Imatges de pÓgina


But the whole tone of the correspondence makes against the truth of it. To judge from his reports, Walsh was a man of some education and plenty of natural shrewdness, and would have been very unlikely to entertain such a delusion. If the incident really happened, it seems much more likely that it was Thomas Jones or some other rustic informant who heard Coleridge talking about 'Spy Nozy,' and concluded that it was his name for the detective.

But even if all the details of Coleridge's narrative cannot be accepted, it is undoubtedly true in the spirit. The people of Alfoxton, suddenly confronted with a group of poets in the flesh, were deeply impressed with their interest in all the details of the country-side, and could only account for it on the theory that they had some mysterious but strictly practical object. It was an exact reproduction in real life-only substituting the country for the town of the somewhat fantastic situation that Browning described in `How it Strikes a Contemporary':

I only knew one poet in my life :
And this, or something like it, was his way.

You saw go up and down Valladolid
A man of mark, to know next time you saw. ...
He took such cognizance of men and things,
If any beat a horse, you felt he saw;
If any cursed a woman, he took note.
So, next time that a neighbour's tongue was loosed,
It marked the shameful and notorious fact,
We had among us, not so much a spy,
As a recording chief-inquisitor,
The town's true master if the town but knew!
We merely kept a Governor for form,
While this man walked about and took account
Of all thought, said, and acted, then went home,
And, wrote it fully to our Lord the King.




HAVING had occasion to rearrange my collection of books, which conscientiously I cannot describe as a library,' I came across a few odd volumes of a French magazine entitled Journal pour tous, which having come into my possession some considerable time ago, had been put aside for examination and reference when some special occasion might require it. The hour has come, bringing the opportunity. This French magazine, which seems nowadays so old fashioned in form, was illustrated in a style occasionally reminding me of the London Journal of half a century ago, when its pictures were by John Gilbert, afterwards Sir John Gilbert, whose masterly work in black and white has rarely been equalled, and, as far as I am aware, never been surpassed.

The Journal pour tous was started in 1855, its first number appearing on the 1st of April (an unfortunate date perhaps) in that year. The price of this Magasin Hebdomadaire illustré was dix centimes, and it could be obtained, among other places, à la librairie de MM. L. Hachette et Cie., rue Pierre-Sarrazin.' Its object was to interest and amuse, and, writes the editor of that time, Charles Lahure, Nous faisons une loi absolue à tous nos collaborateurs de ne rien écrire qui puisse blesser la morale. With this excellent purpose in view, Romans Etrangers were immediately laid under contribution, and in the first number appear translations of works by such wellknown writers as Carleton, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Warren (Dix mille guinées de rente), W. M. Thackeray, Longfellow, N. Hawthorne, and others. It is noticeable that in this list the name of Charles Dickens does not appear in the first four volumes of the magazine, although we are supplied with two pages of Thackeray's Henry Esmond, Mémoires d'un Officier de Marlborough. As far as I can make out, we are not presented with any selection from the works of Charles Dickens, until we reach the last two months of the fifth year of the Journal pour tous, when suddenly we are confronted with La Prison pour Dettes, which is the title given by the adapting translator to the excerpt from Mr. Pickwick's adventures commencing with the celebrated trial and ending with his incarceration in the Fleet Prison.

The extract from Pickwick which I have just come across in the Journal pour tous commences with what I find to be the second chapter of the second volume of The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club as published in that well-known form so convenient for travellers' pockets, in more senses than one, 'The Tauchnitz Edition, 1842.' This chapter ii. vol. Ü.' corresponds with Chapter XXXI. in Chapman and Hall's ‘Memorial edition. These details I mention for the benefit of any of my readers who may wish to compare the quotations with the original.

The French translator evidently did his work most conscientiously and most carefully. The difficulty that will present itself to any Dickensian student will of course be expressed in the question, 'How on earth could Sam Weller's cockneyisms be anything like equivalently rendered in French so as to convey to the foreign reader a correct idea of the English original—that is, of the “ English as she was spoke" by the immortal Samuel, not Johnson, but Weller?' We shall see.

We commence with the description of certain dark and dirty chambers in various holes and corners of the Temple, in and out of which may be seen constantly hurrying with bundles of papers under their arms an almost uninterrupted succession of lawyer's clerks, 'une armée de clercs d'avoués portant d'enormes paquets de papiers sous leurs bras et dans leurs poches.'

Then comes Dickenss delightful enumeration of the various kinds of clerks, their habits, customs, and manners, followed by a picture of the sequestered nooks which are the public offices of the legal profession, that is as Charles Dickens knew them, not it may be as they are nowadays, since so many extensive alterations have been effected.

The French adapter came across this picturesque Hogarthian kind of description of the mouldy rooms where

innumerable rolls of parchment which have been perspiring in secret for the last century send forth an agreeable odour which is mingled by day with the scent of the dry rot, and by night with the various exhalations which arise from damp cloaks, festering umbrellas, and the coarsest tallow candles.

Now how would the translator manage the 'festering umbrellas '? I give the passage :

Ce sont, pour la plupart, des salles basses, sentant le renfermé, où d'innombrables feuilles de parchemin qui y transpirent en secret depuis un siècle, émettent un agréable parfum, auquel vient se mêler, pendant la journée, une odeur de moisissure, et, pendant la nuit, des exhalaisons de manteaux, de parapluies humides et de chandelles rances.

His rendering of 'festering umbrellas ' is decidedly disappointing, for though it may be no easy task for an English admirer of Dickens graphically to explain, or, if a draughtsman, to draw a picture showing precisely what the author intended to convey by his strikingly, but strangely, chosen adjective 'festering,' yet the substitution of humides takes all the noisomeness out of the description and gives us simply

what Mr. Mantalini would have termed a 'demmed, moist, uncomfortable' umbrella.

We now come to the moment' vers sept heures et demie du soir,". which has been selected by Mr. Jackson of the house of Dodson and Fogg as opportune for serving subpoenas on Messrs. Tupman, Snodgrass, Winkle, and Sam Weller, ordering them to appear as witnesses at the forthcoming trial of Bardell versus Pickwick. Mr. Snodgrass having been duly 'served,' Mr. Jackson, turning sharply upon Mr. Tupman, said, 'I think I ain't mistaken when I say your name's Tupman, am I?'

The difficulty for the translator is to convey to the French reader the commonplace, vulgar personality conveyed in the expression 'I ain't mistaken.' 'Ain't' is the difficulty. It simply could not be rendered. So Monsieur Jackson, le clerc lui dit, “Je ne me trompe pas en disant que votre nom est Tupman, Monsieur ?",

And again, how difficult for a Frenchman to exactly render the vulgar English colloquialism used by Jackson, who, to a question put to him by Mr. Pickwick, playfully rejoined, ‘Not knowin', can't say.' This seems to me effectively done by 'Peux pas dire ...

Sais pas.'

Then to Mr. Pickwick's question as to why the subpoenas were served on his friends, Mr. Jackson replies,' slowly shaking his head.' 'Very good plant, Mr. Pickwick. But it won't do. There's no harm in trying, but there's little to be got out of me.'

Which is thus rendered in good French slang of the period :

• Votre souricière est très-bonne, Monsieur Pickwick,' repliqua Jackson en secouant la tête; “Mais je ne donne pas dans le panneau. Il n'y a pas de mal à essayer, mais il n'y a pas grand chose de tirer de moi.'

This is put very neatly and effectively.

I wish it were possible to reproduce here the illustration which appears on this page, showing Mr. Pickwick à la Française, indignant, bareheaded, irately addressing himself to a wigged and gowned barrister, wearing enormous bands and low shoes with buckles, who, as I had at first imagined, was intended as a Mephistophelian legal functionary representing Messrs. Dodson and Fogg in person; but, as will be evident later on, I was misled. Behind Mr. Pickwick, a little to the right, stands a strapping Sam Weller, six feet high if he's an inch, with folded arms, clutching in his right hand his master's hat, which the latter has given him to hold. On Sam's head is a sort of Court footman's hat with a cockade attached ; instead of an overcoat be wears an ostler's old-fashioned long waistcoat with sleeves, and his continuations are baggy breeches with a line of exterior buttons from hip to ankle, where they become very full, and just by a couple of inches fail in reaching the toe of his boot. The faithful servant is stolidly standing with eyes closed while his somewhat heavy countenance is slightly lit up by a gentle half-smile. The whole scene is

thoroughly characteristic of a clever French artist's representation in black and white (curiously resembling some of Sir John Gilbert's earlier work) of such dramatic action as ought to be furnished by a situation' in an English court of law. Underneath is the legend, 'Mr. Pickwick mit ses lunettes et contempla le chef du jury.' So that the individual in wig, gown, and bands whom at first I had taken for some distinguished legal functionary, born of the artist's imagination, representing the firm of solicitors, Messrs. Dodson and Fogg, turns out to be intended for ‘le chef du jury,' whom Mr. Pickwick, having put on ses lunettes, regards with 'un cæur palpitant et une contenance agitée.' Needless to say, this thrilling scene as represented by the imaginative artist, is not to be found in the original Pickwick, where, not in the hall, but from his seat in the court which he never quitted during the trial, Mr. Pickwick 'put on his spectacles and gazed at the foreman with an agitated countenance and a quickly beating heart.'

Before leaving this interesting chapter we cannot help being struck by a note explanatory of a certain portion of the dialogue before the trial between Mr. Pickwick and Sam, who points out to his master that the day fixed for the trial is ‘Walentine's day, sir, reg'lar good day for a breach o'promise trial.'

But the French writer cannot contrive the rendering of the 'w' for the 'y' which, though the common vulgarism of Dickens' time, has long ago almost, if not quite, entirely disappeared; old boatmen, labourers and their wives, in some parts of Kent, retained, and still retain this substitution, long after it had disappeared from London.

* Le jour de Saint Valentine, monsieur. Fameux jour pour juger une violation de promesse de mariage.' And to this our author adds this explanatory note :

Jour où un grand nombre d'amoureux et d'amoureuses s'adressent, sous le voile de l'anonyme, des déclarations sérieuses ou ironiques. Miss Bardell (note the Miss '] etait une intrigante qui, dirigée par Dodson et Fogg, voulait profiter d'une plaisanterie pour se faire épouser par M. Pickwick.

This puts the whole story into a nutshell, and at once disposes, at least for all French readers, of ‘Mrs.' or rather Miss Bardell.'

The French adapter makes short work of the trial, breaking off in the middle of the eloquent address delivered by ‘Mo. Buzfuz'Maître being taken as equivalent to the ancient title of 'Serjeant,' which has now ceased to exist--and giving his own explanation as to the omission of all the evidence for plaintiff and defendant. Thus he treats it :

Mo. Buzfuz continua avec grande émotion.

Mais le sténographe chargé de recueillir ses paroles s'étant obstiné à nous refuser la communication de ses notes, nos lecteurs y perdront un morceau qui eût fait envie à Démosthène. Qu'il nous suffise de dire que Mo. Buzfuz dans sa péroraison, foudroya M. Pickwick. Le philosophe trembla un instant d'avoir été jusque-là un profond scélérat, sans s'en être jamais douté,

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