In response to:
Roman Grand Guignol from the January 18, 1990 issue
To the Editors:
With reference to Sir Hugh Lloyd-Jones’s review of my translation of Lucan’s Civil War [NYR, January 18], I am grateful to him both for his generous comments on the translation and for his learned survey of the field, which will be a service to Lucan studies in general. But I would like to take up a few of the minutiae in his review. I was wrong, of course, in my spelling of Francken (influenced probably by the name’s similarity to Fraenkel), but not in the dates of the translation of Riley and Ridley. H.T. Riley’s, published in 1853, was a literal prose version in the Bohn series (see p. xxiv of my book); the one in Victorian blank verse was by Edward Ridley, and that was published in 1896 (see p. xxi). Next, the poem by Arthur Hugh Clough which I cite as an example of the successful use of the hexameter line in English is not, as Sir Hugh says, The Bothie of Tober-na-vuolich, which is indeed a slight and limited work, but Amours de Voyage, a poem of many moods and facets. Admittedly, it is not like Lucan, but it does provide a good illustration of the range and versatility of which the meter is capable. Finally, my “one big mistake” is said to be failure to put in the Latin line numbers on the left of the text. To avoid encumbering the page with figures, what I have done instead is to place the Latin line numbers in brackets against each of the descriptive headings of the sections into which I have divided the poem. Since most of these sections are under fifty lines long, this should be enough to enable Latinist readers to track down any given line. And then there is the paradox that whereas only scholars of the original language can pronounce on the quality and accuracy of a translation, translations are not made primarily for the use of such scholars.
Hugh Lloyd-Jones replies:
I am sorry I confused Riley with Ridley, though they had no business to bear such similar names. But I think Amours de Voyage hardly more suitable a model than the Bothie; and putting the numbers in brackets against the headings is no substitute for numbering the lines, especially since Mr. Widdows is too modest in thinking that serious Latinists will not wish to look up his admirable translation.