Voltarie


French philosopher, historian, dramatist and man of letters, whose real name was Francois Marie Arouet simply, was born on the 1st of November 1694 at Paris, and was baptized the next day. His father was Francois Arouet, a notary; his mother was Marie Marguerite Daumart or D\'Aumard. Both father and mother were of Poitevin extraction, but the Arouets had been for two generations established in Paris, the grandfather being a prosperous tradesman. The family appear to have always belonged to the yeoman-tradesman class; their special home was the town of Saint-Loup. Voltaire was the fifth child of his parents - twin boys (of whom one survived), a girl, Marguerite Catherine, and another boy who died young, having preceded him. Not very much is known of the mother, who died when Voltaire was but seven years old. She pretty certainly was the chief cause of his early introduction to good society, the abbé de Chàteauneuf (his sponsor in more ways than one) having been her friend. The father appears to have been somewhat peremptory in temper, but neither inhospitable nor tyrannical. Marguerite Arouet, of whom her younger brother was very fond, married early, her husband\'s name being Mignot; the elder brother, Armand, was a strong Jansenist. and there never was any kind of sympathy between him and Francois.


Voltaire wrote Between fifty and sixty different pieces (including a few which exist only in fragments or sketches) during the theatear part of his life!


Poetry:


Historical: The fourth division of Voltaire\'s work, the historical, is the bulkiest of all except his correspondence, and some parts of it are or have been among tha most read, but it is far from being even among the best. The small treatises on Charles XII and Peter the Great are indeed models of clear narrative and ingenious if somewhat superficial grasp and arrangement. The so-called Siecle de Louis XIV and Siecle de Louis XV (the latter inferior to the former but still valuable) contain a great miscellany of interesting matter, treated by a man of great acuteness and unsurpassed power of writing, who had also had access to much important private information. But even in these books defects are present, which appear much more strongly in the singular olla podrida entitled Essai sur les moeurs, in the Annales de Vempire and in the minor historical works. These defects are an almost total absence of any comprehension of what has since been called the philosophy of history, the constant presence of gross prejudice, frequent inaccuracy of detail, and, above all, a complete incapacity to look at anything except from the narrow standpoint of a half-pessimist and half self-satisfied philosophe of the 18th century.


Physics & Metaphysics: His work in physics concerns us less than any other here; it is, however, not inconsiderable in bulk, and is said by experts to give-proof of aptitude. To his own age Voltaire was pre-eminently a poet and a philosopher; the unkindness of succeeding ages has sometimes questioned whether he had any title to either name, and especially to the latter. His largest philosophical work, at least so called, is the curious Philosophical Dictionary, which is compounded of the articles contributed by him to the great Encyclopidee and of several minor pieces. No one of Voltaire\'s works shows his anti-religious or at least anti-ecclesiastical animus more strongly. The various title-words of the several articles are often the merest stalking-horses, under cover of which to shoot at the Bible or the church, the target being now and then shifted to the political institutions of the writer\'s country, his personal foes, &c., and the whole being largely seasoned with that acute, rather superficial, common-sense, but also commonplace, ethical and social criticism which the 18th century called philosophy. The book ranks perhaps second Only to the novels as showing the character, literary and personal, of Voltaire; and despite its form it is nearly as readable. The minor philosophical works are of no very different character. In the brief Traité de metaphysique the author makes his grand effort, but scarcely succeeds in doing more than show that he had no real conception of what metaphysics is.


Miscellaneous: In general criticism and miscellaneous writing Voltaire is not inferior to himself in any of his other functions. Almost all his more substantive