Voltaire, (Francis Marie Arouet (1694-1778) was a French author and philosopher.
Voltaire, (Francis Marie Arouet (1694-1778) was a French author and philosopher. He was born in Paris and educated at the College Louis le-Grand, a Jesuit institution. Voltaire is”Poem of the League,” his pen name. He is remembered chiefly as a champion of individual liberty, but he made many enemies at the time, as he was against all organized religions and Churches. His point of view was the necessity of government to protect everyone’s right to personal liberty, property and protection by law. After his graduation, he traveled to The Hague as secretary of the French ambassador to Holland. After his return to Paris he was looked upon as a clever but sarcastic wit. His reputation as a writer was stormy and turbulent. He studied with Jesuit priests and began to write at an early age.
At the inception of Voltaire’s career as a writer, he encountered a great deal of trouble because his writings opposed the established order of things that were considered to be serious at the time. His troubles began when he accused the French regent, Philippe II, Duke of Orleans, of heinous crimes, for which he was imprisoned in the Bastille. He was incarcerated for eleven months. While he was in prison, he completed his first play, titled “Oedipus,” based on the work of the ancient Greek dramatist, Sophocles, and where he started writing his epic poem on Henry IV of France for which he was commended. It was printed anonymously in Geneva, Switzerland, under the title, “Poem of the League,” (1723). In his first philosophical poem, titled “For and Against,” he eloquently expressed certain anti-Christian views.
Voltaire passionately hated injustice. His interventions on behalf of those that were maltreated have become the highlight of his long and complicated life story. He found the existence of religions in the world to be perplexing and illogical. To him, official Christianity was something that limited people’s lives and interfered with their thoughts.
He was considered to be fearless but logical in his approach to matters that he disliked. On one occasion, his dispute with a member of a reputable French family resulted in his incarceration once again. He was released within a few days after he promised to leave France and proceed to England where he stayed for twenty-six months and where he mastered the English language. While he was in England, he publicized an enlarged edition of “Poem of the League,” which was an English translation from the French. The Catholic Church and nobility tried to suppress the introduction of his work that reflected a detailed defense of religious tolerance, but it was well received on the Continent, outside the borders of France.
In 1750, Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, invited Voltaire to his Court in Berlin where he stayed for three years, until he quarreled with Frederick. During this time, he wrote a historical work called “The Time of Louis IV,” after which he went to Geneva, Switzerland where he lived for the rest of his life.
Voltaire ridiculed religion and drew the ire of the Catholic hierarchy that alienated him from the Church. He also exposed the tradition of the nobility that discriminated against those that they considered to be beneath their rank and dignity.