The Western Fathers: Being the Lives of Ss. Martin of Tours, Ambrose, Augustine of Hippo, Honoratus of Arles, and Germanus Auxerre

The Western Fathers: Being the Lives of Ss. Martin of Tours, Ambrose, Augustine of Hippo, Honoratus of Arles, and Germanus Auxerre

The Western Fathers: Being the Lives of Ss. Martin of Tours, Ambrose, Augustine of Hippo, Honoratus of Arles, and Germanus Auxerre

The Western Fathers: Being the Lives of Ss. Martin of Tours, Ambrose, Augustine of Hippo, Honoratus of Arles, and Germanus Auxerre

Excerpt

The biographical writings in this volume are the primary sources for the Lives of the five Western Fathers with whom they deal. If the purpose of this series were to convert the contemporary pictures of the makers of Christendom into biographies of the modern type, each of them would have to be pulled to pieces, supplemented from other sources, interpreted in the light of later knowledge and reconstructed on quite a different plan. Since in actual fact the purpose of the series is largely to enable the twentieth-century reader to see these makers of Christendom as far as possible as their contemporaries saw them, it would seem that the task of the translator is to preserve as far as possible the feeling and manner of the original, and that the task of the editor is as far as possible to put the twentieth-century reader in possession of the knowledge of the setting of the Lives which the contemporary readers had and which the writers took for granted.

As regards the translations, they have been made on the principle that, though the primary duty of the translator is to reproduce the precise meaning of the original, the mentality of the writer is only half conveyed if the quality and idiosyncrasies of his style, the peculiarities of his vocabulary and so forth are all flattened out under the steam-roller of the translator's own English. And when, as in the present case, five or six contrasting styles are involved, representing five or six quite different types of mind and literary levels, the principle gains in importance.

But it is not only the certainty of at least partial failure that dogs the footsteps of translators who follow this road. All sorts of tiresome problems arise. How far, for example, should patches of really bad Latin, such as occur in two or three of these biographies, be reproduced in really bad English? Here I have been inclined to fall back, perhaps weakly, on the good old tag that "one must draw the line somewhere"; and I have been all the more inclined to draw one because the reproduction of such . . .

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