Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 7, No. 43, May, 1861

Part 5 out of 5

beasts go under one skin,--to wit, a cardinal, a harlot, and a horse;
for thus I have heard of one whom I knew well, that he carried his
mistress to the chase, seated behind him on the croup of his horse or
mule, and he himself was in truth 'as the horse or as the mule, which
have no understanding.'... And wonder not, Reader, if the author as a
poet thus reproach these prelates of the Church; for even great Doctors
and Saints have not been able to abstain from rebukes of this sort
against such men in the Church." Nothing of all this is to be found in
the Italian version.

But it is not only in omission that the translator shows his devotion
to the Church. He takes upon himself not infrequently to alter the
character of Benvenuto's narratives by the insertion of phrases or the
addition of clauses to which there is nothing corresponding in the
original. The comment on Canto XIX. of the "Inferno" affords several
instances of this unfair procedure. "Among the Cardinals," says
Benvenuto, "was Benedict of Anagni, a man most skilful in managing great
affairs and in the rule of the world; who, moreover, sought the highest
dignity." "Vir astutissimus ad quseque magna negotia et imperia mundi;
qui etiam affectabat summam dignitatem." This appears in the translation
as follows: "Uomo astutissimo, perito d' affari, e conoscitore delle
altre corti: affettava un contegno il piu umile, e reservato." "A man
most astute, skilled in affairs, and acquainted with other courts; he
assumed a demeanor the most humble and reserved." A little farther on,
Benvenuto tells us that many, even after the election of Benedict to the
Papacy, reputed Celestine to be still the true and rightful Pope, in
spite of his renunciation, because, they said, such a dignity could not
be renounced. To this statement the translator adds, "because it comes
directly from God,"--a clause for the benefit of readers under the
pontificate of Pius IX.

In the comment on Canto XIX. of the "Purgatory" occurs the following
striking passage: "Summus Pontificatus, si bene geritur, est summus
honor, summum onus, summa servitus, summus labor. Si vero male, est
summum periculum animae, summum malum, summa miseria, summus pudor. Ergo
dubium est ex omni parte negotium. Ideo bene praefatus Adrianus Papa IV.
dicebat, Cathedram Petri spinosam, et Mantum ejus acutissimis per totum
consertum aculeis, et tantae gravitatis, ut robustissimos premat et
conterat humeros. Et concludebat, Nonne miseria dignus est qui pro tanta
pugnat miseria?"

"The Papacy, if it be well borne, is the chief of honors, of burdens, of
servitudes, and of labors; but if ill, it is the chief of perils for the
soul, the chief of evils, of miseries, and of shames. Wherefore, it is
throughout a doubtful affair. And well did the aforesaid Pope Adrian IV.
say, that the Chair of Peter was thorny, and his Mantle full of sharpest
stings, and so heavy as to weigh down and bruise the stoutest shoulders;
and, added he, Does not that man deserve pity, who strives for a woe
like this?"

This passage, so worthy of preservation and of literal translation, is
given by Signor Tamburini as follows: "The tiara is the first of honors,
but also the first and heaviest of burdens, and the most rigorous
slavery; it is the greatest risk of misfortune and of shame. The Papal
mantle is pierced with sharp thorns; who, then, will excuse him who
frets himself for it?"

But it is not only in passages relating to the Church that the
translator's faithlessness is displayed. Almost every page of his work
exhibits some omission, addition, transposition, or paraphrase, for
which no explanation can be given, and not even an insufficient excuse
be offered. In Canto IX. of the "Paradise," Dante puts into the mouth of
Cunizza, speaking of Foulques of Marseilles, the words, "Before his fame
shall die, the hundredth year shall five times come around." "And note
here," says Benvenuto, "that our author manifestly tells a falsehood;
since of that man there is no longer any fame, even in his own country.
I say, in brief, that the author wishes tacitly to hint that he will
give fame to him by his power,--a fame that shall not die so long as
this book shall live; and if we may conjecture of the future, it is to
last for many ages, since we see that the fame of our author continually
increases. And thus he exhorts men to live virtuously, that the wise may
bestow fame upon them, as he himself has now given it to Cunizza,
and will give it to Foulques." Not a word of this appears in Signor
Tamburini's pages, interesting as it is as an early expression of
confidence in the duration of Dante's fame.

A similar omission of a curious reference to Dante occurs in the comment
on the 23d verse of Canto XXVII. of the "Inferno," where Benvenuto,
speaking of the power of mental engrossment or moral affections to
overcome physical pain, says, "As I, indeed, have seen a sick man cause
the poem of Dante to be brought to him for relief from the burning pains
of fever."

Such omissions as these deprive Benvenuto's pages of the charm of
_naivete_, and of the simple expression of personal experience and
feeling with which they abound in the original, and take from them
a great part of their interest for the general reader. But there
is another class of omissions and alterations which deprives the
translation of value for the special student of the text of Dante,--a
class embracing many of Benvenuto's discussions of disputed readings and
remarks upon verbal forms. Signor Tamburini has thus succeeded in making
his book of no use as an authority, and prevented it from being referred
to by any one desirous of learning Benvenuto's judgment in any case
of difficulty. To point out in detail instances of this kind is not
necessary, after what we have already done.

The common epithets of critical justice fail in such a case as that of
this work. The facts concerning it, as they present themselves one after
another, are stronger in their condemnation of it than any words. It
would seem as if nothing further could be added to the disgrace of the
translator; but we have still one more charge to prove against him,
worse than the incompetence, the ignorance, and the dishonesty of which
we have already found him guilty. In reading the last volume of his
work, after our suspicions of its character had been aroused, it seemed
to us that we met here and there with sentences which had a familiar
tone, which at least resembled sentences we had elsewhere read. We
found, upon examination, that Signor Tamburini, under the pretence of a
translation of Benvenuto, had inserted through his pages, with a liberal
hand, considerable portions of the well-known notes of Costa, and, more
rarely, of the still later Florentine editor, the Abate Bianchi. It
occurred to us as possible that Costa and Bianchi had in these passages
themselves translated from Benvenuto, and that Signor Tamburini had
simply adopted their versions without acknowledgment, to save himself
the trouble of making a new translation. But we were soon satisfied that
his trickery had gone farther than this, and that he had inserted the
notes of these editors to fill up his own pages, without the slightest
regard to their correspondence with or disagreement from the original
text. It is impossible to discover the motive of this proceeding; for
it certainly would seem to be as easy to translate, after the manner
in which Signor Tamburini translates, as to copy the words of other
authors. Moreover, his thefts seem quite without rule or order: he takes
one note and leaves the next; he copies a part, and leaves the other
part of the same note; he sometimes quotes half a page, sometimes only a
line or two in many pages. Costa's notes on the 98th and 100th verses
of Canto XXI. of the "Paradise" are taken out without the change of a
single word, and so also his note on v. 94 of the next Canto. In this
last instance we have the means of knowing what Benvenuto wrote,
because, although the passage has not been given by Muratori, it is
found in the note by Parenti, in the Florentine edition of the "Divina
Commedia" of 1830. "Vult dicere Benedictus quod miraculosius fuit
Jordanem converti retrorsum, et Mare Rubrum aperiri per medium, quam
si Deus succurreret et provideret istis malis. Ratio est quod utrumque
praedictorum miraculorum fuit contra naturam; sed punire reos et
nocentes naturale est et usitatum, quamvis Deus punierit peccatores
AEgyptios per modum inusitatum supernaturaliter Jordanus sic nominatur
a duobus fontibus, quorum unus vocatur JOR et alius vocatur DAN: inde
JORDANUS, ut ait Hieronymus, locorum orientalium persedulus indagator.
_Volto ritrorso;_ scilicet, versus ortum suum, vel contra: _el mar
fugire;_ idest, et Mare Rubrum fugere hinc inde, quando fecit viam
populo Dei, qui transivit sicco pede: _fu qui mirabile a vedere;_ idest,
miraculosius, _chel soccorso que,_ idest, quam esset mirabile succursum
divinum hic venturum ad puniendos perversos." Now this whole passage is
omitted in Signor Tamburini's work; and in its place appears a literal
transcript from Costa's note, as follows: "Veramente fu piu mirabile
cosa vedere il Giordano volto all' indietro o fuggire il mare, quando
cosi volle Iddio, che non sarebbe vedere qui il provvedimento a quel
male, che per colpa de' traviati religiosi viene alia Chiesa di Dio."

Another instance of this complete desertion of Benvenuto, and adoption
of another's words, occurs just at the end of the same Canto, v. 150;
and the Florentine edition again gives us the original text. It is even
more inexplicable why the so-called translator should have chosen this
course here than in the preceding instance; for he has copied but a line
and a half from Costa, which is not a larceny of sufficient magnitude to
be of value to the thief.

We have noted misappropriations of this sort, beside those already
mentioned, in Cantos II. and III. of the "Purgatory," and in Cantos I.,
II., XV., XVI., XVIII., XIX., and XXIII., of the "Paradise." There are
undoubtedly others which have not attracted our attention.

We have now finished our exposure of the false pretences of these
volumes, and of the character of their author. After what has been said
of them, it seems hardly worth while to note, that, though handsome in
external appearance, they are very carelessly and inaccurately printed,
and that they are totally deficient in needed editorial illustrations.
Such few notes of his own as Signor Tamburini has inserted in the course
of the work are deficient alike in intelligence and in object.

A literary fraud of this magnitude is rarely attempted. A man must be
conscious of being supported by the forces of a corrupt ecclesiastical
literary police before venturing on a transaction of this kind. No shame
can touch the President of the "Academy of the Industrious." His book
has the triple _Imprimatur_ of Rome. It is a comment, not so much on
Dante, as on the low standard of literary honesty under a government
where the press is shackled, where true criticism is forbidden, where
the censorship exerts its power over the dead as well as the living, and
every word must be accommodated to the fancied needs of a despotism the
more exacting from the consciousness of its own decline.

It is to be hoped, that, with the new freedom of Italian letters, an
edition of the original text of Benvenuto's Comment will be issued under
competent supervision. The old Commentator, the friend of Petrarch and
Boccaccio, deserves this honor, and should have his fame protected
against the assault made upon it by his unworthy compatriot.

_Reminiscences of Scottish Life and Character_. By E.E. RAMSAY, M.A.,
LL.D., F.R. S.E., Dean of Edinburgh. From the Seventh Edinburgh Edition.
Boston: Ticknor & Fields. 12mo.

This book was not made, but grew. The foundation was a short lecture
delivered in Edinburgh. It was so popular that it was published in a
pamphlet form. The popularity of the pamphlet induced Dean Ramsay to
recall many anecdotes illustrating national peculiarities which could
not be compressed into a lyceum address. The result was that the
pamphlet became a thin volume, which grew thicker and thicker as edition
after edition was called for by the curiosity of the public. The
American reprint is from the seventh and last Edinburgh edition, and is
introduced by a genial preface, written especially for American readers.
The author is more than justified in thinking that there are numerous
persons scattered over our country, who, from ties of ancestry or
sympathy with Scotland, will enjoy a record of the quaint sayings and
eccentric acts of her past humorists,--"her original and strong-minded
old ladies,--her excellent and simple parish ministers,--her amusing
parochial half-daft idiots,--her pawky lairds,--and her old-fashioned
and now obsolete domestic servants and retainers." Indeed, the Yankee is
sufficiently allied, morally and intellectually, with the Scotchman, to
appreciate everything that illustrates the peculiarities of Scottish
humor. He has shown this by the delight he has found in those novels
of Scott's which relate exclusively to Scotland. The Englishman, and
perhaps the Frenchman, may have excelled him in the appreciation of
"Ivanhoe" and "Quentin Durward," but we doubt if even the first
has equalled him in the cozy enjoyment of the "Antiquary" and "Guy
Mannering." And Dean Ramsay's book proves how rich and deep was the
foundation in fact of the qualities which Sir Walter has immortalized
in fiction. He has arranged his "Reminiscences of Scottish Life and
Character" under five heads, relating respectively to the religious
feelings and observances, the conviviality, the domestic service, the
language and proverbs, and the peculiarities of the wit and humor of
Scotland. In New England, and wherever in any part of the country
the New-Englander resides, the volume will receive a most cordial
recognition. Dean Ramsay's qualifications for his work are plainly
implied in his evident understanding and enjoyment of the humor of
Scottish character. He writes about that which he feels and knows; and,
without any exercise of analysis and generalization, he subtly conveys
to the reader the inmost spirit of the national life he undertakes to
illustrate by narrative, anecdote, and comment. The finest critical and
artistic skill would be inadequate to insinuate into the mind so
keen and vivid a perception of Scottish characteristics as escape
unconsciously from the simple statements of this true Scotchman, who is
in hearty sympathy with his countrymen.

_The Pulpit of the American Revolution: or, The Political Sermons of
the Period of_ 1776. With a Historical Introduction, Notes, and
Illustrations. By JOHN WINGATE THORNTON, A.M. Boston: Gould & Lincoln.

This is a volume worthy a place in every American library, public or
private. It consists of nine discourses by the same number of patriotic
clergymen of the Revolution. Mr. Thornton, the editor, has supplied an
historical introduction, full of curious and interesting matter, and has
also given a special preface to each sermon, with notes explaining all
those allusions in the text which might puzzle an ordinary reader of the
present day. His annotations have not only the value which comes from
patient research, but the charm which proceeds from loving partisanship.
He transports himself into the times about which he writes, and
almost seems to have listened to the sermons he now comes forward to
illustrate. The volume contains Dr. Mayhew's sermon on "Unlimited
Submission," Dr. Chauncy's on the "Repeal of the Stamp Act," Rev. Mr.
Cooke's Election Sermon on the "True Principles of Civil Government,"
Rev. Mr. Gordon's "Thanksgiving Sermon in 1774," and the discourses,
celebrated in their day, of Langdon, Stiles, West, Payson, and Howard.
Among these, the first rank is doubtless due to Dr. Mayhew's remarkable
discourse at the West Church on the 30th of January, 1750. The topics
relating to "non-resistance to the higher powers," which Macaulay treats
with such wealth of statement, argument, and illustration, in his
"History of England," are in this sermon discussed with equal
earnestness, energy, brilliancy, fulness, and independence of thought.
If all political sermons were characterized by the rare mental and moral
qualities which distinguish Jonathan Mayhew's, there can be little doubt
that our politicians and statesmen would oppose the intrusion of parsons
into affairs of state on the principle of self-preservation, and not on
any arrogant pretension of superior sagacity, knowledge, and ability.
In the power to inform the people of their rights and teach them their
duties, we would be willing to pit one Mayhew against a score of
Cushings and Rhetts, of Slidells and Yanceys. The fact that Mayhew's
large and noble soul glowed with the inspiration of a quick moral and
religious, as well as common, sense, would not, in our humble opinion,
at all detract from his practical efficiency.

_Works of Charles Dickens Household Edition_. Illustrated from Drawings
by F.O.C. Darley and John Gilbert. The Pickwick Papers. New York: W.A.
Townsend & Co. 4 vols. 12mo.

We have long needed a handsome American edition of the works of the most
popular English novelist of the time, and here we have the first volumes
of one which is superior, in type, paper, illustrations, and general
taste of mechanical execution, to the best English editions. It is to
be published at the rate of two volumes a month until completed, and in
respect both to cheapness and elegance is worthy of the most extensive
circulation. Such an enterprise very properly commences with "The
Pickwick Papers," the work in which the hilarity, humor, and tenderness
of the author's humane and beautiful genius first attracted general
regard; and it is to be followed by equally fine editions of the
romances which succeeded, and, as some think, eclipsed it in merit and
popularity. We most cordially wish success to an undertaking which
promises to substitute the finest workmanship of the Riverside Press for
the bad type and dingy paper of the common editions, and hope that the
publishers will see the propriety of adequately remunerating the author.

It is pleasant to note that years and hard work have not dimmed the
brightness or impaired the strength of Dickens's mind. The freshness,
vigor, and affluence of his genius are not more evident in the "Old
Curiosity Shop" than in "Great Expectations," the novel he is now
publishing, in weekly parts, in "All the Year Round." Common as is the
churlish custom of depreciating a new work of a favorite author by
petulantly exalting the worth of an old one, no fair reader of "Great
Expectations" will feel inclined to say that Dickens has written
himself out. In this novel he gives us new scenes, new incidents, new
characters, and a new purpose; and from his seemingly exhaustless fund
of genial creativeness, we may confidently look for continual additions
to the works which have already established his fame. The characters
in "Great Expectations" are original, and some of them promise to rank
among his best delineations. Pip, the hero, who, as a child, "was
brought up by hand," and who appears so far to be led by it,--thus
illustrating the pernicious effect in manhood of that mode of taking
nourishment in infancy,--is a delicious creation, quite equal to David
Copperfield. Jaggers, the peremptory lawyer, who carries into ordinary
conduct and conversation the habits of the criminal bar, and bullies and
cross-examines even his dinner and his wine,--Joe, the husband of "the
hand" by which Pip was brought up,--Wopsle, Wemmick, Orlick, the family
of the Pockets, the mysterious Miss Havisham, and the disdainful
Estella, are not repetitions, but personages that the author introduces
to his readers for the first time. The story is not sufficiently
advanced to enable us to judge of its merit, but it has evidently been
carefully meditated, and here and there the reader's curiosity is stung
by fine hints of a secret which the weaver of the plot still contrives
to keep to himself. The power of observation, satire, humor, passion,
description, and style, which the novel exhibits, gives evidence that
Dickens is putting forth in its production his whole skill and strength.



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