Among the list of esteemed academics who have graced the brighter borough was a French Enlightenment philosopher, writer and essayist known for his acerbic wit and defence of civil liberties.

François-Marie Arouet, better known by the pen name Voltaire, was a prolific writer who produced works in almost every literary form, authoring plays, poetry, novels, essays, historical and scientific works, more than 20,000 letters and more than 2,000 books and pamphlets.

The Frenchman was an outspoken supporter of social reform, despite strict censorship laws and harsh penalties for those who broke them.

It is understood that Voltaire travelled to England in 1726 but his subsequent movements are uncertain. Archivists and historians have had to depend upon scattered hints, uncertain inferences, and conflicting rumours.

What is known is that he stayed in Wandsworth for some time with a certain Everard Falkener in unfortunate circumstances which he described to his friend, Nicolas-Claude Thieriot, in a letter.

“I was without a penny, sick with a violent fever, in the midst of a city wherein I was known to nobody,” he wrote.

“My landlords Lord and Lady Bolingbroke were in the country.

"I had never undergone such distress.”

Aside from poverty and illness, however, he was inspired and intrigued by the British political system, which he deemed far superior to its French counterpart, and also to William Shakespeare, whom he declared a genius.

We have another glimpse of Voltaire in Wandsworth in a curious document from Edward Higginson, a teacher at a local Quaker's school.

Mr Higginson remembered how the excitable Frenchman used to argue with him for hours in Latin on the heady subject of water-baptism.

Voltaire was one of several Enlightenment figures along with John Locke, Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau whose works and ideas influenced important thinkers of both the American and French Revolutions.

He allegedly wrote satirical verses about the aristocracy and one of his writings about the Régent (King Louis XV) led to him being imprisoned in the Bastille for eleven months.

The adoption of the name "Voltaire" following his incarceration at the Bastille is seen by many to mark Voltaire's formal separation from his family and his past.

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