The evolution of translation standards as illustrated by the history of Polish translations of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

29 Nov

Monika Roszkowska, The University of Warsaw

Abstract. The aim of this article is to outline the most characteristic changes in translation standards which have occurred since the late 19th century. It examines the strategies used by three Polish translators of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë:  Emilia Dobrzańska (1880-1881), Teresa Świderska (1930) and Gabriela Jaworska (2007). The earliest translation is more of an adaptation than a faithful rendering; it also makes frequent use of domestication (e.g. most proper names are translated into Polish). The other two translations apply foreignization more often, in particular the most recent one, and are closer to the original both in form and meaning.

Key words: translation, Polish, English, Jane Eyre, foreignization, domestication

  1. Introduction

Translation standards, techniques and trends change with time, as they do in any discipline. Books considered as “classics” become subject to numerous re-translations, which, when viewed from a historical perspective, illustrate how the standards of translation practice have evolved. The present article examines three Polish translations of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë: the earliest one, by Emilia Dobrzańska (1880-1881), the classic one, by Teresa Świderska (1930) and the most recent one, by Gabriela Jaworska (2007). It looks at the strategies employed by the three translators, taking into consideration the historical contexts in which they appeared, their purpose, and the changes in translation theory over time.


  1. Jane Eyre and its Polish translators

‟Most readers today encounter the classics through the medium of translation” (Haynes, 2010:13), so a good deal of responsibility for the reception of literary classics rests with their translators. Jane Eyre, written by Charlotte Brontë in 1847, is a canonical book which has been rendered into numerous languages, including Esperanto, and has sold millions of copies worldwide (McCauley 1997). It is a classic love story containing some elements of Gothic fiction and bildungsroman, and takes place in nineteenth century northern England. Although the book was first published quite a long time ago, it has been popular ever since as it tells the story of a relatively modern character with whom many present-day women can identify – it is a passionate depiction of a woman’s search for equality and freedom. A novel of this calibre could not be disregarded by Polish translators. So far, three Polish renderings have been published – they were done by Emilia Dobrzańska, Teresa Świderska and Gabriela Jaworska.

Dobrzańska’s translation, originally entitled Janina, is the earliest one. It was first printed in installments as a supplement to the periodical Tydzień in the years 1880-1881. In 2006 it was published in the form of a book by Hachette Livre Polska. The publishing house made some changes while preparing it for publication. The title was changed to Dziwne losy Jane Eyre; the punctuation and spelling were also modified, but the text itself was not altered in any significant way. Examples discussed in the present study have been excerpted from the 2006 edition.

Emilia Dobrzańska, née Karczewska, was born in Rożenek, Poland, in 1853 (Estreicher 1872–1882) and brought up in an affluent family. She attended a school for girls in Piotrków Trybunalski. Later she was a teacher of Botany and French there. After the school was closed down in the 1870s she opened another school for girls in the same place in 1881. Unfortunately, two years later it was also closed down. However, Dobrzańska did not give up. Ostensibly to create a boarding house for girls, she opened a successful underground four-grade educational institution for girls in 1883. In the meantime she married the lawyer, journalist and poet Mirosław Dobrzański, the chief editor of the periodical Tydzień, where her translation of Jane Eyre was published (web 1). Apart from being a notable educational activist Dobrzańska was also a prolific translator from French and English into Polish, though the majority of her works are now inaccessible and, as a consequence, not much is known about her translation style. Her English-Polish translations include, in addition to Jane Eyre, Venus and Adonis by William Shakespeare; she also translated the works of such French writers as Henry Gréville, Réné de Pont-Jest, and André Valdés. As was the case with Janina, many of them were published as supplements to periodicals, such as Tydzień and Dziennik Łódzki. Emilia Dobrzańska died in 1925 at 72 years of age (Estreicher 1872–1882).

Teresa Świderska was the second Polish translator of Jane Eyre. Dziwne losy Jane Eyre was published in 1930 and has become the classic Polish translation of Jane Eyre. Not much is known about Świderska’s life and writing style. What we do know, however, is that she also translated The Bride of Lammermoor, Waverley and Rob Roy by Walter Scott, A Tale of Two Cities and David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, as well as some works of Thomas Woodrow Wilson.

Gabriela Jaworska is the latest Polish translator of Jane Eyre – her version was first published in 2007. She was the first Polish translator to reject a Polonized title in favour of the original name Jane Eyre. Her rendition is relatively new, and, as ‟one translation does not cancel out another” (Haynes 2010:14), for the time being it cannot compete with the well-established version by Świderska. When it comes to Jaworska’s translation experience, her renderings include the works of contemporary writers of detective stories and children’s literature, e.g. “C” is for corpse by Sue Grafton, the series Children of the Red King by Jenny Nimmo, and Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr. Apart from being a translator Jaworska writes poetryshe has published three books of poems: Listy (1997), Czas budowania (2006), and Pójdę na Roztocze… (2010).


  1. 3.      A contrastive analysis of the Polish renderings of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

The temporal distance which separates the three Polish renditions of the novel as well as the individual linguistic choices of the translators result in numerous differences between the three versions of the book. The contrastive analysis which follows concentrates on the most characteristic differences between the translation strategies employed by the three translators with the aim of demonstrating how translation standards have evolved over time.

3.1.Reduction and omission

The most significant difference between Dobrzańska’s translation and the other two is her frequent use of reduction and omission. This characteristic has already been noted by Hadyna (2013) in her recent study of Dobrzańska’s translation of Jane Eyre. Omission, or as Hadyna calls it, abridgement, is also found in other early translations of literary works, e.g. the first Polish translation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, which appeared in 1910 [1]. It seems that some of the 19th and early 20th century translators simply wanted the Polish audience to know what the famous books they decided to translate were about. The frequent use of omission by Dobrzańska may have also resulted from the fact that her translation was published in installments in a periodical. She may have been limited by the space available there.

In many cases Dobrzańska merely summarizes what happens in the story. For instance, a 4-page-long passage in the original describing a conversation between Mr. Rochester’s guests about governesses is summarized in one sentence: Tu nastąpił opis kilku nauczycielek u panien Ingram i nauczycieli apatycznego lorda, wzajemnych ich stosunków, etc. (‘Here followed a description of several governesses working for the Ingrams, the apathetic lord’s teachers, the relationships between them, etc.’ (chapter XIV, p. 96). The time spent by Jane at Lowood, described in about 60 pages in the book, takes 10 pages in her rendition. She omits the description of Lowood with its buildings, its vicinity, teachers, students and school rigour, Jane’s best friend, Helen Burns, her attitude towards life and God, as well as her premature death. Likewise, the part of the book which describes the main heroine’s stay at the house of the Rivers family and her experiences as a country teacher is reduced from about 120 pages in the original to a mere 25 pages in Dobrzańska’s rendering. As a result, whole chapters of the source text are omitted.

Dobrzańska begins reducing the text from its first page. The original introduction:

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. We had been wandering, indeed in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise, was now out of the question (chapter I, p. 5)


is rendered as one short sentence:

Dzień był słotny i mroźny, nie sposób też było myśleć o przechadzce (‘The day was rainy and frosty, a walk was unthinkable’). (chapter I, p. 5)


In many cases Dobrzańska says what happened but fails to give any details, as in her translation of the following fragment:

(…) only soon after breakfast, I heard some bustle in the neighbourhood of Mr. Rochester’s chamber, Mrs. Fairfax’s voice, and Leah’s, and the cook’s – that is, John’s wife – and even John’s own gruff tones. There were exclamations of ‘What a mercy master was not burnt in his bed!’ ‘It is always dangerous to keep a candle lit at night.’ ‘How providential that he had presence of mind to think of the water-jug!’ ‘I wonder he waked nobody!’ ‘It is to be hoped he will not take cold with sleeping on the library sofa…’, (chapter XVI, p.108)


which she renders as:

Dopiero około południa posłyszałam gwar od strony pokoju pana Rochestera. Służące, pani Fairfax i domownicy, każdy dodawał swoje słówko a wszyscy dziwili się wypadkowi zaszłemu w nocy, dziękowali Bogu, że ich pan prawie cudem uszedł niebezpieczeństwa. (chapter XII, p.80)


Sometimes, she not only makes the text shorter, but also modifies its content, as in her rendering of the fragment:


That forest-dell, where Lowood lay, was the cradle of fog and fog-bred pestilence; which, quickening with the quickening spring, crept into the Orphan Asylum, breathed typhus through its crowded schoolroom and dormitory (…). Semi-starvation and neglected colds had predisposed most of the pupils to receive infection. (chapter IX, p.55)


Głód, zimno, brak powietrza i zdrowej wody w ciągu zimy sprawiły, że większa część wychowanek Lowoodu padła ofiarą panującej w okolicy zarazy tyfusu. (chapter VI, p. 26)

Here, she changes the causes of the epidemic. In her version these are: starvation, cold, the lack of good air and healthy water.

Dobrzańska frequently omits the titles of literary works. For example, she renders [Adelé] began [declaiming], ‘La Ligue des Rats: fable de La Fontaine (chapter XI, p.73) as: [Adela] deklamowała jakiś wiersz La Fontaine’a, (chapter VIII, p. 39) (‘some poem by La Fontaine’). Also, when the source text contains a song or a piece of another literary work, Dobrzańska omits them in her rendition.

Modern translators avoid reduction, in particular the reduction of long fragments of the source text (Hejwowski, 2004:83). Neither of the more recent renderings of Jane Eyre contains omissions comparable to those used by Dobrzańska.


Another technique found almost exclusively in Dobrzańska’s rendering is addition, i.e. augmentation of the source language text by the translator (Berman, in: Venuti 2000:290). Dobrzańska adds adjectives to the descriptions of various objects in the novel and gives additional information about the characters. For instance, in her rendering of the sentence She was occupied in knitting; a large cat sat demurely at her feet, (chapter XI, p. 68) the cat is black and the woman is knitting a stocking: Robiła pończochę, a u nóg jej leżał olbrzymi czarny kot.(chapter VIII, p. 33) When she translates the word snowflakes she adds the adjective gęste (‘thick’); the word Christian is translated with the additional modifier prawy (‘righteous’), and the age of the character is added in her rendering of the sentence: They went, shutting the door, and locking it behind them (chapter II, p. 10) into Wyszły i zamknęły za sobą drzwi. Zostałam sama, a miałam wtedy 10 lat (chapter II, p. 8) (‘I was left alone, and I was 10 years old then’). Possibly, the translator wanted to make the situation more dramatic. Dobrzańska changed the expression God must have led me on (chapter XXVII, p. 222) into Prowadził mnie tylko Bóg i duch mojej matki (chapter XXIV, p. 203), thus adding the ghost of her deceased mother who, in her version, led the character together with God. What is interesting about this addition is the fact that the reader of the book knows next to nothing about Jane’s mother – she is rather unimportant to the plot – therefore it is curious why Dobrzańska decided on mentioning this figure in her translation. Another example of addition can be seen in her translation of the sentence The ground was hard, the air was still, my road was lonely (chapter XII, p. 78) into Ziemia była zmarznięta, powietrze bardzo chłodne, ale słońce jasne i dzień pogodny (chapter IX, p. 44) (‘although the ground was frozen and the air was cold, the sun shone brightly and the weather was fine’). Her version changes the mood of the situation by making it more optimistic.

Sometimes the sentences she puts into the mouths of the characters are her own inventions. In her version, Mr. Rochester says: Chorą i cierpiącą chciałbym cię stokroć więcej niż zdrową i szczęśliwą (chapter XXIV, p. 189) (‘I would rather you were ill and in anguish than healthy and happy’), which he never says in the original. Such additions suggest that Dobrzańska did not try to be neutral and objective while translating the novel. She offered the readers her own interpretation of the events and the characters’ motives.



Another technique characteristic of Dobrzańska’s rendering of Jane Eyre is substitution. The term refers to a situation when a translator decides on substituting the original expression with one that has “little or no morpho-syntactic or semantic relation” (Malone, in: Taylor 2009:52) to it in the rendition.

Dobrzańska substitutes individual words with more or less related lexical items of her own choice. She translates garters as sznurek (‘twine’), a cameo head as lalka porcelanowa (‘a porcelain doll’), wild strawberries as jagody (‘blueberries’), a moth as żuk (‘a beetle’) porridge as kasza (roughly ‘semolina’), twilight as mgła (‘fog’), a bedfoot as wezgłowie łóżka (‘a bedhead’), a cold as kaszel (‘a cough’), a penknife as szpileczka (‘a pin’), a lark as jaskółka (‘a swallow’), doors as dziury (‘holes’), shrubs as drzewa (‘trees’), a great cabinet as starożytna szafa (‘the ancient cabinet’), warm hand as chłodna ręka (‘cold hand’), fastidious as despotyczny (‘despotic’), stained as poczerniałe (‘blackened’), a snuff-box as szczypta tabaki (‘a pinch of snuff’), a chair as stołek (‘a stool’), a coach-house as stajnia (‘a stable’), knives as naczynia kuchenne (‘kitchen utensils’), a basin as szklanka (‘a glass’), a seed-cake as pierniki (‘gingerbread biscuits’), pudding as konfitura (‘jam’), a phial as słoik (‘a jar’), lips as powieki (‘eyelids’), a shoulder as szyja (‘a neck’), both Jamaica and Spanish Town as Madera, etc.

She also substitutes longer fragments of the source text. For instance, she renders she boxed both my ears (chapter IV, p. 20) as uderzyła [mnie] w twarz (chapter IV, p. 15) (‘she hit me in the face’), she [Adelé] touched my knee (chapter XVII, p. 119) as Adela pociągnęła mnie za suknię (chapter XIV, p. 91) (‘Adelé pulled my dress’) and At last both slept: the fire and candle went out (chapter III, p. 15) into Usnęły – a ja całą noc przeleżałam (…) przy świetle płonącego ogniska (chapter III, p .11) (‘they both slept – and I stayed up all night lying by the fire’), Bessie, you must promise not to scold me any more till I go (chapter IV, p. 28) with Bessie, przyrzeknij mi, że nie będziesz się gniewać z powodu mojego wyjazdu (chapter IV, p. 19) ‘Bessie, you must promise me not to be angry because of my departure’. Similarly, Dobrzańska replaces neither of us had dropt a tear (chapter XXI, p. 168) with ja jedna wylałam łzę rzewną (chapter XVIII, p. 140) ‘it was only me who shed a tear’, which is another example of her intervention in the plot and interpretation of the events. Another example is her rendering of the sentence Some natural tears she shed on being told this; but as I began to look very grave, she consented at last to wipe them (chapter XVII, p. 116) as Pocieszyłam ją jak mogłam, pieściłam i dziecko wkrótce zapomniało o doznanej przykrości (chapter XIV, p. 89) (‘I consoled her as much as I could, I caressed her and the child quickly forgot about the unpleasant experience’). Here, Dobrzańska completely changes the original scenario, for she suggests that Jane pandered to little Adelé’s whim, while in the original it was Adelé who had to suppress her craving to go and see Mr. Rochester’s newly arrived guests, and translating Did you ever hear that my father was an avaricious grasping man? (chapter XXVII, p. 213) as Słyszałaś, że brat ten był skąpcem? (chapter XXIV, p. 192), which indicates that it was Mr. Rochester’s brother, not father, who was a stingy man.

Another area in Dobrzańska’s translation where substitution is common is in references of time and number. First of all, Dobrzańska frequently substitutes simple units of time. Examples of this kind include translating: an hour as parę godzin (‘a few hours’), about an hour ago as przed chwilą (‘a moment ago’), perhaps two or three weeks as tydzień, góra dwa (‘a week or two’), for nearly a fortnight past as parę ostatnich dni (‘over the past few days’), it was yet but six [o’clock] as było już wprawdzie po siódmej (‘it was already past seven [o’clock]’), June as lipiec (‘July’), the 20th of October as 20 listopad (‘the 20th of November’), autumn as wiosna (‘spring’), and for two generations as przez parę wieków (‘several centuries’).

Also, changes in the grammatical aspect of the verb are often observable, for instance, when Dobrzańska renders [she] began to remove my shawl (chapter XI, p. 68) as zdjęła ze mnie szal (chapter VIII, p. 34). Here, in the source phrase the action of removing has only just begun, while in the translation it has been completed. Similarly, it happens from time to time that Dobrzańska changes grammatical tenses. For example, she changes the present tense in the 28th chapter of the original into the past tense in her translation (chapter XXV, p. 204).

Dobrzańska also often changes numbers which occur in the original. For example, she translates Not three in three thousand raw school-girl-governesses would have answered me as you have just done (chapter XIV, p. 96) as Na sto nauczycielek, ani jedna nie zdołała by się na to, co mi pani powiedziała (chapter XI, p. 66) (‘Not one in a hundred …’) or she renders All the night I heard but three sounds at three long intervals, – a step creak, a momentary renewal of the snarling, canine noise, and a deep human groan (chapter XX, p. 147) into W ciągu całej nocy tylko raz słyszałam szmer kroków, mruknięcie podobne do warczenia psa i jakiś przeciągły jęk, (chapter XVII, p. 124), which suggests that Jane heard three voices at the same time, or one after another. Similar cases of number substitution include rendering a third of as połowa (‘a half of’), once or twice into dwa albo trzy razy (‘two or three times’), at the age of one-and-twenty as w dwudziestym roku życia (‘being twenty years of age’), two miles as trzy angielskie mile (‘three English miles’), an egg at the least as co najmniej parę jaj (‘a couple of eggs at the least’), etc.


3.4.Overtranslation and undertranslation

The techniques of overtranslation and undertranslation involve using expressions that are respectively too strong or too weak for the context (Duff, in: Chan and Pollard 2001:716,1108). Both of them result in non-equivalent translations (Wang 2012).

Dobrzańska uses overtranslation more often than the other two translators. She writes about love when the original talks about fondness, e.g. when she renders: I don’t dislike you, Miss; I believe I am fonder of you than of all the others (chapter IV, p. 28) as Nie, dziecko, ja cię kocham więcej, niż ktokolwiek w tym domu (chapter IV, p. 20) (‘No, my dear, I love you more than anybody else in this house’). She also translates Do you like him?(chapter XXXVII, p. 304) as Czy go kochasz?(chapter XXVIII, p.233) (‘Do you love him?’).

Another case when overtranslation applies is translating ‘She’s done for me, I fear,’ was the faint reply (chapter XX, p. 148) as Zabiła mnie, zabiła! (chapter XVII, p. 125) by Dobrzańska and Zamordowała mnie, lękam się – brzmiała słaba odpowiedź (chapter XX, p. 323) by Świderska. The sense of killing is conveyed by both translators. However, the connotative meaning of the original phrase is strengthened or even exaggerated – especially when it comes to Dobrzańska’s version, which one can literally translate as ‘She killed me! Killed me!’. The next example of employing the technique is apparent in her rendering of Mr. Rochester’s words ‘I wish you all good-night, now,’ said he, making a movement of the hand towards the door, in token that he was tired of our company, and wished to dismiss us (chapter XIII, p. 90) as Nudzicie mnie, męczycie swoim towarzystwem, idźcie więc wszyscy precz! (chapter X, p. 59) (‘You bore me, you torture me with your company, go away from me!’).

Similarly, Dobrzańska translates the phrase Nor do I particularly affect simple-minded old ladies (chapter XIV, p. 92) as Nie cierpię ich równie mocno jak starych bab o ograniczonym umyśle (chapter XI, p. 61) (‘I hate them as much as [I hate] narrow-minded old hags’). Here, the translator changes the rather neutral words of Mr. Rochester into offensive language, thus making him a rude man.

There are also a few cases of undertranslation in the Polish renditions, for example Dobrzańska’s rendering of the negative the wicked in the sentence Do you know where the wicked go after death? (chapter IV, p. 23) as completely neutral dusze (‘souls’) (chapter IV, p. 16). Another such case is translating clouds so sombre (chapter I, p. 5) as ciemne chmury (chapter I, p. 3) (‘dark clouds’) by Świderska. The word ciemne only conveys the colour-component of the source expression and disregards the other connotations connected with clouds being ‘melancholic’. Here, a closer equivalent is posępne chmury (chapter I, p. 9) – as it is translated by Jaworska.


3.5. Explicitation

Explicitation involves “making explicit in the target language what remains implicit in the source language because it is apparent from either the context or the situation” (Vinay and Darbelnet, in: Kwieciński 2001:127).

In the Polish translations of Jane Eyre explicitation often involves the category of gender. English specifies the gender of living beings less often than Polish. It is then the translator’s task to decide whether a certain noun should be rendered as masculine or feminine in Polish. Thus, for instance, cat is masculine kot in Dobrzańska’s translation, and feminine kotka in Świderska’s rendering. Similarly, the word servant is translated by Dobrzańska as masculine sługa, and as feminine służąca by both Świderska and Jaworska. Another example of this kind is the rendition of a cook as masculine kucharz by Dobrzańska, and feminine kucharka by the other two translators. Dobrzańska seems to prefer the masculine gender when the original does not make it explicit.

In addition to the words with no gender marking there are also other English expressions which require specification in Polish. For instance, when Mr. Rochester wants Jane to take tea with him (chapter XIII, p. 84) the Polish translator faces the choice between translating this expression as napicie się herbaty (‘drinking tea’) or zjedzenie podwieczorku ‘eating a light afternoon meal’. Unfortunately for the Polish translators the context does not indicate if it is a meal or just a cup of tea. Dobrzańska and Świderska choose ‘drinking tea’, while Jaworska’s choice is ‘eating an afternoon meal’.

Another choice which the translators had to make involves finding the Polish equivalent of dinner. Świderska translated it as obiad (chapter  I, p. 3) because it is the name of the main meal in Polish, while Jaworska chose the word kolacja (chapter I, p. 9) because it is eaten at a similar time as English dinner. In the context in which it appears in the novel, however, obiad seems more appropriate: We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner (Mrs Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question. (chapter I, p. 5)  Jaworska’s translation – kolacja, which is a meal eaten in the evening, does not really fit in the situation described by the author.

Another example of explicitation is apparent in rendering the match in the phrase the match was broken off (chapter XXII, p. 172) as małżeństwo by both Dobrzańska and Świderska, and narzeczeństwo by Jaworska. Though the match can be interpreted in two ways – as ‘marriage’ and ‘engagement’ – only Jaworska’s version, i.e. ‘engagement’, is appropriate in the context as Mr. Rochester and Mrs. Ingram do not get married in the book – they just plan to do so.


3.6. Foreignization vs. domestication

The choice between foreignization and domestication is one of the most basic decisions a translator has to make. Domestication is “adopted [by the translator] in order to minimize the strangeness of the foreign text for target language readers” (Venuti, in: Shuttleworth and Cowie 1997:44), whereas by means of foreignization the target text retains something of the foreignness of the source text, thus deliberately breaking target conventions (Venuti, 1995:20). Nowadays, foreignization is preferred by most translators and translation theorists (Venuti 1995:309-310), because a translator’s disregard of the reader’s knowledge and language skills equals treating the reader as inferior. Moreover, the strategy of domestication has the negative connotations of the unreceptiveness to the foreign as shown by “aggressively monolingual” (Venuti, in: Shuttleworth and Cowie 1997:44) superior cultures.


3.6.1.      Translation of proper names

The choice between foreignization and domestication is visible in the translation of proper names. In accordance with the current trends in translation proper names should not be translated unless they carry a meaning which is contextually relevant or they have their recognized equivalent in the target language (Newmark 1988:214, 2001:71). Only minor changes in the spelling of proper names are acceptable, for they often facilitate the process of translation as well as reading in the target language (Hejwowski 2004:98).


Probably the most numerous group of proper nouns in Jane Eyre is the category of first names. Dobrzańska’s rendition abounds in Polonized names. Examples include the following renderings: Jane as Janina, Georgiana as Georgina, Helen as Helena, Leah as Liwia, Sophie as Zofia, Grace as Gracja, Celiné as Celina, Adelé as Adela, Blanche as Blanka, Mary as Maria, Henry as Henryk, Frederick as Fryderyk, Louisa as Luiza, Richard as Ryszard, Alice as Alicja, Bertha Antoinetta as Berta Antonina, Giacinta as Hiacynta, Clara as Klara, and Rosamond as Rozamunda. In the book there are two men named John – John Reed, and John who is a servant. Interestingly, Dobrzańska translates the name of John Reed into Jan Reed, but leaves the name of John the servant intact. She also modifies a few names, substituting Hannah with Anna, a dog’s name, Pilot with Pilote and the surname Leaven with Lieven.


When it comes to Świderska, she is not consistent with any particular strategy of dealing with proper names. Some names are translated in her rendition, while others are left unchanged.  For instance, she translates names such as Celiné, Adelé or Alice, but she does not change, for example, Sophie, Mary or John.


Jaworska, as a rule, does not translate any first names in her rendition – with two minor exceptions of the dropping the final ‘h’: she changes Hannah into Hanna and Leah into Lea.

There is another interesting example of a proper name in the novel: Welsh rabbit, which is the name of a traditional British dish having, in fact, nothing to do with rabbit meat, as it consists only of pieces of toast accompanied by hot melted Cheddar cheese. Dobrzańska falls victim to this tricky term and translates the phrase I could fancy a Welsh rabbit for supper (chapter III, p.19) as Mam ochotę na kawałek królika (chapter III, p. 14) (‘I feel like eating a piece of rabbit’). When it comes to Świderska, she provides the reader with a descriptive equivalent of the foreign concept: Zjadłabym grzanki z serem na kolację (chapter III, p. 34) (‘I feel like eating some toast with cheese for supper’). Jaworska, in turn, decides to leave this specific term intact: Mam apetyt na welsh rabbit na kolację (chapter III, p. 27) (‘I have an appetite for Welsh rabbit for supper’).

3.6.2.      Translation of foreign expressions

Jane Eyre contains a lot of French inclusions, for the British aristocracy of those times was fascinated with the French language and culture. That is why Mr. Rochester, together with the members of his social circle, as well as little Adelé, a French girl whose knowledge of English is rather poor, all produce French utterances prolifically.

Each of the three translators has chosen a different way of dealing with foreign expressions. Dobrzańska tends to translate all of them into Polish. Świderska leaves them in the original and explains their meanings in brackets, while Jaworska leaves them in the original or explains their meanings in footnotes.

A perfect example contrasting the strategies used by the three translators is rendering ‘C’est le ma gouverante!’ said she, pointing to me, and addressing her nurse; who answered – ‘Maisoui, certainement’(chapter XI, p. 72) into :

– Czy to moja nauczycielka? – spytała piastunki po francusku. – Tak, to ona (chapter VIII, p. 38) by Dobrzańska,

– C’est l ma gouvernante? (Czy to moja guwernantka? – fr.) – rzekła wskazując mnie palcem i zwracając się do bony; ta odpowiedziała: – Maisoui, certainement. (Ależ tak, naturalnie. – fr.) (chapter XI, p. 151) by Świderska, and

C’estlá ma gouverante?1 – zapytała bonę, wskazując mnie paluszkiem. – Maisoui, certainement.2; (footnotes: 1Czy to moja guwernantka?; 2Ależ tak, na pewno)(chapter XI, p.97) by Jaworska.


Another instance of a similar kind is translating “Jeune encore”, as the French say (chapter XXXVII, p. 304) as :

A zatem można go jeszcze nazwać młodym (chapter XXVIII, p. 233) by Dobrzańska,

– Jeune encore (Jeszcze młody – Fr.), jak mówią Francuzi (chapter XXXVII, p. 685) by Świderska, and

– Jeune encore1, jak mawiają Francuzi (footnote: 1Jeszcze młody) (vol. III chapter XI, p.422) by Jaworska.



The translations by Emilia Dobrzańska and Teresa Świderska date back to the pre-war years, which is why they contain numerous expressions which have become archaic. For instance, both translators render the expression without grimace as bez minoderii, a portmanteau as wieszadło, or a sleek gander as gładki gąsior, while nowadays the adjective gładki will be substituted with tłusty, as it is in Jaworska’s rendition. Moreover, Świderska translates a toilet table as toaleta, which denotes ‘a toilet’ nowadays, a chaise as ekwipaż, or a sprite as wodnica.

Dobrzańska renders the driver of the post-chaise as archaic pocztylion, a trunk as tłumoczek, cuirass as puklerz, ornaments as graciki, and play with shuttlecock as bawić się w wolanta. In addition, she uses such archaisms as krasa ‘beauty’, wychowanie ‘wygląd’, kibić ‘waist’ and ludny ‘populous’. Some phraseologisms which she uses are also archaic, e.g. Opatrzność stanęła w poprzek moim zamiarom (chapter XXIII, p. 180), which is her translation of Providence has checked me. (chapter XXVI, p. 204) The other two translators use a more modern version: Opatrzność mnie powstrzymała (Świderska: chapter XXIII, p. 450; Jaworska: vol. II, chapter XI, p. 278).


3.8. Errors

Some of Dobrzańska’s unconventional renderings cannot be explained by the use of any specific translation strategies, but they have to be classified as errors, such as the already mentioned Welsh rabbit (cf. section 3.6.1), or simply oversights. For example, her rendering of: Diana’s husband is a captain in the navy (…). Mary’s is a clergyman (chapter XXXVIII, p. 313) as Diana [wyszła za] za pastora (…), Maria za kapitana marynarki (chapter XXIX, p. 244) in which she reverses the men’s professions (‘Diana is a clergyman’s wife while Maria married a captain in the navy’) suggests that the translation was not edited properly.

Dobrzańska also has problems translating the word lecture in the sentence: You can go down [Bessie]; I will give Miss Jane a lecture till you come back (chapter III, p. 17). She translates it as: Idź Bessie, (…), ja przez ten czas poczytam trochę panience (chapter III, p. 12) (‘I will read to Miss Jane’). Świderska’s version is: Proszę spokojnie iść na dół, ja tu tymczasem dam burę panience Jane (chapter III, p. 29) (‘I will scold Miss Jane’), while Jaworska’s: Możesz odejść [Bessie]. Pogawędzę z panną Jane do twojego powrotu (chapter III, p. 24) (‘I will have a talk with Miss Jane’). Świderska’s translation seems to be the most accurate; Jaworska’s is acceptable as well, but Dobrzańska’s rendering is clearly wrong.


4.      Conclusion

The Polish renderings of Jane Eyre differ from each other significantly in both their style and the translation strategies employed by the translators. Undoubtedly, the most striking contrast is visible when comparing the oldest Polish translation done by Dobrzańska in 1880-1881 and the latest one done by Gabriela Jaworska in 2007.

As is to be expected, Dobrzańska’s translation contains many words which have become archaic, and so does Świderska’s translation published in 1930. However, the most important difference lies in the whole philosophy of translation adopted by Dobrzańska and the two later translators. Dobrzańska omits large fragments of the original text, adds information which is not included in the original, and substitutes original expressions with language items of her own choice. Omission, addition and substitution are not found in the other two translations.

As far as the renderings by Świderska and Jaworska are concerned, except for minor differences they are comparable with each other. Świderska’s Dziwne Losy Jane Eyre stands in between Dobrzańska’s Janina and Jaworska’s Jane Eyre. This median position is apparent when looking at the way in which Świderska translates, for instance, proper names – she chooses to render some into Polish, while others she leaves in the original. Jaworska, as a rule, does not translate proper names. French inclusions in Jane Eyre are also treated differently by the three translators: Dobrzańska translates them into Polish, Świderska explains them in brackets, Jaworska translates them only when it is inevitable, and when she does so she uses footnotes.

Dobrzańska’s rendering seems the least faithful to the original, while Teresa Świderska and Gabriela Jaworska stay close to the form and meaning of the original. Dobrzańska has created her own, autonomous story based upon the original novel Jane Eyre.

The most characteristic patterns in the evolution of translation standards seem to involve a shift from a free subjective adaptation to faithful translation, and from domestication to foreignization.


Primary sources:

Brontë, Charlotte. 1953. Jane Eyre. Beccles and London: Harper Collins Publishers.

–. 2003. Dziwne Losy Jane Eyre. Tr. Teresa Świderska. Warszawa: Prószyński i S-ka.

–. 2006. Dziwne Losy Jane Eyre. Tr. Emilia Dobrzańska. Poessneck: Hachette Livre Polska.

–. 2009. Jane Eyre. Tr. Gabriela Jaworska. Kraków: Zielona Sowa.

electronic version of the original at: –

electronic version of Świderska’s translation at:,2807152851.pdf – Prószyński i S-ka


Secondary sources:

Duff, Alan McConnell. 2001. “Overtranslation”; “Undertranslation”. In: Chan, Sin Wai and David Edward Pollard (eds.). An Encyclopaedia of Translation: Chinese-English, English-Chinese. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press. 716-730; 1108-1118.

Estreicher, Karol. 1872–1882. Bibliografia polska. Stulecie XIX (volume 1). Kraków: Spółka Księgarzy Polskich. Online: – 29.05.13

Fawcett, Peter. 1997. Translation and Language. Linguistic Theories Explained. Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing.

Hadyna, Dagmara. 2013. “A controversial translation justified by the context: Janina, the first Polish version of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre”, MA dissertation, Kraków, Jagiellonian University, URL:

Haynes, Kenneth (ed.). 2010. Classics and Translation: Essays by D. S. Carne-Ross. Cranbury: Rosemont Publishing & Printing Corp.

Hejwowski, Krzysztof. 2004. Kognitywno-komunikacyjna teoria przekładu. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN.

Kwieciński, Michał. 2001. Disturbing Strangeness. Foreignisation and domestication in translation procedures in the context of cultural asymmetry. Toruń: EDYTOR.

McCauley, Mary C. 1997. “Exploring the many faces of ‘Jane Eyre’. Critical Eye.”

Online: – 05.06.13.

Molina, Lucίa and Amparo Hurtado Albir. 2002. ‟Translation Techniques Revisited: A Dynamic and Functionalist Approach”.

Online: – 04.01.13.

Munday, Jeremy. 2001. Introducing Translation Studies: Theories and applications. London and New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

Newmark, Peter. 1988. A Textbook of Translation. New York: Prentice-Hall International and Pearson Education Ltd.

–. 2001. Approaches to Translation. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press.

Nida, Eugene A. 2000. ‟Principles of Correspondence”, in: Venuti, Lawrence (ed.). The Translation Studies Reader. London and New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group. 126-140..

Shuttleworth, Mark and Moira Cowie. 1997. Dictionary of Translation Studies. Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing.

Taylor, Christopher. 2007. Language to Language. A practical and theoretical guide for Italian/English translators (7th edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Venuti, Lawrence. 1995. The Translator’s Invisibility. A History of Translation. London and New York: Routledge.

Vinay, Jean-Paul and Jean L. Darbelnet. 1995(1958). Comparative Stylistics of French and English. English translation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Co..

Wang, Mian. 2012. “An Analysis of Over-translation and Under-translation in Perspective of Cultural Connotation”.

Online: – 15.05.13

dictionary 1 The Free Dictionary. Online:

dictionary 2 Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary (8th edition) – electronic version.

Internet sources:

web 1 – 29.05.13

web 2 – 05.06.13

web 3 – 05.06.13

[1] See A. Smoleńska’s article in the current issue.

Comments are closed.