As a young man the French writer François-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire, was imprisoned in the Bastille in Paris. He thought he would never escape, so he persuaded the French officials that if released he would go into exile in England. This was agreed and for nearly three years from 1726 he lived in England.
What a lot of people don’t know is that during this time Voltaire was a frequent visitor to Bevois Mount in Southampton because he had been commissioned by Lord Peterborough to write a substantial work for which he had been given large sums of money as advances for his publisher.
One day, the publisher appeared at Bevois Mount and expressed concern to Lord Peterborough regarding the very small sum of money he had received having been told by Voltaire that he could not prevail on his lordship for more than ten pounds. It became clear that Voltaire had pocketed a great deal of money and on being confronted by Lord Peterborough he took flight hiding in Southampton before making his way to London. He was in such a hurry to escape Lord Peterborough’s wrath that he left behind his portmanteau, papers and other belongings.
Later in life Voltaire inherited great wealth but always remained a controversial writer and individual.