Page images

ing, orchards, cattle, and domestic fowls. This version was printed in 1577, and dedicated from Kingston to sir William Fitzwilliams. Among Crynes's curious books in the Bodleian at Oxford, is Googe's translation from the Spanish of Lopez de Mendoza's PROVERBES, dedicated to Cecill, which I have never seen elsewhere, printed at London by R. Watkins in 1579. In this book the old Spanish paraphrast mentions Boccace's THESEID.

But it was not only to these later and degenerate classics, and to modern tracts, that Googe's industry was confined. He also translated into English what he called Aristotle's Table OF THE TEN CATEGORIES, that capital example of ingenious but useless subtlety, of method which cannot be applied to practice, and of that affectation of unnecessary deduction and frivolous investigation, which characterises the philosophy of the Greeks, and which is conspicuous not only in the demonstrations of Euclid, but in the Socratic disputations recorded by Xenophon. The solid simplicity of common sense would have been much less subject to circumlocution, embarrassment, and ambiguity. We do not want to be told by a chain of proofs, that two and two make four. This specific character of the schools of the Greeks, is perhaps to be traced backwards to the loquacity, the love of paradox, and the fondness for argumentative discourse, so peculiar to their nation. Even the good sense of Epictetus was not proof against this captious phrenzy. What patience can endure the solemn quibbles, which mark the stoical conferences of that philosopher preserved by Arrian? It is to this spirit, not solely from a principle of invidious malignity, that Tully alludes, where he calls the Greeks, “Homines contentionis quam veritatis cupidiores." And in another part of the same work he says, that it is a principal and

y In quarto, for Richard Watkins. In the Preface to the first edition, he says, "For my safety in the vniuersitie, I craue the aid and appeal to the defence of the famous Christ-college in Cambridge whereof I was ons an vnprofitable member, and [of] the ancient mother

of learned men the New-college in Oxford."

Z Feb. 1, 1577. There were other editions, 1578, 1594. Lond. 4to. a Cod. CRYNES, 886. b Sm. 8vo. c Fol. 71. a. d MSS. Coxeter, e De ORATORE, Lib. i. § xi.

even a national fault of this people, "Quocunque in loco, quoscunque inter homines visum est, de rebus aut DIFFICILLIMIS aut non NECESSARIIS, ARGUTISSIME DISPUTARE f." The natural liveliness of the Athenians, heightened by the free politics of a democracy, seems to have tinctured their conversation with this sort of declamatory disputation, which they frequently practised under an earnest pretence of discovering the truth, but in reality to indulge their native disposition to debate, to display their abundance of words, and their address of argument, to amuse, surprise, and perplex. Some of Plato's dialogues, professing a profundity of speculation, have much of

this talkative humour.

Beside these versions of the Greek and Roman poets, and of the antient writers in prose, incidentally mentioned in this review, it will be sufficient to observe here in general, that almost all the Greek and Roman classics appeared in English before the year 1600. The effect and influence of these translations on our poetry, will be considered in a future section.

[blocks in formation]


BUT the ardour of translation was not now circumscribed within the bounds of the classics, whether poets, historians, orators, or critics, of Greece and Rome.

I have before observed, that with our frequent tours through Italy, and our affectation of Italian manners, about the middle of the sixteenth century, the Italian poets became, and that this circumstance, for a time at least, gave a new turn to our poetry. The Italian poets, however, were but in few hands; and a practice of a more popular and general nature, yet still resulting from our communications with Italy, now began to prevail, which produced still greater revolutions. This was the translation of Italian books, chiefly on fictitious and narrative subjects, into English.

The learned Ascham thought this novelty in our literature too important to be passed over without observation, in his reflections on the course of an ingenuous education. It will be much to our purpose to transcribe what he has said on this subject: although I think his arguments are more like the reasonings of a rigid puritan, than of a man of liberal views and true penetration; and that he endeavours to account for the origin, and to state the consequences, of these translations, more in the spirit of an early calvinistic preacher, than as a sensible critic or a polite scholar. "These be the inchauntments of Circe, brought out of Italie to marre mens manners in England: much, by example of ill life, but more by precepts of fonde bookes, of late translated oute of Italian into English, solde in euery shop in London, commended by honest titles, the sooner to corrupt honest manners, dedicated ouer boldly to vertuous and honorable personages, the easelyer to beguile simple and

honest wittes. It is pitty, that those which haue authoritie and charge to allow and disallow works to be printed, be no more circumspect herein than they are. Ten Sermons at Paules Crosse doe not so much good for moouing men to true doctrine, as one of these bookes does harme with inticing men to ill living. Yea I say farther, these bookes tend not so much to corrupt honest liuing, as they doe to subuert true religion. More papists be made by your merry bookes of Italy, than by your earnest bookes of Louaina.-When the busie and open papists could not, by their contentious bookes, turne men in Englande faste inough from troth and right iudgemente in doctrine, then the suttle and secret papists at home procured bawdie bookes to be translated out of the Italian toong, whereby ouermany yong willes and witts, allured to wantonnes, doe now boldly contemne all seuere bookes that sound to honestie and godlines. In our forefathers time, when papistrie, as a standing poole, couered and ouerflowed all England, few bookes were red in our toong, sauyng certayne Bookes of Chiualrie, as they sayd for pastime and pleasure, which, as some say, were made in monasteries by idle monkes or wanton chanons: as one for example, MORTE ARTHUR, the whole pleasure of which booke standeth in two specyall poyntes, in open mans slaghter and bolde bawdrie: in which booke those be counted the noblest knights that doe kill most men without any quarrell, and commit fowlest aduoulteries by sutlest shifts: as, syr Launcelote with the wife of king Arthure his maister: syr Tristram with the wife of king Marke his vncle: syr Lamerocke with the wife of king Lote that was his own aunte. This is good stuffe for wise men to laughe at, or honest men to take pleasure at. Yet I knowe when God's Bible was banished the court, and MORTE ARTHUR receaued into the princes chamber. What toyes the dayly reading of such a booke may worke in the will of a yong ientleman, or a yong maide, that liueth welthely and idlely, wise men can iudge, and honest men doe

Serious books in divinity, written by the papists. The study of controversial theology flourished at the university of Louvain.

pittię. And yet ten MORTE ARTHURES doe not the tenth part so much harme, as one of these bookes made in Italie, and translated in England. They open, not fond and common ways to vice, but such suttle, cunning, new and diuerse shifts, to carry yong willes to vanitie and yong wittes to mischiefe, to teache old bawdes new schoole pointes, as the simple head of an Englishman is not hable to inuent, nor neuer was heard of in England before, yea when papistrie ouerflowed all. Suffer these bookes to be read, and they shall soon displace all bookes of godly learning. For they, carrying the will to vanitie, and marring good manners, shall easily corrupt the minde with ill opinions, and false judgement in doctrine: first to thinke ill of all true religion, and at last, to thinke nothing of God himselfe, one speciall poynt that is to be learned in Italie and Italian bookes. And that which is most to be lamented, and therefore more nedefull to be looked to, there be more of these vngracious bookes set out in print within these fewe moneths, than haue been seene in England many score yeares before. And because our Englishmen made Italians cannot hurt but certaine persons, and in certaine places, therefore these Italian bookes are made English, to bringe mischiefe inough openly and boldly to all states, great and meane, yong and old, euery where. Our English men Italianated haue more in reuerence the TRIUMPHES of Petrarche, than the GENESIS of Moyses. They make more accompt of Tullies Offices, than saint Paules Epistles: of a Tale in Boccace, than the Story of the Bible," &c.d

Ascham talks here exactly in the style of Prynne's HisTRIOMASTIX. It must indeed be confessed, that by these books many pernicious obscenities were circulated, and perhaps the doctrine of intrigue more accurately taught and exemplified than before. But every advantage is attended with its incon

b conditions of life.

In such universal vogue were the TRIUMPHS of Petrarch, or his TRIONFI D' AMOUR, that they were made into a public pageant at the entrance, I think, of Charles

the Fifth into Madrid.

d Ascham's SCHOOLEMASTER, edit. 1589. fol. 25. a. seqq. This book was begun soon after the year 1563. PREFACE, p. 1.

« PreviousContinue »