Emilie du Chatelet and Voltaire
If there was ever a meeting of true minds, it was that of Francois-Marie Arouet, also known as Voltaire, the universal genius of the French Enlightenment, and the brilliant Madame du Châtelet. When they met, in 1733, he was 39, an acclaimed poet, playwright and businessman, while she was a 28-year-old, married, ferociously intelligent Parisian society lady. Their attraction was instant and mutual. She described him as "the paragon of Men", while he wrote to a friend: "Everything about her is noble, her countenance, her tastes, the style of her letters, her discourses, her politeness." He was presumably also impressed by her passion for science and metaphysics. She and Voltaire enjoyed each other's company and, heedless of the scandal that they were causing, attended the opera and the King's audience chamber together. Then, when he fell foul of the authorities and had to lie low, he retreated to the Châtelets' remote ancestral estate, Cirey. Voltaire loaned Emilie's husband 40,000 francs to refurbish the place, then moved in and set up home with Emilie. They read and discussed new works, amassed a library of 21,000 books, and left critical and appreciative comments in the margins of each other's manuscripts.