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A Salve for the Bite of the Black Viper II

Brownson's Quarterly Review, July, 1852

Compounded by Dr. Evariste De Gypendole, First Surgeon-Major of the Old Guard, Physician in Ordinary to the King of Luhore, Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor, &c., &c.  Translated from the French of the Abbe Martinet, Author of "Religion in Society," &c.  By V. D. Barry, LL.D.  Louisville: Webb & Levering, 1852.  18mo.  pp. 141

This little work was first introduced to the American public in our Review for April, 1845; and all who have read the original French have recognized the justice of the high praise we then gave it, and have also admired the quiet wit, the sacrcasm, the lively and brilliant style, with which the author shows the efficacy of his carefully compounded antidote for the Black Serpent's fatal bite.  It is a work we have long desired to see translated into the English language; but the translator, although a man of good literary attainments, does not seem fully adequate to the task, and a difficult one it certainly is, for he has failed to seize the spirit and the tone of the original.  It is not that his knowledge of the French language is imperfect, but that, in endeavoring to translate too exactly,--mot a mot,--he gives us indeed the words which in English answer to the French; not, however, the phrases.  For example, he renders Dr. Evariste's French translation of the Latin words sunt bona mixta malis, "every thing on journeys is not a rose"; this is very true, and sounds well in French, but in English it ceases to be expressive.  "Every rose has its thorn," is, in our opinion, altogether preferable.  We think, also, serpent a better translation of vipere than viper; for viper, in the American acceptation, is not the venomous vipere whose deadly bite is to the body what infidelity is to the soul.  On the 64th pagee we find Madame Cardinal literally translated.  Now Madame Cardinal is the French for Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Smith, or any other very common name.  Again, on the 14th page, he gives up in despair all hope of translating "flacon de vinaigre des quatre ministres, pardon, des quatre voleurs."  Now vinaigre des quatre voleurs is a vinegar so called, highly aromatic indeed, and is used by physicians as a guard against infection; but the play in the French lies in passing by the technical use of the term, and coupling ministers with thieves.

The typographical execution of the work is not creditable to the publishers, nor such as the translation deserves; which, notwithstanding the faults we have found with it, is calculated to do much good, and which will obtain, we trust, a large circulation.