Sunday, May 31, 2009

Katherine Heavey: “Translating Ovid’s Heroines”

Katherine Heavey
Durham University

Pedantry, Paraphrase or Potty Humour? The Art of Translating Ovid’s Heroines in 1680

nec potui debere mihi spem longius istam,
caerulea peterem quin mea vota via
. (16.105-6)

(“I could not longer cheat myself of the hope of you, but started on the dark blue path to seek the object of my vows”)

Publius Ovidius Naso, Heroides, trans. Frank Justus Miller. London: Loeb Heinemann, 1914.

* * *

“For now no longer could my hopes res[t]rain
From seeking their wisht Object through the main”. (p.125)

John Dryden, comp. Ovid’s Epistles Translated by Several Hands. London: Jacob Tonson, 1680.

* * *

“And now my Passion growing stronger,
I had no power to stay longer: […]
I lanch out, and away I come,
To have a fillip at thy Bum”. (E4r)

Matthew Stevenson, The Wits Paraphras’d, or, Paraphrase upon paraphrase in a burlesque on the several late translations of Ovids Epistles. London: Will Cademan, 1680.

* * *

1> As these three brief extracts from very different versions of Ovid’s epistle of Paris to Helen would suggest, Restoration translations of the great Roman poet could differ wildly. Indeed, Matthew Stevenson’s irreverent translation appeared very quickly after John Dryden’s august collection of the entire series of twenty-one epistles was published in 1680, and was itself followed by another burlesque of the epistles, Alexander Radcliffe’s Ovid Travestie. As this would suggest, English translators of Ovid in the Restoration did not work in a vacuum. Rather, late-seventeenth-century translations responded not only to the Heroides (poems which themselves demand (and reward) a detailed knowledge of the works of Ovid’s own predecessors), but also to the versions of their Elizabethan and Jacobean forebears, and to the efforts of their Restoration contemporaries. At the same time, these seventeenth-century authors’ motives for translating Ovid could be very different. Dryden seldom shies away from passing judgement on the works of his contemporaries or on the translations of his rivals, and seems to have envisioned his collection as a sincere effort to produce a new English version of the Heroides, that accorded with his own preferences concerning classical translation. While his translations of Ovid (both those he commissioned from others, and those he accomplished himself) can be somewhat elastic, responding to contemporary event or reflecting Dryden’s theories of translation, by and large they stick closely to their originals, while illustrating Dryden’s interest in producing vernacular versions of the classics that were accurate, beautiful, and (in his view) much-needed. Conversely, as we shall see, though they also address the efforts of their predecessors, both Radcliffe and Stevenson aim to amuse and to shock in their translations of Ovid. Their collections did not attract attention because of their august literary reputations, as Dryden’s inevitably did, but because of their daring and often crude reimaginings of Ovid, and of the Poet Laureate’s noble collection. Considering the collections side-by-side thus emphasises the intertextuality that was key to so much seventeenth-century literature, while also shedding valuable light on Restoration attitudes to sex, to the physical body, and to the classical and literary past.

2> Although in his Ars Poetica Ovid’s contemporary Horace had asserted that dramatists could use and reuse classical themes, from the Renaissance onwards, English authors had struggled with the issue of how the classics should be rendered into their vernacular.
[3] Dryden himself weighed into the debate enthusiastically, both through his discussions of classical authors, including Virgil, Ovid and Seneca, and through his own efforts to translate the classics: he rendered parts of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Virgil’s Aeneid and Homer’s Iliad into English in the latter half of the seventeenth century. Moreover, the weight of Dryden’s reputation meant that he was able to compile a series of translations of Ovid’s Heroides, completed by various well-known authors of the day including Elkanah Settle, Nahum Tate and Aphra Behn, and published under the title Ovid’s Epistles Translated by Several Hands. This collection was deeply significant, not only because of what Susan Wiseman terms its “massive popularity”,[4] but also because of the reactions it provoked in Dryden’s contemporaries. In this paper, I will focus on the very different ways these three Restoration collections of Dryden, Radcliffe and Stevenson respond to the Ovidian epistles of Paris, Helen, Oenone and Penelope. In their enthusiastic Englishing of Ovid, the three do not merely translate the classics, or respond to the efforts of the Roman poet – rather, the collections speak very obviously to one another, to earlier methods of translation, and to issues of the day, both political and social. In so doing, they may instruct or titillate their readers, and create a lively dialogue about the precise and often provocative art that was seventeenth-century classical translation.

3> Although he produced the first of these three 1680 translations of Ovid, it does not follow that Dryden did not engage with the efforts of other English translators in this collection, and at other points in his career. Indeed, he uses his Preface to Fables Ancient and Modern (1700), the collection that included many of his own translations, to attack the efforts of others, and in so doing indicates the existence of an exchange about his own worth as a translator. He reserves particular scorn for Luke Milbourne, translator of the Aeneid, observing acidly “I am satisfy’d that while he and I live together, I shall not be thought the Worst Poet of the age”.
[5] This vitriol is apparently the result of Milbourne’s criticism of Dryden’s 1697 attempt at the Aeneid of Virgil: Dryden exclaims

“If (as they say, he has declar’d in Print) he prefers the version of Ogilby
[6] to mine, the World has made him the same Compliment: For ‘tis agreed on all hands, that he writes even below Ogilby: That, you will say, is not easily to be done; but what cannot M[ilbourne] bring about?” (45)

4> He even attacks the efforts of the Elizabethan and Jacobean predecessors he acknowledges are admired by others, such as George Sandys, translator of the Metamorphoses. In his Preface to The Third Part of Miscellany Poems (1693) he remarks of such earlier translators “they were Scholars, ‘tis true, but they were Pedants. And for a just Reward of their Pedantick pains, all their Translations want to be Translated, into English”.
[7] Dryden criticised Sandys and his ilk because he felt that they adhered too closely to the language of their classical originals, thus contravening Horace’s advice that a translator or recycler of older stories should make some attempt at originality. In the Preface to Ovid’s Epistles, Dryden had set out his own theory of translation, explaining that the three types were metaphrase, or the close literal translation which he felt rendered many of the early translations of the classics so unsatisfactory, paraphrase, which he termed “Translation with Latitude”, and imitation, in which the author takes only “some general hints from the Original”.[8] For Dryden, the second of these, paraphrase, was preferable. He was not averse to adding to his original, provided that he felt the addition was in keeping with the spirit of his source, but maintains “the sence of an Authour, generally speaking, is to be Sacred and Inviolable” (118). By contrast, other translators working in England at the same time saw the classics as far from sacred, and translating them into English as far less of a solemn commitment to art, than a chance to entertain their readers with some choice Anglo-Saxon, and an enthusiastic engagement with bodily functions that would, perhaps, have rendered even Dryden speechless.

5> When Dryden’s collection of Ovid’s epistles appeared, the Heroides had been circulating in English for more than a century: in 1567, George Turberville had published a hugely popular English translation of the epistles,
[9] and the seventeenth-century popularity of the collection was attested to by close English translations by Wye Saltonstall (which had reached a fifth edition by the Restoration) and by John Sherburne (1639).[10] In 1609, Thomas Heywood, one of the seventeenth century’s most enthusiastic recyclers of mythological situation and character, had included close translations of the epistles of Paris and Helen in his Troia Britanica,[11] and these resurfaced in a 1640 collection, where they were erroneously attributed to Shakespeare.[12] Dryden sought to follow these, but also somehow to outdo them, to use his exhaustive collection (all the epistles are translated at least once, and two, the letters of Dido and Phyllis, are translated twice) to comment not only on the art of Restoration translation, but also on the character of his Ovidian original. Thus in the Preface to Part Three of the Miscellany Poems, he notes the light-hearted spirit which makes Ovid’s works so appealing to readers and translators, claiming “He is certainly more palatable to the Reader, than any of the Roman Wits, though some of them are more lofty, some more Instructive, and others more Correct” (369-70). However, he insists that this populist vein that runs through Ovid’s works has not resulted in unsuitable subject matter finding its way into his vernacular version. Speaking of his translations in general, in his preface to Fables Ancient and Modern, Dryden asserts “I have written nothing which savours of Immorality or Profaneness” (27).

6> Specifically, twenty years earlier, in the Preface to his Ovid, he had read a propriety in Ovid’s treatment of his heroines, which is, arguably, not always discernible in the Latin, and is utterly absent in the subsequent burlesques. He notes approvingly of Ovid “of the general Character of Women which is Modesty, he has taken a most becoming care” (114). Unlike Dryden, Radcliffe and Stevenson have no interest in moral instruction, or in avoiding “Profaneness”, and particularly not in providing edifying examples for women to follow. Indeed, part of Radcliffe’s project predates Dryden’s – in 1673, he had anonymously published the burlesqued epistles of Dido, Laodamia, Hero, Leander and Penelope, under the title Ovidius Exulans, or Ovid Travestie. Later, in 1680, Matthew Stevenson had also seen the potential for parody, not only of Ovid, but of Dryden’s new collection. In the same year, his The Wits Paraphrased, or, Paraphrase upon paraphrase in a burlesque on the several late translations of Ovids Epistles, appeared, and as the title would suggest, it responds very obviously to these earlier efforts to translate the Heroides, and specifically to Dryden’s lofty pronouncements on the duties and responsibilities of a translator. Stevenson’s and Radcliffe’s assertive, almost aggressive engagement with Ovid, with Dryden and with one another, amply demonstrated in their prefaces, illustrate the fact that, though they do not translate as seriously as Dryden, for them, as for the Poet Laureate, an essential part of translation is some sort of response to their efforts of one’s predecessors, and one that (more often than not) seeks to find fault with such earlier attempts. While he names no names, Stevenson asserts that others before him have attempted to translate Ovid, but “I in my own simple naked shape, come nearer the Original than the best on ‘em”.
[13] Indeed, he responds very clearly to Dryden’s collection specifically, comparing a translation with a long preface to “a Close-stool with a Velvet Seat larger than the Pan that Receives the Excrement”, and asserting “I do not hope to extenuate my faults by an Elaborate Epistle, or an insinuating Preface, so much Exploded amongst the Modern Sages: neither do I know the Use or necessity of troubling you with them, but that I would not be out of the Fashion”.[14]

7> If Stevenson challenges the seriousness of Dryden’s project (and indeed, even his predecessor’s credentials as a translator), Radcliffe, predictably, appears to have been particularly irritated by Stevenson’s attempt at burlesquing Ovid, as he himself had done seven years earlier, and so is keen to assert himself over his rival. Thus in 1680, he released Ovid Travestie, and in 1681 reissued it once again, under the title Ovid Travestie, A Burlesque Upon Ovids Epistles. The Second Edition, Enlarged With Ten Epistles Never Before Printed. As Stevenson’s preface had responded to Dryden, Radcliffe’s editions of 1680 and 1681 include a new preface in which he attacks his rival in burlesque, calling him “an unlucky Pretender to Poetry” (A3r),
[15] and criticising his efforts to parody both Ovid and Dryden. Indeed, like Dryden before him, Radcliffe proves himself the master of the backhanded compliment in his efforts to undermine a rival translator, criticising Stevenson’s assertion that his translation of Ovid is the most accurate available, and suggesting “That our Paraphraser would consider, and follow any other Employment, more agreeable with his Genius (if he have any) then that of Poetry”.[16] At the same time, in his reissue and enlargement of his 1673 collection, Radcliffe, like Stevenson, is obviously attempting to capitalise on the success of Dryden’s collection, as well as responding to the efforts of a fellow burlesquer. Indeed, it seems he and Stevenson were not the only ones who saw the potential to profit from Dryden’s endeavours: it is surely significant that while Radcliffe’s 1673 Ovid was put out by Peter Lillicrap and Samuel Speed, his 1680 and 1681 burlesques were produced by Jacob Tonson, Dryden’s own publisher.

8> Very clearly, translating Ovid in 1680 is a serious business, and each translator seems to have keenly felt his responsibility to consider, and respond to, his earlier models, whether classical or early modern. This can be seen not only in their often inflammatory prefaces, but also in the ways that they respond very differently to the same Latin originals. A desire to answer Dryden’s lofty collection by no means precludes either Radcliffe or Stevenson from catering to the lowest common denominator among their audiences: Stevenson’s take on Ovid can be particularly startling in its references to sex and indelicate bodily function, perhaps because he was aware he was following in another’s footsteps, and was attempting to outdo the Ovidius Exulans. In turn, Radcliffe’s swelling his collection from five epistles to fifteen is, of course, a reaction to Stevenson’s attempt to capitalise on Dryden’s collection. These new epistles deal with some of the more notorious characters and episodes of classical mythology, and while Dryden’s collection can paraphrase Ovid’s Latin to make his translation speak to contemporary issues, Radcliffe and Stevenson are at pains to play up the salacious and sensational aspects of their sources, and to augment these with bawdy touches of their own. A good example of this is two of the translators’ very different approaches to Heroides 5, Oenone’s letter to Paris, ostensibly penned when he has abandoned her to pursue a relationship with Helen, the wife he has stolen from the Greek king Menelaus. Matthew Stevenson neglects to translate the epistle, perhaps because of the admission in his preface that “if I have omitted any thing that was proper for my purpose, it was either because the Subject wou'd not admit of Burlesque, or because it was done to my hand”.
[17] (Radcliffe’s Oenone was absent from the 1673 Ovidius Exulans, and thus Stevenson had no model of burlesque to follow for this particular epistle). Radcliffe and Dryden’s collections do attempt the letter though (Radcliffe in his second edition of 1681), and the themes of infidelity, royal power and future disaster which informed the Ovidian epistle are all brought out in these early modern renderings, where they are made to speak very obviously to Restoration interests and mores.

9> The epistle of Oenone to Paris in Dryden’s collection was rendered English by Aphra Behn, and advertises itself as a paraphrase rather than a translation. Famously, in his Preface to Ovid’s Epistles Dryden identifies “the Authour who is of the Fair Sex” as the only one of his translators who was not working from Ovid’s Latin, though he hastens to add “if she doe not, I am afraid she has given us occasion to be asham'd who do” (119). Of course, the word “paraphrase” allies Behn’s epistle to Dryden’s preferred method of translation,
[18] in which an author could translate “with Latitude”, and might make judicious additions to his or her source. Indeed, Jessica Munns notes that

“In paraphrasing Ovid, Behn alters many of [the epistle’s] materials, much of its mood, and Oenone’s character. Ovid’s Oenone has a rather nagging tone as she reminds Paris that she was a rather well-known and popular water nymph when he was a mere servant. Behn reverses the relative status of Ovid’s characters, as her Oenone claims that she is proud to be ‘humbly born, / Even tho; it renders me my Paris scorn’.”

10> Behn expands on the Ovidian epistle at several points, most notably in the emphasis Oenone gives to the corrupting nature of Paris’s new-found power, and their different social statuses, which have driven him to desert her: for example, she asks Paris “Are Crowns and Falshoods then consistant things? / And must they all be faithless who are Kings?” (p.112). This somewhat surprising addition seems very obviously intended to make the epistle speak to contemporary concerns, and perhaps specifically to concerns over royal behaviour, and the identity of the likely successor of Charles II. Carol Barash notes that for Janet Todd, “Behn’s royalism is expressed in repeated references to Paris as king”, but she demurs, suggesting that “Behn’s use of monarchy as a trope is more complicated and ambivalent than a mere expression of Stuart loyalty”.
[20] Here, indeed, Behn’s addition seems more critical than approving of a monarch’s power, and perhaps specifically critical of the sexual incontinence of male royals. In fact, as the prince who arguably brought about the Trojan War, Paris was as much a favourite as Helen among English authors wishing to suggest at best, misguided passion, and at worst, a feckless disregard for the tragic consequences of selfish actions. Thus, the emphasis that Oenone places on Paris’s royal blood appears to become a criticism of monarchy, or a least a destabilisation of the admiration which Oenone recalls feeling, as she gazed upon the Trojan prince. Indeed, Barash suggests that “the monarchic language alludes to James, Duke of Monmouth, Charles II’s illegitimate son” (115), a figure who was himself, like his father, involved in several high-profile extramarital affairs, and who challenged the claim to the throne of the Catholic James, Duke of York, the future James II. Barash points to Behn’s “cultural translation of Oenone and Paris to the conflicts of her own time” (116), and although at many points she represents Ovid’s Latin accurately, here and elsewhere she adds to her source, as Radcliffe and Stevenson were to do. Specifically, she does so to render the epistle relevant (and perhaps on some level scandalous and salacious) to her Restoration readers, to relate it to a debate over kingship and royal power that no contemporary reader could escape.

11> Behn also elaborates on Oenone’s descriptions of she and Paris meeting and falling in love, but despite the heightened nature of her jabs at Paris, in her representation of Oenone, Behn is careful to preserve and even to intensify the spirit of modesty that Dryden commended in Ovid. Her Oenone confesses “I am soft, and young as April Flowers” (H3r), while Ovid’s heroine makes no such pronouncement. Moreover, though the classical Oenone had command of healing potions, Barash points out that “Behn flattens Oenone’s divine powers, making her an innocent ‘shepherdess’ in awe of the now ‘Great’ public man” (115). These alterations are all intended to soften or weaken Oenone, to stress her despair rather than the powerful anger present in some classical texts (for example Quintus of Smyrna’s account of the fall of Troy, which makes much of Oenone’s medical abilities),
[21] and in their English successors, such as Thomas Heywood’s Oenone to Paris (1594), in which Oenone bitterly attacks both Paris and Helen.[22]

12> By contrast, and like Heywood, Radcliffe saw great potential in the figure of a woman spurned for another, and his Oenone has no qualms about attacking Helen personally. At points Behn’s Oenone does this – pointing to Helen’s ravishment by Theseus, which Helen insists did not involve either her consent, or a sexual relationship, Behn seems to invoke the licentiousness of the Restoration court, and specifically of upper-class women, as she has her Oenone demand “is this a Trick of Courts, can Ravishment / Serve for a poor Evasion of Consent?” (Ir). Indeed, although doubt over Helen’s innocence during this first ravishment has its roots in classical literature, Munns sees Behn’s sceptical addition here as “very much in line with the more cynical Restoration assessments of rape”.
[23] However, despite this evidence of anger, by and large Behn strives to preserve and underscore the delicacy of Oenone’s feelings – for example, unlike her Ovidian counterpart, who exclaims of Helen ardet amore tui? Sic et Menelaon amavit (5.105) (“Is she ardent with love for you? So, too, she loved Menelaus”), Behn’s Oenone does not even obliquely suggest to Paris that his new bride may prove unfaithful. Radcliffe’s Oenone has no such reservations, speaking frankly about Helen and about her own relationship with Paris. Like Behn’s Oenone, Radcliffe’s links Paris’s new coldness to his increased social status, though Radcliffe undercuts this by making Paris rise not from shepherd to prince of Troy, but from groom to butler. He also belittles the pathos of the classical scenario through Oenone’s bathetic language. She tells Paris “If you were able to keep house you swore/ You'd marry me for all I was your Whore” (F4r), and indignantly denies that he has any concrete reason to abandon her:

“If by my means y’had met with some disaster,
Had I procur'd you Anger from your Master;
If I had giv'n you that they call a Clap,
You'd had some small Excuse for your Escape.” (F3v)

13> Oenone continues to speak in this crude and startlingly direct language throughout her epistle. Predictably, in this rendering Helen does not escape as easily as she does in Behn’s, and Oenone has no qualms about addressing her sexual impropriety: she is “that over-ridden Whore, that mistress Hellen” (p.73). While in Behn’s epistle Helen is an exotic and powerful foreign queen, Radcliffe’s Oenone reimagines her rival as an unfaithful wife of the type familiar from Restoration comedy, who will “lye with any body for a Lodging” (p.75) and then returns to her husband once all her lover’s money has been spent, accusing the man of ravishment.

14> Radcliffe and Stevenson very obviously see their projects as very different from those of the translators who have preceded them, specifically in their attitudes to the women they are translating, whom Dryden had attempted to present as possessed of a modest dignity. Deborah Greenhut has expressed the opinion that Turberville’s Elizabethan translation of Ovid “reaffirms a longstanding misogynist tradition”,
[24] and sees evidence for this in his inclusion of directive Arguments to each epistle, for example the one which precedes Helen’s letter to Paris, and invites his readers to see her perfidy as representative of a general feminine failing. Dryden follows suit – he himself translated Helen’s epistle to Paris, in collaboration with the Earl of Mulgrave, and in his Argument explains that Helen’s epistle, which moves from outrage at Paris, to an admission of her growing desire for him, and willingness to deceive her husband, is demonstrative of “the extream artifice of Womankind” (p.153). This exact phrasing was also used by Stevenson in his Argument to the same letter, and thus it is apparent that male disapproval of feminine transgression, and their debts to their literary predecessors, can often go hand in hand. Indeed, though the burlesquer’s inclusion of the phrase is more likely to be another nod towards the Poet Laureate than an effort to make a serious point, it may be that here, a fundamental male distrust of women goes some way towards bridging the ideological gap between Dryden and Stevenson.[25]

15> However, despite such interesting points of contact, Radcliffe and Stevenson engage far more enthusiastically than Turberville or Dryden with the opportunity to mock or belittle their heroines, specifically by representing the tragic queens and princesses as coarse, crude and sex-obsessed. Drawing on Laurel Fulkerson’s work, Wiseman has identified one of the questions central to a consideration of Ovid’s Heroides – she asks “How are readers to moderate the relationship between the voices of the heroines and the controlling power of the poet?”
[26] She rightly sees this uncertainty as continuing to inform sixteenth and seventeenth-century translations of the Heroides, and if this is considered in relation to Radcliffe’s and Stevenson’s burlesques, both collections, like Turberville’s, seem to reaffirm what Greenhut has described as a “misogynist tradition” – a desire to attack, rather than ennoble women, that can be discerned both in the sexual and scatological language of their heroines, and in Radcliffe’s and Stevenson’s authorial strategies. Notably, both only translate select epistles: accordingly they both ignore Medea’s letter to Jason, in which she alludes to his marriage to Creusa and threatens dire revenge, but include Heroides 6, Hypsipyle to Jason, in which Jason’s first wife angrily rebukes him for his desertion. Hypsipyle’s anger at Medea, and her desire for Jason, coupled with her essential helplessness, make her, like Oenone, an easy target for burlesque. In both collections, Hypsipyle is made to rail at her rival in coarse and earthy language which betrays Radcliffe’s and Stevenson’s delight in bringing a dignified classical princess low, and their interest in entertaining their readers by adding salacious details about Medea’s witchcraft. Thus to Radcliffe’s Hypsipyle, Medea is not merely the barbara paelax (6.81) (“barbarian jade”) she was in Ovid: here she is become

“A Witch, a Bitch, in whom the Devil dwells,
Whose Face is Made of Grease and Wall-nut-Shells.
[…] A plaguy Jade, who curses Night and Noon,
And houls, and heaves her Arse against the Moon.” (H2v)

16> Conversely, while they may mock her appearance or her sexual proclivities, the powerful anger and rejection that the child-killer Medea expresses in her letter to Jason proves to be beyond a joke for either wit, and thus both resist the temptation to translate Heroides 12, which is shot through with hints of her future regicide and infanticide.
[27] A comparison may be made with Chaucer’s decision to include Medea’s story in his Legend of Good Women, a collection that clearly shows the influence of Ovid’s Heroides, but to elide her crimes, and merely portray her as abandoned by Jason. Chaucer, on some level at least, aims for pathos in the Legend, while Radcliffe and Stevenson attempt ribald humour, but in either case, there is no place for the crimes of a woman possessed of such terrifying agency as the classical Medea, who had been portrayed in such texts as Seneca’s Medea and Ovid’s Metamorphoses and well as the Heroides. While Radcliffe and Stevenson may mock Medea from a distance through the letter of Hypsipyle, their decisions not to include her speak volumes about the ways in which their aims differ from Dryden’s, who makes no such editorial decisions, and whose collection thus includes a faithful translation of Heroides 12 by Nahum Tate.

17> Predictably, despite such squeamishness with regards to the vengeful witch Medea, and despite Stevenson’s decision not to translate Oenone’s letter, neither burlesquer can resist the opportunity to English the epistles of Paris and Helen, two of classical literature’s most well-known figures, enmeshed in mythology’s most notorious sex scandal. Famously, Ovid’s naïve and impetuous Paris woos Helen by telling her that, though prophets have predicted Troy will burn if she submits to him, these fires are to be read allegorically, as representative of his love. In Dryden’s collection, Richard Duke renders this faithfully – his Paris exclaims of the prophets “They sing that I all Troy should set on fire, / But sure Fate meant the flames of my desire” (p.121). Radcliffe draws on his classical context, and specifically the legend that when Hecuba, the Trojan queen, was pregnant with Paris, she dreamt that she would give birth to a fire-brand that would burn Troy. Radcliffe’s Paris proudly identifies himself with this brand, and takes the opportunity to make a most unclassical suggestion to Helen: he exclaims “I am that Faggot-stick, I burn apace, / Oh quench me, Madam, in your watring---place” (p.109). Such bawdy jokes reflect the general spirit of Ovid – Paris’s interest in Helen is by no means platonic – but Radcliffe very obviously sexes up what he has found in his original, to cater to the base interests of his Restoration readership.

18> Elsewhere, too, appeals to contemporary concerns can be discerned. If his Oenone has identified Paris’s humble beginnings as a butler, in the Argument of Paris’s epistle to Helen, Radcliffe continues the story, explaining Paris’s rise to prosperity: “at last being own'd by Alderman Priam a Rich Old Citizen, and receiv'd as his Son---he set up for a Gentleman” (p.105). Radcliffe explains that the newly enriched Paris casts around for a wife, and rewrites Helen’s husband Menelaus as a rich and hospitable country squire, and Helen as his beautiful young wife, easily swayed by the riches of the city and a handsome young newcomer. Thus, like Ovid, Radcliffe uses the epistles of Oenone, Paris and Helen to construct a narrative that his readers could follow throughout the collection: and a narrative, moreover, that catered to the Restoration taste for stories of adultery, illicit love, and social climbing. The Ovidian Paris details the glories of Troy in an effort to tempt Helen, and Duke’s follows suit, exclaiming

“There you shall see the Houses rooft with Gold,
And Temples glorious as the Gods they hold.
Troy you shall see, and divine Walls admire,
Built to the consort of Apollo's Lyre.” (Kv)

19> By contrast, Radcliffe’s Paris speaks of London, telling Helen

“If you wou'd once make London your aboad,
You'd hate a Village as you'd hate a Toad.
Oh how your Ladiship wou'd stare to see
Our City Dames in all their Bravery.
They've Petticoats with Lace above their knees
Of Gold and Silver, or of Point Veni-ce;
Cornets and lofty Tow'rs upon the head,
And wondrous shapes of which you never read.” (Iv)

20> Here, where Ovid’s Paris boasts that Troy is a greater kingdom than Sparta, Radcliffe plays on the opposition between town and country, that staple of much Restoration comedy, and exploits this friction to portray his young woman as superficial and fatuous, as the golden towers of Troy are become elaborate head-dresses worn by sophisticated city ladies.

21> Like Radcliffe, Stevenson plays up the salacious aspects of his source, and makes it cater to Restoration interests and literary taste. In Ovid, Paris describes how he judged Venus, Juno, and Minerva, and chose Venus as the most beautiful, awarding her the golden apple as a prize, after she offered to help him win Helen. In the Latin and Duke’s English, the tone is passionate, but dignified. By contrast, Stevenson’s goddesses are “Three bouncing Wenches”, the messenger-god Mercury, who leads them in, is a “Pimp”, and when Mercury has introduced the goddesses, Stevenson notes “He spake, and flew up in a Machin, / According to the modern fashion” (E3r). As this attempt to explain Mercury’s exit in relation to seventeenth-century stagecraft
[28] suggests, Stevenson debases his classical original at every opportunity, not least in his use of determinedly mundane or coarse rhymes. His Paris tells Helen “All the long night I melt like Jelly, / And dreamt of nothing but my Nelly” (E3v) and declares “I lanch out, and away I come, / To have a fillip at thy Bum” (E4r). Like Oenone’s, Paris’s crude language is intended to raise a smile, to rewrite the serious and tragic undertones of both Ovid’s and Dryden’s collections with its emphasis on sex and physicality, which is very often deliberately muted in Dryden’s collection, and even in Ovid’s letters is not as shocking and forthright as it seems here. In this letter, as both he and Radcliffe do throughout their burlesques, Stevenson aims to create an active dialogue with the Ovidian Latin and/or Dryden’s translations, challenging his readers to get the joke, to appreciate how much he has altered in his responses to his sources. Though the translations of Dryden’s collection often reward knowledge of contemporary event, such as the anxiety over Charles’s successor, the accuracy of the translations he commissioned means that his collection does not demand knowledge of Ovid’s Latin, and is not so knowingly intertextual as the two burlesques, which seem to revel in pushing the boundaries set out by their Latin and English source texts.

22> In his collection, Dryden pens Helen’s reply, and once again sticks closely to his Ovid, in which Helen angrily contests Paris’s supposition that she will be easily won, but gradually confesses her growing attraction and agrees that they may continue to correspond. Once again, Radcliffe and Stevenson appear to delight in debasing not only their Latin original, but also Dryden’s attempt at the same project of translation. In her letter to Paris, Dryden’s Helen confesses “For oh! your Face has such peculiar charms, / That who can hold from flying to your arms?” (L3r). Stevenson’s, by contrast, exclaims

“But oh! Thy face was so bewitching
I cou'd not choose but have an itching;
And though it were in Hall or Kitchin
Full dear I long'd to be a Bitching.” (F3r)

23> At every opportunity, while Dryden’s Helen represents herself as helpless to resist the designs of men, or Paris’s desire, Stevenson’s is crude and sexually voracious, although his choice of exclamation (“For oh!”/“But oh!”), subtly allies his burlesque to Dryden’ serious translation. Ovid’s Helen wishes that Paris would abduct her, so that she might have her desire and yet be regarded as innocent: she tells him utilis interdum est ipsis iniuria passis. / sic certe felix esse coacta forem (17.187-8) (“Wrong sometimes brings gain even to those themselves who suffer it. In this way, surely I could have been compelled to happiness”). Dryden follows the sense, while underscoring the feminine weakness: his Helen reflects “Indulgent to the wrongs which we receive, / Our Sex can suffer what we dare not give” (p.164). While she predictably responds to Dryden’s model, Stevenson’s bawdy Helen makes her desire for Paris much more obvious, and indeed presents herself, as a woman, as more than Paris’s equal, telling him lasciviously “Our Sex still ready to receive, / And can take more than you can give” (p.75).

24> As a woman enjoying the attentions of the man she desires, rather than bewailing her abandonment, Ovid’s Helen can seem one of his stronger and more powerful heroines, and there is something to enjoy in Stevenson’s representation of Helen as absolutely confident of her own desires, and unfazed by Paris’s attentions. However, the exaggeration of Helen’s desire for Paris, and Stevenson’s determination to make her speak in the language of a Restoration bawd, underscores the tension that Wiseman and Fulkerson identified between female voice and male poet or translator in this collection. Indeed, in making their female writers speak in these crude and sexualised voices, in making women such as Helen and Oenone revel in their desires rather than regretting them or fearing their consequences, Radcliffe and Stevenson problematise the issue of how female readers were to respond to these heroines. Wiseman points out that “Translation itself, making the poems available to readers without Latin, intensified the question of their availability to and appropriateness for a female reader”.
[29] Dryden had engaged with this question, asserting in the Preface to Ovid’s Epistles that the essential modesty of Ovid’s heroines meant that the Heroides “may be read, as he intended them, by Matrons without a blush” (114). Of course, the crudity of the burlesqued Hypsipyle, Oenone and Helen is not something early modern male writers would wish their women to imitate, and Radcliffe’s and Stevenson’s collections are clearly not intended to be seriously instructive. Introducing an essay by Harriette Andreadis, Wiseman notes that in Andreadis’s consideration of early modern Heroides, the excessive (hetero)sexualisation of Sappho, another of Ovid’s heroines, can reveal more about what Wiseman terms “the mysteries of masculine fantasy”[30] than it does about female desire. Correspondingly, while Stevenson may seem to strengthen and empower Ovid’s Helen through her frank admissions of desire for Paris, he does so to titillate a male readership, rather than to empower a female one, and similarly reductive patterns of representation may be discerned throughout the burlesques.

25> Radcliffe’s Helen is less crudely sexualised
than Stevenson’s, but he still very obviously aims to raise a smile, rather than simply render Ovid English – when she describes Paris’s love-struck behaviour towards her, Radcliffe’s heroine exclaims dreamily “Sometimes I think you love me when you look / With Eyes unmov'd, just like a Pig that's stuck” (p.122). Moreover, like Stevenson he aims to reinvent Helen and Paris as contemporary adulterers, Troy as London and Paris as the sophisticated city-dweller taking the country girl from under the nose of her hapless, older husband – Helen frets

“But if we now were toward London jogging,
'Tis ten to one some Puppy would be dogging,
Or else some Neighbour on the Road wou'd stay us,
And ask me after Mr. Menelaus.
Or we shall hear the Country-people say,
Would you believe that she should run-away?
Marry not hansome Wives by this Example,
Since pritty Mistres Hellen’s on the Ramble.” (p.125)

26> The classical Paris is passionate and insistent, Helen desirous but concerned about her reputation, and Radcliffe and Stevenson do their best to play up these attributes for the delectation of their Restoration readers. Possible Restoration parallels to the pairing of Paris and Helen include Horner and Margery in William Wycherley’s notorious sex comedy The Country Wife, in which Horner seduces the naïve country girl Margery away from her ageing husband Pinchwife, through a combination of his own sexual prowess and the glittering attraction of London. Moreover, in the same work the presentation of the lusty female rakes, Lady Squeamish, Lady Fidget and Dainty Fidget, all of whom are enthusiastically carrying on with Horner, appears to inform the frankly sexual language of the burlesqued Oenone and Helen in these two collections (though the nature of stage performance meant that Wycherley’s language is necessarily more coy and allusive than the coarseness of Radcliffe and Stevenson).
[31] Indeed, as a well-known and hugely popular work, Wycherley’s 1675 play adroitly illustrates the comic devices that Restoration audiences relished in their drama, and which Stevenson and Radcliffe attempt to communicate in the epistles of Hypsipyle, Paris and Helen. In his consideration of The Country Wife and similar comedies, Robert G. Lawrence notes the new Restoration interest in staging “an analysis (or dissection) of contemporary marital relationships”, and goes on to note that “The topic of marriage was very closely linked to morality, with explicit or implicit consideration of behaviour appropriate to the married state”.[32] This interest in the morality of marriage made the Oenone-Paris-Helen exchange particularly natural for all three collections to address. Moreover, if Behn’s epistle of Oenone could speak seriously to the issue of kingly power, the burlesqued epistles of Radcliffe and Stevenson were similarly timely, enthusiastically addressing many of the themes and topoi that Restoration audiences enjoyed in their comedies: bawdy innuendo, specifically from women, female sexual jealousy and avarice, and tension between town and country.

27> We have seen that both Stevenson and Radcliffe steer clear of contentious women such as Medea, who had proved difficult for male authors to represent in English from the Middle Ages onwards, and who seems particularly to resist a comic rereading, due to the notoriety of her crimes. While Dryden’s collection includes all twenty-one epistles, Stevenson and Radcliffe both prefer the apparently easier targets of figures such as Paris and Helen. However, I would like to end this paper with a brief consideration of how Radcliffe and Stevenson burlesque or paraphrase a very different kind of woman – the archetypally faithful Penelope, who pens the first of Ovid’s epistles to her long-absent husband Ulysses. Oenone’s angry jealousy, and Paris and Helen’s scorn for Menelaus and frank sexual desire for one another, make their epistles natural ports of call for the poet wishing to parody Ovid, however affectionately. Penelope’s despairing epistle to her husband seems a less natural choice, but if it is considered through the lens of Restoration comedy, with its love for bringing the high and mighty (and particularly the chaste) low, it seems more explicable. Through their rewriting of her epistle, Radcliffe and Stevenson demonstrate their ongoing determination to shock and entertain, as well as underscoring what is here a magnificent disregard for the spirit of their Ovidian original. Accordingly, a comparison of the three early modern Penelopes – Dryden’s, Radcliffe’s, and Stevenson’s – underscores the vastly different aims and approaches of the three translators to devastating effect.

28> As he does with his other epistles, Radcliffe relocates his protagonists to Restoration England – the argument explains that rather than going to besiege Troy with Menelaus, the Greek hero Ulysses had gone to quell “a Rebellion in Scotland”, but afterwards “lay loitring at some Inn on the Road” (p.78), instead of returning to his wife. As this would suggest, every aspect of the situation is belittled: the victorious side gather in a tavern to boast about their exploits during the war, and Ulysses’s famous adventures on his way home become the mishaps of a drunken soldier lurching up the road. Stevenson represents his characters as Greeks, as Ovid and Dryden do, but as he does elsewhere, goes even further than Radcliffe in his attempts to burlesque them, and his Penelope, like his Hypsipyle and Helen, becomes a foul-mouthed bawd. In Dryden’s collection, Penelope’s letter is translated by Thomas Rymer, and once again, the spirit of Ovid’s original is alive and well. In Heroides 1, Penelope describes how she is determined to resist her father’s attempts to match her with one of her insistent suitors, telling Ulysses ille tamen pietate mea precibusque pudicis / frangitur et vires temperat ipse suas (1.85-6) (“Yet is he bent by my faithfulness and my chaste prayers, and of himself abates his urgency”). Rymer’s Penelope exclaims “by my Chast desires, and vertue bent, His temper does a little now relent” (M3r). Conversely, in Stevenson’s rendering Penelope is distressed by Ulysses’s absence for very different reasons. She speaks frankly of her sexual desire for her absent husband, chiding Ulysses “For notwithstanding all your swagger, / To me all's standing but your Dagger” (p.82), and seems allied to one of the headstrong heroines of Restoration comedy, anxious to avoid an undesirable match, as she warns her husband “My Father wou'd have had me truckled / To an old Fop, and made thee Cuckold” (Gv). Elsewhere, where the classical Penelope confesses her fears for Ulysses’s safety, Stevenson’s gives unsavoury details of her physical reactions as she imagines him besieged by enemies, telling him: “I fear'd thy Coxcomb they did cuddle, / Which made my Spouts drop many a puddle” (p.80).

29> This is assuredly not the Penelope of Ovid, or of Dryden’s collection, and still less the famously modest and faithful heroine of the Odyssey. There is entertainment here, a determined refusal to respect the sanctity of the classical past, and of its heroes and heroines. Once again, however, this seems shot through with a particular, and perhaps misogynist, delight in debasing heroines, in speaking to contemporary gender politics, and in laying bare the lewd, crude and lustful tendencies that the burlesquers imagined lay at the heart of women’s nature. While the excessive sexualisation of Oenone, Helen or Hypsipyle may be used by the burlesquers to humorous effect, the deliberately distasteful corruption of Penelope’s love for her absent husband, her articulation of crude desires and physical reactions, is a particularly powerful illustration of the period’s wildly differing reactions to the Heroides. Radcliffe’s and Stevenson’s determination to lay Penelope bare in this way hammers home their commitment to shock tactics, and to a deliberate iconoclasm, rather than to the sensitive and thoughtful translation recommended by Dryden. Nowhere is it more obvious than here that while Radcliffe and Stevenson may claim to set right the errors of their predecessors, in fact they are writing not for literary immortality, but for notoriety, for word-of-mouth fame and concurrently for profit. Dryden must have been confident that his literary reputation, combined with continuing seventeenth-century interest in the classics, would make his Epistles a success. Radcliffe and Stevenson had no such security, and indeed Radcliffe may have feared his 1673 work would be eclipsed entirely by the publication of Dryden’s weighty collection. Accordingly, both rushed into print in reaction to his work, and in so doing both authors display a startling interest in the physical, that may often veer into misogyny in its presentation of the female voice, but also reveal a revolutionary and engagingly combative attitude to each other, to Dryden, and even to Ovid’s originals. The determination of all three poets to criticise the efforts of their English predecessors is an important point of contact between the three collections: indeed, naming names as he does, Dryden can often attack his poetic rivals more aggressively than either Radcliffe or Stevenson. However, even a cursory comparison of the translations (such as that presented in the introduction to this article) renders their differences obvious, and these differences between Dryden’s Epistles and the burlesques must surely be attributed to differing authorial agendas: essentially, the conflict is between a desire to inform, and a desire to entertain.

30> Dryden’s serious reimagining of Ovid was hugely popular – Andreadis records ten editions from the Tonson publishing house between 1680 and 1720.
[33] She notes that Stevenson’s and Radcliffe’s burlesques do not have this lengthy afterlife, and certainly they are not now widely studied. Whatever their deficiencies, though, one cannot accuse them of being flat or boring recyclings of the classics, or of Dryden’s project. Indeed, crucially Andreadis notes that

“[…] the parodies – or at least Radcliffe’s Ovid Travestie, A Burlesque upon Ovid’s Epistles - indicate a conversation among London male intellectuals about the Heroides, about Dryden's projected coterie endeavour, and about female sexuality.”

31> In their rewritings of Ovid and Dryden, Stevenson and Radcliffe certainly cater to low-brow popular taste and address the concerns of the day, while also responding to and challenging their models, both classical and early modern. (I would suggest that Stevenson’s collection deserves to be included as part of this “conversation” that Andreadis identifies, because of its eagerness to respond to Dryden’s collection, to Ovid, and to Radcliffe’s 1673 burlesques). Radcliffe and Stevenson do not, perhaps, share the lofty aims of Dryden, and may write more with an eye to their purses than to preserve Ovid for the masses, or to ensure their own literary immortality. Nevertheless, in choosing to burlesque this most problematic and intertextual of Ovidian texts, and to respond to the lofty work of one of Restoration England’s greatest literary minds in the bargain, they perhaps do something more than merely entertain, or debase the great heroes and heroines of the past by dressing them in the crude costumes of Restoration rakes. Rather, they take Dryden’s assertion, that there is more than one way to render the classics English, to its logical conclusion, making Ovid’s heroes and heroines speak in a determinedly vernacular English, reflective of both the language and literature of Restoration London. In so doing, they have created new English Ovids that may yet outlive Dryden’s, that may shock, amuse, titillate or offend, but surely cannot fail to provoke debate and exchange.

Works Cited


Donno, Elizabeth Story, ed. Elizabethan Minor Epics. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1963.

Dryden, John. comp. Ovid’s Epistles Translated by Several Hands. London: Jacob Tonson, 1680.

---. Works. 20 vols. Berkeley: U of California P, 1956-2002.

Heywood,Thomas. Troia Britanica: or, Great Britaines Troy A poem devided into XVII. severall cantons, intermixed with many pleasant poeticall tales. Concluding with an universall chronicle from the Creation, untill these present times. London: W. Jaggard, 1609.

Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus). ‘Satires’, ‘Epistles’, ‘Ars Poetica’. Trans. H. Rushton Fairclough. London, Loeb Classical: Heinemann, 1929.

Johnson, Samuel. The Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets; With Critical Observations on Their Works. Ed. Roger Lonsdale. 4 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 2006.

Lawrence, Robert G., ed. Restoration Plays. London: J. M. Dent, 2000.

Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso). ‘Heroides’ and ‘Amores’. Trans. G. Showerman. London: Loeb Classical, Heinemann, 1914.

Quintus of Smyrna (Quintus Smyrnaeus). The Trojan Epic: Posthomerica. Trans. and ed. Alan James. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins UP, 2004.

Radcliffe, Alexander. Ovidius exulans, or, Ovid travestie a mock-poem on five epistles of Ovid : viz. Dido to AEnaeas, Leander to Hero, Laodameia to Protesilaus, Hero to Leander, Penelope to Ulysses : in English burlesque. By Naso Scarronnomimus. London: Peter Lillicrap for Samuel Speed, 1673.

---. Ovid travestie a burlesque upon Ovid’s epistles, the second edition, enlarged with ten epistles never before printed. London: Jacob Tonson, 1681.

---. Ovid travestie a burlesque upon several of Ovid’s epistles. London: Jacob Tonson, 1680.

Shakespeare, William. Poems: written by Wil. Shake-speare. Gent. London: Tho. Cotes for John Benson, 1640.

Stevenson, Matthew. The Wits Paraphras’d, or, Paraphrase upon paraphrase in a burlesque on the several late translations of Ovids Epistles. London: Will Cademan, 1680.

Turberville, George. The “Heroicall Epistles” of the Learned Poet Publius Ovidius Naso, Translated into English Verse by George Turberville. Ed. Frederick Boas. London: Cresset, 1928.


Andreadis, Harriette. “The Early Modern Afterlife of Ovidian Erotics: Dryden’s Heroides”. Renaissance Studies 22.3, Special Issue, The Rhetoric of Complaint: Ovid’s Heroines in the Renaissance and Restoration (2008): 401-16.

Baker, David. “Cavalier Shakespeare: The 1640 Poems of John Benson”. Studies in Philology 95.2 (1998): 152-173.

Barash, Carol. English Women’s Poetry, 1649-1714. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996.

Fulkerson, Laurel. The Ovidian Author As Heroine: Reading, Writing and Community in the ‘Heroides’. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2005.

Gillespie, Stuart, and David Hopkins, eds. The Oxford History of Literary Translation in English. 5 vols. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005.

Greenhut, Deborah S. Feminine Rhetorical Culture: Tudor Adaptations of Ovid’s ‘Heroides’. NY: P. Lang, 1988.

Heavey, Katherine. “‘We Poor Helpless Women’: Humanising Medea, 1648-1761”. Kaleidoscope, Journal for the Institute of Advanced Studies, Durham University
3.1 (Spring, 2009): [Forthcoming].

Hughes, Derek, and Janet M. Todd, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Aphra Behn. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004.

Munns, Jessica. “Pastoral and Lyric: Astrea in Arcadia”, in Hughes and Todd, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Aphra Behn: 204-220.

Ravelhofer, Barbara. The Early Stuart Masque: Dance, Costume and Music. NY: Oxford UP, 2006.

Wiseman, Susan. “Rome’s Wanton Ovid: Reading and Writing Ovid’s Heroides 1590-1712”. Renaissance Studies 22.3, Special Issue, The Rhetoric of Complaint: Ovid’s Heroines in the Renaissance and Restoration (2008): 295-306.


[1] All quotations from Ovid’s Heroides are from this edition.

[2] Where signatures are not provided in the three early modern translations, I have provided page numbers given in the 1680 or 1681 editions.

[3] In his Ars Poetica, Horace recommends using older texts, but cautions that a degree of sensitivity is necessary to create a meaningful work: “publica materies privati iuris erit, si / non circa vilem patulumque moraberis orbem, / nec verbo verbum curabis reddere fidus / interpres, nec desilies imitator in artum, unde pedem proferre pudor vetet aut operis lex” (131-35). (“In ground open to all you will win private rights, if you do not linger along the easy and open pathway, if you do not seek to render word for word as a slavish translator, and if in your copying you do not leap into the narrow well, out of which either shame or the laws of your task will keep you from stirring a step”). Horace, ‘Satires’, ‘Epistles’ and ‘Ars Poetica’, trans. and ed. H Rushton Fairclough (London, Loeb Classical: Heinemann, 1929). All quotations from the Ars Poetica are from this edition.

[4] Susan Wiseman, “Romes Wanton Ovid: Reading and Writing Ovid’s Heroides 1590-1712”, Renaissance Studies 22.3, Special Issue, The Rhetoric of Complaint: Ovid’s Heroines in the Renaissance and Restoration: 295-306, 305.

[5] John Dryden, Preface to Fables Ancient and Modern, in Works, Vol. 7, ed. Vinton A. Dearing, 20 vols (Berkeley: U of California P, 1956-2000) 45. All quotations from the Preface to the Fables are from this edition.

[6] John Ogilby, another seventeenth-century translator of the Aeneid, whose translation had appeared some fifty years before the Fables.

[7] John Dryden, Preface to Examen Poeticum, Being the Third Part of Miscellany Poems, in Works, Vol. 4, ed. A. B. Chambers, William Frost and Vinton A. Dearing, 20 vols (Berkeley: U of California P, 1956-2000) 370. All quotations from the Preface to the Third Part of Miscellany Poems are from this edition.

[8] John Dryden, Preface to Ovid’s Epistles, in Works, Vol. 1, ed. E. N. Hooker and H. Swedenberg, 20 vols (Berkeley: U of California P, 1956-2000) 114-5. All quotations from the Preface to Ovid’s Epistles are from this edition.

[9] George Turberville, The ‘Heroicall Epistles’ of the Learned Poet Publius Ovidius Naso, Translated into English Verse by George Turberville, ed. Frederick Boas (London: Cresset, 1928).

[10] Both noted by Garth Tissol in Stuart Gillespie and David Hopkins, eds, The Oxford History of Literary Translation in English, Vol. 3, 5 vols (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005) 205.

[11] Thomas Heywood, Troia Britanica (London: W. Jaggard, 1609).

[12] These translations appear in William Shakespeare, Poems: written by Wil. Shake-speare. Gent (London: Tho. Cotes for John Benson, 1640). See David Baker, “Cavalier Shakespeare: The 1640 Poems of John Benson” Studies in Philology 95.2 (1998): 152-173, 158.

[13] Matthew Stevenson, The Wits Paraphrased, or, Paraphrase upon paraphrase in a burlesque on the several late translations of Ovids Epistles (London: Will. Cademan, 1680). No signature or page number.

[14] No signature or page number.

[15] Alexander Radcliffe, Ovid travestie a burlesque upon Ovid’s epistles. The second edition, enlarged with ten epistles never before printed (London: Jacob Tonson, 1681). I have used this edition throughout, because the 1681 second edition includes the epistles of Paris, Helen, and Oenone, which do not appear in the 1680 edition.

[16] No signature or page number.

[17] No signature or page number.

[18] Though Dryden himself states in his Preface that this epistle is “in Mr. Cowleys way of Imitation only” (119).

[19] Jessica Munns, “Pastoral and Lyric: Astrea in Arcadia”, in Derek Hughes and Janet M. Todd, eds., The Cambridge Companion to Aphra Behn (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004): 204-220, 209.

[20] Carol Barash, English Women’s Poetry, 1649-1714 (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996) 115.

[21] Quintus of Smyrna, The Trojan Epic: Posthomerica, trans. and ed. Alan James (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins UP, 2004).

[22] Thomas Heywood, Oenone and Paris, in Elizabeth Story Donno, ed., Elizabethan Minor Epics (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1963).

[23] Munns, “Pastoral and Lyric”, 210.

[24] Deborah S. Greenhut, Feminine Rhetorical Culture: Tudor Adaptations of Ovid’s “Heroides” (NY: P. Lang, 1988) 190.

[25] Of course, it was not only translators of Ovid who saw Helen, in particular, as demonstrative of women’s fickle nature and dangerously uncontrollable sexuality. Represented as a threat throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance by authors including Chaucer, Lydgate, Shakespeare, Marlowe and Spenser, she was also a great favourite of Elizabethan miscellany poets, or of compilers of collections of prose and poetry (often with a strongly didactic and misogynist theme) such as George Whetstone, George Gascoigne and Richard Robinson. In the works of such authors, Helen is generally depicted as the worst of womankind, due to her deceit and desire for Paris, and (paradoxically) as representative of all women’s wicked and libidinous potential.

[26] Wiseman, “Romes Wanton Ovid”, 299. See also Laurel Fulkerson, The Ovidian Author As Heroine: Reading, Writing and Community in the ‘Heroides’ (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2005).

[27] For a more detailed discussion of Radcliffe’s and Stevenson’s efforts to burlesque Hypsipyle, and through her Medea, see Katherine Heavey, “‘We Poor Helpless Women’: Humanising Medea, 1648-1761”, Kaleidoscope, Journal for the Institute of Advanced Studies, Durham University, Vol. 3.1 (Spring, 2009): [Forthcoming].

[28] A similar impulse can be seen in Radcliffe’s rendering of Hypsipyle to Jason. Ovid’s Hypsipyle calls Medea a barbara paelex (6.81) (“barbarian jade”). At the same point in her epistle, Radcliffe’s Hypsipyle describes Medea’s face as being “made of Grease and Wall-nut Shells” (H2v), and Barbara Ravelhofer notes that these substances were used by early modern masquers to darken the complexion. Barbara Ravelhofer, The Early Stuart Masque: Dance, Costume, and Music (NY: Oxford UP, 2006) 176.

[29] Wiseman, “Romes Wanton Ovid”, 301.

[30] Ibid., 305. See also Harriette Andreadis, “The Early Modern Afterlife of Ovidian Erotics: Dryden’s Heroides”, Renaissance Studies 22.3, Special Issue, The Rhetoric of Complaint: Ovid’s Heroines in the Renaissance and Restoration (2008): 401-16, discussed below.

[31] William Wycherley, The Country Wife, in Robert G. Lawrence, ed., Restoration Plays (London: J. M. Dent, 2000).

[32] Lawrence, ed., Restoration Plays, xx.

[33] Andreadis, “Ovidian Erotics”, 404-5.

[34] Ibid., 411. Emphasis my own.

Katherine Heavey
recently competed a PhD in English Literature at Durham University, studying representations of Helen of Troy and Medea in English literature, c.1160-1650. Since then, she has expanded her research into Restoration representations of these two women, and of other mythological figures. Her broader research interests include: representations of gender and power, textual transmission and early literary criticism, and the reception of classical texts and figures into English literature.

APPOSITIONS: Studies in Renaissance / Early Modern Literature & Culture,, ISSN: 1946-1992, Volume Two (2009): Dialogues & Exchanges

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