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Voltaire

(1694—1778) writer and philosopher


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(1694–1778),

French satirist, novelist, historian, poet, dramatist, polemicist, moralist, critic, and correspondent. Voltaire was the universal genius of the Enlightenment. Welcomed in the free‐thinking circles of Parisian society, he was committed to the Bastille for his satires in 1717–18, and again exiled to England in 1726–9. The remainder of his life was divided between long periods of retreat in the provinces and brief returns to metropolitan centres (Paris, Versailles, Berlin). His literary principles as manifested in his epic poem La Henriade (1723 and 1728), and his heroic tragedies, notably Zaire (1732), were fundamentally neo‐classical. His political principles were essentially liberal. The Lettres philosophiques (1734, English version 1733), inspired by his residence in England, attack the abuses of the ancien régime in the name of tolerance and liberty, while his history Le Siècle de Louis XIV (1751) disregards providence as an explanatory principle, seeking instead evidence of social and moral progress. His most characteristic works, however, were his philosophical tales, notably Zadig (1747) and Candide (1759).

Subjects: Literature.


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