Page:The Life of Benvenuto Cellini Vol 1.djvu/51

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INTRODUCTION

BY JOHN ADDINGTON SYMONDS

I

CEL V01 D051 decorative character T.jpg HE translator of an autobiography, especially if it be a long one like Cellini's, or like Rousseau's Confessions, enjoys very special opportunities for becoming acquainted with the mind and temper of its writer. No other method of study, however conscientious, can be compared in this particular respect with the method of translation; in no other way is it possible to get such knowledge of a man's mental and emotional habits, to judge the value of his accent and intonation so accurately, or to form by gradual and subtle processes so sympathetic a conception of his nature. The translator is obliged to live for weeks and months in close companionship with his author. He must bend his own individuality to the task of expressing what is characteristic in that of another. He tastes and analyses every turn of phrase in order to discover its exact significance. He taxes the resources of his own language, so far as these may be at his command, to reproduce the most evasive no less than the most salient expressions of the text before him. In the case even of a poem or a dissertation, he ought, upon this method, to arrive at more precise conclusions than the student who has only been a reader. But when the text is a self-revelation, when it is a minute and voluminous autobiography, he will have done little

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