Born in Paris, the son of a notary, François Arouet (1650-1722), and his wife Marie Marguerite d'Aumart (ca. 1660-1701).
Arouet received his early education at the Jesuit Collège Louis-le-Grand, before studying law from 1711 to 1713. In the following years, he spent most of his time writing, while pretending to be a lawyer's assistant to comply with his father's wishes. He also briefly acted as secretary to the French ambassador in the Netherlands.
In 1718, Arouet, writing under the pen name Voltaire, published the play Œdipe, and its success began Voltaire's influence and brought him into the French Enlightenment. In the following years, he gained fame as an outspoken philosopher, essayist, satirist and a critic of established religion.
Among his most famous writings are the Lettres philosophiques sur les Anglais (1733, published in English as Letters on the English (1778)), Zadig (1747), Micromégas (1752), Candide (1759, perhaps the most famous of all) and the Dictionnaire philosophique (1764).
Boswell went to Ferney, the home of Voltaire from 1759 until his death in 1778, on December 24, 1764. He had with him a letter to Voltaire from Constant d'Hermenches, which was to act as his introduction to the philosopher.
He was soon introduced to Voltaire, and their first conversation hit upon such subjects as Scotland, Lord Kames, Berlin and David Hume, although as it should appear from the following, some of the dialogue was quite mundane and light-hearted:
I told him that Mr. Johnson and I intended to make a tour through the Hebrides, the Northern Isles of Scotland. He smiled, and cried, "Very well; but I shall remain here. You will allow me to stay here?" "Certainly." "Well then, go. I have no objections at all."
I asked him if he still spoke English. He replied, "No. To speak English one must place the tongue between the teeth, and I have lost my teeth."
On the next day, Christmas Day, Boswell wrote "a very lively letter to Madame Denis, begging to be allowed to sleep a night under the roof of Monsieur de Voltaire.". Boswell's request was granted, and he returned to Ferney on December 27, where he stayed for two nights until the 29th. His conversations with Voltaire and other visitors and members of the household are meticulously reported in his journal and in a long letter to Temple.
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