Real name François Marie Arouet. French dude, 21 November 1694 30 May 1778. Satirical philosopher. He is best known for his witty defense of civil liberties, freedom of religion, and free trade (he had staunch liberal views on economic issues). His views earned him one year in the Bastille at the time of the Régence, where he gained his penname. He would later make a huge fortune in military furnitures and gain great influence in the French and Prussian royal courts under kings Louis XV and Frederick II the Great. He would go on to inspire multiple philosophers and satirical authors, especially amongst those who supported his views. His writings also inspired both the French and American revolutions. He was also an historian and a scientist who published multiple essays. Prolific, as he published more than 20,000 letters and 2,000 books and pamphlets. The name Voltaire comes from ''Arouet le jeune'' ("Arouet the Young"), converted to Latin script where U=V and J=I; AROVET L I -> VOLTAIRE. He is eminently quotable, and mis-quotable. His favourite target was Jean-Jacques Rousseau.note
Probably shouldn't be confused with the musician.
Stuff by Voltaire:
- Letters on the English, 1733, revised 1778
- Zadig, 1747
- Micromégas, 1752
- Candide, 1759,
- Treatise on Tolerance, 1763
- Ce qui plaît aux dames, 1764
- Philosophical Dictionary, 1764
- The Ingenue, 1767
- La Princesse De Babylone, 1768
This author's works provide examples of:
- An Aesop: In every single of his philosophical tales.
- Alien Invasion: Micromégas may be the Ur-Example. Or, better, a First Contact.
- Badass Bookworm: Candide and many other characters.
- Circassian Beauty: Letters on the English may have first helped popularize the trope in western Europe. In his eleventh letter, Voltaire primarily discusses Circassian inoculation practices against smallpox, but also takes a paragraph to extol the beauty, virtue, and sexual talents of their maidens.
- Crapsack World: In Candide, everywhere except Eldorado. In L'Ingénu, everywhere except in the main character's tribe.
- Comes Great Responsibility: The Trope Namer, hundreds of years before Stan Lee wrote the same line in Amazing Fantasy 15.
- Deity of Human Origin: Used to provide the page quote.
- Double Standard: His beliefs on Judaism are very much this. He believed that Christians should be tolerant of other peoples and religions, but Voltaire himself hated Jews and once wrote that all of them should be punished. Ouch.
- He explicitly vowed to destroy Christianity (either Catholicism and Protestantism) in some of his correspondances with Jean le Rond D'Alembert, one of the authors of L'Encyclopédie, because he thought they were continuations of Judaism. On the other hand, he was a firm deist who also opposed atheism, hence the page quote.
- Likewise, while many people invoke Voltaire as a free-speech icon in the 21st century, Voltaire himself could be censorious, such as publishing libel tracts against authors he disagreed with and persecuting Jean-Jacques Rousseau by making many false accusations to discredit him.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Candide.
- Famous Last Words: When the priest who gave him his last rites tried to make him renounce Satan (as his hatred for Christianity was well known). Voltaire's reply ?"Allons, mon bon monsieur, ce n'est point le moment de nous faire des ennemis." ("Now, my good sir, now is not the time to make enemies.")
- Foreign Culture Fetish: He had a bit of a thing for England/Britain, particularly its political institutions. He was a bit more ambivalent about their tragedies (he didn't really "get" William Shakespeare, although to be frank there wasn't a good French translation of the Bard at that time), but he loved the English comedies and Britain's tradition of satire. As he notes in his "Letters on England":''The English have reaped very great benefit from the writers of our nation, and therefore (since they have not scrupled to be in our debt) we ought to borrow from them. Both the English and [The French] came after the Italians, who have been our instructors in all the arts, and whom we have surpassed in some. I cannot determine which of the three nations ought to be honored with the palm; but happy the writer who could display their various merits.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: In Candide, "the sage Doctor Pangloss giv[es] a lecture in experimental philosophy to her mother's chambermaid". "[S]he perfectly well understood the force of the doctor's reasoning upon causes and effects".
- Hypocritical Humor: Once responded to debaters who use style over substance by saying "A witty saying proves nothing," but this is itself a witty saying.
- Punny Name: Loads of them, particularly in Candide starting with Candide himself ("candid", due to him starting out as a quite honest wide eyed idealist) to his mentor Pangloss ("all tongue" in Greek) and lastly Pococurante ("caring little" in Italian).
- Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: Enlightenment, despite the cynicism.
- Run for the Border: His writing was not always appreciated.
- Skilled, but Naïve: Candide and l'Ingénu both have names which mean "naive". Indeed, they are skilled in many ways, especially books, but very ignorant towards the reality of their world.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Rather cynical, but with some idealist hints.
- Take That!: "I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: Oh Lord, make my enemies ridiculous. And God granted it."
- You Have Failed Me: Candide, witnessing the execution of John Byng, a British admiral executed for losing a battle, is told that "in this country, it is good to kill an admiral from time to time, in order to encourage the others".