Compte rendu du Monthly Review

Édition de Doranne Lecercle
Source : Anonyme, Compte rendu in The Monthly Review, vol. 38, p. 288-290, Paris, The Monthly Review, 1768.
Ont participé à cette édition électronique : François Lecercle (Responsable d'édition), Clotilde Thouret (Responsable d'édition) et Chiara Mainardi (XML-TEI).
{p. 288}

Compte rendu dans The Monthly Review, de la traduction anglaise de la Conversation de M. l'Intendant des menus avec Mr. l'abbé ***[Grizel]1

The Dispute between Mademoiselle Clairon, a celebrated Actress at Paris, and the Fathers of the Church; occasioned by the Excommunication denounced in France against all dramatic Writers, Actors, Singer, Dancers, etc. With the Reasons for and against that Excommunication, in an Argument between the Abbé Grizel and the Master of the Revels.
Said to be written by M. de Voltaire. Translated from the French. 8vo. 1s. Dodsley, etc. §

The temporary secession of Mad. Clairon from the French theatre, occasioned much altercation, both serious and comic, at Paris; just as every theatrical occurrence does here. The laugh was against the CHURCH; but the church, being supported by the LAW, got the better of the argument. Both the church and law, however, are certainly in the wrong, and would inevitably be cast, on a fair trial, in the high court of REASON; and so would the old English law, that so illiberally stigmatizes the profession in which, above all others, the human genius has opportunities of displaying itself in the most agreeable, the most engaging light, and perhaps to the greatest advantage. For in this profession it is that all the powers of eloquence, all the variety of expression of which action or language are capable, and all the graces of delivery, are peculiarly requisite: and in no other school are virtue and good manners more emphatically enforced, or vice and folly more effectually put out of countenance. – But as it is not our present design to write the eulogium of the theatre, we return to the particular case of Mademoiselle Clairon.

« It is not to be wondered at, says the Author, (whether Mr. Voltaire or some other French wit) that the primitive fathers of the church anathematized the authors and actors of their times, who were not only pagans, but daily profaners of the most sacred rites of their holy religion.

« But why that excommunication should be still in force, and in France only, against a set of people who are neither pagans nor profaners of religion; whose plays are not only free from immorality of every kind, but filled with the most pure and virtuous sentiments; where virtue is rewarded and vice is placed in the most odious light: why either the authors or performers of such plays should, in this age, be treated with such {p. 289} indignity, is, I believe, what the most rigid priest amongst them cannot find any just reason for.

« This unchristian authority, that the clergy in France usurp over the comedians and dramatic writers, is looked upon, by everybody but themselves, as scandalous, vile, and unreasonable.

« Mademoiselle Clairon, who is at this time one of their most celebrated actresses, was (and indeed with great reason) highly disgusted at it, and raised a strong party of people of the best understanding, in hopes to have so great a scandal removed.

« Much was both writ and said in favour of the comedians, but all to no purpose; the priests stood firm to their text, and would by no means consent to give up their ancient and pious privilege of sending to the d---l whoever they had a mind to.

« Upon this, the lady quitted the stage, and peremptorily refused to act any more; declaring, it was very unreasonable of them to desire her to continue her profession, as an actress, if she was to b damned for it.

« This unexpected resolution of the lady’s threw the managers into the utmost confusion. She is by much the best performer they have, and so great a favourite with the town, they would by no means be satisfied without her.

« What could they do? Their houses grew thin, and she remained obstinate; at last complaints were made of her behaviour at court, and orders were given to send her to the Bastille, she being a hired servant of the king’s, and refusing to do her duty when commanded.

« After all, you can’t say but the heroine’s case was a little hard: the king sends her to prison if she does not do her duty, and the church damns her if she does. Here is popery and slavery with a witness!

« She had not been long in the Bastille, when an order came from the court for the players to go to Versailles, and perform before the king (for his majesty never goes to Paris to see a play) and Mademoiselle Clairon was sent for to the Bastille, land commanded to go and make her appearance amongst the rest; this she thought was best to comply with, being heartily tired of her new lodging. She performed at court with great applause, and finding that all attempts to gain her point were in vain, continued to perform as usual ever since.

« This grand fracas, between the church and the stage, made a great noise, not only at Paris, but all over France; but, as the church was concerned, people were afraid to delivering their sentiments too freely.

« In the midst of this confusion, out came a treatise in favour of the comedians, proving, from the laws and constitutions of France, that the excommunication was unlawful, a scandalous {p. 290} imposition, and that the comedians had an undoubted claim to all the rights, privileges, and immunities of their country, as well as any other citizen or subject of France.

« This pamphlet had no sooner made its appearance, but, like an arch-heretic, it was seized on and condemned to be burned in the Place de Greve by the hands of the common hangman.

« The death of that piece gave birth to the following controversy between the Intendant des Menus, who is an advocate for the players, and the Abbé Grizel, on the side of the church. »

It is strange that the solemn, illiberal, absurd farce of refuting authors by fire and faggot, is still continued, not only in popish but in protestant countries! – What good was ever done by this tyrannical mode of confutation? Has it not always the appearance, at least, of persecution? And does it not likewise seem to indicate a consciousness of a weak cause, whenever recourse is had to the argumentum Baculinum? –As to the cause of the Gallican church, in particular, with respect to her treatment of his Most Christian Majesty’s comedians, it is sufficiently exposed, and highly ridiculed in this pamphlet: which also contains a good deal of satire on the French in general, who are facetiously represented as the most inconsistent people upon earth.