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At a conference of university teachers of French a number of years ago, an eighteenth-century specialist gave a most challenging paper, in which he offered his tentative choice of texts which might provide the nucleus for a canon of the outstanding literary works of this period. Any such selection must of course be subjective, and at this remove I have in any case only a very sketchy memory of the detailed suggestions put forward by my colleague: what I do remember from his paper, and from the spirited discussion which followed, is the universal agreement on the difficulty of formulating any such canon in respect of French eighteenth-century writing.