Between 1880 and 1940, English responses to French poetry evolved from marginalised expressions of admiration associated with rebellion against the ‘establishment’ to mainstream mutual exchange and appreciation. The translation of poetry underwent a simultaneous evolution, from attempts to produce definitive renderings to definitions of translation as an ongoing, generative process at the centre of literary debate. This study traces the impact of French poetry in England, via a wide range of translations by major poets of the time as well as renderings by now-forgotten writers. It explores poetry and translations beyond the limits of the usual canon, and identifies key moments of influence, from late nineteenth-century English homages to Victor Hugo as a liberal icon, to Ezra Pound re-interpreting Charles Baudelaire for the twentieth century.
Jennifer Higgins holds the Kathleen Bourne Junior Research Fellowship at St Anne’s College, Oxford.