Thursday 3 March 2016

Nastavnitsa, ili pansion v Brussele and other early Villette translations

Soon after Villette was published in January 1853, it was translated into other languages. German and Russian translations were the first, in the same year. A Danish version followed, in the winter of 1853-1854. A Dutch translation was published in 1856. But that was it, as far as is known, for a long time. I could find no early Villettes in other countries. This article gives a description of the early (non-French) translations.

Villette got to three editions in Germany in 1853. Along with the aforementioned English language Tauchnitz Villette (in two volumes) there were two translations. Tauchnitz registered the novel in Germany in December 1852. On 24 February 1853, the Allgemeine Bibliographie Deutschland had a notice about the publication of the Tauchnitz Villette. That’s about one month after the Smith, Elder & Co Villette in England was published.

The Berlin Villette
In 1853 Dunker und Humblot from Berlin published a copyrighted German translation of Villette (in three volumes).  “Mit erworbenem Űbersetzungsrecht für Deutschland,” it says on the title page, ‘with acquired translation rights for Germany.’ The translation was done by Johann August Diezmann, who also did other translations of English works, like Thackeray’s Esmond, and French works, for instance of George Sand. He wrote several books about Goethe as well, among a number of other works.
The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek has digitized this work, so here you can read Volume 1, Volume 2  and  Volume 3.

Title page of the Berlin Villette

The Stuttgart Villette
The southwestern German state of Württemberg, in which Stuttgart is situated, was not part of the Zollverein, the group of German states that had accepted the Anglo-German copyright treaty. The Berlin Villette could not therefore claim copyright for all of Germany, which it did. The Stuttgart translation (in two volumes), doesn’t mention anything about copyright, and must be regarded as a pirate (although it’s not an illegal version).
This translation was published by Franckh from Stuttgart. The translator was Christoph Friedrich Grieb, who also did a translation of Thackeray’s Esmond, as well as his Vanity fair. Grieb also wrote A dictionary of the English and German languages, among a lot of other works. For several years he did live in America, before going back to Germany, and settling at Stuttgart. There he also wrote an anti-slavery novel, Sklavenleben in Amerika.

This Villette has also been digitized by the Bavarian State Library, thanks to whom we can here read Volume 1 and Volume 2.

Title page of the Stuttgart Villette
The Russians, who themselves produced several of the greatest writers of the nineteenth century, loved English literature too, Anna A. Syskina says in her article of four years ago in Brontë Studies (vol. 37, nr 1, January 2012), ‘Russian translations of the novels of Charlotte Brontë in the nineteenth century.’ The article gives a list of the works, from which we quote here. It should be pointed out first that there was no copyright treaty between Russia and the United Kingdom.
We can be quite sure the first translation, in 1853, was not a copyrighted edition. It was a pirate edition, but again, not illegal. Syskina describes it as Villiette, by “Correr Bell.” It was published in four installments in Bibliotheka dlia chteniia (vols. 120-122, the latter had two).
The name of the translator was not given, nor was it in the 1856 edition of ‘Nastavnitsa, ili pansion v Brussele,’ published in Panteon (vols. 25-27). Syskina thinks this was a full translation, but it must be a translation of La maîtresse d’Anglais, ou Le pensionnat de Bruxelles. She does mention that the 1860 book edition of Nastavnitsa, ili pansion v Brussele stated that it was a translation of the Revue Britannique Villette (see previous article). This edition has Pavel Michailovich Novosilsky as translator. The book was published in St. Petersburg, the publisher is not given. We don’t know if these are one or two translations of La maîtresse. The titles in Russian are ‘Вильетт’ and ‘Наставница, или Пансион в Брюсселе.’ The 1860 Nastavnitsa is available at the National Library of Russia.

Near the end of the year 1853 the first volume of the Danish Villette was published. The National Library of Denmark and the Kopenhagen University Library have two copies of a translation which is dated 1853-4, a two volume edition, published by Jordan’s Forlag, and printed by H.G. Brill, from Kopenhagen, as it says on the title page. Jordan’s published more Brontë works in the 1850s. The name of the translator is not given. One of the copies of the second volume of the work begins with part three, the other begins  with part four, of five parts. It must be therefore that it was originally published as five separate volumes, later bound together in these two unequal  copies . The first three parts were published in 1853, the last two in 1854. The amount of pages surely means it is a full translation. The first volume has the text running from page 1 to 235, the second from 1 to 239, the third from 4 to 247, the fourth from 4 to 231 and the fifth from 4 to 276, making a total of 1219 pages (a Villette world record no doubt) . It was of the format of a pocket, but only had 23 lines on a page.*

The title page of the Danish Villette

The beginning of the first chapter
of the Danish Villette

The Netherlands
In view of the popularity of Jane Eyre in The Netherlands it is a bit surprising that it took three years before a Dutch translation of Villette was published. Then again, it had become a sleepy country, unlike Belgium. The translator of the work is not given. It was published by J.F.V. Behrns from Harlingen, in the northern province of Friesland. Jan Frederik Valentin Behrns (1830-1883) started publishing, it appears in 1854. Villette was the only literary work he ever did, in 1856, the year he married. It makes one wonder if he did that for his new bride, Aleida Tjeenk Willink. It seems likely that he wrote the introduction, which shows some personal enthusiasm. He concludes with: ‘And herewith the book goes into the world, and we hope also into the heart of many a reader.’ Surely at least one of the newly-wedded couple was a ‘fan’ of the Brontës, and he may well have commissioned the translation.

Title page of the Dutch Villette

The beginning of the first chapter of the Dutch Villette

This Dutch Villette was published in three volumes, with 266, 266 and 272 pages respectively (at 32 lines per page). The publication months can be deduced from the advertisements in newspapers. The ad for the first volume first appeared in April 1856. Ads for the second volume appeared from June to August, and for the third from September to November. The latter month has the nicest advertisement, with the novel’s name in very big letters.

Advertisement of 21 November 1856
in Opregte Haarlemsche Courant

Villette was still being advertised two years later, on 15 Nov 1859, as a book for “leesgezelschappen”, the Dutch reading societies with which we began this series of articles.

List of chapters page of the first volumn
of the Dutch Villette
This Dutch Villette is a complete translation. It is noteworthy that the title of chapter 7 was changed from ‘Villette’ to ‘Brussel’ (the Dutch version of the city’s name). There is no mention of copyright, and as stated earlier, in the second article, there was no copyright treaty between The Netherlands and Britain. Charlotte had been dead for more than a year. It cannot really be called a pirate translation.

It appears that there were no early translations in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, and Hungary. The introduction of the Dutch Villette claims that the novel has already been translated in ‘many languages,’ which suggests more than three. It is of course possible that a translation was published in a journal, in serialized form, as in Russia. And perhaps there were translations in other languages, perhaps in one or two of these countries, that have not survived. There is only one surviving copy of the Dutch Villette, which indicates it wasn’t that easy, to survive as an 1850s book.

There were a few translations later in the 19th century, and a good deal more thereafter. I saw quite a lot of translations here and there from recent times. Villette will rank quite high in the amount of languages it has been translated into. My guess would be fifty or so at least.

This is also a story of translators who liked Villette, and who deserve praise. They probably didn’t get much money for a difficult job and an enormous amount of work. The translations were probably more a result of personal enthusiasm than the prospect of making a good deal of money.

The articles published so far serve as the background for discussing, in the next article, the idea whether or not there might have been a ‘scandal’ in Brussels as has been suggested, when Villette became known there.

Eric Ruijssenaars

* With thanks to Ole Henrik Sørensen of the Danish Royal Library and Kopenhagen University Library.

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