Villette Question

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Villette Question

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Nov 30, 2011, 11:28pm

I'm currently reading Villette by Charlotte Bronte. However, I don't know French, and my edition does not translate the numerous French passages in the book. Does anyone in this group know of an online source or of an edition which translates the French passages?

Dic 1, 2011, 1:21am

Top of my head, no, and I've never needed one because my French is good enough to understand Charlotte's fairly simple French passages. If you browse through Barnes & Noble, though, you might find one on the shelves. Unfortunately (no, I should say "disgracefully") the only Norton Critical Editions of the Brontës are Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, which are both excellent.

Meanwhile, take a look at Yahoo's Babel Fish, which is a halfway decent on-line translator. It does give terribly literal translations that are in no way decent idiomatic English, but you might want to try it for want of anything better.

Dic 1, 2011, 5:46pm

Following up on my previous post, I stopped into Chester County Book & Music late this morning and did a browse. There really aren't a whole lot of Villette editions out there conveniently at retail, and I only found two, both paperbacks. The Vintage edition doesn't have any notes, but the Penguin does. Unfortunately, the Penguin notes are endnotes (footnotes would be a lot more convenient where translations are concerned), but at least it's something. Do try to take a look-see, though, in a brick-and-mortar rather than buying on-line and just trusting my recommendation.

Dic 1, 2011, 10:16pm

Ooh--thank you--are these endnotes translations? I've found various editions with notes, but no translations. If the Penguin has it, I may be able to find a Penguin edition via interlibrary loan. Thanks!

Dic 1, 2011, 10:27pm

I read the Penguin book and found the editing and notes were very useful. It did not bother me that they were at the back of the book. I truly love this story. I hope you'll enjoy it.

Dic 2, 2011, 9:23am

4>> As I noticed from a quick skim, the endnotes include translations interspersed among notes to other aspects of the text. I didn't read the endnotes extensively, but I would imagine "other aspects" might include any allusions to the King James Bible, autobiographical explanations (e.g., Monsieur Paul = Constantin Heger, Doctor John = George Smith), and what have you.

I'm hoping you can get the Penguin via interlibrary loan, which is a whole lot better than your spending money based on others' word of the endnotes' adequacy. Again, I haven't really used the Penguin since I do read French well enough to understand Charlotte's fairly simple passages.

Incidentally, Charlotte uses a lot of French words in Villette satirically, as noted in this on-line article. One name not mentioned in the article is the very minor character, the crown prince "Duc de Dindonneau," where the French word dindonneau means a young tom turkey! I haven't read the Penguin endnotes through to see how well these satirical names are picked up on.

The on-line article also notes that " 'Boue-Marine,' the port in which she is to land, means 'sea mud.' " Indeed, that's a literal translation of Boue-Marine, but I prefer a more idiomatic English name of "Port Swampy," which calls to mind Swamp Town, the capital of Coventry Island, where Rawdon Crawley is shipped off to in Thackeray's Vanity Fair (and remember that Charlotte dedicated the second edition of Jane Eyre to Thackeray, which wound up causing her some embarrassment since, unbeknownst to her, Thackeray had had his wife committed for insanity).

Further on the Thackeray influence, Vanity Fair uses a lot of humorous names for society figures (for example, different species of mushrooms, as I recall), and there's a carnival scene in Vanity Fair which I think may have had some influence on Villette as well.

Dic 2, 2011, 9:59am

My version of Villette had the translations somewhere in the back of the book - something I didn't realize until I reached the ending. I think I'd have enjoyed it more if I'd realized this in the first place.

Dic 2, 2011, 7:51pm

Thank you, everyone, for your suggestions. Today I found an Oxford University Press edition (ed. Smith & Rosengarten, 2008), that has excellent notes and translations of the French. I'm about half-way through the book, but am now going back and reading all of the notes I missed. Thank you!

Dic 3, 2011, 10:32am

8>> Great, kac522. For everyone else's reference, I was browsing last night at the University of Pennsylvania B&N, and I saw the Modern Library paperback. It's also got endnotes, but unfortunately those endnotes simply refer to the text by page and line number while the text itself does not contain any superscript (either numeral or asterisk) to alert a reader to flip back to the endnotes. I think that's really quite cumbersome.

I've never seen the Oxford World's Classic, but while doing my browsing I saw (and bought) the Oxford World's Classic of Bronte juvenilia and I see that it's got endnotes which are marked by page and line number but also flagged in the text by superscripted asterisks, which makes reading a good bit easier. I suspect that may also be the style in the text that kac522 found.

The Penguin edition's endnotes, as I recall, link to the text through superscripted numbers. I think the numbers restart with each new chapter, but I'm not sure.

On the other hand, anyone who's yet to read either Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights would be strongly advised to use the Norton Critical Editions. Note that Jane Eyre (like both Villette and, much more artificially, Shirley) includes French passages, and Wuthering Heights contains some difficult Yorkshire dialect in the dialogue of Heathcliff's servant, Joseph. And as I've already noted, Norton sadly has never gotten beyond Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights in contrast with their much fuller complement of Austen novels.

Dic 3, 2011, 11:06pm

#9--Yes, CurrerBell, in the Villette Oxford Edition, the endnotes are flagged in the text with asterisks, making it so easy to refer to the notes. I had an older Oxford edition when I started reading, with the same editors (Smith & Rosengarten), so the major additional notes are the translations. It was well worth spending $11.95.

I also love the Norton Critical editions of just about anything. All of Austen's novels are in Norton Critical, as well as most of Dickens'. The additional critical material adds so much to one's appreciation of the work.

Mayo 8, 2012, 1:10pm

kac522 and CurrerBell -

I am so enjoying this conversation...I read Villette a few years back and absolutely loved it, while lamenting that even its "simple French" was quite beyond me, so all those passages added nothing. So, now to get the Oxford Edition.

So, it's the Oxford World's Classic edition of Villette - or is it the Oxford University Press edition? They're not the same thing, are they?

What would be really helpful to me is the isbn of the version that has the translations on the same page.

How deliciously ironic & horrible that Charlotte Bronte dedicated (the second edition) of Jane Eyre to Thackeray, not knowing he'd had his wife committed for insanity. Thank you, CurrerBell!

Mayo 8, 2012, 4:09pm

SaintSunniva, I don't know. I've never seen that edition of Villette (and don't need to since I know enough French to handle Charlotte's dialogue). I do know that the paperback edition of juvenilia that I refer to in #9 is Oxford World's Classics so I suspect the Villette edition is likewise. kac522 would have to answer this question for you.

Caution, though, that my Oxford World's Classics edition of the juvenilia (that I refer to in #9) does NOT have translations on the same page. As I note in #9, it's got ENDNOTES but the endnotes are marked by page number and also flagged in the text by superscripted asterisks. So, you'll still have to flip back to endnotes, but it looks easier to use than the Modern Library paperback, which really seems cumbersome. And as I recall, the Penguin paperback, while also using endnotes, does use superscripted numbers to link to the endnotes (probably restarting the number sequence with each new chapter), which also makes it easier than the Modern Library (which has no superscripting at all in the text).

I don't know of any edition where you're going to get translations appearing on the same page as the text, unfortunately. I do think, though, that you might be more likely to find Penguin than Oxford in brick-and-mortars, do why don't you do a little browsing rather than ordering on-line sight unseen. Although I would personally prefer the Oxford style, I don't think Penguin would be all that much less comfortable.

Maybe kac522 can contribute more to this. As I say, my French is good enough to handle brief French passages in my English reading, so this isn't an area I'm really expert on.

Mayo 8, 2012, 8:20pm

The edition I have is Oxford World's Classics, published by Oxford University Press, reissued 2008. The ISBN is 978-0-19-953665-8. The translations are part of the endnotes; they are not on the same page as the French.

This Oxford World's Classics edition was originally published in 1990 and 2000, but only the 2008 reissued edition has the French translations in the endnotes. I know, because I also own the 2000 edition, which does not have any translations.

Hope this helps.

Mayo 8, 2012, 9:08pm

Get two copies and then open one to the translation, that way you can scan both!

How does tha sound? :)

This is one of my all time fav Bronte books. Though it is hard to choose one as my fav.

Mayo 8, 2012, 9:45pm

I had the same problem, reading The Professor and now Shirley. It's frustrating because I feel like I should be able to read the French- and I sometimes can- but not consistently.

At least Charlotte Bronte doesn't include passages of untranslated Greek, which I've seen in some old classics!

Mayo 20, 2012, 12:52am

Me too. I tried to get through both The Professor and Villette but the French was too hard for me. I don't remember any French in Shirley and much to my shame I gave my copy away in a recent move, thinking I would not need it again. Now I'm going to have to buy a new copy to check. It was the French that put me off reading Jane Eyre for years but I read it a few months ago and now understand the fuss. Now I wish I had read it earlier.

Editado: Mayo 21, 2012, 12:01am

16>> clarelouise, you can find Shirley on ProjectGutenberg. As an example, there's some French at the very end of Chapter 3 (but you'll find it quicker to access by going to Chapter 4 and then scrolling up a few lines).

Charlotte's use of French in Shirley is, I think, unnecessary and quite a bit show-offish. In Jane Eyre there's the excuse of Jane's conversing with Adèle (though even there it's a little artificial), though in Villette there's the excuse that the principal part of the novel occurs in Francophone Belgium.

I really do need to give Shirley a reread myself, and as to The Professor, it's been so many years that I don't remember whether there's any French in it or not.

ETA: For anyone interested, I've got a cheap reading copy of Shirley (since I don't take my six-volume 1922 Dulac-illustrated Bronte set into the bathtub with me or otherwise manhandle it). It's Penguin ISBN 9780141439860, and it's got endnotes that apparently include translations. At least it's got a translation of that extensive piece of French from the end of Chapter 3. My Penguin's only $8, and it's probably not that much pricier today since it looks to have a 2006 printing date.

Mayo 22, 2012, 7:33pm

That Penguin book is a good deal!

Any suggestions for biographies of any in the family?

Mayo 23, 2012, 2:29am

Re: French in Charlotte Bronte's novels. I've been reading Shirley and have noticed that she uses a lot less French than in The Professor. Also, she apologizes for it, on at least three occasions. She had trouble getting the Professor published, and maybe the excessive French passages had something to do with it, so she toned them down for Shirley. Of course, this is just speculation on my part...