Davidson tells the whole, rich story of Voltaire's life (1694-1778) - his early imprisonment in the Bastille; exile in England and his mastery of English; an obsession with money, of which he made a huge amount; a scandalous love life; his infatuation with Frederick the Great; a long exile on the borders of Switzerland; his passion for watch-making; his human rights campaigns and his triumphant return to Paris to die there as celebrity extraordinaire. Throughout all of this Voltaire's life was always informed by two things: a belief in the essential value of toleration in the face of fanaticism; and in the right of every man to think and say what he liked. It is rare to have such a vivid portrait of a great man.

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