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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

§ 7. Abbé Prévost and contemporary French admirers of Shakespeare

Among French admirers of Shakespeare, however, there was one, abbé Prévost, whose knowledge of England and the English was more profound than Voltaire’s and whose enthusiasm was much less equivocal. He visited England in 1728; he wrote of the English theatre with warm appreciation in his Memoirs; and, in 1738, he devoted several numbers of his journal Le Pour et le Contre solely to Shakespeare, whom he discussed with a freedom from classic prejudice to be found in no other continental writer at that time. But Prévost seems to have been a little in advance of his age, and his views made little impression compared with the interest shown everywhere inVoltaire’s utterances on the subject of English tragedy. Louis Riccoboni, however, in his Réflexions historiques et critiques sur les différents Théâtres de l’ Europe (1738), a book that was widely read throughout the continent, gave Shakespeare—in spite of a rather distorted account of the poet’s life—his place at the head of English dramatic literature. Abbé Le Blanc devoted a number of his Lettres d’un Français (1745) to Shakespeare; and, although his views are essentially bounded by the pseudo-classic horizon, he at least, as Jusserand has pointed out, attempted to do justice to the charm of Shakespeare’s style. Lastly, mention should be made of Louis Racine, son of the poet, who, in an essay on his father’s genius (1752), vindicated the greatness of the classic drama by a comparison of Shakespeare with Sophocles.