Writer in Bastille. Voltaire.
It seems rather difficult to find a man more sarcastic and willful in the whole history of humanity than the great distinguished French thinker and philosopher of the Renaissance Epoch Francois –Marie Avouet, more known to the general public as Voltaire. During the French Revolution people remembered him well since this man prepared the nation for freedom. His indefatigable nature and audacious mind encouraged him to be involved in serious scientific and philosophical debates with a lot of extremely authoritative people. In one of his famous works this insolent wisecracker even made fun of the French national heroine Joan of Arc, to say nothing of contemporary monarchs and noblemen.
Voltaire addressed one of his epigrams to Philippe I, Duke of Orleans and his daughter, Duchess of Berry. This was in fact quite a dangerous and even indiscreet step as Philippe of Orleans at that time was the regent of the French Throne. In his epigram the author dared to give a hint saying through metaphors that the regent had got feeling for his daughter, the kind of feelings which were not of parental nature. Such phenomena was quite regular in the Royal Household of France, but we can’t prove the authenticity of Voltaire’s affirmation. Anyway, right after reading this caustic epigram Philippe gave an order to send the author to Bastille. Some time before Voltaire was imprisoned he had a private conversation with Philippe. The content of this conversation was the following. ‘Dear Sir Avouet, I would like to show you something you have never seen before!’ ‘What is it, Your Highness?’ ‘It’s Bastille!’ ‘Your Highness, I treat Bastille as though I have already been there’ – Voltaire couldn’t resist the temptation to make an ironic remark.
Strange as it is, the imprisonment somehow did good for the writer. Voltaire reread Homer’s works and Virgil’s works and made up his mind to write some kind of a poem which would look like a poem of ancient classics. The result of his works was a tragedy ‘Edipe’ and the poem ‘Henriade’. These poems ranked high among other works in Voltaire’s creative work.
Soon after writing these works Voltaire was released from prison thanks to the help of his friends. Several weeks later he was on the premiere of his own ‘Edipe’ in one of the capital theatres. The play and the author seemed to have a grandiose success. Even Philippe, Duke of Orleans, who was present at the performance, got so sentimental that he fixed a scholarship for Voltaire (and not a small one – two thousand livre), and then he allowed the author to devote is work to his wife. Voltaire and His Highness had quite a funny conversation this time: ‘So, you felt like writing in Bastille? Were the conditions suitable?’ – the regent asked acrimoniously. ‘Oh, thank You so much, Your Highness, for Your concern and caring. But I don’t think that you should bother Yourself in the future with searching for an apartment for me. You could write anywhere!’