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Hayne's speech for a better illustration of our argument than any thing we could furnish ourselves, it is because we know that all that he has said was familiar to our readers, and hence they might desire to have the same topics presented in a different, though in a less powerful or alluring light.
That Mr. Hayne maintained the true text of the Constitution, on which our political and civil liberties depend, we have as little doubt as we can have of the slavish doctrines, which Mr. Webster attempted to uphold, by conferring on the Government of this Confederacy an unlimited supremacy. In this task, truth, eternal and immutable truth, has decreed that the Constitution, like the Bible, should survive the apocryphal labours of its commentators, and flourish in the beauty and the vigour of immortal life.
ART. VII.-Milton's Familiar Letters. Translated from the Latin, with Notes. By JOHN HALL. 1 vol. 8vo. E. Littel. Philadelphia. 1829.
THE writings of Milton have been so admirably criticised of late years, and his moral and literary character-has been placed in such various and striking lights, that it would require great boldness and still greater power to sketch any new picture of the man, or to coin any new phrases expressive of our admiration of his compositions. But although we are not free to break forth into rapture at the overwhelming force and eloquence of his prose, or the sublimity and harmony of his poetry, we shall nevertheless undertake the humbler but as necessary task of defending him from one of his friends and admirers.
Nothing induces us to notice the production before us, but the very limited circulation of Milton's Prose Works in our country, and the fear, lest some, too imperfect in education or too indolent in disposition to judge for themselves, should mistake this translation for a fair specimen of his style, either of thought or expression. In England, such a book as this would fall still born from the press; and even in this country, imperfect as we are in classical attainments, could we insure every reader of this translation,
a sight of the original, we should scarcely deem a flapper necessary to invite the attention to its glaring deficiencies.
It would seem that Mr. Hall has somewhere lighted upon the "Epistolæ Familiares" of Milton, and discovering that they were really worth reading, has thought it "unaccountable that they have been heretofore neglected and almost unmentioned," and forthwith proceeds to give this treasure trove to the American public, "having no reason to think that he has been anticipated." But here, unfortunately, commences our author's misinformation, for had he taken some little pains to look about him, he might have saved us the trouble of this criticism, and himself a most unfavourable comparison with the felicitous versions which Wrangham and Fellowes have made of these very letters.
But there is yet another and more fearful comparison which Mr. Hall, in common with every one who undertakes the translation of an author from a foreign to his native tongue, is obliged, necessarily, to undergo-the comparison of his version with the vernacular writings of his original. The beauties of language and style, which have lent their charms to the English compositions of Milton, will be required of his translator, and the reader will not be satisfied with any thing short of the idea he may himself have formed of their excellence. Private and familiar letters especially demand the preservation of the peculiar tone and spirit of their author, as they are presumed to be unstudied and therefore natural transcripts of his feelings and opinions during the periods which they illustrate.
We will first examine Mr. Hall's book with a view to discover how far he has preserved the Miltonian character of these letters, so visible even through the disguise of a foreign language, classically written.
We quote from the first letter of this collection
"Deinde, cum ex vehementissimo, quo tui afficior desiderio, adesse te semper cogitem, teque tanquam præsentem alloquar et intuear, dolorique meo (quod in amore fere fit) vana quadam præsentiæ tuæ imaginatione ablandiar; vereor profecto, simulac litteras ad te mittendas meditarer, ne in mentem mihi subito veniret, quam longinquo a me distes terrarum intervallo; atque ita recrudesceret dolor absentiæ tuæ jam prope consopitus, somniumque dulce discuteret."
Mr. Hall has constructed, out of the ruins of this fine passage, the following involved and inharmonious sentence
"And as the strong affection which I have for you, enables me, at any time, to bring you before me, and see you and address you assif you were present, I can console my sorrow (as is usual in love) with the bare imagination of your company, though, indeed, I fear that as soon
as I should think of sending you a letter, it would suddenly occur to me how distant you are, and my regret for your absence, just as it was alleviated, would be renewed, and the vision vanish." p. 12.
We subjoin the version of Robert Fellowes, A. M. Oxon.
"And lastly, since the ardour of my regard makes me imagine that you are always present, that I hear your voice and contemplate your looks; and as thus (which is usually the case with lovers) I charm away my grief by the illusion of your presence, I was afraid, when I wrote to you, the idea of your distant separation should forcibly rush upon my mind; and that the pain of your absence, which was almost soothed into quiescence, should revive and disperse the pleasurable dream."-Symmons' edition of Milton's Works. London. 1806. vol. i.
We quote from the second epistle, dated London, May 20th, 1628, and written to Alexander Gill.
"Sciebam, equidem, quam tibi tuoque genio impossibile futurum esset, a rebus poeticis avocare animum, et furores illos cœlitus instinctos, sacrumque et æthereum ignem intimo pectore eluere, cum tua (quod de seipso Claudianus.) Totum spirent præcordia Phæbum.”
This beautiful sentiment has lost all its excellence in the vapid translation through which Mr. Hall has permitted its force and expressiveness to escape.
"I knew that it was impossible for a man, with such talents as you possess, to withdraw your mind and its inspired ardour from such attempts, and extinguish the sacred, ethereal flame; since (as Claudian of himself) all your soul is poetry.'" pp. 14-15.
To verify our assertion, we offer Mr. Fellowes' version for comparison.
"I know how impossible it would be for a person of your genius, entirely to divert his mind from the culture of the Muses, and to extinguish those heavenly emotions, and that sacred and ethereal fire which is kindled in your heart. For what Claudian says of himself, may be said of you, 'Your whole soul is instinct with the fire of Apollo.' Symmons' edition of Milton's Works, vol. i. p. ii.
We shall close this branch of our criticism by quoting the twelfth letter in this collection, written "Clarissimo Viro, Leonardo Philare, Atheniensi, Ducis Parmensis ad Regem Galliæ Legato." We shall make no apology for its length, as fairness of criticism demands that we should judge Mr. Hall, not by partial extracts, but by the general style of his whole work.
"Benevolentiam erga me tuam, ornatissime Leonarde Philara, nec non etiam præclarum de nostra pro P. A. Defensione judicium, ex literis tuis ad dominum Augerium, virum apud nos, in obeundis ab hac republica legationibus, fide eximia illustrem, partim ea de re scriptis cognovi: missam deinde salutem cum effigie, atque elogio tuis sane virtutibus dignissimo: literas denique abs te humanissimas per eundem accepi. Atque ego quidem cum nec Germanorum ingenia, ne Cymbrorum quidem, aut Suecorum aspernari soleo, tum certe tuum, qui et Athenis Atticis natus, et literarum studiis apud Italos feliciter peractis, magno rerum usu honores amplissimos es consecutus, judicium de me non possum quin plurimi faciam. Cum enim Alexander ille magnus in terris ultimis bellum gerens, tantos se militis labores pertulisse testatus sit, της παρ' Αθηναίων ένδοξίας Evexa; quidni ego mihi gratuler, meque ornari quam maxime putem, ejus viri laudibus, in quo jam uno priscorum Atheniensium artes, atque virtutes illæ celebratissimæ, renasci tam longo intervallo et reflorescere videntur. Qua ex urbe cum tot viri disertissimi prodierint, eorum potissimum scriptis ab adolescentia pervolvendis, didicisse me libens fateor quicquid ego in literis profeci. Quod si mihi tanta vis dicendi accepta ab illis et quasi transfusa inesset, ut exercitus nostros et classes ad liberandam ab Ottomannico tyranno Græciam, eloquentiæ patriam, excitare possem, ad quod facinus egregium nostras opes pene implorare videris, facerem profecto id quo nihil mihi antiquius aut in votis prius esset. Quid enim vel fortissimi olim viri, vel eloquentissimi gloriosius aut se dignius esse duxerunt, quam vel suadendo vel fortiter faciendo sudegs nai αυτονόμους ποιείσθαι τους Ἕλληνας ? Verum et aliud quiddam preterea tentandum est, mea quidem sententia longe maximum, ut quis antiquam in animis Græcorum virtutem, industriam, laborum tolerantiam, antiqua illa studia dicendo, suscitare atque accendere possit. Hoc si quis effecerit, quod à nemine potius quain abs te, pro tua illa insigni erga patriam pietate, cum summa prudentia, reique militaris peritia, summo denique recuperandæ libertatis pristinæ studio conjuncta, expectare debemus; neque ipsos sibi Græcos neque ullam gentem Græcis defuturam esse confido-vale.
Mr. Hall gives us the following translation, which, in some parts, is totally incorrect, and throughout is conspicuous for its inelegance, its want of harmony, and its deficiency in all the requisites of a finished style. We need scarcely call the attention of the reader to the gross misunderstanding of his original evinced in the first sentence of his translation.
"To Leonard Philaras,
Accomplished Sir,-Of your good will to me, and your flattering opinion of my defence of the people of England,' I have learnt by your letters to Mr. Auger, (a gentleman of excellent credit in the legation to this country from the Republic,) which were written partly on that topic. Afterwards, I received your compliments, with your portrait, and an inscription worthy of your virtues. Again, I have received, VOL. VI. NO. 11.
through the same gentleman, your very kind letter. Without despising the genius of the Germans, the Danes, or the Swedes, I cannot but place the highest estimation in your judgment, who, born in Attic Athens, have completed your studies in Italy, and by full use of your advantages, have obtained the highest honours. If Alexander the Great, when carrying war to the ends of the earth, affirmed that he had endured all his labours for the sake of the glory they would gain him from the Athenians; why may I not congratulate myself, and consider myself greatly honoured by the praise of one, in whom the arts and virtues of the ancient Athenians seem to be revived, and to flourish? From that city have arisen most of the learned men, to whose writings I willingly attribute whatever literature I have acquired since my youth. If I had imbibed from them sufficient eloquence to enable me to excite our fleets and armies to free Greece-the country of eloquence- from the Ottoman tyranny, (an exploit in which you seem to implore my aid) I would surely accomplish it, as no object is more interesting or desirable. And what did the greatest soldiers and orators of antiquity think more glorious, or more worthy of their powers, than by persuasion and valour "to make the Greeks free and independent?" But there is something else to be attempted, in my opinion far more important: to rouse and kindle in the minds of the Grecians their ancient virtue, industry, and patience of toil, by urging them to their old studies and pursuits. If any one can succeed in this, it is to be expected from no one sooner than from you, distinguished as you are for patriotism, joined with consummate prudence and military skill, and the strongest desire for the recovery of their former liberty. And I think that if that were effected, the Greeks would not be wanting to themselves, nor any nation refuse its countenance. Farewell."-Hall's Familiar Letters of
Milton, pp. 57-59.
We offer, in striking contrast to the above translation, the version of the Rev. Francis Wrangham. It gives the mere English reader, some idea, at least, of the great writer whom it professes to represent.
"To the renowned LEONARD PHILARA, ine Athenian.
“I was in some measure made acquainted, most accomplished Philara, with your good will towards me, and with your favourable opinion of my defence of the people of England, by your letters to the Lord Auger, a person so renowned for his singular integrity in executing the embassies of the Republic. I then received your compliments with your picture, and an eulogy worthy of your virtues; and, lastly, a letter full of civility and kindness. I, who am not wont to despise the genius of the German, the Dane and Swede, could not but set the highest value on your applause, who were born at Athens itself, and, who, after having happily finished your studies in Italy, obtained the most splendid distinctions and the highest honours. For if Alexander the Great, when waging war in the distant East, declared that he encountered so many dangers and so many trials, for the sake of having his praises celebrated by the Athenians, ought not I to congratulate myself