Important acquisitions

Ellenore, a ballad originally written in German by G.A. Buerger.

Author Buerger, Gottfried August.
Title Ellenore, a ballad originally written in German by G.A. Buerger.
Imprint Printed in Norwich by John March.
Date of Publication 1796
Language
Notes This an unrecorded folio, large-paper, printing of a translation of a German poem that would help launch one of the great Scottish literary careers. The short poem "Lenore", written by Gottfried August Bürger, was originally published in German in 1774. It is a Gothic ballad dealing with the return of a young man, William, presumed killed in battle, to his grief-stricken fiancee, Lenore, in the middle of night. William asks Lenore to accompany him to their bridal bed. After riding at breakneck speed through the night, they reach a cemetery where the bridal bed is revealed to be William's grave and he himself has mutated into the figure of Death, the grim reaper. Lenore meets her end surrounded by the ghosts of the dead who tell her not to quarrel with her fate and to hope for forgiveness. "Lenore" was an instant hit and was hugely influential on the European Romantic movement in literature. The first English translation to appear in print was this one by William Taylor of Norwich. Taylor (1765-1836) was an important propagandist of German literature in the romantic period. He began his literary career in 1789 with an accomplished translation of Goethe's "Iphigenie auf Tauris" (published in 1793), then in 1790 he translated Lessing's "Nathan der Weise". His translation of Bürger's "Lenore" was first published in 1796 in The Monthly Magazine, then was printed separately by John March of Norwich. Taylor's free translation was actually done in 1790 and had been circulating widely in manuscript in literary circles since then. It was commonly regarded as the best translation at that time, and is important as having inspired Walter Scott to do his own translation, the starting point of Scott's whole poetical career (a copy of this Norwich 1796 printing can be found in Scott's library at Abbotsford). In 1795 Scott had heard about the enthusiastic reception given to a reading of Taylor's version done by Anna Laetitia Aikin at a party given by Dugald Stewart, and he subsequently attempted to acquire a manuscript of Bürger's original. When he finally acquired a German text the following year he immediately set about the task of translating it; 'He began the task ... after supper, and did not retire to bed until he had finished it, having by that time worked himself into a state of excitement which set sleep at defiance' (Lockhart, Memoirs of the life of Sir Walter Scott, 1.235). Scott was sufficiently pleased with the reaction of his friends that he proceeded to translate another Bürger poem, "Der wilde Jäger", and the two were published together anonymously as "The Chase and William and Helen: Two Ballads from the German of Gottfried Augustus Bürger" in November 1796, priced 3s. 6d. The "German-mad" Scott's literary career had begun.
Shelfmark AB.10.212.45
Reference Sources Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Acquired on 18/05/12
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