Dictionary of World Biography
Vajpayee, Atal Behari (1924–2018). Indian politician, born in Gwalior. A Brahmin, he was a Member of Parliament 1957–2009 and Leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Prime Minister in May–June 1996 and again 1998–2004, he led a multi-party conservative coalition.
Valdivia, Pedro de (c.1500–1559). Spanish conquistador. After taking part in the conquest of Venezuela and Peru, he was sent by *Pizarro against Chile. At the head of 175 Spaniards and some Indians he set out in 1540, crossed the desert without loss and founded Santiago. Almost immediately the Indians rose in rebellion and the Spaniards had not only to defend themselves but to grow food to live on. When rescued two years later they were in pitiable plight, but Valdivia carried on and then, with his appointment as Governor of Chile confirmed, proceeded to the conquest of the south. Soon after founding Concepcion, Valdivia and other towns, he was defeated and killed by the local Indians.
Valens see Valentinian and Valens
Valentinian (321–375) and Valens (328–378). Roman emperors (from 364). After the death of Jovian, Valentinian, acclaimed by the troops, made his younger brother Valens co-emperor with responsibility for the Eastern provinces. Meanwhile, Valentinian, having reorganised the administration, ruled with savage justice in the west, kept the German Alemanni at bay, restored Roman supremacy in Britain and Africa, and was campaigning in Hungary when he died from a burst blood vessel.
In the lower Danube, pressure from the Huns in their rear had caused the Goths to seek safety within the imperial territories. Weak and indecisive, Valens hesitated whether to welcome them as allies or resist them as foes. Eventually he turned against them and near Adrianople, in one of the most decisive battles of Roman history (378), he was defeated and killed.
Valentino, Rudolf (Rudolfo Guglielmi di Valentia Antognollo) (1895–1926). Italian-American film actor, born in Castellanata, Puglia. He went to the US in 1913 and in such films as The Sheik and Blood and Sand became the romantic ideal of girls of the 1920s. He died at the height of his popularity and his funeral was the occasion for the display of mass grief and adoration. He wrote a book of poetry, Daydreams, in 1923.
Brownlow, K., and Kobal, J., Hollywood—the Pioneers. 1979.
Valera, Eamon de see De Valera, Eamon
Valéry, Paul Ambroise (1871–1945). French writer, born in Sète, near Marseilles. Son of a Corsican father and Italian mother, he settled in Paris (1892) and wrote graceful pictorial poems that show the influence of his friend *Mallarmé. For nearly 20 years from 1898 he published no poems but devoted himself to mathematical and philosophic studies. When he resumed writing poetry it was in an entirely new style. La jeune parque (1917) is a harmonious but difficult poem dealing with feminine ‘consciousness’ in symbolic and philosophic terms. Valéry’s prose works include Soirée avec M. Teste (1896), an analytical self-study of the inner workings of a human mind, and many essays on aesthetic themes, e.g. Eupalinos and L’Âme et la danse (both 1924). Valéry was elected to the Académie française in 1925 and in later life his lectures at the Collège de France became well known. He was working on a version of Faust when he died.
Mackay, A. E., The Universal Self: A Study of Paul Valéry. 1961.
Valla, Lorenzo (1406/7–1457). Italian humanist scholar, born in Rome. He spent some years moving from university to university before settling in Naples under the protection of Alfonso V. A defence of *Epicurus, in which he maintained that satisfaction of the appetites was the chief good, provided a warning of controversy to come. He went on to prove that a document ‘discovered’ in 1440 and purporting to be a transfer of the temporal power of the emperor to the papacy was a recent forgery. By similar critical methods that became the basis of later historical research he refuted the contention that the Apostles’ Creed was in fact the joint work of the apostles. Saved from the Inquisition by his protector Alfonso, he became (1447) secretary to the humanist pope Nicholas V.
Valerian (Publius Licinius Valerianus) (c.200–260?). Roman Emperor 253–60. Born to a senatorial family, he persecuted the Christians, and made his son *Gallienus co-ruler, dividing the empire. Valerian took the eastern empire, was defeated by the Persians and became the only emperor to die in captivity.
Valois. French dynasty which ruled from the accession of *Philippe VI (1328) to the death of *Henri III (1589). The county of Valois was bestowed (1285) by Philippe III on his third son Charles, who founded the family, which was thus a junior branch of the Capetian line. When the main dynastic line failed under the miscalled Salic Law, by which the succession could not pass to or through females, the crown passed to the house of Valois.
Van Allen, James Alfred (1914–2006). American physicist. Professor of physics at Iowa State University 1951–85, he was a pioneer of space research with rockets and artificial satellites, and investigated cosmic rays. He discovered (1960), from the results of the first communications satellite (Echo I) sent up by the US, a belt of radiation that surrounds the earth (and is now named after him).
Vanbrugh, Sir John (1664–1726). English dramatist and architect. Grandson of a Flemish refugee, he failed in the wine business, worked in India, and was arrested and imprisoned in France as a suspected spy (1690). On his release (1692) he returned to England and quickly established a reputation as both playwright and architect. His first comedy The Relapse (1696) was followed by The Provok’d Wife (1697). His third play The Confederacy was staged in 1705 at the New Opera House in the Haymarket, which he had built, and managed in partnership with *Congreve. Three years earlier he had produced grandiose designs for Castle Howard, the Earl of Carlisle’s Yorkshire seat, and in 1705 was commissioned to build the even more spectacular Blenheim Palace for the Duke of *Marlborough. Despite frequent quarrels with the duchess, Sarah, over the plans and the enormous expense, he succeeded in creating the most splendid and by far the largest example of English baroque. He became Comptroller of Works in 1702 and was knighted by *George I. His last play, The Provok’d Husband, was unfinished at his death.
Holland, N. N., The First Modern Comedies. 1959.
Van Buren, Martin (1782–1862). 8th President of the US 1837–41. Born at Kinderhook, near Albany, New York, he became a lawyer and was prominent in state politics. His wife died in 1819 and he never remarried. A political manipulator of great skill, he established the first political ‘machine’, in New York and was known by his supporters as ‘The Little Magician’, by detractors as ‘The Sly Fox’. He became US senator 1821–28 and Governor of New York state 1829. When his friend Andrew *Jackson became President (1829) he chose Van Buren to be his Secretary of State 1829–31, Minister to Great Britain 1831–32 and Vice President 1833–37. The Autobiography of Martin Van Buren (1833) is illuminating on the development of party politics in the US. Jackson’s influence secured him Democratic nomination and election to the presidency in 1836. Van Buren was the first president born as a United States citizen. He opposed the extension of slavery but opposed its abolition in the South. Despite skilful handling of a financial panic, in 1840 he was defeated for a second term by William Henry *Harrison. In 1844, at the Baltimore Convention, he sought re-nomination for president, but failed to win the two-thirds majority required and withdrew. He emerged from retirement in 1848 to run unsuccessfully for the presidency as a ‘Free Soil’ candidate. Van Buren was also known as ‘Old Kinderhook’, from his hometown. The abbreviation ‘OK’, which first appeared in print in 1839, was popularised in the 1840 presidential election by the Democratic OK Club.
Lynch, D. T., Epoch and a Man: Martin Van Buren and His Times. 1971.
Vance, Cyrus Roberts (1917–2002). American lawyer and administrator, born in West Virginia. Educated at Yale, after naval service he became a New York lawyer in 1947 and in 1957 was appointed special counsel to a Senate subcommittee. He became General Counsel to the Department of Defence in 1961, Secretary of the Army in 1962 and Deputy Secretary of Defence 1964–67. He was the president’s special envoy to negotiations for peace in Cyprus (1967) and Vietnam (1968). President Carter made him Secretary of State in 1977 and he resigned over the Iranian crisis in 1980. With David *Owen he was the joint UN mediator in Bosnia 1992–93.
Vancouver, George (1758–1798). British naval explorer. As a youth he sailed with Captain *Cook on his second and third voyages 1772–75, 1776–79 and later he was commissioned to lead an expedition to northwest America, partly to settle a territorial dispute, partly to explore. On the voyage out he went by the Cape route to Australia, where he explored the southwest coast, and thence to Tasmania, New Zealand and Hawaii. He spent three years (1792–94) on the American coast during which he circumnavigated Vancouver Island (named by the Spaniards after him) and made an accurate survey of the coasts of what are now California and British Columbia.
Vanderbilt, Cornelius (known as ‘the Commodore’) (1794–1877). American financier. As a boy he established a ferry service from Staten Island to New York which expanded until he controlled several shipping lines. He then turned to railways, and after a series of financial battles gained control of the New York Central Railway and many other lines. He amassed a vast fortune and used part to found the Vanderbilt University. His granddaughter Consuelo Vanderbilt married the 9th Duke of Marlborough.
Van der Walls see Waals, Johannes Diderik van der
Van der Weyden see Weyden, Rogier van der
Van de Velde. Dutch family of painters. Willem van de Velde the Elder (the Elder) (1611–1693) painted large pictures of ships and sea battles, usually drawn in black paint or Indian ink on a white ground. In 1672 he and his elder son, Willem van de Velde (the Younger) (1633–1707), were in London where they remained as official marine painters. Several hundred marine paintings are attributed to Willem the Younger, who is held to be among the greatest masters in this genre. Many of their paintings of sea fights were made from sketches done on the scene of action and sometimes under fire. Adriaen van de Velde (1636–1672), the younger son, painted gentle Dutch landscapes with figures and grazing cattle.
van Dongen, Kees see Dongen, Kees van
Van Doren, Carl (Clinton) (1885–1950). American editor and biographer. He taught at Columbia University and won a Pulitzer Prize for Benjamin Franklin (1938). His brother Mark Van Doren (1894–1972), poet, teacher and critic, won the 1939 Pulitzer Prize for Collected Poems 1922–38 and also taught at Columbia. His son Charles Van Doren (1926– ), also a Columbia teacher, achieved unwelcome celebrity in a scandal involving the television quiz ‘Twenty-One’ (1958).
Van Druten, John William (1901–1957). American playwright, born in England. His exploration of adolescence Young Woodley (1928), first made him known. His plays include Bell, Book and Candle (1950), and I am a Camera (1951), a picture of inter-war Berlin based on Christopher *Isherwood’s stories. He became a US citizen in 1944.
Van Dyck, Sir Anthony (1599–1641). Flemish painter, born in Antwerp. Son of a well-to-do silk merchant, he was a prodigy in art, by 1617 one of the chief assistants of *Rubens with whose work, especially his portraits and religious subjects, Van Dyck’s work has been often confused. Van Dyck was invited to England for the first time in 1620 but stayed only a few months. From 1621 to 1627 he was in Italy (Genoa, Rome, Sicily, Venice), and with *Titian as a strong influence, he perfected a style of aristocratic portraiture which remained fashionable for 150 years. After winning a great reputation among members of Genoese society, he returned to Antwerp where, working in friendly competition with *Rubens, he found an overwhelming demand for his portraits. In 1632 under pressure from *Charles I he returned to England, where he remained for the rest of his life and painted many portraits of the sad and solemn king, of his family and of the great men and ladies of the court. The glittering clothes, the texture of the materials, the perfumed hair, the jewelled accessories, the very dogs and horses, combine to give a romantic effect. The draughtsmanship is sure and true (his etched heads are superb) and the characterisation convincing. As a court painter he has had few equals.
Strong R., Sir Anthony Van Dyck. 1972.
Vane, Sir Henry (1613–1662). English parliamentarian. Son of Sir Henry Vane (1589–1655), Secretary of State 1640–41, he became a diplomat, lived in Boston 1635–37 and was Governor of Massachusetts 1636–37. Member of Parliament 1640–53, 1659–60, he ‘leaked’ information purloined from his father to John *Pym which led directly to the impeachment and execution of *Strafford. After Pym’s death he became *Cromwell’s main parliamentary supporter, took part in the creation of the New Model Army (1644–45) and the settlement of Scotland (1652–53). Under the Commonwealth he was a member of the Council of State. Disagreement with Cromwell brought a temporary eclipse but after his leader’s death he was again active. After the Restoration, he was the only man apart from the actual regicides to be executed.
Vane, Sir John Robert (1927–2004). English pharmacologist. He shared the 1982 Nobel Prize for Medicine for research on prostaglandins and related biologically active substances, and advocated the use of aspirin in inhibiting heart disease and stroke.
Van Eyck see Eyck, Hubert van and Jan van
Van Gogh see Gogh, Vincent van
Vanier, George Philias (1888–1967). Canadian diplomat. Trained as a lawyer, he practised in Montréal. In World War I he won the DSO, MC and bar. Afterwards he held a number of official posts, culminating with that of Minister to France 1939–40. During World War II he served on the Defence Board in Ottawa and as Minister to the Allied Governments exiled in London, returning to Paris as Ambassador 1944–53. He was the first French-Canadian to serve as Governor-General 1959–67. His son, Jean Vanier (1929– ),a philosopher, established L’Arche, an international network of 67 communities for the intellectually disabled.
Van Loon, Hendrik Willem (1882–1944). Dutch-American historian and biographer, born in Rotterdam. He emigrated to the US in 1903, studied at Cornell, Harvard and Munich universities and, after a period as a war correspondent, wrote a series of books that aimed to explain the world and its complexities to both children and mystified adults, illustrated by himself. All were enormously successful: they include The Story of Mankind (1921), The Story of the Bible (1923), The Story of America (1927), The Home of Mankind (1933), The Arts of Mankind (1938), Van Loon’s Lives (1943) and the autobiographical Report to St Peter (1944).
Van Rijn, Rembrandt see Rembrandt van Rijn
Vansittart, Robert Gilbert Vansittart, 1st Baron (1881–1957). English diplomat. As Permanent Under-secretary for Foreign Affairs 1930–38 he expressed to his political superiors his misgivings about *Hitler and his policies. These warnings went unheeded and he was shunted off as Chief Diplomatic Adviser to the Foreign Secretary 1938–41. He retired in 1941.
Colvin, I., Vansittart in Office. 1965.
Van’t Hoff, Jacobus Henricus (1852–1911). Dutch physical chemist. One of the founders of physical chemistry in its modern form, he held professorships at Amsterdam 1877–87, Leipzig 1887–94 and Berlin 1895–1911. In 1874 he proposed the theory that the four valencies of the carbon atom are directed to the corners of a regular tetrahedron, thus establishing the field of chemical structure now called stereochemistry. In 1887 he established his theory of solutions, which is the basis of present-day knowledge of the subject. He showed that the osmotic pressure of a dilute solution is equal to the pressure that the dissolved substance would exert if it were a gas occupying the same volume at the same temperature and pressure. Other studies included reaction velocity and thermodynamics. Van’t Hoff was awarded the first Nobel Prize for Chemistry (1901).
Vanzetti, Bartolomeo see Sacco, Nicola
Varadkar, Leo Eric (1979– ). Irish politician, born in Dublin. A Catholic of Indian descent, he was a successful medical practitioner, gay, MP 2007– , Leader of Fine Gael 2017– and Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland 2017–20. Fine Gael ran third in the February 2020 election, but there was no agreement on an alternative leader so he remained as a caretaker Prime Minister. During the COVID-19 pandemic he returned, part-time, to practice.
Varèse, Edgard Victor Achille Charles (1883–1965). French-American composer, born in Paris. He lived in the US from 1915, experimenting with quarter tone music, percussion and electronics.
Vargas, Getúlio Dornelles (1883–1954). Brazilian politician, born in São Borja. A lawyer and cattle rancher, he served as Federal Finance Minister 1926–27 and Governor of Rio Grande do Sul 1928–30. He ran for the Presidency in 1930 in a notably corrupt poll, just after the Great Depression hit Brazil: the army intervened to remove the declared winner Júlio Prestes and installed Vargas as ‘interim President’ 1930–34. The 1930 coup marked the end of the ‘Old Republic’, in which power alternated between two oligarchies (known as café com leite politics). He adopted much of the corporatism of *Mussolini in Italy and *Salazar in Portugal, combined with interventionist economic policies similar to *Roosevelt’s New Deal. Vargas continued as President 1934–45, using emergency powers to over-ride the Constitution and stay in office, ruling as a dictator from 1937 in his ‘New State’ (Estado Novo). But he had some popular support and was known as ‘the Father of the Poor’. Despite having shown some sympathy for the Axis, the US induced him to take Brazil into World War II on the Allied side, but afterwards had to give way to constitutional demands. He resigned (1945) but remained leader of a reformed Labour Party and was a Senator 1945–51. After a free election, he was again President 1951–54, but the rise in the cost of living soon dimmed his popularity and when a group of officers gave him the choice of resignation or exile he shot himself.
Dulles, J. W. F., Vargas of Brazil, a political biography. 1967.
Vargas Llosa, Mario (1936– ). Peruvian novelist. Educated in Lima and Madrid, he became a journalist and broadcaster. His novels include The Time of the Hero (1963, translated 1966). Conversation in the Cathedral (1969, 1975) and Aunt Julia and the Scribbler (1977). He was the candidate of the Freedom Party for the Presidency of Peru (1990), losing to Alberto *Fujimori. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2010.
Varmus, Harold (1939– ). American medical scientist. He shared the 1989 Nobel Prize for Medicine with Michael Bishop for their work on cancer-causing genes and became director of the National Institute of Health 1993–99.
Vasarely, Victor (1908–1997). Hungarian-French artist. He worked in Paris from 1930 and became a pioneer of op art with geometrical abstractions which were much reproduced. He won the São Paulo Biennale Grand Prix in 1965 and was represented in museums throughout the world.
Vasari, Giorgio (1511–1574). Italian art historian, architect and painter, born in Arezzo. Though he gained considerable contemporary reputation as an architect (e.g. of the Uffizi in Florence) and as a Mannerist painter (e.g. of overcrowded battle scenes in the Palazzo Vecchio), he is remembered for his book The Lives of the Artists (in full The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, 1550), containing the biographies of the Italian painters of the previous 300 years. Despite considerable inaccuracy and bias it is the only source for much of the material, is full of lively anecdotes and shrewd comment. A revised and enlarged edition appeared in 1568.
Ruben, P. L., Giorgio Vasari. 1996; Rowland, I., and Charney, N., The Collector of Lives. Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art. 2017.
Vasco da Gama see Gama, Vasco da
Vasks, Pēteris (1946– ). Latvian composer. Son of a Baptist pastor, he became a violinist and composer, influenced by *Lutosławski and *Penderecki. Describing his work as ‘food for the soul’, he composed three symphonies, a violin concerto, ‘Distant Light’, two cello concertos and much chamber and choral music.
Vauban, Sebastien le Prestre de (1633–1707). French military engineer. Orphaned and destitute, he joined the army and served under *Condé, having gained (1655) an engineer’s commission in the army of the King. He was primarily engaged in the taking and making of fortresses. He also developed the socket bayonet and ricochet fire. In the Spanish Netherlands (Belgium) (1672–78) he conducted 17 successful sieges, reducing Maastricht in 13 days by an approach by parallels, a method he introduced. In the decade between the wars (1678–88), he constructed the magnificent series of frontier fortresses which were effective until they fell under the attack of German howitzers in World War I. Already a general, he was appointed Marshal of France in 1703. Twelve ‘Fortifications of Vauban’ were inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2008.
Vaucanson, Jacques de (1709–1782). French inventor, born in Grenoble. He invented the first all-metal lathe, and created a series of elaborate automata, the most famous of which was ‘The Digesting Duck’ (1739).
Vaughan, Henry (1622–1695). Welsh religious poet. In 1647 he began practising medicine in his native Brecknockshire. He began writing secular poetry (Poems with the tenth Satyre of Juvenal Englished 1646) but after a religious conversion (c.1648) wrote only devotional verse and prose mediations. His religious poetry, the best of it in Silex Scintillans (1650) and Thalia Rediviva (1678), owes much to the influence of George *Herbert. In his natural descriptions and some of his thought (e.g. the nearness of a child to God, based in a belief of a life before birth) he seems to presage *Wordsworth.
Durr, R. A., The Mystical Poetry of Henry Vaughan. 1962.
Vaughan Williams, Ralph (1872–1958). English composer, born in Gloucestershire. Son of a clergyman, his mother was related to the *Darwin and *Wedgwood families. He studied at Trinity College, Cambridge (where, in 1901, he took a Mus. Doc.), the Royal College of Music under *Stanford and *Parry, in Berlin with *Bruch (1897–98) and in Paris with *Ravel (1909). However, the turning point came with his discovery of English folksong (1905) and of the Tudor polyphonic tradition. His Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis (1909), probably his best work, shows the influence of both Church music and Ravel’s orchestration. His song cycle On Wenlock Edge (1909), to poems by A. E. *Housman, remains in the repertoire, as do many songs, hymn tunes and folksong arrangements. He wrote nine symphonies between 1901 and 1958, of which No. 4 (1935), a stark and violent work, marks an abrupt change from his romantic and lyrical style. He wrote several operas, including Hugh the Drover (1914) and The Pilgrim’s Progress (1951), many choral works, The Lark Ascending (rhapsody for violin, 1921), and the ballet Job (based on *Blake’s etchings, 1931). He received the OM in 1935 and continued composing until his death.
Vavilov, Nikolai Ivanovich (1887–1943). Russian geneticist, born in Moscow. A Mendelian, from 1914 he travelled incessantly to collect varieties of wheat, other cereals and potatoes from their natural habitat, establishing in Leningrad the world’s largest ‘bank’ of genetic variation in crops. From 1936 he was attacked by his former protégé T. D. *Lysenko, arrested in 1940 and starved to death in a labour camp. He was posthumously rehabilitated. Minor planet 2862 Vavilov (1977) and a moon crater were named for him.
Pringle, P., The Murder of Nikolai Vavilov. 2008.
Veblen, Thorstein (Bunde) (1857–1929). American economist and sociologist, born in Wisconsin. Of Norwegian descent, he learned English at school, won a PhD at Yale, taught at Chicago, Stanford and Missouri, and had a broken career because of marital difficulties. He wrote several successful books. The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899) is an analysis of the psychological motives for the business class in an acquisitive society. His style was astringent and witty, the concept of ‘conspicuous waste’ was one of his creations. Others works include The Theory of Business Enterprise (1904) and The Engineers and the Price System (1921).
Vega Carpio, Lope Félix de (1562–1635). Spanish dramatist and poet. As a young man he took part in the Spanish expedition to the Azores (1583) and sailed with the Armada (1588). He was also secretary to the Duke of Alva, the Marquis of Malpica and the Marquis of Sarria. He had many love affairs, was twice married and had several illegitimate children. His sensuousness is reflected in his love poems, and in this, and the religious poetry which was written in his periods of remorse and his charitable gifts to the Church and poor, there is a dichotomy that makes his writing more immediate and personal than that of many of his contemporaries. He had great literary prestige during his lifetime, which was, however, marred by tragedy, including the death of two wives, the blindness and madness of a mistress, the abduction of a daughter and the deaths of two sons.
After 1588, his dramatic production was huge and generally sensational, and approximately 500 pieces (including entremeses and autos) survive of approximately 1500. He was the master of the Comedia in three acts, full of action and sentiment but not noted for individual characterisation or powerful situation. His plays are roughly (1) ‘cloak and sword’ plays comedies of intrigue, complicated aristocratic love stories such as La discreta enamorata, Noche de San Juan, and Maestro de Danzar, and (2) plays on Spanish history or legends, such as Peribnez, Fuenteovejuna and El ultimo godo.
Lope de Vega is critically praised for his neatness and inventiveness of plot, his lyricism, his sympathetic and unpatronising portrayal of the peasant characters of his plays, and his charming lovers. He also wrote many poems, religious and secular, a pastoral novel Arcadia (1581) amongst others, prose, a mock epic about cats and an autobiographical novel La Dorotea (1632).
Veidt, Conrad (originally Hans Walter Konrad Weidt) (1893–1943). German actor and director, born in Berlin. He made his stage debut in 1913 and from 1916 appeared in 119 films, notably as Cesare the somnambulist in The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1919), The Thief of Bagdad (1940) and as Major Strasser in Casablanca (1942). He left Germany in 1933 and became a British subject.
Veil, Simone Annie Liline (née Jacob) (1927–2017). French administrator, born in Nice. She survived concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau but her parents and a brother died. She served at the Ministry of Justice 1957–65, first as an attaché and later (from 1959) as an assistant. She was Secretary-General to the Conseil Supérieur de la Magistrature 1970–74 and a member of the French Broadcasting Administration 1972–74. She achieved wide popularity and recognition as Minister of Health 1974–77, Minister of Health and Social Security 1977–78 and Minister of Health and Family Affairs 1978–79 and Minister for Social Affairs, Health and Towns 1993–95. She promoted the cause of women’s rights in the family, for easier access to contraception and legalising abortion. Elected as MEP 1979–93, she was the first elected President of the European Parliament at Strasbourg 1979–82. She won the Charlemagne Prize in 1981, was appointed Hon. DBE in 1998, elected to the Académie française in 2008 and awarded the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour in 2012. She was interred in the Panthéon in 2018.
Velázquez, Diego Rodriguez de Silva y (1599–1660). Spanish painter of Portuguese descent, born in Seville. At the age of 14 he began to study under Francisco Pacheco, an indifferent artist whose daughter he married. At first working closely from life, he painted genre scenes, such as kitchen interiors, with figures and objects in realistic detail. The strong contrasts of light and shade recall the chiaroscuro of *Caravaggio, then becoming popular in Spain. In 1622 and 1623 Velázquez visited Madrid where he painted his first portrait of *Philip IV, which led to his appointment as court painter and to other more or less honorific appointments as his reputation grew. *Rubens visited Madrid in 1628 and his influence enabled Velázquez to go on a two-year visit to Italy (1629–31), which resulted in a softening of the harshness of his early style: colour began to show in the shadows, light and space became his preoccupations, whilst the range of subjects was enlarged. He resumed his position as royal painter on his return. In his royal portraits he avoids flattery but the infantes and infantas have freshness and charm despite their elaborate and formal clothes. Velázquez was an assiduous courtier, eager for royal favours but his treatment of his masters is unsparing. In his only surviving battle piece, the Surrender of Breda (1634–35), the chivalrous compassion depicted in the attitude of the victors to the defeated gives a humanity to the picture almost unknown in paintings of this kind. Where he is less inhibited by his subject, e.g. in his pictures of court jesters and buffoons (notably the moving Calabazas, 1637, in the Prado), he is at his most effective in combining realism with interpretation of character. The loose brush work of the views of the Medici Gardens, two of his rare landscapes, indicate a stylistic development to which his second visit to Italy (1648–51) may have contributed. To this last period belong the masterpieces The Toilet of Venus (The Rokeby Venus, painted in Italy, his only nude, now in the National Gallery, London), the outstanding portraits of his mulatto slave Juan de Pareja (1649, New York), Pope Innocent X (1650, the subject said ‘troppo vero’), Maids of Honour (Las Meninas, 1656, in the Prado, Madrid), voted in 1985 as ‘the world’s greatest painting’ by an international panel of experts and The Tapestry Weavers (Las Hilanderas). Velázquez was a rapid but not very prolific painter: of 125 canvasses confidently attributed only 98 survive. He founded no school of painting and his genius was unknown outside Spain until the 19th century. Among painters deeply influenced by Velázquez were *Manet, *Picasso, *Dalí and *Bacon.
Brown, J. Velázquez: Painter and Courtier. 1985; Bailey, A., Velázquez and the Surrender of Breda. 2011.
Venizelos, Eleftherios Kyriakou (1864–1936). Greek politician, born in Crete. He was prominent in the rising of 1896 against Turkish rule, and after limited self-government was conceded, became Crete’s Justice Minister 1899–1901; 1908–10 and Prime Minister 1910. Summoned to Athens, he had broken terms as Prime Minister of Greece 1910–15; 1915; 1917–20; 1924; 1928–32; 1933. He was the prime mover in building up the Balkan alliance which resulted in the wars of 1912–13 against Turkey and Bulgaria. The aim of Venizelos’ life since boyhood, the union of Crete with Greece, was now achieved. World War I led to a deep rift between King *Constantine (who was married to the German Emperor’s sister) and his pro-Allied Prime Minister. Venizelos eventually felt himself obliged to set up a provisional government at Salonica (1916) and there were two governments in Greece until the Allies forced the deposition of Constantine (1917). Venizelos led the Greek delegation at the Paris Peace Conference (1919) but was defeated at the election of 1920 (when Constantine was recalled). After the Greek defeat by the Turks in Asia Minor (1921–22) the monarchy was suspended in 1923 but Venizelos remained (except briefly) out of office until 1928. Defeated in 1932 after a successful term during which he had done much for the economic reconstruction of the country, he returned to Crete, where he took part in an unsuccessful revolt against the restored monarchy (1935). Forced into exile, he died in Paris.
Ventris, Michael George Francis (1922–1956). British architect and scholar. While practising as an architect he pursued his self-imposed task of interpreting the ancient Mycenaean writing known as Linear Script B. His conclusion that it was an early form of Greek writing gradually gained general acceptance. In collaboration with John Chadwick of Cambridge University he wrote Documents in Mycenaean Greek (1956). He was killed in a motor accident—possibly as suicide.
Vercingetorix (d.46 BCE). Gallic (Avernian) chieftain. Defeated by Julius *Caesar at Alesia (52 BCE), he was taken in triumph to Rome and executed there. He is celebrated in the French Asterix comics.
Verdi, Giuseppe (Fortunino Francesco) (1813–1901). Italian composer, born at Roncale, near Parma, four months after his great operatic rival Richard *Wagner. Son of a village tradesman, he studied under the local organist. A friend and patron, Antonio Barezzi, a rich merchant (whose daughter Margherita he married in 1836), supported his early musical education. The Milan Conservatoire refused to admit Verdi (as he was over age for admission), and he continued his training in Milan with Vincenzo Lavigna, a repetiteur at La Scala. After Verdi’s daughter (1838), son (1839) and wife (1840) died, he sank into depression. However, friends persuaded him to return to composition, leading to his first major success, Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar) (1842). Ernani (Venice, 1844) followed and then Macbeth (Florence, 1847), in which Verdi developed a strong melodic style ideally suited to the dramatic episodes of the plot.
Verdi’s genius combined popular appeal, with vocally attractive arias beloved of amateurs and record collectors, with, in later decades, growing sophistication and psychological penetration. His most performed operas are Rigoletto (1851), based on Victor *Hugo’s Le roi s’amuse, an immediate success which has never left the repertoire; psychologically complex, intensely dramatic and superbly scored, Il Trovatore (The Troubadour, 1853), a complicated story of jealousy and vengeance, and La Traviata (The Fallen Woman,1853), drawn from the play La Dame aux camélias by *Dumas fils.
Shakespearean in his range, Verdi was a skilled writer (including excellent letters) and sometimes his own librettist. Don Carlos—the French title, Don Carlo in Italian (1867), based on a drama by *Schiller, is his longest opera. Set in France and Spain in the 1560s, it is a powerful psychological study of family conflicts (with Oedipal hints of incest), dynastic rivalries, personal frustration, freedom v. authority and religious fanaticism.
The achievement of dramatic ‘truth’ (verismo), now Verdi’s main aim, made such demands on acting ability that the virtuoso singers, so long the mainstay of opera, were deprived of their dominance. The quality of Simon Boccanegra (Venice, 1857), Un Ballo in Maschera (Rome, 1859) and those that followed, including I Vespri Siciliani (Paris, 1867) was not immediately recognised. Aida (Cairo, 1871) was commissioned for the opening of the Suez Canal.
He bought an estate at Sant’Agata, near Busseto in 1848 and later became a major landowner. He spent some time in Paris, visited St Petersburg (1861) and London (1862, 1875). He lived with the soprano Giuseppina Strepponi (1815–1897) from 1849, married her in 1859 and generally lived happily ever after, although he had other amours, even in old age.
Verdi played a symbolic political role and the letters of his name became a political acronym for the unification movement (Vittorio Emanuele Re D’Italie). An ardent patriot (‘a Liberal, but not a Red’), he was elected as a Deputy 1861–65 in the national parliament and Senator (from 1874) but rarely sat. He wrote some religious works, including the Requiem (1874), dedicated to the memory of Alessandro *Manzoni, and Four Sacred Pieces (published 1898) including Ave Maria and a Stabat Mater.
Of his three Shakespearean operas, Macbeth (1853) had a libretto by Francesco Piave, while for Otello (1887) and Falstaff (1893), the librettist was the composer and poet Arrigo *Boito, whose work rivals Lorenzo *Da Ponte or *Wagner. Iago’s aria in Act 2 of Otello, ‘Credo in un Dio crudel …’ (‘I believe in a cruel God …’) is a dramatic masterpiece, but not using Shakespeare’s words. Falstaff, first performed in Verdi’s 80th year, a work of genius with words and music at the highest level, is drawn largely from The Merry Wives of Windsor. The action proceeds at breakneck speed in a variety of genres—farce, inner reflection, betrayal, joy and reconciliation. Among the greatest passages in Falstaff are Ford’s chilling aria ‘È sogno o realtà? (‘Is it a dream or reality?’) in Act 2, and the finale, an exuberant fugue ‘Tutto nel mondo e burlà …’ (‘Everything in the world is a jest …’)
Verdi died in the Grand Hotel, Milan, leaving an estate worth $US40 million (in 2013 values). *Schoenberg and *Stravinsky admired Verdi. His reputation continues to grow. Of his 27 operas, more are in the international repertoire now than at his death: all are available on CD and most on DVD.
Phillips-Matz, M. J., Verdi.1993; Conrad, P., Verdi and/or Wagner: Two Men, Two Worlds, Two Centuries. 2011; Wills, G., Verdi’s Shakespeare. 2011.
Verlaine, Paul (1844–1896). French poet, born in Metz. At 17, after leaving the Lycée Condorcet, Paris, he became a clerk in the municipal service and was already writing poetry. Soon, as a contributor to Le Parnasse contemporain, he mixed with such poets as *Leconte de Lisle, Catulle *Mendès and *Mallarmé. His first volume, Poèmes Suturniens (1860), won moderate praise; the next, Fêtes galantes (1869), was a more mature work evocative of the elegance of the 18th century in which it was set. His courtship of his 16-year-old bride Mathilde Mauté is recorded in La Bonne Chanson (1870), but in 1871, having met the young *Rimbaud, he left her and their infant son to spend a year of bohemian wandering with him in Belgium and England. In Brussels (1873), Rimbaud threatened to leave him. They quarrelled, Verlaine shot him in the wrist and he was later arrested and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. While in prison he wrote Romances sans paroles, in which the meaning is almost submerged by the music of the words. On his release he became a schoolmaster, and in a mood of religious penitence wrote Sagesse (published 1881). Back in France (1877) he continued to teach for a time, the poems in his Amour (1888) were inspired by grief at the death of a former pupil whom he had adopted as a son. Despite growing fame he had difficulty in making a living and his works progressively deteriorated. His critical writings, e.g. Poètes maudits (1884), short stories and lecture tours were not remunerative. Alcoholism and illness brought him to poverty and squalor, though his friends and admirers, and even the state, rallied to his help at the end.
Richardson, J., Verlaine. 1971.
Vermeer, Johannes (or Jan) (1632–1675). Dutch painter, born in Delft. He spent all his life in his birthplace where, in 1653 he joined the Guild of St Luke as a master painter. Except for a famous View of Delft (1658–60) and a very few portraits and other pictures, he painted mainly interiors, where a single wall and a tiled floor provide backgrounds for the harmoniously composed figures in the soft serene light pouring through tall windows, lighting effects over which he gained a supreme mastery. The figures, mostly young women, appear singly or in very small groups and confirm by their attitudes and occupations the pictures’ moods. It is likely that he used a camera obscura to assist with proportions and to capture tonal changes. Vermeer was popular in his own day but was then almost forgotten until the 19th-century revival after 1866 by the art historian Theophile Thoré. A slow worker, only about 35 of his paintings survive. *Proust thought View of Delft ‘the most beautiful painting in the world’ and other masterpieces include The Milkmaid (c.1658), The Little Street (1658), Girl with a pearl earring (1665) and Girl with the red hat (c.1665). Vermeer can be recognised by the monumental and spacious effect he gives to small rooms by sitting close to the model, by his characteristic dark blues and warm yellows and by the occurrence in picture after picture of the same small objects painted with the same meticulous detail. Such idiosyncrasies provided an opportunity for the forger Hans van *Meegeren in World War II (although as Vermeer’s work has become better known, it is hard to see how the forgeries could have fooled anybody). Vermeer cared little for commercialism. At his death his baker held two of his paintings for unpaid bills, and his wife, declared bankrupt, could not retrieve them. The microscopist *Leeuwenhoek, an exact contemporary, was his executor but it is uncertain if they were friends.
Gowing, L., Vermeer. 2nd ed. 1970; Wheelock, A. K., Vermeer. 1981; Wheelock, A. K., Vermeer and the Art of Painting. 1995; Steadman, P., Vermeer’s Camera. 2001.
Vermes, Geza (1924–2013). Hungarian-British scholar. His family converted from Judaism, but his parents died in the Holocaust. He studied in Paris and Louvain, became a Catholic priest, worked on the Dead Sea Scrolls but left the Church in 1957. Reader 1965–89 and professor 1989–91 of Jewish studies at Oxford, his books include Jesus the Jew (1973), The Changing Faces of Jesus (2001) and The Authentic Gospel of Jesus (2004).
Verne, Jules (1828–1905). French novelist, born at Nantes. Originator of ‘scientific’ romances, he wrote a long series beginning with Five Weeks in a Balloon (1863) and including Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (1870) and Around the World in Eighty Days (1873). Their enormous success, based largely on their plausibility, inspired H. G. *Wells and later writers of science fiction. He lived in Amiens from 1872. His lost novel Paris in the 20th Century was published in 1994.
Evans. I. O., Jules Verne and His Work. 1965.
Vernier, Pierre (c.1580–1637). French mathematician and soldier born in Ornans, France-Comté. After working as an engineer for the Habsburgs in the Spanish Netherlands, he became captain of the chatêau at Ornans 1622–38. In 1630 he invented the auxiliary scale named for him. By using the vernier to subdivide the smallest divisions of an ordinary scale he greatly improved the accuracy of linear and angular measurements.
Veronese (Paolo Caliari) (1528–1588). Italian painter, born at Verona. Though the titles of his pictures, e.g., Marriage of Cana (1563), Feast of the House of Levi (1573) etc. are religious, the episodes depicted are removed in time and place to contemporary Venice. In architectural settings of unparalleled magnificence, emphasised sometimes by his experiments in false perspective, he sets the men and women of the aristocratic world in which he moved, brilliant in silk brocades and glittering with jewels. He had to appear before the Inquisition (1573) for introducing dwarfs and jesters into biblical scenes but he claimed the artistic privilege of a decorator. Though he was a contemporary of the Mannerists his work is nearer to that of the High Renaissance. Most of the paintings went to adorn the great palaces of Venice and Rome.
Orliac, A., Veronese. 1948.
Veronica, St (1st century CE?). Legendary saint. According to tradition she was a woman of Jerusalem who offered her veil to Jesus to wipe the sweat from his face while he was carrying the cross to Calvary. His features, so it was said, were miraculously imprinted on the fabric and the picture survived and was eventually brought to Rome. A naturalistic explanation suggests that the name Veronica is derived from the cloth itself vera icon (‘the true image’).
Verrocchio (Andrea di Michele di Francesco Cioni) (1435–1488). Italian painter and sculptor, born in Florence. He took his familiar name from Giuliano Verrocchi, the goldsmith who was his first teacher, but like so many of the great Renaissance figures he worked with almost equal facility in all the arts and crafts. Not only was he a painter and sculptor but he showed his skill as a metal worker and wood carver. He succeeded (1467) *Donatello in the service of the *Medici and among his many tasks were the making of tournament armour and carnival masks. There are notable differences between him and his predecessor: Donatello’s statue David is an idealised naked youth, Verrocchio portrays him with sword and armour. Among his pupils was *Leonardo da Vinci who is said to have painted the angel on the left of The Baptism (now in the Uffizi, Florence), one of Verrocchio’s few known paintings. At his death he was still working on the equestrian statue of Bartolomeo *Colleoni, a magnificent portrayal of the great and arrogant Venetian mercenary.
Verwoerd, Hendrik Frensch (1901–1966). South African politician, born in Amsterdam. He went to South Africa as a child, was educated at Stellenbosch University, to which, after further study in Europe, he returned (1928) as head of the Department of Sociology and Social Services. He edited Die Transvaaler, a new Afrikaans daily, 1938–48, then became a senator. In 1950 he became Minister of Native Affairs in the Nationalist Government and strictly applied the apartheid policy of racial segregation. This he continued when he became Prime Minister 1958–66. In 1960 South Africa decided by referendum to become a republic, and the decision was put into effect (1961) when South Africa left the Commonwealth. An English settler had attempted to assassinate him in 1960, and in September 1966 he was stabbed to death in the House of Assembly at Cape Town.
Vesalius, Andreas (1514–1564). Flemish anatomist, born in Brussels. He studied in Paris and Louvain before becoming professor of surgery at Padua University, where he had just (1537) taken his degree. His publications were based on the works of *Galen, but by carrying out dissections (a revolutionary practice at that time) he was able to point out many errors. His greatest work, De humani corporis fabrica (1543), was enriched by superbly engraved illustrations. Upset by criticism, Vesalius burnt his books and became court physician to the emperor *Charles V and his son *Felipe II of Spain. He died returning from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
O’Malley, C. D., Andreas Vesalius of Brussels 1514–1564. 1964.
Vespasian (Titus Flavius Sabinus Vespasianus) (9–79 CE). Roman Emperor 69–79. Born near Rome, with no particular social advantages he slowly climbed the military and official ladders until he had become Consul (51) and a senator. He took part in the conquest of Britain (43) by the emperor *Claudius, and at the time of *Nero’s suicide he was fighting the Jewish rebels in Palestine. While *Galba, *Otho and *Vitellius were contending for Nero’s vacant throne he remained at his post, but when his legions proclaimed him Emperor (July 69) he left his son *Titus in Judaea and marched on Rome. When Vitellius died defeated, there was no further resistance and having had suppressed a revolt on the Rhine the empire was at peace (71). His reign was one of prudent consolidation, he lived simply, restored the empire’s finances, patronised the arts and began the Colosseum. He was succeeded by his son Titus who established the Flavian dynasty.
Vespucci, Amerigo (1451–1512). Italian merchant adventurer and navigator, born in Florence. He was immortalised by the adoption of the name America, first applied to South America in maps (1507) by Martin *Waldseemüller. An agent of the *Medici at Seville and a successful man of business, he was given the task of fitting up the royal fleets that sailed in Columbus’s wake. He claimed to have made four voyages between 1497 and 1504, two in Spanish service, two for the Portuguese. However, it is more likely that he made only two. In the first, 1499–1500, under the command of Alonso de Ojeda (1465–1515), he sailed along the north coast of Brazil, observing the mouths of the Amazon and Orinoco, visiting Trinidad and Haiti. (They supposed themselves to be off the coast of India.) In the second voyage, 1501–02, commanded by Gonçalo Coelho (1451/4–1512), he returned to Brazil, named Salvador and the site of Rio de Janeiro (January 1502), possibly observing the Rio de la Plata and parts of Patagonia. Pilot Major of the Commercial House for the West Indies, Seville 1508–12, he was probably the first to propose that the Americas were not part of Asia. The wide currency given to his accounts of his voyages (a German translator even mentions ‘America’ i.e. South America, as being called after ‘its discoverer Americus’) ensured that his name, not ‘Columbus’, was inscribed on the first maps of the New World.
Vianney, St Jean-Baptiste-Marie (1786–1859). French priest, known as ‘the curé of Ars’. A holy innocent, renowned for his devotion, he was the parish priest at Ars, near Lyon, 1818–59. Credited with many miraculous cures, he was beatified in 1905, canonised in 1925 and became the patron saint of parish priests in 1929.
Viardot, (Michelle Ferdinande) Pauline (née Garcia) (1821–1910). French mezzo-soprano, pianist, teacher and composer, born in Paris. Daughter of Manuel *Garcia and sister of Maria *Malibran, she studied under her father and Franz *Liszt, married Louis Viardot and ran an intellectual salon in Paris. Renowned for her acting, she became the mistress of *Turgenev and premiered *Brahms’ Alto Rhapsody (1869).
Vickers, Thomas (1833–1915) and Albert (1838–1919). British industrialists. The two brothers entered a Sheffield steelmaking firm, and gradually control passed into their hands. Decisive steps that led to their becoming ranked among the great armament makers in the world were the taking over (1897) of the Maxim, Nordenfelt Company (*Maxim) and the Naval Construction and Armament Company of Barrow-in-Furness. A wide variety of armament from machineguns to battleships (and aeroplanes after the brothers’ deaths) was made by the firm, known (from 1911) as Vickers Ltd.
Vico, Giambattista (Giovanni Battista) (1688–1744). Italian philosopher of history. A professor at the University of Naples and historiographer to *Charles III of Naples, his major work was Scienza Nuova (1725, revised 1730, 1744). A critic of *Descartes and an anti-Utopian, he rejected the idea of uniform laws in history and promoted cultural pluralism, arguing that all national history is shaped by individual differences—geography, climate, anthropology, language, institutions, ritual, art and custom, often expressed in myth. To Vico, knowledge was not a science but a deeply subjective human process. He opposed rational absolutism, ‘the vaunting of judgment without context, applying abstractions without reference to realty or history’. Interest in Vico was revived by *Michelet, *Weber, *Croce, *Yeats and *Berlin. He also influenced James *Joyce.
Bergen, T. G., and Fisch, M. H., trans., The Autobiography of Giambattista Vico. 1944; Berlin, I., Vico and Herder. 1976.
Victor Emmanuel II and III see Vittorio Emanuele II and III
Victoria (Alexandra Victoria, née *Welf-Este, by marriage von *Wettin) (1819–1901). Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith 1837–1901, Empress of India 1876–1901. Born in Kensington Palace, London, she was the only child of *George III’s fourth son, Edward, Duke of *Kent and Strathearn, and of Victoria of Saxe-Coburg, sister of *Leopold, later King of the Belgians. She became queen on the death of her uncle, *William IV. Another uncle, Ernest Augustus, Duke of *Cumberland, became King of Hanover, where its succession laws did not allow a woman to reign, ending the common sovereignty of the two countries. During the first years of her reign the young queen found a friend and political mentor in her Prime Minister, Lord *Melbourne, but after her marriage (1840) to her cousin *Albert of Saxe-Coburg, her husband became the dominant influence in her life.
Victoria bore nine children between 1840 and 1857. She doted on the eldest *Victoria (Vicky), but had a stressful relationship with Albert Edward (Prince of Wales from infancy, then *Edward VII) and some others. She was physically and emotionally remote, but obsessively controlling. She inherited haemophilia from her father, was a carrier but not a sufferer, and transmitted it through her daughters Alice and Beatrice and son Leopold.
Prince Albert’s influence was important in foreign affairs, where his interventions, generally prudent, and aimed at the liberalisation of the European monarchies, sometimes provoked friction with her foreign ministers, especially *Palmerston. The network of royal relationship which played an important part in international affairs during the 19th century was greatly extended as their children reached marriageable age.
She was interested in and sympathetic to India (but never visited) and in 1858 wrote deploring ‘a bloody civil war’ and promising that Indians would be ‘placed on an equality with the subjects of the British Crown’ and was angered that these promises were never kept. Early Indian nationalists regarded Victoria with affection.
The Prince Consort’s death in December 1861 shattered her happiness. She remained in complete seclusion at Windsor until 1864 and did not open parliament in person until 1866. Only the tact and flattery of her Prime Minister *Disraeli induced her to emerge: his proposition that she be proclaimed as Empress of of India (1876) greatly pleased her, but power was in the hands of her often ruthless administrators.
Between 1840 and 1882, she was shot at on eight occasions, but each incident was bungled, silly or the result of derangement.
Victoria’s distrust of her eldest son and her long refusal to allow him any part in public affairs did serious damage to his character. For the other great prime minister of her reign, *Gladstone, the queen had respect but no affection: ‘he speaks to me as if I were a public meeting’. In her last years, the public identified her with the nation’s great achievements during her reign. The Jubilee (1887) and the Diamond Jubilee (1897) celebrations revealed the extent of her popularity and even veneration. Although neither intellectually brilliant nor highly imaginative, she had much shrewdness and common sense and, despite her identification with ‘Victorian morality’, her judgments were usually charitable and kind, and she was racially tolerant. Oddly, she was fiercely opposed to votes for women but sympathetic to Alfred *Dreyfus. If her taste was no better than that of the majority of her subjects, it was certainly no worse. During her reign, ‘constitutional government’ in the modern sense was fully developed. She did not conceal her opinions, often showed bias (especially towards the Conservatives in her old age) but never acted against formal ‘advice’. Her reign restored the crown’s prestige and became a symbol of public service and imperial unity. A voluminous correspondent, few women have revealed themselves more fully than she did in her letters, thousands of which have been published.
She was the longest reigning British monarch until 9 September 2015 when *Elizabeth II overtook her.
Buckle, G. E. (ed.), Letters of Queen Victoria 1862–1885, 1926–28; Buckle, G. E. (ed.), Letters of Queen Victoria 1886–1901. 1930–32; Longford, E., Queen Victoria. 1964; Wilson, A. N., Victoria: A Life. 2014; Baird, J., Victoria the Queen. 2016.
Victoria Adelaide Mary (1840–1901). Empress of Germany. Eldest child of Queen *Victoria, known in Great Britain as the Princess Royal, she was trained in politics by her father, *Albert, the Prince Consort. Her marriage (1858) to the future emperor *Friedrich of Germany, who shared her views, gave promise of a liberal empire, but he died of cancer (1888) within three months of his accession. Already unpopular for her English connexions and her insistence on calling in an English doctor for her husband, she became estranged from her son, Kaiser *Wilhelm II, and lost all influence.
Pakula, H., An Uncommon Woman. 1995.
Victoria, Tomás Luis de (Tommaso Ludovico da Vittoria) (1548?–1611). Spanish composer. His output was entirely of religious music. The two settings of the Passion and nine Lamentation lessons contained in his Holy Week Office (1585) and his Requiem Mass for the empress Maria (published 1605) are of special importance. His work superficially resembles that of *Palestrina but he had a more pronounced sense of harmony and key relationship.
Vidal, (Eugene Luther) Gore (1925–2012). American novelist, essayist and dramatist, born in West Point. He grew up in a political family, served in World War II, ran for Congress and was an acidulous and penetrating critic. His novels include Myra Breckinridge (1968), Burr (1973), 1876 (1976), Creation (1981), Lincoln (1984), Empire (1987), Hollywood (1989) and Live from Golgotha (1992). United States: Essays 1952–1992 (1993) confirmed his encyclopaedic range. Palimpsest (1995) was autobiographical.
Vidocq, Eugène François (1775–1857). French criminal and detective. Son of a baker, he started his career by robbing the till of his father’s shop. After a period as a circus acrobat and (as a supposed savage) a ‘drinker of blood’, he joined the army, but in Paris in 1796 he was sentenced to eight years in the galleys for forgery. He escaped to join a gang of highwaymen, whom he handed over to the police. Accepted now as a police informer he became (1809) head of the ‘Brigade de Sûreté’, which he may have founded himself. His success as a detective was regarded as marvellous until it was found that he organised many of the burglaries he ‘discovered’ and in 1825 he was dismissed. His Memoirs (1828), possibly spurious, contain as much fiction as truth.
Viète, François (1540–1603). French mathematician. Son of an attorney, he studied law, and began his career as an advocate and a councillor in the parlement of Brittany. As a Huguenot, he was banished from court during the reign of *Charles IX but restored to favour by *Henri IV. One of his greatest political services lay in decoding enemy messages during the war against Spain. Viète was one of the first to advocate algebraic rather than geometrical constructions in mathematical proofs. He introduced many key technical terms into algebra, such as ‘coefficient’ and ‘negative’, and pioneered the technique of using letters of the alphabet to denote unknown quantities. He was principally concerned with algebra as a practical tool and most of his own work in the subject was geared to solving cosmological and astronomical problems. He was deeply involved in calendar reform. When Pope *Gregory XIII proposed a major reform of the calendar (by making 15 October 1582 follow immediately after 4 October), Viète was one of the sternest opponents of the new Gregorian calendar (although his own astronomical calculations were incorrect).
Vigée-Le Brun, (Marie) Elisabeth Louise (1755–1842). French painter. Daughter of a portraitist who trained her, she married the artist, critic and dealer J.B.P. Le Brun. She painted *Marie Antoinette more than 20 times, left France on the onset of Revolution (1789), then lived in Italy, Russia and England. Her subjects included Emma *Hamilton, Lord *Byron and Madame de *Stal.
Vigeland, (Adolf) Gustav (1869–1943). Norwegian sculptor. Under a unique agreement, Vigeland was provided with a studio and a livelihood on condition that he hand over all his work to the Oslo municipality, which in turn promised to exhibit them in perpetuity. The result is an array of robust and realistic nudes in single figures or groups in a beautiful setting in the Vigeland Park, Frogner, in Oslo. The influence of *Rodin is apparent but both the merits of the work and its symbolism (clearly linked with the life cycle) have provoked much controversy.
Vigny, Alfred Victor, Comte de (1797–1863). French Romantic writer, born in Loches. After serving in the army for 12 years, an experience that inspired Servitude et grandeur militaires (1835), he became one of the leading figures in the Romantic literary movement. His Poemes antiques et modernes (1826) show the influence of *Byron. The *Scott-inspired Cinq-Mars, a novel of the reign of *Louis XIII, appeared in the same year. Chatterton (1835) a play written for the actor Marie Dorval, for whom he cherished a jealous love for years, is considered his masterpiece. He had married (1825) Lydia Bunbury, an Englishwoman, but the marriage was not a success. He was no more fortunate in public life. His attempt to enter parliament (1848–49) was unsuccessful. These failures are reflected in the pessimism of his work. After his death the philosophic poems Les Destinées appeared in 1864, while Daphne, concerned with the struggle between Christianity and what he considered a new paganism, was published only in 1912.
De la Salle, B., Alfred de Vigny. Rev. ed. 1963.
Villa, Francisco (1877–1923). Mexican bandit and revolutionary. After escaping from peonage he became a bandit and was nicknamed Pancho Villa. His aid in the revolution of 1910–11 helped *Madero to overthrow Porfirio *Diaz. Later he came into conflict with his previous allies and Villa was obliged to flee to North Mexico where he operated as a rebel until 1920. An American punitive expedition under General *Pershing was sent against him (1916) after the murder of several Americans but failed to take him and caused much ill feeling in Mexico. Villa, a daring and impulsive fighter for social justice, became a popular hero.
Villa-Lobos, Heitor (1887–1959). Brazilian composer. One of the first South American composers to win international recognition, he was largely self-taught. Most of his vast output, which includes operas, symphonies, chamber music and piano music, is influenced by the style of Brazilian folksong. The Chôros, for various instrumental combinations, blend Brazilian, Indian and popular elements and the suites entitled Bachianas Brasileiras fuse Brazilian melody with the manner of *Bach.
Villars, Claude Louis Hector, Duc de (1653–1734). French soldier. One of *Louis XIV’s most famous generals, in the opening stages of the War of the Spanish Succession his bold efforts against the Austrians were constantly foiled by the hesitant obstinacy of his ally, the Elector of Bavaria. In 1705 he conducted a masterly defence of the northeastern frontier of France against *Marlborough, and, after forcing his retreat, captured the Allies’ reserves of food, equipment and artillery in Alsace. He was equally successful against Prince *Eugène (1708). He was wounded at Malplaquet (1709) but, after Marlborough’s recall, he more than held his own until the Peace of Utrecht (1712) brought the war to an end.
Villeneuve, Pierre Charles Jean Baptiste Sylvestre de (1763–1806). French sailor. One of *Nelson’s leading antagonists in the Napoléonic Wars, he was a captain at the Battle of the Nile and managed to save his own ship and two frigates in that disaster (1798). Chosen by *Napoléon to play the leading part in the strategy to gain command of the Channel for long enough to enable him to invade England, Villeneuve slipped out of Toulon early in 1805 and joined by a Spanish squadron from Cadiz, reached the West Indies in May. Nelson followed. Villeneuve doubled back, but after an encounter with the British off Ferrol, he decided that the remainder of the plan to rescue the ships blockaded at Brest and then enter the Channel was impractical; he turned south to Cadiz where Nelson found him. Anxious to redeem himself before a successor could arrive, Villeneuve sought battle and at Trafalgar was defeated and captured. Released in 1806 he killed himself on the journey to Paris rather than face Napoléon's anger.
Villepin, Dominique de (1953– ). French diplomat and politician, born in Morocco. He served as Foreign Minister 2002–05 and Prime Minister 2005–07.
Villiers, Barbara see Cleveland, 1st Duchess of
Villiers de L’Isle-Adam, Auguste, Comte de (1838–1889). French writer. He dedicated an early volume of symbolist poetry, Premières poésies, to de *Vigny, but is chiefly remembered for his prose works, late Romantic studies in the fantastic and the macabre. The best known are Contes cruels (1883), short stories in the manner of *Poe, the novel L’Ève future (1886), and the play Axël (1885). Both his plays and novels suffered because they were used to display ideas rather than to represent the development of character.
Wilson, E., Axel’s Castle. 1931.
Villon, François (1431–c.1470). French poet, born in Paris. Of obscure parentage, he was brought up by Guillaume de Villon, a priest who lectured in canon law. After graduating in the Sorbonne he continued the irregular life of his student days. In 1455 he stabbed Philippe Chermoye, a priest, to death in a brawl, fled to the countryside, joined a band of criminals and learned the thieves’ argot in which he later wrote ballads. He returned to Paris (1456) but continued his criminal life and took part in a robbery at the Collège de Navarre. In 1460 he was under sentence of death at Orléans for an unknown crime, but he was released after an amnesty. Another amnesty, this time to mark a visit by the new king, *Louis XI, saved him again in 1461. He returned to Paris (1462) only to be imprisoned once again for the old Navarre robbery. He was freed through the influence of Guillaume de Villon, but a street brawl, at the cost of another life, again brought a death sentence. This sentence was commuted to 10 years’ banishment from Paris. Nothing more is known of his life.
Villon used medieval verse forms but the individuality of the poet’s voice, the intensity of his feeling, his perception, and surprisingly if his life be considered, a strain of religious devotion, have given his work a permanent appeal. The poems are variously ribald, urbane, boisterous, and penitent, learned and coarse; they revel in life and are preoccupied with death. The major works, Le Lais or Petit Testament (written 1456) and Grand Testament (1461), comprise poems interspersed with ballads. In addition (apart from ballads in argot) there is the grim Ballade des pendus (written under sentence of death) which ranks with the Ballade des dames du temps jadis with its famous refrain ‘Mais où sont les neiges d’antan?’ (‘But where are the snows of yesteryear?’).
Villon’s work was first printed in 1489 and a critical edition appeared in 1533. A period of neglect intervened but, in the 19th century, French scholars made serious studies, and several English poets, including *Rossetti and *Swinburne, chose pieces for translation.
Bonner, A. (ed.), Complete Works of François Villon. 1960.
Vincent de Paul (originally Depaul), St (1581?–1660). French priest. Son of a peasant in the Landes, he was ordained in 1600. There are various versions of the story of his being captured by Moorish pirates and sold into slavery at Tunis. He escaped to Rome and the French ambassador there sent him on a confidential mission to *Henri IV of France, where he became chaplain (1610–12) to Marguerite de Valois, Henri’s wife. Later, as tutor to the family of the general in charge, he had an opportunity to show his compassion for the convicts condemned to work in the galleys. By 1633 he had acquired enough influential friends to set up two charitable orders, the ‘Priests of the Mission’ (or ‘Lazarists’, after the Convent St Lazare in Paris where they were established) for men, and the ‘Little Sisters of the Poor’ for women. Hospices for the old, the poor (La Salpêtrière) and foundlings were also started and missionaries dispatched abroad. He was canonised in 1737. The lay Society of St Vincent de Paul, founded by students in Paris (1833), has spread through the world.
Vinci, Leonardo da see Leonardo da Vinci
Vinogradoff, Sir Paul Gavrilovich (1854–1925). Russian-British historian. After settling in England (1901) he was appointed to a professorship in jurisprudence at Oxford in 1903. His outstanding contributions to medieval history include Villeinage in England (1892), The Growth of the Manor (1905) and Outlines of Historical Jurisprudence (1920–22).
Vinson, Frederick Moore (1890–1953). American jurist. A US Congressman from Kentucky 1923–29 and 1931–38, he served as a federal judge 1938–43, director of the Office of Economic Stabilisation 1943–45, and as *Truman’s Secretary of the Treasury 1945–46 before his appointment as Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court 1946–53.
Viollet-le-Duc, Eugène Emmanuel (1814–1879). French architect. Talent as a draughtsman combined with a love of medieval architecture shaped his career. He was employed by Prosper *Mérimée at the Commission des Monuments Historiques to carry out a robust restoration of decaying buildings, beginning at Vézelay with the Madeleine Abbey (1840), followed in Paris by Sainte-Chapelle, Notre Dame and Saint-Denis, the medieval fortress-city of Carcasonne, and Saint-Sernin in Toulouse. His works included a 10 volume dictionary of architecture and a six-volume dictionary of furniture.
Virchow, Rudolf Carl (1821–1902). German pathologist. Professor of pathology at Würzburg 1849–56 and Berlin 1856–1902, his Cellular Pathology (1858) became the standard text in the new discipline. He became a progressive member of the Reichstag 1880–93 and an opponent of *Bismarck who once challenged him to a duel.
Ackerknecht, E. H., Rudolf Virchow: Doctor, Statesman, Anthropologist. 1953.
Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro) (70–19 BCE). Roman poet, born near Mantua. He was given the best education but did not take the usual course of entering public life. After some years in the country writing poetry, he went to Rome and attracted the friendship of *Maecenas. His earliest known works are the Eclogues or Bucolics (c.37), pastoral poems modelled on those of *Theocritus. In the four books of the Georgics (completed 30) he uses graceful poetical techniques and verbal artistry in a series of didactic poems on agriculture olive-growing and vine culture, stock-raising and bee-keeping. His greatest work is the Aeneid published after his death, a national epic that tells the story of the flight of Aeneas (a minor prince in *Homer) from defeated Troy, his stay at Carthage with Queen Dido, and his final settlement in Italy, where his descendants were to found the Roman nation. The Aeneid stems from Homer and uses Homeric mechanisms but differs completely in being the product of a sophisticated society rather than of the heroic semi-barbaric world of Homer. A main weakness is in the character of Aeneas himself. The fine poetry is there, the resonant verse, the romantic episode (e.g. that of Dido) but the hero remains something of a dull prig. From the first the Aeneid was used as an educational work and it was natural that this use should survive the change to Christianity. In the process Virgil emerges in the role of a prophet and in the Middle Ages passages of his works were held to contain prophecies of Christ’s coming. In the Divine Comedy, Virgil appears as *Dante’s guide through Inferno. From the 15th century until the 18th, the Aeneid was regarded as a model of epic form.
Visconti, Gian Galeazzo (1351–1402). Italian nobleman, Duke of Milan. He sprang from a family which from 1262 (when Ottone Visconti had been made Archbishop), gradually assumed ascendancy in Milan. Gian Galeazzo, who had succeeded his father in Pavia (1378), and dispossessed his uncle in Milan (1385), concentrated the family power in his own hands. By uniting Milan with the neighbouring cities into a single powerful state, he gained the title of Duke from the emperor. He married his daughter Valentina to the Duke of Orléans, an alliance held to justify the future claims of French kings to the territories of Milan.
Visconti, Luchino, Duca di Mondrone (1906–1976). Italian film director, born in Milan. Member of a noble Milanese family, he worked with Jean *Renoir as an assistant director, then went to the US. His first film Ossessione (1942) was mutilated by Fascist censors but marks the beginning of the Italian neo-realist school. His 16 films had varying success but the best were regarded as masterpieces: Rocco and his Brothers (1960), The Leopard (1963), The Damned (1969) and Death in Venice (1971). Visconti, also a successful operatic producer, was murdered by a young lover.
Servadio, G., Luchino Visconti: A Biography. 1982.
Vitellius, Aulus (15–69 CE). Roman Emperor (69), one of four in that year. Sent by *Galba to command on the lower Rhine, he was proclaimed Emperor by his troops and, after the defeat and death of *Otho, hastened to Rome. His gluttony, extravagance, cruelty and inertia in the face of *Vespasian’s army advancing from the north left him with no friends. When his enemies entered Rome he was killed by being dragged through the streets.
Vitruvius (Marcus Vitruvius Pollio) (c.80/70–c.15 BCE). Roman architect and engineer. His celebrated 10 book treatise, De Architectura is virtually an encyclopaedia, and, as it is the only Roman work of its kind to survive, Vitruvius had enormous influence on the architects of the classical revival from the late 15th century, when the work was first printed, to the 18th century. The famous drawing by *Leonardo, Vitruvian Mani (1490), incorporates his ideas.
Vittoria, Tommas see Victoria, Toms Luis de
Vittorino da Feltre (1378–1446). Italian educationist. From 1425 he directed a school at Mantua under the patronage of Marquis Gian Francesco Gonzaga, whose children were among the pupils. By combining religious instruction with physical training and classical studies Vittorino aimed at producing the Renaissance ideal of a complete, balanced individual. The school provided a pattern followed by the many succeeding humanist educators.
Vittorio Emanuele II (1820–1878). King of Italy 1861–78 and of Sardinia-Piedmont 1849–78. He succeeded his father *Carlo Alberto as King of Sardinia (and ruler of Savoy and Piedmont), and became the first king of united Italy. He showed military skill in the vain struggle against Austria (1848–49), and, when his father abdicated in his favour, continued by political and diplomatic means to support the cause of Italian unity. His chief instrument was the great minister *Cavour, with whom he often disputed but whom he always finally supported, even when it meant the surrender of his historic Savoy territories to France to gain the support of *Napoléon III in the coming struggle. His reward came when, after the French victories (1859) of Magenta and Solferino, only Venice was left to the Austrians (this came to Italy as a reward for alliance with Prussia in 1866). Vittorio Emanuele, free to move south, was welcomed everywhere and having won the reluctant adherence of *Garibaldi was proclaimed King of Italy. Turin was his capital until 1864, then Florence until the French garrison, left to maintain papal rule in Rome, was withdrawn during the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71). Throughout his reign, both of Sardinia and of Italy, he reluctantly observed the practice of constitutional monarchy. Crudely anti-clerical, bellicose in manner, and a great slaughterer of animals, his private life was disorderly and the description ‘father of his country’ no mere figure of speech. He died of malaria in Rome and, being excommunicated, was buried in the Pantheon.
Mack Smith, D., Italy and its Monarchy. 1989.
Vittorio Emanuele III (1869–1947). King of Italy 1900–46. He succeeded on the assassination of his father *Umberto I. Diminutive, he was an expert numismatist and, for a member of his dynasty, widely read. He reigned as a constitutional monarch without serious problems (although he used his influence to ensure that Italy should join the Allies in World War I) until the rise of *Mussolini and the ‘march on Rome’ (1922) caused him to take the decision which eventually proved fatal to his dynasty. He chose (against parliamentary and military advice) to give a constitutional appearance to an unconstitutional act by inviting Mussolini to become his Prime Minister. This made the king an accomplice (even if at times an unwilling one) of the Fascist dictator. He gave active assistance in the conspiracy that led to Mussolini’s downfall and arrest (1943), but his countrymen could not forget the past. Vittorio Emanuele retired from public life (1944) after appointing his son *Umberto Lieutenant General of the realm and abdicated in 1946. He died in exile in Egypt.
Vivaldi, Antonio (c.1675–1741). Italian composer and violinist, born in Venice. He was ordained (1703) but turned to music (1709). For many years he conducted the concerts at the Conservatorio dell’Ospedale della Pietà in Venice, a music school for orphan girls whose concerts enjoyed great prestige. He wrote operas and choral works but his fame rests on the large number of concertos that form the bulk of his output, for example the 12 concertos of L’Estro Armonico (1712). Many are for violin but he wrote examples for other instruments and for various instrumental combinations; several were transcribed by J. S. *Bach. Vivaldi was a great violin virtuoso and had considerable influence on violin technique and on the concerto. Vivaldi was forgotten after his death until a revival that began in the 1930s.
Kolneder, W., Antonio Vivaldi: His Life and Work. 1970.
Vives, Juan Luis (Ludovicus Vives) (1492–1540). Spanish humanist. The dedication of his translation of St Augustine’s Civitas Dei to *Henry VIII brought an invitation to go to England as tutor to Princess *Mary. His disapproval of the royal divorce was punished by imprisonment. From 1528 he lived and taught mostly in Bruges. His De Disciplinis (1531) became one of the best known books of guidance on humanist studies, and his psychological observations in a commentary (1528) on a work by *Aristotle (De Anima) show a remarkably modern outlook.
Vladimir I, St (c.956–1015). Russian ruler, Grand Prince of Kiev c.980–1015. Eight years of civil war broke out on the death of his father, Sviatoslav, until Vladimir defeated his brothers, imposing his rule from the Baltic to the Crimea. He forced Russian conversion from paganism to Greek Orthodoxy, according to legend having first considered Catholicism, Islam and Judaism.
Vlaminck, Maurice de (1876–1958). French landscape painter. Of Belgian descent, an admirer of van *Gogh, he became a friend of André *Derain, with whom he joined the revolutionary group known, because of its violent use of strong colour, as the ‘Fauves’ (‘wild beasts’). This period of his development lasted until 1907 when he came for a time under the influence of *Cézanne. His later, more realistic, work lacks the earlier force. As a young man Vlaminck was well known as a racing cyclist.
Vlaminck, M. de. Paysages et personnages. 1953.
Vogel, Sir Julius (1835–1899). New Zealand politician, born in London. He migrated to Victoria, then to New Zealand (1861) and in the same year founded the Otago Daily Times. He entered parliament in 1862 and as Colonial Treasurer he made bold proposals for the financing of immigration, railways and other public works by large loans. His policy as Premier 1873–75 and 1876 led to the abolition of the provinces (1876).
Volstead, Andrew Joseph (1860–1947). American politician. A lawyer, he was a progressive Republic Congressman 1903–23 and supported liberal measures. He gained national attention as sponsor of the act (known as the Volstead Act) which made detailed legislative provisions for the enforcement of the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution—the prohibition of the sale of alcohol. The act was passed in 1919 despite President Woodrow *Wilson’s veto. It was abrogated by the repeal of prohibition (1933).
Volta, Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio, Conte (1745–1827). Italian physicist. Professor of physics at Como 1774–79 and at Pavia 1779–1804, from 1815 he directed the philosophical faculty at Padua. He isolated methane in 1776, used ‘marsh gas’ in lamps, developed the ‘electrophorus’ to generate static electricity, became the rival of *Galvani and was awarded the Copley Medal in 1794. He discovered that electrical effects could be brought about by contact between two dissimilar metals, and he invented the simple battery or ‘voltaic pile’ (1799). He also investigated electrification by friction, and invented the electrophorus and the condensing electroscope. He is commemorated by the name volt given to the unit of electromotive force.
Voltaire (pen name of François-Marie Arouet) (1694–1778). French writer, born in Paris. Epitome and genius of the 18th-century Enlightenment, son of a notary, he was educated at the Jesuit college of Louis-le-Grand but soon found congenial company in a lively young set of sceptical aristocrats. He declined to study law and after a year spent in the country studying history returned to Paris. Accused of lampooning the regent, the Duke of Orléans, he was sent to the Bastille where he changed his name to Voltaire (supposedly an anagram of his name, Arouet l(e) j(eune), and revised his first tragedy, Oedipe (1718), a great success. Publication of an epic (La Ligue) was forbidden because it championed *Henri IV’s efforts to establish toleration, but it was secretly printed and later revised and reissued as L’Henriade (1728) in England where Voltaire had been allowed to go (1721) after further confinement in the Bastille. In England he was lionised by the fashionable and literary worlds (*Bolingbroke, *Walpole, *Swift, *Pope and *Gay) and was influenced by the ideas of *Newton and *Locke. After his return (1729) he wrote several more plays, and a history of the Swedish king *Charles XII which (with a later one on the age of *Louis XIV) initiated modern historical methods. Most controversial were his Lettres philosophiques (1734) in which his praise for the constitution, tolerance, and scientific achievements of England implied a criticism of France. From the storm this raised he found shelter at the home of Émilie, Marquise du Châtelet, at Cirey-sur-Blaise near the Lorraine frontier. Here he stayed for 10 years writing more plays (of which Alzire, 1736, is regarded as one of his best), two philosophical letters and other works. By 1736 *Friedrich II (‘the Great’) of Prussia was already trying to persuade the great literary lion of Europe to grace his court but it was not until after Émilie’s death (1749) that he eventually succeeded. Voltaire lived in Berlin or Potsdam (1750–53) but the vain writer and the authoritarian king were ill at ease. He moved to Colmar (1753–54), then divided his time between Geneva and Lausanne. Finally in 1758 he made a permanent home in France at Ferney, near the Swiss frontier. In 1755 his mock epic on Joan of Arc, La Pucelle, appeared and in 1760 his best known work, Candide, in which Candide travels in the company of futilely optimistic Dr Pangloss (a satire on *Leibniz) who, however great the injustice and intolerance encountered, can only reflect that everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. *Diderot and d’*Alembert persuaded Voltaire to write many articles for their Encylopedie, author and book alike contributing to the great revolution of ideas that preceded the political upheaval. Not only was much of Voltaire’s later work propagandist but he took practical steps (e.g. in defence of Jean *Calas) to right injustice. His belief in tolerance is summed up in his phrase ‘I may disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ In February 1778 he was triumphantly received in Paris, but the excitement was too much for him at his age (84) and he died of uraemia in May.
Peyrefitte, R., Voltaire. 2 vols, 1985; Goldzink, J., Voltaire: La legende de saint Arouet. 1989.
Vonnegut, Kurt, Jr (1922–2007). American novelist. Educated in science at Cornell, he served in World War II and was a prisoner of war in Germany. His novels, written in a ‘hip’ humorous style, reminiscent of some science fiction, deal with the threats to individuality in a technologically obsessed society and include Player Piano (1952), Slaughterhouse Five (1969), Breakfast of Champions (1973) and Slapstick (1976). He was also a prolific essayist.
Voronoff, Serge Abramovich (1866–1951). Franco-Russian surgeon, born in Shekhman. Working in Switzerland, he gained considerable notoriety in the 1930s with experiments designed to prolong human life by grafting animal glands, especially those of monkeys, into the body.
Voroshilov, Klimenty Yefremovich (1881–1969). Russian political soldier. A sheetmetal worker, he joined the Bolsheviks in 1903, led Red Army guerrillas against the Germans 1918, defended Tsaritsyn (later Stalingrad, now Volgograd) in 1919 during the Civil War and worked closely with *Stalin. He became Commissar for Defence 1925–40, a Politburo member 1926–60 and Marshal of the Soviet Union (1935). However, he failed during the war with Finland (1939–40) and the German encirclement of Leningrad (1941), and *Stalin dismissed him. On Stalin’s death he became President of the USSR 1953–60, but lost any influence after 1957 when his attempt to dislodge *Khrushchev failed.
Vorster, Balthazar Johannes (1915–1983). South African politician and lawyer. A founder of the pro-Axis Ossewa Brandwag (‘Oxwagon Guard’), he was interned 1942–44 for opposing the war effort. In 1953 he entered parliament as an extremist National Party member, becoming a deputy minister (education, arts and science, social welfare and pensions) in 1958. He was Minister of Justice 1961–66, and was noted for a stringent application of apartheid law and traditional Boer principles. This also characterised his term as Prime Minister 1966–78. In 1978 he resigned and was elected President. In 1979 disclosures concerning the involvement of a former Cabinet minister, Connie Mulder, in improper use of public funds for party propaganda led to his resignation (1979). Despite his hard line on racial issues, he cultivated trade and diplomatic links with black African states.
Voysey, Charles Francis Annesley (1857–1941). English architect and designer. Influenced by the work of *Pugin and the Arts & Crafts movement, he was a successful designer of wallpapers, fabrics and furniture.
Voznesensky, Andrei Andreivich (1933–2010). Russian poet. Trained as an architect, he greatly admired *Pasternak, *Mayakovsky and the symbolists, was denounced by *Khrushchev as ‘modernist’ and attacked the Writers’ Union for its ineffectual opposition to censorship. Six volumes of his poems have been translated into English.
Vries, Hugo de (1848–1935). Dutch botanist and plant geneticist. Born of a wealthy and long established Baptist family, his interests, even at school, tended towards natural history, and his early research was on plant cells. He spent part of the 1870s working for the Prussian Government on cultivated plants such as sugar beet, potatoes and clover. He was professor of plant physiology at Amsterdam University 1877–1918. He is best known for work from the 1890s on plant inheritance: how hereditary characteristics were passed down had been a source of immense debate within evolutionary theory. In his two major books, Intracellular Pangenesis (1899) and Die Mutationstheorie (1901) de Vries argued that inherited characteristics were quite separate individual units each of which had its own separate gene bearer. De Vries called this bearer a ‘pangene’. Pangenes combined in fixed ratios to breed either true or mutant forms as de Vries showed with his own extensive experiments on hybridisation. He made use of *Mendel’s writings, and came to the conclusion that mutations could be preserved because the information for them was contained in fixed, transmissible genetic material. He believed that evolution occurred by quite large ‘steps’ (corresponding to mutant forms of pangene), though this notion won little favour with the scientific community.
Vries, Peter de see De Vries, Peter
Vuillard, Édouard (1868–1940). French painter and lithographer. A member of the ‘Nabis’ (‘prophets’) group, influenced by *Gauguin, and a friend of *Bonnard, he developed the style called ‘intimism’.
Vyshinsky, Andrei Yanuarevich (1883–1954). Russian lawyer and politician. He became public prosecutor (1931) and was soon notorious for the rancour and vindictiveness with which he conducted state trials, notably in the ‘purges’ of 1936–37. From 1943 he became active in foreign affairs and was *Molotov’s successor as Foreign Minister 1949–53. As a delegate to the United Nations he often attacked western policies with the same vigour as he had shown in the Soviet courts.