Agents of Latin: An archival research on Clement Egerton’s English translation of Jin Ping Mei

Lintao Qi


Latin has a history of being used in English translations of erotic literary works, but the process of producing and incorporating the Latin into the English target texts has so far remained largely unexplored. Based on the publisher’s archival materials, this paper uncovers the roles of and relationships between the English translator, Latin translator, publisher, printer and copyeditor for the use of Latin in Clement Egerton’s 1939 English translation The Golden Lotus of the classic Chinese novel Jin Ping Mei. I argue that pre-publication censorship was influenced by sophisticated hierarchical and horizontal networks of agents. The Latin passages in The Golden Lotus, which have always been attributed to Egerton, are revealed by the archives to be the work of an unknown Latin scholar. The use of Latin in The Golden Lotus is both reflective of the social context of the 1930s and representative of the complexity of the agential network in translation.

Table of contents

Research on agents in the field of Translation Studies has been growing in recent years (e.g., Kinnunen and Koskinen 2010; Milton and Bandia 2009), and studies on the relationship between translation and censorship have also been conducted by many (e.g., Billiani 2006; Harrison and Stray 2012; Merkle 2002; Ní Chuilleanáin, Ó Cuilleanáin, and Parris 2009), but how controversial passages are translated and what agents are instrumental in the process remains largely unknown. This paper, based on extensive archival research, endeavours to examine the network of agents that is responsible for the use of Latin in Clement Egerton’s English translation of the classic Chinese novel Jin Ping Mei, and, on that basis, to briefly investigate the historical implications and the reception of these Latin passages.

Full-text access is restricted to subscribers. Log in to obtain additional credentials. For subscription information see Subscription & Price. Direct PDF access to this article can be purchased through our e-platform.


Abdallah, Kristiina, and Kaisa Koskinen
2007 “Managing Trust: Translating and the Network Economy.Meta 52 (4): 673–687. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Bassnett, Susan, and André Lefevere
eds. 1990Translation, History, and Culture. London: Pinter Publishers.Google Scholar
Billiani, Francesca
2006Modes of Censorship and Translation: National Contexts and Diverse Media. Manchester: St. Jerome.Google Scholar
Boyer, Paul S.
1968Purity in Print: the Vice-society Movement and Book Censorship in America. New York: Scribner.Google Scholar
Buzelin, Hélène
2005 “Unexpected Allies: How Latour’s Network Theory Could Complement Bourdieusian Analyses in Translation Studies.The Translator 11 (2): 193–218. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
2007 “Translation ‘in the Making’.” In Wolf and Fukari 2007, 135–170.Google Scholar
Buzelin, Hélène, and Deborah Folaron
eds. 2007La traduction et les études de réseaux / Translation and Network Studies, special issue of Meta 52 (4). DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Buzelin, Helene
2010 “Agents of Translation.” In Handbook of Translation Studies, vol. 1, ed. by Yves Gambier, and Luc van Doorslaer, 6–12. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Chang, Kang-i Sun, and Stephen Owen
eds. 2010The Cambridge History of Chinese Literature. 2 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Chu, Tsui-Jen
1927The Adventures of Hsi Men Ching. New York: Priv. print for the Library of Facetious Lore.Google Scholar
Craig, Alec
1962The Banned Books of England and Other Countries: A Study of the Conception of Literary Obscenity. London: Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
Crowe, Robert
2012 “How to Fillet a Penguin.” In Harrison and Stray 2012, 197–211.Google Scholar
De Grazia, Edward
1992Girls Lean Back Everywhere: The Law of Obscenity and the Assault on Genius. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
Elek, Paul
1954 “Literature and the Law.The Times, June 18, 7.Google Scholar
Fryer, Peter
1966Private Case — Public Scandal. Secrets of the British Museum Revealed. London: Secker & Warburg.Google Scholar
Giddens, Anthony
1979Central Problems in Social Theory: Action, Structure, and Contradiction in Social Analysis. London: Macmillan. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Glass, Loren
2013Counterculture Colophon: Grove Press, the Evergreen Review, and the Incorporation of the Avant-garde. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
Hall, Lesley A.
1999 “Sexual Culture in Britain.” In Sexual Cultures in Europe: National Histories, ed. by Franz Eder, Lesley A. Hall, and Gert Hekma, 29–52. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
Harrison, Stephen, and Christopher Stray
eds. 2012Expurgating the Classics: Editing out in Latin and Greek. London: Bristol Classical Press.Google Scholar
Harvey, Keith
2003 “ ‘Events’ and ‘Horizons’ Reading Ideology in the ‘Bindings’ of Translations.” In Apropos of Ideology: Translation Studies on Ideology — Ideologies in Translation Studies, ed. by María Calzada Pérez, 43–69. Manchester: St. Jerome.Google Scholar
Hegel, Robert E.
2011 “General Introduction.” In The Golden Lotus: Jin Ping Mei, ed. by Lanling Xiaoxiaosheng, Clement Egerton, and Shu Qingchun. North Clarendon, VT: Tuttle Publishing.Google Scholar
Hermans, Theo
2007The Conference of the Tongues. Manchester: St. Jerome.Google Scholar
Hightower, James Robert
1953 “Chinese Literature in the Context of World Literature.Comparative Literature 5 (2): 117–124. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Inghilleri, Moira
ed. 2005Bourdieu and the Sociology of Translation and Interpreting, special issue of The Translator 11 (2). DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Jääskeläinen, Riitta
2007 “The Changing Position of ‘the Translator’ in Research and in Practice.Journal of Translation Studies 10 (1): 1–15.Google Scholar
Kilpatrick, James Jackson
1960The Smut Peddlers. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.Google Scholar
Kinnunen, Tuija, and Kaisa Koskinen
eds. 2010Translator’s Agency. Tampere: Tampere University Press.Google Scholar
Lewis, Jeremy
2005Penguin Special: the Life and Times of Allen Lane. London: Viking.Google Scholar
Loth, David Goldsmith
1961The Erotic in Literature: A Historical Survey of Pornography as Delightful as It Is Indiscreet. New York: J. Messner.Google Scholar
Lowe, Edwin H.
2010 “Introduction.” In The Dream of the Red Chamber, ed. by X. Cao, and H. B. Joly, xxiii–xxiv. Singapore: Tuttle Publishing.Google Scholar
Lu, Xun
2009A Brief History of Chinese Fiction. Translated by Xianyi Yang and Gladys Yang. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.Google Scholar
Merkle, Denise
2002Censure et traduction dans le monde occidental / Censorship and Translation in the Western World, special issue of TTR: traduction, terminologie, rédaction 15 (2).Google Scholar
2009 “Vizetelly & Company as (Ex)change Agent: Towards the Modernization of the British Publishing Industry.” In Milton and Bandia 2009, 85–106. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Milton, John, and Paul F. Bandia
eds. 2009Agents of Translation. Benjamins Translation Library 81. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Munday, Jeremy
2012Introducing Translation Studies: Theories and Applications. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
2013 “The Role of Archival and Manuscript Research in the Investigation of Translator Decision-making.Target 25 (1): 125–139. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
2014 “Using Primary Sources to Produce a Microhistory of Translation and Translators: Theoretical and Methodological Concerns.The Translator 20 (1): 64–80. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Ní Chuilleanáin, Eiléan, Cormac Ó Cuilleanáin, and David L. Parris
2009Translation and Censorship: Patterns of Communication and Interference. Dublin: Four Courts Press.Google Scholar
Nida, Eugene A.
2001Language and Culture: Contexts in Translating. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press.Google Scholar
O’Sullivan, Carol
2009 “Translation Within the Margin: the ‘Libraries’ of Henry Bohn.” In Milton and Bandia 2009, 107–130. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Perrin, Noel
1970Dr. Bowdler’s Legacy: A History of Expurgated Books in England and America. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
Prunč, Erich
2007 “Priests, Princes and Pariahs: Constructing the Professional Field of Translation.” In Wolf and Fukari 2007, 39–56. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Pym, Anthony
2007 “Cross-Cultural Networking: Translators in the French-German Network of Petites Revues at the End of the Nineteenth Century.Meta 52 (4): 744–762. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Rembar, Charles
1968The End of Obscenity: The Trials of Lady Chatterley, Tropic of Cancer, and Fanny Hill. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
Robertson, Geoffrey
2010 “The Gamekeeper Had a Wife Also...” In Lady Chatterley’s Lover (fiftieth anniversary edition), D. H. Lawrence, 303–313. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
Rolph, C. H.
1969Books in the Dock. London: Deutsch.Google Scholar
Sullivan, J. P.
1991Martial, the Unexpected Classic: A Literary and Historical Study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Tahir-Gürçağlar, Şehnaz
2002 “What Texts Don’t Tell: the Uses of Paratexts in Translation Research.” In Crosscultural Transgressions — Research Models in Translation Studies II: Historical and Ideological Issues, ed. by Theo Hermans, 44–60. Manchester: St. Jerome.Google Scholar
2007 “Chaos Before Order: Network Maps and Research Design in DTS.Meta 52 (4): 724–743. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
2009 “A Cultural Agent Against the Forces of Culture: Hasan-Âli Yücel.” In Milton and Bandia 2009, 161–188. DOI logo
Thomas, Donald
1969A Long Time Burning: The History of Literary Censorship in England. London: Routledge & K. Paul.Google Scholar
Tyulenev, Sergey
2014Translation and Society: An Introduction. London: Routledge. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Unwin, Stanley
1960The Truth About Publishing. 7th ed. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
Venuti, Lawrence
1995The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation, Translation Studies. London: Routledge. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
2003 “Retranslation: the Creation of Value.Bucknell Review 47 (1): 25–38.Google Scholar
Wang, Lina
1988Zhongguo gudian xiaoshuo xiqu mingzhu zai guowai [The overseas dissemination of classic Chinese novels and dramas]. Shanghai: Xuelin chubanshe.Google Scholar
Wolf, Michaela
2012 “The Sociology of Translation and its ‘Activist Turn’.Translation and Interpreting Studies 7 (2): 129–143. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Wolf, Michaela, and Alexandra Fukari
eds. 2007Constructing a Sociology of Translation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Xiaoxiaosheng, and Clement Egerton
1939The Golden Lotus: A Translation, from the Chinese Original, of the Novel Chin P’ing Mei. 4 vols. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
1972The Golden Lotus: A Translation, from the Chinese Original, of the Novel Chin P’ing Mei. 4 vols. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
Xiaoxiaosheng, and David Tod Roy
1993The Plum in the Golden Vase, or, Chin P’ing Mei (Vol.1: The Gathering). 5 vols Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar