The Path to the Pantheon, 1778-1791
Apparently fearing public disturbances, the authorities banned all productions of Voltaire plays in Paris for twenty-one days following the announcement of his death. Beginning in late June, however, the Comédie regularly presented an average of four or five Voltaire works each month, primarily such tragedies as Tancrède, L'Orphélin de la Chine, and Zaïre, even though the current leading players, Mlle Sainval and Larive, were clearly far inferior to their models, Clairon and Lekain.
The fame of Voltaire arose to new heights after his death along with an enormous demand for copies of his works, most of which had been banned by various governments of Europe and were extremely difficult to obtain. A Parisian publisher, Charles Panckoucke, seeing a business opportunity, began accumulating Voltaire publications and manuscripts, purchasing a large number from Mme Denis, including the complete correspondence with Frederick the Great. He soon realized that the project would be far more difficult than he had anticipated. Voltaire had been so prolific that the publication would be the largest ever undertaken in France, more than twice the size of the thirty-three-volume Encyclopédie. Moreover, many of the writings were still officially banned in France, and although smaller works published elsewhere, in Amsterdam for example, normally circulated there with little difficulty, a project as visible and expensive as this would have to have a firmer guarantee of protection. Catherine the Great, hearing of Panckoucke's dilemma, offered to carry out the project in Russia, but then Beaumarchais stepped forward and convinced the sympathetic prime minister, Maurepas, that he, as a Frenchman, should oversee this important national project. Somehow Maurepas gained the permission of Louis XVI, but only