1791 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Henry Boyd

Joseph Ritson to Joseph Cooper Walker, 14 May 1791; Letters of Joseph Ritson (1833) 1:185-86.



Your friend Mr. Boyd seems a very ingenious man; it is great pity his translations should be so little known in this country. I shall secure his Dante the first time it comes in my way, for in fact I never yet saw it; nor had Mr. Steevens, of whom I was enquiring after it the other day, even heard of the translator's name. Your adding that "he has finished a translation of Ariosto in the same measure," puzzles me to guess in what kind of verse he writes; as I am singular enough to think that every translator is bound to adopt the versification of his original, and of course that the species adapted to a translation of Ariosto or Boiardo is not fit for one of Dante. In pursuance of this idea I prefer Harrington or even Huggins to Hoole, and admire exceedingly the little specimen Mr. Hayley has given of a new version of Dante, in the Notes to his Essay on Epic Poetry. A translation of Boiardo is certainly much wanted, as no more than his three first cantos ever made its appearance in English, and even those are very badly done and now become extremely rare: but I am apprehensive, as Mr. Boyd is a clergyman, he will be apt to prune his authors luxuriances with too severe a hand, in order to accommodate him to the unnaturally fastidious taste of his English or Irish readers. Every writer should be allowed to say in a foreign language what he has already said in his own. But these are points which it would be better become me to submit to your superior judgment.