God Gave Us the Gift of Life; It Is Up To Us To Give Ourselves the Gift of Living Well

Voltaire? François-Marie Arouet? Jean Orieux? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A famous writer of the Enlightenment stated that God gave each of us the gift of life. It is our responsibility to take advantage of this gift by living fully and well. Voltaire has received credit for a remark of this type. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet) died in 1778. The 1880 edition of “Œuvres complètes de Voltaire” (“Complete Works of Voltaire”) included the following statement in its appendix. Boldface added to excerpts: 1

Dieu nous a donné le vivre; c’est à nous de nous donner le bien vivre.

The 1979 book “Voltaire: A Biography of the Man & His Century” by Jean Orieux contained the following English translation: 2

God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well. (Remarks)

This statement occurred in a section of the 1880 work called “Extracts from a Manuscript in the Hand of M. de Voltaire”, but QI does not know any details about the provenance of the manuscript. Hence, the accuracy of the attribution to Voltaire depends on the expertise of the 1880 editor of “Œuvres complètes de Voltaire”.

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Notes:

  1. 1880, Œuvres complètes de Voltaire (Complete Works of Voltaire), Chapter 9: Extraits D’un Manuscrit de la Main de M. de Voltaire (Extracts From a Manuscript in the Hand of M. de Voltaire), Intitlé Sottisier (Title Foolishness), Appendice (Appendix), Supplément aux oeuvres en prose (Supplement to works in prose), Section: Montaigne, Quote Page 516, Garnier Frères, Libraires-Editeurs, Paris. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1979, Voltaire: A Biography of the Man & His Century by Jean Orieux, Translated from French by Barbara Bray and Helen R. Lane, Chapter 5, Quote Page 101, Doubleday & Company, Garden City, New York. (Verified with scans)