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voltaire ‘It appeared then men as they are, in fact, insects devouring one another on a little atom of mud.’ voltaire ‘despair often won the battles.’ voltaire ‘Who wants to destroy the passions instead of the set, would play the angel.’ voltaire ‘Man is born for action, as fire tends to top and rock bottom. Not being occupied and no is the same for humans.’ voltaire ‘Men with wise laws, customs have always senseless.’ voltaire ‘The vices of the mind can be corrected; When the heart is bad, nothing can change it.’ voltaire ‘Anyone who is suspicious calls to betray him.’ voltaire ‘Fear follows crime and is its punishment.’ voltaire ‘The pleasure this gives that wisdom promises.’ voltaire


Francois Marie Arouet, voltaire said, born November 211694 in Paris where he died May 30, 1778, is a writer and philosopher who marked the eighteenth century and has a special place in the French collective memory. It outlines, in fact, the figure of the committed intellectual in the service of truth, justice and freedom of thought.

Symbol of Enlightenment, leader of the philosophical party, his name remains attached to his fight against the ‘infamous’, a name he gives to religious fanaticism, and for progress and tolerance. However, it is a deist and his ideal is that of a moderate monarchy and liberal, enlightened by the ‘philosophers’. It works also with enlightened elites of Europe of the Enlightenment by using his huge reputation and is alone defending victims of religious intolerance and arbitrariness in cases that made them famous (Calas, Sirven, Chevalier de la Barre, Comte de Lally).

Its imposing literary work is read today primarily his writings ‘philosophical ‘prose tales and novels, Philosophical Letters, voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary and correspondence. His theater, his epic poems, his historical works, which made him one of the most famous French writers in the eighteenth century, are now largely neglected or ignored. voltaire’s reputation is also due to his style, marked by elegance and precision, and often in the service of a biting irony.


Throughout his life, the Great and voltaire frequently courted monarchs, without concealing his disdain for the people, but it is also exposed to interventions that imprison the power and forced into exile in England or the away from Paris. In 1749, after the death of Emilie du Châtelet with which he has had a rough link of fifteen, he moved to the Prussian court but, disappointed in his hopes to play a major role with Frederick II in Berlin, blurs with him after three years and left Berlin in 1753.He took refuge in a little later Delights, near Geneva, in 1759 before purchasing a domain at Ferney, on the border between France and Geneva, free of the powerful. It will enhance its field and will Ferney a cultural center known throughout Europe. He will not return to Paris in 1778, cheered by the people. He died at age 83.

Champion of ‘good time (from) this iron age! ‘In the mundane, like voltaire luxury, good food and conversation, he considers, with the theater as one of the most finished of the society. Concerned with his material wealth that guarantees freedom and independence, he acquired a considerable fortune in speculation which will allow it to settle in 1759 at the Château de Ferney surrounded by a court of wits. However, it is sometimes fierce and quarrelsome with his opponents like Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Considered by the French Revolution – Jean-Jacques Rousseau, his opponent – as a precursor (he entered the Hall in 1791, second only Mirabeau), celebrated by the Third Republic (since 1870 in a Paris boulevard and a place named after him and a dock, a street, a school, a subway station …), he fed the nineteenth century the passions antagonists opponents and defenders of secularism of the state and public school, and beyond of the Enlightenment.




François-Marie Arouet was born Sunday, November 21, 1694 in Paris, in the parish of Saint-Andre-des-Arcs, but in various writings, voltaire actually claims to be born nine months earlier on 19 or 20 February 1694 in Chatenay -Malabry: baptism on 22 November in Paris in Saint-Andre-des-Arts was delayed because of little hope for child survival. Arouet also contests his paternity.

The Arouet

From a small town in northern Poitou, Saint-Loup, where they practice in the fifteenth century and sixteenth century activity tanners, Arouet are an example of the social rise of the bourgeoisie in the seventeenth century. Arouet the first to leave the province moved to Paris in 1625 where he opened a shop draper and silk. He married the daughter of a wealthy cloth merchant and is enriched enough to buy for his son, Francois voltaire’s father, a notary at the Châtelet in 1675 providing its holder access to the small nobility. The latter, austere and honest worker relations major, yet rounded the family fortune, married June 7, 1683 the daughter of a Criminal Clerk of Parliament, Margaret of Aumard, with whom he has five children (three survive), and he sold his study in 1696 to acquire a charge to advise the king, receiving spices to the Court of Auditors. voltaire lost her mother at the age of seven. He has an older brother, Armand Arouet (known as April 5, 1685, d. 18February 1745), lawyer in Parliament, rigorous Catholic and Jansenist stubborn, single voltaire which inherited the property, and a sister, Catherine Maguerite Arouet, called Marie (baptized December 29, 1686 in Saint-Germain-le-Vieil, died October 15 1726), wife of Pierre François Mignot, correction to the Board of Auditors, the only member of his family which has inspired affection, to be the mother of two son, whose Father Mignot, and two daughters, Madame de Fontaine and Marie Louise Mignot, the future Madame Denis. Upset and grief, François Arouet exclaims: ‘I have a son two bishops, one in prose and one verse. ‘Armand Francois Arouet, born March 18, 1684, died a few days later, Robert Arouet, called Saint-Germain-le-Vieil July 18, 1689, died young.

Education: the Jesuits and libertine society of the Temple

Arouet father wants to give his younger intellectual training that is up to the gifts that it manifests at a young age.At ten, he entered the Jesuit College Louis-le-Grand, setting the best attended and most expensive in the capital. The Jesuits teach Latin, Greek and rhetoric, but want above all to train men in the world and introduce their students to the arts of society: cut and thrust, advocacy, support of versification, and theater that occupies a large place in the life of college. Brilliant student, soon famous for its ease of versification, Arouet learns to please and to speak on an equal footing with adults. It forges bonds of friendship and valuable relationships which he will use all his life: the brothers d’Argenson, René-Louis and Marc-Pierre, future ministers of Louis XV and the future Duke of Richelieu.


Going against the foot of the Jesuit education, attending the temple libertine society was no less important an influence on the young Arouet.The Abbé de Châteauneuf, his godfather and a man of letters, introduced from the age of twelve years in this society that gathers in the hotel to the Temple of Philippe de Vendome, Grand Prior of the Order of St. John’s Jerusalem, members of the nobility and poets, Epicurean scholars known for their spirit and their amorality and gallant lovers dinners where they drink dry. The boy is fun by giving them to ‘light, fast, spicy, fed ancient reference, free up your smut, uninhibited jokes about religion and the monarchy.’ With th
em, he is convinced that he was born nobleman and libertine has nothing to do with Arouet and the common people.

Law student and man of letters?

He left college at seventeen and tells his father he wants to be man of letters, not lawyers or office holder to advise the Parliament, however, considerable investment that he is willing to do for him.Paternal face of opposition, he enrolled in law school and continues to attend the libertines of the Temple, taking tastes of luxury and debauchery. His father away for a moment by sending it to Caen, then the confidence of his godfather’s brother, the Marquis de Chateauneuf, who has just been appointed ambassador to The Hague and agrees to be his private secretary. But his removal did not last. At Christmas 1713, he is back, driven from his post and the Netherlands due to noisy relations with a young lady. Furious, his father wants to send him to America but ended up placing in the study of a magistrate in Paris. He is saved by a former client of Arouet, literate and very rich, M. de Caumartin, marquis de Saint-Ange, who convinces him to entrust his son to test the poetic talent of the young rebel. Arouet son passes the forced vacation in the castle of Sant’Angelo near Fontainebleau to read, write and listen to stories of his host (‘Caumartin door in his brain / Of his time living history / Caumartin is always new / in my ear that he delights ‘) that will be used for the Henriade and the Age of Louis XIV.

In 1715, is the Regency. Arouet was 21 years. It is so brilliant and fun as the high society is playing in his presence. He could have become the friend of the Regent, but is found in the camp of his enemies. Invited to the castle of Sceaux, center of opposition, where the Duchess of Maine, married the Duke of Maine, legitimized bastard of Louis XIV, is a brilliant court, he can not help writing poetry about relationships of the Regent and her daughter. On May 4, 1716, he was exiled to Tulle. His father used his influence with his former clients to flex the Regent that good prince, replacing Tulle by Sully-sur-Loire where he settled in the castle of the young Duke of Sully, a knowledge of the Temple, who lives with around him in a succession of balls, banquets and various events. With the approach of winter, he seeks the grace of the regent, who, without malice, forgive.The young Arouet begins his turbulent life in Saint-Ange and Seals, enjoying the hospitality of the haves and the comfort of their castles. But, taken by the atmosphere, a few weeks later, he repeated. On May 16, 1717, he was sent to the Bastille by lettre de cachet. He was twenty-three years. He stayed eleven months.


Literary success: Oedipus and The Henriade

When he left, conscious of having previously wasted his time and talent, he wants to give a new course in his life, and become famous in the genre of the noblest literature of his day, tragedy and epic poetry . He adopted the family name of voltaire, anagram, assuming the predominant view, of Arouet lj (the Younger), the calligraphy of the time allowing the transformation of u and v d in i. On November 18, 1718, his play, Oedipus, an immense success (forty-five performances over four at the Palais-Royal, number of spectators estimated at 25,000).The public, who saw in him a new Racine, like his poems in the form of maxims and impertinent allusions to the dead king and religion (‘Our priests are not what a vain people think / Our credulity is all their science . ‘Act IV, Scene 1). His talents as a poet worldly triumph in the salons and castles. He became intimate Villars who receive it in their castle of Vaux and the lover of Madame de Bernieres, wife of the President of the Parliament of Rouen mortar. After the failure of a second tragedy, written during a brief exile in Sully (he complains again, this time wrongly, to circulate a new satire against the Regent), he knows another success in 1723 with the Henriade, an epic poem (4300 Alexandrine) whose subject is the siege of Paris by Henry IV and a portrait of an ideal ruler, an enemy of all fanaticism: 4000 copies sold out within weeks (sixty editions of the living the author).

The quarrel with the Chevalier de Rohan

In January 1726 he suffered a humiliation which will mark his life. Guy-Auguste de Rohan-Chabot, ‘Le Chevalier de Rohan-Chabot,’ arrogant young man, scion of one of the oldest families in the kingdom, the apostrophe at the Comédie-French: ‘Monsieur de voltaire, Monsieur Arouet, how is your name? ‘. His reply was scathing: ‘voltaire! I start my name and you end yours. ‘ A few days later, he was summoned when he dines with his friend the Duke of Sully. In the street, it is beaten with clubs by the lackeys of the knight who oversees the operation of his carriage. Hurt, humiliated, but he wants to redress any of his aristocratic friends does his party. The Duke of Sully refused to accompany him to the police commissioner to support his complaint. It is not a matter of concern Rohan for having beaten a writer. ‘We would be very unfortunate if the poets had no shoulders,’ said a relative of Caumartin. The Prince de Conti is a word on sticks:’They were well received but poorly given.’ voltaire wants to avenge his honor by arms, but his eagerness to want to do justice ails everyone. The Rohan get that we proceed to arrest voltaire, who was taken to the Bastille on 17 April. It is released two weeks later, on condition that he went into exile.

English Exile

He is deeply impressed by the freedom and political and religious pluralism of British society. Whereas in France the reign lettres de cachet, the law of habeas corpus in 1679 – no one can remain detained except by decision of a judge – and the Bill of Rights of 1689 protect British citizens against the power of the king. Material success of the people of England raises his admiration. It links with the delay of France in the economic backwardness and its institutions. He believes that, where increases the intensity of trade merchants and intellectuals, grows in proportion to the aspiration of nations to greater freedom and tolerance.By presenting a tolerant society they describe as, the English probably keep to refer to their anti-Catholic (Testing Act) that transformed the English of this religion in sub-humans who are denied any education and any official not only on English territory and in the provinces that depended (Scotland and Ireland), but in all the colonies. Voted in the seventeenth century, the Test Act was repealed in the nineteenth century.


It only takes a few weeks to acquire an excellent command of English. In November 1726, he moved to London. He met writers, philosophers, scientists (physicists, mathematicians, naturalists) and introduced to areas of knowledge he did not know before. And sketched the transformation of the man of letters ‘philosopher,’ which led him to invest in genres previously considered somewhat prestigious history, politics and test the latest novel.

It was in England he conceives the idea of ​​writing a History of Charles XII, King of Sweden, and he began to write in English the book where he describes his observations on England, it will published in 1733 in London under the title Letters Concerning the Nation Français French version of which is none other than the Philosophical Letters.

It is close to the court of George I and George II and prepare an edition of the underwriting Henriade accompanied by two essays in English who is a success (343 subscribers) and restore his fortune. A similar subscription opened in France by his friend Theriot only draws 80 and will be seized many of the police.


Court life

voltaire shared the life of Emilie du Chatelet at the castle of Cirey, he made a few passages in the court of Luneville in the reign of Stanislas Leszczynski, duke of Lorraine, then returned to Paris, where he leads a career as a courtier before breaking disgrace.

It was not until 1750 that
he went to the court of Frederick II in Berlin, where waiting for a brilliant position at the Royal Academy of Sciences and Arts in Berlin and the chamberlain’s key and treatment considerable. The king and the philosopher become friends, the first practicing perfect French. But the two friends can not long conceal their main features, a haughty mood and used to being obeyed, the other his intellectual superiority and his mind sharp. The blurring is inevitable, and in 1753 a quarrel with Maupertuis voltaire, supported the king, precipitates the rupture, and voltaire left Prussia. The most important work he published during his stay in Berlin is The Age of Louis XIV.


Geneva Ferney

In 1755, he moved to the ‘Delights’, near Geneva. Finally, in 1758, he bought a field at Ferney, in the Pays de Gex, and Tournay, in French territory, but on the border between France and Geneva (Geneva is then an independent state). It will develop the region, building, planting, sowing and livestock development.In the company of Madame Denis, his niece, housekeeper and companion, he live a thousand people, is a farmer, architect, manufacturer of watches and silk stockings. With his sense of form, he summarized the company ‘a nest of 40 wild has become a wealthy small town inhabited by 1200 people useful.’ voltaire is no longer the most famous man of his time: he became a myth. St. Petersburg in Philadelphia, his publications are expected as oracles. Artists, scholars, princes, ambassadors or just curious to go on pilgrimage in Ferney that ‘the innkeeper of Europe’.

In 1778 he returned to Paris: the people of the city welcomed him with such enthusiasm that some historians see in this day of March 30 ‘the first of the revolutionary days.’

Two months before his death, April 7, 1778, he became a Freemason lodge in Paris of the ‘Nine Sisters’. According to the Venerable who led the ceremony, ‘You were a Freemason even before receiving the characters ‘it does not mean that the patriarch of Ferney had previously joined the Freemasons, but he already shared ideals.


He died in Paris May 30, 1778 at the Marquis de Villette. February 28, 1778, four months before his death, he declared in a letter to his secretary Wagnière, who piously preserved: ‘I die adoring God, loving my friends, did not hate my enemies, hating superstition. ‘

He was first buried in the abbey of Sellières, his ashes were transferred to the Pantheon in Paris July 11, 1791 after a grand ceremony attended by the widow Calas and his two daughters. By a quirk of history, his tomb is opposite to that of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, he did not like.

voltaire and women

The life and work of voltaire reveal an interesting place given to women.Several of his plays are entirely dedicated to the lives of women of exceptional power of oriental civilizations. This vision of women in power can illuminate voltaire’s commitment to a learned woman as Émilie du Châtelet.


The first female figure of voltaire’s life is his mother. He spoke in terms unkind, and he lost very young. Which may explain his penchant for women older than him, which he expected more attention to maternal and sensual.

In 1713, a young secretary to the embassy in The Hague, voltaire fell in love with Olympe Dunoyer (or walnut), alias Pimpette. The mother of this girl, a French Huguenot exile in Holland, hated the French monarchy. Fearing a scandal, the ambassador returns voltaire in France. The case takes only a few weeks, and is the only example of genuine love of philosophy libertine. Libertine above the rest on paper: poor health, voltaire has always preserved the excesses, including love.

It is largely thanks to women that voltaire sneaks into the high society of the Regency. Louise Bénédicte de Bourbon, Duchess of Maine gathered in the castle of Sceaux a literary coterie plotting against Philip the Duke of Orleans. It urged voltaire to exercise his wit against mocking the Regent, which earned the author an early reputation, and eleven months in the Bastille. Dating women of voltaire not all literary in nature: it is mainly to promote his business he seduced the wife of a president to the parliament of Rouen mortar, the Marquis de Bernières, he associates with his speculation, and expensive tricks deployed to edit the Henriade despite the royal censorship.


With the success of his first tragedy Oedipus, voltaire met the Duchess of Villars, which he falls in love, but that the converse is true;is, again, the introduction in the aristocratic circle lit revolving around Charles Louis Hector, Marshal Villars, who was receiving in his castle of Vaux (Vaux-le-Vicomte). As for love, voltaire said it ‘cured’ in favor of friendship, he actually cultivate throughout his life.

voltaire has few connections with ephemeral actresses, including Suzanne and Adrienne Lecouvreur Livry (deceptions, intrigues, duels …) The relationship with Gabrielle Emilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, Marquise du Châtelet-Lomont, however, is more serious. The translator of Newton is very good at the letters as much as in science or philosophy. She is married, but the Marquis du Châtelet is an eternal absent, and Emily, all passion, fall in love without measure the prestigious poet presented to him in 1733, and she loves until his death sixteen years later . Cirey (Cirey-sur-Blaise), the family castle is home to their love of Chatelet, voltaire began the restoration and expansion at its expense.

Marital life is almost, but the most eventful, intense intellectual exchange: voltaire, who had hitherto devoted to the ‘grand genre,’ the tragedy and the epic poem, opts for what will be the characteristic of his work the political and philosophical struggle against intolerance. A close relationship, so long as studious and prolific.


It is a philosophical commit fraud the end of the idyll of ten years: the Marquise to renounce materialism Newtonian determinism to prefer optimism of Leibniz, to which voltaire could not consent. Less sentimental now, the alliance still persists. The marquise repeatedly voltaire saves the consequences of his insolence, and voltaire sponge sometimes huge gambling debts of Emilie.


The situation complicates when Mme Du Châtelet falls in love with the Marquis de Saint-Lambert (Jean-François Saint-Lambert). Emily is pregnant, and concocts a scheme to voltaire that the husband of the Marquise considers himself the father of the child.Emilie died shortly after childbirth, leaving voltaire desperate he was to Emilie du Chatelet his happiest years.

In 1745, voltaire became, at fifty, the lover of his niece (one of the two daughters of her older sister) Marie-Louise Denis. voltaire has carefully concealed incestuous passion and ‘adultery’ (it is always the lover of a very jealous Mme Du Châtelet). Ms. Denis is not the rest of the faithful, and not averse to enjoy the fortune (considerable) of the poet. The couple do not really coexist at the death of Madame du Chatelet in 1749. Except during the episode Prussia, voltaire and his niece will not come apart more. Marie-Louise Denis is the mistress, the nurse and the secretary of the philosopher. She follows him in his retreat in Switzerland, where she created roles in his plays.

In a letter to Grimm, Madame d’Epinay (Louise d’Epinay) made of voltaire and his niece a witty portrait at the time of installation of the poet in Switzerland ‘The niece of M. de voltaire is hilarious, it’s a little fat woman, round, about fifty years, as women is not so, good and ugly, lying unintentionally and without malice; not mind and seeming
to have; shouting, deciding, natio, verse, unreasonable, and all this without too much pretension, and above all without offending someone, above all with a little veneer of male love that pierces through the restraint it imposed on itself. She loves her uncle, as Uncle and as a man. voltaire cherishes it, who cares, the revered: in short, this house is home to the assembly of opposites and a delightful spectacle for the spectators. ‘


‘Mom Denis’ was the last word uttered by dying voltaire, May 30, 1778.

Various aspects

voltaire and the money

voltaire died at the head of an immense fortune, ‘one of the first revenues from France, they say! ‘(John Goldzink, voltaire, (ISBN 978-2-07-053079-3)).

It has hardly touched on, and is considered to have kept the secret in two areas: business, and his love for his niece.

Around 1770, the Boards of hatred and bourgeois, voltaire opens on the outskirts of Geneva the ‘Manufacture Royale de Ferney watches’, which will last long. He was one of the first to use the term in the watch factory. Watch the center of Ferney, after some years of prosperity, also failed because of its inability to sell its production.

voltaire and slavery

Some modern writers, trying to dent the image of a philanthropist and voltaire apostle of human rights sometimes mean voltaire as ‘slave.’ They rely particularly on the fact that voltaire wrote, ironically, in his Essay on the morals and minds of Nations: ‘We only buy domestic slaves than for Blacks, we blame the trade. A people who tampers with his children is even more reprehensible than the buyer. This demonstrates our superior trading;one who gives a master was born to be. ‘

However, voltaire strongly condemned slavery. The text is the most famous denunciation of female slave’s Candide in Surinam, but his body has several other interesting passages. In the ‘Commentary on The Spirit of Laws’ (1777), he congratulated Montesquieu have shamed this odious practice.

He was also excited for the release of their slaves by the Quakers of Pennsylvania in 1769.

In the same way that he believes in 1771 that ‘of all wars, that of Spartacus is the most just, and perhaps the only correct’ war that slaves were taken against their oppressors, surely calls for thesis of anti-slavery voltaire.

In the last years of his life with his lawyer and friend Christin, he fought for the release of ‘slaves’Jura serfs who were the last and present in France, under the privilege of hand-dead monks were subject to the chapter of Saint-Claude (Jura). This is one of the few political battles he lost, and the serfs were freed not only during the French Revolution, which inspired some of the principles voltaire.

Wrongly, it is often claimed that voltaire had been enriched by having participated in the slave trade. It cites in support of this thesis would have written a letter to a slave ship from Nantes to thank him for making him earn 600,000 pounds in this way. In fact, this alleged letter is a forgery.

voltaire, racism and antisemitism

Delacampagne for Christian, ‘voltaire, it needs to be solved, is both polygenist, racist and anti-Semitic.’ Thus the introduction of the Essay on the Manners and Spirit of Nations, voltaire wrote:

Also reading some passages of the ‘Philosophical Dictionary’ raises the question of anti-Semitism of voltaire. In the article ‘Tolerance, ‘he writes:

For Bernard Lazare (1903 ), ‘If voltaire was an ardent anti-Jewish, ideas that he and the Encyclopedists represented were not hostile to Jews, as were the ideas of freedom and universal equality.’

The historian of the Holocaust, Leon Poliakovfait of voltaire, ‘the worst anti-Semitic French eighteenth century.’ He said the feeling would have worsened in the last fifteen years in the life of voltaire. It would seem then bound to struggle against the Church of the philosopher. Pierre-André Taguieff, ‘The admirers of the’ Enlightenment ‘, if they take the trouble to read the third book (From voltaire to Wagner) in the history of anti-Semitism, published in 1968, can that qualify their judgments of thinkers like voltaire and the Baron d’Holbach, who reformulated anti-Judaism in the cultural code ‘progressive’ in the fight against prejudices and superstitions. ‘

Others note that the existence of contradictory passages in the works of voltaire can not conclude conclusively to racism or anti-Semitism of the philosopher. ‘Anti-Semitism has never sought his doctrine in voltaire,’ said Roland and Desna, who writes: ‘It is no less true that this is not primarily in voltaire found reasons to fight the anti-Semitism. For this fight, there is first the experience and the reasons for our time. This does not mean that voltaire, along with some others, has no place in the distant origins of the history of these reasons. ‘

voltaire and Islam

Deist, voltaire was attracted by the apparent rationality of Islam, ‘religion without clergy, without miracles and without mystery.’ Taking the thesis of Henri de Boulainvilliers deist, he saw in the Muslim monotheism a more rational than the Christian Trinity.

In his tragedy Mahomet or Fanaticism, voltaire considers Muhammad as an ‘imposter’, a ‘false prophet’, a ‘fanatic ‘and a’ hypocrite. ‘ However, according to Pierre Milza, the play was mostly ‘a pretext to denounce intolerance of Christians – Catholic strict observance, Jansenists, Protestants – and the horrors perpetrated in the name of Christ.’ For voltaire, Mahomet ‘here is something else that Tartuffe’s arms.’

Later, after reading Henri de Boulainvilliers and George Sale, the talk of Muhammad and Islam in an article ‘In the Koran and of Mohammed’ published in 1748 as a result of his tragedy. In this article, voltaire maintained that Muhammad was a ‘charlatan,’ but ‘sublime and bold’ and wrote that he was also not an illiterate. Drawing as additional information in the Library of Eastern Herbelot, voltaire, according to Rene Pomeau, is a ‘very favorable ruling on the Quran’ where there is, despite ‘the contradictions, absurdities, anachronisms,’ ‘good moral ‘and’a fair idea of ​​divine power ‘and to’ admire especially the definition of God. ‘ So he ‘now concedes’ that ‘if his book is bad for our time and for us it was very good for his contemporaries, and his religion better. It must be admitted that he withdrew almost all of Asia from idolatry ‘and that’ it was very difficult that a religion so simple and so wise, taught by a man who is always victorious, do not subjuguât a part of the earth ‘. He considers that ‘its civil laws are good, his dogma is admirable in that it has to comply with ours’ but ‘how are awful, it is the deceit and murder.’

Having estimated later that he had in his play Mahomet ‘a little more wicked he was,’ that is in the biography of Muhammad written by Henri de Boulainvilliers voltaire draws and takes, according to Rene Pomeau, ‘traits that reveal the great man Muhammad.’In his essay on the morals and minds of Nations in which he establishes, as a historian, this time, several chapters to Islam, voltaire ‘is a decision almost entirely positive’ about Muhammad which he described as ‘poet’ of ‘great man’ in the image of Alexander the Great who ‘changed the face of one of the world’ and who ‘played the biggest role we can play on the ground in the eyes of common man’ while more discriminating sincerity of Muhammad who imposed his faith by ‘trickery needed.’ He believes that if ‘the legislator of the Muslims, terri
ble and powerful man, established his dogmas with his courage and his arms,’ ​​however, religion became ‘lenient and tolerant.’ The last sentence of voltaire on Islam is in 1772 must be taken in a party where he describes Islam as ‘wise,’ ‘severe,’ ‘chaste,’ ‘human’ and ‘tolerant’But he said that Muhammad did not perform miracles.

However, voltaire is basically deist and clearly denounce Islam and the monotheistic religions in general. Taking advantage of the definition of theism in his Philosophical Dictionary, he throws back to back Islam and Christianity:

‘[The theist] believes that religion does not consist in the opinions of unintelligible metaphysic, or in vain devices, but in worship and in justice. Do good, that his worship be subject to God, that his doctrine. The Mahometan cries to him: ‘Beware if you do not make the pilgrimage to Mecca! Woe to you, ‘said a Recollect, if you do not make a trip to Notre-Dame de Lorette! ‘He laughs at Lorette and at Mecca, but he rescues the needy and defends the oppressed. ‘

However, in a French context marked by the draconian grip of Catholicism on French society, voltaire nuance sometimes his opinion of Islam, including that it can be a formidable weapon against the Catholic clergy.

In the Essay on the Manners, voltaire also shows ‘full of praise for the Muslim civilization and Islam as a rule of life.’ It compares well the ‘genius of the Arab people’ to the ‘genius of the ancient Romans’ and writes that ‘in our centuries of barbarism and ignorance, following the decline and the tearing of the Roman Empire, we received most of the Arabs astronomy, chemistry, medicine ‘and that’ in the second century of Muhammad, it was necessary that Western Christians educating yourself among Muslims. ‘

So there are two representations of Muhammad in voltaire, one religion that Muhammad was a prophet like the other exploiting the naivety of people and spread superstition and fanaticism, but who preaches the oneness of God and the other political , that Muhammad was a great statesman like Alexander the Great and a great legislator who made his contemporaries out of idolatry. Thus, according to Diego Venturino the figure of Muhammad is ambivalent in voltaire, who admired the legislator but hate the conqueror and the priest who established their religion by violence. To Dirk van der Cruysse more nuanced image of Muhammad in the Essay on the Manners is fueled in part by ‘voltaire’s antipathy felt towards the Jewish people.’ He said the ‘inefficiency of the Judeo-Christian revelation’ compared to the ‘dynamism of Islam’ in voltaire raises a ‘sincere admiration but suspicious.’ Van der Cruysse voltaire considered the speech of Muhammad as a ’tissue of admiration and ill-concealed bad faith’That is less than the prophet himself and tackled the spectra by voltaire namely the’ fanaticism and intolerance of Christianity and Judaism. ‘

voltaire and Christianity

As Boulainvilliers and Sale, voltaire also frontal attack on Christianity as long as there knaves and fools, there will be religions. Ours is arguably the most ridiculous and most absurd and bloodiest ever infected the world. ‘

Also, with major review of Lord Bolingbroke and the tomb of fanaticism. Jesus is caricatured as a party leader, a beggar, a man from the dregs of the people who wanted to form a cult.

voltaire and Protestantism

voltaire’s commitment to religious freedom is famous, and one of the most famous episode is the Calas case. The Protestant, unjustly accused of killing his son who wanted to convert to Catholicism in 1762 is dead beat.In 1763, voltaire published his Treatise on Tolerance on the occasion of the death of Jean Calas, which prohibited many will resonate and bring extraordinary rehabilitation of Calas two years later. At first he felt no particular sympathy for him, to the point of writing March 22, 1762, in a private letter to advise the Bault: ‘We’re no much, but the Huguenots are worse than us and the more they declaim against the comedy. ‘ He had just learned the execution of Calas, and even misinformed, he believed in his guilt. But the information it receives, and April 4, he wrote to Damilaville: ‘There is evidence that judges Toulouse have beaten the most innocent of men. Almost all of the Languedoc moaned in horror. Foreign nations who hate us and beat us, are seized with indignation. Not since the day of Saint Bartholomew, nothing has so disgraced human nature. Shout, shout and you. ‘And he began the fight for rehabilitation.In 1765, voltaire took up the cause of the Sirven family, in a case very similar, this time he managed to avoid death for parents. However, while impressed by the theology of the Quakers, and outraged by the massacre of St. Bartholomew (voltaire had taken all the discomfort August 24), voltaire does not have a particular sympathy for Protestantism established. In his letter of July 26, 1769 to the Duchesse de Choiseul, though he said bluntly: ‘There is the kingdom of the Franks about three hundred thousand fools who are cruelly treated by other crazy long time. ‘


voltaire was a career man of letters both in the field of poetry or the theater. It is for his plays he wanted to be recognized by posterity. If today they are forgotten, they nevertheless is part of the theatrical repertoire for nearly two centuries.Among the sixty or so pieces he wrote the history of literature has identified particular Zaire (1732), Adelaide’s Guesclin (1734), Alzire or Americans (1736), Mohammed or Fanaticism (1741), The French Merope (1743 ), Semiramis (1748), Nanine or prejudice defeated (1749), Le Duc de Foix (1752), The Orphan of China (1755), or the Scottish Café (1760), Tancred (1760), The Scythians (1767), or The Laws of Minos (1774). Aspects of some exotic pieces are inspired by Edifying and Curious Letters which he was an avid reader. He was considered the rest in his century, as the successor of Corneille and Racine, sometimes even their triumph, his plays were a huge success, and the author knew the consecration in 1778 when, on the stage of the Comedie-French his bust was crowned with laurel, before an audience enthusiastic.

voltaire worked sometimes with Rameau operas for: the joint most ambitious (sacred opera Samson) ends up being abandoned without representation, condemned by the censorship (1733-1736).There was then (1745) a comedy-ballet, La Princesse de Navarre and an opera-ballet, The Temple of Glory to the time when voltaire was still courtier.

voltaire’s correspondence is an important part of its production and consistent writing. Have identified 23 000 letters and is considered one of the most prolific letter writers of his century. His correspondence reveals several little-known facets of his personality. He maintained a long correspondence with his contemporaries (s), such as Madame du Deffand salonnière.

voltaire is best to read today’s stories. Candide, Zadig, among others, are among the essential texts of the eighteenth century and occupy a prominent place in French culture.

The Historical Library of the City of Paris voltaire maintains a fund composed of about 870 letters, including some addressed to Marshal Richelieu. The fund is a purchase made in installments since 1895.

His moral


In the mind of the English philosopher John Locke, voltaire is a doctrine that fits perfectly into its positive ideal and utilitarian. John Locke appears as the defender of liberalism by asserting that the social pact does not remove the natural rights of individuals. Moreover, it is experience alone that we learn, all that is beyond hypothesis, the fi
eld coincides with some of the useful and verifiable. voltaire draws from this doctrine the guideline of its moral task of man is to take control of his destiny, to improve his condition, to ensure, to embellish his life by science, industry, arts and a good ‘police’ of society. Thus, the coexistence is not possible without an agreement where everyone finds his account. While speaking with country-specific laws, justice, ensuring that agreement, is universal. All men are capable of conceiving the idea, first because all beings are more or less reasonable, also because they are all capable of understanding what is useful to society is useful to everyone.Virtue, ‘trade benefits,’ they are dictated by both the feeling and interest. The role of morality, according to voltaire, is to teach the principles of the ‘police’ and get used to respect them.


Stranger to all religious spirit, however, voltaire refused to atheism of Diderot or d’Holbach. He continued to repeat his famous couplet: ‘

Thus, according to voltaire, the order of the universe can make us believe in an ‘eternal geometer.’ However, if it remains attached to deism, he denounced as ridiculous the providentialism (in Candide for example) and this question is formulated as St. Augustine and it leaves unanswered: ‘Why is it so hard, while being formed by a God that all theists have agreed to appoint good? ‘

He is credited also as this sentence: ‘We can, if desired, about the existence of God, but I do not want to be robbed or murdered in my sleep, allow me to give my first leave home. ‘.


All the work of voltaire is a struggle against fanaticism and intolerance, and that from the Henriade in 1723. ‘We heard today by a fanatical religious madness, dark and cruel. It is a disease like smallpox wins. ‘Philosophical Dictionary, 1764, article Fanaticism.

He has at least fought against fanaticism, that of the Catholic Church as that of Protestantism, in his view symbols of intolerance and injustice. Leaflets, pamphlets, everything was good to mobilize European public opinion. He also relied on laughter to arouse the indignation of humor, irony become weapons against the madness that makes men miserable. voltaire’s enemies had in fact everything to fear from his banter, but sometimes the new ideas as well.When in 1755 he received the Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, voltaire, who disapproves of the book, responds by a letter as clever ironic:

‘I got, sir, your new book against the human race, thank you. […] We never used so much intelligence to want to make us stupid and it does feel like walking on all fours when one reads your book. However, as there are more than sixty years I have lost the habit, unfortunately I feel that I can not take it back and let the natural look to those who are more worthy than you and me. […] ‘(Letter to Rousseau, August 30, 1755)

The ‘patriarch of Ferney’ is highly militant humanism of the eighteenth century. In the words of Sainte-Beuve: ‘[…] a breath of life as the anima, he had in him what I call the good spirit: indignation and zeal. Apostle of reason to the end, we can say that voltaire died in battle. ‘

His correspondence with more than 23000 known letters while he leaves to posterity a huge philosophical dictionary includes the main themes of his work, thirty stories and philosophical articles in the Encyclopedia of Diderot and d’Alembert. Today, the theater, which had propelled to the forefront of the literary scene (Merope, Zaire and others) and poetry (the Henriade, considered the only French epic in the eighteenth century) are forgotten.

voltaire is, above all else, that what applies Condorcet said the philosophers of the eighteenth century, they had ‘to battle cry reason, tolerance, humanity.’

Freedom of expression

Some commentators (Norbert Guterman, A Book of French Quotations, 1963), claim that this quote is taken from a letter dated February 6, 1770 to Father Le Riche which voltaire would write: ‘Father, I detest what you write but I will give my life for you to continue writing.’In fact, the letter exists but the sentence is not there, or even the idea. (See full text of this letter in Article tolerance.) Treaty of tolerance which is sometimes attached to the citation does not contain either.

In fact the quote is absolutely apocryphal (it appears nowhere in his published work) and has its roots in 1906, not a misquote, but a commentary on British author Evelyn Hall, in his book The Friends of voltaire, when, thinking summarized the posture of voltaire about the author of a book published in 1758 condemned by religious and civil authorities, she wrote I disapprove of what you say, I Will Defend to order the death your right to say it ‘WAS His attitude now’ ( I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it ‘was his attitude now’). The quotes used by awkwardly Evelyn Hall have been interpreted as to assign the statement to voltaire. In 1935, she said ‘I did not INTEND to imply That These Words Used voltaire verbatim, and Much Should Be Surprised If They are found in Any of His Work ‘(‘ I did not mean to suggest that voltaire had used exactly those words, and would be extremely surprised that they were in his works ‘).

The matter about which Evelyn Hall wrote concerned the publication in 1758 of Helvetius De l’Esprit, a book condemned by the civil and religious authorities and burned. This is what voltaire wrote in the article ‘Rights’ Issues in the encyclopedia:

‘I liked the author of the Spirit. This man was better than all his enemies together, but I never approved or errors in his book, nor the trivial truths he utters emphatically. I took her top, when men were convicted of the absurd truths themselves. ‘

Other relevant part: ‘In general, it is a natural right to use his pen as its language, its dangers, risks and fortune.I know many books which have bored, I know of none that have done real evil. […] But it seems some of you new book whose ideas offend just your own (supposed you have ideas), or the author of a party is contrary to your faction, or, worse still, the author is of any party: when you shout fire, but a noise, a scandal, an uproar in your little corner of earth. This is an abominable man who printed that if we had no hands, we could not do low shoes either [Helvetius, De l’Esprit, I, 1]: What blasphemy! The devotees shout, the doctors filled assemble, alarms are increasing from college to college, from house to house, whole bodies are moving and why? For five or six pages of which there is no question after three months. A book you do not like it, refute it, annoys you there, do not read it. ‘voltaire, Questions on the Encyclopedia, article’ Liberty print ‘.

Works of voltaire

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