Letters on England by Voltaire

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The Project Gutenberg eBook, Letters on England, by Voltaire, Edited by
Henry Morley

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net

Title: Letters on England

Author: Voltaire

Release Date: April 22, 2005 [eBook #2445]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)


Transcribed from the 1894 Cassell & Co. edition by David Price, email

by Voltaire


Francois Marie Arouet, who called himself Voltaire, was the son of
Francois Arouet of Poitou, who lived in Paris, had given up his office of
notary two years before the birth of this his third son, and obtained
some years afterwards a treasurer's office in the Chambre des Comptes.
Voltaire was born in the year 1694. He lived until within ten or eleven
years of the outbreak of the Great French Revolution, and was a chief
leader in the movement of thought that preceded the Revolution. Though
he lived to his eighty-fourth year, Voltaire was born with a weak body.
His brother Armand, eight years his senior, became a Jansenist. Voltaire
when ten years old was placed with the Jesuits in the College Louis-le-
Grand. There he was taught during seven years, and his genius was
encouraged in its bent for literature; skill in speaking and in writing
being especially fostered in the system of education which the Jesuits
had planned to produce capable men who by voice and pen could give a
reason for the faith they held. Verses written for an invalid soldier at
the age of eleven won for young Voltaire the friendship of Ninon
l'Enclos, who encouraged him to go on writing verses. She died soon
afterwards, and remembered him with a legacy of two thousand livres for
purchase of books. He wrote in his lively school-days a tragedy that
afterwards he burnt. At the age of seventeen he left the College Louis-
le-Grand, where he said afterwards that he had been taught nothing but
Latin and the Stupidities. He was then sent to the law schools, and saw
life in Paris as a gay young poet who, with all his brilliant liveliness,
had an aptitude for looking on the tragic side of things, and one of
whose first poems was an "Ode on the Misfortunes of Life." His mother
died when he was twenty. Voltaire's father thought him a fool for his
versifying, and attached him as secretary to the Marquis of Chateauneuf;
when he went as ambassador to the Hague. In December, 1713, he was
dismissed for his irregularities. In Paris his unsteadiness and his
addiction to literature caused his father to rejoice in getting him
housed in a country chateau with M. de Caumartin. M. de Caumartin's
father talked with such enthusiasm of Henri IV. and Sully that Voltaire
planned the writing of what became his _Henriade_, and his "History of
the Age of Louis XIV.," who died on the 1st of September, 1715.

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