Monday, March 12, 2018


The Saddest Pack of Rogues in the World

Alexander Pope, letter to the Earl of Burlingham (August, 1714?):
Pray, Mr. Lintot, (said I,) now you talk of translators, what is your method of managing them? "Sir," (replied he,) "those are the saddest pack of rogues in the world: in a hungry fit, they'll swear they understand all the languages in the universe. I have known one of them take down a Greek book upon my counter and cry, Ah, this is Hebrew, I must read it from the latter end. By G—d, I can never be sure in these fellows, for I neither understand Greek, Latin, French, nor Italian myself. But this is my way: I agree with them for ten shillings per sheet, with a proviso, that I will have their doings corrected by whom I please; so by one or other they are led at last to the true sense of an author; my judgement giving the negative to all my translators."

But how are you secure that those correctors may not impose upon you? "Why I get any civil gentleman (especially any Scotchman) that comes into my shop, to read the original to me in English; by this I know whether my first translator be deficient, and whether my corrector merits his money or not. I'll tell you what happened to me last month: I bargained with S* for a new version of Lucretius to publish against Tonson's; agreeing to pay the author so many shillings at his producing so many lines. He made a great progress in a very short time, and I gave it to the corrector to compare with the Latin; but he went directly to Creech's translation, and found it the same word for word, all but the first page. Now, what d'ye think I did? I arrested the translator for a cheat; nay, and I stopped the corrector's pay too, upon this proof that he had made use of Creech instead of the original!"

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