pected the play to be a great success, not only because of its message, but because, in his eyes at least, it contributed to the popular new form of "tragédie bourgeoisie" in which his longtime friend and correspondent, Bernard Saurin, had just achieved a great success with Béverlei, his adaptation of Moore The Gamester. Although a preliminary Discours to the 1769 edition echoes Lillo and others in boasting of utilizing common characters and a simple style instead of the pomp of kings and princes ( VO, VI, 491-92), the style, if a bit flat, departs little from Voltaire's earlier work. Not distinguished as literature, and dangerous in theme (in vain, Voltaire appealed to the examples of Tartuffe and Mahomet), the work was never presented, despite extensive rewriting.
To this roster of disappointments must be added Voltaire's final comedy, Le Dépositaire, written in 1769. Here, after his largely unsuccessful attempts to adjust to the changing dramatic tastes of the times, he attempted to return to the style of Molière and of his own first comedy, L'Indiscret, a success at the Comédie forty-four years before. Its subject matter also returned to his youth, an anecdote of the celebrated courtesan, Ninon de Lenclos, whom Voltaire's godfather the Abbé de Châteauneuf had taken Voltaire to meet in 1705, when he was a boy of twelve and she a formidable eighty-five. Voltaire knew well that this style of comedy was quite out of fashion, but dreamed that he might revive interest in such work. It was, however, too weak an effort to achieve so substantial an effect. The play was reluctantly accepted by the Comédie, then withdrawn, perhaps by Voltaire's own friends. Critical response to the published version was cool from friends like Grimm, and savage from enemies like Fréron, who remarked, with some justice, that comedy had never been Voltaire's strength. So this decade ended with Voltaire unable to achieve public performances in each of the major genres of the period--comedy, tragedy, and comic opera. It appeared that his long theatrical career might be over. But a final triumph in this field remained ahead, and the years of exile and frustration that preceded it would make it all the more spectacular and gratifying.