Anno Urbis - The Roman Empire Online


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To offer the public a new translation of Volney's Ruins may require some apology in the view of those who are acquainted with the work only in the English version which already exists, and which has had a general circulation. But those who are conversant with the book in the author's own language, and have taken pains to compare it with that version, must have been struck with the errors with which the English performance abounds. They must have regretted the loss of many original beauties, some of which go far in composing the essential merits of the work.

The energy and dignity of the author's manner, the unaffected elevation of his style, the conciseness, perspicuity and simplicity of his diction, are everywhere suited to his subject, which is solemn, novel, luminous, affecting,--a subject perhaps the most universally interesting to the human race that has ever been presented to their contemplation. It takes the most liberal and comprehensive view of the social state of man, develops the sources of his errors in the most perspicuous and convincing manner, overturns his prejudices with the greatest delicacy and moderation, sets the wrongs he has suffered, and the rights he ought to cherish, in the clearest point of view, and lays before him the true foundation of morals--his only means of happiness.

As the work has already become a classical one, even in English, and as it must become and continue to be so regarded in all languages in which it shall be faithfully rendered, we wish it to suffer as little as possible from a change of country;--that as much of the spirit of the original be transfused and preserved as is consistent with the nature of translation.

How far we have succeeded in performing this service for the English reader we must not pretend to determine. We believe, however, that we have made an improved translation, and this without claiming any particular merit on our part, since we have had advantages which our predecessor had not. We have been aided by his labors; and, what is of still more importance, our work has been done under the inspection of the author, whose critical knowledge of both languages has given us a great facility in avoiding such errors as might arise from hurry or mistake.

Paris, November 1, 1802.

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