Denis Diderot (1713–1784)
Denis Diderot was born in 1713 in Langres, France. His father was an artist and had a great influence on the technical craftsmanship of Diderot’s masterpiece, the Encyclopédie, a compendium of knowledge on a wide variety of subjects of which he was the editor and a major contributor. Diderot distinguished himself as a student at the University of Paris, from which he graduated in 1732. As an adult, his personal life was often tumultuous and mysterious. He secretly married an uneducated woman named Antoinette, whose temper made his life difficult. In 1755, he carried on a secret love affair with Sophie Volland, and his love letters to her are ranked among the best ever written. Diderot was able to establish himself professionally
while in his twenties and enjoyed a fruitful career as a translator and encyclopedist. His greatest accomplishment is his work on the Encyclopédie, a multiple-volume (the number of volumes ranges from eleven to thirty-five in varying editions) work that took Diderot and the other contributors more than twenty years to complete (1750–1772). The success of this work earned Diderot notoriety and the respect of such highprofile figures as Catherine II of Russia.
Diderot’s other work includes fiction (most notably The Nun, 1782, and Jacques the Fatalist, 1784), drama, dialogues (simple theatrical presentations involving two characters discussing or...
(The entire section is 1273 words.)
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