I happened on a passage in The Oxford Handbook of the Victorian Novel which I thought was interesting enough to post here. Julie Buckler, after describing how familiar Russian readers were with even minor British authors, since from Pushkin’s time on they were made available almost immediately in the “thick journals” that provided the intellectual fodder of the Russian intelligentsia, points out that “this relatively comprehensive coverage” was “mitigated by haphazard and freewheeling translation practices” — translations “were abridged in seemingly unsystematic or even perverse fashion,” often “rendered in haste in return for poor pay.” A “more responsible and even artistic concept of translation” only arrived with the modernist period. Then she writes:
The single most prolific Russian translator of Victorian prose fiction was Irinarkh Vvedensky (1813–55), who provided Russian readers with a steady stream of English novels in the 1840s to 1850s, more than 5,000 printed pages in total. Vvedensky began with The Vicar of Wakefield in 1845, and during the period 1847–52 translated Dombey and Son, The Pickwick Papers, David Copperfield, The Haunted Man, Vanity Fair, Jane Eyre, and Caroline Norton’s Stuart of Dunleath. Posthumous assessments of Vvedensky’s work fault him for making an extraordinary number of mistakes in translation and for the liberties he took with the original texts. Vvedensky himself considered this free approach to foreign texts a legitimate method for attuning himself to the author’s spirit, and firmly believed that a truly worthy ‘translation’ should not be strictly faithful. In an 1849 letter to Charles Dickens that appeared in his translation of Dombey and Son, Vvedensky wrote, ‘I understood you as an Englishman and at the same time, in my thoughts, I had you move to Russian soil, and made you express your ideas as you would if you lived under Russian skies.’ Vvedensky liked to insert his own commentary and additions throughout, in phrases and even entire sentences he rendered in a literary idiom similar to the foreign author’s own style. He was also fond of adding pithy Russian-style proverbs as folksy authorial interjections at the end of specific passages (‘It’s easy enough to solve someone else’s problems!’). Vvedensky represents a complex figure in the Russian literary landscape of the mid-19th century. He took liberties with the texts he translated that would not be tolerated today, but he also raised Russian consciousness about the degree to which prose translation could be a literary art rather than a mechanistic operation.
I doubt Dickens would have approved, especially since he didn’t get any royalties.