Francois Marie Arouet (pen name Voltaire) was born on November 21, 1694, in Paris. Voltaire’s intelligence, wit, and style made him one of France’s greatest writers and philosophers. Young Francois Marie received his education at “Louis-le-Grand,” a Jesuit college in Paris. He left school at 16 and soon made friends among the Parisian aristocrats. His humorous verses made him a favorite in society circles. In 1717, his sharp wit got him into trouble with the authorities. He was imprisoned in the Bastille for eleven months for writing a scathing satire of the French government. During his time in prison, Francois Marie wrote “Oedipe” which was to become his first theatrical success and adopted his pen name “Voltaire.”
In 1726, Voltaire insulted the powerful young nobleman, “Chevalier De Rohan,” and was given two options: imprisonment or exile. He chose exile and from 1726 to 1729 lived in England. While in England Voltaire was attracted to the philosophy of John Locke and ideas of mathematician and scientist, Sir Isaac Newton. He studied England’s Constitutional Monarchy and its religious tolerance. Voltaire was particularly interested in the philosophical rationalism of the time, and in the study of the natural sciences. After returning to Paris he wrote a book praising English customs and institutions. It was interpreted as criticism of the French government and in 1734, Voltaire was forced to leave Paris again.
Voltaire returned to a hero’s welcome in Paris at age 83. The excitement of the trip was too much for him and he died in Paris. Because of his criticism of the church, Voltaire was denied burial in church ground. He was finally buried at an abbey in Champagne. In 1791 his remains were moved to a resting place at the Pantheon in Paris.
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