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Radical Translations

Antoine-Gilbert Griffet de Labaume

Contributions

  1. Aventures surprenantes de Robinson Crusoe. Traduites de l'anglais translation translator
  2. Bibliothèque germanique author
  3. La Décade philosophique journalist
  4. La Messe de Gnide author
  5. Le Bien informé editor
  6. Le sens-commun. Ouvrage adressé aux Américains, et dans lequel on traite de l’origine et de l’objet du gouvernement, de la constitution anglaise, de la monarchie héréditaire, et de la situation de l’Amérique septentrionale. Traduit de l’anglais de Th. Paine. Nouvelle édition revue et corrigée paratext author
  7. Le sens-commun. Ouvrage adressé aux Américains, et dans lequel on traite de l’origine et de l’objet du gouvernement, de la constitution anglaise, de la monarchie héréditaire, et de la situation de l’Amérique septentrionale. Traduit de l’anglais de Th. Paine. Nouvelle édition revue et corrigée translation translator
  8. Magasin encyclopédique journalist
  9. Mercure de France journalist
  10. Réflexions sur la traité de l'esclavage des nègres, traduites de l'anglais, d'Ottobah Cugoano, Africain, esclave à La Grenade et libre en Angleterre translation translator
  11. Théorie et pratique des droits de l'homme, par Th. Paine, secrétaire du Congrès au département des affaires étrangères, pendant la guerre d'Amérique, auteur du Sens commun, et des Réponses à Burke. Traduit en François par F. Lanthenas et par le traducteur du Sens commun paratext author
  12. Théorie et pratique des droits de l'homme, par Th. Paine, secrétaire du Congrès au département des affaires étrangères, pendant la guerre d'Amérique, auteur du Sens commun, et des Réponses à Burke. Traduit en François par F. Lanthenas et par le traducteur du Sens commun translation translator
  13. Théorie et pratique des droits de l'homme, par Th. Payne, secrétaire du Congrès au département des affaires étrangères, pendant la guerre d'Amérique, auteur du Sens commun, oeuvre adressé aux américains, et dans lequel on traite de l'origine & de l'objet du gouvernement, de la Constitution anglaise, de la monarchie héréditaire & de la situation de l'Amérique septentrionale. Traduit en Français, par F. Lanthenas, D. M. translation translator

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Biography

Antoine-Gilbert Griffet de Labaume (Moulins, 1756-Paris, 1805) was a writer, playwright and translator. He was central figure in the linguistic exchanges taking place between Germany, Britain and France in the late eighteenth century. Despite being of noble descent, he was a supporter of the Revolution. His translation work was partly sponsored by the French government. Apart from his native French, he knew German, English and Italian.

After his studies and subsequent travels, Griffet became a collaborator or Le Censeur universel anglois (1786-1788). He was probably part of the circle of liberal and anglophile literary people and scholars around the comte de Provence (the future Louis XVIII) at the chateau of Brunoy. The works he chose translate reflect his progressive spirit. With his French translation of Ottobah Cugoano’s Thoughts and sentiments on the evil and wicked traffic of the slavery and commerce of the human species (1787) he contributed to the abolitionist movement around his fellow translator François-Xavier Lanthenas. In the early Revolution, Griffet translated Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and Rights of Man (both 1791). In 1793 he joined the Cercle social, which provided a suitable context for his translating activities. With Lanthenas, he co-translated a new French edition of Common Sense (1793), among other works. Griffet was a regular collaborator to the journals Mercure de France, la Décade philosophique and le Magasin encyclopédique. After having collaborated with Jean-Louis-Antoine Reynier at the Cercle social, he became his associate as a publisher and bookseller.

In 1795, Griffet was among the beneficiaries of the program to support literary people set up by the Convention and overseen by Grégoire. He obtained a pension of 1500 livres for his translation from English, which was lower than the amount received by translators of classical and oriental languages. After 18 fructidor he joined the republican journal Le Bien informé, founded by Nicolas Bonneville, along with Paine, Mercier and Bernardin de Saint-Pierre. In 1798 he obtained a post at the Ministry of the Interior under François de Neufchâteau, which he held until 1805. His financial situation deteriorated nevertheless. Griffet was an important figure in the Directory’s policy to make ‘useful’ literature accessible to the French public through translation.

Griffet strongly believed in cultural exchange between the nations as a way of furthering human progress. As such, he played a dynamical role in the transnational circulation of texts in the revolutionary period. He had a particular interest in the national myths of the surrounding countries, translating Macpherson’s Ossian, Bodmer’s epic Die Sundflutz and the history of Switzerland by Johannes von Müller. Jean-Louis Chappey has called this a way of ‘francising’ the emerging national movements in Europe. Nevertheless, as Chappey also indicates, Griffet is a rather invisible translator. Almost nowhere does he comment on his work a translator, preferring to stay away from the light.

He has been particularly instrumental in the introduction of German literature to the French public. Alongside Joseph de Maimieux, he was an important contributor to the Bibliothèque germanique (1799-1800), a collection of French translations of (extracts from) German works, by Kant and Herder among others. Griffet futhermore translated many works by Wieland.

Among the works of fiction he translated were Evelina by Mrs d'Arblay (1784), poetry by Thomas Chatterton (1785), letters by John Langhorne, Daniel (1787) by Friedrich Karl von Moser, Sterne’s Tristram Shandy (1785), Marianne et Charlotte by Tunger (1794), Evelina (1787) by Fanny Burney, Robinson Crusoe (1799), Léopoldine by Friedrich Schulz (1809) and Anna Bella by Henry Mackenzie (1810). He also translated several travelogues and a work of statistics.

Among his own work are comedies and poetry, as well as the licentious parody La Messe de Gnide, published under the pseudonym of G. Nobody (1797). He also wrote a life of Daniel Defoe (1793).