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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 Ihallow of understanding, that if it were not a kind of solecism to call a scholar a blockhead, we might set them down for very sad noodles indeed.
It is generally supposed 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 tristes is still to be fuperficial, and as we have many such superficial proficients in England, fo we have many profound adepts in the abftrufe sciences, who cannot be brought to look upon the improvements of style, and the cultivation of the literary arts, as of fufficient importance to claim their attention.
They are mistaken, however, if they think their attention may not be as decply engaged, and their application as intent and useful, in the investigation of literary as of scientific principles. That the obječis of their enquiry are more vague and transitory than thofe of physics and geometry is very certain : but this, by, increasing the difficulty, does by no means make the Rúdy léfs 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 fcicnces, check that spontaneous exercise of them, which is ne. cessary to preserve a taste for the elegant investigations of the
Mr. D'Alembert is, perhaps, the most striking example in the present age, of the possibility of reconciling the exercise of
the Itrictest 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 Translation; in regard to which, we have principally to with the Áuthor had confidered his subject more generally, and had not coni fined bis views fo particularly to the French language. Next to this, we could wish he had not sewn so great a partiality to the Authors of his own country. But the Reader will judge:
“Good translations, says he, are the best calculated for enriching language. This is the use I would make of them, which, in my opinion,
more proper; than what is hinted by a famous fatyrift of the last age, who was as passionate 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 taste, I know not where it is Aed. 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 tranllations, nor let us exclude them. They will multiply good models; they will assist us in understanding the character of writers, ages, and people ; they will teach us to perceive those shades, which diftinguish 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 should 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 enricn our learning by what is excellent among them. To translate them by parcels is not to musilate 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 thort, should we transfer into another language that which has only graces in its own, Jike 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 considerable 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 eclipse writers of the first rank. What pleasure, for instance, would Seneca or Lucan give thus opened and translated by a masterly hand ? Seneca, so excellent to cite, and so tiresome to read fuc
cessively forward, who turns round the same object with a brila liant rapidity; in this refpect different from Cicero, who ale 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 translated intirely, are they whose agreeableness consists in their very negligence, such as Plutarch in his lives of illustrious men, where, quitting and refuming his subject every instant, he converses with his reader without tiring him.'
The partiality we complained of appears fufficiently 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 cases where the translator is capable of difplaying as much judgment, in the felection of proper passages from the original, as Mr. D'Alembert himself hath sewn in his extracts from Tacitus. It would be a dangerous thing, however, to trust our hackney tranflators with such unlimited authority to maim and mutilate respectable originals. As we are on this subject, also, we cannot dispute it without expreffing á third with, that the Translator had duly attended to the feveral excellent rules here laid down for his conduct; a neglect that is the lefs excufeable, as he has even broken through those rules in the very act of transcribing them *.
The fecond piece is a discourse spoken by our Author on his admisfion to the French academy; a performance, like most others of the kind, replete with panegyric and occafional strokes of affected oratory.
The third piece is a very valuable one, containing reflections on elocution and Ityle in general. We shall select from it the following passage.
• Nothing is more opposite to an easy ftyle, and consequently to a good taste, than that figurative and poetical language, which is charged with metaphors and antithefes, which is called, for what reason I cannot tell, the academic style, though the most celebrated members of the French academy have fhunned it with care, and severely proscribed it in their works, We
'e may call it, with more reason, the style of the pulpit, as being used by most of our modern preachers : it makes their fermons resemble--not the effüsion of a heart penetrated with
The Author himself, in like manner, in his Essay on ffile and elocution, is blaming an affected mode of expression and recommending fimplicity; and while he makes use of the following ænigmatical torn, This maxim is both true and fulfe ; proceeding then to unriddle the fentence.
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 Mall we say of a man, who, being about to address us on the things of a world, where we are most interested, acquits himself by a ftudied, 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 picture 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 miffionaries seem at least to be affected with what they deliver, and their elocution, coarse and unpolished as it is, produces its effect on thofe for whom it is calculated.'
'The missionaries, of which our Author speaks, appear to be of the fame stamp with some of our methodist and other dirfenting preachers, whose extravagant declamations have a mucha more fensible 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, fo 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 confelled a little hard, whether our ideas are derived from sense or not. It is right all the world should live; but the probibition 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, seduced 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 fpirituality of the soul; perhaps they would have made innate ideas an article of faith,
if they could have diffembled, that this pretended truth was only discovered in the last century. We have seen theologians carry their extravagance so far, as to maintain, that the opinion, which unites our ideas to our sensations, endangers the mystery of original fin, and the grace of baptism. It is thus, that the inost incontestable maxims in philosophy and the mathematics have been attacked, under pretence of their seeming opposition with some doctrine of faith : besides, it is impossible to combat innate ideas, by the same weapons of religion which established it? Must not an infant, who has the idea of God, as the Cartesians pretend, from the breast, and even frorii the womb, alfo know the duties owing to God, which is contrary to the first principles of religion and cominon sense? Will any one fay, the idea of God exists in infants, without being developed ? But what are ideas which the foul possesses without knowing them, and the things which it knows without thought, and yet is obliged to learn afterwards, as much as if it had never known them? A spiritual being, some may fay, muft neceffarily have ideas from the moment it exists. It is easy to answer, that this being, in the first moments of its existence, may be confined to sensation ; that a capacity of thinking is sufficient to conftitute it immaterial, since that power, by the confeflion of all divines, belongs only to a spiritual substance. But further, to decide in what spirituality consists, and whether it be the nature of a spiritual being to think, or even to perceive always, what distinct idea have we of the nature of the soul ? Let us ask Malebranche, who will not be suspected of confounding mind with matter. In fine, it is by our senses that we have the knowlege of corporeal substance: It is therefore through their means, that we have been taught to regard it as incapable of will and sensation, and consequently of thought: from thence result two consequences; the first, that we owe to our sensations and reflections the knowlege we have of the inmateriality of the soul; in the second place, that the idea we have of spirituali:y is negative, which teaches what a spiritual being is not, without informing us what it is ; it would be presumption to think otherwise, and weakness to believe we must think otherwise to be orthodox.
« The soul is neither matter nor extension, and yet it is something; though gross prejudice, fortified by habitude, leads us to judge, that what is not matter is nothing. See where philosophy conducts us, and where it leaves us ?'
The next piece contains an Essay on the Alliance (or connection) betwixt Learned Men and the Great, and was before published in a late periodical work, intitled, The Library.