Shakespeare and Voltaire

By Thomas R. Lounsbury | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIX
THE DAY OF ST. LOUIS

SUNDAY, the twenty-fifth of August, the day of St. Louis, came at last. A large and brilliant assemblage gathered at the hall of the Forty. Members of the nobility, ladies of the court, many of the most brilliant beauties of whom Paris could boast, were present on the occasion. A large number of Englishmen attended the exercises, amounting, it is said by some, to nearly a third of the audience. Among them were the British ambassador and Mrs. Montagu, who was spending the summer at the French capital. The pieces which had received prizes were first read. They were followed by an eulogium upon Homer, and then came the attack upon Shakespeare.

In those days mail communication between Paris and Ferney took about a week. The train had been laid, the mine was about to be fired, which was to blow Shakespeare and his admirers into the air. Voltaire waited in some doubt and anxiety for the report. In a letter written during the interval, he reveals to us, inadvertently, as it were, the real cause of his agitated state of mind. D'Argental had encouraged him by the noble wrath, as Voltaire called it, which he had manifested against Le Tourneur. To him he communicated more freely than to any one else the feelings which had

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