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PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
Some time before his death, Mons. LE BRUN was engaged in preparing a new edition of his work, with improvements and alterations. A larger number of pieces in prose has been introduced, and a great deal of the poetry has been omitted. Whilst busy with these changes, Mons. LE BRUN died, and the work came into the hands of his friend Mons. C. DAGOBERT, who added several grammatical notes, and even corrected the first three sheets. But death took him also away in the midst of his labour, and, at the request of the publisher, I revised and corrected the rest of the book, the excellence of which is proved by its large circulation, and by the necessity for a second edition.
HENRI VAN LAUN.
THE COLLEGE, CHELTENHAM,
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
The object of the present work is to point out, to those who desire to acquire facility in writing French by practice in translation, correct principles for their guidance, and afterwards to give a collection of graduated exercises for practical purposes.
Our conviction is that the best means of attaining this object would be, after some preliminary instruction, to present a collection of extracts classified in the order of the difficulties they embody. We have sought in vain for such classification in any of the collections which have hitherto been published. Some compilers divide their extracts into sections according to the different species of writing, placing under one head narratives, descriptions, letters, fables, &c., and thus offer, as if by chance, exercises in translation in which the most difficult frequently occur the first; others simply give a series of passages, or, perhaps, entire letters, taken from the same writer, forgetting that variety is not only attractive in itself, but absolutely necessary for the student, who requires an extended range of subjects and style, if his aim is to obtain a thorough mastery over all the difficult forms of idiomatic expression.
As pupils are discouraged by premature difficulties, and wearied by monotony, we have tried to devise a plan by which these two obstacles may be avoided. We have selected, from the best English writers in prose and verse, a variety of passages of undoubted literary merit; we have carefully studied their expressions, grammatical construction, and idioms, and have then
classified them gradually, so as to present the easiest first, and to proportion the difficulties to the progress of the student. We have, moreover, divided the selection into three parts, each of which offers a series of passages containing analogous difficulties ; so that the book may be used in different classes of the same establishment, as the master will be provided in each part with exercises specially adapted to the requirements of his pupils in their different stages of development and intelligence.
It would have been altogether insufficient to confine the exercises in translation to prose examples alone. It would have left à deplorable blank if we had omitted to insert a fair selection of passages in verse. To say nothing of the charm that poetry inspires, it has peculiar turns, ellipses, inversions, and forms of thought and expression which are not to be found in prose. To translate verse, we must apply other powers of the mind, and think more independently; and both mind and style cannot but profit by this exertion. At the same time, a number of the poetical passages are in some respects much more easy than many of the prose extracts. We trust, therefore, that an innovation which introduces a new branch of study, and gives also variety to the labours of the student, will meet with approbation.
We have felt bound, in the choice of passages, to select only from authors of acknowledged repute in English literature. No writers are quoted whose merit is not incontestible. From the writings of modern authors we have borrowed more especially the dialogues, a form of literature the most likely to be useful for conversation.
This, too, we can affirm with certainty, that there will not be found in the whole collection a single word which can alarm the most fastidious. We have never lost sight of the principle, that the first duty of a teacher is to develop in his pupils the sentiment of the good and the beautiful.
The selection is not intended as a course of literature, and therefore contains only such passages as are appropriate to the object of the work; yet we have endeavoured not to pass over any of the most celebrated names. Neither have we been able to follow chronological order; but to keep the minds of our pupils constantly alive to the period when these authors lived, we have given at the end of each quotation, along with the name, the date of his birth and death.
The extracts from authors are preceded by a short essay on translation This we have made as clear and elementary as possible, taking care to illustrate it by numerous examples, to which reference is made as often as occasion requires. This humble effort does not pretend to be a didactic treatise ; it is simply a summary of practical observations, in which an attempt is made to explain the most important principles of translationprinciples, for the most part, if not wholly unknown, at least little understood, and little applied in teaching.
The principles and the order of the extracts obviate, in a great measure, the necessity for those long and numerous foot-notes which abound in other works of this kind, and which, by saving the pupil the trouble of reflecting, have often an injurious rather than a beneficial result. Such notes remove the best opportunity of wrestling with the difficulties of the text, and deprive students of the real advantage to be derived from the practice of translation. Accordingly we have appended notes only where there are exceptional grammatical forms, proper names, historical and geographical explanations, or such expressions and idioms as are not to be found in the dictionary; and even these notes become less and less frequent from the commencement of the second part, and nearly cease in the third, where it is presumed the pupil may be left entirely to himself.
In conclusion, we would speak briefly of the importance which attaches to a good classification of extracts. Parents and teachers, in choosing a passage for translation into French, are often deceived by a first impression, and find that a particular page singled out by them on account of its apparent simplicity of form, or conciseness of thought, presents considerable and unexpected difficulties. This arises from the fact that many of the expressions have a relative sense, for which the ordinary dictionaries have no corresponding terms. In such a case, translation becomes more difficult even than composition, since the latter leaves the liberty of expression unfettered, while the former is restrained to the circle of notions which the author has chosen to adopt.
A book like the present is of course capable of great improvement, and cannot but gain by criticism. We shall, therefore, feel most grateful for any observations which the experience of those engaged, like ourselves, in practical education may suggest. A friendly criticism will satisfy us that our attempt is worthy of encouragement, and this will be ample reward for the thought and labour which the work has cost us.
It is hardly necessary to add that the extracts from the writings of living authors have been inserted by their permission ; still we consider it our duty to acknowledge here, with our most sincere thanks, the very obliging manner in which the Right Hon. B. Disraeli, Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, Bart., and Charles Dickens, Esq., have acceded to our request.