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Plagiarism, Translation and the Problem of Identity: Oliver Goldsmith and Voltaire

Graham Gargett
Eighteenth-Century Ireland / Iris an dá chultúr
Vol. 16 (2001), pp. 83-103
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30071251
Page Count: 21
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Plagiarism, Translation and the Problem of Identity: Oliver Goldsmith and Voltaire
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Abstract

Oliver Goldsmith's reliance on French literature has long been known. This article investigates aspects of Goldsmith's debt to Voltaire and attempts to assess the latter's influence on him. The first part briefly rehearses Goldsmith's borrowings in the early part of his career and argues that this alleged 'plagiarism' is something other than more or less random 'copying'. The analysis continues with a close look at two letters by Voltaire that Goldsmith published in The Bee. Despite some blunders, Goldsmith is seen to be a more than competent translator, responding to the spirit of Voltaire's French and often altering its sentence structure and rhythm to suit the rather different requirements of English prose. In addition, Goldsmith clearly edited the content of these letters to suit the prejudices of his target audience, notably as regards remarks about Frederick the Great and Calvin. The article's final section deals with Goldsmith's recycling of passages from Voltaire's historical works. Several of these are moderately or very anti-Irish and it is argued that this casts serious doubt on attempts (for example by W.B. Yeats) to characterise Goldsmith as a proto-nationalist.

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