François-Marie Arouet: Voltaire

by Nicole Steck ~ April 21st, 2010. Filed under: Chapter 16: The Age of Enlightenment: Rationalism and its Uses.

Nicole Steck

Voltaire is probably the single best-known Enlightenment author. Born François-Marie Arouet in 1694, Voltaire was a pen name adopted by the philosophe-writer as a play on his own last name.

Arouet’s first work was written while in prison in 1717, and at that time adopted the nickname Voltaire. Exiled in 1726 for insulting a nobleman, Voltaire spent time in England, where he was drawn to the teachings of John Locke.

Voltaire's "Candide, ou L'Optimisme"

In the following years, Voltaire moved from location to location, first relocating to the home of the prominent Marquise du Chatelet, and then to Prussia at the invitation of Frederick the Great.

From 1759 on, Voltaire lived a quieter life, focusing instead on his writings. Following his death, Voltaire was denied a church burial, but was finally buried in Champagne and subsequently moved to the Pantheon in Paris. In 1814, however, Voltaire’s remains were stolen and thrown in a trash heap.

Throughout his life and, clearly, on through his death, Voltaire was a polarizing man, outspoken and strongly opinionated.

For more information on the life and works of Arouet/Voltaire, please see

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