Maria, Countess de Flavigny had written a book for children. She wrote it as if she was speaking to little children, which, of course, she was. The children were probably her grandchildren, or grandchildren of friends. The book was not published during her lifetime, and, indeed, was published by her grandson when he came of age.
The advice book was probably written long-hand and passed around. Her target audience was children under twelve. But these children had a much broader vocabulary than the typical American child of today.
The Countess wrote in French. The book was originally published in French. The edition I had found was an American edition. The translation was extremely Victorian English, complete with run-on sentences and outdated terminology.
If I wanted to share this book with anyone, I would have to do some editing. But I thought the work would be worth it in the end. And so I began, as a hobby, the multiple readings of a 250 page book.
This was harder than it looked. First I had to cut down all the paragraph-long sentences. This required rewriting most of them to some degree or another. That was not very difficult. I was just rewording her work to fit the shorter sentences without changing any meaning.
Then, the hard part began. I had to change numerous words for one of two reasons. Either the word was archaic, or the word has taken on another meaning in the past hundred years and meant something different to today’s readers than what the original translator intended.
A third step in the rewriting of “A Catholic Mother” was more religious in nature. In the 1870s, when the book was originally published, a child received First Communion about the age of `12. Pope St Pius X changed that ruling soon after he was elevated to the Papacy. Children receiving First Communion at the age of 7 is now the norm. So, all references to the children’s experiences had to be changed to keep with the new teachings of the Church.
The fourth step in the rewriting was a more cultural one. The Countess often refers to servants of the children she is addressing. Our modern culture does not see this routinely. Servants are now limited to upper class citizens. The references were altered throughout the book to include other workers and retail salespeople.
In addition to that, I found one sentence that just was not true anymore. The author referred to the Jews not having a place to call their own. I had to note the establishment of Israel in 1947.