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PROBABLY no other work which was ever published in Russia, acquired such a sudden popularity as the Novel, a translation of which is now submitted to the British public. The first edition, which came out in the beginning of 1829, was sold off within three weeks after it issued from the press; it has been translated into the French and German languages; and, in its own country, its fame has extended itself to the lowest ranks of society.
Notwithstanding the abundance of intellectual riches with which the land we live in overflows, perhaps this small contribution to the stock of literature, may not be altogether overlooked or despised, especially by those who have any curiosity,—to contemplate the social condition of a people which exhibits some features common to the whole of Europe a few centuries ago; while, in some other points, it resembles the splendidly industrious subjects of the ancient Pharaohs;—to contrast the state of mind in the most backward, with that in the most forward of European nations in the march of intellect;-and, above all, to read a very interesting chapter in the great book of Human Na
Concerning the manner in which this translation is executed, a few observations are necessary, rather in extenuation than commendation.
To render literally all the peculiarities of a foreign idiom, is apt to produce a work not likely to be relished by the great majority of readers, and thus to hurt the main object for which a book of this sort, like the razors in the fable, is made; that is to sell. On the other hand, by giving to a foreign production all the characteristics of the vernacular idiom, an effect is produced which may be compared to that which results from a figure meant to represent an Eastern saint or ancient hero, dressed up in the modern costume of the West. Ignorant people may be pleased—but the taste of those who know better is shocked.