Page 4, 16th May 1958

16th May 1958
Page 4
Page 4, 16th May 1958 — R. ROBO REVIEWS MGR. RONALD KNOX'S TRANSLATION OF ST. TERESA OF LISIEUX'S `AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A SAINT'
Close

Report an error

Noticed an error on this page?
If you've noticed an error in this article please click here to report it.

Tags


Share


Related articles

Mgr. Knox Completed The Translation

Page 1 from 30th August 1957

Autobiography

Page 2 from 30th May 1958

The Real St. Teresa

Page 5 from 30th September 1955

Alcuin On The Latest Books

Page 3 from 23rd September 1955

Knox On Saint Teresa

Page 2 from 4th July 1958

R. ROBO REVIEWS MGR. RONALD KNOX'S TRANSLATION OF ST. TERESA OF LISIEUX'S `AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A SAINT'

Adding to a Saint's Honour and Glory

By Fr.

ETIENNE ROBO

MANY amongst us have had for years on their bookshelves some English translation of the " Story of a Soul ". We have probably taken for granted that it was a faithful and complete reproduction of the original and, when we hear that a new one is being put before the public, we perhaps wonder.

Is there any need for one more translation of the same biography? What was wrong with the others, anyway?

Let us first point out that this new translation is the work of a great stylist, a master of English prose. Mgr. Ronald Knox is already well known, even outside England. through his admirable rendering of the Bible into thc modern idiom. This alone should make the Catholic public anxious to read his " Autobiography of a Saint" -the title of his book.

Since June, 1956, however, some new and cogent reasons have arisen that have made a new publication quite imperative and, by the way. rendered our earlier translations obsolete. Two years ago the original manuscript of St. Therese was published.

Mutilated

IT had been known for a long time that it had been altered and mutilated. The Holy See had ordered in 1947 its integral publication. This was strenuously

opposed by Mother Agnes, the saint's sister, who was responsible for all the alterations, and she obtained from Rome a decree (Dilata) suspending the effect of the first decision.

It was only after her death that the Difaro was annulled, Two years ago, the original manuscript was photographed page by page, and its reproduction in photostatic form is so perfect that each copy could easily he mistaken for the autograph itself.

Mother Agnes had acknowledged that " a few very short passages had been suppressed. They were concerned with details of family life". She had also cut out " one or two pages that offered no interest to readers unconnected with Carmel". She affirmed that " the few cuts she had made were of little importance".

1 should like to be more precise. tor it seems to me that the cuts were neither few nor unimportant. We have calculated that, even excluding many excisions of one line or less. more than 20,000 words had been left out in the printed editions. This is the equivalent of at least 50 pages of 40(1 words each. We are far from the " one or two pages " we had been told about, and, what is more, a large number of the cuts seemed to have been made with the definite purpose of concealing as much as possible everything that, in the mind of Mother Agnes, clashed with her peculiar notions of what was unbecoming in a saint and improper for the public to know.

Temper tantrums

I N her infancy, Therese had her share of the normal failings of that tender age. At two or three she had violent fits of temper (furies epouvantables); she deserved and got occasional spankings. Later on she was always

Sainte Jeanne s Feast

'OTTER has sufficient French J blood to feel something quite special when be is asked to participate in a celebration such as the one which took place last Sunday, when London's "Notre Dame de France" solemnly celebrated the feast of Sainte Jeanne d'Arc. The church itself on a sunny day—it was raining in Paris, as a guest at the subsequent luncheon informed me—makes a setting which combines grandeur with intimacy. and, of course. the Superior, Pere Jacquemin, S.M., and his community have long given a splendid lead in people's liturgical participation in the Mass. When I go there, I always try and fit myself in a corner of the gallery which enables one to look over the High Altar, thereby becoming greatly distracted by the sheer aesthetic beauty of High Mass when so reverently sung. On this occasion, when the French Ambassador and the Diplomatic Suite were present, the French and English Marists were united, as Fr. Cassidy, S.M., Superior of St. Lawrence, Canterbury, was subdeacon. An excellent choir and a magnificent organ manage to blend with the vigorous singing of the congregation in Gloria and Credo and the responses.

The Spirit of Fenelon

pROM Rheims, where St. Joan fulfilled her spiritual mission in getting the Dauphin crowned and anointed, came Mgr. Bejot, the Auxiliary Bishop, to preach. To my delight as he entered the pulpit, I thought I was seeing Fenelonthe same nose, the same ascetic features, the same dark eyes. The French Church no longer sees Joan as the symbol of France's military and national glory, but rather as an example of " chretien engage "--the Christian who sees his spiritual values as committed to renewing social order and justice within the temporal sphere. Such was the theme of the sermon. Mgr. Boisguerin. Bishop of Suifu, exiled from China and now resident in Liverpool, was also in the choir. The celebrant was the

extremely wilful, and at times she was also selfish and vain.

Evidence of these little failings was eliminated by her sister, and there only remains for us to sec " an angel in human shape ". Her illness at the age of 10, her odd ways at school and at home are clear indications of a neurotic temperament.

Many of the sentences or even paragraphs that made it manifest were carefully crossed out. We were not to know that once Therese deliberately broke the rule of enclosure in the Carmelite Convent (men) of Della Vittoria in Rome, nor that she disliked the recitation of the Rosary.

I have dealt at some length with these mutilations in the second edition of my book, and I shall not repeat myself here, except as far as is necessary to make my meaning clear.

Mother Agnes did not think it seemly that a saint should suffer from human infirmities or weaknesses. To us, it seems on the contrary that they only add to Therese's honour and glory. for they explain her emphatic protest during her last illness that " she always had a difficult nature and not a day ever passed without a fight. not one".

Permission

WE know, of course, of the permission Therese had given her sister to do what she liked with her autobiography. Mother Agnes practically re-wrote every page of it, and this is quite under

standable, for Therese's manuscript—written under very difficult conditions—was ungrammatical and colloquial to a degree. This had to be corrected.

She was not infrequently diffuse, verbose. Some condensation was permissible. We contend, however that Mother Agnes' pruning and cutting went much further than is permissible, for they amounted to a distortion of her sister's character as a child and rendered unintelligible the black moods and the " sufferings " 'Therese so often alludes to.

The reader will discover in Mgr. R. Knox's " Autobiography of a Saint " all these once forbidden texts. Some of the discarded episodes are among the hest Therese ever wrote.

You will read with amusement the story of the little child stuck tightly in a pail of water -a very undignified situation for a future saintor, in a fit of temper, shouting at the maid: " Victoire, you are a brat," under the impression that this Was a deadly insult.

You must not miss the anecdote showing us Therese. desperately ill, silting in her invalid chair in the garden and trying to write the last pages of her biography. She knew her days were numbered and yet, each time a lay sister going to her work passed by and stopped to speak to her, Therese interrupted her writing and listened with angelic patience to their well-meant and exasperating chitchat.

The additions

ON the other hand, what you will not find in this new translation are the arbitrary additions introduced here and there by Mother Agnes. There are many of them : they include some quotation from Mrs. Martin's letters, which could have been more suitably relegated to an This picture of the saint was taken by Celine in June, 1897, four months before her sister's death. That morning, Therese had a high temperature and complained of being very tired.

appendix, and also two paragraphs at the end of the manuscript dedicated to the Prioress. They only spoil the adequate and deliberate ending chosen by Therese.

There is a third addition which deserves our attention. We are referring to a page (you will find it in Mgr. Thos. Taylor's translation, pp. 122-123) which gives a definite impression that, for five years, the young novice was the object of a systematic persecution on the part of Mother de Cionzague.

This impression is much reinforced by the fact that the tale of Therese's ordeals is preceded and

followed by sentences (genuine ones) in which the saint speaks with feeling of her " sufferings ". You will not find this page in Mgr. R. Knox's translation, since Therese did not write it.

One may wonder whether the antagonism that existed between Mother de Gonzague and Mother Agnes has had anything to do with this addition. Therese. it is true, tells us that the Prioress was very strict with her. but on every occasion she speaks of her with great affection. A spiteful spirit was completely alien to her character, and for a long time that page. which I took to be genuine. was a puzzle to me.

Unexpurgated

I HAVE said enough to establish the importance of, and need for, this new and unexpurgated translation of St. Therese's manuscript.

It brings us for the first time the authentic and full text of the original, and re-establishes many distorted or suppressed passages that we had not been allowed to read before.

It makes all the previous editions obsolete, and it would be a poor admirer of St. Therese who would prefer A spurious and incomplete version to a truthful and complete one. That this new translation will for many decades hold the field is made certain by the excellence of Mgr. Knox's prose that no other translation is likely to equal, let alone to surpass.

This is the first part of Fr. Robo's review of Mgr. Ronald Knox's translation of the original manuscript of St. Teresa of Lisieux's "Autobiography of a &tint" (Harvill Press. fri the second part. which appears on page 6, Fr. Robo examines the style and accuracy of Mgr. Knox's translating technique.

less than the holder of a rich benefice. he was addressed as "monsieur Tebbe -and so it has remained.

The Odd Copies

IHAVE been asked by the Depart. mcnt which looks after requests for single copies of hack numbers of the CATHOLIC HERALD 10 mention once again that, if you want a copy of the paper to be sent by post, it will help considerably if you will enclose a 4d. stamp for each copy wanted plus something to cover postage, e.g. the postage on one copy is 2d. Applications for back numbers which arc not accompanied by a remittance are inevitably put at the bottom of requests. and sometimes, alas, overlooked altogether. You would not go into a a tobacconist's and say: " I have run out of cigarettes—can I have some, and I'll pay you when I know how many I have smoked."

Daily Mass Guide

SUN., MAY 18, SUNDAY AFTER THE ASCENSION. d. Comm. of S. Venantius. Creed. Preface of the Ascension. (White).

MON., MAY 19. S. Peter Celestine. d. Comm. of S. Pudentiana. Preface of the Ascension. (White).

TUES., MAY 20. S. Bernardine of Siena. d. Preface of the Ascension. (White).

WED., MAY 21. Of the Feria. Mass of the Ascension and Preface. (White).

THURS., MAY 22. As Wednesday. (White) FRID., MAY 23. As Wednesday. (While).

SAT., MAY 24. 'VIGIL OF PENTECOST. (1 cl) d. As in Missal. (Red).

SUN., MAY 25. PENTECOST SUNDAY. d. I cl with priv, octave of lit order. As in Missal. (Red).




blog comments powered by Disqus