Reply to Our Critics

in French Politics, Culture & Society
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  • 1 Harvard University
  • 2 Harvard University
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Seymour Drescher is a fine economic and social historian and Tocqueville scholar; Arthur Goldhammer is among the best translators of French working today; Melvin Richter is a distinguished scholar of the history of European political thought; Cheryl Welch is a judicious analyst of French political thought. We are grateful to them for the generous spirit in which they have called to our attention some errors and difficulties in our translation of Tocqueville’s Democracy in America—and, of course, chagrined that they should have been there to find. Some of the corrections are of careless errors, for which there is no excuse. Others are of confusions caused either by our occasional failure to supply a noun to replace a pronoun whose referent is clear in French, but unclear in English, or by our inconsistent translation of the French indefinite pronoun on. These, too, we should have caught. Still other criticisms identify different choices they would have made. We respect each sort of criticism. But the corrections do not dispose of the issue of what principles should be brought to bear in translating.

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