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François-Marie Arouet was a notable French author, historian, and philosopher better known by his pen name, Voltaire. He was noted for his wittiness and criticism of Christianity, particularly the Roman Catholic Church. Additionally, he was known for his advocacy for freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
See the fact file below for more information on the Voltaire or alternatively, you can download our 22-page Voltaire worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION
- Voltaire was born on November 21, 1694, in Paris. He was the youngest of the five children of François Arouet and Marie Marguerite Daumard, whose family was part of the lowest rank in French nobility.
- Voltaire claimed to be the illegitimate son of a nobleman, Guérin de Rochebrune or Roquebrune.
- Voltaire’s mother died when he was seven years old.
- He established a tight relationship with his godfather, and he was able to obtain an excellent education. Voltaire was educated under the Jesuits at the Collège Louis-le-Grand from 1704 to 1711. While there, he learned theology and rhetoric. Later in life, he learned and became fluent in Italian, Spanish, and English.
- When Voltaire left school, he decided that he wanted to be a writer.
- This was against his father’s wishes, who wanted him to become a lawyer. Voltaire pretended to work as an assistant to a notary while he actually spent most of his time writing poetry. When his father found out, Voltaire was sent to study law in Caen, Normandy.
- Arouet obtained Voltaire a job as secretary to the French ambassador in The Hague. This city is the seat of government in the Netherlands.
- In The Hague, Voltaire developed a relationship with a French refugee named Catherine Olympe Dunoyer, but their marriage was held under the threat of a lettre de cachet sent by his father.
- Voltaire went back to Paris in 1713 and began working under a lawyer. He resumed writing and renewed his pleasure-loving relationships.
- In 1717, Voltaire was exiled and later on imprisoned in the Bastille for his writings that attacked influential personalities.
- In 1718, his earliest, best-known play, Oedipus, opened in Paris. It was an astonishing success. Later, Voltaire aimed to give France an epic poem. For this reason, he created Henriade, and it was published in 1722.
- While he was staying in England from 1726 to 1728, Voltaire was greatly honored by Alexander Pope, William Congreve, Horace Walpole, Henry St. John, and Viscount Bolingbroke.
- With his regular visits to the theater, Voltaire adopted English. Also, he studied English thought, particularly from John Locke and Sir Isaac Newton.
- He perceived the connection between free government and creative business developments, as well as the relationship between wealth and freedom.
AT CIREY AND AT COURT
- In 1729, Voltaire returned to France.
- His English work, the Lettres anglaises was published in 1734, and it has been called “the first bomb dropped on the Old Regime.” It was a clever call for political, religious, and philosophic freedom. It also employed science in a collection of essays in letter form, similar to the method of Sir Francis Bacon, Locke, and Newton, and it promoted the betterment of earthly life and striving toward social progress.
- In 1733, Voltaire stayed in Cirey, France, in a château (country house) owned by Madame du Châtelet’s husband.
- While still living with her patient husband and son, Émilie became Voltaire’s lover.
- They also worked together on physics and metaphysics.
- Voltaire returned to Paris in 1744, where he started a new affair with his niece, Marie Louise Mignot. Their relationship together lasted until his death.
- Frederick the Great invited him to Potsdam, and Voltaire accepted this offer. He then wrote more articles of a scientific nature but later caught the displeasure of the king as he began satirizing the abuses of authority within the state.
- Frederick delayed giving Voltaire permission to return to France. He then put Voltaire under house arrest at the German border for three weeks, and his agents took Voltaire’s valuables.
SAGE OF FERNEY
- In 1759, he wrote his most famous work entitled Candide, ou l’Optimisme (Candide, or Optimism). This was a parody of the philosophy of Leibniz. After a short stay in Geneva, he lived for 20 years at his estate in Ferney, France.
- Later in life, Voltaire continued to compose and further support exiled religious minorities.
- He was visited by some of the preeminent European academics of the day, in particular, James Boswell and Adam Smith.
- In February 1778, worrying he would die, he wrote: “I die adoring God, loving my friends, not hating my enemies, and detesting superstition.”
- Some of his opponents alleged he made a deathbed conversion to Catholicism, but this is widely opposed.
- In 1778, he died soon after returning to Paris.
- Voltaire was buried secretly by his family and friends before the news became widespread in the public.
- On 11 July 1791, the third year after his death, he was brought back to Paris to be enshrined in the Pantheon.
- About a million people attended the procession for Voltaire, the man who is now deemed a French hero and forerunner of the French revolution.
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Voltaire across 22 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Voltaire worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about François-Marie Arouet who was a notable French author, historian, and philosopher better known by his pen name, Voltaire. He was noted for his wittiness and criticism of Christianity, particularly the Roman Catholic Church. Additionally, he was known for his advocacy for freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Voltaire Facts
- Voltaire’s Biography
- Voltaire In Love
- The Lovers
- Conscience of Europe
- Voltaire’s Checklist
- Age of Enlightenment
- Freedom of Speech
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