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Astrid Kulsdom

“Our language perhaps may be a stranger”: The publication and reception of Ouida’s work in the Netherlands


The popularity of Ouida (Maria Louise Ramée, 1839-1908), a bestselling British writer of high society satires, did not remain confined to her native country: her work was translated in several countries abroad, including the Netherlands. Unlike most women writers Ouida actively participated in the Dutch literary field, trying to exercise control over her literary property although the Netherlands in the nineteenth century knew no legal protection of the copyright on foreign authors’ work. Fortunately Ouida established a business relationship with publishing house De Erven F. Bohn, who acquired her translation rights instead of publishing unauthorized editions like many other publishers. Their correspondence shows that Ouida cites positive British reception in order to convince De Erven F. Bohn to buy her work, whereas Bohn refers to the Dutch reception of her previous novels in order to strike a better deal.

Using examples from her correspondence with Bohn and British and Dutch reviews of Ouida’s work, this contribution will examine how the reception of previous novels influences the sale of translation rights and the relationship between author and publisher. Special emphasis will be laid on Ouida’s role as a female author in the male-dominated field of the Dutch book trade.

AsK, September 2012

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