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Home: The Toast

One of the most rewarding parts of reading Jane Eyre as a thirteen-year-old Midwesterner is taking a wild shot in the dark at the meaning of all of the untranslated French passages. These might seem baffling and unnecessarily obfuscatory, but someone once said, “The numbered occurrences of French in Jane Eyre might read as merely ornamental and circumstantial, but closer analysis reveals that they are eloquent in encoding issues of gender and education, and in voicing the conflict of individualism and conformity in a Victorian context,” and right, they probably are, -ho. Anyhow, I knew comparatively little French, not coming into regular need for it during my regular rollerblading trips to Subway, so here are some of the translations I made up for myself. I found them fairly useful. Perhaps you will too. Someday they may come up with a method for putting French into words, but in the meantime I hope this will suffice.

 

“Mesdames, vous êtes servies!” adding, “J’ai bien faim, moi!”

“Madames, you are servants!” adding, “I am family, I!”

 

Having seen Adèle comfortably seated in her little chair by Mrs. Fairfax’s parlour fireside, and given her her best wax doll (which I usually kept enveloped in silver paper in a drawer) to play with, and a story-book for change of amusement; and having replied to her “Revenez bientôt, ma bonne amie, ma chère Mdlle. Jeannette,” with a kiss I set out.

“Bring me back a bientot, my good Amy, my cheesed Mdlle. Jeannette.”

 

“Et cela doit signifier,” said she, “qu’il y aura là dedans un cadeau pour moi, et peut-être pour vous aussi, mademoiselle. Monsieur a parlé de vous: il m’a demandé le nom de ma gouvernante, et si elle n’était pas une petite personne, assez mince et un peu pâle. J’ai dit qu’oui: car c’est vrai, n’est-ce pas, mademoiselle?”

“And celas aren’t signified,” said she, “and your aura is dead on a gift for me, the littlest thing you could do for Aussies, madam. Mister here isn’t talking to you, I’m going to demand the name of his government, and if she isn’t going to be a tiny person, I’ll mince them up pale. I’m here and without, you can’t stop it, get me, mademoiselle?”

 

“N’est-ce pas, monsieur, qu’il y a un cadeau pour Mademoiselle Eyre dans votre petit coffre?”

“Nest-pas, mister, quilt and a guest for Mademoiselle Eyre, or else a little coffee?”

 

“Est-ce que ma robe va bien?” cried she, bounding forwards; “et mes souliers? et mes bas? Tenez, je crois que je vais danser!”

“It’s my robe of goodness?” cried she, bounding forwards. “And my soulmate? And my bas? I’ve got it, I’m croying the most dancers!”

 

“Monsieur, je vous remercie mille fois de votre bonté;” then rising, she added, “C’est comme cela que maman faisait, n’est-ce pas, monsieur?”

“Monsieur, I’ve got to give you Millie’s foist on the other bonnet;” then rising, she added, “It’s almost like my mom phased out, nest the pas, mister?”

 

“Qu’ avez-vous, mademoiselle?” said she. “Vos doigts tremblent comme la feuille, et vos joues sont rouges: mais, rouges comme des cerises!”

“What’s with you, missy?” said she. “Your two things are trembling like a feuille, and your youngsters are read: man, red like two cerises!”

 

“Elles changent de toilettes,” said Adèle; who, listening attentively, had followed every movement; and she sighed.

“They’ve changed the toilets. Ugh.”

 

“Chez maman,” said she, “quand il y avait du monde, je le suivais partout, au salon et à leurs chambres; souvent je regardais les femmes de chambre coiffer et habiller les dames, et c’était si amusant: comme cela on apprend.”

“Don’t you feel hungry, Adèle?”

“Mais oui, mademoiselle: voilà cinq ou six heures que nous n’avons pas mangé.”

“Mama’s house,” said she, “was the most of the world, and I was always part of it, with a salon and a room for leurs; I always watched the women in chambray coiff each other’s hair, and it was amusing: now I’m learning how.”

“Don’t you feel hungry, Adèle?”

“Heck yes, ma’am, voilà! Five or six hours since I’ve even had a manga.”

 

“Est-ce que je ne puis pas prendrie une seule de ces fleurs magnifiques, mademoiselle? Seulement pour completer ma toilette.”

“Can you believe or not the believement of how complete the flowers are magnificent, ma’am? We are completely done with the toilet.”

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