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Voltaire by Wayne Andrews
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Voltaire

by Wayne Andrews

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This is a short biography. Its subject, Francois Marie Arouet de Voltaire (1694-1778), would not have objected - he was careful to point out that the surest way of being a bore is to tell everything." What Wayne Andrews's Voltaire may lack in laundry lists is made up in wit, learning, and an elegance of style eminently appropriate for an appreciation of a man who was never so ruthless as when eliminating the last trace of dust from his own writing. Indeed, Voltaire was the most successful writer of the eighteenth century. It matters little that his plays are today a lost cause, as is his poetry - the author of Candide and the Age of Louis XIV will always have his audience. His irreverence guarantees his immortality. While stressing Voltaire's eternal campaign against Christianity and his monumental efforts to effect justice in an autocratic era, Andrews maintains that his primary loyalty was always to himself. The fervent anti-Christian had his firm friends in the Church. The social philosopher courted Catherine the Great with near servility. But, in Victor Hugo's words: "His smile put an end to violence, his sarcasmput an end to despotism, his irony put an end to infallibility, his perseverance put an end to stubbornness, and the truth he proclaimed put an end to ignorance." "… (more)

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