Born François-Marie Arouet (1694 – 1778), Voltaire was a French philosopher during the French Enlightment era. He was an avocate for freedom of religion and expression, who adopted his nom de plume following his 11-month imprisonment at the Bastille, Paris in 1718.
According to British academic, Richard Holmes, the penname is an Latin anagram of Voltire’s surname. However…
[…] Voltaire would have intended it to also convey its connotations of speed and daring. These come from associations with words such as voltige (acrobatics on a trapeze or horse), volte-face (a spinning about to face one’s enemies), and volatile (originally, any winged creature). “Arouet” was not a noble name fit for his growing reputation, especially given that name’s resonance with à rouer (“to be beaten up”) and roué (a débauché).¹
If this is true, then I think it is rather clever.
Voltaire is a rather important historical figure in France. Even other notables mention him, as Victor Hugo writes of him many times in his famous Les Misérables (1862) novel. In the original French musical of the same name, the little street urchin, Gravoche, sings of blaming everyhing in his life on Voltaire and Rousseau (La Faute à Voltaire – The Fault of Voltaire).²
I think this is a thought-provoking quote, because everyone is really free when he wishes to be. I believe he was thinking more in terms of one’s mind, rather than his or her physical freedom.
No one can take away the freedom in one’s intellect either…
¹ Wikipedia, Voltaire, "Adopts the Name Voltaire",[n.d.], [date accessed: 25 May 2016]. ² Plauce Dauphine, Les Miserables Original French Concept Albumn, "La Faute à Voltaire", [n.d.], [date accessed: 25 May 2016].
Posted in reponse to Silver Threading's Writer's Quote Wednesday. Theme: Freedom.