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spect. In this strain of mind I wrote (An essay on Benevolence,'&'An elegyon sublunary disappointments.' When I had finished these, at eleven I süpped, and recollected how little I had adhered to my plan, and almost questioned the possibility of pursuing any settled and uniform design; however, I was not so far persuaded of the truth of these suggestions, but that I resolved to try once more at my scheme. As I observed the moon shining through my window, from a calm and bright sky, spangled with innumerable stars, I indulged a pleasing meditation on the splendid scene, and finished my Ode to Astronomy.!
“ Wednesday. Rose ať seven, and employed three hours: in perusal of the scriptures with Grotius's comment; and after breakfast fell into meditation concerning my projected Epick; and being in some doubt as to the particular lives of some heroes, whom I proposed to celebrate, I consulted Bayle and Moreri, and was engaged two hours in examining various lives and characters, but then resolved to go to my employment. When I was seated at my desk, and began to feel the glowing succession of poetical ideas, my servant bro't me a letter from a lawyer, requiring my instant attendance at Gray's Inn for half an hour. I went full of vexation, and was involved in business till eight at night; and then, being too much fatigued to study, supped, and went to bed.”
Here my friend's journal.concludes, which perhaps is.pretty much a picture of the manner in which many prosecute their studies. I therefore resolved to send it you, imagining, that if you think it worthy of appearing in your paper, some of your readers may receive entertainment by recognizing a resemblance between my friend's conduct and their own. It must be left to the Idler accurately to ascertain the proper methods of advancing in literature; but this one position, deducible from what has been said above, may, I think, be reasonably asserted, that he who finds himself strongly attracted to any particular study, though it may happen to be out of his proposed scheme, if it is not trifing or vicious, had better continue his application to it, since it is likely that he will, with much more ease and expedition, attain that which a warm inclination stimulates him to pursue, than that at which a prescribed law compels him to toil.
I am, &c.
No. LXVIII. SATURDAY, AUGUST 4, 1759.
AMONG the studies which have exercised the ingenious and the learned for more than three centuries, none has been more diligently or more successfully cultivated than the art of translation ; by which the kimpediments which bar the way to science are, in some measure, removed, and the multiplicity of languages; becomes less incommodious. »
Of every kind of writing the ancients have left us models which all succeeding ages have laboured to imitate ; but translation may justly be claimed by the moderns as their own. - In the first ages of the world instruction was commonly oral and learning traditional, and what was not written could not be translated. When alphabetical writing made the conveyance of opinions and the transmission of events more easy and certain, literature did not flourish in more than one country at once, or distant nations had little commerce with each other; and those few whom curiosity sent abroad in quest of improvement, delivered their acquisitions in their own manner, desirous perhaps to
de considered as the inventors of that which they had learned from others.
The Greeks for a time travelled into Egypt, but they translated no books from the Egyptian language; and when the Macedonians had overthrown the empire of Persia, the countries that became subject to Grecian dominion studied only the Grecian literature. The books of the conquered nations, if they had any among them, sunk into oblivion ; Greece considered herself as the mistress if not as the parent of arts, her language contained all that was supposed to be known, and, except the sacred writings of the Old Testament, I know not that the library of Alexandria adopted any thing from a foreign tongue.
The Romans confessed themselves the scholars of the Greeks, and do not appear to have expected what has since happened, that the ignorance of succeeding ages would prefer them to their teachers. Every man who in Rome aspired to the praise of literature, thought it necessary to learn Greek, and had no need of versions when they could study the originals. Translation, however, was not wholly neglected. Dramatic poems could be understood by the people in no language but their own, and the Romans were sometimes entertained with the tragedies of Euripides, and the comedies of Menander. Other works were sometimes attempted ; in an old scholiast there is mention of a Latin Iliad, and we have not wholly lost Tully's version of the poem of Aratus; but it does not appear that any man grew eminent by interpreting another, and perhaps it was more frequent to translate for exercise or amusement, than for fame.
The Arabs were the first nation who felt the ardour of translation ; when they had subdued the eastern provinces of the Greek empire, they found their, captives wiser than themselves, and made haste to relieve their wants by imparted knowledge. They discovered that many might grow wise by the labour of a few, and that improvements might be made with speed, when they had the knowledge of former ages in their own language. They therefore made haste to lay hold on medicine and philosophy, and turned their chief authors into Arabic. Whether they attempted the poets is not known; their literary zeal was vehement, but it was short, and probably expired before they had time to add the arts of elegance to those of necessity. .
The study of ancient literature was interrupted in Europe by the irruption of the northern nations, who subverted the Roman empire, and erected new kingdoms with new languages. It is not strange, that such confusion should suspend literary attention; those who lost, and those who gained dominion, had immediate difficulties to encounter, and immediate miseries to redress, and had little leisure, amidst the violence of war, the trepidation of fight, the distresses of forced migration, or the tumults of unsettled conquest, to enquire after speculative truth, to enjoy the amusement of imagi. nary adventures, to know the history of former ages, or study the events of any other lives. But no sooner had this chaos of dominion sunk into order, than learning began again to flourish in the calm of peace When life and possessions were secure, convenience and enjoyment were soon sought, learning was found the highest gratification of the mind, and translation became one of the means by which it was imparted.
At last, by a, concurrence of many causes, the European world was rouzed from its lethargy; those arts which had been long obscurely studied in the gloom of monasteries became the general favourites of mankind; every nation vied with its neighbour for the prize of learning; the epidemical emulation spread from south to north, and curiosity and translation found their way to Britain..
No. LXIX. SATURDAY, AUGUST 11, 1759.
HE that reviews the progress of English literature, will find that translation was very early cultivated as mong us, but that some principles, either wholly erroneous or too far extended, hindered our success from being always equal to our diligence.
Chaucer, who is generally considered as the Father of our Poetry, has left a version of · Boetius on the Comforts of Philosophy,' the book which seems. to have been the favourite of the middle ages, which had been translated into Saxon by King Alfred, and illustrated with a copious comment ascribed to Aquinas. It may be supposed that Chaucer would apply more than common attention to an author of so much celebrity, yet has attempted nothing higher than a version strictly literal, and has degraded the poetical parts to prose, that the constraint of versification might not obstruct his zeal for fidelity.
Caxton taught us typography about the year 1471. The first book printed in English was a translation. Caxton was both the translator and printer of the • Destruction of Troye,' a book which, in that infancy of learning, was considered as the best account of the fabulous ages, and which, though now driven out of notice by authors of no greater use or value, still continued to be read in Caxton's English to the beginning of the present century. · Caxton proceeded as he began, and, except the poems of Gower and Chaucer, printed nothing but translations from the French, in which the original is so scrupulously followed, that they afford us little knowledge of our own language; though the words. are English the phrase is foreign.
“As learning advanced, new works were adopted into our language, but I think with little improve