Popular Tales From the Norse
NOTICE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
THE first edition of these Tales being exhausted, and a demand having arisen for a second, the Translator has thought it right to add thirteen tales, which complete the translation of MM. Asbjörnsen and Moe's Collection, and to strengthen the Introduction by working in some new matter, and by working out some points which were only slightly sketched in the first edition.
The favour with which the book was welcomed makes it almost a duty to say a word here on the many kind and able notices which have been written upon it. Duties are not always pleasant, but the fulfilment of this at least gives no pain; because, without one exception, every criticism which the Translator has seen has shewn him that his prayer for "gentle" readers has been fully heard. It will be forgiven him, he hopes, when he says that he has not seen good ground to change or even to modify any of the opinions as to the origin and diffusion of popular tales put forth in the first edition. Much
indeed has been said by others for those views; what has been urged against them, with all kindness and good humour, in one or two cases, has not availed at all to weigh down mature convictions deliberately expressed after the studies of years, backed as they are by the researches and support of those who have given their lives to this branch of knowledge.
And now, before the Translator takes leave of his readers for the second time, he will follow the lead of the good godmother in one of these Tales, and forbid all good children to read the two which stand last in the book. There is this difference between him and the godmother. She found her foster-daughter out as soon as she came back. He will never know it, if any bad child has broken his behest. Still he hopes that all good children who read this book will bear in mind that there is just as much sin in breaking a commandment even though it be not found out, and so he bids them good-bye, and feels sure that no good child will dare to look into those two rooms. If, after this warning, they peep in, they may perhaps see something which will shock them.
"Why then print them at all?" some grown reader asks. Because this volume is meant for you as well as for children, and if you have gone ever so little into the world with open eyes, you must have seen, yes, every day, things much more shocking. Because there is nothing
immoral in their spirit. Because they are intrinsically valuable, as illustrating manners and traditions, and so could not well be left out. Because they complete the number of the Norse originals, and leave none untranslated. And last, though not least, because the Translator hates family versions of anything, "Family Bibles," "Family Shakespeares." Those who, with so large a choice of beauty before them, would pick out and gloat over this or that coarseness or freedom of expression, are like those who, in reading the Bible, should always turn to Leviticus, or those whose Shakespeare would open of itself at Pericles Prince of Tyre. Such readers the Translator does not wish to have.
March 12, 1859.
NOTICE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
THESE translations from the Norske Folkeeventyr, collected with such freshness and faithfulness by MM. Asbjörnsen and Moe, have been made at various times and at long intervals during the last fifteen years; a fact which is mentioned only to account for any variations in style or tone--of which, however, the Translator is unconscious--that a critical eye may detect in this volume. One of them, The Master Thief, has already appeared in Blackwood's Magazine for November 1851, from the columns of which Periodical it is now reprinted, by the kind permission of the Proprietors.
The Translator is sorry that he has not been able to comply with the suggestion of some friends upon whose good-will he sets all store, who wished him to change and soften some features in these Tales, which they thought likely to shock English feeling. He has, however, felt it to be out of his power to meet their wishes, for the merit of an undertaking of this kind rests
entirely on its faithfulness and truth; and the man who, in such a work, wilfully changes or softens, is as guilty as he "who puts bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter."
Of this guilt, at least, the Translator feels himself free; and, perhaps, if any, who may be inclined to be offended at first, will take the trouble to read the Introduction which precedes and explains the Tales, they may find, not only that the softening process would have spoilt these popular traditions for all except the most childish readers, but that the things which shocked them at the first blush are, after all, not so very shocking.
For the rest, it ill becomes him to speak of the way in which his work has
been done: but if the reader will only bear in mind that this, too, is an enchanted
garden, in which whoever dares to pluck a flower, does it at the peril of his
head; and if he will then read the book in a merciful and tender spirit, he
will prove himself what the Translator most longs to find, "a gentle reader,"
and both will part on the best terms.
Dec. 12, 1858.
SIR GEORGE WEBBE DASENT, D.C.L.
IN presenting to the world a new edition of Sir George Webbe Dasent's Norse Tales a brief memoir of its author will not be deemed out of place.
The Dasent family is believed to have been originally of French extraction, the name having been traced to an ancient Norman source. It has owned property in the West Indies since the Restoration, and is represented in the island of St. Vincent at the present day. Some of its members were amongst the earliest colonists in St. Christopher's at a time when that island and Martinique were held jointly by the French and the English; and the highest judicial and administrative offices in St. Christopher's, in Nevis, in Antigua, and, more recently, in St. Vincent itself were filled by Sir George Dasent's ancestors. (1)
His grandfather was Chief Justice of Nevis when Nelson first served on the West Indian station--so long the battle-ground of England and France for the supremacy of the sea, and the cradle, so to speak, of our naval empire.
His father, John Roche Dasent, son of the Chief
1. For a detailed pedigree of the family of Dasent, see V. L. Oliver's History of the Island of Antigua. 1894. Volume i. pp. 190-194, and Burke's Landed Gentry, 8th edition, pp. 469, 470.
Justice of Nevis by his wife, Eleanor Roche, became Attorney-General of St. Vincent the year after Trafalgar.
It was in this volcanic island, perpetually robed in luxuriant tropical vegetation from mountain top to seashore, that the subject of our memoir was born on May 22nd, 1817.
His mother, the second wife of his father, was Charlotte Martha, younger daughter and co-heiress of Captain Alexander Burrowes Irwin, of an ancient Irish family in the counties of Dublin, Meath, and Tipperary, and of the Union Estate in St. Vincent.
Captain Irwin had come with the 32nd Foot to these pleasant summer seas in 1764, and he served with it there for ten years. He did not, however, return to Ireland with his regiment, as, having obtained a grant of land in one of the most fruitful hollows of the old home of the Caribs, he passed the remainder of his life on his estate in St. Vincent, and died there in 1806. His only son, Henry Bury Irwin, captain in the 68th Regiment, was killed at the battle of the Nivelle in the Peninsular War.
Like his father and others of the family before him, George Webbe Dasent was sent over to England to be educated at Westminster School, entering there so long ago as 1830 (after being for a short time at Lendon's well-known preparatory school at Totteridge), when George the Fourth was still upon the throne.
He boarded at Mrs. Stelfox's house, and amongst his schoolfellows were the present Duke of Richmond, Lord Esher, the late Master of the Polls, and Sir John Mowbray, until quite lately the Father of the House of Commons.
He witnessed, as a Westminster boy, the coronation of William the Fourth. The ceremony in the Abbey, and the burning of the old Houses of Parliament a few years later were, he used to say, the things which most impressed themselves upon his boyish memory at the time. Nor was it likely that the agitation prevailing in the country at the time of the great Reform Movement would find much reflection within the walls of St. Peter's College on the Isle of Thorns, although Westminster was then the favoured school of the great Whig families of England.
In 1832 Dasent's father died, and the final emancipation of the slaves a little later proving the death-knell of the commercial prosperity of the West Indian islands, it became increasingly difficult for the proprietors to live upon their estates. The care of the younger children devolved in great measure upon their half-brother John Bury Dasent [late Judge of County Courts, who died, aged eighty-one, in 1888], then a young student of the Middle Temple, residing on very slender means in Serjeants' Inn, Fleet Street.
It so happened that John Sterling, the amiable son of the "Thunderer of the Times," had visited St. Vincent in 1831, shortly before old Mr. Dasent's death, to assume the management of a sugar estate at a place called Colonarie. His health had been very indifferent, and it was hoped that a voyage to the tropics in a sailing-ship on would restore it. An intimacy, not without influence the future career of young George Dasent, as will be seen hereafter, soon sprang up between the two families.
After leaving Westminster, Dasent, went for a time to