Today is the feast of St. Jerome in the Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Anglican, and various other traditions. In honor of the great theologian and translator, we present the preface to his translation of Jeremiah, in which he demonstrates his application of Christian charity to the authors of unfavorable reviews that had appeared in the Observator Romanus some time before.
I pay little heed to the ravings of disparaging critics who revile not only my words, but the very syllables of my words, and suppose they give evidence of some little knowledge if they discredit another man’s work—as was exemplified in that ignorant traducer who lately broke out, and thought it worth his while to censure my commentaries on Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. He does not understand the rules of commenting (for he is more asleep than awake and seems utterly dazed), and is not aware that in our books we give the opinions of many different writers, the authors’ names being either expressed or understood, so that it is open to the reader to decide which he may prefer to adopt; although I must add that, in my Preface to the First Book of that work, I gave fair notice that my remarks would be partly my own, partly those of other commentators, and that thus the commentary would be the work conjointly of the ancient writers and of myself.
Grunnius, his precursor, overlooked the same fact, and once upon a time did his best to cavil. I replied to him in two books, and there I cleared away the objections which he adduced in his own name, though the real traducer was some one else; to say nothing of my treatises against Jovinianus where, you may remember, I show that he [Jovinianus] laments that virginity is preferred to marriage, single marriage to digamy, digamy to polygamy. The stupid fool, labouring under his load of Scotch porridge [scotorum pultibus praegravatus], does not recollect that we said, in that very work, “I do not condemn the twice married, nor the thrice married, and, if it so be, the eight times married; I will go a step farther, and say that I welcome even a penitent whoremonger; for things equally lawful must be weighed in an even balance.” Let him read the Apology for the same work which was directed against his master [Jovinianus], and was received by Rome with acclamation many years ago. He will then observe that his revilings are but the echoes of other men’s voices, and that his ignorance is so deep that even his abuse is not his own, but that he employs against us the ravings of foes long since dead and buried.
(Translated by W. H. Fremantle.)