Local Big Wig

. . .Without his wig.

And that, naturally, is why you’re having  a hard time figuring out who he is.  Because for you, as for most of the world, he’s most recognizable, (besides being the most recognizable name in French literature the world over after Victor Hugo, probably) with his cult hair.

Cult hair.

(Which rhymes with his name.)

And makes him bear a striking resemblance to Kevin Cronin, lead singer of the ’80’s rock band, REO Speedwagon.

At least I thought so.

Next clue:

He figures in that class of prolific writers who has covered virtually all the genres: essay, play, poetry, novel, scientific works, philosphy, history. He also wrote over 20,000 letters.

Next clue:

He was born and died in Paris, but lived in various locations (Great Britain, Germany, Switzerland) in those 83 years in between. And yes, that means he spoke and wrote in English, German, French, Italian, and knew Latin and Greek.

Next clue:

He was imprisoned in the Bastille for his writings which decried abuses by political and ecclesiastical organizations.

Then he was exiled from Paris. So of course he came to Switzerland. Wouldn’t you?

Next clue:

The neutral Swiss liked him, and so he bought this village château outside of Geneva, calling it “Les Délices.”  (Oops. You’ll find his identity in this illustration.)

Next clue:

He apparently liked a tidy garden. This helps us understand his hair.

Today, “Les Délices” is the neighborhood château and a national Swiss museum, and looks like this:

And its gardens look like this:

Photo credit: Capelady webpage

To the right the 15h century  village church, and to the left the 18th century community building.

 Next clue:

Thanks to dour Calvinism which determined Swiss law at the time, theatrical performances and his famous work, The Maid of Orleans, were banned in his host country.

Next clue:

So be hopped a kilometer or two over the border to Ferney, France, bought a bigger estate, and stayed there for the last 20 years of his life, during which time he wrote his most famous work, Candide.

Next clue:

A forceful voice for civil liberties, separation of church and state, and human rights, he was a man who determined his times, greatly influencing the thinkers of both the American and French Revolutions.

Last clue:

He eventually gave up the trademark bouffant hairstyle only attainable , one of my boys thought, with electrical means.

Which explains his nom de plume: Volt Hair

Bust of Voltaire

© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2012. This work (text and images) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. . . which means, as long you’re not selling it, you’re welcome to share, but please remember to give me a link and mention my name.

2 thoughts on “Local Big Wig

  1. Volt Hair!!! Now I will be smiling all day! I am experiencing a strong wave of envy here and will read everyone of your posts like a starved animal.

    • Oh, no, no, my point is not to stir up envy! But I’d love it if you were to turn into an (elegant and reflective, no doubt) animal and graze here regularly, because it’s so nice to hear your thoughtful comments, Janina.

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