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Corinne in Distress: Translation as cultural misappropriation in the 1800s
[1]

"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)

  1. 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. [2] 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.
  2. 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 into satire.

  3. The Art of Translation

  4. 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)



  5. 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:

    While 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 abilities.
    (Tytler, 1791, 6-7)

    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) [3]

  6. 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.



  7. Corinne, literary exchange and translation

  8. 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:

    "Would 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.[4] Corinne and Castel-Forte's openness to debate and cultural exchange situates them in strong opposition to the isolated Count d'Erfeuil.

  9. 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.

  10. 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 and strength?
    (Staël, 1998, 97)

  11. 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.

  12. Misappropriating Corinne

  13. 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 tale.
    (Jeffrey, October, 1807, XI, 183)



  14. 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 that:

    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)
  15. [5]
  16. 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.[6] 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;
    (Staël, Corinne, ou l'Italie , 1807, vol.I, 1)

    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:

    During 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; . . .
    (Staël, Corinna, or Italy, trans. anon. 1807, vol.1, 1)

    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:

    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; . . .
    (Staël, Corinna, or Italy, trans. anon. 1807, vol. I, 24)

    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 novel.
  17. 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:

    If 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.
    (Tytler, 1791, 11-12)

    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 Corinne.

  18. 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:

    To 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, 1791, 77)


  19. Corinne as parody

  20. 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.[7] 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 novel Delphine:

    "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 merit."
    . . . 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)

    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.

  21. This becomes all the more apparent in The Corinna of England as the debate on Delphine augments to include discussions on genius:

         "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!"
    (Anon, 1809, I, 43)

    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.

  22. 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. [8] 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.
    Angela Wright
    University of Sheffield
  23.  

[1] 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]
[2] 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]
[3] 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, 1854,235) [back]
[4] 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) [back]
[5] 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]
[6] 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]
[7] 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]
[8] 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]

 


Works cited

Anon, 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) 63,5: 800-809.
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, 1992.
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.

 

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