B. A Modern Lingua Franca and the Robes of Thought
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Concurrently, translation between the vernaculars was becoming ever more common as well as remunerative, in the newly transnational conditions of the commercial book trade. To broach the sweeping, pan-European impact of the Petrarchan sonnet, for instance, or the Homeric epic or the Theocritean pastoral, is to see how the Greek models work their way northward through intricate chains of inter-vernacular translation history and book circulation. The practice of using French translations of the classics for retranslating into another vernacular, although not new in the seventeenth century (William Caxton had printed his English version of a French Aeneid in 1491), received such fresh momentum in these decades that it would persist through the nineteenth century. Plutarch’s biographical sketches, for example, were translated into French by Jacques Amyot as Vies des homes illustres in 1559-65, and it was that French text that Thomas North translated for his English version and published as Plutarch’s Lives (1579), which was in turn the ‘Plutarch’ that Shakespeare used for his plays. It was through such French mediation or interface, as the practice is now called, that much eighteenth-century British philosophy and literature were translated into German, including the works of Locke and Pope.