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Taking the advice of a friend of the family to "nourish her soul with serious reading," she gradually went from novels such as Tristan lc blanc and the various Vies of Brant6me to more serious works such as the Vic de Henry IV by Perifixe or Barry's Histoirc d'Allcmagnc; she read Plutarch and Cicero, labored over Montesquieu, devoured the Lcttrcs de Mmc de Sevigne with delight, and first became acquainted with the works of Voltaire in 1746. She also read Bayle's Dictionnairc historiquc ct critique, Plato's Politics, and Baronius' Secular and Ecclesiastical History.

During her lifetime she read Plato, Cicero, Tacitus, Montesquieu, and many philosophical treatises. " In 1778, on receiving the news of Voltaire's death, Catherine wrote to Grimm: "Voltaire is my teacher (c'est mon maitre). He, or more accurately, his works, shaped my mind, my intellect. I have said to you many times, I think, that I am his pupil (je suis son ecoliere) : when I was younger I loved to please him; my actions satisfied me only when they were worth reporting to Voltaire, and I immediately told him about them.

As a grand duchess she read philosophical and political works for her own development, to enlighten her mind; later as Empress she involved herself directly with the philosophes, intending to use their influence on public opinion to serve her own purposes. A history of Catherine's relations with the philosophes of her time has yet to be compiled; even the material needed for such a work has not been assembled and published. A future historian Intellectual Formation of Catherine II 35 probably will note two clearly expressed peculiarities of this involvement: first, that the philosophical premises which Catherine praised so highly were not applied in practice, but that nevertheless she achieved the most practical goals from these contacts; and second, that the less Catherine followed the admonitions of philosophy the more she expressed her devotion to the philosophes.

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