Monday, 22 July 2019 02:35

Voltaire strives not to be wistful about the Académie Française

From Voltaire to Monsieur de la Chaussée, 2 May 1736

A week ago, monsieur, I searched out your residence in order to present Alzire [his latest play] to the man in France who best knows and cultivates the art of poetry, which so difficult to practise. I think just as you do, monsieur, about the art that all the world believes they know, and that so few know at all …

Of our exacting art, the only aim
Is to be even more precise than prose;
Thus for verse of genius we claim
That from the language of the gods it rose.

It must be said that you’re more worthy than anyone to justify this claim.

Today it was suggested to me that I might be elected to the Académie Française, but neither the circumstances in which I find myself, nor my health—nor my liberty, which I cherish above all—permit me to dare think of it. I replied that the place should be destined for you, and if your merits did not already secure you complete support I would be honoured to cede to you the few votes upon which I would have been able to rely [La Chaussée was subsequently elected to the French Academy].

The image is of the Institut de France, where the Académie Française meets. Voltaire was of course never elected to the Academy--too much of a firebrand.


Last modified on Monday, 22 July 2019 02:41