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defirest the assistance of the ever bleffed Trinity, nothing can do thee hurt.'
To these poems, the Translator hath added a Latin differta tion on the characters and circumftances of the antient Welfh bards; a set of men who were held, even so late as the time of Queen Elizabeth in no mean estimation, as appears, among other evidence, by a royal commission issued by that Princess in their favour.
Miscellaneous Pieces in Literature, History, and Philosophy. By
Mr. D'Alembert, Member of the Royal Academy of Inscriptions at Paris. Translated from the French.
12mo. 3 S. Henderson.
T is a little surprising, as the Translator of these pieces juftly
D'Alembert, should be hitherto so little known to the English Reader. It is indeed a subject of some reproach to this nation, that genuine philosophical criticism should make its first appearance with success in France. After the world in general had acquiesced in the title bestowed on us, as a nation of philofophers, it was but reasonable to expect that the precision of the sciences and the graces of poetry would have first formed their union, in a country where both have been cultivated with the greatest success. Have we so long decried the superficiality of French literature and French criticism, to see them bear away the prize, for which they were held too incapable of entering the lists, to contend? Have our English critics been ridiculously pluming themselves on their superiority over a Dacier, a Racine, or a Boflu, to see themselves left as far inferior to a Diderot or a D'Alembert? We shall not take upon us to answer these queries ; but we cannot help being entirely of opinion with our Author, when he asserts, en passant, that the rational esteem of a philosopher does more honour to great writers, than the exclamations of a college, and the prejudice of pedants.' The Literati in England seem to have been misled by the miftaken notions they have entertained of the absolute difference between the superficial and profound. It is universally allowed that the English, are most profoundly skilled in the most profound sciences; it is equally certain also, that they are as eminently skilled in the superficial. There is no doubt but we have in England virtuosi that collect shells and butterflies, and antiquarians that know how to value blind infcriptions and mutilated busts, as well as the best of France and Italy. This, kowever, if we may use the expression, is a very superficial pro
fundity; as is also the pursuit of literature, as it is carried on by the learned heads of some of our schools and colleges; many of whom, however deep in words, are so shallow of understanding, that if it were not a kind of solecism to call a fcholar a blockhead, we might set them down for very sad noodles indeed.
It is generally fupposed that every man of letters is qualified to be a critic in matters of literature: this, however, is an egregious mistake. It is presumed that no man can understand a foreign or a dead language better than he may be supposed to know his native tongue; and yet how many men are there who understand their native language and vernacular idioms very well, and yet have no talents for writing nor capacity to judge of the compositions of others.
Now, as to be profound in trifles is still to be superficial, and as we have many such superficial proficients in England, so we have many profound adepts in the abstruse sciences, who cannot be brought to look upon the improvements of Ityle, and the cultivation of the literary arts, as of sufficient importance to claim their attention. They are mistaken, however, if they think their attention may not be as deeply engaged, and their application as intent and useful, in the investigation of literary as of scientific principles. That the objects of their enquiry are more vague and transitory than those of physics and geometry is very certain : but this, by increasing the difficulty, does by no means make the study less important or profound. The truth is, that our accurate reasoners are either naturally deficient in genius or imagination, or by generally applying themselves to the abstract sciences, check that spontaneous exercise of them, which is neceffary to preserve a taste for the elegant investigations of the fine arts.
Mr. D'Alembert is, perhaps, the most striking example in the present age, of the possibility of reconciling the exercise of the stricteft mathematical genius, with a taste for poetry and the other polite arts :—but we detain the Reader from the experimental proof of what we have here aflerted.
The first piece in this publication contains Remarks on Tranflation; in regard to which, we have principally to with the Author bad considered his subject more generally, and had not confined his views fo particularly to the French language. Next to this, we could wish he had not shewn fo great a partiality to the Authors of his own country. But the Reader will judge:
Good translations, fays he, are the best calculated for enriching language. This is the use I would make of them, which, in my opinion, is more proper, than what is hinted by a famous fatyrist of the latt age, who was as pallionate an admirer of the
antients, as he was a severe, and sometimes unjust censor of the moderns. “ The French," says that writer, * want taste, and only the taste of the antients can form it amongst our authors and connoisseurs; and good translations would give that valuable taste to those who are not qualified to read the originals.” If we want tafte, I know not where it is fled. It is not, at least, the fault of the models in our language, which are inferior to the ancients in no respects. To mention only the dead; who will dare to place Sophocles above Corneille, Euripides above Racine, Theophrastus above Bruyere, or Phædrus above Fontaine? Let not our classical library consist solely of translations, nor let us exclude them. They will 'multiply good models; they will affift us in understanding the character of writers, ages, and people; they will teach us to perceive those fhades, which distinguish absolute and universal taste from national.
• The third arbitrary law to which translators are subject, is the ridiculous constraint of translating an author from beginning to end. By this means the translator, fatigued and chilled by the weak passages, languishes in the most excellent parts ; besides, why Thould he be put to the torture to give an elegant turn to a false thought, or to be nice upon a common idea? It is not to bring the faults of the antients to light, that we transplant them into our language, but to enrich our learning by what is excellent among them. To translate them by parcels is not to mutilate them, it is to paint them in profile, and to advantage. What entertainment can there be in a translation of that part of the Æneid, where the harpies rob the Trojans of their dinner; or of those cold, and sometimes gross pleasantries, which disfigure the harangues of Cicero; or of those passages in an historian, which present nothing interesting to the reader in point of matter or style? Why, in short, should we transfer into another language that which has only graces in its own, like the details of agriculture and pastoral life, which are so agreeable in Virgil, and so insipid in all the translations which have been made of them?
• Why should not the wise rule of Horace, to neglect what we cannot succeed in, be as applicable to translations as any other kind of writing?
Our learned men would find a confiderable advantage; in translating by parcels certain works, (which contain beauties fufficient to make the fortune of a number of writers,) whose authors, if they had as much taste as genius, would ecliple writers of the first rank. What pleasure, for instance, would Seneca or Lucan give thus opened and translated by a masterly Hard Senesa, fo excellent to cite, and so tirelome to read fuc
cesively forward, who turns round the same object with a brilliant rapidity; in this respect different from Cicero, who al. ways keeps advancing, though slowly, to his end. Lucan, the Seneca of poets, so full of masculine and true beauties, but too declamatory, too monotonous, too full of maxims, and too void of images. The only writers who have a title to be transJated intirely, are they whose agreeableness consists in their very negligence, such as Plutarch in his lives of illustrious men, where, quitting and resuming his subject every inftant, he converses with his reader without tiring him.'
The partiality we complained of appears sufficiently in the beginning of the above quotation; and with regard to the latter part of the extract, we can admit the justice of our author's fentiments only in cates where the translator is capable of difplaying as much judgment, in the selection of proper passages from the original, as Mr. D'Alembert himself hath shewn in his extracts from Tacitus. It would be a dangerous thing, however, to trust our hackney translators with such unlimited authority to maim and mutilate respectable originals. As we are on this subject, also, we cannot dispute it without expreffing a third wish, that the Translator had duly attended to the feveral excellent rules here laid down for his conduct; a neglect that is the less excuseable, as he has even broken through those rules in the very act of transcribing them
The second piece is a discourse spoken by our Author on his admiffion to the French academy; a performance, like most others of the kind, replete with panegyric and occasional strokes of affected oratory.
The third piece is a very valuable one, containing reflections on elocution and style in general. We shall select from it the following passage.
Nothing is more opposite to an easy style, and confequently to a good taste, than that figurative and poetical language, which is charged with metaphors and antitheses, which is called, for what reason I cannot tell, the academic ftyle, though the most celebrated members of the French academy have shunned it with care, and severely proscribed it in their works. We may call it, with more reason, the style of the pulpit, as being used by most of our modern preachers : it makes their fermons refeinble—not the effusion of a heart penetrated with
The Author himself, in like manner, in his Eilay on file and elocution, is blaming an affected mode of expreffion and recommending fimplicity; and while he makes use of the following ænigmatical turn, This maxim is baih tue ard f je; proceeding then to unriddle the fen teuce.
the truths which it wants to persuade others, but a kind of tedious, monotonous representation, where the actor is applauding himself, without being attended to. What shall we lay of a man, who, being about to address us on the things of a world, where we are most interested, acquits himself by a studied, measured discourse, charged with figures and ornaments ? Can this rhetorician appear to us any otherwise, than as acting an insipid and ridiculous part? This is the true pi&ture of the generality of our preachers. Their declamation seems beneath the pious comedies of our missionaries, which make men of the world smile, and common people weep. These missionaries seem at least to be affected with what they deliver, and their slocution, coarse and unpolished as it is, produces its effect on those for whom it is calculated.'
The millionaries, of which our Author speaks, appear to be of the same stamp with some of our methodist and other disfenting preachers, whose extravagant declamations have a much more sensible effect on their hearers, than those of more learned and regular orators.
The fourth piece is an Account of the Government in Geneva. The fifth relates to the Abuse of Criticism in Matters of Religion, and contains a very candid and forcible apology for such philosophers whose sentiments do not coincide with the professed teachers of doctrines, said to be those of Christianity. The twelfth section of this essay may serve as a specimen of the whole.
During the reign of the Aristotelian philosophy, that is, for many ages, it was believed, that all our ideas came from the senses, and it could not be imagined, that an opinion, so conformable to reason and experience, should ever be regarded as dangerous. It was even forbid, on pain of death, to teach a contrary doctrine. The punishment was, it must be confefled a little hard, whether our ideas are derived from sense or not. It is right all the world should live; but the prohibition and the penalty prove the religious attachment of our fathers to an antient opinion, “ that sensation is the source of all knowlege." Descartes came, and said, " The soul is spiritual: now, what is a spiritual being without ideas? The soul therefore has ideas from the instant its existence commences, that is, it has innate ideas." This reasoning, joined to the attraction of a new opinion, reduced many schools ; but they went farther than their master. From the spirituality of the soul, Descartes concluded innate ideas; one of his disciples concluded more, that to deny innate ideas, was to deny the spirituality of the soul, perhaps they would have made innate ideas an article of faith,