10 Facts We Bet You Didn’t Know About Voltaire

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On the 21st of November, 1694, François-Marie Arouet was born into an upper-middle class family. He would soon grow up to be known throughout the world and generations as Voltaire, one of the greatest writers of all time. The youngest of five children, he and his siblings were born to François Arouet and Marie Marguerite Daumand. For more on the great writer, here are 10 facts we bet you didn’t know about Voltaire:

Fact 1: Voltaire was a brilliant man renowned for his wit, command of the English language, and his hand in the Enlightenment period. His take on religion, ethics, as well as liberty has cemented his career and has made him one of the most celebrated (and scorned) writers in all of history. His career spanned a whopping 60 years!

Fact 2: Fredrick II of Prussia offered Voltaire a long-standing invitation to reside permanently at the Prussian Court in Berlin. Voltaire accepted in 1750. He spent the remainder of his years in Ferney and traveled to Paris as often as he wished to discuss religious persecution and injustice, as he was an appointed member of the French Academy as well.

Fact 3: Some of Voltaire’s most famous quotes include: “Common sense is not so common”,
“The progress of the rivers to the ocean is not so rapid as that of man to error”, and “When we have lost everything, including hope, life becomes a disgrace and death a duty”.

Fact 4: Voltaire’s father wasn’t supportive of his career choice. Already having a strained relationship with his father, the matter worsened when he refused to have a career in law, despite his father’s plea. The two men always seemed to find themselves butting heads. To put the past behind him and to cement his rejection of his father’s values, he dropped his family name and promptly took on the nom de plume “Voltaire” after his first play in 1718.

Fact 5: His wit and opinions often got him into heaps of trouble. In May 1716 the writer got in trouble with French authorities and was even exiled from Paris when he composed a series of poems that mocked the French Regent’s family! He was eventually put behind bars for a scandalous verse he wrote about the Regent having an incestuous relationship with his daughter. The young writer was too proud however, and boasted that his cell gave him time to think. He eventually won release 11 months later. He ended up behind bars once more in April 1726 in Bastille after challenging an aristocrat that insulted and beat him to a duel.

Fact 6: Voltaire was quite the ladies man and often had a string of affairs all at once. One of his mistresses was married and had three children. The strange thing about it was her husband knew about the affair and was okay with it! He even paid visits to his wife and the writer.

Fact 7: From being a small child until he reached old age, Voltaire remained to be very sickly, often falling ill to fevers and the flu and was easily perceptible to dizziness when the weather became too much.

Fact 8: His mother passed away when he was seven years old. He often found himself alone, his father too distant. During this time he grew especially close to his grandfather, who was open minded and influenced Voltaire greatly.

Fact 9: Voltaire majored in four categories, namely: poetry, plays, historical work, and physical work. His most famous poems are Henriade from 1723, and The Maid Of Orleans from 1730 that despite being unfinished is still highly acclaimed. His best plays were Oedipus, Mariamne, Zaire, and Nanine.

Fact 10: He passed away on the 30th of May, 1778, in Paris, France in his sleep.

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