French Translation of the Paris diaries in progress.


10 October 2016: the Editors of the Gouverneur Morris Papers, were invited to give a talk at a seminar at research institute LERMA of Aix-Marseille University in Aix-en-Provence, France.

Editor Dr. Melanie Miller and PhD student Emilie Mitran in front of LERMA.
As the attendants of this seminar were interested in the historical, cultural and linguistic aspects of the Era of Enlightenment, they were eager to learn more about our Morris editing project. A golden opportunity to spread the latest news on that.... in France! And, at the same time lay some bricks on the road of future cooperation for research on Morris.

Professor Gerard Hugues and PhD-candidate Emilie Mitran are currently working on a French translation of Morris's Paris diaries. The availability of the diaries in French would obviously open up this magnificent historical source to many people beyond the anglophone world.

Morris's observations and his involvement with the major figures of the time have been of great interest for scholars of the period. In his Paris diaries of 1789-1793, Morris gave a lively (and sometimes intimate) report of his life during the French Revolution. A very accurate transcription of those diaries was published in 1939 by editor Beatrice C. Davenport, and recently we were able to make some additions in the revised online edition published by ROTUNDA of the University of Virginia Press.

Page in diary June 5, 1789 with  many cross outs
Why the additions?
In the original diary there are illegible parts because of crossed out and blotted sentences, rendered in the text as three dots by Davenport. Usually these dots concern Morris's sexual escapades, but sometimes they are about medication and disease. Anything that was considered unsuited for the public eye.


The question is: who did it?
These cross-outs were perhaps partly done by Morris himself, obscuring some passionate moments with former lovers from his wife's eyes. But some other blot-outs could have been done by Morris's wife Ann Cary Randolph in the 1830s before handing the diary to Morris's first biographer Jared Sparks. Even his granddaughter Ann Cary Morris (another editor of his papers) in the 1880s is a possible "suspect."

During our work with the diaries, we discovered that some omissions were applied by Davenport herself in the 1930s. She used dots in place of a perfectly legible phrase; for example on 1 November 1789:  "Madame is ill ..." whereas it says in the original: "Madame is ill she has the Infirmity of her Sex in a great Degree" Each editor was uneasy about something that was taboo in their own time. Of course, the modern scholar would like to know which parts were crossed out or left out.

Hyperspectral image of diary cross outs.
At the seminar we could discuss the results of hyperspectral images taken of some crossed-out sections. This state of the art technique was performed at the Library of Congress, but unfortunately those images did not reveal much. The goal was to show the difference between the original ink at the time of writing and the ink used later for blotting.

It turned out both inks were iron gall ink with the same spectral response and it was impossible to distinguish between them in order to date them. Thus, we still don't know when the cross-outs were done. We could however reconstruct a few phrases and fill in part of the "dots" in Davenport's online edition. See American Founding Era Collection, http://rotunda.upress.virginia.edu/founders/FGEA.html.

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