voltaire

Ainsi, presque tout est imitation. L’idée des Lettres persanes est prise de celle de l’Espion turc. Le Boiardo a imité le Pulci, l’Arioste a imité le Boiardo. Les esprits les plus originaux empruntent les uns des autres. Michel Cervantes fait un fou de son don Quichotte; mais Roland est-il autre chose qu’un fou? Il serait difficile de décider si la chevalerie errante est plus tournée en ridicule par les peintures grotesques de Cervantes que par la féconde imagination de l’Arioste. Métastase a pris la plupart de ses opéras dans nos tragédies françaises. Plusieurs auteurs anglais nous ont copiés, et n’en ont rien dit. Il en est des livres comme du feu de nos foyers; on va prendre ce feu chez son voisin, on l’allume chez soi, on le communique à d’autres, et il appartient à tous.

Thus, almost everything is imitation. The idea of The Persian Letters was taken from The Turkish Spy. Boiardo imitated Pulci, Ariosto imitated Boiardo. The most original minds borrowed from one another. Miguel de Cervantes makes his Don Quixote a fool; but pray is Orlando any other? It would puzzle one to decide whether knight errantry has been made more ridiculous by the grotesque painting of Cervantes, than by the luxuriant imagination of Ariosto. Metastasio has taken the greatest part of his operas from our French tragedies. Several English writers have copied us without saying one word of the matter. It is with books as with the fire in our hearths; we go to a neighbor to get the embers and light it when we return home, pass it on to others, and it belongs to everyone.

–Voltaire, “Lettre XII: sur M. Pope et quelques autres poètes fameux,” Lettres philosophiques (1756 edition); courtesy of Wikiquote

Posted on 12/10/2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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