OR, MEDITATION ON THE REVOLUTIONS OF EMPIRES
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OF THE ENGLISH EDITION PUBLISHED IN PARIS.
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.