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Biography

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Overview (3)

Born in Paris, France
Died in Paris, France  (uremia)
Birth NameFrançois-Marie Arouet

Mini Bio (1)

Future proponent for victims of injustice and tyranny during the years prior to the French Revolution, Voltaire (born François Marie Arouet on November 21, 1694 in Paris) was educated in Paris by the Jesuits. For a time he studied law, then decided to become a writer. Witty, thought-provoking and socially critical, his unique writings inspired France's common people but angered the royalty. In 1717 he was imprisoned in the Bastille for 11 months for ridiculing Duc d'Orléans. While in prison he rewrote his tragedy "Oedipe", which upon its publication brought the young author and philosopher enormous fame and ominous notoriety; in 1726 he was forced to go into exile in England. There he became fascinated with the plays of William Shakespeare, and while shocked by their "barbaric" nature (calling Shakespeare "a drunken savage"), he was deeply affected by their genius, energy and human drama. He felt that France had much to learn from England's literature. Three years later he returned to France, writing plays and poetry as well as historical and scientific treatises, his brilliant 1734 "Lettres philosophiques" was published. Scandal followed this work, which harshly criticized the religious and political institutions. A warrant for his arrest was issued in 1734, and he fled, taking refuge at Cirey in Champagne in the home of Gabrielle Emilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil Marquise du Châtelet, the 28-year-old wife of the Marquis Florent du Châtelet. Here he began his professional liaison with the young, intelligent woman. Gabrielle worked with him on many philosophical and scientific topics. Her one major work was a translation of Isaac Newton's "Principia." Voltaire lived with her in the château he had renovated at his own expense. After 15 years as his guide and supporter, tragedy struck when Gabrielle died in childbirth on September 10, 1749. The baby was the presumed child of her lover, poet Jean-François de Saint-Lambert. Her husband, Voltaire, and Saint-Lambert were present at her death bed. Voltaire was overwhelmed with grief, often waking in the middle of the night calling her name. He eventually regained favor at the French court and was appointed its royal historiographer.

In 1755 he was living near Geneva, Switzerland, and wrote his most famous work, the satirical "Candide," in 1759. He later produced many anti-religious writings and his 1764 "Dictionnaire philosophique." His fame became worldwide. He was called "Innkeeper of Europe," and he entertained chic philosophers of the day and such literary figures as James Boswell, Giovanni Casanova and Edward Gibbon. Always impassioned about injustice, he took a keen interest in the case of Jean Calas, whose innocence he helped to establish. In 1761 Calas was accused, on trivial evidence, of murdering his eldest son to prevent him becoming a Roman Catholic. Calas was found guilty and executed by being broken on the wheel. Voltaire, in his late 60s by this time, spearheaded a fervent campaign, resulting in a revision of the trial. It was determined that the son had committed suicide, and the Parisian parliament declared Calas innocent in 1765. Voltaire finally returned to Paris in 1778, 28 years after leaving. He had become a beloved national celebrity, and it's believed that the frenzied excitement of such adoration from the French people aggravated his precarious health, reportedly, more than 300 people called on him the day after his arrival. He died a painful death on May 30 of uremia, only a few months after his celebrated arrival, at age 83. His nephew, the Abbé Mignot, had his body, clothed as it was the day he died, quickly transported to the Abbey of Scellières, where Voltaire was given a Christian burial; the prohibition of such a burial came after the ceremony. Because of his lifelong criticism of the church, Voltaire was denied burial in church ground. He was finally buried at an abbey in Champagne. His heart was removed from his body, and now lays in the Bibliotheque nationale in Paris. His brain was also removed, but after a series of moves during the next hundred years, it disappeared following an auction. Voltaire's remains were moved to the Panthéon in Paris during the Revolution in July 1791. In 1814, a group of right-wing religious "ultras" stole Voltaire's remains from his enormous sarcophagus and dumped them in a garbage heap. The theft went undetected for about 50 years.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Vicki McClure Davidson

Trivia (3)

Reportedly drank 50 cups of coffee a day when writing.
"Candide," at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, California was awarded the 1995 Drama-Logue Award for Production.

Personal Quotes (20)

Anything too stupid to be said, is sung.
God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.
If God created us in His image, we have certainly returned the compliment.
The first clergyman was the first rascal who met the first fool.
To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid, you must also be well-mannered.
Dreams, which tease the mind with flying shades, do not come by divine command from ethereal sanctuaries, but each makes his own.
The more I read, the more I meditate; and the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.
The happiest of all lives is a busy solitude.
Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is an absurd one.
The best is the enemy of the good.
[on his deathbed in response to a priest asking that he renounce Satan] Now, now, my good man, this is no time for making enemies.
If God did not exist, one would have to invent him. I want my attorney, my tailor, my servants, even my wife to believe in God, and I think I shall then be robbed and cuckolded less often.
It is one of the superstitions of the human mind to have imagined that virginity could be a virtue.
Love is a canvas furnished by Nature and embroidered by imagination.
I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
I advise you to go on living, solely to enrage those who are paying your annuities. It is the only pleasure I have left.
Have in your madness reason enough to guide your extravagances ; and forget not to be excessively opinionated and obstinate.
When it is a question of money, everybody is of the same religion.
To know who rules over you, find out who you are not allowed to criticize.
It is better to risk saving a guilty man than to condemn an innocent one.

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