The website for the AHRC Network: ‘Decadence and Translation’ features an online translation case study using rare and original manuscripts by the French poet, Stéphane Mallarmé
A letter from Mallarmé to Whistler, with French transcription, English translation and editorial notes
The AHRC Network ‘Decadence and Translation’ is led by Dr Matthew Creasy (University of Glasgow) and Professor Stefano-Maria Evangelista (Trinity College, Oxford). The project website contains information about members the network, the network’s activities, as well as links to useful sources of information. It also features an interactive online translation case study using rare and original manuscripts by the French poet, Stéphane Mallarmé.
During a visit to Mallarmé in February 1892, the American artist James McNeill Whistler came across a notebook into which the poet has copied a set of quatrains, four line poems in the form of addresses. Mallarmé took a particular interest in creating ‘occasional’ verse – poems inscribed on objects and gifts such as fans or even glacé fruit, or poems that celebrate a particular person or event. The quatrains that Whistler discovered were all supposed to be written on envelopes for letters to his literary and artistic friends (although it’s not clear how many of them were actually sent).
Fascinated, Whistler undertook to get these poems into print for Mallarmé. He touted a manuscript copy of these poems to his own publisher, William Heinemann, under the title of Récréations postales. When this proposal was turned down, he took them to James Osgood of McIlvaine and Co. By September 1893 it looked as if a deluxe edition of 89 quatrains would be published the next year. But for unknown reasons, this never happened. Instead, a smaller edition of 27 quatrains appeared as ‘Loisirs de la poste’ in an American periodical called the Chap Book in December 1894. The fuller version of these poems was only published after Mallarmé’s death in volume called Vers de circonstance (1920).
Autograph copies of all 89 quatrains are now held at Glasgow University Library. These came to the Library through the gift of Whistler’s daughter-in-law, Rosalie Birne Philips and were included amongst a wealth of books, painting and manuscripts that make up the Whistler holdings in Special Collections.
As part of the ‘Decadence and Translation’ Network’s activities, the project is using a small selection of these quatrains for a translation case study. In addition to images of the manuscripts you will find transcriptions of the French originals and translations into plain English prose. These have all been annotated (click on underlined words and phrases for more information). Readers are encouraged to contribute translations, versions or imitations of Mallarmé’s poems in any language form.
Project website: https://dandtnetwork.glasgow.ac.uk/