The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.
§ 10. Translation of Marteilhes Memoirs
At this point, however, emerges his first prolonged literary effort, the remarkable rendering of the Memoirs of Jean Marteilhe of Bergerac, “a Protestant condemned to the Galleys of France for his Religion,” which was published in February, 1758. This translation, perhaps because it has been sometimes confused with that issued by the Religious Tract Society, has never received the attention it deserves. It is an exceedingly free and racy version of one of the most authentic records of the miseries ensuing on the revocation of the edict of Nantes; and Goldsmith, drudge as he was supposed to be, has treated his theme sympathetically. He may, indeed, have actually seen Marteilhe in Holland; but it is more reasonable to suppose that he was attracted to the subject by the advertisement, in The Monthly Review for May, 1757, of the French original. The book is full of interest; and, as the fight of The Nightingale with the galleys, and the episode of Goujon, the young cadet of the Aubusson regiment, prove, by no means deficient in moving and romantic incident. Why, on this occasion, Goldsmith borrowed as his pseudonym the name of an old college-fellow, James Willington, it is idle to enquire. In his signed receipt, still extant, to Edward Dilly, for a third share in the volumes, they are expressly described as “my translation,” and it is useful to note that the mode of sale, as will hereafter be seen, is exactly that subsequently adopted for the sale of The Vicar of Wakefield.