Archive for the ‘translation studies’ Category

Furness Abbey, Cumbria (modern photo)

Dear friends and readers,

A third conference report, our subject this time Smith’s novels, tales and her one play, What Is She?. I’ve described Friday morning and middle afternoon. This time I cover more papers, with some briefer summaries: starting late Friday afternoon, to lunchtime Saturday and early afternoon, the papers were mostly on Smith’s prose fiction. I begin with those where the speaker concentrated on the actual space, places in Smith’s novels and end on her unknown trips to (use of Wales), her use of dialect, and her vampiric lawyer in Marchmont.

Emilee Morrall talked of female identity, interior spaces and narratives of travel in Ethelinde, Celestina and The Old Manor House. She looked at how Smith situated her characters, literally their relationship to windows and doorways, and metaphorically, at liminality in the novel; how characters cross threshelds, when characters remain between two places. Women seem to lack secure access to their own space, we find them at thresholds, standing still. The outside world is dangerous: Ethelinde seeks to return to privacy repeatedly, Celestina shows a better disposition towards independence, showing an ability to move about in the UK (including the Hebrides). Leanne Cane discussed the relationship of Smith’s novels to history (e.g., of Magdalenes in the century), to education as real world solutions to problems (for Orlando in The Old Manor House, for example). Smith shows to read well you must become passionately involved. We can see that in the era readers often did not read through a novel to the end, could break off while being read aloud too. Books were a kind of platforms for conversation with the mother. The following morning I gave my paper on Smith as a post-colonial writer: we see this in her Ethelinde, comparable to Adhaf Soueif’s Map of Love; I compared her Emigrants to the poetry of exile and displacement in her contemporary Anne Grant, and in our own time Dahlia Ravikovitch, the Israeli poet, and Margaret Atwood in her Journals of Susanna Moodie.

An eighteenth century map of Wales

Elizabeth Edwards talked of Smith’s probable (mostly unknown because barely recorded) trips into Wales. Elizabeth described Wales as the place Smith’s fiction begins with: it’s a place of hidden rocks, remote places, mountains and cliffs; Emmeline moves to Swansea, walked along the shore (the passages describing Wales are based on concrete experience), meets Mrs Staffordshire; Delamere hounds her and she flees to the Isle of Wight, then she returns to Mowbray Castle. Desmond too goes to Wales as a borde space, it provides shifting perspectives and moods. In a pre-railway world Wales being by the sea figures escape. In Smith’s letters there are suggestive hints of her going to Wales to flee creditors or to be without her children. Her play, What is She? is set in Wales (a woman is living there mysteriously): a male makes a Welsh maid his mistress, calling his wife a harridan (this reflect Smith’s husband’s behavior). The characters end up in Wales at the close of The Banished Man, and you can map the place. Montalbert they flee to Sicily; in The Young Philosopher to northern Scotland. If you look at the places in her work, they tell you more about her life than is supposed.

In the later morning, Jenny McAuley presented her research into the archives in libraries and registry offices. In her early married life, Smith lived near Hinton Ampner around which swirled stories of ghosts, hauntings, revenge taken. Mary Ricketts gave testimony the place was haunted but the authorities didn’t seem to care whether people read the originals. Her manuscript provides rare pictures of life in and around such a place, an alienated claustrophobic atmosphere. Women live there alone, the men’s activities link them to the West Indies, well outside England. The mansion was demolished in 1793; the Old Manor House and Marchmont have anything even nearly a ghost story. It may have been a place where smugglers met to distribute the profits and decide what they are going to do next. Elizabeth had researched the particulars of smuggling; at Hinton Ampner there was a hidden passageway. A Female servant was caught faking a ghost incident. If we look into the incidents at Rayland Hall in Old Manor House these point to smuggling among the servants and can be aligned with what is known of Hinton Ampner. The subtext of this is equally interesting: poaching went on, the land was being eroded. The Rickets family were related to slave owners in Jamaica, family members there bored and waiting for the old man to die. People include the notorious sadist Thomas Thistlewood (he left a diary of his vile cruelty). You can trace the family from 1760, which houses occupied the site. In this case the local is truly the global.

A photograph of Hinton Ampner today (cared for by the National Trust)

Orianne Smith talked of the politics of gender and “black” magic in “The Story of Henrietta” (in the Solitary Wanderer). She discussed slave narratives and popular fiction based on these: Obi, or Three Fingered Jack. Henrietta, the daughter of a slave-owner is taken to Jamaica where she discovers she is to be sold (in effect) in marriage, and ends up relying on the help of Obeah women (described as like the Macbeth witches and discussed by Orianne at length), a young African man, her father’s daughters made slaves because the mother is black and a slave. W Orianne found much subversive political content in the witches’ stories. We can see Smith’s attitudes towards black people evolve from Desmond (1792) who looks upon “Negroes” as ontologically different from white Europeans; the Wanderings of Warwick has a kind of dissertation on Negro slavery embedded in it. We are to see how women are reduced to the condition of slaves. Orianne said the Radcliffean gothic in Smith is much influenced by Wollstonecraft’s Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman here: magical power then combines with slavery and Christian and revolutionary thought. In the book Edouardo studies superstition; the characters become part of the Anglo-Carribean world (whose written political history Orianne also surveyed). There is no attempt at consolidation of male authority; instead Smith connects with the “other” and European women.

John Constable (1776-1837), Dedham Vale from Langham

The two papers not connected to specific places in Smith: Jane Hodson is a literary linguist who has been studying the use of dialect in British fiction. British literature is obsessed with culture, history, and class and you can trace all three of these in Smith’s novels to show: who the character is ethically, what kind of self they inhabit. She said that until the 1860s there was little use of genuinely mimetic dialect in Smith’s or anyone else’s novels. Dialect is a sign that the novel is set in the place or among the milieu of people who speak this language. She suggested that Smith is one of the earliest users of dialect. Such utterances are a form of hybrid language. One problem is often the dialect is too stereotypical or cliched. She focused on The Letters of a Solitary Wanderer as these are set in exotic, remote, colonialist spaces. In “Edouarda” the gothic is imported into Yorkshire; his ancestral home is inherited by his mad father who is controlled by a tyrannial priest. Henrietta’s father is a slave owner in Jamaica and she travels there to discover his enslaved daughters, and is helped by a slave who speaks in dialect.

Mary Going discussed the lawyer-extortionist Mr Vampyre (“His empoisoned fangs”) in Smith’s Marchmont. Her thesis was that the vicious lawyer in the novel is both nearly literally a vampire, but seen by Smith as the blood-thirsty money-lender Shylock. She suggested the first literary vampire works and rumor go back to 1739; slightly later Polidori, Byron and Mary Shelley were all writing ghost and vampire stories. We know that Smith read Shakespeare exhaustively and never tires of any of the plays. Mary felt seeing these parallels added a meaningful gothic extension to the novel’s story. Marchmont is a harassed and hounded young man who is in heavy debt when we first see him, and lands in debtor’s prison for a while. She pointed to how Jewish people are linked to early capitalism, an enemy of Smith’s. Edgeworth did read Obi, Kotzebue’s radical play, The Grateful Negro and she was familiar with self-serving texts and plays by and for the plantation owning tax.

In the question period afterward people pointed to the use of dialect in a number of 18th century novels (Edgeworth, Burns, Scott) well before or around the time of Smith, Loraine Fletcher said in Shakespeare especially. Stuart Curran felt that Smith was breaking new ground in her poetry as well as her novels: her lawyers sound like lawyers; she uses Sussex dialect frequently. There is a problem with her use of Negro or African English: it is too generalized and condescending at moments. Still the point holds: Smith experiments using voice among her characters. Jane was interested in how nationalities emerge, how politicized the representation of speech is and by whom. On the depiction of Vampyre in Marchmont, I asked Mary if she thought Charlotte Smith was anti-semitic; she said no. Smith mentions Jews in her letters (mildly unfavorably). I then asked if many lawyers were Jewish people as in the UK since no Jew could go to the universities or hold remunerative public office. It emerged that few lawyers were Jews. The argument was made in another thread that people can be in a culture but not “of” it, and some of the characters in her novels and Smith herself is such a person.

The Tiber at San Giovanni dei Fiorenti by Van Wittel (an 18th century fantasy in the manner of Hubert Robert only much grimmer)

There was another excellent paper on place in Smith’s novels after lunch: Jeremy Davidheiser on Smith’s “Wandering Lover:” Chivalry, Geography and Gender relations in Smith’s Political novels. Smith repeatedly has idealist young men who transcend worldly considerations and rescues the heroine. In Desmond the type becomes part of her discourse on political and romantic passion; they are drawn to complicated women whose intellectual and moral development sets them apart from others. The men are expressive but they are also intensely possessive. A dynamic of chivalry can moderate this, as in Desmond whose generosity leads him to seek the good of others he cares for first. His generous friendship provides a way out for Geraldine to escape her aristocratic dissolute husband who would literally sell her. In The Young Philosopher when the heroine is parted from her husband and taken to a place outside society, she cannot cope with predatory people. In this novel Glenmorris wants to protect but not control his wife and daughter but when he is out of the way men who behave ruthlessly aggressively win out. His wife Laura is shattered, and indefatible tenderness cannot bring her back to real strength. In the novel women need protection once they move into places controlled by predatory men and women who isolate them. In this novel too lawyers often make life more dangerous. This is a bleak novel where the characters resign themselves to living in a refuge periphery where if they hold together they can protect one another.

Of his paper’s content, it was said afterwards that if you ignore the happy ending that is often tacked on to the novels you find how limited is the strength of even super-good interpersonal relationships. As in her poems, nothing can repair the suffering. In the novels there is a continuing argument for radical transformation of values to bring about social change.

George Morland (1763-1804) — in the history of cat depiction one of the earlier anatomically accurate depictions


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To translate seemed to me a beautiful thing to do — Victorine de Chastenay on her beginning Radcliffe’s Udolpho

La Coeur et la raison: title of Goubert’s translation of S&S, so the allusion is to Pascal’s La cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît pas [The heart has its reasons, that the reason doesn’t know]

Dear friends and readers,

I send along a brief review of Helen McMurran’s significant book. Her argument implies that creative and attentively alive linguistic translations as well as translations that paid close attention to changing the text to something acceptable to the targt culture were at the core of the spread of the novel across Europe.

Next up will be a two part evaluative review of Pierre Goubert’s study of Jane Austen: he finds out the traits of her mind and character as shown in the books and letters, and has himself written one of the powerful accurate translations of her book into French: La Coeur et la Raison, a translation that enables me to approach Austen’s text afresh the way Ang Lee’s great film adaptation (1995), together with Davies’ 2008 imitation also function. Goubert is much closer in spirit to Austen.

Then I’ll return to Austen’s letters, probably beginning with just Letter 95 (Jane from Henrietta Street, to Cassandra, at Godmersham, 3 Nov 1813).

What troubles me about the reviews of this book is most reviewers seem not to have bothered to read carefully enough to present its arguments about translation or simply (as usual) don’t care about translation studies to see its significance. Her views are consonant with David Bellos which a recent review of Virginia Woolf’s collaborative translations from the Greek with S. S. Koteliansky show hardly anyone takes into serious consideration. The writer found her alterations of Koteliansky deeply effective but had to dismiss it as not accurate, so wrote a muddled even puzzled account of the Hogarth project.

McMurran’s book is presented as having dual purpose: it also explains how novels spread and that was probably what attracted reviewers and a publisher as it’s what was mostly discussed by the reviews I read. The images in this blog are of translations of Austen into French from her own era. See Francophone Jane for listing.

This is Isobel de Montolieu’s translation: it contains her preface, a short life, and the whole of her text.

McMurran traces the history of translation in the 18th century. She argues that translation in the 18th century either refused to obey the norms of earlier translations which meant to obey the norms of classical culture as if it were universal; translations were also original (or idiosyncratic, depending on your perspective) in how they obeyed the target language’s literary norms (3). An influential study by Venuti divides translation types into domesticating or foreignizing. She says this division fails to take into account another way of thinking about translation. Before the 18th century the point of translating a text was to transmit it, and often the original and translated texts were used as learning tools.

Foreign language at the time was taught by method like Latin: silent, translating; in school texts we see words placed against one another as equivalents (9). (For my part I think this kind of study still essential in learning a new language.) You were transmitting the Latin and Greek (through Latin); your purpose to render and transmit; you produced what was understood and re-valued in original; you are engaging with, imitating, bringing up to date revered originals. There were classicists who did argue that a given text was not translatable, by which they meant it was necessarily at as good as the original. Such an argument would never be made when it came to Malory’s translations of 5 French romances into his romance epic of Arthurian Tales because the French texts were not respected (often not known). But it was applied in the case of Homer and Virgil especially. Now putting them into vernacular meant you were supposed to convey the essence of the author as you filtered it in your idiom. So Johnson complains that Pope loses the wild savage essence of Homer.

This Archipoche edition gives the complete and unaltered early 19th century translation of Austen’s MP as Les Trois Cousins by Henri Villemain.

In the later 17th century the historical sense was beginning to emerge, just glancingly but it was coming. People became aware that older texts were from another time and culture and the distance between themselves and this earlier time. They begin to update texts. The most infamous examples are the Shakespeare alterations in drama. 18th century scholars continue to see the much revered texts as partly timeless — not wholly as the verse imitations by Pope of Horace and Johnson of Juvenal show. But they never see the texts written in their own time as timeless. When they translate texts in their own time, they are not reviving or renewing. Translaters begin to see themselves as enriching their own readerships of their particular nation and language by translation. Literary translation becomes a transnational exchange; texts are seen as representative of a nation

Think of the difference between Curtius’s European Literature and Latin Middle Ages and Auerbach’s Mimesis

A very important sub-argument of this book is that translation in the era was not seen as hackwork. She has a long section showing simply that most translations we have were done of out love of a text, interest in it. Yes there were hacks, but they are in the minority because so badly paid. She suggests this sort of motive persists to our time.

It’s certainly true of Feneon’s Catherine Morland for Northanger Abbey which by chance, talent, perhaps spiritual affinity made this anarchist’s French text a genuine match for Austen’s:


The historical sense changed the way texts themselves were viewed in histories of the novel. Early histories of novel, starting from later 17th century just assumed earlier novels were written out of a universal impulse to tell a love or adventure story. They would connect texts across centuries and make no effort to discover if there was any author of the particularities of a time or place. De Sade’s history is the first person to look at circumstances and say the one romance comes from one culture and time and another from another. Scott developed this into an important insight: he was the first to begin to look at texts as forming national identity. Watt sidesteps all this to begin with new definition of novel that takes us back to universal aesthetic impulses (divided into neat binaries). But he too (McMurran does not say this) begins with this assumption there was something new in the 18th century which made a break with the past.

McMurran’s book may be a companion to Moretti’s Atlas of the Novel, showing us how much novels at the time represent an interaction between the French and English. But more importantly it’s an application of Bellos’s perspective on translation.

An anonymous 1816 translation of Emma, included in Valerie Cossy’s JA in Switzerland

McMurran tells us how trawling through catalogues tells us so little about the books — how nebulous and hard it is to make any sense of these catalogues, first pages, what little information is available and paratexts — and erects it into an understanding of the era as polymormous, as being indifferent to who the author was as they could not know. It was not until much later that it was admitted texts were changed to suit a political point of view, to sell to the taste of a public. Cossy’s book is an attempt to delve the people who produced the French translations of Austen, their political and personal views, and that of their immediate audience. It takes a long book to analyze just a couple of Austen’s translations (Montolieu, excepts from Pride and Prejudice) this way.


This is Eloise Perks’s 1822 text unchanged

She then moves into the translations themselves. It’s interesting to see (from what evidence we do have) that in the early parts of the 18th century 30-35% of fiction read in the UK were translations from French, but as century wore on less and less translations, there were more indigenous English texts in the UK. In France the proportions move the other way: little translation from the English until mid-way and then a flood of English texts translated into French begins, but these English texts were (it’s important to recall) naturalized, made to reflect French aesthetic and moral ideals.

This is Isobel de Montolieu’s text unchanged; unfortunately Helen Seyres has altered Montolieu’s text (as well as title, to Raisons et Sentiments) for Archipoche, making the reprint worthless

McMurran then turns to “rendering practices” in prose fiction. She explains that she ascertained what 18th century translators did when they departed from their text. Well it depends and was individual, but two common resorts are amplification to make more vivid, or condensing to make more forceful. I’ve found that later is typical for the two good male French translators of Radcliffe, Soules and Morellet (and sometime also for the poorer ones, Moylin and Fourier, but they might do that for anyone). Amplification allows for change of perspective such as we see in Smith’s Prevost and condensing such as we see in Chastenay’s Udolpho.

Behn then studies Eliza Haywood’s translations. I did not know that Haywood translated a lot (as did Behn) and I cannot resist thinking both did it for money. Haywood looks to heighten the impression of the text. My respect for her went up when I learned that that she translated Boiguibert’s Marie Stuart, Reyne d’Escosse, Nouvelle Historique, Mary Stuart was an attraction to Madame de Lafayette too (in her Princess de Cleves as the wife of Francoise). Haywood wrote about her methods justifying them Apparently many have thought her Mary Stuart an original book; she also wrote a fictionalized biography, The Life of Madam De Villesache, but this one she presented as a translation.

This real interest in French reminds me of Aphra Behn’s really fine work in French which only recently has gotten some attention (mostly libertine love poetry).

Quite career for Eliza Haywood as a translator. What’s interesting is how she deviates from her texts. Most of the time I dislike her fiction intensely (even her more domestic later fiction) which I find sarky and heartless or crudely didactic — it matters to me what her strength is exercised for; but here she emerges with a certain humanity. I did not know she translated a good deal of Prevost’s Memoirs of a Man of Quality; this is astonishing really.

McMurran then has a matching section on La Place as a French translator of English texts; his translation of Oroonoko influential; he sympathizes intensely with the African characters as native Caribs in a history of Imoinda; he manages to go outside a Eurocentric view of these characters according to McMurran.

About mid-point in her book the cross-channel emergence of the novel becomes her topic. Again she sees translations as central; part of this was the emergence of the nation state, for the first time the idea a language is not easily translated into another because of cultural differences is voiced regularly. McMurran loos at de-nationalizing strands too and turns to look at Richardson’s novels in translation.

It’s here I left off, but will return eventually, but again I interested to see a new perspective (so many have studied Clarissaand Richardson in translation you see). The new perspective informs Robert Frail’s more recent enquiry into transation, A Singular Duality which again is defeated by reviewers who remain wedded to the idea a translation is first and foremost a crib of a specific text. See Gillian Dow. “A Singular Duality: Literary Relations Between France and England in the Eighteenth Century (review).” Translation and Literature 17.1 (2008): 127-131. Project MUSE. Web. 26 Feb. 2013. .

The modern Pleiade texts

McMurran begins with the idea that a national cosmospolitanism characterized the outlook of readers and translators alike in the 18th century; people read the second language of either English or France while they were in Europe. As there was intense hostility between France (and hence French and French book) and the UK (books in English) so there was also intense admiration. This too describes some of the motives for translating central to the function and nature of translated texts in the era.

A still from Victor Nunez’s Ruby in Paradise, an appropriation of Austen’s Northanger Abbey: the image resembles a common motif in women’s painting (e.g., Jane Freilicher).

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Modern drawing of typical rural vicarage like Deane house, not far from Steventon, from Les Nombreux mondes de Jane Austen, Isabelle Ballester

Dear friends and readers,

Some sad news for me: my proposal to do a paper on Anne Radcliffe in French translation, with the emphasis on Victorine de Chastenay’s Mysteres d’Udolpho was turned down for the coming Chawton (this July) festival of 18th century women writers of Austen’s era. I’ve put the proposal on line: “To translate seemed to me a beautiful thing to do: Translation as Matching Creative Act”. I’ve at least done myself that much justice.

I’ve decided to rejoin the American Literary Translators Association of the US I belonged to in 1989-1990, and take the proposal in an altered form (not centered on the later 18th century and women writers as it is now) to a conference on translation studies or an 18th century conference which has a panel on how the novel in the 18th century was disseminated. Through translation. In the meantime (tomorrow or this weekend), I’ll put the proposals on line and link them in here. I’ve found one way not to lose sight of my written work meant for perusal by others or publication, is to put it on-line. I get to share it with others and not lose track of it myself.

I had also again become interested in studying Jane Austen in translation and was perplexed about which direction to go in. I find that close study of the same text in two languages where I know one by heart (so to speak), English, and a good French text (where I’m competent to read at any rate) teaches me so much about a text and its culture. I may in the months ahead study Radcliffe’s Romance of the Forest against Soules’s La Foret ou l’Abbaye de Saint-Clair or another of the Austen Francophone texts. I’m especially interested in Isabelle de Montolieu’s. I might like to do that and just read Chastenay’s 3 volume memoirs, which I’ve not yet read. The truth is I had gone past Chastenay’s first into her second volume of Udolpho and actually have enough for a paper on comparison of the two texts now. What I was doing was trying to ascertain if as a woman she translated Radcliffe differently than the others who have translated Radcliffe into French which in French have been otherwise all men.

Montolieu was reprinted

In thinking about this I got up a list of books of Austen in French translation readily available and those I own for future use. This is not to be taken as any kind of definitive list, only a list of the earliest translations of Austen into French and the most recent which are readily available. I put it here in the same spirit as my handy list of the year of Austen’s novels first publication (along with the years a first full draft was produced where we know that). It’s a checklist for myself (and now others interested in this area of study):

Sense and Sensibility

Montolieu, Isabelle de, trans. Raison et Sensibilite. 1 volume. typed. Bookss LLC! Classics Series, Memphis, USA 2011. ISBN 981232895411. 1815

Montolieu, Isabelle de, trans. Raison et Sentiments, revue par Helen Seyres. Intro. Helen Seyres. Paris: Archipoche, 1996 ISBN 9782352870173 Originally titled Raison et Sensibilite 1815. It’s almost the same text as above; names back (Maria now Marianne, Emma now Margaret) changed and corrections.

Privat, Jean, trans. Raison et Sentiments. Note biographie de Jacques Roubaud. Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1979 IBSN 2264023813 1979

Goubert, Pierre, trans. Le Coeur et La Raison, trad, intro. notes Pierre Goubert. Oeuvres romancesques completes I, Paris: Gallimard Pleiade, 2000 ISBN 207011323X 2000

Pride and Prejudice

Perks, Eloise, trans. Orgueil et prevention. 1 volume. typed. Books LLC, Classics Series, Memphis, 2011ISBN 978-123256125 1822

Anonymous, trans. Orgeuil et prejuge. 4 volumes. Geneve: J. J. Paschoud, 1822. In Bibliotheque Nationale de France, all 4 volumes in pdf. 1822.

Leconte V and Ch. Pressoir, trans. Orgueil et prejuges. Preface by Virginia Woolf, trans. Denise Getzler. Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1979 IBSN 2264023813. First published Librarie Plon, 1932

Privat, Jean, trans. Orgueil et Prejuges. Paris: Archipoche, 2010. ISBN 9782352871682. n.d. (1970s?)

Pichardi, Jean-Paul. Orgueil et Prejuge, introd. Pierre Goubert, notes Jean-Paul Pichardie. Oeuvres romancesques completes I, Paris: Gallimard Pleiade, 2000 ISBN 207011323X 2000

Mansfield Park

Villemain, Henri, trans. Mansfield Park, ou Les Trois Cousines, revu, completed by Helen Seyres. Paris: Archipoche, 2007 ISBN 9782352870227 Originally titled: Le Parc de Mansfield, ou les trois cousines. Paris: JG Dentu, 1814

Getzler, Denise, trans. Mansfield Park. Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1982 IBSN 2264024704 1982


Anonymous translator. La Nouvelle Emma, ou Les caracteres anglas du siecle. 3 of 4 tomes, the 1st in print, the others available at the BNF as pdf. Paris: Harchette Livre, n.d. Text from Bibliotheque Nationale de France; one printed volume, two pdf files. 1816.

Salesse-Lavergne, Josette, trans. Emma. Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1982 IBSN 9782264023186 1982

Seyres, Helene, trans. Emma. Paris: Archipoch, 2009. ISBN 9782352871224 1997.

Northanger Abbey

Ferrieres, Hyacinthe de Ferrieres, trans. L’Abbaye de Northanger. Paris; Pigoreau, 1824. In Bibliotheque Nationale de France, all 3 volumes in pdf. 1824

Feneon, Felix, trans. Catherine Morland. 1898-99; Paris: Gallimard, 1945. 1898-99

Salesse-Lavergne, Josette, trans. Northanger Abbey. Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1996 IBSN 2264023805 1982

Arnaud, Pierre. L’Abbaye de Northanger. introd., notes Pierre Arnaud. Oeuvres romancesques completes I, Paris: Gallimard Pleiade, 2000 ISBN 207011323X 2000


Montolieu, Isabelle de. La Famille Elliot; or, L’Ancienne Inclination. Paris: Nabu Press, 2012. ISBN 9781273394805. With original preface, 18th century book xeroxed on larger pages. 1821.

Belamich, Andre, trans. Persuasion. Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1980 IBSN 2264023805 1945

Lady Susan

Salesse-Lavergne, Josette, trans. Lady Susan. Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1996 IBSN 2264023805 (from Margaret Drabble’s text) 1980

Goubert, Pierre, trans. Lady Susan, introd., notes Pierre Goubert. Oeuvres romancesques completes I, Paris: Gallimard Pleiade, 2000 ISBN 207011323X 2000. Reprinted without introd. or notes: Paris: Gallimard Folio, 2000.

Les Watson

Salesse-Lavergne, Josette, trans. Les Watson. Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1996 IBSN 2264023805 (from Margaret Drabble’s text) 1980

Pichardie, Jean-Paul, trans. Les Watson. introd., notes Jean-Paul Pichardie. Oeuvres romancesques completes I, Paris: Gallimard Pleiade, 2000 ISBN 207011323X 2000


Salesse-Lavergne, Josette, trans Sanditon. Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1996 IBSN 2264023805 (from Margaret Drabble’s text) 1980

Amour et Amitie [Love & Friendship]

Goubert, Pierre, trans. Amour at Amitie., introd., notes Pierre Goubert. Oeuvres romancesques completes I, Paris: Gallimard Pleiade, 2000 ISBN 207011323X from Chapman I assume) 2000

Histoire de l’Angleterre

Goubert, Pierre, trans. Histoire de l’Angleterre. introd., notes Pierre Goubert. Oeuvres romancesques completes I, Paris: Gallimard Pleiade, 2000 ISBN 207011323X 2000

The essays or books to read about the history of Jane Austen in translation which includes more items are:

Valerie Cossy, Jane Austen in Switzerland [i.e., in Swiss French]: A Study of the Early French Translations. Geneve: Slatkine, 2006.

Bour, Isabelle, “The Reception of Jane Austen in France,” from The Reception of Jane Austen in Europe, edd. Anthony Mandel and Brian Southam. Continuum.



Brief historical perspective:

In a nutshell, for much of the 19th century after the first flurry of intense interest and translation of Austen into French (and as a vehicular language, her spread into Europe), Austen texts did not sustain themselves as popular or as material for elite study. They were seen as “too English,” too much a spinster’s romance, or too much a woman’s novel (George Sand was also excluded from the French curriculum while Balzac was worshipped).

In the later 20th century the popular mid1990s films prompted a renewed real interest in Austen from a popular audience, and this gave rise to a few academic studies as well as fine translations. Pleiade came out with a beautiful edition of the three supposed “Steventon” or novels first written 1795-99, together with Lady Susan, History of England and Love and Friendship. This was thus a “Steventon” & Bath volume rather than a first three published novels volume (which would have included Mansfield Park, a major challenge).

The flurry and whatever increased respect for Austen resulting from the academic studies didn’t sell enough books, for the Pleiade people did not go on to Volume 2, or at least there’s no sign of it.

During this time and again since the 2007-9 movies there has also been an attempt to reprint the older and first translations. One can see signs this is facing too, such as only one volume of the 1816 Emma, the quick falling of print of the Archipoche set.

What I hope to do in the next few weeks and then months is post a good synopsis of one fine study of Austen: Pierre Goubert’s JA: Etude Psychologique de la Romanciere, which is so good in itself I fully expect his translations to be wondrous. Perhaps others (Ballester cited above, Catherine Bernard’s JA: Pride and Prejudice: Dans l’oeil du paradoxe and the older Jane Austen by Leonie Villard) and emerge with an idea of Austen as found in Francophone readers.

Then I’ll do the same for Austen criticism in Italian (Beatrice Battaglia’s La Zitella Illetterata: Parodia e ironia nei romanzi di Jane Austen) and look at little at a recent translations of each of the six best known novels to see how they reflect a view. I’ve more time to translate Elsa Morante’s Italian poetry to her cat through a French intermediary vehicular language.

Francophone Charlotte to follow. I’ve become aware the published list of French translations of Charlotte Smith’s novels is incomplete: Isabelle de Montolieu did one of Smith’s Solitary Wanderer tales so I’ll also put together a list for Smith in French. Smith was herself so influenced by the French, as I hope to suggest in my etext edition of her Ethelinde (even if the influence is seen more in her Emmeline, Desmond, The Banished Man and Montalbert.

The above will be threaded in with my reports from the MLA on eighteenth-century topics, and the usual cultural life-writing, and novels as we imagine them today.

A somewhat misleading map because French is also important as a vehicular language in Africa, the Middle East; it omits Louisiana too (a secondary place).


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Dear friends and readers,

This past few weeks I’ve been carefully reading and comparing the extant French translations of Ann Radcliffe. I’ve discovered there’s an interesting history of translation of her books, much of it almost wholly unknown, in the case of French incompletely covered (or mentioned) by Dorothy Medlin, Deborah Rogers and others. I mean to review this and let others interested in French and the transmision of the novel, gothic and Radcliffe too, know that at least three of these are to be taken seriously; that is, translations which convey her text very well and which stand up as creations in their own right. All three were published in the same banner year (1797) for translation of Radcliffe into French, and by the same publisher, Maradon in Paris:

1) Francois Soules turned The Romance of the Forest into La Foret ou l’Abbaye de Saint-Clair; this text has been recently published in good edition by the great critic-biographer of Radcliffe, Pierre Arnaud; showing the usual lack of respect for the integrity of a translator’s text, Arnaud changed the title into Les Mysteres de la foret and says he lightly corrected the text. Arnaud does provide a fine introduction. I selectively compared Arnaud’s text with the first volume of a facsimile of Soules with Arnaud’s slightly corrected text and actually found no difference.

2) Victorine de Chastenay turned The Mysteries of Udolpho into Les Mysteres d’Udolphe. This text has also been recently published (1998) in a fine edition by the great critic and historian of the gothic, Maurice Levy. The way you can tell your text is Chastenay’s and the whole of it is to see if Levy is the editor. If he is, you’ve got the right text.

I’d like readers to be aware that what looks like an oddly slenderish Udolpho published in the last quarter of a century (1966) is by Narcisse Fournier and first published in 1864, this skinny Radcliffe one is a “modernizing translation and abridgement of Chastenay (Fournier probably did not consult Radcliffe much at all.) In the same year Fournier also modernized/translated and abridged an already cavalier translation of Radcliffe’s The Sicilian Romance called Julia Ou Les Souterrains De Mazzini by Moylin. (The Nabu facsimile of Julia available on the Internet is Moylin’s).

3) Andre Morellet translated The Italian or the Confessional of the Black Penitents into L’Italien ou Le Confessional des Penitens Noirs. The only way to get Morellet’s text is download a google text or buy the first volume of a Nabu facsimile.


As far as I can tell there has been no recent edition of Morellet, only an edition of a (bad) text (1974 and 1977) by (again) Narcisse Fournier, and just as his others a loose “modernizing” (according to mid-19th century tastes) translation based on an abridgement of Morellet (possibly without ever looking at Radcliffe). One way to recognize this inferior text is when the introducer is Tony Cartano, and the year 1977.

On the three translators:

Victorine de Chastenay

It is a tribute to Radcliffe and the genuineness of her political thought in her books that all three serious translators were themselves republicans, involved in Enlightenment thought and activities. Chastenay left a three-volume memoir, translated Goldsmith’s poem “Deserted Village,” was herself a saloniere, a Girondist. She took on the task of a work of love. See my Found in Translation.

Like Chastenay, Soules was a republican thinker, in his case he was something of a professional translator; that is, he looked to make money this way. He also translated Tom Paine’s response to Burke’s famous book on the French revolution, some of Arthur Young’s travel books, that part of G. Bligh’s travel book, Voyage to the South with includes the famous story of Mutiny on the Bounty, and two more serious anthropological and cultural studies of Great Britain (he lived there for some years) and one Reflections on Emigration (Chamberlain). Soules met Thomas Jefferson. The liked one another, they wrote, their correspondence is extant. These are the sister-brother books of Radcliffe’s done by Soules.

Andre Morellet is a still well-known serious original thinker, translator (and student of translation — he wrote a sharp critique, careful and studied of the then popular Le Tourneur’s translation of Shakespeare’s Othello). He translated Beccaria, the first important treatist against torture, and original enlightened works. He didn’t translate as much as Soules; he had income of his own otherwise; he did it when desperate for money.

Some notes on the translations compared: I am using the criteria and outlook of Bellos’s Is There a Fish in Your Ear?

While Chastenay’s text has been carefully studied and praised by Dorothy Medlin, Soules’s text has not been written about. I began it and found it resembles Feneon’s Catherine (a brilliant translation of Northanger Abbey), possibly the best translation into French of Austen). Feneon was an anarchist and (possibly) intuited a kindred spirit (not that Austen would have been conscious of this). Feneon and Soules write living forceful texts which contain in them a genuinely lived experience of the story closely analogous to that of Austen and Radcliffe respectively. Some might feel that Soules writes a more forceful text to Radcliffe’s, partly because he is more aware of the archetypes beneath the particulars of Radcliffe’s own text: he reads a paragraph say, lives the experience then turns it into French. Soules brings out these archetypes, makes the text move more quickly; he does lose the delicacy of Racliffe’s interwined text much richer in qualifications and content. He will use French words where there is no English equivalent and obtains an equivalent precise meaning.

Reading Soules’s translation of Radcliffe’s Romance of the Forest deepened my appreciation of Radcliffe herself and my understanding this is one thing reading a creative fine translation can do.

For example, people say that Radcliffe has a strong death wish. It’s not explicit, is it? When Pierre is considering staying at the abbey, Radcliffe writes: “Perhaps, some wretched wanderer, like myself, may have here sought refuge from a persecuting world; and, here, perhaps laid down the load of existence … ” When he thinks of mingling his dust with the man he surmises was here we feel Radcliffe’s death wish (Oxford English, Ch 2, p 24). In Soules we find three concise sentences, they do convey the denotative meaning more concisely and at the center we have this more existentially neutral comment: “Ici peut-etre il aura depose le fardeau de l’existence” (French Folio p. 93). There is no real sense of movement from sentence to sentence driven by desire for death. He’s more pragmatic: “Peut-etre quelque malheureux figutif common moi aura cherche dans ces lieux un refuge contre la persecution. … [aphorism] … Peut-etre aussi n’ai-je suivi ses pas que pour meler ma cendre a la sienne”.

When Peter so delayed, Radcliffe writes Adeline experiences “silence anxiety” (p. 25) that La Motte is “restless and uneasy,” (p. 26), while Soules writes for Adeline “une muette inquietude” (p. 94) “dans les transes cruelles” (p. 94).

I enjoy how Soules finds his own French words to convey the experience. And he has a sort of French gift for aphorism. This is what I found true of Feneon’s translation of Austen’s Northanger Abbey. Soules’s text teaches us why the wrong question of a translation is, Is it accurate (and its corollary, I can’t read that text unless I know the original as if the reader were about to sit and carefully cmopare). The question to ask is: is this a livable fine text? Then, how is its poetry related to its source text in the other language?

I suggest that Soules can make a reader who is not fond of Radcliffe like her better — rather like the French translators of Poe. There is a modern Italian translation (1998) of Udolpho by Lidia Conetti and I’ve read into it quite far (well into the last part of volume 1). Conetti similarly seemed to me could make Radcliffe better liked than she does herself or Chastenay — Chastenay had real social knowledge Radcliffe seems to have lacked, but does not go into the true subversive disquiet of Radcliffe’s mind. Conetti sees into all of this.

I’ve made a foray into Morellet’s translation, L’Italien and my preliminary finding is this: Soules’s Les Mystere de la foret (I use Arnaud’s title) is more the forceful, passionate, and therefore better text. Both of them do not follow the lines and twists and turns of Radcliffe’s grammar or thought but substitute a French syntax; Morellet is also reliving the experience but he is not reliving it with the same intensity. He keeps an intellectual distance. Like Soules Morellet substitutes a more forceful abbreviated French which still contains all the central meaning of the original, but there is a sense of following her rather than re-enacting and feeling. The intellectual sense is there and again like so many others of this era translating these picturesque texts, he’s good on description.

OTOH, Morellet also makes the text his own and comes out more distinctly, thoughtfully than Soules. He has his own particulars (so to speak). Morellet consistently avoids more “effeminate” words and opts for more forceful aggressive for Vivaldi: not anxious, not trembling, not transient looks, but troubled and steathily (see the Nabu facsimile. p 23, the Oxford English, p 16); both have eager good young man meaning well, proud but with some violence on behalf or pride. Morellet’s “l’insensible” for obdurate is a good change on Ellena’s apparent lack of response (facsimile French, 40; Oxford English 17)

Morellet also conveys Radcliffe’s peculiar sense of humor. She does have one. For example, in Chapter 1 at Vivaldi’s expense as an over-enthusiastic romantic Romeo. What is particularly effective is Morellet’s use of French to conjure up the sounds of the scenes, the murmurs of the bay, the lights, and he is alive to the importance of music in this particular novel (see the Nabu facsimile, p 39-40): “la voix de Vivaldi etait un beau tenor …” He goes on more about the voice than the surrounding background feel. But he fudges and goes too quickly or summarily over the description of the bay (cf Radcliffe in the Oxford English, p 16): her inward turns and precision is just magnificent and would take a lot of work to recreate.

Morellet’s syntax is wholly French – the way phrases are pulled out of order for emphasis: Compare Morellet (facsimile, bottom of p 7 and into top of p 8): ” … qui tient a une histoire que m’ont rappelee, et la vue de l’assassin, et votre surprise a le voir demeure libre;” with Radcliffe (Oxford p 3): the sight of the assassin with your surprise at the liberty which is allowed him, led me to a recollection of the story.

At the same time all three translators have idiolects which reflect the nature of the language and a style indicative of an era. A translation reflects the language inside an era, and its culture. That’s why new translations can be equally good and yet so different. Smith’s translation of Prevost’s Manon turns the direct simple French into turns and twists within language (rather like Radcliffe), producing an impression of subjectivity which she hen uses to make the book have far more presence of the heroine. There is a sense in which any writer must follow the genius of the receiving language.

A final note about the problematic nature of readers reading translations not from the original:

Morante’s Menzogna and Sortilegio [A Lie and Witchcraft]

Mensonge et sortilege

A sobering truth for someone who loves to translate (as I do) and read good translations: sometimes Fournier with all his lack of integrity produces a readable text analogous enough to Radcliffe’s through Moylin. Moylin’s translation of The Sicilian Romance includes wholescale abridgements, substitutions of say a physical description of a character where Radcliffe offered something ethical or psychological, and then again translate in the word-for-word in a metaphrase way. What do I mean by enough: Fournier picks up on elements in Radcliffe through Moylin and conveys them generally, more briefly and perhaps for a careless reader more easily. Fournier is reliving the experiences Moylin offers through his Radcliffe; Fournier’s text is not translationese, it’s not a dead text. He writes in mid-19th century living French, and thus conveys something of the core of a text which he cares little for and perhaps never read. A reader reading Fournier could easily be fooled into feeling she has come in contact with Radcliffe and in a way she has.

The thought that comes to mind is that many of our modern texts we read as substitutes for classics are really Fournier style texts. For example, the American English translation of Morante’s Menzogna and Sortilegio made her very unhappy. It’s 200 pages shorter than hers, has a different title (The House of Liars); we cannot know if the translator didn’t use the complete unabridged good French translation which is available and never went to Morante. People here might not care about Morante, but I once tried to read the English translation of Eco’s Il nome della rosa and discovered it was again and again ruthlessly slashed, often not accurate and yet conveyed some core of the essential experience of Eco’s text, was a living effective text in its own right. I have read her La Storia in Italian, having been told that the English cavalierly abridges and does not translate it with accurate attention.

Note: My proposal was turned down. I think probably most unfairly. To do myself justice and also keep my thoughts where I can find them again and share them with others, I’ve put my proposal on my website. “To translate seemed to me a beautiful thing to do: Translation as Matching Creative Act”. I’ve at least done myself that much justice. (Freedom the press and speech belongs to the woman who has a website.)


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Sir Charles Pasley (1780-1861)

Dear friends and readers,

This is a high-spirited letter. S&S has been published, a success d’estime; in three days P&P will be announced and on sale; she is working on her final published version to come of MP. What more could she want? a dream come true.

Diana Birchall uses the word “jubilant” for one set of phrases and I agree she feeling strong; alas, though her big wins are not doing her generosity of spirit much good. This is a demented sort of jubilation: Austen triumphs in her books, but she has little to show for it: no companionship with the women she wanted, no money, no open reputation. In fact she has not gained anything tangible or in status. She’s still like a porcupine within, still sore. She is not living the life she wants but what that is she can’t say, thwarted at every turn as she’s been — except for these books for which she sacrificed time, energy, spent all within her that she had as she successively corrected and revived.

She is just determinedly cheerful in the opening paragraph. She slides over a lack of reciprocating letters from Cassandra or others. Usually the lack of a letter is rationale enough to justify a sense of hurt, loss, emptiness. On top of that it’s cold. And as if this weren’t enough, Cassandra is at the ambiguous Steventon. Yet “this is exactly the weather we should wish for …” If they have had no letter, they have an “excellent Stilton cheese and after Mr Digwood’s base usage (he didn’t come? didn’t write?) they have had Miss Benn (a source for Miss Bates).

She has been reading. She assumes we (like Cassandra) understand the political content of the books, and when we do know, her strongly stated preference is significant. Southam (see my blog on his JA and the Navy and her brother Frances) however made clear and it’s significant. Pasley was a deeply reactionary conservative politician whose book defended imperialism to where and to do what few were willing to go or do. The man advocates the most ruthless of imperialist policies, the sort that leads to what Belgium did in the Congo. the book ws a Society-Octavo (Alton book club had its own binding). Southey reviewed it and said it was the most important political document of the era.

Jane approves — because her brothers stand to make money? (Remember her flipancy about Sir John Moore’s defeat: how many dead, but how nice we know none of them.) Pasley kept at “expansionist politics” supported by “a certain easy ruthlessness,:” the English should enact “the ambition of
conquerors,” those who loved Burke loved this. Let us attack and destroy all our enemies” by force, take Buenos Aires as an operation.

Jane returns to this book repeatedly in this letter. She says she loves it as much as she ever did Clarkson (the abolitionist). Buchanan’s Christian Researches in Asia is also preferred. A proselytizing Evangelical Christianizer. The two Mr Smiths are parodists of contemporary (often romantic) poetry, the Rejected Addresses. From the aside to Mrs Digwood and their placement next to the flirting couple the content is about courtship: in each someone’s address is rejected.

She also sidelines Anne Grant’s Letters from the Mountains; she slyly insinuates she’d like to get rid of the book. I’m not a one woman fan club but I like Grant and find her criticism head and shoulders above Austen’s, she is romantic, but a thinking feeling tolerant one. Her poetry and stance of moderate conservatism fits Austen’s notions of reasonableness and tender feeling. Had Austen written but one passage of critical assessment like Grant’s we’d never hear the end of it. We can’t know what displeased Jane exactly and she knows she can’t attack frontally. Perhaps again she wants no peer.

LeFaye gives us no help on Mr White. Her mother is reading John Carr’s Travels in Spain from Miss B (he was a diplomat) to make sure she is literally accurate in MP. Tellingly for those who want the book to have general application outside the UK (outside what we’d call the Eurocentric), she does worry about a reference to the Government house at Gibraltar. Maybe we should pay attention to this detail as much as Fanny’s not getting any information about slavery in Antigua.

Austen does love to debunk so we get a lot about the parody of contemporary poets called Rejected Addresses by the Smiths. I wish I knew which poets were parodied and on what grounds. Not a peep on this from LeFaye. But the book and its courtship thme does serve to enable Jane to sneer at the Papillon’s niece Eleanor. Why does she come in for a shot? Austen often mocks the Papillon; one of them was suggested for a husband for her. Perhaps they were dim. At the opening of Miss Austen Regrets Gwyneth Hughes has Olivia Williams as Austen sending him up, quizzing him meanly.

I suggest the line “What she meant, poor Woman who shall say?” is a reference to a certain imbecility in understanding and that’s what leads her to talk of the Papillons. Austen doesn’t like Whist but certainly decamps hastily from playing rounds with this set. She did read Anne Grant for she remembers detail from a card party in Grant’s letters and says there were just as many for their round table as there were at some similar party in Grant’s letters.


Tax or spring cart (1903)

On Wednesday she went to a party with the Clements in their tax (or spring cart — you paid little taxes). A party on previous Wednesday to which she went with the Clements in a tax cart. It’s small and no doubt a declasse way to travel. She let them know it. “I would rather have walked, & no doubt they must have wished I had.”

So she didn’t bother to hide her disdain or make herself pleasant. and much preferred to ‘run home with my own dear Thomas” — luxury in comparison to the cart. No doubt the cart was lousy, bumpy and uncomfortable. but I find nothing to admire in her making the others know it. If she couldn’t really be polite, then walk there.

But of course that would have been even more socially low.

There were 11 there and one man who would have pleased her father. Whenever her father is brought up in these letters, Jane Austen’s morality improves. Mr T is nothing but dark-complexioned, but Mr W, a “very young man, hardly 20 perhaps … of St Johns, Cambridge & spoke very highly of H. Walter as a Schollar.” Walter was a family member too. Austen is never not partisan. Then the sort of vignette Henry James puts down in his notebooks for later
use to write up for his novels:

I could see nothing very promising between Mr P & Miss Pt — She placed herself on one side of him at first, but Miss Benn obliged her to move up higher; –& she had an empty plate, & even asked him to give her some Mutton without being attended to for some time. — There might be Design in this, to be sure, on his side; — he might think an empty Stomach the most favourable for Love. —

So Mr P and Miss Patience Terry are flirting. Jane then turns to Mrs Digweed, and becomes polite; she hopes the Rejected Addresses amused Mrs Digweed but Mrs Digweed’s silly mind flies off to some detail that is unimportant. Then that Eleanor looks like someone rejected.

She decamped at 10 and “not ashamed of my dutiful Delicacy” — she made her mother at home an excuse, but still she goes on to include more of this barbed gossip about the people there. I agree with Diana that Austen is just loving to disparage and be superior here:

WWhat can be a stronger proof of that superiority of ours over the Steventon & Manydown Society, which I have always foreseen & felt?”

But it’s not on grounds of the Rejected Addresses that the Miss Sibleys are sitting around not-reading (for they are reading the book, but rather that the Miss Sibleys openly want to
imitate Austen’s group. Austen’s group has never been caught wanting to emulate some other book society. No. And then we get a series of references to which books the Miss Sibleys prefer. Biglands, and Barrows, and Macartney’s and Mackenzies. Since in another place (MP) Fanny Price likes MacCartney perhaps this is just high spirits catching on to anything to laugh at and the alliteration is part of what the writer is enjoying.

But again there is a political meaning here. Austen prefers that ruthless imperialist. The other books are travels, about the peninsular war (perhaps critical of war policy) and the places include Iceland. Who would want to read of Iceland, pray? maybe that’s part of this not so funny joke.

The Coulthards were talked of you may be sure; no end of them; Miss Terry had heard they were going to rent Mr Bramston’s house at Oakley, & Mrs Clement that they were going to live at Streethams Mr Digweed 8{ I agreed that the House at Oakley could not possibly be large enough for them, 8{ now we find they have really taken it. — Mr Gauntlett is thought very agreable, & there are no Children at all. —

Streatham was a beautiful place, but how many children can any place stand? Austen is with Mr Gauntlett. People who go on rejoicing at Jane Austen’s warm love of children prompt me to echo her: “What [they] mean … who shall say?”

Then we turn to activities after Wednesday. Jane went for a walk. Happily (she says) it provided her with someone to unload Anne Grant’s Letters to the Mountains onto. Jane said she found the walk agreeable and if the others didn’t, the fault was theirs, for “I was quite as entertaining as she was.”

Dame G. is pretty well, & we found her surrounded by her well-behaved, healthy, large-eyed Children. — I took her an old Shift & promised her a set of our Linen; & my Companion left some of her Bank Stock’? with her

We might stop here and consider the typical character or core of a satirist. It often does come from alienation of some sort. Then a sudden drop down to calm decency. Austen was not irritated by the poor villagers they visited. They aroused no antagonisms.

And then we get a reference to a Tuesday which is I think a quiet reference to the game of Tuesdays in the novels:: “Tuesday has done its duty & I have had the pleasure of reading a very comfortable Letter.” It had a lot in it, the cover written on, and Austen’s mood improves after she reads it.


1983 BBC MP: Nicholas Farrell as Edmund listening with distaste and discomfort to

Jackie Smith-Wood as Mary talking of how admired are men in the professions (unlike clergymen)

The last part of the letter is not as barbed nor does Austen get a kick out of mocking other people or showing herself to have been disdainful of things she for the moment deems beneath her (like the cart). She really does not like these social occasions with people whose minds she finds imbecilic, and with no reference to arouse her competitiveness, her shots after Tuesday are limited to those who’ve genuinely taken potshots at her or have hurt her for real in some way.

Potshots include Mrs Bramston:

LeFaye shows herself a pro-family editor. Austen says Mrs Bramston is the sort of woman she detests. Why? LeFaye without admitting she is justifying Austen offers the “information” in her appendix that John Byng said she was “an artful worldly woman, of a notable self-sufficient capacity, … not selon mon gout; and her son is letter better than a blockhead,” to which LeFaye adds one of the two Mrs Bramstons thought “the first three of JA’s publishd novels boring and nonsensical.” A stupid woman: the boring gives it away. She probably let it be known she despised _S&S; this tells us the people in the neighborhood all around knew the authoress was none other than Miss Austen.

People who have hurt her (or other members of the family) include the people who took Steventon: so Austen says she does not recognize Steventon from Cassandra’s description of if justifying why probably Mary and James too behave the way they do, not omitting Anna’s responses to them:

I cannot imagine what sort of place Steventon can be.

Cassandra has been saying see how Mary is not so bad, and Austen acknowledges “kind intentions”). But Mrs Austen not keen on sharing the cooked pork; better to offer a share in the pigs. (Well yuk, maybe it is not so nice to have someone send cooked stuff that are left-overs. The parallel is in Emma where the rich Woodhouses and Emma remember to send pork to Miss Bates and Jane. Here Mary is in the position of the grand lady Emma and Austen’s mother and herself Miss Bates and Jane.

But in turn Mrs Austen is just filled with “great pleasure” to send a pair of garters and “is very glad she had them ready knit.” Enigmatic in tone because probably the mother did not feel about all this the way Austen patently does — she thinks the whole thing absurd – as we can see from how this “twig” entered _Emma_.

I thank Christy for identifying the specific Papillon Jane found herself having nearly to sit down to whist with. There Austen after all found the suggestion she marry him grating enough to hold the grudge in her letters.

I read Diana on the reference to Gibraltar in MP. But Diana ignores the meaning of the passage she quotes, its political content which fits into this letter.

It’s interesting because it shows one of the characters intuitively uncomfortable with what the author Austen is so keen in this letter would think would exult him. Pasley’s imperialism (and those who want to see MP as about colonialism do not usually remember she said she likes Pasley as much as Clarkson) would suggest people dressing up in uniform because they’ve been promoted should exult. Not Edmund. Only Fanny reconciles him to anything. Edmund is a portrait of someone not for sale, someone who does not want a position or place that does not involve him in duties his conscience makes palatable to him.

Here we can compare bring Austen’s MP in comparison with Charlotte Smith’s Ethelinde: Montgomery a lord who has no money must force himself to take a job with the East India company (just the sort of thing Mary Crawford would respect) and knows it will be distasteful and require him to exploit the natives; Edmund does not make such a distaste explicit but it’s behind his enigmatic comment to Mary that he would have to do things for the kinds of positions she wants to take he would not be able to endure.

This is a good place to see how Austen’s fiction slips away from her conscious meaning — probably upon a revision. She is “in character,” Edmund a hero in her mind and we have an anti-imperialistic stance towards uniforms. By contrast, William is continually apparently naive and will take promotion and riches at any price; Austen says at one point he was not too kind to another man aboard his ship as he wished he could supersede him when the guy died. This is precisely Tom’s attitude towards Dr Grant. Very human.

So after the important event of the Tuesday (some Tuesdays are not bad, they are rather important), the comfortable letter from Cassandra, what do we have? mostly a thicket of gossip and doings.

She’s glad to go for walks. As she knows “Mary is interested” to know that Miss Benn is not neglected, Mary is to be told that Miss B dined last Wednesday at Mr Papillons.”

Another hit. It’s sarcastic. How lucky is Miss Benn. (Of course like Marianne Jane is forgetting perhaps Miss Benn might have enjoyed it? Maybe Miss Benn was no fool. And we get a list of people she dined with in a row. She had little money for food let us recall. Once she even wore her new shawl! Remember how they had to be sure not to buy her a too nice one for then she’d never wear it.

Jane is glad to hear that Martha is not at Barton. No wonder she hardly mentioned the employer. There is no barb here, only (perhaps) a reference to something under the bed. It could be dogs, but LeFaye reminds us that the single ladies at Cranford had myths about spirits beneath the beds both mischievous and protecting.

I had fancied that Martha would be at Barton from last Saturday, but am best pleased to be mistaken. I hope she is now quite well. — Tell her that I hunt away the rogues” every night from under her bed; they feel the difference of her being gone. —

Not far from it is this delight in walking and in winter no matter how filthy, greasy, cold, and ugly the roads: It’s here the slightly demented gaiety comes out.

A very sloppy lane” last Friday! — What an odd sort of country you must be in! I cannot at all understand it! It was just greasy here on Friday, in consequence of the little snow that had fallen in the night. — Perhaps it was cold on Wednesday, yes, I beleive it certainly was — but nothing terrible.-Upon the whole, the Weather for Winter-weather is delightful, the walking excellent.

It seems that Anna is going to come to Chawton for a visit. Mrs Austen’s letter will be forwarded by someone else (saving postage) but if they do not manage it, Anna will have it to read when she comes.

Scarlets is the country estate where the harridan Aunt, Jane-Austen Leigh resides. Austen is glad to hear anything “so tolerable” of them from Mr Leigh’s letter,. (He will double-cross them; he leads them to think he will share his wealth with Mrs Austen and hers when he dies but leaves it all to his wife who then holds it of over JEAL’s head for years to come).

“Poor Charles and his frigate. But there could be no chance of his having one, while it was thought such a certainty.” Charles not given a frigate. She’s ironic. Because they want something, things are against us.

The letter ends with a hit at Anna’s suitor’s news — she can scarcely believe him) and her dismissal/irritation at Mrs Bramston. She says she had rather been called liar by Mr Cotterell than to excite no interest in Mrs Bramston who (see above) insulted her book perhaps knowing it would get round to her.

Jane in form,

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Casper David Friedrich (1774-1840), Sylphide

Dear friends and readers,

About a week ago we finished a lightning-quick absorbed (for those who participated) reading and discussion of Annette von Droste-Hulshoff’s one work still in print: The Jew’s Beech (first published in 1842), during which we also albeit briefly discussed her life and poetry. She was an important (rare) early 19th century German lyric poet (so foremother poet), and in the way of advertising familiarizations one reads her work and life represent a kind of intersection between the passion and content of Emily Bronte, with her retired life resembling that of Emily Dickinson.

I’ll do one better and suggest her autobiographical novel, Ledwina (which I was able to read a portion of, Englished by Jeannine Blackwell and Susanne Zantop in Bitter Healing: German Women Writers, 1700-1830) depicted her restricted choices and liberty and all-encompassing apparently kind but repressive family makes me think of Austen:

she so loathed this sad and anxious sheltering, this pitiful cautious life where the body governs the spirit until it, too, becomes as infirm and impoverished as the body itself, loathed it so much that she would gladly have let all her life’s energy, which was glimmering out a spark at a time, flare up and expire in a single blaze

We see her daily life, and as in Austen’s letters, her close relationships with servants. There are strikingly modern passages: for example the heroine grows irritated with herself when she falls asleep (partly tiredness, partly boredom) during the day because as it is she can

scarcely sleep at night; then I get up from time to time and walk about my room; it’s not good for me, but what is one to do with the long night.

What indeed?

Her continual rewriting and perfectionist stance towards each detail of her text recalls Austen too.

To begin with her life:

Annette von Droste-Hulshoff, 1838 portrait by J. Sprick

Annette von Drost-Hulshoff may be said to be a rare women represented in the German romantic canon, but like so many women before the 19th century, it’s hard to get at the truth of her life. What I have read amounts to two different lives.

Take your choice:

Her birthplace, Burg Hülshoff in Havixbeck, Germany

at wikipedia and from the articles cited you will learn of a woman who was ambitious, wanted a career (planned her publications to make an image) and was thwarted by her family, the prescriptive life laid down for an upper class Catholic German unmarried woman, and bad luck. Her father was learned and gave his daughter an excellent high culture education (tutors in ancient languages, French, natural history, mathematics and music (she inherited considerable musical talent from her father).

We are told she was a member of her brother’s intellectual circles, knew Grimm, Goethe, Schiller and many other illustrious German names. She almost married a Protestant, but was cruelly tricked out of it when family members persuaded a Catholic lawyer to pay court to her. The end result was her reputation was hurt, she presumably shocked by this treachery.

Her father’s death, religious doubts, and her family’s wealth enabled her to live a life of quiet retreat with her mother and family and study and write poetry in the countryside. She wrote long-narrative poems but her work was not marketed skilfully (a backwater publishers) and the commercial failure humiliated her.

But again she tries for a social life, this time a salon in Munster where she meets Levin Schücking, a young poet, whose friendship, sympathy, congeniality inspire her to write again: poetry, The Jew’s Beech. Schucking has to take a position as a tutor in an aristocratic family. New contacts led to a literary success, an invitation by Clara Schuman to write a libretto, but she was betrayed by Schucking who, now married, writes two novels, one exposing the flaws of the aristocracy she belonged to, the other with a portrait of herself that distressed (she is said to have treated the poet like a son), so again she retires, this time to small house by herself and dies of TB. Nonetheless, Schucking was himself responsible for publicizing her work.

Or the life as told by Blackwell and Zantopp (Bitter Healing) and suported by Ledwina (written 1819-26):

The Säntis, a mountain in the Alps near Schloss Eppishausen, which inspired Droste’s poem “Der Säntis”

Blackwell and Zantop present Drost-Hulfshoff or Annette as not wanting to have her works published, as reclusive, quiet, and the story of the thwarted love affair becomes not so much a manipulation of her as her being over-sensitive and alienated or different from most of those she met, unconventional in her perceptions, and drawn inwardly by her religious feelings and love for travel and long sojourns in a wild romantic Westphalia landscape. Her relationships were all with family members or close friends; important to her were a Professor Anton Matthias Sprickman of Munster, a woman writer of popular tales, Katharina Brusch, and Adele Schopenhauer (the famous Schopenhauer’s mother who wrote her of travel in the UK). When young, Annette chose to turn away from her brother’s friends (now they are boorish students); she rejected one man who denounced her as arrogant and manipulative. They describe her poetry effectively (inward, intense, her marshes and moors inhabited by demonic nature spirits), some prose works (Pictures from Westphalia, 1842), two unfinished novels (one Englished as Our Country Place, begun 1841).

Both accounts depict her as an isolated and independent woman in character who was often ill: her heroine Ledwina suffers from severe chest pains; she has a widowed mother who has to give up her estate to an unworthy son, sisters desperate to marry but wanting to remain close to one another, a woman who goes mad with shame when she is left a bankrupt widow, another who renounces speech for 14 years to be able to live with her husband. It is an account of un-freedom, a lack of social worth accorded women. The Jew’s Beech presents women in the same light.


Friedrich, Abbey in the Oakwood

The Jew’s Beech, another Scheherazade tale:

I can find no plot-summary, but there is an account of the story’s sources in Drost-Hulshoff’s relatives’ experience of peasant culture and court cases recorded by them (see August von Haxthausen) The prosaic feel of everyday life, the anger and greed and competitiveness within families, occasional violence, the pragmaticism which nonetheless accepts superstitions reminded me much of the world of Martin Guerre as described by Charlotte Smith and Natalie Zemon Davis.

Basically it tells us of the lives of a few people who live amid and participate in a fierce smuggling and destruction of timber going on in the local rich woods and lands owned by the wealthy by bands of men desperate to make a living. We are told of foresters who are hired as murderous police on behalf of the state and grandees (who want to protect the game and “their” woods). In effect an unackknowledged all-out war between the haves and have-nots goes on ceaselessly in the background and every once in a while individual people erupt to murder and avenge themselves for humilation or because someone owes them money (or something else) and didn’t pay up.

The translation by Lionel and Doris Thomas (reprinted in an Oxford paperback classic) held me because it was rendered in modern lucid idiomatic fluid English. It reads as a startlingly modern fable (rather like a unusually plain Isak Dinesen story) so I expect the translator is part of the new school of translators (pressured to do this by publishers) which modernizes older texts by getting rid of certain kinds of idiosyncracies of the original author or the period. The packaging reminded me of Wolf’s historical fiction set in the same era about the poets Kleist and Gunderrode, Englished as No Place on Earth: the prose style here is the same. It may be that one or both of these texts is distorted.

So, we have a fearful world of peasants seen by a narrator kept at a distance. Violence is the way they control one another and the novel suggests things like drunken beatings, the intense concern with money and surviving as the main motive for people’s actions without admitting it. Margret the mother, loves her son, Frederich, but unhesitatingly lets the uncle take him away to work for him though it seems to me that the uncle is as fierce as Peter Grimes and I would not trust my son with him.

Oddly (again referring to Wolf’s historical fiction) I felt it was sort of an 18th century tale told much later – the way women are said to write in a belated way. It opens in 1738 with the birth of the young hero, Frederick,moves backward to the mother and her bad decision to marry a violent man (but then she was single and it’s said ugly) and then forward to Frederick as a young man — who can be dandy like, sensitive dreamy but also a determined bourgeois. It jumps forward once to July 1756, again four years and ends 28 years later (1788).

Charlotte Smith’s Romance of Real Life shows us how the legal and economic arrangements of the ancien regime create hatred and resentment and can lead to murder. What’s on Drost-Hulshoff’s mind is precisely this. The first three pages gives us the framework:

As a result of primitive and often inadequate lesiglature, the ideas of the inhabitants as to right and wrong had become somewhat confused, or rather beside the official legal system there had grown up a second law based on public opinion, usage and superannuaion arising from neglect … legal form mattered less the spirit was adhered to more strictly, infringements occurred ore often … nothing destroys the soul more surely than an appeal to external legal forms in contradiction to one’s inner sense of justice.

Drost-Hulshoff differs from Smith in emphasizing custom and also the vulnerability of women who do suffer terribly in this tale. As a kind of throw-away detail we are told of how at a wedding where everyone is celebrating, a young woman is being married to a very old man who sneers at her and seems to look forward to domineering and being cruel to her. The first time we meet Friedrich’s mother she has decided to marry a man (Friedrich’s father) who we have seen be somehow hideously cruel to his first wife so that she flees from him in the night all bloody and thereafter lives with her parents and not soon after that dies. Friedrich’s mother receives the same treatment from this man who we are told makes an exception for his son, which makes his son tender to the father.

It ends enigmatically. There are two murders and after the first murder was committed I was convinced that Friedrich had not done it. He was an accomplice with the lumber thieves, but not the prime actor. After the second the murder of the lender Jew Aaron (who is presented anti-semitically), as he had humiliated Friedrich, I thought he had done at least that one (though it’s never stated), and then when his corpse is found by the Jew’s beech tree, although it was implied that after years of exile and flight, he had returned and killed himself near where the Jew he killed died, I was not sure.

I am particularly struck by her originality and unconventionality. How different this is from the sentimental pirate and other tales of the French at the time. I thought of Marmontel’s Shepherdess of the Alps, but also the tales of sensibility of Germane de Stael. It is wholly alien in the way of Emily Bronte’s stances.


Johan Christian Claussen Dah (1788-1856), Dresden by Moonlight (1850)

We had some very good talk and I’d like to include some of the postings of two friends on WWTTA. Fran, a reader of German, very knowledgeable in its literature, wrote as quietly brilliantly as she usually does:

Glad you’re enjoying this hauntingly puzzling tale, Ellen. I’ve already re-read the German text and the notes in my new edition, so I’ll try and make time to see how the English translation compares with the original as well. I’ll probably be using the older online translation, though.

You’ll probably have seen from other sources that Droste-Hülshoff based her story on true events, ones that her ancestors had been involved in. The historical murder took place on 10.2.1783 when Soestmann-Behrens, a so-called ‘Schutzjude'(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schutzjude), was killed by Hermann Georg Winkelhagen, a farm worker from Bellersen (the B. in the text) after an argument about an unpaid bill.Though Droste-Hülshoff purposedly clouds the issue of who actually murdered the Jewish merchant in her text, there seems to have been no such doubt as to Winkelhagen’s own guilt.

At the time, D-H’s maternal grandfather (some sources say great-grandfather) Caspar Moritz von Haxthausen zu Abbenburg, an aristocratic landowner, was also serving as judge at the patrimonial court in charge of the case, so the details were passed down in family lore.

Like the assumed murderer in D-H’s story, Winkelhagen fled capture, but in the course of his adventures was picked up by pirates and sold into Algerian slavery. This lasted until 1805, when he and 231 fellow prisoners were freed by Jérôme, Napoleon’s brother. Winkelhagen then made his way back to Bellersen, arriving in April 1806, only to hang himself later in the woods on 18.9.1806.

From these dates, you can see that D-H did choose to set her own story further back in time as you thought.

It’s interesting that you should mention the sentimental pirate tales popular at the time since D-H.’s uncle August had already published a version of Winkelhagen’s story under the title of ‘The Story of an Algerian Slave’ in 1818, which played up the pirate and slavery scenario much more.

I’ve read that version, too, as it was in the notes. It’s a much more
straightforward, unambiguous account, though the Algerian side of the events as described there are actually held to be almost entirely fictitious, written perhaps to cash in on the wave of interest you indicate, whilst the details of the murder itself seem to have been more solidly based on the surviving details of the original case.

Since the subject of anti-semitism has already come up, it was interesting to read there that Winkelhagen had first been taken to court by Soestmann-Behrens for defaulting on payment of some cloth and that W. had expected to be let off since his accuser was ‘just’ a Jew. He wasn’t: the court found in favour of his accuser and W. retaliated by violence. When he returned from slavery, the matter of whether to prosecute the murder came up again, but it was deemed that his 24 years of exile, imprisonment and forced labour had already been punishment enough.

Interestingly enough, Droste-Hülshoff didn’t read her uncle’s version until after she had written all or most of her own story and, whilst she notes wanting to introduce some of the details he mentioned that she had initially forgotten, she also mentions not wanting to re-write the whole thing, underlining in particular how very different her fictional portrayal of the supposed murderer was from her uncle’s portrayal of the historical W.

She actually did revise this short tale again again over a long period of time, perhaps because it was one of her first adventures into prose. There seem to be eight, extant, much revised drafts or manuscript versions, which makes establishing an accurate text history pretty difficult.

This process of constant revision might also be the reason why this is her only completed prose text, whilst the rest remain as mere fragments.

Continued in the comments where I end with two lyrics and a bibliography.


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Dear friends and readers,

An archetypal gothic scene:  John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893), A Lady by Moonlight

As I’ve written this summer now about a number of the gothic texts I read (Genlis’s Duchess de C***********, Smith’s Montalbert, Retif’s Ingenue Saxancour, and Sade’s La Marquise de Gange and Eugenie de Franval) and movies I saw (Quills), I thought it about time that I reported on a few famous (and not-so-famous) books that have helped me to understand the gothic anew.

I began this summer’s reading on secondary sources,  with Anne Williams’s Art of Darkness: The Poetics of the Gothic and have at last discovered what is transformative about her book. It’s a theory or way of defining and seeing gothic that goes beyond the usual somewhat vague generalizations followed a listing of the usual motifs and conventions we find in these texts. I find it works extraordinarily way to explain them and the gothicism of works which participate in the gothic; it gets us beyond thinking of genres. 

To cut to the quick and be brief, here it is:  the gothic is about the patriarchal family, at its center is an exploration of its interior life, in the case of male gothic done from the point of view of men as they experience this (this may be written by women but is not commonly), and in the case of female gothic done from the point of vie of women as they experience it (this is not uncommon — Pope’s Eloisa poem is one).

Gothic stories are family stories and show us what the "law of the father" imposed and causes in interior lives. 

The bereft (her child born out of wedlock, it was taken from her and then died) revenant-mother, out for revenge, from The Woman in Black (Pauline Moran as Jennifer Humphrys).

I don’t know if this persuades anyone stated so baldly, but it does work and explains and includes so much in the gothic.  The conventions are ways of expressing disruption and conflict. There are many fault-lines.  One is an opposition of how marriage is to be conducted: the older traditional system is of marriage as an alliance, built to sustain a system of hierarchy, property, with families headed by powerful men (primogeniture come in here); the other, a system of sexuality (so to speak) where what happens operates not according to visible rules but polymorphous, intangible, contingent and changeable individual sensations and thoughts.

In a blog I wrote about Williams, after reading just one section in the book (The Female Gothic and Northanger Abbey), she says is a prime part of the female gothic: the mythos or central story is that of Psyche who disobeys, gets up and explores, curious, and is punished for it; we are all familiar with the young woman getting out of bed in the dead of night with her candle gonig down to the dungeon, or with a key opening some forbidden place.  I’m just getting up to her sections on male gothics. 

Her book has led me back to Paul Backscheider the last third of whose book, Spectacular Politics argues that the drama went heavily gothic in the last part of the 18th century and early 19th century (romantic era, think Shelley’s Cenci).  Again we are familiar with those drawings of Mrs Siddons, dagger in hand, stealthily gliding thought the dim; equally important is this of Edmund Kean, a drawing whose artist we don’t know, but is clearly him projecting the wild interior life of humanity:

The second is that part of Williams’s book where she distinguished (persuasively) male gothic (which may be written by women, as in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein) from female gothic (which may be written by men, as in Henry James’s Turn of the Screw):

Alun Armstrong as Chief Inspector Bucket who sets all things right (back to patriarchal order), from 2009 Bleak House

The male gothic paradigms: At first I didn’t find her section on male gothic paradigms all that persuasive; it seemed to me take the same paradigms and see them from the heroine’s perspective, and you have female gothic; or take the same text and you can find the female paradigms as well as the male.  But when she began to cite specific famous texts, influential and often praised, I agreed with her.

So, examples of male gothic: Section in Book 3 of Spenser’s Faerie Queene (called a "gothic" poem in the 18th century); Lewis’s Monk, Radcliffe’s Italian (male at the center, a quest plot-structure, Schedoni central too) Maturin’s Melmoth, Byron’s Giaour, Lara; Shelley’s Frankenstein; Le Fanu’s Uncle Silas (very violent) and Camilla; E Marion Crawford’s "For the Blood is the Life" and "Under the Berth" (famous and influential); Stoker’s Dracula; today Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby

Male gothic derives effects from multiple points of view; the narrator observes the heroine (as a psychological curiosity, mystery or monster); the supernatural tends NOT to be explained away; it is authentic (the devil in Rosemary’s Baby impregnates her); tragic rather than affirmative plot (according to Williams the conventional and most female gothics end happily in marriage)  The male gothic hero dies, an isolated over-reacher Male gothic will have an orgy of violence permanently marking the males (males driving stake through Lucy’s heart); narrative closure is uncertain (vampires carry on); the special feeling is that of horror rather than terror. The suffering female can be there, but she is there for voyeur pleasures.  We are invited to experience horrified fascination with her suffering (as in Quills, the movie).  Women are seen as disobedient, weak, inconstant, also as mysterious powerful mother. Affinities with pornography strong: loathing and fear of female (Texas Chainsaw massacre, new bunch of horror-revenge movies, like I piss on our grave where women are vengeful figures who need to be utterly destroyed.

19th century illustration for Phantom of the Opera, the male as exile, outcast, wanderer, taking revenge

Etymology of the word pornography is writing about prostitutes indecently.

The key here is both are developments out of the common positions of men and women in patriarchy where the accent is grief, loss, a dark mirror; both perceive a world of cruelty and violence and/or suffering.

The gaze is a central motif: the male’s burning gaze, the gazer is the one with power (women not supposed to gaze, it’s violation and Psyche punished for it).

The demon lover a central figure where "horror of the female drives and shapes the narrative":  so Marion Crawford’s "For the Blood is the Life"; Dracula the men destroy Lucy and are driven to protect Mina from becoming a Lucy.

The Monk shows an unconscious and uncanny dread of the female; it has the Oedipal plot of the son rebelling against the father, son weak, irrational, carnal, bitten by the serpent, led along by evil Matilda (unchaste in extreme). Female characters whether comic or tragic exhibit patriarchal views of weak women: Agnes who is in the dungeon with the rotting baby yielded to her lover; Antonia must die when she loses virginity in rape (this is like Richardson’s Clarissa). Elvira ineffective and we discover she is mother to Ambrosio; cannot protect her daughter, Elvira, but also casually abandoned her son when she fled with his father. 

Male gothic shows desire for female to be stable, to be one thing and that only, controllable

By contrast, Female gothic generates suspense through limitations imposed on heroine, her imprisonment, mistaken perceptions, her curiosity which leads her to look into parts of the house/other self (the male) forbidden her. She has an awakening and it often ends with some affirmation for her.


2) That the gothic must have a metaphysical and uncanny basis for the genre to have its effect, that kaftkaesque, paranoic and death’s effects are central to the gothic too:

From "Afterward": Mary Boyne enters the numinous space (not a dungeon here, but attic), about to encounter the ghost

With the best will in the world I do believe Anne Williams’s thesis that the center of gothicism is the patriarchal system and its conventions emerge from rightly disturbed reactions to this, and also Paula Backscheider’s brilliant (I’m now realizing) study of gothic drama on the later 18th century stage (a couple of hundred pages). Unlike the Reynolds’s image which somehow makes the heroine wholesome because so obviously well-fed and calm, the lesser known artists of the era bring home how what was mesmerizing was (as as in Keane) the wild interior life and project of unjust suffering, the abhorrent in nature seeping through the action and words of a story.

But I have had a pause over it. I’m not so sure Williams is right about what’s central.  I watched last night possibly one of the best films ever made of a ghost story:  Wise/Kineal/Burt’s Woman in Black from Susan’s Hill’s ghost novella (now a tremendously long running play in London) The woman in Black. Watching the movie has made me move back to thinking the truth lies somewhere inbetween Jack Sullivan’s Elegant Nightmares on the Kafkaesque meaning of this genre, Eva SEdgwick’s brilliant archetypal readings, and Williams and Backscheider.

But it is true that in the 18th century this paradigm was uppermost in formulating the stories.  It’s later (19th century) that you begin to move outward from it and now especially in the later 20th. It is true the gothic exists without the supernatural but also that with it, the gothic is more powerful.

I also find that the supernatural, the unnerving, the uncanny and a playing with metaphysical realities are important and even at times essential l to its effect.  So Eve Sedgwick’s archetypal approach in the Coherence of Gothic Conventions must be included in an assessment too:

Thornton Hall burning down (2009 Jane Eyre), so too Manderley, taking with it the secrets, manuscripts, buried alive people

This central or occytal meditation on the gothic and for the first time actually understanding it.  One problem for me though is when I’ve finished reading a section, I ask myself what have I learned that I can repeat or that is useful to me. I had something of the same response when I first read with some understanding her Epistemology of the Closet, and it was only later on I realized she had provided a fundamental new way of talking or seeing novels that allowed one to talk about their GBLT subtexts. I do find for specifics or details I often disagree with her, even fundamentally or profoundly (a flattering kind of word): she is one of those who likes to pretend utter disinterest or open-mindedness when it comes to amoralities, the Nietzschean perspective, and I think she speaks without realizing it as a person who lived in a privileged position all her life.

I think especially of her rejection of the virtuous heroine as such in her essay on Diderot’s Nun in her Tendencies.   She’d be a Fanny Price mocker and I suppose on the basis of the characterization of Demelza in Graham’s Poldark novels and his apparently unquestioned heterosexual perspective she’d call the novels second rate.  In The Sadeian Woman, Carter writes that "one of Sade’s cruellest lessons is that tyranny is implicit in all privilege." But as we find in Sade and other Neitzschean texts, a "liberation from the limitations of femininity" may be "gratifying," "may extract vengeance for the humiliations" women have been "forced to endure" as "passive objects," but if it is a "liberation without enlightenment," it "becomes an instrument for the oppression of others" (Penguin, 1979, pp. 27, 89).

So what is useful or does one come away with from Coherence of Gothic Conventions. Well I find she does name all the conventions that repeat over and over in most gothics, both female and male, especially those found in later 18th century texts (and for me that now includes Sade’s Eugenie de Franval, which I read yesterday, on which more tomorrow): some form of live burial, a ruin, a wild landscape, a Catholic or feudal society, heroine trembles with sensibility, lover impetuous, vililan is older tyrant has piercing glance and might just rape or kill the heroine or weak hero.  It’s discontinunous, involuted, tales within tales, changes of narrators, interpolated histories, oneiric states, subterannean spaces, doubles, obscured family ties, incest, garrulous retainers, poisonous effects of guilt and shame, nighttime, dreams, apparitions, civil insurrections, charnal house, madhouse, monasteries, nunneries, castles, parapets:

She shows that the many kinds of rationales and explanations (including probably the one I’m going to use about oppression of women in these causes celebres as transferred into the gothic), but herself also finds an underlying pattern to unite them:

The position of the self to be massively blocked off from something to which it ought normally to have access.

It can be a wife or any woman, a cleric, a son (for the tyrant is the all powerful male) and they are cut off from what they normally expect to have: air, light, baby, food, freedom, pinned down.

The self is incapable of connecting to the outside.

The novel then has to go to great lengths to reintegrate the sundered elements, but it cannot restore them.

The self is then profoundly undermined and all its assumptions.

The "massive inaccessibility of those things that should normally be accessible" is seen in the enormous difficulty the story has in getting itself told.  Narratives within narratives, manuscripts found, and there is this terrific trouble saying what it is that was terrible. Novels of this type have so many secrets that must not be told that you despair of communication.  "Privacy is not only characteristic of the pain, but is itself the pain" (p. 18).

Wright, Sunset, Coast near Naples — Radcliffe again Sicilian Romance, looking out from imprisonment

It’s this barrier that matters, and ghastly things happen inside that would not happen outside. Violence greets any attempt to get past the barrier again.

Piranesi’s carceri as figuring the atmosphere of these things, the obscurity, and difficulty of finding at all where you are.

Piranesi, Carceri (Prisons), an illustration for Radcliffe’s Romance of the Forest

I do notice she tends to cite men’s texts as examples of her gothic, not women’s, and am troubled by this. And by her abstraction she can avoid talking about the input of the weak.

She does admit in her books on GBLT that homosexual men have advantages over women, all women but then in her books I’ve read concentrates on male homosexuality not female: lesbians would presumably have the worst position of all.


3) Sheer grief, what loss is like, suffering and depression central too: the melancholy genre is what it is:

Atonement, the getting together that never happened: both destroyed first (from Wright’s Atonement)

On my way to NYC yesterday I reread Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black, began The Turn of the Screw and then turned to Michelle A Masse’s In the Name of Love: Women, Masochism and the Gothic.  Hill’s book retains its power to shock for time and again one forgets the real ending in the book. The movie may stun, but not like this.  Then turning to Masse’s attempt at real candor over the gothic, In the Name of Love (where masochism as a word appears in the subtitle), it struck me how hard it is to tell the truth about what gives people pleasure, to articulate it.

Despite all Anne Williams wants to do to re-write Gothic into sanguine at the end so that it becomes more feminists as she understands this, and all others can do to stick to talk on the conventions and archetypes, there is this root center of suffering. That’s Masse’s insistent terrain and her books include Rebecca, the pornographic Story of O, Jane Eyre (and other usual suspects), plus Yellow Wallpaper. The Woman in Black reminded me that central figures are often males, males write it, and the suffering here is the book’s whole tale, all that is told, not just the sexual aspects of it.

Pauline Moran is never given her name: Jennet Humphries — except in the book and film.  People talking about it distance themselves from her. I did find a still of her face; despite her glaring malevolence in Kipp’s nightmare (unforgettable), if you look at her face, it’s not menace or not just, but also sorrow. In the book we are told the figure is emaciated, and continually in a kind of agon.

Friedrich, Silent Evening: there is often such a vision in gothic and it can end the story

Further elements left out of so many feminist and just women authored studies of gothic (men authored too) is the real drive to safety and comfort and security in them. That’s what the heroines want and sometimes get at the end.  This appears to embarrass many of those writing about gothic, even Anne Williams who is determined to bring in the happy ending and empowerment of heroines, but eschews words like comfort or security. She prefers "triumph," "integration into the group as a chief respected person."  Why is this?  Why is this natural desire not acceptable. It goes a long way to explaining why women never tire of the formula and will read new variations seemingly forever.   A false pride? In public it won’t do?

Now Eugenia de La Motte does bring up this need or drive for security and comfort, and discusses the idylls at home as well as sublime moments in the texts in front of scenery.  However, she does so to show the delusions.  She does not validate this behavior as a genuine existential response to life. For some women (often working class or lower middle, or in traditional societies or part of a racial group that is discriminated against) there is no other choice.  Such a woman gets respect and place only in the home; she is offered nothing else even if the home is so fragile and tenuous as security.  Women reread these romances to be reassured and the need for reassurance is no delusion. This is part of what is meant by fourth-wave feminism. See my blog outlining the four waves of feminism

That the gothic shows us there are victims, innocent victims savaged by mischievous forces let loose.

Such a figure is Arthur Kidd in Woman in Black — who rescues an innocent dog who (in the film) returns the favor

One last walk or turn through that corridor:

Lady’s Maid’s Bell, the companion walking through the corridors (from Wharton’s story, a film adaptation)
Eugenia De LaMotte’s Perils of the Night

I was led to this book by both Anne Williams’s Art of Darkness (on the female gothic) and Mary Trouille’s Wife Abuse in mid-18th century France.  Whether you agree or not with its argument, one of its admirable qualities is it includes the Victorian in its terrain.

She includes the Sedgwick perspective (archetypal), the historical (listing of conventions and events and objects that must be there), and the sociological:  the gothic focuses steadily on social relations and social institutions.  She agrees male gothic differs from female: the common plot of the male is often one of exile, the common mythos the outcast wanderer, often pursued as well as pursuing; the plot of the female is the Psyche story:  Cain versus (to be Biblical) Lot’s poor wife and daughters; Oedipus versus Eurydice (classical types). The male mythos is often a quest type too; the female concerns imprisonment, live burial, quite different motifs. 

Her first chapter contains an excellent summary of the different schools of thought — and she does write clearly in natural easy English.

Again the house, this time daylight (from 2009 Sandy Welch’sTurn of the Screw, see also below)

The book comes into its own — becomes original and useful — in the second half of the first chapter.  She begins by talking of how Sedgwick sees the gothic in spatial terms rather than in terms of depth the surface and structures matter.  She finds a "dialectic of fear and desire related to the problem of individual identity."  The female feels under attack, not just bodily but in her soul.  (I remember how Clarissa dreads not just Lovelace’s taking her over sexually if she should marry, but changing her identity so she becomes his thing and corrupt herself as she sees this.)

In the female gothic we find a pronounced emphasis on architecture, especially as a repository of dread, mystery, enclosure.  She quotes Henry James on his ghost story, "The Jolly Corner" where he says what he attempted to do was study "the spirit engaged with the forces of violence."  The house represents a repository of memories of such violence, of the past, of histories, and is so built that its threat is the heroine will never get out.  The labyrinth is confusing, the doors locked, thick walls.  (This would include what the governess in The Turn of the Screw experiences: all alone and then harassed by threatening personalities in the ghosts.)

Versions include railways and libraries:

Joanna David as the lady’s maid at the railway station (Lady’s Maid’s Bell)

Illustration for Oliphant’s "The Library Window"

None of this is all that new — or can be surmised if not put together this way. What is new is LaMotte says the social relations that appear in this world are the gothic’s primary subject, and that what the female discovers within herself is not another freer version of herself (or different one) but an alien, an oppressive self who has been super-imposed and is not wanted. So in "The Turn of the Screw" the subject is the children, the master — just as Sandy Welch’s commentary adaptation of the story reveals. 

This Other is also found in the ghost or supernatural creature who is hostile to the heroine and her concerns and needs. What the heroine is doing is not just protecting her virginity from genital sex but trying to find who her very self is and protect its boundaries once she does.  This obsession with boundaries of the self is a crucial issue for women she says. (This made me think of how women have babies, how their bodies are usurped by natural forces and then how they are forced into bodily linkage with another who is not them and may be very different from them and whose interests are in some ways opposed — as in the process of childbirth which threatens the woman’s life.)

Sedgwick talks of how repeatedly in these gothics the central figure is "massively blocked off from something it ought normally to have access to."  The focus can be the dead baby (as in The Monk The Sicilian Romance, potentially the Duchess of C***********), but also the outside world; at the same time she is vulnerable to intrusions from the outside world. Famously Emily’s door to her room in Udolpho is locked from the outside; she cannot lock it from the inside.

The barriers are often deeply unjust and experienced as arbitrary and unfair (like she is accuses of this or that and punished for what she did not do). Sophia Lee’s Recess is this par excellence (another book alluded to in NA).

She is not in control in comparison with men of course and the enemy is often an older male tyrant or young cruel rake type. The better man may be a younger brother, but in Sade’s Eugenie de Franval he is just another harasser, envious of his brother and his brutal instrument.

What the gothic is doing here is masking or making what is called and treated as normal and okay in the real world into what is clearly unfair, should be abnormal, is cruel and unjust.  This disguise — some of the conventions — are then absolutely needed for there to be a gothic at all.

Two things she mentions she wants to explain too: that the heroine in gothics often refuse to exonerate themselves, and there is often an "educational" idyll.  There is one in Eugenie de Franval (where she is taught and reads away); the opening chapter of Austen’s NA is an educational idyll which Davies reinforces by the idyllic interlude at the Abbey when the tyrant father leaves and Henry, Eleanor and Catherine go tree climbing and gathering apples (an anti-Garden of Eden trope).

So self-defense is the first motif LaMotte will explore: in Radcliffe, Brockden Brown (we read Wieland on ECW one summer) and Henry James– and his poor unnamed (at times overwrought maybe silly) governess

The governess arrives at the mansion, from Turn of the Screw (2009 film, by Sandy Welch)


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