Shakespeare and Voltaire

By Thomas R. Lounsbury | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
RESENTMENT OF THE ENGLISH

FOR many years after Voltaire's departure from England there can be no question of his continuous popularity in that country. Undoubtedly from some of the opinions he expressed there was decided dissent. Errors of statement he had made were known and noticed. But there was no disposition to insist upon these things, and comment upon them was confined to private circles. Furthermore, if his observations touched at times the susceptibilities of the English, they could not fail to derive consolation from the fact that he had made the superiority of their institutions almost offensively prominent to the French. His admiration of Newton and Locke had been expressed in extravagant terms. No such ungrudging recognition had indeed been paid to Shakespeare. His references to that author always went on the assumption that while he was a man of genius, he was also a barbarian. His comments on the English stage implied that under the influence of Shakespeare's example, it likewise continued to remain barbarous. But while men might not accept these views, they recognized his right to have them, and the sincerity with which he held them. It had never once occurred to him to doubt the immense superiority of the

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