Beuve, Causeries du Lundi, Tome XI. p. 169. The expressions of Voltaire represent very well the average opinion of cultivated persons in respect of Dante in the middle of the eighteenth century.
He says: The Italians call him divine; but it is a hidden divinity; few people understand his oracles.
He has commentators, which, perhaps, is another reason for his not being understood.
His reputation will go on increasing, because scarce anybody reads him.
Dict. Phil., art. Dante. To Father Bettinelli he writes: I estimate highly the courage with which you have dared to say that Dante was a madman and his work a monster.
But he adds, what shows that Dante had his admirers even in that flippant century: There are found among us, and in the eighteenth century, people who strive to admire imaginations so stupidly extravagant and barbarous.
Corresp. gen., Oeuvres, Tome LVII. pp. 80, 81. Elsewhere he says that the Commedia was an odd poem, but gleaming with natural beauties, a work i