89 Facts About Voltaire


Voltaire was an advocate of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and separation of church and state.


Voltaire was a versatile and prolific writer, producing works in almost every literary form, including plays, poems, novels, essays, histories, and scientific expositions.


Voltaire wrote more than 20,000 letters and 2,000 books and pamphlets.


Voltaire was one of the first authors to become renowned and commercially successful internationally.


Voltaire was an outspoken advocate of civil liberties and was at constant risk from the strict censorship laws of the Catholic French monarchy.


Voltaire's best-known work and magnum opus, Candide, is a novella which comments on, criticizes, and ridicules many events, thinkers, and philosophies of his time.


Voltaire was educated by the Jesuits at the College Louis-le-Grand, where he was taught Latin, theology, and rhetoric; later in life he became fluent in Italian, Spanish, and English.


Voltaire, pretending to work in Paris as an assistant to a notary, spent much of his time writing poetry.


Voltaire's wit made him popular among some of the aristocratic families with whom he mixed.


At The Hague, Voltaire fell in love with a French Protestant refugee named Catherine Olympe Dunoyer.


From early on, Voltaire had trouble with the authorities for critiques of the government.


One satirical verse, in which Voltaire accused the Regent of incest with his daughter, resulted in an eleven-month imprisonment in the Bastille.


Voltaire mainly argued for religious tolerance and freedom of thought.


Voltaire campaigned to eradicate priestly and aristo-monarchical authority, and supported a constitutional monarchy that protects people's rights.


Richard Holmes supports the anagrammatic derivation of the name, but adds that a writer such as Voltaire would have intended it to convey connotations of speed and daring.


Voltaire is known to have used at least 178 separate pen names during his lifetime.


Voltaire instead turned to an epic poem about Henry IV of France that he had begun in early 1717.


In England, Voltaire lived largely in Wandsworth, with acquaintances including Everard Fawkener.


Voltaire circulated throughout English high society, meeting Alexander Pope, John Gay, Jonathan Swift, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, and many other members of the nobility and royalty.


Voltaire was intrigued by Britain's constitutional monarchy in contrast to French absolutism, and by the country's greater freedom of speech and religion.


Voltaire was influenced by the writers of the time, and developed an interest in English literature, especially Shakespeare, who was still little known in continental Europe.


Later 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.


Voltaire published a letter about the Quakers after he attended one of their services.


At a dinner, French mathematician Charles Marie de La Condamine proposed buying up the lottery that was organized by the French government to pay off its debts, and Voltaire joined the consortium, earning perhaps a million livres.


Voltaire invested the money cleverly and on this basis managed to convince the Court of Finances of his responsible conduct, allowing him to take control of a trust fund inherited from his father.


Voltaire published his admiring essays on British government, literature, religion, and science in Letters Concerning the English Nation.


The book was publicly burnt and banned, and Voltaire was again forced to flee Paris.


In 1733, Voltaire met Emilie du Chatelet, a mathematician and married mother of three, who was 12 years his junior and with whom he was to have an affair for 16 years.


Voltaire paid for the building's renovation, and Emilie's husband sometimes stayed at the chateau with his wife and her lover.


Voltaire continued to write plays, such as Merope 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 Isaac Newton.


Voltaire strongly believed in Newton's theories; he performed experiments in optics at Cirey, and was one of the promulgators of the famous story of Newton's inspiration from the falling apple, which he had learned from Newton's niece in London and first mentioned in his Letters.


Voltaire's work was instrumental in bringing about general acceptance of Newton's optical and gravitational theories in France, in contrast to the theories of Descartes.


From mid-1739 to mid-1740 Voltaire lived largely in Brussels, at first with the Marquise, who was unsuccessfully attempting to pursue a 60-year-old family legal case regarding the ownership of two estates in Limburg.


Voltaire was sent to Frederick's court in 1743 by the French government as an envoy and spy to gauge Frederick's military intentions in the War of the Austrian Succession.


Voltaire encountered other difficulties: an argument with Maupertuis, the president of the Berlin Academy of Science and a former rival for Emilie's affections, provoked Voltaire's Diatribe du docteur Akakia, which satirized some of Maupertuis's theories and his persecutions of a mutual acquaintance, Johann Samuel Konig.


Early in 1759, Voltaire completed and published Candide, ou l'Optimisme.


Voltaire would stay in Ferney for most of the remaining 20 years of his life, frequently entertaining distinguished guests, such as James Boswell, Adam Smith, Giacomo Casanova, and Edward Gibbon.


Voltaire's possessions were confiscated, and his two daughters were taken from his widow and forced into Catholic convents.


Voltaire, seeing this as a clear case of religious persecution, managed to overturn the conviction in 1765.


Voltaire was initiated into Freemasonry a little over a month before his death.


Voltaire had an enormous influence on the development of historiography through his demonstration of fresh new ways to look at the past.


Voltaire broke from the tradition of narrating diplomatic and military events, and emphasized customs, social history and achievements in the arts and sciences.


Voltaire treated Europe as a whole rather than a collection of nations.


Voltaire was the first to emphasize the debt of medieval culture to Middle Eastern civilization, but otherwise was weak on the Middle Ages.


Voltaire advised scholars that anything contradicting the normal course of nature was not to be believed.


From an early age, Voltaire displayed a talent for writing verse, and his first published work was poetry.


Voltaire wrote two book-long epic poems, including the first ever written in French, the Henriade, and later, The Maid of Orleans, besides many other smaller pieces.


Voltaire had seen and felt these effects in his own exiles, the burnings of his books and those of many others, and in the atrocious persecution of Jean Calas and Francois-Jean de la Barre.


Amongst other targets, Voltaire criticized France's colonial policy in North America, dismissing the vast territory of New France as "a few acres of snow".


Voltaire engaged in an enormous amount of private correspondence during his life, totalling over 20,000 letters.


Voltaire is partially responsible for the misattribution of the expression Credo quia absurdum to the Church Fathers.


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


Voltaire did have a Jewish friend, Daniel de Fonseca, whom he esteemed highly, and proclaimed him as "the only philosopher, perhaps, among the Jews of his time".


Voltaire had condemned the persecution of Jews on several occasions including in his work Henriade, and never advocated violence or attacks against them.


Subsequently, Voltaire agreed with the criticism of the anti-Semitic passages and stated that De Pinto's letter convinced that there are "highly intelligent and cultivated people" among the Jews and that he had been "wrong to attribute to a whole nation the vices of some individuals"; he promised to revise the objectionable passages for forthcoming editions of the Dictionnaire philosophique, but failed to do so.


When Voltaire wrote in 1742 to Cesar de Missy, he described Mohammed as deceitful.


In 1751, Voltaire performed his play Mohamet , with great success.


Voltaire used the antiquity of Hinduism to land what he saw as a devastating blow to the Bible's claims and acknowledged that the Hindus' treatment of animals showed a shaming alternative to the immorality of European imperialists.


Voltaire shared these hopes, seeing Confucian rationalism as an alternative to Christian dogma.


Voltaire praised Confucian ethics and politics, portraying the sociopolitical hierarchy of China as a model for Europe.


Voltaire wrote favourably of the idea, claiming that the Chinese had "perfected moral science" and advocating an economic and political system after the Chinese model.


Voltaire rejected the biblical Adam and Eve story and was a polygenist who speculated that each race had entirely separate origins.


Zeev Sternhell argues that despite his shortcomings, Voltaire was a forerunner of liberal pluralism in his approach to history and non-European cultures.


Frederick the Great commented on his good fortune for having lived in the age of Voltaire, and corresponded with him throughout his reign until Voltaire's death.


In 1764, Voltaire successfully intervened and secured the release of Claude Chamont, arrested for attending Protestant services.


When Comte de Lally was executed for treason in 1766, Voltaire wrote a 300-page document in his defense.


Italy had a Renaissance, and Germany had a Reformation, but France had Voltaire; he was for his country both Renaissance and Reformation, and half the Revolution.


Voltaire was first and best in his time in his conception and writing of history, in the grace of his poetry, in the charm and wit of his prose, in the range of his thought and his influence.


Voltaire's spirit moved like a flame over the continent and the century, and stirs a million souls in every generation.


Voltaire quipped that the first half of Julie had been written in a brothel and the second half in a lunatic asylum.


The letter continued with an imaginary speech in the voice of Voltaire, acknowledging authorship of the heretical book Sermon of the Fifty, which the real Voltaire had repeatedly denied.


In 1772, when a priest sent Rousseau a pamphlet denouncing Voltaire, Rousseau responded by defending his rival:.


Voltaire has said and done so many good things that we should draw the curtain over his irregularities.


In 1778, when Voltaire was given unprecedented honors at the Theatre-Francais, an acquaintance of Rousseau ridiculed the event.


Louis XVI, while incarcerated in the Temple, lamented that Rousseau and Voltaire had "destroyed France".


Voltaire perceived the French bourgeoisie to be too small and ineffective, the aristocracy to be parasitic and corrupt, the commoners as ignorant and superstitious, and the Church as a static and oppressive force useful only on occasion as a counterbalance to the rapacity of kings, although all too often, even 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.


Candide was 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 remembered and honored in France as a courageous polemicist who indefatigably fought for civil rights and who denounced the hypocrisies and injustices of the Ancien Regime.


Voltaire particularly had admiration for the ethics and government as exemplified by the Chinese philosopher Confucius.


Voltaire is known for many memorable aphorisms, such as "", contained in a verse epistle from 1768, addressed to the anonymous author of a controversial work on The Three Impostors.


The town of Ferney, where Voltaire lived out the last 20 years of his life, was officially named Ferney-Voltaire in honor of its most famous resident, in 1878.


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


Voltaire was known to have been an advocate for coffee, drinking it at every turn: fifty times a day, according to Frederick the Great; three times a day, said Wagniere.


Voltaire's great-grand-niece was the mother of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Catholic philosopher and Jesuit priest.


On his death in 1976, he left his collection to the University of Oxford, where the Voltaire Foundation became established as a department.


Voltaire wrote between fifty and sixty plays, including a few unfinished ones.