The Literary Salon

A free salon wherein patrons and passers-by may view or contribute ideas on literary and generally intellectual matters. The blog will strive to maintain its commitment to wit, humour and perspicuous analysis.

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Location: Toronto, now Ottawa, Ont, Canada

Friday, September 09, 2005

Rare find alert!

Omeros on the left, and Pope the master on the right
Recently, when visiting Dr. J's lair (actual, not virtual), I was struck with envy when I noticed he has a now out of print copy of Alexander Pope's translation of the Iliad. For whatever reason, this translation is impossible to find. But, during a recent trip to Eliot's bookshop in Toronto (a very good place for used books), I found an old hardcover edition of Pope's translation! Not only is it hardcover, but it must be about a century old, and at 15 bucks CDN, a bargain.
There is no publication information inside the book, except that it was published by Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York. The original owner's signature in the book, written in beautiful cursive, is dated 1925. Also, in the bottom right corner of the inside flap, there is a sticker which reads "McAinsh and Co. Limited, 4 College St., Toronto".
As far as rare finds go, this must be at the top of my list, along with a hardcover, "Cicero Completely Parsed" dating back to 1902.
I recently read Fagles' recent translation of the Iliad, which is very readable and idiomatic and, so far as I can tell, accurate. When I get the chance I will compare it with Pope's. One thing Pope does that is so remarkable is translate according to a rigid and demanding scheme: heroic couplets. This is one reason why I admire him so much. It reminds me of Goethe's maxim, "In der Beschrankung zeigt sich erst der Meister", "it is within limits that the master reveals himself." I must credit Oscar Wilde for this quote, for it was in his "Decay of Lying" that I read it.

Speaking of hard to find poets, I've been in the market for quite some time for a copy of William Cowper's works. For whatever reason he is all but forgotten (most 18th century profs have probably never read him), but he is to me one of the great English poets. He combines, to my mind, the very best of the Augustans and the early Romantics. Eliot's had a copy of his works, a century old leatherbound edition, but the price tag was 55 CDN. Do I have any donors? :)


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