The Timeline of Voltaire's Life from Birth to Death

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Early Life to Exile (1694-1717)

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Voltaire was born 1694 November 21 as Francois-Marie Arouet in Paris. He was born and raised in a fairly rich family. Francois-Marie was influenced in his early years due to his mother's friends. He demonstrates the ability to write as a child. (1704) At age 10, Francois-Marie is sent to a Jesuit institution where he begins to learn classical education as well as stage-plays, which may have influenced his later works. [9] Voltaire had gone against his father’s wishes at an early age. His father had been pushing for him to become a lawyer and that if Francois behaved, he would get him a post in the government. Francois refused and continued to pursue a career in literature. He was in and out of jails as well as countries as he could not keep his mouth shut. He made his prison cell time in Bastille into a hall of fame where he produced his first play. Instead of leading a luxurious life, he chose to make his own choices and his own way of life. [4]

In 1711 He decides that his calling is literature, despite his father's wishes for him to become a lawyer. He eventually listened toexternal image Voltaire_Oedipe_2e_%C3%A9dition_Ribou_1719.JPG his father for a brief amount of time before deciding that learning law is not what he wanted to do in the future. [9]
From 1713-1717, Francois-Marie is then sent to Holland because of the crowd that he was involved in at the time. After returning, he spends time working with law. His satirical poems caused him to be sent away again to the Marquis de Saint-Agne. After returning for about a year, he gets sent away yet again due to lampooning the regent Orleans. He is then exiled to Tulle, Sully, and later, Bastille, where he begins his first work of tragedy. [9] In 1717, Voltaire’s sharp wit got him into trouble with the authorities. Francois-Marie had criticized a corrupt aristocrat in a satirical manner and 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 also adopted his pen name “Voltaire.” In 1718. After his imprisonment, he was finally freed on account of false charges. [1][2][3][6]


In 1726, while Voltaire was in England, he stumbled upon numerous works and solid evidence against Christianity. [1] He strongly believed in political and social reform and as he criticized the King and the church, he became paranoid about being captured. After the second time in Bastille, he promised to leave the country and flee to England (1726) where he met many of the Enlightenment thinkers such as Newton and Descartes who influenced his future works. The government of England, in contrast to France, impressed him and this fueled his inspiration for his future works. [2] In 1726, a nobleman from the Rohan family found one of Voltaire’s writings offensive and had him exiled. He then stayed in England for a period of three years. It was around this time he began to create numerous works such as biographies, plays, dramas, tragedies, and essays. [8]


external image voltaire_with_book_20k.jpgVoltaire was indeed a millionaire before the age of 40 [by 1738] as he had [in his earlier years] befriended wealthy bankers (Paris Brothers). This allowed Voltaire to be well informed of the trends in currency. [2] Voltaire also wrote letters (Letters Concerning The English Nation), which criticized the state as well as the church and is considered one of Voltaire’s more defining works. The letters were published in 1733. [8] Voltaire began compiling works and a steady stream of publications such as Éléments de la philosophie de Newton (1736), "Le Mondain" (1736); Sept Discours en Vers sur l'Homme (1738). [8] Voltaire (website) noted that most of Voltaire’s works were censored during his life. The process of having an actual book being published required that nothing in said books be against the church or state. Voltaire's writings did just that and so; the public executioner burned most of his writings. Because of the attempted assassination of Louis the XV, another censorship law (1741) decreed that any who wrote against religion, the royal authority, or against public moral, would be killed. Voltaire always had a planned escape route in case of the police. [2]


external image voltaire_age55bw.jpg His books became banned and he was forced to flee Paris. He steadily became wealthier due to the knowledge of currency and the luck of the state lottery. He encountered Mme du Châtelet who he had an affair with for 16 years. She shared similar ideals and beliefs and they got along swimmingly. She even helped Voltaire translate a work of Newton's who they both admired. Eventually, he moved to Switzerland (1755) where he spent the remainder of his years. (with the occasional visit back to France.) [7] After publishing his Philosophical letters, he fled Paris. Voltaire began a pursuit of scientific research and diverse religions and cultures. In the years of 1750 to 1759, Voltaire traveled a lot and even moved to Switzerland. He was exiled many times and strangely enough, that was when he had the most inspiration for books, plays, letters, pamphlets, etc. He informed many on European intellectual life. [6]

He became renowned and people flocked to have a conversation with him. He frequently defended the freedom of speech and religious liberty. He also wrote a collection of articles that compared the spirit of nations. In which, he discussed that the root of all nations and customs, were a single thread of human nature. He lived a successful fulfilling life and died at age 84 as he had quite poor health during his lifetime. [7]

Things Worth Mentioning

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He used many different aliases throughout his lifetime to avoid capture and confinement. [1] The website “Voltaire” provided numerous facts such as how Voltaire is renowned for his “philosophical writing, his great wit, and as a crusader against injustice, intolerance, cruelty, and war.” In his hometown, he was considered the most forthright writer of his time. [2] Voltaire was a master of manipulating the thoughts of those who read his works. He implemented his own ideas and opinions in a way that makes his ideals righteous, while at the same time, ridiculing those in opposition of his idea in a subtle way. Voltaire did not make much income from his works, as there was no copyright back then. He wanted to get his ideas out more so than gaining profit. [2] His ideas greatly influenced the French Revolution and the American Revolution. [2]

Voltaire was known for attacking the ideals of the state and church. He viewed the world with a skeptical lens and felt that humans were doomed to be corrupt. Due to his beliefs and him writing them down and publishing them, he was in and out of jail. Compared to Rousseau's idealistic view of human nature, Voltaire disagreed strongly and he even wrote to tell Rousseau about his dislike. "One feels like crawling on all fours after reading your work." He disagreed with a lot of his country's main beliefs. [7]

Voltaire had advocated social and religious tolerance, although he didn't exercise it all the time. (i.e. Jews) His first play was performed once released from imprisonment and it drew many friends as well as enemies. [7] Voltaire shared similar views to the philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He would write about the rights of victims of religious, cultural, and political persecution, as well as on topics such as historical, political, scientific, and even theological in essays, letters, pamphlets, plays, etc...Due to the lampoons he created, Voltaire was exiled for most of his life. [8]


[1] :: Alison, Sir Archibald. History of Europe: From the Commencement of the FRENCH REVOLUTION to the Restoration of the Bourbons. 10th ed. 1 vol. Edinsburg: William Blackwood and Sons, 1846. 156-161. Print.

[2] :: Birkenstock, Jane M. "Voltaire." Visit Voltaire. 2001. Château de Cirey, Web. 7 Nov 2009. <>.

[3] :: Chew, Robin. "Voltaire." Author and Philosopher. 1995. Lucid Cafe: Library, Web. 7 Nov 2009. <>.

[4] :: Darrow, Clarence. "Voltaire." Voltaire (by Clarence Darrow). 2006. Positive Atheism, Web. 7 Nov 2009. <>.

[5] :: Davidson, Ian. Voltaire in Exile: The Last Years, 1753-78. Rev. Ed. 1 vol. London: Atlantic Books, Limited, 2004. 6-7. Print.

[6] :: Fajardo-Acosta, Fidel. "François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire (1694-1778)." Wolrd Literature Website. 2001. Fidel Fajardo-Acosta, Web. 7 Nov 2009. <>.

[7] :: Liukkonen, Petri, and Ari Pesonen. "Voltaire (1694-1778) – pseudonym of François-Marie Arouet." Voltaire. 2008. Château de Cirey, Web. 7 Nov 2009. <>.

[8] :: Merriman, C.D. "Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire." The Literature Network. 2008. Jalic Inc., Web. 7 Nov 2009. <>.

[9] :: Uzgalis, Bill. "FRANCOIS-MARIE AROUET DE VOLTAIRE (1694-1778)." Voltaire. 2003. Oregon State Edu., Web. 7 Nov 2009. <>.