It was thought proper to insert in this place the pleasing Preface which Mr. DRYDEN printed before his Translation of M. DU FRESNOY's Poem. There is a charm in that great writer's prose peculiar to itself; and though, perhaps, the parallel between the two arts, which he has here drawn, be too superficial to stand the test of strict criticism, yet it will always give pleasure to readers of taste, even when it fails to satisfy their judgment. M.




It may be reasonably expected that I should say soinething on my behalf, in respect to my present undertaking. First then, the reader may be pleased to know, that it was not of my own choice that I undertook this work. Many of our most skilful painters, and other artists, were pleased to recommend this author to me, as one who perfectly understood the rules of painting; who gave the best and most concise instructions for performance, and the surest to inform the judgment of all who loved this noble art; that they who before were rather fond of it, than knowingly admired it, might defend their inclination by their reason; that they might understand those excellencies which they blindly valued, so as not to be farther imposed on by bad pieces, and to know when nature was well imitated by the most able masters. It is true indeed, and they acknowledge it, that besides the rules which are given in this treatise, or which can be given in any other to make a perfect judgment of good pictures, and to value them more or less, when compared with another, there is farther required a long conversation with the best pieces, which are not very frequent either in France or England : yet some we have, not only from the hands of Holbein, Rubens, and Vandyck, (one of them admirable for history-painting, and the other two for portraits), but of many Flemish masters, and those not inconsiderable, though for design not equal to the Italians. And of these latter also, we are not unfurnished with some pieces of Raffaelle, Titian, Corregio, Michel Angelo, and others. But to return to my own undertaking of this translation; I freely own that I thought myself uncapable of performing it, either to their satisfaction, or my own credit. Not but that I understood the original Latin, and the French author perhaps as well as most Englishmen; but I was not suffici. ently versed in the terms of art: and therefore thought that many of those persons, who put this honourable task on me, were more able to perform it themselves, as undoubtedly they were. But they assuring me of their assistance in correcting my faults, where I spoke improperly, I was encouraged to attempt it, that I might not be wanting in what I could, to satisfy the desires of so many gentlemen who were willing to give the world this useful work. They have effectually performed their promise to me, and I have been as careful on my side to take their advice on all things ; so that the reader may assure himself of a tolerable trans

lation ; not elegant, for I proposed not that to myself, but familiar, clear, and instructive; in any of which parts, if I have failed, the fault lies wholly at my door. In this one particular only, I must beg the reader's pardon : the prose translation of the poem is not free from poetical expressions, and I dare not promise that some of them are not fustian, or at least highly metaphorical; but this being a fault in the first digestion), that is, the original Latin), was not to be remedied in the second, viz. the translation; and I may confidently say, that whoever had attempted it, must have fallen into the same inconvenience, or a much greater, that of a false version. When I undertook this work, I was already engaged in the translation of Virgil, from whom I have borrowed only two months, and am now returning to that which I ought to understand better. In the mean time, I beg the reader's pardon for entertaining him so long with myself; it is an usual part of ill manners in all authors, and almost in all mankind, to trouble others with their business; and I was so sensible of it before-hand, that I had not now committed it, unless some concernments of the readers had been interwoven with my own. But I know not, while I am atoning for one error, if I am not falling into another : for I have been importuned to say something farther of this art; and to make some observations on it, in relation to the likeness and agreement which it has with poetry its sister. But

« ForrigeFortsett »