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文坛“独立宣言”:《与查斯菲尔德勋爵书》

词典编纂是周期长、见效慢的营生,多为学术机构承办。当年在南大读书,边上就是张柏然教授带领的词典组。读书三年结束,学生走了一批又一批,词典出版还遥遥无期。时隔几月,找师兄打听,仍说还在某个字母下徘徊。此事之繁难,外人难以想象,实在是坐冷板凳的工作。

英国辞典编纂者塞缪尔·约翰逊博士,曾以一己之力啃这硬骨头。那时办这种事,只能求赞助人(patron)支持。这种特定时代的文艺体制,却成为传统,保留至今:而今图书馆、博物馆等机构仍称其捐款人和顾客为patron. 

约翰逊为编纂计划找到的金主是查斯菲尔德勋爵(1694-1773)。约翰逊的计划名义上有查斯菲尔德勋爵为赞助人,但勋爵大人口惠实不至,罕有推动计划进展的具体举措。词典编成,查斯菲尔德勋爵捧场,约翰逊博士则毫不客气地写了一封回信,道出了一个潦倒文人的辛酸,和世态的炎凉,这封信成了传世之作。此信在后来的意义,超过了学者的吐槽。它让人看到学者脱离了金主支持,也能把事做完。金主无功不受禄,不可跟着署名贪功。这封信,故而也被视为文学界的《独立宣言》。

今日来看,约翰逊刻薄了点。查斯菲尔德勋爵当初的冷淡,不知是什么原因。可能是不大相信约翰逊这事能做成。同时代法国词典的编纂,是法兰西学院四十位学者花了四十年时间完成的。约翰逊说他一个人三年就可以完成,并夸口,“三比一千六百,就是英国人和法国人能耐的对比。” 查斯菲尔德勋爵肯定有看走眼的时候,后来词典出来,他匿名写信夸赞约翰逊,说明还是惜才之人。收到约翰逊的信后,查斯菲尔德勋爵也没有恼羞成怒,而是放在家里桌子上,给来客看,赞叹此信之佳。查斯菲尔德勋爵是著名政治家和外交家,官至爱尔兰总督、英国国务大臣。他当时的社会和政治地位,在中国相当于宰相,“宰相肚子能撑船”实非虚传。约翰逊听到此事,难以置信。几年后,不打不成交的两人重修旧好,留下一段文坛佳话。

查斯特菲尔德勋爵本非等闲之辈,他就读于剑桥大学,和文艺圈过从甚密。自己也是信函高手,给儿子的信至今流传,在国内有多家出版社出版。可惜查斯菲尔德勋爵寄予厚望的儿子,居然死在了他自己前头,他说自己“两年前就死了,只是懒得通知而已。”这样的结局,让人感慨造化弄人。

而今信息发达,沟通便利,没有了你来我往的鸿雁传书,让一个曾经美好的文体失传,颇为遗憾。

约翰逊博士的信,我翻译了一下。功力有限,权当练笔,贻笑大方了。

To The Right Honourable The Earl Of Chesterfield 7th February 1755

My Lord,

I have been lately informed, by the proprietor of The World, that two papers, in which my Dictionary is recommended to the public, were written by your lordship. To be so distinguished is an honour which, being very little accustomed to favours from the great, I know not well how to receive, or in what terms to acknowledge.

查斯菲尔德勋爵阁下:《世界》业主告知,余之词典,公著二文荐于世。余不习爱重,浩荡宏恩,不知何以领受,何以称谢也。

When, upon some slight encouragement, I first visited your lordship, I was overpowered, like the rest of mankind, by the enchantment of your address, and could not forbear to wish that I might boast myself Le vainqueur du vainqueur de la terre;—that I might obtain that regard for which I saw the world contending; but I found my attendance so little encouraged, that neither pride nor modesty would suffer me to continue it. When I had once addressed your Lordship in public, I had exhausted all the art of pleasing which a retired and uncourtly scholar can possess. I had done all that I could; and no man is well pleased to have his all neglected, be it ever so little.

昔闻公礼贤下士,余慕名拜谒。公之风雅,余仰慕战兢,与世无异,尝愿得公扶植,以为至荣至慰。余之仰慕,公未加褒赏。余岂无颜面?岂无自知?故不欲继此徒劳。余一介寒儒,尽阿谀之术,犬马之诚。卑微若此,当此冷遇,举世之人,岂有安之乐之者哉?

Seven years, my lord, have now passed, since I waited in your outward rooms, or was repulsed from your door; during which time I have been pushing on my work through difficulties, of which it is useless to complain, and have brought it, at last, to the verge of publication, without one act of assistance, one word of encouragement, or one smile of favour. Such treatment I did not expect, for I never had a patron before.

公之朱门,百谒不开。嗣后七年,余焚烛继昼,未有须臾之懈,状之苦难为外人道也。如是经年,功乃初成,拙著始见天日。此间未得一文之助,一言之慰,一笑之奖。余未得恩主相助,遇冷亦愕然不知所措也。

The shepherd in Virgil grew at last acquainted with Love, and found him a native of the rocks.  Is not a patron my lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help? The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labours, had it been early, had been kind; but it has been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot enjoy it: till I am solitary, and cannot impart it;  till I am known, and do not want it. I hope it is no very cynical asperity not to confess obligations where no benefit has been received, or to be unwilling that the public should consider me as owing that to a patron, which providence has enabled me to do for myself.

《维吉尔》中之牧者,求爱神未果,既识之,不过土石之侣尔。怪哉我主:遇人落水,袖手旁观,视其溺毙若儿戏;待其上岸,却施援手,碍其手脚为羁绊。彼时雪中送炭,恩小亦贵,善莫大也。俟余心死,公方思提携,殆误久矣。迩际余空巢鳏居,得恩亦无可传,公始施浮恩。今时过境迁,得失皆无患也。初有所成,乃天道酬勤也。故不欲谢人乌有之功,恐人谬赏也。惟愿公亦不以余刻薄为念。

Having carried on my work thus far with so little obligation to any favourer of learning, I shall not be disappointed though I should conclude it, if less be possible, with less; for I have been long wakened from that dream of hope, in which I once boasted myself with so much exultation,

余未得好学者相助,惟发愤自勉。今胸中豁然,拂郁无存。往昔急欲高攀,妄念丛生,今梦醒久矣!

My Lord,

Your lordship's most humble, most obedient servant,

SAM. JOHNSON.

仆约翰逊顿首

主后一七五五年二月七日

首发于《南方周末》

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