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an imperfect text, was still read, till Dacier, under better auspices and in better times, attempted a new one; which he executed with great elegance, and tolerable accuracy. The text he followed was not so correct, as might have been wished; for the London edition of Plutarch was not then published. The French language however being at that time in high perfection, and current through almost every court in Europe, Dacier's translation came not only into the libraries, but into the hands of men. Plutarch was universally studied, and no book in those times had a more extensive sale, or went through a greater number of impressions. The translator had, indeed, acquitted himself in one respect with considerable felicity. His book was not found to be French Greek. He had carefully followed that rule, of which no translator ought ever to lose sight, the grand rule of humouring the genius, and maintaining the structure of his own language. For this purpose, he frequently broke the long and embarrassed periods of the Greek'; and, by dividing and shortening them in his translation, he gave them greater perspicuity and a more easy movement. Yet: still he was faithful to his original; and where he did not mistake him, which indeed he seldom did, conveyed his ideas with clearness, though not without vérbosity. His translation had another distinguished advantage. He enriched it with a variety of explanatory notes. There are so many readers, who have no competent acquaintance with the customs of antiquity, the laws of the ancient states, the ceremonies of their religion, and the remoter and more minute parts of their history and genealogy; that to have an account of these matters ever before the eye, and to travel with a guide who is ready to describe to us every object we are unacquainted with, is a privilege equally convenient and agreeable. But here the annotator ought to have stopped. Satisfied with removing the difficulties usually arising in the circumstances abovementioned, he should not have swelled his pages with idle declamations on trite morals and obvious sentiments. Amyot's margins, indeed, are every where crowded with such. In those times they followed the method of the old divines, which was, to make practical improvements of every matter; but it is somewhat strange that Dacier, who wrotę in a more enlightened age, should fall into that beaten track of insipid moralising, and be at pains to say what every one must know * Perhaps, as the cominentator of Plutarch, he considered himself as a kind of travelling companion to the reader ;
* These remarks apply likewise, in a limited degree, to Plufarch's last French translator, the abbé Ricard, whose version of the Lives in thirteen volumes 12mo. appeared 1798-1803. He had previously favoured his countrymen with a translation of the Morals. This respectable man, to whom the editor can hardly state how great are his obligations, died at Paris of the grippe, Jan. 28, 1803, aged sixty-two. A short memoir and éloge are attached to his last work, E.
and, agreeably to the manners of his country, he meant to show his politeness by never holding his tongue. The apology, which he makes for deducing and detailing these flat precepts, is the view of instructing younger minds. He had not philosophy enough to consider, that to anticipate the conclusions of such minds, in their pursuit of history and characters, is to prevent their proper effect. When examples are placed before them, they will not fail to make right inferences;- but, if those are made for them, the didactic air of information destroys their influence.
After the old English translation of Plutarch, which was professedly taken from Amyot's French, no other appeared till the time of Dryden. That great man, who is never to be mentioned without pity and admiration, was prevailed upon by his necessities to head a company of translators; and to lend the sanction of his glorious name to a translation of Plutarch, written (as he himself acknowledges) by almost as many hands, as there were Lives. That this motley work was full of errors, inequalities, and inconsistencies, is not in the least to be wondered at, Of such a variety of translators, it would have been very singular, if some had not failed in learning, and some in language. The truth is, that the greatest part of them were deficient in both. Their task, indeed, was not easy. To translate Plutarch, under any circumstances, would require no ordinary skill in
the language and antiquities of Greece: but to attempt it, whilst the text was in a depraved state, unsettled and unrectified, abounding with misnomers and transpositions; this required much greater abilities, than fell to the lot of that body of translators in general. It appears however, from the execution of their undertaking, that they gave themselves no great concern about the difficulties, that attended it. Some few blundered at the Greek; some drew from the scholiast's Latin; and others, more humble, - trod scrupulously in the paces of Amyot. Thus copying the idioms of different languages, they proceeded like the workmen at Babel, and fell into a confusion of tongues, while they attempted to speak the same. But the diversities of stile were not the greatest fault of this strange translation. It was full of the grossest errors. Ignorance on the one hand, and hastiness or negligence on the other, had filled it with absurdities in every Life, and inaccuracies in almost every page. The language in general was insupportably tame, tedious, and embarrassed. The periods had no harmony; the phraseology had no elegance, no spirit, no precision.
Yet this is the last translation of Plutarch's Lives, that has appeared in the English language, and the only one that is now read.
It must be owned that, when Dacier's translation came abroad, the proprietor of Dryden's copy endeayoured to repair it. But how was this done?
Not by the application of learned men, who miglit have rectified the mistakes by consulting the original, but by a mean recourse to the labours of Dacier. Where the French translator had differed from the English, the opinions of the latter were religiously given up; and sometimes a period, and sometimes a page, were translated anew from Dacier; while, in due' compliment to him, the idiom of his language and every tour d'expression were most scrupulously preserved. Nay, the editors of that edition, which was published in 1727, did more. They not only paid Dacier the compliment of mixing his French with their En zlish, but while they borrowed his notes, they adopted even the most frivolous and superfluous comments that escaped his
pen, Thus the English Plutarch's Lives, at first so heterogeneous and absurd, received but little benefit from this whimsical reparation. Dacier's best notes were, indeed, of some value ; but the patchwork alterations the editors had drawn from his translation, made their book appear still more like Otway's Old Woman, whose gown of many colours spoke
-variety of wretchedness.
This translation continued in the same form upward of thirty years. But in the year 1758 the proprietor engaged a gentleman of abilities, very different from those who had formerly been em