This Day In Literary History
On February 11th, 1778, the legendary French writer and philosopher Voltaire made a triumphant return 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 literary career as a playwright.
He also wrote poetry and prose; these works were of a polemic nature, and he possessed a rapacious wit. In 1717, he published his classic epic poem La Henriade, a satirical attack on the French monarchy and the Church.
The poem resulted in Voltaire's arrest. He was jailed in the Bastille for almost a year. Imprisonment failed to temper his poison pen, and by 1726, he found himself in trouble again.
Outraged by Voltaire's retort to his insult, 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. 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.
Its publication 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.
He moved first to Berlin, then settled in Switzerland, where he wrote his classic comic novel Candide and lived for 28 years.
When Voltaire 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
Today's video features a complete reading of The Philosophy of Voltaire, an essay by the famous writer, philosopher, and historian Will Durant. Enjoy!