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Fables of La Fontaine — a New Edition, with Notes   By: (1621-1695)

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Translated From The French

By Elizur Wright.

A New Edition, With Notes

By J. W. M. Gibbs.



To The Present Edition,

With Some Account Of The Translator.

The first edition of this translation of La Fontaine's Fables appeared in Boston, U.S., in 1841. It achieved a considerable success, and six editions were printed in three years. Since then it has been allowed to pass out of print, except in the shape of a small type edition produced in London immediately after the first publication in Boston, and the present publishers have thought that a reprint in a readable yet popular form would be generally acceptable.

The translator has remarked, in the "Advertisement" to his original edition (which follows these pages), on the singular neglect of La Fontaine by English translators up to the time of his own work. Forty years have elapsed since those remarks were penned, yet translations into English of the complete Fables of the chief among modern fabulists are almost as few in number as they were then. Mr. George Ticknor (the author of the "History of Spanish Literature," &c.), in praising Mr. Wright's translation when it first appeared, said La Fontaine's was "a book till now untranslated;" and since Mr. Wright so happily accomplished his self imposed task, there has been but one other complete translation, viz., that of the late Mr. Walter Thornbury. This latter, however, seems to have been undertaken chiefly with a view to supplying the necessary accompaniment to the English issue of M. Doré's well known designs for the Fables (first published as illustrations to a Paris edition), and existing as it does only in the large quarto form given to those illustrations, it cannot make any claim to be a handy volume edition. Mr. Wright's translation, however, still holds its place as the best English version, and the present reprint, besides having undergone careful revision, embodies the corrections (but not the expurgations) of the sixth edition, which differed from those preceding it. The notes too, have, for the most part, been added by the reviser.

Some account of the translator, who is still one of the living notables of his nation, may not be out of place here. Elizur Wright, junior, is the son of Elizur Wright, who published some papers in mathematics, but was principally engaged in agricultural pursuits at Canaan, Litchfield Co., Connecticut, U.S. The younger Elizur Wright was born at Canaan in 1804. He graduated at Yale College in 1826, and afterwards taught in a school at Groton. In 1829, he became Professor of Mathematics in Hudson College, from which post he went to New York in 1833, on being appointed secretary to the American Anti Slavery Society. In 1838 he removed to the literary centre of the United States, Boston, where he edited several papers successively, and where he published his "La Fontaine;" which thus, whilst, it still remains his most considerable work, was also one of his earliest. How he was led to undertake it, he has himself narrated in the advertisement to his first edition. But previously to 1841, the date of the first publication of the complete "Fables," he tried the effect of a partial publication. In 1839 he published, anonymously, a little 12mo volume, "La Fontaine; A Present for the Young." This, as appears from the title, was a book for children, and though the substance of these few (and simpler) fables may be traced in the later and complete edition, the latter shows a considerable improvement upon the work of his "'prentice hand." The complete work was published, as we have said, in 1841. It appeared in an expensive and sumptuous form, and was adorned with the French artist Grandville's illustrations which had first appeared only two years previously in the Paris edition of La Fontaine's Fables, published by Fournier Ainé. The book was well received both in America and England, and four other editions were speedily called for... Continue reading book >>

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