porphyry: (Praetorius)
Fundamentalism

Some years ago I had occasion to closely study Thomas Taylor the Platonist. He was active in the first two decades of the nineteenth century. The bulk of his work consists of translations of Plato and the Neoplatonist; for the later Neoplatonists his was the only translation available of these works into the 1990s. He worked at a time when interest in these authors was at its nadir because the Enlightenment rejected them as so much superstition (Gibbon has a damming chapter on them). But the Romantics were interested in them for precisely that reason. They had a mixed opinion of Taylor. Blake promoted him, but Wordsowrth and Shelley criticized him for his bad Greek (although Dillon and Hershbell et al. had good things to say about Taylor’s Greek, my own comparison of his translations with many passages of Porphyry and Iamblichus indicated that he often had no idea what was going on in the text; the fact that the quality of his translation was better for texts where it would have been possible to work from Ficino’s older Latin translations I considered particularly damning of his Graecism). What little opinion he had in contemporary culture at large painted him as a buffoon, preferring ancient superstition to modern science and rationality—the rumor was widely circulated that he performed animal sacrifice.

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