Voltaire the Freethinker, Episode 84

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When Voltaire the Freethinker died on May 30th 1778 in Paris at age 83, he was at the height of his popularity with most people, yet the Catholic Church denied him a proper burial. By 1778 he had produced work of every genre: plays, poems, essays, satire, novels, history, and even scientific observations. He was prolific, more than 20,000 letters as well as 2,000 books and pamphlets are credited to him.

Voltaire the Freethinker was popular with the people, so 3 years after his death, after the French Revolution too, his body was moved to the Pantheon where his epitaph reads: "Il combattit les athées et les fanatiques. Il inspira la tolérance, il réclama les droits de l'homme contre la servitude de la féodalité. Poète, historien, philosophe, il agrandit l'esprit humain, et lui apprit à être libre." In English it means:

He fought against atheists and fanatics. He inspired tolerance. He promoted human rights against the servitude of feudalism. He was a poet, historian and philosopher. He broadened human mind and taught them how to be free.

French Tip of the Week

Here's a fun French phrase for you: Je suis une pipelette = I am a chatterbox.

Episode Highlights

  • Voltaire the freethinker was Born François-Marie Arouet in Paris on November 21, 1694
  • Voltaire was educated at a High School that still exists today: Louis-le-Grand
  • He joins the "Société du Temple" which espouses freethinking and libertine ideals
  • His mother was progressive but his father was very conservative
  • Imprisonments at the Bastille
  • Voltaire, a prolific author
  • Exile to England, major works
  • Calling for social reform
  • Working against a corrupt Judicial system
  • Censorship in France
  • Voltaire didn't get rich from books
  • Cirey-sur-Blaise
  • Voltaire's popularity
  • Summary of the Jean Calas scandal in Toulouse
  • The Lisbon earthquake and how it affected Voltaire
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Discussed in this Episode

  • Notable French people
  • Cirey-sur-Blaise

statue of Voltaire at the Hermitage in Saint Petersbourg, Russia

Category

French Culture

Love him or hate him (French people in his day loved him), Voltaire made a huge impact on French history and culture. But what did he stand for exactly?

One Reply to “Voltaire the Freethinker, Episode 84”

  1. Very interesting – thanks! I read Candide for the first time a few months ago and I found it modern, relevant and thought provoking.

    -Matt

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