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Letters 2 and 3: mostly fangirling over the Marquise, I must admit - The Epistolary Novel

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August 4th, 2005


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elettaria
10:37 pm - Letters 2 and 3: mostly fangirling over the Marquise, I must admit
L2

Saith the Marquise:

"...and in the end it will be yet another rouerie to include in your memoirs - for one day I shall have your memoirs published, and I take it upon myself to write them."

People writing other people already. That's what we like to see.

"The hope of vengeance soothes my soul." (both 1961 Penguin, p.25)

How can you not adore this woman? As for the way she describes Gercourt's ludicrous insistance on marrying a convent-educated blonde, it's impossible not to agree that such a lofty ideal needs toppling and pronto, though it's hardly fair on the poor little Volanges. Not to mention the Marquise's lurking interest in Cecile, both in her description (there's a lovely line in the play version about, "Were my morals less strict, I'd take the job on myself,") and the whole business of setting the situation up, the befriending in the next letter when Cecile notices that she is under The Gaze and how other women respond (or not) to being looked at.

"With me, you will observe, love is not blind." (p.26)

Right. Absolutely. Of course, the Marquise's brutally clear sight is one of the things we love the most about her, but again that statement is just begging to be proven wrong sooner or later.

I can't quite believe that Cecile's only response in L3 to hearing a man saying "That one must be left to ripen" (p.27) is to wonder if he's her intended and to feel impatient. Damn it, girl, you should feel something other than excitement at being weighed up like a piece of fruit at market!

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Comments:


From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 5th, 2005 01:53 am (UTC)

Slight spoilers for Letter 20

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(there's a lovely line in the play version about, "Were my morals less strict, I'd take the job on myself,")

Actually in letter 20, the Marquise does say something to that effect, and follows with "...I am passionately fond of the child; it is a real passion."

I enjoyed your observations and wish I could say more...really all I can say for now is that I find Cecile a little insipid. From her first line about bonnets and pom-poms on. I am reading ahead and I look forward most to the Marquise's letters though I am not sure if I am a fangirl yet. :-)
From:sibelia
Date:August 5th, 2005 01:57 am (UTC)

Re: Slight spoilers for Letter 20

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By the way, that was me. Sorry I was silent about Humphrey Clinker! I have to admit I gave up on it! I think this book will fare better though.
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From:elettaria
Date:August 5th, 2005 01:07 pm (UTC)
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I did wonder who our mystery commentator was!

I had a feeling it was based on something very similar in the novel, yup, it's just a nice line, that one from the play.'

Pom-poms? Is that your translation or are you joking?! Oh hell, now I'm envisaging her as a cheerleader.

(HC bored me stiff as well. If I do that 18th c course for the second year of my Masters, I'll be studying the thing.)
From:sibelia
Date:August 5th, 2005 05:27 pm (UTC)
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That's seriously my translation. It's not very good, I take it. :-p
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From:elettaria
Date:August 5th, 2005 07:47 pm (UTC)
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The original says "les bonnets et les pompons", which Stone sensibly translates as "frills and furbelows". "Pompon", it transpires, appears to mean "pompom" (though that must be a modern translation, I haven't heard them mentioned so early) and also "tassel" and such-like. Apparently it's also slang for "testicles", though whether this was the case in the 18th c I have no idea.
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From:movingfinger
Date:August 8th, 2005 04:59 pm (UTC)

pedantry

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The OED puts "pom-pom" from French, 1725. French is "a tuft, a top-knot"; English is "A jewel or ornament attached to a long pin; a tuft or bunch of ribbon, velvet, flowers, threads of silk, etc., formerly worn in the hair, or on the cap or dress; now worn on women's and children's hats and shoes, and used to ornament the borders of mantles; also, the round tuft on a soldier's or sailor's cap, the front of a shako, etc." Clothing at that period was in fact decorated with bunches ("knots", sometimes, in English) of ribbons. An advantage of such decoration is that it can be readily changed for more fashionable color or removed to dye or remake the garment.

A bonnet is a bonnet, or cap, not a frill.

A furbelow is a ruffle or frill, not a pompom.

C is in fact writing very naturally about clothes: caps (usually trimmed with lace and/or ribbons, btw) and pompoms, or ribbons, things she would not have had (vanities) in the convent. But the pompoms you visualize, from Aunty Grace's upholstery, are the wrong kind.

Translator didn't know costume? Making it "frills and furbelows" is super-extra-hypo-condescending.
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From:elettaria
Date:August 9th, 2005 11:08 am (UTC)
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No, the translator is using a set phrase in English rather than a literal translation. Since the modern English meaning of "pom-pom" is different from the meaning of "pompon" at the time, it appears anachronistic as a translation, whereas "frills and furbelows" does convey the meaning of the sentence. (Though I admit that "caps and ribbons" would have done perfectly well as a translation; perhaps "les bonnets et les pompons" was a set phrase and that's why he used one in translating it?) Translators have to change things around in order to use idioms, how is that condescending when it's true to the spirit and style of the original and doesn't noticeably distort the meaning? You can't expext average readers to know the historical changes in the definition of "pom-pom", it's not a word with large usage, so they're going to use the definitions they know, i.e. the modern ones.
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From:movingfinger
Date:August 12th, 2005 12:06 am (UTC)
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You can't expext average readers to know the historical changes in the definition of "pom-pom", it's not a word with large usage, so they're going to use the definitions they know, i.e. the modern ones.

Agree, and for that we use... les footnotes. But in this case the translator should have used, as you point out, "caps and ribbons", which is exactly what the author means!

Interestingly, "frill" in a dress sense is 19c...
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From:elettaria
Date:August 12th, 2005 12:13 am (UTC)
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Definitely agreed. I'll still take "frills and furbelows" over "pom-poms" any day, footnote or none. No wonder poor sibelia was put off. You could have a footnote saying, "OK, I've put 'caps and ribbons' but to be absolutely precise, for all you 18th c costume fiends, I should point out that the French was 'pompons' and that this was more of a tasselly affair, or perhaps a bunch of ribbons, but certainly not a modern pom-pom. Cecile was not a cheerleader."

That'd be the day. Although there's a rather snarky footnote on pigeon-fancying in the OUP As You Like It which is very nearly at that level, and far funnier.

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