ENGLISH translation has had two great periods of excellence: the first, generally called the Elizabethan though it extends from the reign of Henry VIII until the middle of the 17th century, in which the great works of the Classical past, and some modern books also, were introduced to a country which was from the literary point of view still backward, but whose language was at its freshest and most vigorous; and the second, which began some twenty years ago and still continues, in which English has become and remains the common cultural language of a vast section of the world. Today more copies of the "Odyssey", for example, circulate in English than in any other language, and appearance in an English translation will probably find an author a far wider public than he can hope to reach in his original tongue. Both these great periods of translation coincide the emergence of a new class of reader in Britain itself. The new rich merchant or landowner of Tudor times, lacking the Latin and French of the medieval noble and cleric, demanded from the new printing-presses the great books of the world in his own tongue; and similarly the new educated classes of our day, whose training has been in the sciences rather than in languages, look to the paper-back industry to give them readable versions of those masterpieces which gather dust on the library shelves until reintroduced in the idiom of their own day.
Every great book demands to be re-translated once in a century, to suit the change in standards and taste of new generations, which will differ radically from those of the past. The Elizabethan translations ignored their author's style and background, intent only on producing a book for their own times; the 18th century made the Classics conform