In an attempt to clear Cave's warehouse, Johnson puffed the work in a two-part essay in the Gentleman's Magazine for March and November Johnson has not left a record of how he felt about the failure of the Crousaz projects. His work to help ready the Examination for publication may have been part of the editorial chores he performed for Cave, under some unknown payment scheme. The rate of payment for translation at this time ranged from ten shillings to a guinea a sheet.
Perhaps there was some consolation for the failure of the projects in the money he received, although it was not a great deal of money and may well have been spent by the time he completed the translation. Page xxxvi. Page xxxvii.
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The high hopes of becoming a tragedy writer with which Johnson had entered London in had been dashed by the rejection of Irene for the stage. His translation of Sarpi's Istoria del concilio Tridentino, with his name on the title page and which was to establish his reputation as a scholar, had ended in failure. If the translation of Crousaz's Commentaire, with its notes largely defending the poetry of the Essay on Man against misrepresentations and carping complaints, had been published in a timely fashion, it might have attracted favorable notice from Pope and his circle, leading to recognition for the anonymous translator and annotator.
The antagonism of Cave and Johnson toward Edmund Curll should not obscure the fact that Curll's publication of a translation of the first epistle of the Commentaire influenced Johnson's Commentary. Curll's Commentary is, in fact, a translation and abridgement by Charles Forman of the first epistle of Crousaz, with Pope's lines substituted for the Du Resnel text, essentially vitiating Forman's attack on the verse translation since the reader has few examples of it.
These notes, largely favorable to Pope, attack both Du Resnel's translation and Crousaz's commentary based on it. Although Johnson had at least read over the Commentaire in anticipation of translating it before 27 November, as he cites the second line of the third epistle of Du Resnel's verse translation in a footnote to the Examination, 9 he could not have begun serious work on the first epistle of his Commentary before the publication of Forman's translation on 21 November for he clearly used it to make his own.
Johnson's translation is superior to Forman's and includes the whole text; nevertheless there are a number of verbal parallels, several too close to be dismissed as coincidence. Curll's edition of the Commentary served Johnson not only while he translated the first epistle; it also suggested the tone and form his footnotes should take. De Crousaz, as he had two French translations of Mr.
Popes Essay on Man in his hands, why he did not take the prose to comment upon rather than the verse, since he did not understand English? Mr Pope, in the original, has not made use of the word nature in the passage here refer'd to; his expression being only Lo! Pope has nothing to do with these words, they are one of the translator's flights, which the critick is only exposing at the same time that he thinks he is demolishing Mr.
I take this opportunity of observing, once for all, that he is not sufficiently candid in charging all the errors of this miserable version upon the original author Pope say many things which he never thought of, tho' not in this place, which is the first of Mr. Crousaz's logick, this argument smells more of the slave than Mr. Forman substitutes Pope's verses for those of Du Resnel throughout his translation of the first epistle of the Commentary. Johnson, however, follows Crousaz in reproducing Du Resnel's poem in its entirety, although adding his own line-for-line translation.
But when Crousaz repeats a line or lines of Du Resnel's poem in his text for analysis, Johnson usually substitutes the lines of Pope. He also cites Pope's verse in the footnotes.
French-English Dictionary (35,273 Entries)
This helps Johnson reinforce his point about the difference in quality between the verses of Pope and Du Resnel. Johnson, like other educated young men of his time, had been forced to think about translation theory and practice early, at least in an elementary way. Throughout school he had translated Latin into English and English into Latin, agonizing, no doubt, over how literal or free a translation might be and still please the master. Among Johnson's early poems are several translations from Latin Page xlii.
Translation, an art Johnson practiced throughout his life, clearly came so naturally to him that it is not surprising he would turn to it at age twenty-four when he found himself in need of money. By at least Johnson had a good working knowledge of French. In fact, evidence presented in the annotations indicates that he consulted Boyer's Dictionnaire Royale when translating the Commentaire. Also a number of the Lichfield clergy spoke French and, in addition to the Garrick family, there were others in the community of Huguenot origin or descent, any of whom may have tutored the young Johnson.
That he early developed at least a good reading knowledge in French is supported not only by his abilities as a translator but by his wide knowledge of French writers. Since Johnson's Commentary is by no means an epitome but a translation, it differs in some ways from A Voyage to Abyssinia.
His theory of translation, inasmuch as it comes up in the Commentary, is confined to noting that Du Resnel had read the Earl of Roscommon's Essay on Translated Verse but failed to profit from it. As in A Voyage to Abyssinia and the other translations he was doing about the same time, Johnson translates closely in places, rearranges elements in the sentence and, occasionally, in the paragraph, balances phrases, often by introducing doublets, and provides smoother transitions.
Unlike A Voyage to Abyssinia, the omissions are few and the condensations slight. Editorial commentary is reserved for the footnotes. Hawkins offers a possible explanation. Johnson's talent was original thinking, and though he was ever able to express his own sentiments in nervous language, he did not always succeed in his attempts to familiarise the sense of others.
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The work in reality has two styles of translation, one for Du Resnel's verse and the other for the prose. To point up the poor quality of Du Resnel's verse, Johnson provides an excruciatingly literal interlinear translation with each word or phrase of his own carefully spaced so that it falls immediately below the word or phrase of Du Resnel it translates. The result is to make Du Resnel's somewhat vague and muddled effort to produce an Essay on Man virtually incomprehensible. One only need turn to any page of verse in the text below and read a section of the poem in Johnson's English translation to receive the full, often humorous, effect.
When Crousaz repeats Page xlv. On the whole, Johnson's translation of the prose in the Commentaire may be said to be close but not exact.
As Gold has pointed out, Johnson makes occasional errors with simple words, probably more out of carelessness than lack of familiarity. His frequent errors in translating numerical terms suggests that the books from which he learned French had few such terms. His confidence in his knowledge of French, which led him to feel it was unnecessary to consult a dictionary, created other difficulties.
Another characteristic of Johnson's French translations is the extensive use of doublets, over ninety in this text, according to Abbott's calculations. These techniques usually bring a force and balance to the style. Page xlvii. Although the style of the Commentary on the whole does not have a particularly Johnsonian resonance, a comparison of the English with the French reveals a few favorite words from his early writings.
The unevenness of the translation suggests that Johnson lost interest in the project, at least from time to time. This discrepancy in the quantity and length of the footnotes, however, may have other explanations.
Perhaps it is only the result of the haste imposed by the publication of Forman's competing translation. Perhaps it is Johnson's response to the structure of Crousaz's work. Crousaz, by choosing to comment on Du Resnel's French version line by line, is forced into repeating his commentary, Page xlviii. Johnson's interest in the translation does not follow the same precipitous decline found in the number of footnotes, but waxes and wanes.
For stretches Johnson is content to translate Crousaz's French prose more or less exactly, not bothering to change the syntax. In other instances he recasts the French to make it Johnsonian. No one page of Johnson's Commentary will show all of his translation techniques, but an analysis of a representative page will demonstrate, better than lists of examples, how he worked through Crousaz's French, turning it into English. Johnson's major contribution to the Commentary is the footnotes.
Altogether there are sixty-eight, nine of which appear in whole or in part in Du Resnel's original preface. In the majority of the remaining footnotes Johnson points out the disparity between Pope's original and Du Resnel's version of the Essay on Man on which Crousaz has based his Commentaire. Nevertheless, he continues to defend Pope's poem against unfair misrepresentation, even though it is clear that he does not approve of the poem, finding it heterodox, ambiguous, and incomprehensible in places. Page li. More important are the notes relating to the problem of evil, particularly the ruling passion and the necessity of free will.
Johnson does not examine these subjects in any systematic way; that would come later. Instead he is responding to particular points raised primarily by Crousaz and Du Resnel, although Pope is more or less in the background. Annotations for a translation differ significantly from those for an original composition. No attempt has been made here to annotate Crousaz's or Du Resnel's work; rather the focus of the annotations is on Johnson's translation.
The assumption has been that this edition is for a scholarly audience with a reading knowledge of French. Annotations are largely limited to citations of significant departures from the meaning or narrative progression of the French text, and to a representative selection of citations which show Johnson's method of translation.
The French in the annotations is reproduced exactly to enable the reader to see what Johnson saw as he translated. Crousaz quotes Du Resnel's poem in its entirety, except for an occasionally omitted line, and the references to Du Resnel are to the poem as it appears in Crousaz, unless otherwise indicated. The poem as it appears in Crousaz, however, has been compared with a photocopy of the first edition of Du Resnel's Les Principes de la Page liii.