網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

has been published some months, we have only met with in the course of the present month, we have been so much entertained and instructed, that we propose a substantive mention of him in our next. A translation of Mignet's History of the French Revolution* has also appeared. We have repeatedly recommended this work to our readers as one of the very best books ever written. It is a short work, upon a most eventful period of history very little understood in this country. It is full of narrative and incident; so much so, that it reads with more than the interest of a novel ; and yet all the springs of the Revolution are laid open, and the whole philosophy of the history is imbibed by the reader almost unconsciously. You are absorbed by the narrative, and yet thoroughly informed of the way in which the events arise one out of the other; and how similar phenomena, should they again occur, ought to be conducted to a more happy result. The translation is executed in a very superior manner to that in which translation is usually done in this country. The best translation, however, which we have met with for some time, is that of the Memoirs of Madame du Hausset. † The translation of this very charming book, has a spirit and fidelity which we scarcely recollect to have seen in a single previous instance. This branch of literature is most shamefully conducted in this country: any body fancies that he or she can translate ; the sole qualification is supposed to be a smattering of the language of the original, a dictionary and a grammar. We can bear testimony to the fact, that this art is one of difficult acquisition, and very rare attainment. Great practice and attention are necessary to destroy the traces of the foreign tongue, and much more to throw the ideas of the author into a correct and elegant English dress. Many men, who can express the thoughts they themselves conceive, and supply with ease appropriate and forcible language to their own creations, find themselves utterly at a loss when they are called upon to take up and clothe the ideas of another. We are here speaking of the difficulty which any well-informed, but unpractised person would experience. What then are we to expect from the class of people usually employed on this work, who have also other inconveniences than incapacity to struggle with? That which they could not do well with deliberation, they are required to do in haste. Neither have they the advantage of the connexion of ideas, and the current of the subject to impel them along—for it is a fact well worthy to be known, that most of the translations published by the booksellers, are executed by a great number of hands. Such men as Mr. Colburn, for instance, have a list of people whom they can employ on this duty at a moment's warning. When a work of interest arrives from the Continent, in which the bookseller fears he may be forestalled by some rival, he tears up his copy of the book, and scatters the separate portions among his hungry list. So that it not unfrequently happens that the unhappy translator has to commence upon the latter half of a sentence. The person to whose lot the previous portion has fallen has, of course, been obliged to finish his share with the first half of the sentence. The printer puts these fragments together, and hence the reader's eyes are so often turned up in wonder at what the author can possibly be driving. This is only one trifling source of error others are obvious. It follows from all this that nobody in this country reads a translation if he can read and can procure the original. Hence a multitude of sources of information are closed, much time lost, and most erroneous opinions formed. We hold the importance of these conclusions to be such that we intend to pay especial attention to this subject, and shall not be sparing of either praise or blame. We have picked out two translations for eulogy. This month has also produced as bad a translation as the others are good. We allude to a work entitled the “ Reign of Terror."* This book is not only bad in its design, and anticipated by a great number of books on the Revolution of France of the same kind, but is absolutely unreadable, from the execrableness of the way in which its materials are done into English. It consists of a collection of the tracts, pamphlets, memoirs, &c. published by those who were sufferers from the sanguinary adherents of Marat and Robespierre, during the period named the Reign of Terror. The compilers of this work give us no acconnt of their plan, or object, or of the principles which have guided them in their selection of materials ; neither do we learn the reason which has induced them, at this time of day, to republish, in a body, very accessible publications, which are rather the documents of history, than history itself. Like other documents, when looked at in an insulated point of view, they are much more likely to mislead than to inform.

2 Vols. 8vo.

+ 1 Vol. post 8vo.

At Edinburgh has been started a kind of Yearly Magazine, called Janus, or the Edinburgh Literary Almanack. We should have been glad to have found this book clever. It is, however, one of that large class which might just as well have remained in manuscript. It is not instructive-it is not amusing—it is not original - it is not, however, offensive ; and we wish not to aggravate the pains of neglect, by any further censure. The publisher's long face, when the authors enquire the extent of the demand which the public have manifested for tlieir writings, will prove, we doubt not,

• Two Vols. 8vo.

a much severer suffering than any harshness of our's. A book of a similar kind, differing only in its being an avowed compilation from the journals and other periodical publications of the year, has for some time been published annually, under the title of Spirit of the Public Journals. The design is excellent; the conduct of it is as bad as it is possible to be. Neither industry, taste, nor vigilance, is employed upon it; the most obvious and the most worthles materials are selected, and they are printed in the most incorrect and slovenly manner.

The only work to which we shall here give a separate notice, besides those criticisms in the body of the Magazine, is the following:

Hebrew Tales ; selected and translated from the Writings of

the ancient Hebrew Sager ; to which is prefixed an Essay on the uninspired Literature of the Hebrews. By Hyman Hurwitz, author of " Vindiciæ Hebraica,8c.&c. London. Morrison and Watt, 127, Fenchurch Street.

This work has two claims upon the consideration of the public. It contributes something new to the stock of our literature; and the manner in which that contribution is made is good. By new is not meant original; but as in these degenerate days we seldom meet with a person even moderately versed in Talmudic learning, for the majority of us Englishmen, the present translation promises all the interest which originality can attach to a work. We regard the student, who pushes his enquiries into the remote and unfrequented corners of human knowledge, and brings from thence a portion of what he finds, in the light of a merchant who trades to out-of-the-way parts of the globe, and augments our stock of good things with their different productions. As we like to see the great current of merchandise, that sets in to our country, swelled by the addition of new commodities desirable to man ; so we should welcome every addition to our intellectual stores with an interest proportioned to its value, and the difficulty of making it conjointly. In the present instance, whatever be the worth of the commodity, the difficulty of procuring it must at least be allowed to be great. If we might trust the word of our own Talmudic scholars, who profess to have explored these regions, and found them to produce only absurdities, we should quietly acquiesce under the privation which that difficulty superinduces. But our Talmudists have been generally Christian divines, whose testimony, as that of a party interested, ought to be taken with a reasonable allowance for clerical prejudices. It may also admit of question how far they have explored; and whether they have not taken the credit of profound investigation on very slight grounds. Impunity was theirs—the public, as far as the Talmud was concerned, were clearly at their mercy.

Notwithstanding the dicta and the sneers of these profound Hebraists, it is not impossible that there may be something in the Talmud after all; and something too, worth importing. To search the scriptures is,

in an especial manner, the business of our divines; and to aid them in this search, they do, or at least profess to have, recourse to the earliest Christian commentators those whom we call Fathers. It evinces, we think, a lack of just curiosity on their part, that these scholars should not have also taken pains to inform themselves and us, of what the earliest Hebrew commentators thought and wrote upon the same subject. The object of the Hebrew, as well as of the Christian, was to elucidate the obscurity of Holy Writ ; and his erroneous belief would but rarely interfere with his enquiries. He might omit to draw just inferences from sundry passages; but his interpretations would be no further affected by his Jewish faith. Truth, is truth from whatever source derived, and it is far from improbable that the truth may have often occurred to the Hebrew, who was upon his own ground—his own antiquities, when it altogether escaped the Greek or Italian Christian. Our pastors might be employed as profitably, perchance, to the community, and as pleasantly to themselves, upon the Hebrew commentators, as upon Greek plays, or political pamphlets.

There may be a reader, who possibly desires to know what the Talmud is. We will devote half a page to inform him. In addition to the written law, which, like our Magna Charta, and other old documents, somewhat rudely sketched out the line of proceeding for posterity, and required to be filled up, there naturally sprang up also a traditional law, supplementary to the first. This additional code remained, for reasons no doubt as good as those which have kept our own common law in the same predicament, unwritten. The politic sons of Levi, and those whom they abetted, had thus an instrument that they could adapt to the ever varying exigencies of the times. But the times at length grew so bad, that no government, and no priesthood remained to benefit by the use of this capital state machine. On the contrary, the great object now was, not the support of an establishment, for they had none to support, but they were keeping together their old religion, the scattered flock of Israel. Taking advantage, therefore, of a little respite from the persecution which the poor Hebrew enjoyed in the sun-shiny reigns of the Antonines, the Rabbi Jehud formed a digest of their traditional laws, which bore the name of“ the Mishnah.” As every Littleton must have his Coke, the Mishnah was soon found to be obscure or not sufficiently explicit, and to require an expounder. The commentaries of succeeding Rabbis swelled into another large bulk of law, under the name of “ Gemara ;" and these two works were subsequently embodied in one great compilation called the Talmud.

This then is the additional code of the Jews; the supplement, which the wisdom or policy of successive Hebrew priests and legislators, from the time of Moses to that of Rabbi Jehudah, has added to the written law of Mount Sinai. It contains explanations of that written law, deductions drawn from it, and various ordinances for hedging round the faith of the children of Israel. The graver matter of this “ ocean" of Hebrew divinity, is relieved by sundry philosophical notions and moral maxims, conveyed by the different mediums of allegories, tales, similes, and parables. Of the aphorisms thus illustrated the work of Mr. Hurwitz is a collection. He is apparently a native trader, and, it is but just to add, that he has imported into our literature more Talmudic lore, than all our own Hebrew scholars together. The latter, indeed, have been fonder of criticising than imparting knowledge; and have argued down the Talmud, even before it was known, almost by name, to those for whom they wrote. These specimens of Hebrew parables are some of them very felicitous in their conception, and all breathe that_fine spirit of morality which we admire in the New Testament. Indeed, we know of no other compositions extant, to which these Hebrew tales bear a resemblance, but the parables of the Gospel. We have thus some standard by which to estimate the merit and fidelity of Mr. Hurtwitz's translation. It wants, to be sure, the idiomatic quaintness of our translation of the Bible, which so well becomes the concise precepts of Scripture; but the style is plain, and well adapted to the oriental character of the subjects.

The following example will serve to illustrate the mode in which the Talmudists grafted their parables upon the stock of history, sacred and profane, (for Alexander the great figured in them as well as Abraham ;) the sort of scriptural likeness, we were just now speaking of; and the translator's ability in the execution of his task.

Kerah, the father of Abraham, says tradition, was not only an idolater, but a manufacturer of idols, which he used to expose to public sale. Being obliged one day to go out on particular business, he desired Abraham to superintend it for bim. Abrabam obey. ed reluctantly." What is the price of that God ?” asked an old man who had just entered the place of sale, pointing to an idol, to which he took a fancy." Old man," said Abraham, “ may I be permitted to ask thine age ?"-" Three-score years," replied the age-stricken idolater.--"Three-score years!” exclaimed Abraham," and thou wouldest worship a thing that has been fashioned by the hands of my father's slaves within the last four-and-twenty hours ?”—The man was overwhelmed with shame, and went away. After this there came a sedate and grave matron, carrying in her hand a large dish of four. Here,”

,” said she, “ bave I brought an offering to the gods ; place it before them, Abraham, and bid them be propitious to me.”—“ Place it before them thyself, foolish woman !” said Abraham ; " thou will soon see how greedily they will devour it.”-She did so. In the meantime, Abraham took a hammer, broke the idols in pieces; all excepting the largest, in whose hands he placed the instrument of destruction. Kerah returned, and with the utmost surprise and cousternation, beheld the havoc amongst his favourite gods. “What is all this, Abraham! What wretch has dared to use our gods in this manner?'' exclaimed he, “Why should I conceal any thing from my father,” replied the son : “During thine absence, there came a woman with yonder offering for the gods ; she placed it before them. The younger gods, who, as may well be supposed, had not tasted food for a long time, greedily stretched forth their hands and began to eat, before the old god had given them permission. Enraged at their boldness, he rose, took the hammer. and punished them for their want of respect.”—“ Dost thou mock me --Wilt thou deceive thy aged father?" exclaimed Kerah, vehemently : “ do I then not know that they can neither eat, nor drink, nor move ?"-" And yet,” rejoined Abraham, “ thou payest them divine honours-adorest them and wouldest have me worship them."

After all, this would not, if inserted in the Bible, in a chapter, harmonize so completely with the tone of the Old Testament, as the apocryphal chapter of Genesis, extemporaneously composed by the trans-atlantic Talmudist, Benjamin Franklin.

« 上一頁繼續 »