Front Page Titles (by Subject) Sect. XIV.: A Conjecture concerning the present state of the English Tongue, with an account of the present Work. - The Works of Tacitus, vol. 1 - Gordon's Discourses, Annals (Books 1-3)
Sect. XIV.: A Conjecture concerning the present state of the English Tongue, with an account of the present Work. - Publius Cornelius Tacitus, The Works of Tacitus, vol. 1 - Gordon’s Discourses, Annals (Books 1-3) [120 AD]
The Works of Tacitus. In Four Volumes. To which are prefixed, Political Discourses upon that Author by Thomas Gordon. The Second Edition, corrected. (London: T. Woodward and J. Peele, 1737). Vol. 1.
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- To the Right Honourable Sir Robert Walpole,
- Discourses Upon Tacitus.
- Discourse I.: Upon the Former English Translations of Tacitus.
- Sect. I.: Of the Translation By Greenway and Sir H. Savill.
- Sect. II.: Of the English Translation By Several Hands.
- Sect. III.: Of the Last Translation of the First Annal.
- Sect. IV.: Of the Last Translation of the Second Annal.
- Sect. V.: Of the Last Translation of the Third Annal.
- Sect. VI.: Of the Last Translation of the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Annal.
- Sect. VII.: Of the Last Translation of the Eleventh Annal.
- Sect. VIII.: Of the Last Translation of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Annals.
- Sect. IX.: Of the Last Translation of the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Sixteenth Annals.
- Discourse II.: Upon Tacitus and His Writings.
- Sect. I.: The Character of Tacitus.
- Sect. II.: How Much He Excells In Description and Force.
- Sect. III.: Further Instances of the Justness of His Genius, and of His Great Thoughts.
- Sect. IV.: The Morality of Tacitus, and His Spirit Virtuous and Humane.
- Sect. V.: The Stile of Tacitus, How Pertinent and Happy: His Obscurity, a Charge of the Moderns Only.
- Sect. VI.: A General Character of His Works.
- Sect. VII.: Tacitus Vindicated From the Imputation of Deriving Events From Counsels Too Subtle and Malevolent.
- Sect. VIII.: More Proofs of the Candour and Veracity of Tacitus.
- Sect. IX.: Mr. Bayle ’ S Unjust Censure of Tacitus; and How Well the Latter Knew and Observed the Laws of History.
- Sect. X.: An Apology For the Wrong Account By Tacitus Given of the Jews and Christians, and For His Disregard of the Religion Then Received.
- Sect. XI.: The Foolish Censure of Boccalini and Others Upon Tacitus.
- Sect. XII.: Of the Several Commentators and Translators of Tacitus.
- Sect. XIII.: A Conjecture Concerning the Modern Languages, More Largely Concerning the English.
- Sect. XIV.: A Conjecture Concerning the Present State of the English Tongue, With an Account of the Present Work.
- Discourse III.: Upon Cæsar the Dictator.
- Sect. I.: Of Cæsar’s Usurpation, and Why His Name Is Less Odious Than That of Catiline.
- Sect. II.: Of the Publick Corruption By Cæsar Promoted Or Introduced; With His Bold and Wicked Conduct.
- Sect. III.: Cæsar Might Have Purified and Reformed the State; But Far Different Were His Intentions. His Art, Good Sense, and Continued Ill Designs.
- Sect. IV.: The Probability of His Waxing More Cruel, Had He Reigned Much Longer.
- Sect. V.: Cæsar No Lawful Magistrate, But a Public Enemy.
- Sect. VI.: Of the Share Which Casualties Had, In Raising the Name and Memory of Cæsar. the Judgment of Cicero Concerning Him.
- Sect. VII.: How Vain It Is to Extol Any Designs of His For the Glory of the Roman People.
- Sect. VIII.: Of His Death; and the Rashness of Ascribing to Divine Vengeance the Fate of Such As Slew Him.
- Discourse IV.: Upon Octavius Cæsar, Afterwards Called Augustus.
- Sect. I.: Of the Base and Impious Arts By Which He Acquired the Empire.
- Sect. II.: Of the Vindictive Spirit of Octavius, and His Horrid Cruelties.
- Sect. III.: Of the Treachery, Ingratitude, and Further Cruelties of Octavius. That the Same Were Wanton and Voluntary.
- Sect. IV.: Of the Popular Arts and Accidents Which Raised the Character of Augustus.
- Sect. V.: Though Augustus Courted the People, and Particular Senators, He Continued to Depress Public Liberty, and the Senate.
- Sect. VI.: What Fame He Derived From the Poets and Other Flattering Writers of His Time.
- Sect. VII.: Of the False Glory Sought and Acquired By Augustus, From the Badness of His Successors.
- Sect. VIII.: The Character of Augustus.
- Sect. IX.: Of the Helps and Causes Which Acquired and Preserved the Empire to Augustus. His Great Power and Fortune No Proof of Extraordinary Ability.
- Discourse V.: Of Governments Free and Arbitrary, More Especially That of the Cæsars.
- Sect. I.: The Principle of God’s Appointing and Protecting Tyrants, an Absurdity Not Believed By the Romans.
- Sect. II.: The Reasonableness of Resisting Tyrants Asserted, From the Ends of Government, and the Nature of the Deity. Opinions the Most Impious and Extravagant, Why Taught, and How Easily Swallowed.
- Sect. III.: The Danger of Slavish Principles to Such As Trust In Them, and the Notorious Insecurity of Lawless Might.
- Sect. IV.: Princes of Little and Bad Minds, Most Greedy of Power. Princes of Large and Good Minds Chuse to Rule By Law and Limitations.
- Sect. V.: The Wisdom and Safety of Ruling By Standing Laws, to Prince and People.
- Sect. VI.: The Condition of Free States, How Preferable to That of Such As Are Not Free.
- Sect. VII.: The Misery and Insecurity of the Cæsars From Their Overgrown Power.
- Sect. VIII.: A Representation of the Torments and Horrors Under Which Tiberius Lived.
- Sect. IX.: The Terrible Operation of Lawless Power Upon the Minds of Princes; and How It Changes Them.
- Sect. X.: The Wretched Fears Accompanying the Possession of Arbitrary Power, Exemplified In Caligula and Other Roman Emperors.
- Sect. XI.: What It Is That Constitutes the Security and Glory of a Prince; and How a Prince and People Become Estranged From Each Other.
- Sect. XII.: How Nearly It Behoves a Prince to Be Beloved and Esteemed By His Subjects. the Terrible Consequences of Their Mutual Mistrust and Hatred.
- Sect. XIII.: Public Happiness Only Then Certain, When the Laws Are Certain and Inviolable.
- Discourse VI.: Of the Old Law of Treason By the Emperors Perverted and Extended.
- Sect. I.: The Antient Purpose of That Law; the Politics of Augustus In Stretching It.
- Sect. II.: The Deification of the Emperors, What an Engine of Tyranny, and Snare to the Roman People.
- Sect. III.: The Images of the Emperors, How Sacred They Became, and How Pernicious.
- Sect. IV.: What a Destructive Calamity the Law of Majesty Grew, and How Fast Treasons Multiplied Under Its Name.
- Discourse VII.: Of the Accusations, and Accusers Under the Emperors.
- Sect. I.: The Pestilent Employment of These Men, Their Treachery and Encouragement.
- Sect. II.: The Traiterous Methods Taken to Circumvent and Convict Innocence. the Spirit of Accusing How Common, the Dread of It How Universal; and the Misery of the Times.
- Sect. III.: Plots Feigned Or True, an Ample Field For Accusations and Cruelty; and Upon What Miserable Evidence Executions Were Decreed.
- Sect. IV.: What Ridiculous Causes Produced Capital Guilt. the Spirit of the Emperor Constantius; With Somewhat of His Father Constantine.
- Sect. V.: The Black and General Carnage Made Under Constantius, By His Bloody Minister Paulus Catena, For Certain Acts of Superstition and Curiosity.
- Sect. VI.: The Ravages of the Accusers Continued; Their Credit With the Emperors; Yet Generally Meet Their Fate. the Falsehood of These Princes. the Melancholy State of Those Times.
- Sect. VII.: The Increase of Tyranny. Innocence and Guilt Not Measured By the Law, But By the Emperor’s Pleasure and Malice.
- Sect. VIII.: What Tacitus Means By Instrumenta Regni.
- Sect. IX.: How Much These Emperors Hated, and How Fast They Destroyed All Great and Worthy Men. Their Dread of Every Man For Any Reason.
- Sect. X.: Reflections Upon the Spirit of a Tyrant. With What Wantonness the Roman Emperors Shed the Blood of the Roman People. the Blindness of Such As Assisted the Usurpation of Cæsar and Augustus.
- Sect. XI.: Why Under Such Tyrants, the Senate Continued to Subsist.
- Sect. XII.: How the Unrelenting Cruelty of the Emperors Hastened the Dissolution of the Empire. the Bad Reigns of Constantine and Constantius. the Good Reign of Julian. the Indiscreet Behaviour of the Christians. Continued Tyranny; and End of the Em
- Sect. XIII.: The Excellency of a Limited Monarchy, Especially of Our Own.
- Discourse VIII.: Of the General Debasement of Spirit and Adulation Which Accompany Power Unlimited.
- Sect. I.: The Motives of Flattery Considered. Its Vileness, and Whence It Begins.
- Sect. II.: Men of Elevated Minds Irreconcileable to Arbitrary Power, and Thence Suspected By It. the Court Paid to It Always Insincere, Sometimes Expedient, But Seldom Observes Any Bounds.
- Sect. III.: The Excessive Power of the Imperial Freed Slaves; With the Scandalous Submission and Honours Paid Them By the Romans.
- Sect. IV.: The Excessive Flattery of the Senate, How Ill Judged.
- Sect. V.: The Free Judgment of Posterity a Powerful Warning to Princes, to Reign With Moderation and to Detest Flatterers. the Name and Memory of the Roman Tyrants How Treated.
- Sect. VI.: How Lamentably Princes Are Debauched and Misled By Flatterers.
- Sect. VII.: The Pestilent Tendency of Flattering Counsels, and the Glory of Such As Are Sincere.
- Discourse IX.: Upon Courts.
- Sect. I.: Of Freedom of Speech; and How Reasonable It Is.
- Sect. II.: The Spirit of Courtiers What; Some Good Ones.
- Sect. III.: The Arts of Courtiers; Their Cautiousness, and Its Causes.
- Sect. IV.: Of Slanderers and Tale-bearers In Courts. the Folly of Craft.
- Sect. V.: How Much Worthless People Abound In Courts, and Why.
- Sect. VI.: The Remarkable Fickleness and Insincerity of Courtiers.
- Discourse X.: Of Armies and Conquest.
- Sect. I.: The Burden and Danger of Maintaining Great Armies.
- Sect. II.: Great Armies the Best Disciplined, Whether Thence the Less Formidable to a Country. Their Temper and Views.
- Sect. III.: Princes Ruling By Military Power, Ever At the Mercy of Military Men.
- Sect. IV.: Instances of the Boldness and Fury of the Roman Soldiery.
- Sect. V.: The Humour of Conquering, How Injudicious, Vain, and Destructive.
- Sect. VI.: The Folly of Conquering Further Urged and Exemplified.
- The Annals of Tacitus.
- Book I.
- Book II.
- Book III.
A Conjecture concerning the present state of the English Tongue, with an account of the present Work.
OF the Character of Writing in our own time, were I to give my opinion, I should be apt to say, that in general it comes too near to talking; a method which will hardly make it delightful or lasting; no words upon paper will have the same effect as words accompanied with a voice, looks and action; hence the thoughts and language should be so far raised as to supply the want of those advantages; but indeed this is impossible, and therefore there is the greater cause for heightening the stile; now because laboured periods are offensive, and flat ones are insipid, the excellency lies between pomp and negligence. Let it be as easy as you please, but let it be strong; two advantages that are very compatible, and often found in the same writer. Livy is remarkable for both; it is his eloquence and ornaments which have preserved him in such esteem, as much as his matter and good sense. The late Lord Shaftesbury, though he has been perhaps too anxious and affected in forming his phrase to easiness and fluency, has yet had good success; since it is manifest that his soft alluring stile has multiplied his Readers, and helped powerfully to recommend his Works. Dr. Burnet of the Charter-House wrote with great eloquence and majesty, yet easy and unaffected. Dr. Tillotson’s stile is plain and pleasant, enlivened too with fine images, and strong sense; yet many, while they strove to imitate him, have written very poorly. This has happened to some of our Divines, who, studying his manner, but wanting his genius, have uttered a flow of words, which sound not ill, but lack spirit and matter. I have looked over whole pages of Bishop Blackal’s Sermons, without finding any thing which offended the ear, or pleased the imagination, or informed the understanding. I cannot help mentioning here another Writer, who has gained great reputation for Stile, without deserving any; I mean Dr. Sprat, Bishop of Rochester. His expression is languishing and insipid, full of false pomp, full of affectation. He is always aiming at harmony and wit, but succeeds ill; for his manner is starched and pedantic. With much greater justice has the Stile of Dr. Atterbury, his successor, been admired.
Our Tongue is naturally cold, and the less force our words have, the more they must be multiplied; this multiplying of words is tedious; thence the remedy is as bad as the disease. The Latin phrases, on the contrary, are short and lively, and a few words convey many images. These difficulties, with many others, I found in this Translation very sensibly. I wanted new words, but have rarely coined any, as the creating of words is generally thought affected and vain; yet I have sometimes ventured upon a new phrase, and a way of my own, upon drawing the English idiom as near as possible to that of the Latin, and to the genius of my Author; by leaving the beaten road, dropping particles, transposing words, and sometimes beginning a sentence where it is usual to end it. I have studied to imitate the spirit, eloquence and turns of Tacitus, as far as I could, assisted by a Language weak in its sounds, and loose in its contexture. This manner of writing, I own, would be strange and even ridiculous in plain and familiar subjects; but where the subject is high and solemn, there must be a conformity of stile.
In the political Discourses following, I have likewise taken a method of my own, in reasoning largely upon topics which to me seemed of the most moment to this free Nation, and giving an idea of the politics of the Cæsars; of the vis, artes, & instrumenta regni, as they are called by Tacitus. I have vindicated the principles of civil Liberty; I have examined the defences made for Cæsar and Augustus; I have displayed the genius of these Usurpers; the temper and debasement of the people; with the conduct and tyranny of their successors, to the end of the Annals. In my Translation of the History I have done the same. I have little troubled myself with the strife and guesses of Commentators, and various Readings. I have chosen the best editions, and where the meaning was dubious, taken the most probable; for, after all, there is a good deal of guess-work and uncertainty; difficulties not peculiar to Tacitus.
I was persuaded to this undertaking several years ago by a friend of mine, a Gentleman of Letters in the City; for then I had never seen the English Translation, and knew not but it was a good one. Mr. Trenchard approved the design with his usual zeal for every thing which favoured public Liberty. My Lord Carteret, who understands Tacitus perfectly, and admires him, was pleased to think me not unfit for it, and gave me many just lights about the manner of doing it; that particularly of allowing my self scope and freedom, without which I am satisfied every Translation must be pedantic and cold. A Translation ought to read like an Original. The Duke of Argyll espoused it generously, with that frankness which is natural to him, agreeably to his knowledge and taste of polite Learning, and to his sincere love of Liberty. So did my Lord Townshend. Sir Robert Walpole encouraged me in the pursuit of it in a manner eminently to my credit; and to many Gentlemen of my acquaintance I am much obliged upon this occasion. I own I have been long about this Translation; that I was so, is to be ascribed not so much to idleness, as to diffidence. It was done a long while before I put it to the press; after all my care and many revises, I continued apprehensive that much fault might be found, and many objections made; a misfortune which I still doubt I shall not be able to escape, and wish I may not deserve. I therefore rely more on the candour of my Readers, than on my own sufficiency. Those of them who understand Tacitus in the original, will easily make allowances for the difficulty of making him speak any other Language. I have been chiefly careful not to mistake the sentiments of my Author about human Nature and Government; and I will venture to say, that no man who has not accustomed himself to think upon these two subjects, can ever make tolerable sense of Tacitus, let him be as learned in other things as he will. For the same reason, no man that is merely Learned, can ever be pleased with a free Translation, however faithful and just; for his chief attachment will ever be to Words and Criticism. Who had more Learning than Sir H. Savill? ’tis plain he abounded beyond most men; but I suppose Learning was his chief accomplishment; and thence his Translation is a very poor one. The fault cannot be ascribed to the time; for at that time the polite world wrote and spoke well; and if Sir Walter Raleigh had then translated it, no body I believe would have ever attempted to mend it.
Upon Cæsar the Dictator.