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To those, who shall be at the trouble of examining into the degree of accuracy with which the task has been executed, I may
be allowed to suggest, that their judgment should not be formed on a comparison with any single text of my Author; since, in more instances than I have noticed, I have had to make my choice out of a variety of readings and interpretations, presented by different editions and commentators.
In one or two of those editions is to be found the title of “ The Vision”; which I have adopted, as more conformable to the genius of our language than that of “The Divine Comedy." Dante himself, I believe, termed it simply “The Comedy;” in the first place, because the style was of the middle kind; and in the next, because the story (if story it
may called) ends happily.
The above Advertisement was prefixed to an edition of the following Translation, printed in so small a character as to deter a numerous class of readers from perusing it. Amongst the few into whose hands it fell, about two years ago, Mr. Coleridge became one; and I have both a pride and a pleasure in acknowledging, that it has been chiefly owing to the prompt and strenuous exertions of that Gentleman in
recommending the book to public notice, that the opportunity has been afforded me of sending it forth in its present form.
When a Third Edition was called for in 1831, my duties as an Assistant Librarian in the British Museum were such as to prevent me from engaging in any task that would have required an increase of sedentary labour. I was thus hindered not only from attending to the accuracy of the press (which indeed the care of my Publisher rendered almost unnecessary) but from collecting and putting in order the several corrections and additions, which I had occasionally noted with the purpose of introducing them into that edition.
A long interval of leisure may since have enabled me to do more effectually what I was before compelled to leave undone. In the hope of rendering the Life of Dante and the Notes on the Poem less imperfect, I have consulted most of the writers by whom my
Author has been recently illustrated. Wherever an omission or an error in the translation has been pointed out to me, I have done my best to supply the one and to correct the other; and my obligations in all these instances are knowledged in the Notes. Among those who have not thought a few hours thrown away in
noticing such oversights, it is gratifying to me to mention the names of Mr. Carlyle, one of the most original thinkers of our time; my long experienced friend, Mr. Darley, one of our most genuine poets; and Mr. Lyell, my respected fellow-labourer in the mine of Dante. At an advanced age, I do not imagine myself capable of otherwise improving an attempt which, however defective, has at least the advantage of having had my earlier days bestowed on it.