Tan calf spine with brown title plates, raised banding, gilt title and decoration on the spine. Orange and brown mottled boards.
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The dramatist, author and philosopher Voltaire created, with the support of the Académie française, a twelve-volume annotated set of Corneille’s dramatic works, the Commentaires sur Corneille. It was Voltaire’s largest ever work of literary criticism. Voltaire’s proposal to the Académie described Corneille as doing for the French language what Homer had done for Greek: showing the world that it could be a medium for great art. Voltaire was driven to defend classic French literature in the face of increasingly popular foreign influences such as William Shakespeare. This is reflected in the first edition of the Commentaires, published in 1764, which focused on Corneille’s better works and had relatively muted criticisms. By the second edition, published ten years later, Voltaire had come to a more negative assessment of Corneille and a stronger view on the need for objective criticism. He added five hundred critical notes, covering more works and taking a more negative tone. Critics’ opinions of Corneille were already highly polarized. Voltaire’s intervention polarized the debate further and some critics saw his criticisms as pedantic and driven by envy. In the 19th century, the tide of opinion turned against Voltaire. Napoleon expressed a preference for Corneille over Voltaire, reviving the former’s reputation as a dramatist while diminishing the latter’s.
Pierre Corneille (6 June 1606 – 1 October 1684) was a French tragedian. He is generally considered one of the three great seventeenth-century French dramatists, along with Molière and Racine.
As a young man, he earned the valuable patronage of Cardinal Richelieu, who was trying to promote classical tragedy along formal lines, but later quarreled with him, especially over his best-known play, Le Cid, about a medieval Spanish warrior, which was denounced by the newly formed Académie française for breaching the unities. He continued to write well-received tragedies for nearly forty years.
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