Front Page Titles (by Subject) The Answer of M. de Voltaire to M. de la Lindelle. - The Works of Voltaire, Vol. VIII The Dramatic Works Part 1 (Mérope, Olympia, The Orphan of China, Brutus) and Part II (Mahomet, Amelia, Oedipus, Mariamne, Socrates).
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The Answer of M. de Voltaire to M. de la Lindelle. - Voltaire, The Works of Voltaire, Vol. VIII The Dramatic Works Part 1 (Mérope, Olympia, The Orphan of China, Brutus) and Part II (Mahomet, Amelia, Oedipus, Mariamne, Socrates). 
The Works of Voltaire. A Contemporary Version. A Critique and Biography by John Morley, notes by Tobias Smollett, trans. William F. Fleming (New York: E.R. DuMont, 1901). In 21 vols. Vol. VIII The Dramatic Works Part 1 (Mérope, Olympia, The Orphan of China, Brutus) and Part II (Mahomet, Amelia, Oedipus, Mariamne, Socrates).
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The Answer of M. de Voltaire to M. de la Lindelle.
The letter which you did me the honor to write to me entitles you to the name of “Hypercritic,” which was given to the famous Scaliger; you are truly a most redoubtable adversary; if you treat M. Maffei in this manner, what am I to expect from you? I acknowledge that, in many points, you have too much reason on your side. You have taken a great deal of pains to rake together a heap of brambles and briars; but why would you not enjoy the pleasure of gathering a few flowers? There are certainly many in M. Maffei; and which, I dare affirm, will flourish forever. Such are the scenes between the mother and son, and the narration of the catastrophe. I can’t help thinking that these strokes are affecting and pathetic. You say, the subject alone makes all the beauty; but was it not the same subject in other authors who have treated Mérope? Why, with the same assistance, had they not the same success? Does not this single argument prove, that M. Maffei owes as much to his genius as to his subject?
To be plain with you, I think M. Maffei has shown more art than myself, in the manner by which he has contrived to make Mérope think that her son is the murderer of her son. I could not bring myself to make use of the ring as he did; because, after the royal ring that Boilieu laughs at in his satires, this circumstance would always appear too trifling on our stage. We must conform to the fashions of our own age and nation; and, for the same reason, we ought not lightly to condemn those of foreigners.
Neither M. Maffei nor I have sufficiently explained the motives that should so strongly incline Poliphontes to espouse the queen. This is, perhaps, a fault inherent in the subject; but I must own I think this fault very inconsiderable, when the circumstances it produces are so interesting. The grand point is to affect and draw tears from the spectators. Tears were shed both at Verona and at Paris. This is the best answer that can be made to the critics. It is impossible to be perfect; but how meritorious is it to move an audience, in spite of all our imperfections! Most certain it is, that in Italy many things are passed over, which would not be pardoned in France: first, because taste, decorum, and the stage itself, are not the same in both; secondly, because the Italians, having no city where they represent dramatic pieces every day, cannot possibly be so used to things of this kind as ourselves. Opera, that splendid monster, has driven Melpomene from among them; and there are so many of the Castrati there, that no room is left for Roscius and Æsopus: but if ever the Italians should have a regular theatre, I believe they would soon get beyond us: their stages are more extensive, their language more tractable, their blank verses easier to be made, their nation possessed of more sensibility; but they want encouragement, peace, and plenty.