Reference > Cambridge History > The Age of Dryden > Dryden > Various Later Work in Verse and Prose: Miscellanies
  The Hind and the Panther Translations: Fables Ancient and Modern  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

I. Dryden.

§ 29. Various Later Work in Verse and Prose: Miscellanies.


In the third and fourth Miscellanies (1693 and 1694) appeared Dryden’s version of book I, and of certain other portions, of the Metamorphoses, with the parting of Hector and Andromache from the Iliad as well as a translation of the third Georgic. 106  In 1694, the idea of a translation of the whole of Vergil seems to have suggested itself to Dryden; and the completed work was brought out by subscription in 1697. The enterprise and its success made much talk in the world of letters, and, from still remote Hanover, Leibniz commented on the prize of £1000—Pope was told that it was £1200—which has fallen to the fortunate “Mr. Dryden’s” lot. But, though Dryden, without pushing his interests unduly, was not forgetful of them, he did himself honour by steadily refusing to dedicate his magnum opus to the king, to whom he had declined to swear allegiance. 107  The actual dedication of the Aeneis to Normanby (Mulgrave) is one of Dryden’s longest, but not one of his most interesting, efforts of the sort. 108    75
  The long-lived favour shown by the English reading public to translations from the classics was largely due to the fact that the intellectual education of boys belonging to the higher classes was still largely carried on by exercising them in translation from the classics into English prose or verse; Dryden himself, it will be remembered, had been trained in this way at Westminster. This practice must have encouraged freedom of rendering as well as elegance of composition in trnaslation; and Dryden, possessed of a genius singularly open to suggestion and facile in execution, was of all translators most certain to excel in the art thus conceived. From the point of view of exact scholarship, nothing can be said in favour of a method which does not show any reverence for the text, and very little for the style, of the original author. But Dryden’s contemporaries were perfectly willing that the glorious rush of his poetic style should dominate the Vergil of the Georgics and the Vergil of the Aeneid alike, as it had the Roman satirists before them; and the breadth and boldness of some of the finest Vergilian passages lent themselves readily to reproduction by the English poet, although others remained, whose majesty and depth of sentiment he could not infuse into his couplets. 109    76

Note 106. In the Miscellany of 1694 also appeared the epistle To Sir Godfrey Kneller, a painter to whom Dryden must have been attracted by his success in seizing the distinctive features of a quite extraordinary number of sitters. The reference to the “Chandos” portrait of Shakespeare, of which Kneller had sent Dryden a copy, is commonplace in thought. [ back ]
Note 107. He had been pressed to dedicate the work to the king by his publisher, who caused the engraved representation of pius Aeneas to be provided for the purpose with a hooked nose, still visible in certain of the extant copies. [ back ]
Note 108. It contains, however, some valuable observations on metrical form; and it is in this essay that Dryden speaks of having “long had by me the materials of an English Prosodia” (Essays, ed. Ker, vol. II, p. 217). [ back ]
Note 109. The attack of Luke Milbourne upon Dryden (1698) was, probably, the result of jealousy, as he had issued a version of book I of the Aeneid, said to be now lost. His Notes, for which he paid dear, contain some other specimens of his translations from Vergil. [ back ]

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  The Hind and the Panther Translations: Fables Ancient and Modern  
 
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