The Faults of Translation, and the Dangers of Italy

J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship Vol. II (Roger Ascham)

“Ascham’s definition of Plato’s εὐφυής, founded mainly on a passage of Plutarch’s Moralia, is, in a certain sense, the source of the Euphues of John Lyly (1579 f), but there is a vast difference between the plain and strong style of Ascham, and the elaborately antithetical and affectedly sententious manner of Lyly, who, so far from appealing to the same circle as the Scholemaster, has himself assured us that ‘Euphues had rather lye shut in a Ladyes casket, then open in a Schollers studie’ . In opposing the opinion of the bishop, who said, ‘we have no nede now of the Greeke tong, when all things be translated into Latin’, Ascham urges that ‘even the best translation is… but an evill imped wing to flie withall, or a heavie stompe leg of wood to go withall’.

While travelling abroad, he looked back on Cambridge as a place to be preferred to Louvain, and he failed to admire a Greek lecture on the Ethics at Cologne. He spent several years at Augsburg, where he frequently met Hieronymus Wolf. During nine days in Venice, he saw ‘more liberty to sin’ than he ever heard tell of in nine years in London; he knows many whom ‘all the Siren songs of Italy could never untwine from the mast of God’s word’; but he holds that, for young men, travelling in Italy is morally dangerous. Next to Greek and Latin he ‘likes and loves’ the Italian tongue, but he maintains that to read and to obey the precepts of Castiglione’s Cortegiano for one year would do a young man more good than three years spent in Italy.”

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