SECOND APPEAL TO THE NATIONS
IN his 'Appeal to the Nations' Voltaire had set out to display the inferiority of Shakespeare to Corneille by furnishing an abstract of the play of 'Hamlet.' It was by this agency that foreign peoples were to learn all that it was necessary to know in order to form a just judgment of the English dramatist. The inadequacy, not to say absurdity of the method pretty certainly came home to him at last; it was probably forced upon his attention by the words and acts of others. No likelihood existed that men who really desired to become even slightly acquainted with Shakespeare would be content with a way eminently designed to impart the show of knowledge without its substance. They could learn far more about the play in question, and with infinitely more accuracy, by reading the partial version of it to be found in the work of La Place.
Up to this time Voltaire had professed to speak a great deal for Shakespeare; he had certainly spoken much about him. Still, it was only after the most beggarly fashion that he had let Shakespeare speak for himself, even through the inadequate agency of translation. He must have become conscious that this contrast between his words and his acts would strike his countrymen more