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Detail of portrait by Maurice Quentin de La Tour
Born François-Marie Arouet
21 November 1694
Paris, France
Died 30 May 1778(1778-05-30) (aged 83)
Paris, France
Pen name Voltaire
Occupation Writer, philosopher, playwright
Nationality French

François-Marie Arouet (French: ; 21 November 1694 – 30 May 1778), known by his nom de plume Voltaire (pronounced: ), was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit, his attacks on the established Catholic Church, and his advocacy of freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and separation of church and state. Voltaire was a versatile writer, producing works in almost every literary form, including plays, poems, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works. He wrote more than 20,000 letters and more than 2,000 books and pamphlets. He was an outspoken advocate, despite the risk this placed him in under the strict censorship laws of the time. As a satirical polemicist, he frequently made use of his works to criticize intolerance, religious dogma, and the French institutions of his day.


François-Marie Arouet was born in Paris, the youngest of the five children[1] (three of whom survived) of François Arouet (1650 – 1 January 1722), a lawyer 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. Some speculation surrounds his date of birth, which Voltaire always claimed to be 20 February 1694. Voltaire was educated by the 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.[2]

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 lawyer. Voltaire, pretending to work in Paris as an assistant to a notary, spent much of his time writing poetry. When his father found 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.[3]

Most of Voltaire's early life revolved around Paris. From early on, Voltaire had trouble with the authorities for critiques of the government and religious intolerance. These activities were to result in numerous[4] imprisonments and exiles. One satirical verse about the Régent, in which Voltaire accused the Regent of incest with his own daughter, led to his imprisonment in the Bastille for eleven months.[5] While there, he wrote his debut play, Œdipe. Its success established his reputation.

He mainly argued for religious toleration and freedom of thought. He believed in the concept of an enlightened monarch that would protect the peoples rights. He would only hope that the monarch would not oppress his subjects though.

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 young").[6] 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[7] 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" ("to be broken on the wheel" – a form of torture then still prevalent) and "roué" (a "débauché").

In a letter to Jean-Baptiste Rousseau 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 postscript 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", (I was so unhappy under the name of Arouet that I have taken another, primarily so as to cease to be confused with the poet Roi.)[8] This probably refers to Adenes le Roi, and the 'oi' diphthong was then pronounced like modern 'ouai', 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.[9]

Great Britain

In 1726, Voltaire responded to an insult from the young French nobleman Chevalier de Rohan, whose servants beat him a few days later. Since Voltaire was seeking compensation, and was even willing to fight in a duel, the aristocratic Rohan family obtained a royal lettre de cachet, a decree signed by the French King (Louis XV, in the time of Voltaire) that was routinely used to dispose of troublemakers of many kinds (drunkards, violent people, unequal marriages...). This warrant caused Voltaire to be imprisoned in the Bastille without a trial and without an opportunity to defend himself.[10] Fearing an indefinite prison sentence, Voltaire suggested that he be exiled to England as an alternative punishment, which the French authorities accepted.[11] This incident marked the beginning of Voltaire's attempts to reform the French judicial system. Madame de Pompadour was a close confidante of Voltaire and his first friend at court. Speaking of her, he said that in the bottom of her heart she belonged to the philosophers, and did as much as she could to protect them. She had known him before she was the maîtresse-en-titre, and charged him with the composition of a court-piece (1745) to celebrate the marriage of the dauphin.[12]

From 1726 to 1728 he lodged in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, now commemorated by a plaque at 10 Maiden Lane.[13] Voltaire's exile in Great Britain lasted nearly three years, and his experiences there greatly influenced his thinking. He was intrigued by Britain's constitutional monarchy in contrast to the French absolute monarchy, and by the country's greater support of the freedoms of speech and religion. He was also influenced by several neoclassical writers of the age, and developed an interest in earlier English literature, especially the works of Shakespeare, still relatively unknown in continental Europe. Despite pointing out his deviations from neoclassical standards, Voltaire saw Shakespeare as an example that French writers might emulate, since French drama, despite being more polished, lacked on-stage action. Later, however, as Shakespeare's influence began growing in France, Voltaire tried to set a contrary example with his own plays, decrying what he considered Shakespeare's barbarities. He was present at the funeral of Isaac Newton, and praised the British for honoring a scientist of heretical religious beliefs with burial at Westminster Abbey.

After almost three years in exile, Voltaire returned to Paris. At a dinner, the mathematician livres.[14] He invested the money cleverly and on this basis managed to convince the court that he was of good conduct and so was able to receive an inheritance from his father that had earlier been refused. He was now seriously rich.[15]

In 1733 he met Émilie du Châtelet, who was twelve years his junior and with whom he was to have an affair for sixteen years, as described in the work Voltaire in Love by Nancy Mitford.[16] At this time he published his views on British attitudes toward government, literature, and religion in a collection of essays in letter form entitled Letters Concerning the English Nation (London, 1733). In 1734, they were published in French as Lettres philosophiques in Rouen. A revised edition appeared in English in 1778 as Lettres philosophiques sur les Anglais (Philosophical Letters on the English). Most modern English editions are based on the one from 1734 and typically use the title Philosophical Letters, a direct translation of that version's title.[17]

Because the publisher released the book without the approval of the royal censor and Voltaire regarded the British constitutional monarchy as more developed and more respectful of human rights (particularly religious tolerance) than its French counterpart, the French publication of Letters caused a huge scandal; the book was burnt. After the book was banned, Voltaire was forced again to flee.[18]

Château de Cirey

In the frontispiece to Voltaire's book on Newton's philosophy, Émilie du Châtelet appears as Voltaire's muse, reflecting Newton's heavenly insights down to Voltaire.

Voltaire's next destination was the Château de Cirey, 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 habit of keeping out of personal harm's way, and denying any awkward responsibility. He continued to write plays, such as Mérope (or La Mérope française) and began his long research 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 it 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. The Marquise also wrote a celebratory review in the Journal des Savants.[18] It is often considered the work that finally brought about general acceptance of Newton's optical and gravitational theories.[19]

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 the English mark the beginning of Voltaire's open criticism of intolerance and established religions. Voltaire and the Marquise also explored philosophy, particularly metaphysics, the branch of philosophy that deals with being and with what lies 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 for 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.

In the fall of 1735, Voltaire was visited by Francesco Algarotti, preparing a book about Newton. In 1736 Frederick the Great started to write letters to Voltaire. Two years later Voltaire lived in Holland and became acquainted with Herman Boerhaave and 's Gravesande. In first half of 1740 Voltaire lived in Brussels and met with Lord Chesterfield. He went to see a dubious publisher Jan van Duuren in the Hague, because of the Anti-Machiavel, written by the crown prince, and ordered it back. Voltaire lived in Huis Honselaarsdijk belonging to his admirer. In September they met for the first time in Moyland Castle near Cleve; in November Voltaire went to Rheinsberg Castle for two weeks; in August 1742 Voltaire and Frederick met in Aix-la-Chapelle. Voltaire was sent to Sanssouci by the French government, as an ambassador/spy and find out more about Frederick plan's after the First Silesian War.[20]

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 1957).[21][22] 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.[23]

Die Tafelrunde by Adolph von Menzel. Guests of Frederick the Great at Sanssouci, including members of the Prussian Academy of Sciences and Voltaire (third from left)


After the death of the Marquise in childbirth in September 1749, Voltaire briefly returned to Paris and in 1750 moved to Potsdam to meet Frederick the Great for the fifth time.[24] The king 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, Johann Samuel König. This greatly angered Frederick, who had all copies of the document burned and Voltaire arrested at an inn where he was staying along his journey home.

Geneva and Ferney

Voltaire's château at Ferney, France

Voltaire headed toward Paris, but Louis XV banned him from the city, so instead he turned to Geneva, near which he bought a large estate (Les Délices) in 1755.[25] Though he was received openly at first, the law in Geneva, which banned theatrical performances, and the publication of The Maid of Orleans against his will made him move at the end of 1758 across the French border to Ferney, where he had bought an even larger estate, and led to Voltaire's writing of Candide, ou l'Optimisme (Candide, or Optimism) in 1759. This satire on Leibniz's philosophy of optimistic determinism remains the work for which Voltaire is perhaps best known. He would stay in Ferney for most of the remaining 20 years of his life, frequently entertaining distinguished guests, such as James Boswell, Adam Smith, Giacomo Casanova, and Edward Gibbon.[26] In 1764, he published one of his best-known philosophical works, the Dictionnaire Philosophique, a series of articles mainly on Christian history and dogmas, a few of which were originally written in Berlin.[10]

From 1762, he began to champion unjustly persecuted people, the case of Jean Calas being the most celebrated. This Huguenot merchant had been tortured to death in 1763, supposedly because he had murdered his son for wanting to convert to Catholicism. His possessions were confiscated and his remaining children were taken from his widow and were forced to become members of a monastery. Voltaire, seeing this as a clear case of religious persecution, managed to overturn the conviction in 1765.[10]

Voltaire was initiated into Freemasonry the month before his death. On 4 April 1778 Voltaire accompanied his close friend Benjamin Franklin into Loge des Neuf Soeurs in Paris, France and became an Entered Apprentice Freemason.[27][28][29]

Death and burial

In February 1778, Voltaire returned for the first time in 20 years to Paris, among other reasons to see the opening of his latest tragedy, Irene. The five-day journey was too much for the 83-year-old, and he believed he was about to die on 28 February, writing "I die adoring God, loving my friends, not hating my enemies, and detesting superstition." However, he recovered, and in March saw a performance of Irene, where he was treated by the audience as a returning hero.[10]

Voltaire's tomb in Paris' Pantheon
Paris house where Voltaire died

He soon became ill again and died on 30 May 1778. The accounts of his deathbed have been numerous and varying, and it has not been possible to establish the details of what precisely occurred. His enemies related that he repented and accepted the last rites given by a Catholic priest, or that he died under great torment, while his adherents told how he was defiant to his last breath.[30] According to one story, his last words were, "Now is not the time for making new enemies." It was his response to a priest at the side of his deathbed, asking Voltaire to renounce Satan.[31]

Because of his well-known criticism of the Church, which he had refused to retract before his death, Voltaire was denied a Christian burial, but friends managed to bury his body secretly at the Abbey of Scellières in Champagne before this prohibition had been announced. His heart and brain were embalmed separately.

On 11 July 1791, the National Assembly of France, which regarded him as a forerunner of the French Revolution, had his remains brought back to Paris to enshrine him in the Panthéon. It is estimated that a million people attended the procession, which stretched throughout Paris. There was an elaborate ceremony, complete with an orchestra, and the music included a piece that André Grétry had composed specially for the event, which included a part for the "tuba curva" (an instrument that originated in Roman times as the cornu but had recently been revived under a new name[32]).

A widely repeated story, that the remains of Voltaire were stolen by religious fanatics in 1814 or 1821 during the Pantheon restoration and thrown into a garbage heap, is false. Such rumours resulted in the coffin being opened in 1897, which confirmed that his remains were still present.[33]



Voltaire had an enormous influence on the development of historiography through his demonstration of fresh new ways to look at the past. His best-known histories are The Age of Louis XIV (1751), and his Essay on the Customs and the Spirit of the Nations (1756). He broke from the tradition of narrating diplomatic and military events, and emphasized customs, social history and achievements in the arts and sciences. The Essay on Customs traced the progress of world civilization in a universal context, thereby rejecting both nationalism and the traditional Christian frame of reference. Influenced by Bossuet's Discourse on the Universal History (1682), he was the first scholar to make a serious attempt to write the history of the world, eliminating theological frameworks, and emphasizing economics, culture and political history. He treated Europe as a whole, rather than a collection of nations. He was the first to emphasize the debt of medieval culture to Middle Eastern civilization, but otherwise was weak on the Middle Ages. Although he repeatedly warned against political bias on the part of the historian, he did not miss many opportunities to expose the intolerance and frauds of the church over the ages. Voltaire advised scholars that anything contradicting the normal course of nature was not to be believed. Although he found evil in the historical record, he fervently believed reason and educating the illiterate masses would lead to progress.

Voltaire explains his view of historiography in his article on "History" in Diderot's Encyclopédie: "One demands of modern historians more details, better ascertained facts, precise dates, more attention to customs, laws, mores, commerce, finance, agriculture, population." Voltaire's histories imposed the values of the Enlightenment on the past, but at the same time he helped free historiography from antiquarianism, Eurocentrism, religious intolerance and a concentration on great men, diplomacy, and warfare.[34][35] Yale professor Peter Gay says Voltaire wrote "very good history", citing his ""scrupulous concern for truths", "careful sifting of evidence", "intelligent selection of what is important", "keen sense of drama", and "grasp of the fact that a whole civilization is a unit of study".[36]


From an early age, Voltaire displayed a talent for writing verse and his first published work was poetry. He wrote two book-long epic poems, including the first ever written in French, the Henriade, and later, The Maid of Orleans, besides many other smaller pieces.

The Henriade was written in imitation of Virgil, using the Alexandrine couplet reformed and rendered monotonous for modern readers but it was a huge success in the 18th and early 19th century, with sixty-five editions and translations into several languages. The epic poem transformed French King Henry IV into a national hero for his attempts at instituting tolerance with his Edict of Nantes. La Pucelle, on the other hand, is a burlesque on the legend of Joan of Arc. Voltaire's minor poems are generally considered superior to either of these two works.


Frontispiece and first page of an early English translation by T. Smollett et al. of Voltaire's Candide, 1762

Many of Voltaire's prose works and romances, usually composed as pamphlets, were written as polemics. Candide attacks the passivity inspired by Leibniz's philosophy of optimism; L'Homme aux quarante ecus (The Man of Forty Pieces of Silver), certain social and political ways of the time; Zadig and others, the received forms of moral and metaphysical orthodoxy; and some were written to deride the Bible. In these works, Voltaire's ironic style, free of exaggeration, is apparent, particularly the restraint and simplicity of the verbal treatment. Candide in particular is the best example of his style. Voltaire also has, in common with Jonathan Swift, the distinction of paving the way for science fiction's philosophical irony, particularly in his Micromégas and the vignette Plato's Dream (1756).

In general, his criticism and miscellaneous writing show a similar style to Voltaire's other works. Almost all of his more substantive works, whether in verse or prose, are preceded by prefaces of one sort or another, which are models of his caustic yet conversational tone. In a vast variety of nondescript pamphlets and writings, he displays his skills at journalism. In pure literary criticism his principal work is the Commentaire sur Corneille, although he wrote many more similar works – sometimes (as in his Life and Notices of Molière) independently and sometimes as part of his Siècles.

Voltaire's works, especially his private letters, frequently contain the word "l'infâme" and the expression "écrasez l'infâme", or "crush the infamous". The phrase refers to abuses of the people by royalty and the clergy that Voltaire saw around him, and the superstition and intolerance that the clergy bred within the people.[37] He had felt these effects in his own exiles, the burnings of his books and those of many others, and in the hideous sufferings of Calas and La Barre. He stated in one of his most famous quotes that "Superstition sets the whole world in flames; philosophy quenches them."

The most oft-cited Voltaire quotation is apocryphal. He is incorrectly credited with writing, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." These were not his words, but rather those of Evelyn Beatrice Hall, written under the pseudonym S. G. Tallentyre in her 1906 biographical book The Friends of Voltaire. Hall intended to summarize in her own words Voltaire's attitude towards Claude Adrien Helvétius and his controversial book De l'esprit, but her first-person expression was mistaken for an actual quotation from Voltaire. Her interpretation does capture the spirit of Voltaire's attitude towards Helvetius; it had been said Hall's summary was inspired by a quotation found in a 1770 Voltaire letter to an Abbot le Riche, in which he was reported to have said, "I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write."[38] Nevertheless, scholars believe there must have again been misinterpretation, as the letter does not seem to contain any such quote.[39]

Voltaire's first major philosophical work in his battle against "l'infâme" was the Traité sur la tolérance (Treatise on Tolerance), exposing the Calas affair, along with the tolerance exercised by other faiths and in other eras (for example, by the Jews, the Romans, the Greeks and the Chinese). Then, in his Dictionnaire philosophique, containing such articles as "Abraham", "Genesis", "Church Council", he wrote about what he perceived as the human origins of dogmas and beliefs, as well as inhuman behavior of religious and political institutions in shedding blood over the quarrels of competing sects. Amongst other targets, Voltaire criticized France's colonial policy in North America, dismissing the vast territory of New France as "a few acres of snow" ("quelques arpents de neige").


Voltaire also engaged in an enormous amount of private correspondence during his life, totaling over 20,000 letters. Theodore Besterman's collected edition of these letters, completed only in 1964, fills 102 volumes.[40] One historian called the letters "a feast not only of wit and eloquence but of warm friendship, humane feeling, and incisive thought."[41]



Voltaire at 70; engraving from 1843 edition of his Philosophical Dictionary

Like other key thinkers during the European Enlightenment, Voltaire might have considered himself a deist, expressing the idea: "What is faith? Is it to believe that which is evident? No. It is perfectly evident to my mind that there exists a necessary, eternal, supreme, and intelligent being. This is no matter of faith, but of reason."[42][43]

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".[44][45]


As for religious texts, Voltaire's opinion of the Bible was mixed. Although influenced by Socinian works such as the Bibliotheca Fratrum Polonorum, Voltaire's skeptical attitude to the Bible separated him from Unitarian theologians like Fausto Sozzini or even Biblical-political writers like John Locke.[46]

This did not hinder his religious practice, though it did win for him a bad reputation in certain religious circles. The deeply Christian Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote to his father the year of Voltaire's death, saying, "The arch-scoundrel Voltaire has finally kicked the bucket ...".[47]


In his tragedy Le Fanatisme ou Mahomet, Voltaire described Mohammed as an "impostor", a " false prophet", a "fanatic" and a "hypocrite".[48][49] Voltaire defended the play, he said that he "tried to show in it into what horrible excesses fanaticism, led by an impostor, can plunge weak minds".[50]

When Voltaire wrote in 1742 to César de Missy, he described Mohammed as a "deceitful character."[51][52]

In 1748, after having read Henri de Boulainvilliers et Georges Sale,[53] he wrote again about Mohammed and Islam in an article, "De l'Alcoran et de Mahomet" (On the Quran and on Mohammed). In the article, Voltaire maintained that Mohammed was a "sublime charlatan"[54] and wrote that furthermore he was not an illiterate.[55] Drawing also on complementary information in the "Oriental Library" of Herbelot, Voltaire, according to René Pomeau, had a judgement of Qur'an where he found the book in spite of "the contradictions, the absurdities, the anachronisms", "rhapsody, without connection, without order, and without art".[56][57][58][59] Thus he "henceforward conceded" [59] that "if his book was bad for our times and for us, it was very good for his contemporaries, and his religion even more so. It must be admitted that he removed almost all of Asia from idolatry" and that "it was difficult for such a simple and wise religion, taught by a man who was constantly victorious, could hardly fail to subjugate a portion of the earth." He considered that "its civil laws are good; its dogma is admirable which it has in common with ours" but that "his means are shocking; deception and murder".[60]

In his play, Mohammed was "whatever trickery can invent that is most atrocious and whatever fanaticism can accomplish that is most horrifying. Mahomet here is nothing other than Tartuffe with armies at his command."[61][62] After later having judged that he had made Mohammed in his play "somewhat nastier than he really was",[63] Voltaire claims that Muhammad stole the idea of an angel weighing both men and women from Zoroastrians, who are often referred to as "Magi". Voltaire continues about Islam that

"Nothing is more terrible than a people who, having nothing to lose, fight in the united spirit of rapine and of religion."[64]

In his Essai sur les mœurs et l'esprit des Nations, in which he devoted, as a historian this time, several chapters to Islam,[65][66][67] Voltaire highlighted the Arabian, Turkish courts, and conducts.[59][68][69] Here he called Mohammed a "poet", and furthermore he was not an illiterate.[70] as a "legislator" who "changed the face of part of Europe, one half of Asia",[71][72][73] In the chapter VI, Voltaire finds similarities Arabs and ancient Hebrews, that they both kept running to battle in the name of god, and sharing the passion for booty and spoils.[74] Voltaire continues that, "It is to be believed that Mohammed, like all enthusiasts, violently struck by his ideas, first presented them in good faith, strengthened them with fantasy, fooled himself in fooling others, and supported through necessary deceptions a doctrine which he considered good."[75][76]

However, Voltaire was fundamentally a Deist and clearly denounced Islam and monotheistic religions in general. Taking advantage of the definition of theism in his "Philosophical Dictionary", he put Islam and Christianity back to back with each other:

(The theist) believes that religion consists neither in the opinions of an unintelligible metaphysics, nor in vain apparatus, but in worship and in justice. To do good, that is his prayer; to be submitted to God, that is his doctrine. The Mohammedan calls to him 'Beware if you do not make your pilgrimage to Mecca!' 'Woe on you, says a recoller to him, if you do not make a journey to Notre-Dame de Lorette!' He laughs at Lorette and at Mecca, but he helps the poor and defends the oppressed.[77]

Thus, there are a number of representations of Mohammed in Voltaire, a religious one, according to which Mohammed is a prophet like the others, who exploits people's naivety and spreads superstition and fanaticism, and the other a political one, according to which Mohammed was a legislator who brought his contemporaries out of idolatry.[78][79] According to Diego Venturino the figure of Mohammed is uncertain or negative in Voltaire's view, as Voltaire applaud the legislator but hates the conqueror and the pontiff, who established his religion through violence.[80][81][82] In his Essai sur les mœurs, he highlighted the Arabian, Turkish courts, and conducts.[59][69] He thus compares "the genius of the Arab people" with "the genius of the ancient Romans".[83] His statements about religions also brought down on him the fury of the Jesuits and in particular Claude-Adrien Nonnotte.[84][85][86][87]

Voltaire's views about Islam remained negative, he considered Quran to be ignoring the laws of physics.[88] In a 1740 letter to [89]

In a 1745 letter recommending his play Fanaticism, or Mahomet to Pope Benedict XIV, Voltaire described the founder of Islam, Muhammad as "the founder of a false and barbarous sect" and "a false prophet." Voltaire wrote that "Your holiness will pardon the liberty taken by one of the lowest of the faithful, though a zealous admirer of virtue, of submitting to the head of the true religion this performance, written in opposition to the founder of a false and barbarous sect. To whom could I with more propriety inscribe a satire on the cruelty and errors of a false prophet, than to the vicar and representative of a God of truth and mercy?".[90][91] His view was modified slightly for Essai sur les Moeurs et l'Esprit des Nations, however they remained negative.[92][93][94][95][96] In 1751, Voltaire performed his play Mohamet once again, with great success.[97]


In a letter to Frederick II, King of Prussia, dated 5 January 1767, he wrote about Christianity:

La nôtre [religion] est sans contredit la plus ridicule, la plus absurde, et la plus sanguinaire qui ait jamais infecté le monde.[98]
"[Christianity] is assuredly the most ridiculous, the most absurd and the most bloody religion which has ever infected this world. Your Majesty will do the human race an eternal service by extirpating this infamous superstition, I do not say among the rabble, who are not worthy of being enlightened and who are apt for every yoke; I say among honest people, among men who think, among those who wish to think. ... My one regret in dying is that I cannot aid you in this noble enterprise, the finest and most respectable which the human mind can point out.."[99][100]

In La bible enfin expliquee, he considered Bible as:

It is characteristic of fanatics who read the holy scriptures to tell themselves: God killed, so I must kill; Abraham lied, Jacob deceived, Rachel stole: so I must steal, deceive, lie. But, wretch, you are neither Rachel, nor Jacob, nor Abraham, nor God; you are just a mad fool, and the popes who forbade the reading of the Bible were extremely wise.[101]


Despite the criticism of Abrahamic religions, Voltaire had a positive view of Hinduism;[102] the sacred text Vedas was remarked on by him as follows:

The Veda was the most precious gift for which the West had ever been indebted to the East.[103]

He regarded Hindus as "[a] peaceful and innocent people, equally incapable of hurting others or of defending themselves".[104] Voltaire was himself a supporter of animal rights ; Voltaire was vegetarian [105]. He used the ancient times of Hinduism to land a devastating blow to the Bible's claims and acknowledged that the Hindus' treatment of animals shown a shaming alternative to the immorality of European imperialists.[106]


According to the rabbi Joseph Telushkin, the most significant of Enlightenment hostility against Judaism was found in Voltaire;[107] thirty of the 118 articles in his Dictionnaire philosophique dealt with Jews and described them in consistently negative ways.[108][109]

On the other hand, Peter Gay, a contemporary authority on the Enlightenment,[107] also points to Voltaire's remarks (for instance, that the Jews were more tolerant than the Christians) in the Traité sur la tolérance and surmises that "Voltaire struck at the Jews to strike at Christianity". Whatever anti-semitism Voltaire may have felt, Gay suggests, derived from negative personal experience.[110] Bertram Schwarzbach's far more detailed studies of Voltaire's dealings with Jewish people throughout his life concluded that he was anti-biblical, not anti-semitic. His remarks on the Jews and their "superstitions" were essentially no different from his remarks on Christians.[111]

Telushkin states that Voltaire did not limit his attack to aspects of Judaism that Christianity used as a foundation, repeatedly making it clear that he despised Jews.[107] [112]

Religious tolerance

In a 1763 essay, Voltaire supported the toleration of other religions and ethnicities: "It does not require great art, or magnificently trained eloquence, to prove that Christians should tolerate each other. I, however, am going further: I say that we should regard all men as our brothers. What? The Turk my brother? The Chinaman my brother? The Jew? The Siam? Yes, without doubt; are we not all children of the same father and creatures of the same God?"[113]

Race and slavery

Voltaire rejected the Christian Buffon, he divided humanity into varieties or races and attempted to explain the differences between these races. He wondered if blacks fully shared in the common humanity or intelligence of whites because of their participation in the slave trade.[115][116]

His most famous remark on slavery is found in Candide, where the hero is horrified to learn "at what price we eat sugar in Europe" after coming across a slave in French Guinea who has been mutilated for escaping, who opines that, if all human beings have common origins as the Bible taught, it makes them cousins, concluding that "no one could treat their relatives more horribly". Elsewhere, he wrote caustically about "whites and Christians [who] proceed to purchase negroes cheaply, in order to sell them dear in America".[117][118]


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 on occasion as a counterbalance to the rapacity of kings, although all too often, even more rapacious itself. Voltaire distrusted democracy, which he saw as propagating the idiocy of the masses.[119] 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 burned and Voltaire jokingly claimed the actual author was a certain 'Demad' in a letter, where he reaffirmed the main polemical stances of the text.[120]

He is remembered and honoured in France as a courageous polemicist who indefatigably fought for civil rights (as the right to a fair trial and freedom of religion) and who denounced the hypocrisies and injustices of the Ancien Régime. The Ancien Régime – according to common opinion – involved an unfair balance of power and taxes between the three Estates: clergy and nobles on one side, the commoners and middle class, who were burdened with most of the taxes, on the other. He particularly had admiration for the ethics and government as exemplified by Confucius.[121]

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 on The Three Impostors. But far from being the cynical remark it is often taken for, it was meant as a retort to atheistic opponents such as d'Holbach, Grimm, and others.[122] He has had his detractors among his later colleagues. The Scottish Victorian writer Thomas Carlyle argued that "Voltaire read history, not with the eye of devout seer or even critic, but through a pair of mere anti-catholic spectacles."[123]

The town of Ferney, where Voltaire lived out the last 20 years of his life, is now named Ferney-Voltaire in honour of its most famous resident. His château is a museum. Voltaire's library is preserved intact in the National Library of Russia at Saint Petersburg, Russia. In the Zurich of 1916, the theatre 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. Astronomers have bestowed his name to the Voltaire crater on Deimos and the asteroid 5676 Voltaire.[124]

Besides, Voltaire was also known to have been an advocate for coffee, as he was purported to have drunk it 50–72 times per day. It has been suggested that high amounts of caffeine acted as a mental stimulant to his creativity.[125] His great-grand-niece was the mother of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a catholic philosopher and Jesuit priest.[126][127] His book Candide was listed as one of The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written, by Martin Seymour-Smith.



Philosophical works

  • Letters concerning the English nation (London, 1733) (French version entitled Lettres philosophiques sur les Anglais, Rouen, 1734), revised as Letters on the English (circa 1778)
  • Le Mondain (1736)
  •  French Wikisource has original text related to this article: Eléments de la philosophie de Newton (1745)
  • Sept Discours en Vers sur l'Homme (1738)
  • Zadig (1747)
  • Micromégas (1752)
  • Candide (1759)
  • Traité sur la tolérance (1763)
  • Ce qui plaît aux dames (1764)
  • Dictionnaire philosophique (1764)
  • L'Ingénu (1767)
  • La Princesse de Babylone (1768)


Voltaire wrote between fifty and sixty plays, including a few unfinished ones.[128] Among them are these:


  • History of Charles XII, King of Sweden (1731)
  • The Age of Louis XIV (1751)
  • The Age of Louis XV (1746–1752)
  • Annals of the Empire – Charlemagne, A.D. 742 – Henry VII 1313, Vol. I (1754)
  • Annals of the Empire – Louis of Bavaria, 1315 to Ferdinand II 1631 Vol. II (1754)
  • Essay on the Manners of Nations (or 'Universal History') (1756)
  • History of the Russian Empire Under Peter the Great (Vol. I 1759; Vol. II 1763)
  • History of the Parliament of Paris (1769)[130]

See also


  1. ^ Wright, p 505.
  2. ^ Liukkonen, Petri. "Voltaire (1694–1778) – pseudonym of François-Marie Arouet". Retrieved 24 July 2009. 
  3. ^ Davidson, Ian. Voltaire: A Life, p. 7–9, Profile Books, London: 2010
  4. ^ Numerous, in this context, means two.
  5. ^ Fitzpatrick, Martin (2000). "Toleration and the Enlightenment Movement" in Grell/Porter, Toleration in Enlightenment Europe, p. 64, footnote 91, Cambridge University Press
  6. ^ Christopher Thacker (1971). Voltaire. Profiles in literature series (Taylor & Francis). p. 3.  
  7. ^ Holmes, Richard (2000). Sidetracks: explorations of a romantic biographer. HarperCollins. pp. 345–366.  and "Voltaire's Grin" in New York Review of Books, 30 November 1995, page. 49–55
  8. ^ – "Voltaire to Jean Baptiste Rousseau, c. 1 March 1719". Electronic Enlightenment. Ed. Robert McNamee et al. Vers. 2.1. University of Oxford. 2010. Web. 20 Jun. 2010. .
  9. ^ – "The appendixes offer even more: a listing of Voltaire's and Daniel Defoe's numerous pseudonyms (178 and 198, respectively) ..."
  10. ^ a b c d "The Life of Voltaire". Retrieved 3 August 2009. 
  11. ^ "Voltaire in England"
  12. ^ John Morley and Voltaire, The Works of Voltaire: A Contemporary Version [A Biographical Critique of Voltaire], trans. William F. Fleming, vol. 42 (Paris: E. R. DuMont, 1901), 148,
  13. ^ City of Westminster green plaques
  14. ^ Shank, J. B. (2008). The Newton Wars. U of Chicago Press. p. 260. 
  15. ^ Davidson, Ian (2010). Voltaire: A Life. Profile Books, London. p. 76. 
  16. ^ Schiff, Stacy. Voltaire In Love': An Ardent, Intellectual Affair"'". npr books. Retrieved 22 June 2014. 
  17. ^ A note on the text: it has long been believed that Voltaire wrote Letters (1733) in English – a theory based mostly on the work of Harcourt Brown – however, recent studies indicate that they were in fact written in French and then translated, probably by John Lockman.
  18. ^ a b Shank, J. B. (2009). "Voltaire". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 
  19. ^ Bryant, Walter W. (1907). A History of Astronomy. p. 53. 
  20. ^ Voltaire, The Works of Voltaire, Vol. I (Candide) [1759] [1]
  21. ^ Ian Davidson (1979). Voltaire in Exile. Grove Press. p. 6.  
  22. ^ Will and Ariel Durant (2011). The Age of Voltaire. Simon & Schuster. p. 392. 
  23. ^ Ian Davidson (1979). Voltaire in Exile. Grove Press. p. 7.  
  24. ^ According to poet Richard Armour, Voltaire's friendship with Frederick existed because "Frederick considered Voltaire to be immensely clever and so did Voltaire."
  25. ^ Popkin, Richard; Brown, Stephen F.; Carr, David; Copenhaver, Brian P.; Flynn, Thomas R. (1999). The Columbia History of Western Philosophy. Columbia University Press. p. 465.  
  26. ^ The Scottish diarist Boswell recorded their conversations in 1764, which are published in Boswell and the Grand Tour.
  27. ^ "Benjamin Franklin ... urged Voltaire to become a freemason; and Voltaire agreed, perhaps only to please Franklin."Ridley, Jasper (2002). The Freemasons: A History of the World's Most Powerful Secret Society. p. 114.  
  28. ^ "I did not know that: Mason Facts". Archived January 12, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ "Voltaire on British Columbia Grand Lodge Site". 
  30. ^ Peter Gay, The Enlightenment – An Interpretation, Volume 2: The Science of Freedom, Wildwood House, London, 1973, pp. 88–89.
  31. ^ Bulston, Michael E (2007). Teach What You Believe. Paulist Press. p. 105.  
  32. ^ Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 5th ed, 1954; "Cornu" article
  33. ^ "Voltaire and Rousseau, Their Tombs in the Pantheon Opened and Their Bones Exposed", New York Times, 8 January 1898
  34. ^ Sakmann, Paul (1971). "The Problems of Historical Method and of Philosophy of History in Voltaire". History and Theory 11 (4): 24–59.  
  35. ^ Gay, Peter (1988) Voltaire's Politics
  36. ^ Gay, Peter (1957). "Carl Becker's Heavenly City". Political Science Quarterly 72: 182–99.  
  37. ^ Palmer, R.R.; Colton, Joel (1950). A History of the Modern World. McGraw-Hill, Inc.  
  38. ^ Boller, Jr., Paul F.; George, John (1989). They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions. New York: Oxford University Press.  
  39. ^ Charles Wirz, archivist at the Voltaire Institute and Museum in Geneva, recalled in 1994, that Hall 'wrongly' placed this quotation between speech marks in two of her works about Voltaire, recognising expressly the quotation in question was not one, in a letter of 9 May 1939, which was published in 1943 in volume LVIII under the title "Voltaire never said it" (pp. 534–5) of the review Modern language notes, Johns Hopkins Press, 1943, Baltimore. An extract from the letter: 'The phrase "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" which you have found in my book Voltaire in His Letters is my own expression and should not have been put in inverted commas. Please accept my apologies for having, quite unintentionally, misled you into thinking I was quoting a sentence used by Voltaire (or anyone else but myself).' The words "my own" were underlined personally by Hall in her letter. To believe certain commentators – Norbert Guterman, A Book of French Quotations, 1963 – Hall was referencing back to a Voltaire letter of 6 February 1770 to an abbot le Riche where Voltaire supposedly said, "Reverend, I hate what you write, but I will give my life so that you can continue to write." The problem is that, if you consult the letter itself, the sentence there does not appear, nor even the idea: "A M LE RICHE A AMIENS. 6 February. You left, Sir, des Welches for des Welches. You will find everywhere barbarians obstinate. The number of wise will always be small. It is true ... it has increased; but it is nothing in comparison with the stupid ones; and, by misfortune, one says that God is always for the big battalions. It is necessary that the decent people stick together and stay under cover. There are no means that their small troop could tackle the party of the fanatics in open country. I was very sick, I was near death every winter; this is the reason, Sir, why I have answered you so late. I am not less touched by it than your memory. Continue to me your friendship; it comforts me my evils and stupidities of the human genre. Receive my assurances, etc." Voltaire, however, did not hesitate to wish censure against slander and personal libels. Here is what he writes in his "Atheism" article in the Dictionnaire philosophique: "Aristophanes (this man that the commentators admire because he was Greek, not thinking that Socrates was Greek also), Aristophanes was the first who accustomed the Athenians to consider Socrates an atheist. ... The tanners, the shoemakers and the dressmakers of Athens applauded a joke in which one represented Socrates raised in the air in a basket, announcing there was God, and praising himself to have stolen a coat by teaching philosophy. A whole people, whose bad government authorized such infamous licences, deserved well what it got, to become the slave of the Romans, and today of the Turks."
  40. ^ Brumfitt, J. H. (1965). "The Present State of Voltaire Studies". Forum for Modern Language Studies (Court of the University of St Andrews) I (3): 230.  
  41. ^ Will and Ariel Durant, Rousseau and Revolution (1967), p. 138
  42. ^ "Voltaire". 25 June 2009. Retrieved 3 August 2009. 
  43. ^ Voltaire. W. Dugdale, A Philosophical Dictionary ver 2, 1843, p. 473 sec 1. Retrieved 31 October 2007.
  44. ^  
  45. ^ "Visiting The Royal Society of Edinburgh ...".  
  46. ^ R. E. Florida Voltaire and the Socinians 1974 "Voltaire from his very first writings on the subject of religion showed a libertine scorn of scripture, which he never lost. This set him apart from Socinianism even though he admired the simplicity of Socinian theology as well as their ...".
  47. ^ Keffe, Simon P. (2003). The Cambridge Companion to Mozart. Cambridge University Press.  
  48. ^ Voltaire, Le Fanatisme ou Mahomet le prophète (1741), Œuvres complètes. Garnier, 1875, Vol.4, p135.
  49. ^ Mahomet le fanatique, le cruel, le fourbe, et, à la honte des hommes, le grand, qui de garçon marchand devient prophète, législateur et monarque, (Mohammed the fanatic, the cruel, the deceiver, and to mens' shame, the great, who from a grocer's boy became a prophet, a legislator and a monarch). Recueil des Lettres de Voltaire (1739–1741), Voltaire, Sanson et Compagnie, 1792, Lettre à M. De Cideville, conseiller honoraire du parlement (5 mai 1740), p.163.
  50. ^ Voltaire in His Letters: Being a Selection from His Correspondence. p. 74.  translated and edited by Evelyn Beatrice Hall
  51. ^ Gunny, Ahmad (1996). Images of Islam in 18th Century Writings. He expanded on this idea in his letter to César de Missy (Ist September 1742) where he described Mahomet as a deceitful character. 
  52. ^ Voltaire, Lettres inédites de Voltaire, Didier, 1856, Vol 1, Letter to César De Missy, 1 September 1743, p.450.
  53. ^ Pomeau. Voltaire en son temps.
  54. ^ Written and published in 1748 in Volume IV of the Œuvres de Voltaire, following his Tragedy of Mahomet. The article is included in an enlarged posthumous edition of the Dictionnaire philosophique but not in the original version, which only has 118 articles, appearing during Voltaire's lifetime and in his last, 1769, version. See Dictionnaire philosophique, Raymond Naves et Olivier Ferret, Garnier, 2008:
    • C'était un sublime et hardi charlatan que ce Mahomet, fils d'Abdalla.
    • Le Koran est une rapsodie sans liaison, sans ordre, sans art ; on dit pourtant que ce livre ennuyeux est un fort beau livre ; je m'en rapporte aux Arabes, qui prétendent qu'il est écrit avec une élégance et une pureté dont personne n'a approché depuis. C'est un poème, ou une espèce de prose rimée, qui contient six mille vers. Il n'y a point de poète dont la personne et l'ouvrage aient fait une telle fortune. On agita chez les musulmans si l'Alcoran était éternel, ou si Dieu l'avait créé pour le dicter à Mahomet. Les docteurs décidèrent qu'il était éternel ; ils avaient raison, cette éternité est bien plus belle que l'autre opinion. Il faut toujours avec le vulgaire prendre le parti le plus incroyable.
    • On l'excuse sur la fourberie, parce que, dit-on, les Arabes comptaient avant lui cent vingt-quatre mille prophètes, et qu'il n'y avait pas grand mal qu'il en parût un de plus. Les hommes, ajoute-t-on, ont besoin d'être trompés. Mais comment justifier un homme qui vous dit « Crois que j'ai parlé à l'ange Gabriel, ou paye-moi un tribut ? »
    • Combien est préférable un Confucius, le premier des mortels qui n'ont point eu de révélation ; il n'emploie que la raison, et non le mensonge et l'épée. Vice-roi d'une grande province, il y fait fleurir la morale et les lois : disgracié et pauvre, il les enseigne il les pratique dans la grandeur et dans l'abaissement ; il rend la vertu aimable ; il a pour disciple le plus ancien et le plus sage des peuples.
    • Le comte de Boulainvilliers, qui avait du goût pour Mahomet, a beau me vanter les Arabes, il ne peut empêcher que ce ne fût un peuple de brigands ; ils volaient avant Mahomet en adorant les étoiles ; ils volaient sous Mahomet au nom de Dieu. Ils avaient, dit-on, la simplicité des temps héroïques ; mais qu'est-ce que les siècles héroïques ? c'était le temps où l'on s'égorgeait pour un puits et pour une citerne, comme on fait aujourd'hui pour une province.
  55. ^ Les moines qui se sont déchaînés contre Mahomet, et qui ont dit tant de sottises sur son compte, ont prétendu qu'il ne savait pas écrire. Mais comment imaginer qu'un homme qui avait été négociant, poète, législateur et souverain, ne sût pas signer son nom? Si son livre est mauvais pour notre temps et pour nous, il était fort bon pour ses contemporains, et sa religion encore meilleure. Il faut avouer qu'il retira presque toute l'Asie de l'idolâtrie. Il enseigna l'unité de Dieu ; il déclamait avec force contre ceux qui lui donnent des associés. Chez lui l'usure avec les étrangers est défendue, l'aumône ordonnée. La prière est d'une nécessité absolue ; la résignation aux décrets éternels est le grand mobile de tout. Il était bien difficile qu'une religion si simple et si sage, enseignée par un homme toujours victorieux, ne subjuguât pas une partie de la terre. En effet les musulmans ont fait autant de prosélytes par la parole que par l'épée. Ils ont converti à leur religion les Indiens et jusqu'aux nègres. Les Turcs même leurs vainqueurs se sont soumis à l'islamisme., Voltaire, 1748, Ibid.
  56. ^ Fareed Ali Haddawy, Hussain (1962). English Arabesque: The Oriental Mode in Eighteenth-century English Literature. Cornell University. 
  57. ^ Ormsby, F.E. (1899). Planets and People, Volume 5, Issue 1. p. 184. 
  58. ^ Smollett, Tobias; Morley, John (1901). The Works of Voltaire: A philosophical dictionary. p. 101. 
  59. ^ a b c d Pomeau, René (1995) La religion de Voltaire. A.G Nizet. ISBN 2707803316. p. 157.
  60. ^ Smollett, Tobias; Morley, John (1901). The Works of Voltaire: A philosophical dictionary. pp. 102–104. 
  61. ^ "The Atheist's Bible", page 198, by Georges Minois, 2012
  62. ^ Je sais que Mahomet n'a pas tramé précisément l'espèce de trahison qui fait le sujet de cette tragédie ... Je n'ai pas prétendu mettre seulement une action vraie sur la scène, mais des mœurs vraies, faire penser les hommes comme ils pensent dans les circonstances où ils se trouvent, et représenter enfin ce que la fourberie peut inventer de plus atroce, et ce que le Fanatisme peut exécuter de plus horrible. Mahomet n'est ici autre chose que Tartuffe les armes à la main. Je me croirai bien récompensé de mon travail, si quelqu'une de ces âmes faibles, toujours prêtes à recevoir les impressions d'une fureur étrangère qui n'est pas au fond de leur cœur, peut s'affermir contre ces funestes séductions par la lecture de cet ouvrage., Voltaire, Letter to Frederick II, King of Prussia, 20 January 1742.
  63. ^ Il n'appartenait assurément qu'aux musulmans de se plaindre ; car j'ai fait Mahomet un peu plus méchant qu'il n'était, Lettre à Mme Denis, 29 October 1751, Lettres choisies de Voltaire, Libraires associés, 1792, Vol. 2, p.113.
  64. ^ Smollett, Tobias; Morley, John (1905). The Works of Voltaire: A philosophical dictionary. p. 105. 
  65. ^ Pomeau, René (1995) La religion de Voltaire. A.G Nizet. ISBN 2707803316. pp. 156–157.
  66. ^ Voltaire, Essais sur les Mœurs, 1756, Chap.VI. — De l'Arabie et de Mahomet.
  67. ^ Voltaire, Essais sur les Mœurs, 1756, Chap.VII. — De l'Alcoran, et de la loi musulmane. Examen si la religion musulmane était nouvelle, et si elle a été persécutante.
  68. ^ Shah Kazemi, Reza. The Spirit of Tolerance in Islam. pp. 5–6. Voltaire also 'pointed out that no Christian state allowed the presence of a mosque; but that the Ottoman state was filled with Churches.' 
  69. ^ a b The history of Charles xii. king of Sweden [tr. and abridged by A. Henderson from the work by F.M.A. de Voltaire]. 1734. p. 112. 
  70. ^ Avez-vous oublié que ce poète était astronome, et qu'il réforma le calendrier des Arabes ?,Lettre civile et honnête à l'auteur malhonnête de la "Critique de l'histoire universelle de M. de Voltaire" (1760), dans Œuvres complètes de Voltaire, Voltaire. Moland, 1875, Vol. 24, p.164.
  71. ^ A Philosophical Dictionary, Volume 1. p. 76. 
  72. ^ Ce fut certainement un très grand homme, et qui forma de grands hommes. Il fallait qu'il fût martyr ou conquérant, il n'y avait pas de milieu. Il vainquit toujours, et toutes ses victoires furent remportées par le petit nombre sur le grand. Conquérant, législateur, monarque et pontife, il joua le plus grand rôle qu'on puisse jouer sur la terre aux yeux du commun des hommes ; mais les sages lui préféreront toujours Confutzée, précisément parce qu'il ne fut rien de tout cela, et qu'il se contenta d'enseigner la morale la plus pure à une nation plus ancienne, plus nombreuse, et plus policée que la nation arabe., Remarques pour servir de supplément à l'Essai sur les Mœurs (1763), dans Œuvres complètes de Voltaire, Voltaire. Moland, 1875, Vol. 24, chap.9 -De Mahomet, p.590.
  73. ^ J'ai dit qu'on reconnut Mahomet pour un grand homme ; rien n'est plus impie, dites-vous. Je vous répondrai que ce n'est pas ma faute si ce petit homme a changé la face d'une partie du monde, s'il a gagné des batailles contre des armées dix fois plus nombreuses que les siennes, s'il a fait trembler l'Empire romain, s'il a donné les premiers coups à ce colosse que ses successeurs ont écrasé, et s'il a été législateur de l'Asie, de l'Afrique, et d'une partie de l'Europe., « Lettre civile et honnête à l'auteur malhonnête de la Critique de l'histoire universelle . Voltaire (1760), in Œuvres complètes de Voltaire, Voltaire. Moland, 1875, Vol. 24, p.164.
  74. ^ Gunny, Ahmad (1996). Images of Islam in 18th Century Writings. p. 142. 
  75. ^ Allen Harvey, David. The French Enlightenment and Its Others: The Mandarin, the Savage, and the Invention of the Human Sciences. 
  76. ^ « Essai sur les Mœurs et l'Esprit des Nations » (1756), dans Œuvres complètes de Voltaire, Voltaire. Moland, 1875, Vol.11, chap. VII-De l'Alcoran, et de la loi musulmane, p.244.
  77. ^ « Théiste », dans Dictionnaire philosophique,
  78. ^ De l'Alcoran et de Mahomet, page 340.
  79. ^ Sadek Neaimi, L'Islam au siècle des Lumières, Harmattan, 2003, p.248.
  80. ^ "The Prophet Muhammad in French and English literature, 1650 to the present", ahmad gunny, 157
  81. ^ « Imposteur ou législateur ? Le Mahomet des Lumières », in Religions en transition dans la seconde moitié du dix-huitième siècle, Voltaire Foundation, 2000, p.251 ISBN 978-0-7294-0711-3.
  82. ^ Dirk van der Cruysse, « De Bayle à Raynal, le prophète Muhammad à travers le prisme des Lumières », in De branche en branche : études sur le XVIIe et XVIIIes français, Peeters Publishers, 2005, p.125.
  83. ^ Il est évident que le génie du peuple arabe, mis en mouvement par Mahomet, fit tout de lui-même pendant près de trois siècles, et ressembla en cela au génie des anciens Romains., « Essais sur les Mœurs » (1756), dans Œuvres complètes de Voltaire, Voltaire, éd. Moland, 1875, t. 11, chap. VI-De l'Arabie et de Mahomet, p. 237. et écrit que « dans nos siècles de barbarie et d'ignorance, qui suivirent la décadence et le déchirement de l'Empire romain, nous reçûmes presque tout des Arabes : astronomie, chimie, médecine Préface de l'Essai sur l'Histoire universelle » (1754), dans Œuvres complètes de Voltaire, Voltaire, éd. Moland, 1875, t. 24, p. 49. Si ces Ismaélites ressemblaient aux Juifs par l'enthousiasme et la soif du pillage, ils étaient prodigieusement supérieurs par le courage, par la grandeur d'âme, par la magnanimité., « Essai sur les Mœurs et l'Esprit des Nations » (1756), dans Œuvres complètes de Voltaire, Voltaire, éd. Moland, 1875, t. 11, chap. VI-De l'Arabie et de Mahomet, p. 231. et que « dès le second siècle de Mahomet, il fallut que les chrétiens d'Occident s'instruisissent chez les musulmans » Essais sur les Mœurs » (1756), dans Œuvres complètes de Voltaire, Voltaire, éd. Moland, 1875, t. 11, chap. VI-De l'Arabie et de Mahomet, p. 237.
  84. ^ The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Retirement Series: Volume 7: 28 November 1813 to 30 September 1814: Volume 7: 28 November 1813 to 30 September 1814. Princeton University Press. p. 27. edited by J. Jefferson Looney
  85. ^ Les chrétiens n'avaient regardé jusqu'à présent le fameux Mahomet que comme un heureux brigand, un imposteur habile, un législateur presque toujours extravagant. Quelques Savants de ce siècle, sur la foi des rapsodies arabesques, ont entrepris de le venger de l'injustice que lui font nos écrivains. Ils nous le donnent comme un génie sublime, et comme un homme des plus admirables, par la grandeur de ses entreprises, de ses vue, de ses succès, Claude-Adrien Nonnotte
  86. ^ Les erreurs de Voltaire, Jacquenod père et Rusand, 1770, Vol I, p.70.
  87. ^ M. de Voltaire nous assure qu'il [Mahomet] avait une éloquence vive et forte, des yeux perçants, une physionomie heureuse, l'intrépidité d'Alexandre, la libéralité et la sobriété dont Alexandre aurait eu besoin pour être un grand homme en tout ... Il nous représente Mahomet comme un homme qui a eu la gloire de tirer presque toute l'Asie des ténèbres de l'idolâtrie. Il extrait quelques paroles de divers endroits de l'Alcoran, dont il admire le Sublime. Il trouve que sa loi est extrêmement sage, que ses lois civiles sont bonnes et que son dogme est admirable en ce qu'il se conforme avec le nôtre. Enfin pour prémunir les lecteurs contre tout ce que les Chrétiens ont dit méchamment de Mahomet, il avertit que ce ne sont guère que des sottises débitées par des moines ignorants et insensés., Nonnotte, p. 71.
  88. ^ Gunny, Ahmad (1996). Images of Islam in 18th Century Writings. However, Islam still remains a false religion in Voltaire's eyes— he claims that the Quran betrays ignorance of the most elementary laws of physics. 
  89. ^ "Oeuvres completes de Voltaire : Voltaire : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive". 2001-03-10. Retrieved 2014-06-06. 
  90. ^ The Works of Voltaire: The dramatic works of Voltaire. St. Hubert Guild. 1901. p. 12. 
  91. ^ Voltaire, Letter to Benedict XIV written in Paris on 17 August 1745: Your holiness will pardon the liberty taken by one of the lowest of the faithful, though a zealous admirer of virtue, of submitting to the head of the true religion this performance, written in opposition to the founder of a false and barbarous sect. To whom could I with more propriety inscribe a satire on the cruelty and errors of a false prophet, than to the vicar and representative of a God of truth and mercy? Your holiness will therefore give me leave to lay at your feet both the piece and the author of it, and humbly to request your protection of the one, and your benediction upon the other; in hopes of which, with the profoundest reverence, I kiss your sacred feet.
  92. ^ Berman, Nina (2011). German Literature on the Middle East: Discourses and Practices, 1000–1989. University of Michigan Press. p. 118. 
  93. ^ The Concept of Human Dignity in the French and American Enlightenments: Religion, Virtue, Liberty. 2006. p. 280. Voltaire goes on to accuse other religions such as Islam for their own intolerance (359). Voltaire, then, seems to consider Christianity as one of many intolerant and absurd religions. 
  94. ^ Voltaire's Fanaticism, or Mahomet the Prophet: A New Translation Preface: Voltaire and Islam Malise Ruthven
  95. ^ The Erasure of Islam by Ziauddin Sardar, introduction by Gilad Atzmon
  96. ^ Elmarsafy, Ziad. "The Enlightenment Qur'an: The Politics of Translation and the Construction of Islam". Retrieved 27 June 2009. 
  97. ^ Mathilde Hilger, Stephanie (2009). Strategies of Response and the Dynamics of European Literary Culture, 1790–1805. Rodopi. p. 100. 
  98. ^ Oeuvres complètes de Voltaire, Volume 7. p. 184. 
  99. ^ Mathews, Chris (2009). Modern Satanism: Anatomy of a Radical Subculture. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 16. 
  100. ^ Coakley, Sarah (2012). Faith, Rationality and the Passions. p. 37. 
  101. ^ Cronk, Nicholas (2009). The Cambridge Companion to Voltaire. Cambridge University Press. p. 199. 
  102. ^ "Major World Religions: From Their Origins To The Present", by Lloyd Ridgeon, p. 29, ISBN 978-1-134-42934-9
  103. ^ "Lectures on the science of language, delivered at the Royal institution of Great Britain in 1861 [and 1863]", by Max Muller, p. 148, original from = Oxford University
  104. ^ The Modern Review, Volume 32, p. 183, by Ramananda Chatterjee, originally from = University of Michigan"
  105. ^ Pensées végétariennes, Voltaire, éditions Mille et une nuits.
  106. ^ Guardian (UK) newspaper, review of Bloodless Revolution, published by Harper-Collins
  107. ^ a b c Prager, D; Telushkin, J. Why the Jews?: The Reason for Antisemitism. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983. pp. 128–9.
  108. ^ Poliakov, L. The History of Anti-Semitism: From Voltaire to Wagner. Routledge & Kegan Paul, Ltd., 1975 (translated). pp. 88–89.
  109. ^ Voltaire, François-Marie. Essai sur les Moeurs.  See also: Voltaire, François-Marie. Dictionnaire Philosophique. 
  110. ^ Gay, P. The Party of Humanity: Essays in the French Enlightenment. Alfred Knopf, 1964. pp. 103–105.
  111. ^ (Schwarzbach, Bertram), "Voltaire et les juifs: bilan et plaidoyer", Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century (SVEC) 358, Oxford
  112. ^ Hertzberg, A. The French Enlightenment and the Jews. Columbia University, 1968. p. 284.
  113. ^ Voltaire (1763) A Treatise on Toleration
  114. ^ Sala-Molins, Louis (2006) Dark side of the light: slavery and the French Enlightenment. Univ Of Minnesota Press. ISBN 081664389X. p. 102
  115. ^ de Viguerie, Jean (July 1993). "Les 'Lumieres' et les peuples". Revue Historique 290 (1): 161–189. 
  116. ^ Cohen, William B. (2003) The French encounter with Africans: white response to Blacks, 1530–1880. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-21650-8. p. 86
  117. ^ Davis, David Brion, The problem of slavery in Western culture (New York: Oxford University Press 1988) ISBN 0-19-505639-6 p. 392
  118. ^ A letter attributed to Voltaire, praising the slave trade, has been challenged as a possible forgery. Seeber, Edward Derbyshire (1971) Anti-slavery opinion in France during the second half of the eighteenth century. New York: Lenox Hill Publishers. p. 65
  119. ^ "Democracy". The Philosophical Dictionary. Knopf. 1924. Retrieved 1 July 2008. 
  120. ^ "Letter on the subject of Candide, to the Journal encyclopédique July 15, 1759".  
  121. ^ a b Liu, Wu-Chi (1953). "The Original Orphan of China". Comparative Literature 5 (3): 206–207.  
  122. ^ Gay, Peter Voltaire's Politics: The Poet as Realist (New Haven:Yale University 1988), p. 265: "If the heavens, despoiled of his august stamp could ever cease to manifest him, if God didn't exist, it would be necessary to invent him. Let the wise proclaim him, and kings fear him."
  123. ^ "Beacon Lights of History", p. 207, by Jon Lord, publisher = Cosimo, Inc, 2009. - German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, however, called Carlyle a muddlehead who had not even understood the Enlightenment values he thought he was promoting. See - Nietzsche and Legal Theory: Half-Written Laws, by Peter Goodrich, Mariana Valverde, published by Routledge, p. 5
  124. ^ Schmadel, Lutz D.; International Astronomical Union (2003). Dictionary of minor planet names. Springer. p. 481.  
  125. ^ Koerner, Brendan. "Brain Brew". Washington The Washington Monthly. Retrieved 30 April 2014. 
  126. ^ Cowell, Siôn (2001). The Teilhard Lexicon: Understanding the language, terminology, and vision of the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Brighton: Sussex Academic Press. p. 6.  
  127. ^ Kurian, George Thomas (2010). The Encyclopedia of Christian Literature. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. p. 591.  
  128. ^ Dates of the first performance, unless otherwise noted. Garreau, Joseph E. (1984). "Voltaire", vol. 5, pp. 113–117, in McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World Drama, Stanley Hochman, editor in chief. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 9780070791695.
  129. ^ This is an adaptation of the famous Chinese play The Orphan of Zhao, based on historical events in the Spring and Autumn period.
  130. ^ " - is for Sale". Voltaire-Integral. Retrieved 2014-06-06. 

Further reading

  • App, Urs. The Birth of Orientalism. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010 (hardcover, ISBN 978-0-8122-4261-4); contains a 60-page chapter (pp. 15–76) on Voltaire as a pioneer of Indomania and his use of fake Indian texts in anti-Christian propaganda.
  • Besterman, Theodore, Voltaire, (1969).
  • Brumfitt, J. H. Voltaire: Historian (1958) online edition
  • Davidson, Ian, Voltaire. A Life, London, Profile Books, 2010. ISBN 978-1-60598-287-8
  • Durant, Will, The Story of Civilization. Vol. IX: The Age of Voltaire. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1965.
  • Gay, Peter, Voltaire's Politics, The Poet as Realist, Yale University, 1988.
  • Hadidi, Djavâd, Voltaire et l'Islam, Publications Orientalistes de France, 1974. ISBN 978-2-84161-510-0
  • Knapp, Bettina L. Voltaire Revisited (2000)
  • Mason, Haydn, Voltaire, A Biography (1981) ISBN 978-0-8018-2611-5
  • Muller, Jerry Z., 2002. The Mind and the Market: Capitalism in Western Thought. Anchor Books. 978-0385721660
  • Pearson, Roger, 2005. Voltaire Almighty: a life in pursuit of freedom. Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-1-58234-630-4. pp. 447
  • Quinones, Ricardo J. Erasmus and Voltaire: Why They Still Matter (University of Toronto Press; 2010) 240 pages; Draws parallels between the two thinkers as voices of moderation with relevance today.
  • Schwarzbach, Bertram Eugene, Voltaire's Old Testament Criticism, Librairie Droz, Geneva, 1971.
  • Torrey, Norman L., The Spirit of Voltaire, Columbia University Press, 1938.
  • Vernon, Thomas S. (1989). "Chapter V: Voltaire". Great Infidels. M & M Pr.  
  • Wade, Ira O. (1967). Studies on Voltaire. New York: Russell & Russell. 
  • Wright, Charles Henry Conrad, A History of French Literature, Oxford University Press, 1912.
  • "The Cambridge Companion to Voltaire", ed by Nicholas Cronk, 2009.

In French

  • René Pomeau, La Religion de Voltaire, Librairie Nizet, Paris, 1974.
  • Valérie Crugten-André, La vie de Voltaire [2]

Primary sources

  • Morley, J., The Works of Voltaire, A Contemporary Version, (21 vol 1901), online edition

External links

  • Encyclopédie, ARTFL Project, University of Chicago
  • Château de Cirey – Residence of Voltaire,
  • Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil Marquise du Châtelet, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St Andrews, Scotland
  • Hewett, Caspar J. M. (August 2006). "The Great Debate: Life of Voltaire.". Retrieved 2 November 2008. 
  • The Société Voltaire
  • An analysis of Voltaire's texts (in the "textes" topic) (French)
  • Complete French ebooks of Voltaire (French)
  • Biography and quotes of Voltaire
  • Full Ebooks of Voltaire in French on the website "La philosophie"
  • Institut et Musée Voltaire, Geneva, Switzerland
  • (French) Works by Voltaire edited at
  • Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy on Voltaire
  • Monsieur de Voltaire Correspondence in French
  • The Life of Voltaire Essay by Caspar J M Hewett
  • site with images
  • Voltaire Foundation, Oxford, United Kingdom
  • Voltaire on the 10 French Franc banknote.
  • Voltaire's Candide and Leibniz
  • Voltaire's works: works: text, concordances and frequency list
  • Voltaire's writings from Philosophical Dictionary. Selected and Translated by H.I. Woolf, 1924
  • Worldly and Personal Influences on Voltaire's Writing
  • Works by Voltaire at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about Voltaire at Internet Archive
  • Works by or about Voltaire in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
  • Works by Voltaire at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
  • Works by Voltaire at ManyBooks
  • Voltaire's works and chronology
  • About Voltaire in "Lucidcafé"
  • Online Library of Liberty – The Works of Voltaire (1901). Some volumes, including mostly the unabridged Dictionnaire philosophique, translated by William F. Fleming
  • (French) Voltaire, his work in audio version
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