Although Voltaire had neither the perfect versification of Racine nor the noble poetry of Corneille, he surpassed the latter certainly, and the former in the opinion of some not incompetent judges, in playing the difficult and artificial game of the French tragedy.
Of all the French writers that I have read, I like Moliere and Racine best.
In 1691 he was received into the French Academy in spite of the determined efforts of the partisans of the ancients in this quarrel, especially of Racine and Boileau, who on four previous occasions had secured his rejection.
All the more remarkable spirits of the time, like prophets in Israel, denounced a tyranny which put Chamillart at the head of the finances because he played billiards well, and Villeroy in command of the armies although he was utterly untrustworthy; which sent the patriot Vauban into disgrace, banished from the court Catinat, the Pre Ia Pense, exiled to Cambrai the too clear sighted Fnelon, and suspected Racine of Jansenism and La Fontaine of independence.
Of the exceedingly numerous writings relative to Corneille we may mention the Recueil de dissertations'sur plusieurs tragedies de Corneille et de Racine of the abbe Granet (Paris, 1740), the criticisms already alluded to of Voltaire, La Harpe and Palissot, the well-known work of Guizot, first published as Vie de Corneille in 1813 and revised as Corneille et son temps in 1852, and the essays, repeated in his Portraits litte'raires, in Port-Royal, and in the Nouveaux Lundis of Sainte-Beuve.
He insisted especially on the necessity of truth to nature in the imaginative presentation of the facts of life, and in one letter he boldly proclaimed the superiority of Shakespeare to Corneille, Racine and Voltaire.
In the same year a fugitive slave named Glover was seized at Racine and was afterward rescued by an anti-slavery mob from Milwaukee; the State Supreme Court rendered a decision which declared the Fugitive Slave Law to be null and void in Wisconsin.
It was for them that Racine wrote his Esther and his Athalie, and it was because he managed the affairs of St Cyr well that Michel Chamillart became controller-general of the finances.
He was much employed, owing to Richelieu's influence, in the fetes of the dauphin's marriage, and was rewarded through the influence of Madame de Pompadour on New Year's Day 1745 by the appointment to the post of historiographer-royal, once jointly held by Racine and Boileau.
It was reserved for the 18th century to exalt Racine above Corneille.