Chapter 36

Occupations - Traduttore traditore - Ode to the Mist - Apple and pear - Reviewing - Current literature - Oxford-like manner - A plain story - Ill-regulated mind - Unsnuffed candle - Strange dreams.

I COMPILED the Chronicles of Newgate; I reviewed books for the Review established on an entirely new principle; and I occasionally tried my best to translate into German portions of the publisher’s philosophy. In this last task I experienced more than one difficulty. I was a tolerable German scholar, it is true, and I had long been able to translate from German into English with considerable facility; but to translate from a foreign language into your own is a widely different thing from translating from your own into a foreign language; and, in my first attempt to render the publisher into German, I was conscious of making miserable failures, from pure ignorance of German grammar; however, by the assistance of grammars and dictionaries, and by extreme perseverance, I at length overcame all the difficulties connected with the German language. But, alas! another difficulty remained, far greater than any connected with German - a difficulty connected with the language of the publisher - the language which the great man employed in his writings was very hard to understand; I say in his writings - for his colloquial English was plain enough. Though not professing to be a scholar, he was much addicted, when writing, to the use of Greek and Latin terms, not as other people used them, but in a manner of his own, which set the authority of dictionaries at defiance; the consequence was that I was sometimes utterly at a loss to understand the meaning of the publisher. Many a quarter of an hour did I pass at this period, staring at periods of the publisher, and wondering what he could mean, but in vain, till at last, with a shake of the head, I would snatch up the pen, and render the publisher literally into German. Sometimes I was almost tempted to substitute something of my own for what the publisher had written, but my conscience interposed; the awful words, Traduttore traditore, commenced ringing in my ears, and I asked myself whether I should be acting honourably towards the publisher, who had committed to me the delicate task of translating him into German; should I be acting honourably towards him, in making him speak in German in a manner different from that in which he expressed himself in English? No, I could not reconcile such conduct with any principle of honour; by substituting something of my own in lieu of these mysterious passages of the publisher, I might be giving a fatal blow to his whole system of philosophy. Besides, when translating into English, had I treated foreign authors in this manner? Had I treated the minstrels of the Kæmpe Viser in this manner? - No. Had I treated Ab Gwilym in this manner? Even when translating his Ode to the Mist, in which he is misty enough, had I attempted to make Ab Gwilym less misty? No; on referring to my translation, I found that Ab Gwilym in my hands was quite as misty as in his own. Then, seeing that I had not ventured to take liberties with people who had never put themselves into my hands for the purpose of being rendered, how could I venture to substitute my own thoughts and ideas for the publisher’s, who had put himself into my hands for that purpose? Forbid it every proper feeling! - so I told the Germans, in the publisher’s own way, the publisher’s tale of an apple and a pear.

I at first felt much inclined to be of the publisher’s opinion with respect to the theory of the pear. After all, why should the earth be shaped like an apple, and not like a pear? - it would certainly gain in appearance by being shaped like a pear. A pear being a handsomer fruit than an apple, the publisher is probably right, thought I, and I will say that he is right on this point in the notice which I am about to write of his publication for the Review. And yet I don’t know - said I, after a long fit of musing - I don’t know but what there is more to be said for the Oxford theory. The world may be shaped like a pear, but I don’t know that it is; but one thing I know, which is, that it does not taste like a pear; I have always liked pears, but I don’t like the world. The world to me tastes much more like an apple, and I have never liked apples. I will uphold the Oxford theory - besides, I am writing in an Oxford Review, and am in duty bound to uphold the Oxford theory. So in my notice I asserted that the world was round; I quoted Scripture, and endeavoured to prove that the world was typified by the apple in Scripture, both as to shape and properties. ‘An apple is round,’ said I, ‘and the world is round - the apple is a sour, disagreeable fruit; and who has tasted much of the world without having his teeth set on edge?’ I, however, treated the publisher, upon the whole, in the most urbane and Oxford-like manner; complimenting him upon his style, acknowledging the general soundness of his views, and only differing with him in the affair of the apple and pear.

I did not like reviewing at all - it was not to my taste; it was not in my way; I liked it far less than translating the publisher’s philosophy, for that was something in the line of one whom a competent judge had surnamed

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.