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12 Fun Facts About Voltaire, The Jon Stewart of 18th Century France

Updated 13 Oct 2018 13.7k views12 items

Voltaire was an intellectual superstar. True, this 18th-century French writer, philosopher, and rabble-rouser does not seem like an obvious candidate for inclusion on a list of dur à cuire Frenchmen. But the author of Candide was actually one of many badass French writers who let his conscience be his guide, and in the process influenced generations of literary and political figures, starting with Victor Hugo and Napoleon. Badass Voltaire stories define and color the life of this freethinking marvel.

What makes him a badass? Voltaire stood up for his beliefs in the face of opposition and did not go silent when officials sought to shut him up. He paid no mind to censors or edicts when he sharply critiqued revered French institutions, ranging from the monarchy to the Catholic Church and French government. Voltaire was at the vanguard of the Enlightenment, an era that encouraged critical thinking, human rights, religious tolerance, and rationality. His fearless and brave writings exploded into the public sphere and challenged the world to be kinder, better, and more thoughtful.

But that doesn't mean Voltaire was a saint. Like Mozart and Beethoven - other complex intellectuals from the 18th century - Voltaire had a wild, complicated life. An examination of Voltaire's beliefs and some of the finer points about his fascinating life paints a more nuanced picture of this titan of the Enlightenment. Some crazy Voltaire facts prove he was far from perfect. Yet, his imperfections only enhanced his humanity. 

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