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LESOP’S FABLES.’, Issue 7927, 7 June 1889
TO THE EDITOR.
Sir, —Here is an elegant edition of Greek fables, amounting to 300, translated by G. F. Townsend, and adorned with 114 illustrations. “The true fable ever aims at one great end and purpose—the representation of human motive, and the improvement of human conduct; and yet it so conceals its design under the disguise of fictitious characters, by clothing with speech the animals of the field, the birds of the air, the trees of the wood, or the of the forest, that the reader shall receive advice without perceiving the presence of the adviser.” It is singular that our greatest works are shrouded in mystery, and their real authors unknown, HSaop—or whoever else wrote these fables was certainly “a great teacher, a corrector of morals, a censor of vice, and a commender of virtue.” These fables wore frequently employed by the reformers of the sixteenth century “as vehicles for satire and protest against the tricks and abuses of the Roman ecclesiastics.” Luther valued them next to the Bible. Certainly Hisop was “ one of the wise moralists and great teachers of mankind.” The editor and translator labored to produce “ the spirit, thoughts, and the epigrammatic terseness of the original, the wisdom, excellency, and wonderful suitableness of which to every condition of humanity have been attested and confirmed by the experience of so many generations ; and which, in all ages, amidst the ever changing fluctuations of human opinion, are adapted alike to amuse the youug and to instruct the thoughtful, and are well fitted to teach all who study their lessons, useful for their guidance in every position of political, social, civil, or domestic life.” The editor has superintended the publication of two editions of the fables, “totally distinct and independent of each other. The first was a request to furnish new morals and applications to a definite number of fables.” The other—the present edition—contains “ a large number of additional fables,” and is, also, “a wholly new translation—a purer translation and more literal rendering of fables so justly celebrated.” As already remarked, “the life and history of /Esop is involved, like that of Homer, the most famous of the Greek poets, in much obscurity.” Probably he was born about the year 620 R 0., and was by birth a slave, like the philosophers Pluedo, Menippus, and Epictetus. _ But position, circumstance, and adventitious environments are of small account when we come to the lives of truly great men of genius. This is, really, an excellent edition of the universally-renowned fabulist of ancient Greece. In these fables we have many an excellent “ admonition, or rather reproof, veiled, either from fear of an excess of frankness, or from a love of fun and jest, beneath the fiction of an occurrence happening among beasts.” There is another edition of these fables translated by Samuel Croxall, D. D , and Sir Roger L’Estrange, with applications, morals, etc., by the Rev. G. F. Townsend and L. Valentine. It is also adorned with 110 original illustrations, in these admirable apologues “human actions, projects, thoughts, follies, and virtues are delineated under the veil and emblems of animals endowed with the faculties of speech and reason. Thus human motives are dissected, human infirmities exposed, and human conduct described in a method recommending itself to the conscience more forcibly than would the adoption of any definite reproof or any direct condemnation.” These fables are distinguished for their “ unity of purpose and simplicity of construction. The fiction of the fable is confined to only one incident, and is designed to teach and enforce some one moral, practical, or philosophic truth. All the correlative circumstances, as so many different lines converging to the same point, tend to the illustration of the one lesson inculcated by the author. The clearness, unity, perspicuity, and easy discovery of the moral intended to be taught are the universal attributes of these early fables, and prove the presence of one master-mind as their originator and constructor.”
They may, indeed, “ in their transmission to modern times, have been subjected to many interpolations, to frequent imitation, to various translations from prose to verse;” still, wo can easily discern the spirit, genius, and manner of .Esop in their construction. Fifty additional fables are added to the original number. In .E jop’s fables we discover “ profound truths, sound wisdom, and ripe experience.” He had, indeed, “for many successive generations, intended to promote, by his admirable fables, the happiness, amelioration, and instruction of mankind,”
And yet we know very little about the man himself. But, as Emerson says, the soul knows no persons—and, we may add, no dates, nor places, nor circumstances. She is only concerned with truth—tho pure truth—absolutely irrespective of persons, times, localities, and circumstances. With these two elegant editions wo can now boast of five classical English editions of ‘ .Esop’s Fables,’— l am, etc., J. G. S. Grant. Dunedin, May 30. P.S.—The learned Dr Macgregor wished that I should assign the cause of the rising generation being averse from solid reading. To explain this melancholy fact—attested by all tho booksellers—would require more time and space than can be afforded. But how comes it that some young colonists figure to great advantage at Home ? These only carry honors in a single department—medicine ; these honors ranging only from the 21st till the 74th degree ! A long way from tho top ! This is simply professional apprenticeship to a lucrative trade. But point out to us young men bearing off palms of victory in purely academical branches of learning—in literature, philosophy, theology, etc. Until this be done we should discontinue our blowing of trumpets annually. Here is the matter as it really stands in a nutshell,—J.G.S.G.
LESOP’S FABLES.’, Issue 7927, 7 June 1889
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