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101 Sarah Austin and the Politics ofTranslation in the1830s J u dith Johnston • Sarah Austin was an earlyVictorian translator of note, working to supplement the income of her lawyer husband, John Austin, and after his death editing and publishing his famous treatise on jurisprudence. She belonged to that Unitarian circle of intellectual thinkers, writers, and philosophers that included Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, the Grotes, and the Carlyles, and she was related to the Martineaus. Her nephew was Henry Reeve, later an influential and long-term editor of theWhig quarterly, the Edinburgh Review, from 1855 to 1895. As I have noted elsewhere, Austin, Carlyle, and Coleridge spearheaded an industry that introduced German intellectual thought into England (Johnston 124).Austin had located what we would term today a niche market, in which she offered British readers a range of texts translated, or, to useAndré Lefevere’s term, “rewritten,” from the German.1 Austin’s translations from the German in the decade between 1831 and 1841 were especially significant in introducing German intellectual thinking and writing into England.2 One contemporary commentator notes in a review of Fragments from German ProseWriters that Austin “has done more, perhaps, than any living writer, to bring the German mind into contact with the English” (“Austin’s German ProseWriters” 504–06). Like that of her contemporaries,Austin’s engagement with literature and translation characterized the practice of a generation of thinkers whose early work would come to inform the intellectual thrust of theVictorian age. This is especially so with regard to the literary output of women. Across the decade, Austin offered to the English “non-professional reader” Hermann Pückler-Muskau’s Tour in England, Ireland and France, in theYears 1828 and 1829 (1832); Characteristics of Goethe (1833), from the German of Johann Falk and Friedrich von Müller, among others; Friedrich von Raumer’s England in 1835 (1836); and Leopold von Ranke’s The Ecclesiastical and Political History of the Popes of Rome (1840) and Fragments from German Prose Writers (1841). While Austin also translated works from the French by Cousin, Sismondi, and Guizot, French was far more established in Britain as the second language of the educated middle classes.Austin’s own correspondence reveals the degree to which this was so in her particular case, extensively interlarded as it is with French words and phrases (as are her translations).The personal correspondence of other British women of the same period and of comparable intellectual and social victorian review • Volume 34 Number 1 102 standing (Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Harriet Martineau, and Anna Jameson, for instance) suggests, however, that Austin’s extensive use of French forms and idioms was idiosyncratic. LikeAustin, Martineau and Jameson were both travel writers and translators, contributing to non-fiction fields that were readily accessible to women as well as very marketable.As the reviews of the magisterial Quarterly and Edinburgh Review amply demonstrate, travel accounts were a dominant literary form in the early decades of the nineteenth century.Translation and travel writing also have a symbiotic relationship.The following excerpt from a review ofAntoine Berman’s The Experience of the Foreign summarizes precisely my point:“Translation is clearly but radically defined … as the model for all forms of transmission between cultures … since it is Berman’s belief that cultures only develop a sense of identity by testing themselves against what is foreign and testing the Other against themselves.” (qtd. in Esterhammer 233). For these reasons, I find it significant that Austin translated accounts by two German writers and scholars of their excursions into England.This foregrounds for me two factors that may have influencedAustin’s choice of texts to offer the reading public.The first is strategic. Nothing sells so well to a reading public as accounts of their own nation by visiting dignitaries.As Charles Buller remarks in his review of Briefe eines Verstorbenen, Pückler-Muskau’s German original, the“English public has always displayed what we consider a laudable curiosity to know the opinions respecting their country and themselves, entertained by intelligent foreign travelers” (290).3 In the 1830s, England was emerging as a significant political entity, and the nation was caught up in a process of self...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 101-113
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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