Van Laun, Henri (DNB00)

VAN LAUN, HENRI (1820–1896), author and translator, born in Holland in 1820, was educated in France. He settled permanently in England in 1848, and at first sought fortune as a journalist, but after a brief experience he preferred the less precarious business of teaching. He was successively French master at King William's College, Isle of Man, at Cheltenham College, and the Edinburgh Academy. Settling afterwards in London, he acted for twenty consecutive years as examiner in French for the civil service commission and for the war office. His first publication, ‘A Grammar of the French Language’ (3 vols. 1863–1864), was followed by ‘Selections from Modern French Authors’ (3 vols. 1869–88). In 1871 appeared his translation of his friend Taine's ‘History of English Literature.’ This work was first issued in Edinburgh in two volumes. It ran through four or five editions, and was then issued in four volumes (London, 1886, 8vo). Van Laun's translation of the ‘Dramatic Works’ of Molière was published in 6 vols. at Edinburgh in 1875–6, 8vo, with illustrations by Lalauze. It embodies much curious information, derived from Langbaine and other sources, concerning seventeenth and eighteenth century translations of, and plagiarisms from, separate plays, acknowledged or unacknowledged. Van Laun's own ‘History of French Literature’ appeared in three volumes (London, 1876–7, 8vo), and was reprinted in 1883. He next published his ‘French Revolutionary Epoch,’ (2 vols. London, 1878, 8vo), being a history of France from the beginning of the first Revolution to the end of the Second Empire. He contributed a ‘Notice of the Life and Works of Motteux’ to Lockhart's revised edition of Pierre Antoine Motteux's English translation of Cervantes's ‘Don Quixote’ which appeared in four volumes (London, 1880–1, 8vo). Van Laun next published ‘The Characters of La Bruyère, newly rendered into English’ (London, 1885, 8vo). His last work was a translation of ‘The Adventures of Gil Blas’ from the French of Le Sage (3 vols. London, 1886, 8vo).

Van Laun was a competent translator, and was widely read in English dramatic literature, but his original essays in literary history were valueless compilations. He was for some years confidential adviser to Mr. John C. Nimmo, the publisher, of London. He died at his residence in Ladbroke Gardens, London, on 19 Jan. 1896.

[Times, 21 and 22 Jan. 1896; Athenæum, 25 Jan. 1896, p. 120; Annual Register, 1896, ii. 136.]

T. C.