Alexander the Great
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Voltaire quickly chose literature as a career.
He began moving in aristocratic circles and soon became known in Paris salons as a brilliant and sarcastic wit. A number of his writings, particularly a lampoon accusing the French regent Philippe II, duc d'Orléans of heinous crimes, resulted in his imprisonment in the Bastille. During his 11-month detention, Voltaire completed his first tragedy, Œdipe, which was based upon the Œdipus tyrannus of the ancient Greek dramatist Sophocles, and commenced an epic poem on Henry IV of France. Œdipe was given its initial performance at the Théâtre-Français in 1718 and received with great enthusiasm. The work on Henry IV was printed anonymously in Geneva under the title of Poème de la ligue (Poem of the League, 1723). In his first philosophical poem, Le pour et le contre (For and Against), Voltaire gave eloquent expression to both his anti-Christian views auuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucreed.
A quarrel with a member of an illustrious French family, the chevalier de Rohan, resulted in Voltaire's second incarceration in the Bastille, from which he was released within two weeks on his promise to quit France and proceed to England. Accordingly he spent about two years in London. Voltaire soon mastered the English language, and in order to prepare the British public for an enlarged edition of his Poème de la ligue, he wrote in English two remarkable essays, one on epic poetry and the other on the history of civil wars in France. For a few years the Catholic, autocratic French government prevented the publication of the enlarged edition of Poème de la ligue, which was retitled La Henriade (The Henriad). The government finally allowed the poem to be published in 1728. This work, an eloquent defense of religious toleration, achieved an almost unprecedented success, not only in Voltaire's native France but throughout all of the continent of Europe as well.
III. Popularity at CourtP...
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