Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron d' Holbach Bibliography

A Letter to a Lady of a Certain Age 1752
A pamphlet in which D’Holbach champions the Italians in the famous ‘Guerre des Bouffons’. The war was, ostensibly, over the respective merits of French and Italian music and was sparked by the visit to Paris of a touring Italian opera buffa company. Their programme open in August. Holbach's pamphlet supported the views expressed in Grimm's Petit ProphŠte and Rousseau's Lettre sur la musique fran‡aise.
Arrˆt rendu … l'amphith‚ƒtre de l'Op‚ra 1752
Another pamphlet on the dispute over French music.
De la Cruaut‚ religieuse 1761
Holbach's translation of Considerations upon war, upon cruelty in general and religious cruelty in particular, which was published in London in 1761.
Le Christianisme dévoilé 1761
Published under the name of Holbach’s deceased friend Nicolas Antoine Boulanger, who died in 1759. N. S. Bergier, canon of Notre Dame, one of the devout contributors to the Encyclopédie, condemned the book whose author “might equally well be an atheist, a skeptic, a materialist, a fatalist, or a cynic; for the one thing that matters to him is that Christianity should perish”. The book was reprinted in 1766 and 1767.

Holbach printed two posthumous books by Boulanger, L’Antiquité dévoilée and Despotisme oriental, which consisted of scientific speculations on the geological and prehistorical records on the natural origin of religion.
Le Christianisme d‚voil‚ 1761
Published in Nancy
Esprit du clerg‚, ou le Christianisme primitif veng‚ des entreprises et des excŠs de nos Prˆtres modernes 1767
Published in Amsterdam, a translation of Thomas Gordon's The Independent Whig, which orginally appeared in 1720. Gordon wrote in collaboration with John Trenchard and published Commentaries on Sallust and Tacitus. The book was partially rewritten by Holbach and amendments were made byNaigeon, who, accordingto a manuscript note by his brother, "atheised it as much as possible." It was sold with great secrecy and at a high price-- a reward which the colporters demanded for the risk they ran in peddling seditious literature. The book constituted a violent attack on the priesthood.
Examen des Proph‚ties qui servent de fondement … la religion Chr‚tienne 1768
Published in Amsterdam and consisting of a translation of Anthony Collins' A Discourse on the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion which orginally appeared in London in 1724. The book also contained Collins' The Scheme of literal Prophecy considered which was first published in 1727. which dealt with the works of Clarke, Sherlock, Chandler, Sykes, and especially Whiston's Essay towards restoring the text of the Old Testament, one of the thirty-five works directed against Collins' original "Discourse".
David, ou l'histoire de l'homme selon le coeur de Dieu 1768
A French translation published in Amsterdam of a work that first appeared in England in 1761. The work has been attributed to Peter Annet and to John Noorthook. Some English eulogists of George II, including Chandler and Palmer, had likened their late King to David, "the man after God's own heart." The deists, struck by the absurdity of the comparison, attempted to uncover as many scandalous facts as they could find recorded of David, and by clever distortions painted him as the most execrable of Kings, in a work entitled David or the Man after God's Own Heart, which formed the basis of Holbach's translation.
La Contagion sacr‚e ou l'Histoire naturelle de la Superstition 1768
"In his preface Holbach attributed the alleged English original of this work to John Trenchard but that was only a ruse to avoid persecution. The book is by Holbach. It has gone through many editions and been translated into English and Spanish. The first edition had an introduction by Naigeon. According to him manuscripts of this book became quite rare at one time and were supposed to have been lost. Later they became more common and this edition was corrected by collation with six others. The letters were written in 1764, according to Lequinio (Feuilles posthumes), who had his information from Naigeon, to Marguerite, Marchioness de Vermandois in answer to a very touching and pitiful letter from that lady who was in great trouble over religion. Her young husband was a great friend of the Holbachs, but having had a strict Catholic bringing up she was shocked at their infidelity and warned by her confessor to keep away from them. "Yet in their home she saw all the domestic virtues exemplified and beheld that sweet and unchangeable affection for which the d'Holbachs were eminently distinguished among their acquaintances and which was remarkable for its striking contrast with the courtly and Christian habits of the day. Her natural good sense and love for her friends struggled with her monastic education and reverence for the priests. The conflict rendered her miserable and she returned to her country seat to brood over it. In this state of mind she at length wrote to the Baron and laid open her situation requesting him to comfort, console, and enlighten her." [47:7] His letters accomplished the desired effect and he later published them in the hope that they would do as much for others. They were carefully revised before they were sent to the press. All the purely personal passages were omitted and others added to hide the identity of the persons concerned. Letters of the sort to religious ladies were common at this time. Fr‚ret's were preventive, Holbach's curative, but appear to be rather strong dose for a d‚vote. Other examples are Voltaire's EpŒtre … Uranie and Diderot's Entretien d'un Philosophe avec la Mar‚chale de.... Max Person, "Baron D'Holbach: A Study of Eighteenth Century Radicalism in France", (1914)
Lettres philosophiques... 1768
A translation of Toland's Letters to Serena, a work which generated controversary on its publication in 1704. It included five essays on prejudices, the immortality of the sould, idolatry, superstition, Spinoza and matter. The translation included a preface by Holbach and Naigeon and was published in Amsterdam.
Dissertation critique sur les tourmens de l'enfer 1769
Holbach's translation of Whitefoot's The Torments of Hell, the foundation and pillars thereof discover'd, search'd, shaken and remov'd which was originally published in London in 1658.
De l'intol‚rance convaincue de crime et de folie and L'Enfer d‚truit ou Examen raisonn‚ du Dogme de l'Eternit‚ des Peines 1769
Two short works on eternal punishment. Holbach claimed they were translations of two works in English but the originals have never come to light. The second work was translated into English under the title Hell Destroyed! and was published with Whitefoot's Tormets of Hell in 1823.
SystŠme de la Nature, ou Des Loix du Monde Physique et du Monde Morale 1770
Published in 2 volumes, with an English translation appearing in 1795. Several editions of the work appeared in 1770, a few of which included Discours preliminaire de l'Auteur which Naigeon printed separately in London. The Abrege du Code de la Nature which is the final chapter of the book was also published separately and has been attributed to Diderot. Samuel Wilkinson published an English translation in 1820. According to Wilkinson, "no work, ancient or modern, has surpassed it in the eloquence and sublimity of its language or in the facility with which it treats the most abstruse and difficult subjects. It is without exception the boldest effort the human mind has yet produced in the investigation of Morals and Theology. The republic of letters has never produced another author whose pen was so well calculated to emancipate mankind from all those trammels with which the nurse, the school master, and the priest have successively locked up their noblest faculties, before they were capable of reasoning and judging for themselves."

Holbach, a rich German baron, settled in Paris, where he wrote a number of books attacking religion; because of their subversive content, many of his works were channelled to Holland and for publication and smuggled back to France where they were mostly published anonymously or pseudo-anonymously. Système de la Nature, published under the name of J.B. Mirabaud (the late secretary of the Académie Française), caused an uproar. It was condemned by the parlement of Paris on August 18, 1770; the parlement accused the book, amongst other matters, of ‘reviving’ and ‘expanding’ the ‘system of Lucretius’. The book was condemned to be burned alongside Voltaire's Dieu et les Hommes, Holbach's Discours sur les Miracles, La Contagion sacree, and Le Christianisme devoile.

After reading it Goethe declared that he could not understand how anyone could accept such a grey, Cimmerian, corpse-like affair, devoid of colour,life, art, humanity.

Système de la Nature, which appeared in an abridged version in 1774 under the title Le vrai sens du SystŠme de la Nature, bears the mark of innumerable conversations between Holbach and Diderot. D’Holbach who knew himself to be no stylist would ask Diderot to supply him with a purple passage; the concluding paen to Nature (“O Nature! Sovereign of all beings! Any you her adorable daughters Virtue, Reason and Truth, be for ever our sole divinities”, etc.) is believed to be Diderot’s work.

“Man is unhappy only because he does not know nature” - this is the opening sentence to the work. Man’s mind, continues Holbach, is infected with prejudices; he seeks to “rush beyond the visible world”, and “he despises realities to meditate on chimeras; neglects experience to indulge in systems and conjectures; dares not cultivate his reason”. “In a word, man disdains the study of nature to run after phantoms.”

Throughout there are clear warnings regarding the limits of knowledge: “it is not given man to know everything, it is not given him to know his origins; it is not given him to penetrate to the essence of things or to go back to first principles”.

“Man’s life is a line that nature commands him to describe upon the surface of the earth, without his ever being able to swerve from it, even for an instant. He is born without his own consent; his organization does in nowise depend upon himself; his ideas come to him involuntarily; his habits are in the power of those who cause him to contract them; he is unceasingly modified by causes, whether visible or concealed, over which he has no control, which necessarily regulate his mode of existence, give the hue to his way of thinking, and determine his manner of acting.”

Like La Mettrie and others Holbach viewed religion as the enemy of man’s passionate nature: “If we examine matters without prejudice, we will find that most of the precepts which religion, or its fanatical and supernatural ethics, prescribe to man, are as ridiculous as they impossible to practice. To prohibit men their passions is to forbid them to be men; to advise a man carried away by his imagination to moderate his desires is to advise him to change his physical constitution, to order his blood to run more slowly. To tell a lover of impetuous temperament that he must stifle his passion for the object that enchants him is to make him understand that he should renounce his happiness.”

Holbach on deliberation: “When the soul is assailed by two motives that act alternately upon it, or modify it successively, it deliberates; the brain is in a sort of equilibrium, accompanied with perpetual oscil
Essai sur les pr‚jug‚s, ou De l'influence des opinions sur les moeurs et sur le bonheur des Hommes 1770
The book appeared under the name of Dumarsais and was presented as a version of Dumarsais's essay on the Philosophe, first published in the Nouvelles libert‚s de penser in 1750. Frederick the Great published a refutation of the Essaiunder the title Examen de l'Essai sur les pr‚jug‚s (1770); Frederick disagreed in particular with Holbach's remarks on government. He forward a copy of the work to Voltaire.
Examen critique de la vie et des ouvrages de Saint Paul 1770
Holbach's loose translation of Peter Annet's History and character of St. Paul examined, written in answer to Lyttelton.
Histoire critique de J‚sus Christ ou Analyse raisonn‚e des Evangiles 1770
Published anonymously with Voltaire's EpŒtre … Uranie. A critique of the Gospels based on a literal reading of the Bible.
L'esprit du juda‹sme ou Examen raisonn‚ de la loi de Moyse et de son influence sur la religion chr‚tienne 1770
Published in Amsterdam and translated from Anthony Collins, a strong attack on Judaism and Christianity.
Tableau des Saints 1770
A comprehensive critique of historical and contemporary defenders of Christianity.
De la nature humaine, ou Exposition des facult‚s, des actions et des passions de l'ƒme 1772
Translated by Holbach and reprinted in a French Edition of Hobbes' works by Holbach and SorbiŠre that was published in 1787. Holbach considered the essay, which first appeared in English in 1640, as one of Hobbes best works.
Le bon-sens, ou id‚es naturelles oppos‚es aux id‚es surnaturelles. Par l'Auteur du SystŠme de la Nature 1772
An abridged and more accessible version of SystŠme de la Nature. In 1791 the work was published under the name of the cur‚ Jean Meslier d'Etr‚pigny, a name that became well known after Voltaire's published his alleged last will and testament in which he rejected and condemned Christianity. Some of the later editions contain Letters by Voltaire and his sketch of Jean Meslier.
La politique naturelle 1773
SystŠme social 1773
Published in 3 vols. An exposition of the naturalistic principles that should support any system of good government. Abb‚ Richard who criticized the work from point of view of the divine right of kings in La D‚fense de la religion, de la morale, de la vertu, de la politique et de la soci‚t‚, dans la r‚futation des ouvrages qui ont pour titre, l'un SystŠme Social etc. Vautre La Politique Naturelle par le R. P. Ch. L. Richard, Professeur de Th‚ologie, etc. (1775).
Recherches sur les Miracles 1773
A critique of the Christian belief in miracles.
Système social 1773
An outline of utilitarian principles of morality and politics.
Le vrai sens du SystŠme de la Nature 1774
An abridged version of Holbach's SystŠme de la Nature which was attributed to Helvetius.
Ethocratie ou Gouvernement fond‚ sur la Morale 1776
La Morale Universelle. Ou les Devoirs de l’Homme fondes sur sa Nature 1776
Published in Amsterdam.
La moral universelle 1776
Published in 3 vols. (Amsterdam)
Discours sur les Miracles de Jesus Christ 1780
Holbach's translation of a work by Woolston, an author much admired by Holbach. The translation appeared sometime around 1780 although copies of the book were in circulation in France prior to this date.
Elements de la Morale universelle, ou catechisme de la nature 1790
Published posthumously but written in 1765.