Marcus Aurelius Antoninus to himself (1912) PDF book Translated by Gerald Rendal

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus to himself Translated by Gerald Rental

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus to himself

Excerpt from the Translator's introduction:

In 1898 I published an English rendering of the Twelve Books of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus To Himself, prefacing it with an Introductory Study of Stoicism, and of the inner life and thoughts of the Emperor himself. In the present volume, intended for the reader rather than the student, I have revised and in some measure simplified the translation, and in the Introduction have set down only what seemed essential for an intelligent understanding of the Thoughts.


For fuller treatment and explanation I may refer to the larger volume. Since its publication, it has been a surprise and delight to me to realize the number and variety of those who find support and companionship in these soliloquies of the great Emperor. ' Being dead he yet speaketh,' and takes rank among the spiritual forefathers of men of different creed, and age, and clime. By far the most learned and copious edition of his works is by the hand of Thomas Gataker, who, in extreme old age, in his quiet rectory at Rotherhithe, considered this his best preparation for approaching death; and in the same spirit Cardinal Barberini dedicates his translation of the work ' To his soul, to make it redder than his purple at the sight of the virtues of this Gentile.'


The present translation was a labor of love, that occupied many vacations. Casaubon, Jeremy Collier, Graves, Long have their merits as translators, and better than any are the Foulis Press editions by James Moor and Francis Hutcheson; but in scholarship, and style they leave much to be desired, and I have spared no pains to make this version faithful, exact, and readable. THE Thoughts of Marcus Aurelius are among the surprises of literature. It was little likely that he would write a book, still less than it would command the attention of posterity and live.


 No hint suggests that their existence was known or suspected by anyone of his contemporaries, though in the philosophic circles of Rome they would have been read and quoted with avidity. The historians, who celebrate his virtues, were ignorant of them, and it is useless to surmise what accident of duty or affection preserved this relic of himself among the papers and possessions which he left behind.


Nine centuries later, when in Western Europe Greek was a forgotten tongue, a few extracts in a lexicographer show that the manuscript had made its way eastward, but so extinct was all knowledge or tradition of it in the world of learning, that when in 1529 Antonio of Guevara issued his Relax de Prindpes or Dial of Princes^ purporting to reproduce the authentic words of the Stoic Emperor, it was eagerly welcomed, translated into many tongues, and accepted by scholars of repute as a genuine transcript of his written Meditations. The true original was among the latest works unearthed by the Scholars of the Renascence; it was first edited in 1558 by W. Holzmann of Augsburg, known in the world of letters as Xylander, from a single manuscript which subsequently disappeared. From that day the Thoughts took the place in literature and won the interest and hearing, which they have never lost. The book has no place in the curriculum of schools; for its value lies in content, not form; and it makes its appeal not to the hopes and enthusiasm of youth, so much as to the graver moods which disciplines of patience and experience bring. To them, it carries its own message of imperishable benefit,' more easily accessible in translation than in the somewhat crabbed original.


And hence it comes that to-day strange as it may seem in the whole range of Greek literature no work (excepting the New Testament) has wider vogue and currency than these untutored meditations of the Imperial moralist. Their spell lies in their sincerity; in them through endurance, through isolation, and through self-restraint, soul speaks to soul; somber though they are, subdued and passionless, yet the words 'have hands and feet '; and they become, as has been said, a sort of * high-water mark of unassisted virtue.'

They are not congenial to all moods or temperaments but in their own province, they possess a singular power of dignifying duty, of shaming weakness, and of rebuking discontent. In the words of Matthew Arnold, 4 He remains the especial friend and comforter of all clear-headed and scrupulous, yet pure-hearted and upward-striving men, in those ages most especially that walk by sight, not by faith, but yet have no open vision. He cannot give such souls, perhaps, all they yearn for, but he gives them much; and what he gives them they can receive

Translator:  Gerald Rental
 Publication Date: 1912

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