Biography of Voltaire
Francois Marie Arouet (pen name Voltaire) was born on November 21, 1694 in Paris. Voltaire's intelligence, wit and style made him one of France's greatest writers and philosophers. Voltaire was the embodiment of the 18th-century Enlightenment.
Young Francois Marie received his education at "Louis-le-Grand," a Jesuit college in Paris from 1704-11. From 1711 to 1713 he studied law, and then worked as a secretary to the French ambassador in Holland before devoting himself entirely to writing. He soon made friends among the Parisian aristocrats. His humorous verses made him a favorite in society circles. In 1717, his sharp wit got him into trouble with the authorities. He was imprisoned in the Bastille for eleven months for writing a scathing satire of the French government. During his time in prison Francois Marie wrote Oedipe which was to become his first theatrical success and adopted his pen name "Voltaire."
In 1726, Voltaire insulted the powerful young nobleman, "Chevalier De Rohan," and was given two options: imprisonment or exile. He chose exile and from 1726 to 1729 lived in England. While in England Voltaire was attracted to the philosophy of John Locke and ideas of mathematician and scientist, Sir Isaac Newton. He studied England's Constitutional Monarchy and its religious tolerance. Voltaire was particularly interested in the philosophical rationalism of the time, and in the study of the natural sciences. After returning to Paris he wrote a book praising English customs and institutions. It was interpreted as criticism of the French government and was forced to leave Paris again.
At the age of thirty-nine, Voltraire started his famous sixteen-year liaison with Mme du Châtelet. She was twenty-seven, married, and the mother of three children. "I found, in 1733, a young woman who thought as I did," Voltaire wrote in his memoirs, "and who decided to spend several years in the country, cultivating her mind." The Marquis du Châtelet was well aware of the affair. With madame du Châtelet Voltaire lived at the Château de Cirey in Luneville,(in eastern France) in 1734-36 and 1737-40. Together they studied the natural sciences for several years. In 1746, Voltaire was voted into the "Academie Francaise." In 1749, after the death of "Marquise du Chatelet" and at the invitation of the King of Prussia, "Frederick the Great," he moved to Potsdam (near Berlin in Germany). In 1753, Voltaire left Potsdam to return to France.
In 1759, Voltaire purchased an estate called "Ferney" near the French-Swiss border where he lived until just before of his death. Ferney soon became the intellectual capital of Europe. Voltaire worked continuously throughout the years, producing a constant flow of books, plays and other publications. Voltaire left behind him over fourteen thousand known letters and over two thousand books and pamphlets. Among his best-known works is the satirical short story Candide (1759). In addition to Candide, Voltaire treated the problem of evil among others in his classic tale Zadig (1747), set in the ancient Babylon, and in Poem of the Lisbon Earthquake Voltaire asks:
"But how conceive a God supremely good
Who heaps his favours on the sons he loves
Yet scatters evil with as large a hand?"
Voltaire returned to a hero's welcome in Paris at age 83. Voltaire died in Paris on May 30, 1778, as the undisputed leader of the Age of Enlightenment. He had suffered throughout his life from poor health, but at the time of his death he was eighty-four. Because of his criticism of the church Voltaire was denied burial in church ground. He was finally buried at an abbey in Champagne. In 1791 his remains were moved to a resting place at the Pantheon in Paris.
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From Love to Friendship
If you would have me love once more, The blissful age of love restore; From wine's free joys, and lovers' cares, Relentless time, who no man spares,
The Origin of Trades
When with a skilful hand Prometheus made A statue that the human form displayed, Pandora, his own work, to wed he chose, And from those two the human race arose.
To the Queen of Hungary
Princess, descended from that noble race Which still in danger held the imperial throne, Who human nature and thy sex dost grace, Whose virtues even thy foes are forced to own.
The Temple of Friendship
Sacred to peace, within a wood's recess, A blest retreat, where courtiers never press, A temple stands, where art did never try With pompous wonders to enchant the eye;
To Her Royal Highness, the Princess of *...
Abeauteous princess often may Languish in pleasure's season gay; The empty forms of haughty state Oft make life tedious to the great.
I triumphed, love's victorious power Prevailed, and near approached the hour Which should have crowned our mutual flame, Just then your tyrant husband came.
At village lived, in days of yore, A youth bred in Mahomet's lore; His well-turned limbs were formed with grace, With blooming beauty glowed his face;
To a Lady Very Well Known to the Whole T...
Phillis, how much the times are changed, Since in a hack the town you ranged, Since without finery or train you shone, Conspicuous for your charms alone;
In Camp Before Philippsburg
Without a bed we now sleep sound And take our meals upon the ground; And though the blazing atmosphere Must dreadful to the eye appear,
Thelema and Macareus
Thelema's lively, all admire Her charms, but she's too full of fire; Impatience ever racks her breast, Her heart a stranger is to rest.
On the Death of Adrienne Lecouvreur, A C...
Hat sight of woe thus harrows up my soul! Must those love-darting eyes in anguish roll? Shall ghastly death such charms divine invade? You muses, graces, loves come to her aid.
I triumphed, love's victorious power
Prevailed, and near approached the hour
Which should have crowned our mutual flame,
Just then your tyrant husband came.
That hoary Jailer was too hard,
To love he all access has barred,
And all our wishes to defeat,
Secures the key of pleasure's seat;
For such strange matters to account,