Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Literary Manual of Foreign Quotations Ancient and Modern

John Devoe Belton - A Literary Manual of Foreign Quotations Ancient and Modern (1891)

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The intent of this book wasn't to just gather up foreign-language phrases as so many others have done but to focus on the ones quoted by "modern writers" and therefore likely to be of use to readers.  Of course Belton's "modern" is no longer modern and today's writers, even literary ones, appear oblivious to phrases not in English but strenuously avoid anything that might cause a moment's hesitation.

So each entry here has the phrase (such as Fronti nulla fides), its source where known (Juvenal in this case) and a writer's use (Tom Jones).  The book is much more interesting to browse than that may sound since it's not just doubled quotations but accompanied by historical trivia (sculptors testing a work by running a nail over its surface, Romans distinguishing problematic cattle by tying hay to them, etc).  Belton had an eye for excerpts of some intrinsic interest, however minor that might be (and he also seems to have been fascinated by Thackeray - I'm not sure anybody today reads The Virginians).

And I can't help but point out Horace's Genus irritabile vatum or "The irritable race of poets" which some poets I know might well consider appropriate for a tattoo.  It's referenced in more recent times by Arnold and De Quincey.