Voltaire

WRITER (FRANCE)
BORN 21 Nov 1694, Paris - DIED 30 May 1778, Paris
REAL NAME Arouet, François-Marie
GRAVE LOCATION Paris: Panthéon (Entrée)

Voltaire was born as François-Marie Arouet as the son of a notary. He was educated by Jesuits who taught him Latin and Greek. Later he would also learn Italian, Spanish and English. He studied law (1711-1713) and worked in the Netherlands as secretary to the French ambassador. There he eloped with French refugee Catherine Olympe Dunoyer, but his father forced him to return to France.

His writings brought him trouble from the beginning. In them he attacked the authorities as well as the French church. After he graduated he turned to writing, pretending to work as an assistant to a lawyer. One of his satirical writings led to his imprisonment in the Bastille for eleven months in 1717-1718. There he wrote a play, "Oedipe" and started using the name of Voltaire.

After offending Chevalier de Rohan he was exiled to England. After three years he returned to Paris, causing controversy after he stated that the English monarchy was more developed than the French monarchy. He went to Château de Cirey, where he lived with Gabrielle Émilie le Tonnelier de Breteuil, the Marquise du Châtelet. Their relationship lasted for fifteen years and together they collected 21.000 books. Voltaire lived at Château de Cirey in 1734-1736 and in 1737-1740.

He worked as a historiographer for Louis XV from 1745 until 1750. In 1746 he became a member of the Académie Française. In Paris his eldest niece Marie-Louise Denise was his lover. In 1750 he moved to Berlin, invited by his admirer Frederick the Great. But he found that Frederick wasn't thqat enlightened and he had problems with the president of the Berlin Academy of science.

Voltaire was forced to return to Paris, but Louis XV banned him again and this time he left for Geneva, where he settled in 1755. He had his chateau Les Delices outside Geneva and later at Ferney, not far away across the French border.

After a long period in Switzerland he was gloriously received in Paris in 1778. He had become a legend during his lifetime and he was readmitted to the Académie Française. Soon afterwards he died in his sleep in May, 1778. In 1791 his remains were brought to the Panthéon in Paris. During his life he had written over 14.000 letters and 2.000 books and pamphlets.

Related persons
• admired Clairon
• was visited by Denon, Dominique Vivant, Baron de
• was drawn by Denon, Dominique Vivant, Baron de
• corresponded with Friedrich II der Grosse, König von Preussen
• met Lessing, Gotthold Ephraïm

Sources
• Reeth, Adelaïde van & Guido Peeters, Herinneringen in Steen, De Haan/Unieboek, Houten, 1988
• Adler, Josef, Handbuch der Grabstätten, 2. Band, Die Grabstätte der Europäer, Deutsches Kunstverlag, München, 1986
Voltaire - Wikipedia

Images

The statue and grave monument of Voltaire at the Panthéon, Paris.
Picture by Androom (07 Mar 1995)

 


Vörösmarty, Mihály

Published: 11 May 2008
Last update: 29 Oct 2016