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THE LIFE OF PLUTARCH.

In 1683, appeared the first volume of a translation of Plu. tarch's Lives, executed by several hands. Among the persons en. gaged in this undertaking, Mr Malune enumerates “ Richard Duke, and Knightly Chetwood, Fellows of Trinity College, in Cambridge ; Paul Rycaut, Esq.; Thomas Creech, of Wadham Culo lege, Oxford, the translator of Horace, &c.; Edward Brown, M, D, author of Travels iu Germany, &c.; Dr Adam Littleton, author of the Latin Dictionary; John Caryl, Esq. I believe the friend of Pope; Mr Joseph Arrowsmith ; Thomas Rymer, Esq. ; Dr William Oldys ; John Evelyn, Esq.; and Mr Somers, afterwards Lord Somers, who translated the Life of Alcibiades, though his name is not prefixed to it. Beside the persons here enumerated, twenty-nine others were engaged in this work : so that the total number of the translators was forty-one. Dryden translated none of the Lives.”

Dryden was induced to honour this work, so creditable to those who had undertaken it, with a Dedication, and Life of Plutarch. The Dedication is addressed to the great Duke of Ormond, whom Dryden had celebrated, in " Absalom and Achitophel,” under the Dame of Barzillai. The reader will find some account of that nobleman, in the note upon that passage, Vol. IX. p. 294. It is doing no injustice to the other great qualities of Ormund, to say, that his generous and unwearied protection of Dryden will not be the soonest forgotten. The poet's feelings towards this noble family were expressed in the preface to the “ Fables,” lis last great work.

The publication and translation of “ Plutarch's Lives” was not completed until 1686, when the last volume appeared. The following remarkable advertisement was prefixed to the Work; which, from internal evidence, Mr Malone ascribes to our author, although bearing the name, and written in the characler, of Jacob Tonson, the publisher of the work.

“ You have here the first volume of “ Plutarch's Lives” turned from the Greek into English ; and give me leave to say, the first attempt of doing it from the originals. You may expect the re

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mainder in four more, one after another, as fast as they may conveniently be dispatched from the press. It is not my business, or pretence, to judge of a work of this quality ; neither do I take upon me to recommend it to the world, any farther than under the office of a fair and careful publisher, and in discharge of a trust deposited in my hands for the service of my country, and for a common good. I am not yet so insensible of the authority and reputation of so great a name, as not to consult the honour of the author, together with the benefit and satisfaction of the bookseller, as well as of the reader, in this undertaking. In order to which ends, I have, with all possible respect and industry, besought, solicited, and obtained, the assistance of persons equal to the enterprize, and not only critics in the tongue, but men of known fame and abilities for style and ornament; but I shall rather refer you to the learned and ingenious translators of this first part, (whose names you will find in the next page,) as a specimen of what you may promise yourself from the rest.

“ After this right done to the Greek author, I shall not need to say what profit and delight will accrue to the English reader from this version, when he shall see this illustrious piece in his own mother tongue, and the very spirit of the original transfused into the traduction ; and in one word, “ Plutarch's Worthies" made more famous, by a translation that gives a farther lustre even to Plutarch himself.

“ Now as to the bookseller's part, I must justify myself, that I have done all that to me belonged ; that is to say, I have been punctually faithful to all my commissions toward the correctness and decency of the work; and I have said to myself, that which I now say to the public,- It is impossible but a book that comes into the world with so many circumstances of dignity, usefulness, and esteem, must turn to account."

yet TO

HIS GRACE

THE

DUKE OF ORMOND, &c.

MY LORD, LUCRETIUS, endeavouring to prove from the principles of his philosophy, that the world had a casual beginning from the concourse of atoms, and that men, as well as the rest of animals, were produced from the vital heat and moisture of their mother earth, from the same principles is bound to answer this objection,—why men are not daily formed after the same manner; which he tells us, is, because the kindly warmth and procreative faculty of the ground is now worn out; the sun is a disabled lover; and the earth is past her teeming time.

Though religion has informed us better of our origin, yet it appears plainly, that not only the

bodies, but the souls of men, have decreased from the vigour of the first ages; that we are not more short of the stature and strength of those gigantic heroes, than we are of their understanding and their wit. To let pass those happy patriarchs who were striplings at fourscore, and had afterwards seven or eight hundred years before them to beget sons and daughters, and to consider man in reference only to his mind, and that no higher than the age of Socrates, how vast a difference is there betwist the productions of those souls, and these of ours ? How much better Plato, Aristotle, and the rest of the philosophers understood nature; Thucydides and Herodotus adorned history; Sophocles, Euripides, and Menander advanced poetry, than those dwarfs of wit and learning who succeeded them in after times ? That age was most famous amongst the Greeks which ended with the death of Alexander; amongst the Romans, learning seemed again to revive and flourish in the century which produced Cicero, Varro, Sallust, Livy, Lucretius, and Virgil : and after a short interval of years, wherein nature seemed to take a breathing time for a second birth, there sprung up under the Vespasians, and those excellent princes who succeeded them, a race of memorable wits, such as were the two Plinies, Tacitus, and Suetonius; and, as if Greece was emulous of the Roman learning, under the same favourable constellation was born the fainous philosopher and historian, Plutarch ; than whom antiquity has never produced a man more generally knowing, or more virtuous; and no succeeding age has equalled him.

His Lives, both in his own esteem and that of others, accounted the noblest of his works, have been long since rendered into English ; but as that

translation was only from the French, * so it suffered this double disadvantage; first, that it was but a copy of a copy, and that too but lamely taken from the Greek original; secondly, that the English language was then unpolished, and far from the perfection which it has since attained; so that the first version is not only ungrammatical and ungraceful, but in many places almost unintelligible. For which reasons, and lest so useful a piece of history should lie oppressed under the rubbish of antiquated words, some ingenious and learned gentlemen have undertaken this task; and what would have been the labour of one man's life, will, by the several endeavours of many, be accomplished in the compass of a year. How far they have succeeded in this laudable attempt, to me it belongs not to determine, who am too much a party to be a judge, But I have the honour to be commissioned from the translators of this volume to inscribe their labours and my own, with all humility, to your Grace's name and patronage; and never was any man more ambitious of an employment of which he was so little worthy. Fortune hąs at last gratified that earnest desire I have always had to shew my devotion to your Grace, though I despair of paying you my acknowledgments. And of all other opportunities, I have happened on the most favourable to myself, who, having never been able to produce any thing of my own, which could be worthy of your view, am supplied by the assistance of my friends, and honoured with the presentation of their

* Sir Thomas North's translation, published in 1579, was executed through the medium of the French translation, by Jaques Amiot.

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