Long-lost letters reveal the young Voltaire

More than a dozen letters penned by French Enlightenment figure Voltaire nearly 300 years ago have been uncovered recently and are now being studied by a British professor.

Oxford academic Nicholas Cronk said the discovery reveals how much the famed Frenchman – whose real name was François-Marie Arouet – profited financially and intellectually from his stay in England in the 1720s.

The missives include a signed acceptance from the 18th century iconoclast for a £200 grant from the Royal Family, according to the BBC.

While in England, the writer and philosopher abandoned the French spelling of his first name instead styling himself “Francis,” which Cronk says is hardly surprising, given that Voltaire was “hugely opportunistic.”

All told, there are 14 newly discovered letters which are being studied by the Oxford-based Voltaire Foundation.

The foundation is carrying out a mammoth work of scholarship in which it will spend, all told, a half century to produce a definitive collected work of all Voltaire’s writing. It is expected to be completed by 2018.

Cronk, the foundation’s director, says the new letters were found in US libraries.

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