The Golden Ass of Apuleius. A review of The Golden Ass Apuleius . . . Trans. W. Adlington. With an Essay by Charles Whibley
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[ 485 The Golden Ass of Apuleius A review of The Golden Ass of Apuleius, Being the Metamorphoses of Lucius Apuleius. An English Translation by W. Adlington [1566]: Revised 1915-1927. With an Essay by Charles Whibley New York: Boni & Liveright, 1927. Pp. xvii + 271. The Dial, 85 (Sept 1928) [254]-257 The publishers have made a handsome volume, with impressive end papers, well worth the price. As the Tudor Translation text is out of print, and therefore extremely expensive, we are very glad to have this text which is well printed.1 All the more because the publishers have had the good sense to reprint the admirable introduction which Mr. Charles Whibley wrote for the Tudor Translation edition which he himself edited. For the text itself, only one objection may be raised. It is “amplified from the more complete text of Thomas Taylor” on the wrapper; and it is “revised 1915-1927” on the title-page.2 I have not had the opportunity of comparing the present text with that of the Tudor Translations or any other; but in this volume I have looked in vain for any explanation of the “amplifications” mentioned, or for anyexplanationoftherevisions1915-1927,orforanyindicationoftheauthority which made these revisions. One would like to know the nature and extent of these revisions. For, as Mr. Whibley has amply proved in his introduction , Adlington – an imperfect Latinist but a master of Tudor prose – has taken such liberties with his text that any “revision” in the direction of the Loeb Classics could only denature the Tudor prose.3 Did the revisor have an eye upon the Watch and Ward Society?4 The book cannot pretend to be a “scholarly” edition; but it is a handsome edition, and will do well if it brings Apuleius and Adlington to the notice of persons who never heard of them before.5 No one is at all so well qualified to write of certain late Latin and Greek writers – Apuleius, Petronius, Lucian, and Herondas for example – as Mr. Whibley; and no one has written of them so well.6 Mr. Whibley is a scholar, a critic, and a man of the world; and one must be all of these to write well of these authors. Perhaps one should be a bit of a mystic also; but that is asking too much; for the slightest taint of mysticism would have removed 1928 486 ] the bloom of Mr. Whibley’s most delightful qualities. It is difficult, with Mr. Whibley’s essay before us, to find anything new or important to say about either Adlington or Apuleius. His appreciation of both is final. His recognition of that peculiar union of realism and fantasy, in Apuleius, is as near the bull’s-eye as any one has hit. He makes one statement, however, which I think needs qualification: he says, of Adlington and Apuleius, that “Primitive and Decadent approach art in the same temper” [8].7 Now there is a sense in which these words are true: but to appreciate their truth, and the limitations of the truth, one needs to know both Primitive and Decadent as well as Mr. Whibley knows them. There is certainly a point at which they touch, but many points at which they do not touch. In the realism, the “gusto,” and in the almost ecstatic debauch of words, the late Latin (much more than the late Greek) and the Tudor mind meet. In both is an odd combination of coarseness and materialism with unchecked spirituality – or, often, on a lower plane, superstition. But before and behind them the history is very different. It is true that the Tudor and Jacobean Translations are the best translations in English. What is not so evident is that their merits differ not only in degree but in kind, according to the work translated as well as according to the accomplishment of the translator . You cannot say the same things about Adlington as about North, about Florio as about Sandys, any more than you can say the same things about Plutarch, Ovid, Montaigne, and Apuleius.8 And in the case of Adlington, we must take account, not only that Adlington was an Elizabethan, not only that he was a poor Latin scholar, dependent, like some other Tudor Translators, upon French translations; but we must take account also of the points at which late Latin and Elizabethan did not meet, as well as of those where they did. Hence there is an important aspect of Apuleius which, I...