Friday, December 13, 2013

Paul and Virginia 1851

as taken from the book translated by HMW of  a J.B.H DE SAINT PIERRE novel.

The following translation of  "Paul and Virginia" was written at Paris, amidst the horrors of Robespierre's tyranny.  During that gloomy epocha it was difficult to find occupations which might cheat the days of calamity of their weary length.  Society had vanished; amidst the minute vexations of Jacobinical despotism, which while it murdered in mass, persecuted in detail, the resources of writing, and even reading, were encompassed with danger.  The researches of domiciliary visits had already compelled me to commit to the flames a manuscript volume, where I had traced the political scenes of which I had been a witness, with the colouring of their first impressions on my mind, with those fresh tints that fade from recollection; and since my pen, accustomed to follow th eimpulse of my feeling, could only have drawn, at that fatal period those images of desolation and despair which haunted my imagination, and dwelt upon my heart, writing was forbidden employment.  ...
...In this situation I gave myself the task of employing a few hours every day in translating the charming little novel of Bernardin St. Pierre, entitled "Paul and Virginia;" and I found the most soothing relief in wandering from my own gloomy reflections to those enchanting scenes of the Mauritius, which he has so admirably described.   ...
...With respect to the translation, I can only hope to deserve the humble merit of not having deformed the beauty of the original. I have, indeed, taken one liberty with my author, which it is fit I should acknowledge, that of omitting several pages of general observations, which, however excellent in themselves, would be passed over with impatience by the English reader, when they interrupt the pathetic narrative.  In this respect the two nations seem to change characters; and while serious and reflecting Englishman requires, in novel writing, as well as on the theatre, a rapid succession of incidents, must bustle and stage effect, without suffering the author to appear himself, and stop the progress of the story; the gay and restless Frenchman listens attentively to long philosophical reflections, while catastrophe of the drama hangs in suspense.  ...
...I can scarcely flatter myself that my ear is become more attuned to the harmony of a language, with the sounds of which it is seldom gladdened; or that my poetical taste is improved by living in a country where arts have given place to arms.  But the public will, perhaps receive with indulgence a work written under such peculiar circumstances; not composed in the calm of literary leisure, or in pursuit of literary fame, but amidst the turbulence of the most cruel sensations, and in order to escape awhile from overwhelming misery.
This work was originally published by a New York Publisher D Appleton and Company. 1851
It was translated from the French.


  1. I tried to find it at my local library but it wasn't there. I hope you're doing well and not staying so awfully busy, perhaps. I miss you coming around as much as you once did, and I see that I've not been around your blog lately either. I'm sorry about that. I've simply been overwhelmed, not in the same way you often are, but in a way that is equally compelling.

  2. Thank You Snow, Of course you wouldn't find it in your public library. Most of what I read has been out of print for over 100 years. This book in particular is at least 170 years old. I have been intensely busy.
    I visit you often and don't comment, because sometimes I can not get through the thread. Then I feel guilty as if I'm jumping in the conversation midway. Kinda like your blog is the preface to the tea party, I came just for the cookies and crumpets and skipped the caffiene rush of the tea conversation.

  3. I miss you though when you don't comment, although I actually didn't allow one of your comments that was made soon after I broke my back. In it you asked if my post was a literary exercise. Someone else had suggested as much (although kiddingly in his case), and I allowed his comment (as I do 99.9% of the comments I've ever received), but then yours came, and I thought, that, no, I don't know where Tusk is coming from here, but I'm not going to allow people to express doubts about my honesty on my blog because I can only lose credibility by allowing such comments, and there is nothing I can say that would prove them wrong, at least not short of giving a link my medical files which would be absurd.

    I'm sorry you stay so busy. It's one thing to live that way for awhile, but you live that way always, if I understand you correctly.

  4. P.S. Where do YOU get the books you read?

    1. I get them from antiquarian bookshops around the country. then some books I download electronically from around the world.

    2. Darn it to heck. I thought that maybe you had a new post up.

      As for the rare books you read, do you normally know of them in advance, or do you tend to come across them while browsing?