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‘ [23] increasing, because scarce anybody reads him.’1 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.’2 Elsewhere he says that the Commedia was ‘an odd poem, but gleaming with natural beauties, a work in which the author rose in parts above the bad taste of his age and his subject, and full of passages written as purely as if they had been of the time of Ariosto and Tasso.’3 It is curious to see this antipathetic fascination which Dante exercised over a nature so opposite to his own.

At the beginning of this century Chateaubriand speaks of Dante with vague commendation, evidently from a very superficial acquaintance, and that only with the Inferno, probably from Rivarol's version.4 Since then there have been four or five French versions in prose or verse, including one by Lamennais. But the austerity of Dante will not condescend to the conventional elegance which makes the charm of French, and the most virile of poets cannot be adequately rendered in the most feminine of languages. Yet in the works of Fauriel, Ozanam, Ampere, and Villemain, France has given a greater impulse to the study of Dante than any other country except Germany. Into Germany the Commedia penetrated later. How utterly Dante was unknown there in the sixteenth century is plain from a passage in the ‘Vanity of the Arts and ’

1 Dict. Phil., art. Dante.

2 Corresp. gen., Oeuvres, Tome LVII. pp. 80, 81.

3 Essai sur les moeurs, Oeuvres, Tome XVII. pp. 371, 372.

4 Genie du Christianisme, Cap. IV.

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