The heading of today's reading comes from a visit between French essayist and philosopher François Voltaire and English dramatist William Congreve. As the story goes, Congreve wanted to be regarded as only a plain gentleman. Voltaire is said have replied, "Had you been that I should never have come to see you."
In this selection from his "Letters to the English," Voltaire writes about English theatre. He blames Shakespeare's success for ruining several generations of playwrights, because so many tried to copy his style and failed miserably.
He also tried to boost his countryman, Corneille, over the Brits. Few will accept Voltaire's argument.