Felicité's life and the the way the "bourgeois" view it could be compared to that of Catherine Leroux in Madame Bovary, given a medal for 54 years of farm service during a village fair.
She is described in sympathetic terms, much like Felicity. Flaubert's reaction to how the bourgeois see her, however, is typically angry:
Ainsi se tenait, devant ces bourgeois épanouis, ce demi-siècle de servitude."
In comparison, here, Flaubert is restrained.
Project Gutenberg: "...the housewives of Pont-l'Evêque had envied Madame Aubain her servant Félicité."
New Directions Publishing + Dover Publications:
"Madame Aubain's servant Félicité was the envy of the ladies of Pont-l'Evêque..."
The use of the pluperfect in the PG version is dubious considering the original is in the past historic.
It's a commune in Normandy
see the map here http://tinyurl.com/3utkgv2
NB. possible word order for such a structure...
envier qch à qn
envier à qn qch
These are all examples of the Passé simple or the Past Historic, tense used in litterature in the place of the passé composé"
"Aubaine" means "God-send"
Au + bain = "in the bath"
"Félicité" means happiness.
Can be seen litearlly, if we focus on her inner calm and simplicity...
or ironically, if we consider her lot in life and all that will happen....
"did the house work" or "was a general servant"
sew (highly irregular verb = coudre)
savait (knew how to + infinitive):
brider un cheval - bridle/harness a horse
engraisser les volailles - fatten poultry
battre le beuttre - churn butter
rester fidèle à qn = to stay/remain faithful to s1. See analysis for discussion on what this means...
I presume this means that:
1) She didn't gossip or complain about her mistress
2) She didn't argue.
3) She worked honestly (i.e. she did what was asked and took her pay and nothing more)
cependant = although, however, yet
(PG): "although the latter was by no means an agreeable person."
(Dover Publications): "unamiable as the latter was"
"comely youth" or "gay bachelor" or "fine young fellow"
This was at a time when it would be hard for a woman to gain permanent, paid employment if she wasn't prepared to do menial work...
quantity phrase + "de"
des centaines de ...
une quantité de...
"so" or "then" or "at this time"
all of her property.
Un immeuble = a building/property/ real estate asset
"the income of which"
200 pounds. According to the National archives currency converter, this is equivalent to about £6,500 in 2005 (so, not very much as far as an annual wage goes...)
at the most
the (composed) present participle translated here with "having"
revêtir de = "to be covered with" or "to have" (+ characteristic)
slates or debts
a small road ("rue"), lane or alley
leading to/ ending at
Synonyms : À l'intérieur, au-dedans.
"unevenness in the levels of the rooms" (Dover publications)
"(was so) unevenly graded " (PG)
vestibule or entrance-hall
"Madame" is described almost like another piece of furniture...
"stayed all day"
Something like this, http://tinyurl.com/3byzjej, perhaps?
"was a row/line of"
s'aligner = "to be in a line/ to line up"
the piano is not used nor is music appreciated. It's another item along with the rest...
barometer. A scientific instrument used to measure pressure.
Something like this, perhaps: http://tinyurl.com/3bxu5me
A typical 19th century chair.
"stuffed armchair" (Dover publications)
"a tapestry armchair" (Project Gutenberg)
were either side of/ flanked
should read "chemiNée en marbre jaune."
= yellow marble mantelpiece/chimney-piece
http://tinyurl.com/3mfyqg2 (hover over to check)
Wall-clock ; grandfather clock ; pendulum clock
Not sure how this would look as a clock!
mildew (noun) / musty (adj)
"tendu(e) d'un papier" = to be papered in, to be lined with wallpaper.
Industrialised wall-paper printing was relatively new at this time but was booming in France. There were 40 printers alone in Paris in 1790.
MUSCADINS, young dandies of the Thermidorian Reaction, otherwise known as incroyables. The muscadins probably derived their name from their liberal use of musk perfume, but they were more obviously distinguished by their taste in dress. They favored a long jacket with wide lapels and a black velvet collar....They wore tight breeches and boots, and they carried a stick weighted with lead, euphemistically known as the pouvoir exécutif, which they put to aggressive use during innumerable street brawls in the Year III. They sometimes carried a monocle, which came to symbolize their insolent and disdainful attitude toward the lower classes.
The muscadins were most frequently students, merchants’ and lawyers’ clerks, and sons of bourgeois placed in the public administration to escape conscription.
cribs or, even, cots (small bed for children)
She obviously doesn't entertain...
(generally perjorative) paperwork
(rare) upon turning round, i.e. on the wall behind you after entering (remember, the other 3 walls are covered with shelves..)
pen-and-ink drawings (plume = quill pen, made of a feather)
A large dynasty of artists went under the name of Audran.
The family, it seems , was in better standing before.
After the inward-looking, grand tour of fancy objects, unappreciated and looked upon with regret, the description of Felicity's room is delightfully simple. There was light and there was a view to the outside world. That's all!
small window (or,elsewhere, skylight)
present participle: the dinner being finished
buried, nestled, "thrust under" (Dover publications)
rosary (prayer beads)
economic, penny-wise, thrifty
recueillir = to gather up
lasted for twenty days
an Indienne handkerchief. Indienne was a very popular printed textile.
Nowadays, it means "petticoat"
on top of, over
The Project Gutenberg translation omits this whilst the Dover Publications edition translates it as "jacket." I'm not so sure but wouldn't be surprised if if was the man's "sleeved jacket" which is being referred to in the article below...
an apron with a bib
two negatives: she no longer looked any older (roughly)
"she was ageless" perhaps or "it was impossible to discern her age." These are quite creative translations but it's very hard to translate as we don't really use double negatives...
erect/standing straight/straight figured
with measured gestures/precise movements