09 December 2013

SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION: Donlan on Nugent, Eighteenth-Century Man of Mystery

Front cover of latest SVEC volumeThe Voltaire Foundation has just published L Andries, F Ogée, J Dunkley, and D Sanfry (eds), Intellectual journeys: the translation of ideas in Enlightenment England, France and Ireland (2013). 

The collection also includes my long-delayed '“If my labour hath been of service”: translating Thomas Nugent (c1700?-1772)', a short piece on an eighteenth-century enigma:


Translators were among the most important and influential cultural intermediaries in Europe, negotiating between cultural and ideological systems. Thomas Nugent was one of the most distinguished and prolific translators of European Enlightenment thought for an Anglophone audience. This is especially true of French texts, but he also translated from German, Spanish, and Tuscan. He is best remembered for the first English translation (1752) of Montesquieu‘s De L’Esprit de Lois (1748), but he also translated the well-known  ‘Port Royal’ grammars and the works of Burlamaqui, Cellini, Condillac, de Isla, the Abbé Dubos, Grosley, Hénault, Macquer, Rousseau, Totze, Velly, and Voltaire. Nugent also wrote original works, including popular pocket language dictionaries and works of travel literature. The most famous of the latter was the Grand tour, containing an exact description of most of the cities, towns, and remarkable places of Europe (1749). Little is known, however, of the details of Nugent‘s life. He was likely a native of Ireland: he may have been catholic; he may have studied on the continent or trained in the law; he seems to be linked to English antiquarian and may have worked on a history of Ireland; and he may be linked to Dr Christopher Nugent, Edmund Burke‘s father-in-law. This study investigates Nugent‘s role in knowledge-transfer and intercultural exchange from the centre to the periphery of Europe.

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