Voltaire

Voltaire

Overview
François-Marie Arouet (fʁɑ̃.swa ma.ʁi aʁ.wɛ; 21 November 1694 – 30 May 1778), better known by the pen name
Pen name
A pen name, nom de plume, or literary double, is a pseudonym adopted by an author. A pen name may be used to make the author's name more distinctive, to disguise his or her gender, to distance an author from some or all of his or her works, to protect the author from retribution for his or her...

 Voltaire (vɔl.tɛːʁ), was a French Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

 writer, historian and philosopher
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 famous for his wit
Wit
Wit is a form of intellectual humour, and a wit is someone skilled in making witty remarks. Forms of wit include the quip and repartee.-Forms of wit:...

 and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion
Freedom of religion
Freedom of religion is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance; the concept is generally recognized also to include the freedom to change religion or not to follow any...

, free trade
Free trade
Under a free trade policy, prices emerge from supply and demand, and are the sole determinant of resource allocation. 'Free' trade differs from other forms of trade policy where the allocation of goods and services among trading countries are determined by price strategies that may differ from...

 and separation of church and state
Separation of church and state
The concept of the separation of church and state refers to the distance in the relationship between organized religion and the nation state....

. Voltaire was a prolific writer, producing works in almost every literary form, including plays, poetry, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works.
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Quotations

C'est un poids bien pesant qu'un nom trop tôt fameux.

Quite a heavy weight, a name too quickly famous.

L'homme est libre au moment qu'il veut l'être.

Man is free at the instant he wants to be.

Les mortels sont égaux; ce n'est pas la naissance,C'est la seule vertu qui fait la différence.

All men are equal; it is not their birth,But virtue itself that makes the difference.

Les anciens Romains élevaient des prodiges d'architecture pour faire combattre des bêtes.

The ancient Romans built their greatest masterpieces of architecture for wild beasts to fight in.

Il en est des livres comme du feu de nos foyers; on va prendre ce feu chez son voisin, on l’allume chez soi, on le communique à d’autres, et il appartient à tous.

What we find in books is like the fire in our hearths. We fetch it from our neighbors, we kindle it at home, we communicate it to others, and it becomes the property of all.

Où est l'amitié est la patrie.

Where there is friendship, there is our natural soil.

Le paradis terrestre est où je suis.

Paradise is where I am.

Aime la vérité, mais pardonne à l'erreur.

Love truth, but pardon error.
Encyclopedia
François-Marie Arouet (fʁɑ̃.swa ma.ʁi aʁ.wɛ; 21 November 1694 – 30 May 1778), better known by the pen name
Pen name
A pen name, nom de plume, or literary double, is a pseudonym adopted by an author. A pen name may be used to make the author's name more distinctive, to disguise his or her gender, to distance an author from some or all of his or her works, to protect the author from retribution for his or her...

 Voltaire (vɔl.tɛːʁ), was a French Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

 writer, historian and philosopher
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 famous for his wit
Wit
Wit is a form of intellectual humour, and a wit is someone skilled in making witty remarks. Forms of wit include the quip and repartee.-Forms of wit:...

 and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion
Freedom of religion
Freedom of religion is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance; the concept is generally recognized also to include the freedom to change religion or not to follow any...

, free trade
Free trade
Under a free trade policy, prices emerge from supply and demand, and are the sole determinant of resource allocation. 'Free' trade differs from other forms of trade policy where the allocation of goods and services among trading countries are determined by price strategies that may differ from...

 and separation of church and state
Separation of church and state
The concept of the separation of church and state refers to the distance in the relationship between organized religion and the nation state....

. Voltaire was a prolific writer, producing works in almost every literary form, including plays, poetry, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works. He wrote more than 20,000 letters and more than 2,000 books and pamphlet
Pamphlet
A pamphlet is an unbound booklet . It may consist of a single sheet of paper that is printed on both sides and folded in half, in thirds, or in fourths , or it may consist of a few pages that are folded in half and saddle stapled at the crease to make a simple book...

s. He was an outspoken supporter of social reform, despite strict censorship laws with harsh penalties for those who broke them. As a satirical polemic
Polemic
A polemic is a variety of arguments or controversies made against one opinion, doctrine, or person. Other variations of argument are debate and discussion...

ist, he frequently made use of his works to criticize intolerance, religious dogma
Dogma
Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, or a particular group or organization. It is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from, by the practitioners or believers...

 and the French institutions of his day.

Voltaire was one of several Enlightenment figures (along with Montesquieu, John Locke
John Locke
John Locke FRS , widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social...

, Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer of 18th-century Romanticism. His political philosophy influenced the French Revolution as well as the overall development of modern political, sociological and educational thought.His novel Émile: or, On Education is a treatise...

, and Émilie du Châtelet
Émilie du Châtelet
-Early life:Du Châtelet was born on 17 December 1706 in Paris, the only daughter of six children. Three brothers lived to adulthood: René-Alexandre , Charles-Auguste , and Elisabeth-Théodore . Her eldest brother, René-Alexandre, died in 1720, and the next brother, Charles-Auguste, died in 1731...

) whose works and ideas influenced important thinkers of both the American
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

 and French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

s.

Life


François-Marie Arouet was born in Paris, the youngest of the five children (only three of whom survived) of François Arouet (1650 – 1 January 1722), a notary
Notary
A notary is a lawyer or person with legal training who is licensed by the state to perform acts in legal affairs, in particular witnessing signatures on documents...

 who was a minor treasury official, and his wife, Marie Marguerite d'Aumart (ca. 1660 – 13 July 1701), from a noble family of the province of Poitou
Poitou
Poitou was a province of west-central France whose capital city was Poitiers.The region of Poitou was called Thifalia in the sixth century....

. Some speculation surrounds his date of birth, which Voltaire always claimed to be February 20, 1694. Voltaire was educated by Jesuits at the Collège Louis-le-Grand (1704–1711), where he learned Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 and Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

; later in life he became fluent in Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

, Spanish and English.

By the time he left school, Voltaire had decided he wanted to be a writer, against the wishes of his father, who wanted him to become a notary
Notary
A notary is a lawyer or person with legal training who is licensed by the state to perform acts in legal affairs, in particular witnessing signatures on documents...

. Voltaire, pretending to work in Paris as an assistant to a notary, spent much of his time writing poetry. When his father found out, he sent Voltaire to study law, this time in Caen
Caen
Caen is a commune in northwestern France. It is the prefecture of the Calvados department and the capital of the Basse-Normandie region. It is located inland from the English Channel....

, (Normandy
Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

). Nevertheless, he continued to write, producing essays and historical studies. Voltaire's wit made him popular among some of the aristocratic families with whom he mixed. His father then obtained a job for him as a secretary to the French ambassador in the Netherlands, where Voltaire fell in love with a French Protestant refugee named Catherine Olympe Dunoyer. Their scandalous elopement was foiled by Voltaire's father and he was forced to return to France.

Most of Voltaire's early life revolved around Paris. From early on, Voltaire had trouble with the authorities for even mild critiques of the government and religious intolerance. These activities were to result in numerous imprisonments and exiles. One satirical verse about the Régent
Philippe II, Duke of Orléans
Philippe d'Orléans was a member of the royal family of France and served as Regent of the Kingdom from 1715 to 1723. Born at his father's palace at Saint-Cloud, he was known from birth under the title of Duke of Chartres...

 thought to be by him led to his imprisonment in the Bastille
Bastille
The Bastille was a fortress in Paris, known formally as the Bastille Saint-Antoine. It played an important role in the internal conflicts of France and for most of its history was used as a state prison by the kings of France. The Bastille was built in response to the English threat to the city of...

 for eleven months, until the real author came forward. While there, he wrote his debut play, Œdipe. Its success established his reputation.

The name "Voltaire"


The name "Voltaire", which the author adopted in 1718, is an anagram
Anagram
An anagram is a type of word play, the result of rearranging the letters of a word or phrase to produce a new word or phrase, using all the original letters exactly once; e.g., orchestra = carthorse, A decimal point = I'm a dot in place, Tom Marvolo Riddle = I am Lord Voldemort. Someone who...

 of "AROVET LI," the Latinized spelling of his surname, Arouet, and the initial letters of "le jeune" ("the younger"). The name also echoes in reverse order the syllables of the name of a family château
Château
A château is a manor house or residence of the lord of the manor or a country house of nobility or gentry, with or without fortifications, originally—and still most frequently—in French-speaking regions...

 in the Poitou
Poitou
Poitou was a province of west-central France whose capital city was Poitiers.The region of Poitou was called Thifalia in the sixth century....

 region: "Airvault
Airvault
Airvault is a commune in the Deux-Sèvres department in the Poitou-Charentes region in western France. It is located on the River Thouet.The inhabitants of Airvault are the and the .-Historical sites:...

". The adoption of the name "Voltaire" following his incarceration at the Bastille is seen by many to mark Voltaire's formal separation from his family and his past.

Richard Holmes
Richard Holmes (biographer)
Richard Holmes, OBE, FRSL, FBA is a British author and academic best known for his biographical studies of major figures of British and French Romanticism.-Biography:...

 supports this derivation of the name, but adds that a writer such as Voltaire would have intended it to also convey its connotations of speed and daring. These come from associations with words such as "voltige" (acrobatics
Acrobatics
Acrobatics is the performance of extraordinary feats of balance, agility and motor coordination. It can be found in many of the performing arts, as well as many sports...

 on a trapeze or horse), "volte-face
Volte-face
Volte-face is a total change of position, as in policy or opinion; an about-face.The expression comes through French, from Italian voltafaccia and Portuguese volte face, composed of volta and faccia ....

" (a spinning about to face one's enemies), and "volatile" (originally, any winged creature). "Arouet" was not a noble name fit for his growing reputation, especially given that name's resonance with "à rouer" ("to be broken on the wheel" - a form of torture still prevalent) and "roué" (a "débauché").

In a letter to Jean-Baptiste Rousseau
Jean-Baptiste Rousseau
Jean-Baptiste Rousseau was a French poet.-Biography:Rousseau was born in Paris, the son of a shoemaker, and was well educated. As a young man, he gained favour with Boileau, who encouraged him to write. Rousseau began with the theatre, for which he had no aptitude...

 (not to be confused with Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer of 18th-century Romanticism. His political philosophy influenced the French Revolution as well as the overall development of modern political, sociological and educational thought.His novel Émile: or, On Education is a treatise...

) in March 1719, Voltaire concludes by asking that if Rousseau wishes to send him a return letter, he do so by addressing it to Monsieur de Voltaire. A post-scriptum explains: "J'ai été si malheureux sous le nom d'Arouet que j'en ai pris un autre surtout pour n'être plus confondu avec le poète Roi", which translates as, "I was so unhappy under the name d'Arouet that I took another, primarily so that I would cease to be confused with the poet Roi." This probably refers to Adenes le Roi
Adenes Le Roi
Adenes Le Roi , also known as Adenez, Adans Le Roi, Roi Adam, Li Rois Adenes, Adan le Menestrel or Adam Rex Menestrallus, was French minstrel or trouvère...

, and the 'oi' diphthong was then pronounced as modern French pronounces 'ai', so the similarity to 'Arouet' is clear, and thus, it could well have been part of his rationale. Indeed, Voltaire is additionally known to have used at least 178 separate pen names during his lifetime.

Great Britain


After Voltaire retorted to an insult from the young French nobleman Chevalier de Rohan in late 1725, the aristocratic Rohan family obtained a royal lettre de cachet
Lettre de cachet
Lettres de cachet were letters signed by the king of France, countersigned by one of his ministers, and closed with the royal seal, or cachet...

, an often arbitrary penal decree signed by the French King (Louis XV, in the time of Voltaire) that was often bought by members of the wealthy nobility
Nobility
Nobility is a social class which possesses more acknowledged privileges or eminence than members of most other classes in a society, membership therein typically being hereditary. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be...

 to dispose of undesirables. This warrant caused Voltaire to be imprisoned in the Bastille
Bastille
The Bastille was a fortress in Paris, known formally as the Bastille Saint-Antoine. It played an important role in the internal conflicts of France and for most of its history was used as a state prison by the kings of France. The Bastille was built in response to the English threat to the city of...

 without a trial and without giving him an opportunity to defend himself. Fearing an indefinite prison sentence, Voltaire suggested that he be exiled to England as an alternative punishment, which the French authorities accepted. This incident marked the beginning of Voltaire's attempts to improve the French judicial system.

Voltaire's exile in Great Britain lasted nearly three years, and his experiences there greatly influenced his thinking. He was intrigued by Britain's constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, whether it be a written, uncodified or blended constitution...

 in contrast to the French absolute monarchy
Absolute monarchy
Absolute monarchy is a monarchical form of government in which the monarch exercises ultimate governing authority as head of state and head of government, his or her power not being limited by a constitution or by the law. An absolute monarch thus wields unrestricted political power over the...

, and by the country's greater support of the freedoms of speech and religion. He was also influenced by several neoclassical writers of the age, and developed an interest in earlier English literature, especially the works of Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

, still relatively unknown in continental Europe. Despite pointing out his deviations from neoclassical standards, Voltaire saw Shakespeare as an example that French writers might emulate, since French drama, despite being more polished, lacked on-stage action. Later, however, as Shakespeare's influence began growing in France, Voltaire tried to set a contrary example with his own plays, decrying what he considered Shakespeare's barbarities.

After almost three years in exile, Voltaire returned to Paris and published his views on British attitudes toward government, literature, and religion in a collection of essays in letter form entitled "Letters concerning the English Nation" (London, 1733). In 1734 they were published in French as "Lettres philosophique" in Rouen
Rouen
Rouen , in northern France on the River Seine, is the capital of the Haute-Normandie region and the historic capital city of Normandy. Once one of the largest and most prosperous cities of medieval Europe , it was the seat of the Exchequer of Normandy in the Middle Ages...

. A revised edition appeared in English in 1778 as Lettres philosophiques sur les Anglais
Letters on the English
Lettres philosophiques or ) is a series of essays written by Voltaire based on his experiences living in England between 1722 and 1734. It was published in both French and English in 1734...

(Philosophical Letters on the English). Most modern English editions are based on the French one from 1734 and typically use the title, "Philosophical Letters", a direct translation of the 1734 version's title.

Because Voltaire regarded the British constitutional monarchy as more developed and more respectful of human rights (particularly religious tolerance) than its French counterpart, the French publication of "Letters" caused controversy; the book was burnt
Book burning
Book burning, biblioclasm or libricide is the practice of destroying, often ceremoniously, books or other written material and media. In modern times, other forms of media, such as phonograph records, video tapes, and CDs have also been ceremoniously burned, torched, or shredded...

 and Voltaire was forced again to flee.

Château de Cirey



Voltaire's next destination was the Château de Cirey, located on the borders of Champagne
Champagne, France
Champagne is a historic province in the northeast of France, now best known for the sparkling white wine that bears its name.Formerly ruled by the counts of Champagne, its western edge is about 100 miles east of Paris. The cities of Troyes, Reims, and Épernay are the commercial centers of the area...

 and Lorraine
Lorraine (région)
Lorraine is one of the 27 régions of France. The administrative region has two cities of equal importance, Metz and Nancy. Metz is considered to be the official capital since that is where the regional parliament is situated...

. The building was renovated with his money, and here he began a relationship with the Marquise du Châtelet, Gabrielle Émilie le Tonnelier de Breteuil (famous in her own right as Émilie du Châtelet
Émilie du Châtelet
-Early life:Du Châtelet was born on 17 December 1706 in Paris, the only daughter of six children. Three brothers lived to adulthood: René-Alexandre , Charles-Auguste , and Elisabeth-Théodore . Her eldest brother, René-Alexandre, died in 1720, and the next brother, Charles-Auguste, died in 1731...

). Cirey was owned by the Marquise's husband, Marquis Florent-Claude du Chatelet, who sometimes visited his wife and her lover at the chateau. The relationship, which lasted for fifteen years, had a significant intellectual element. Voltaire and the Marquise collected over 21,000 books, an enormous number for the time. Together, they studied these books and performed experiments in the "natural sciences" in his laboratory. Voltaire's experiments included an attempt to determine the elements of fire.

Having learned from his previous brushes with the authorities, Voltaire began his future habit of keeping out of personal harm's way, and denying any awkward responsibility. He continued to write plays, such as Mérope (or "La Mérope française") and began his long researches into science and history. Again, a main source of inspiration for Voltaire were the years of his British exile, during which he had been strongly influenced by the works of Sir Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton PRS was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian, who has been "considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived."...

. Voltaire strongly believed in Newton's theories, especially concerning optics
Optics
Optics is the branch of physics which involves the behavior and properties of light, including its interactions with matter and the construction of instruments that use or detect it. Optics usually describes the behavior of visible, ultraviolet, and infrared light...

 (Newton’s discovery that white light is composed of all the colours in the spectrum
Spectrum
A spectrum is a condition that is not limited to a specific set of values but can vary infinitely within a continuum. The word saw its first scientific use within the field of optics to describe the rainbow of colors in visible light when separated using a prism; it has since been applied by...

 led to many experiments at Cirey), and gravity (Voltaire is the source of the famous story of Newton and the apple falling from the tree, which he had learned from Newton's niece in London and first mentioned in his Essai sur la poésie épique, or Essay on Epic Poetry).

Although both Voltaire and the Marquise were curious about the philosophies of Gottfried Leibniz
Gottfried Leibniz
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a German philosopher and mathematician. He wrote in different languages, primarily in Latin , French and German ....

, a contemporary and rival of Newton, they remained essentially "Newtonians", despite the Marquise's adoption of certain aspects of Leibniz's arguments against Newton . She translated Newton's Latin Principia in full, adjusting a few errors along the way, and hers remained the definitive French translation well into the 20th century. Voltaire's book Eléments de la philosophie de Newton (Elements of Newton's Philosophy), which was probably co-written with the Marquise, made Newton accessible to a far greater public. It is often considered the work that finally brought about general acceptance of Newton's optical and gravitational theories.

Voltaire and the Marquise also studied history—particularly those persons who had contributed to civilization. Voltaire's second essay in English had been Essay upon the Civil Wars in France. It was followed by La Henriade, an epic poem on the French King Henri IV, glorifying his attempt to end the Catholic-Protestant massacres with the Edict of Nantes
Edict of Nantes
The Edict of Nantes, issued on 13 April 1598, by Henry IV of France, granted the Calvinist Protestants of France substantial rights in a nation still considered essentially Catholic. In the Edict, Henry aimed primarily to promote civil unity...

, and by a historical novel on King Charles XII of Sweden
Charles XII of Sweden
Charles XII also Carl of Sweden, , Latinized to Carolus Rex, Turkish: Demirbaş Şarl, also known as Charles the Habitué was the King of the Swedish Empire from 1697 to 1718...

. These, along with his Letters on England mark the beginning of Voltaire's open criticism of intolerance and established religions. Voltaire and the Marquise also worked with philosophy, particularly with metaphysics
Metaphysics
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:...

, the branch of philosophy that deals with being, and what is beyond the material realm such as whether or not there is a God or souls, etc. Voltaire and the Marquise analyzed the Bible, trying to discover its validity in their time. Voltaire's critical views on religion are reflected in his belief in separation of church and state
Separation of church and state
The concept of the separation of church and state refers to the distance in the relationship between organized religion and the nation state....

 and religious freedom, ideas that he had formed after his stay in England.

Though deeply committed to the Marquise, Voltaire by 1744 found life at the château confining. On a visit to Paris that year, he found a new love: his niece. At first, his attraction to Marie Louise Mignot
Marie Louise Mignot
Marie Louise Mignot was a French literary figure. She was the daughter of Voltaire's sister, marrying his material aid Denis in 1737, giving rise to her married name of Madame Denis. After her husband's premature death in 1744, she was taken in by Voltaire and became his housekeeper, hostess and...

 was clearly sexual, as evidenced by his letters to her (only discovered in 1937). Much later, they lived together, perhaps platonically, and remained together until Voltaire's death. Meanwhile, the Marquise also took a lover, the Marquis de Saint-Lambert.

Sanssouci



After the death of the Marquise in childbirth in September 1749, Voltaire briefly returned to Paris and in 1750 moved to Potsdam
Potsdam
Potsdam is the capital city of the German federal state of Brandenburg and part of the Berlin/Brandenburg Metropolitan Region. It is situated on the River Havel, southwest of Berlin city centre....

 to join Frederick the Great
Frederick II of Prussia
Frederick II was a King in Prussia and a King of Prussia from the Hohenzollern dynasty. In his role as a prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire, he was also Elector of Brandenburg. He was in personal union the sovereign prince of the Principality of Neuchâtel...

, a close friend and admirer of his. The king had repeatedly invited him to his palace, and now gave him a salary of 20,000 francs a year. Though life went well at first—in 1752 he wrote Micromégas
Micromégas
"Micromégas" is a short story by the French philosopher and satirist Voltaire. It is a significant development in the history of literature because it originates ideas which helped create the genre of science fiction....

, perhaps the first piece of science fiction involving ambassadors from another planet witnessing the follies of humankind—his relationship with Frederick the Great began to deteriorate and he encountered other difficulties. An argument with Maupertuis
Pierre Louis Maupertuis
Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis was a French mathematician, philosopher and man of letters. He became the Director of the Académie des Sciences, and the first President of the Berlin Academy of Science, at the invitation of Frederick the Great....

, the president of the Berlin Academy of Science, provoked Voltaire's Diatribe du docteur Akakia
Doctor Akakia
Doctor Akakia is a satirical essay of a very biting nature by Voltaire, directed against pretentious pedants of science in the person of Maupertuis, the President of the Royal Academy of Sciences at Berlin, which so excited the anger of Frederick the Great, the patron of the Academy, that he...

(Diatribe of Doctor Akakia), which satirized some of Maupertuis' theories and his abuse of power in his persecutions of a mutual acquaintance, Samuel Koënig. This greatly angered Frederick, who had all copies of the document burned and arrested Voltaire at an inn where he was staying along his journey home.

Geneva and Ferney



Voltaire headed toward Paris, but Louis XV banned him from the city, so instead he turned to Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

, near which he bought a large estate (Les Délices). Though he was received openly at first, the law in Geneva which banned theatrical performances and the publication of The Maid of Orleans
The Maid of Orleans (poem)
The Maiden of Orleans is a satirical poem by François-Marie Arouet, better known by his pen name, Voltaire. It was first properly published in 1899, but Voltaire had written it over a century beforehand; while he had started writing the text in 1730, he never fully completed it. It was translated...

against his will made him move at the end of 1758 out of Geneva across the French border to Ferney, where he had bought an even larger estate, and led to Voltaire's writing of Candide, ou l'Optimisme
Candide
Candide, ou l'Optimisme is a French satire first published in 1759 by Voltaire, a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment. The novella has been widely translated, with English versions titled Candide: or, All for the Best ; Candide: or, The Optimist ; and Candide: or, Optimism...

(Candide, or Optimism) in 1759. This satire on Leibniz's philosophy of optimistic determinism remains the work for which Voltaire is perhaps best known. He would stay in Ferney for most of the remaining 20 years of his life, frequently entertaining distinguished guests, like James Boswell
James Boswell
James Boswell, 9th Laird of Auchinleck was a lawyer, diarist, and author born in Edinburgh, Scotland; he is best known for the biography he wrote of one of his contemporaries, the English literary figure Samuel Johnson....

, Giacomo Casanova
Giacomo Casanova
Giacomo Girolamo Casanova de Seingalt was an Italian adventurer and author from the Republic of Venice. His autobiography, Histoire de ma vie , is regarded as one of the most authentic sources of the customs and norms of European social life during the 18th century...

, and Edward Gibbon
Edward Gibbon
Edward Gibbon was an English historian and Member of Parliament...

. In 1764 he published one of his best-known philosophical works, the Dictionnaire Philosophique, a series of articles mainly on Christian history and dogmas, a few of which were originally written in Berlin.

From 1762 he began to champion unjustly persecuted people, the case of Jean Calas
Jean Calas
Jean Calas was a merchant living in Toulouse, France, famous for having been the victim of a biased trial due to his being a Protestant. In France, he is a symbol of Christian religious intolerance, along with Jean-François de la Barre and Pierre-Paul Sirven.Calas, along with his wife, was a...

 being the most celebrated. This Huguenot
Huguenot
The Huguenots were members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France during the 16th and 17th centuries. Since the 17th century, people who formerly would have been called Huguenots have instead simply been called French Protestants, a title suggested by their German co-religionists, the...

 merchant had been tortured to death in 1763, supposedly because he had murdered his son for wanting to convert to Catholicism. His possessions were confiscated and his remaining children were taken from his widow and were forced to become members of a monastery. Voltaire, seeing this as a clear case of religious persecution, managed to overturn the conviction in 1765.

Death and burial




In February 1778, Voltaire returned for the first time in 20 years to Paris, among other reasons to see the opening of his latest tragedy, Irene. The 5-day journey was too much for the 83-year old, and he believed he was about to die on 28 February, writing "I die adoring God, loving my friends, not hating my enemies, and detesting superstition." However, he recovered, and in March saw a performance of Irene where he was treated by the audience as a returning hero. He soon became ill again and died on 30 May 1778. The accounts of his deathbed have been numerous and varying, and it has not been possible to establish the details of what precisely occurred. His enemies related that he repented and accepted the last rites given by a Catholic priest, or that he died under great torment, while his adherents told how he was defiant to his last breath. According to one story, his last words were: "Now, now, my good man, this is not the time for making enemies." It was his response to a priest at the side of his deathbed, asking Voltaire to use the precious few moments left to renounce Satan.

Because of his well-known criticism of the church, which he had refused to retract before his death, Voltaire was denied a Christian burial, but friends managed to bury his body secretly at the abbey of Scellières in Champagne before this prohibition had been announced. His heart and brain were embalmed separately. On 11 July 1791, the National Assembly
National Assembly
National Assembly is either a legislature, or the lower house of a bicameral legislature in some countries. The best known National Assembly, and the first legislature to be known by this title, was that established during the French Revolution in 1789, known as the Assemblée nationale...

, which regarded him as a forerunner of the French revolution, had his remains brought back to Paris to enshrine him in the Panthéon
Panthéon, Paris
The Panthéon is a building in the Latin Quarter in Paris. It was originally built as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve and to house the reliquary châsse containing her relics but, after many changes, now functions as a secular mausoleum containing the remains of distinguished French citizens...

. It is estimated that a million people attended the procession, which stretched throughout Paris. There was an elaborate ceremony, complete with an orchestra, and the music included a piece that André Grétry composed specially for the event, which included a part for the "tuba curva". This was an instrument that originated in Roman times as the cornu
Cornu (horn)
A cornu or cornum was a type of brass instrument similar to the buccina used by the Roman army of antiquity mainly for communicating orders to troops in battle. It is a Latin word literally meaning horn. The instrument was about long and took the form of a letter 'G'...

 but had been recently revived under a new name.

A widely repeated story that the remains of Voltaire were stolen by religious fanatics in 1814 or 1821 during the Pantheon restoration and thrown into a garbage heap is false. Such rumours resulted in the coffin being opened in 1897, which confirmed that his remains were still present.

History


Voltaire had an enormous influence on the development of historiography
Historiography
Historiography refers either to the study of the history and methodology of history as a discipline, or to a body of historical work on a specialized topic...

 through his demonstration of fresh new ways to look at the past. His best-known histories are The Age of Louis XIV (1751), and Essay on the Customs and the Spirit of the Nations (1756). He broke from the tradition of narrating diplomatic and military events, and emphasized customs, social history and achievements in the arts and sciences. The Essay on Customs traced the progress of world civilization in a universal context, thereby rejecting both nationalism and the traditional Christian frame of reference. Influenced by Bossuet
Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet was a French bishop and theologian, renowned for his sermons and other addresses. He has been considered by many to be one of the most brilliant orators of all time and a masterly French stylist....

's Discourse on the Universal history (1682), he was the first scholar to make a serious attempt to write the history of the world, eliminating theological frameworks, and emphasizing economics, culture and political history. He treated Europe as a whole, rather than a collection of nations. He was the first to emphasize the debt of medieval culture to Arab civilization, but otherwise was weak on the Middle Ages. Although he repeatedly warned against political bias on the part of the historian, he did not miss many opportunities to expose the intolerance and frauds of the church over the ages. Voltaire advised scholars that anything contradicting the normal course of nature was not to be believed. Although he found evil in the historical record, he fervently believed reason and educating the illiterate masses would lead to progress.

Voltaire explains his view of historiography in his article on "History" in Diderot's Encyclopédie
Encyclopédie
Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers was a general encyclopedia published in France between 1751 and 1772, with later supplements, revised editions, and translations. It was edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d'Alembert...

:
"One demands of modern historians more details, better ascertained facts, precise dates, more attention to customs, laws, mores, commerce, finance, agriculture, population."


Voltaire's histories imposed the values of the Enlightenment on the past, but he helped free historiography from antiquarianism, Eurocentrism, religious intolerance and a concentration on great men, diplomacy, and warfare.

Poetry


From an early age, Voltaire displayed a talent for writing verse and his first published work was poetry. He wrote two book-long epic poems, including the first ever written in French, the Henriade
Henriade
La Henriade is an epic poem of 1723 written by the French Enlightenment writer and philosopher Voltaire. According to Voltaire himself, the poem concerns and was written in honour of the life of Henry IV of France, and is a celebration of his life...

, and later, The Maid of Orleans
The Maid of Orleans (poem)
The Maiden of Orleans is a satirical poem by François-Marie Arouet, better known by his pen name, Voltaire. It was first properly published in 1899, but Voltaire had written it over a century beforehand; while he had started writing the text in 1730, he never fully completed it. It was translated...

, besides many other smaller pieces.

The Henriade was written in imitation of Virgil
Virgil
Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English , was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues , the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid...

, using the Alexandrine
Alexandrine
An alexandrine is a line of poetic meter comprising 12 syllables. Alexandrines are common in the German literature of the Baroque period and in French poetry of the early modern and modern periods. Drama in English often used alexandrines before Marlowe and Shakespeare, by whom it was supplanted...

 couplet reformed and rendered monotonous for modern readers but it was a huge success in the 18th and early 19th century, with sixty-five editions and translations into several languages. The epic poem transformed French King Henry IV into a national hero for his attempts at instituting tolerance with his Edict of Nantes. La Pucelle, on the other hand, is a burlesque
Burlesque
Burlesque is a literary, dramatic or musical work intended to cause laughter by caricaturing the manner or spirit of serious works, or by ludicrous treatment of their subjects...

 on the legend of Joan of Arc. Voltaire's minor poems are generally considered superior to either of these two works.

Prose



Many of Voltaire's prose
Prose
Prose is the most typical form of written language, applying ordinary grammatical structure and natural flow of speech rather than rhythmic structure...

 works and romances, usually composed as pamphlets, were written as polemics. Candide
Candide
Candide, ou l'Optimisme is a French satire first published in 1759 by Voltaire, a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment. The novella has been widely translated, with English versions titled Candide: or, All for the Best ; Candide: or, The Optimist ; and Candide: or, Optimism...

attacks the passivity inspired by Leibniz's philosophy of optimism
Optimism
The Oxford English Dictionary defines optimism as having "hopefulness and confidence about the future or successful outcome of something; a tendency to take a favourable or hopeful view." The word is originally derived from the Latin optimum, meaning "best." Being optimistic, in the typical sense...

; L'Homme aux quarante ecus (The Man of Forty Crowns
The Man of Forty Crowns
The Man of Forty Crowns is a fable written by Voltaire.- External links :* "." at Google Book Search...

), certain social and political ways of the time; Zadig
Zadig
Zadig ou la Destinée, is a famous novel and work of philosophical fiction written by Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire. It tells the story of Zadig, a philosopher in ancient Babylonia...

and others, the received forms of moral and metaphysical orthodoxy; and some were written to deride the Bible. In these works, Voltaire's ironic style, free of exaggeration, is apparent, particularly the restraint and simplicity of the verbal treatment. Candide in particular is the best example of his style.
Voltaire also has, in common with Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift was an Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer , poet and cleric who became Dean of St...

, the distinction of paving the way for science fiction's philosophical irony, particularly in his Micromégas
Micromégas
"Micromégas" is a short story by the French philosopher and satirist Voltaire. It is a significant development in the history of literature because it originates ideas which helped create the genre of science fiction....

and the vignette Plato's Dream
Plato's Dream
Plato's Dream is a short story written in the 18th century by the French philosopher and satirist Voltaire. Along with Voltaire's 1752 short story Micromégas, Plato's Dream is considered by many to be one of the earliest works in the genre of science fiction.Plato's Dream is a pointed...

(1756).

In general criticism and miscellaneous writing, Voltaire's writing was comparable to his other works. Almost all of his more substantive works, whether in verse or prose, are preceded by prefaces of one sort or another, which are models of his caustic yet conversational tone. In a vast variety of nondescript pamphlets and writings, he displays his skills at journalism. In pure literary criticism his principal work is the Commentaire sur Corneille, although he wrote many more similar works sometimes (as in his Life and notices of Molière) independently and sometimes as part of his Siècles.

Voltaire's works, especially his private letters, frequently contain the word "l'infâme" and the expression "écrasez l'infâme," or "crush the infamous". The phrase refers to abuses to the people by royalty and the clergy that Voltaire saw around him, and the superstition and intolerance that the clergy bred within the people. He had felt these effects in his own exiles, the burnings of his books and those of many others, and in the hideous sufferings of Calas
Jean Calas
Jean Calas was a merchant living in Toulouse, France, famous for having been the victim of a biased trial due to his being a Protestant. In France, he is a symbol of Christian religious intolerance, along with Jean-François de la Barre and Pierre-Paul Sirven.Calas, along with his wife, was a...

 and La Barre
Jean-François de la Barre
Jean-François Lefevre de la Barre was a French nobleman, famous for having been tortured and beheaded before his body was burnt on a pyre along with Voltaire's "Philosophical Dictionary". He is often said to have been executed for not saluting a procession, but the elements of the case were far...

. He stated in one of his most famous quotes that "Superstition sets the whole world in flames; philosophy quenches them".

The most oft-cited Voltaire quotation is apocryphal. He is incorrectly credited with writing, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” These were not his words, but rather those of Evelyn Beatrice Hall
Evelyn Beatrice Hall
Evelyn Beatrice Hall, , who wrote under the pseudonym S.G. Tallentyre, was an English writer best known for her biography of Voltaire with the title The Friends of Voltaire, which she completed in 1906....

, written under the pseudonym S. G. Tallentyre in her 1906 biographical book The Friends of Voltaire
The Friends of Voltaire
The Friends of Voltaire, written by Evelyn Beatrice Hall under the pseudonym S.G. Tallentyre, was published in 1906. In 1907 it was published in Great Britain under the author's own name by Putnam's Sons. This classic work about Voltaire was still being printed nearly 100 years later in 2003...

. Hall intended to summarize in her own words Voltaire's attitude towards Claude Adrien Helvétius
Claude Adrien Helvétius
Claude Adrien Helvétius was a French philosopher and littérateur.-Life:...

 and his controversial book De l'esprit, but her first-person expression was mistaken for an actual quotation from Voltaire. Her interpretation does capture the spirit of Voltaire’s attitude towards Helvetius; it had been said Hall's summary was inspired by a quotation found in a 1770 Voltaire letter to an Abbot le Roche, in which he was reported to have said, “I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.” Nevertheless, scholars believe there must have again been misinterpretation, as the letter does not seem to contain any such quote.

Voltaire's first major philosophical work in his battle against "l'infâme" was the Treatise on Tolerance, exposing the Calas affair, along with the tolerance exercised by other faiths and in other eras (for example, by the Jews, the Romans, the Greeks and the Chinese). Then, in his Dictionnaire philosophique
Dictionnaire philosophique
The Dictionnaire philosophique is an encyclopedic dictionary published by Voltaire in 1764. The alphabetically arranged articles often criticize the Roman Catholic Church and other institutions. The first edition, released in June of 1764, went by the name of Dictionnaire Philosphique Portatif. It...

, containing such articles as "Abraham", "Genesis", "Church Council", he wrote about what he perceived as the human origins of dogmas and beliefs, as well as inhuman behavior of religious and political institutions in shedding blood over the quarrels of competing sects.

Amongst other targets, Voltaire criticized France's colonial policy in North America, dismissing the vast territory of New France
New France
New France was the area colonized by France in North America during a period beginning with the exploration of the Saint Lawrence River by Jacques Cartier in 1534 and ending with the cession of New France to Spain and Great Britain in 1763...

 as "a few acres of snow
A few acres of snow
"A few acres of snow" is one of several quotations from Voltaire, the 18th-century writer, which are representative of his sneering evaluation of Canada, and by extension New France, as lacking economic value and strategic importance to 18th-century France...

" ("quelques arpents de neige").

Letters


Voltaire also engaged in an enormous amount of private correspondence during his life, totaling over 20,000 letters. Theodore Besterman's collected edition of these letters, completed only in 1964, fills 102 volumes.
One historian called the letters "a feast not only of wit and eloquence but of warm friendship, humane feeling, and incisive thought."

Religion



Voltaire did not believe that any single religious text or tradition of revelation was needed to believe in God. Voltaire's focus was rather on the idea of universal laws, demonstratable, and in the main, still waiting to be discovered in the physical world as well as those of the moral world, underlying every religious system, along with respect for nature reflecting the contemporary pantheism
Pantheism
Pantheism is the view that the Universe and God are identical. Pantheists thus do not believe in a personal, anthropomorphic or creator god. The word derives from the Greek meaning "all" and the Greek meaning "God". As such, Pantheism denotes the idea that "God" is best seen as a process of...

.

Like other key thinkers during the European Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

, Voltaire considered himself a deist
Deism
Deism in religious philosophy is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that the universe is the product of an all-powerful creator. According to deists, the creator does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the...

, expressing the idea: "What is faith? Is it to believe that which is evident? No. It is perfectly evident to my mind that there exists a necessary, eternal, supreme, and intelligent being. This is no matter of faith, but of reason."

As for religious texts, Voltaire's opinion of the Bible was mixed. Although influenced by Socinian works such as the Bibliotheca Fratrum Polonorum, Voltaire's skeptical attitude to the Bible separated him from Unitarian theologians like Fausto Sozzini or even Biblical-political writers like John Locke
John Locke
John Locke FRS , widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social...

.

This did not hinder his religious practice, though it did win for him a bad reputation in certain religious circles. The deeply Catholic Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

 wrote to his father the year of Voltaire's death, saying, "The arch-scoundrel Voltaire has finally kicked the bucket...."

Evolving views of Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 and its prophet, Muhammad
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

, can be found in Voltaire's writings. In a letter recommending his play Fanaticism, or Mahomet
Mahomet (play)
Mahomet is a five-act tragedy written in 1736 by French playwright and philosopher Voltaire. It received its debut performance in Lille on 25 April 1741....

to Pope Benedict XIV
Pope Benedict XIV
Pope Benedict XIV , born Prospero Lorenzo Lambertini, was Pope from 17 August 1740 to 3 May 1758.-Life:...

, Voltaire described the founder of Islam as "the founder of a false and barbarous sect" and "a false prophet", a view he later revised upon further research for his Essai sur les Moeurs et l'Esprit des Nations.

There is an apocryphal story that his home at Ferney was purchased by the Geneva Bible Society and used for printing Bibles, but this appears to be due to a misunderstanding of the 1849 annual report of the American Bible Society
American Bible Society
The American Bible Society is an interconfessional, non-denominational, nonprofit organization, founded in 1816 in New York City, which publishes, distributes and translates the Bible and provides study aids and other tools to help people engage with the Bible.It is probably best known for its...

. Voltaire's chateau is now owned and administered by the French Ministry of Culture.

In the Scottish Enlightenment
Scottish Enlightenment
The Scottish Enlightenment was the period in 18th century Scotland characterised by an outpouring of intellectual and scientific accomplishments. By 1750, Scots were among the most literate citizens of Europe, with an estimated 75% level of literacy...

 the Scots began developing a uniquely practical branch of humanism
Humanism
Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

 to the extent that Voltaire said "We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation".

In a letter to Frederick II
Frederick II of Prussia
Frederick II was a King in Prussia and a King of Prussia from the Hohenzollern dynasty. In his role as a prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire, he was also Elector of Brandenburg. He was in personal union the sovereign prince of the Principality of Neuchâtel...

, King of Prussia
King of Prussia
King of Prussia may refer to:* A ruler of the former German state of Prussia**List of rulers of Prussia* Place names** King of Prussia, Pennsylvania* Shopping Centers** King of Prussia Mall...

, dated 5 January 1767 he wrote about Christianity :

Religious tolerance


In a 1763 essay, Voltaire supported the toleration
Religious toleration
Toleration is "the practice of deliberately allowing or permitting a thing of which one disapproves. One can meaningfully speak of tolerating, ie of allowing or permitting, only if one is in a position to disallow”. It has also been defined as "to bear or endure" or "to nourish, sustain or preserve"...

 of other religions and ethnicities: "It does not require great art, or magnificently trained eloquence, to prove that Christians should tolerate each other. I, however, am going further: I say that we should regard all men as our brothers. What? The Turk my brother? The Chinaman my brother? The Jew? The Siam? Yes, without doubt; are we not all children of the same father and creatures of the same God?"

Race and slavery


Voltaire rejected the Christian Adam and Eve story and was a polygenist who speculated that each race had separate origins. Like other philosophes, such as Buffon
Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon
Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon was a French naturalist, mathematician, cosmologist, and encyclopedic author.His works influenced the next two generations of naturalists, including Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and Georges Cuvier...

, he divided humanity into varieties or races and attempted to explain the differences between these races. Voltaire took this position primarily to defy Christianity, and biblical monogenism. He wondered if blacks fully shared in the common humanity or intelligence of whites due to their participation in the slave trade.

His most famous remark on slavery is found in "Candide", where the hero is horrified to learn 'at what price we eat sugar in Europe'. Elsewhere, he wrote caustically about "whites and christians [who] proceed to purchase negroes cheaply, in order to sell them dear in America".

Anti-semitism


According to the rabbi Joseph Telushkin
Joseph Telushkin
Joseph Telushkin is an American rabbi, lecturer, and author.-Biography:Telushkin attended the Yeshiva of Flatbush, was ordained at Yeshiva University, and studied Jewish history at Columbia University....

 the most significant of Enlightenment hostility against Judaism was found in Voltaire, although claims to the contrary have been made that his remarks were in fact anti-Biblical, not anti-semitic. Thirty of the 118 articles in his Dictionnaire Philosophique
Dictionnaire philosophique
The Dictionnaire philosophique is an encyclopedic dictionary published by Voltaire in 1764. The alphabetically arranged articles often criticize the Roman Catholic Church and other institutions. The first edition, released in June of 1764, went by the name of Dictionnaire Philosphique Portatif. It...

dealt with Jews and described them in consistently negative ways, although this analysis overlooks the fact that he had already defended the Jews as more tolerant than the Christians in his "Treatise On Toleration" the previous year and issued "Le Sermon du rabbin Akib", a text attacking anti-semitism, three years before that.

Peter Gay
Peter Gay
Peter Gay is Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University and former director of the New York Public Library's Center for Scholars and Writers . Gay received the American Historical Association's Award for Scholarly Distinction in 2004...

, a contemporary authority on the Enlightenment, also points to Voltaire's remarks in the "Treatise On Toleration" and surmises that "Voltaire struck at the Jews to strike at Christianity". Whatever anti-semitism Voltaire may have felt, Gay suggests, derived from negative personal experience. However, Bertram Schwarzbach's far more detailed studies of Voltaire's dealings with Jewish people throughout his life concluded that he was anti-biblical, not anti-semitic. His remarks on the Jews and their "superstitions" were essentially no different from his remarks on Christians. Telushkin states that Voltaire did not limit his attack on aspects of Judaism that Christianity used as a foundation, repeatedly making it clear that he despised Jews. Arthur Hertzberg
Arthur Hertzberg
Arthur Hertzberg was a Conservative rabbi and prominent Jewish-American scholar and activist.-Biography:...

 claims that Gay's second suggestion is also untenable, as Voltaire himself denied its validity when he remarked that he had "forgotten about much larger bankruptcies through Christians".

Freemasonry


Voltaire was initiated into Freemasonry
Freemasonry
Freemasonry is a fraternal organisation that arose from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th century. Freemasonry now exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated at around six million, including approximately 150,000 under the jurisdictions of the Grand Lodge...

 the month before his death. On 4 April 1778 Voltaire accompanied his close friend Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

 into Loge des Neuf Soeurs in Paris, France and became an Entered Apprentice Freemason, perhaps only to please Franklin.

Legacy



Voltaire perceived the French bourgeoisie
Bourgeoisie
In sociology and political science, bourgeoisie describes a range of groups across history. In the Western world, between the late 18th century and the present day, the bourgeoisie is a social class "characterized by their ownership of capital and their related culture." A member of the...

 to be too small and ineffective, the aristocracy
Aristocracy
Aristocracy , is a form of government in which a few elite citizens rule. The term derives from the Greek aristokratia, meaning "rule of the best". In origin in Ancient Greece, it was conceived of as rule by the best qualified citizens, and contrasted with monarchy...

 to be parasitic and corrupt, the commoners as ignorant and superstitious, and the church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 as a static and oppressive force useful only on occasion as a counterbalance to the rapacity of kings, although all too often, more rapacious itself. Voltaire distrusted democracy, which he saw as propagating the idiocy of the masses. Voltaire long thought only an enlightened monarch could bring about change, given the social structures of the time and the extremely high rates of illiteracy, and that it was in the king's rational interest to improve the education and welfare of his subjects. But his disappointments and disillusions with Frederick the Great changed his philosophy somewhat, and soon gave birth to one of his most enduring works, his novella, Candide
Candide
Candide, ou l'Optimisme is a French satire first published in 1759 by Voltaire, a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment. The novella has been widely translated, with English versions titled Candide: or, All for the Best ; Candide: or, The Optimist ; and Candide: or, Optimism...

, ou l'Optimisme
(Candide, or Optimism, 1759), which ends with a new conclusion: "It is up to us to cultivate our garden". His most polemical and ferocious attacks on intolerance and religious persecutions indeed began to appear a few years later. Candide was also burned and Voltaire jokingly claimed the actual author was a certain "Demad" in a letter, where he reaffirmed the main polemical stances of the text.

Voltaire is also known for many memorable aphorisms, such as: "Si Dieu n'existait pas, il faudrait l'inventer" ("If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him"), contained in a verse epistle from 1768, addressed to the anonymous author of a controversial work, "The Three Impostors." But far from being the cynical remark it is often taken for, it was meant as a retort to the atheistic clique of d'Holbach, Grimm, and others.
Voltaire is remembered and honored in France as a courageous polemicist who indefatigably fought for civil rights
Civil rights
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.Civil rights include...

—the right to a fair trial
Right to a fair trial
The right to fair trial is an essential right in all countries respecting the rule of law. A trial in these countries that is deemed unfair will typically be restarted, or its verdict voided....

 and freedom of religion
Freedom of religion
Freedom of religion is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance; the concept is generally recognized also to include the freedom to change religion or not to follow any...

—and who denounced the hypocrisies and injustices of the ancien régime. The ancien régime involved an unfair balance of power and taxes between the First Estate (the clergy), the Second Estate (the nobles), and the Third Estate (the commoners and middle class, who were burdened with most of the taxes).

Voltaire has had his detractors among his later colleagues. The Scottish Victorian writer Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle was a Scottish satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher during the Victorian era.He called economics "the dismal science", wrote articles for the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, and became a controversial social commentator.Coming from a strict Calvinist family, Carlyle was...

 argued that, while Voltaire was unsurpassed in literary form, not even the most elaborate of his works were of much value for matter and that he never uttered an original idea of his own. Nietzsche, however, called Carlyle a muddlehead who had not even understood the Enlightenment values he thought he was promoting.

He often used China, Siam and Japan as examples of brilliant non-European civilizations and harshly criticized slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

.

The town of Ferney, where Voltaire lived out the last 20 years of his life, is now named Ferney-Voltaire
Ferney-Voltaire
Ferney-Voltaire is a commune in the Ain department in eastern France.It lies between the Jura mountains and the Swiss border and forms part of the metropolitan area of Geneva.-History:...

 in honor of its most famous resident. His château
Château
A château is a manor house or residence of the lord of the manor or a country house of nobility or gentry, with or without fortifications, originally—and still most frequently—in French-speaking regions...

is a museum.

Voltaire's library is preserved intact in the National Library of Russia at St. Petersburg, Russia.

In Zurich 1916, the theater and performance group who would become the early avant-garde movement Dada
Dada
Dada or Dadaism is a cultural movement that began in Zurich, Switzerland, during World War I and peaked from 1916 to 1922. The movement primarily involved visual arts, literature—poetry, art manifestoes, art theory—theatre, and graphic design, and concentrated its anti-war politics through a...

 named their theater The Cabaret Voltaire
Cabaret Voltaire (Zürich)
Cabaret Voltaire was the name of a nightclub in Zurich, Switzerland. It was founded by Hugo Ball, with his companion Emmy Hennings on February 5, 1916 as a cabaret for artistic and political purposes. Other founding members were Marcel Janco, Richard Huelsenbeck, Tristan Tzara, and Jean Arp...

. A late-20th-century industrial music
Industrial music
Industrial music is a style of experimental music that draws on transgressive and provocative themes. The term was coined in the mid-1970s with the founding of Industrial Records by the band Throbbing Gristle, and the creation of the slogan "industrial music for industrial people". In general, the...

 group then named themselves
Cabaret Voltaire (band)
Cabaret Voltaire were a British music group from Sheffield, England.Initially composed of Stephen Mallinder, Richard H. Kirk and Chris Watson, the group was named after the Cabaret Voltaire, a nightclub in Zürich, Switzerland that was a centre for the early Dada movement.Their earliest performances...

 after the theater.

A character based on Voltaire plays an important role in The Age of Unreason
The Age of Unreason
The Age of Unreason is a series of four novels written by Gregory Keyes:* Newton's Cannon , ISBN 1-56865-829-X* A Calculus of Angels , ISBN 0-7394-0260-9* Empire of Unreason , ISBN 0-345-40609-5...

, a series of four alternative history novels written by American science fiction and fantasy
Fantasy
Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of plot, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic is common...

 author Gregory Keyes
Gregory Keyes
Gregory Keyes is an American writer of science fiction and fantasy who has written both original and media-related novels under both the names "J. Gregory Keyes" and "Greg Keyes". He is famous for his quartet The Age of Unreason, a steampunk/alchemical story starring Benjamin Franklin and Isaac...

.

Voltaire appears as an advanced fully sentient computer simulation (sim) within a holographic matrix in the book Foundation's Fear
Foundation's Fear
Foundation's Fear is a science fiction novel by Gregory Benford, set in Isaac Asimov's Foundation universe. It is the first book of the Second Foundation trilogy, which was written after Asimov's death by three authors, authorized by the Asimov estate....

 written by Gregory Benford
Gregory Benford
Gregory Benford is an American science fiction author and astrophysicist who is on the faculty of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of California, Irvine...

 which is set in Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov was an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books. Asimov was one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000...

's Foundation
The Foundation Series
The Foundation Series is a science fiction series by Isaac Asimov. There are seven volumes in the Foundation Series proper, which in its in-universe chronological order are: Prelude to Foundation, Forward the Foundation, Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation, Foundation's Edge, and...

 universe. In the book Voltaire interacts with another sim based on Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc
Saint Joan of Arc, nicknamed "The Maid of Orléans" , is a national heroine of France and a Roman Catholic saint. A peasant girl born in eastern France who claimed divine guidance, she led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years' War, which paved the way for the...

 and discusses much of the motivations of his life and his work with the scientists who are managing his simulated consciousness in a time epoch that is set many millennia far into the future.

Astronomers have bestowed his name to the Voltaire crater
Voltaire (crater)
Voltaire is an impact crater on Mars' moon Deimos and is approximately across. Voltaire crater is named after François-Marie Arouet, a French Enlightenment writer who was better known by the pen name Voltaire. Voltaire crater is one of two named features on Deimos, the other being Swift crater...

 on Deimos
Deimos (moon)
Deimos is the smaller and outer of Mars's two moons . It is named after Deimos, a figure representing dread in Greek Mythology. Its systematic designation is '.-Discovery:Deimos was discovered by Asaph Hall, Sr...

  and the asteroid 5676 Voltaire
5676 Voltaire
5676 Voltaire is a main belt asteroid with an orbital period of 1430.7047683 days . The asteroid was discovered on September 9, 1986, by the Soviet astronomer Lyudmila Karachkina. It is named in honor of the eighteenth-century French philosopher Voltaire....

.

Voltaire was also known to have been an advocate for coffee, as he was purported to have drunk the beverage at least 30 times per day. It has been suggested that high amounts of caffeine acted as a mental stimulant to his creativity.

His great grand-niece was the mother of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a famous philosopher and Jesuit priest.

Philosophical works

  • Letters concerning the English nation (London, 1733) (French version entitled Lettres philosophiques sur les Anglais, Rouen, 1734), revised as Letters on the English
    Letters on the English
    Lettres philosophiques or ) is a series of essays written by Voltaire based on his experiences living in England between 1722 and 1734. It was published in both French and English in 1734...

    (circa 1778)
  • Le Mondain (1736)
  • Sept Discours en Vers sur l'Homme (1738)
  • Zadig
    Zadig
    Zadig ou la Destinée, is a famous novel and work of philosophical fiction written by Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire. It tells the story of Zadig, a philosopher in ancient Babylonia...

    (1747)
  • Micromégas
    Micromégas
    "Micromégas" is a short story by the French philosopher and satirist Voltaire. It is a significant development in the history of literature because it originates ideas which helped create the genre of science fiction....

    (1752)
  • Candide
    Candide
    Candide, ou l'Optimisme is a French satire first published in 1759 by Voltaire, a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment. The novella has been widely translated, with English versions titled Candide: or, All for the Best ; Candide: or, The Optimist ; and Candide: or, Optimism...

    (1759)
  • Treatise on Tolerance (1763)
  • Ce qui plaît aux dames (1764)
  • Dictionnaire philosophique
    Dictionnaire philosophique
    The Dictionnaire philosophique is an encyclopedic dictionary published by Voltaire in 1764. The alphabetically arranged articles often criticize the Roman Catholic Church and other institutions. The first edition, released in June of 1764, went by the name of Dictionnaire Philosphique Portatif. It...

    (1764)
  • L'Ingénu
    L'Ingénu
    L'Ingénu is a satirical novella by the French writer Voltaire, published in 1767. It tells the story of a Huron man transported to Paris in 1690...

    (1767)
  • La Princesse de Babylone (1768)

Plays


Voltaire wrote between fifty and sixty plays, including a few unfinished ones. Among them are these:
  • Œdipe (1718)
  • Mariamne
    Hérode et Mariamne
    Hérode et Mariamne or Mariamne is a 1724 tragedy by Voltaire. Adapted from the writings of the historian Josephus, it is set in ancient Jerusalem, and portrays the tragic death of Mariamne at the hands of her jealous husband, Herod the Great, king of Judea, who suspects her of an intrigue with...

    (1724)
  • Zaïre
    Zaïre (play)
    Zaïre is a five act tragedy in verse by Voltaire. Written in only three weeks, it was given its first public performance on 13 August 1732 by the Comédie française in Paris. It was a great success with the Paris audiences and marked a turning away from tragedies caused by a fatal flaw in the...

    (1732)
  • Eriphile (1732)
  • Irène
  • Socrates
  • Mahomet
    Mahomet (play)
    Mahomet is a five-act tragedy written in 1736 by French playwright and philosopher Voltaire. It received its debut performance in Lille on 25 April 1741....

  • Mérope
    Merope
    Merope was originally the name of several, probably unrelated, characters in Greek mythology. The name may refer to:-Greek mythology:* Merope , one of the Heliades, daughter of Helios and Clymene...

  • Nanine
    Nanine
    Nanine is a 1949 play by the French writer Voltaire....

  • The Orphan of China (1755)

Historical

  • History of Charles XII, King of Sweden (1731)
  • The Age of Louis XIV (1751)
  • The Age of Louis XV (1746–1752)
  • Annals of the Empire – Charlemagne, A.D. 742 – Henry VII 1313, Vol. I (1754)
  • Annals of the Empire – Louis of Bavaria, 1315 to Ferdinand II 1631 Vol. II (1754)
  • Essay on the Manners of Nations (or 'Universal History') (1756)
  • History of the Russian Empire Under Peter the Great (Vol. I 1759; Vol. II 1763)
  • History of the Parliament of Paris (1769)

See also


  • Classical liberalism
    Classical liberalism
    Classical liberalism is the philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government, constitutionalism, rule of law, due process, and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets....

  • Contributions to liberal theory
    Contributions to liberal theory
    Individual contributors to classical liberalism and political liberalism are associated with philosophers of the Enlightenment. Liberalism as a specifically named ideology begins in the late 18th century as a movement towards self-government and away from aristocracy...

  • List of Freemasons
  • List of coupled cousins
  • Mononymous persons

Further reading

  • App, Urs. The Birth of Orientalism. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010 (hardcover, ISBN 978-0-8122-4261-4); contains a 60-page chapter (pp. 15–76) on Voltaire as a pioneer of Indomania and his use of fake Indian texts in anti-Christian propaganda.
  • Besterman, Theodore, Voltaire, (1969).
  • Brumfitt, J. H. Voltaire: Historian (1958) online edition
  • Davidson, Ian, Voltaire. A Life, London, Profile Books
    Profile Books
    Profile Books is a British independent publishing firm founded in 1996 to publish stimulating non-fiction. It publishes across a wide range of subjects including history, biography, memoir, politics, current affairs, travel and popular science. It also publishes all The Economist Books.In 2003 it...

    , 2010. ISBN 978184668261
  • Durant, Will, The Story of Civilization. Vol. IX: The Age of Voltaire. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1965.
  • Gay, Peter, Voltaire's Politics, The Poet as Realist, Yale University, 1988.
  • Hadidi, Djavâd, Voltaire et l'Islam, Publications Orientalistes de France, 1974.
  • Knapp, Betina L. Voltaire Revisited (2000) 228pp
  • Mason, Haydn, Voltaire, A Biography
  • Muller, Jerry Z., 2002. The Mind and the Market: Capitalism in Western Thought. Anchor Books.
  • Pearson, Roger, 2005. Voltaire Almighty: a life in pursuit of freedom. Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781582346304. 447pp
  • Quinones, Ricardo J. Erasmus and Voltaire: Why They Still Matter (University of Toronto Press; 2010) 240 pages; Draws parallels between the two thinkers as voices of moderation with relevance today.
  • Schwarzbach, Bertram Eugene, Voltaire's Old Testament Criticism, Librairie Droz, Geneva, 1971.
  • Torrey, Norman L., The Spirit of Voltaire, Columbia University Press, 1938.
  • Wright, Charles Henry Conrad, A History of French Literature, Oxford University Press
    Oxford University Press
    Oxford University Press is the largest university press in the world. It is a department of the University of Oxford and is governed by a group of 15 academics appointed by the Vice-Chancellor known as the Delegates of the Press. They are headed by the Secretary to the Delegates, who serves as...

    , 1912.
  • "The Cambridge Companion to Voltaire", ed by Nicholas Cronk, 2009.

In French


Primary sources

  • Morley, J., The Works of Voltaire, A Contemporary Version, (21 vol 1901), online edition

External links