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Voltaire

1694-1778


        Francois Marie Arouet, otherwise known as Voltaire, was born on November 21, 1694 in Paris.  He was educated at the College Louis-le-Grand by the Jesuits.  He left school at the age of sixteen, and chose literature as a career.  His writings which accused the French regent Philippe II, duc d'Orléans of horrible crimes, resulted in his imprisonment in the Bastille. During his 11 month stay in the Bastille, Voltaire completed his first tragedy, Œdipe, which became very successful in 1718.  In 1726 Voltaire mocked a powerful nobleman, the consequence being a choice between imprisonment or exile. He chose to be exiled from France.  From 1726 to 1729, Voltaire lived in England. During that time, Voltaire became interested in the ideas of John Locke and Sir Isaac Newton. When he returned to Paris, Voltaire wrote a book applauding English culture. The book was taken as an insult to the French government, and Voltaire was forced to leave Paris once again.
        Voltaire moved to the Château de Cirey, located in the independent duchy of Lorraine. There he formed close relationships with the aristocrats.  While Voltaire stayed at Cirey, he wrote many pieces of literature. This included numerous plays, Elements of the Philosophy of Newton, novels, tales, satires, and light verses.  Although he found refuge in Cirey, Voltaire frequented Paris and Versailles, where, through the influence of the marquise de Pompadour, the famous mistress of Louis XV, he became a court favorite.  He was appointed historiographer of France, then a gentleman of the king's bedchamber and finally, he was elected to the French Academy in 1746.  His Poème de Fontenoy (1745), which was about a battle won by the French over the English during the War of the Austrian Succession, and his Epitome of the Age of Louis XV, along with his dramas Le triomphe de Trajan and La princesse de Navarre, were the results of Voltaire's affiliation with the court of Louis XV.
        In 1749, Voltaire accepted a long-standing invitation from Frederick II of Prussia to reside at the Prussian court. He went to Berlin in 1750, but remained for only two years, for his ideas clashed with those of the king's.  He completed his Siècle de Louis XIV, a historical study of the period of Louis XIV, during his stay at Berlin.  In Ferney, Voltaire wrote several philosophical poems, such as The Lisbon Disaster (1756); many satirical and philosophical novels, such as Candide (1759); the tragedy Tancrède (1760); and the Dictionnaire philosophique (1764).  He fought against prejudice, superstition and intolerance, all through his writings.


   More Literature by Voltaire

Letters from Voltaire
If God Did Not Exist, it Would Be Necessary to Invent Him
An Epistle of Voltaire
A Treatise on Tolerance