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too long; it must be a passion truly tragic, considered as a weakness, and resisted by remorse. Either love must be the cause of crimes and misfortunes, in order to shew the danger of such a passion, or virtue must get the better of it, to prove that it is not irresistible. Otherwise it will be more properly adapted to eclogues and to comedy.
'Tis you, my lord, who are to determine whether I have fulfilled any of these conditions; but above all things, I beg your friends will not judge of the taste or genius of our nation by this essay and the tragedy that I send you. I am perhaps one of those who apply to literature in France with the least fuccess; and if the opinions which I here submit to your judgment, be disapproved of," I alone, am to bear the blame.
L E T T E R
From Mr.Voltaire to father Porée, a Jesuit.
reverend father, the edi.. tion that has been lately published of the tragedy of dipus *. I have endea voured to throw out, as much as possible, the filly expressions of a mis-placed intrigue, which I had been obliged to introduce, among the bold and manly ftrokes that the subject required. You must know, in my juftification, that young as I was, when I wrote @dipus, I composed it pretty much in the same manner, in which it will now appear to you. My head was full of the ancients, and of your instructions; I knew but little of the theatre of Paris, but was better acquainted with that of Athens. I consulted Mr. Dacier + who advised me to intro
duce * The author wrote this play when he was but nineteen. It was acted in the year 1718, and ran forty-five nights successively,
+ A famous French critic, particularly fond of, and well acquainted with, the Grecian language
duce a chorus in every scene after the manner of the Greeks, which was advising me to walk in the streets of Paris in Plato's robes. It was with difficulty that I could prevail upon the actors of Paris to admit a chorus three or four times only, during the whole play. It was still more difficult to make them accept a tragedy almost entirely void of amorous intrigue. The actreffes laughed at me when they perceived there was no mistress's part. The scene of the double discovery between Edipus and Jocasta, partly taken from Sophocles, appeared to them quite insipid. In short, the actors who were great men at that time, and great coxcombs, absolutely refused to bring on the play. I was then extremely young; I supposed, they must be in the right. In compliance to them, I spoiled the whole tragedy, by introducing tender fentiments in a subject fo little susceptible of them. When there was a love-intrigue, the players began to be
and writings. He translated Hippocrates and other books from the Greek into the French.
satisfied; but were still entirely against the important scene between Edipus and Jocasta. Sophocles and his imitator were both laughed at. I argued the case; and employed some friends, by whose interest Cdipus was at last represented. One of the players, whose name was Quinaut, said, that to punish me for my obstinacy, they ought to act it with it's bad fourth act taken from the Greek. Besides, it was looked
upon as the greatest mark of rashness in me, to dare to undertake a subject which Peter Corneille had already handled fo successfully. Corneille's Edipus at that time was thought excellent; but, for my part, I found it a very bad performance; twelve years ago I dared not say so: but now every body is of my opinion. It's sometimes a great while before justice is exactly administered. The two Edipus' of Mr. de la Motte * had their proper va
A very ingenious French writer; the most re. markable of his works is a volume of fables in verse, on a different plan from Æfop's; instead of beafts, he introduces and personifies, in a very de
lue set, in a shorter time. The reverend father de Tournemine has probably shewn you the preface, in which I declare war to that author. Mr. de la Motte is a very ingenious man; he somewhat resembles the Grecian wrestler, who, when he was actually down, proved by force of argument, that he was the conqueror.
I entirely differ in my opinions from Mr. de la Motte ; but you have taught me to dispute like a gentleman , I write against him in so civil a manner, that I desired he should be the examiner of this very preface, in which I endeavour in every line, to point out his '
mistakes; and he has himself approved my little polemical differtation. It is thus men of letters should dispute, and thus they would attack each other had they been bred under. your care; but in general, they are as fatyrical as lawyers, and as choleric asjanse
licate and moral manner, the different qualities of the mind, as well as the several virtues we are cate; pable of, and the vices we are prone to.