The satirist, the Virgin Mary, and the dung heaps

This day in London’s history: on 21 November 1694 François-Marie Arouet, known as Voltaire,  a French writer famous for his wit, was born. He wrote over two thousand books and plays and is perhaps best known for his satire Candide. Voltaire lived in London for a time and lodged in a house at 10 Maiden Lane between 1727 and 1728.EAS_3935The name Maiden lane, which goes back at least to the early 17th century as Mayden Lane, is in Isaac Disraeli’s book Curiosities of Literature. According to Disraeli it derives from a statue of the Virgin Mary which once stood on the corner of the lane.

Far more probable, albeit less glamorous, is that the name actually derives not from the Virgin Mary or even some local maid, but from the ‘middens’ – dung heaps – that proliferated in the area.