Voltaire was one of the most prolific writers and scholars who belonged to the enlightenment period. He was one of those few scholars who challenged and criticised the autocracy existing in the then France and thus, is highly revered and acknowledged, even after so many years.
Voltaire was born as Francois-Marie Arouet in 1694 in France. He received education at the College Louis-le-Grand in Paris from 1704 where he started showing potential as a writer. He was a quick learner as he easily picked up Latin and Greek language. Later he became well versed in English, Spanish and Italian language.
His father wanted him to become a lawyer, but Voltaire was inclined to become a writer. In Paris, while pretending to his father that he was working as a lawyer, he started his career with writing satirical poetry.
His flair in writing soon gave him the much-needed attention among the high-class aristocrats and within no time, he became a part and parcel of France’s social circles. But he was sore to the eye of the French authorities since Voltaire was vocal about the anarchic rule of his time and wanted a new beginning and a new regime to take over. He also criticised the Catholic dogma and wished for a religious reformation in the country.
He strongly supported religious and social freedom and also supported economic liberty through free trade. Though censorship and severe punishment prevailed during that period, yet he was never scared to speak his mind. As a result, his work and speech inspired millions of people who were a part of the French and American Revolution.
Voltaire’s approach was straightforward compared to other writers and unlike his contemporary writers like Montesquieu or Rousseau; he stayed away from the path of metaphysical speculations and used real world examples. He aimed to inform and entertain his readers, and at the same time he provoked the mind of his followers against the misrule and corruption of his time. He talked heavily on individual liberty and constantly criticised the petrified common men through satire.
He considered the Bible as an outdated set of ideas. He stated that it was not at all written by God, but was purely a human creation preserving self-interest at the cost of the others. This infuriated the Catholic Church. To him, absolute faith is a utopian concept which has no real world basis. He wanted each and every individual to follow what is morally correct and perfect.
Glimpse of his writings:
Voltaire penned some notable writings of that decade like The Age Of Louis XIV, Micromegas and Plato’s Dream. The last two are philosophical short stories. His novel Candide is famous for its satirical approach. His works also include tragedy Oedipus which was followed by other dramas like Mariamme and Zaire. He died two months after his play Irene was staged.
Even when he died he was at his eloquent best. He said that he was dying revering God, loving his friends and at the same time loving his enemies but criticising superstitions. This is the reason Voltaire is still considered as an iconic personality.