Voltaire and the Theatre of the Eighteenth Century

By Marvin Carlson | Go to book overview

Chapter 9
The Path to the Pantheon, 1778-1791

Apparently fearing public disturbances, the authorities banned all productions of Voltaire plays in Paris for twenty-one days following the announcement of his death. Beginning in late June, however, the Comédie regularly presented an average of four or five Voltaire works each month, primarily such tragedies as Tancrède, L'Orphélin de la Chine, and Zaïre, even though the current leading players, Mlle Sainval and Larive, were clearly far inferior to their models, Clairon and Lekain.

The fame of Voltaire arose to new heights after his death along with an enormous demand for copies of his works, most of which had been banned by various governments of Europe and were extremely difficult to obtain. A Parisian publisher, Charles Panckoucke, seeing a business opportunity, began accumulating Voltaire publications and manuscripts, purchasing a large number from Mme Denis, including the complete correspondence with Frederick the Great. He soon realized that the project would be far more difficult than he had anticipated. Voltaire had been so prolific that the publication would be the largest ever undertaken in France, more than twice the size of the thirty-three-volume Encyclopédie. Moreover, many of the writings were still officially banned in France, and although smaller works published elsewhere, in Amsterdam for example, normally circulated there with little difficulty, a project as visible and expensive as this would have to have a firmer guarantee of protection. Catherine the Great, hearing of Panckoucke's dilemma, offered to carry out the project in Russia, but then Beaumarchais stepped forward and convinced the sympathetic prime minister, Maurepas, that he, as a Frenchman, should oversee this important national project. Somehow Maurepas gained the permission of Louis XVI, but only

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Voltaire and the Theatre of the Eighteenth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Contents ix
  • Series Foreword xi
  • Abbreviations xiii
  • Introduction xv
  • Chapter 1 Voltaire's Career Begins, 1694-1726 1
  • Notes 19
  • Chapter 2 Voltaire in England, 1726-1728 21
  • Notes 36
  • Chapter 3 Triumph in the Theatre, 1729-1743 39
  • Notes 57
  • Chapter 4 Voltaire at Court, 1743-1750 59
  • Notes 79
  • Chapter 5 Voltaire and Germany, 1750-1755 81
  • Notes 96
  • Chapter 6 Voltaire and the Philosophes, 1755-1760 97
  • Notes 118
  • Chapter 7 The Sage of Ferney, 1761-1769 121
  • Notes 138
  • Chapter 8 The Final Triumph, 1770-1778 141
  • Notes 155
  • Chapter 9 The Path to the Pantheon, 1778-1791 157
  • Notes 166
  • Chronology of Voltaire's Life 169
  • Further Reading 175
  • Index 179
  • About the Author 187
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