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If one novelty more than another may fairly be required to show cause for its existence, it is an addition to the already formidable heap of translations from Horace.
Dining in hall, about twenty years ago, at Trinity College, Cambridge, I had the pleasure of sitting next to a fellow of the college, reputed to be one of the best classics in the University, who, in the course of conversation, mentioned that he had just received a copy of a new translation of the Odes, but that he had not yet cut the leaves, and rather shrank from doing so, because he knew that really to translate Horace was impossible. Few people are insensible to the charm lurking in the word impossible, and most will therefore readily understand how it was that, as soon as I got home, I took down Horace from its shelf, and set to work upon ‘Beatus ille.' The result I showed to that accomplished scholar and fastidious critic, the late Mr. Herman Merivale, who, though never very lavish of praise, spoke benignly enough of my first attempt to encourage me to repeat it: so, before very long I had done into English' a dozen or so of the finest Odes. Then, having for a while satisfied the sentiment, and failing to discover a Magazine-Editor good-natured enough to print any of my versions, I laid them all by, and scarcely looked at them again until last spring, when, being confined to the house for a fortnight by indisposition which disabled me from severer labour, I again betook myself to Horace, and occupied myself with him, until the dozen of Englished Odes had grown into a score. By that time, what had at first been somewhat of a task had become a pleasant pastime, and after that a day seldom passed without my translating a few lines, until at last all the Odes were finished, and also as many of the Epodes—some of which would be unpresentable in a closely-fitting English dress—as I myself greatly care for.
To describe, however, how this little volume came into being may scarcely suffice: something also must be said in excuse of its publication. Now, however great the merit of several preceding translators—and no one can appreciate more highly than I do the labours of Mr. Theodore Martin, Mr. Conington, and the late Lord Lytton—they one and all seem to me to have left much to be desired in regard to fidelity, and it is on the extent to which I may have supplied their deficiencies in that particular that I would venture to rest my claim to notice. As my title-page intimates, I have aimed at rendering the