Dear Friends and Readers,
As a reasonable number of people on my three listservs and the 18th century French and English scholarly communities know, a few years ago now I prepared and put online an etext edition of a novel important for Jane Austen: Caroline de Lichtfield by Isabelle Montolieu, a strong direct influence (perhaps gave rise to) Sense and Sensibility
Well, I was chuffed yesterday when I was told that Eighteenth Century Fiction, a respected and reasonably circulating 18th century periodical which publishes mostly in English (but also has articles in other languages — the one I’m referring to is in French) published a 3 page review and strong praise of my etext edition of Caroline de Lichtfield:
Isabelle Tremblay, "Isabelle de Montolieu (1751-18320, Caroline de Lichtfield, ou Memoires d’une Famille Prussienne, ed. Ellen Moody. http://www.jimandellen.org/montolieu/caroline.show.html," Eighteenth Century Fiction, 22:4 (Summer 2010):739-741.
I have now placed it on my website under the notes explaining some characteristics of my etext edition briefly.
What made it especially gratifying was it’s the second notice and I’ve done nothing at all to spread the word :). I’ve been sent a copy too.
A couple of years ago a much shorter (and in English) review and praise was published in the 18th century Intelligencer, but the Intelligencer is a newsletter; it has a surprisingly large circulation unless you know how readable and useful it is. But the review was shorter, not as detailed and didn’t tell all the things I put in the site: for example, I wrote a short biography of Montolieu, at the time the first one available in English. Since then Valerie Crossy in her Jane Austen in Switzerland included a several paragraph life because Montolieu was the first French translator of Austen (Montolieu’s translation of S&S into French is now available at Amazon.fr — well, almost available, someone allowed an editor to "correct" it, supposedly to make it more "accurate," which loses some of the value), but mine is a real biography where I take you through Isabelle’s life — it’s accurate, readable and interesting.
I also correct the romancing and dismissal of Montolieu’s relationship with Gibbon: what happened is either exaggerated into a torrid romance or people say nothing happened at all. In fact they had a kind of mild romance, an event that help Montolieu put her first novel into print:
I invited people to read my biography. After all I won’t be going on for any chapter 2 and I’ve told the life. I have to change my title.
She loved my bibliography, edition of part of Montolieu’s travel books, Les Chateaux Suisses, Anciennes Anecdotes et Chroniques, that I included her preface to her translation of S&S. and links to Montolieu’s books elsewhere.
She did not approve of my giving each of the individual letters in the novel separate titles as that makes an emphasis not in the original where they are just numbered. On the other hand, she admitted the titles are summaries of the story and help the reader not only in the reading of the book, but navigating back and forth and rereading and referring to it. In fact this is real 18th century practice. In later editions of Clarissa, Richardson included summaries of all the letters, and Everyman in its publication of the 3rd edition of Clarissa includes these summaries and they are very helpful. The recent French edition of Prevost’s translation, Clarisse_, includes modern summaries of each letter :)
She didn’t approve of my including some popular comments (one on Swiss Family Robinson): I thought this snobbery. But she also didn’t approve of my choice of a second novelist, Sophie Cottin as part of Montolieu’s milieu: Amelie Mansfield.
Popineau’s La Jouvence, 1934, Place des Thermes, Bagnères-de-Bigorre, France, where Cottin vacationed and Montolieu could have.
It is true that I don’t explain why I link Cottin to Montolieu and so here is an explanation: I did not make the second etext edition for the sake of the first. They were two separate projects which I linked together, and the two women’s work are alike and both influenced Jane Austen. Here I’ll answer just one caveate: it seemed to me obvious that Cottin and Montolieu are sister-novelists. Their work has repeatedly been covered in the same or similar studies (e.g., Joan Hinde Stewart’s Gynographs) and both were directly influential on Jane Austen. Similarly I thought a study of the French influences on Fanny Burney an analogous one to the perspective which informs my sight, explicated further in my essay, "Jane Austen Among Frenchwomen."
What’s lovely about website productions is you can change them :)
Anyway I’m really pleased at the careful attention (which I know Catherine Delors will understand) and mean to correct the place where this reviewer has a reasonable criticism and also put her review somewhere on the site as an endorsement. Although my extext edition of both books have been picked up on large scale French sites (and used by two French classes I was told about), and are available now through some French academic sites, each academic endorsement helps give mine respect and thus lead others to trust as well as read it. Thomas Holcroft’s English translation of Montolieu’s important book is now available through google, but the French edition until mine still had no trustworthy edition. Tremblay says one is in preparation by one of these giant team editions, but that it will be some time before it’s published :)
If anyone is interested, I can send the review on as a pdf. It is in French.