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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

§ 4. Literary importance of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes

The chief factor in spreading a knowledge of English literature on the continent at the end of the seventeenth, and beginning of the eighteenth, centuries was the revocation of the edict of Nantes, in 1685, which, by expelling the French Huguenots from France, forced them to settle in Holland, England and Germany. Such of these men as were interested in literature turned their attention to the books of the people among whom they were thrown, thus opening up avenues for the exchange of ideas between the different nations of Europe, and placing at the very outset a cosmopolitan stamp on the thought and literature of the eighteenth century. The printing presses ofHolland were especially called into requisition in this “internationalising” process; English literature was reprinted and translated into French at Amsterdam and the Hague; French journals, especially those published in Holland, contained regular correspondence from abroad on literary matters, and their example was soon followed by German and Italian learned periodicals. It would have been strange had Shakespeare not benefited by this interchange of ideas between England and the continent, and his name—in strangely varying orthography—occurs with increasing frequency in French periodicals of the time. Addison’s Spectator, of which the first French translation was published at Amsterdam in 1714 (frequently reprinted in succeeding years), although not fully elucidatory about Shakespeare, was at least adapted to awaken curiosity; the “Dissertation sur la poésie anglaise,” published in Le Journal littéraire, in 1717, helped materially; and Béat de Muralt had also something to say of Shakespeare in his Lettres sur les Anglois (1725). But all these beginnings were soon to be eclipsed by Voltaire; and, with the appearance of that writer’s Lettres philosophiques (or Lettres sur les Anglais), in 1733, the tentative period of Shakespeare’s continental fame comes to a close.