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Unsigned review of Smollett’s translation of Don Quixote

Unsigned review of Smollett’s translation of Don Quixote

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delight; but to transfuse all his spirit, his fine humour, and the beauty of his numerous

allusions, into a foreign language in these remote times too, and the nation likewise so

remote, is a task which a genius equal to that of Cervantes himself could not perform,

without the same knowledge of the country, and of the times in which this excellent

author lived: including also the most extensive acquaintance with the language, idioms,

customs, humorous expressions, provincial phrases, and proverbial sayings, of the

people for whom the translation is intended.

But as all these advantages must be considered as unattainable; as the best translation

we can look for must be expected from the hand of a person chiefly qualified by books;

we fancy a better than Dr Smollet’s, upon the whole, will not speedily appear. Jarvis’s

may, in some respects, be thought a more exact version; but in our opinion, the

doctor’s genius (notwithstanding some things that appear to be rather inaccuracies than

defects in judgment) comes nearest the great original.—With regard to those

translations from translations, published by Matteux, and others, they deserve no farther

mention; except to express our wonder, that under the burlesque veil, and farcical

disguise, in which they have enveloped the author, they have not been able totally to

divest him of his native dignity: yet, —after all, we doubt not but many readers, who

take up an English Don Quixote, merely to be diverted, will pronounce Matteux’s the best


A small specimen will shew the difference between the translation of Dr Smollet, and

of his predecessor, Mr Jarvis. We shall take from each the notable story told by Sancho,

to expose the mistaken politeness of his master, in the affair of table-precedency: those

who are possessed of this work in the original, may, perhaps, have the curiosity to

compare both with the Spanish.2

From Dr Smollet.

The duke and dutchess came to the door

to receive him. [Don Quixote] attended by

one of those grave ecclesiastics who

govern the families of noblemen; who,

being of no birth themselves, know not

how to direct those who are; who seek to

measure the grandeur of the great by the

narrowness of their own souls, and in

attempting to make their pupils

economists, convert them into

downright misers: such, I say, was the

From Mr Jarvis.

The duke and dutchess came to the halfdoor to receive him, and with them a

grave ecclesiastic: one of those who

govern great mens houses; one of those,

who, not being princes born, know not

how to instruct those that are how to

demean them-selves as such; one of those

who would have the magnificence of the

great measured by the narrowness of

their own minds; one of those who,

pretending to teach those they govern to



From Dr Smollet.

grave clergyman who came out to receive

Don Quixote, with the duke and dutchess.

After a thousand courteous compliments,

they walked on each side of him to the

table, where the duke complimented him

with the upper end; and tho’ he refused

that honour, they importuned him so

much that he was obliged to comply; the

clergyman sitting opposite to him, and

the duke and dutchess taking their places

at the sides.

Sancho, who was present at all this

ceremony, being confounded and

astonished at the honours which were

paid to his master, and perceiving the

formality and intreaties that passed

between his grace and Don Quixote, about

sitting at the head of the table intruded

himself, as usual, into the discourse,

saying, ‘With your honour’s leave, I’ll

tell you a story of what happened in our

village with respect to the upper hand in


Scarce had he pronounced these words,

when the knight began to tremble with

apprehension, that he was going to utter

some absurdity; but the ‘Squire seeing

and understanding the cause of his

master’s ‘your worship needs not be

From Mr Jarvis,

frugal, teach them to be misers. One of

this sort, I say, was the grave ecclesiastic,

who came out with the duke to receive

Don Quixote. A thousand polite

compliments passed upon the occasion;

and taking Don Quixote between them,

they went and sat down to table. The

duke offered Don Quixote the upper end,

and, tho’ he would have declined it, the

importunities of the duke prevailed upon

him to accept it. The ecclesiastic seated

himself over against him, and the duke

and dutchess on each side. Sancho was

present all the while, surprised and

astonished to see the honour those princes

did his master, and, perceiving the many

intreaties and ceremonies, which passed

between the duke and Don Quixote, to

make him sit down at the head of the

table, he said, ‘If your honours will give

me leave, I will tell you a story of a

passage that happened in our town,

concerning places.’ Scarce had Sancho

said this, when Don Quixote began to

tremble, believing, without doubt, he

was going to say some foolish thing.

Sancho observed, and understood him,

and said, ‘Be not afraid, Sir, of my

breaking loose, or of my saying any thing

that is not pat

From Dr Smollet.

afraid that I shall misbehave, or say

something that is not to the matter in

hand; for, I have not forgot the advice I

just now received from your worship,

about speaking a little, or a great deal, to

the purpose, and not to the purpose.’ ‘I

From Mr Jarvis.

to the purpose: I have not forgotten the

advice your worship gave me a little

while ago, about talking much or little,

well or ill.’ ‘I remember nothing,

Sancho,’ answered Don Quixote, ‘say what

you will, so you say it quickly.’ ‘What I


From Dr Smollet.

know nothing at all of the matter,’

answered the knight, ‘say what thou wilt,

so thou say’st it quickly.’ ‘Well then,’

replied Sancho, ‘what I am going to say is

so true, that my master, Don Quixote, here

present, would not suffer to me to tell a

lie.’ ‘As for me,’ said Don Quixote, ‘you

may lie as much as you please, without

let or molestation: but I advise you to

consider well what you are about to say.’

‘I have it so well considered, and

reconsidered, that I am as safe as he that

has the repique in hand, as will appear in

the performance.’ ‘Your graces will do

well,’ said Don Quixote, ‘to order the

servants to turn out this madman, who

will commit a thousand blunders.’ ‘By

the life of the duke!’ cried the dutchess,

‘I will not part with my good friend,

Sancho, for whom I have a very great

respect, because I know him to be a

person of wit and pleasantry.’ ‘Pleasant

may all the days of your holiness be, for

your good

From Mr Jarvis.

would say,’ quoth Sancho, ‘is very true,

and should it be otherwise, my master,

Don Quixote, who is present, will not

suffer me to lie.’ ‘Lie as much as you

will for me, Sancho,’ replied Don Quixote,

‘I will not be your hindrance; but take

heed what you are going to say.’ ‘I have

so heeded, and reheeded it,’ quoth

Sancho, ‘that all is as safe as the repiquea

in hand, as you will see by the

operation.’ ‘It will be convenient,’ said

Don Quixote, ‘that your honours order

this blockhead to be turned out of doors;

for he will be making a thousand foolish

blunders.’ ‘By the life of the duke,’

quoth the dutchess, ‘Sancho shall not stir

a jot from me: I love him much, for I

know he is mighty discreet.’ ‘Many such

years,’ quoth Sancho, ‘may your holiness

live, for the good opinion you have of

me, tho’ it is not in me: but the tale I

would tell is this.

A certain gentleman of our town, very

rich, and of a good family—for he was


From Dr Smollet.

opinion of my deserts,’ said the ’squire,

‘tho’ God knows, they are but slender

enough: however, my story is this:

There was an invitation given by a

gentleman of our town, who was both

rich and well born, as being come of the

Alamos of Medina del Campo, and married

to Donna Mencia de Quinones, daughter of

Don Alonzo de Maranon, knight of the order

of St Jago, who was drowned in the

Heradura, and occasioned a quarrel some

From Mr Jarvis.

from the Alamas of Medina del Campo, and

married Donna Mencia de Quinnones, who

was daughter of Don Alonzo de Marannon,

knight of the order of St James, who was

drowned in the Herradura’, about whom

there happened that quarrel in our town,

some years ago, in which, as I take it, my

master Don Quixote, was concerned, and

Tommy, the madcap son of Balvastro the

smith, was hurt—Pray, good master of

mine, is not all this true? Speak by your


From Dr Smollet.

years ago in our village; in which, if I am

not mistaken, my master, Don Quixote,

was concerned; but this I know, mad Tom,

the son of old Balvastro the blacksmith,

was hurt on that occasion; now, Sir

Master of mine, is not this God’s truth;

speak upon your worship’s honour, that

these noble persons may not look upon

me as a chattering liar.’ ‘Hitherto,’ said

the clergyman,’ ‘I take you to be a

chatterer rather than a liar; but I know

not what I shall take you for in the

sequel.’ Thou hast produced, so many

witnesses and tokens,’ replied the knight,

‘that I cannot but say the story looks like

truth; proceed, however, and shorten thy

tale; for thou art in the way of

lengthening it out for the space

From Mr Jarvis.

life, that these gentlemen may not take me

for some lying prating fellow.’

‘Hitherto,’ said the ecclesiastic, ‘I take

you rather for a prater than for a liar: but

henceforward I know not what I shall you

take for.’ ‘You produce so many

evidences, and so many tokens, that I

cannot but say,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘it is

likely you tell the truth; go on, and

shorten the story; for you take the way

not to have done in two days.’ ‘He shall

shorten nothing,’ quoth the dutchess,

‘and to please me, he shall tell it his own

way, tho’ he have not done in six days;

and should it take up so many, they

would be to me the most agreeable of

any I ever spent in my life.’

‘I say then, Sirs, proceeded

From Dr Smollet.

of two whole days.’ ‘He shall not shorten

it,’ said the dutchess, ‘if he consults my

entertainment; but, on the contrary, tell

it in his own way, tho’ it should not be

finished in six days; for should it hold out

so long, they will be some of the

pleasantest I ever passed.’

‘Well then, my masters,’ proceeded

Sancho, that same gentleman, whom I

know as well as I know these two hands,

for it is not above bow-shot from his

house to mine, invited a farmer, who,

tho’ not rich, was a very honest man.’

‘Dispatch, brother,’ cried the priest,

interposing, ‘for at this rate your story

will reach to the other world.’ ‘It will

hardly go half as far, an it please God,’

answered the squire, who thus

From Mr Jarvis.

Sancho, that this same gentleman, whom I

know as well as I do my right hand from

my left, (for it is not a bow-shot from my

house to his) invited a farmer, who was

poor, but honest, to dinner.’ ‘Proceed,

friend,’ said the ecclesiastic, ‘at this

period: for you are going the way with

your tale, not to stop till you come to the

other world.’ ‘I shall stop before we get

half-way thither, if it pleases God,’

answered Sancho, ‘and so I proceed. This

same farmer coming to the said

gentlemaninviter’s house,—God rest his

soul, for he is dead and gone, by the same

token it is reported he died like an angel;

for I was not by, being at that time gone a

reaping to Tembleque.’ ‘Prithee, son,’ said

the ecclesiastic, ‘come back quickly from


From Dr Smollet.

proceeded. ‘So as I was saying, the

farmer going to the house of the

gentleman-inviter, who is now dead,

God rest his soul! by the same token,

they say he died like an angel; for my

own part, I was not present at his death,

having gone a reaping to Tembleque.’ ‘As

you hope to live, son,’ cried the

ecclesiastic, ‘return quickly from

Tembleque, and finish your story, without

staying to inter the gentleman, unless you

have a mind to bury us all.’ ‘Well, to

come to the

From Mr Jarvis.

Tembleque, and, without burying the

gentleman, (unless you have a mind to

make more burials) make an end of your

tale.’ ‘The business then,’ quoth Sancho,

‘was this, that they being ready to sit

down to table—methinks I see them now

more than ever.’ The duke and dutchess

took great pleasure in seeing the

displeasure the good ecclesiastic suffered

by the length and pauses of Sancho’s tale;

but Don Quixote was quite angry and

vexed. I

From Dr Smollet.

point,’ replied Sancho, ‘when the two

came to be seated at table. Methinks I see

them now more than ever.’ The duke and

dutchess were infinitely pleased with the

disgust which the reve-rent ecclesiastic

expressed at the tedious and

circumstantial manner in which the

‘squire related his story; while Don

Quixote was almost consumed by shame

and indignation. ‘I say, moreover,’

resumed Sancho, ‘that the two, as I have

already observed, coming to sit down at

the table, the farmer obstinately refused

to take the upper end, according to the

desire of the entertainer; while the

gentleman, on the other hand, as

obstinately insisted upon his compliance,

alleging that he ought to be master in his

own house; but the farmer, who piqued

himself upon his politeness and good

breeding, still persisted in his refusal;

until the gentleman growing angry, took

him by the shoulders and thrust him into

From Mr Jarvis.

say then,’ quoth Sancho, ‘that they, both

standing, as I have said, and just ready to

sit down, the farmer disputed obstinately

with the gentleman to take the upper end

of the table, and the gentleman, with as

much posi-tiveness, pressed the farmer to

take it, saying, he ought to command in

his own house. But the countryman,

piquing himself upon his civility and good

breeding, would by no means sit down,

till the gentleman, in a fret, laying both his

hands upon the farmer’s shoulders, made

him sit down by main force; saying, Sit

thee down, chaff-threshing churl; for, let

me sit where I will, that is the upper end

to thee. This is my tale, and truly I

believe it was brought in here pretty

much to the purpose.’


From Dr Smollet.

From Mr Jarvis.

the seat, saying, “Know, Mr Chaffthresher,

that wheresoever I sit, I shall always be at

the head of the table.” Now this is my

tale, and I really believe it was brought in

pretty pat to the purpose.’

We shall here take leave of Dr Smollet’s performance, with justmentioning one small

circumstance of omission in his book, that might easily have been supplied, viz. the

want of a table of contents to the adventures of Don Quoxite; which Jarvis has given.

Without such assistance, readers may be often very much at a loss to turn to particular

parts of a work, as occasion may require.—We hope it will not be thought we intend

the mention of such a matter as this, to pass for a criticism: these are things that men of

genius, and imagination, seldom attend to; but nevertheless, indexes have their uses, and

no book, of considerable price especially, ought to be with out them.


a Alluding to the game of picquet, in which the repique may be safe against the greatest cards in


1 See Peter Anthony Motteux (1663–1718), The History of the Renown’d Don Quixote, 4 vols,


2 See Smollett’s Don Quixote (1775), 1793, 4 vols, vol. III, pp. 289ff. The passage considered

comes from part II, book II, ch. 14, ‘Which treats of manifold important subjects’.


Gotthold Lessing on a German translation of

Roderick Random


From G.E.Lessing, Sämtliche Schriften, Stuttgart, 1890, ed. Karl Lachman,

vol. V, pp. 442–3. Lessing reviews a translation of the third English

edition of Roderick Random, part I only, published in Hamburg in 1755.

It would be too generous for one to want to attribute to these adventures the same

preference which English novels have in their favour. The writer is neither a Richardson

nor a Fielding; he is an author such as one comes across in great numbers among the

Germans and the French. He admits that he chose in particular Mr Le Sage as his

paragon, whose Gil Bias will always remain a masterpiece of humorous novel-writing.

But, how far beneath him he has remained! It would certainly be a surprise if German

readers of good taste were to find as much pleasure in the school pranks, in the

anecdotes about brothels, in the brawls and the adventures on board a ship, as the

English populace, which has already gone through three editions of the book. At the

end of this section the hero is found in a precarious position, and in his despair, resolves

to die. One need not worry overmuch about this since he still wrote the second part,

which it is hoped, will soon be available in German. The translation seems to have been

done in rather a hurry.


Anonymous, ‘Remarks on Roderick Random’


From the fourth edition of The Adventures of Roderick Random, Dublin,

1755. ‘Remarks on Roderick Random in a Letter from LONDON’, pp. i–iv.

These remarks on imagination, truth, and the representation of virtue and

vice in fiction suggest the anonymous author is Smollett himself.

Dear Sir,

As I have long held all Novel and Romance to be no other than the Centaurs and

Chimeras of an extravagant Imagination; I was scarce persuaded to cast an Eye on your

darling Roderick Random: However, your Importunity at last prevailed, and favoured by

an idle Hour, conducted me through several Scenes of human Life, all delightfully

natural, interesting, and entertaining.

Where the Sentiment is founded in Truth, I am by no Means an Enemy to Fable;

which then serves as an agreeable Medium, to convey the Light of Nature to the Soul.

Through the ordinary Occurrences of Life, we seldom meet with any Thing that

affects, or surprizes; and even on these rare Occasions there are few who reflect with

Delicacy, or permit the due Impression to dwell on their Minds.

Here then the Author may agreeably interpose, and Supply what is deficient in the

Object or the Observer. He may imagine or collect a Number of choice Incidents, that

may at any Time have happened through the infinite Variety of human Affairs; these he

may connect and dispose to an easy and natural Order. He may thereupon form due

Inferences and instructive Reflections; and by uniting the whole in a few personated

Characters, may convey, to every separate Reader, the Improvement and Experience

of several Ages.

It is thus alone, that, whatever is dark or disgustful in mere Precept, acquires a

pleasing Light and Influence; Morality approaches as a Friend, that is embodied and

animated to our Senses; and we not only hear, but see and feel the Truth of Things.

This Method hath been authorized from the earliest Times, in the Example of the

famed Aesop, and a few Others: But its best Precedent and Sanction is derived from the

several Parables, divinely affecting, throughout the old and new Testament.


To compass any Thing considerable in this Way, it is not sufficient to have a Brain,

like the Mud of Nile, productive of monstrous Births, and half formed Conceptions:

Your Knightsadventurer at the Pen, are ever Knight-errant from Reason and common

Sense. A fancy that takes Judgment by the Hand, an extensive Experience of Men,

Manners and Misfortunes, a Humour native and peculiar, a clear Head, are requisite;

and above all a feeling Heart, that comprehends the full Sense of that Line of Virgil,

inexpressible by any other Language——Sunt Lachrymae Rerum et Mentem Mortalia


The Criticks, who framed Laws for the Drama and Epic Poem, derived those very

Laws from the Excellencies of the Writers who had been eminent in that Way; and it is

thus I acknowledge myself particularly indebted to your favourite Author, for this

Detail of Talents that are requisite for Fable.

We further learn from this Author, that Characters of Vice may be made the most

conducive to the Promotion of Virtue. For though Virtue is in herself absolutely amiable

and attractive, when placed in a proper Light, and remarked with due Attention; yet

Vice can assume her graces with so cunning a Mimickry, that the Detection must come

from Eyes of uncommon Discernment.

It is in this material Distinction that your Author is happy. He strips Vice of all that

served to adorn or disguise. He lifts her to the Light. He exposes her native Deformity.

He gives her Affectations to Ridicule, and her Allurements to Detestation. He places

her in Opposition to her Adversary; and, by a contrast so evident, demonstrates, that

nothing is beneficent, that nothing is desirable but Virtue.

The Heads of most Writers, in forming their Characters, teem an Offspring little

different from fortem Gyam fortemque Cloanthum,2 a Group of Figures altogether twinned,

and only distinguishable by subscribing the Name. But this Author is peculiarly skilful

at featuring his Progeny, at one Glance we know each from the other; and Bowling,

Strap, and Morgan, though of equal Integrity, are as well noted as a Courtier from an

honest Countryman.

But what is truly most admirable in this Genius, is that Variety in which he dishes up

Virtue to the Appetite. Where he once sows the Principle of Goodness in the Heart,

the Fruit is correspondent through an Infinity of different Productions. He renders it

equally fashionable under all Manners, and equally eloquent in all Dialects. Hear it from

the Mouth of his Tar! and let Philosophy listen and learn——(Says Bowling in his

greatest Distress) Life is a Voyage in which we must expect to meet with all Weathers; sometimes

it is calm, sometimes rough; a fair Gale often succeeds a Storm; the Wind does not always sit one

Way, and Despair signifies nothing; but Resolution and Skill are better than a stout Vessel: For

why? because they require no Carpenter, and grow stronger the more Labour they undergo.

I shall conclude with remarking the Master-stroak of this Author in his Character of

Strap, whom he purposely divests of every Talent and Accomplishment, to shew how

amiable Virtue is independent of all Addition. This indeed was a singular Achievement,

whereby he feelingly inculcates this greatest of Morals——That the Heart is infinitely

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