A WORK of this character, which sets out to give only a single phase of the most varied literary life that was ever lived, is certain, if taken by itself, to produce a distorted and erroneous impression of the man. So far as his relations to Shakespeare are concerned, Voltaire does not appear to advantage. The evidence has been given fully in the preceding pages; it seems to me a not unwarranted claim that it has been given fairly. If so, there can hardly be any question as to the verdict to be rendered. The record is one of persistent misrepresentation; in some instances, though it is a hard thing to say, of deliberate falsification. There was at times more than the suggestion of the untrue, there was its actual assertion; while the suppression of the true was regularly exhibited in all the later references to the English dramatist.
This course on the part of Voltaire was not in all cases due to intention to misrepresent. It was partly the result of ingrained habits of mind, to the ability he possessed of persuading himself that things actually were what he wished them to be. To some extent he imposed upon himself. But there are instances in which no such palliation can be pleaded in his behalf.