Fables of Aesop, and others: translated into English. With instructive applications: and a print before each fable online

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Online LibraryAesopFables of Aesop, and others: translated into English. With instructive applications: and a print before each fable → online text (page 1 of 20)
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O P,











Swan and Son, Printers, 76, Fleet Street, London.





You must not be surprised at my begging your
protection for this little book, when I assure you it
was principally intended for your perusal. I had of-
ten wished to see something of this kind published
by an able hand ; and, for want of that, have some-
times had axi inclination to do it myself; but never
came to any resolution on that point, till very lately ;
when at Horton, I had the pleasure to find your
Lordship, though but in your fifth year, capable of
reading any thing in the English tongue, without the
least hesitation.

These Fables, my Lord, abound in variety of in-
struction, moral and political. They furnish us with
rules for every station of life : they mark out a pro-
per behaviour for us, both in respect of ourselves and
others ; and demonstrate to us, by a kind of example,
every virtue which claims our best regards, and every
vice which we are most concerned to avoid. Consi-
dering them in this view, I could not think of any
thing more proper, to be put so early into your Lord-
ship^ hands, as well for our own sake, as that of the
public. As I wish you all the happiness which man
can enjoy, I know pf nothing more likely to procure
it, than your imbibing, in your childhood, such seeds
of reason and philosophy, as may rectify and sweeten
every part of your future life. And as you are by
birth entitled to a share in the administration of the
government, I flatter myself that your country will


feel the benefit of these lectures of morality; whew
hereafter it beholds your Lordship, steadily pursuing
those principles of honesty and benevolence, xvhich,
by such instructions in your infancy, you will be taught
to love.

1 am happy, upon .several accounts, in the oppor-
tunity I take in addressing myself to your Lordship, in
this early time of your life. Without any reflection
upon your parts, my Lord, I comfort myself with
the consideration, that you are not yet able to dis-
cern the imperfections of my performance. Nay,
when you are a little older, and your judgment i*
strong enough to discover every weakness in the fol-
lowing sheets, you will yet remember for what a
young capacity they were intended ; and whatever you
may think of the style and language, the honest pur-
pose of the whole cannot fail of your approbation.

Another advantage, my Lord, is, that when 1 tell
the world you are the most lovely and the most enga-
ging child that ever -.vas boj;n, 1 cannot be charged
with offending in point of flattery. No one ever saw
you but thought the same.

And ihis puts me in mind, that you are descended
from a race of patrons : arts and learning did not owe
more to the influence of Mecenas at Home, than they
have done to that of Montague at London. Perhaps,
young as you are, you may think it strange to find your-
self at the head of a dedication : but, my Lord, no-
body else will wonder at it. You are born to protect
and encourage all endeavours at the public good. We
cannot help telling you, that we expect it from you,
and we beg leave to put you in mind to assert your
native right.

. If it be true, that virtue may be conveyed by
blood, and communicated by example, I have all the
presumption imaginable for what I assert. My Lord,
youv Father, the Earl of Halifax, possesses every


agreeable quality in life : whether natural or acquired,
I will not pretend to determine. They are so easy
and habitual to him, one would ihink them born with
him ; but at the same time so accomplished, that we
cannot but discover they have had the advantage of a
finished education.

If I durst follow the suggestions of a heart truly
sensible of them, 1 could dwell with pleasure upon
every particular of his worth. But nobody who de-
serves applause so much, declines it more than he
does. Indeed, my Lord, his merit is so great that
we cannot do him justice in that respect, without of-
fending him.

That, upon all occasions, you may imitate the ex-
auipie he sets, and copy out his virtues, for your own
and the welfare of mankind, is the sincere wish of,

My Lord,

Your Lordship's

most obedient, and

most humble servant,


May 1,]722.


CO much has been already said concerning ^isop and
his writings, both by ancient and modern authors,
that the subject seems to be quite exhausted. The dif.
ferent conjectures, opinions, traditions, and forgeries,
which, from time to time, we have had given to us of
him, would fill a large volume; but they are, for the
raost part, so inconsistent and absurd, that it would he
but a dull amusement for the reader to be let into huch
amaze of uncertainty : since Herodotus, the most an*
cient Greek historian, did not flourish till near a hun-
dred years after JEsop.

As for his life, with which we are entertained in so
complete a manner, before most of the editions of his
Fables, it was invented by one Maximus Pianudes, a
Greek monk; and, it' we may judge of him from that
composition, just as judicious and learned a person as
the rest of his fraternity are at this day observed to be.
Sure there never were so many blunders and childish
dreams mixed up togethar, as are to be met with in the
short compass of that piece. For a monk, he might be
very good and wise, but in point of history and chro-
nology, he shows himself to be very ignorant. He brings
JEsop to Babylon, in the reign of king Lycerus, a king
of his own making ; for his name is not to be found in
any catalogue,!' om Nabonassar to Alexander the Great;
Nabonadius, most probably, reigning in Babylon about
that time. He sends him into Egypt in the days of Nec-
tanebo, v\ ho was not in being till two hundred years af-
terwards ; with some other gross mistakes of that kind,
which sufficiently shows us that this life was a work of
invention, and that the inventor was a bungling, poor
creature. He never mentions ^Esop's being at Athens ;


though Phcedrus speaks of him as one that lived the
greatest part- of his time there ; and it appears that he
had a statue erected in that city to his memory, done
by the hand of the famed Lysippus. He writes of him
as living at 6amos, and interesting himself in a public
capacity in the administration of the affairs of that place ;
yet takes not the least notion of the fable which* Aris-
totle tells us he spoke in behalf of a famous demagogue
there, when he was impeached for embezzling the pub-
lic money ; nor does he indeed give us. the least hint
of such a circumstance. An ingenious man might have
laid together all the materials of this kind that are to
be found in good old authors, and by the help of a
bright invention, connected and worked them up with,
success: >ve might have swallowed such an imposition
well enough, because we should not have known how
to contradict it: but in Planudes's case, the imposture
is doubly discovered ; first, as he has the unquestioned
authority of antiquity against him ; secondly, (and if
the other did not condemn him) as he has introduced the
witty, discreet, judicious ^Esop, quibbling in a strain of
low monastic waggery, and as archly dull as a mounte-
bank's jester.

That there was a life of JEaop, either written or tra-
ditionary, before Aristotle's time, is pretty plain; and
that there was something of that kind extant in Augus-
tus's reign, is, I think, as undoubted ; since Phsedrus
meotions many transactions of his, during his abode at
Athens. But it is as certain, that Planudes met with
nothing of this kind ; or at least, that he met not with
the accounts with which they were furnished, because
of the omission before-mentioned ; and consequently
with none so authentic arul good. He seems to have
thrown together so many conceits which occurred to
him in the course of his reading, such as he thought
were worthy of jEsop, and very confidently obtrudes
them upon us for his. But, when at last he brings him.
to Delphos (where he was put to death by being thrown

*Arist.Rhet. Lib. 2. Cap. 21.
A 5


down from a precipice) that the Delphians might have
some colour of justice for what they intended to do, he
favours them with the same stratagem which Joseph
made use of to bring back his brother Benjamin ; they
clandestinely convey a cup into his baggage, overtake
him upon the road, after a strict search find him guilty ;
upon that pretence carry him back to the city, condemn
and execute him.

As I would neither impose upon others, nor be im-
posed upon, I cannot, as some have done, let such stuff
as this pass for the life of the great ^Esop. Planudes
has little authority for any thing he has delivered con-
cerning him; nay, as far as I can'find, his whole ac-
count, from the beginning to the end, is mere inven-
tion, excepting some few circumstances ; such as the
place of his birth, and of his death; for, in respect of the
time in which he lived, he has blundered egregiously,
bv mentioning some incidents as contemporary with
^Esop, which were far enough from being so. Xanthus,
his supposed master, puts his wife into a passion, by
bringing such apiece of deformity into -her, house, ^is
our author is described to be. Upon this the master
reproaches the slave for not uttering something wittyy
at a time that seemed to require it so much : and then
jiEsop comes out, slap dash, with a satirical reflection
upon women, taken from Euripides, the famous Greek
tragedian. Now Euripides happened not to be born
till about fourscore years after ./Esop's death. What
credit therefore can be given to any thing Pranuctesjsays
of him ?

As to the place of his birth, I will allow, with the
generality of those who have written about him, that
it might have been some town in Phrygia Major. Lu-
cian carls him Altrw&o$ $$pv%: in Pbaedrus be is styled
Phryx^Esopus; and A. Gellius, making mention of him,
says, Msopiis ille, e Phrygia, Fabulator. That he was
also by condition a slave, we may conclude frolff what
Fhsedrus* relates of him. But whether at botnj^a.mos

* LiH, 2.' Fab. 9. & Lib. 3. Fab. 19.


and Athens, he does not particularly mention : though
I am inclined to think it was atthe latter only ; because
he often speaks of him as livingat Urn place; and never
at any other. Which looks asif Phtedrus believed that
he had never lived any where else. Nor do 1 see how
he could help being of that opinion, if others of the an-
cients, whose credit is equally good, did not carry him
into other places. Aristotle introduces him (as I men-
tioned before) speaking in public to the Samians, upon
the occasion of their demagogue, or prime minister,
being impeached for plundering the commonwealth: in
which oration he makes him insert the fable * of the
Fox who was pestered with Flies ; and who, upon an
Hedgehog's offering to drive them away, would not
consent to it, upon suspicion that a new swarm would
come in their room, and drain him of all the rest of
the blood in his body. Which JEsop applies thus : "Ye
men of Samos, let me entreat you to do as the Fox did;
for this man, having got money enough, can have no
farther occaskm to rob you ; but if you put him to-
death, some needy person will fill his place, whose
wants must be supplied out of your property."

I cannot but think jEsop was something above the
degree of a slave, when he made such a figure as an
eminent speaker in the Samian state. Perhaps hemight
have been in that low condition in the former part of
his life ; and therefore Phaedrus, who had been of the
same rank himself, might love to enlarge uponthis cir-
cumstance, since he does not chuse to represent him in
any higher sphere. Unless we allow him to be -j- speak-
ing in as public a capacity to the Athenians, upon tha
occasion of Pisistratus's seizing their liberties, as we
have before supposed he did to the Samians. But, how-
ever, granting that he was once a slave, we have great
authority that he was afterwards not only free, but in?
high veneration and esteem with all that knew him
especially all that were eminent for wisdom and virtue.

* CXCV. of this Cellection.
t Pitted. Lib. l. Fab. 2,


Plutarch, in his Banquet of the Seven Wise Men, among
several other illustrious persons, celebrated for their
wit and knowledge, introduces /Esop. And, though in
one place he seems to be ridiculed by one of the com-
pany for being of a clumsy mongrel shape, yet in
general he is represented as very courtly and po-
lite in his behaviour. He rallies Solon and the rest for
taking too much liberty in prescribing rules for the
conduct of sovereign princes; putting them in mind,
thafc those who aspire to be the friends and counsellors
of such, lose that character, and carry matters too far
when they proceed to censure and find fault with them.
Upon the credit of Plutarch, likewise, we fix the life
of JEsop in the time of Croesus, king of Lydia; with
whom he was in such esteem, as to be deputed by him
to consult the Oracle atDelphos, and be sent as his en-
Toy to Periander, king of Corinth; which was about
three hundred and twenty years after the time in which
Homer lived, and five hundred and fifty before Christ.
Now, though this imaginary Banquet of Plutarch
does not carry with it the weight of a serious history,
yet we may take it for granted, that he introduced no-
thing rn his fictitious scene which mightcontradicteither
the written or traditionary life of JSsop ; but rather
chose to make every thing agree with ir. Be that as it
will, this is the sum of the account which we have to
give of him. Nor, indeed, is it material for us to know
the little trifling circumstances of his life: as whether
he lived at Samos or Athens, whether he was a slave or
a freeman, whether handsome or ugly. He has left us
a legacy in his writings that will preserve his memory
dear and perpetual among us : \vhat we have to do,
therefor^, is to show ourselves worthy of so valuable a
present, and to act, in all respects, as near as we can
to the will and in'ention of the donor. They who are
governed by reason, need no other motive than the
mere goodness of a thing to incite them to th? practice
of it. But nien, for the most part, are so superficial
in their enquiries, that they take all upon trust; and
have no taste for any thing but what is supported


bv the vogue of others, and which it is inconsistent
with the fashion of the world not to admire.

As an inducement, therefore, to such as these to like
the person and conversation ot ^Esop,I must assure them.
that he was held in great esteem by most of the great
wits of old. There is scarce an author among the an-
cient Greeks who mixed arty thing of morality in his
writings, but either quotes or mentions him. Socrates
is described by *Plato as turning some of his fables in-
to verse ; and that in some of those serious hours which
he spent in prison, a little before his death. Aristo-
phanes not only takes hints from him, but mentions
him much to his honour, as one whose works were, or
ought to be read before any other. He brings in one
man upbraiding another with ignorance and illiterate-
ness in these words, sY Aicrwrrov arsTTargKOf, You have
not so much as read iEsop ; it being, as Suidas ob-
serves, a proverbial expression. Aristotle (as you have
seen) speaks of him to his advantage. Laertius tells us
Demetrius Phalereus wrote a book, entituled Alcrwtffja,
& Airutf-iaju Atywy Suva/bya* ; being a collection of
Fables ; so many of which were ^Esop's, or done in his
manner, that he thought fit to call the whole by his
name. Enniuf and Horace have embellished their po-
etry with him. Phaedrus gives him abundant applause.
And A. Gellius delivers his opinion of him in a manner
too particular to be omitted. " JEsop the Phrygian/' says
he, " the famous fabuiist, has justly acquired a repu-
tation for his wisdom ; for as to those things which are
beneficial and advisable for us to do, he does not dic-
tate and prescribe them in that haughty dogmatical
way, so much used by some other philosophers ; but
dresses up a parcel of agreeable entertaining stories,
and by them conveys to the mind the most wholesome
and seasonable doctrine, in the most acceptable and
pleasant manner. As that f fable of his, for example,
of the Lark and her Young Ones, warns us, in the pret-
tiest way imaginable, never to lay any stress upon the

* In Phecdone. t Fab. XXXVIII.


assistance to others, in regard to any affair which we
are ourselves able to manage without them. Then he
proceeds to give us a fine version of the fable itself;
and, having finished it," this fable of JEsop," says he,
" is a lecture to us concerning the little reliance we
ought to have upon friends and relations, and what
now do the grave books of philosophers teach us more,
than that we should depend upon ourselves only ; and
not look at those things which are beyond our reach,
as any concern of ours/'

Thus we see, whatever his person was, the beauties
of his mind were very charming and engaging; that
the most celebrated among the ancients were his ad-
mirers; that they speak of him with rapture, and pay
as great a respect to him, as to any of the other wise
men who lived in the same age. Nor can I perceive,
from any author of antiquity, that he was so deformed
as the monk has represented him. If he had, he must
have been so monstrous and shocking to the eye, as
not only to be a very improper envoy for a great king,
but scarce fit to be admitted as a slave in any private
family. Indeed, from what Plutarch hints of him, I
suspect he had something particular in his mien, but
rather odd than ugly, and more apt to excite mirth
than disgust, in those that conversed with him. Per-
haps semething humorous displayed itself in his coun-
tenance as well as his writings ; and it might be upon
account of both, that he got the name of TsXwrortoios
as Lucian calls him, and his works that of TeXo/a How-
ever, we will go a middle way; and without insisting
upon his beauty, or giving into his deformity, allow
him to have made a merry comical figure ; at least as
handsome as Socrates ; but at the same time conclude,
that this particularity in the frame of his body was so
far from being of any disadvantage to him, that it gave
a mirthful cast to every thing he said, and added a
kind of poignancy to his conversation.

We have seen what opinion the ancients had of our
author, and his writings. Now, as to the manner of
conveying instruction by fables in general* though.


many good vouchers of antiquity sufficiently recom-
mend it, yet, to avoid tiring the reader's patience, I
shall wave all quotations from thence, ami lay before
him the testimony of a modern, whose authority in
point of judgment, and consequently in the present
case, may be as readily acknowledged as that of any
ancient of them all. " Fables*" says Mr. Addison,
" were the first pieces of wit that made their appear -
anc in the world ; and have been still highly valued,
not only in times of the greatest simplicity, but among
the most polite ages of mankind. Joiham's Fable of
the Trees is the oldest that is extant, and as beautiful
as any which have been made since that time. Na-
than's Fable of tne poor Man and his Lamb is likewise
more ancient than any that is extant, besides the above-
mentioned, and had so good an effect, as to convey in-
struction to the ear of a king, without offending it,
and to bring the man after God's own heart to a right
sense of his guilt and his duty. We find JEsop in the
most distant ages of Greece. And, if we look into-
the very beginning of the commonwealth of Rome, we
see a mutiny among the common people, appeased by
the Fable of f the Belly and the Limbs; which was in-
deed very proper to gain the attention of an incensed
rabble, at a time, when, perhaps, they would have
torn to pieces any man who had preached the same
doctrine to them, in an open and direct manner. As
fables took their birth in the very infancy of learning,,
they never flourished more than when learning was at
its greatest height. To justify this assertion, I shall
put my reader in mind of Horace, Hue greatest wit
and critic in the Augustan age; and of Boileau, the
most correct poet among the moderns ; not to mention
La Foutaine, who, by this way of writing, is come
more into vogue than any other author of our times.''
After this he proceeds to give some account of that
kind of fable, in which the passions, and other ima-
ginary beings, are actors; and concludes with a most

* Spect. No. 183. t Fab. XXXViL


beautiful one of that sort, of his own contriving. In
another place, he gives us a translation from Homer of
that inimitable fable comprised in the interview betwixt
Jupiter and Juno, when the latter made use of the gir-
dle of Venus to recal the affection of her husband ; a
piece never sufficiently to be recommended to the per-
usal of such of the fair sex as are ambitious of acquit-
ting themselves handsomely in point of conjugal com-
placence. But 1 must not omit the excellent preface
by which the fable is introduced, * " Reading is to
the mind/' says he, " what exercise is to the body : as
by the one, health is preserved, strengthened, and in-
vigorated ; by the other, virtue (which is the health
of the mind) is kept alive, cherished, and confirmed.
But, as exercise becomes tedious and painful when we
make use of it only as the means of health, so reading
is too apt to grow uneasy and burthensome, when we
apply ourselves to it only for our improvement in vir-
tue. For this reason, the virtue which we gather from
a fable or an allegory, is like the health we get by
hunting, as we are engaged in an agreeable pursuit
that draws us on with pleasure, and makes us insensible
of the fatigues that accompany it."

Having given my reader the opinion of this great
man, who has spoken so much and so well in favour of
the subject I am concerned in, there is no room for me
to enlarge farther upon that head. His argument de-
monstrates the usefulness and advantage of this kind of
writing, beyond contradiction : it therefore only re-
mains that I make some apology for troubling the pub-
lic with a new edition, of what they have had so often
and in so many different forms already.

Nothing of this nature has been done since Le-
strange's time, worth mentioning; and we had nothing
before, but what (as he f observes) was so "insipid
and flat in the moral, and so coarse and uncouth in the
style and diction, that they were rather dangerous than

* TatUr, No. 14?. t Pref. to Part I,


profitable, as to the purpose for which they were prin-
cipally intended : and likely to do forty times more
harm than good/' I shall therefore only observe to
my reader, the insufficiency of Lestrange's own per-
formance as to the purpose for which he professes to
have principally intended it; with some other circum-
stances, which will help to excuse, if not justify, what
I have enterprized upon the same subject.

Now the purpose for which he principally intended
his book, as in his preface he expends a great many
words to inform us, was for the use and instruction of
children ; who, being, as it were, mere blank paper,
" are ready indifferently for any opinion, good or bad,
taking all upon credit; and that it is in the power of
the first comer to write saint or devil upon them, which
he pleases." This being truly and certainly the case,
what poor devils would Lestrange make of those chil-
dren, who should be so unfortunate as to read his book,
and imbibe his pernicious principles ! Principles coined
and suited to promote the growth, and serve the ends,
of popery and arbitrary power. Though we had ne-

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Online LibraryAesopFables of Aesop, and others: translated into English. With instructive applications: and a print before each fable → online text (page 1 of 20)