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WITH PREFACES AND NOTES
BY THE LATE
ROBERT LESLIE ELLIS
ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS OF THE PRINCIPAL LATIN PIECES
IN FIVE VOLUMES.
J. Bain; E. HODGSON; ARTHUR Hall & Co.; RICHARDSON BROTHERS;
The right of translation & rexerced
With regard to the translations which occupy the first half of this volume (as far as p. 271.), I have nothing to add to what I have said (Vol. I. p. xiv.) in my general account of the edition.
With regard to the rest, I then intended merely to submit my suggestions to the translator, leaving it to him to make such alterations as he thought desirable ; and about half of the fifth volume (which it was found convenient to print before the fourth) had been carried through on that plan, when an engagement on the Continent made it impossible for him to superintend the printing further : upon which he left his manuscript with me, to be dealt with as I thought fit. The consequence is that for the ultimate state of the whole of this volume, and the latter half of the next, I am myself responsible."
It may be well perhaps to add, that the translations are intended especially for the benefit of those who cannot read Latin. Those who can, will find the originals not only richer, stronger, and more impressive, but also (at least after a little practice) easier to follow and pleasanter to read. In Bacon's time Latin was still a living language among scholars. They used it not to show how well they could imitate the manner in which Cicero or Tacitus expressed his thoughts, but to express their own; and in Bacon's hands it became an organ of expression extremely powerful and sensitive, full of felicities and delicate effects, depending upon its own peculiar resources, and not transferable in the same form into a
language of different structure. A literal translation in English might indeed explain them, and so help an imperfect scholar to understand the original if read along with it, but would not at all convey to an Englishman the effect of the original, if read by itself. The two languages differ so widely in their capacities and essential conditions, that the turn of expression which is neatest and clearest in the one is apt to be awkward and obscure in the other, and the translator must make his choice between a close version which shall not be readable, and a readable version which shall not be close. The translations here given are meant to be read by themselves; and therefore, though I have taken pains to make them substantially accurate, and have never wittingly allowed a sentence to stand in which the meaning seemed to me to be misrepresented, I have not hesitated on the other hand to vary the form of expression whenever I have thought that the meaning could thereby be conveyed more clearly. In numberless cases indeed this has been done, I may say, on Bacon's own authority; a large part of the De Augmentis being in fact a translation from his own Advancement of Learning ; although, owing to the additions, modifications, and corrections almost everywhere introduced, it has seldom been practicable to preserve the wording of the original English unaltered for many sentences together. Alterations for the purpose of improving the style and adapting it to modern fashion have not been attempted. All alterations of this kind which I have seen have been in my opinion for the worse ; and no one who cares to read Bacon will find any difficulty in understanding his own English.
The selection of the works to be translated was made by Mr. Ellis, as including all that are necessary to give a complete view of Bacon's philosophical opinions.