« PreviousContinue »
than the results. But as regards the greater majority of the quotations, the original has been consulted, the words verified, and author, work, and passage noted and particularised.
Natural and essential as one would imagine such details to be to any collection of quotations, it does not appear to have entered into the plan of any previous compilers, so that the idea has almost the merit of originality. . Taking the various works of the kind that have appeared since Mr Macdonnel's Dictionary of 1796, I have not found any editor deigning to furnish his book with these necessary particulars, which assuredly constitute its chief value as an authoritative book of reference. Each compiler follows in the track of his predecessors in the field, and, for the most part, becomes only the too faithful copyist of his predecessors' inaccuracies.
As a result, we have a work which cannot be relied on. Two chief uncertainties, at least, will attach themselves to careless quotings of this description. In the first place, it is doubtful whether the passage be really the author's to whom it is ascribed; and next, it is almost even chances that the words given are not the exact words of the original. Such a sentence may be in Cicero, but it may also be in Quintilian ; such a line may be Corneille's, but there is nothing to show that it was not written by Scudéry. And all this, because pains have not been taken to go to the author and verify the passage. Not that the labour involved in such an investigation is small, far from it. Oh! the tediousness of hunting for a quotation from Statius through nineteen books of Sylvæ, Thebaid, and Achilleid! Or to be sent to Lucan in search of a line, which, one ought to have known, is not Lucan, but Lucretius ! One is rewarded in a sort of way, and perhaps as much by despoiling the alleged author of what is not his, as by discovering its legitimate parentage.3
But the error of author's name is slight and venial compared with the more serious fault of altering the words of the text. It may seem a small matter to substitute putat for Cicero's existimat, to alter Sallust's priusquam to antequam, or to write Uhr where Schiller wrote Stunde ; but in reality the change is not unimportant. Besides the blot of inaccuracy, the passage suffers in a literary and artistic aspect, and when it is restored to its real shape it is seen how the right words fit into their right places like the pieces of a mosaic.
1 This applies, of course, only to English publications. In the Geflügelte Wörte of George Büchmann, and in Ed. Fournier's L'Esprit des autres, every pain has been taken to trace quotations to their original source, and no one can be more severe than M. Fournier on loose and inaccurate citation,
I take this oppor: tunity to state my indebtedness to both these writers, not only for many new and valuable quotations, but for quotations racontées, i.e., given with the curious and amusing particulars which in many instances attach to them.
2 Expertus disces quam gravis iste labor.–Forcellini, Dict. Lat. Præf.
3 Second rate and post-Augustan authors are by no means to be despised as far as quotations go. What could be better, e.g., than Statius (Theb. 2, 489), O coeca nocentum consilia! O semper timidum scelus/ or the Grave pondus illum magna nobilitas premit of Seneca (Troad. 491) ?
Of other and more deliberate misrepresentations of classic authors it is hard to speak with patience. When a well-known line of Juvenal, or a beautiful passage in the Georgics, is “slightly altered” to suit the taste of the compiler, one is inclined to feel something more than amusement. Nothing is gained by the change, neither in the way of beauty, and, still less, in truth, and this, it must be felt, is the principle that should guide any one attempting a compilation of the kind—exactness, accuracy, truth. He is not called upon for any originality, save the original words of the author he quotes." He must give his author's own words, and give them in their proper order. He must be observant of number and gender, mood and tense. If the quotation be in the form of a dependent sentence in the original, so must he leave it, and not think to exchange infinitive for indicative, or third person for first, in order to suit the exigencies of his readers, or put the saying into more quotable and epigrammatic shape. The quotation may not look so sprightly, perhaps, but it has the unique and priceless quality of being correct.
Besides this, it is desirable that the quotation be accompanied by its context wbere it does not run to undue length, and that if any intermediate portion of it be omitted—a perfectly legitimate proceeding-the omission be indicated in the usual way. It may seem unnecessary to add that the author should be quoted in his own tongue; but, from the unfamiliarity of the Greek language, it is not uncommon to have a passage from a Greek writer given in a Latin rendering, which seems hardly permissible in a book of original quotation. If Cicero has Latinised some lines of Euripides, or Ausonius translated the sayings of the Seven Sages, I conceive it allowable to make use of their versions ; but it is impossible to represent Lucian, Plutarch, or Aristotle
1 In point of fact, accurate quotation is by no means a common attainment even in the case of the most familiar passages. And the more familiar the passage, the more commonly is it, in many cases, misquoted. Inaccuracies of this kind are repeated and become stereotyped. The backneyed sic volo, sic jubeo does not, for all its frequency, exist in any known Latin author; nor does the celebrated Haud ignara mali, which even Cardinal Newman would substitute for the original words of Virgil. Ask any one to go on with the well-known Facilis descensus, etc., and it is ten chances to one (and perhaps much longer odds) that the remainder of the passage will not be correctly repeated.
as Latin writers, for the simple reason that they wrote in Greek. 1
Only second to the duty of accurate quotation is the task of selecting passages fit for insertion in the collection. The first compilers proceeded, not unnaturally, in the way of accumulation rather than selection, the object being to make a decent-sized volume : anything, provided it was not English, being caught up and admitted with quasi-classical status into the volume, as though its mere insertion would in some vague way either betoken or promote learning. Hence, one was presented not only with long paragraphs in French and Latin, but with pointless scraps of Greek and Italian, Welsh, and even native Irish, which could hardly be conceived of as either likely or even possible to be quoted.
A quotation, then, to deserve the rank of such, should, first of all, be quotable. It should contain a sentiment of some acumen, well expressed, and not too long. This seems to be, more or less, the idea of the quotation proper. There are of course many loci classici which do not fall precisely under this definition, but which, for their grandeur, pathos, or truth, could not be well excluded from any collection. But the rule of “quotability” is that which I have endeavoured to keep generally in view, and, as far as regards quotations properly so called, to admit none that could not be thus employed either in literary or oratorical composition. Of these, the poetical will be seen to preponderate largely over
1 As an illustration of these and the foregoing remarks I append some instances of faulty quotation taken from various collections of the kind :-1. Simple inversion of proper order, Adolescentem verecundum esse decet for the Decet verecundum esse adolescentem of Plautus (As. 5, 1, 6). 2. Inversion of order and alteration of text, Dem Glücklichen schlägt keine Stunde for the Die Uhr schlägt keinem Glücklichen of Schiller (Piccol. 3, 3). 3. Wrong author, “ La critique est aisée et l'art est difficile, Boileau," for Destouches (Glorieux, 2, 5). 4. Change of dependent to independent form of sentence, Mens peocat, non corpus, et unde consilium abfuit, culpa abest for the Mentem peccare non corpus, et, unde consilium abfuerit, culpam abesse of Livy (1, 58, 9).. 5. Falsification of text, order, form of sentence, and author, “Voluptas est' malorum esca ; quod ea non minus homines quam hamo capiuntur pisces. Plautus,” for the “ Plato escam malorum appellat voluptatem quod ea videlicet homines capiantur, ut hamo pisces” of Cicero (Sen. 13, 44). This is a very bad instance, but the following is, if possible, even worse :
6. “Cujus conatibus obstat
Res angusta domi. Hor." First, alteration of text, cujus conatibus for the quorum virtutibus of the original ; secondly, omission of preceding words, Haud facile emergunt, upon which the rest depends; and, lastly, the reference to Horace when the line is Juvenal's. 7. Omission of part of a quotation without any note of such omission, as, e.g.,
“ Facilis descensus Averni, At revocare gradum superasque evadere ad auras,
Hic labor, hoc opus est. Virg." where a whole line is omitted between the first and second of the quotation, and the last line misquoted, not to speak of other inaccuracies. See the original, No. 1599.
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.
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.
2 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 passage from 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. 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 ! of Juvenal has a fine and pathetic sound when repeated alone, and niay be seriously said of any noble countenance as much worthy of admiration as Hannibal's appearance seemed worthy of ridicule. As 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 sim per on taking leave of a friend.