Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE ENGLISH THEATRE. 1 - The Works of Voltaire, Vol. XIX (Philosophical Letters)
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THE ENGLISH THEATRE. 1 - Voltaire, The Works of Voltaire, Vol. XIX (Philosophical Letters) 
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. XIX.
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THE ENGLISH THEATRE.1
Two little English books inform us that this nation, famous for so many excellent works, and so many famous enterprises, is possessed of two excellent tragic poets; one is Shakespeare, who is said greatly to surpass Corneille; the other, the tender Otway, much superior to the tender Racine.
This dispute turning entirely upon taste, there does not seem any answer to be made to the English. Who can hinder a whole nation from liking a poet of its own better than one of another country? It is impossible to prove to a whole people that it is pleased in the wrong place; but we may refer the matter in dispute between the stage of Paris and that of London to other nations. We therefore address ourselves to all readers, from St. Petersburg to Naples, and we entreat them to decide the controversy.
There is not a man of learning in Russia, in Italy, in Germany, in Spain, in Switzerland, or in Holland, who is not acquainted with “Cinna” and “Phædra”; and very few of them have any knowledge of the works of Shakespeare or Otway. This is a great prejudice in favor of the former; however, it is but a prejudice. The papers relative to the suit should be produced before the bar. “Hamlet” is one of the most admired works of Shakespeare, as well as one of those most frequently represented. We shall faithfully lay it before the judges.
[1 ]This first appeared with the pseudonym “Jerome Carré,” which explains the incidental allusion to Voltaire. In his seventieth year Voltaire undertook the reviewing of foreign works in the “Gazette Littéraire.” Shakespeare’s plays had been published in twenty volumes, translated by Pierre le Tourneur, with scholarly assistance. The translator’s introductory “Essay upon Shakespeare,” stirred Voltaire’s cynical indignation deeply. He had introduced and championed the English dramatist, whom he proclaimed to be “the sovereign genius of the stage.” Royalty and fashion turned from the national poets to do homage to Shakespeare.