THE TEN TRAGEDIES
RENDERED INTO ENGLISH PROSE
AS EQUIVALENTLY AS THE IDIOMS OF BOTH
WATSON BRADSHAW, M.D., R.N.
Formerly Staff Surgeon—1857
Χορδὰς κρέκειν οἶδεω ἀοιδός
SWAN SONNENSCHEIN & Co., Lim.
TO MY DAUGHTER FLORENCE.
L. Annæus Seneca, the author of the following Tragedies, was born 6 years A.C. and was a native of Corduba in Spain. At an early age he was distinguished by his extraordinary talents, according to Lemprière, and was taught eloquence by his father, and received lessons in philosophy from the best and most celebrated Stoics of the age. He was appointed by Agrippina, the fourth wife of Claudius, as the tutor of her son Nero, who sentenced him to destroy himself, and he is said to have remarked that such a mandate was quite in harmony with the truculent character of the man, who murdered his own mother (see Octavia). I pay no sort of heed to the various aspersions that have been levelled at the character of Seneca, as a renowned poet, for the best of men in all ages have come in for their share of popular abuse and have been made the targets for the poisoned arrows of their calumniators; for further information concerning the life of Seneca, I refer my readers to Lemprière, from whose pages the foregoing remarks have been quoted. The function which I have assumed is to do the greatest justice to his tragedies, as a Translator.
I have been so long favorably impressed with the force, beauty and artistic skill as portrayed in the Tragedies of Seneca, as to be convinced that a great loss has been sustained at the hands of many who would have fully appreciated the labors of that admirable poet, presumedly because they have never been presented to the reading world in a suitable English form.
They have been translated in various continental languages within the last century, but an English reader unacquainted with such tongues would be quite at sea in comprehending them, or of availing himself in estimating the striking beauties of that Poet. They were done in 1581 by several hands, but in very inadequate verse, as also 4 Tragedies, by Sir Edward Sherburne, in 1702, and a perusal of the latter will be an ample justification of my unmitigated objection to verse translations of any Latin or Greek author, especially if he should belong to the genus "Poet." I have done my utmost to transform these Tragedies into impressive readable English, without detracting from the original material, and as far as it is possible, when translating one language into another, owing to idiomatic difficulties. I am sanguine that they will be universally admired for their intrinsic merits, and as they have never been offered in an English form, the public, the enlightened portion too, have been kept in absolute ignorance of their dramatic pretensions. It has been a work of considerable labor, but I shall consider myself amply compensated for the same, if they are destined to afford that satisfaction to the reader, which I have every hope they will fully command at his hands, and that they will, moreover, bear reading and re-reading.
Seneca, as before stated, was appointed tutor to Nero, by Agrippina, fourth wife of Claudius Cæsar; but all the sound precepts which he had inculcated upon the mind of his pupil were entirely ignored as soon as that matricidal tyrant gained power, and he was commanded to destroy himself, on the discovery of Piso's conspiracy, and after taking poison and opening his veins to no effect, he was suffocated in a warm bath. He ranked very highly as a Poet, Moralist and Philosopher, and has bequeathed to posterity much admirable literature. His Latinity was chaste and unaffected and a reflex of his own modest and unassuming morale. Amongst the rest of his useful and enlightening productions, he has handed down the unsurpassable Tragedies, which form the subject of the present volume.
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Printed by the Motley Press, Amsterdam.