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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

I. Dryden

§ 29. Various Later Work in Verse and Prose: Miscellanies

In the third and fourth Miscellanies (1693 and 1694) appeared Dryden’s version of book I, and of certain other portions, of the Metamorphoses, with the parting of Hector and Andromache from the Iliad as well as a translation of the third Georgic. In 1694, the idea of a translation of the whole of Vergil seems to have suggested itself to Dryden; and the completed work was brought out by subscription in 1697. The enterprise and its success made much talk in the world of letters, and, from still remote Hanover, Leibniz commented on the prize of £1000—Pope was told that it was £1200—which has fallen to the fortunate “Mr. Dryden’s” lot. But, though Dryden, without pushing his interests unduly, was not forgetful of them, he did himself honour by steadily refusing to dedicate his magnum opus to the king, to whom he had declined to swear allegiance. The actual dedication of the Aeneis to Normanby (Mulgrave) is one of Dryden’s longest, but not one of his most interesting, efforts of the sort.

The long-lived favour shown by the English reading public to translations from the classics was largely due to the fact that the intellectual education of boys belonging to the higher classes was still largely carried on by exercising them in translation from the classics into English prose or verse; Dryden himself, it will be remembered, had been trained in this way at Westminster. This practice must have encouraged freedom of rendering as well as elegance of composition in trnaslation; and Dryden, possessed of a genius singularly open to suggestion and facile in execution, was of all translators most certain to excel in the art thus conceived. From the point of view of exact scholarship, nothing can be said in favour of a method which does not show any reverence for the text, and very little for the style, of the original author. But Dryden’s contemporaries were perfectly willing that the glorious rush of his poetic style should dominate the Vergil of the Georgics and the Vergil of the Aeneid alike, as it had the Roman satirists before them; and the breadth and boldness of some of the finest Vergilian passages lent themselves readily to reproduction by the English poet, although others remained, whose majesty and depth of sentiment he could not infuse into his couplets.