Look again at Google Books; you will find more than you did last time

On this hot summer’s day, I was idly searching in Google books for “library of the fathers” review “cyril of alexandria”, as I have done before in the hope of finding the review which caused Phillip Pusey to abandon work on the translation of the Commentary on John after only publishing one volume.

To my surprise, this time there was far more material.  We tend to forget that Google books is not a static collection, but is being continually enriched with more books and journals.  And although I have not yet found the article in question, I did find several reviews of Phillip Pusey’s work.  The Church Quarterly Review 23, p.32 contains a review of the second volume, published posthumously, which explains how Pusey tended to translate:

THE first-named of these volumes, which will apparently close the series inaugurated in 1838 under the name of ‘The Library of the Fathers,’ enjoys the advantage of a preface by Dr. Liddon, explaining the circumstances which have caused its appearance. In 1874 Mr. P. E. Pusey published the first volume of a translation of this Commentary, which, extending to S. John ix. 1, ‘was reviewed,’ we are told, ‘by an English critic in terms which rendered its humble and too self-distrusting author unwilling to resume it.’ We fear that these words may produce an impression which would hardly do justice to the case; the reader might infer that the critic was captious and inequitable. Now, we never met with the review in question ; but we are constrained to say, as we said on a former occasion (Church Quarterly Review, xv. 287), when reviewing another volume of Mr. Pusey’s translations from S. Cyril, that ‘ translation was not his forte’, and that when he attempted it, he seldom rose above the baldest ‘ construing,” very often so strangely worded as to associate his author’s name with mere grotesqueness. The fact is undeniable, however we may account for it; our own supposition is, that Mr. Pusey was debarred from success in this line by the very narrow range of literary interest to which he perforce restricted himself, when ‘ in his uniform filial love,’ in obedience to his father’s wish, he ‘ took as the central work of his life to make the text of S. Cyril’s works as exact as it could be made.”

The dreadful English of the first volume is indeed fully as bad as this gentle description suggests.


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