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Real and Imaginary Travels 16th-18th centuries

Anne Bandry-Scubbi
Rémi Vuillemin

Travelling and the Fashioning of Reality

Fashioning Englishness through the French Other

The 1719 English Edition of Misson’s 1698. Mémoires et observations faites par un voyageur en Angleterre

Emma Pauncefort


Cet essai examine la traduction anglaise des Mémoires et Observations faites par un voyageur en Angleterre d’Henri Misson par John Ozell publiée en 1719. La traduction d’Ozell est ici considérée comme un exemple de la tendance qui se développa au début du dix-huitième siècle en Angleterre à partir du périodique d’Addison et Steele, The Spectator: le désir d’observer les mœurs et le caractère des Anglais et d’en débattre. Une analyse textuelle met au jour la manière dont Ozell réinvestit les visées originales de Misson dans le but de se faire le champion de tout ce qui était « anglais », remettant par là en cause l’utilité culturelle du voyage sur le continent qu’était le Grand Tour. Pour ce faire, l’étude s’appuie sur les études récentes consacrées à l’élaboration des discours dans les textes ethnographiques et dans les récits de voyage. Elle s’inscrit également dans les débats sur la naissance d’une identité nationale anglaise à l’époque moderne, ainsi que dans le domaine relativement nouveau qu’est l’analyse des traductions de récits de voyage.

Texte intégral

1The dawn of the eighteenth century ushered in a new age of travel. As further swathes of the New World were “discovered” and brought to heel by hungry European powers, new cultures of travel were born within the confines of Europe. Until the seventeenth century, French travel to England had been extremely limited. The arduous and perilous journey across the English Channel dissuaded would-be travellers, if they were not already deterred by apocryphal accounts of English barbarity. With political change, however, came intrigue. The Restoration of the Stuart Court in 1660 prompted the renewal of diplomatic ties between the English and the French. Assuaged by political rapprochement, the antiquarian traveller—the “savant en voyage”—diverted his gaze northwards. England was now to be included in his Europe-wide forage for curiosities—buildings, coins, medals and other rarities stowed away in the libraries of Oxford and Cambridge and noble houses—and contributed to his aim to engage with Europe’s intellectual elite. The Glorious Revolution of 1688, which saw the Dutch William of Orange usurp the English throne from James II, not only placed one of France’s enemies on the English throne, but also marked the beginning of England’s growth as a European power. The consequences of such political upheaval were wide-ranging and included the birth of a further culture of travel: that of the French philosophical traveller.

2This new culture of travel effected a shift in the conventional subject matter of travelogues. Instead of collector’s items, the new object of curiosity was the English themselves. But there was, most importantly, a distinction to be made. It was not the noble owners of rarities which now attracted attention, but the common people. This new mode of travel writing sought to observe and reassess that general English character which—for so long denigrated by the French—seemed to underpin the rise in England’s success. Elite circles which relished in Anglo-French amity were thus shunned in favour of the social spaces frequented by the average Englishman. For the philosophical traveller, as he endeavoured to shed well-entrenched prejudices, was motivated by the desire to understand cause and effect; in this case, a general national character responsible for the exponential growth of a nation.

3The implications of this affirmably anthropocentric focus and its eschewal of elitism were far-reaching. A central role of antiquarian travelogues had been to bolster the vision of the English mass as an “enemy”, or rather a cultural “other” incompatible with that refinement seen to define a sense of being French. This was important for the self-affirming role invested in travel writings: to consolidate that anthropological narrative which granted the French superiority and advancement above other peoples; a fact which itself contributed to a French understanding of what it meant to be French. Those upper ranks of English society—the monarch and nobility—who fawned over French modes and manners were revered in these writings, but only on two conditions: firstly, that the hierarchy which placed the French above the English continued to be endorsed by English Francophilic tendencies; secondly that the great mass of the English people—who were renowned for hurling xenophobic insults at French travellers—still bore the brunt of conventional hackneyed stereotypes of brutishness. Audaciously, the new focus of the French philosophical traveller, with its contempt for French prejudices, rejected such narratives of power, and ultimately undermined early French attempts at identity formation.

4However, whilst destructing—or rather attempting to reconstruct—a sense of French identity, these writings also played an intriguing role, hitherto unacknowledged, in the fashioning of an English identity, or what might be more suitably termed as “Englishness”. Although, as Suranyi notes, “there remains a great deal of dispute about the dating, degree, and origins of nationalism,” with considerable debate focusing on definitions of the “nation”, “nationhood”, and “nationalism”, it is possible to discern, as her study highlights for the seventeenth century, an increasing awareness of “what it meant to be English” (2008: 38-39). Or rather, the early modern period witnessed a rising interest in delineating what it could mean to be English. For, as is increasingly highlighted in scholarship, cultures are not pre-existing realities which simply require interpretation: as Clifford asserts in his study of ethnography, culture is an “authored invention” (1997: 24). It therefore follows that the entity which is constituted by a culture, namely the nation, is likewise forged in language. This is indeed acknowledged by Saïd in his seminal work in the statement that “nations are themselves narrations” (1994: xiii). And as is evident from the function antiquarian travellers silently advocated for their accounts, the travelogue could be fashioned into a statement of self-perceived identity.

5Indeed, as a burgeoning body of scholarship on travel writing attests, itself fuelled by the postcolonial movement, travel narratives are the space par excellence to construct narratives of identity. Far from being repositories of factual detail ready for the pillaging—for long the common fate of many travelogues—travel works are increasingly acknowledged as governed by multiple layers of narrative which demand close analysis if they are to be revealed. With the breaking down of the artificial boundary between fact and fiction by scholars (Davis, 1987; Viviès, 2002) and the extensive theorizing of travel writing and anthropological discourses (Clifford, 1997), such narratives are gradually being uncovered. This had led to the famous theorisation by Pratt of the travel work as a “contact zone,” a space in which “cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other” (2008: 7). In turn, travel writing is now hailed as a genre which reflects “implicitly or explicitly on issues of national identity, individuality and character” (Martin & Pickford, 2012: 9). Nevertheless, study of contemporary translations of travel works remains largely terra incognita, especially with regards to “how translation […] contributed to the construction of identity within Europe and specifically England” (Ibid.).

6This essay examines the role of English translations of French travel accounts in the early eighteenth century in nurturing, or rather authoring, a sense of Englishness. It takes as a case study John Ozell’s 1719 translation of the work of a French philosophical traveller: Henri Misson’s 1698 Mémoires et Observations faites par un voyageur en Angleterre. It proposes that English translations of French travelogues responded to and fuelled a growing interest in scrutinizing and ameliorating the English character as witnessed in Addison’s The Spectator. Importantly, this was an interest pursued behind the veil of impartiality, a veil itself offered by the accounts of French philosophical travellers.

7But of course, in choosing to weave such discourses within an account which lauded the English and travel to England, Ozell was engaging in a further debate: the educative role of the Grand Tour, the now institutionalised prerequisite for the aspiring English gentleman which saw him travel to France and Italy to learn about men, manners and political institutions and reflect on the relative merits of English customs and behaviour. It was indeed considered the pinnacle of a young noble’s education. Nevertheless, this essay argues that through opening the possibilities of domestic armchair travel, Ozell’s translation initiated debates on the relationship between travel, self-knowledge and a sense of English identity long before Hurd’s Dialogues on the Uses of Travel pitted with rhetorical flourish the fictionalised voice of Locke against Shaftesbury in the dispute over the “specious name of foreign travel” (1764: 70). The space of translation was Ozell’s opportunity to challenge that sense of English inferiority in the face of continental manners which such travel inevitably fostered. The French might later be erected by the English as the contemptible “other”; employed as a useful political tool by the governing elite as they sought to whip up popular support for continental wars (Kidd, 2006: 373). However, Ozell’s 1719 Memoirs demonstrate a contrasting phenomenon which saw the employment of an outspoken French authority to illustrate and narrate English excellence.

Native attempts to (re-)fashion Englishness: the local travelling philosopher “Mr Spectator”

8In the throes of bitter conflict with Louis XIV’s France, England saw an increase in its domestic power. The Act of Union of 1707 brought the kingdoms of England and Scotland together as the United Kingdom of Great Britain. Nevertheless, as Kidd has argued, nuancing Colley’s thesis of the growth of “Britishness”, 1707 did not spawn so much a “British identity” as it initiated a process of “anglicisation” of the North Briton (2006: 376); it was the customs and character of England which were to dominate any collective sense of identity. Successes abroad translated into heightened confidence at home to reconsider the identity of the most powerful of the constituents: England. Moreover, with the possibility of travel being impeded by war, there was further impetus to find an alternative means of that self-reflection which was identified as a key constituent of continental travel.

9It was in this political and cultural climate that Addison and Steele’s The Spectator was published, the first edition going to print on Thursday 1 March 1711. The raison d’être of the daily was to provide critical social commentary on English mores. Rejecting the elevated form of a treatise or diatribe, the critique was presented as a dialogue between the omnipresent and omniscient “Mr Spectator” and his projected audience: the discerning Englishman ready to audit Englishness with appropriate exactness, or rather, any reader seeking the removal necessary to examine his habits and customs effectively. Mr Spectator purported to offer an objective lens through which the English reader could become an outside observer, and at that, one endowed with the utmost authority. The first issue thus introduces Mr Spectator as one who has extensive experience of observing customs: he has just returned from “travel into Foreign countries” during which his concern to quench an “insatiable Thirst after Knowledge” drove him to seek out novelties and particularities. This experience stands him in good stead for his current pastime: to frequent, not the haunts of the elite, but the “most public places” which are of “general Resort,” indeed anywhere offering the opportunity to slip amongst “a Cluster of people” from different walks of life—theatres and coffeehouses alike—and become the “Spectator of Mankind.” A particular species of empiricism is thus the force driving him, one that advocates complete immersion to gain true experience of those people he claims to observe.

10Nevertheless, a balance had to be struck between immersion and disengagement, association and dissociation, with this object. Mr Spectator, of course, adroitly manages this. The opening biography had already introduced important characteristics he had shown as a child, not least a love of the solitary. Disengagement during youth is now reported to have morphed into a nurtured, yet informed, disinterest for the purpose of observing character types. Mr Spectator boasts the understanding of the man who has practised many an occupation: he is the “Speculative Statesman, Soldier, Merchant, and Artisan, without ever meddling with any Practical Part in Life.” In addition, he has a grasp of the workings of family and business affairs without being caught up in either. Nor is he aligned with any political camp. Indeed, this refusal to self-define extends to the eschewal of any physical description. He does not wish to divulge details of his “History and Character,” which would expose him to “several salutes and Civilities,” courtesies which have always disagreed with him. This consideration is, however, less to do with personal preference than a key component of his current aim: not to disrupt a distance, carefully constructed not least for the purpose of demonstrating how critical evaluative methods are essential to everyday life. As he adds nearly a fortnight later, he will have achieved his ambition if he is reputed to have extended the reaches of philosophy, and brought it “out of Closets and Libraries, Schools and Colleges, to dwell in Clubs and Assemblies, at Tea-Tables and Coffee-houses” (No. 10, March 12 1711). Scholarly reflection, he thus suggests, can be fruitfully combined with direct experience, a belief likewise espoused by the French philosophical traveller. Moreover, this method could be of great advantage when employed, not during travel on the continent, but whilst firmly on English soil.

11Indeed, The Spectator brought both the method and the very act of travel into question. On the surface, it was presented as offering essential preparation for anyone about to embark on his Grand Tour. After a year of patronizing London’s many spaces of sociability, Mr Spectator turns to consider the benefits to be reaped from travel (No. 364, Monday 28 April 1712). In the searching eyes of Mr Spectator, self-reflection and ensuing self-improvement constitute the fundamental role of travel. Such fundamental objectives are, however, unachievable for one “who is a mere Stranger to the Customs and Policies of his native country, and has not yet fixed in his Mind the first Principles of Manners and Behaviour.” The idea is ludicrous and even contemptuous. As the exasperated narrator continues, lapsing into analogy, to travel and attempt to learn from foreign climes without comprehensive knowledge of one’s own nation would be “to build a gaudy Structure without any Foundation,” or indeed “to work a rich Embroidery upon a Cobweb.” The job of The Spectator is apparently to rectify this, equipping the would-be traveller with a sound knowledge of his own country so that he might reap the full benefits of his travel abroad. At least, this is what is suggested on a first reading. In truth, the daily publication was punctuated with many an acerbic comment on French foppishness and frivolity, underpinned by a strong partiality for all things English. Such polarised views were particularly well expressed in the opening lines of No. 125 (Saturday 4 August 1711):

I have somewhere read of an eminent Person, who used in his private Offices of Devotion to give Thanks to Heaven that he was born a Frenchman: For my own part, I look upon it as a peculiar Blessing that I was Born an Englishman […].

12Stifling the whines of the disgruntled Englishman and Francophile, The Spectator thus only paid lip service to the pursuit of foreign travel, whilst encouraging his readers to count their English blessings.

13The journal was published intermittently until the end of 1714 (interestingly coinciding with the end of the War of Spanish Succession), running to over six hundred issues. The rhetorical wit, accessible format and digestible length assured the journal a wide readership. Contrary to the treatises of Lord Shaftesbury (the same Shaftesbury who corroborated disparaging French accounts of the unpolished Shakespearean style), which were aimed at an exclusive, noble and educated public, Addison and Steele’s Spectator “reached one of the largest, most socially diverse audiences of the day” (Bowers, 2005: 158). Addison himself proudly boasted a daily readership of sixty thousand (10% of London’s population). Bowers suggests the figure to be more than double (Ibid.). Whatever the real figure, the readership was indisputably broad, aided in no small part by the subscriptions bought on behalf of curious clientele by some of those very places of sociability frequented by Mr Spectator—the coffee shops of London. Proof of the vitality of the work, The Spectator was also sold in bound volumes in England, with French translations published on their tail, responding to rising demand for information about an increasingly powerful channel neighbour. Observing and fashioning Englishness was clearly in vogue.

Casting the net wider: Assimilation of the French philosophical traveller

14Notwithstanding Mr Spectator’s lip-service to impartiality, however, the journal was criticised for its Whiggish tendencies, an attack on the political leanings of the authors. Inevitably, this undermined the core objective of the daily. Impossibly dissociated from the loyalties and biases of English party politics, “Mr Spectator” could thus only achieve the necessary detachment in rhetoric. Nevertheless, Addison and Steele’s publication offered a workable method for the effective study of English manners, which could be adopted by a real outsider: the traveller. It also suggested an epideictic mode—a balanced discourse of praise and criticism—for speaking of Englishness, a mode which, given the popularity of the publication, seems to have intrigued readers. The market was ready and indeed hungry for more works which brought English custom under the lens. It was thus a natural progression to turn to a readymade body of material which could satisfy such interests: recent French travel writings on England. An opportunity was presented to the jobbing translator John Ozell, who turned his attention away from translating French poets to produce an English edition of a recent travelogue. His choice of the account, as he notes on the title page, “dispos’d in Alphabetical order,” of the French traveller Monsieur Misson was particularly expedient.

15Although a Huguenot exile, in his Mémoires Misson styles himself as the “voyageur” to England who has now turned to relate his impressions of the country and its customs. This is no standard account of French travel, but rather constitutes the first attempt to redirect writing on England and the English after 1688. This is achieved through a masterly combination of content and form in his travelogue. With regards to structure, his choice of an alphabetical order is furnished with a particular rhetorical function. Ostensibly promising to expound on what is “de plus curieux & de plus nouveau dans la Grande Bretagne,” the work’s alphabetic format ensures that “Angleterre” sits proudly at the head of the work. The ensuing description thus sets to work on a more propitious narrative of England whilst spurning the scientific tone of the geographer. Refusing to regurgitate lists of abundant natural resources, or to digress on the etymology of “Anglia” and “Britannia” that “on peut consulter” in the English works of Bochard and Camden, Misson nevertheless insists on England’s natural prosperity: it is land of plenty and richness. But above all, implicitly dismissing long-running theories which linked England’s tumultuous weather to the fickle behaviour of its people (such theories were initially introduced by Bodin in Les Six Livres de la République (1576) and would find their most famous exponent in Montesquieu’s 1748 De l’Esprit des Lois), Misson designates England an “Isle fortunée”; an island blessed with a favourable climate.

16This prefatory eulogy acts as a firm springboard from which Misson can launch his attack on supposed French superiority. Indeed, climate emerges as a particularly useful segue, with the opportunity to erect a comparison between the English and the French. As Misson boldly asserts, “le milieu de la France ne jouït pas d’un air plus doux que celui de toute l’Angleterre.” From here, he shifts easily to digress on French prejudice in the following article “Anglois”, an entry with a prime focus on defining “English” in favourable juxtaposition to the French. A lengthy enumeration of English qualities is followed by an expression of sincere incredulity at the unfounded and yet oft-repeated accusation launched by the French against the English: that “les Anglois étoient Traîtres.” Such an unforgiving appraisal sits uneasily with the reality observed by Misson. Moving seamlessly from description to commentary based upon his personal experience, Misson proceeds to call upon concrete counterexamples to such accusations. It is not, however, the upper ranks and their concerns—the hitherto conventional focus of travel works—to which Misson has recourse. Strikingly, he alights on the long-denigrated pastimes of the English populace to provide such illustrations. When it comes to prizefighting, for example, Misson commends the rule that two combatants are to be armed equally in the interests of fairness. Such equity not only undermines the conventional view—“très injuste”— of the English character, but offers a striking contrast with the French character. Indeed, as he initiates a mordant attack on the superficial manners of his fellow Frenchmen, Misson proclaims that “la civilité” of the English is quite other than those who are “fardés & hypocrites.”

17But to swing the balance in favour of the English whilst relentlessly scorning Frenchness would achieve nothing more than a reversal of stances, a shift in partiality. Indeed, upturning the hierarchy of nations forms no part of his objective: his audacious aim was to dismantle it altogether. In this new mapping of nations, strengths and weaknesses are juxtaposed. Misson might proclaim that any foreigner acquainted with the English will learn to esteem and regard the island nation. This is not, however, to encourage blindness to evident failings, even when contrasted with the scornful French. Virtues and vices are shared in equal measure across the English and the French. Indeed, when it comes to the English, certain French stereotypes are shown to have basis in fact. In the article “apprentis”, Misson remarks that since coming to London he has learnt of true cases of English Lords placing their children in apprenticeships with merchants and craftsmen, even if such examples come from nobles of a lower rank than suggested in those reports frequently recited “hors d’Angleterre.” Indictment of French manners is thus only deemed necessary to facilitate an elevation of English manners from the gutter to a level of respectability. And indeed, it is notable that despite falling victim to Louis XIV’s draconian religious policy, Misson does not inveigh against the French monarch. Politics are to a certain extent passed over.

18Meanwhile, Misson stays true to the remit of the “philosophical traveller,” focusing on the English people rather than noble English possessions, whilst working towards a more balanced appraisal of character. It is striking that although the Mémoires bear some of the hallmarks of the work of an exile, not least the regretted loss of one’s homeland, an apology of the land and people granting asylum is put to the greater service of calling for an appreciation of the diversity of nations. Indeed, for an individual who had been ostracised from his home nation due to his confessional persuasion (Louis XIV had revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685), the message could only warn of the calamitous dangers borne out of chastising difference.

19Misson’s Mémoires was thus a source text which responded to the growing interest of English readers. Although comprehensive in its coverage, it mirrored the digestible format of the wartime publication The Spectator. And more importantly, it was the documented observations of one who, as a Frenchman in England, boasted sufficient detachment whilst possessing firsthand knowledge. Nevertheless, as Buke and Hasia have asserted, translation inevitably involves a process of “decontextualisation” and “recontextualisation” (quoted in Martin & Pickford, 2012: 11). As the root translatio implies, the process of translation initiates a transfer and conveyance from the original context to the new cultural framework. What is at stake, therefore, is how far “recontextualisation” is manipulated by the translator to fulfill more extensive aims than simply to facilitate the insertion of a work into another culture. In the case of the English edition of the Mémoires, expected reframing of the account is taken a step further with Ozell encouraging the very partiality Misson had sought to deflect: the championing of Englishness over all other cultures.

20Though no reference is made to the Anglo-French political alliance secured by the Treaty of Utrecht, it is perhaps unsurprising that the recent Act of Union makes an indirect appearance in Ozell’s edition. Despite containing scanty detail on Scotland and Ireland, the commentary “faites par un voyageur en Angleterre”— as announced in the full title of the original French text–is conveyed as “M Misson’s Memoirs and Observations… with some Account of Scotland and Ireland” [my emphasis]. But perhaps the greatest mark of “recontextualisation” can be found in Ozell’s choice addressee. In place of Misson’s original preface dedicated to the Baron de Rede—a Dutch commander of William III—an extended address is featured to William Bateman, son of the recently deceased James Bateman. William’s father was an illustrious individual: he had held the posts of Lord Mayor of London and Governor of the Bank of England (he was a renowned financier), and was also Ozell’s patron, a position which precipitates a sycophantic encomium within the preface. (William would go on to mirror his father’s eminence, holding the parliamentary seat for Leominster and becoming elected to the Irish peerage in 1725). An opening which had triumphed Protestant internationalism and England’s integration into the broader European Protestant world is thus superseded by a dedication championing more local loyalties. This is, indeed, a fitting shift in focus given the main thrust of the new preface: to peddle the instructive benefits to be gained from reading a French account of the English over and above glorified travel to the continent.

21Although William Bateman has only recently returned from his Grand Tour, the advantages to be gained from examining the Observations made by a Foreign Gentleman in England, Ozell contends, are great. In part, this relies on the original comparisons Misson makes between the English and French. More importantly however, Misson’s account grants a rare opportunity to know what the French “Other” says about “we the English.” For, as Ozell enthuses, Misson relates the English character through his own experiences and “according to his own Ideas and Notions.” The reader might thus experience the same pleasure “as the being told what People say of us behind our Backs.” Such a window is, moreover, “to one’s Advantage,” encouraging self-scrutiny whilst on home turf and without the debaucheries and excesses characteristic of many Grand Tours, bemoaned by no-one else than he who formerly bankrolled such indulgences, William Bateman’s late father. Misson’s text is thus introduced as a privileged lens for self-enquiry. Nevertheless, as Ozell’s approach to the translation of the main body evidences, the boundary between self-enquiry and self-congratulation can be loosely demarcated. “Recontextualisation”, or, in the current case, conceiving of the alphabetical format as a rhetorical strategy to tip the balance in greater favour of the English, functions within a broader and calculated agenda.

22Due to its alphabetical format, translating the Mémoires necessarily resulted in significant reordering of the content. That the English equivalent of the opening entry “Angleterre”—“England”—appears embedded within the account, is only to be expected. Likewise, the displacement of “animaux”—or “animals” in the English translation—to the head of the work suggests Ozell’s commitment to a faithful rendering of the French. However, close comparison of the translation with Misson’s original description of wildlife, livestock and domestic animals, with its momentary digressions on the relative merits of English and French fare, reveals that such apparent authenticity is but an illusion. Subtle yet significant mediation of the text is undertaken as Ozell seeks to achieve his main objective: the championing of English custom.

23Such meditation is evident from the very first sentence of the description. As he sought to offer a balanced appraisal of the English, Misson had counterweighed the commendatory tenor of the opening entries “Angleterre” and “Anglois” in his account of “animaux”. He had thus informed his reader that any animal found in England can also be observed in France. From here, he continues to tip the balance, albeit only slightly, against the English: there are, he had ensued, “dans nos Alpes & dans nos Pyrenées” some species which cannot be found in England at all. However, suggesting even greater sympathies for the French, he had dared to opine that English mutton was inferior to the French variety, an assertion which, it seems, tips the balance too far in Ozell’s view. In his translation of “animaux”, a conscious manipulation of the text becomes apparent as Ozell seeks to undermine Misson’s authority and redirect such misguided favour in this new head entry.

24Challenging the integrity of Misson’s text was most effectively achieved through accentuating that which Misson had sought to eschew: extreme partiality. Misson had admitted his conclusion was partially borne out of subjectivity: it is “à mon avis” that he passes judgment. Any further suggestion of personal bias was strictly absent. He had continued with the more neutral statement that mutton is simply “moins bon qu’en France.” This did nothing, however, to remove the fact that his objectivity had already been called into question. In turn, it would not seem too great an abuse of translator’s license to amplify that partiality Misson had himself confessed. Indeed, in Ozell’s version partiality resonates from beginning to end of the remark. Ozell faithfully translates Misson’s admission as “in my Opinion.” However, instead of the more detached concluding remark, he gives the following rendition: mutton is, he translates with feigned insouciance, “not so good as ours in France” [my emphasis]. With the simple addition of the possessive pronoun “our”, Ozell condemns Misson’s mild criticism as a product of the very prejudice he had claimed to attack and which Ozell himself had purported to encourage. Nevertheless, Ozell’s commitment to apologising for the English was to take precedence. This dictated that criticism be moderated, certainly at the beginning of the account and, above all, if such criticism was constructed in favour of the French, that people to which the English nobility currently paid court. At the same time, however, it was important that Ozell’s particular bias remained discrete. This was indeed a consideration carefully managed in the further crafting of the translation to rebut Misson’s negative appraisal.

25Another device at his disposal was to add limited commentary. The adoption of marginal notes, as in the original French text, would make any textual intervention too conspicuous. A typographical alteration could, however, facilitate the inclusion of more audacious critique. Ozell thus converts Misson’s notes, remarks that featured prominently alongside the main body of the text, into footnotes. Comparison with the layout of his other translations highlights that this was indeed a calculated decision. For example, his 1720 translation of Vertot’s The History of the Revolutions that happened in the Governments of the Roman Republic preserves the original layout of the French work. The publisher of Vertot’s History (“W. Taylor at the Ship in Pater-noster-Row”) is different to that of Misson’s Memoirs (a consortium of booksellers). Nevertheless, examination of other volumes which emerged from Taylor’s printing press suggests that such reorganisation of material was not common practice. With a strategic revision of the layout of the Mémoires, Ozell could therefore quietly question the factual foundation for Misson’s reproach. As the footnote remarks, Misson’s dismissal of English mutton only rings true if he is referring to “the Mutton of Languedoc and Provence, where the Sheep feed mostly on Thyme, and other sweet herbs.”

26With Misson’s less reverential observations refuted, Ozell could now revel in reinforcing the more tepid compliments. Turning to English beef, Misson had noted its reputed excellence. However, unlike in the case of mutton, he had refused to offer his personal opinion, instead declaring that those endowed with ‘le palais plus délicat & plus fin’ would be better placed as judges. Although intertextual references indicate the use of “délicat” was indeed meant as condemnatory in the original text (the adjective also appears in the entry “fruit”—another short entry employed by Misson to launch a further attack on the French inability to accept difference—in the sense of “fussy”), any suggestion that English beef might not be appreciated on its first tasting called for yet further discreet emendation. After all, although it was not until 1731 that Fielding’s patriotic ballad “The Roast Beef of Old England” was first performed, a species of “gastronationalism” (a term developed by Desoucey [2010]) was already in the making with the foundation of London’s first “Beefsteak Club” in 1705. Ozell thus looks to undermine the supposed superiority of Misson’s would-be tasters and reinforce the concealed castigatory tenor of Misson’s original entry: the succession of comparative adjectives qualifying “palais” are replaced with “nicer”, a term of significant resonance for Ozell’s present enterprise. As Johnson’s 1755 A Dictionary of the English Language would later remark, “nice” was the appropriate epithet for an individual of reproachable pedantry, “superfluously exact,” or indeed, directly mirroring Misson’s French term, “delicate”. The clear implication was, therefore, that no adjudication was needed at all; only the unnecessarily pernickety would engage in such an activity. There could be no doubt of English worth, not least when it came to defending cherished English cuisine.

27A similar reworking of Misson’s text is evident in the subsequent discussion of English poultry. Here, Misson had again turned to make a comparison between the French and English varieties. However, this time he had granted the English his favour in prefacing his remarks on the general French reaction with the following assertion: “La volaille est tendre & excellent à mon gré.” Again, Misson had drawn on his subjective judgment, but in this case he had offered an opinion which Ozell sought to corroborate. As Ozell translates, “Their Poultry is indeed tender, and in my Opinion, excellent” [my emphasis]. With the simple addition of the adverb, Ozell could reinforce Misson’s praise with great subtlety and, in turn, build on the more laudatory tenor of his translation.

28The remainder of the entry extols the resilience and spirit of English steed and muses on the absence of mules, on the one hand, and abundance of donkeys, on the other. Some alteration is still evident, for example, in Ozell’s apparent move to correct Misson’s understanding that few mules are bred in England: he notes the English do not rear mules at all. Nevertheless, the most important mediation had already been effected in the first few sentences. A seemingly inconsequential entry, the opening description of English animals and related nutriment in fact transpires to be a triumphant declaration of Ozell’s veritable programmatic intentions. These were to espouse a highly partial mode of self-enquiry through bolstering that praise of English mores already present whilst, at the same time, seeking to challenge even, by all accounts, moderate criticisms. The boundaries of “recontextualisation” are thus stretched from the outset, setting the tone for subsequent calculated manipulation of content as afforded by a revised structure. Indeed, the reordering of Misson’s original text, as demanded in the interests of producing a convincingly faithful translation, is used particularly expediently by Ozell in his reframing of two key entries: “François” and “Anglois”.

29Relaying Misson’s own search for identity as a Protestant exile, the original French edition had redirected the reader to “François Refugiez” on reaching the article “François”. This relocation had, however, effected the juxtaposition of the French refugee with a damning entry on the nonconformist Quakers. In turn, the praise of English charity—and the implicit indication of English prosperity suggested by such beneficence—which abounds in the entry on French refugees had been restrained to one article. This is a limitation Ozell’s translation seeks to correct. In the English edition, the appearance of the French entry “courses” as “races” results in discussion of betting on horses proceeding the entry for “French refugees.” Although not in itself particularly noteworthy, Ozell’s subtle and tactical doctoring of the content nevertheless morphs the entry into a fitting account of widespread prosperity, a reality the text itself cannot keep in check. Coming to translate Misson’s observation that bets of “deux mille livres” are common “entre deux seigneurs,” Ozell drops the reference to the status of the betters. The agreement seems to remain that “Gentlemen of the Neighbourhood” delight in such pastimes. However, Ozell removes the specific detail according to which only Lords would contemplate such high wagers, suggesting that an individual other than a noble might equally be in a position to make such a large bet. Consequently, the entry is transformed into a fitting preface to the article “French Refugees” in which Misson’s praise of English charity and benefice is faithfully and opportunely mirrored by Ozell. From its original position of little note between “cours” and “courtisanes”, “courses” or “Races” is thus employed as a further prop in Ozell’s veiled staging of Englishness.

30It is, however, in the entry “English” where the mask is dropped and Ozell’s bias most clearly revealed. As the translation dictates, the entry “English” immediately follows “England”. Consequently, the reader traverses the same paths of praise and re-evaluation as laid down in Misson’s original. On reaching “English”, however, Ozell delights in the possibilities available to the recontextualising translator to mediate the original. Firstly, Misson’s indignation at the criticism launched against the English is reinforced by the scandalised Ozell expressing disbelief that the English might have been victim to such outrageous accusations: “Tis Strange, that they, of all Nations in the world, should lie under this Scandal” [my emphasis]. From the restrained mediation witnessed in the entry “animals”, Ozell’s intervention becomes more blatant as the text moves to discuss the more important issue of unfounded French prejudice. This was indeed a welcome opportunity for Ozell to expound on English global brilliance. Nevertheless, such hyperbolic expressions would quickly be dismissed as exaggerated rhetoric unless followed by remarks which seemingly championed objective authority.

31In the remainder of the entry, Ozell therefore strives to confer greater authority on Misson’s apology of English traits, again employing that stratagem of reinforcement seen in the opening entry. At this point in the translation, Ozell endeavours to achieve this through elevating truth—albeit, as it becomes evident, a very particular conception of such truth—as the guiding principle, in turn allowing the global reference inherent in his earlier insertion to be embedded in fact. Ozell thus reworks Misson’s qualification of his concession that the English must necessarily bear some faults. His note that English weaknesses must exist “comme chaque Nation à les siens particuliers,” is rendered as the following: “…as no doubt all Nations are” [my emphasis]. The reference to all peoples is presented as one constituted with the utmost certainty, and in turn suggested as based on objective rather than subjective evidence. The resulting implication is, therefore, that any observer of Englishness should expect to discern the odd foible. For, nature dictates that such foibles occur in any nation, meaning that the greatness of English custom is impossibly marred by identification of some faults. This paves the way for the climactic assertion of Ozellian truth. Turning to an already enthusiastic account of English worth—that “il y a en Angleterre des personnes d’un caractere qu’on peut dire accompli”—Ozell makes a slight but notable alteration. As he “translates”: “there are in England Persons that may truly be call’d Accomplish’d” [my emphasis]. Whilst appearing to bestow greater authority on the text, Ozell’s understanding of truth emerges as entirely invested in the recognition and lauding of an unrivalled English self-worth. The preface to the translation might have advocated the instructive benefits of viewing oneself through the lens of the dissociated French other. As “recontextualisation” is pushed to its limits Ozell ensures, however, that this lens is as rose-tinted as possible.

The birth of an English identity through the French other?

32Scholars have long acknowledged the importance of a cultural “other” in the formation of a sense of identity. Over thirty years ago Armstrong was compelled to observe the rising obligation facing anthropological historians which was “to confront the fact […] that groups tend to define themselves, not by reference to their own characteristics, but by exclusion, that is by comparison to ‘strangers’” (1982: 5). It is precisely this process which is examined by Cohen in her study of the forging of a masculine English identity as the diametric opposite of perceived French effeminacy (2002). Nevertheless, whilst she identifies the Glorious Revolution as an important watershed, it is not until the 1760s that she identifies the unleashing of an attack on “the very notion of travel as a means of fashioning the gentleman; in other words, the Grand Tour as a technology of the self” (2002: 60). Analysis of Ozell’s 1719 Memoirs has shown, however, that the early years of George I’s reign witnessed ardent attempts to put forward an alternative means of both travelling and using contact with French culture to revise a sense of “Englishness”. The numbers of the English nobility to the continent did continue to rise, with travel even unhindered by later outbreaks of war (Gibson, 1995: 81). Yet, English translations of French philosophical travel works were to present an increasingly viable substitute. Moreover, with travel to France and access to French texts restricted to the upper ranks, such translations inevitably offered the opportunity for a greater cross-section of English society to engage in self-critique through the moderated eyes of the French traveller.

33Indeed, the increasing number of English editions of French travelogues in the opening decades of the eighteenth century suggests a rising consumer demand. In addition to Misson’s Mémoires, the infamous 1664 Voyage of the physician Samuel Sorbière was translated in 1709 with the defensive response of Dr Thomas Sprat. Muralt’s controversial 1725 Lettres sur les Anglois went through two editions—one in 1726 and a revised version in 1728. Most intriguingly, copies of the English editions were acquired not only by proprietors of England’s magnificent stately homes, but also by the middling classes. The complexity of Anglo-French diplomatic relations following the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714), which saw amity and enmity co-exist, was thus equally present in the cultural and literary spheres, not least in England.

34Once the canons were left to smoke a particularly powerful contribution was made to the English versus French debate. In the Memoirs, we are presented with an example of the wily early eighteenth-century translator. We witness a narrative crafted twice over; one which offered its readers more than a “secondary process of exploration” (Harris in Harris & Myers, 1999: vii), an opportunity to (re) visit those foreign regions originally navigated by the travel writer. This was an exploration of both one’s native landscape and the self. Unwittingly, the reader is guided by both the rebellious and more Anglophilic French traveller and the patriotic jobbing translator. Alighting on the process of “othering” in the growth of an English identity is thus surely an oversimplification. Rather, as the English grappled with their French counterparts, “othering” and assimilation were simultaneously employed. This was not a simple process of Anglo-French cultural exchange. In light of the controversial objectives of Misson’s original text, Ozell’s translation is a fascinating example of how the Prattian “travelee”, defined in her study as the subordinated subject of hegemonic travel narratives who often reacts to such narratives in interesting ways (2008: 258), responded to the audacious discourse of a French philosophical traveller. A process of reappropriation is still at stake. In this case, however, the English “travelee” Ozell sought to further the message which Misson had tentatively proclaimed: that the English deserve to be identified more favourably alongside the French. Whilst an increasing number of critics carped at the harmful influence of the French on the English (Swift and Defoe were especially vociferous in their assaults on the noxious French language), through Monsieur Spectateur Misson, Ozell had shown just how formative selective engagement with the French could be. There was no question of championing a “Protestant internationalism,” a notion which forms the kernel of Claydon’s thesis of the role of travel writings in the construction of English nationhood (2007). The “Englishing” of the Huguenot Misson’s Mémoires marked the nascency of a more Anglocentric sense of Francophilia, the root of an autonomous English identity.



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