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No. 39. TUESDAY, MAY 25.
Nec verbum verbo curabis reddere fidus
SINCE I have given public notice of my abode, I have had many
visits from unfortunate fellow-sufferers who have been crossed in love as well as myself.
Will. Wormwood, who is related to me by my mother's side, is one of those who often repair to me for advice. Will. is a fellow of good sense, but puts it to little other use than to torment himself. He is a man of so refined an understanding, that he can set a construction upon everything to his own disadvantage, and turn even a civility into an affront. He groans under imaginary injuries, finds himself abused by his friends, and fancies the whole world in a kind of combination against him. In short, poor Wormwood is devoured with the spleen: you may be sure a man of this humour makes a very whimsical lover. Be that as it will, he is now over head and ears in that passion, and by a very curious interpretation of his mistress's behaviour, has, in less than three months, reduced himself to a perfect skeleton. As her fortune is inferior to his, she gives him all the encouragement another man could wish, but has the mortification to find that her lover still sours upon her hands. Will. is dissatisfied with her, whether she smiles or frowns upon him : and always thinks her too reserved, or too coming. A kind word, that would make another lover's heart dance for joy, pangs poor Will., and makes him lie awake all night.-As I was going on with Will. Wormwood's amour, I received a present from my bookseller, which I found to be the Characters of Theophrastus, translated from the Greek into English, by Mr. Budgell.
It was with me, as I believe it will be with all who look into this translation ; when I had begun to peruse it, I could not lay it by, until I had gone through the whole book; and was agreeably surprised to meet with a chapter in it, entitled, “A discontented Temper,” which gives a livelier picture of my cousin Wormwood, than that which I was drawing for him myself. It is as follows:
A DISCONTENTED TEMPER. “A discontented temper is ' a frame of mind which sets a man upon complaining without reason.' When one of his neighbours, who makes an entertainment, sends a servant to him with a plate of anything that is nice, 'What, (says he,) your master did not think me good enough to dine with him He complains of his mistress, at the very time she is caressing him ; and when she redoubles her kisses and endearments, 'I wish (says he) all this came from your heart.'
In a dry season, he grumbles for want of rain, and, when a shower falls, mutters to himself, “ Why could not this have come sooner ?' If he happens to find a purse of money, ' Had it been a pot of gold, (says he,) it would have been worth stooping for.
He takes a great deal of pains to beat down the price of a slave; and after he has paid his money for him, " I am sure, (says he,) thou art good for nothing, or I should not have bad thee so cheap. When a messenger comes with great joy, to acquaint him that his wife is brought to bed of a son, he answers, ' That is as much as to say, my friend, I am poorer by half to-day than I was yesterday.'Though he has gained a cause, with full costs and damages, he complains that his counsel did not insist upon the most material points. If, after any misfortune has befallen him, his friends raise a voluntary contribution for him, and desire him to be merry, 'How is that possible, (says he,) when I am to pay every one of you
money again, and be obliged to you into the bargain ? ""
The instances of a discontented temper, which Theophrastus has here made use of, like those which he singles out to illustrate the rest of his characters, are chosen with the greatest nicety, and full of humour. His strokes are always fine and exquisite, and, though they are not sometimes violent enough to affect the imagination of a coarse reader, cannot but give the highest pleasure to every man of a refined taste, who has a thorough insight into human nature.
As for the translation, I have never seen any of a prose author which has pleased me more. The gentleman who has obliged the public with it, has followed the rule which Horace has laid down for translators, by preserving every
where the life and spirit of his author, without servilely copying after him word for word. This is what the French, who have most distinguished themselves by performances of this nature, so often inculcate, when they advise a translator to find out such particular elegancies in his own tongue, as bear some analogy to those he sees in the original, and to express himself by such phrases as his author would probably have made use of, had he written in the language into which he is translated. By this means, as well as by throwing in a lucky word, or a short circumstance, the meaning of Theophrastus is all along explained, and the humour very often carried to a greater height. A translator, who does not thus consider the different genius of the two languages in which he is concerned, with such parallel turns of thoughts and expression as correspond with one another in both of them, may value himself upon being a “ faithful interpreter;" but in works of wit and humour will never do justice to his author, or credit to himself.
As this is everywhere a judicious and a reasonable liberty, I see no chapter in Theophrastus where it has been so much indulged, and in which it was so absolutely necessary, the character of the Sloven. I find the translator himself, though he has taken pains to qualify it, is still apprehensive that there may be something gross in the description. The reader will see with how much delicacy he has touched upon every particular, and cast into shades everything that was shocking in so nauseous a figure.
“ Slovenliness is such a neglect of a man's person, as makes him offensive to other people. The sloven comes into company with a dirty pair of hands, and a set of long nails at the end of them, and tells you for an excuse, that his father and grandfather used to do so before him. However, that he
may outdo his forefathers, his fingers are covered with warts of his own raising. He is as hairy as a goat, and takes care to let you see it. His teeth and breath are perfectly well suited to one another. He lays about him at table after a very extraordinary manner, and takes in a meal at a
mouthful; which he seldom disposes of without offending the company. In drinking he generally makes more haste than good speed. When he goes into the bath, you may easily find him out by the scent of his oil, and distinguish him when he is dressed by the spots in his coat. He does not stand upon decency in conversation, but will talk smut, though a priest and his mother be in the room. He commits a blunder in the most solemn offices of devotion, and afterwards falls a laughing at it. At a concert of music he breaks in upon the performance, hums over the tune to himself, or if he thinks it long, asks the musicians 'whether they will never have done ?' He always spits at random, and if he is at an entertainment, it is ten to one but it is upon
the servant who stands behind him."
The foregoing translation brings to my remembrance that excellent observation of my Lord Roscommon's.
None yet have been with admiration read,
LORD ROSCOMMON’s Essay on translated Verse. If after this the reader can endure the filthy representation of the same figure exposed in its worst light, he may see how it looks in the former English version, which was published some years since, and is done from the French of Bruyere.
Nastiness or Slovenliness. Slovenliness is a lazy and beastly negligence of a man's own person, whereby he becomes so sordid, as to be offensive to those about him. You will see him come into company when he is covered all over with a leprosy and scurf, and with very long nails, and says, those distempers were hereditary, that his father and grandfather had them before him. He has ulcers in his thighs, and biles upon his hands, which he takes no care to have cured, but lets them run on till they are gone beyond remedy. His arm-pits are all hairy, and most part of his body like a wild beast. His teeth are black and rotten, which makes his breath stink so that you cannot endure him to come nigh you; he will also snuff up his nose and spit it out as he eats, and uses to speak with his mouth crammed full, and lets his victuals come out at both corners. He belches in the cup as he is drinking, and
uses nasty stinking oil in the bath. He will intrude into the best company in sordid ragged clothes. If he goes with his mother to the soothsayers, he cannot then refrain from wicked and profane expressions. When he is making his oblations at the temple, he will let the dish drop out of his hand, and fall a laughing, as if he had done some brave exploit. At the finest concert of music he cannot forbear clapping his hands, and making a rude noise; will pretend to sing along with them, and fall a railing at them to leave off. Sitting at table, he spits full upon the servants who waited
I cannot close this paper without observing, that if gentlemen of leisure and genius would take the same pains upon some other Greek or Roman author, that has been bestowed upon this, we should no longer be abused by our booksellers, who set their hackney-writers at work for so much a sheet. The world would soon be convinced, that there is a great deal of difference between putting an author into English, and translating him.