Quebec Studies

British, but also French: Paul Mascarene’s Translation of Molière’s Le Misanthrope in Colonial Nova Scotia

Quebec Studies (2021), 71, (1), 133–150.

Abstract

This article examines a little-studied manuscript translation of Molière’s Le Misanthrope, made in eighteenth-century British Nova Scotia by a military officer named Paul Mascarene, for what it can tell us about the complicated assimilation of Huguenots in the global refuge. It argues that the undated manuscript shows the surprising extent to which Mascarene, a Huguenot who fled France in childhood, remained culturally French even as he was a perfectly assimilated Briton, and that he can be seen as a cultural ambassador between his homelands new and old. The manuscript here is closely scrutinized in relation both to Molière’s original 1666 play and a published English translation that is approximately contemporaneous to Mascarene’s own effort. Comparison of the three versions of the play show that Mascarene was a skilled and thoughtful translator, committed to accurately rendering Molière’s words while also making changes that reflected his personal religious values. This article also considers the assertion that Mascarene’s translation served as the basis of a performance in Annapolis Royal in 1743 or 1744 and shows that close scrutiny of the manuscript does not support this conclusion. Instead, Mascarene’s translation of Molière’s Le Misanthrope may best be understood as a sign of how Huguenots like him may have maintained and even sought to share with others aspects of their former identities even as they sought to conform to the cultural norms of their new homelands.

Cet article étudie une traduction manuscrite du Misanthrope de Molière, réalisée dans la Nouvelle-Écosse britannique au dix-huitième siècle par un officier militaire nommé Paul Mascarene, pour ce qu’elle peut nous dire sur l’assimilation compliquée des Huguenots dans le refuge mondial. Il soutient que le manuscrit montre à quel point Mascarene, un Huguenot qui a quitté la France à l’âge de onze ans et qui est réputé parfaitement assimilé à la culture britannique, est resté culturellement français. Le manuscrit est ici examiné par rapport à la pièce originale de 1666 de Molière et à une traduction en anglais publiée qui est à peu près contemporaine de celle de Mascarene. La comparaison des trois versions de la pièce montre que Mascarene était un traducteur habile et réfléchi, déterminé à traduire fidèlement les paroles de Molière tout en apportant des changements qui reflètent ses valeurs personnelles et religieuses. Cet article examine aussi l’affirmation fréquente selon laquelle la traduction de Mascarene a servi de base à une représentation à Annapolis Royal en 1743 ou 1744, et montre qu’un examen attentif du manuscrit ne corrobore pas cette conclusion. Au lieu de cela, le manuscrit peut être mieux compris comme un aperçu de la façon dont les Huguenots comme Mascarene auraient pu maintenir et même chercher à partager avec d’autres certains aspects de leurs anciennes identités tout en cherchant à se conformer aux normes culturelles de leurs nouvelles patries.

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Author details

True, Micah