N presenting to the reader the Second Volume [Matt X to XXI] of this Translation of the great work of Cornelius à Lapide, I desire to mention that it has not been within my purpose to give an equivalent for every word of the original. This ought to have been stated at the commencement of the first volume, and I greatly regret the omission.
The stern exigencies of publication have compelled me to compress the translation of the Commentary upon the Gospels within five octavo volumes, when a reproduction of the Latin original, verbatim et literatim, would have probably necessitated seven.
The matter standing thus, I have had to exercise my own judgment as to the character of the necessary omissions and compression. I am perfectly aware that in omitting or compressing anything at all, I expose myself to the full fury of the blasts of unkind, bitter, or unscrupulous criticism; though criticism of this kind has, I am thankful to say, been confined to a single print.
I have no fault whatever to find with the criticism of the R. Catholic Tablet. It was dictated by a thoroughly honest and commendable, but certainly mistaken fear, that I had made omissions for controversial purposes. Of this, I hope I am incapable.
With regard to the other adverse criticism to which I have alluded, I am sorry that I cannot regard it as either just or righteous. One reason is this; the reviewer in question concludes his remarks by saying—“Those who are familiar with Cornelius’ work are aware of the terseness and pungency of the author’s style. Whether it would be possible to give this in English we cannot say, but the present translators do not appear to have even attempted the task, either in their literal rendering, or in their paraphrased passages, so that much of the sententiousness of the original has evaporated.”
It would be almost impossible to single out from the whole range of the history of criticism a more telling example of its frequent utter worthlessness and disregard of a strict adherence to truth. In the first place, with regard to Cornelius himself, those who are best acquainted with him—his greatest lovers and admirers—are aware that if there is one thing more than another which they are disposed to regret, it is his great prolixity, and the inordinate length of his sentences.
Secondly, if the hostile reviewer had examined my translation solely for the purposes of an honest criticism, he could not have helped becoming aware of the fact that there is scarcely a page in which I have not broken up what is a single sentence in the Latin into two, three, and sometimes even more sentences in the English.
Lastly, I need not tell scholars that it would be far more easy and pleasant to myself to translate literally, without any omission whatever, than to have continually to be, as it were, upon the stretch to omit or compress what must be omitted, when very often all seems valuable. I can truly say I have often spent as much time in deliberating what to omit, or how to compress a passage, as would have sufficed to have written a translation of it in full twice over.
About two-thirds of the twenty-first chapter of S. Matthew, the last in this second volume, have been translated without any omission, or compression whatever. A note is appended to the place where this unabridged translation begins. This will enable any one who cares to do so, to compare the abridged portion with the unabridged, and both with the original.
T. W. M.