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A note on the authorship of Voltaire’s La Fête de Bélesbat.

Wynn, Thomas (2006) 'A note on the authorship of Voltaire’s La Fête de Bélesbat.', French studies bulletin., 27 (101). pp. 99-101.


On 15 May 1760 Voltaire wrote to the historian and parlementaire Charles-Jean-François Hénault: ‘Songez vous bien, mon illustre confrère, que de tous ceux qui assistèrent à l'extrême onction que je donnai au curé et à cette fête que vous embellîtes, il n'y a que vous et moi qui soyons en vie?’1 The nostalgic recollection of La Fête de Bélesbat, performed by and for madame de Prie's circle in the autumn of 1725, establishes a solidarity between the two survivors, and the term ‘confrères’, often used between fellow académiciens,2 (disingenuously) insists upon their similar literary status. The recent appearance of La Fête de Bélesbat in the ongoing edition of Voltaire's Complete Works prompts a re-examination of the play's authorship.3 Voltaire's precise role in the composition of the work is contested, notably by the editors of the Kehl edition (1785): ‘Tous les vers, à beaucoup près, ne sont pas de M. de Voltaire, et ceux qui lui appartiennent sont faciles à distinguer.’4 Among twentieth-century scholars, the author of an essay on madame de Prie's cultural patronage challenges the unsubstantiated ease of this evaluation;5 René Pomeau argues that it is indeed a collaborative work; Louis Moland states that Voltaire wrote the piece in its entirety;6 and admitting the impossibility of ascertaining whether or not the Fête is a collaborative work, Russell Goulbourne assumes in his recent study of Voltaire's comic theatre that it is ‘solely Voltaire's work’.7 A return to the archives clarifies the authorship of some of the play's 507 lines.

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Publisher statement:This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in French Studies Bulletin following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Wynn, Thomas (2006) 'A note on the authorship of Voltaire’s La Fête de Bélesbat.', French studies bulletin., 27 (101). pp. 99-101. is available online at:
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:04 March 2014
Date of first online publication:January 2006
Date first made open access:No date available

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