Bronteana: Bronte Studies Blog Archives

March 13, 2006


Filed under: Academic,E-texts,Emily Bronte,The Belgian Essays,Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 9:39 pm

Le Chat by Emily Bronte

Last night I decided to read some of the Belgian devoirs before I went to sleep. I had read a few of Charlotte's devoirs but none of Emily's. This one, Le Chat (The Cat) is the first. It was composed in 1842. The work is interesting, and I think there is enough of the author's opinion running through it that you wouldn't say she was simply adopting an argument set down by Monsieur Heger. I found it charming, in a sense. The topic might seem trifling at first glance, but she uses the occasion- defending cats- to comment on human hypocrisy, cruelty, and ingratitude. I think she finds her place somewhere towards the end where the narrator argues with the lady who prefers lap dogs to cats. The ending was nicely placed as well: "For, assuredly, the cat was not wicked in Paradise."

The criticism in this edition, however, is somewhat heavy handed. I have looked over a few of Emily's other devoirs. In each, the editor tells us how Emily's French shows her 'resistence' to the very end, in the from of syntax etc, to the domination of M. Heger, or this new language. I think this is absurd. It is very natural for someone learning a language to express themselves for a time in their customary forms. I recieved 13 years of French language training and yet I still prefer using French words which reflect 'English' ideas- I am not 'resisting' French. In fact, despite my preference for maintaining my… 'barbarisms' as M. Heger might say, when I compose in French, I 'think' in French as well. Also, at the moment I am a teaching assistant for a Latin class. In Latin, word order is fluid- quite the opposite from English. Very often students merely use Latin words in English word order on their assignments.

Since it is short, and one did not exist, I have transcribed Le Chat. There is an English translation in this book but I think the French is more vital, and more authentic- obviously since the French is the work of Emily herself and not a translator.


  1. Hi Bronteana!
    This sounds really interesting! I have not read any of Emily’s Belgian devoirs.
    Would it be possible for you to transcribe translated version as well so that those who are not familiar with French could understand it too?
    I hope I am not inconveniencing you.

    Thanks so much!!

    Comment by mysticgypsy — March 14, 2006 @ 12:58 am |Reply

  2. I should copy the English as well. You always need to be careful of translations. I don’t trust them 😉 The editor of these seems fairly opinionated on what is ‘typical’ for Emily so I fear she may have unknowingly shaped the translation to suit her own opinions on Emily.

    I read two of her other devoirs, and I’m really impressed. It’s no wonder that Charlotte said Emily was at her best when she wrote essays! Her endings are especially powerful! M.Heger’s alterations only get in the way. As far as I know there is only this one edition of the texts. They are difficult to transcribe because they actually include all of the revisions, so things are crossed out and typed over.

    Comment by Brontëana — March 14, 2006 @ 1:44 am |Reply

  3. Huh. I can only see one mistake: ‘j’ai vous vue embrasser’ should be ‘je vous ai vue embrasser’ I suppose, unless the French was difference in Emily’s day. Heger must have been very strict! The emphasis on the violence of the natural state, whether feline or human, seems very typical of Emily.

    Comment by Liz — March 14, 2006 @ 3:44 am |Reply

  4. I’ve checked the text, and it reads ‘j’ai vous vue embrasser’. It is possible that it is a typo, or as you say, an historical issue, or Emily’s French may have been a little uncertain there.

    I agree. It is interesting to see how the same view is expressed in another devoir… I can’t remember which it is now. She seems to go on a long digression of this kind. The book also includes Charlotte’s devoirs on the same topic. It is really nice to see the two of them adapt the same material.

    Comment by Brontëana — March 14, 2006 @ 9:21 am |Reply

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