"To the wicked, everything serves as pretext." -- Voltaire
François-Marie Arouet (; 21 November 1694 — 30 May 1778), better known by the pen name Voltaire (), was a French Enlightenment writer and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion and free trade. Voltaire was a prolific writer and produced works in almost every literary form including plays, poetry, novels, essays, historical and scientific works, more than 20,000 letters and more than 2,000 books and pamphlets. He was an outspoken supporter of social reform, despite strict censorship laws and harsh penalties for those who broke them. As a satirical polemicist, he frequently made use of his works to criticize intolerance, religious dogma and the French institutions of his day.
Voltaire was one of several Enlightenment figures (along with Montesquieu, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau) whose works and ideas influenced important thinkers of both the American and French Revolutions.
"A witty saying proves nothing.""All men are born with a nose and ten fingers, but no one was born with a knowledge of God.""All murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.""All styles are good except the tiresome kind.""All the reasonings of men are not worth one sentiment of women.""An ideal form of government is democracy tempered with assassination.""Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices.""Anyone who seeks to destroy the passions instead of controlling them is trying to play the angel.""Anything that is too stupid to be spoken is sung.""Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.""As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities.""Behind every successful man stands a surprised mother-in-law.""Better is the enemy of good.""Business is the salt of life.""By appreciation, we make excellence in others our own property.""Chance is a word void of sense; nothing can exist without a cause.""Clever tyrants are never punished.""Common sense is not so common.""Divorce is probably of nearly the same date as marriage. I believe, however, that marriage is some weeks the more ancient.""Do well and you will have no need for ancestors.""Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.""Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her: but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.""Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.""Every one goes astray, but the least imprudent are they who repent the soonest.""Everything's fine today, that is our illusion.""Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.""Fear follows crime and is its punishment.""Friendship is the marriage of the soul, and this marriage is liable to divorce.""Froth at the top, dregs at bottom, but the middle excellent.""God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.""God is a comedian, playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.""God is not on the side of the big battalions, but on the side of those who shoot best.""Governments need to have both shepherds and butchers.""He is a hard man who is only just, and a sad one who is only wise.""He must be very ignorant for he answers every question he is asked.""He shines in the second rank, who is eclipsed in the first.""He was a great patriot, a humanitarian, a loyal friend; provided, of course, he really is dead.""He who has not the spirit of this age, has all the misery of it.""He who is not just is severe, he who is not wise is sad.""History is only the register of crimes and misfortunes.""History should be written as philosophy.""How pleasant it is for a father to sit at his child's board. It is like an aged man reclining under the shadow of an oak which he has planted.""I am very fond of truth, but not at all of martyrdom.""I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.""I hate women because they always know where things are.""I have lived eighty years of life and know nothing for it, but to be resigned and tell myself that flies are born to be eaten by spiders and man to be devoured by sorrow.""I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: "O Lord make my enemies ridiculous." And God granted it.""I have only ever made one prayer to God, a very short one: O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous. And God granted it.""I know many books which have bored their readers, but I know of none which has done real evil.""I should like to lie at your feet and die in your arms.""Ice-cream is exquisite - what a pity it isn't illegal.""If God created us in his own image, we have more than reciprocated.""If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.""If there were no God, it would be necessary to invent him.""Illusion is the first of all pleasures.""In every author let us distinguish the man from his works.""In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one class of citizens to give to another.""In the case of news, we should always wait for the sacrament of confirmation.""In this country it is a good thing to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others.""Indeed, history is nothing more than a tableau of crimes and misfortunes.""Injustice in the end produces independence.""Is there anyone so wise as to learn by the experience of others?""It is an infantile superstition of the human spirit that virginity would be thought a virtue and not the barrier that separates ignorance from knowledge.""It is better to risk saving a guilty man than to condemn an innocent one.""It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.""It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.""It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.""It is hard to free fools from the chains they revere.""It is lamentable, that to be a good patriot one must become the enemy of the rest of mankind.""It is not enough to conquer; one must learn to seduce.""It is not known precisely where angels dwell whether in the air, the void, or the planets. It has not been God's pleasure that we should be informed of their abode.""It is not love that should be depicted as blind, but self-love.""It is not sufficient to see and to know the beauty of a work. We must feel and be affected by it.""It is one of the superstitions of the human mind to have imagined that virginity could be a virtue.""It is said that the present is pregnant with the future.""It is the flash which appears, the thunderbolt will follow.""It is vain for the coward to flee; death follows close behind; it is only by defying it that the brave escape.""Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.""Let us read and let us dance - two amusements that will never do any harm to the world.""Let us work without theorizing, tis the only way to make life endurable.""Life is thickly sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.""Love has features which pierce all hearts, he wears a bandage which conceals the faults of those beloved. He has wings, he comes quickly and flies away the same.""Love is a canvas furnished by nature and embroidered by imagination.""Man is free at the moment he wishes to be.""Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in Eternal awareness or Pure consciousness without objectification, knowing without thinking, merging finitude in infinity.""Men hate the individual whom they call avaricious only because nothing can be gained from him.""Men use thought only as authority for their injustice, and employ speech only to conceal their thoughts.""My life is a struggle.""Nature has always had more force than education.""Never argue at the dinner table, for the one who is not hungry always gets the best of the argument.""No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.""No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.""Nothing can be more contrary to religion and the clergy than reason and common sense.""Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.""Of all religions, the Christian should of course inspire the most tolerance, but until now Christians have been the most intolerant of all men.""One great use of words is to hide our thoughts.""One merit of poetry few persons will deny: it says more and in fewer words than prose.""Opinion has caused more trouble on this little earth than plagues or earthquakes.""Optimism is the madness of insisting that all is well when we are miserable.""Originality is nothing but judicious imitation. The most original writers borrowed one from another.""Our country is that spot to which our heart is bound.""Paradise was made for tender hearts; hell, for loveless hearts.""Perfection is attained by slow degrees; it requires the hand of time.""Prejudices are what fools use for reason.""Satire lies about literary men while they live and eulogy lies about them when they die.""Society therefore is an ancient as the world.""Stand upright, speak thy thoughts, declare The truth thou hast, that all may share; Be bold, proclaim it everywhere: They only live who dare.""Superstition is to religion what astrology is to astronomy the mad daughter of a wise mother. These daughters have too long dominated the earth.""Tears are the silent language of grief.""The ancient Romans built their greatest masterpieces of architecture, their amphitheaters, for wild beasts to fight in.""The ancients recommended us to sacrifice to the Graces, but Milton sacrificed to the Devil.""The art of government is to make two-thirds of a nation pay all it possibly can pay for the benefit of the other third.""The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.""The best government is a benevolent tyranny tempered by an occasional assassination.""The best is the enemy of the good.""The best way to be boring is to leave nothing out.""The ear is the avenue to the heart.""The first step, my son, which one makes in the world, is the one on which depends the rest of our days.""The flowery style is not unsuitable to public speeches or addresses, which amount only to compliment. The lighter beauties are in their place when there is nothing more solid to say; but the flowery style ought to be banished from a pleading, a sermon, or a didactic work.""The Holy Roman Empire is neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire.""The husband who decides to surprise his wife is often very much surprised himself.""The ideal form of government is democracy tempered with assassination.""The infinitely little have a pride infinitely great.""The instruction we find in books is like fire. We fetch it from our neighbours, kindle it at home, communicate it to others, and it becomes the property of all.""The little may contrast with the great, in painting, but cannot be said to be contrary to it. Oppositions of colors contrast; but there are also colors contrary to each other, that is, which produce an ill effect because they shock the eye when brought very near it.""The mouth obeys poorly when the heart murmurs.""The multitude of books is making us ignorant.""The opportunity for doing mischief is found a hundred times a day, and of doing good once in a year.""The progress of rivers to the ocean is not so rapid as that of man to error.""The public is a ferocious beast; one must either chain it or flee from it.""The safest course is to do nothing against one's conscience. With this secret, we can enjoy life and have no fear from death.""The secret of being a bore... is to tell everything.""The sovereign is called a tyrant who knows no laws but his caprice.""The superfluous, a very necessary thing.""The true triumph of reason is that it enables us to get along with those who do not possess it.""The truths of religion are never so well understood as by those who have lost the power of reason.""The very impossibility in which I find myself to prove that God is not, discovers to me his existence.""The world embarrasses me, and I cannot dream that this watch exists and has no watchmaker.""There are truths which are not for all men, nor for all times.""Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.""This self-love is the instrument of our preservation; it resembles the provision for the perpetuity of mankind: it is necessary, it is dear to us, it gives us pleasure, and we must conceal it.""Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.""Time, which alone makes the reputation of men, ends by making their defects respectable.""To believe in God is impossible not to believe in Him is absurd.""To hold a pen is to be at war.""To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid, you must also be well-mannered.""To the living we owe respect, but to the dead we owe only the truth.""Tyrants have always some slight shade of virtue; they support the laws before destroying them.""Use, do not abuse; neither abstinence nor excess ever renders man happy.""Very learned women are to be found, in the same manner as female warriors; but they are seldom or ever inventors.""Very often, say what you will, a knave is only a fool.""We are all full of weakness and errors; let us mutually pardon each other our follies - it is the first law of nature.""We are rarely proud when we are alone.""We cannot always oblige; but we can always speak obligingly.""We cannot wish for that we know not.""We have a natural right to make use of our pens as of our tongue, at our peril, risk and hazard.""We must cultivate our own garden. When man was put in the garden of Eden he was put there so that he should work, which proves that man was not born to rest.""We must distinguish between speaking to deceive and being silent to be reserved.""We never live; we are always in the expectation of living.""Weakness on both sides is, as we know, the motto of all quarrels.""What a heavy burden is a name that has become too famous.""What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly - that is the first law of nature.""What most persons consider as virtue, after the age of 40 is simply a loss of energy.""What then do you call your soul? What idea have you of it? You cannot of yourselves, without revelation, admit the existence within you of anything but a power unknown to you of feeling and thinking.""When he to whom one speaks does not understand, and he who speaks himself does not understand, that is metaphysics.""When it is a question of money, everybody is of the same religion.""Whoever serves his country well has no need of ancestors.""Woe to the makers of literal translations, who by rendering every word weaken the meaning! It is indeed by so doing that we can say the letter kills and the spirit gives life."
François Marie Arouet was born in Paris, the youngest of the five children (only three of which survived) of François Arouet (1650 — 1 January 1722), a notary who was a minor treasury official, and his wife, Marie Marguerite d'Aumart (ca. 1660 — 13 July 1701), from a noble family of the province of Poitou. Voltaire was educated by Jesuits at the Collège Louis-le-Grand (1704—1711), where he learned Latin and Greek; later in life he became fluent in Italian, Spanish and English.
By the time he left school, Voltaire had decided he wanted to be a writer, against the wishes of his father who wanted him to become a notary. Voltaire, pretending to work in Paris as an assistant to a notary, spent much of his time writing poetry. When his father found him out, he sent Voltaire to study law, this time in Caen (Normandy). Nevertheless, he continued to write, producing essays and historical studies. Voltaire's wit made him popular among some of the aristocratic families with whom he mixed. His father then obtained a job for him as a secretary to the French ambassador in the Netherlands, where Voltaire fell in love with a French Protestant refugee named Catherine Olympe Dunoyer. Their scandalous elopement was foiled by Voltaire's father and he was forced to return to France.
Most of Voltaire's early life revolved around Paris. From early on, Voltaire had trouble with the authorities for even mild critiques of the government and the Catholic Church. These activities were to result in numerous imprisonments and exiles. One satirical verse about the Régent thought to be by him led to his imprisonment in the Bastille for eleven months, until the real author came forward. While there, he wrote his debut play, ?dipe. Its success established his reputation.
The name "Voltaire"
The name "Voltaire", which the author adopted in 1718, is an anagram of "AROVET LI," the Latinized spelling of his surname, Arouet, and the initial letters of "le jeune" ("the younger"). The name also echoes in reverse order the syllables of the name of a family château in the Poitou region: "Airvault". The adoption of the name "Voltaire" following his incarceration at the Bastille is seen by many to mark Voltaire's formal separation from his family and his past.
Richard Holmes supports this derivation of the name, but adds that a writer such as Voltaire would have intended it to also convey its connotations of speed and daring. These come from associations with words such as "voltige" (acrobatics on a trapeze or horse), "volte-face" (a spinning about to face one's enemies), and "volatile" (originally, any winged creature). "Arouet" was not a noble name fit for his growing reputation, especially given that name's resonance with "à rouer" ("for thrashing") and "roué" (a "débauché").
In a letter to Jean-Baptiste Rousseau (not to be confused with Jean-Jacques) in March 1719, Voltaire concludes by asking that if Rousseau wishes to send him a return letter, he do so by addressing it to Monsieur de Voltaire. A post-scriptum explains: "J'ai été si malheureux sous le nom d'Arouet que j'en ai pris un autre surtout pour n'être plus confondu avec le poète Roi.", which translates as, "I was so unhappy under the name d'Arouet that I took another, primarily so that I would cease to be confused with the poet Roi." This probably refers to Adenes le Roi, and the 'oi' diphthong was then pronounced as modern French pronounces 'ai', so the similarity to 'Arouet' is clear, and thus, it could well have been part of his rationale. Indeed, Voltaire is additionally known to have used at least 178 separate pen names during his lifetime.
The aptitude for quick, perceptive, cutting and witty critical repartee for which Voltaire is known today made him highly unpopular with some of his contemporaries, including certain members of the French aristocracy. These sharp-tongued retorts were responsible for Voltaire's exile from France, during which he resided in Great Britain.
After Voltaire retorted to an insult given him by the young French nobleman Chevalier de Rohan in late 1725, the aristocratic Rohan family obtained a royal lettre de cachet, an irrevocable and often arbitrary penal decree signed by the French King (Louis XV, in the time of Voltaire) that was often bought by members of the wealthy nobility to dispose of undesirables. They then used this warrant to force Voltaire into imprisonment in the Bastille without holding a trial or giving him an opportunity to defend himself. Fearing an indefinite prison sentence, Voltaire suggested his own exile to England as an alternative punishment, an idea the French authorities accepted. This incident marked the beginning of Voltaire's attempts to improve the French judicial system.
Voltaire's exile in Great Britain lasted nearly three years, and his experiences there greatly influenced many of his ideas. The young man was intrigued by Britain's constitutional monarchy in contrast to the French absolute monarchy, as well as the country's relative support of the freedoms of speech and religion. He was also influenced by several of the neoclassical writers of the age, and developed an interest in earlier English literature, especially the works of Shakespeare, still little known in continental Europe at the time. Despite pointing out his deviations from neoclassical standards, Voltaire saw Shakespeare as an example French writers might look up to, since drama in France, despite being more polished, lacked on-stage action. Later, however, as Shakespeare's influence was being increasingly felt in France, Voltaire would endeavour to set a contrary example with his own plays, decrying what he considered Shakespeare's barbarities.
After almost three years in exile, Voltaire returned to Paris and published his views on British attitudes towards government, literature, and religion in a collection of essays in letter form entitled the Lettres philosophiques sur les Anglais (Philosophical Letters on the English). Because he regarded the British constitutional monarchy as more developed and more respectful of human rights (particularly religious tolerance) than its French counterpart, these letters met great controversy in France, to the point where the book was burnt and Voltaire was forced again to flee.
Château de Cirey
Voltaire's next destination was the Château de Cirey, located on the borders of Champagne and Lorraine. The building was renovated with his money, and here he began a relationship with the Marquise du Châtelet, Gabrielle Émilie le Tonnelier de Breteuil (famous in her own right as Émilie du Châtelet). Cirey was owned by the Marquise's husband, Marquis Florent-Claude du Chatelet, who sometimes visited his wife and her lover at the chateau. The relationship, which lasted for fifteen years, had a significant intellectual element. Voltaire and the Marquise collected over 21,000 books, an enormous number for the time. Together, they studied these books and performed experiments in the "natural sciences" in his laboratory. Voltaire's experiments included an attempt to determine the elements of fire.
Having learned from his previous brushes with the authorities, Voltaire began his future habit of keeping out of personal harm's way, and denying any awkward responsibility. He continued to write many plays, such as Mérope (or "La Mérope française") and began his long researches into science and history . Again, a main source of inspiration for Voltaire were the years of his British exile, during which he had been strongly influenced by the works of Sir Isaac Newton. Voltaire strongly believed in Newton's theories, especially concerning optics (Newton’s discovery that white light is composed of all the colours in the spectrum led to many experiments at Cirey), and gravity (Voltaire is the source of the famous story of Newton and the apple falling from the tree, which he had learned from Newton's niece in London and first mentioned in his Essai sur la poésie épique, or Essay on Epic Poetry). Although both Voltaire and the Marquise were curious about the philosophies of Gottfried Leibniz, a contemporary and rival of Newton, they remained essentially "Newtonians", despite the Marquise's adoption of certain aspects of Leibniz's arguments against Newton. She translated Newton's Latin Principia in full, adjusting a few errors along the way, and hers remained the definitive French translation well into the 20th century. Voltaire's book Eléments de la philosophie de Newton (Elements of Newton's Philosophy), which was probably co-written with the Marquise, made Newton accessible to a far greater public. It is often considered the work that finally brought about general acceptance of Newton's optical and gravitational theories.
Voltaire and the Marquise also studied history...particularly those persons who had contributed to civilization. Voltaire's second essay in English had been Essay upon the Civil Wars in France. It was followed by La Henriade, an epic poem on the French king Henri IV, glorifying his attempt to end the Catholic-Protestant massacres with the Edict of Nantes, and by a historical novel on King Charles XII of Sweden. These, along with his Letters on England mark the beginning of Voltaire's open criticism of intolerance and established religions. Voltaire and the Marquise also worked with philosophy, particularly with metaphysics, the branch of philosophy that deals with being, and what is beyond the material realm such as whether or not there is a God or souls, etc. Voltaire and the Marquise analyzed the Bible, trying to discover its validity in their time. Voltaire's critical views on religion are reflected in his belief in separation of church and state and religious freedom, ideas that he had formed after his stay in England.
Though deeply committed to the Marquise, Voltaire by 1744 found life at the château confining. On a visit to Paris that year, he found a new love: his niece. At first, his attraction to Marie Louise Mignot was clearly sexual, as evidenced by his letters to her (only discovered in 1937). Much later, they lived together, perhaps platonically, and remained together until Voltaire's death. Meanwhile, the Marquise also took a lover, the Marquis de Saint-Lambert.
After the death of the Marquise in childbirth in September 1749, Voltaire briefly returned to Paris and in 1750 moved to Potsdam to join Frederick the Great, a close friend and admirer of his. The king had repeatedly invited him to his palace, and now gave him a salary of 20,000 francs a year. Though life went well at first...in 1752 he wrote Micromégas, perhaps the first piece of science fiction involving ambassadors from another planet witnessing the follies of humankind...his relationship with Frederick the Great began to deteriorate and he encountered other difficulties. An argument with Maupertuis, the president of the Berlin Academy of Science, provoked Voltaire's Diatribe du docteur Akakia (Diatribe of Doctor Akakia), which satirized some of Maupertuis' theories and his abuse of power in his persecutions of a mutual acquaintance, Samuel Koënig. This greatly angered Frederick, who had all copies of the document burned and arrested Voltaire at an inn where he was staying along his journey home. Voltaire's chateau is now owned and administered by the French Ministry of Culture.
In the Scottish Enlightenment the Scots began developing a uniquely practical branch of humanism to the extent that Voltaire said "We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation".
Once in a letter to Frederick II, King of Prussia, dated 5 January 1767 he quoted that,
Attitude toward Jews
Though many books have been written taxing Voltaire with anti-semitism, they do not explain, nor usually even mention, the numerous pamphlets he wrote attacking anti-semitism itself. This apparent contradiction led many to conclude that his remarks were in fact anti-Biblical and not anti-semitic. His "Sermon du rabbin Akib", for example, is a scathing attack on Christian persecution of the Jews, and similar remarks can be found scattered throughout his 200-odd pamphlets and books on religion.
It has been pointed out that thirty of the 118 articles in his Dictionnaire Philosophique described the ancient Jews in consistently negative ways, as barbarous, absurd and deeply superstitious; however, this ignores his qualifiers, in which he points out that "all of antiquity was", as a rule.
Peter Gay, the best known contemporary authority on the Enlightenment, wrote that "Voltaire struck at the Jews to strike at Christianity," a view shared by certain leading Jewish Voltairians...indeed, the point usually is, if the Jews were cruel and absurd, what can be made of other faiths that declare their histories sacred, yet persecute them? "When I see Christians cursing Jews," he wrote in his English Notebook, "methinks I see children beating their fathers." And posing as a freshly minted Spanish priest in Les Questions de Zapata, he asks his superiors how he should go about explaining that the Jews, whom they burn by the hundreds, were the chosen people of God for four thousand years, and why we chant their prayers while burning them. Voltaire grew exceedingly vocal against the Church during the campaign for tolerance of his later years, openly writing that it had been the "consistently implacable enemy of progress, decency, humanity and rationality" and that it had been the Church's interest to "keep people as ignorant and submissive as children".
Voltaire was initiated into Freemasonry one month before his death. On April 4, 1778 Voltaire accompanied his close friend Benjamin Franklin into Loge des Neuf Soeurs in Paris, France and became an Entered Apprentice Freemason, perhaps only to please Franklin.
Voltaire perceived the French bourgeoisie to be too small and ineffective, the aristocracy to be parasitic and corrupt, the commoners as ignorant and superstitious, and the church as a static and oppressive force useful only as a counterbalance since its "religious tax" or the tithe helped to create a strong backing for revolutionaries.Voltaire distrusted democracy, which he saw as propagating the idiocy of the masses. Voltaire long thought only an enlightened monarch could bring about change, given the social structures of the time and the extremely high rates of illiteracy, and that it was in the king's rational interest to improve the education and welfare of his subjects. But his disappointments and disillusions with Frederick the Great changed his philosophy somewhat, and soon gave birth to one of his most enduring works, his novella, Candide, ou l'Optimisme (Candide, or Optimism, 1759), which ends with a new conclusion: "It is up to us to cultivate our garden". His most polemical and ferocious attacks on intolerance and religious persecutions indeed began to appear a few years later. Candide was also subject to censorship and Voltaire jokingly claimed the actual author was a certain "Demad" in a letter, where he reaffirmed the main polemical stances of the text.
Voltaire is also known for many memorable aphorisms, such as: "Si Dieu n'existait pas, il faudrait l'inventer" ("If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him"), contained in a verse epistle from 1768, addressed to the anonymous author of a controversial work, "The Three Impostors." But far from being the cynical remark it is often taken for, it was meant as a retort to the atheistic clique of d'Holbach, Grimm, and others.
Voltaire is remembered and honored in France as a courageous polemicist who indefatigably fought for civil rights...the right to a fair trial and freedom of religion...and who denounced the hypocrisies and injustices of the ancien régime. The ancien régime involved an unfair balance of power and taxes between the First Estate (the clergy), the Second Estate (the nobles), and the Third Estate (the commoners and middle class, who were burdened with most of the taxes).
Voltaire has had his detractors among his later colleagues. The Scottish Victorian writer Thomas Carlyle argued that, while Voltaire was unsurpassed in literary form, not even the most elaborate of his works were of much value for matter and that he never uttered an original idea of his own.
He often used China, Siam and Japan as examples of brilliant non-European civilizations and harshly criticized slavery,.
The town of Ferney, where Voltaire lived out the last 20 years of his life, is now named Ferney-Voltaire in honor of its most famous resident. His château is a museum.
Voltaire's library is preserved intact in the National Library of Russia at St. Petersburg, Russia.
In Zurich 1916, the theater and performance group who would become the early avant-garde movement Dada named their theater The Cabaret Voltaire. A late-20th-century industrial music group then named themselves after the theater.
A character based on Voltaire plays an important role in The Age of Unreason, a series of four alternative history novels written by American science fiction and fantasy author Gregory Keyes.
Voltaire was also known to have been an advocate for coffee, as he was purported to have drunk the beverage at least 30 times per day. It has been suggested that high amounts of caffeine acted as a mental stimulant to his creativity.
His great grand-niece was the mother of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a famous writer and Jesuit priest.