Voltaire, portrait by an unknown artist after a portrait by Nicolas de Largillière, 1718. In —Cliché Musées Nationaux, Paris
(born Nov. 21, 1694, Paris, Francedied May 30, 1778, Paris) French writer. Voltaire studied law but abandoned it to become a writer. He became acclaimed for his tragedies and continued to write for the theatre all his life. He was twice imprisoned in the Bastille for his remarks and in 1726 was exiled to England, where his philosophical interests deepened; he returned to France in 1728 or 1729. His epic poem La Henriade (1728) was well received, but his lampoons of the Regency and his liberal religious opinions caused offense. Lettres philosophiques (1734), in which he spoke out against established religious and political systems, created an uproar. He fled Paris and settled at Cirey in Champagne with Mme du Châtelet, who became his patroness and mistress, and there he turned to scientific research and the systematic study of religions and culture. After her death he spent periods in Berlin and Geneva; in 1754 he settled in Switzerland. In addition to his many works on philosophical and moral problems, he wrote contes (tales) including Zadig (1747), Micromégas (1752), and his best-known work, Candide (1759), a satire on philosophical optimism. He kept up an immense correspondence and took an interest in any cases of injustice, especially those resulting from religious prejudice. Voltaire is remembered as a crusader against tyranny and bigotry and is noted for his wit, satire, and critical capacity.