Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > Jacobean and Caroline Criticism > The new theory of translation
  Minor forms of criticism Reynolds’s Mythomystes  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

XI. Jacobean and Caroline Criticism.

§ 4. The new theory of translation.

In the next decade or two, the results of contact with France appear, also, in the new theory and practice of translation and in the critical trend toward simplicity in style. In France, a number of brilliant translators were adapting the classics to the taste of their countrymen. Of these, Perrot d’Ablancourt was the chief exemplar, and the prefaces of his numerous translations enunciate most clearly this new philosophy of paraphrase. “I do not always limit myself to the words or even to the thoughts of this author,” he says, in his version of Lucian, “but, mindful solely of his purpose, I accommodate it to the French air and manner”; and, in his complete version of Tacitus, he goes so far as to say that an injustice is done to a translation by comparing it with its original. When this theory reached England, it came into contact with the Jonsonian tradition of literal translation, and, for some time, these two schools existed side by side. Cowley, in the preface to his Pindaric Odes, claims for himself the credit of having introduced the new way into England; his biographer Sprat assumes that Cowley was not the first to recommend it, but insists that he was one of the first to practise it. The acknowledged herald of the new method was Sir John Denham, in the well known verses prefixed to Fanshawe’s version of Il Pastor Fido (1647):
That servile path thou nobly dost decline
Of tracing word by word and line by line …
A new and nobler way thou dost pursue
To make Translations and Translators too;
They but preserve the Ashes, Thou the Flame,
True to his sense but truer to his fame.
Nine years later, Denham restated the argument in the prose preface to his Essay on Translation, which had been begun much earlier and which is one of the first English attempts to put the theory of loose paraphrase into practice.

  Minor forms of criticism Reynolds’s Mythomystes  

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