The day following the première of Jean-Philippe Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie (1733), Voltaire observed in a letter to Pierre-Robert Le Cornier de Cideville that the opera's libretto was by the abbé Simon-Joseph Pellegrin, and he added with characteristic irony that it was ‘worthy of the abbé Pellegrin’. As we know, Voltaire was not alone in his sentiments. Few poets were reviled with the relish one finds in criticism of Pellegrin. Doomed to be a less-than-perfect poet in a literary culture, Pellegrin was forced by circumstance to do something few of his time could understand or accept: he earned a living writing poems on commission. This made him a faiseur. a hack who pursued art for money rather than inspiration, a paid servant who, improbably, sought to move in the very social circles that employed him. It is emblematic of Pellegrin's situation and his reputation that in 1774, twenty-nine years after his death, Voltaire did write noëls when the marquise du Deffand requested them, but complained that it was ‘une rude commission’ and compared his lot to Pellegrin's. Chastened, the marquise apologised. Pellegrin's artistic destiny would seem to have little to do with diat of die urbane and widely admired Voltaire, but I will argue that, in spite of this, the two shared some similar attitudes and experiences regarding the emplotment of tragedy and tragic opera, and further, that these shared views may have had a direct bearing on Rameau's development as a composer.