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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IV. Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton.

XII. Shakespeare on the Continent

§ 12. Sébastien Mercier

Meanwhile, the sentimental movement, which set in in full force with Rousseau, was distinctly favourable to Shakespeare’s reputation in France; Diderot felt the power of the “Gothic colossus” and expressed his views with that fervent emphasis which was characteristic of him; and, in Sébastien Mercier, there arose a critic of power and originality, whose influence was not restricted to France. Mercier’s treatise Du Théâtre, ou Nouvel Essai sur l’Art dramatique (1773), in fact, put the entire Shakespeare question in a new light; and, while Voltaire was still fencing with Horace Walpole and others about La Place and that translator’s shortsighted policy in undermining good taste by making the English “Gille de la foire” unnecessarily accessible to French readers, another blow fell on him which kindled his wrath anew. This was a new and much more ambitious translation of Shakespeare by Pierre Félicien Le Tourneur; with this publication, the French appreciation of the poet entered upon a new phase.