« ZurückWeiter »
tunity to say a very few words about some re- of my preface, than those blind censurers might
jections were not levelled at the general doctrine,
may perhaps render my meaning equivocal to an Had these reflections fallen from the pen of an ignorant translator ; or there may have fallen from ordinary critic, I should not have apprehended my pen some expressions, which, taken by themtheir effect, and should therefore have been silent selves likewise, inay to the same person have the concerning them : but since they are Madam same effect. But if the translator had been master Dacier's, I imagine that they must be of weight; of our tongue, the general tonour of my argument, and in a case where I think her reasoning very bad, that which precedes and that which follows the I respect her authority.
passages objected to, would have sufficiently de. I have fought under Madam Dacier's banner, termined hiin as to the precise meaning of them: and have waged war in defence of the divine and if Madam Dacier had taken up ber pen a Homer against all the heretics of the age. And little more leisurely, or bad employed it with yet it is Madam Dacier who accuses me, and who more temper, she would not have answered para. accuses me of nothing less than betraying our phrases of her own, which even the translation common cause. She affirms that the most declared will not justify, and which say, more than once, enemies of this anthor have never said any thing the very contrary to what have said in the against him more injurious or more unjust than 1.
passages themselves. What must the world think of me, after such a
If any person has curiosity enough to read the judgment passed by so great a critic; the world, whole paragraphs in my preface, or some mangled who decides so often, and who examines so seldom; parts of which these retlections are made, he will the world, who even in matters of literature is easily discern that' ! am as orthodox as Madam almost always the slave of authority? Who will Dacier herself in those very articles on which suspect that so much learning should mistake, she treats me like an heretic : he will easily see that so much accuracy should be misled, or that that all the difference between us consists in this, so much candour should be biassed ?
that I offer opinions, and she delivers doctrines; All this however has happened; and Madam that my imagination represents Homer as the Dacier's criticisms on my preface flow from the greatest of human poets, whereas in hers he was very same errour, from which so many false criti- exalted above humanity ; infallibility and impeccisms of her countrymen upon Homer have flowed, cability were two of his attributes. There was and which she has so justly and so severely re- therefore no need of defending Homer against me, proved; I the errour of depending on who, (if I mistake not) had carried my admiration injurious and unskilful translations.
of him as far as it can be carried, without giving An indifferent translation may be of some vise, a real occasion of writing in his defence, and a good one will be of a great deal. But I After answering my harmless similies, she prothink that no translation ought to be the ground ceeds to a matter which does not regard so much of criticism, because no man ought to be con- the honour of Homer, as that of the times he lived
demned upon another man's explanation of his in ; and here I must confess she does not wholly meaning: could Homer have had the honour of mistake my meaning, but I think she mistakes the explaining 'his, 'before that august tribunal where
state of the question. She had said the manners Monsieur de la Motte presides, I make no doubt of those times were so much the better, the less but he had escaped many of those severe animad- they were like ours. I thought this required a yersions with which some French authors have little qualification. I confessed that in my opinion loaded him, and from which even Madam Dacier's the world was mended in some points, such as the translation of the Iliad could not preserve him. custom of putting whole nations to the sword,
How unhappy was it for me, that the knowledge condemning kings and their fainilies to perpetual of our island-tongue vas as necessary to Madam slavery, and a few others. Madam Dacier judges Dacier in my case, as the knowledge of Greek otherwise in this; but as to the rest, particularly was to Monsieur de la Mórte'in that of our great
in preferring the simplicity of the ancient world author; or to any of those whom she styles blind to the luxury of ours, which is the main point censurers, and blames for condemning what they contended for, she owns we agree. This I thought did not understand.
was well; but I ain so unfortunate that this too iš I may say with modesty, that she knew less of taken amiss, and called adopting, or (if you will) my true sense from that faulty translation of part stealing her sentiment. The truth is, she might
have said her words, for I used them on purpose, ! Second edition, à Paris, 1719.
being then professedly citing from her: thougls
I might have done the same without intending | takes which no context can redress; as where that compliment, for they are also to be found in she makes Eustathius call Cratisthenes the PhliaEustathias, and the sentiment I believe is that of sian, Callisthenes the Physician? What a triumph all mankind. I cannot really tell what to say to might some slips of this sort have afforded to this whole cemark; only that in the first part of Homer's, bers, and my enemies, from which she it, Madam Dacier is displeased that I do not agree was only screened by their happy ignorance ! How with her, and in the last that I do: but this is a unlucky had it been, when she insulted Mr. de la temper which every polite man should overlook Motte for omitting a material passage in the speech in a lady,
of Helen to Hector!, Iliad vi. if soine champion To punish my ingratitude, she resolves to ex- for the moderns had by chance understood so pose my blunders, and selects two which I sup- much Greek, as to whisper him, that there was pose are the most flagrant, out of the many for no such passage in Honer? which she could have chastised me. It happens Our concern, zeal, and even jealousy, for our that the first of these is in part the translator's, great author's honour were mutual, our endeaand in part her own, without any share of mine : vours to advance it were equal, and I have as she quotes the end of a sentence, and he puts in often trembled for it in her hands, as she could French what I never wrote in English : " Homer,” in mine. It was one of the many reasons I had to I said, “ opened a new and boundless walk for his wish the longer life of this lady, that I must cerimagination, and created a world for himself in tainly have regained her good opinion, in spite of the invention of fable ;" which he translates, “ Ho- all misrepresenting translators whatever. I could mere crta pour son usage un monde mouvant, en not have expected it on any other terms than inventant la fable.”
being approved as great, if not as passionate, an Madam Dacier justly wonders at this nonsense admirer of Homer as herself. For that was the in me; and I, in the translator. As to what I first condition of her favour and friendship; othermeant by Homer's invention of fable, it is after- wise not one's taste alone, but one's morality had wards particularly distinguished from that exten- been corrupted, nor would any man's religion have wre sense in which she took it, by these words. been suspected, raho did not implicitly believe in * If Homer was not the first who introduced the an author whose doctrine is so conformable to deities (as Herodotus imagines) into the religion Holy Scripture. However, as different people have of Greece, he seems the first who brought them different ways of expressing their belief, some into a system of machinery for poetry.”
purely by public and general acts of worship, The other blunder she accuses me of is, the others by a reverend sort of reasoning and inquiry mistaking a passage in Aristotle, and she is pleased about the grounds of it; it is the same ja admira. to send me back to this philosopher's treatise of tion, some prove it by exclamations, others by Poetry, and to her preface on the Odyssey, for respect. I have observed that the loudest huzzas my better instruction. Now though 1. am saucy given to a great man in triumph, proceed not enough' to think that one may sometimes differ from his friends but the rabble; and as I have from Aristotle without blundering, and though I fancied it the same with the rabble of critics, a am sure one may sometimes fall into an errour by desire to be distinguished from them has turned following him servilely; yet I own, that to quote me to the more moderate, and, I hope, more any author for what he never said, is a blunder; rational method. Though I am a poet, I would (but, by the way, to correct an author for what not be an enthusiast ; and thongh I am an Enhe never said, is somewhat worse than a blunder.) | glishman, I would not be furiously of a party. I My words were these : “ As there is a greater va.
am far from thinking myself that genius, upon riety of characters in the Iliad than in any other whom, at the end of these remarks, Madam Dapoem, so there is of speeches. 'Every thing in it cier congratulates my country: one capable of has manners, as Aristotle expresses it ; that is, correcting Homer, and consequently of reformevery thing is acted or spoken : very little passes ing mankind, and amending this constitution.” in narration.” She justly says, that “ Every thing It was not to Great Britain this ought to have which is acted or spoken, has not necessarily man- been applied, since our nation has one happiness ners merely because it is acted or spoken.” Agreed: for which she might have preferred it to her own, but I would ask the question, whether any thing that, as much as we abound in other miserable can have manners which is neither acted nor misguided sects, we have at least none of the spoken? If not, then the whole Iliad being almost blasphemers of Homer. We stedfastly and unanispent in speech and action, almost every thing in mously believe, both his poem, and our constituit has manners, since Horner has been proved be- tion, to be the best that ever human wit invented : fore, in a long paragraph of the preface, to have that the one is not more incapable of amendment excelled in drawing characters and painting man
than the other; and (old as they both are) we bers, and indeed his whole poem is one continued despise any French or Englishman whatever, who occasion of showing this bright part of his talent. shall presume to retrench, to innovate, or to make
To speak fairly, it is impossible she could read the least alteration in either. Par therefore from even the translation, and take my sense so wrong the genius for which Madam Dacier mistook me, as she represents it; but I was first translated ig- my whole desire is but to preserve the humble norantly, and then read partially . My expres- character of a faithful translator, and a quiet sion indeed was not quite exact; it should have subject. been,'“ Every thing has manners, as Aristotle calls them." But such a fault methinks might have a Dacier Remarques sur le 4me livre de l'Odyss. been spared, since if one was to look with that 476. disposition she discovers towards me, even on her
: De la Corruption du Goûts own excellent writings, one might find some mis