Voltaire biography

Voltaire biography

François Marie Arouet He was one of the most relevant thinkers of the Enlightenment. But it was not with his name that he went down in history, but with his pseudonym "Voltaire”Which he acquired in 1717 after being released from prison. Although he had his pluses and minuses with Rousseau, all his work served as inspiration to create the movement that determined the beginning of the contemporary age: the french revolution.

Voltaire He was born on November 21, 1694 in Paris into a very wealthy family. He studied at the Jesuit college "Louis-le-Grand”Between 1704 and 1711, which gave him extensive knowledge of Latin and Greek. After completing this stage, he studied law and attended the libertine temple society, where he was admired for his independent and caustic wit. But some writings against him Duke of Orleans They earned him several confinements and eleven months of seclusion in the Bastille, time spent studying literature.

In 1717, he was released and banished to Châtenay-Malabry, where did you start using the pseudonym of Voltaire. Just one year later, he published his successful tragedy “Oedipus"And, in 1723,"The Henriada”. The latter was a laudatory epic poem by Henry VI. With both works, he became an author. But a dispute with him noble of Rohan it caused him to be imprisoned again in 1726. This time he was released, on condition of exile to Great Britain.

His stage in the Anglo-Saxon country was very fruitful. There he came into contact with notable personalities from politics and culture, such as John Locke and Isaac Newton. When he returned to France in 1729, he dedicated himself to spreading what he had learned in Great Britain.

Voltaire He continued his creative career with the publication of the drama “Stupid"In 1730, in which he promoted the exaltation of freedom, and with the" History of Carlos XII "in 1731, in which he outlined the problems and topics that would appear in his future creations. So much so that in 1734 he released one of his most controversial works: “Philosophical letters"Or"English letters", in which defended religious tolerance and ideological freedom, using as an example what he had experienced in his British exile and criticizing the despotism reigning in France.

The reactions to this new publication of Voltaire did not wait. The French Government kidnapped the work and publicly burned it. The thinker had to escape and took refuge in the castle of the Marchioness Émilie du Châtelet in Cirey (Lorraine). Thanks to the protection of the aristocrat, he was able to lead a life between 1734 and 1749 according to his tastes of work and social treatment. His creative activity focused mainly on the theater, for which he wrote titles such as “Zaire” (1732), “Caesar's death"(1735)," The prodigal son"(1736) and"Muhammad or fanaticism” (1741).

After the death of the Marchioness in 1739, reconciled with the court of Louis XV, who appointed him royal historiographer, although the friendship of the philosopher with the encyclopedists prevented the monarch from granting him his confidence. In 1750 he accepted the invitation of the king Frederick II of Prussia to go to his court. There he was appointed academic, historiographer and Knight of the Royal Chamber.

It was in Potsdam, near Berlin, that he wrote one of his most important historiographical works: “The century of Louis XIV”(1751). He continued with the publication of "Micromégas”In 1752, a story that continued the series of his tales begun in 1747 with Zadig.

But his love affair with the Prussian court was broken after a violent argument with the king, so he left the country and moved near Geneva, where he would also collide with the rigidity of the Calvinistic spirit. Among his most notable works from this period are the "Essay on customs”(1756), a disrespectful poem-mockery entitled“Joan of Arc, the maiden”(1755), and the short novel“Naive”(1759), which was the most popular novel of his narrative production and he criticized clergymen, nobles, kings and the military.

In 1758 he acquired the property of Ferney (France), very close to the Swiss border, and lived there for 18 years. It became a kind of European patriarch of letters and critical spirit. He received the elite of the main European countries, while maintaining correspondence with other thinkers to combat clerical fanaticism.

In Ferney he wrote two fundamental titles for the appreciation and knowledge of his ideology: the “Treatise on tolerance"(1763) and the"Philosophical dictionary”(1764). This ended up guaranteeing him a respected place in public life, from which he defended tolerance and freedom from everything dogmatic and fanatical.

In 1778 shortly before his death, he was triumphantly honored in Paris during the performance of his work "Irene”, And he stayed in the city until his death on May 30 of that same year.

Voltaire was one of the greatest exponents of the Philosophy of Lights and the undoubted precursor of the French Revolution. He had such an effect on the freedom movement that in 1791, his remains were transferred to the Pantheon to enjoy the respect that everyone felt. In the XIX century became the master of the anti-clerical liberal bourgeoisie who tended to simplify the complexity of his historical figure to nurture his own ideals.

Passionate about History, he has a degree in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication. Since he was little he loved History and ended up exploring the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries above all.


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