In 1720, he visited Lord Bolingbroke, an influential English writer, beginning a connection with English intellectuals that served him well throughout his lifetime.
He also discovered Shakespeare, whose “barbaric” but powerful poetry and insights into character inspired and perplexed Voltaire throughout his time in the theater.
During this period Voltaire also tried writing in English, publishing the Essay on Civil Wars (1727) and the Essay on Epic Poetry (1727) and releasing a revision of his poem on Henry IV as The Henriade, a tremendous popular success which he dedicated to the English queen.
In 1717, Francois-Marie again mocked the regent in verse, but instead of being exiled he was sent to the Bastille for a year.
While there, he wrote one of his greatest poems: La ligue; ou Henry le Grand (The League, or Henry the Great), an epic poem on the subject of Henry IV and his advancement of religious freedom.
Although exiled from Paris more than once, by the end of his life he was generally celebrated as one of France's greatest thinkers.
The values for which he fought most vigorously—freedom and progress—have become basic assumptions underlying modern Western civilization.
He was so weak at birth that he was not expected to live, and was ill and hypochondriacal much of his life.
Biographers have suggested that the young Francois-Marie made up for a feeble body by developing a lively mind; even as a student he was known for his brilliance, wit, and impulsive nature.
Voltaire wrote in many genres, excelling at several, but in the modern era he is best remembered for his connections with the theater, his philosophical works, and his contes—short adventure stories dramatizing philosophical issues.
The most famous of these is Candide (1759), a satire of G. Leibniz's philosophy of optimism, which examined the reality and absurdity of human suffering.