Corinne in Distress: Translation as cultural misappropriation in the 1800s
"elle est . . . comme un rejeton du passé,
comme une prophétie de l'avenir"
(Prince Castel-Forte's assessment of Corinne (Staël, (1807),
vol. I, 54)
- From the date of its publication in 1807, Germaine de Staël 's
Corinne, ou l'Italie was an enormous success. Between 1807 and
1810, fourteen editions or pirated versions of it were issued in France,
England, Switzerland and Germany. Following Corinne's publication
in French in 1807, two competing translations of the novel swiftly appeared
in Britain, both in 1807. The first, Corinna, or Italy, in three
volumes, was translated anonymously. The second, with exactly the same
title, was in five volumes and translated by Dennis Lawler. 
Both early translations respected the sense of Staël's original
title choice, retaining Staël's interesting and complex choice
of conjunction. As Marie-Claude Vallois has argued, "Corinne ou
l'Italie" does not signify a choice between Corinne and Italy:
the conjunction works as a copula or colon, "Corinne et l'Italie"
or "Corinne: l'Italie" (Vallois, 1987: p.131). The title suggests
that to know the character Corinne is to know her chosen homeland, Italy.
Only two years later, this acknowledgement was parodically rejected
in the 1809 anonymously-published satire The Corinna of England
in which Corinna is no longer equal but subordinate to her country.
- Whilst the first two English translations deferred to the spirit
of the original title, they nonetheless adopted considerable artistic
licence with the text of the novel itself. The essay to follow will
explore these licences, and the differing emphases that they placed
upon the Anglo/Italian tensions within Corinne. By exploring
both translations, I do not mean to treat of them as one homogenised
Europhobic reaction to the novel; rather I intend to argue that in their
engagement with the original's subtle exploration of these tensions,
inevitably some nuances have been lost. These losses reflect the anxiety
about translation which followed the fierce debates of the 1790s surrounding
the art. My essay will begin by exploring a small part of the 1790's
debate in Britain on translation, focussing in particular on one important
essay on the subject which appeared in 1791. After having explored the
contested field of translation, I will then proceed to connect the debates
on translation to some of the contexts raised in Corinne and
its subsequent 1807 translations into English. After having discussed
the significance of these translations and the different emphases that
they adopted to de Staël's original novel, I will then offer some
thoughts upon why Corinne was so swiftly parodied in 1809, and
how the English translations may have contributed to this rapid descent
The Art of Translation
- In 1791, two of Britain's most prestigious and dynamic booksellers
came together to secure a volume called Essay on the Principles of
Translation by Alexander Fraser Tytler. The booksellers were Thomas
Cadell and William Creech. Cadell and Creech would never share the publication
of any text which would not interest and therefore sell to a wide public.
It is therefore important to grasp that when Creech and Cadell choose
to publish a text on translation, this is no accident or vanity publication;
it was a text which reflected the anxieties, desires and concerns of
the literate reading classes. Tytler draws attention to the fact that,
despite the centrality and number of translations circulation, relatively
little has been written about the art of translating itself:
. . . it is a singular consideration, that under the daily experience
of the advantages of good translations, in opening to us all the stores
of ancient knowledge, and creating a free intercourse of science and
of literature between all modern nations, there should have been so
little done towards the improvement of the art itself, by investigating
its laws or unfolding its principles. (Tytler, 1791, 4)
- Tytler's language is very much that of the eighteenth-century polymath.
He is not alone amongst educated Europeans in imagining and desiring
that there be a "free intercourse of science and of literature
between all modern nations." He also draws upon the insights of
Dryden and d'Alembert on the art and necessity of translation. (Tytler,
1791, 6&8) Nevertheless, as Tytler himself acknowledges, no small
amount of practical difficulty lies between his optimistic vision of
"free intercourse" and the pragmatic application "on
the ground" of translation practice. Tytler goes on to note that:
such has been our ignorance of the principles of this art, it is not
at all wonderful, that amidst the numberless translations which every
day appear, both of the works of the ancients and moderns, there should
be so few that are possessed of real merit. The utility of translations
is universally felt, and therefore there is a common demand for them.
But this very circumstance has thrown the practice of translation
into mean and mercenary hands. It is a profession which, it is generally
believed, may be exercised with a very small portion of genius or
A free and ready commerce between nations required, in the 1790s, an
ease of communication that united both literary practitioners and translators.
However, with the escalation of both literary and military hostilities
in the 1790s, the challenge that Tytler had thrown down to open up the
debate about translation went largely unheeded. The British periodical
press believed that the nation was not only menaced by military invasion,
but was about to be swamped by eighteenth-century French philosophy
and fiction. In Britons, Linda Colley has aptly described the
constant vigilance under which Britain and France held each other as
"a manic obsessiveness that betrayed their mutual antagonism and
anxiety."(Colley, 1992, 1) She argues that such perceptions were
strengthened by the long series of wars fought between England and France
through the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The wars led
the British "into confrontation with an obviously hostile Other
and encouraged them to define themselves collectively against it."(Colley,
1992, 5) This insight is certainly borne out by many periodicals and
reviews of the 1790s and 1800s, which made a specific link between French
military endeavour and the free circulation of print. In his fourth
1797 dialogue of The Pursuits of Literature, for example, the
Reverend T.J.Mathias declared that "[t]ranslation to a pest is
grown," and this position was echoed frequently in publications
such as the Anti-Jacobin Review. (Mathias, 1805, 296) 
(Tytler, 1791, 6-7)
- Against a growing hostility towards translation, Tytler's 1791 call
for such free and ready commerce between nations stands out. And this
is the point at which thinking about nationhood, as we find in Madame
de Staël's Corinne, collides with thinking about the matter
of translation, as we find in Tytler's essay.
Corinne, literary exchange and translation
- Bearing Tytler in mind, I am going to begin my approach to Corinne
with a debate on national literatures which occurs in Book VII of the
novel. Here, Corinne, Lord Nelvil, Prince Castel-Forte and the Count
d'Erfeuil discuss the relative merits of several nations' literary productions.
Addressing himself to Corinne, the French Count d'Erfeuil defends his
country's literary purity:
you want us, beautiful foreign lady, to admit to our country Teutonic
barbarism, Young's Nights from England, Concetti from
Italy and Spain?" asked Count d'Erfeuil. "What would become
of the taste and elegance of French style after such a mixture?"
Prince Castel-Forte, who had not yet spoken, said, "It seems
to me we all need each other. To those who know how to appreciate
it, the literature of every country reveals a new sphere of ideas.
Charles V himself said that a man who knows four languages
is worth four men. If that great political genius held this opinion
about material affairs, how much more is that not true for literature?
Foreigners all know French, so they have a wider point of view than
that of the French who do not know foreign languages. Why do they
not take the trouble more often to learn them? They would keep their
distinguishing characteristics and, in this way, would discover sometimes
what they may lack." (De Staël, 1998, 111-2)
De Staël portrays the Count d'Erfeuil as a cultural isolationist
in his responses during this debate. He begins his response to Corinne
by addressing her as "beautiful foreign lady," and then proceeds
to link Edward Young's Night Thoughts with Teutonic barbarism
- a concept, and Concetti, or "literary conceits" -
a genre. The French Count's entrenched position on maintaining the purity
of French literature constructs him as a product of the 1790s Anglo-French
literary and political hostilities, rather than a figure of the future.
By contrast, the Prince Castel-Forte's response to d'Erfeuil here is
closest to that of Corinne in the novel, advocating a mutual cultural
and literary reciprocity between Europe's nations. In the paragraph
immediately preceding d'Erfeuil's appeal for literary purity, Corinne
states, "I have difficulty in believing that it would be desirable
for the whole world to lose all national colour, all originality of
feeling and thought," and her position is echoed here by Castel-Forte's
qualified vision of the Frenchman who takes time to learn four languages
and cultures whilst maintaining his "distinguishing characteristics."
(Staël, 1998, 111 & 112) Both Corinne and Castel-Forte embody
Madame de Staël's optimistic vision of a Europe where the free
and frank exchange of political and intellectual ideas, what Alexander
Tytler called the "free intercourse of science and of literature
between all modern nations," can take place between men and women
alike. Corinne and Castel-Forte's
openness to debate and cultural exchange situates them in strong opposition
to the isolated Count d'Erfeuil.
- Earlier in the novel, the Briton Oswald Lord Nelvil notes with approval
that Corinne's rooms contain "an agreeable mixture of everything
that is most pleasing in the three nations, French, English, and Italian,"
and he later tells Corinne that "one of the reasons for [her] incomparable
grace is that it combines all the charms characteristic of different
countries..." (Staël, 1998, 37 & 94) On both occasions
Oswald identifies precisely the function of her character in Staël's
vision. Corinne, half-Italian and half-English, does not simply reproduce
the values and charms of the groups that produced her, but she also
acts as a point where a multitude of different national, class, and
gender values intersect and interact, opening the potential for something
radically refreshing. In the section from Corinne that I began
by quoting, Castel-Forte, talking of national literatures in a voice
not unlike Tytler's, speaks of multiple nations' supporting each others'
learning. He goes on to cite Charles V's claim that a man who knows
four languages is worth four different men. Similarly, Oswald stresses
the plurality of national charms that Corinne unites in her character.
Although by birth Corinne is half-Italian and half-English, as a character
her potentiality exceeds any limitations of nation alone. Corinne exceeds
the boundaries of any country that lays claim to her, as suggested in
Staël's deliberate distancing from the metaphor of ownership with
the title Corinne, ou l'Italie.
- We are sadly all too aware, however, that this potentiality in the
end remains unrealised. The erosion of this ideal commences almost as
soon as Oswald has identified Corinne's charm. The trading of insults
begins in Book VI, when Oswald writes a critical letter to Corinne on
the shortcomings of Italians. His letter swiftly conflates issues of
nationhood with arguments on gender roles in society:
For nature and the social order to be revealed in all their beauty,
man must be the protector and woman the protected. But the protector
must adore the weakness he defends and respect the impotent divinity
who, like the Roman household gods, brings happiness to his home.
One is inclined to think that in this country women are the sultan
and men the harem.
"Men's characters have the gentleness
and flexibility of women's. An Italian proverb says: He who knows
not how to feign, knows not how to live. Is that not a woman's
proverb? And indeed, in a country where there are no military careers
nor free institutions, how would a man be able to acquire dignity
(Staël, 1998, 97)
- Earlier in the novel, Oswald reflects of Corinne's fame in Italy
that "In England he would have judged such a woman very severely."
(Staël, 1998, 22) Although Oswald offers measured praise for Corinne's
talents, he nonetheless deprecates the adoption of such a public role
by a woman. Oswald cannot comprehend Italy's glorification of a woman
artist, preferring rather that women's weakness and impotency be celebrated.
His inflammatory letter prompts Corinne to respond in kind with a critique
of the limited roles of English women. She replies: "In England,
domestic virtues constitute the glory and happiness of women, but if
there are countries where love continues to exist outside the sacred
bonds of marriage, Italy is the one, of all those countries, in which
women's happiness is best fostered." (Staël, 1998, 101) To
the Italians, Corinne is a source of national pride, a symbol of the
freedom and fulfilment to which they themselves aspire. Their embracing
of Corinne's talents is contrasted strongly with the stultifying English
circle presided over by her stepmother which Corinne later describes
to Oswald. There, Corinne is shocked by the denigration of intellectual
ability, the repression of women that her stepmother encourages, and
the relentless boredom of the daily routine. The fact that Oswald and
Corinne's initial disagreements are expressed in letter form, rather
than in conversation, is in itself significant. The movement from the
spontaneity of debate to the more crafted, formal, epistolary mode of
expression is indicative both of their national differences and their
ideas on gender. Oswald commences this formality with his letter (cited
above), and his introduction of this formality into Corinne's circle
is suggestive of his allegiances to the formalities of the English scenes
described by Corinne.
- The early epistolary deterioration of the text's open vision detailed
above led to a binary tension being noted and emphasised in the novel's
reception. This emphasis was and is in many ways misleading. For example,
whilst praising the work, Francis Jeffrey in the Edinburgh Review
is quick to identify the Italian/English tension, noting the "difference"
"extremes" and "contrasts" that the novel produced
in its two principal characters:
The conception of the story is also in a high degree original; the
difference of national character is the force that sets all in motion;
and it is Great Britain and Italy, the extremes of civilised Europe,
that are personified and contrasted in the hero and heroine of this
(Jeffrey, October, 1807, XI, 183)
- Jeffrey proceeds to focus the rest of his ample review of the first
French edition of the novel on the part of the narrative where Corinne
recounts to Oswald her unfavourable stay in Northumberland. Applauding
Staël's accurate portrayal of English mores, he states that she
"has studied with great care the character and manners of the English"
and that hardly any foreigner had ever approached "so near to the
truth" of England's stultifying gender divisions and its characteristic
reserve. (Jeffrey, October, 1807, XI, 192) Although further on Jeffrey
does acknowledge that perhaps Staël has employed "a little
of that involuntary exaggeration that mere contrast can hardly fail
to produce," his reading of the novel clearly supports the contrasts
that he perceives Staël to have sketched, focussing upon Great
Britain and Italy as the two "extremes" personified and contrasted
in the tale. As Erik Simpson has also argued, "Jeffrey here and
throughout his review wilfully ignores Corinne's complicating arguments
on these very points." (Simpson, 2003, 348) Jeffrey's review in
the Edinburgh is indicative of the reduction of Staël's
pluralistic vision in the translations and parody which I am going to
proceed to discuss. Furthermore, it is symptomatic of what translation
theorist André Lefevere describes as "refraction."
Lefevere uses this term to describe translations that are adapted to
the literary system acceptable to readers of the time when they are
translated. For Lefevere, refraction is to be found in any text based
on another text. More correctly, it is the adaptation of the original
text to a particular literary or ideological way of thinking. He argues
A writer's work gains exposure and achieves influence mainly through
"misunderstandings and misconceptions," or, to use a more
neutral term, refractions. Writers and their work are always understood
and conceived against a certain background or, if you will, are refracted
through a certain spectrum, just as their work itself can refract
previous works through a certain spectrum. (Lefevere, 2000, 234)
Jeffrey's "refraction" of Corinne as an embodiment of Anglo/Italian
tensions omits to mention the anti-French sentiment that the
novel expresses through the frivolous and isolationist characterization
of the Count d'Erfeuil, and the complexities in Staël's portrayal
of England. Whilst undoubtedly the novel conveys much anti-English sentiment,
it also portrays Oswald as heroic and upstanding, and seemingly willing
to continue fighting in the Revolutionary wars after Britain has begun
hostilities with France. Jeffrey's review is, in essence, an adaptation
of Corinne for the readership of the Edinburgh, written,
as Lefevere argues, "with the intention of influencing the way
in which that audience reads the work." (Lefevere, 2000, 235)
- Lefevere's arguments on refraction are of course specifically directed
towards the act of translating, and we can also trace in the translations
of Corinne contemporaneous with Jeffrey's review a similarly
reduced focus. As already stated, Corinne's publication in French
in 1807 was swiftly followed by two competing English translations.
The first anonymous translation of Corinne
was in three volumes; the second, by Lawler, appeared in five volumes.
Both of these translations constitute "refractions" because
they have been adapted to the imagined British audience. Both translations
emphasise the Anglo/Italian tensions. The opening of the first anonymous
translation in particular over-emphasises Oswald's noble lineage. Staël's
original text begins with an economic description of Oswald's heritage:
Oswald lord Nelvil, pair d'Ecosse, partit d'Edimbourg pour se rendre
en Italie pendant l'hiver de 1794 à 1795. Il avait une figure
noble et belle, beaucoup d'esprit, un grand nom, une fortune indépendante;
By contrast, the first anonymous English translation begins with a complex
rhetorical embellishment on Oswald's lineage. Whereas normally we might
expect the complex and rhetorically involved expression of lineage to
be found in French, here it is the English translation that is embellished:
(Staël, Corinne, ou l'Italie , 1807, vol.I, 1)
the winter of the year 1794, Oswald, the descendant of the house of
Nelvil, one of the most illustrious families of Scottish nobility,
left Edinburgh to repair to Italy. To the graces of a person handsome,
tall, and majestic, he added the captivation of a cultivated mind,
the advantages of an exalted title, and an independant fortune; .
This anonymous translation takes the liberty of translating brief phrases
such as "un grand nom" into "the advantages of an exalted
title" and the simple phrase "pair d"Ecosse', or Scottish
peer, is transformed into an impressively detailed account of just how
important Oswald's family is in Scotland. The narrative exhibits deference
towards his lineage with phrase choices such as "one of the most
illustrious families." This subtle privileging of British tradition
and nobility continued elsewhere in the translation. For example, in
the episode mentioned on p. 6 of this essay, when Corinne is crowned
at the Roman Capitol, in the original, the narrative reflects Oswald's
opinion that "[i]l n"y avait certainement rien de plus contraire
aux habitudes et aux opinions d'un Anglais, que cette grande publicité
donnée à la destinée d'une femme; . . ."(Staël,
1807, vol. I, 40) However, the anonymous translation changed the "Anglais,"
the "English man," into a reflection on how the entire English
nation would disapprove of such promotion of a female:
(Staël, Corinna, or Italy, trans. anon. 1807, vol.1, 1)
There is certainly nothing more foreign from the sentiments and habitudes
of the English nation, than the act of celebrating by grand public
ceremonies, the destiny of a woman; . . .
This translation constitutes a refraction of the original text, in the
sense that there is a subtle retrenchment in the discourses of English
nationalism. Added emphasis is placed upon the idea of an English nation
unified in agreement concerning Corinne's self-publicity as being
"foreign" to its "sentiments." In itself, this modification
would affect and influence the British reader's understanding of the
(Staël, Corinna, or Italy, trans. anon. 1807, vol. I,
- Such translating decisions are a far cry from what Tytler advocated
concerning translation in his 1791 Essay on the Principles of Translation.
There he both acknowledged and celebrated the differences in language,
whilst advising that translators should be all the more careful to remain
faithful to the original languages:
the genius and character of all languages were the same, it would
be an easy task to translate from one into another; nor would any
thing more be requisite on the part of the translator, than fidelity
and attention. But as the genius and character of languages is confessedly
very different, it has hence become a common opinion, that it is the
duty of the translator to attend only to the sense and spirit of the
original, to make himself perfectly master of his author's ideas,
and to communicate them in those expressions which he judges to be
best suited to convey them. It has, on the other hand, been maintained,
that, in order to constitute a perfect translation, it is not only
requisite that the ideas and sentiments of the original author should
be conveyed, but likewise his style and manner of writing, which,
it is supposed, cannot be done, without a strict attention to the
arrangement of his sentences, and even to their order and construction.
Whilst acknowledging that "the genius and character of languages
is very different," Tytler advocates remaining as faithful as possible
to the original text. He suggests that if a translator retains the original
syntax of an author, then the sense and import will follow. A perfect
translation in his view also requires a conscientious respect of the
"ideas and sentiments of the original author." His recommendations
are dramatically different to this first English translation of Corinne,
which not only changes the syntax of the original, but also supplements
entire clauses. Tytler's and Staël's enlightened visions of the
free "intercourse of science and literature," of nations "needing
each other," is substantially diminished in this alteration of
(Tytler, 1791, 11-12)
- Lefevere, the contemporary translation theorist, argues more pessimistically
than Tytler that "[t]ranslation has to do with authority and legitimacy
and, ultimately, with power." (Lefevere, 1992, p.2) His focus upon
authority and legitimacy in particular is pertinent, as in both early
translations there is an attempt to legitimate Staël's novel through
conscious manipulation of the original. Dennis Lawler's later translation,
still published in 1807, was more open concerning its attempt to render
Corinne more palatable to an English audience. His translation
contained a Preface wherein he acknowledged the existence of a rival
translation, and sought to promote his own. This Preface, however, began
with an interesting (if grammatically confusing) emphasis on his effort
to make Corinne palatable to a British audience:
have the honour of presenting Corinna, that female wonder, which,
however impressed with admiration, we should condemn as out of nature,
did not the Literary Prodigy in which her existence is detailed, reconcile
us to a belief of her possible existence. To have the honor, I say,
of presenting Corinna to a British public, in a British garb, must
be no mean object of ambition. (Staël, 1808, trans. D. Lawler,
5 vols. Vol. I, i)
Lawler's introduction to his Preface implies that it is only in the
material written evidence of Staël's "Literary Prodigy"
that he can verify the existence of "that female wonder, Corinna"
whom, he states, "we should condemn as out of nature." By
drawing attention to the possibility that the Corinne as a female
character is "out of nature," Lawler thereby legitimates a
more "natural" British model. Corinna's textual existence,
in Lawler's view, must be verified and also tamed, by presenting her
in a "British garb" to the "British public." Lawler,
then, begins his Preface with an attempt to reassure his British
audience that they will not find anything "out of nature"
in his rendition of the novel. He has, however, already implanted the
notion in his readership's mind that this book is a fantastical representation
of a female impossibility, by suggesting that Corinne needs to be refashioned
in a more demure British "garb." Lawler's choice of the word
"garb" here, interestingly, echoes a warning that Tytler had
issued in his "Essay" in 1791 that "If a translator wants
. . . discernment, let him be ever so thoroughly master of the sense
of his author, he will present him through a distorting medium, or exhibit
him often in a garb that is unsuitable to his character." (Tytler,
Corinne as parody
- Lawler's comments on remodelling Corinne in a British "garb,"
it would appear, were taken to an extreme in the anonymously-published
1809 novel The Corinna of England.
As an adaptation of Staël's original novel, as Sylvia Bordoni charts
elsewhere in this collection, The Corinna of England reflected
the entrenchment of Anglo/French hostilities towards the close of the
1810s. Despite The Corinna of England's parodic status and remarkably
unsubtle digs at the French, it nonetheless contained some relevant
and indicative debates concerning the translation of Madame de Staël's
fiction into English. In particular there is one conversation, where
the conservative hero Montgomery confronts the French chevalier d'Aubert
on the subject of the specious sentiments conveyed in Staël's earlier
"As a writer, and a composer, she is certainly very great,"
said Montgomery; "Delphine is an interesting production;
but there are sentiments of a most pernicious and blameable tendency
interspersed throughout the work, particularly pernicious,
as, with many readers, imagination would usurp the place of judgment,
and, captivated by flowing language, and impassioned descriptions,
their interest would be too much excited to stay to examine its intrinsic
The Chevalier D'Aubert draws attention to the English preconception
that French was the language of sentiment and melting touches. For him,
French is untranslatable because English translations can only render
"harsh and incomprehensible" readings of the original. D'Aubert's
insistence on the purity of the original French bears a strong resemblance
to the Count d'Erfeuil's arguments concerning the isolation of national
literatures in Corinne which I outlined earlier. The debate between
d'Aubert and Montgomery disintegrates into an exchange of national insults
based upon each nation's perception of the other's language. Montgomery
remarks that when Delphine is translated into English, the "speciousness"
of the ideas becomes apparent because English is a plainer and less
deceptive language. This opinion was, of course, prevalent throughout
the 1790s and 1800s in the traditional Anglo-French antagonisms. For
example, when reviewing Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution
in France in 1790, the Monthly Review criticised what it viewed
as Burke's descent into French rhetorical embellisments: "he no
sooner crosses the Channel, than he throws off the brown bob, and plain
broad-cloth of British argument, to array himself in the powdered bag,
and embroidered silk, of French declamation." (Monthly Review,
3, (1790), 321) This earlier example illustrates the longevity of the
association of the French language with artifice and luxury, in contrast
to the more demure "garb" of the English language. And yet,
if anything, as my examples from the first anonymous translation of
Corinne suggest, English translations of Staël's work embroidered
her own economic phrasing.
. . . The Chevalier probably wished to evade the discussion. "You
read it in English, Sir, of course," said he. "Ah! many
of the finest sentiments, many of the most melting touches, are lost,
are annihilated in your language; they are harsh and incomprehensible
in an English translation, and to an English ear. Miss Moreton reads
it with the taste of a Parisian, and in the original diction and purity!"
"In a grammatical sense, that word
may perhaps be properly applied," said Montgomery, "but
in no other: our language would indeed, Sir, convey harsh meanings
to many of the specious sentiments contained in that production!"
(Anon, (1809) vol. I, 43)
- This becomes all the more apparent in The Corinna of England
as the debate on Delphine augments to include discussions on
"Delphine's is no common character,
certainly," said the Chevalier. "It is a character not to
be found with us, I believe," said Montgomery. "And
can you think so?" asked the Chevalier, turning
his languishing little orbs, with melting meaning, towards Miss Moreton.
"I think so, I had almost said (pardon the affront to your heroine,
Sir"), said Montgomery, as if not understanding his allusion,
" I hope so. - Our atmosphere is too foggy for such volatile
spirits; it is not composed of such inflammable materials; the imagination
of our ladies (bating a few exceptions) is not so vivid; and
the genius of the nation yet makes the prudent conduct of our women
its peculiar care!"
There is a repeated emphasis throughout this parody on common
characters (the heroine is constantly described as such within the novel).
Such an emphasis strongly echoes Lawler's Preface to his translation,
where he discusses Corinne as being "out of nature." The genius
of the English nation, the proposed patriotic duty of writing, is to
protect women from rhetorically inflammable French flourishes. For Montgomery,
sentiment and volatility are contained within the parameter of the French
language, and should not be transmitted unmediated to English audiences.
This is further emphasised through the physical descriptions of the
Chevalier's "languishing little orbs" conveying "melting
meaning." The phrase "melting meaning" could be taken
as an indication that meaning, or pure sense, cannot be conveyed from
a French text. Furthermore, even if "melting meaning" were
conveyed through translation, the novel humorously suggests, the "foggy"
atmosphere of Britain would extinguish it expediently.
(Anon, 1809, I, 43)
- The impetus of the debates in The Corinna of England about
the contamination of language and national character are far removed
from Madame de Staël's celebration of plurality in Corinne.
Castel-Forte's eulogy of Corinne at the Capitole specifically attributes
the intellectual success of her works to the "extensive study she
had made of foreign literatures;." (Staël, 1998, 25) De Staël's
vision embodies Corinne as "an offshoot of the past, as a harbinger
of the future." (Staël, 1998, 27) This potentiality, however,
never quite came about during the immediate afterlife of the novel.
 Through the reviewing, translating
and subsequent parodying of Staël's novel, Corinne came to represent
in the 1800's more of an embodiment of past hostilities between France
and England than a vision of the future.
University of Sheffield
I would like to thank Dr Jane Hodson and Dr Hamish Mathison from the University
of Sheffield for their supportive early reading and excellent suggestions
for this piece, as well as Dr Mary Peace from Sheffield Hallam University
for her encouragement and editing. This piece also benefited enormously
from the feedback an early version of it received at the one-day conference
on Corinne organised by the Sheffield Hallam Corvey Women's Writing
project and the University of Southampton in November 2003. I would also
like to extend my thanks to all those who asked questions and offered
suggestions in this forum. [back]
 Corinna, or Italy by Mad. De Staël Holstein
trans. anon.(3 vols.) (London: Samuel Tipper, 1807) and
Corinna, or Italy by Mad. De Staël-Holstein. Translated from
the French, by D. Lawler (London: Colburn, 1807)
In the "Preface" to his slightly later edition, as a defence
for the tardiness of his own translation, Lawler noted that the slightly
earlier anonymous translation was produced by two men: " . . . I
know, from the authority of the publisher, that two gentlemen have been
employed upon the other English translation, while the one here offered
to the public is the exclusive work of a single individual. I have,
therefore, only to hope, that although four hands have been more
expeditious than two, the public will examine the comparative methods
of both translations, before they apply to this species of labour the
common adage, that two hands are better than one." (Lawler,
"Preface" to Corinna, or Italy (1807), iv.) [back]
 Cf. also, for example, George Canning's 1798 poem
"The New Morality" in the Anti-Jacobin Review where he
also denigrates the translations and adaptations coming specifically from
France, complaining "How do we ape thee, France!" (Canning,
 Joan DeJean further emphasises this in her article
"Staël's Corinne: the novel's other dilemma" where
she discusses de Staël's nostalgia for the seventeenth-century French
Golden age of women's writing and salon activity. (1987 11, I, 77-87)
 Avriel Goldberger, discussing her own experiences
of translating Corinne, also uses Lefevere's model of refraction
when discussing the 1833 Isobel Hill translation, and other late nineteenth-century
translations. (Goldberger, 1990, 801) [back]
 As Garside notes, the English Catalogue of Books also
records a significantly later translation, Corinne, transl. Isabel
Hill. With metrical versions of the "Chants" by Miss Landon.
(Standard Novels, no. 24) (Bentley, February 1833) (Garside, Raven and
Schöwlering, eds., 2000, vol. II, 259) [back]
 Anon, The Corinna of England, and a heroine in
the shade; a modern romance (London: B.Crosby and Co., 1809). As Garside,
Raven and Schöwlering suggest, the attribution to Mrs E.M. Forster
is questionable as the other novels cited on the title page under "By
the author of . . . " can be traced to several different sources.
(Garside, Raven and Schöwlering, eds., 2000, vol. II, 291) [back]
 As Simpson rightly argues, the 1833 Isabel Hill and
Letitia Elizabeth Landon translation, where Landon adapted Corinne's improvisations,
was the most successful. (Simpson, 2003) However, the very fact that this
new translation was 26 years later is suggestive of the changing ideological
climate in issues of nationhood, gender and translation itself. [back]
review of "Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France."
Monthly Review, 3, 1790, 321.
Anon, The Corinna of England, and a heroine in the shade; a modern
romance. London: B.Crosby and Co., 1809.
Canning, George, "New Morality," The Anti-Jacobin, XXXVI,
July 9, 1798 reprinted in Poetry of the Anti-Jacobin with explanatory
notes by Charles Edmonds. London: G.Willis, 1854.
DeJean, Joan, "Staël's Corinne: the novel's other dilemma."
Stanford French Review (1987) 11, I: 77-87.
Garside, Peter, Raven, James and Scholwering, Rainer, eds. The English
Novel 1770-1829: A Bibliographical Survey of Prose Fiction Published in
the British Isles. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Goldberger, Avriel, "Germaine de Staël's Corinne: Challenges
to the Translator in the 1980s." The French Review (1990)
Jeffrey, Francis, review of Corinne, ou l'Italie. Edinburgh
Review, or Critical Journal (October, 1807) XI: 183-195.
Lefevere, André, "Mother Courage's Cucumbers: Text, System
and Refraction in a Theory of Literature." Modern Language Studies,
12.4 (1982) repr. in The Translation Studies Reader, ed. Lawrence
Venuti. London: Routledge, 2000.
______. Translation/History/Culture. A Sourcebook. London: Routledge,
Mathias, T.J., The Pursuits of Literature (1794-97) 13th ed. London:
T. Becket, 1805.
Simpson, Erik, "'The Minstrels of Modern Italy': Improvisation Comes
to Britain." European Romantic Review, September 2003, Vol.
14, pp. 345-367.
Staël, Germaine de, Corinne, or Italy (1807) trans. Sylvia
Raphael. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
______. Corinna, or Italy by Mad. De Staël Holstein trans.
anon. 3 vols. London: Samuel Tipper, 1807.
______. Corinna, or Italy by Mad. De Staël-Holstein. Translated
from the French, by D. Lawler. London: Colburn, 1807.
______. Corinne, Or Italy, trans. Isabel Hill and Letitia Landon.
London: Richard Bentley and Co., 1833.
Tytler, Alexander Fraser, Lord Woodhouselee, Essay on the Principles
of Translation. London and Edinburgh: T.Cadell and W. Creech, 1791.
Vallois, Marie-Claude, Fictions féminines: Mme de Staël
et les voix de la Sibylle. Saratoga: Stanford University Press, 1987.