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Voltaire (1694-1778) - pseudonym of François-Marie Arouet


French writer, satirist, the embodiment of the 18th-century Enlightenment. Voltaire is remembered as a crusader against tyranny and bigotry. Compared to Rousseau's (1712-1778) rebelliousness and idealism, Voltaire's world view was more skeptical, but both of their ideas influenced deeply the French Revolution. Voltaire disliked Rousseau and wrote to him in 1761: "One feels like crawling on all fours after reading your work."

"There lived in Westphalia, in the castle of the Baron of Thunder-Ten-Tronckh, a young man on whom nature had bestowed the perfection of gentle manners. His features admirably expressed his soul, he combined an honest mind with great simplicity of heart; and I think it was for this reason they called him Candide." (from Candide, or Optimism by Voltaire, the Robert M. Adams translation, backgrounds, criticism, third edition, edited by Nicholas Cronk, 2016, p. 3)

François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire was born in Paris into a middle-class family. François Arouet,Voltaire's father, was a minor treasury official. "His  enemies, in after life, displayed their spite by promulgating that his father was a peasant – an assertion without foundation. . . . His mother was named Marguerite d'Aumont, of a noble family of Poitou. The child was so feeble at the time of his birth that he was not expected to survive; he was hastily babtized in the house, nor considered sufficiently strong to be carried to church until he was nine months old." ('Voltaire,' in Lives of the Most Eminent Literary and Scientific Men of France, Vol. II, 1839, p. 4) Voltaire was educated by the Jesuits at the Collège Louis-le-Grand (1704-11). He learned Latin and Greek and later in life he became fluent in Italian, Spanish and English. From 1711 to 1713 he studied law.

Before devoting himself entirely to writing, Voltaire worked as a secretary to the French ambassador in Holland. From the beginning, Voltaire had troubles with the authorities, but he energetically attacked the government and the Catholic church. These activities led to numerous imprisonments and exiles. In his early twenties he spent eleven months in the Bastille for writing satiric verses about the aristocracy.

Voltaire did not support the dogmatic theology of institutional religions, his religiosity was anticlerical. With his brother Armand, who was a fundamentalist Catholic, Voltaire did not get on as well as with his sister. Atheism Voltaire considered not as baleful as fanaticism, but nearly always fatal to virtue. The doctrines about the Trinity or the Incarnation he dismissed as nonsense.

As a humanist, Voltaire advocated religious and social tolerance, but not necessarily in a direct way. Well known is Voltaire's hostility toward the Jews. His play Le fanatisme, ou Mahomet le prophéte (1741), which portrayed the founder of Islam as an intriguer and greedy for power, was denounced by Catholic clergymen. They had no doubts that the true target was Christian fanaticism. However, Pope Benedict XIV, whom Voltaire dedicated the work, replied by saying that he read it with great pleasure.

In 1716 Voltaire was arrested and exiled from Paris for five months. From 1717 to 1718 he was imprisoned in the Bastille for lampoons of the Regency. During this time he wrote the tragedy Œdipe, and started to use the name Voltaire. The play brought him fame which did not lessen the number of his enemies at court.

At his 1726 stay at the Bastille, Voltaire was visited by a flow of admirers. Between 1726 and 1729 he lived in exile mainly in England. There he avoided trouble for three years and wrote in English his first essays, Esssay upon Epic Poetry and Essay upon the Civil Wars in France, which were published in 1727.

After returning to France Voltaire wrote plays, poetry, historical and scientific treatises, and became royal historiographer. L'Histoire de Charles XII (1731) used novelistic technique and rejected the idea that divine intervention guides history. In Philosophical Letters (1734) Voltaire compared the French system of government with the system he had seen in England. Voltaire stated that he had perceived fewer barriers between occupations in England than in his own country. The book was banned, and Voltaire was forced to flee Paris. The English edition became a bestseller outside France.

Voltaire's economic situation improved substantially, when he joined a syndicate, which made a large profit with the state lottery. In addition, with lucky speculation in the Compagnie des Indes he became so wealthy, that he lent money to dukes and princes.

At the age of thirty-nine, Voltraire started his famous sixteen-year liaison with Émilie du Châtelet. She was twenty-seven, married, and the mother of three children. "I found, in 1733, a young woman who thought as I did," Voltaire wrote in Mémoires, "and who decided to spend several years in the country, cultivating her mind." (Voltaire in Love by Nancy Mitford, 2011, p. 1) Voltaire's rival was the philosophe scientist Pierre-Louis Moreau de Malpertuis. Moreover, he suffered from digestive problems and attacks of diarrhea, and was often stopped from having sex with her.

The Marquis du Châtelet was well aware of the affair, and sometimes visited his wife and her lover at the Château de Cirey, where the couple lived  in 1734-36 and 1737-40. Between the years Voltaire took a refuge in Holland (1736-37). Under the tutelage of Mme du Châtelet, a mathematician and scientist, Voltaire assimilated the principles of physics and was able to write Eléments de la philosophie de Newton, which was dedicated to her. Voltaire nicknamed  madame du Châtelet "Mme Neuton Pompom." She died in September 1749, a few days after giving birth to a baby girl. The infant died a few days later. Mme du Châtelet's translation and commentary on Newton's Principia Mathematica, which was her last great work, came out in 1759.

In 1740 Voltaire was an ambassador-spy in Prussia, then in Brussels (1742-43), and in 1748 he was at the court of King Stanislas in Lunéville. From 1745 to 1750 he was a historiographer to Louis XV and in 1746 he was elected to the French Academy. In Paris, Voltaire had a new mistress, Marie-Louise Denis, his eldest niece.

Voltaire's aim was to write history from a new perspective, which would challenge the academic history writing of the time. Voltaire argued in the 'Introduction' to Essai sur l'histoire generale et sur les moeurs et l'esprit des nations (1756), that "[t]he more you ought to be acquainted with the great exploits of sovereigns, who have improved the manners and contributed to the happiness of their people, the less you need desire to know of the vulgar race of kings, who would be only a burden to the memory." (An Essay on Universal History, the Manners, and Spirit of Nations: From the Reign of Charlemaign to the Age of Lewis XIV, translated by by Mr. Nugent, 1759, p. 2) Voltaire did not think that a historian should refrain from passing judgements and witty remarks: "The Russians . . . adopted nothing from the Greek church except its superstitions." (Ibid., p. 250) And he did not hide his contempt for the Jews: ". . . how came it that Mahomet and his successors, who began their conquests exactly like the Jews, how came it, I say, that they atchieved such great things, and the Jews did so little?" (Ibid., p. 49) Among Voltaire's opponents was the German historian August Ludwig Schlözer, who accused him of "errors, lies, faulty reasoning, and gross ignorance." ('Voltaire and the Necessity of Modern History' by Pierre Force, Modern Intellectual History, Vol. 6, Iss. 3, Nov 2009)

At the invitation of Fredrick the Great, Voltaire moved in 1750 to Berlin, realizing eventually that the ruler was more enlightened in theory than in practice. Frederick cut down his allowance of sugar and chocolate and Voltaire said that the king never showed gratitude to any creature other than the horse on which he fled from the Battle of Mollwitz.

Voltaire settled in 1755 in 1755 in Switzerland, where he lived the rest of his life, apart from trips to France. He had his own château, Les Delices, outside Geneva, and later at nearby Ferney, in France. Anybody of note, from Boswell to Casanova, wanted to visit the place; Voltaire's conversations with visitors were recorded and published and he was flattered by kings and nobility. "Common sense is not so common," Voltaire wrote.

Voltaire's official publishers were Gabriel and Philibert Cramer from Geneve. They operated from Stockholm to Naples, and from Venice to Lisbon and Paris, spreading the ideas of Enlightenment. As an essayist Voltaire defended freedom of speech and religious tolerance. In his Dictionnaire philosophique (1764) he defined the ideal religion – it would teach very little dogma but much morality. Voltaire's thoughts were condemned in Paris, Geneva, and Amsterdam. For safety reasons Voltaire denied his authorship.

In his late years Voltaire produced several anti-religious writing. In Ferney he built a chapel with the inscription 'Deo Erexit Voltaire' inscribed on the lintel. He also led campaign to open up a trial, in which the Huguenot merchant Jean Calas was found guilty of murdering his eldest son and executed. The parliament at Paris declared afterwards in 1765 Calas and all his family innocent. (See also the writer Emile Zola, who defended falsely accused Alfred Dreyfus in his open letter J'accuse in 1898.)

Voltaire died in Paris on May 30, 1778, as the undisputed leader of the Age of Enlightenment. He had suffered throughout his life from poor health, but at the time of his death he was eighty-four. When asked by a priest whether he would renounce Satan, Voltaire said allegedly: "Now, now my dear man, this is no time to make new enemies." Voltaire can claim several last words, which differ significantly: "Adieu my dear Maraud; I am dying," "For all the wealth in Europe, I would not see another infidel die," "O Christ! O Jesus Christ!" and "The flames already?" (Last and Near-Last Words of the Famous, Infamous and Those In-Between by Joseph W. Lewis Jr. M.D., 2016, p. 651)

Because he was excommunicated at the time, he had risked becoming a a vampire by the rules of folklore. During the Frech Revolution, his coffin was installed in the Panthéon in Paris. In the 1830s, when the Panthéon served as a church again, it was rumored that his remains had been dumped in a sewer. When the tomb was opened in 1897, it was reported that "A viscous matter, apparently coagulated sawdust" coated Voltaire's remains. (Vampire Forensics: Uncovering the Origins of an Enduring Legend by Mark Collins Jenkins, 2010, p. 121) His skull had been sawed in half when his brain was removed soon after his death. Voltaire's sardonic smirk was still recognizable.

Voltaire left behind him over fourteen thousand known letters and over two thousand books and pamphlets. Among his best-known works is the satirical short story Candide (1759), which reflected the nihilism of Jonathan Swift. In the story the young and innocent hero, Candide, experiences a long series of misfortunes and disastrous adventures. He is kicked out of the castle of Thunder-Ten-Tronckh for making love to the baron's daughter, Cunégonde, in the army he is beaten nearly to death, in Lisbon he experiences the famous earthquake, he is hunted by the Inquisition and Jesuits, and threatened with imprisonment in Paris. Meanwhile Cunégonde's father, mother and brother are hacked to pieces by invaders, and she is raped repeatedly. Eventually Candide marries Cunégonde, who has become an ugly gummy-eyed, flat-chested washerwoman, with wrinkled cheeks."If this is the best of all possible worlds," Voltaire asked, "what are the others like?" (Candide; or, Optimism: A New Translation, Backgrounds, Criticism, translated and edited by Robert M. Adams, 1966, p. 12) Finally Candide finds the pleasures of cultivating one's garden – "Il faut cultiver notre jardin."

Candide's world is full of liars, traitors, ingrates, thieves, misers, killers, fanatics, hypocrites, fools and so on. However, Voltaire's outrage is not based on social criticism but on his ironic view of human nature. When Candide asks his friend Martin, does he believe that men have always massacred one another, Martin points out that hawks eat pigeons. "Well, said Martin, if hawks have always had the same character, why do you suppose that men have changed?" (Ibid., p. 47) Candide rejects the philosophy of his tutor, the unsuccessfully hanged Doctor Pangloss, who claims: "All events are linked together in the best of possible worlds." (Ibid., p. 77; see also: Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz)

Candide was partly inspired by the devastating Lisbon earthquake of 1755, Dr. Pangloss was allegedly a caricature of Leibniz, but it is possible that the real model was Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis (1698-1759), a French philosopher and scientist. The prolific writer produced a number of studies from the physics of Venus to the proof of the existence of God. Voltaire's Histoire du docteur Akakia et du natif de Saint-Malo (1753) openly ridiculed Maupertuis' ideas. In 1821, Voltaire's novel was among the works which Eteinne Antoine, bishop of Troyne, condemned as godless and sacrilegius Pope Pius VII place Candide on the list of prohibited books. The United States Customs seized a shipment of the imported edition of the novel in 1928 and declared it obscene. Candide's narrative frame, the education of a young man, was again utilized among others in Stendhal's The Red and the Black and Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain.

Leonard Bernstein made Candide a musical comedy which opened in Boston in 1956 with mixed reviews. Lillian Hellman, who wrote the libretto, had never before worked on a musical; she went through fourteen different versions and  called the job her most unpleasant experience in the theater. Hellman drew a parallel between Candide's blind faith in Dr. Palgloss and the paranoia of the McCarthy era of the 1950s, but her satire on the House Un-American Activities Committee was edited out of the Inquisition scene before the show opened. (Leonard Bernstein by Humphrey Burton, 1994, p. 260) "Three of the most talented people of our theatre possesses – Lillian Hellman, Leonard Bernstein and Tyrone Guthrie – have joined hand to transform Voltaire's Candide into a really spectacular disaster," said Walter Kerr in his Herald Tribune review. (Leonard Bernstein: West Side Story by Nigel Simeone, 2009, p. 14) Moreover, Bernstein's incurable optimism subverted Voltaire's pessimism with humanity. The original production closed after a couple of months, but the cast recording made at Columbia's 30th Street Studio sold so well that many critics hailed the adaptation as a misunderstood gem.

In addition to Candide, Voltaire treated the problem of evil in his classic tale Zadig (1747), set in the ancient Babylon, and in 'Poem on the Lisbon Disaster' (1756). "But how conceive a God supremely good," Voltaire asked in the poem, "Who heaps his favours on the sons he loves, / Yet scatters evil with as large a hand?" (The Enlightenment: A Sourcebook and Reader, edited by Paul Hyland with Olga Gomez & Francesca Greensides, 2003, p. 80) Micromégas (1752) was an early science-fiction story, in which two ambassadors from the outer space visit Earth, and witness follies of human thought and behavior. Voltaire possibly wrote the conte already in 1738-39. It has similarities with 'Voyage du Baron Gangan', which he sent to Fredrick the Great.

Voltaire's Dictionnaire Philosophique was burned with the young Chevalier de la Barre, who had neglected to take of his hat while passing a bridge, where a sacred statue was exposed. Later Voltaire introduced his Dictionary as a dialogical book: its short, polemical articles were more useful when "the readers produce the other half". In Essay on the Manner and Spirit of Nations, Voltaire presented the first modern comparative history of civilizations, including Asia. Later he returned to the Chinese philosophy is his Dictionary, praising the teachings of Confucius: "What more beautiful rule of conduct has ever been given man since the world began? Let us admit that there has been no legislator more useful to the human race." (The March of Literature: From Confucius' Day to Our Own by Ford Madox Ford, 1994, p. 49) Voltaire regarded China as a "most tolerant and receptive nation" and also asserted that the organization of Chinese empire is in truth the best that the world has ever seen.

For further reading:  'Voltaire,' in Lives of the Most Eminent Literary and Scientific Men of France, Vol. II (1839); Voltaire by R. Aldington (1934); Voltaire: Bibliographie de ses oeuvres by Georges Bengesco (1953); Voltaire in Love by Nancy Mitford (1957); Voltaire by Gustave Lanson (1966); Quarante Années d'études voltairiennes by Mary Margaret H. Barr (1968); Voltaire by Theodore Besterman (1969); The Intellectual Development of Voltaire by Ira O. Wade (1969); Voltaire ou la royauté de l'espirit by Jean Orieux (1978); Voltaire by Peyton Richter (1980); Voltaire en sons temps, 5 vols., ed. by René Pomeau (1985-94); Voltaire Revisited by Bettina Liebowitz Knapp (2000) Voltaire in Exile by Ian Davidson (2005); Voltaire: A Life by Ian Davidson (2010); Voltaire in Holland, 1746-1778 by Kees van Strien (2011); Voltaire: A Very Short Introduction by Nicholas Cron (2017); 'Voltaire's Volte-Face?', in Dark Matters: Pessimism and the Problem of Suffering by Mara van der Lugt (2021); 'Zozo and the Marionette Infidel: M. Voltaire and Mr. Gibbon,' in Making History: The Storytellers Who Shaped the Past by Richard Cohen (2022); Voltaire: die Abenteuer der Freiheit: eine Biographie by Volker Reinhardt (2022) - See: Cyrano de Bergerac.  Film Voltaire (1933), dir. by John G. Adolfi, screenplay by Paul Green, Maude T. Howell, from the novel by George Gibbs and E. Lawrence Dudley, starring George Arliss, Doris Kenyon, Margaret Lindsay, Alan Mowbray. "One man dared to speak out for the rights of an oppressed people... He educated the masses to think and act... This man a hundred years ahead of his time was Voltaire... The great humanitarian of the 18th century." (from the introductory title) The story focused on the Calas case - a wealthy merchant was wrongly executed by Louis XV. Voltaire is portrayed as a royalist, he has access to the King through his friendship with Mme de Pompadour. Louis himself is a bumbling individual, behind the execution is Count de Sarnac who is in league with Frederick the Great. 

Selected works:

  • Œdipe, 1718 (tragedy)
  • Artémise, 1720 (drama)
  • La Henriade, 1723
    - The Henriad: a Poem (tr. Charles L. S. Jones, 1834) / The Henriade; with the Battle of Fontenoy, Dissertations on Man, Law of Nature, Destruction of Lisbon, Temple of Taste, and Temple of Friendship (ed. O. W. Wight, A. M., 1859)
  • Hérode et Mariamne, tragédie, 1725 (tragedy)
  • L'Indiscret, comédie, 1725 (comedy)
  • La Fête de Bélesbat, 1725 (divertissement)
  • La Henriade, poeme, 1728
    - The Henriad; a Poem; with the Notes and Variations (tr. Charles L. S. Jones, 1834)
  • Le Pour et le Contre, 1728
  • Essai sur les guerres civiles de France, 1729
    - Essay upon the Civil Wars in France (tr. anonymously, 1727)  
  • Brutus, 1730 (tragedy, publ. 1731)
  • Histoire de Charles XII, Roi de Suede, 1731
    - The History of Charles the XIIth, King of Sweden (tr. from the last Geneva ed. of M. de Voltaire, by W.S. Kenrick, 1780) / History of Charles XII (with a life of Voltaire by Lord Brougham; and critical notices by Lord Macaulay and Thomas Carlyle; ed. O.W. Wight, 1859) / History of Charles XII (tr. Tobias Smollett, rev. ed. 1901) / Lion of the North, Charles XII of Sweden (tr. M.F.O. Jenkins, 1981)
    - Kaarle XII:n historia (suom. O. A. Kallio, 1921)
  • Les originaux, ou Monsieur du Cap-Vert, 1732 (tragedy, publ. 1820)
  • Éryphile, 1732 (tragedy, publ. 1779)
  • Zaïre, 1732 (tragedy, publ. 1733)
    - Zaire: a Tragedy in Verse in Five Acts, by Voltare (ed. Charles W. Cabeen, 1910) / Zaïre (ed. Eva Jacobs, 1975)
  • Samson, 1733 (opera, publ. 1750)
  • Tanis et Zélide, ou les Rois pasteurs, 1733 (tragedy)
  • La Mort de César, 1733 (tragedy, publ. 1735)
  • Lettres philosophiques sur les Anglais, 1734 (Voltaire's satirical attack among others on Descartes' theory of vortices)
    - Letters Concerning the English Nation (tr. John Lockman, 1933) / Philosophical Letters: Letters Concerning the English Nation / Voltaire (translated, with an introduction, by Ernest Dilworth, 2003) / Philosophical Letters: Letters Regarding the English Nation (tr. Prudence L. Steiner, 2007) / Letters Concerning the English Nation (edited with an introduction and notes by Nicholas Cronk, 2009)
  • Le Temple du Goût, 1733
    - The Temple of Taste (tr. 1734)
  • Adélaïde du Guesclin, 1734 (play)
  • Alzire, 1736 [Alzira: a Tragedy]
  • L'Enfant Prodigue, 1736 (drama)
  • Éléments de la philosophie de Newton, 1738 (with Émilie du Châtelet)
    - The Elements of Sir Isaac Newton's Philosophy (tr. John Hanna, 1738)
  • Essai sur la Nature du Feu, 1739
  • Vie de Molière, 1739
  • Zulime, 1740 (tragedy, publ. 1761)
  • Pandore, 1740 (opera, publ. 1748)
  • La Prude, 1740 (comedy, based on William Wycherley's The Plain Dealer, 1676, publ. 1747)
  • Le fanatisme ou Mahomet le Prophète, 1741 (tragedy, publ. 1742)
    - Mahomet the Imposter (tr. 1744) / Mahomet: a Tragedy (by the Rev. Mr. Miller, tr. 1795) / Mahomet the Prophet, in The Drama: Its History, Literature and Influence on Civilization, vol. 8 (tr. O. Leigh, 1903-04) / Mahomet the Prophet; or, Fanaticism: a Tragedy in Five Acts (tr. Robert L. Myers) / Fanaticism, or Mahomet the Prophet (translated by Hanna Burton, 2013)
  • Mérope, 1743 (tragedy, publ. 1744)
    - Merope: a Tragedy (tr. Aaron Hill, esq., 1749)
  • La Princesse de Navarre, 1745 (comedy)
  • Le Temple de la Gloire, 1745 (comedy ballet, music Jean-Philippe Rameau)
  • Zadig, ou la Destinée, 1747 (first published as Memnon)
    - Zadig; or, The Book of Fate, an Oriental History, in Miscellanies by M. de Voltaire (tr. T. Smollett, M.D. and T. Francklin, 1778) / Zadig, and Other Stories (ed. by Irving Babbitt, 1905) / Zadig, and Other Romances (tr. H. I. Woolf, 1923) / The History of Zadig; or, Destiny (tr. R. Bruce Boswell, 1952) / Zadig. L'ingenu (tr. John Butt, 1964)
    - Sallimus (suom. O. A. Kallio, 1918)
    - films: 1970, Les Aventures de Zadig (TV film), dir. Claude-Jean Bonnardot, starring Gérard Depardieu; 1971, Zadig ou La destinée (TV film), dir. Jean-Paul Carrère, starring Bernard Alane
  • Le Monde comme il va, 1748
    - The World As It Goes, in The Complete Romances of Voltaire, vol. V (1927) / The World As It Is, In Micromégas and Other Short Fictions (translated by Theo Cuffe, 2002)
  • Vision de Babouc, 1748
    - film 1966, L'Or et le plomb, prod. Les Film Jacques Willemetz, Sipac, dir. Claude Nicot
  • Sémiramis, 1748 (tragedy, publ. 1749)
  • Nanine, ou Le préjugé vaincu: comédie en trois actes, 1749 (comedy)
    - Nanine, in Eighteen Century French Plays (ed. C.D. Brenner and N.A. Goodyear, 1927)
  • La femme qui a raison: comédie en 3 actes en vers, 1749 (comedy, publ. 1760)
  • Oreste, 1750 (tragedy)
  • Memnon, ou la sagesse humaine, 1750
    - Memnon, The Philosopher, in The Complete Romances of Voltaire, vol. V (1927) / Memnon or Human Wisdom (tr. Peter H. Hanssen, 1981) / Memnon, in Micromégas and Other Short Fictions (translated by Theo Cuffe, 2002)
  • Le Siècle de Louis XIV, 1751
    - The Age of Louis XIV, and Other Selected Writings (tr. J.H. Brumfitt, 1963)
  • Rome sauvée, ou Catalina, 1752 (tragedy)
  • Micromégas, 1752 (see also Giacomo Casanova's novel Icosameron)
    - Micromegas: A Comic Romance. Being a Severe Satire Upon the Philosophy, Ignorance, and Self-Conceit of Mankind (tr. 1753) / Micromegas, in The Complete Romances of Voltaire, vol. IV (1927) / Voltaire’s Micromégas (by Ira O. Wade, 1950) / Micromégas and Other Short Fictions (translated by Theo Cuffe, 2002)
    - Mikromegas: filosofinen kertomus (suom. Marja Haapio, 2002) / Muissa maailmoissa: maapallon ulkopuolisten olentojen kulttuurihistoriaa (suom. Jyrki Siukonen, 2003)
  • Diatribe du Docteur Akakia, 1752
  • Histoire du Docteur Akakia et du Natif de St Malo, 1753
  • L'orphelin de la Chine: tragédie, 1755 (tragedy)
    - The Orphan of China (tr. 1756)
  • La Pucelle d'Orléans, 1755
    - La Pucelle, the Maid of Orleans (tr. 1899) / The Virgin of Orleans; or, Joan of Arc (tr.  Howard Nelson, 1965)
  • Le songe de Platon, 1756
    - Plato's Dream, in The Complete Romances of Voltaire, vol. V (1927) / Plato's Dream, in Micromégas and Other Short Fictions (translated by Theo Cuffe, 2002)
  • Histoire des voyages de Scarmentado ou Histoire des voyages de Scarmentado écrite par lui-même, 1756
    - The Travels of Scarmentado, in The Works of Voltaire (tr. W. Fleming, 1901) / in Micromegas, and Other Stories (tr. W. Fleming, 1999) / The History of the Travels of Scarmentado, in Micromégas and Other Short Fictions (tr. Theo Cuffe, 2002)
  • Essai sur l'histoire generale et sur les moeurs et l'esprit des nations, 1756 (7 vols., rev. ed., 8 vols., 1761-63; as Essai sur les moeurs el l'espirit des nations et sur kes principaux faits de l'histoire depuis Charlemange jusqu'à Louis XIII, ed. by René Pomeau, 1963)
    - The General History and State of Europe: From the Time of Charlemain to Charles V. With a Preliminary View of the Oriental Empires (5 vols., 1754–7) / An Essay on Universal History, the Manners, and Spirit of Nations: From the Reign of Charlemaign to the Age of Lewis XIV (translated into English, with additional notes and chronological tables by Mr. Nugent, 1759, rev. 1782) / An Essay on the Manner and Spirit of Nations, and on the Principal Occurences in History (tr. anonymously, 1780)
  • Histoire de la guerre de 1741, 1756
    - The History of the War of Seventeen Hundred and Forty One (2 vols., tr. 1756)
  • Poème sur le Désastre de Lisbonne et sur La Loi Naturelle, 1756
    - Poem upon the Lisbon Disaster = Poème sur le dèsastre de Lisbonne, ou, Examen de cet axiome "tout est bien" (tr. Anthony Hecht, 1977)
  • Le Pauvre Diable, 1758
  • Socrate, 1759 (drama)
    - Socrates, in The Drama: Its History, Literature and Influence on Civilization, vol. 8 (tr. O.Leigh, 1903-04)
  • Candide, 1759
    - Candidus; or, All for the Best (tr. W. Rider, 1759) Voltaire's Candide; or, the Optimist (tr. Tobias Smollett, 1762) / The History of Candid; or All for the Best  (tr. 1796) / Candid or The Optimist (tr.   1814; other translations: William M. Thomson, 1896; Herman Irwell Woolf, 1919; Henry Morley, 1922; Richard Aldington, 1928; Morris Bishop, 1929 (ed.); O.R. Taylor, 1942 (ed.); Norman L. Torrey, 1945 (ed.); Haskel M. Block, 1956 (ed.); Lowell Bair, 1959; Donald M. Frame, 1961;  Peter Gay, 1963; Robert M. Adams, 1966; Joan Spencer, 1966; J.H. Brumfitt, 1968 (ed.); Peter Constantine; Elizabeth Cooney Leister, 1985; Haskell M. Block, 1985 (ed.); Roger Pearson, 1990; Shane Weller, 1993; Daniel Gordon, 1999; David Wootton, 2000; George Stade, 2005 (ed.); Peter Constantine, 2005; Burton Raffel, 2005; Theo Cuffe, 2005 
    - Candide eli avosydämisen ja vilpittömän nuoren miehen ihmeelliset seikkailut (suom. L. Onerva, 1914) / Candide (suom. J. A. Hollo, 1953)
    - films: 1960, Candide ou l'optimisme au XXe siècle, dir. Norbert Carbonnaux, starring Jean-Pierre Cassel, Pierre Brasseur; TV film 1962, dir. Pierre Brasseur, starring Claude Nicot; 1980 (TV film), libretto by Hugh Wheeler, starring Mark Eisler, John Lankston; 1988, Dandy, dir. Peter Sempel, 1989 (TV film), dir. by Peter Sempel, starring Jerry Hadley; 1994, Prostodushnyy, dir. Yevgeni Ginzburg, screenplay by Kim Ryzhov; 1994, Cultivating Charlie, dir. Alex Georges; 2003, Leonard Bernstein: Candide (TV film), dir. Fritz Zeilinger, play by Hugh Wheeler, starring Donald George, Thomas Gazheli, Cornelia Götz
  • Histoire de l'empire de Russie sous Pierre le Grand, 1759-63
    - The History of the Russian Empire under Peter the Great (tr. 1764) / Life of Peter the Great (tr. J. Johnson, 1780) / Russia under Peter the Great (tr. M.F.O. Jenkins, 1983)
  • La Vanité, 1760
  • Le russe à Paris, 1760
  • Le Café ou l'Écossaise, 1760 (comedy)
    - The Coffee-House (tr. 1760)
  • Tancrède, 1761 (tragedy, prod. 1760)
    - TV film 1992, dir. Claus Viller, libretto Gaetano Rossi, starring Bernadette Manca di Nissa
  •  Don Pedre, Roi de Castille: Tragedie , ca. 1761 (play, publ. 1775)
  • Collection complète des œuvres , 1761-1764 (18 vols.)
  • The Works of Mr. de Voltaire. Translated from the French. With Notes Historical and Critical. By Dr. Smollet and Others, 1761-1765, 1769 (35 vols., later edition 38 vols., 1778-1781)
  • Piéces originales concernant la mort des sieurs Calas et le jugement rendu à Toulouse Lettre de Dame veuve Calas, 1762
  • Le droit du seigneur: comédie en vers, 1763 (comedy, prod. 1762)
  • Saül: tragédie, tirée de L'ecriture sainte, 1763 (drama; also: Saül et David)
  • Olympia, 1763 (tragedy, prod. 1764)
  • Le Traité sur la tolérance, 1763
    - Treatise on Toleration (tr. David William, 1779) / A Treatise on Toleration and Other Essays (tr. Joseph McCabe, 1994) / The Calais Affair: A Treatise on Tolerance (tr. Brian Masters, 1994)
    - Suvaitsevaisuudesta (suom. 2012)
  • Le Blanc et le Noir, 1764
    - The Black and the White, in The Complete Romances of Voltaire, vol. V (1927)
  • Jeannot et Colin, 1764
    - Jeannot and Colin, in The Complete Romances of Voltaire, vol. V (1927)
  • Contes de Guillaume Vadé, 1764
  • Théâtre de P. Corneille, avec les comm. de Voltaire, 1764
  • Jukes-César, 1764 (tragedy, based on William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar)
  • Dans cette vie tout est vérité, et tout mensonge, 1764 (comedy)
  • Le Dictionnaire philosophique portatif, 1764 (rev. ed. 1765, La Raison par alphabet, 2 vols., 1769, Questions sul l'Encyclopédie, 9 vols., 1770-72; ed. by Julien Benda and Raymond Naves, 1961; Béatrice Didier, 1994)
    - Philosophical Dictionary (tr. Alex. Holmes, 1819; H.I. Woolf, 1945; Peter Gay, 2 vols., 1962; Theodore Besterman, 1971) / A Pocket Philosophical Dictionary (tr. John Fletcher, 2011)
    - Filosofinen sanakirja eli järki aakkosissa (suom. Erkki Salo, 2013)
  • L'essai sur la poésie épique, 1765
    - Essay on Epic Poetry (tr. Florence D. White, 1727)
  • Relation de la mort du Chevalier de la Barre, 1766-68
  • Le Philosophe ignorant, 1766
  • Essai historique et critique sur les dissensions des Églises de Pologne, 1767
  • - The Ignorant Philosopher, in The Complete Romances of Voltaire, vol. VIII (1927)
  • Octave et le jeune Pompée, ou Le triumvirat, 1767 (tragedy, prod. 1764)
  • Les Scythes, 1767 (tragedy)
  • Charlot, ou la Comtesse de Givry, 1767 (drama)
  • La Défense de mon Oncle, 1767
    - A Defence of My Uncle (tr. 1768)
  • L'Ingénu, 1767
    - The Innocent / The Sincere Huron: a True History (tr. 1786) / The Huron, or Pupil of Nature, in The Complete Romances of Voltaire, vol. IV (1927) / Zadig. L'ingenu (tr. John Butt, 1978)
    - Luonnonlapsi (J. A. Hollo & Reino Hakamies, 1970)
    - films: 1921, prod. by Bernini Film, dir. Giorgio Ricci; 1972, dir. Norbert Carbonnaux, starring Renaud Verley; 1975, dir.  Jean-Pierre Marchand, starring Jean-Claude Drouot ...
  • Profession de foi des théistes, 1768
  • Les singularités de la nature, 1768 -
  • Les droits des hommes, et les usurpations des autres, 1768
  • L'Homme aux quarante écus, 1768 - The Man of Forty Crowns, in The Complete Romances of Voltaire, vol. VI (1927)
  • Précis du règne de Louis XV, 1768
  • Dieu et les hommes, 1769
    - God & Human Beings (translated by Michael Shreve; introduction by S.T. Joshi, 2010)
  • La Princesse de Babylone, 1769
    - The Princess of Babylon, in Miscellanies by M. de Voltaire (tr. T. Smollett, M.D. and T. Francklin, 1778) / The Princess of Babylon, in The Complete Romances of Voltaire, vol. II (1927)
  • Le dépositaire, comédie, 1769 (play, publ. 1772)
  • Les guèbres, ou, La tolèrance: tragédie , 1769 (tragedy)
  • Histoire du Parlement de Paris, 1769
  • Épître à l'Auteur du Livre des Trois Imposteurs, 1770
  • Questions sur l'Encyclopédie, 1770-72
  • Sophonisbe: tragédie, 1770 (tragedy, revision of Jean Mairet's play, prod. 1774)
  • Les Pélopides, 1772 (tragedy)
  • Les lois de Minos, 1773 (tragedy)
  • Fragments sur l'Inde, sur le Général Lalli, 1773
    - Fragments on India (translated by Freda Bedi)
  • Le Taureau blanc, 1774
    - The White Bull, in The Complete Romances of Voltaire, vol. II (1927) / The White Bull, with Saul and Various Short Pieces (translated by C. E. Vulliamy, 1929)
  • Les Oreilles du comte de Chesterfield, 1775
    - Lord Chesterfield’s Cars, a True Story (tr. 1826) / Lord Cherterfield's Ears, in Micromégas and Other Short Fictions (translated by Theo Cuffe, 2002)
  • Histoire de Jenni, ou le Sage et l' Athée, 1775
    - The Sage and the Atheist, in The Complete Romances of Voltaire, vol. VI (1927)
  • Prix de la justice et l'humanité, 1777
  • Œuvres complètes, 1877-85 (52 vols., ed. by L. Moland)
  • Irène, 1779 (play, prod. 1778)
  • Agothocle, 1779 (tragedy)
  • Mémoires pour servir à la vie de Voltaire, 1784
    - Memoirs of the Life of Monsieur de Voltaire (tr. Andrew Brown, 2007)
  • Œuvres complètes, 1784-89 (70 vols., ed. by P. de Beaumarchais, the Marquis de Concordet, and J.-J.-M. Decroix)
  • Théatre de Voltaire, 1809 (9 vols.)
  • Le comte de Boursoufle, ou les Agrémens du droit d'aînesse, 1826 
  • The Works of Voltaire: A Contemporary Version, 1901 (21 vols., ed. and tr. William F. Fleming)
  • Voltaire and the Enlightenment, 1931 (tr. Norman L. Torrey)
  • Selections, 1969 (ed. by Paul Edwards)
  • Voltaire on Religion: Selected Writings, 1974 (translated and introduced by Kenneth W. Applegate)
  • Voltaire and Catherine the Great; Selected Correspondence, 1974 (translated, with commentary, notes and introd. by A. Lentin)
  • Œuvres historiques, 1978 (ed. René Pomeau)
  • Œuvres complètes, 1983-94 (84 vols. projected)
  • Dictionnaire de la pensée de Voltaire par lui-même, 1994 (ed. by André Versaille)
  • Political Writings, 1994 (ed. David Williams)
  • Correspondance choisie, 1997 (ed. Jacqueline Hellegouarc'h)
  • Correspondance, 1763-1778, 2006 (ed. Alexandre Stroev)
  • Lettres philosophiques, 2010 (ed. Olivier Ferret and Antony McKenna)
  • God & Human Beings, 2020 (Dieu et les hommes, published in 1769; translated by Michael Shreve; introduction by S. T. Joshi)
  • Voltaire's Revolution: Writings from his Campaign to Free Laws from Religion, 2015 (edited, translated, and with an introduction by G.K. Noyer)
  • Treatise on Toleration, 2017 (editor, translator, introduction: Desmond M. Clarke)
  • The Quotable Voltaire, 2021 (edited and presented by Garry Apgar and Edward Langille)
  • La Henriade; suivi de l'Essai sur les guerres civiles de France; et de l'Essai sur la poésie épique, 2022 (édition critique par Daniel Maira et Jean-Marie Roulin)
  • Lettres inédites à Marie-Louise Denis (1737-1744): Voltaire et sa chère nièce, 2023 (édition critique par Nicholas Cronk, Frédéric Deloffre, Nicolas Fréry et Jacqueline Hellegouarc'h)

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