1780 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elizabeth Montagu

Richard Graves, "The Female Champions. To Mrs. Montagu: on her defence of Shakespeare against Voltaire" Euphrosyne: or, Amusements on the Road of Life (1780) 2:67-68.



When haughty Lewis, with ambition fir'd,
To universal monarchy aspir'd;
And powerful kingdoms, fill'd with dire alarms,
Conspir'd to check th' exulting tyrant's arms;
Britain, undaunted at the hero's fame,
Oppos'd her female monarch to his claim:
Victorious Anna bade her troops advance;
And to its center shook the throne of France.

When, late, Voltaire, with equal pride inflam'd,
The sovereignty of Wit more boldly claim'd;
And deeply wounded, in her Shakespeare's name,
The British taste and literary fame;
A female Champion seiz'd the lance; and lo!
Hurl'd back defiance to th' insulting foe;
The doughty hero of his armour spoil'd,
And at his own sharp weapons nobly foil'd.

Nor yet content to plead her Shakespeare's cause,
She gives to Gallic Bards more perfect laws:
To which their tragic heroes must submit,
And France to Britain yield the prize of wit.