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Letters on England by Voltaire
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by Voltaire


Francois Marie Arouet, who called himself Voltaire, was the son of
Francois Arouet of Poitou, who lived in Paris, had given up his office of
notary two years before the birth of this his third son, and obtained
some years afterwards a treasurer's office in the Chambre des Comptes.
Voltaire was born in the year 1694. He lived until within ten or eleven
years of the outbreak of the Great French Revolution, and was a chief
leader in the movement of thought that preceded the Revolution. Though
he lived to his eighty-fourth year, Voltaire was born with a weak body.
His brother Armand, eight years his senior, became a Jansenist. Voltaire
when ten years old was placed with the Jesuits in the College Louis-le-
Grand. There he was taught during seven years, and his genius was
encouraged in its bent for literature; skill in speaking and in writing
being especially fostered in the system of education which the Jesuits
had planned to produce capable men who by voice and pen could give a
reason for the faith they held. Verses written for an invalid soldier at
the age of eleven won for young Voltaire the friendship of Ninon
l'Enclos, who encouraged him to go on writing verses. She died soon
afterwards, and remembered him with a legacy of two thousand livres for
purchase of books. He wrote in his lively school-days a tragedy that
afterwards he burnt. At the age of seventeen he left the College Louis-
le-Grand, where he said afterwards that he had been taught nothing but
Latin and the Stupidities. He was then sent to the law schools, and saw
life in Paris as a gay young poet who, with all his brilliant liveliness,
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