Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
Epilogue to the Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers
By William Caxton (c. 14151491)
HERE endeth the book named the dictes or sayings of the philosophers, imprinted by me, William Caxton, at Westminster, the year of our Lord 1477. Which book is late translated out of French into English, by the noble and puissant lord, Lord Anthony, Earl of Rivers, lord of Scales and of the Isle of Wight, Defender and Director of the siege apostolic1 for our holy Father the Pope, in this realm of England, and governor of my lord Prince of Wales. And it is so that at such time as he had accomplished this said work, it liked him to send it to me in certain quires to oversee, which forthwith I saw and found therein many great, notable, and wise sayings of the philosophers, according unto the books made in French which I had oft afore read, but certainly I had seen none in English till that time. And so afterward, I came unto my said lord, and told him how I had read and seen his book, and that he had done a meritory deed in the labour of the translation thereof into our English tongue, wherein he had deserved a singular laud and thank, etc. Then my said lord desired me to oversee it and, whereas I should find fault, to correct it; wherein I answered unto his lordship that I could not amend it, but if I should so presume I might apaire2 it, for it was right well and cunningly made and translated into right good and fair English. Notwithstanding he willed me to oversee it, and showed me divers things which as him seemed, might be left out, as divers letters missives sent from Alexander to Darius and Aristotle and each to other, which letters were little pertinent unto the dictes and sayings aforesaid forasmuch as they specify of other matters, and also desired me, that done, to put the said book in print. And thus, obeying his request and commandment, I have put me in devoir to oversee this his said book, and behold, as nigh as I could, how it accordeth with the original, being in French. And I find nothing discordant therein, save only in the dictes and sayings of Socrates. Wherein I find that my said lord hath left out certain and divers conclusions touching women. Whereof I marvel that my said lord hath not written them, nor what hath moved him so to do, nor what cause he had at that time. But I suppose that some fair lady hath desired him to leave it out of his book, or else he was amorous on some noble lady, for whose love he would not set it in his book, or else for the very affection, love, and goodwill that he hath unto all ladies and gentlewomen, he thought that Socrates spared the sooth and wrote of women more than truth, which I cannot think that so true a man and so noble a philosopher as Socrates was should write otherwise than truth. For if he had made fault in writing of women, he ought not nor should not be believed in his other dictes and sayings. But I apperceive that my said lord knoweth verily that such defaults be not had nor found in the women born and dwelling in these parts nor regions of the world. Socrates was a Greek born in a far country from hence, which country is all of other conditions than this is. And men and women of other nature than they be here in this country. For I wot well, of whatsomever condition women be in Greece, the women of this country be right good, wise, pleasant, humble, discreet, sober, chaste, obedient to their husbands, true, secret, stedfast, ever busy and never idle, attemperate in speaking, and virtuous in all their works, or at least should be so. For which causes so evident my said lord, as I suppose, thought it was not of necessity to set in his book the sayings of his author Socrates touching women. But, forasmuch as I had commandment of my said lord to correct and amend whereas I should find fault, and other find I none save that he has left out these dictes and sayings of the women of Greece. Therefore in accomplishing his commandment, forasmuch as I am not in certain whether it was in my lords copy or not, or else peradventure that the wind had blown over the leaf, at the time of translation of his book, I purpose to write those same sayings of that Greek Socrates, which wrote of the women of Greece and nothing of them of this realm, whom I suppose he never knew. For if he had, I dare plainly say that he would have reserved them in especial in his said dictes. Alway not presuming to put and set them in my said lords book, but in the end apart in the rehearsal of the works, humbly requiring all them that shall read this little rehearsal that if they find any fault to arette it to Socrates and not to me.