Seneca and an unknown Cumbrian

Seneca and an unknown Cumbrian…

“Nothing can be more fatall to us than the rendering ourselves slaves to popular vogue…”

Checking a volume of estate/manorial records, in Carlisle Archives last summer, I discovered someone, back in 1690, had used the book to write nine pages of lengthy advice on ‘how to be happy’.

It wasn’t the unknown scribe’s own prescription, but rather his (I think it’s safe to assume ‘his’) translation of ‘On the Happy Life’. Which was written by Seneca the Younger around the year 58 AD, for his older brother Gallio.

Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman and dramatist (4 BC – 65 AD). What did this Roman ‘do for us’? Well, many of his quotes are worth linking to as pretty sound advice some 2,000 years later.

And 333 years ago, a Cumbrian who had access to estate records decided to use one volume to translate the work into English for himself.

Plus elle est belle, moins elle est fidèle…

There’s an old French saying about translations that the more beautiful they are, the less faithful, and; the more faithful they are, the less beautiful.

I don’t know how our unknown Cumbrian’s translation holds up in comparison to others – is it accurate? Is it ‘beautiful’?

But I’ve transcribed the first page or so. (It would be long and tedious to copy all nine pages!).

I have copied the spelling as it is in the book – the English of the new reign of King William III and Queen Mary II.

Seneca translated by a 17th century Cumbrian

Julie 24, 1690

Seneca of a Happie Life

Chapter the first

All men my dear Gallio would live happilee, but are in the dark as to the way that would promote their soe doing. And for him that misses the way to it att first, the further he goes and the more he pursues it, the more remote he is from obtaining it, speed in the prosecution removing him still further from what he seeks.

We must therefore first propose some certain end and object of our desires and then studie the readiest way to attain them. And if the road be direct, wee shall in the progresse off it understand daylie the advances wee make, to the end with a naturall inclinations drive us.

But whilst wee wander irregularlie, distracted by the direction and call of our passions moving us uncertainli, our short and frail life, how laborious lie __ ever it be spent, is worn out in a continuall succession of errors and mistakes.

Let us therefore consider not only whither but by what way we would goe. Let us provide a Guid practised and experienced in the road. Since the order to be observed in the journey extremelie differs from what is observed in other voyages, ffor in those, the common track and the ordinarie information off the inhabitants secures us from wandring, but here the most practised and open the road may mislead us. And therefore let us avoid the imitation of the flocks and —- heards of —-, which consider not where they would goe. But onlie that others have gone before them. Nothing can be more fatall to us than the rendering ourselves slaves to popular vogue