On Jews Walk
A sodden afternoon in Sydenham. A trickle of sober pensioners converges on Jews Walk, overhung with wet branches. They turn into a deep, unkempt front garden, dip their umbrellas diffidently at the gate, divide into huddles, converse in undertones and wait. There is the air of an impending religious service. A hallowing, almost an expiation, is about to take place: the unveiling of a blue plaque to Eleanor Marx, ablest and bravest of Marx’s daughters, on the suburban villa where she had lived for just over two years when, quite without warning, she took her own life.
Vol. 30 No. 22 · 20 November 2008
Andrew Saint’s touching account of the ceremony held to unveil a plaque to Eleanor Marx Aveling contains one detail, which, while strictly correct, will probably mislead non-specialists (LRB, 9 October). She was indeed the first English translator of Madame Bovary, but the first translation of the book in English was published in Philadelphia by ‘John Stirling’ (a pseudonym for Mary Sherwood) in 1881. Marx’s translation was, however, the most frequently reprinted, and in sticking much closer to the French than her many successors, she managed to catch what Jonathan Culler in the 1970s identified as the novel’s postmodern playfulness, the zany style described around the same time by Roland Barthes as ‘l’un des plus fous que l’on puisse imaginer’.