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the scholar, and we will venture to assert, that the learner who will be at the pains of reading Sophocles with only the assistances here offered him, will know more of the real beauties of the original, and the true structure of the language, than if he spent double the time in poring over a faulty Latin version The translations hitherto published of Sophocles, will be more apt to lead the scholar astray, than to direct him to the meaning or spirit of the original; for, whether through ignorance of the language they attempted to translate, or through an awkward affectation of elegance, certain it is they are almost always mistaking the meaning of their author.
Though much may be said in commendation of the design and usefulness of the edition now before us, there is room for some objection to the method which our commentator has thought proper to pursue. Not content with the illustrations at the bottom of each page, he adds, by way of appendix, his devtepat ppovtides, or Scholia, which are the result of more mature deliberation. These second thoughts, which were not entered upon, as we are informed, till the other parts of the work were printed off, are not only a further comment upon the original, but sometimes corrections of his former annotations, which they frequently profess to contradict, amend, and explain. This ingenious way of confessing one's faults, though it should serve to show a man's modesty, may, it is feared, rather lead to prejudice his reputation in other respects.
Some may be apt to remark, that criticisms which could, upon a review, want so much amendment, were prematurely inserted: they may say, that it would have been most prudent in our editor to have kept his work by him till repeated amendments had rendered a palinodia unnecessary. And we may add, though second thoughts are generally allowed the preference, yet our annotator, it must be confessed, often corrects himself where there seems very little occasion for correction. As to the
edition, upon the whole, it may be numbered among the most correct productions of the British press, some few faults in the accenting excepted. The book is certainly well calculated for the use of schools; and deserves all the encouragement due to the best performances of this kind.
XI.-CICERO'S TUSCULAN DISPUTATIONS.
[From the Monthly Review, 1758. “ The Tusculan Disputations
of Marcus Tullius Cicero. In five Books. A new transla
tion. By a gentleman." 8vo.] The panegyric upon Cicero, which Erasmus hath left us, at the same time that it does justice to the merits of the philosopher, reflects honor on the taste of his encomiast. “I am incapable of determining,” says that judicious critic, “whether or not my judgment be improved by time, but certain it is, Cicero never so much pleased me in youth as he now does in my
I am now at a loss whether most to admire, the divine felicity of his style, or the purity of his heart and morals. His influence upon me rises almost to inspiration; and I always feel myself a better man upon every perusal. I make no scruple, therefore, to exhort our youth to spend their hours in reading and retaining his works, rather than in the vexatious disputes, and ill-mannered controversies which at present perplex mankind. For my own part, though I am now in the decline of life, yet as soon as my present undertakings are completed, I shall think it no reproach to seek a renewal of my acquaintance with my Cicero, and an increase of that intimacy which has been for many years interrupted."
How differently does Montaigne express himself on the same
subject, when he gives us to understand, that though he finds much entertainment in Seneca or Plutarch, he could never gain any from Cicero. “For," says the Frenchman, " instead of beginning to talk on the subject proposed, he blunts the edge of curiosity by superfluous divisions; and the time that should be employed in argument is wasted in adjusting preliminaries."
The truth is, Montaigne was, during his whole life, what Erasmus was in his early youth, incapable of thinking connectedly; so that this celebrated essayist only exposed the defects of his own understanding by attempting to detract from the reputation of Cicero. The concurrent testimony of all antiquity, and of modern times, sufficiently confutes him; it being universally agreed, that no philosopher has more forcibly recommended all those generous principles that tend to exalt and perfect human nature.
From hence, therefore, we may infer, how much the public is bound to acknowledge every judicious attempt to translate any part of the works of a writer so admired as Cicero. If the translator succeeds in so difficult an undertaking, the motives to virtue acquire a more universal diffusion, and our language makes a valuable acquisition: should he fail in the execution, the great difficulty of the work may, in some measure, plead his excuse, and the usefulness of the design should soften the rigor of censure.
It is not without reason that this elegant Roman has been thought the most difficult to be translated of all the classics. The translator must not only be master of his sentiments, but also of his peculiar way of expressing them. He must have acquired a style correct without labor, and copious without redundancy. The difficulty is not so much to give his sense, as to give it in such language as Tully himself would have spoken, had he been an Englishman. To follow him in a verbal translation, is to catch his words only, and lose his spirit.
This literal timidity, if we may so express it, where the translator cautiously moves from word to word, for fear of going astray, is still the more unpardonable, as Cicero himself has given us directions to the contrary. “ Nec tamen exprimi verbum e verbo necesse erit, ut interpretes indiserti solent." His example also, as well as his precept, teaches us to avoid this error. What liberties does he not take with Plato, Euripides, and others! Their sentiments remain their own, but their language is always expressed in the manner of Cicero. The translator before us has fallen into the error of which we have been complaining; so that Cicero appears in this English dress, not unlike some disguised hero in romance, who, though concealed in the garb of a peasant, still moves with an air of superior dignity.
These Tusculan disputations were composed by Cicero when, under the dictatorship of Cæsar, he was excluded from any share in the administration; at which time, as he informs us, he was obliged to substitute retirement and study, for scenes of more active employment. The work is divided into five books; the first of which teaches us how to contemn the terrors of death, and to look upon it as a blessing rather than an evil. The second, to support pain and affliction with a manly fortitude. The third and fourth, to moderate all our complaints and uneasiness under the accidents of life. The fifth, to evince the sufficiency of virtue to make man happy. It was Cicero's custom, in his leisure hours, to take some friends with him into the country, where (to use the words of this very incompetent translator) " he used to order one to propose something which he would have discussed. I disputed (says Tully) on that either sitting or walking. I have compiled the schools, as the Greeks call them, of five days, in as many books; it was in this manner. When he who was the hearer had said what he thought proper, I disputed against him. To give you a better notion of our disputations, I will not barely give you
an account of them, but represent them to you as they were carried on."
Perhaps there never was a finer or more spirited dialogue, conducted with greater ease, or managed with more impartiality than this, in the original. After having silenced the objections which his antagonist had brought against his doctrine, of death’s being no evil, Cicero finally establishes it, with that spirit and energy which his present translator has very impotently endeavored to preserve: let the reader judge for himself, from the fol. lowing specimen.
“Should it indeed be our case to know the time appointed by God for us to die, let us prepare ourselves for it with a pleasant and grateful mind, as those who are delivered from a jail, and eased from their fetters, to go back to their eternal and (without dispute) their own habitation; or to be divested of all sense and trouble. But should we not be acquainted with this decree, yet should we be so disposed as to look on that last hour as happy for us, though shocking to our friends; and never imagine that to be an evil which is an appointment of the immortal gods, or of Nature, the common parent of all. For it is not by hazard, or without design, that we have a being here; but doubtless there is a certain power concerned for human nature, which would neither have produced nor provided for a being, which, after having gone through the labors of life, was to fall into an eternal evil by death. Let us rather infer, that we have a retreat and haven prepared for us, which I wish we could make for with crowded sails; but though the winds should not serve, yet we shall of course gain it, though somewhat later."
The exordium of the third book is, in the original, one of the finest passages in all antiquity. Let us see how it reads here. “ What reason shall I assign, Brutus, why, as we consist of soul and body, the art of curing and preserving the body should be