Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Notes For February 11th, 2014


This Day In Writing History

On February 11th, 1778, the legendary French writer and philosopher Voltaire made a triumphant return home to Paris after a 28-year exile.

Voltaire (the pseudonym of Francois-Marie Arouet) was born to a middle class family. As a young man, he entered law school, but quit to become a writer. He began his writing career as a playwright, but he also wrote poetry.

His poetry and prose works were of a polemic nature, and he possessed a rapacious wit. In 1717, the publication of his epic poem La Henriade, a satirical attack on the French monarchy and the Catholic Church, caused an uproar.

Voltaire was arrested and jailed in the Bastille, where he would serve a nearly one year sentence. Imprisonment failed to temper his poison pen, and by 1726, he found himself in trouble again.

Outraged by Voltaire's retort to his insult, the Chevalier de Rohan, a young aristocrat, obtained a royal lettre de cachet from King Louis XV - a warrant for Voltaire's arrest and imprisonment without trial.

To avoid serving more time at the Bastille, Voltaire fled to England. He returned to Paris almost three years later. Still defiant, he continued to write and publish polemical essays, poetry, and prose.

His essay collection Philosophical Letters on the English, praised the constitutional monarchy of England for its respect for human rights and condemned the French monarchy for its violations of them.

This collection marked the beginning of an escalating outrage over Voltaire's writings. He would flee arrest again, then return. Eventually, King Louis XV banned him entirely from France, thus beginning his life in exile.

Voltaire moved first to Berlin, then settled in Switzerland, where he wrote his classic novel Candide and lived for nearly thirty years.

When he finally returned to Paris in February of 1778, he was met with a hero's welcome. Around three hundred people came to visit him. He died three months later at the age of 83.


Quote Of The Day

"An ideal form of government is democracy tempered with assassination." - Voltaire


Vanguard Video

Today's video features a reading from Voltaire's classic novella, Candide. Enjoy!

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