He is perhaps best known for his 1729 translations from the French of Charles Perrault's Histories and Tales of Long Ago, with Morals, which later became known as Tales of Mother Goose, though Mother Goose does not appear in the book. Rather, the book is a compilation of fairy tales and fables we know today as "Sleeping Beauty," "Little Red Riding Hood," "Cinderella," "Puss in Boots," and other "children's" stories. Artwork of an old crone, or witch, appeared on the frontispiece of the book, and became known as Mother Goose. (The rhymes we today call Mother Goose rhymes were of later English derivation, and then attributed to the now well-known Mother Goose.)
The wife-killing Turk called "Bluebeard" also made his English debut in this book translated by Samber, in a story titled "Blue Beard, or the Effects of Female Curiosity." The character of Bluebeard later appears in the works of Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackaray.
Samber also translated In Praise of Drunkenness, by Albert-Henri de Sallengre. The translator (Samber) is referenced in the book as a "man of honour (a Freemason)." The subtitle of the book was "Wherein is authentically, and most evidently proved, the necessity of frequently getting drunk; and, that the practice of getting drunk is most ancient, primitive, and catholic."
In Praise of Drunkenness contains several hints at Masonic rituals then in use in England.
Samber wrote several volumes of "dramatic" and "narrative" poetry in his native English. He also translated scholarly treatises, including his 1718 English translation about the making of eunuchs to provide singers for operas, Eunuchism Display’d, of Charles Ancillon’s 1707 Traité des Eunuchs.
Under his pen name Eugenius Philalethes, Jun. [the original Eugenius Philalethes was the pseudonym of alchemist Thomas Vaughan (1622-1666), who is believed to have been the head of the Rosicrucian Order], he wrote the 1721 Treatise on the Plague, where he gives instructions for preventing the plague. He tells what apparel to wear, how to protect one's home, and gives instructions on diet, antidotes and medicine. Treatise on the Plague was dedicated to the Duke of Montague, who was then Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of London. The vocabulary of the book strongly hints that Samber was well-versed in hermetic teachings.
In 1721, Roger Greaves paid him to translate La Motte's fables as One Hundred New Court Fables.
In 1724 Samber translated Venus in the Cloister: or, The Nun in Her Smock, written by either Jean Barrin or Francois de Chavigny de la Bretonniere, under the pen name L'Abbe du Prat, for printer Edmund Curll. The book described the translator as "a man of honour." In 1725, Edmund Curll was prosecuted for publishing the book, which was considered pornographic, but not before Samber translated Chinese Tales: Or, The Wonderful Adventures of the Mandarine Fum-Hoam for him.
Lest you think Robert Samber was universally considered a "man of honor," I offer this passage from J. M. Blom's modern-day scholarly paper called "A German Jesuit and His Anglican Readers: The Case of Jeremiah Drexelius," in which Samber's one-paragraph mention plays little part except perhaps as way to pad out Blom's otherwise dry survey of the history of British publishing:
"He [Samber] went to the English College Rome in 1705, but left there a year later to enter upon a very chequered life as hack writer, renegade Freemason, renegade Catholic and pornographer. He exploited his masonic connections in order to make money by first courting the favour of his wealthier brethren and by later ridiculing them. He made use of his Catholic background and education in a variety of ways; his translation of Roma Illustrata testifies to his knowledge of Rome and of Catholic art; his adaptation of Drexel to his knowledge of Catholic devotional stuff and its attraction among English non-Catholics; and his translation of Venus in the Cloister to his shrewd eye for the contemporary interest in smutty stories about the secrets of the convent. It is a nice irony that his role in Edmund Curll's publication of the latter book is Samber's only literary activity that has been noticed in the 20th century."The Courtier Written in Italian, by Count Castiglione, was translated into English by Samber in 1724.
Bro. David Stevenson, in his excellent paper on James Anderson, the author of Anderson's Constitutions, tells of a time when Samber was present at, and later wrote about, a Grand Lodge dinner in 1722. The Grand Lodge had tried to avoid political schism by installing officers of both supporters loyal to England and those loyal to the exiled James III. Political discussions were banned, but the band tried to "stage a coup." Bro. Stevenson writes:
In 1722-23 Grand Lodge Freemasonry avoided political schism by accepting the need for a degree of political diversity among masons in appointments to office — even though politics could not be discussed. But though harmony was maintained, if the satirical account of the 1722 feast at which [the Duke of] Wharton [a Tory] became Grand Master is to be believed, political tensions did surface. It was a good dinner, Robert Samber (who was present) allows, though how "demolishing huge Walls of Venison Pastry" "after a very disedifying Manner" contributed to "building up a Spiritual House" he did not know. Politics and religion were not discussed, as the masons seemed to be following the advice of "that Author" (a reference to Anderson, whose Constitutions had been published by the time Samber wrote). But at one point the band had begun to play "Let the King enjoy his own again," a popular Jacobite (and thus seditious) tune. The Tories were getting cheeky — talking politics might be banned, but music could make a political point. The band was "immediately reprimanded by a Person of great Gravity and Science," which surely means Desaguliers. After that, Hanoverian decorum was restored — and indeed emphasized. The bottle went merrily about and toasts were made to king, royal family, and the established "Churches" (thus carefully maintaining a British dimension by recognizing that England and Scotland had different establishments). Other toasts were drunk to prosperity to Old England "under the present Administration," and "Love, Liberty, and Science," an interesting trio.Of prime interest to us is Robert Samber's dedicatory preface to his translation of the 1715 book Long Livers, by Frenchman De Longeville Harcouet, published in England in 1722. Samber wrote the preface under his pseudonym Eugenius Philalethes, Jun. His wording indicates again his intimate knowledge of hermetic teachings, and gives indication that these teachings were a part of Masonic instruction of the time.
Samber says Freemasonry belongs to "an uninterrupted Tradition" and that individual freemasons are "living stones built [into] a spiritual house," "a chosen Generation, a royal Priesthood" as well as "imprisoned... exiled Children" and "Sons of Science..." who are illuminated with the sublimest Mysteries and profoundest secrets."
For your further illumination, here is Bro. Samber's complete dedicatory preface to Long Livers:
Grand Master, Masters, Wardens and Brethren
Most Ancient and Most Honourable Fraternity of the Free
Great Britain and Ireland,
Brother Eugenius Philalethes
I address myself to you after this Manner, because it is the true Language of the Brotherhood, and which the primitive Christian Brethren, as well as those who were from the Beginning, made use of, as we learn from the holy Scriptures, and an uninterrupted Tradition.
I present you with the following Sheets, as belonging more properly to you than any else. By what I here say, those of you who are not worthy to look behind the Veil, may find not disagreeable or unprofitable Entertainment: and those who are so happy as to have greater Light, will discover under these Shadows somewhat truly great and noble, and worthy the serious Attention of a Genius the most elevated and sublime: The Spiritual Celestial Cube, the only true, solid and the immoveable Basis and Foundation of all Knowledge, Peace and Happiness.
I therefore, my dearest, Brethren, greet you most heartily, and am glad of this Opportunity to rejoice with you, inasmuch as it hath pleased the Almighty, One Eternal, Unalterable God, to send out his Light, and his Truth, and his vivifying Spirit, whereby the Brotherhood begins to revive again in this our Isle, and Princes seek to be of this sacred Society, which has been from the beginning, and always shall be; the Gates of Hell shall never prevail against it, but it shall continue while the Sun and Moon endureth, and till the general Consummation of all Things; for since God, my dearest Brethren, is of us, who can be against us?
This being so, I shall speak to you a few Words on this important Subject; and perhaps I am the first that ever spoke to you after this manner. I shall, as briefly as I can, present you with a true and faithful Mirrour, a Mirrour which will not, which cannot flatter (Flattery be eternally banish’d the Brotherhood), wherein you may see, or rather be remembered, what you are: and then you need not be told very much how you ought to act. And in this I shall use that Liberty and Freedom, which is our essential Difference, richly distinguishes us from all others, and is indeed the very Soul and Spirit of the Brotherhood.
The Style I shall make use of is most catholick, primitive and Christian; it is what is extracted from the sacred Scriptures. Remember that you are the Salt of the Earth, the Light of the World, and the Fire of the Universe. Ye are living Stones, built up a spiritual House, who believe and rely on the chief Lapis Angularis, which the refractory and disobedient Builders disallowed, ye are called from Darkness to Light, you are a chosen Generation, a royal Priesthood.
This makes you, my dear Brethren, fit Companions for the greatest Kings; and no wonder, since the King of Kings hath condescended to make you so to himself, compared to whom the mightiest and most haughty Princes of the Earth are but as Worms, and that not so much as we are all Sons of the same Eternal Father, by whom all Things were made; but inasmuch as we do the Will of his and our Father which is in Heaven.
You see now your high Dignity; you see what you are; act accordingly, and show yourselves (what you are) MEN, and walk worthy the high Profession to which you are called. But while I say this, do not imagine I set up for a Rabbi, Master, or Instructor, who am one of the least of you, a mere Novice, a Catechumen, and know nothing. However, do not despise my Mite, which I throw into your Treasury, since ‘tis all I have: others may do more in Quantity, but not in Proportion.
Remember then what the great End we all aim at is: Is it not to be happy here and hereafter? For they both depend on each other. The Seeds of that eternal Peace and Tranquility and everlasting Repose must be sown in this Life; and he that would glorify and enjoy the Soverign Good then, must learn to do it now, and from contemplating the Creature gradually ascend to adore the Creator.
But alas! My Brethren, what are we and our little Globe below, to that stupendous Celestial Masonry above! Where the Almighty Architect has stretched out the Heavens as a Curtain, which he has richly embroidered with Stars, and with his immortal Compasses, as from a Punctum, circumscribed the mighty ALL: is himself the Centre of all Things, yet knows no Circumference? who lets down his golden Balance, and weighs all Things according to eternal incorruptible Justice, and where Actions of the best of Men are frequently found too light; who has created infinite Worlds, for what we know, above us; and those vast Luminaries within our Ken, to which he has given Laws, and allotted them their peculiar Influences, Intelligences and Daemons. If to do all this, and believe only in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, and of all Things visible and invisible, the most grand, essential, the prime, eternal, everlasting, fundamental Article of the most holy, catholick, universal, and Christian Faith (of which we are) makes one an Atheist; such, my dearest Brethren, are we all, and we glory in it. Let the Infidel and Pagan World say what they will, we shall have the Suffrage of all Christians, under whatever other Denomination distinguished, who cannot be so inconsistent with themselves, as to take Umbrage at those who believe the prime Article of their (that is our) holy Faith.
O thou Eternal One! Thou Immortal Unitt! thou Incomprehensible Monas! Never let us swerve from these everlasting Truths. Send out they Light and thy Truth, that they may lead and bring us to thy holy Hill and thy Tabernacle. We are imprisoned, who shall deliver us from the Body of this Death? We are exiled Children from our Country, when shall we return?
Here thou hast placed us as Novices and Probationers; when shall we be professed among those blessed Denizens of the Celestial Jerusalem, not built with Hands, and be reinstated in our Innocence? Here we wander in the dark gloomy Vale of Tears and the Shadow of Death, where we remember nothing, and who dares say What dost thou? Here hast thou placed us for Reasons best known to thy Almighty Justice, and thy inscrutable Counsels, into which the curious Pryer is struck blind by the radiant Majesty of thy Glories, thou inaccessible Light! thou eternal Power! Wisdom! Love!
It is the same thing in relation to the Religion we profess, which is the best that ever was, or will, or can be; for it is the Law of Nature, which is the Law of God, for God is Nature. It is to love God above all Things, and our Neighbour as ourself; this is the true, primitive, catholick, and universal Religion, agreed to be so in all Times and Ages, and confirmed by our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, who tells us, that on these hang all the Law and the Prophets.
Avoid all Companions whose ridiculing of Religion is thought witty, and more especially when the wretched discourse is turned upon the adorable Majesty of the most Holy Trinity, which is an eternal Doctrine believed by Wise Men in all Ages. The ancient Philosophers, who had no revealed Religion, no other Light but the Light of Nature, taught and believed this most sacred Truth, as I could show in a proper place as clear as the Sun. The Platonics, for example, to instance no more, acknowledge in the Godhead three Persons; the first they called the Father of the Universe, or of all Things; the second the Son and first Mind; that is, according to Plotinus and Philo, the Divine Intellect, flowing from God the Father, as Light from Light, or the Word that is spoken from the Speaker: Hence he was called the... Verbum, or Word, Light of Light, and the Splendour of god the father; and the third they called the Spirit or Anima Mundi, which Dove-like sate brooding on the Face of the Waters, and which is celestial, amatorial, genial Heat, hatchet the Universe.
And now, my Brethren, you of the higher Class, permit me a few Words, since you are but few; and these few Words I shall speak to you in Riddles, because to you it is given to know those Mysteries which are hidden from the Unworthy.
Have you not seen then, my dearest Brethren, that stupendous Bath, filled with the most limpid Water, than which no Pure can be purer, of such admirable Mechanism that makes even the greatest Philosopher gaze with Wonder and Astonishment, and is the Subject of the eternal Contemplation of the wisest Men? Its Form is a Quadrate, sublimely placed on six others, blazing all with celestial Jewels, each angularly supported with four Lions. Here repose our Mighty King and Queen (I speak foolishly, I am not worthy to be of you), the King shining in his glorious Apparel of transparent, incorruptible Gold, beset with living Sapphires; he is fair and ruddy, and feeds amongst the Lillies; his Eyes, two Carbuncles the most brilliant, darting prolifick, never-dying Fires: and his large-flowing Hair, blacker than the deepest Black, or Plumage of the long-lived Crow; his Royal Consort vested in Tissue of immortal Silver, watered with Emeralds, Pearls, and Coral. O mystical Union! O admirable Commerce!
Cast now your Eyes to the Basis of this celestial Structure, and you will discover just before it a large Bason of Porphyrian Marble, receiving from the Mouth of a Lion’s Head, to which two Bodies displayed on each side of it are conjoined, a greenish Fountain of liquid Jasper. Ponder this well, and consider. Haunt no more the Woods and Forests; (I speak as a Fool) haunt no more the fleet Hart; let the flying Eagle fly unobserved; busy yourselves no longer with the dancing Ideot, swollen Toads, and his own Tail-devouring Dragon; leave these as Elements to your Tyrones.
The object of your Wishes and Desires (some of you may perhaps have obtained it, I speak as a Fool) is that admirable thing which hath a Substance neither too firy, nor altogether earthy, nor simply watery; neither a Quality the most acute, or most obtuse, but of a middle Nature, and light to the Touch, and in some manner soft, at least not hard; not having Asperity, but even in some sort sweet to the Taste, odorous to the Smell, grateful to the Sight, agreeable and delectable to the Hearing, and pleasant to the Thought; in short, that One only Thing, besides which there is no other, and yet everywhere possible to be found, the blessed and most sacred Subject of the Square of wise Men, that is — I had almost blabbed it out, and been sacrilegiously perjured. I shall therefore speak of it with a Circumlocution yet more dark and obscure, that none but the Sons of Science, and those illuminated with the Sublime Mysteries and profound Secrets of Masonry may understand — It is then, what brings you, my dearest Brethren, to the pellucid diaphanous Palace of the true disinterested Lovers of Wisdom, that transparent Pyramid of pure Salt, more sparkling and radiant than the finest orient Ruby, in the Centre of which reposes inaccessible Light epitomized, that incorruptible celestial Fire, blazing like burning Crystal, and brighter than the Sun in his full Meridian Glories, which is that immortal, eternal, never-dying PRYOPUS, the King of Gemms, whence proceeds every thing that is great, and wise, and happy.
These Things are deeply hidden from the common View, and covered with Pavilions of thickest Darkness, that what is Sacred may not be given to Dogs, or your Pearls cast before Swine, lest they trample them under Foot, and turn again and rent you.
Eugenius Philalethes, Jun.
March 1st, 1721
Image: Artwork from the book Lumin de Lumine, presumed written by the original Eugenius Philalethes
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