Ian Davidson Voltaire: A Life

ISBN 13: 9781605981192

Voltaire: A Life

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The definitive biography of Voltaire’s life― from his scandalous love affairs and political machinations to his brilliant philosophy.

We think of Voltaire as the epitome of the enlightenment; in his own time he was also the most famous and controversial figure in Europe. This dazzling new biography celebrates his extraordinary life.

Davidson tells the whole, rich story of Voltaire`s life (1694-1778): his early imprisonment in the Bastille; exile in England and his mastery of English; an obsession with money, of which he made a huge amount; a scandalous love life; his infatuation with Frederick the Great; a long exile on the borders of Switzerland; his passion for watch-making; his human rights campaigns and his triumphant return to Paris to die there as celebrity extraordinaire. Throughout all of this, Voltaire's life was always informed by two things: a belief in the essential value of toleration in the face of fanaticism; and in the right of every man to think and say what he liked. It is rare to have such a vivid portrait of a great man. 16 pages of color illustrations

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About the Author:

After graduating in Classics from Cambridge, Ian Davidson worked for the Financial Times for many years as their Paris correspondent and chief foreign affairs columnist. He is also the author of Voltaire (Pegasus) and Voltaire in Exile (Grove). Ian lives in England.

From Publishers Weekly:

A new biography of Voltaire the man  is long overdue, and Davidson (Voltaire in Exile) has done an admirable job in writing it. Voltaire, né Marie-François Arouet (1694–1778), the personification of the Enlightenment, is presented as a multifaceted and often contradictory individual whose devotion to tolerance and pluralism was frequently offset by his cowardice and self-concern. A child of privilege, he cemented his well-to-do status through involvement in a shady lottery scheme and celebrated life with a succession of mistresses before settling on his married niece as his mistress of choice. Voltaire' s ability as a playwright and writer is examined as is his commitment to the rationalist Encyclopédie. His commitment to human rights did not truly develop, according to Davidson, until he reached middle age, with his involvement in the Calas and de La Barre cases, miscarriages of justice that marked a turning point in French judicial history. Regrettably, the description of the first part of Voltaire' s life is a bit tedious, and overall this biography would have benefited from more information on French society as a whole during the 18th century. But Voltaire emerges from the story as a champion of civil liberties whose flaws were decidedly human. 16 pages of illus.; maps.
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Davidson, Ian
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