Early Theories of Translation
by Flora Ross Amos
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Convinced, then, that his undertaking, though difficult, meant much both to the individual and to the state, the translator gladly set about making some part of the great field of foreign literature, ancient and modern, accessible to English readers. Of the technicalities of his art he has a good deal to say. At a time when prefaces and dedications so frequently established personal relations between author and audience, it was natural that the translator also should take his readers into his confidence regarding his aims and methods. His comment, however, is largely incidental. Generally it is applicable only to the work in hand; it does not profess to be a statement, even on a small scale, of what translation in general ought to be. There is no discussion in English corresponding to the small, but comprehensive treatise on La maniere de bien traduire d'une langue en autre which Etienne Dolet published at Lyons in 1540. This casual quality is evidenced by the peculiar way in which prefaces in different editions of the same book appear and disappear for no apparent reason, possibly at the convenience of the printer. It is scarcely fair to interpret as considered, deliberate formulation of principles, utterances so unpremeditated and fragmentary. The theory which accompanies secular translation is much less clear and consecutive than that which accompanies the translation of the Bible. Though in the latter case the formulation of theories of translation was almost equally incidental, respect for the original, repeated experiment, and constant criticism and discussion united to make certain principles take very definite shape. Secular translation produced nothing so homogeneous. The existence of so many translators, working for the most part independently of each other, resulted in a confused mass of comment whose real value it is difficult to estimate. It is true that the new scholarship with its clearer estimate of literary values and its appreciation of the individual's proprietary rights in his own writings made itself strongly felt in the sphere of secular translation and introduced new standards of accuracy, new definitions of the latitude which might be accorded the translator; but much of the old freedom in handling material, with the accompanying vagueness as to the limits of the translator's function, persisted throughout the time of Elizabeth.

In many cases the standards recognized by sixteenth-century translators were little more exacting than those of the medieval period. With many writers adequate recognition of source was a matter of choice rather than of obligation. The English translator might make suitable attribution of a work to its author and he might undertake to reproduce its substance in its entirety, but he might, on the other hand, fail to acknowledge any indebtedness to a predecessor or he might add or omit material, since he was governed apparently only by the extent of his own powers or by his conception of what would be most pleasing or edifying to his readers. To the theory of his art he gave little serious consideration. He did not attempt to analyse the style of the source which he had chosen. If he praised his author, it was in the conventional language of compliment, which showed no real discrimination and which, one suspects, often disguised mere advertising. His estimate of his own capabilities was only the repetition of the medieval formula, with its profession of inadequacy for the task and its claim to have used simple speech devoid of rhetorical ornament. That it was nothing but a formula was recognized at the time and is good-naturedly pointed out in the words of Harrington: "Certainly if I should confess or rather profess that my verse is unartificial, the style rude, the phrase barbarous, the metre unpleasant, many more would believe it to be so than would imagine that I thought them so."[300]

This medieval quality, less excusable later in the century when the new learning had declared itself, appears with more justification in the comment of the early sixteenth century. Though the translator's field was widening and was becoming more broadly European, the works chosen for translation belonged largely to the types popular in the Middle Ages and the comment attached to them was a repetition of timeworn phrases. Alexander Barclay, who is best known as the author of The Ship of Fools, published in 1508, but who also has to his credit several other translations of contemporary moral and allegorical poems from Latin and French and even, in anticipation of the newer era, a version of Sallust's Jugurthine War, offers his translations of The Ship of Fools[301] and of Mancini's Mirror of Good Manners[302] not to the learned, who might judge of their correctness, but to "rude people," who may hope to be benefited morally by perusing them. He has written The Ship of Fools in "common and rural terms"; he does not follow the author "word by word"; and though he professes to have reproduced for the most part the "sentence" of the original, he admits "sometimes adding, sometimes detracting and taking away such things as seemeth me unnecessary and superfluous."[303] His contemporary, Lord Berners, writes for a more courtly audience, but he professes much the same methods. He introduces his Arthur of Little Britain, "not presuming that I have reduced it into fresh, ornate, polished English, for I know myself insufficient in the facundious art of rhetoric, and also I am but a learner of the language of French: howbeit I trust my simple reason hath led me to the understanding of the true sentence of the matter."[304] Of his translation of Froissart he says, "And in that I have not followed mine author word by word, yet I trust I have ensued the true report of the sentence of the matter."[305] Sir Francis Bryan, under whose direction Berners' translation of The Golden Book of Marcus Aurelius was issued in 1535, the year after its author's death, expresses his admiration of the "high and sweet styles"[306] of the versions in other languages which have preceded this English rendering, but similar phrases had been used so often in the characterization of undistinguished writings that this comment hardly suggests the new and peculiar quality of Guevara's style.

As the century advanced, these older, easier standards were maintained especially among translators who chose material similar to that of Barclay and Berners, the popular work of edification, the novella, which took the place of the romance. The purveyors of entertaining narrative, indeed, realized in some degree the minor importance of their work as compared with that of more serious scholars and acted accordingly. The preface to Turbervile's Tragical Tales throws some light on the author's idea of the comparative values of translations. He thought of translating Lucan, but Melpomene appeared to warn him against so ambitious an enterprise, and admitting his unfitness for the task, he applied himself instead to this translation "out of sundry Italians."[307] Anthony Munday apologizes for his "simple translation" of Palmerin d'Oliva by remarking that "to translate allows little occasion of fine pen work,"[308] a comment which goes far to account for the doubtful quality of his productions in this field.

Even when the translator of pleasant tales ranked his work high, it was generally on the ground that his readers would receive from it profit as well as amusement; he laid no claim to academic correctness. He mentioned or refrained from mentioning his sources at his own discretion. Painter, in inaugurating the vogue of the novella, is exceptionally careful in attributing each story to its author,[309] but Whetstone's Rock of Regard contains no hint that it is translated, and The Petit Palace of Pettie his Pleasure conveys the impression of original work. "I dare not compare," runs the prefatory Letter to Gentlewomen Readers by R. B., "this work with the former Palaces of Pleasure, because comparisons are odious, and because they contain histories, translated out of grave authors and learned writers; and this containeth discourses devised by a green youthful capacity, and repeated in a manner extempore."[310] It was, again, the personal preference of the individual or the extent of his linguistic knowledge that determined whether the translator should employ the original Italian or Spanish versions of some collections or should content himself with an intermediary French rendering. Painter, accurate as he is in describing his sources, confesses that he has often used the French version of Boccaccio, though, or perhaps because, it is less finely written than its original. Thomas Fortescue uses the French version for his translation of The Forest, a collection of histories "written in three sundry tongues, in the Spanish first by Petrus Mexia, and thence done into the Italian, and last into the French by Claudius Gringet, late citizen of Paris."[311] The most regrettable latitude of all, judging by theoretic standards of translation, was the careless freedom which writers of this group were inclined to appropriate. Anthony Munday, to take an extreme case, translating Palmerin of England from the French, makes a perfunctory apology in his Epistle Dedicatory for his inaccuracies: "If you find the translation altered, or the true sense in some place of a matter impaired, let this excuse answer in default in that case. A work so large is sufficient to tire so simple a workman in himself. Beside the printer may in some place let an error escape."[312] Fortescue justifies, adequately enough, his omission of various tales by the plea that "the lack of one annoyeth not or maimeth not the other," but incidentally he throws light on the practice of others, less conscientious, who "add or change at their pleasure."

There is perhaps danger of underrating the value of the theory which accompanies translations of this sort. The translators have left comparatively little comment on their methods, and it may be that now and then more satisfactory principles were implicit. Yet even when the translator took his task seriously, his prefatory remarks almost always betrayed that there was something defective in his theory or careless in his execution. Bartholomew Young translates Montemayor's Diana from the Spanish after a careful consideration of texts. "Having compared the French copies with the Spanish original," he writes, "I judge the first part to be exquisite, the other two corruptly done, with a confusion of verse into prose, and leaving out in many places divers hard sentences, and some leaves at the end of the third part, wherefore they are but blind guides of any to be imitated."[313] After this, unhappily, in the press of greater affairs he lets the work come from the printer unsupervised and presumably full of errors, "the copy being very dark and interlined, and I loath to write it out again." Robert Tofte addresses his Honor's Academy or the Famous Pastoral of the Fair Shepherdess Julietta "to the courteous and judicious reader and to none other"; he explains that he refuses to write for "the sottish multitude," that monster "who knows not when aught well is or amiss"; and blames "such idle thieves as do purloin from others' mint what's none of their own coin."[314] In spite of this, his preface makes no mention of Nicholas de Montreux, the original author, and if it were not for the phrase on the title page, "done into English," one would not suspect that the book was a translation. The apology of the printer, Thomas Creede, "Some faults no doubt there be, especially in the verses, and to speak truth, how could it be otherwise, when he wrote all this volume (as it were) cursorily and in haste, never having so much leisure as to overlook one leaf after he had scribbled the same," stamps Tofte as perhaps a facile, but certainly not a conscientious workman.

Another fashionable form of literature, the popular religious or didactic work, was governed by standards of translation not unlike those which controlled the fictitious narrative. In the work of Lord Berners the romance had not yet made way for its more sophisticated rival, the novella. His translation from Guevara, however, marked the beginning of a new fashion. While Barclay's Ship of Fools and Mirror of Good Manners were addressed, like their medieval predecessors, to "lewd" people, with The Golden Book began the vogue of a new type of didactic literature, similar in its moral purpose and in its frequent employment of narrative material to the religious works of the Middle Ages, but with new stylistic elements that made their appeal, as did the novella, not to the rustic and unlearned, but to courtly readers. The prefaces to The Golden Book and to the translations which succeeded it throw little light on the theory of their authors, but what comment there is points to methods like those employed by the translators of the romance and the novella. Though later translators like Hellowes went to the original Spanish, Berners, Bryan, and North employ instead the intermediary French rendering. Praise of Guevara's style becomes a wearisome repetition of conventional phrases, a rhetorical exercise for the English writer rather than a serious attempt to analyze the peculiarities of the Spanish. Exaggeratedly typical is the comment of Hellowes in the 1574 edition of Guevara's Epistles, where he repeats with considerable complacency the commendation of the original work which was "contained in my former preface, as followeth. Being furnished so fully with sincere doctrine, so unused eloquence, so high a style, so apt similitudes, so excellent discourses, so convenient examples, so profound sentences, so old antiquities, so ancient histories, such variety of matter, so pleasant recreations, so strange things alleged, and certain parcels of Scripture with such dexterity handled, that it may hardly be discerned, whether shall be greater, either thy pleasure by reading, or profit by following the same."[315]

Guevara himself was perhaps responsible for the failure of his translators to make any formal recognition of responsibility for reproducing his style. His fictitious account of the sources of The Golden Book is medieval in tone. He has translated, not word for word, but thought for thought, and for the rudeness of his original he has substituted a more lofty style.[316] His English translators reverse the latter process. Hellowes affirms that his translation of the Epistles "goeth agreeable unto the Author thereof," but confesses that he wants "both gloss and hue of rare eloquence, used in the polishing of the rest of his works." North later translated from the French Amyot's epoch-making principle: "the office of a fit translator consisteth not only in the faithful expressing of his author's meaning, but also in a certain resembling and shadowing out of the form of his style and manner of his speaking,"[317] but all that he has to say of his Dial of Princes is that he has reduced it into English "according to my small knowledge and tender years."[318] Here again, though the translator may sometimes have tried to adopt newer and more difficult standards, he does not make this explicit in his comment.

Obviously, however, academic standards of accuracy were not likely to make their first appearance in connection with fashionable court literature; one expects to find them associated rather with the translations of the great classical literature, which Renaissance scholars approached with such enthusiasm and respect. One of the first of these, the translation of the Aeneid made by the Scotch poet, Gavin Douglas, appeared, like the translations of Barclay and Berners, in the early sixteenth century. Douglas's comment,[319] which shows a good deal of conscious effort at definition of the translator's duties, is an odd mingling of the medieval and the modern. He begins with a eulogy of Virgil couched in the undiscriminating, exaggerated terms of the previous period. Unlike the many medieval redactors of the Troy story, however, he does not assume the historian's liberty of selection and combination from a variety of sources. He regards Virgil as "a per se," and waxes indignant over Caxton's Eneydos, whose author represented it as based on a French rendering of the great poet. It is, says Douglas, "no more like than the devil and St. Austin." In proof of this he cites Caxton's treatment of proper names. Douglas claims, reasonably enough, that if he followed his original word for word, the result would be unintelligible, and he appeals to St. Gregory and Horace in support of this contention. All his plea, however, is for freedom rather than accuracy, and one scarcely knows how to interpret his profession of faithfulness:

And thus I am constrenyt, as neir I may, To hald his vers & go nane other way, Les sum history, subtill word, or the ryme Causith me make digressione sum tyme.

Yet whether or not Douglas's "digressions" are permissible, such renderings as he illustrates involve no more latitude than is sanctioned by the schoolboy's Latin Grammar. He is disturbed by the necessity for using more words in English than the Latin has, and he feels it incumbent upon him to explain,

... sum tyme of a word I mon mak thre, In witness of this term oppetere.

English, he says in another place, cannot without the use of additional words reproduce the difference between synonymous terms like animal and homo; genus, sexus, and species; objectum and subjectum; arbor and lignum. Such comment, interesting because definite, is nevertheless no more significant than that which had appeared in the Purvey preface to the Bible more than a hundred years earlier. One is reminded that most of the material which the present-day translator finds in grammars of foreign languages was not yet in existence in any generally accessible form.

Such elementary aids were, however, in process of formulation during the sixteenth century. Mr. Foster Watson quotes from an edition of Mancinus, published as early probably as 1520, the following directions for putting Latin into English: "Whoso will learn to turn Latin into English, let him first take of the easiest Latin, and when he understandeth clearly what the Latin meaneth, let him say the English of every Latin word that way, as the sentence may appear most clearly to his ear, and where the English of the Latin words of the text will not make the sentence fair, let him take the English of those Latin words by whom (which) the Latin words of the text should be expounded and if that (they) will not be enough to make the sentence perfect, let him add more English, and that not only words, but also when need requireth, whole clauses such as will agree best to the sentence."[320] By the new methods of study advocated by men like Cheke and Ascham translation as practiced by students must have become a much more intelligent process, and the literary man who had received such preparatory training must have realized that variations from the original such as had troubled Douglas needed no apology, but might be taken for granted.

Further help was offered to students in the shape of various literal translations from the classics. The translator of Seneca's Hercules Furens undertook the work "to conduct by some means to further understanding the unripened scholars of this realm to whom I thought it should be no less thankful for me to interpret some Latin work into this our own tongue than for Erasmus in Latin to expound the Greek."[321] "Neither could I satisfy myself," he continues, "till I had throughout this whole tragedy of Seneca so travailed that I had in English given verse for verse (as far as the English tongue permits) and word for word the Latin, whereby I might both make some trial of myself and as it were teach the little children to go that yet can but creep." Abraham Fleming, translating Virgil's Georgics "grammatically," expresses his original "in plain words applied to blunt capacities, considering the expositor's drift to consist in delivering a direct order of construction for the relief of weak grammatists, not in attempting by curious device and disposition to content courtly humanists, whose desire he hath been more willing at this time to suspend, because he would in some exact sort satisfy such as need the supply of his travail."[322] William Bullokar prefaces his translation of Esop's Fables with the words: "I have translated out of Latin into English, but not in the best phrase of English, though English be capable of the perfect sense thereof, and might be used in the best phrase, had not my care been to keep it somewhat nearer the Latin phrase, that the English learner of Latin, reading over these authors in both languages, might the more easily confer them together in their sense, and the better understand the one by the other: and for that respect of easy conference, I have kept the like course in my translation of Tully's Offices out of Latin into English to be imprinted shortly also."[323]

Text books like these, valuable and necessary as they were, can scarcely claim a place in the history of literature. Bullokar himself, recognizing this, promises that "if God lend me life and ability to translate any other author into English hereafter, I will bend myself to follow the excellency of English in the best phrase thereof, more than I will bend it to the phrases of the language to be translated." In avoiding the overliteral method, however, the translator of the classics sometimes assumed a regrettable freedom, not only with the words but with the substance of his source. With regard to his translation of the Aeneid Phaer represents himself as "Trusting that you, my right worshipful masters and students of universities and such as be teachers of children and readers of this author in Latin, will not be too much offended though every verse answer not to your expectation. For (besides the diversity between a construction and a translation) you know there be many mystical secrets in this writer, which uttered in English would show little pleasure and in my opinion are better to be untouched than to diminish the grace of the rest with tediousness and darkness. I have therefore followed the counsel of Horace, touching the duty of a good interpreter, Qui quae desperat nitescere posse, relinquit, by which occasion somewhat I have in places omitted, somewhat altered, and some things I have expounded, and all to the ease of inferior readers, for you that are learned need not to be instructed."[324] Though Jasper Heywood's version of Hercules Furens is an example of the literal translation for the use of students, most of the other members of the group of young men who in 1581 published their translations of Seneca protest that they have reproduced the meaning, not the words of their author. Alexander Neville, a precocious youth who translated the fifth tragedy in "this sixteenth year of mine age," determined "not to be precise in following the author word for word, but sometimes by addition, sometimes by subtraction, to use the aptest phrases in giving the sense that I could invent."[325] Neville's translation is "oftentimes rudely increased with mine own simple invention";[326] John Studley has changed the first chorus of the Medea, "because in it I saw nothing but an heap of profane stories and names of profane idols";[327] Heywood himself, since the existing text of the Troas is imperfect, admits having "with addition of mine own pen supplied the want of some things,"[328] and says that he has also replaced the third chorus, because much of it is "heaped number of far and strange countries." Most radical of all is the theory according to which Thomas Drant translated the Satires of Horace. That Drant could be faithful even to excess is evident from his preface to The Wailings of Jeremiah included in the same volume with his version of Horace. "That thou mightest have this rueful parcel of Scripture pure and sincere, not swerved or altered, I laid it to the touchstone, the native tongue. I weighed it with the Chaldee Targum and the Septuaginta. I desired to jump so nigh with the Hebrew, that it doth erewhile deform the vein of the English, the proprieties of that language and ours being in some speeches so much dissemblable." But with Horace Drant pursues a different course. As a moralist it is justifiable for him to translate Horace because the Latin poet satirizes that wickedness which Jeremiah mourned over. Horace's satire, however, is not entirely applicable to conditions in England; "he never saw that with the view of his eye which his pensive translator cannot but overview with the languish of his soul." Moreover Horace's style is capable of improvement, an improvement which Drant is quite ready to provide. "His eloquence is sometimes too sharp, and therefore I have blunted it, and sometimes too dull, and therefore I have whetted it, helping him to ebb and helping him to rise." With his reader Drant is equally high-handed. "I dare not warrant the reader to understand him in all places," he writes, "no more than he did me. Howbeit I have made him more lightsome well nigh by one half (a small accomplishment for one of my continuance) and if thou canst not now in all points perceive him (thou must bear with me) in sooth the default is thine own." After this one is somewhat prepared for Drant's remarkable summary of his methods. "First I have now done as the people of God were commanded to do with their captive women that were handsome and beautiful: I have shaved off his hair and pared off his nails, that is, I have wiped away all his vanity and superfluity of matter. Further, I have for the most part drawn his private carpings of this or that man to a general moral. I have Englished things not according to the vein of the Latin propriety, but of his own vulgar tongue. I have interfered (to remove his obscurity and sometimes to better his matter) much of mine own devising. I have pieced his reason, eked and mended his similitudes, mollified his hardness, prolonged his cortall kind of speeches, changed and much altered his words, but not his sentence, or at least (I dare say) not his purpose."[329] Even the novella does not afford examples of such deliberate justification of undue liberty with source.

Why such a situation existed may be partially explained. The Elizabethan writer was almost as slow as his medieval predecessor to make distinctions between different kinds of literature. Both the novella and the epic might be classed as "histories," and "histories" were valuable because they aided the reader in the actual conduct of life. Arthur Golding tells in the preface to his translation of Justin the story of how Alexander the Great "coming into a school and finding not Homer's works there ... gave the master a buffet with his fist: meaning that the knowledge of Histories was a thing necessary to all estates and degrees."[330] It was the content of a work that was most important, and comment like that of Drant makes us realize how persistent was the conception that such content was common property which might be adjusted to the needs of different readers. The lesser freedoms of the translator were probably largely due to the difficulties inherent in a metrical rendering. It is "ryme" that partially accounts for some of Douglas's "digressions." Seneca's Hercules Furens, literal as the translation purports to be, is reproduced "verse for verse, as far as the English tongue permits." Thomas Twyne, who completed the work which Phaer began, calls attention to the difficulty "in this kind of translation to enforce their rime to another man's meaning."[331] Edward Hake, it is not unlikely, expresses a common idea when he gives as one of his reasons for employing verse rather than prose "that prose requireth a more exact labor than metre doth."[332] If one is to believe Abraham Fleming, one of the adherents of Gabriel Harvey, matters may be improved by the adoption of classical metres. Fleming has translated Virgil's Bucolics and Georgics "not in foolish rhyme, the nice observance whereof many times darkeneth, corrupteth, perverteth, and falsifieth both the sense and the signification, but with due proportion and measure."[333]

Seemingly, however, the translators who advocated the employment of the hexameter made little use of the argument that to do so made it possible to reproduce the original more faithfully. Stanyhurst, who says that in his translation of the first four books of the Aeneid he is carrying out Ascham's wish that the university students should "apply their wits in beautifying our English language with heroical verses," chooses Virgil as the subject of his experiment for "his peerless style and matchless stuff,"[334] leaving his reader with the impression that the claims of his author were probably subordinate in the translator's mind to his interest in Ascham's theories. Possibly he shared his master's belief that "even the best translation is for mere necessity but an evil imped wing to fly withal, or a heavy stump leg of wood to go withal."[335] In discussion of the style to be employed in the metrical rendering there was the same failure to make explicit the connection between the original and the translation. Many critics accepted the principle that "decorum" of style was essential in the translation of certain kinds of poetry, but they based their demand for this quality on its extrinsic suitability much more than on its presence in the work to be translated. In Turbervile's elaborate comment on the style which he has used in his translation of the Eclogues of Mantuan, there is the same baffling vagueness in his references to the quality of the original that is felt in the prefaces of Lydgate and Caxton. "Though I have altered the tongue," he says, "I trust I have not changed the author's meaning or sense in anything, but played the part of a true interpreter, observing that we call Decorum in each respect, as far as the poet's and our mother tongue will give me leave. For as the conference between shepherds is familiar stuff and homely, so have I shaped my style and tempered it with such common and ordinary phrase of speech as countrymen do use in their affairs; alway minding the saying of Horace, whose sentence I have thus Englished:

To set a manly head upon a horse's neck And all the limbs with divers plumes of divers hue to deck, Or paint a woman's face aloft to open show, And make the picture end in fish with scaly skin below, I think (my friends) would cause you laugh and smile to see How ill these ill-compacted things and numbers would agree.

For indeed he that shall translate a shepherd's tale and use the talk and style of an heroical personage, expressing the silly man's meaning with lofty thundering words, in my simple judgment joins (as Horace saith) a horse's neck and a man's head together. For as the one were monstrous to see, so were the other too fond and foolish to read. Wherefore I have (I say) used the common country phrase according to the person of the speakers in every Eclogue, as though indeed the man himself should tell his tale. If there be anything herein that thou shalt happen to mistake, neither blame the learned poet, nor control the clownish shepherd (good reader) but me that presumed rashly to offer so unworthy matter to thy survey."[336] Another phase of "decorum," the necessity for employing a lofty style in dealing with the affairs of great persons, comes in for discussion in connection with translations of Seneca and Virgil. Jasper Heywood makes his excuses in case his translation of the Troas has "not kept the royalty of speech meet for a tragedy";[337] Stanyhurst praises Phaer for his "picked and lofty words";[338] but he himself is blamed by Puttenham because his own words lack dignity. "In speaking or writing of a prince's affairs and fortunes," writes Puttenham, "there is a certain decorum, that we may not use the same terms in their business as we might very well do in a meaner person's, the case being all one, such reverence is due to their estates."[339] He instances Stanyhurst's renderings, "Aeneas was fain to trudge out of Troy" and "what moved Juno to tug so great a captain as Aeneas," and declares that the term trudge is "better to be spoken of a beggar, or of a rogue, or of a lackey," and that the word tug "spoken in this case is so undecent as none other could have been devised, and took his first original from the cart." A similar objection to the employment of a "plain" style in telling the Troy story was made, it will be remembered, in the early fifteenth century by Wyntoun.

The matter of decorum was to receive further attention in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In general, however, the comment associated with verse translations does not anticipate that of later times and is scarcely more significant than that which accompanies the novella. So long, indeed, as the theory of translation was so largely concerned with the claims of the reader, there was little room for initiative. It was no mark of originality to say that the translation must be profitable or entertaining, clear and easily understood; these rules had already been laid down by generations of translators. The real opportunity for a fresh, individual approach to the problems of translation lay in consideration of the claims of the original author. Renaissance scholarship was bringing a new knowledge of texts and authors and encouraging a new alertness of mind in approaching texts written in foreign languages. It was now possible, while making faithfulness to source obligatory instead of optional, to put the matter on a reasonable basis. The most vigorous and suggestive comment came from a small number of men of scholarly tastes and of active minds, who brought to the subject both learning and enthusiasm, and who were not content with vague, conventional forms of words.

It was prose rather than verse renderings that occupied the attention of these theorists, and in the works which they chose for translation the intellectual was generally stronger than the artistic appeal. Their translations, however, showed a variety peculiarly characteristic of the English Renaissance. Interest in classical scholarship was nearly always associated with interest in the new religious doctrines, and hence the new theories of translation were attached impartially either to renderings of the classics or to versions of contemporary theological works, valuable on account of the close, careful thinking which they contained, as contrasted with the more superficial charm of writings like those of Guevara. An Elizabethan scholar, indeed, might have hesitated if asked which was the more important, the Greek or Latin classic or the theological treatise. Nash praises Golding indiscriminately "for his industrious toil in Englishing Ovid's Metamorphoses, besides many other exquisite editions of divinity turned by him out of the French tongue into our own."[340] Golding himself, translating one of these "exquisite editions of divinity," Calvin's Sermons on the Book of Job, insists so strongly on the "substance, importance, and travail"[341] which belong to the work that one is ready to believe that he ranked it higher than any of his other translations. Nor was the contribution from this field to be despised. Though the translation of the Bible was an isolated task which had few relations with other forms of translation, what few affiliations it developed were almost entirely with theological works like those of Erasmus, Melanchthon, Calvin, and to the translation of such writings Biblical standards of accuracy were transferred. On the other hand the translator of Erasmus or Calvin was likely to have other and very different interests, which did much to save him from a narrow pedantry. Nicholas Udall, for example, who had a large share in the translation of Erasmus's Paraphrase on the New Testament, also translated parts of Terence and is best known as the author of Ralph Roister Doister. Thomas Norton, who translated Calvin's Institution of the Christian Religion, has been credited with a share in Gorboduc.

It was towards the middle of the century that these translators began to formulate their views, and probably the decades immediately before and after the accession of Elizabeth were more fruitful in theory than any other part of the period. Certain centers of influence may be rather clearly distinguished. In contemporary references to the early part of the century Sir Thomas Elyot and Sir Thomas More are generally coupled together as authorities on translation. Slightly later St. John's College, Cambridge, "that most famous and fortunate nurse of all learning,"[342] exerted through its masters and students a powerful influence. Much of the fame of the college was due to Sir John Cheke, "a man of men," according to Nash, "supernaturally traded in all tongues." Cheke is associated, in one way and another, with an odd variety of translations—Nicholls' translation of a French version of Thucydides,[343] Hoby's Courtier,[344] Wilson's Demosthenes[345]—suggesting something of the range of his sympathies.

Though little of his own comment survives, the echoes of his opinions in Ascham's Schoolmaster and the preface to Wilson's Demosthenes make one suspect that his teaching was possibly the strongest force at work at the time to produce higher standards for translation. As the century progressed Sir William Cecil, in his early days a distinguished student at St. John's and an intimate associate of Cheke's, maintained, in spite of the cares of state, the tradition of his college as the patron of various translators and the recipient of numerous dedications prefixed to their productions. It is from the midcentury translators, however, that the most distinctive comment emanates. United in various combinations, now by religious sympathies, now by a common enthusiasm for learning, now by the influence of an individual, they form a group fairly homogeneous so far as their theories of translation are concerned, appreciative of academic correctness, but ready to consider also the claims of the reader and the nature of the vernacular.

The earlier translators, Elyot and More, have left small but significant comment on methods. More's expression of theory was elicited by Tyndale's translation of the Bible; of the technical difficulties involved in his own translation of The Life of Pico della Mirandola he says nothing. Elyot is one of the first translators to approach his task from a new angle. Translating from Greek to English, he observed, like Tyndale, the differences and correspondences between the two languages. His Doctrinal of Princes was translated "to the intent only that I would assay if our English tongue might receive the quick and proper sentences pronounced by the Greeks."[346] The experiment had interesting results. "And in this experience," he continues, "I have found (if I be not much deceived) that the form of speaking, called in Greek and also in English Phrasis, much nearer approacheth to that which at this day we use, than the order of the Latin tongue. I mean in the sentences and not in the words."

A peculiarly good exponent of the new vitality which was taking possession of the theory of translation is Nicholas Udall, whose opinions have been already cited in this chapter. The versatility of intellect evinced by the list of his varied interests, dramatic, academic, religious, showed itself also in his views regarding translation. In the various prefaces and dedications which he contributed to the translation of Erasmus's Paraphrase he touches on problems of all sorts—stipends for translators, the augmentation of the English vocabulary, sentence structure in translation, the style of Erasmus, the individual quality in the style of every writer—but all these questions he treats lightly and undogmatically. Translation, according to Udall, should not conform to iron rules. He is not disturbed by the diversity of methods exhibited in the Paraphrase. "Though every translator," he writes, "follow his own vein in turning the Latin into English, yet doth none willingly swerve or dissent from the mind and sense of his author, albeit some go more near to the words of the author, and some use the liberty of translating at large, not so precisely binding themselves to the strait interpretation of every word and syllable."[347] In his own share of the translation Udall inclines rather to the free than to the literal method. He has not been able "fully to discharge the office of a good translator,"[348] partly because of the ornate quality of Erasmus's style, partly because he wishes to be understood by the unlearned. He does not feel so scrupulous as he would if he were translating the text of Scripture, though even in the latter connection he is guilty of the heretical opinion that "if the translators were not altogether so precise as they are, but had some more regard to expressing of the sense, I think in my judgment they should do better." It will be noted, however, that Udall's advocacy of freedom is an individual reaction, not the repetition of a formula. The preface to his translation of the Apophthegmes of Erasmus helps to redress the balance in favor of accuracy. "I have labored," he says, "to discharge the duty of a translator, that is, keeping and following the sense of my book, to interpret and turn the Latin into English, with as much grace of our vulgar tongue as in my slender power and knowledge hath lain."[349] The rest of the preface shows that Udall, in his concern for the quality of the English, did not make "following the sense" an excuse for undue liberties. Writing "with a regard for young scholars and students, who get great value from comparing languages," he is most careful to note such slight changes and omissions as he has made in the text. Explanations and annotations have been printed "in a small letter with some directory mark," and "any Greek or Latin verse or word, whereof the pith and grace of the saying dependeth" has been retained, a sacrifice to scholarship for which he apologizes to the unlearned reader.

Nicholas Grimald, who published his translation of Cicero's Offices shortly after the accession of Elizabeth, is much more dogmatic in his rules for translation than is Udall. "Howbeit look," runs the preface, "what rule the Rhetorician gives in precept, to be observed of an Orator in telling of his tale: that it be short, and without idle words: that it be plain, and without dark sense: that it be provable, and without any swerving from the truth: the same rule should be used in examining and judging of translation. For if it be not as brief as the very author's text requireth, what so is added to his perfect style shall appear superfluous, and to serve rather to the making of some paraphrase or commentary. Thereto if it be uttered with inkhorn terms, and not with usual words: or if it be phrased with wrested or far-fetched forms of speech, not fair but harsh, not easy but hard, not natural but violent it shall seem to be. Then also, in case it yield not the meaning of the author, but either following fancy or misled by error forsakes the true pattern, it cannot be approved for a faithful and sure interpretation, which ought to be taken for the greatest praise of all."[350] In Grimald's insistence on a brevity equal to that of the original and in his unmodified opposition to innovations in vocabulary, there is something of pedantic narrowness. His criticism of Cicero is not illuminating and his estimate, in this connection, of his own accomplishment is amusingly complacent. In Cicero's work "marvellous is the matter, flowing the eloquence, rich the store of stuff, and full artificial the enditing: but how I," he continues, "have expressed the same, the more the book be perused, the better it may chance to appear. None other translation in our tongue have I seen but one, which is of all men of any learning so well liked that they repute it and consider it as none: yet if ye list to compare this somewhat with that nothing, peradventure this somewhat will serve somewhat the more." Yet in spite of his limitations Grimald has some breadth of outlook. A work like his own, he believes, can help the reader to a greater command of the vernacular. "Here is for him occasion both to whet his wit and also to file his tongue. For although an Englishman hath his mother tongue and can talk apace as he learned of his dame, yet is it one thing to tittle tattle, I wot not how, or to chatter like a jay, and another to bestow his words wisely, orderly, pleasantly, and pithily." The writer knows men who could speak Latin "readily and well-favoredly, who to have done as much in our language and to have handled the same matter, would have been half black." Careful study of this translation will help a man "as well in the English as the Latin, to weigh well properties of words, fashions of phrases, and the ornaments of both."

Another interesting document is the preface entitled The Translator to the Reader which appeared in 1578 in the fourth edition of Thomas Norton's translation of Calvin's Institution of the Christian Religion. The opinions which it contains took shape some years earlier, for the author expressly states that the translation has not been changed at all from what it was in the first impression, published in 1561, and that the considerations which he now formulates governed him in the beginning. Norton, like Grimald, insists on extreme accuracy in following the original, but he bases his demand on a truth largely ignored by translators up to this time, the essential relationship between thought and style. He makes the following surprisingly penetrative comment on the nature and significance of Calvin's Latin style: "I considered how the author thereof had of long time purposely labored to write the same most exactly, and to pack great plenty of matter in small room of words, yea and those so circumspectly and precisely ordered, to avoid the cavillations of such, as for enmity to the truth therein contained, would gladly seek and abuse all advantages which might be found by any oversight in penning of it, that the sentences were thereby become so full as nothing might well be added without idle superfluity, and again so nighly pared that nothing might be minished without taking away some necessary substance of matter therein expressed. This manner of writing, beside the peculiar terms of arts and figures, and the difficulty of the matters themselves, being throughout interlaced with the schoolmen's controversies, made a great hardness in the author's own book, in that tongue wherein otherwise he is both plentiful and easy, insomuch that it sufficeth not to read him once, unless you can be content to read in vain." Then follows Norton's estimate of the translator's duty in such a case: "I durst not presume to warrant myself to have his meaning without his words. And they that wot well what it is to translate well and faithfully, specially in matters of religion, do know that not only the grammatical construction of words sufficeth, but the very building and order to observe all advantages of vehemence or grace, by placing or accent of words, maketh much to the true setting forth of a writer's mind." Norton, however, did not entirely forget his readers. He approached his task with "great doubtfulness," fully conscious of the dilemma involved. "If I should follow the words, I saw that of necessity the hardness of the translation must needs be greater than was in the tongue wherein it was originally written. If I should leave the course of words, and grant myself liberty after the natural manner of my own tongue, to say that in English which I conceived to be his meaning in Latin, I plainly perceived how hardly I might escape error." In the end he determined "to follow the words so near as the phrase of the English tongue would suffer me." Unhappily Norton, like Grimald and like some of the translators of the Bible, has an exaggerated regard for brevity. He claims that "if the English book were printed in such paper and letter as the Latin is, it should not exceed the Latin in quantity," and that students "shall not find any more English than shall suffice to construe the Latin withal, except in such few places where the great difference of the phrases of the languages enforced me." Yet he believes that his version is not unnecessarily hard to understand, and he urges readers who have found it difficult to "read it ofter, in which doing you shall find (as many have confessed to me that they have found by experience) that those things which at first reading shall displease you for hardness shall be found so easy as so hard matter would suffer, and for the most part more easy than some other phrase which should with greater looseness and smoother sliding away deceive your understanding."

Thomas Wilson, who dedicated his translation of Demosthenes to Sir William Cecil in 1570, links himself with the earlier group of translators by his detailed references to Cheke. Like Norton he is very conscious of the difficulty of translation. "I never found in my life," he writes of this piece of work, "anything so hard for me to do." "Such a hard thing it is," he adds later, "to bring matter out of any one language into another." A vigorous advocate of translation, however, he does not despise his own tongue. "The cunning is no less," he declares, "and the praise as great in my judgment, to translate anything excellently into English, as into any other language," and he hopes that, if his own attempt proves unsuccessful, others will make the trial, "that such an orator as this is might be so framed to speak our tongue as none were able to amend him, and that he might be found to be most like himself." Wilson comes to his task with all the equipment that the period could afford; his preface gives evidence of a critical acquaintance with numerous Latin renderings of his author. From Cheke, however, he has gained something more valuable, the power to feel the vital, permanent quality in the work of Demosthenes. Cheke, he says, "was moved greatly to like Demosthenes above all others, for that he saw him so familiarly applying himself to the sense and understanding of the common people, that he sticked not to say that none ever was more fit to make an Englishman tell his tale praiseworthily in any open hearing either in parliament or in pulpit or otherwise, than this only orator was." Wilson shares this opinion and, representative of the changing standards of Elizabethan scholarship, prefers Demosthenes to Cicero. "Demosthenes used a plain, familiar manner of writing and speaking in all his actions," he says in his Preface to the Reader, "applying himself to the people's nature and to their understanding without using of proheme to win credit or devising conclusion to move affections and to purchase favor after he had done his matters.... And were it not better and more wisdom to speak plainly and nakedly after the common sort of men in few words, than to overflow with unnecessary and superfluous eloquence as Cicero is thought sometimes to do." "Never did glass so truly represent man's face," he writes later, "as Demosthenes doth show the world to us, and as it was then, so is it now, and will be so still, till the consummation and end of all things shall be." From Cheke Wilson has received also training in methods of translation and especially in the handling of the vernacular. "Master Cheke's judgment was great," he recalls, "in translating out of one tongue into another, and better skill he had in our English speech to judge of the phrases and properties of words and to divide sentences than any one else that I have known. And often he would English his matters out of the Latin or Greek upon the sudden, by looking of the book only, without reading or construing anything at all, an usage right worthy and very profitable for all men, as well for the understanding of the book, as also for the aptness of framing the author's meaning, and bettering thereby their judgment, and therewithal perfecting their tongue and utterance of speech." In speaking of his own methods, however, Wilson's emphasis is on his faithfulness to the original. "But perhaps," he writes, "whereas I have been somewhat curious to follow Demosthenes' natural phrase, it may be thought that I do speak over bare English. Well I had rather follow his vein, the which was to speak simply and plainly to the common people's understanding, than to overflourish with superfluous speech, although I might thereby be counted equal with the best that ever wrote English."

Though now and then the comment of these men is slightly vague or inconsistent, in general they describe their methods clearly and fully. Other translators, expressing themselves with less sureness and adequacy, leave the impression that they have adopted similar standards. Translations, for example, of Calvin's Commentary on Acts[351] and Luther's Commentary on Galatians[352] are described on their title pages as "faithfully translated" from the Latin. B. R.'s preface to his translation of Herodotus, though its meaning is somewhat obscured by rhetoric, suggests a suitable regard for the original. "Neither of these," he writes of the two books which he has completed, "are braved out in their colors as the use is nowadays, and yet so seemly as either you will love them because they are modest, or not mislike them because they are not impudent, since in refusing idle pearls to make them seem gaudy, they reject not modest apparel to cause them to go comely. The truth is (Gentlemen) in making the new attire, I was fain to go by their old array, cutting out my cloth by another man's measure, being great difference whether we invent a fashion of our own, or imitate a pattern set down by another. Which I speak not to this end, for that myself could have done more eloquently than our author hath in Greek, but that the course of his writing being most sweet in Greek, converted into English loseth a great part of his grace."[353] Outside of the field of theology or of classical prose there were translators who strove for accuracy. Hoby, profiting doubtless by his association with Cheke, endeavored in translating The Courtier "to follow the very meaning and words of the author, without being misled by fantasy, or leaving out any parcel one or other."[354] Robert Peterson claims that his version of Della Casa's Galateo is "not cunningly but faithfully translated."[355] The printer of Carew's translation of Tasso explains: "In that which is done, I have caused the Italian to be printed together with the English, for the delight and benefit of those gentlemen that love that most lively language. And thereby the learned reader shall see how strict a course the translator hath tied himself in the whole work, usurping as little liberty as any whatsoever as ever wrote with any commendations."[356] Even translators who do not profess to be overfaithful display a consciousness of the existence of definite standards of accuracy. Thomas Chaloner, another of the friends of Cheke, translating Erasmus's Praise of Folly for "mean men of baser wits and condition," chooses "to be counted a scant true interpreter." "I have not pained myself," he says, "to render word for word, nor proverb for proverb ... which may be thought by some cunning translators a deadly sin."[357] To the author of the Menechmi the word "translation" has a distinct connotation. The printer of the work has found him "very loath and unwilling to hazard this to the curious view of envious detraction, being (as he tells me) neither so exactly written as it may carry any name of translation, nor such liberty therein used as that he would notoriously differ from the poet's own order."[358] Richard Knolles, whose translation of Bodin's Six Books of a Commonweal was published in 1606, employed both the French and the Latin versions of the treatise, and describes himself as on this account "seeking therein the true sense and meaning of the author, rather than precisely following the strict rules of a nice translator, in observing the very words of the author."[359] The translators of this later time, however, seldom put into words theories so scholarly as those formulated earlier in the period, when, even though the demand for accuracy might sometimes be exaggerated, it was nevertheless the result of thoughtful discrimination. There was some reason why a man like Gabriel Harvey, living towards the end of Elizabeth's reign, should look back with regret to the time when England produced men like Cheke and his contemporaries.[360]

One must frequently remind oneself, however, that the absence of expressed theory need not involve the absence of standards. Among translators as among original writers a fondness for analyzing and describing processes did not necessarily accompany literary skill. Much more activity of mind and respect for originals may have existed among verse translators than is evident from their scanty comment. The most famous prose translators have little to say about their methods. Golding, who produced so much both in verse and prose, and who usually wrote prefaces to his translations, scarcely ever discusses technicalities. Now and then, however, he lets fall an incidental remark which suggests very definite ideals. In translating Caesar, for example, though at first he planned merely to complete Brend's translation, he ended by taking the whole work into his own hands, because, as he says, "I was desirous to have the body of the whole story compacted uniform and of one style throughout,"[361] a comment worthy of a much more modern critic. Philemon Holland, again, contributes almost nothing to theory, though his vigorous defense of his art and his appreciation of the stylistic qualities of his originals bear witness to true scholarly enthusiasm. On the whole, however, though the distinctive contribution of the period is the plea of the renaissance scholars that a reasonable faithfulness should be displayed, the comment of the mass of translators shows little grasp of the new principles. When one considers, in addition to their very inadequate expression of theory, the prevailing characteristics of their practice, the balance turns unmistakably in favor of a careless freedom in translation.

Some of the deficiencies in sixteenth-century theory are supplied by Chapman, who applies himself with considerable zest to laying down the principles which in his opinion should govern poetical translations. Producing his versions of Homer in the last years of the sixteenth and early years of the seventeenth century, he forms a link between the two periods. In some respects he anticipates later critics. He attacks both the overstrict and the overloose methods of translation:

the brake That those translators stick in, that affect Their word for word traductions (where they lose The free grace of their natural dialect, And shame their authors with a forced gloss) I laugh to see; and yet as much abhor More license from the words than may express Their full compression, and make clear the author.[362]

It is literalism, however, which bears the brunt of his attack. He is always conscious, "how pedantical and absurd an affectation it is in the interpretation of any author (much more of Homer) to turn him word for word, when (according to Horace and other best lawgivers to translators) it is the part of every knowing and judicial interpreter, not to follow the number and order of words, but the material things themselves, and sentences to weigh diligently, and to clothe and adorn them with words, and such a style and form of oration, as are most apt for the language in which they are converted."[363] Strangely enough, he thinks this literalism the prevailing fault of translators. He hardly dares present his work

To reading judgments, since so gen'rally, Custom hath made ev'n th'ablest agents err In these translations; all so much apply Their pains and cunnings word for word to render Their patient authors, when they may as well Make fish with fowl, camels with whales, engender, Or their tongues' speech in other mouths compell.[364]

Chapman, however, believes that it is possible to overcome the difficulties of translation. Although the "sense and elegancy" of Greek and English are of "distinguished natures," he holds that it requires

Only a judgment to make both consent In sense and elocution; and aspire, As well to reach the spirit that was spent In his example, as with art to pierce His grammar, and etymology of words.

This same theory was taken up by numerous seventeenth and eighteenth century translators. Avoiding as it does the two extremes, it easily commended itself to the reason. Unfortunately it was frequently appropriated by critics who were not inclined to labor strenuously with the problems of translation. One misses in much of the later comment the vigorous thinking of the early Renaissance translators. The theory of translation was not yet regarded as "a common work of building" to which each might contribute, and much that was valuable in sixteenth-century comment was lost by forgetfulness and neglect.


[250] Gregory Smith, Elizabethan Critical Essays, vol. I, p. 313.

[251] Introduction, in Foster Watson, Vives and the Renaissance Education of Women, 1912.

[252] Letter prefixed to John, in Paraphrase of Erasmus on the New Testament, London, 1548.

[253] Dedication, 1588.

[254] To the Reader, in Shakespeare's Ovid, ed. W. H. D. Rouse, 1904.

[255] Bishop of London's preface To the Reader, in A Commentary of Dr. Martin Luther upon the Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians, London, 1577.

[256] Preface to The Institution of the Christian Religion, London, 1578.

[257] Preface to The Three Orations of Demosthenes, London, 1570.

[258] Dedication of Montaigne's Essays, London, 1603.

[259] Reprinted, Roxburghe Club, 1887.

[260] Preface to The Book of Metals, in Arber, The First Three English Books on America, 1885.

[261] Dedication of Marcus Tullius Cicero's Three Books of Duties, 1558.

[262] A Brief Apology for Poetry, in Gregory Smith, vol. 2, p. 219.

[263] Preface to The Natural History of C. Plinius Secundus, London, 1601.

[264] Letter to John Florio, in Florio's Montaigne, Tudor Translations.

[265] To the Reader, in The Forest, London, 1576.

[266] Dedication to Edward VI, in Paraphrase of Erasmus.

[267] Prologue to Proverbs or Adagies with new additions gathered out of the Chiliades of Erasmus by Richard Taverner, London, 1539.

[268] Epistle prefixed to translation, 1568.

[269] Published, Tottell, 1561.

[270] Reprinted, London, 1915.

[271] Dedication, in edition of 1588.

[272] Op. cit.

[273] Dedication, op. cit.

[274] Dedication, dated 1596, of The History of Philip de Comines, London, 1601.

[275] Dedication of Achilles' Shield in Gregory Smith, vol. 2, p. 300.

[276] Preface in Arber, op. cit.

[277] Preface, dated 1584, to translation published 1590.

[278] Title page, 1574.

[279] To the Reader, op. cit.

[280] London, 1570.

[281] Preface to Seven Books of the Iliad of Homer, in Gregory Smith, vol. 2, p. 293.

[282] Op. cit.

[283] Gregory Smith, vol. 1, p. 262.

[284] Preface to Civile Conversation of Stephen Guazzo, 1586.

[285] Dedication of The End of Nero and Beginning of Galba, 1598.

[286] Op. cit.

[287] Address to Queen Katherine, prefixed to Luke.

[288] Preface.

[289] Translated in Strype, Life of Grindal, Oxford, 1821, p. 22.

[290] Preface to The Governor, ed. Croft.

[291] Ad Maecenatem Prologus to Order of the Garter, in Works, ed. Dyce, p. 584.

[292] Quoted in J. L. Moore, Tudor-Stuart Views on the Growth, Status, and Destiny of the English Language.

[293] In Gregory Smith, Elizabethan Critical Essays, vol. 2, p. 171.

[294] Quoted in Moore, op. cit.

[295] To the Reader, in 1603 edition of Montaigne's Essays.

[296] Address to Queen Katherine, prefixed to Luke.

[297] To the Reader in Civile Conversation of Stephen Guazzo, 1586.

[298] Preface, 1587.

[299] Master Phaer's Conclusion to his Interpretation of the Aeneidos of Virgil, in edition of 1573.

[300] A Brief Apology for Poetry, in Gregory Smith, vol. 1, pp. 217-18.

[301] Ed. T. H. Jamieson, Edinburgh, 1874.

[302] Reprinted, Spenser Society, 1885.

[303] The Argument.

[304] Reprinted, London, 1814, Prologue.

[305] Ed. E. V. Utterson, London, 1812, Preface.

[306] The Golden Book, London, 1538, Conclusion.

[307] Title page, in Turbervile, Tragical Tales, Edinburgh, 1837.

[308] To the Reader, in Palmerin d'Oliva, London, 1637.

[309] See Painter, Palace of Pleasure, ed. Jacobs, 1890.

[310] The Petit Palace of Pettie his Pleasure, ed. Gollancz, 1908.

[311] Dedication.

[312] Palmerin of England, ed. Southey, London, 1807.

[313] Preface to divers learned gentlemen, in Diana of George of Montemayor, London, 1598.

[314] To the Reader, in Honor's Academy, London, 1610.

[315] The Familiar Epistles of Sir Anthony of Guevara, London, 1574, To the Reader.

[316] Prologue and Argument of Guevara, translated in North, Dial of Princes, 1619.

[317] In North, The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, 1579.

[318] Dedication in edition of 1568.

[319] Prologue to Book I, Aeneid, reprinted Bannatyne Club.

[320] Foster Watson, The English Grammar Schools to 1660, Cambridge, 1908, pp. 405-6.

[321] Dedication, in Spearing, The Elizabethan Translations of Seneca's Tragedies, Cambridge, 1912.

[322] To the Reader, in The Georgics translated by A. F., London, 1589.

[323] Preface, reprinted in Plessow, Fabeldichtung in England, Berlin, 1906.

[324] Conclusion, edition of 1573.

[325] Seneca His Ten Tragedies, 1581, Dedication of Fifth.

[326] To the Reader.

[327] Agamemnon and Medea from edition of 1556, ed. Spearing, 1913, Preface of Medea.

[328] To the Readers, prefixed to Troas, in Spearing, The Elizabethan Translations of Seneca's Tragedies.

[329] A Medicinable Moral, that is, the two books of Horace his satires Englished acccording to the prescription of St. Hierome, London, 1566, To the Reader.

[330] Preface to the Earl of Oxford, in The Abridgment of the Histories of Trogus Pompeius collected and written in the Latin tongue by Justin, London, 1563.

[331] To the Gentle Reader, in Phaer's Virgil, 1583.

[332] Epistle Dedicatory to A Compendious Form of Living, quoted in Introduction to News out of Powles Churchyard, reprinted London, 1872, p. xxx.

[333] The Bucolics of Virgil together with his Georgics, London, 1589, The Argument.

[334] Preface in Gregory Smith, vol. 1, p. 137.

[335] The Schoolmaster, in Works, London, 1864, vol. 3, p. 226.

[336] To the Reader, prefixed to translation of Eclogues of Mantuan, 1567.

[337] To the Reader, in The Elizabethan Translations of Seneca's Tragedies.

[338] Stanyhurst's Aeneid, in Arber's Scholar's Library, p. 5.

[339] Ibid., Introduction, p. xix, quoted from The Art of English Poesy.

[340] Preface to Greene's Menaphon, in Gregory Smith, vol. 1, p. 315.

[341] Dedication, dated 1573, in edition of 1584.

[342] Gregory Smith, vol. 1, p. 313.

[343] Dedicated to Cheke.

[344] See Cheke's Letter in The Courtier, Tudor Translations, London, 1900.

[345] See Epistle prefixed to translation.

[346] Quoted in Life prefixed to The Governor, ed. Croft.

[347] Address to Queen Katherine prefixed to Paraphrase.

[348] Address to Katharine prefixed to Luke.

[349] To the Reader, in edition of 1564, literally reprinted Boston, Lincolnshire, 1877.

[350] To the Reader, in Marcus Tullius Cicero's Three Books of Duties, 1558.

[351] Translated by Christopher Featherstone, reprinted, Edinburgh, 1844.

[352] London, 1577.

[353] To the Gentlemen Readers, in Herodotus, translated by B. R., London, 1584.

[354] Op. cit.

[355] Dedication, in edition of 1576, reprinted, ed. Spingarn, Boston, 1914.

[356] Preface, in Godfrey of Bulloigne, London, 1594, reprinted in Grosart, Occasional Issues, 1881.

[357] To the Reader, in edition of 1549.

[358] The Printer to the Reader, reprinted in Shakespeare's Library, 1875.

[359] To the Reader.

[360] See Works, ed. Grosart, II, 50.

[361] Dedication, London, 1590.

[362] To the Reader, in The Iliads of Homer, Charles Scribner's Sons, p. xvi.

[363] P. xxv.

[364] P. xv.




Although the ardor of the Elizabethan translator as he approached the vast, almost unbroken field of foreign literature may well awaken the envy of his modern successor, in many respects the period of Dryden and Pope has more claim to be regarded as the Golden Age of the English translator. Patriotic enthusiasm had, it is true, lost something of its earlier fire, but national conditions were in general not unfavorable to translation. Though the seventeenth century, torn by civil discords, was very unlike the period which Holland had lovingly described as "this long time of peace and tranquillity, wherein ... all good literature hath had free course and flourished,"[365] yet, despite the rise and fall of governments, the stream of translation flowed on almost uninterruptedly. Sandys' Ovid is presented by its author, after his visit to America, as "bred in the New World, of the rudeness whereof it cannot but participate; especially having wars and tumults to bring it to light instead of the Muses,"[366] but the more ordinary translation, bred at home in England during the seventeenth century, apparently suffered little from the political strife which surrounded it, while the eighteenth century afforded a "peace and tranquillity" even greater than that which had prevailed under Elizabeth.

Throughout the period translation was regarded as an important labor, deserving of every encouragement. As in the sixteenth century, friends and patrons united to offer advice and aid to the author who engaged in this work. Henry Brome, dedicating a translation of Horace to Sir William Backhouse, writes of his own share of the volume, "to the translation whereof my pleasant retirement and conveniencies at your delightsome habitation have liberally contributed."[367] Doctor Barten Holiday includes in his preface to a version of Juvenal and Persius an interesting list of "worthy friends" who have assisted him. "My honored friend, Mr. John Selden (of such eminency in the studies of antiquities and languages) and Mr. Farnaby ... procured me a fair copy from the famous library of St. James's, and a manuscript copy from our herald of learning, Mr. Camden. My dear friend, the patriarch of our poets, Ben Jonson, sent in an ancient manuscript partly written in the Saxon character." Then follow names of less note, Casaubon, Anyan, Price.[368] Dryden tells the same story. He has been permitted to consult the Earl of Lauderdale's manuscript translation of Virgil. "Besides this help, which was not inconsiderable," he writes, "Mr. Congreve has done me the favor to review the Aeneis, and compare my version with the original."[369] Later comes his recognition of indebtedness of a more material character. "Being invited by that worthy gentleman, Sir William Bowyer, to Denham Court, I translated the First Georgic at his house, and the greatest part of the last Aeneid. A more friendly entertainment no man ever found.... The Seventh Aeneid was made English at Burleigh, the magnificent abode of the Earl of Exeter."[370]

While private individuals thus rallied to the help of the translator, the world in general regarded his work with increasing respect. The great Dryden thought it not unworthy of his powers to engage in putting classical verse into English garb. His successor Pope early turned to the same pleasant and profitable task. Johnson, the literary dictator of the next age, described Rowe's version of Lucan as "one of the greatest productions of English poetry."[371] The comprehensive editions of the works of British poets which began to appear towards the end of the eighteenth century regularly included English renderings, generally contemporaneous, of the great poetry of other countries.

The growing dignity of this department of literature and the Augustan fondness for literary criticism combined to produce a large body of comment on methods of translation. The more ambitious translations of the eighteenth century, for example, were accompanied by long prefaces, containing, in addition to the elaborate paraphernalia of contemporary scholarship, detailed discussion of the best rules for putting a foreign classic into English. Almost every possible phase of the art had been broached in one place and another before the century ended. In its last decade there appeared the first attempt in English at a complete and detailed treatment of the theory of translation as such, Tytler's Essay on the Principles of Translation.

From the sixteenth-century theory of translation, so much of which is incidental and uncertain in expression, it is a pleasure to come to the deliberate, reasoned statements, unmistakable in their purpose and meaning, of the earlier critics of our period, men like Denham, Cowley, and Dryden. In contrast to the mass of unrelated individual opinions attached to the translations of Elizabeth's time, the criticism of the seventeenth century emanates, for the most part, from a small group of men, who supply standards for lesser commentators and who, if they do not invariably agree with one another, are yet thoroughly familiar with one another's views. The field of discussion also has narrowed considerably, and theory has gained by becoming less scattering. Translation in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries showed certain new developments, the most marked of which was the tendency among translators who aspired to the highest rank to confine their efforts to verse renderings of the Greek and Latin classics. A favorite remark was that it is the greatest poet who suffers most in being turned from one language into another. In spite of this, or perhaps for this reason, the common ambition was to undertake Virgil, who was generally regarded as the greatest of epic poets, and attempts to translate at least a part of the Aeneid were astonishingly frequent. As early as 1658 the Fourth Book is described as "translated ... in our day at least ten times into English."[372] Horace came next in popularity; by the beginning of the eighteenth century, according to one translator, he had been "translated, paraphrased, or criticized on by persons of all conditions and both sexes."[373] As the century progressed, Homer usurped the place formerly occupied by Virgil as the object of the most ambitious effort and the center of discussion. But there were other translations of the classics. Cooke, dedicating his translation of Hesiod to the Duke of Argyll, says to his patron: "You, my lord, know how the works of genius lift up the head of a nation above her neighbors, and give as much honor as success in arms; among these we must reckon our translations of the classics; by which when we have naturalized all Greece and Rome, we shall be so much richer than they by so many original productions as we have of our own."[374] Seemingly there was an attempt to naturalize "all Greece and Rome." Anacreon, Pindar, Apollonius Rhodius, Lucretius, Tibullus, Statius, Juvenal, Persius, Ovid, Lucan, are names taken almost at random from the list of seventeenth and eighteenth-century translations. Criticism, however, was ready to concern itself with the translation of any classic, ancient or modern. Denham's two famous pronouncements are connected, the one with his own translation of the Second Book of the Aeneid, the other with Sir Richard Fanshaw's rendering of Il Pastor Fido. In the later eighteenth century voluminous comment accompanied Hoole's Ariosto and Mickle's Camoens.

At present, however, we are concerned not with the number and variety of these translations, but with their homogeneity. As translators showed themselves less inclined to wander over the whole field of literature, the theory of translation assumed much more manageable proportions. A further limitation of the area of discussion was made by Denham, who expressly excluded from his consideration "them who deal in matters of fact or matters of faith,"[375] thus disposing of the theological treatises which had formerly divided attention with the classics.

The aims of the translator were also clarified by definition of his audience. John Vicars, publishing in 1632 The XII. Aeneids of Virgil translated into English decasyllables, adduces as one of his motives "the common good and public utility which I hoped might accrue to young students and grammatical tyros,"[376] but later writers seldom repeat this appeal to the learner. The next year John Brinsley issued Virgil's Eclogues, with his book De Apibus, translated grammatically, and also according to the propriety of our English tongue so far as Grammar and the verse will permit. A significant comment in the "Directions" runs: "As for the fear of making truants by these translations, a conceit which arose merely upon the abuse of other translations, never intended for this end, I hope that happy experience of this kind will in time drive it and all like to it utterly out of schools and out of the minds of all." Apparently the schoolmaster's ban upon the unauthorized use of translations was establishing the distinction between the English version which might claim to be ranked as literature and that which Johnson later designated as "the clandestine refuge of schoolboys."[377]

Another limitation of the audience was, however, less admirable. For the widely democratic appeal of the Elizabethan translator was substituted an appeal to a class, distinguished, if one may believe the philosopher Hobbes, as much by social position as by intellect. In discussing the vocabulary to be employed by the translator, Hobbes professes opinions not unlike those of the sixteenth-century critics. Like Puttenham, he makes a distinction between words as suited or unsuited for the epic style. "The names of instruments and tools of artificers, and words of art," he says in the preface to his Homer, "though of use in the schools, are far from being fit to be spoken by a hero. He may delight in the arts themselves, and have skill in some of them, but his glory lies not in that, but in courage, nobility, and other virtues of nature, or in the command he has over other men." In Hobbes' objection to the use of unfamiliar words, also, there is nothing new; but in the standards by which he tries such terms there is something amusingly characteristic of his time. In the choice of words, "the first indiscretion is in the use of such words as to the readers of poesy (which are commonly Persons of the best Quality)"—it is only fair to reproduce Hobbes' capitalization—"are not sufficiently known. For the work of an heroic poem is to raise admiration (principally) for three virtues, valor, beauty, and love; to the reading whereof women no less than men have a just pretence though their skill in language be not so universal. And therefore foreign words, till by long use they become vulgar, are unintelligible to them." Dryden is similarly restrained by the thought of his readers. He does not try to reproduce the "Doric dialect" of Theocritus, "for Theocritus writ to Sicilians, who spoke that dialect; and I direct this part of my translations to our ladies, who neither understand, nor will take pleasure in such homely expressions."[378] In translating the Aeneid he follows what he conceives to have been Virgil's practice. "I will not give the reasons," he declares, "why I writ not always in the proper terms of navigation, land-service, or in the cant of any profession. I will only say that Virgil has avoided those properties, because he writ not to mariners, soldiers, astronomers, gardeners, peasants, etc., but to all in general, and in particular to men and ladies of the first quality, who have been better bred than to be too nicely knowing in such things."[379]

Another element in theory which displays the strength and weakness of the time is the treatment of the work of other countries and other periods. A changed attitude towards the achievements of foreign translators becomes evident early in the seventeenth century. In the prefaces to an edition of the works of Du Bartas in English there are signs of a growing satisfaction with the English language as a medium and an increasing conviction that England can surpass the rest of Europe in the work of translation. Thomas Hudson, in an address to James VI of Scotland, attached to his translation of The History of Judith, quotes an interesting conversation which he held on one occasion with that pedantic monarch. "It pleased your Highness," he recalls, "not only to esteem the peerless style of the Greek Homer and the Latin Virgil to be inimitable to us (whose tongue is barbarous and corrupted), but also to allege (partly through delight your majesty took in the haughty style of those most famous writers, and partly to sound the opinion of others) that also the lofty phrases, the grave inditement, the facund terms of the French Salust (for the like resemblance) could not be followed nor sufficiently expressed in our rough and unpolished English language."[380] It was to prove that he could reproduce the French poet "succinctly and sensibly in our vulgar speech" that Hudson undertook the Judith. According to the complimentary verses addressed to the famous Sylvester on his translations from the same author, the English tongue has responded nobly to the demands put upon it. Sylvester has shown

... that French tongue's plenty to be such. And yet that ours can utter full as much.[381]

John Davies of Hereford, writing of another of Sylvester's translations, describes English as acquitting itself well when it competes with French, and continues

If French to English were so strictly bound It would but passing lamely strive with it; And soon be forc'd to lose both grace and ground, Although they strove with equal skill and wit.[382]

An opinion characteristic of the latter part of the century is that of the Earl of Roscommon, who, after praising the work of the earlier French translators, says,

From hence our generous emulation came, We undertook, and we performed the same: But now we show the world another way, And in translated verse do more than they.[383]

Dryden finds little to praise in the French and Italian renderings of Virgil. "Segrais ... is wholly destitute of elevation, though his version is much better than that of the two brothers, or any of the rest who have attempted Virgil. Hannibal Caro is a great name among the Italians; yet his translation is most scandalously mean."[384] "What I have said," he declares somewhat farther on, "though it has the face of arrogance, yet is intended for the honor of my country; and therefore I will boldly own that this English translation has more of Virgil's spirit in it than either the French or Italian."[385]

On translators outside their own period seventeenth-century critics bestowed even less consideration than on their French or Italian contemporaries. Earlier writers were forgotten, or remembered only to be condemned. W. L., Gent., who in 1628 published a translation of Virgil's Eclogues, expresses his surprise that a poet like Virgil "should yet stand still as a noli me tangere, whom no man either durst or would undertake; only Master Spenser long since translated the Gnat (a little fragment of Virgil's excellence), giving the world peradventure to conceive that he would at one time or other have gone through with the rest of this poet's work."[386] Vicars' translation of the Aeneid is accompanied by a letter in which the author's cousin, Thomas Vicars, congratulates him on his "great pains in transplanting this worthiest of Latin poets into a mellow and neat English soil (a thing not done before)."[387] Denham announces, "There are so few translations which deserve praise, that I scarce ever saw any which deserved pardon; those who travail in that kind being for the most part so unhappy as to rob others without enriching themselves, pulling down the fame of good authors without raising their own." Brome,[388] writing in 1666, rejoices in the good fortune of Horace's "good friend Virgil ... who being plundered of all his ornaments by the old translators, was restored to others with double lustre by those standard-bearers of wit and judgment, Denham and Waller,"[389] and in proof of his statements puts side by side translations of the same passage by Phaer and Denham. Later, in 1688, an anonymous writer recalls the work of Phaer and Stanyhurst only to disparage it. Introducing his translation of Virgil, "who has so long unhappily continued a stranger to tolerable English," he says that he has "observed how Player and Stainhurst of old ... had murdered the most absolute of poets."[390] One dissenting note is found in Robert Gould's lines prefixed to a 1687 edition of Fairfax's Godfrey of Bulloigne.

See here, you dull translators, look with shame Upon this stately monument of fame, And to amaze you more, reflect how long It is, since first 'twas taught the English tongue: In what a dark age it was brought to light; Dark? No, our age is dark, and that was bright. Of all these versions which now brightest shine, Most, Fairfax, are but foils to set off thine: Ev'n Horace can't of too much justice boast, His unaffected, easy style is lost: And Ogilby's the lumber of the stall; But thy translation does atone for all.[391]

Dryden, too, approves of Fairfax, considered at least as a metrist. He includes him with Spenser among the "great masters of our language," and adds, "many besides myself have heard our famous Waller own that he derived the harmony of his numbers from Godfrey of Bulloign, which was turned into English by Mr. Fairfax."[392] But even Dryden, who sometimes saw beyond his own period, does not share the admiration which some of his friends entertain for Chapman. "The Earl of Mulgrave and Mr. Waller," he writes in the Examen Poeticum, "two of the best judges of our age, have assured me that they could never read over the translation of Chapman without incredible pleasure and extreme transport. This admiration of theirs must needs proceed from the author himself, for the translator has thrown him down as far as harsh numbers, improper English, and a monstrous length of verse could carry him."[393]

In this satisfaction with their own country and their own era there lurked certain dangers for seventeenth-century writers. The quality becomes, as we shall see, more noticeable in the eighteenth century, when the shackles which English taste laid upon original poetry were imposed also upon translated verse. The theory of translation was hampered in its development by the narrow complacency of its exponents, and the record of this time is by no means one of uniform progress. The seventeenth century shows clearly marked alternations of opinion; now it sanctions extreme methods; now, by reaction, it inclines towards more moderate views. The eighteenth century, during the greater part of its course, produces little that is new in the way of theory, and adopts, without much attempt to analyze them, the formulas left by the preceding period. We may now resume the history of these developments at the point where it was dropped in Chapter III, at the end of Elizabeth's reign.

In the first part of the new century the few minor translators who described their methods held theories much like those of Chapman. W. L., Gent., in the extremely flowery and discursive preface to his version of Virgil's Eclogues, says, "Some readers I make no doubt they (the translations) will meet with in these dainty mouthed times, that will tax me with not coming resolved word for word and line for line with the author.... I used the freedom of a translator, not tying myself to the tyranny of a grammatical construction but breaking the shell into many pieces, was only careful to preserve the kernel safe and whole from the violence of a wrong or wrested interpretation." After a long simile drawn from the hunting field he concludes, "No more do I conceive my course herein to be faulty though I do not affect to follow my author so close as to tread upon his heels." John Vicars, who professes to have robed Virgil in "a homespun English gray-coat plain," says of his manner, "I have aimed at these three things, perspicuity of the matter, fidelity to the author, and facility or smoothness to recreate thee my reader. Now if any critical or curious wit tax me with a Frustra fit per plura &c. and blame my not curious confinement to my author line for line, I answer (and I hope this answer will satisfy the moderate and ingenuous) that though peradventure I could (as in my Babel's Balm I have done throughout the whole translation) yet in regard of the lofty majesty of this my author's style, I would not adventure so to pinch his spirits, as to make him seem to walk like a lifeless ghost. But on thinking on that of Horace, Brevis esse laboro obscurus fio, I presumed (yet still having an eye to the genuine sense as I was able) to expatiate with poetical liberty, where necessity of matter and phrase enforced." Vicars' warrant for his practice is the oftquoted caution of Horace, Nec verbum verbo curabis reddere.

But the seventeenth century was not disposed to continue uninterruptedly the tradition of previous translators. In translated, as in original verse a new era was to begin, acclaimed as such in its own day, and associated like the new poetry, with the names of Denham and Cowley as both poets and critics and with that of Waller as poet. Peculiarly characteristic of the movement was its hostility towards literal translation, a hostility apparent also, as we have seen, in Chapman. "I consider it a vulgar error in translating poets," writes Denham in the preface to his Destruction of Troy, "to affect being Fidus Interpres," and again in his lines to Fanshaw:

That servile path thou nobly dost decline Of tracing word by word, and line by line. Those are the labored births of slavish brains, Not the effect of poetry but pains; Cheap, vulgar arts, whose narrowness affords No flight for thoughts, but poorly sticks at words.

Sprat is anxious to claim for Cowley much of the credit for introducing "this way of leaving verbal translations and chiefly regarding the sense and genius of the author," which "was scarce heard of in England before this present age."[394]

Why Chapman and later translators should have fixed upon extreme literalness as the besetting fault of their predecessors and contemporaries, it is hard to see. It is true that the recognition of the desirability of faithfulness to the original was the most distinctive contribution that sixteenth-century critics made to the theory of translation, but this principle was largely associated with prose renderings of a different type from that now under discussion. If, like Denham, one excludes "matters of fact and matters of faith," the body of translation which remains is scarcely distinguished by slavish adherence to the letter. As a matter of fact, however, sixteenth-century translation was obviously an unfamiliar field to most seventeenth-century commentators, and although their generalizations include all who have gone before them, their illustrations are usually drawn from the early part of their own century. Ben Jonson, whose translation of Horace's Art of Poetry is cited by Dryden as an example of "metaphrase, or turning an author word by word and line by line from one language to another,"[395] is perhaps largely responsible for the mistaken impression regarding the earlier translators. Thomas May and George Sandys are often included in the same category. Sandys' translation of Ovid is regarded by Dryden as typical of its time. Its literalism, its resulting lack of poetry, "proceeded from the wrong judgment of the age in which he lived. They neither knew good verse nor loved it; they were scholars, 'tis true, but they were pedants; and for all their pedantic pains, all their translations want to be translated into English."[396]

But neither Jonson, Sandys, nor May has much to say with regard to the proper methods of translation. The most definite utterance of the group is found in the lines which Jonson addressed to May on his translation of Lucan:

But who hath them interpreted, and brought Lucan's whole frame unto us, and so wrought As not the smallest joint or gentlest word In the great mass or machine there is stirr'd? The self same genius! so the world will say The sun translated, or the son of May.[397]

May's own preface says nothing of his theories. Sandys says of his Ovid, "To the translation I have given what perfection my pen could bestow, by polishing, altering, or restoring the harsh, improper, or mistaken with a nicer exactness than perhaps is required in so long a labor,"[398] a comment open to various interpretations. His metrical version of the Psalms is described as "paraphrastically translated," and it is worthy of note that Cowley, in his attack on the practice of too literal translation, should have chosen this part of Sandys' work as illustrative of the methods which he condemns. For the translators of the new school, though professedly the foes of the word for word method, carried their hostility to existing theories of translation much farther. Cowley begins, reasonably enough, by pointing out the absurdity of translating a poet literally. "If a man should undertake to translate Pindar word for word, it would be thought that one madman had translated another; as may appear when a person who understands not the original reads the verbal traduction of him into Latin prose, than which nothing seems more raving.... And I would gladly know what applause our best pieces of English poesy could expect from a Frenchman or Italian, if converted faithfully and word for word into French or Italian prose."[399] But, ignoring the possibility of a reasonable regard for both the original and the English, such as had been advocated by Chapman or by minor translators like W. L. and Vicars, Cowley suggests a more radical method. Since of necessity much of the beauty of a poem is lost in translation, the translator must supply new beauties. "For men resolving in no case to shoot beyond the mark," he says, "it is a thousand to one if they shoot not short of it." "We must needs confess that after all these losses sustained by Pindar, all we can add to him by our wit or invention (not deserting still his subject) is not likely to make him a richer man than he was in his own country." Finally comes a definite statement of Cowley's method: "Upon this ground I have in these two Odes of Pindar taken, left out and added what I please; nor make it so much my aim to let the reader know precisely what he spoke as what was his way and manner of speaking, which has not been yet (that I know of) introduced into English, though it be the noblest and highest kind of writing in verse." Denham, in his lines on Fanshaw's translation of Guarini, had already approved of a similar method:

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