Biography : Born François Marie Arouet, in 1694 in Paris. Educated by the Jesuits 1704-1711, studied law 1711-1713. Arrested and exiled from Paris for 5 months in 1716, incarcerated in the Bastille 1717-1718 for ridiculing the regency. In prison he took on the pen-name Voltaire. Gained modest wealth in speculation at the stock exchange. Again imprisoned in 1726. By now he had gained a name; spent 1726-1729 in exile in England. His Lettres Philosophiques, published 1734, were ommediately banned in Paris and he had to flee again. The banishment of the book only caused it to be sold under the table, and Voltaire now reached celebrity status, domestically as well as abroad, where the book was not banned. Entered into a liaison with Madame de Chatelet (1733-1749). Spent the years 1736-1737 in exile in Holland. In 1740 French ambassador in Prussia, in 1742-1743 French resident in Brussels; 1745-1750 court historiographer of Loouis XV., at Versailles. In 1746 elected a member of the Academie Française.
1750-1753 in Potsdam at the court of Frederick the Great. In 1755 he settled in Switzerland at his chateau Les Delices, near Geneva. Here he received numerous visitors. Boltaire died in Paris in 1778.
List of publications

1718 . . Oedipe
1727 . . Essay on Epic Poetry
1727 . . Essay on the Civil Wars in France
1731 . . History of Charles XII.
1734 . . Lettres Philosophiques sur les Anglais
1739 . . Essai sur le Nature du Feu
1751 . . Le Siecle du Louis XIV.
1755 . . La Pucelle
1756-1763 . . Essai sur l'Histoire Generale et sur les Moeurs et l'Esprit des Nations (Essay on the Manner and Spirit of Nations, and on the Principal Occurences in History)
1759 . . Candide
1763 . . Traite sur la Tolerance
1764 . . Dictionnaire Philosophique

Politically, Voltaire advocated enlightened absolutism. Realizing that society required thorough reform and blaming organized religion for much of what he regarded wrong, he hoped for an enlightened king to implement such reforms. In terms of religion, Voltaire was a deist, believing in a creator-God, but not in the teachings of a particular christian denomination.
Voltaire corresponded, among others, with Frederick the Great of Prussia and with Catherine the Great of Russia. Frederick the Great dedicated his book 'anti-Machiavell' to Voltaire. Catherine the Great, after Voltaire's death, purchased his library.
Voltaire is regarded one of the most brilliant minds in history.

Website of the Voltaire Foundation, bilingual English & French
Biography of Voltaire, from Books and Writers; from Wikipedia
DOCUMENTS List of Online editions by Voltaire, from Voltaire Foundation
More Online editions by Voltaire, from College Voltaire, in French resp. Italian
Voltaire, the Philosophical Dictionary, posted by Hanover Historical Texts Project
Voltaire : Letters on Newton, from the Letters on the English or Lettres Philosophiques, from Modern History Sourcebook

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First posted on September 14th 2003, last revised on November 14th 2004

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