Lady Charlotte Guest

Portrait of Lady Charlotte GuestThe Oxford Dictionary of National Biography’s “Life of the Week” post this week is a biography of Lady Charlotte Guest, the translator of the Mabinogion, including the four mabinogi proper, as well as the three Welsh tales, and the four Arthurian romances, as well as several other tales, including the prose Taliesin fragment from the sixteenth century, edited by Patrick Ford as the Ystoria Taliesin in 1991.

Lady Guest’s translation, with the accompanying notes, is actually quite wonderful; it was the first translation I ever read, and it still remains well-worth reading. It has become fashionable to sneer at her—and imply that she wasn’t responsible for the work. She was; I’ve seen some of her handwritten notes, and while she has, quite understandably, Victorian sensibilities, she had a scholarly frame of mind. I wish that her notes from the first editions were still printed; they are well worth reading, and in fact her translations of the four romances, particularly Gereint (the Welsh version of the tale Chretien called Erec et Enide) inspired Tennyson’s take in Idylls of the King.

You can read more about Lady Charlotte Guest here and here. Angela V. John has written a solid biography: Lady Charlotte Guest. An Extraordinary Life

Welsh, Cyclists, and Bladder Disease

A temporary sign on the side of the road at Barons Court roundabout between Penarth and Cardiff correctly reads “cyclists dismount” in English, but the Welsh translation, “llid y bledren dymchwelyd,” isn’t, actually, a translation. In fact, strictly speaking, it isn’t even Welsh, since the syntax is all wrong. Llid y bledren means “bladder disease,” while dymchwelyd means “return.” So, ignoring the syntax problem, the sign reads something like “Bladder disease [has] returned.” You can read the story and see a picture of the sign here.

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JKW on Culwch ac Olwen

Jeffry Jerome Cohen, medievalist and blogger at In the Middle, is on vacation, so guest blogger JKW who usually blogs at Pistols in the Pulpit is filling in. JKW says of himself:

My dissertation, which I’m beginning this summer, is about political language, specifically the language of kingship, in England and Wales in the age of Chaucer.

Thus far he’s blogged about Culwch ac Olwen and the implications of the “oldest animals” here.