Francois Marie Arouet (1694-1776), pen name Voltaire, was born in Paris in 1694. Voltaire’s style, wit, intelligence and sense of justice made him one of France’s greatest writers and philosophers.
He received an excellent education at the Jesuit college but left school at 16 and soon formed friendships with a group of Parisian aristocrats. Paris society sought his company for his cleverness, humor and remarkable ability to write verse. In 1717 he was arrested for writing a series of satirical verses ridiculing the French government, and was imprisoned in the Bastille.
In 1726, Voltaire insulted a powerful a nobleman and was exiled to England. While in England Voltaire was attracted to the philosophy of John Locke and ideas of the great scientist Sir Isaac Newton. He studied England’s Constitutional Monarchy, its religious tolerance, its philosophical rationalism and most important the “natural sciences.” After his return to Paris he wrote a book praising English customs and institutions but the book criticized the French government and Voltaire was forced to flee Paris again.
Voltaire remained an outspoken critic of religious intolerance, slavery and persecution until he returned to a hero’s welcome in Paris at age 83, where he remained until his death in 1776.
“Work spares us from three evils: boredom, vice and need.”
“True greatness consists in the use of a powerful understanding to enlighten oneself and others.”
“I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”
“I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short on: ‘O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.’ And God granted it.”
“The biggest reward for a thing well done is to have done it.”
“Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.”
“The road to the heart is the ear.”
“All men are equal; it is not birth, but virtue alone, that makes the difference.”
“Common sense is not so common.”
“The true character of liberty is independence, maintained by force.”
“In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as
possible from one class of citizens to give to another.”
“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.”
“Superstition is to religion what astrology is to astronomy; the mad daughter of a wise mother.”