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Brief Bio of Voltaire and Intro to Candide

Updated on July 27, 2017
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Mrs. Fox, aka cmoneyspinner, former civil servant, now self-employed; engaged in multiple online endeavors, including freelance writing.

Who Was Voltaire?

Francois-Marie Arouet (1694 - 1778), a French Enlightenment writer, who later took the name of Voltaire, was once hailed as "the wittiest writer in an age of great wits". He was Jesuit-educated and started composing witty verses at the tender age of 12. He is a well known personality and there is a wealth of information about his life and career as a writer on the Internet and in the public libraries. Some interesting facts about him?

Well for one thing, he believed in vampires!

Also, he was once imprisoned in the Bastille, but negotiated with the authorities to be exiled to England as an alternative punishment.

Last but not least, fourteen letters were discovered in U.S. libraries which shed light on Voltaire when he was a young man. The missives are being studied by scholars who intend to produce a definitive collection of all of Voltaire's writings by the year 2018.

François-Marie Arouet dit Voltaire (1694 - 1778)
François-Marie Arouet dit Voltaire (1694 - 1778) | Source

What is Candide?

Candide (or Optimism) was written in 1758. At that time, Voltaire was 64 years old.

Candide was or is considered "his wittiest novel". The topic he chose to exercise his wit upon in this novel was the problem of human suffering.

The personal suffering he had endured in his own lifetime, and his study of history convinced him that there is no such thing as Divine Providence directing all human affairs.

Frontispiece and first page of chapter one of an early English translation by T. Smollett et al of Voltaire's "Candide" , printed by J. Newbery, 1762.
Frontispiece and first page of chapter one of an early English translation by T. Smollett et al of Voltaire's "Candide" , printed by J. Newbery, 1762. | Source

Candide Has Been Deemed Voltaire's Most Significant Work

Many consider Candide to be Voltaire's most important work -- representative of The Enlightenment (1650-1800).

Enlightenment???

Uh huh. So ... if I understand Voltaire's equation correctly, it's:

History of man + Personal Suffering = There is no God. OK?!!!

I respectfully disagree.

In Candide, Voltaire poses two questions.

Question 1

If there is a Creator who is good and all-powerful, as everyone is told that He is; could He have not made a better world for us to live in?

Did Voltaire not realize that God created a perfect world from the beginning?

"And God saw every thing that He had made, and behold it was very good." (Reference: Genesis 1: 31)

However, "by one man sin entered the world". (Reference: Genesis 3: 6; Romans 5: 12)

And as time passed, what happened was this:

"And God saw that the wickedness of man was great ... the thoughts of his heart were only evil continually." (Reference: Genesis 6: 5)

So what changed? The world that God created -OR- the people who were living in it?

Voltaire's response is:

  • "Men... must have corrupted nature a little, for they were not born wolves, and they have become wolves. God did not give them twenty-four-pounder cannons or bayonets, and they have made bayonets and cannons to destroy each other." - Voltaire, Candide, Chapter 4
  • "Do you think... that men have always massacred each other, as they do today? Have they always been liars, cheats, traitors, brigands, weak, flighty, cowardly, envious, gluttonous, drunken, grasping, and vicious, bloody, backbiting, debauched, fanatical, hypocritical, and silly?" - Voltaire, Candide, Chapter 21

I agree. Men did not always kills each other. Men did become corrupt and not just a little.

Question 2

Can we, that is, mankind, even believe that God is at all concerned with men and their sufferings?

Monsieur Voltaire. Sir, if you did not believe that God, the Creator, had no care or concern for you, then your outlook on life could not possibly have been optimistic.

In the perfect world that God created, peace and happiness and eternal life had been conditioned on two things:

(1) obedience to God's commandments (which were not burdensome and were for our own good, safety and protection, and for the good of all mankind) and

(2) happily and peacefully maintaining their home, the "garden of Eden".

When man failed in this obligation (and failed repeatedly), man brought about catastrophic consequences not only upon himself, as an individual, but upon the entire human race. Those consequences being: separation from spiritual union and fellowship with our Creator, physical death, wickedness, corruption, violence and ... oh yes ... human suffering.

Nevertheless, our Creator has not turned His face from us and He can deliver us from our suffering.

Do you believe?

Optimism in the Age of Enlightenment - Some have compared humor in Voltaire's Candide to Saturday Night Live Skits

© 2013 Treathyl FOX

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    • cmoneyspinner1tf profile image
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      Treathyl FOX 2 years ago from Austin, Texas

      @Donna Cook - Thank you. I feel very honored that you stopped by and left me a very encouraging comment and a constructive critique.

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      Donna Cook 2 years ago

      Fascinating hub! You've made a potentially complicated subject very understandable. Voted up.

    • cmoneyspinner1tf profile image
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      Treathyl FOX 3 years ago from Austin, Texas

      @midget38 - Very nice of you to visit. So cool to be chatting with someone in Singapore. I love the worldwide web! :)

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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Voltaire was a bit of a cynic. This was fascinating, Cmoneyspinner. I'd accede to your view rather than his, and stay positive.

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      Treathyl FOX 3 years ago from Austin, Texas

      @WriterJanis - Yes the tidbit about the vampires is interesting. I also write for Wizzley.com and one of the fellow writers in that community is a very knowledgeable historian. Her Wizzles really shed light on many historical people and events. Reading her articles are not only educational but fun!!

      Regards my question, I can't speak for others but I've been leaping since I was about 19 years old. Almost 50 years. Yep yep. And the old lady can still LEAP!!! :)

      Thanks for commenting.

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      Janis 3 years ago from California

      Interesting about Voltaire's belief in vampires. As far as answering your question about believing, I think sometimes people need to take a leap of faith.