To dissipate the sense of loneliness which overpowered him in the loss of his “divine Emilie,” as he was wont, in his more lyrical moments, to call her, Voltaire once more betook himself to Paris, whence, in 1750, he proceeded to Berlin, on the invitation of the young king of Prussia, Frederick, since known as “the great.” Between him and Voltaire much correspondence had already passed; and they seem to have entertained for each other a sincere admiration and regard. When they came together, however, it was found, as so often in such cases before and since, that it is not in the matter of mountains only that “distance lends enchantment to the view.” They quarreled bitterly, and parted; Voltaire, at his exit from the country, being subjected to indignities which he found it hard to forgive. Into the details of the quarrel we need not enter. When we say that the king was a poet at once most profuse and most execrable; and that the main function of Voltaire—himself a poet—was to criticise and correct his verses, it should almost seem that we indicate, without going further, a sufficient origo mali. Voltaire detested the king’s verses; the king could hardly have been even the very bad poet he was, without heartily detesting Voltaire’s criticism and corrections. Is it marvelous that in no long time they got heartily to detest each other? A reconciliation was afterward effected, and their literary correspondence was resumed under the old forms of friendliness; hut meantime Voltaire had avenged himself in the amusing but most scandalous chronicle, entitled Vie Privee du Roi de Prusse, which was found at his death among his papers, and published, as there is pretty good reason to suppose the wicked wit meant it should be.

After some years of a somewhat unsettled kind, Voltaire, in 1758, established himself along with his niece, Mme. Denis, at Ferney in Switzerland, where, with little exception, the last 20 years of his life were passed. During this period some generous traits of character are recorded of him. Thus, he rescued from extreme want a grandniece of Corneille the great dramatist, had her carefully educated under his own eye at Ferney, and made over to her the proceeds of an annotated edition of her ancestor’s works, which he issued for her express benefit. His noble exertions in behalf of the Calas family, the victims of a shameful persecution, are also well known. In 1778 he was induced by his niece to revisit Paris. By the Parisians the poet, now in his 84th year was received with a perfect tumult of enthusiasm, the excitement connected with which is thought to have hastened his death, which took place on May 30 of that year.

With the doubtful exception of Rousseau (Jean Jacques), who in his character of vates and enthusiast, was perhaps even more deeply influential, Voltaire is by far the most memorable of the band of celebrated writers whose crusade against established opinions was preparing the grand culbute of the French revolution. As every one knows, it was mainly in the field of religious polemic that his destructive energies were exerted. It is common to stigmatize him as an atheist, but this is simply to exhibit ignorance. Discarding revelation, he steadily upheld the truths of natural religion, and was, in fact, a deist pretty much of the English type. As such, he was not a little despised by the more “advanced” minds of the period, Diderot and the like, who considered belief in a God clear evidence of intellectual infirmity. His favorite weapon was ridicule, and there was never, perhaps, a greater master of it. In a particular form of polished mockery, Voltaire remains almost without a rival. His prose is the perfection of French style; it is admirable in grace, clearness, vivacity, and alive like a sparkling wine with the particular quality of esprit peculiar to the people and the language. As a dramatist Voltaire takes rank as a worthy third with his two great predecessors, Corneille and Racine.

His most famous poems are the Henriade, before mentioned, the one epic of the language, and La Pucelle, which is, perhaps, more properly to be styled infamous, such is the profanity and indecency with which the writer has willfully defiled the heroic story of the maid of Orleans. In the historical works of Voltaire, with the utmost lucidity of method, there are traces of a more philosophical treatment than had previously been applied to such subjects. For its narrative charm, his little historiette, Charles Douze, familiar to every school-boy, is in its kind a perfect model. In English, biographical works on Voltaire are very few in number.

Of his earlier life, a most racy and amusing sketch will be found in the second volume of Mr. Carlyle’s Frederick the Great; and his relations with Frederick are of course in that work treated of in full, with the writer’s characteristic humor and insight. As a critical estimate at once of the man and of the writer, nothing better can anywhere be found than Mr. Carlyle’s earlier essay.

In 1866 the first volume of a Life and Times of Francois-Marie Arouet, calling himself Voltaire, by Francis Espinasse, was published by Chapman and Hall; but this work, which promised to ably supply a desideratum, has been left unfinished. See also Voltaire, by David Friedrich Strauss (1870); Voltaire, by John Morley (London, 1872); and Voltaire et la Societe du XVIIIe Siecle, by T. G. Desnoiresterres (8 vols. 1855-76). The Life by Parton (1881) contains a mass of facts, but is poor in criticism.