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By: Desk Jockey
Voltaire Francois Marie Arouet (pen name Voltaire) was born on November
21, 1694 in Paris. Voltaire’s style, wit, intelligence and keen sense of justice
made him one of France’s greatest writers and philosophers. Young Francois
Marie received an excellent education at a Jesuit school. He left school at 16
and soon formed friendships with a group of sophisticated Parisian aristocrats.
Paris society sought his company for his cleverness, humor and remarkable
ability to write verse. In 1717 he was arrested for writing a series of satirical
verses ridiculing the French government, and was imprisoned in the Bastille.
During his eleven months in prison he wrote his first major play, “Oedipe,”
which achieved great success in 1718. He adopted his pen name “Voltaire” the
same year. In 1726 Voltaire insulted a powerful young nobleman 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 the great scientist Sir Isaac Newton. After his return
to Paris he wrote a book praising English customs and institutions. The book
was thought to criticize the French government and Voltaire was forced to flee
Paris again. 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 capitol of Europe. Throughout his years in exile Voltaire
produced a constant flow of books, plays, pamphlets, and letters. He was a
voice of reason, and an outspoken critic of religious intolerance and
persecution. Voltaire returned to a hero’s welcome in Paris at age 83. The
excitement of the trip was too much for him and he died in Paris. 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. Voltaire was famous during the
enlightenment for his satirical writings about major issues. He was loved by
supporters of the enlightenment, but he was hated by some who didnt see the
genius in his satires. He had a unique point of view on things that few could see
at that time.