Military Subjects: Battles & Campaigns

 

Recollections of capitaine de frégate Pierre Baste

Translated by Tim Mahon

Baste’s Memoirs – Translator’s Foreword

The original inspiration for this translation was research I am conducting into the Andalusian campaign of 1808, and the ensuing Capitulation of Baílen. Having found Baste’s Memoirs, and discovering there was a great deal therein on the campaign, I decided to translate the entire memoir for reference as a source document. This translation is the result.

In all my translation activities I struggle to provide the sense of what the original author is trying to convey, rather than a literal translation of phrases that may be anachronistic, no longer in popular usage or misleading. There are thus particular passages that a professional translator may take issue with – but I believe I succeed in staying true to the original intent of the author throughout the 18,000 words of his text. Mistakes and errors are, of course, my sole responsibility.

The reader should be aware of a couple of conventions I have adopted. All ranks and peculiarly French expressions, for which there is either no direct English equivalent or for which a broad acceptance of the French original is held by English readers, are maintained in the original French and italicised. Footnotes consist of translations of the footnotes of the original editors/publishers of the Baste text, except where explanatory notes have been inserted by me – these are prefixed with the title of “Translator’s note” in order to distinguish them.

Pierre Baste comes across as something of a self-aggrandizing bombast in these recollections – especially in those passages in which he places himself at the centre of the action. In some cases it has been difficult to translate his self-serving prose accurately without it seeming clumsy or jejune in English, but this is nonetheless an important memoir for students of the events leading up to Dupont’s surrender at Baílen. Baste was central in many of the actions of the campaign – although not quite so pivotal in the action at the bridge at Alcolea as he would like to make out, where his memory differs significantly from that of other participants. This makes his reliability as a source for a military history of the campaign somewhat questionable – but it would be a poor historian – even an amateur one – who ignored the contribution this memoir makes.

As the original publishers noted, Baste had “a brusque tone and the manner of a sailor…” With that in mind – enjoy.

 

Recollections of capitaine de frégate Pierre Baste

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: November 2006


 

 

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