Monday, October 11, 2010

“French is the poorest, meanest language in Europe”

Mon 11 Oct 1756: I went to Leigh. Where we dined a poor woman came to the door, with two little children. They seemed to be half starved, as well as their mother, who was also shivering with an ague. She was extremely thankful for a little food, and still more so for a few pills, which seldom fail to cure that disorder.
In this little journey I read over a curiosity indeed, a French heroic poem—Voltaire’s Henriade. He is a very lively writer, of a fine imagination, and allowed, I suppose by all competent judges, to be a perfect master of the French language. And by him I was more than ever convinced that the French is the poorest, meanest language in Europe; that it is no more comparable to the German or Spanish than a bagpipe is to an organ; and that with regard to poetry in particular, considering the incorrigible uncouthness of their measure and their always writing in rhyme (to say nothing of their vile double rhymes, nay, and frequent false rhymes), it is as impossible to write a fine poem in French as to make fine music upon a Jew’s harp.

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