Recent scholarship in British eighteenth-century literary studies has begun to pay significant attention to Ludvig Holberg’s Niels Klims underjordiske reise as not only one of the many stars in the constellation surrounding Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels—or, Gulliverainia as such supplementary material is called—but also as a significant contributor to the genre of the mock-travel narrative as it was conceived in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Likewise, Mary Shelley studies has nodded to the text for its influence on both her own travel writing and on her notions of pseudo-scientific inquiry, for example via Frankenstein and even perhaps The Last Man.
However, in both these cases, the focus on Holberg’s novel has been in regard to influence and little else.
What I aim to examine in my paper is that while indeed Niel’s underjordiske reise is a pivotal text for the genre of the mock-travel narrative and later manifestations of the "exploration novel," it is also, and perhaps more importantly, a pivotal text in regard to translation studies of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as the novel was itself originally written in Latin and yet within just a few years had been translated into over thirteen languages. With this in mind, Niel’s Klim becomes important in regard to practices of translation throughout the long century; and indeed, gestures to the complex system of media exchange already in place throughout Europe. For my purposes, I will examine Thomas DeQuincy’s incomplete 1820s translation of Niel’s Klim, which I hope to argue, is emblematic of both systems of exchange (translation and media) and also serves as proof-text for Romantic translation theory.
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