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Appropriating Marivaux: The first English translations of La Vie de Marianne and Le Paysan Parvenu and the critical rivalry between Richardson and Fielding (1736-1750)

Baudouin MILLET

Résumés

Les deux derniers romans de Marivaux, La Vie de Marianne (1731-1742) et Le Paysan parvenu (1734-1735) commencèrent à être traduits en anglais alors qu’ils étaient encore en cours de rédaction : dès 1736 et 1735, les premières livraisons des deux romans furent traduites dans des versions qui reproduisirent assez fidèlement les préfaces et incipit de Marivaux. Il semble que la publication de Pamela (1740) de Samuel Richardson et de Joseph Andrews (1742) de Henry Fielding suscitèrent un regain d’intérêt pour les œuvres de Marivaux, de la part de nouveaux traducteurs qui modifièrent drastiquement les paratextes initiaux du romancier, en réécrivant les œuvres de l’auteur. Les deux nouvelles versions de la vie de Marianne investirent ainsi le discours critique proposé par Richardson dans ses propres romans pour le transposer dans leur appareil préfaciel, tandis que la nouvelle version des aventures du paysan de Marivaux empruntait à Fielding ses jugements réflexifs sur ses romans, pour revêtir l’histoire de Jacob d’habits neufs. Dans le même temps, Marianne et Jacob se voyaient significativement rebaptisés Indiana et Sir Andrew Thompson, noms dont la consonance se rapprochait désormais clairement de Pamela et de Joseph Andrews.

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  • 1 I am grateful to Orla Smyth who kindly accepted to reread an early draft of this article and made m (...)
  • 2 The authors who mention Marivaux in relation to Fielding are William Warburton, in a footnote in hi (...)
  • 3 “The Translator’s Preface” to the English translation of Christian Fürchtegott Gellert’s Das Leben (...)

1In Allen Michie’s detailed analysis of the “critical rivalry” between Richardson and Fielding, Marivaux’s name appears only twice in passing, first in a reference to James Beattie’s Dissertations Moral and Critical which groups together Marivaux’s novels, Le Sage’s Gil Blas and Smollett in the category of the “comic romance” (Michie 1999, 67), then in an endnote reference which quotes an interesting figure given by Ronald Paulson and Thomas Lockwood in their Henry Fielding: The Critical Heritage1. As Michie points out, Paulson and Lockwood’s critical edition of Fielding’s early reception contains “a useful index to the authors compared to Fielding throughout the [eighteenth] century,” identifying four references to Fielding and Marivaux.2 Michie also suggests that the list could easily be extended (Michie 1999, 216). This association of Marivaux and Fielding can be paralleled with the association between Marivaux and Richardson, two authors who were also often compared as early as the mid-eighteenth century.3 I would like to show that the early reception of Marivaux’s last two novels La Vie de Marianne (1731-1742) and Le Paysan Parvenu (1734-1735), which were translated into English no less than five times in about a decade, also became a key critical concern during the enduring quarrel between Richardson and Fielding. The critical discourses deployed in the paratexts of Marivaux’s two novels as they were initially translated from Marivaux’s original prefaces and later modified by his English translators mark a decisive step in the development of the critical rivalry between Richardson’s and Fielding’s followers. The front matters of these translations present contradictory arguments about the status of Marivaux’s stories, revolving around the problematic distinction between fact and fiction. During the 1740s and early 1750s, the appropriation of Marivaux’s highly successful works raised important issues for both Richardson and Fielding’s supporters, who developed in the prefaces to their translations of Marivaux the competing arguments initially laid down in the paratexts of Richardson’s Pamela (1740-1741) and Clarissa (1747-1748) on the one hand, and Fielding’s Joseph Andrews (1742) and Tom Jones (1748-1749) on the other.

1. Marivaux’s “Englished” novels before 1740

  • 4 The first edition of Collyer’s translation is lost. The second edition was published in London in 1 (...)

2Marivaux’s La Vie de Marianne and Le Paysan Parvenu were both originally published in Paris in several instalments, between 1731 and 1742. It took eleven years for Marivaux to publish his eleven parts of La Vie de Marianne, between 1731 and March 1742. In the meantime, he drafted Le Paysan Parvenu, published in five instalments between April 1734 and April 1735. Both novels were left unfinished by Marivaux, which enticed some of his contemporaries to propose continuations of their own. Madame Riccoboni, for instance, wrote a convincing though incomplete twelfth part to La Vie de Marianne in 1761, and Mary Collyer, one of the English translators of the novel, similarly proposed a twelfth part of her own around 1743,4 which both continued and concluded Marivaux’s unfinished novel.

  • 5 In 1736, Marivaux issued the 4th (in March), 5th (in September) and 6th (November) parts of the wor (...)

3The open-endedness of Marivaux’s last two novels was seen as a defining feature of both works even before it became apparent to his readers (on both sides of the Channel) that Marivaux would not conclude his narratives. Indeed, the first English translation of Marianne and that of Le Paysan were issued while the novels were still in the making, and new instalments were yet to come. The first three parts of the English La Vie de Marianne, The Life of Marianne: or, The Adventures of the Countess of *** were “translated from the Original French” as early as 1736, while the remaining eight parts of the novel were yet to be written and published in French.5 Similarly, the first four parts of Le Paysan Parvenu: or, The Fortunate Peasant. Being the Memoirs of The Life of Mr.— were published as early as 1735, with the fifth and last part yet unpublished in France: it probably appeared too late in French (in April 1735) for the English translator to be able to include it in his or her first English version.

4The fact that Marivaux’s novels were so rapidly translated into English, even while being still worked on by their author, is not an unprecedented feature of novel translation. During the seventeenth-century, volumes of the successful French romances by Honoré d’Urfé, La Calprenède and the Scudérys were translated into English before those works appeared in completed form in French. The English version of first part of d’Urfé’s Astrée, “in twelve bookes: newly translated out of French” was published as early as 1620, whereas the fourth part of that French romance was to be published only in 1627, two years after the death of its author. Similarly, the first part of La Calprenède’s Cléopâtre (1646-1657) was “Englished by Richard Loveday” in 1652, with “A succinct abridgement of what is extant in the succeeding Story” (subtitle), five years before the completion of the romance in French. Finally, the first instalment of the anonymous translation of Madeleine and Georges de Scudéry’s Clélie, histoire romaine (1654-1660) appeared in the English language in 1655, no less than five years before the novel was completed by the Scudérys in French. The fact that Marivaux’s two most famous novels also began to be translated into English while still in the making is also a good testimony to the fame of the French playwright and novelist on the English soil.

  • 6 The titles of both editions are similar (The Life of Marianne: Or, The Adventures of the Countess o (...)
  • 7 The Virtuous Orphan: Or, The Life of the Countess of****. Written by Herself [1743?], London, 1747.
  • 8 Namely, The Life and Adventures of Indiana, The Virtuous Orphan, London, 1746.
  • 9 This first edition was reprinted in Dublin in 1739, also comprising the first four parts only, alth (...)

5Indeed, Marivaux’s success and influence on mid-eighteenth-century English literature can be measured by the number of translations of his two late novels. Marianne was translated no less than three times in little more than ten years: first anonymously and in three instalments in 1736, 1741 and 1742 (to be republished in two volumes in a second edition the following year)6. This first translation was then followed by a new one by Mary Collyer7, probably in 1743, and a third anonymous one three years later8. Marivaux’s Paysan was first published in London in 1735,9 under the title of Le Paysan Parvenu: Or, The Fortunate Peasant. Being Memoirs of the Live of Mr.—, then retranslated and presented under a new title (The Fortunate Villager: Or, Memoirs of Sir Andrew Thompson) in 1750.

  • 10 See Birkett 2005, Dow 2013, Reed 2013 and McMurran 2010, especially Chapter Four, “The Cross-Channe (...)

6The shaping influence of Marivaux on the mid-eighteenth-century novel has been a critical commonplace ever since Richardson and Fielding attained critical success. Fielding himself, during his career as a novel-writer, and Richardson’s early commentators, insisted on the part played by Marivaux in the making of the English or British novel. Fielding’s recognition of the influence of Marivaux on his own “comic Epic-Poems in Prose” is well-known: Marivaux is acknowledged as a literary model in the first chapter of the third Book of Joseph Andrews, which celebrates “Scarron, the Arabian Nights, the History of Marianne and Le Paisan Parvenu, and perhaps some few other Writers of this Class, whom I have not read, or do not at present recollect” (III, I, 163). In Tom Jones, Marivaux is praised in a famous invocation to the great comic writers of the past, and finds himself, even more illustrious company than in Joseph Andrews: “Come, thou that hast inspired thy Aristophanes, thy Lucian, thy Cervantes, thy Rabelais, thy Molière, thy Shakespeare, thy Swift, thy Marivaux, fill my pages with humour, till mankind learn the good nature to laugh only at the follies of others, and the humility to grieve at their own” (XIII, I, 600-601). Although Richardson himself denied knowledge of French novelists, the vexed question of his possible indebtedness to Marivaux was the subject of important critical assessments during the twentieth century (see Hughes 1917, Crane 1919, and Munro 1975). The study of the influences of Continental fictions in general and Marivaux’s later novels in particular on the eighteenth-century English novel has also received acute critical attention these recent years, especially thanks to the emergence of translation studies.10 Writing about what he calls “Richardson’s English improvement of the novel,” Walter L. Reed has recently challenged some earlier source studies which he believes tended to overestimate Marivaux’s influence on Richardson: “the advent of Richardson’s Pamela,” he writes, “followed by Clarissa and Sir Charles Grandison, was understood as a specific rejection […] of the French novel” as it was illustrated by “Crébillon, Marivaux and Laclos” (Reed 2013, 80, 79). Yet, critics still agree that Pamela, Richardson’s “counter-fiction,” borrowed some of its basic material from Marivaux’s Marianne (Keymer and Sabor 2005, 102-103).

  • 11 I.e. The Life and Entertaining Adventures of Mr. Cleveland (1734-1735), the Memoirs of a Man of Qua (...)

7While Marivaux’s influence on both Richardson and Fielding has received ample commentary, there is another aspect of this history which deserves our attention: the role played by Marivaux’s various translators in the critical rivalry between Richardson and Fielding. The discourses of the translators on the works they were translating tell us a lot about the opposition between fact and fiction in the critical discourse on the novel of that period. All five translations of Marianne and Le Paysan offer extremely unstable and intriguing titles and prefatory materials, especially if we compare these paratexts with the prefaces to the novels of his great contemporary and fellow-novelist abbot Prévost (1697-1763). The English versions of Prévost’s major works11 all contain paratexts that were faithfully translated into English and which reproduced the author’s initial denials of fictionality, even after Richardson and Fielding’s spectacular arrival on the arena of novel-writing and novel criticism, with the publications of Pamela (1740) and Joseph Andrews (1742). Marivaux’s fluctuating front matters, on the other hand, reveal the contested status of fictionality in mid-eighteenth-century England, in that they participate in the critical discourses that were competing for the definition of the novel, more precisely in the context of the Richardson-Fielding rivalry.

  • 12 The first edition is erroneously dated 1741.
  • 13 “As to whether Richardson did in fact know these translations of Marivaux, evidence is inconclusive (...)
  • 14 See Dorrit Cohn, The Distinction of Fiction, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.
  • 15 See Marivaux, La Vie de Marianne, ed. Jean Dagen, Paris, “Folio,” 1997, p. 57: “Ce qui est vrai, c’ (...)
  • 16 “Ce début paraît annoncer un roman : ce n’en est pas un que je raconte ; je dis la vérité comme je (...)
  • 17 In the second edition of this translation of the novel, published in 1743 and comprising the eleven (...)

8When Richardson’s Pamela appeared in November 1940,12 four of the eleven parts of Marianne and four of the five parts of Le Paysan had already been published in English.13 Interestingly, the paratexts of these first translations were originally very faithful to Marivaux’s own rhetorical strategies and reproduced his ambivalent “claims to historicity” (McKeon [1987] 2002, 357-363 and McKeon 2005, 640) or “authorial disavowals” (Davis 1983, 176-177). Marivaux’s own paratext in the first edition of the first instalment of Marianne offers a rather problematic claim to factuality: indeed, the title announces “Les Avantures de Madame La Comtesse de ***. Par Monsieur de Marivaux.[Illustration 1] Marivaux’s name thus appears on the title page of the novel, indicating that the story is fictitious: the first-person confession of a woman explicitly authored by a man can only be fictional to the extent that it institutes an opposition between author and narrator, a kind of distinction that Dorrit Cohn calls a “signpost of fictionality.”14 The writer-reader pact established in the front material of Marianne is thus a fictional contract. On the other hand, the authorial “Avertissement” unexpectedly sets out to establish the referential truth of the memoirs, since, in it, the author claims that the narrative is not “une histoire simplement imaginée” (“a meer Fiction”15). This claim is further confirmed in the preamble of the “Première partie,” in which a supposed friend of the author’s, presenting himself as an amateur editor, states that he discovered Marianne’s manuscript by mere chance in a cupboard, and implies that her story is a true one, in which the real names of the protagonists had to be concealed (the lost manuscript topos was familiar to readers). Later, in the body of the novel, Marianne would claim that her narrative is not “un roman” (“a romance”16). The paratext of the English edition of 1736 is extremely faithful to Marivaux’s initial strategies, announcing in its title The Life of Marianne: Or, The Adventures of the Countess of ***. By M. De Marivaux. Translated from the Original French” [illustration 3], and reproducing the two prefatory texts17 which both claim the story is true. The presence of Marivaux’s name once again cultivates the initial ambiguities, not to say contradictory claims, about the factuality of the narrative.

  • 18 See Marivaux, Le Paysan parvenu, ed. Henri Coulet, Paris, “Folio,” 1981, p. 38: “Parmi les faits qu (...)

9The first French paratext of Le Paysan, ou les Mémoires de M*** (Paris, 1734) [illustration 2] offered, at least in its first instalment, a much less problematic fictional disavowal, since Marivaux’s name did not appear on its title page, and in the incipit, the putative author peasant claims that the “Adventures” (“faits”) he relates are “true” (“vrais”).18 This statement is, to be sure, much more compelling, than the problematic denials of fictionality in Marianne, since the claim of the Paysan is not belied by the presence of Marivaux’s name in the front material. The English editor of the first translation will somehow damage the persuasive substantiating device, probably intending to capitalize on Marivaux’s fame on the title page, Le Paysan Parvenu: Or, The Fortunate Peasant. Being Memoirs of The Life of Mr.—Translated from the French of M. De Marivaux (London, 1735). As in The Life of Marianne, the front page offers an unambiguous signpost of fictionality. Yet, the incipit of the novel reproduces once again Marivaux’s initial claim to factuality.

  • 19 For an account of the epistemological debates over the status of the mid-eighteenth-century English (...)

10Marivaux’s disavowals of the fictional status of his novels were probably not intended to be taken at face value by the competent novel-reader. English novel readers are unlikely to have been more naive than their French counterparts, since most French novels published and translated during the 1720s and 1730s, including those by Prévost, reproduced these rather tongue-in-cheek claims. In their English dress, Marivaux’s novels presented fictional disavowals that were thus not to be naively believed to be true, and the first translators of Marianne and Le Paysan did not fundamentally alter the effects of Marivaux’s prefatory strategies. However, when three later translations appeared during the decade that followed, both the front materials of Marianne and those of Le Paysan underwent drastic alterations. The initial prefaces gave way to definitions of the narratives as either definitely “matter-of-fact” or downright fiction. These new strategies can be interpreted as deriving from an important literary event or “media event” (Warner 1998, 176-230), following the publications of Richardson’s Pamela in 1740 and Fielding’s Joseph Andrews in 1742, which, among other things, took the form of a critical controversy over the epistemological status of the English novel, either defined as grounded in factuality (Richardson) or as pure fictionality (Fielding)19.

2. The Richardsonian Marivaux

11Throughout his career as a novelist, Richardson was reluctant to recognize the fictionality of his narratives. His substantiating claims are familiar to the historian of the early-modern novel. Conversely, Henry Fielding has grained critical acclaim for his preface to Joseph Andrews and various opening chapters to his eighteen books in Tom Jones, which flout the fictionality of his narratives. The rivalry between Richardson and Fielding does not only involve the honour of assuming or sharing the paternity of the English novel: it is also, in Michie’s words, a “critical rivalry,” one that concerns the status of fictionality in general in the mid-eighteenth century.

12After the publication of Richardson’s first fictional work, two post-Pamela translations of Marianne were published within a very short period, one around 1743 by Mary Collyer, and another, anonymous one, three years later. The Collyer translation is preceded by a front material that ostensibly departs from that of the first translation while maintaining some implicit paratextual continuity: Mary Collyer’s version of The Virtuous Orphan: Or, The Life of the Countess of **** [Illustration 4], directly echoes the subtitle of the first translation and its “Adventures of the Countess of***,” while in 1746, the third and anonymous translation of Marianne, entitled The Life and Adventures of Indiana, The Virtuous Orphan recalls the second version in its subtitle, thus providing some sense of continuousness between the three enterprises despite the varying prefaces. Similarly, the second translation of Le Paysan, entitled The Fortunate Villager, echoes the subtitle of the first translation, The Fortunate Peasant. What are the inflexions of the critical discourses deployed in the new front materials?

  • 20 To quote from the subtitle of the first edition (1740) of Richardson’s novel.
  • 21 See, for example, The Pamela Controversy. Criticisms and Adaptations of Samuel Richardson’s Pamela. (...)
  • 22 Even though, as early as 1741, Richardson acknowledged in a letter to Ralph Allen that he had faile (...)

13Both post-Pamela translations of Marianne omit Marivaux’s name in their title pages, therefore allowing the preface-writers to claim more convincingly that the memoirs are authored by a real-life heroine, or at least, to borrow from Richardson’s own statement in Pamela, “has its Foundation in TRUTH and NATURE.20 The removal of Marivaux’s name allows Collyer to state in the title page that the story of “the Countess” was “Written by Herself,” hence reinforcing the claim to factuality, just as, some twenty years earlier, the three parts of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719-1720) were alleged in the front page to have been “Written by Himself.” And although the title page of The Life and Adventures of Indiana [illustration 5] does not claim as explicitly as Collyer that the story is written by the heroine of the novel, Marivaux’s name is similarly cancelled, therefore helping substantiate the whole narrative: the story is told in the first person, and no masculine authorial figure is here to undermine the fiction that Indiana is writing her own story. The credibility of the fictional disavowal is thereby preserved, at least in comparison with the original text and its first translation. This practice is resolutely Richardsonian: it is a well-known fact that Richardson had consistently adopted the posture of the editor from Pamela to Clarissa (1746-1747) and Sir Charles Grandison (1753-1754) partly to present his novels as genuine and authored by his heroines or hero. The complex story of the reception of his fictional disavowals has been studied in detail,21 and it has been shown that Richardson’s ambition was systematically to take the pose of the mere editor.22

  • 23 Richardson to Warburton, April 19, 1748, in Selected Letters of Samuel Richardson (85).

14Richardson justified his attachment to his claims to historicity in a letter to William Warburton. Warburton had contributed a preface to the first edition of volumes III and IV of Clarissa (1748), which embarrassingly contradicted Richardson’s disavowal of the novel’s fictional status, calling Clarissa a “Tale” and awkwardly discussing the genealogy of the genre of the novel in European history. Richardson ensured that the preface would not accompany any subsequent editions, and he felt obliged to explain to his friend the reasons for the suppression of his preface: “I could wish the Air of Genuineness had been kept up, tho’ I want not the letters to be thought genuine; only so far kept up, I mean, as they should not prefatically be owned not to be genuine: and this for fear of weakening their Influence where any of them are aimed to be exemplary: as well as to avoid hurting that kind of Historical Faith which Fiction itself is generally read with, tho’ we know it to be Fiction.”23

15The function of Richardson’s claim to historicity, as in Defoe’s novels some twenty years earlier, is to ground the exemplariness of the story in factuality or, to use his very words, in “genuine[ness],” for the moral elevation of the readers—in Pamela as well as Clarissa and Sir Charles Grandison. The subtitle of the second edition of Mary Collyer’s The Virtuous Orphan (1747) clearly invites comparison with Pamela’s full title. Whereas Pamela was “Published In order to cultivate the Principles of Virtue and Religion in the Minds of the Youth of Both Sexes”, The Virtuous Orphan is “Recommended to the Youth of Both Sexes, as proper to fix in their Minds just Ideas of Virtue and Religion” (my emphasis). Similarly, the anonymous translation of 1746 capitalizes on the Richardsonian precedent, The Life and Adventures of Indiana being also subtitled The Virtuous Orphan, an obvious reference to Pamela, Or, Virtue Rewarded, whereas the final vowel and the unmistakably romantic name of the heroine Indiana recall Pamela’s.

16This Richardsonian rhetorical strategy which ostensibly grounds the story in factuality is faithfully pursued in the editorial paratext of Mary Collyer’s The Virtuous Orphan. Collyer’s preface shares with Pamela a high moral ambition, and literally paraphrases Richardson’s pretence to history as it appears in Pamela. William McBurney and Michael Shurgue have discussed the debt of Mary Collyer’s translation of Marianne to Richardson’s Pamela, and their analyses have inspired more recent critics: “What is certain is that some later translations of Marivaux’s novel, including Mary Collyer’s enormously popular 1742 [sic] The Virtuous Orphan; or, the Life of Marianne, were written by those who had read Pamela’s story” (Dow 2013, 93). This debt is also clearly visible in Collyer’s preface to the book. The generic terms employed by Collyer are typically of the kind one can find in Richardson’s Pamela: in her “Preface,” Collyer cultivates the Richardsonian ambiguity over the fictionality of her book, openly to enforce a moral lesson. Like Richardson, she uses generic terms that suggest that the story is factual, or, to use a phrase which comes up twice in her preface, “matter of fact”: the book is very frequently referred to as a “history” (seven occurrences). Also, in Collyer’s words, The Virtuous Orphan is “a history in familiar and common life” (iv), a phrase that seems to echo Richardson’s presentation of Pamela as a series of “Familiar Letters.” More conventionally, Collyer’s preface recommends “love of virtue” and “abhorrence of vice” (iv), echoing Richardson’s “Preface by the Editor” that claims Pamela “paint[s] Vice in its proper Colours” and “set[s] Virtue in its own amiable Light, to make it truly Lovely” (3). Thus, Collyer’s paratextual strategy is clearly, whether intentionally or unconsciously, to annex Marivaux’s Marianne to Richardson’s Pamela.

17The tone of the anonymous preface to the third translation of Marianne, entitled The Life and Adventures of Indiana, is less encomiastic than Collyer’s flights of enthusiasm and closer to Marivaux’s two introductory apparatuses: it is soberly entitled “To the Reader,” and presents itself as a curious orchestration of three different voices: those of the two original preface-writers (Marivaux and his supposed “friend”) as well as that of Marianne herself, as it includes some of the preliminary remarks made by Marianne in the first pages of the novel, thus transferring part of the narratorial incipit to the prefatory section authored by the translator. The first paragraph of the preface is taken from Marivaux’s “Avertissement,” and the second paragraph is an abridgement from the prologue that precedes the incipit. The preface-writer then argues “I think proper to close my Introduction of this History with relating what she herself begins her Life with, which runs on in Substance as follows” (iv), an announcement that is followed by a selection of sentences borrowed from Marianne’s philosophical remarks offered in the incipit on the transience of beauty. As in Collyer’s preface, the narrative is repeatedly presented as a “history” (five occurrences), and the reader is invited to believe in the authenticity of the narrative. We are not as close to Richardson’s critical discourse as in Mary Collyer’s preface, since Marivaux’s irony is much more perceptible. Yet, the preface-writer calls Marivaux’s novel a “History of the human Heart” (vii), a phrase which did not appear in Marivaux’s preface and which in all likelihood is an invention of the preface writer’s. Besides, this phrase seems to echo Mary Collyer’s own words, who presented her 1743 translation of Marianne as “a useful piece of instruction; a lesson of nature; a true and lively picture of the human heart” (v).

  • 24 Richardson to Sarah Fielding, December 7, 1756, The Correspondence of Samuel Richardson, ed. Anna L (...)
  • 25 James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, ed. Christopher Hibbert, London: Penguin, 1979 (159).
  • 26 Samuel Richardson, Pamela, ed. Thomas Keymer and Alice Wakely, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 200 (...)

18For the historian of literature, the phrases “Picture of the human Heart” (Collyer) and “History of the human Heart” (The Life and Adventures of Indiana) sound distinctly Richardsonian, the knowledge of the human heart being one of his acknowledged prerogatives. It is true that this kind of judgement is today associated with famous critical pronouncements that were made only some years later; we can think of Richardson’s praise of Sarah Fielding’s Familiar Letters Between the Principal Characters of David Simple (1747), in a letter dated December 1756: “What a knowledge of the human heart!”24 Richardson exclaims. This judgement is later echoed in Samuel Johnson’s even more famous appreciation of the difference between Richardson and Fielding: “there is more knowledge of the human heart in one letter of Richardson’s than in all Tom Jones.25 Yet, as early as 1740, Pamela herself had invited the reader to appreciate her creator’s knowledge of the human heart, when she had exclaimed, in a letter to her parents: “there is nothing so hard to be known as the Heart of Man !”26, thus bidding her readers admire Richardson’s own proficiency in the study of the inmost recesses of the human soul, a competence which both Collyer and the anonymous translator of The Life and Adventures of Indiana seem to praise in their prefaces.

  • 27 See Marivaux, La Vie de Marianne (60, 111).
  • 28  In The Virtuous Orphan, the writer’s interlocutor is no longer a friend but an anonymous lady, who (...)

19Finally, after this Richardsonian preface, the translator of the Life and Adventures of Indiana briskly manages to reintroduce the tutelary figure of Richardson: in the opening sentence of the novel, Indiana argues that “[t]he Freedom allowed in the Epistolary kind of Writing will give [her] a Licence to let down whatever Ideas occur to [her] Mind […]” (1, my emphasis). This remark, openly alluding to the genre illustrated by Pamela, is all the more intriguing since The Life and Adventures of Indiana is, in fact, not of the epistolary kind at all! The original eleven parts of the novel (which were presented by Marivaux as so many long epistles from Marianne to an old friend of hers) have been merged into one single undivided unit. Besides, Indiana is no longer addressing a particular friend of hers, as in the original text, but a more general “Reader” (2). Marivaux’s Marianne wrote seven long letters (or instalments) to her “chère amie,”27 and in the first translation of 1736, her “chère amie” had become “my dear Friend” (4).28 The prestige of Pamela’s epistolary form thus seems to have enticed the anonymous translator of The Life and Adventures of Indiana to refer to the epistolary genre in the incipit, as a yet another kind of discreet tribute to Richardson, whereas the narrative is much less of an epistolary nature than even Marivaux’s own version of Marianne. Hence, both post-Pamela translations of Marianne resolutely reinvest the Richardsonian critical discourse on his novel, at the expense of Marivaux’s initial paratextual strategies.

3. The Fieldingesque Marivaux

20If we move on to the other Marivaux novel, Le Paysan Parvenu, and also from Richardson to Fielding, we can trace a perfectly symmetrical movement of appropriation. The first translation of Le Paysan, entitled Le Paysan Parvenu: Or, The Unfortunate Peasant [Illustration 6], appeared in 1735, some seven years before the publication of Fielding’s Joseph Andrews. It contains, as has been noted, an ambiguous fictional disavowal, since the presence of “M. de Marivaux”’s name on the title page implies that the peasant is a fictional character. The post-Joseph Andrews translation of Le Paysan, entitled The Fortunate Villager: Or, Memoirs of Sir Andrew Thompson [Illustration 7], departs from the first translation, with its problematic claims to factuality, to adopt a clearly Fieldingesque view of the nature of fiction writing (the hero’s new Christian name clearly gesturing towards the surname of Fielding’s hero Joseph Andrews): it abandons the usual fictional disavowals of the period in order to promote a recognition of the fictionality of the narrative. Here again, as in the second and third translations of Marianne, Marivaux’s name is significantly abandoned on the title page of The Fortunate Villager – only to reappear at the end of the preface. However, this editorial manipulation is not meant to substantiate the veridical status of Le Paysan as was the case with the second and third translations of Marianne. Indeed, the whole preface to The Fortunate Villager can be read as a critical discourse that is strongly inspired by Fielding’s own reflexive comments on his works. The problematic denials of fictionality of the first translation are now resolutely abandoned, as the translator undertakes to write a kind of manifesto in praise of fiction that recalls Fielding’s own statements: “Novels, though despised by many sensible People, if rightly managed, would be, perhaps, of all others, the most useful Kind of Writing, if, instead of filling them with Heroes, Kings, and Princesses, they were made like Comedies, Pictures of common Life, in which Vices and Follies were to be ridiculed and censured” (ii). This reference to the genre of comedy clearly gestures to Fielding as also the reference to ridicule, which had occupied much of Fielding’s sagacity in the preface to Joseph Andrews. The phrase “Kind of Writing” may echo Fielding’s use of the expression at the beginning of Joseph Andrews, presented in its preface as a “Kind of Writing which I do not remember to have seen hitherto attempted in our Language.” (3). But the clearest allusion to Fielding is the translator’s statement that “[his] only Design, in the following [preface], is to set forth a Bill of Fare, which will acquaint the Reader what Entertainment he is to expect” (i), the Bill of Fare being a direct quotation from the first chapter of the recently published Tom Jones (1748-1749), entitled “The introduction or bill of fare to the feast” (I, i, 29).

21Thus, this Fieldingesque presentation of the new translation of Marivaux’s Paysan abandons the resolute fictional disavowals initially formulated by Marivaux to embrace a discourse that, far from masking the fictionality of the narrative it introduces, flaunts it. Nonetheless, within the body of the text, the peasant’s claims to factuality unexpectedly reappear, creating a kind of double discourse: having introduced himself, the peasant vouches for the truth of his story: “I doubt not, but the Reader will, upon Consideration, own that many of the Stories, which will, throughout the Course of these Memoirs, be interspersed, are pleasing; and let me farther assure him of the undoubted Truth of them; and this is not a Romance drawn up according to Fancy. The Justness of this Assertion, the Sequel will, I hope, sufficiently prove” (4-5). This lack of coherence between the critical discourse of the preface and the claims to veridical status made within the narrative itself shows that Marivaux’s translator did not rewrite his text with full consistency, but this very incoherence is a significant token of Fielding’s influence on the reception of Marivaux’s Paysan.

22Finally, the translator of The Fortunate Villager concludes his preface with considerations on his having rewritten some passages in the novel, a licence which recalls Fielding’s own theory of fiction: “I have ventured to change the Scene of Action from Paris to London; and the Names of the several Personages who fill the Drama, which in the Original are truly French, into downright English” (iv). This liberty taken by the translator not only parallels the substitution of Marianne’s name for Indiana, Marivaux’s Jacob becoming here Sir Andrew Thompson, but also, Fielding’s own theory of fiction as he expounded it in the third book of Joseph Andrews. In novels, Fielding had argued, “the Facts we [novelists] deliver may by relied on, tho’ we often mistake the Age and Country wherein they happened” (III, I, 162). And Fielding goes on to explain that the good novelist, like Lesage or Marivaux, may locate his or her story in the wrong country, though relating facts that can be considered to be “true” in the sense that they are reflecting human nature. This suggestion made by Fielding may indeed have been conceived by the translator of Marivaux’s Le Paysan as an invitation to change the scene of the original story “from Paris to London,” a licence allowed by his great inspirer himself.

23Thus, although Marivaux has commonly been presented as a shaping influence on the British novel, his later novels can also be considered as a sort of disputed literary commodity for his translators, whether they were admirers and followers of Richardson’s or of Fielding’s. The “critical rivalry” between the two British novelists during the 1740s also becomes remarkable if we examine the paratexts of the translations of Marivaux’s masterpieces and their competing arguments about the factuality and/or fictionality of his works. After 1742 especially, when three new publications of Marivaux’s two novels were printed, their front materials underwent drastic alterations, thwarting Marivaux’s initial intentions. Marivaux’s translators rewrote his prefaces in order to inscribe his novels in two separate and mutually incompatible traditions, re-imagining (and thus re-presenting to readers) the French novels in different guises. Whereas the translators of Marianne, who published a Virtuous Orphan around 1743 and a Life and Adventures of Indiana in 1746, drafted news paratexts that literally paraphrased Richardson’s ambivalent discourse about the factuality of his Pamela, its presumed factual truth being meant to back up its moral scope, the translator of Le Paysan Parvenu wrote his own version of what he entitled The Fortunate Villager (1750), whose paratext is an elaborate commentary on the critical discourse that Fielding had deployed in Joseph Andrews and his more recent Tom Jones, two novels that both flout the fictionality of Fielding’s comic romances for entertaining purposes. Hence, the literary controversies that were triggered by the landmark publications of Pamela and Joseph Andrews, by affecting the very paratexts of Marivaux’s Marianne and Le Paysan, testify to Marivaux’s significance in the eyes of his contemporary English readers.

24Illustrations:

Illustration 1 : Title page of the first edition of the first instalment of Marivaux’s La Vie de Marianne, Paris, 1731 (Bibliothèque Nationale de France)

Illustration 2 : Title page of the first edition of the first instalment of Marivaux’s Le Paysan parvenu, Paris, 1734 (Bibliothèque Nationale de France)

Illustration 3: Title page of the first edition of The Life of Marianne: Or, The Adventures of the Countess of ***. By M. De Marivaux. Translated from the Original French, London, 1736 (British Library)

Illustration 4: Title page of the second edition of The Virtuous Orphan: Or, The Life of the Countess of****, London, 1747 [First Edition c. 1743] (British Library)

Illustration 5: Title page of the first edition of The Life and Adventures of Indiana, The Virtuous Orphan, London, 1746 (British Library)

Illustration 6: Title page of the first edition of Le Paysan Parvenu: Or, The Fortunate Peasant. Being Memoirs of The Life of Mr.—, London, 1735 (British Library)

Illustration 7: Title page of the first edition of The Fortunate Villager: Or, Memoirs of Sir Andrew Thompson. In Two Volumes. London [1750?] (British Library)

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Bibliographie

Birkett, Jennifer. “Prose Fiction: Courtly and Popular Romance,” in The Oxford History of Literary Translation in English. Vol. 3, 1660-1790, ed. Stuart Gillespie and David Hopkins, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Boswell, James. The Life of Samuel Johnson, ed. Christopher Hibbert, London: Penguin, 1979.

Cohn, Dorrit. The Distinction of Fiction. Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.

Crane, Ronald S. “A Note on Richardson's Relation to French Fiction,” Modern Philology 16 (1919): 495-499.

Davis, Lennard J., Factual Fictions. The Origins of the English Novel, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press [1983], 1996.

Dow, Gillian, “Criss-Crossing the Channel. The French Novel and English Translation,” in The Oxford Handbook of the Eighteenth-Century Novel, ed. J. A. J. Downie, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013: 88-104.

Fielding, Henry. Joseph Andrews, in Joseph Andrews and Shamela, ed. Douglas Brooks-Davies, Martin C. Battestin and Thomas Keymer, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Fielding, Henry. Tom Jones, ed. John Bender and Simon Stern, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Hughes, Helen Sard. “Translations of the ‘Vie de Marianne’ and Their Relation to Contemporary English Fiction”, Modern Philology 15 (1917): 491-512.

Keymer, Thomas and Peter Sabor. The Pamela Controversy. Criticisms and Adaptations of Samuel Richardson’s Pamela. 1740-1750, London: Pickering and Chatto, 2001.

Keymer, Thomas and Peter Savor. Pamela in the Marketplace. Literary Controversy and Print Culture in Eighteenth-Century Britain and Ireland, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Keymer, Thomas. Samuel Richardson’s Published Commentary on Clarissa, London, Pickering and Chatto, 1998.

Marivaux. La Vie de Marianne, ed. Jean Dagen, Paris: Gallimard, “Folio,” 1997.

Marivaux. The Life of Marianne: Or, The Adventures of the Countess of ***. By M. De Marivaux. Translated from the Original French, London, 1736 (2nd edition “Revised and Corrected,” London, 1743).

Marivaux. The Virtuous Orphan: Or, The Life of the Countess of****. The Second Edition. In Two Volumes. Translated From the French. Recommended to the Youth of Both Sexes, as proper to fix in their Minds just Ideas of Virtue and Religion [1st edition c. 1743], 2nd edition, London, 1747. Ed. William H. McBurney and Michael F. Shugrue, Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1965.

Marivaux. The Life and Adventures of Indiana, The Virtuous Orphan, London, 1746.

Marivaux. Le Paysan parvenu, ed. Henri Coulet, Paris: Gallimard, “Folio,” 1981.

Marivaux. Le Paysan Parvenu: Or, The Fortunate Peasant. Being Memoirs of The Life of Mr.—. Translated From the French of M. De Marivaux. London, 1735.

Marivaux. The Fortunate Villager: Or, Memoirs of Sir Andrew Thompson. In Two Volumes. London [1750?].

McKeon, Michael. The Origins of the English Novel, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press [1987], 2002.

McKeon, Michael. The Secret History of Domesticity, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005.

McMurran, Mary Helen. The Spread of Novels. Translation and Prose Fiction in the Eighteenth Century, Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2010.

Michie, Allen, Richardson and Fielding. The Dynamics of a Critical Rivalry, Lewisburg and London: Associated University Presses, 1999.

Millet, Baudouin. “Ceci n’est pas un roman.” L’évolution du statut de la fiction en Angleterre de 1652 à 1754, Leuven, Paris, Dudley, Mass.: Peeters, 2007.

Millet, Baudouin, ed. In Praise of Fiction. Prefaces to Romances and Novels, 1650-1760, Leuven, Paris, Bristol, CT: Peeters, 2017.

Munro, James S. “Richardson, Marivaux, and the French Romance Tradition,” The Modern Language Review 70 (1975): 752-759.

Paulson, Ronald and Thomas Lockwood, Henry Fielding. The Critical Heritage, Abingdon: Routledge, 1969.

Reed, Walter L. “The Continental Influence on the Eighteenth-Century Novel,” in The Oxford Handbook of the Eighteenth-Century Novel, ed. J. A. J. Downie, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013: 73-87.

Richardson, Samuel. Pamela, ed. Thomas Keymer and Alice Wakely, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Richardson, Samuel. Clarissa, ed. Angus Ross, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985.

Richardson, Samuel. The Correspondence of Samuel Richardson, ed. Anna Laetitia Barbault, London, 1804 (6 vols). Reprint, New York: AMS Press, 1966.

Richardson, Samuel. Selected Letters of Samuel Richardson, ed. John Carroll, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964.

Warner, William B. Licensing Entertainment. The Elevation of Novel Reading in Britain, 1684-1750, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1998.

Williams, Ioan. Novel and Romance, 1700-1800. A Documentary Record, New York: Barnes and Noble, 1970.

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Notes

1 I am grateful to Orla Smyth who kindly accepted to reread an early draft of this article and made many precious suggestions.

2 The authors who mention Marivaux in relation to Fielding are William Warburton, in a footnote in his edition of The Works of Alexander Pope (1751), Francis Coventry in the “Epistle Dedicatory” to his The History of Pompey the Little (1752), Elizabeth Montagu in George, Lord Lyttelton’s Dialogues of the Dead (Dialogue XVIII, 1760), and Arthur Murphy in his “An Essay on the Life and Genius of Henry Fielding, Esq.” (1762).

3 “The Translator’s Preface” to the English translation of Christian Fürchtegott Gellert’s Das Leben der Schwedischen Gräfin von G*** (1747-1748) quotes The Literary Gazette of February 14, 1749, written in praise of both Marivaux and Richardson: “We may venture to say, that the History of the Countess of G* merits the same favourable Reception, with which the Pamela of England, and the Marianne of France, have been deservedly honoured.” See the Preface to The History of the Swedish Countess of G* (1752), in In Praise of Fiction. Prefaces to Romances and Novels, 1650-1760, ed. Baudouin Millet, Leuven, Paris, Bristol, CT: Peeters, 2017, p. 425.

4 The first edition of Collyer’s translation is lost. The second edition was published in London in 1747. The first reference to her translation entitled The Virtuous Orphan features on the title page of another novel translated from the French: Memoirs of the Countess de Bressol… Done from the French by the Translator of the Virtuous Orphan: Or, the Life of Marianne. London, Jacob Robinson, 1743 (see Hugues 1917, 110). Collyer’s translation was reprinted in 1965 by William H. McBurney and Michael F. Shugrue (see bibliography).

5 In 1736, Marivaux issued the 4th (in March), 5th (in September) and 6th (November) parts of the work, while the 7th and 8th appeared in February and December 1737, and the 9th, 10th and 11th were published in March 1742.

6 The titles of both editions are similar (The Life of Marianne: Or, The Adventures of the Countess of***. By M. De Marivaux. Translated from the Original French), save for the fact that the second edition, published in two volumes, is advertised as “The Second Edition, Revised and Corrected.”

7 The Virtuous Orphan: Or, The Life of the Countess of****. Written by Herself [1743?], London, 1747.

8 Namely, The Life and Adventures of Indiana, The Virtuous Orphan, London, 1746.

9 This first edition was reprinted in Dublin in 1739, also comprising the first four parts only, although in the meantime a fifth part had appeared in France in April 1735.

10 See Birkett 2005, Dow 2013, Reed 2013 and McMurran 2010, especially Chapter Four, “The Cross-Channel Emergence of the Novel”: 99-129.

11 I.e. The Life and Entertaining Adventures of Mr. Cleveland (1734-1735), the Memoirs of a Man of Quality (1738), The History of a Fair Greek (1741) and The Dean of Coleraine (1742). When all four novels were reprinted after the “media event” publications of Pamela and Joseph Andrews, none of their paratexts were modified. See Williams 1970, 88-92 and Millet 2017, 335-341.

12 The first edition is erroneously dated 1741.

13 “As to whether Richardson did in fact know these translations of Marivaux, evidence is inconclusive” (Munro 1975, 752).

14 See Dorrit Cohn, The Distinction of Fiction, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.

15 See Marivaux, La Vie de Marianne, ed. Jean Dagen, Paris, “Folio,” 1997, p. 57: “Ce qui est vrai, c’est que si c’était une histoire simplement imaginée, il y a toute apparence qu’elle n’aurait pas la forme qu’elle a.” (“The Truth is, that, was this history a meer Fiction, very likely the Form of it would have been different.” The Life of Marianne, London, 1736, “Advertisement”, (1).

16 “Ce début paraît annoncer un roman : ce n’en est pas un que je raconte ; je dis la vérité comme je l’ai apprise de ceux qui m’ont élevée.” La Vie de Marianne, p. 62 (“I own this looks like the Beginning of a Romance. Nevertheless, what I tell you has nothing in it romantick, and is just as I had it from those that brought me up. ” The Life of Marianne, London, 1736, p. 7).

17 In the second edition of this translation of the novel, published in 1743 and comprising the eleven parts of the book, Marivaux’s “Advertissement” is dropped, but the preamble with its denial of fictionality is kept by the editor.

18 See Marivaux, Le Paysan parvenu, ed. Henri Coulet, Paris, “Folio,” 1981, p. 38: “Parmi les faits que j’ai à raconter, je crois qu’il y en aura de curieux ; qu’on me passe mon style en leur faveur ; j’ose assurer qu’ils sont vrais. Ce n’est point ici une Histoire forgée à plaisir, et je crois qu’on le verra bien” (“Among the Adventures which I’m about to relate, I believe some will be thought curious; and in Favour of them, I hope my Stile will find Excuse: this I dare assure the Reader, that the Facts are all really true, it’s not a History forg’d for Diversion, which I imagine will easily be discern’d.” Le Paysan Parvenu: Or, The Fortunate Peasant, London, 1735, p. 3).

19 For an account of the epistemological debates over the status of the mid-eighteenth-century English novel in relation to Richardson and Fielding, see Millet 2007.

20 To quote from the subtitle of the first edition (1740) of Richardson’s novel.

21 See, for example, The Pamela Controversy. Criticisms and Adaptations of Samuel Richardson’s Pamela. 1740-1750, ed. Thomas Keymer and Peter Sabor, London: Pickering and Chatto, 2001; and Samuel Richardson’s Published Commentary on Clarissa, ed. Thomas Keymer, London: Pickering and Chatto, 1998.

22 Even though, as early as 1741, Richardson acknowledged in a letter to Ralph Allen that he had failed to “pass as the Editor only, as [he] once hoped to do.” Letter to Ralph Allen on 8 October 1741, in Selected Letters of Samuel Richardson, ed. John Carroll, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964 (52).

23 Richardson to Warburton, April 19, 1748, in Selected Letters of Samuel Richardson (85).

24 Richardson to Sarah Fielding, December 7, 1756, The Correspondence of Samuel Richardson, ed. Anna Laetitia Barbault (London 1804), vol. II (104).

25 James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, ed. Christopher Hibbert, London: Penguin, 1979 (159).

26 Samuel Richardson, Pamela, ed. Thomas Keymer and Alice Wakely, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001 (120).

27 See Marivaux, La Vie de Marianne (60, 111).

28  In The Virtuous Orphan, the writer’s interlocutor is no longer a friend but an anonymous lady, who is addressed as “Madam” in the opening sentence: “I am surprized, Madam, to find that the few incidents of my life, which made up part of the conversation the last time I did myself the honour to spend some days at your rural retreat, should have so far raised your curiosity, as to make you intreat me to give you the whole” (1).

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Table des illustrations

Légende Illustration 1 : Title page of the first edition of the first instalment of Marivaux’s La Vie de Marianne, Paris, 1731 (Bibliothèque Nationale de France)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/12379/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 125k
Légende Illustration 2 : Title page of the first edition of the first instalment of Marivaux’s Le Paysan parvenu, Paris, 1734 (Bibliothèque Nationale de France)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/12379/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 23k
Légende Illustration 3: Title page of the first edition of The Life of Marianne: Or, The Adventures of the Countess of ***. By M. De Marivaux. Translated from the Original French, London, 1736 (British Library)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/12379/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 97k
Légende Illustration 4: Title page of the second edition of The Virtuous Orphan: Or, The Life of the Countess of****, London, 1747 [First Edition c. 1743] (British Library)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/12379/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 157k
Légende Illustration 5: Title page of the first edition of The Life and Adventures of Indiana, The Virtuous Orphan, London, 1746 (British Library)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/12379/img-5.png
Fichier image/png, 77k
Légende Illustration 6: Title page of the first edition of Le Paysan Parvenu: Or, The Fortunate Peasant. Being Memoirs of The Life of Mr.—, London, 1735 (British Library)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/12379/img-6.png
Fichier image/png, 126k
Légende Illustration 7: Title page of the first edition of The Fortunate Villager: Or, Memoirs of Sir Andrew Thompson. In Two Volumes. London [1750?] (British Library)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/12379/img-7.png
Fichier image/png, 99k
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Baudouin MILLET, « Appropriating Marivaux: The first English translations of La Vie de Marianne and Le Paysan Parvenu and the critical rivalry between Richardson and Fielding (1736-1750) »E-rea [En ligne], 18.2 | 2021, mis en ligne le 15 juin 2021, consulté le 06 août 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/erea/12379 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/erea.12379

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Auteur

Baudouin MILLET

Université Lumière – Lyon 2
Baudouin.Millet@univ-lyon2.fr
Baudouin Millet est maître de conférences au Département d’Études du Monde Anglophone de l’Université Lumière – Lyon 2, où il enseigne la littérature et la traduction. Il travaille sur l’histoire et les théories du roman au cours des dix-septième et dix-huitième siècles en Angleterre. Il a fait paraître deux livres en 2018 : une traduction et édition critique des Excès de l’amour [Love in Excess] (1719-1720) de Eliza Haywood, chez Classiques Garnier, ainsi qu’une édition des deux parties de Robinson Crusoé (1719) de Daniel Defoe, aux éditions Gallimard (Bibliothèque de la Pléiade).

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