Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Jowett's Plato

A.E. Housman, Notebooks, quoted by C.O. Brink, English Classical Scholarship (Cambridge: James Clarke, 1986), p. 130:
Jowett's Plato: the best translation of a Greek philosopher which has ever been executed by a person who understood neither philosophy nor Greek.
Ouch! Paul Shorey, in a review of Jowett's Plato, American Journal of Philology 13 (1892) 349-372, called the translation "substantially correct—correct, that is, within the limits set by the translator's aims and methods" (at 349), but he nevertheless filled several pages with Jowett's errors (at 364-372).

According to Lewis Campbell, "The Late Professor Jowett. Born 1817; Died 1893," Classical Review 7 (1893) 473-476 (at 475),
When one of these 'howlers'—as an irreverent pupil once called them—was pointed out to him, he would look up and say, 'It is not that I do not know these elementary things: but the effort of making the English harmonious is so great, that one's mind is insensibly drawn away from the details of the Greek.'
An excuse that Greek (or, mutatis mutandis, Latin) students might do well to memorize and quote when caught in a mistake!

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