Oct: 15 1882
Dear Mr. Bullen
It gives me sincere pleasure to hear that you are satisfied with the few lines I wrote by way of testimonial.
I am amused to see you thought I desiderate a literal version into English of all Meleager. What I really meant was that I hoped Mr. Beeching would edit a complete Greek text, whatever he did about translations.
I feel so good a book might be made of Meleager that I am most desirous to have it well considered by Mr. Beeching. Personally, I should welcome a complete Greek text as one part of the work, [p. 2] & as a second part Mr. Beeching’s own translations with perhaps in addition a selection from earlier versions both in Latin perhaps also Itn. [Italian] & French & English. My belief is that a very choice volume could be got up in this way. And if Mr. Beeching feels capable of furnishing critical notes, the whole might make an addition to classical scholarship for polite readers which in the good old days of church preferment would soon have advanced him from a curacy to a deanery at least – if not a Bishopric!
[p. 3] but of course in these regenerate times a curate may dread too familiar contact with so naif an author as Meleager. Mr. Beeching’s name has already reached me through my nephew St. Loe Strachey, who has spoken to me of him as a writer of good verses.
If I could be of any assistance to Mr. Beeching in the matter of indicating translations of Meleager, I would gladly put my knowledge at his disposal. But I fear that I do not know more than is to be gathered from Jacobo, Wellesley’s Anthologia Polyglotta (a very valuable book), & Dübner. [p. 4] I wonder whether he has happened to read two imitations of Meleager (the one a close paraphrase, the other a variation on a tema) printed by me in my volume of verse “New & Old” pp: 67 & 60? I have generally shrunk from the task of translating Meleager (though I have done some half dozen perhaps of the epigrams) & have felt it more possible to render some thing of his manner in a paraphrastic imitation. There is, I think, a fair scope in modern literature for such rehandling of ancient themes – witness B Jonson’s use of Philostratus in “Drink to me only.” [p. 5] However, I will pull up: for I find myself writing a letter to Mr. Beeching under pretence of one to you!
Thank you for your encouragement on the topic of Elizabethan Studies & for the valuable suggestion about men like Massinger & Shirley. On that point I wholly am at one with you. If I engage in this work, I shall certainly drive at bringing their merits into relief. One advantage I shall have gained by shelving the studies I prepared so far back as 1864-6, is that I can come now with [p.6] mature & more independent judgment to the task. To the student Lamb’s influence is [illegible scrawl]. We pass our first initiation into the great mystery of Elizb. Dr. literature under Lamb’s guidance. He would be a rare adventurous youth who should stand up against so much sympathy fine critical insight & erudition mingled as there was in Lamb. But calmer years & wider studies, with all that has since been contributed by men like Swinburne, Ward & the [p. 7] antiquarian societies, by editors like yourself & Collins & the younger Hazlitt, enable a critic to stand above his subject in serener mood. Ward’s History renders, of course, a systematic treatment now superfluous. For aesthetic criticism some of the playwrights, espy Ford & Marlowe, are pretty well exhausted. My doubt is whether there is really room left for me to do any thing worth doing. I had, however, the same doubt when I look up (very casually) the Greek Poets. [p.8] The appreciation of those studies both in England & America showed me that my mode of treatment met a certain want. And perhaps I ought to have faith
Curiously enough, I never heard before of Swinburne’s & Gosse’s project. That makes considerable difference. I think if their scheme were in progress, I should shelve my own again & this time finally for ever. In such work the collaboration of two such men would be sure to produce a wall [canceled] monument of unapproachable perfection. Very
J A Symonds.||