23 February 2012

Heroic Service

In the appendix to Arthur Schopenhauer's Prize Essay on the Freedom of the Will (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 94-5, professor Bryan Magee pays homage to Schopenhauer's main English translator, Eric F. J. Payne (1895-1983), who learned German in order to be able to read the philosopher in the original:
Payne was continuing to work on the translation of Schopenhauer's other writings. But publishers were even less enthusiastic about investing in the secondary works than they had been about investing in the primary one, and the rejections and disappointments piled up as Payne went on producing more and more translations. He did have one or two early successes, but there was a long period in his life when he had completed the translation of many volumes without any perceptible hope of their publication; and yet he was still working full-time at producing new ones, obscurely confident that somehow it would come right in the end. And somehow it did. [...]
By making Schopenhauer's entire output available to English speakers with no German, and doing so in the teeth of literally decades of discouragement, Payne has performed a more heroic service for philosophy in the English-speaking world than anything he accomplished as a professional soldier. People nowadays are coming more and more to regard Schopenhauer as one of the truly great philosophers; and, this being so, more and more of them are finding themselves in Eric Payne's debt as the years go by. For this he deserves to be remembered. A short, stocky man with a squarish head and merry eyes, he surprisingly resembled certain portraits of Schopenhauer. Anyone who believes in reincarnation, as presumably all of Eric's Buddhist readers do, might be tempted to wonder... Those of us who do not noted the resemblance merely, and teased him about it. But, physical resemblance or no, there can be few individuals since Schopenhauer who have done so much for his philosophy.