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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 endeavoured to preserve: let the reader judge for bimself, from the following 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 labours 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 so much sought after, and the invention of it, as being so useful, should be ascribed to the immortal Gods ; but the medicine of the soul should neither be the object of inquiry, whilst it was unknown, nor so much improved after its discovery, nor so well received or approved of by some, disagreeable, and looked on with an envious eye by many others ? Is it because the soul judges of the pains and disorders of the body, but we do not form any judgment of the soul by the body? Hence it comes that the soul never judgeth of itself, but when that by which itself is judged is in a bad state. Had nature given us faculties for discerning and viewing herself, and could we go through life by keeping our eye on her our best guide, no one certainly would be in want of philosophy or learning. But as it is, she has furnished us only with some few sparks, which we soon so extinguish by bad morals and depraved customs, that the light of nature is quite put out. The seeds of virtue are connatural to our constitutions, and were they suffered to come to maturity, would naturally conduct us to a happy life; but now, as soon as we are born, and received into the world, we are instantly familiarized to all kinds of depravity and wrong opinions ; so that we may be said almost to suck in error with our nurse's milk. When we return to our parents, and are put into the hands of tutors and governors, we imbibe so many errors, that truth gives place to falsehood, and nature herself to established opinion. To these we may add the poets, who, on account of the appearance they exhibit of learning and wisdom, are heard, read, and got by heart, and make a deep impression on our minds. But when to these are added the people who are, as it were, one great body of instructors, and the multitude who declare unanimously for vice, then are we altogether overwhelmed with bad opinions, and revolt entirely from nature; so that they seem to deprive us of our best guide, who have ascribed all greatness, worth, and excellence, to honour, and power, and popular glory, which indeed every excellent man aims at: but whilst he pursues that only true honesty which nature has in view, he finds himself busied in arrant trifles, and in pursuit of no conspicuous form of virtue, but a shadowy representation of glory. For glory is a real and express substance, not a mere shadow. It consists in the united praise of good men, the free voice of those who form true judgments of excellent virtue : it is as it were the very echo of virtue, which being generally the attendant on laudable actions, should not be slighted by good men. But popular fame, which would pretend to imitate it, is hasty and inconsiderate, and generally commends wicked and immoral actions, and taints the appearance and beauty of the other, by assuming the resemblance of honesty. By not being able to discover the difference of these, some men, ignorant of real excellence, and in what it consists, have been the destruction of their country, or of themselves. And thus the best men have erred, not so much in their intentions, as by a mistaken conduct."
The classical reader will perceive that the spirit of the original is, in a manner, totally extinguished in this trans
lation. Indeed, such is the “ gentleman's” obscurity in some places, such are his mistakes of his author's meaning in others; such is the meanness, affectation, and impropriety of his language throughout, that it is really matter of surprise to us, how such a work came into print ; especially when we take the poetry into the account, which is below all criticism, and even contempt.
In short, the present performance is so totally destitute of every kind of merit, which might serve to qualify our censure, that we cannot avoid concluding with Cicero, upon another occasion : “ Obsecro, abjiciamus ista, et semi-liberi saltem simus; quod assequemur et tacendo et latendo.":1)
XII.-MASSEY'S OVID'S FASTI.
From the Critical Review, 1758. “ Ovid's Fasti; or, the
It was no bad remark of a celebrated French lady, (5) that a bad translator was like an ignorant footman, whose blundering messages disgraced his master by the awkwardness of the delivery, and frequently turned compliment into abuse, and politeness into rusticity. We cannot indeed see an ancient elegant writer mangled and misrepresented by the doers into English, without some degree of indig.
(1) (For a detail of the very distressing circumstances under which Goldsmith wrote this and the three preceding articles, see Life, vol. i. p. 285. This anonymous translation, though destitute of every kind of merit, was actually reprinted so recently as 1828.” See Lowndes's Bibliographer's Manual. vol. i. p. 425.)
(2) (Many years master of a boarding school at Wandsworth, in Surrey.] (3) Madame de la Fayette.
nation; and are heartily sorry that our poor friend Ovid should send his Sacred Calendar to us by the hands of Mr. William Massey, who, like the valet, seems to have entirely forgot his master's message, and substituted another in its room very unlike it. Mr. Massey observes, in his preface, with great truth, that it is strange that this most elaborate and learned of all Ovid's works should be so much neglected by our English translators ; and that it should be so little read or regarded, whilst his Tristia, Epistles, and Metamorphoses, are in almost every school-boy's hands. “ All the critics, in general,” says he, “ speak of this part of Ovid's writings with a particular applause; yet I know not by what unhappy fate there has not been that use made thereof, which would be more beneficial, in many respects, to yourg students of the Latin tongue, than any other of this poet's works. For though Pantheons, and other books that treat of the Roman mythology, may be usefully put into the hands of young proficients in the Latin tongue, yet the richest fund of that sort of learning is here to be found in the Fasti. I am not without hopes, therefore, that by thus making this book more familiar and easy, in this dress, to English readers, it will the more readily gain admittance into our public schools; and that those who become better acquainted therewith, will find it an agreeable and instructive companion, well stored with recondite learning. I persuade myself also, that the notes which I have added to my version will be of advantage, not only to the mere English reader, but likewise to such as endeavour to improve themselves in the knowledge of the Roman language.
“ As the Latin proverb says, Jacta est alea ; and my performance must take its chance, as those of other poetic adventurers have done before me. I am very sensible, that I have fallen in many places far below my original ; and no