On this day in 1778, some 300 people visit Voltaire following his return to Paris. Voltaire had been in exile for 28 years.
Born Francois-Marie Arouet to middle-class parents in Paris in 1694, Voltaire began to study law as a young man but quit to become a playwright. He made a name for himself with classical tragedies and also wrote poetry. In 1717, he was arrested for his satirical poem La Henriade, which attacked politics and religion. Voltaire spent nearly a year in the Bastille as punishment.
Voltaire’s time in prison failed to dry up his satirical pen. In 1726, government disapproval of his work forced him to flee to England. He returned several years later and continued to write plays. In 1734, his Lettres Philosophiques criticized established religions and political institutions, and he was again forced to flee Paris. He retreated to the region of Champagne, where he lived with his mistress and patroness, Madame du Chételet. In 1750, he moved to Berlin on the invitation of Frederick II of Prussia and later settled in Switzerland, where he wrote his best-known work, Candide. After 28 years, he returned to Paris and was greeted by hundreds of intellectuals. He died in Paris in May 1778.