Page images
PDF
EPUB

place a* a critic, that the reader may judge of the soundness of those principles, upon which his translation is avowedly made. In the elegant and judicious, though concise, life ol the historian, which is prefixed to the fir It volume, the translator thus speaks of the style and veracity of his author, while he lays down the principles that guided him in his arduous attempt to clothe the most ancient historian of Greece in au English dress.

"The style of Herodotus might well demand a separate dissertation: this, perhaps, is not the properest place to speak at any length upon the subjects. It has been universally admired for being, beyond that of all other Greek, writers of Prose, pure and perspicuous. Cicero calls it /u/am atque tractum, at the fame time copious and polished. Aristotle gives it as an example of the x»£t« u^ofitm, which is literally, the conneBed style j but, as. he explains himself, it means rather what we should call the stoiuiag style; wherein the sentences are not involved or complicated by art, but are connected by simple conjunctions, as they follow in natural order, and have no full termination but in the close of the sense. This he opposes to that style which is formed into regular periods, and rather censures it as keeping the reader in uneasy suspense, and depriving him of the pleasure which arises from foreseeing the conclusion. The former, he says, was the method of the ancients; the latter of his contemporaries. (Rhet. iii. 9.} His own writings afford an example of the latter style, cut into short and frequent periods, but certainly much less pleasing than the flowing and natural smoothness of Herodotus. Plutarch, whq wrote a treatise expressly to derogate from the fame and authority of Herodotus, in more places than one, speaks of his diction with the highest commendation. Longinus also, as may be seen in "various passages which I have introduced, and commented upon in the progress of my work, added his tribute to the universal praise *.

"Every

"f The following are among the passages in Cicero's works, in which he makes honourable mention of Herodotus.

•f At qui tanta est eloquentia, ut me quantum ego Grace script* intellsgere possum, magnopere delectet.—De Oratorc, 1. 11. "In his Brutus he fays,

** Sine salcbris quasi sedatus amnis siuit. 1

'.' In his Hortensius,

"Quid aut Herodoto dulcius aut Thucydide gravius? "s Quintilian, in his ninth book, observes, "In Herodoto vero cum omnia, ut ego quidem sentio, leniter

fluant

"Every one knows, who has nfede the experiment, how difficult and almost impossible it is to assimilate to the English idiom, the simple and beautiful terseness of Greek composition. If any scholar therefore, who may choose to compare my version with the original Greek, (hall be inclined to censure me for being occasionally diffuse, I would wish him to remember this.—I would desire him also to consider, that it was my duty to make that perspicuous to the less learned reader, which might have been con. veyed in fewer terms to the apprehensions of the more learned or the more intelligent.

"On the subject of trans ations in general, I entirely approve of the opinion of Boileau. In a preceding publication, I nave before referred to this, but I fee no impropriety in it* having a place here, in the words of lord Bolingbrokc.

"To translate servilely into modern language an an-ient author, phrase by phrase, and word by word, is preposterous: nothing can be more unlike the original than such a copy; it is not to shew, it is to disguise the author. A good writer will rather imitate than translate, and rather emulate than imit.e; he will endeavour to write as the ancient author wouH have wriiten, had he wrote in the fame language."—Lrtttn on Hijtary.

"Perhaps I ought not to omit, that many eminent writers, both of ancient and modern times, accuse Herodotus of not having had a sufficient regard to the austere and sacred dignity of historic truth. Cteiias, in Photius, Strabo, Diodorus Siculus, Aulus Gellius, and, above all, Plutarch, have made strong and violent objections to many of his assertions. Cteiias pretends to queihoa ■his accuracy in what he relates of the Medes and Persians, but

fluant turn ipso dialectus habet cam jucunditatem, ut latentes etiam numeros complexa videatur.

"And again in the following book, where he draws a comparison between Herodotus and Thucydides, he fays, dulcis, et candidus et fusus Herodotus.

"The following passage from Dionyfius of Halicamassus is too remarkable to be omitted.- Herodotus very much surpassed all others in the choice of his words, the justice of his composition, and the variety of his figures. His discourse is composed in such a manner, that it resembles an excellent poem, in its persuasive art, and that charming grace, which pleases to the highest degree. He has not omitted any of the beautiful and great qualities, unless it be in that manner of writing adapted to contests and disputes, either because he was naturally not made for it, or that he despised it, as not agreeable to history: for he doth not make use of a great number of orations, nor speeches to promote contention, nor has he the necessary force requisite to excite the passions, and amplify and augment things."

R 4 what

what he says hardly merits refutation. Manetho finds very much to blame in what he writes concerning the Egyptians. Thucydides also, in one or two passages, seems obliquely to glance at Herodotus. Strabo is mere deSnitive, and remarks that the historian writes pleasantly ei.ojgh, and iairouuces in his narratives many wonderful talei to supply the want of songs, verses, &c. The following passag-e in Juvenal has also been applied to him.

Creditur olim
Velificatus Athos, Sr quicquid Grxcia mendax
Audet in historia.

To many general censures which on this account have been aimed against the fame of our historian, 1 have made reply in various parts of my notes: and the plauiible but unjust tract of Plutarch, on the Malignity of Herodotus, has been carefully examined, and satisfactorily refuted, by the Abbe Geinoz, in the Memoirs of the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles Lettres. Thus much must be allowed on all hands, that throughout his works there is the greatest appearance ot candour and simplicity. Seldom or ever doe> he relate extraordinary or marvellous things, withoat qualifying his narrative with such expressions as these, I have heard, it is soid, this docs not appear credible, &c. In what he fays of Egypt in particular, which has drawn upon him the unjust censure of Manetho, he invariably observes, that he learned what he communicates, from the Egyptian priests. But what, perhaps, is "of more consequence to his character for veracity than anv thing that can be adduced is, that it is determined by the most learned men, that the writings of Herodotus are more conformable to the sacred Scriptures than those of Xenophon, Ctefias, and other ancient historians." Vol. I. p. 14.

This is surely just criticism. Tiie style of Herodotus is exactly what it is here said to be; and the reply which the tranllator Iihs, in his notes, m,ide to the charges brought against the veracity oi the historian, the reader %will, in most instances, find satislactoi y. On one or two occasions, he wi[l probably be disappointed, as we have been, at. finding no extracts from Mis. Guthrie's Toitr through the Tauride or Crimea, \\\ which some of the relations ot Herodotus, which hi countrymen deemed utterly incredible, are completely viridi cated; but Mr. Bcloe, to illustrate his author, has consulted and read so many works, ancient and modern-, that it is not surprising that lie should have overlooked one.

The principles, on which he has made his version, are obviously just;'but it the reader entertain the slightest doubt about them, he will do well to consult An Effay on the Prin. eij>/ts of Translation, printed for Cadell and Davies in 1791,

ancj

c

[ocr errors]

and repttblished with considerable improvements in 1797*. In that ingenious and classical work, it is shown, with the clearness of demonstration, that " a translation should give a complete transcript ot the ideas ot the original work; that the style and manner ot writing should be of the same character with that ot the original; and that the tranilation should have all the ease of original composition." How attentive Mr. Beloe has been to these rules it is now our duty to furnish the learned reader with an opportunity of judging for himself; but where every thing is curious, and in some degree interesting from its antiquity, it is difficult to make a selection of passages. The following extract gives such a picture of Babylonian manners, as must surprise the mere English reader, whilst it cannot fail to make every serious reader rejoice in the light of that revelation, through want of which a nation, otherwise highly polished, and contending with Egypt for being the source of civilization, fell into such enorjnuies. We subjoin tiie translator's notes in vindication of the author's veracity.

,f In my description of their (the Babylonian) laws, I have to mention one, the wif.lom of which I must admire; and which, if J am not misinformed, the Encti t, who are of Illyrian origin,

life

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

use also. In each of their several districts this custom was every year observed: such of their virgins as were marriageable, were at an appointed time and place assembled together. Here the men also came, and some public officer sold by auction »5i the young women one by one, beginning with the most beautiful. When she was disposed of, and as may be supposed for a considerable

the breed of mules. They were certainly so famous for this heterogenous mixture, that Erin; and Etna; denote that particular foal of the horse and the mule, which the Eneti bred.—See He. tychiui.

"A remarkable verse occurs in Genesis, fee chapter xxxvi. verse 24. "These arc the children of Zibeon; both Ajah, and Anah: this was that Anah, who foundthe mules in the wilderness, as he fed the asses of Zibeon his father." Does not this mean that Anah was the first author and contriver of this unnatural breed?

This mixture was forbidden by the Levitical law.—See Leviticus, ch. xix. ver. 19. *• Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind."

"Is it impossibk that from Anah the Eneti might take their name? Strabo informs us that the Eneti of Asia were called after, wards Cappadocians, which means breakers of horses; and he adds, that they who marched to the assistance of Troy, were esteemed a part of the Leuco.Sjri.T.

"95' Sold by auction.]—Herodotus here omits one circumstance of consequence, in- my opinion, to prove that this ceremony was conducted with decency. It passed under the inspection of the magistrates; and the tribunal whose office it was to take cog. nizance of the crime of adultery, superintended the marriage of the young women. Three men, respectable for their virtue, and who were at the head of their several tribes, conducted the young women that were marriageable to the place of assembly, and there sold them by the voice of the public crier.—Larcbcr.

"If the custom of disposing of the young women to the best bidder was peculiar to the Babylonians, thit of purchasing the person intended for a wife, and of giving the father a sum to ob. tain her, was much more general. It was practised amongst the Greeks, the Trojans, and their allies, and even amongst the deities.—Bellenger.

"Three daughters in my court are bred,
And each well worthy of a royal bed:
Laodicc, and Iphigenia fair,
And bright Chrysothemis with golden hair.
Her let him choose, whom most his eyes approve;
1 ask no presents, no reward for love.— Pofc'i Iliad."

sum,

« PreviousContinue »