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Full Online Book HomeEssaysAmong My Books - First Series - Footnotes 119 - 166
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Among My Books - First Series - Footnotes 119 - 166 Post by :Moriones Category :Essays Author :James Russell Lowell Date :April 2012 Read :3659

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Among My Books - First Series - Footnotes 119 - 166

Footnotes 119 - 166

(119) As where Ben Jonson is able to say,--

"Man may securely sin, but safely never."

(120) "Vulgarem locutionem anpellamus cam qua infantes adsuefiunt ab adsistentibus cum primitus distinguere voces incipiunt: vel, quod brevius dici potest, vulgarem locutionem asserimus _quam sine omni regula, nutricem imitantes accepimus_." Dantes, _de Vulg. Eloquio_, Lib I. cap. i.

(121) Gray, himself a painful corrector, told Nicholls that "nothing was done so well as at the first concoction,"--adding, as a reason, "We think in words." Ben Jonson said, it was a pity Shakespeare had not blotted more, for that he sometimes wrote nonsense,--and cited in proof of it the verse,

"Caesar did never wrong but with just cause."

The last four words do not appear in the passage as it now stands, and Professor Craik suggests that they were stricken out in consequence of Jonson's criticism. This is very probable; but we suspect that the pen that blotted them was in the hand of Master Heminge or his colleague. The moral confusion in the idea was surely admirably characteristic of the general who had just accomplished a successful _coup d'etat_, the condemnation of which he would fancy that he read in the face of every honest man he met, and which he would therefore be forever indirectly palliating.

(122) We use the word _Latin here to express words derived either mediately or immediately from that language.

(123) The prose of Chaucer (1390) and of Sir Thomas Malory (translating from the French, 1470) is less Latinized than that of Bacon, Browne, Taylor, or Milton. The glossary to Spenser's _Shepherd's Calendar (1679) explains words of Teutonic and Romanic root in about equal proportions. The parallel but independent development of Scotch is not to be forgotten.

(124) I believe that for the last two centuries the Latin radicals of English have been more familiar and homelike to those who use them than the Teutonic. Even so accomplished a person as Professor Crail, in his _English of Shakespeare_, derives _head_, through the German _haupt_, from the Latin _caput_! I trust that its genealogy is nobler, and that it is of kin with _coelum, tueri_, rather than with the Greek (kephalae), if Suidas be right in tracing the origin of that to a word meaning _vacuity_. Mr. Craik suggests, also, that _quick and _wicked may be etymologically identical, _because he fancies a relationship between _busy and the German _boese_, though _wicked is evidently the participial form of A. S. _wacan_, (German _weichen_,) _to bend, to yield_, meaning _one who has given way to temptation_, while _quick seems as clearly related to _wegan_, meaning _to move_, a different word, even if radically the same. In the "London Literary Gazette" for November 13,1858, I find an extract from Miss Millington's "Heraldry in History, Poetry, and Romance," in which, speaking of the motto of the Prince of Wales,--_De par Houmaut ich diene_,--she says; "The precise meaning of the former word (_Houmout_) has not, I think, been ascertained." The word is plainly the German _Hochmuth_, and the whole would read, _De par (Aus) Hochmuth ich diene_,--"Out of magnanimity I serve." So entirely lost is the Saxon meaning of the word _knave_, (A. S. _cnava_, German _knabe_,) that the name _navvie_, assumed by railway-laborers, has been transmogrified into _navigator_. I believe that more people could tell why the month of July was so called than could explain the origin of the names for our days of the week, and that it is oftener the Saxon than the French words in Chaucer that puzzle the modern reader.

(125) _De Vulgari Eloquio_, Lib. II. cap. i. _ad finem_. I quote this treatise as Dante's, because the thoughts seem manifestly his; though I believe that in its present form it is an abridgment by some transcriber, who sometimes copies textually, and sometimes substitutes his own language for that of the original.

(126) Vol. III. p. 348, _note_. He grounds his belief, not on the misprinting of words, but on the misplacing of whole paragraphs. We were struck with the same thing in the original edition of Chapman's "Biron's Conspiracy and Tragedy." And yet, in comparing two copies of this edition, I have found corrections which only the author could have made. One of the misprints which Mr. Spedding notices affords both a hint and a warning to the conjectural emendator. In the edition of "The Advancement of Learning" printed in 1605 occurs the word _dusinesse_. In a later edition this was conjecturally changed to _business_; but the occurrence of _vertigine in the Latin translation enables Mr. Spedding to print rightly, _dizziness_.

(127) "At first sight, Shakespeare and his contemporary dramatists seem to write in styles much alike; nothing so easy as to fall into that of Massinger and the others; whilst no one has ever yet produced one scene conceived and expressed in the Shakespearian idiom. I suppose it is because Shakespeare is universal, and, in fact, has no _manner_."--_Coleridge's Tabletalk_, 214.

(128) Pheidias said of one of his pupils that he had an inspired thumb, because the modelling-clay yielded to its careless sweep a grace of curve which it refused to the utmost pains of others.

(129) The best instance I remember is in the _Frogs_, where Bacchus pleads his inexperience at the oar, and says he is

(Greek: apeiros, athalattotos, asalaminios,)

which might be rendered,

Unskilled, unsea-soned, and un-Salamised.

(130) So Euripides (copied by Theocritus, Id. xxvii.):--

(Greek: Pentheus d' opos mae penthos eisoisei domois) (_Bacchae_, 363.)

(Greek: _Esophronaesen ouk echousa sophronein_). (_Hippol_., 1037.)

So Calderon: "Y apenas llega, cuando llega a penas."

(131) I have taken the first passage in point that occurred to my memory. It may not be Shakespeare's, though probably his. The question of authorship is, I think, settled, so far as criticism can do it, in Mr. Grant White's admirable essay appended to the Second Part of Henry VI.

(132) Shakspeare und kein Ende.

(133) I do not mention Ulrici's book, for it seems to me unwieldy and dull,--zeal without knowledge.

(135) Written in December, 1864.

(136) It is curious, that, when Cromwell proposed to transfer a colony from New England to Ireland, one of the conditions insisted on in Massachusetts was that a college should be established.

(137) State Trials, II. 409. One would not reckon too closely with a man on trial for his life, but there is something pitiful in Peter's representing himself as coming back to England "out of the West Indias," in order to evade any complicity with suspected New England.

(138) Waller put this into verse:--

"Let the rich ore forthwith be melted down And the state fixed by making him a crown."

(139) The _third in Carlyle, 1654.

(140) Collections, Third Series, Vol I. p. 183.

(141) This speech may be found in the Annual Register of 1762.

(142) Collection of Voyages, &c., from the Library of the Earl of Oxford, Vol. I. p. 151.

(143) Howes writes the word symbolically.

(144) "World" here should clearly be "work."

(145) The title-page of which our learned Marsh has cited for the etymology of the word.

(146) In his Jesuits in North America.

(147) G. E. Lessing. _Sein Leben und seine Werke_. Von Adolf Stahr. Vermehrte und verbesserte Volks-Ausgabe. Dritte Auflage Berlin. 1864.

_The Same_. Translated by E. P. Evans, Ph. D., Professor, &c. in the University of Michigan. Boston: W. V. Spencer. 1866. 2 vols.

G. E. Lessing's Saemmtliche Schriften, herausgegeben von Karl Lachmann. 1853-57. 12 Baende.

(148) "If I write at all, it is not possible for me to write otherwise than just as I think and feel."--Lessing to his father, 21st December, 1767.

(149) "I am sure that Kleist would rather have taken another wound with him into his grave than have such stuff jabbered over him (_sich solch Zeug nachschwatzen lassen_)." Lessing to Gleim, 6th September 1759.

(150) Letter to Klotz, 9th June, 1766.

(151) Herr Stahr heads the fifth chapter of his Second Book, "Lessing at Wittenberg. December, 1751, to November, 1752." But we never feel quite sure of his dates. The Richier affair puts Lessing in Berlin in December, 1751, and he took his Master's degree at Wittenberg, 29th April, 1752. We are told that he finally left Wittenberg "toward the end" of that year. He himself, writing from Berlin in 1754, says that he has been absent from that city _nur ein halbes Jahr since 1748. There is only one letter for 1762, dated at Wittenberg, 9th June.

(152) "Ramler," writes Georg Forster, "ist die Ziererei, die Eigenliebe die Eitelkeit in eigener Person."

(153) Lessing to Von Murr, 25th November, 1768. The whole letter is well worth reading.

(154) A favorite phrase of his, which Egbert has preserved for us with its Saxon accent, was, _Es kommt doch nischt dabey heraus_, implying that one might do something better for a constancy than shearing twine.

(155) I find surprisingly little about Lessing in such of the contemporary correspondence of German literary men as I have read. A letter of Boie to Merck (10 April, 1775) gives us a glimpse of him. "Do you know that Lessing will probably marry Reiske's widow and come to Dresden in place of Hagedorn? The restless spirit! How he will get along with the artists, half of them, too, Italians, is to be seen.... Liffert and he have met and parted good friends. He has worn ever since on his finger the ring with the skeleton and butterfly which Liffert gave him. He is reported to be much dissatisfied with the theatrical filibustering of Goethe and Lenz, especially with the remarks on the drama in which so little respect is shown for his Aristotle, and the Leipzig folks are said to be greatly rejoiced at getting such an ally."

(156) To his brother Karl, 20th April, 1774.

(157) To the same, 20th March, 1777.

(158) To the same, 2d February, 1774.

(159) Gervinus, IV. 62.

(160) It should be considered, by those sagacious persons who think that the most marvellous intellect of which we have any record could not master so much Latin and Greek as would serve a sophomore, that Shakespeare must through conversation have possessed himself of whatever principles of art Ben Jonson and the other university men had been able to deduce from their study of the classics. That they should not have discussed these matters over their sack at the Mermaid is incredible; that Shakespeare, who left not a drop in any orange he squeezed, could not also have got all the juice out of this one, is even more so.

(161) In "Minna" and "Emilia" Lessing followed the lead of Diderot. In the Preface to the second edition of Diderot's _Theatre_, he says: "I am very conscious that my taste, without Diderot's example and teaching, would have taken quite another direction. Perhaps one more my own, yet hardly one with which my understanding would in the long run have been so well content." Diderot's choice of prose was dictated and justified by the accentual poverty of his mother-tongue, Lessing certainly revised his judgment on this point (for it was not equally applicable to German), and wrote his maturer "Nathan" in what he took for blank verse. There was much kindred between the minds of the two men. Diderot always seems to us a kind of deboshed Lessing. Lessing was also indebted to Burke, Hume, the two Wartons, and Hurd, among other English writers. Not that he borrowed anything of them but the quickening of his own thought. It should be remembered that Rousseau was seventeen, Diderot and Sterne sixteen, and Winckelmann twelve years older than Lessing. Wieland was four years younger.

(162) Goethe's appreciation of Lessing grew with his years. He writes to Lavater, 18th March, 1781: "Lessing's death has greatly depressed me. I had much pleasure in him and much hope of him." This is a little patronizing in tone. But in the last year of his life, talking with Eckermann, he naturally antedates his admiration, as reminiscence is wont to do: "You can conceive what an effect this piece (_Minna_)had upon us young people. It was, in fact, a shining meteor. It made us aware that something higher existed than anything whereof that feeble literary epoch had a notion. The first two acts are truly a masterpiece of exposition, from which one learned much and can always learn."

(163) Nothing can be droller than the occasional translation by Vischer of a sentence of Lessing into his own jargon.

(164) Eckermann, Gespraeche mit Goethe, III. 229.

(165) _Histoire des Idees Morales et Politiques en France au XVIIIme Siecle. Par M. Jules Barni, Professeur a l'Academie de Geneve, Tome II. Paris, 1867.

(166) Perhaps we should except Newton.


(The end)
James Russell Lowell's essays: Among My Books - First Series

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