Voltaire dared to criticize and question the ruthlessness of the Catholic Church’s power and its coordination with the oppressive government of Louis XV. Armed with pen and paper, he faced a government and church that wielded the power of life and death. If Voltaire was not an action-hero, he was a hero all the same, and if had to throw a joke-bomb and run, let him run! Mankind is the better for it. Voltaire promoted tolerance as the most important tenet of civilization and mocked fanatics of all stripes. For this, of course, he was hated and reviled by the powers of his time, and even some of our own.

Despite the indifferent review, I’d be interested to read this book. “The Vile Scribbler” was actually an epithet I could have sworn I heard someone say in reference to him, but when I tried to find the source again later, I couldn’t. Maybe I just hallucinated the whole thing. I do recall Mozart referring to him as a “godless arch-rascal” upon his death, which, come to think of it, would have been a pretty cool pseudonym itself.