« PreviousContinue »
the prose citations, as being found, in practice, much more available for ordinary use. "The former generally give a finer turn to a thought than the latter, and, by couching it in few words and harmonious numbers, make it more portable to the memory." 1
The book, as will be seen by reference to the title-page, is somewhat of an encyclopædic nature, and includes many items that are not, in any sense, citations from authors, but which have been added with the object of making the volume more complete as a work of general reference. In addition, however, to these special instances there remain two classes of passages to which reasonable exception may be taken. Of the former are well-known stories and allusions, such as Cato's story of the Augurs, or the Philip drunk and Philip sober incident-passages which are never repeated, of course, in any other tongue than one's own, and are not quotations in any sense of the term, but which seem nevertheless worth preserving in the words of the author who has transmitted them, more as historical references than for any other reason. The mention of the Passion of Christ by Tacitus might be added as a further case in point.
The other exceptionable passages belong to that class of famous though, perhaps, fabulous sayings-the menus mensonges de l'antiquité that M. Fournier has expended his wrathful indignation upon-of which "The Guard dies but never surrenders," or "You carry Cæsar and his fortunes," may serve as specimens. But while acknowledging their doubtful or, even, positively mythical origin, it seemed to be as futile as it was censorious to exclude such famous mots, which, whether we like it or not, have passed for good and all into the world's repertory of historical sayings.
With regard to the usefulness of such a work as the present it is not unfrequently urged that classical or foreign quotations are falling into disuse and English taking their place. I doubt, however, whether the desire to form even a slight acquaintance with foreign literature and foreign authors was ever more decidedly pronounced than it is now. Of the classic tongues of Greece and Rome, the latter still maintains its old pre-eminence as the most frequently quoted of all languages, ancient and modern. With Greek it is somewhat different. Yet, when as recently as November 9, 1883, the Lord Mayor of London could bring into an after-dinner speech not only his Horace and his Virgil, but even quoted a passage from the "Iliad," it hardly seems as if Greek quotations had fallen altogether into abeyance.2 1 Addison, Spectator 221.
The passages quoted were Horace, Ep. 2, 1, 15-17; Virgil, A. 1, 574; Homer, II. 16, 550.
It is hardly too much to say that a fine classical quotation will give to a speech of even moderate excellence, a tone and a dignity that goes far to lift it to the level of the great speeches of a former generation. It has the old ring about it. Nor is this all. The quotation not only adorns but supports the speaker's words. He wants authority for his arguments, and he finds it in a passagefrom some writer of acknowledged standing. He will shelter himself behind this great name. The sentiment itself and its expression, the name and rank of the author who evolved both the one and the other in days gone by-these and other considerations come crowding in, in the way of precedent and confirmation. It is nothing to the point that the cases are not precisely analogous. Who can stop at such a moment to examine their strict bearing or connection, since it is the application of the passage which is everything, an art which, from the eternal du Perron with his line of Virgil downwards, has ever been considered to be a mark of genius ?
But it is not only the public speaker that I have in view in compiling these pages. There are many other needs, of varying importance, that have to be considered and catered for. There is the lady who meets with a foreign phrase in the newspaper, there is the curious hunter-up of rare quotations, there is the young and struggling scribbler who wishes to pass for a more than Macaulayan acquaintance with the whole range of European literature. I should desire to supply the critic with an apposite quotation from Horace; the journalist with a suggestive phrase, concise as Horace himself, from the French; the essayist with some powerful line from a German poet; the reviewer with some felicitous parallel that shall make the fortune of his article. In these pages the novelist should be able to find a striking verse to head his chapter, the raconteur add to his bons mots, the man of the world enrich his stock of maxims, the divine obtain some deep thought drawn from the wells of ancient learning.
Of course there are quotations and quotations, as there are ways of applying them.2 Some seem meant for declamation, 1 "Les citations d'Horace sont les grains de raisin de Corinthe dans le baba."— M. Decazes (Fournier, L'Esprit des autres, p. 386).
2 Quotations may be applied, and often very effectively applied, by giving them an inflexion quite the reverse of that intended in the original. Thus the sarcastic O qualis facies et quali digna tabella 1 of Juvenal has a fine and pathetic sound when repeated alone, and may be seriously said of any noble countenance as much worthy of admiration as Hannibal's appearance seemed worthy of ridicule. an instance of the contrary effect, take the C'est ainsi qu'en partant je vous fais mes adieux of Quinault and Lulli (Thesée 5, 6), the tragic conclusion of Medea's speech announcing the coming catastrophe on the house of Peleus, but which is generally said with a bow and a simper on taking leave of a friend."
some for colloquial use; some for the newspaper, others for private correspondence. While certain lines, again, and those not the least pointed, seem never so solemnly impressive as when they are not recited aloud, so much as murmured half inaudibly to one's self, and the taste of the finely-worded truth rolled upon the tongue as its thought is revolved in the mind.
Indeed a good quotation hardly ever comes amiss. It is a pleasing break in the thread of a speech or writing, allowing the speaker or writer to retire for an instant while another and a greater makes himself heard. And this calling-up of the deathless dead implies also a community of mind with them, which the reader will not grudge the author lest he should seem to deny it to himself.1
In literary composition a well-chosen quotation lights up the page like a fine engraving; and, in the phrase of Addison,2 "adds a supernumerary beauty to a paper, the reader often finding his imagination entertained by a hint that awakens in his memory some beautiful passage of a Classick author." And this, among other benefits, is the advantage of references. A line is met with. Whose is it? Where is it? The reference supplies the information. The volume of the author is taken down, the place found, and the line and context studied together. A man renews his youth in this way as he lingers, not perhaps without emotion, over the once familiar lines with all their varied associations in the past, and, having once dipped into the book, may be tempted to do so again.
Having noted what appear to be the chief faults in previous collections, I should like to point out what seem to be the main defects of the present volume. In the first place it has too much Latin, while, on the other hand, modern languages are not sufficiently represented. Of Portuguese, for instance, there is, as analysts would say, a "trace;" of Spanish hardly more. The Italian quotations are meagre, and the same might be said of those in Greek. The German examples might with advantage be extended, and more space devoted to terms and phrases in use amongst us from the French. It should, however, be said in justice to the book, that the relative proportions of the various languages represented are pretty much in the ratio of their actual frequency as quotations occurring in English literature. practice, Latin is quoted nearly twice as often as French; French
1 Wilkes censuring quotation as pedantry, Johnson replied, "No, sir, it is a good thing: there is a community of mind in it. Classical quotation is the parole of literary men all over the world."-Croker's Boswell, 687.
2 Spectator 221.
nearly twice as frequently as German; while the current sayings in Greek might almost be counted on the fingers of one hand. With regard also to the translations, I could have wished to see the work better turned out, particularly in the case of those poetical versions for which I am personally responsible. Distance from books, or an inability to find in other translations the rendering required, have compelled me in many cases to be my own poet. How feeble and wooden is the result no one can be more sensible than myself, but I felt that even a poor metrical translation of a metrical original was better than none. There is a point and antithesis in verse, giving flow and feeling to the thought of the author which falls exceedingly flat if left in prose.
I have to acknowledge with grateful thanks the permission kindly given by the proprietors of the copyright of the late Professor Conington's Eneid and Horace to make use of his admirable translations under certain fixed conditions. I have also to thank Mr W. F. Shaw, late Fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, for placing his translations from Catullus, Martial, Juvenal, and Persius at my service; Mr Ferdinand Sohn, of the Libreria Spithöver, Rome, and Miss S. Benett, for much assistance in the German quotations; and a host of other friends who have in various ways helped in the production of the volume, but who do not wish their names to be mentioned. F. K.
Rome, May 1886.
* CORRECTION OF INACCURACIES.
With the object of making the collection more perfect as a work of reference, I venture to appeal to all who may make use of the volume to have the kindness to point out any inaccuracies which they may detect, and particularly
1. To call attention to faulty Quotation, or Reference, or both. 2. To supply Author and Reference where a query (?) shows that one or both of these particulars are unknown. 3. To point out faulty Translation, or Application and missing of the point generally.
4. To suggest any further quotations which it is desirable to include in the collection, as also the omission of such as seem unsuitable.