director of the Academy. However, Frederick was bitterly offended by his marrying a Berlin actress, Mlle Cochois. Argens returned to France in 1769, and died near Toulon on the 11th of January 1771.