Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Fuss About Voltaire

Love that smirk! It's hard to summarize someone as full as personality and as controversial as Voltaire. Briefly, Voltaire was the pen-name of François-Marie Arouet, a Parisian who was causing trouble as soon as he exited the womb. His father was determined to make him a lawyer, but although Voltaire had the fighting spirit, he craved to express it with the pen, outside the courtroom. Monsieur was very critical of the French judicial system as well as religion. It was his words which got Voltaire in trouble not only with his parents but also with the government, landing him in the Bastille and then later putting him in exile in England among other places. This only fired up the philosopher more and he only wrote more, this time with his new found anglophilia, discussing how the British constitutional monarchy was much more successful than the French absolute monarchy; oh if only they had listened! Voltaire was sassy to the very end. Dying in 1778, his last words were to a priest attempting to have him renounce his atheist ways, "For God's sake, let me die in peace." Love him or hate him, I think we could all use a modern Volatire right now!

But the best means of celebrating or studying Voltaire would probably be with his own words. After all, he had no problem can speaking for himself!

Voltaire on...

Freedom of Speech
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

“Common sense is not so common.”

"Marriage is the only adventure open to the cowardly."
"Behind every successful man stands a surprised mother-in-law."

Being Snarky
"A witty saying proves nothing."

“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets”

“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.”
“The longer we dwell on our misfortunes the greater is their power to harm us”

The Fairer Sex
"I hate women because they always know where things are."

“Christianity is the most ridiculous, the most absurd, and bloody religion that has ever infected the world”
"Of all religions, the Christian should of course inspire the most tolerance, but until now Christians have been the most intolerant of all men."

The Opposition
"I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: 'O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.' And God granted it."


  1. Ha! This is a great post!
    Let's continue this list of Voltair-isms.

    "either ennui or whipped cream"

    The populace:
    "When the populace takes to reasoning, all is lost"

    "There is no king comparable to a cock"

  2. I love everything he said. And most of them seem especially meaningful in today's political environment. Thanks for the post, m'dear.

  3. Great post! Reading quotes by Voltaire is such a wonderful way to start the day!

  4. And then there was his long-term affair with one of the great scientific minds of the age, Emily du Chatelet. Rivals, lovers, and friends, they inspired and provoked each other, and few things wounded him as deeply as her death.

  5. @Lauren, thanks for the continuation! The whipped cream one is great.

    @Paul, That's one the things I like the most about Voltaire; how his words still are totally appropriate hundreds of years later. Of course, that could be proof of how we aren't advancing either.

    @Vicky, I think every day should begin with a little Voltaire...hmm maybe I should make an app for it or something!

    @Olympe, Yes, he had great taste in women! I didn't want to discuss her, though, because she seemed like great femme of the week material.

  6. Vive Voltaire! But do we get to read him in order to do our research essay for French? No. We have to watch Entre les murs (The Class in English, literally "between the walls") which is a very good film - but my teacher doesn't understand my obsession with all things C18th...


    Okay. Rant over. =p

  7. I've heard of Voltaire before and even some of those quotes without knowing that he was the one that said them.

    That being said, I think I've just fallen in love with Voltaire :D.

  8. People never really change do they? I guess that's why history and literature are so fascinating. At least to me. Voltaire's words will be just as true (and probably just as amusing) in another two hundred years.

    I'm going to pass this one to the (gasp) non-history lovers I know. Voltaire needs to be shared!

  9. ‘ . . "I also know," said Candide, "that we must cultivate our garden."

    "You are right," said Pangloss; "for when man was put into the Garden of Eden, he was put their to work, which proves that man was not born to be idle."

    "Let us work, then, without arguing," said Martin; "it is the only way of making life bearable."

    Candide [1758]