Theorizing Translation in a Woman's Voice

Subversions of the Rhetoric of Patronage, Courtly Love, and Morality by Early Modern Women Translators

Originally published in The Translator 1.2 (November 1995): 153-75.

1. Background

It is widely recognized among scholars of the history of translation and its theory that English women began to translate, and to write translation theory, in the sixteenth century, the era of women's — particularly wealthy upper-class women's — expanding access to education and what Jürgen Habermas calls the public sphere. Several important collections of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century women's writings include important early translator's prefaces, especially Betty Travitsky's The Paradise of Women: Writings By Englishwomen of the Renaissance. Margaret Patterson Hannay's Silent But for the Word: Tudor Women as Patrons, Translators, and Writers of Religious Works, Moira Ferguson's First Feminists: British Women Writers 1578-1799, and Mary Beth Rose's Women in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: Literary and Historical Perspectives. After a scattering of important shorter studies by Rita Verbrugge and John A. Gee on Margaret More Roper, Anne Lake Prescott and Ruth Highey on Queen Elizabeth, and Mary Ellen Lamb and Ruth Highey on the Cooke sisters, in 1992 Tina Krontiris published the first book-length study of these early women translators and translation theorists, Oppositional Voices: Women as Writers and Translators of Literature in the English Renaissance.

What has not yet been explored, and what I propose to discuss in some detail here, are the rhetorical means by which these women — specifically four women, Margaret Tyler in 1578, Suzanne du Vegerre in 1638, Katherine Philips in the 1660s, and Aphra Behn in the 1680s, but more generally several centuries of women writers, thinkers, and translators — came to voice, found a public voice, discovered channels through which they could speak and be heard beyond the confines of the home. What I hope to show, in fact, is that these women's rhetorical strategies operated on and with precisely the various rhetorics of submission that had thitherto confined them to the domestic sphere, traditionally the only realm in which a woman's voice should be used and could be heard; that these women came to voice by working subversively within established rhetorics of submission, working to transform those rhetorics into surreptitiously empowering channels of expression that nevertheless continued to reassure the conservative male guardians of the public sphere with stylized gestures of obeisance.
Specifically, I want to argue that English women translation theorists of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries subverted three rhetorics that men had used for centuries to show their subservience to social superiors (wealthy aristocrats or royalty, high church officials) or, ironically enough, to women: the rhetoric of patronage, the rhetoric of courtly love, and the rhetoric of morality. The first two are in any case strikingly similar: both explicitly stage the speaker or writer as a humble suppliant, begging someone for a boon, a favor, a gift — of money and various other forms of professional assistance and advancement in the case of patronage, of sexual favors (or, more ideally, love) in the case of courtship — and both require the suppliant to praise the exalted addressee as the "price" of the favors requested.

These two rhetorics clearly traverse the contested ground not only of social power and gender but of the public and the private as well. The rhetoric of courtly love was not the only realm in which men placed themselves in a subordinate position with regard to women; this was often the case in the rhetoric of patronage as well, whenever a lower-class man begged an upper-class woman for her support in his artistic endeavors. Both rhetorics, then, implicitly undermine the conventional patriarchal hierarchy according to which men are intrinsically superior to women. Another wrinkle in this crisscrossing of discursive power is what Tolstoi called the paradox of power: the "powerful" person, the person beseeched for favors, is also placed in an awkward kind of dependency upon the beseecher, largely in this case because the social regulation of discursive values makes it virtually impossible (at least without a grave loss of status) for the beseeched to initiate the transaction. An aristocrat who offers to pay someone to sing his or her praises is perceived in much the same light as a woman who offers herself to a man of her choosing: as a prostitute, a whore. The rhetorics of patronage and courtly love thus at once exalt and restrict the beseeched patron or beloved: portrayed by society as possessors of various kinds of riches and thus power, they are simultaneously required to wait more or less passively for someone to come along and ask them to share some of those riches in return for songs of praise.
The rhetoric of morality operates somewhat differently, taking its authority from religion, from God and his church, and thus imposing upon its user a conflicted superiority that is rhetorically grounded in humility: the moralist only claims superior knowledge, only claims to know what must be done better than everyone else, through humble submission to the will of God. Renaissance women borrowed this rhetoric too from centuries of male use; as Rita Copeland has shown, all through the Middle Ages a "translation" tradition associated with grammar and painful fidelity to the letter of the original ran parallel to a "commentary" tradition associated with rhetoric and an overriding concern for the "right" or moral understanding of the reader. In this latter tradition it was perfectly acceptable to modify a text, add to it or subtract from it, exfoliate it with moral or historical glosses that had the effect of assimilating a text distant in time and place to what contemporary readers already knew and what they needed to know, prune it of pagan influences, and so on. The Ovide moralisé is only the most famous example of this medieval approach to a foreign text; in practice, contrary to the Renaissance myth of the "bad" literalist medieval translator, nearly all vernacular texts in the Middle Ages (whether identified as "translations" or not) were written in this fashion. Copeland puts this tension in a useful historical and disciplinary context:

In describing how he has translated some models of Attic oratory, Cicero states: "I did not translate them as an interpreter but as an orator." This opposition between ways of translating is really part of a much larger issue, the conflict over disciplinary hegemony. From Cicero's position, to translate like an "interpreter' isw to practice within the restricted competence of the textual critic whose duty is to gloss word for word; and this is a restriction that the profession of rhetoric (Cicero's profession) historically imposed on the profession of grammar. To translate as an "orator" is to exercise the productive power of rhetoric, a power which rhetoric asserted and maintained by purposefully distinguishing itself from grammar. As we can see from even this cursory view of Cicero's pronouncement, the real underlying issue is not how to define the terms of good translation, but rather how to define the disciplinary status and cultural privilege of rhetoric. Translation was only one of the sites on which this larger conflict was played out, and a theory of translation did not come into being except as an instrument of this disciplinary contest. (Copeland 1991:2)

What Renaissance women (and men) added to this rhetorical "discipline" of translation was a middle-class tone. By the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the middle classes were increasingly powerful in society; and as medieval Christian morality was gradually assimilated to middle-class values (thrift, hard work, common sense), it was also, as Ann Douglas has shown, incrementally feminized, placed in the hands of women. It would in fact be several centuries before women actually assumed social control of even a few moral discourses; but the middle classes believed from the start that women were innately more moral than men, correct, decorous, angelic creatures whose impact on brutish men — at first as mothers and wives, later as teachers, nurses, and the like — must be to civilize them, to educate them in the softer, kinder, gentler ways of Jesus Christ. A good deal of feminist scholarship has shown just how repressive this conception of women was, and in part remains today; its dual effect was on the one hand to restrict middle-class women to a narrow sphere of proper behavior, cutting them off from cussing and boozing and choosing their own sexual partners and generally having a good time, activities reserved (however duplicitously) for "brutish" men, and on the other to set women up as men's moral watchdogs, domestic authorities to be feared and circumvented.

Whatever the problems, however, the specifically middle-class rhetoric of morality did have the effect of giving women a public voice, and in that sense was empowering. In fact all three rhetorics begin, presumably, as private discourses, addressed individually to a single aristocrat or beloved or family, but are quickly transformed into public oratory, poetry, actual song, and even religious discourse. All three retain traces of privacy, secrecy, even domesticity, while also embodying a becoming-public voice that hesitates between address-to-one and address-to-many. This becoming-public voice, combined with the becoming-powerful voice of patronage, hesitating between subservience and superiority, makes the rhetorics of patronage, courtly love, and morality ideally suited to educated Renaissance women who feel nearly as subservient as they have been raised to be, but also chafe at that subservience and long to be free of it — and who still feel the conditioned impulse to speak only privately, only at home, only with husband and children and guests and servants, but also long to address the public, thousands of strangers whom they will never meet, all at once, through the impersonal medium of print.

2. Early Statements

Let me begin my narrative, somewhat arbitrarily, in the early sixteenth century, in England. Women had done translations before, though usually anonymously, making attribution often problematic and discussion difficult. But the story of rhetorical appropriation and transformation that I propose to tell begins here. In 1524 Margaret More Roper, the 18-year-old daughter of Sir Thomas More, translates a piece her father's friend Erasmus had published the year before, Precatio Dominica, as A Devout Treatise Upon the Pater Noster; and while she does not presume to pronounce upon her own translation in a preface, the More family tutor Richard Hyrde takes the opportunity to include in the volume a prefatory polemic in favor of women's education (on the grounds that it can hardly hurt them, since "women abide most at home, occupied ever with some good or necessary business," and education will keep women from the harmful fantasies born of leisure). Twenty years later an even younger translator, Lady Elizabeth, the eleven-year-old daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, soon to become the most famous queen of England, writes a letter to her stepmother, the current queen, Catherine Parr, in regard to her translation of Queen Marguerite of Navarre's "The Glasse of the Synnefull Soule" (1544), and the letter is included as a preface when the translation was published. Lady Elizabeth does now venture to speak in her own voice, but not yet with the intention of publishing her own words:

And although I know that, as for my part which I have wrought in it (as well spiritual as manual), there is nothing done as it should be, . . . yet do I trust also . . . that the file of your excellent wit and godly learning, . . . shall rub out, polish, and mend (or else cause to mend) the words (or rather the order of my writing), the which I know, in many places, to be rude, and nothing done as it should be. But I hope that, after to have been in your grace's hands, there shall be nothing in it worthy of reprehension, and that in the meanwhile no other (but your highness only) shall read it, or see it, lest my faults be known of many. Then shall they be better excused (as my confidence is in your grace's accustomed benevolence) than if I should bestow a whole year in writing or inventing ways for to excuse them. (Tudor 1544:76-77)

Four years later, now fifteen, Lady Elizabeth translates another piece by Queen Marguerite of Navarre, A godly Medytacyon of the christen Sowle (1548), and takes one more step toward theoretical self-possession: she writes the translation for publication, and addresses her reader, still subserviently and self-deprecatingly, but with a new discursive confidence:

If thu do throughly reade thys worke (dere frynde in the lorde), marke rather the matter than the homely speache therof, consyderynge it is the studye of a woman, whych hath in her neyther conynge nor science, but a fervent desyre that yche one maye se, what the gifte of God the creatour doth when it pleaseth hym to justyfye a hart. (Tudor 1548:142)

Her translation is still just "the study of a woman", her preface just the self-deprecations of a woman — of one woman, herself, but in this case also, perhaps, more generally of a "subject", a person socially inferior to her addressee, a rhetorical position occupied by many men in this era as well. But in her tonalities, even in her self-deprecations ("whych hath in her neyther conynge nor science"), there begins to sound the inner steel of the intelligent and learned woman who would rule England for half a century and give her name to the first great flowering of modern English culture.

Two years later another translator's preface, another letter written by a daughter to a mother (as Lady Elizabeth's first pretended to be), finds a new tonal self-possession — though again in the guise of self-deprecation. Around 1550 the twenty-two-year-old Anna Cooke, one of five gifted, learned, and prolific sisters (and mother to Francis Bacon), undertakes the translation into English of fourteen sermons by a contemporary Italian theologian named Bernadine Ochine, and prefaces her translation by assigning any originality there may be in her to her mother:

Since the Orygynal of whatsoever is, or may be converted to ani gooduse in me, hath frelye proceded (thoughe as the minister of GOD) of youre Ladyshypes mere carefull, and Motherly goodnes, as well procurynge all thynges thereunto belongeynge, as in youre many, and most Godly exhortacyons, wherein amonge the rest, it hath pleased you, often, to reprove my vaine studye in the Italyan tonge, accompting the sede thereof, to have bene sowen in barayne, unfruitful grounde . . . I have . . . perceived it my duty to prove howe muche the understandynge of youre wyll could worcke in me towardes the accomplyshynge of the same. (Cooke 1550:143)

This is a complex rhetorical gesture: it simultaneously disclaims the originality of her own learning, like a good woman should; attributes the source of her learning to her mother, another woman, rather than her father; and defends her language studies against her mother's reproofs, thus charting out a rebellious realm of originality that her mother attempted to squelch, while attributing even that rebelliousness to her mother's will. Thus do learned sixteenth-century women begin to lift themselves up by their own discursive bootstraps, building on the education their progressive parents have allowed them by thematizing subservience as autonomy and autonomy as subservience — the original as copy and the copy as original.

3. Margaret Tyler: Deconstructing the Rhetoric of Patronage

The first major rhetorical shift in women translators' and translation theorists' bid for an empowered and empowering public voice is engineered by a woman about whom we know almost nothing — except that, ironically enough (given the standard association of Renaissance women's public voice with educated wealthy women), she may have worked for a time as a servant. Margaret Tyler's preface to her translation of Diego Ortunez de Calahorra's A mirrour of princely deedes and knighthood (1578) is an openly and unapologetically feminist document that boldly defends her project against cavilers by expertly chopping (or deconstructing) the patriarchal logic that would exclude her. Her defense of her own translation covers two separate points: why she chose to translate a "manly" tale about "princely deeds and knighthood:, and how she felt justified in translating anything at all. Of these only the latter directly addresses the issue of patronage; but the former argument is rhetorically so congruent with the latter that it makes sense to consider them together. At first, then, Tyler justifies her "womanly" translation of "manly" text by likening the translator to a bugler or drummer:

Such deliverie as I have made I hope thou wilt friendly accept, the rather for that it is a womans worke, though in a storye prophane, and a matter more manlike than becometh my sexe. But as for any manlinesse of the matter, thou knowest that it is not necessarie for every trumpetter or drumstare in the warre to be a good fighter. They take wages onely to incite others though themselves have privie maymes, and are therby recurelesse. So gentle Reader if my travell in Englishing this Authour, may bring thee to a liking of the vertues heerein commended, and by example thereof in thy Princes & Countries quarrell to hazard thy person, and purchase good name, as for hope of well deserving my selfe that way, I neither bend my selfe thereto, nor yet feare the speach of people if I be found backward, I trust every man holdes not the plough, which would the ground were tilled, and it is no sinne to talk of Robinhood, though you never shot in his bowe; Or be it that the attempt were bolde to intermeddle in armes, so as the auncient Amazons did, and in this storie Claridiana doth, and in other stories not a few, yet to report of armes is not so odious, but that it may be borne withall, not onely in you men which your selves are fighters, but in us women, to whome the benefit in equall part appertaineth of your victories, either for that the matter is so commendable that it carryeth no discredit from the homelynesse of the speaker, or for that it is so generally knowen, that it fitteth everie man to speake thereof, or for any it jumpeth with this common feare on all parts of warre and invasion. The invention, disposition, trimming, and what else in this storie, is wholy another mans, my part none therein but the translation, as it were onely in giving enterteinment to a straunger, before this time unacquainted with our countrie guise. (Tyler 1578:54-55)

"They take wages onely to incite others though themselves have privie maymes, and are therby recurelesse": this association with buglers and drummers still asserts the inferiority of women, as of translators and other noncombatants, and so works rhetorically to reassure male readers who may feel anxiety at this female encroachment on what has long been men's territory, both militarily and textually. Just as men with "privie maymes" have no recourse to armed battle and so can only be paid to incite others, so too translators, and women, are to be allowed (and paid for) their talk of battles only under cover of their "privie maymes" — in women's case, apparently, their (socially enforced) unfitness for battle. Ironically, of course, the "maymes" that keep some men out of battle are private because men are normatively defined in terms of, and socially conditioned to pursue, military activities (what makes a man unfit for battle is some hidden weakness, an illness, a deformity); while the "maymes" that keep women out of battle are purely public, social, ideological (what keeps a woman out of battle is that women are normatively defined in terms of, and socially conditioned to pursue, nonmilitary activities). In Tyler's triumphant logic, the impetus to assume a public voice as a translator arises precisely out of the "mayme" that defines her as a woman, and thus as a noncombatant.

The second part of Tyler's defense is if anything even bolder:
So if the question now ariseth of my choice, not of my labour, wherefore I preferred this storie before matter of more importance. For answere wherein gentle reader, the truth is, that as the first notion to this kind of labour came not from my selfe, so was this peece of worke put upon me by others, and they which first counsailed me to fall to worke, tooke upon them also to bee my taskemasters and overseers, least I should be idle, and yet because the refusall was in my power, I must stand to answer for my easie yeelding. . . . But my defence is by example of the best, amongst which, many have dedicated their labours, some stories, some of warre, some Phisicke, some Lawe, some as concerning government, some divine matters, unto diverse Ladyes and Gentlewoman. And if men may and do bestow such of their travailes upon Gentlewomen, then may we women read such of their workes as they dedicate unto us, and if wee may read them, why not farther wade in them to the search of a truth. And then much more why not deale by translation in such arguments, especially this kinde of exercise, beeing a matter of more heede then of deepe invention or exquisite learning, and they must needes leave this as confessed, that in their dedications, they minde not onely to borrowe names of worthie personages, but the testimonies also for their further credite, which neither the one may demaund without ambition, nor the other graunt without overlightnesse: if women be excluded from the viewe of such workes, as appeare in their name, or if glorie onely be sought in our common inscriptions, it mattereth not whether the partyes be men or women, whether alive or dead. But to returne whatsomever the truth is, whether that women may not at all discourse in learning, for men late in their claime to be sole possessioners of knowledge, or whether they may in some manner, that is by limitation or appointment in some kinde of learning, my perswasion has bene thus, that it is all one for a woman to pen a storie, as for a man to addresse his storie to a woman. (Tyler 1578:55-56)

Or, syllogistically:

P1. I didn't choose the SL text; someone suggested I translate it, so as to prevent my idleness.
P2. Perhaps I should have refused the suggestion, but after all, men dedicate their books to women.
P3. Women should be able to read what is dedicated to them.
C1. If they are allowed to read these books, they should be allowed to translate them.
C2. It's no different for a woman to write a story than for a man to dedicate his to a woman.

This second argument steps boldly beyond the surviving rhetorical subservience of the first by attacking the patriarchal idealization of women as the muses or patronesses of men's art who merely inspire or, worse, passively receive men's dedications of works they are not allowed to read. This is a frontal assault on the binary logic according to which men are active, women passive, men are real, women ideal — or, if they are real, if they participate actively in the real world of public discourse and physicality (strength and sexuality), they are evil.

It might be argued, of course, that this attack on patriarchal logic is potentially less effective than Tyler's earlier and subtler argument, precisely because it is so uncompromising: a tokenistic rhetoric that calls for the inclusion of a few inferiors in an overtly submissive or secondary role will always awaken less anxiety in power-holders than an egalitarian rhetoric that condemns blatant inequities and inconsistencies and demands equal rights. Conditioned as we are by four centuries of feminism, we may well favor Tyler's second argument over her first, because it is bolder; it is important to recognize, however, that its logic may have been politically counterproductive in its time. Even today, in fact, it is easy enough to respond to this sort of argument with the protest, "You're confusing two totally different things!"

And while it seems clear that men dedicating their writing to women and women writing are not totally different, it does seem to me that Tyler's second argument glosses neatly over two important differences between the two. The agent-roles women play (or are assigned) as patroness and as author are quite different both in society and in the written work. In society, the patroness is the male author's social superior, of a higher social class or station, or perhaps simply wealthier; the patroness serves the social function of facilitating the author's work both financially (providing the author room and board or a stipend, or both) and socially (distributing it, perhaps only speaking well of it, to influential people). Class, station, and wealth do not lose their significance in the author's social agent-role, but they are subsumed into a different communicative paradigm, in which the author conceives her/himself as someone with something to say, something worth listening to, and her/his audience as in need of the message s/he brings. Textually the difference is even greater: there the patroness is little more than apostrophized, addressed almost mythically, like a goddess or a muse, in a rhetoric that is intended to flatter its object but at some level dehumanizes her. After Michel Foucault's essay "What Is An Author?" it is difficult to argue that the "author" as textual construct and as social function is any more "human", any more "alive", than the patroness or muse: the author-function, in Foucault's term, or the translator-function in Miriam Díaz-Diocaretz's adaptation of it, varies widely in society, but it is always an ideological projection attributed or assigned to the real person (dead or alive) who actually penned the words, not an active subjectivity. Still, author-functions and translator-functions have a very different social impact than do what we might call patron(ess)-functions. Ideally, the patron(ess)-function stands on the top level of the hierarchy and inspires and controls the author, who stands in the middle and inspires and controls the translator standing at the bottom; less ideally, in the target culture the translator creates, or helps create, the SL author-function, (re)shaping even that author-function's creation of a patron(ess)-function.

In either case, Tyler's insistence that "it is all one for a woman to pen a storie, as for a man to addresse his storie to a woman" is simplistic, perhaps deliberately disingenuous; her earlier discussion is much closer to the actual social processes involved: "And if men may and do bestow such of their travailes upon Gentlewomen, then may we women read such of their workes as they dedicate unto us, and if wee may read them, why not farther wade in them to the search of a truth. And then much more why not deale by translation in such arguments, etc." In other words, give us an inch and we'll take a mile: very much what was going on through all this.

4. Katherine Philips: Using The Male Patron

What for Margaret Tyler remained theory, deconstructive argument, the claim that men's use of women as muses and patronesses implicitly opened the door to women's entrance into the public sphere, for Katherine Philips became social reality: the patriarchal structure of women's dependence on men made it possible for a woman to enter the public sphere with a male patron. As Philips develops this rhetoric of patronage in Letters from Orinda to Poliarchus (1705, written in the early 1660s), it blends with the rhetoric of courtship as well: her patron becomes her courtier in two senses of the word, as the man who pays court to her (begs her to translate and to publish) and as her agent at court. As either goddess or carnal being, muse or servant, superior or inferior — in fact, as the beloved who is at once deified and passivized, but in both roles implored to speak, if only the simple word "Yes!" — a woman might find public voice.

Katherine (Fowler) Philips (1631-1664) may have been the first woman ever to write a "book" on translation — although that is a problematic description of what she did in several ways. In the first place, she didn't exactly write Letters from Orinda to Poliarchus as a book; it was a collection of actual letters written to her patron Sir Charles Cotterell published after her death. In the second, the book is not exactly "about" translation — certainly it is not a theoretical treatise on translation such as a few men in her day were beginning to publish. Still, it was — or the letters from which it was compiled were — written by a translator, through the epistolary voice of a translator, and revolves around the practical problems she faces, emotional and technical, in translating into English Corneille's La mort de Pompée (1643), which had appeared just two decades before she wrote. Philips writes as "Orinda" (her literary pseudonym in all her writing, especially the poems and letters she had written to her Society of Friends) to her patron "Poliarchus:, about a variety of subjects — everything one writes about to a friend, like the slowness of the post, the friends and acquaintainces in town, and so on, also the literary issues of the day, upon which Orinda pronounces in passing and almost apologetically — but the scarlet thread running through the book is her work on Corneille's "Pompey". In letter 14, dated "Dublin, Aug. 20, 1662", she tells Poliarchus that she has had the good fortune to make the acquaintance of Roger Boyle, an Irish magnate who had been a confidential advisor to Oliver Cromwell during the Protectorate but, two years before this writing, at the restoration of Charles II, had won favor with the king as a poet and playwright and the same year (1660) had been created first earl of Orrery:

He is indeed a man of great parts, and agreeable conversation; and has been so extremely civil to me, that were he not a most obliging person, I am sure he could not excuse it to his own judgment. By some accident or another my scene of Pompey fell into his hands, and he was pleased to like it so well that he sent me the French original; and the next time I saw him, so earnestly importuned me to pursue that translation that to avoid the shame of seeing him who had so lately commanded a kingdom become a petitioner to me for such a trifle, I obeyed him so far as to finish the act in which that scene is; so that the whole third act is now English. This I the rather did, hoping to undeceive him in the partial opinion he had of my capacity for such an undertaking; and not doubting but he would have dispensed with my farther trouble therein. But he no sooner had it than (I think to punish me for having done it so ill) he enjoined me to go on; and not only so, but bribed me to be contented with the pains by sending me an excellent copy of verses, which, were I not conscious of my own unworthiness, would make me rather forget the subject, than disbelieve the compliments of his Lordship's muse. But I have undergone as great a temptation to vanity from your tongue and pen as he can give me; and yet I hope neither of you shall ever make me forget my self so much, as to take pride in any thing, but the having Poliarchus for my friend. I will by my next send you my Lord's verses, on condition that in exchange you will let me have a copy of your translation of Le Temple de la Morte; his Lordship is in love with the original, and you will infinitely oblige me in putting it in my power to show him your excellent version of it. To bribe you yet farther, I will send you mine of Pompey as fast as I do it; and because this is no great temptation, I will send you some translations from Virgil by Mr. Cowley. You will wonder at my Lord's obstinacy in this desire to have me translate Pompey, as well because of my incapacity to perform it, as that so many others have undertaken it; but all I can say or do is to no purpose, for he persists in his request, and will not be refused. (Philips 1705:65-68)

What is striking about this passage is not so much Philips' self-deprecatory fawning, though that is what first strikes the modern reader: her tone is not markedly different from that adopted by other seventeenth-century writers cajoling their patrons and patronesses. What is striking is that it is written by a woman. It may seem to us that her sycophantic, self-effacing tone is precisely that required of a woman by a male-dominated society — but in fact it was not until the nineteenth century, two centuries after Philips wrote, that women gained relatively easy access to such epistolary self-effacement. In the seventeenth century, at least in the semipublic letters that served as newspapers and novels, this tone was reserved not for women but for socially inferior men. Women may have used this subservient rhetoric in private, in speech with their husbands, but were silent in public.

At least they were supposed to be: Philips was one of a growing number of women who were finding circuitous routes to a public voice. One way of describing the route she took, in fact, might be that she assimilated the rhetoric of subservience and self-effacement prescribed for women in the private sphere to that prescribed for men in the public sphere; and that in blending the two rhetorics together in her highly idealized "Society of Friendship" letters, studded with classical pseudonyms and allusions, she at once helped forge a new form of "public femininity" and subtly undermined its apparent impact in a new form of "feminine publicity". Her overt assumption throughout her letters to Poliarchus is that her translations are utterly worthless and her patrons are shameless flatterers for seeing any merit in them; but the subtext of those letters is that, no matter how insistently she demeans and effaces herself, these learned and influential men keep seeing merit in her work, demanding she pursue it further, finish it, have it staged and printed, show it to the queen. The operative paradox for Philips' purposes is that public self-effacement is no self-effacement at all; to deny her merits over the protests of her male patrons is to publicize her merits. Her self-advertisements are, certainly, more circumspect and roundabout than, say, Norman Mailer's Advertisements for Myself; but they patently are self-advertisements nonetheless.

Another way of framing her rhetorical innovation is, as I began to suggest a moment ago, that she is toying with the rhetoric of courtly love: Orrery and Poliarchus are both her suitors, begging her for favors, favors that are in fact textual but in tone sexual. Orrery "so earnestly importuned me to pursue that translation that to avoid the shame of seeing him who had so lately commanded a kingdom become a petitioner to me for such a trifle, I obeyed him so far as to finish the act" — the act of love, this almost says outright. Orrery is staged in this letter as a courtier on his knees before Orinda, "earnestly importuning" her; she is at once shamed by his ritual self-abasement (required of knights by the courtly tradition) and empowered by it to "finish the act", to make the leap from private to public voice. This transgression of the traditional bounds enclosing the feminine realm is justified by her obedience to "him who had so lately commanded a kingdom" — she is still submissive, still subject to male control, and therefore "safe" despite her transgression — but it also allows her to enlarge and expand the role-reversal by which he becomes "a petitioner . . . for such a trifle" and she the power than can grant or deny his wish. The sexual titillations of conventional courtly advances and demurrals, pleas and acquiescences, charge the whole passage tonally without ever quite surfacing: "he no sooner had it than (I think to punish me for having done it so ill) he enjoined me to go on; and not only so, but bribed me to be contented with the pains", "I have undergone as great a temptation to vanity from your tongue and pen as he can give me", "his Lordship is in love with the original, and you will infinitely oblige me in putting it in my power to show him your excellent version of it", "all I can say or do is to no purpose, for he persists in his request, and will not be refused".
The implication is that the woman translator possesses a boon, a talent, a gift, comparable to lovemaking, which she is at once willing and unwilling to grant — conventionally unwilling, because as a woman she has been programmed for passivity and the purity of silence, but also actually willing, even eager, because as a new woman she revels in the dual pleasures of sexuality and textuality, and in the traditionally male prerogatives of initiating sex and public speech that are now, cautiously, being allowed her. As women enter the public sphere, the metaphorics of translation are increasingly shifted to encompass the woman not as passive text, passive property of the male source-language writer and target-language reader, but as active producer of text, who must be courted before she will deign to bestow her textual favors on her readers.

In a later letter, dated September 17, 1663, Orinda tells Poliarchus that she has just seen the second and fourth acts of Pompey as translated by the court wits, and has the audacity to criticize their work — though "I really think the worst of their lines equal to the best of my translation" (Philips 1705:). She is a worse translator, this implies, but a better translation critic; tellingly, however, she will not even say this much: "the expressions are some of them great and noble, and the verses smooth; yet there is room in several places for an ordinary critic to show his skill" (Philips 1705:). His skill: the idea, one assumes, is that she dares criticize the court wits' translation not as a woman but as a man — or rather, that the idealized, universalized, and implicitly masculine norms for correct translation criticize the wits' translation through her, that, insofar as she is able to assimilate her rhetoric to the masculinity of the "ordinary critic", she becomes the channel of truth. And what then emerges is something like the normative Western translation theory in its seventeenth-century guise:
But I cannot but be surprised at the great liberty they have taken in adding, omitting and altering the original as they please themselves. This I take to be a liberty not pardonable in translators, and unbecoming the modesty of that attempt; for since the different ways of writing ought to be observed with their several proprieties, this way of garbling authors is fitter for a paraphrase than a translation; but having assumed so great a licence, I wonder their verses are anywhere either flat or rough, which you will observe them not seldom to be; besides, their rhymes are frequently very bad, but what chiefly disgusts me is, that the sense most commonly languishes through three or four lines, and then ends in the middle of the fifth: for I am of the opinion that the sense ought always to be confined to the couplet, otherwise the lines must needs be spiritless and dull. (Philips 1705:)

This letter is an interesting admixture of the feminine translator's modesty and subservience and the traditional translation critic's authoritarian prescriptions — a rhetorical blend that has the effect of subtly assimilating the latter to the former (her judgments are circumscribed by protestations of her own inferiority) in order, paradoxically, to clear a space for the former in the latter, a modest female voice within the institution of prescriptive translation theory.

6. Suzanne du Vegerre and Aphra Behn: Translation Moralized

As feminist scholars beginning with Ann Douglas in The Feminization of American Culture have shown, the modern period (from the fifteenth or sixteenth century on) is the era during which the middle classes not only increasingly bring moral concerns to the fore for debate and consensual determination, but also significantly feminize the social agents of those concerns. Suzanne du Vegerre provides one excellent example of this shift in her preface to her translation-cum-abridgement of John Peter Camus' novel Admirable Events (1639): by assimilating the medieval tradition of "moralizing" translations of Ovid and other potentially "dangerous" texts for the populace to the new moral imperatives of the middle class, she also assimilates those moral imperatives to a maternal voice, and so opens a channel for women's public speech. Aphra Behn, too, in her preface to her translation of Fontenelle's Discovery of Many Worlds (1688), combines the new middle-class concern for moral and intellectual uplift with a feminist sensibility not unlike Margaret Tyler's from a century before, and calmly informs her reader of the many changes she made in "her" text in order to make it at more more diverting and more effective.
If Katherine Philips balances feminine modesty and masculine authority, Susanne du Vegerre begins to develop a repressive voice of feminine authority, a voice whose authority is derived from morality, moral virtue — implicitly from God.

Unabashedly assuming the role of translator as censor, she charges her moralistic task with the heroic stature of Greek myth: faced with "those frivolous books which may all be comprised under the name of Romance" (du Vegerre 1639:), she wishes she had "the hands which fables attribute to Briarus, or the strength which Poets give unto Hercules" (du Vegerre 1639:), but fears "a labour like unto that of Danaides, or of Sisyphus" (du Vegerre 1639:). Symbolizing romances as a many-headed monster, or as a tree that keeps putting out vines and branches faster than one can cut them off, she wavers between fortitude and despair, as Augustine had prescribed: "but what cannot a courage do, animated by a zeal of pleasuring his neighbour, and provoked by desire to advance the light of virtue, and to lessen vice. O why has not my pen the virtue to cure the wounds that these wicked books cause in this world? or at least why cannot it devour these monsters, which the writers of those aforesaid works, mere enchanters of minds, cause to appear in the forms of books?" (du Vegerre 1639:).

What is interesting here is the subtle series of shifts du Vegerre makes from the ancient masculine ideal of doing direct physical battle with an enemy thematized as evil and destroying it once and for all, to the more modern, middle-class, moral, and "feminine" task she is undertaking. She has courage, but it is directed not at winning glory for herself, but at pleasuring her neighbor — a far more traditionally feminine ambition. She is fighting in the cause of virtue, but she conceives that cause in incremental terms, as "advanc[ing] the light of virtue and lessen[ing] vice", not as a once-and-for-all eschatological triumph. She bemoans her inability to destroy the monsters and cure the wounds, but one senses that her self-deprecation is only rhetorical, for her true mission is not destruction but moral uplift: "at least if these my labours could cure those who are miserably infected with often viewing these pamphlets; if the loss of so much time may be called employment, I should not think my labour spent in vain, nor my pen unprofitable" (du Vegerre 1639:). One works toward a cure not through dragon-battle but through education; not by destroying the source of evil but by improving its victims' powers of resistance.

This means combatting vice indirectly rather than directly, which is to say, with maternal morality rather than paternal logic:

Now to overthrow so many fabulous books, I undertake not my combat directly, as if I were confuting heresies, for it is not needful that I should trouble myself to prove the obscurity of darkness, nor to show the falsehood of these romances, adventures, chivalries, and other such trash. . . . By what manner do I then labour to overcome my adversaries? it is by diversion, setting relations true and beneficial, in the place of those that are profane, . . . to the end that those whose great leisure causes to seek wherewith to employ their time may find wherewithall to entertain their desires. (du Vegerre 1639)

She seeks to combat the evil of the romance, in other words, not by syllogistic reasoning but by moralistic translation: reducing romances to the bare bones not of logic but of moral vignettes grounded not in art but in "nature" and "truth" — "natural beauties without art" (du Vegerre 1639:). All decoration, including plot, is pared away as dross, leaving only the pure core of person and event defined as the natural elements of moral exemplum. "For although fables, parables, and poetical fictions do sometimes hide in them good precepts, and many serious examples", as she says, "yet the instructions lose much of their credit when they are mixed amongst vain inventions" (du Vegerre).

This quest for deartificed nature, for the stripped-down human truth (conceived as inherently moral) without decoration, might be thought of as the moral equivalent of reason, or as the liberal equivalent of science, or as the maternal equivalent of bourgeois paternalism: the attempt of the modern middle classes to demystify the baroque excesses of medieval thought and establish the bare facts, the true spark of divinity in the chaotic complexities of human sinfulness. That the bare facts are still tied, in the early seventeenth century, to divinity — to morality, virtue, the good, or to logic as the purest form of the Logos — does not contradict this demystificatory impulse; it only indicates that the demystification had not yet proceeded as far as it would in the succeeding centuries. Du Vegerre, like most other moralists of her time, does still want to believe that a story deprived of all "artifice" will be intrinsically moral — that the "skeleton" of truth will advance the light of virtue and lessen vice — and she translates accordingly:

As for the manner I am to advertise thee, that I study as much as I can for brevity. . . . I keep close to the matter, & give little liberty unto my thoughts to spread into digressions, if they be not necessary, and as it were bred in the subject, by reason whereof I have weaned myself from the sweet mill (?) of poesie, and have abstained from putting any verses in these events. I have also taken away the other graces, as apostrophes, dialogisms, complaints, speeches, conferences, letters, orations; in brief, all that might enlarge or embellish so that in comparison of our other relations, these are but abridgements of histories, and as it were skeletons, nothing remaining but the bones of each event, stripped of the ornaments which might have set forth their bodies in a far fairer hew. There be minds which soil in reading a history of great length, human patience being not of any great extent; but when events are set down in such a manner as the end is not far from the beginning, this is it which encourages the reader, and both gives him a desire of seeing further and also eases him in reading. . . . (du Vegerre 1639:)

One might say that du Vegerre translates for the Reader's Digest series of abridged books, providing for the easily distracted middle-class reader not only shorter and easier books that cater to the middle-class preference for no-nonsense pragmatism over upper-class flights of fancy, but a moral justification for the same: "There be minds which soil in reading a history of great length, human patience being not of any great extent." Impatience with a long book actually soils the middle-class mind. To protect her readers from that soiling, that muck of (potential) immorality, she cuts mercilessly.

As I made clear in section 1, this is certainly not the first instance of a Western translator acting as censor; such translations were common throughout the Middle Ages, and were commonly ridiculed by the humanist translators of the Renaissance. It is, however, one of the first impassioned theoretical defenses of translational censorship and, perhaps because it is the first such defense to be written by a woman, the first also to assimilate censorship to middle-class moral maternalism. Du Vegerre does not say, "I am leaving these artificial parts of the original untranslated because they would not be good for you", as the paternalist rhetoric of medieval translation might have said (had it not so utterly mystified its purposes); she says, "I am leaving these artificial parts of the original untranslated because you don't want them". They would bore you, and through your boredom tempt you into vice. I am on your side, is du Vegerre's subtext: I know what you want better than you do yourself. Let me guide you to it; let me provide it for you.

This new impulse is taken to even riskier (because more explicitly antiauthoritarian) extremes by Aphra Behn, one of the most astonishing voices of her age. Given that she was only nine years younger than the self-deprecatory Katherine Philips (and six years younger than Madame de La Fayette, whose Princess of Cleves she mentions in her preface), it is nothing short of miraculous that she should have been so bold in her opinions and so forceful in their articulation. As Angeline Goreau makes clear in her biography of Behn, the late seventeenth century was not tolerant of women who pursued careers conventionally defined as masculine, and it was so savagely censorious of women who pursued those careers openly, loudly, and brashly, without hiding their proclivities toward free sex and free speech, that such women were almost nonexistent. Behn too was censured, of course — vilified as a "whore" not only for conducting her love affairs in public but for venturing to write for the theater — yet somehow she found the strength not to back down, not to give in: to exist.

Behn turned to translation late in life, in 1688, the year before she died, to help make ends meet after the collapse of the London theater deprived her of her most lucrative source of income. By that time she had been writing for the theater — and braving the loathing and the intrigues of her male colleagues — for eighteen years, and was not likely to be impressed by conventional restrictions imposed on the "faithful" translator.

6. Conclusions

It is tempting to draw broad-based historical and theoretical conclusions about this material: for example, to claim that the women writing about translation in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in England were more "modern" (whatever we take that epithet to mean) than their male contemporaries. And certainly an interesting and perhaps persuasive case could be made for that generalization. Unfortunately, we do not yet have enough historical data to support such a claim. The rapid proliferation of feminist scholarship over the past two or three decades has brought with it the recovery of translations and translator's prefaces by women from the early modern period, and I have drawn heavily on that research here; but historical scholarship on translation and its theory is only now beginning to proliferate, and much work remains to be done. Not only are there almost certainly many female translators and translation theorists yet to be uncovered; there are undoubtedly many peripheralized male translators and translation theorists as well, men whose practice of and comments upon translation may deviate just as interestingly from hegemonic histories of translation theory (such as have been written from Pierre-Daniel Huet in 1666 to Frederick M. Rener in 1989) as these women.
If there is a conclusion to be drawn from this material, then, it is that more primary research needs to be done in the textual areas explored by feminist scholars like Betty Travitsky, Margaret Patterson Hannay, Moira Ferguson, and Tina Krontiris: prefaces, letters, and journal entries, where the kinds of surprising remarks that are overlooked by more traditional historians frequently appear. Where "theory" is defined restrictively and repressively as a systematic, rule-governed explanation of every aspect of a field, it is all too easy to believe not only that translation theory first begins to be written by women in the 1970s — Katharina Reiss, Juliane House, Susan Bassnett, Justa Holz-Mänttäri — but that wild, woolly, deviant translation theories are a (late-)twentieth-century phenomenon. A normative definition of "theory" by definition precludes (and thus blinds many scholars to) reflections, ponderings, remarks, insights that can be enormously productive in rethinking both translation today and its many historical metamorphoses in the past.

Works Cited

Bassnett-McGuire, Susan (1980) Translation Studies, rev ed. London: Routledge, 1991.

Behn, Aphra (1688) "The Author's Preface", The Theory or System of Several Inhabited New Worlds, lately discover'd and pleasantly describ'd, in five nights conversation with Madam the Marchioness of *****, London: W. O. for Samual Briscoe, 1700, excerpted in Ferguson, First Feminists, 148-51.

Chamberlain, Lori (1988) "Gender and the Metaphorics of Translation", Signs 13: 454-72. Reprinted in Lawrence Venuti (ed.) (1992) Rethinking Translation: Discourse, Subjectivity, Ideology, 57-74. London & New York: Routledge.

Cooke, Anna (1550?) Fouretene sermons of Bernadine Ochyne . . . Translated out of Italian in to oure natyve tonge by A. C., London: John Daye, excerpted in Travitsky, The Paradise of Women, 143.

Copeland, Rita (1991) Rhetoric, Hermeneutics, and Translation in the Middle Ages: Academic Traditions and Vernacular Texts, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Díaz-Diocaretz, Miriam (1985) Translating Poetic Discourse: Questions on Feminist Strategies in Adrienne Rich, Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Douglas, Ann (1977) The Feminization of American Culture, New York: Knopf.

du Vegerre, Suzanne (1639) "The Authors Epistle to the READER", preface to du Vegerre, Admirable Events, selected out of four bookes, written in French by John Peter Camus, London: T. Harper for W. Brooks, excerpted in Travitsky, The Paradise of Women, 159-62.

Ferguson, Moira (ed.) (1985) First Feminists: British Women Writers 1578-1799, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Foucault, Michel (1977) "What Is An Author?", trans. Donald F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon; in Bouchard (ed.) Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews by Michel Foucault, 113-38, rpt. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988.

Gee, John A. (1937) "Margaret Roper's English Version of Erasmus' Precatio Dominica and the Apprenticeship behind Early Tudor Translation", The Review of English Studies 13: 257-71.
Goreau, Angeline (1980) Reconstructing Aphra: A Social Biography of Aphra Behn, New York: Dial Press.

Habermas, Jürgen (1991) The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, trans. Thomas Burger, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Hannay, Margaret Patterson (ed.) (1985) Silent But for the Word: Tudor Women as Patrons,Translators, and Writers of Religious Works, Kent: Kent State University Press.

Holz-Mänttäri, Justa (1984) Translatorisches Handeln, Helsinki: Finnish Academy of Science.

House, Juliane (1977) A Model for Translation Quality Assessment. North Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Hughey, Ruth (1934) "Lady Anne Bacon's Translations", Review of English Studies 10: 211.

Highey, Ruth (1935) "Queen Elizabeth's 'Godly Meditation'", The Library 4th ser., 15: 237-40.

Huet, Pierre-Daniel (1666) De interpretatione libri duo, Stade, Holweg, 1680.

Hyrde, Richard (1525) Dedicatory letter to Margaret More Roper, A deuout treatise vpon the Pater noster/ made fyrst in latyn by the moost famous doctour mayster Eramus Roterodamus/ and tourned into englishe by a yong vertuous and well lerned gentylwoman of .xix. yere of age, London: Thomas Berthelet, c. 1525. Reprinted in Richard L. DeMolen (ed.) (1971) Erasmus of Rotterdam: A Quincentennial Symposium, 97-104, New York: Twayne.

Krontiris, Tina (1992) Oppositional Voices: Women as Writers and Translators of Literature in the English Renaissance, London & New York: Routledge.

Lamb, Mary Ellen (1985) "The Cooke Sisters: Attitudes toward Learned Women in the Renaissance", in Hannay, Silent But for the Word, 107-125.

Lamb, Mary Ellen (1986) "The Countess of Pembroke and the Art of Dying", in Rose, Women in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, 207-26.

Philips, Katherine (1705) Letters from Orinda to Poliarchus, printed by W.B. for B. Lintott.

Prescott, Anne Lake (1985) "The Pearl of the Valois and Elizabeth I: Marguerite de Navarre's Miroir and Tudor England", in Hannay, Silent But for the Word, 61-76.

Reiss, Katharina (1976) Texttyp und Übersetzungsmethode: Der operative Text [Text Type and Translation Method: The Operative Text], Kronberg: Scriptor.

Rener, Frederick M. (1989) Interpretatio: Language and Translation from Cicero to Tytler, Amsterdam & Atlanta: Rodopi.

Robinson, Douglas (1991) The Translator's Turn, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Rose, Mary Beth (ed.) (1986) Women in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: Literary and Historical Perspectives, Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.

Travitsky, Betty (ed.) (1981) The Paradise of Women: Writings By Englishwomen of the Renaissance, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Tudor, Elizabeth (1544) "From A godly Medytacyon of the christen Sowle", excerpted in Travitsky, The Paradise of Women, 142-43.

Tudor, Elizabeth (1548) Letter to Catherine Parr, excerpted in Travitsky, The Paradise of Women, 76-77.

Tyler, Margaret (1578) "M.T. to the Reader", preface to Diego Ortunes de Calahorra, A mirrour of princely deedes and knighthood, trans. Margaret Tyler, London: T. East, excerpted in Ferguson, First Feminists, 54-57.

Verbrugge, Rita (1985) "Margaret More Roper's Personal Expression in the Devout Treatise Upon the Pater Noster", in Hannay, Silent But for the Word, 30-42.


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