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even in the most frantic effusions of disowning their validity when urged German extravagance : and certainly against us. We shall pay no sort of the German literary public as a body attention to the blank' unsupported are not to be charged with such enor- opinion of any author whatsoever, mities of folly. Yet, if this judg- let his weight be what it may with ment have indeed been uttered, the reader. No man must expect it would well deserve to be put on that we shall be awed by sounding record, as an example of the atro- compliments addressed to Goethe cities which can be tolerated when from whatsoever quarter. Complionce all reverence for great names is inents the most extravagant cost litresolutely shaken off. Æschylus, tle to a man in good humour, when and Euripides,-nay he who, led by returning compliments to himself. the Spirit of God, “presumed into “ Jllustrious ”-is soon said: “ Jnthe Heaven of Heavens,” even Milton comparable” is but one syllable himself,--are to yield their places, more: and in general that impoand to whom? To an old impure tence of mind and want of self-comnovelist, to the author of “ The Sor- mand, which urges men into the lanrows of Werther,” (risum teneatis?) guage of brutal malignity, is readiest to the babbling historian of Punch's to run into the licence of doating papuppet-show, tumblers, rope-dancers, negyric-such as the author himself and strolling-players (see Wilhelm is ashamed of in a week after he has Meister). Yield their places, did we written it. Nameless Germans we
Æschylus, Euripides, and have already seen annihilating by a Milton are to have no places at all dogmatic fiat all the greatness of in a consistory where this old vaga- this world to make room for Mr. bond is to be the third part of the Goethe: and it has cost the anonyworld, one of the triumvirate of eter- mous translator of Wilhelm Meister nity. What
but pshaw! but a dash of his pen to confer upon Scorn and indignation seal up our the same gentleman a patent of premouths. That we have condescend- cedency throughout Europe more uned at all to notice such sentiments, limited (if it were but valid) than the reader must ascribe to our ear- any
ing in christendom could connest desire that we may be accom- fer by his heralds even within his panied by his sympathy in the pro- own dominions. The easy thoughtgress of our inquiry into Mr. Goethe's lessness with which the title to create pretensions. We wish him to under- such distinctions is assumed recalls stand that we engage in any such the reader to the sense of their holtask, not from anger that a particular lowness; and reminds him that, if German has for a few years stepped one author may with a despotic fiat out of his natural place and station; create, another may come and with but because his name has been used as as good a right may revoke: in a handle for insulting the greatest of which case, both are thrown back men; because he has looked on and upon the grounds and principles of tolerated such outrages in his ad- their judgment, which might as well mirers; because his works are rank have been alleged at first. Of any with all impurity; and because upon judgment, supported by an appeal this precedent, if it is once admitted to principles,-let it come from what to any authority in this country, we quarter it will, we say—“ Valeat have much evil to anticipate of the quantum valere potest." Arguments same sort and tendency.
of any kind are not what we shun; Before we begin, let us give notice to these we are happy to allow their --that, as we have declined all bene- whole intrinsic value: but let us have fit of dogmatisms in our own behalf, no tyrannic dogmatisms, * which dewe must also resolutely insist on pend for their brief currency only
some degree in every man quá man. To love, to hope, to enjoy, are all affections of the genial nature: and the term genius expresses that nature only in its more intense degrees, and as a habit not as an act.— Talents may be easily conceived to exist in man discontinuously, and per saltum, but not genius. The expression “ only three men of genius” therefore is an absurdity in adjecto: the comprehensiveness of one term (by its very definition) destroys the limitation in the other.
To take the sting out of those dogmatisms which are at present afloat, we must upon considerations of person and the idiom of the language), we know accident extrinsic to the opinion it. of nothing to object to it. Living self.
in a court, and familiar with most All these preliminaries settled, we of his distinguished contemporaries shall now begin.—And first, before in Germany since the French revoluwe speak of the book itself (which is tion, Goethe of necessity speaks qur thesis), a word or two on the and therefore writes his own lanTranslation. This part of our task guage as it is commonly written and we would most gladly have declined spoken in the best circles, by which from the unaffected spirit of courtesy circles we mean, in a question of this in which we retreat from the office of nature, the upper circles. He is no sitting in judgment upon any contem- great master, nor was ever reputed porary author of our own country, a master, of the idiomatic wealth of except when we can conscientiously his own language; but he does not say that we have found nothing
of offend by provincialisms, vulgarisms, importance to blame: even to offer or barbarisms of any sort: with all our praise ex cathedrâ is not pleasant which the translation is overrun. to us. Nevertheless, for the credit First, for provincialisms :—these of any thing which we shall allege are in this case chiefly (perhaps altoagainst Goethe, it is necessary to gether) Scotticisms. Saying this, we declare our opinion very frankly that must call upon the reader to distinthis translation does not do justice to guish two kinds of Scotticisms. A the original work-which, however certain class of Scotch words and worthless in other respects, is not phrases, which belong to the poetic objectionable in the way in which vocabulary of the nation, have deservthe translation is so. For the “style" edly become classical ; as much so of Goethe, in the true meaning of as the peculiar words and peculiar that word, we profess no respect : forms of the Greek dialects; and for but, according to the common use of the same reason; viz. not because the expression as implying no more they have been consecrated by the than a proper choice of words, and a use of men of genius (for that was proper arrangement of them (pure but the effect): but because they exdiction in a collocation agreeable to press shades and modifications of
apprise the reader that the most celebrated of the proneurs of Goethe have not professed even to read the language in which he has written. Madame de Staël, for instance, was neither mistress of the German-nor was ever understood upon any German question to speak but as she was prompted by her German friends. Moreover her own opinions, however valuable on some subjects, were of no value on any question of this nature.—A late noble author, again, did not express any opinion of Goethe before Goethe had in some measure obliged him to a flattering one by the homage he had paid him in the sight of all Germany-and the appeal which he had thus made we will not say (harshly and merely) to his vanity, but also to more amiable and kindly feelings. On this account it is doing no dishonour to the noble Lord—to say that his opinion of Goethe cannot even be received as his sincere opinion. Independently of which, we believe that his sincerest opinions have no great weight in matters of criticism even with those who are otherwise his greatest admirers. Without wishing to take part in any general discussion on the noble author's pretensions,—it is pretty evident that a rash and inconsiderate speaker, of no self-control, and who seldom uttered an opinion except as he was swayed by momentary passions, could not be relied on-if he had been otherwise endowed with any power of judgment. That he was so endowed, however, there is no reason to believe; and much reason against it. Blindness to the greatness of Milton is but a bad preparation for judicious criticism ; and even in Germany a sneer at Shakspeare, whether sincere or an anti-national affectation, must have a fatal effect on a compliment to Goethe. On this occasion it may as well be added that the way in which the noble lord wrote the name of Goethe, was a sufficient evidence that he had no acquaintance with the language of Goethe. It was not an error of mis-spelling merely, or one which might have arisen at the press, but an error impossible to the youngest student in German as it must have been forestalled by the first examination of the German alphabet. This remark, which we made at the time, we have since seen urged against another writer in the first or second Number of a new Review : and justly urged : for in so short a compass there can be no more unanswerable argument against any pretensions to acquaintance with the German.--Acquaintance with the German is no indispensable accomplishment for an English nobleman ; but quite indispensable for a critic upon the general merits of Goethe.
meaning, and sometimes more than have the effect of vulgarisms upon that-absolutely new combinations southern ears: they are in general of thought and feeling, to which the simply uncouth or unintelligible; acommon language offers no satisfac- mongst which latter class by the way tory equivalent. Indeed every lan- we must ask the translator, in the guage has its peculiar combinations name of Hermes Trismegistus, to exof ideas to which every other lan- pound for us all the meaning of guage not only offers no equivalent, backing a letter:” to “ break up a but which it is a mistake to suppose letter," we presume, is simply what that any other can ever reach for in England we call opening a letter or purposes of effect by any periphrasis. breaking the seal; but « backing a -- But Scotticisms of this class are letter” has baffled the penetration of not to be confounded with the mere all expositors whom we have conScotch provincialisms, such as sulted: some have supposed it, in banished from good company in Scot- the plain English sense, to mean beta land itself. These are entitled to no ting on the side of a letter. But this more indulgence than cockneyisms, or is impossible: two letters cannot be the provincialisms of Lincolnshire brought up « to the scratch :" such and Somersetshire. For instance the a match was never heard of even in Scotticism of “open up” is perfect- Lombard-street, and not to be reconly insufferable. We have lived a ciled with the context. Is it possible little, for these last ten years, in that this mysterious expression is no the Scotch capital ; and there at least more than a Scotch vulgarism for we never heard such an expression writing the address or direction on a in any well-bred society. Yet in the letter? From these however, which work before us hardly a page but is are but semi-vulgarisms to an Eninfested with this strange phrase, glish ear, because but doubtfully inwhich many a Scotch gentleman will telligible,-we pass to such as are stare at as much as the English * of downright, full, and absolute vulevery class. No man in these vo- garisms. At p. 233, vol. i. we find lumes opens a book; he opens it the word “ wage,” for “wages," “up:
no man opens a door; he a vulgarism which is not used in opens it “ up :" no man opens a let- England even by respectable serter; he opens it “ up.” The Scotti- vants, and by nó class above that cism of “ in place of” for “ instead of," rank: “wage" is not an English -and the Scotticism of “ inquire at word:-at p. 143, vol. i. we find a man" instead of “ inquire of him," “ licking his lips,” which is English, are of that class which we have some- but plebeian English from the sewers times heard from Scotch people and kennels: again“ discussing of education; the more's the pity: oysters” which is English of that for both disfigure good composition sort called slang; and neoteric slang and polished conversation more than besides; not universal slang, not a Scotchman will believe ; the latter classical :—this for dramatic purbeing generally unintelligible out of poses is sometimes serviceable; but Scotland; and the former, which is ought surely not to be used by the intelligible enough, sounding to an author speaking gravely in his own English ear about upon a level in point person. Elsewhere we find “doxies” of elegance with the English phrase for girls, which is not only a low" in course for “ of course,” which comedy word, but far more degradis confined to the lowest order of cock- ing to the women so designated than neys. However, Scotch provincial- Goethe could have designed. Of all isms, though grievous blots in regular plebeianisms however, which to this composition, are too little familiar to hour we ever met with in a book, the
A few English writers, not exactly understanding the common-place employment of this phrase in Scotland, have adopted it under a mistaken notion that it was used for particular and expressive purposes ; and have regulated their own use of it accordingly. Thus Mr. Coleridge has sometimes talked of opening up prospects ; " keeping his eye upon the optical effect where a vista is laid open at the extremity farthest from the eye, in which case by the general laws of perspective in proportion as it opens it seems to ascend. But no such nice regards are considered in the Scotch provincial use, as is sufficiently evident from the instance alleged above.
most shocking is the word thrash as with society. One winter's residence used in the followiug passage, vol. ii. in the metropolis either of England p. 111: “ His father was convinced, or Scotland, -or the revisal of a juthat the minds of children could be dicious friend, would enable the kept awake and stedfast by no translator to weed his book of these other means than blows: hence, in deformities, which must be peculiarthe studying of any part, he used ly offensive in two quarters which to thrash him at stated periods.” naturally he must wish to conciliate ; In whatever way men will allow first to his readers, secondly to Mr. themselves to talk amongst men, and Goethe-who, besides that he is Mr. where intimate acquaintance relaxes Von Goethe and naturally therefore the restraints of decorum, every gen- anxious to appear before foreigners tleman abjures any coarse language in a dress suitable to his pretensions which he may have learned at school as a man of quality, happens to be or elsewhere under two circumstances unusually jealous on this point; and --in the presence of strangers--and in would be more shocked, than perhaps the presence of women; or whenever, a “philosopher” ought to be, if he in short, he is recalled to any scrupu- were told that his Wilhelm Meister lous anxiety about his own honour spoke an English any ways underand reputation for gentlemanly feel- bred or below the tone of what is ing. Now an author, with some technically understood in England by special exceptions, is to be presumed the phrase “ good company” or always in the presence of both ; and company “comme il faut."--Thirdly, ought to allow himself no expressions under the head of barbarisms, we but such as he would judge consist- shall slightly notice such expressions ent with his own self-respect in a as disturb the harmony of the style miscellaneous company of good breed- whether exotic phrases, hostile to ing and of both sexes. This granted, pure English; or mere lawless innowe put it to the translator's candour vations, which violate idiomatic En-whether the word “ thrash” (ex. glish; or archaisms, which violate cept in its literal and grave meaning) simple English. Of exotic phrases, be endurable in “ dress” composi- the very opposite to that of provintion? For our own parts, we never cialisms, these are instances : “ Phiheard a gentleman of polished ha- lina--tripped signing down stairs:” bits utter the word—except under “ signing in English means “subthe circumstances pointed out above, scribing her name”-and was never where people allow themselves a sort used for “ beckoning” or “ making of “ undress” manners. Besides, the signs,” which is what the translator word is not even used accurately: here means. “ His excellence,” “ to thrash” is never applied to the which is obstinately used for “his act of beating without provocation, Excellency,” is a gallicism ; and is but to a retaliatory beating: and alone a proof of insufficient intercourse the brutal father, who should adopt with the world; otherwise the transthe treatment of an unoffending child lator must have been aware that 110 which Goethe here describes, would such title of address is or ever was in nat call a beating, inflicted under the “ The child laid the right hand devilish maxim supposed,“
a thrash- on her breast, the left on her brow." ing." * These instances are sufficient This form of expression is most ofto illustrate the coarseness of diction fensively exotic: probably it was which disfigures the English trans- here adopted to evade the clash of lation, and which must have arisen the word her four times repeated : from want of sufficient intercourse but in this situation her' is not less
* This indeed for another and deeper reason, than merely because the word “ thrash” in its proper use always implies a contest and a retaliation, viz. for a reason which latently and unconsciously governs the use and the growth of figurative language in more cases than this : and that is, that the parental relation is too grave and awful to admit of any action from the fancy. Law presents us with another case of the same sanctity, and the same consequent rejection of all fanciful or figurative language. What would be thought of a penal statute which should alirect the magistrate io i bleed the prisoner's purse,” or to “ dust his jacket,” or “curry his hide.” The solemnity of the relation under which a child stands to his parents, or a citizen to the state, quells all action of the fancy.
indispensable in English, than it is portioned (as the reader must aloffensive in most continental lan- ready be aware) not to our own sense guages.
« The breast is inflamed to of the value of the original work, would be as shocking to an En- but to the pretensions made on its glish ear, as “my breast” would be behalf by former critics, and more to some foreign ones. «• What fel- extravagantly than ever by the prelow is that in the corner?' said the sent translator. On two other conCount, looking at a subject who siderations we have also been more had not yet been presented to him :" diffuse than would otherwise have this use of the word subject is a gal- been reasonable : first, because a licism. As mere licentious coinages work like Wilhelm Meister, which is or violations of the English idiom totally without interest as a novelwithout reference to any foreign that is, in the construction of its idiom or (we presume) to any domes- plot, having, in fact, no plot at alltic provincialisms, we notice such is thrown more imperiously upon the expressions as “ youthhood” vol. ii. necessity of relying, in part, upon p. 104,
giving a man leave,” vol. i. the graces of its style: this, which in P: 160 (apparently for dismissing any case is a most weighty attrachim); &c. But here it is so difficult tion, is here (by the confession of the to distinguish the cases where the translator) almost the sole one to all "writer has, and has not any coun- who may fail to discover what he tenance from provincial peculiarities, himself describes (Pref. xii.) as “its --that we shall pass on to complain more recondite and dubious qualities." of his archaisms or revivals of obsolete This writer, who professes so much English phrases, which however may admiration of the work, is obliged to also be provincialisms; many old acknowledge (Pref. x.) that “ for the English expressions being still cur- friends of the sublime, for those who rent in the remote provinces, which cannot do without heroic sentiments, have long been dismissed from our li- there is nothing here that can be of terature. Be that as it may, these any service." True, there is not: are the peculiarities which are least being confessedly then not designed licentious; for the phrases are in for the “ friends of the sublime,” themselves often beautiful. Yet
we presume that it is chiefly calcuthey break the simplicity of a prose lated for the use of those who pastyle. Thus for example the word tronize “ the profound,” as Martinus “unrest” is a beautiful and a Shaks- Scriblerus happily denominates the perian word ; and is very advantage- Bathos, or Anti-sublime. Now all ously restored to the language of we “ friends of the sublime.” are poetry: but in prose it has the air clearly left without any thing for our of affectation. “ He wanted to be gratification, unless we have some at one with me," vol. ii. p. 279,—was elegance of diction. The other never common, and is now quite ob- party have their “profound” in great solete, and mysterious to most peo- abundance: but we poor souls, that ple. Again, the word want used in “cannot do” upon that diet, have the antique sense exposes the writer nothing. Seriously, however, this to be thoroughly misunderstood. “ I translator and others offer Wilhelm cannot want them,” said Charles I, Meister as a great philosophic rospeaking of some alleged prerogatives mance, and Goethe as a great classic of his crown; and his meaning was —nay as a transcendant classic, who that he could not do without them, is to put out the lights of all others, that they were indispensable to him. but two. Agreeably, therefore, to But in modern English he, who says these representations which promise so “I cannot want them,” gives his much, we have a right to demand hearer to understand that no possible the most exquisite burnish of style, occasion can arise to make them of that all things may be in harmony, any use to him. This archaic use of and the casket suited to the jewels. the word “ want" survives however, Agreeably to our representations on we believe, as the current use in some the other hand, which promise so parts of Scotland. But enough of little, we are still better entitled to the defects of the English Wilhelm this gratification : since, if we do not Meister, which we have noticed get that, we are well assured that we npon a scale of minuteness pro- shall get nothing at all. This is one