Page:Plutarch - Moralia, translator Holland, 1911.djvu/14

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Plutarch's Morals


pension—a pittance, rather—was awarded him by the city he had served so well both in scholastic and civic capacities; and not long afterwards, in consideration of his "learning and worthy parts," he received some monetary assistance from Magdalene College, Cambridge. It was not creditable that his own college, "the royal and religious foundation" of Trinity, apparently made no provision for her distinguished "alumnus," despite his evident claims on her liberality.

Holland was, almost to the end, an indefatigable student. His contemporaries, prone to notice such trivialities, remarked (inter alia) that he never wore spectacles; and it was commonly reported that he wrote one of his folios with a single quill pen. His eyesight must have been extraordinarily good. There is a beautiful specimen, still preserved at Coventry, of his Greek caligraphy; and Baskerville—a fine judge in such matters—borrowed this when cutting the matrices for his famous fount of Greek type.

Holland's renderings are, in their own way, unique. "He had," says one writer, "a most admirable knack in translating books … several of the most obscure being translated by him, one of which was Plutarch's Morals." Pope, in the Dunciad, mentions the fine old Tudor writer only to gibe at the "weight" (in avoirdupois) of his huge folios—a just enough criticism, it is true, but apt to mislead the unwary reader. It was an age of huge folios; most of them do but cumber the shelves in our great public libraries, where they lie, undusted and unread. But the books of Philemon Holland deserve a better fate than to be ensepulchred in the untoward company of forgotten divines. They have a fine literary flavour about them; there is a spaciousness of diction, combined with a pomp of words, in their pages which arrests and charms those of us who have grown aweary of the smartness and trim perspicacity of the Macaulayesque tradition. "Construes" his renderings certainly are not; but they are translations in the best sense of the term; that is, they "carry over" the sense of the original into an alien language, not without a considerable—perhaps undue—heightening of effects. Of the severity and self-constraint of the Latin or Greek they have little trace; grave Roman and delicate Hellene appear, in his pages, tricked in the ruffles of the Elizabethan age. Holland has indeed transmuted the form of his original, and given it alike the spaciousness and the quaintness of a later and more elaborate epoch.