Residence of Voltaire France

Voltaire's Last Visit to Paris
engraving by Maurice Leloir

Detail from Hommages Rendu a Voltaire
Detail from Hommages Rendu a Voltaire engraving by J. M. Moreau, le jeune
Voltaire's Last Visit to Paris

Voltaire's writing encouraged political, judicial, clerical, and social reform. After 1750, King Louis XV and King Louis XVI let Voltaire know he was not welcome in Paris. After spending three years with Frederick the Great in Prussia, Voltaire lived for several years near Geneva, Switzerland. Then he purchased the estate at Ferney, France and stayed there until the last year of his life.

In 1778, at the age of 83, Voltaire completed the play, Irène, which was accepted at a theater in Paris. He knew that the King, court ministers, Church officials, and his many enemies did not want him in Paris. He knew it was a risk, but he decided to go to Paris. After all, what would they do to an 83 year-old-man?

Voltaire arrived in Paris on February 10, and stayed at the home of a friend. The next day he received 300 visitors; thousands more wanted to see him. Ambassador Benjamin Franklin from the United States was one of the visitors. He wanted his grandson to meet the man who had inspired the leaders of the American Revolution.

Top picture - People crowded around Voltaire's coach hoping to see him.

Voltaire made final corrections to his play and helped to select the actors who would play the parts. In March Voltaire met with the French Academy, and they voted him President.

Center picture - When Voltaire arrived at the theater to see a performance of his play Irène, an actor placed a laurel crown on his head and the audience cheered for twenty minutes.

Bottom picture At the end of the play, the curtain was raised again. A bust of Voltaire was on a pedestal at the center of the stage. Each actor placed a laurel crown on the head of the statue as a tribute to Voltaire.

Voltaire's health was failing, but he continued to see people and was amazingly active. His visit to Paris lasted almost four months. During the month of May, he became very ill, and died on May 30, 1778.
Return to Voltaire's Later Life