Cervantes in England (1905)




Read January 25, 1905

In Commemoration of the Tercentenary of ‘Don Quixote

Lord Reay, Your Excellencies, and Gentlemen:

My first duty is to express to the Council and to the members of the British Academy my thanks for the distinguished honour which they have done me in inviting me to address them on this occasion of high international interest; and my second duty is to deliver to you. Lord Reay, a message from your learned brethren who form the Royal Academy of Spain. As a member of that ancient and illustrious body, desirous of associating itself with your proceedings today, it falls to me to act as its spokesman, and to convey to you its fraternal greetings as well as its grateful recognition of the prompt enthusiasm which has impelled you to take the lead in honouring the most famous literary genius that Spain can boast. You have met together here to do homage to one of the great men of the world, and to commemorate the publication of the book with which he endowed mankind just three hundred years ago. It is in strict accordance with historic tradition that you, as the official representatives of British culture, should be the first learned body in Europe to celebrate this tercentenary, and I propose to show that, since the first decade of the seventeenth century, this country has been foremost in paying tribute to an amazing masterpiece. The work has survived, no doubt, by virtue of its intrinsic and transcendent merits; but, like every other creation, it has had to struggle for existence, and it is gratifying to us to remember that British insight, British appreciation, British scholarship, and British munificence have contributed towards the speedier recognition of Cervantes’s genius. I will ask your permission, my Lord, to demonstrate this restricted thesis instead of taking you and your colleagues through the labyrinth of aesthetic criticism for which the subtle ingenuity of three centuries is responsible. But it may not be out of place to begin with a few words concerning the author of Don Quixote and the circumstances in which his romance was produced. 

Many alleged incidents in his picturesque career have afforded subjects to poets and dramatists and painters; but these are exercises in the domain of imagination, and the briefest summary of ascertained facts will be more to my purpose. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was born at Alcala de Henares in 1547. The son of a humble apothecary-surgeon, without a university degree, and constantly wandering from town to town in search of patients, Cervantes cannot well have received a systematic education; but we really know nothing of his youth except that, at some date previous to 1569, he composed copies of mediocre verses dedicated to Philip the Second’s wife, Isabel de Valois. He is next heard of as chamberlain to the future Cardinal Acquaviva at Rome; thence he passed into the army, fought under Don John of Austria at Lepanto (where he received the wound in his left hand which was to be a source of greater pride to him than any of his writings), shared in the Navarino and Tunis campaigns, and, after five years of service, set sail for Spain to seek promotion. He was captured by Moorish pirates on September 26, 1575, and was carried into Algiers, where his heroic conduct won him — not only the admiration of his fellow prisoners, but — the respect of his taskmasters. After nearly five years of slavery in Algiers, during which period he wrote verses (some of which have been preserved), he was ransomed on September 19, 1580, returned to Spain, was apparently employed in Portugal, married at the end of 1584, and in the following year published the First Part of an artificial and ambitious pastoral romance, La Galatea. At this time he was writing numerous plays which, so he tells us, won popular favour; evidently they were not so successful as their author imagined in his retrospect, for in 1587 Cervantes sought and found less congenial occupation in collecting provisions for the Invincible Armada. It was ill-paid work, but it gave him bread, while literature and the drama did not. This is his first association with England, and it was no fault of his if the equipment of the Armada was not complete, for he perquisitioned with such tempestuous zeal as to incur a threat of excommunication from the ecclesiastics whose stores he seized. He remained in the public service as collector of revenues, not greatly to his own satisfaction (to judge by his application for one of four posts vacant in America), and not altogether to the satisfaction of his official superiors (to judge from the fact that he was imprisoned at Seville in 1597 for irregularities in his accounts). He was soon released, but apparently was not reinstated. We cannot wonder at this: he had not the talent for routine. 

The next six or seven years must have been the dreariest period of Cervantes’s life. He lingered on in Seville, to all seeming ruined beyond hope. But he was not embittered: ex forti dulcedo. The alchemy of his genius was now free to work, free to transmute his personal misfortunes into ore more precious than that which the Spanish argosies brought from the mines of Potosi. In the Triana and other poor quarters of Seville, he had daily opportunities of studying the originals of Gines de Pasamonte and of Rinconete and Cortadillo, two diverting picaroons who perhaps came into existence before Sancho Panza; and in Seville, from 1597 to 1603, he had time to compare the dreams of life with its realities. All unconsciously he had undergone an admirable preparation for the task which lay before him. The vicissitudes of his troubled existence constituted an inexhaustible intellectual capital. To any ordinary eye they might seem a collection of unmanageable dross, but the man of genius wields a divining-rod which leads him through the dusk to the spot where the hidden treasure lies; and so it happened with Cervantes. In the course of his long rides, collecting the King’s taxes, he had observed the personages whom he has presented so vividly as to make them real to each of us three hundred years afterwards. It is the paramount faculty of imaginative creation to force us to see through the medium of its transfiguring vision, and we have the privilege of knowing Spain in Cervantes’s transcription of it. We accompany him in those journeys across baking plains and sterile mountains and we meet the characters with whom he was familiar. We cannot doubt that he had encountered innkeepers who could cap a quotation from an ancient ballad, and who delighted in the incredible adventures of Cirongilio of Thrace or of Felixmarte of Hircania; demure Toledan silk-mercers on the road to Murcia, with their sunshades up to protect them against the heat; barbers who preferred Galaor to his more famous brother Amadis of Gaul, and who were pleased to have Ariosto on their shelves even though they could not read him; Benedictine monks peering through their travelling spectacles from the backs of mules as tall as dromedaries; canons far better acquainted with the romances of chivalry than with Villalpando’s treatise on logic; amorous and noble youths from Aragon, disguised as muleteers; and perhaps a poor oldfashioned gentleman who in some solitary hamlet pored and pored over tales of chivalrous deeds till he persuaded himself that he was born to repeat these exploits and to restore the golden age — that happy time when maleficent giants were neatly divided at the waist by knights whose hearts were pure, and who themselves avoided similar inconveniences by timely recourse to Fierabras’s inestimable balsam, two drops of which joined to a nicety the severed halves of a bisected paladin. 

The time was coming when these casual acquaintances, embellished by the sunniest humour and most urbane irony, were to find place in Cervantes’s rich portrait-gallery and were to be his glory as well as our delight. While he was giving artistic form to his reminiscences as chamberlain, soldier, slave, poet, romancer, dramatist, tax-gatherer, and broken wanderer, his knowledge of life was continually extending. The Treasury was constantly upon his track. What actually took place is somewhat obscure: Cervantes was (probably) imprisoned once more in 1598 and (almost certainly) again in 1601-2. It may have been in Seville jail that he began to write what he describes as a story ‘full of thoughts of all sorts and such as never came into any other imagination — just what might be begotten in a prison, where every misery is lodged and every doleful sound makes its dwelling.’ What is certain is that early in 1603 he was ordered to appear before the Exchequer Court there to produce his vouchers and explain his confused accounts. It was the most fortunate thing that could have happened to him. We may be tolerably sure that the loose bookkeeping which had perplexed the Treasury clerks for years was not made clear in an instant, and that Cervantes’s examination was prolonged over a considerable period; and it seems likely that, on one of his journeys to and fro between Seville and Valladolid, he disposed of a manuscript which had passed through many hands before it found a publisher. This was the manuscript of Don Quixote. 

The internal evidence of the book shows that Cervantes began hesitatingly and tentatively, intending to write a comparatively short story about a simple-hearted country-gentleman, mooning his years away in some secluded hamlet till his craze for chivalrous adventures led him into absurd situations which invited description in a spirit of broad farce. The opening words of the sixth chapter — El qual dormia — are awkwardly carried on from the fifth chapter, and they go to show that no division of material was originally contemplated. Moreover, we may say with some confidence that the existence of the accomplished Sancho Panza is the result of an afterthought; the idea probably occurred to Cervantes just after penning the innkeeper’s statement that knights were commonly attended by squires. And it is curious to remark that the author fails at first to visualize the figure of Sancho Panza; he falters in the attempt to draw the short, ventripotent rustic, and as late as the ninth chapter describes him as tall and long-shanked. A long-shanked Sancho! One would have said that such a being was inconceivable had not his creator first seen him in that strange form. 

The writer’s primary aim was to parody a class of literature which, though no longer so much appreciated at court as in the days of Juan de Valdes, or at the time when it seemed natural to call California after the griffin-haunted island in Las Sergas de Esplandian still had its admirers in the provinces; and the parody is wholly admirable. But a mere parodist, as such, courts and even condemns himself to oblivion, and, almost necessarily, the more complete his success, the sooner he is forgotten by all save students: the books which he ridicules perish, and the burlesque dies with them. The very fact that Don Quixote survives is proof that it outgrew the author’s intention. Cervantes himself informs us that his book is, ‘from beginning to end, an attack upon the romances of chivalry,’ and we have no reason to justify us in rejecting this statement. Still we must interpret it in relation to other matters. Cervantes can never have meant to destroy so excellent an example of the feudal prose epic as Amadis de Gaula, a long romance which he must have known almost by heart: for in the twentieth chapter he draws attention to the minute circumstance that the taciturn Gasabel, the squire of Galaor, ‘ is only named once in the whole of that history, as long as it is truthful.’ And no man charges his memory with precise details of what he considers a mass of grotesque extravagances, of egotistical folly, and vapouring rant. The extravagances, the folly, and the rant which disfigure the works of such writers as Feliciano de Silva are destroyed for ever. What was sound and wholesome in the tales of chivalry is preserved in Don Quixote: preserved, illuminated, and ennobled by a puissant imagination playing upon a marvellously rich experience. 

The Manchegan madman has his delusions, but he is deluded on one point only: in all other respects he touches the realities of life and he remains a perpetual model of conduct, dignified in disaster, magnanimous in victory, keen in perception, subtle in argument, wise in counsel. With him goes, as a foil to heroism, Sancho Panza, that embodiment of calculating cowardice, malicious humour, and prosaic common sense. This association of the man abounding in ideas with the slower-witted, vulgar, practical person, vaguely recalls the partnership of Peisthetairos and Euelpides; and Aristophanes himself has no happier touch than that which exhibits Sancho Panza, aware that his master is too mad to be depended on in any other matter, but yet convinced that he may certainly be trusted to provide the unnamed nebulous island which the shrewd, droll villager feels a statesmanlike vocation to govern. Can we wonder that the appearance of this enchanting pair was hailed with delight when the history of their sallies was published at Madrid early in 1605? We know that it was ‘the book of the year,’ that within some six months there were pirated editions in Portugal, a second edition in Madrid, a provincial edition at Valencia, and that by June people in Valladolid spoke of the adventurous knight and his squire as though both were proverbial characters. Other contemporary novels — Guzman de Alfarache, for instance — may have had a larger circulation; but the picaroon Guzman was (by comparison) merely the comet of a season, while the renown of the Ingenious Gentleman is more universal today than it has ever been. His fame soon spread beyond the Pyrenees, and in 1607 a Brussels publisher reprinted the original to meet the demands of the Spaniards in the Low Countries. The book was thus brought within reach of readers in the north of Europe, and they lost no time in profiting by their opportunity. There are signs of Don Quixote in France as early as 1608, but we may neglect them today, more especially as there are still earlier traces of the book in this country. 

We read of Richard Coeur-de-Lion helping to defend Santarem against the Moors, of the Black Prince’s battles in Spain, of two or three thousand English pilgrims yearly visiting the shrine of Santiago de Compostela. But the literary connexion between the Peninsula and England was slight. Early in the fifteenth century Clemente Sanchez de Vercial translated Odo of Cheriton’s Narrationes under the title of El libro de los gatos; the Speculum Laicorum, an adaptation of Odo of Cheriton’s work commonly ascribed to John Hoveden, was translated into Spanish at about the same period; then too Gower’s Confessio Amantis was translated into Portuguese by Robert Payne, Canon of Lisbon, and, later, into Spanish by Juan de Cuenca; and the distinguished poet Francisco Imperial introduces English words into his verses. These few examples imply no great acquaintance with English literature, and we may say that there was practically no knowledge of Spanish literature in England till the beginning of the sixteenth century, when, in the year following the publication of Amadis de Gaula, Henry the Eighth married Catharine of Aragon. Spanish scholars visited London and Oxford, and though, as in the case of Vives, they may have censured some of the most popular Spanish books of the time, intercourse with them must naturally have awakened interest in the literature of their country. The results were seen in Lord Bemers’s renderings of works by Fernandez de San Pedro and Guevara, and Guevara found other translators in the persons of Bryan, North, Fenton, and Hellowes. Santillana was done into English by Barnabe Googe, who had already given versions of poems by Montemayor, Boscan, and Garcilaso de la Vega; Abraham Fraunce quoted the two latter poets in The Arcadian Rhetorike, Sidney versified songs by Montemayor, and there are translations of such devout writers as Luis de Granada. With histories, technical works and the like, I am not concerned here. It is more to our purpose to note that Amadis de Gaula was translated by Anthony Munday in 1589-95, and that it pleased readers to identify Gaula with Wales and to discover in the romance places so familiar to them as London, Windsor, and Bristol. Part of an earlier version by Lord Lennox exists in manuscript. 

The ground was thus prepared for Cervantes, and the new parody of knight-errantry was certain to charm those who regretted that Chaucer’s tale of Sir Thopas had been so brusquely interrupted. In the very year that the Brussels edition made Don Quixote more easily available a translation of the book was begun by Thomas Shelton, finished in forty days, and then laid aside for four or five years; and that there were other more or less attentive readers of Don Quixote is shown by many passages in contemporary authors — passages which have been collected by investigators like Emil Koeppel. George Wilkins, though possibly responsible for the rough sketches elaborated by a far greater artist into Timon of Athens and Pericles, is not precisely a writer of impressive independence and originality: rather, indeed, is he one whose eyes are constantly on the weathercock, watching the direction of the popular breeze. It is therefore all the more significant that in the third act of The Miseries of Inforst Marriage, a play given in 1607, Wilkins should make the tipsy braggart William Scarborow say: 

Boy, bear the torch fair: now am I armed to fight with a windmill, and to take the wall of an emperor. 

‘To fight with a windmill!’ The expression betrays its source; it would be unmeaning to any one unacquainted with the eighth chapter in which Cervantes describes Don Quixote’s terrible adventure with the giants whom the wizard Friston had transformed into windmills upon the plain leading to Puerto Lapice. Wilkins was not the man to write above the heads of his audiences, and he clearly believed that they would catch the point of the allusion. The experiment was evidently successful, for, in the following year, Middleton repeated it in the fourth act of Your Fair Gallants presenting Pyamont exasperated at the loss of his forty pounds and furiously declaring:

I could fight with a windmill now. 

A year or two passes and (probably about 1610) Ben Jonson in the fourth act of The Epicene causes Truewit to address Sir Dauphine Eugenie in these terms:  

You must leave to live in your chamber, then, a month together upon Amadis de Gaul, or Don Quixote, as you are wont. 

Manifestly the knight’s reputation was made, for within three years he took rank as the equal of his great predecessor, Amadis de Gaula, whose penance on the Pena Pobre (a locality which has been identified with the island of Jersey) he had imitated with such gusto on the Sierra Morena. That the reference was seized by the public is plain from its repetition next year by the same dramatist in the fourth act of The Alchemist, where Kastril vilifies Drugger as

a pimp and a trig.
And an Amadis de Gaul, or a Don Quixote. 

To about this date (1611) is assigned the composition of Fletcher’s Coxcomb and Nathaniel Field’s Amends for Ladies, which are both based upon the story of the Curious Impertinent interpolated in Chapters XXXIII-XXXV of Don Quixote. You may perhaps remember that Lothario compares Anselmo’s wife, Camila, to ‘a diamond of the first water, whose excellence and purity had satisfied all the lapidaries that had seen it.’ Field preserves the simile in one of the speeches allotted to Sir John Love-all:  

To the unskilful owner’s eyes alike
The Bristow sparkles as the diamond.
But by a lapidary the truth is found. 

This same episode of the Curious Impertinent, which Lessing and other critics have found tedious, furnished the theme of The Second Maid’s Tragedy, a play variously ascribed to Goughe, to Chapman, to Shakespeare, and— with more probability — to Massinger and Tourneur: and here again the simile of the virtuous woman and the diamond is reproduced. Shelton’s translation was printed in 1612, and was speedily followed by a very frank adaptation of Don Quixote in The Knight of the Burning Pestle. Fletcher makes no attempt to disguise the source of his piece: but it is amusing to observe his anxiety to assure his public that he knows Spanish too well to need Shelton’s rendering, and that in fact his play had been completed a year before the prose version was published. In 1613 Robert Anton closes his Moriomachia with a reference to ‘ Mambrinoes inchaunted helmet ‘; and both the knight and the squire are mentioned later in Drayton’s Nimphidia. 

This record is not meagre; but, since the ascription to Shakespeare of The Second Maid’s Tragedy is no longer maintained by any competent scholar, one mighty name is missing from the bederoll. Did Shakespeare know Don Quixote? The question is constantly asked, and the usual answer is that he could not have read the book because he knew no Spanish. I am reminded of the advice given to a newly appointed judge whose knowledge of law was rusty: ‘ Give your decision and it may be right; never give your reasons, for they are sure to be wrong.’ I do not dwell on the passage in Much Ado About Nothing which recalls Lazarillo de Tormes, nor on the points of resemblance between Montemayor’s Diana and the Two Gentlemen of Verona: they do not necessarily imply a knowledge of Spanish. But it is certain that Shakespeare might easily have known Don Quixote without knowing Spanish, for Shelton’s version was in print four years before Shakespeare died. Apart from this, however, the longer one lives the more chary one becomes of committing oneself to absolute statements as to what Shakespeare did, or did not, know. He may not have been an expert in Spanish: probably he was not. But he seems to have known enough to read a collection of dull stories published at Pamplona in 1609, and at Antwerp in 1610. This volume, never translated (so far as is known) into any other language, is the Noches de lnvierno of Antonio de Eslava, and the title of A Winter’s Tale is obviously taken from the title of the Spanish book. This, if it stood alone, might be explained away as an instance of unconscious reminiscence. However, as we have lately learned — from Dr. Garnett, amongst others — Shakespeare’s debt to Spain goes much beyond the mere borrowing of a title: for, from the fourth chapter of the Primera Noche de Invierno comes the plot of The Tempest, Prospero of Milan and his daughter Miranda being substituted for Dardano of Bulgaria and his daughter Serafina. All things considered, perhaps we should not dismiss too cavalierly a belated entry in the register of the Stationers’ Company: ‘ The History of Cardenio by Mr. Fletcher and Shakespeare, 20s.’ The lateness of the date (1653) deprives this entry of authority, and, as the play has vanished, it is impossible to discuss the question of its attribution; but we may plausibly conjecture that Shakespeare, or some younger contemporary, found material for yet another drama in the story told to Don Quixote by the tattered, distraught Andalusian gentleman whom he met wandering near the Venta de Cardenas on the northern slope of the Sierra Morena. 

Meanwhile, though the presses of Spain, Italy, and the Low Countries continued to issue reprints of the original in 1608, 1610, and 1611 respectively, the author was in no haste to publish the continuation mentioned at the end of the First Part. There we are told that an academician of Argamasilla had succeeded in deciphering certain parchments containing Castilian verses, ‘ and that he means to publish them in hopes of Don Quixote’s third sally.’ The promise is vague, and, such as it is, the pious aspiration is perhaps neutralized by a final ambiguous verse from the Orlando furioso:  

Forse altri cantera con miglior plettro. 

These concluding sentences have given rise to so much controversy that I shall be justified in dwelling upon them for a moment. If we consider the text and the quotation from Ariosto together, the passage may be taken to mean that any one who chose was welcome to continue the story, or it may be construed as an announcement of Cervantes’s intention to publish a sequel himself. Now, in view of what happened afterwards, the significance of these phrases may seem obvious; but we are not entitled to interpret them solely in the light of subsequent events. The questions for us to answer are two: what did Cervantes intend to convey when he wrote the passage? and what interpretation might his contemporaries fairly put upon it? If he meant that any other writer was free to publish a continuation of Don Quixote,  he had no cause for complaint when he was taken at his word. If he meant that he himself would issue the sequel, it is unfortunate that he did not say so with his customary plainness, and strange that he delayed so long in following up his triumph. 

It was not till 1613, more than eight years after the appearance of the First Part, that he publicly announced the sequel as forthcoming. Any honourable man who was already engaged upon a continuation would have laid his work aside and left the original author in possession of the field. Unluckily the idea of continuing Don Quixote had occurred to an unscrupulous writer. It is no easy task to be just, in this matter, to Cervantes and to his competitor; for, while Cervantes is, so to say, the personal friend of each man amongst us, his obscure rival has contrived to lose the respect of the whole world. But it is our duty to attempt it. In the first place, then, let us bear in mind that Cervantes was often almost as optimistic as Don Quixote; the conception of a book flashed into his brain, and he looked upon the composition as a mere detail. In this very prologue which announces the Second Part of Don Quixote, Cervantes announces two other books: Los Trabajos de Persies y Sigismunda, which appeared posthumously, and Las Semanas del Jardin, which never appeared at all. Elsewhere he promises works to be entitled, El Engano a las ojos and Bernardo, and these never appeared either. During thirty-one years, on five separate occasions, he promised the sequel to La Galatea, and that also never appeared. It has been argued that, in announcing the sequel to Don Quixote, Cervantes is fairly categorical; he promises it ‘ shortly ‘ (con brevedad). He undoubtedly does; but the words are of evil omen, for he used the same formula when he first promised the continuation of La Galatea. In the second place, we cannot infer (as we might in the case of a punctilious precisian who weighed his words carefully) that the Second Part of Don Quixote was nearly completed when Cervantes referred to it in the preface to his Novelas exemplares, which was licensed on July 2, 1612. Far from it! He may not have written even a chapter of it at that date; he had not written half of it on July 20, 1614, the memorable day on which the newly fledged Governor, Sancho Panza, dictated his letter to his wife Teresa. It follows that, if Cervantes worked at anything like a uniform rate of speed, he cannot have begun the sequel till about January, 1614. 

These circumstances, more or less attenuating, should be taken into consideration before passing sentence on Alonso Fernandez de Avellaneda, who, in 1614, brought out a spurious continuation of Don Quixote, a clever, coarse performance, which, especially in Le Sage’s expanded version, has often been mistaken — by Pope, for instance, in the Essay on Criticism — for the authentic sequel, Avellaneda had a fair, or at least a plausible, case; but he completely ruined it by the ribaldry of his preface, in which he jeers at Cervantes’s misfortunes and alleged defects of character — his mutilation, his imprisonment, his poverty, his stammer, his jealousy, his lack of friends. These brutalities wounded Cervantes to the soul, and led him to conclude the Second Part of Don Quixote in all haste. Thus, quite unintentionally, the insolent railer probably saved the book from the fate which befell the sequel to La Galatea, and the other works already mentioned. Avellaneda deserves our ironical congratulations: he meant murder, but committed suicide. 

Within a year of his intrusion the genuine continuation of Don Quixote was published, and it amply disproved the truth of Sanson Carrasco’s remark: ‘Second Parts are never good.’ Goethe and Hallam preferred the First Part, and unquestionably the Second is but a splendid development of what preceded it. Coleridge draws a characteristic distinction: ‘Who can have courage to attempt a reversal of the judgement of all criticism against continuations? Let us except Don Quixote, however, although the Second Part of that transcendent work is not exactly uno flatu with the original conception.’ The First Part is the more humorous and fantastic, the Second Part is the more ingenious and artistic; but nobody has ever contended that this Second Part was ‘not good,’ with the single exception of Lamb, who was betrayed into this freakish outburst: ‘Marry, when somebody persuaded Cervantes that he meant only fun, and put him upon writing that unfortunate Second Part, with the confederacies of that unworthy Duke and most contemptible Duchess, Cervantes sacrificed his instinct to his understanding.’ ‘Sacrificed his instinct to his understanding!’ It may amount to a confession of ineptitude, but I confess I am not nearly so sure as I could wish to be that I catch the precise meaning of this expression, and I prefer not to take it too seriously. It occurs in a letter addressed to Southey, and perhaps not even the most judicial of us would care to abide by every word let fall in the careless freedom of private correspondence. At any rate posterity has not accepted Lamb’s emphatic verdict. Nor did the writer’s contemporaries and immediate successors find anything but praise for the story of Don Quixote’s later exploits. 

Cervantes lived just long enough to witness his triumph, and he needed all the solace that it could give him. Old and infirm, he was eclipsed in popular favour by the more dazzling and versatile genius of Lope de Vega, then in the meridian of his glory. We must distinguish between fame and popularity. Famous Cervantes was both in and out of Spain; he was not, like Lope, the idol of his countrymen. The greatest of all Spaniards, in life more than in death, Cervantes’s appeal was rather universal than national. He had survived most of his own generation, lived into a less heroic time, and, though he was no philosopher or sociologist, perhaps viewed with some misgivings the new society which had replaced the age of chivalry. 

He look’d on the rushing decay
Of the times which had shelter’d his youth
Felt the dissolving throes
Of a social order he loved
Outlived his brethren, his peers;
And, like the Theban seer.
Died in his enemies’ day. 

He died, in fact, on April 23, 1616 — nominally on the same day as Shakespeare, and we ask for nothing better than to be allowed to forget the difference between the calendars of Spain and England, and, adapting Homer, to say that in both countries the sun perished out of heaven at the same hour. 

Before long the Second Part of Don Quixote reached England in the Brussels edition of 1616. Probably the earliest trace of it occurs about 1619 in the fifth act of The Double Marriage, where Fletcher and Massinger introduce a scene between the courtier Castruccio and the doctor which is unmistakably modelled after the account in the forty-seventh chapter of Pedro Recio de Agüero’s attempt to deprive Sancho Panza of his dinner. In 1620 the sequel to Don Quixote was brought directly before the English public in Shelton’s translation, and in this same year Thomas May, in the first act of The Heir, after making Clarimont refer to ‘the unjust disdain of the lady Dulcinea del Toboso,’ describes Amadis de Gaula and Don Quixote as ‘ brave men whom neither enchantments, giants, windmills, nor flocks of sheep, could vanquish.’ This, of course, is from the First Part; but in 1620 Fletcher inserted one detail from the Second Part in The Pilgrim, and, in 1623, the second act of Massinger’s play The Duke of Milan reveals Mariana taunting her sister-in-law Marcelia with suffering from an issue: a reminiscence of the scandal about the Duchess confided to Don Quixote’s reluctant ear by Dona Rodriguez in the forty-eighth chapter of the Second Part. 

In the third decade of the seventeenth century writers in search of a theme sought it oftener in the Novelas exemplares than in Don Quixote. For instance, in 1621-2 Middleton and Rowley based The Spanish Gipsie on La Gitanilla and La Fuerza de la Sangre. A more assiduous follower of Cervantes was Fletcher, who in 1619 derived The Queen of Corinth from La Fuerza de la Sangre; in 1621, collaborating with Massinger, Fletcher based A Very Woman on El Amante liberal; in 1622 he inserted in The Beggars’ Bush some touches from La Gitanilla; in 1623, perhaps aided once more by Massinger, he produced Love’s Pilgrimage from Las dos Doncellas; in 1624 El Casamiento enganoso yielded him Rule a Wife and have a Wife; in 1625-6 he transformed La Ilustre Fregona into The Fair Maid of the Inn; in 1628 he went afield to take The Custom of the Country from Cervantes’s posthumous romance, Los Trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda; but he returned later to the Novelas exemplares and dramatized La Senora Cornelia as The Chances. A still more convincing proof of English interest concerning Cervantes’s writings is afforded by the fact that Massinger in 1624 wrote The Renegade in view of the set drama entitled Los Banos de Argel, and The Fatal Dowry in 1632 showed a knowledge of the entremes entitled El Viejo celoso. It was comparatively easy for Fletcher to read the Novelas exemplares in the Brussels edition of 1614; but, as the volume of plays issued by Cervantes in 1615 was not reprinted till 1749, it is evident that Massinger must have taken the trouble to procure a copy of the Madrid princeps—a difficult matter at that date. 

This fashion ran its course, as you may read in the Master of Peterhouse’s admirable History of English Dramatic Literature; and, in due time, English writers went back to Don Quixote. In 1630 Davenant printed The Cruel Brother, borrowing from Cervantes the name of one personage and the characteristics of another:  

Lothario; a Country Gentleman
But now the Court Baboone, who persuades himselfe
(Out of a new kind of madness) to be
The Duke’s favourite. He comes. Th’ other is
A bundle of proverbs, whom he seduc’d
From the plough, to serve him for preferment. 

In 1635 an allusion to the ‘good knight of the ill favor’d Countenance’ is used to ornament the third act of The Lady Mother by Henry Glapthorne, a dramatist of no great repute, whose Wit in a Constable, published four years afterwards, contains Clare’s intimidating question to Sir Timothy Shallowwit:  

Is it you,
Sir Knight of the ill favor’ d face,
That would have me for your Dulcinea? 

In 1640 appeared James Mabbe’s fragmentary version of the Novelas exemplares which Godwin esteemed as ‘perhaps the most perfect specimen of prose in the English language.’ It is enough to call it admirable. But let me say frankly that I have two grudges against Mabbe: one because he omits six of the novels, perhaps the best in the collection: the other because, though he resided in Madrid from 1611 to 1613 as a member of Digby’s mission, he apparently took no trouble to meet Cervantes and gives us no information concerning him. Surely this is one of those rare cases in which all but the most austere of men would welcome a little ‘personal’ journalism. 

‘I have almost forgot my Spanish, but after a little may recover it,’ says Riches in Shirley’s masque A Contention for Honour and Riches, which dates from 1632; and perhaps Riches here speaks for the modest author. However that may be, Shirley knew enough Spanish to utilize Tirso de Molina in his Opportunity and Lope de Vega in The Young Admiral; hence it is not surprising that, when recasting his masque in 1652 under the title of Honoria and Mammon, he should introduce the ‘forehead of Dulcinea of Toboso ‘ into the fifth act. The Double Falsehood, based on Cardenio’s story and ascribed by Lewis Theobald to Shakespeare, has been conjecturally attributed to Shirley; but this is doubtful. During the Protectorate the only contribution specially interesting to the student of Cervantes is the curious, festive commentary by Gayton whose Pleasant Notesupon Don Quixote are still well worth reading. The Restoration was barely accomplished when in 1663 Butler launched the first part of Hudibras, a witty, pointed, violent lampoon written in imitation of Cervantes, but with blustering humour and rancorous jibes substituted for the serene grace and bland satire of the master. In 1671 Aphra Behn’s play The Amorous Prince showed how much that was objectionable could be infused into the story of the Curious Impertinent, but Aphra Behn was outdone in 1694 and 1696 by D’Urfey whose Comical History of Don Quixote provoked Collier’s famous Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage. It is one of life’s ironies that this fulminating protest should have been called forth by a work professedly derived from Cervantes who justly prided himself on the morality of his writings. 

D’Urfey was left to bear the burden of his sins: Cervantes’s vogue in England continued unchecked. Temple proclaimed Don Quixote to be, as satire, ‘the best and highest strain that ever has been, or will be, reached by that vein.’ Spence tells us that Orford’s inquiry whether Rowe knew Spanish led the latter to study the language, perhaps in the hope that it might lead to the Embassy at Madrid. Having mastered Spanish, Rowe announced the fact to Orford who drily said: ‘Then, sir, I envy you the pleasure of reading Don Quixote in the original.’ And no doubt Rowe did read it, and hence a line in The Fair Penitent which use has converted into a tag:  

Is this that haughty, gallant, gay Lothario? 

Addison gave a somewhat lukewarm allegiance to Cervantes in The Whig Examiner (No. 3) and in The Guardian (No. 135), as well as in The Spectator (Nos. 227 and 249), linking Don Quixote with Hudibras, and talking (not very acutely) of ‘mean Persons in the Accoutrements of Heroes.’ Steele did better when he promoted ‘the accomplish’d Spaniard’ to be patron of the Set of Sighers in the University of Oxford. In 1719 Arbuthnot unsuccessfully attempted to imitate Don Quixote in his short Life and Adventures of Don Bilioso de l’Estomac. Some biographers of Swift suggest that A Tale of a Tub is modelled upon Don Quixote; I see no trace of direct imitation, and nothing could be further apart than the Englishman’s splenetic gloom and the Spaniard’s delicate charm, but I admit that the unadorned diction and sustained irony of Swift recalls one of Cervantes’s many manners. 

A passage in the Characteristics of the third Earl of Shaftesbury is worth quoting: ‘Had I been a Spanish Cervantes and, with success equal to that comic Author, had destroyed the reigning taste of Gothic or Moorish Chivalry, I could afterwards contentedly have seen my burlesque itself despised and set aside.’ This utterance is interesting, for it implies that in 1703 Cervantes was still considered to be essentially a ‘comic Author.’ But a reference in The Dunciad to ‘Cervantes’s serious air’ shows that Pope had a truer insight into the significance of a book which, as I have already said, he began by reading in Le Sage’s amplification of Avellaneda. Henceforward, Cervantes becomes less and less regarded as a purely ‘comic Author.’ As far back as 1730 Fielding in the second act of The Coffee-House Politician declared that ‘the greatest part of Mankind labour under one delirium or another, and Don Quixote differed from the rest, not in Madness, but the species of it.’ Fielding’s play Don Quixote in England dates from 1734 and, poor as it is, it is a tribute to a great predecessor, a tribute paid more abundantly eight years later in the History and Adventures of Joseph Andrews where Parson Adams appears as an unmistakable descendant of Don Quixote’s. The Female Quixote, an imitation by Charlotte Lennox which was published in 1752, is praised by Fielding in the Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon, and was lauded by Samuel Johnson, who thought that Cervantes’s book had no superior but the Iliad. Sterne ranked Cervantes even above his other favourite, Rabelais, but we should have guessed this without Sterne’s personal assurance, for page after page of Tristram Shandy is redolent of Don Quixote. Though the title of The Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves proves that Smollett had the Spanish book in view, the imitation is wholly unworthy of the model, and in The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker the resemblance which we are told existed between Lieutenant Lismahago and the Knight of La Mancha is merely physical. Smollett’s imitative fiction is comparatively a failure but, as I shall show in an instant, he was a warm admirer of Don Quixote, and did Cervantes good service in another field. To that field I shall now turn, for The Spiritual Quixote of Richard Graves, published in 1773, and similar productions of this period have lost whatever interest they may once have had. 

During the eighteenth century there were numerous attempts in England to promote the serious study of Cervantes’s works by means which cannot fail to interest a learned audience. We have seen that the earliest translation of the First Part of Don Quixote was published at London in 1612 by Shelton: Shelton’s version of both parts was reprinted in 1731, and was also issued in a revised form by Captain John Stevens in 1700 and 1706. In 1687, Milton’s nephew, John Philips, had published a miserable travesty of the original, and in 1700 the French refugee, Peter Motteux, brought out a readable version, which is based on Shelton’s rendering, and checked by constant comparison with the French translation of Filleau de Saint-Martin. Motteux’ version, which included the earliest biographical sketch of Cervantes, is still reprinted, less on account of its own merits than because of the excellent preface which Lockhart wrote for it in 1822. But it was felt that these publications were unworthy of English scholarship. As Shelton was the first man to translate Don Quixote, so a London publisher, Jacob Tonson, was the first to produce a handsome edition of the original, which put to shame the sorry reprints issued in Spain and elsewhere. Tonson’s edition, published in 1738, was based upon the Brussels reimpressions of 1607 and 1611, was revised by Pedro de Pineda, and was preceded by the first formal biography of Cervantes ever issued. This life was written by the most eminent Spanish scholar of the age, Gregorio Mayans y Siscar, who received the commission from the English ex-Secretary of State, Lord Carteret. In 1742 the painter, Charles Jervas, published a new rendering of Don Quixote, in some important respects an advance on previous versions. Spence records Pope’s perfidious remark that his friend Jervas ‘translated Don Quixote without understanding Spanish.’ The charge is absurd: Jervas’s knowledge of Spanish is beyond cavil. His English style is thought inadequate by critics, and his rendering is neglected by his later rivals; but innumerable cheap reproductions prove that it satisfies a multitude of less exacting readers. Jervas’s version was likewise of great service to Smollett who utilized it extensively when engaged upon the translation which he issued in 1755; and the preface to this translation is exceptionally interesting, for here Smollett pointed out, six years before the point had occurred to any Spaniard, that the prisoner Cervantes, mentioned as a native of Alcala de Henares in Diego de Haedo’s Topografia e Historia de Argel, must be the author of Don Quixote. This detail, which was also made public at about the same time by Colonel Windham, practically settled the dispute as to Cervantes’s birthplace, A far more valuable contribution to students of Cervantes was the first commentary on Don Quixote ever published: this was issued in 1781 by John Bowie, vicar of Idmiston, who has done more to elucidate Cervantes’s masterpiece than any other commentator, with the possible exception of Clemencin. Envy and detraction did their worst in Barretti’s venomous Tolondron; but in vain, for all the world over ‘Don Bowie,’ as his friends affectionately called him, is held in honour by every student of Spanish literature. 

With the last century we reach ground familiar to all. It would be an endless and superfluous task to trace the allusions to Cervantes’s great book in English literature of the nineteenth century. Byron tells us in Don Juan that Adeline, like Rowe, 

studied Spanish
To read Don Quixote in the original,
A pleasure before which all others vanish. 

And her example was widely followed. Yet we may take it as certain that imperfect translations suggested the characters of Sam Weller, that Cockney variant of Sancho Panza, and of Colonel Thomas Newcome. ‘They call him Don Quixote in India,’ said General Sir Thomas de Boots, ‘I suppose you have read Don Quixote? ‘ Never heard of it, upon my word,’ replied Barnes Newcome, whose only contribution to literature was a Lecture on the Poetry of the Affections. But Hazlitt had heard of Don Quixote, and Southey, Scott, Lockhart, Macaulay, and FitzGerald knew the original well. Macaulay esteemed it ‘the best novel in the world, beyond all comparison,’ and found it even ‘prodigiously superior to what I had imagined,’ while to FitzGerald it became ‘ the Book.’ I believe that it is included in the Bibliotheque Positiviste, and that Comte placed Cervantes himself in the Positivist Calendar. We have not yet made Cervantes our national saint, but no one has written more delightfully of him than that distinguished Positivist, Mr. Frederic Harrison; and the greatest of our romance writers, Mr. George Meredith, celebrates with enthusiasm Cervantes’s ‘loftiest moods of humour, fusing the tragic sentiment with the comic narrative.’ The publication of three new and independent versions by Duffield, Ormsby, and Watts, in 1881, 1885, and 1888 respectively, is convincing proof of our unabated interest in Don Quixote. Two large quarto volumes — quorum pars parva fui — containing the first critical edition of the original appeared at the very end of the nineteenth century, and, if they indicate nothing else, at least imply a boundless belief in the future of Hhe Book’; and the only satisfactory rendering of the Novelas exemplares, due to Mr. Norman MacColl whom death has so recently snatched from us, figures in a translation of Cervantes’s Complete Works which was begun in the first year of the twentieth century. 

This brings my prolix exposition to a close. I have laid before you a body of facts to justify the assertions with which I began. I have shown that England was the first foreign country to mention Don Quixote, the first to translate the book, the first country in Europe to present it decently garbed in its native tongue, the first to indicate the birthplace of the author, the first to provide a biography of him, the first to publish a commentary on Don Quixote, and the first to issue a critical edition of the text. I have shown that during three centuries English literature teems with significant allusions to the creations of Cervantes’s genius, that the greatest English novelists are among his disciples, and that English poets, dramatists, scholars, critics, agreed upon nothing else, are unanimous and fervent in their admiration of him. ‘There is an everlasting undercurrent of murmur about his name, the deep consent of all great men that he is greater than they.’ That, Lord Reay, is my case: it is for you and your colleagues in the British Academy to judge if I have proved it. 

The Art of Worldly Wisdom by Balthasar Gracian

Balthasar Gracian (Baltasar Gracián y Morales, S.J. 8 January 1601 – 6 December 1658), was a Spanish Jesuit and baroque prose writer and philosopher.

His writings were lauded by Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. The former translated the Oráculo manual y arte de prudencia (The Art of Worldly Wisdom) into German, and considered the book “absolutely unique… a book made for constant use… a companion for life” for “those who wish to prosper in the great world.” The second wrote of the Oráculo, “Europe has never produced anything finer or more complicated in matters of moral subtlety”

A translation of the Oráculo manual from the Spanish by Joseph Jacobs (London: Macmillan and Co., Limited), first published in 1892, was a huge commercial success, with many reprintings over the years. Jacobs’s translation is alleged to have been read by Winston Churchill, seven years later, on the ship taking him to the Boer Wars.

In Paris, in 1924, a revision and reprint of the translation into French by Abraham-Nicolas Amelot de La Houssaie, with a preface by André Rouveyre, attracted a wide readership there, and was admired by André Gide. A new translation by Christopher Maurer (New York: Doubleday) became a national bestseller in the U.S. in 1992 , and the English edition, which sold almost 200,000 copies, was translated into Finnish, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, and many other languages.

The Art of Worldly Wisdom

However, Baltasar Gracián is not included in the Western canon. The body of high culture literature, music, philosophy, and works of art that is highly valued in the West ignores Spanish culture at least since 1648, after the Peace of Westphalia that ended the Thirty Years’s War, in the struggles and wars to end the Spanish empire.

Gracián, jointly with Quevedo, is the most representative writer of the Spanish Baroque literary style known as Conceptismo (Conceptism), of which he was the most important theoretician: his Agudeza y arte de ingenio (Wit and the Art of Inventiveness) is at once a poetic, a rhetoric and an anthology of the conceptist style.

Read online all of Baltasar Gracián’s 300 aphorisms: The Art of Worldly Wisdom by Baltasar Gracian, 1647 (􏰅trans􏰆lat􏰅ed by􏰇 Christ􏰆􏰅opher Mau􏰈rer in 1992)

Juan Luis Vives: On Assistance to the Poor

(From Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Juan Luis Vives was born in Valencia, Spain on March 6, 1493 (not 1492, as is often found in the literature on him). His parents were Jewish cloth merchants who had converted to Catholicism and who strove to live with the insecurities of their precarious situation. His father, Luis Vives Valeriola (1453–1524), had been prosecuted in 1477 for secretly practicing Judaism. A second trial took place in 1522 and ended two years later when he was burned at the stake. His mother, Blanquina March (1473–1508), became a Christian in 1491, one year before the decree expelling Jews from Spain. She died in 1508 of the plague. Twenty years after her death, she was charged with having visited a clandestine synagogue. Her remains were exhumed and publicly burned.

In his youth, Vives attended the Estudio General of his hometown. In 1509, he moved to Paris and enrolled as a freshman in the faculty of arts. He was never to return to Spain. Vives began his studies at the Collège de Lisieux, where Juan Dolz had just started a triennial course, but soon moved to the Collège de Beauvais, where he attended the lectures of Jan Dullaert (d.1513). From the fall of 1512, Vives started to attend the course of the Aragonese Gaspar Lax (1487–1560) at the Collège de Montaigu. Through Nicolas Bérault (c.1470–c.1545), who was an associate of Guillaume Budé (1467–1540) and taught at various colleges in Paris, Vives also came into contact with the Parisian humanist circle.

In 1514, Vives left Paris without having taken any formal academic degree and moved to the Low Countries. He settled in Bruges, where he would spend most of his life. About this time, he was introduced to Erasmus and appointed as tutor to the Flemish nobleman William of Croy. From 1517 until Croy’s premature death in 1521, Vives lived in Louvain and taught at the Collegium Trilingue, a humanist foundation based on Erasmian educational principles. In this period he wrote ‘Fabula de homine’ (‘A Fable about Man,’ 1518), an early version of his views on the nature and purpose of mankind; De initiis, sectis et laudibus philosophiae (On the Origins, Schools and Merits of Philosophy, 1518), a short essay on the history of philosophy; In pseudodialecticos (Against the Pseudo-Dialecticians, 1519), a lively and trenchant attack on scholastic logic; as well as a critical edition, with an extensive commentary, of Augustine’s De civitate Dei (City of God, 1522), which was commissioned by Erasmus.

From 1523 to 1528, Vives divided his time between England, which he visited on six occasions, and Bruges, where he married Margarita Valldaura in 1524. In England he attended the court of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, and was tutor to their daughter, Mary. He also held a lectureship at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and associated with English humanists such as Thomas More and Thomas Linacre. During these years he published De institutione feminae Christianae (The Education of a Christian Woman, 1524), in which he set out pedagogical principles for the instruction of women; the extremely popular Introductio ad sapientiam (Introduction to Wisdom, 1524), a short handbook of ethics, blending Stoicism and Christianity; and De subventione pauperum (On Assistance to the Poor, 1526), a program for the organization of public relief, which he dedicated to the magistrates of Bruges. In 1528 he lost the favor of Henry VIII by siding with his fellow countrywoman Catherine of Aragon in the matter of the divorce. He was placed under house arrest for a time, before being allowed to return to Bruges.

The last twelve years of Vives’ life were his most productive, and it was in this period that he published several of the works for which he is best known today. These include De concordia et discordia in humano genere (On Concord and Discord in Humankind, 1529), a piece of social criticism emphasizing the value of peace and the absurdity of war; De disciplinis (On the Disciplines, 1531), an encyclopedic treatise providing an extensive critique of the foundations of contemporary education, as well as a program for its renewal; and De anima et vita (On the Soul and Life, 1538), a study of the soul and its interaction with the body, which also contains a penetrating analysis of the emotions. De veritate fidei Christianae (On the Truth of the Christian Faith), the most thorough discussion of his religious views, was published posthumously in 1543. He died in Bruges on May 6, 1540.

During the Middle Ages, poor relief was usually the responsibility of the Church and individuals through almsgiving. As society became more advanced, these efforts became inadequate. In 1525, the Dutch city of Bruges requested Vives to suggest means to address the issue of relief for the poor. He set out his views in his essay De Subventione Pauperum Sive de Humanis Necessitatibus (On Assistance To The Poor). Vives argued that the state had a responsibility to provide some level of financial relief for the poor, as well as craft training for the unskilled poor. The city of Bruges  implemented Vives’s suggestions in 1557, and his proposals influenced social relief legislation enacted in England and the German Empire during the 1530s.

On Assistance to the Poor

Bruges, 6 January 1526

Juan Luis Vives to the Councilors and the Senate of Bruges:

Cicero says that it is a duty of travelers and visitors to avoid overcuriosity when abroad in a foreign state. He is right, for prying into the affairs of others can be despicable. However, concern and friendly advice will probably not be rejected because the law of nature holds that anything human is not extraneous to man, simply because it is human. Further, the grace of Christ, like a cohesive glue, has cemented all men to each other.

Although I am to a certain degree an alien here myself, I am as truly bound to this city as I am to my own Valencia. I do not call Bruges anything other than homeland, for I have lived here for fourteen years (even if not continuously), and I always return here as to my very home. I delight in your administrative system, the education and civility of your citizens, the extraordinary tranquility and justice which pervade the city and are renowned throughout the world.

For these reasons I married here. I deeply desire your well-being. I am determined to remain in this city and no other for whatever length of my life Christ may graciously grant to me. I consider myself a citizen of this city, and toward its residents I have the same mind as toward my own brothers.

The extreme poverty of so many of them compels me to write how I think they might be assisted. Actually, I had been asked to do this some time ago, when I was in England, by Lord Praet, your burgomaster, who deliberates deeply and often—as, indeed, he ought—concerning the public welfare of the city.

I dedicate this work to you, first, because you are completely committed to benevolence and to the relief of the poor, as confirmed by the crowds of poor who surge to you as to a refuge already prepared for them; secondly, because cities originate where, relief being given and received, love takes root in mutual assistance and strengthens itself through the fellowship of men. There, administrators of the city strive to insure that each man assists others, that no one is oppressed, that no one is wronged by an unjust condemnation, and that the strong assist the weak. Thus, the peace of an entire and united citizenry grows in love each day and endures.

Just as it is disgraceful for the head of a household to allow any member to suffer the lack of food or the embarrassment of wandering in rags, so it follows that, in a wealthy city, its magistrates would not permit its citizens-even a few-to be pressed down by undue hunger and misery.

May it please you to read this. If it does not please you, at least consider the matter most carefully, just as you would investigate with great diligence the litigation of a private person in which a large sum of money is disputed.

May all prosperity and good fortune attend you and this city!

Bruges, January 6, 1526


My references here are to the state and the administrator, who is to the former as a soul is to the body. The soul quickens and animates not merely this or that part, but the entire body; thus, the magistrate may never disregard a portion of his governance.

Those who fancy only the wealthy and despise the poor are like doctors who are not concerned about healing the hands or the feet because they are at some distance from the heart. Just as this treatment would bring injury to the whole man, so in the state the weak may not be neglected without danger to the strong. The poor will rob when they are pressed through necessity; yet the judge does not think it important to pay attention to the cause, a small matter to him. These poor envy the rich, and are angered and resentful that the wealthy have so much money to lavish on jesters, dogs, harlots, asses, packhorses, and elephants. In the meantime, the poor themselves do not have the means to feed their starving children. The former proudfully and insolently flaunt their wealth, which has been wrung from these destitute and others like them.

One would hardly believe how many civil insurrections such voices of the poor have incited throughout the nations, wars in which the mobs—wrathful and burning with hate—take out their vengeance first of all upon the wealthy. The Gracchi suggest no other reason, nor did Lucius Catiline, for the anarchy which the mobs aroused; nor is it much less with the riots in our own times and regions. It will not be inappropriate to insert here a passage from Isocrates’ speech, The Areopagiticus, which refers to the customs of the Athenians. He states:

Similarly, they acted in their relations to each other. For there was not only consensus in public matters; but in private affairs they showed the consideration of one another as is appropriate for men of common sense, members of the same homeland. Far from poor citizens envying the richer, they were as concerned about the homes of the wealthy as they were about their own, judging the prosperity of the rich as an advantage to themselves.

The affluent did not despise the poor, but considered it a reflection upon themselves that there should be poverty in the city. They underwrote the necessities of the poor, leasing plots of land to some at a moderate rental, sending others out as their business agents or negotiators, advancing to others the capital for business opportunities. They did not fear losing their investments in these measures, or worry about being despoiled of them in whole or in part. On the contrary, they felt as confident about their money as if it had been under guard at home.

A mutual danger imperils the commonwealth from the contagion of disease. It happens too often that one man has brought into the community some serious and dreadful disease, such as the plague, or syphilis, or the like, causing others to perish. What sort of situation is this, when in every church—especially at the solemn and most heavily attended feasts—one is obliged to enter into the church proper between two rows or squadrons of the sick, the vomiting, the ulcerous, the diseased with ills whose very names cannot be mentioned. And more, this is the only entrance for boys and girls, the aged and the pregnant! Do you think these are made of such iron that, fasting as they are, they are not revolted by this spectacle—especially since ulcers of this sort are not only forced upon the eyes but upon the nose as well, the mouth, and almost on the hands and body as they pass through? How shameless such begging! 1will not even discuss the fact that some who have just left the side of one dead of the plague mingle with the crowd.

These two matters—how diseases may be cured and how their contagion to others can be suppressed—must not be neglected by administrators of the state. Further, a wise government, solicitous for the common good, will not leave so large a part of the citizenry in a condition of uselessness, harmful to themselves and to others. When the general funds have been expended, those without means of subsistence are driven to robbery in the city and on the highways; others commit theft stealthily; women of eligible years put modesty aside and, no longer holding to chastity, put it on sale for a bagatelle (and then, can never be persuaded to abandon this detestable practice); old women take up regular pandering and then sorcery, which promotes procuring. Children of the needy receive a deplorable upbringing. Together with their brood, the poor are cast out of the churches and wander over the land; they do not receive the sacraments and they hear no sermons. We do not know by what law they live, nor what their practices or beliefs. Actually, the discipline of the church has collapsed so completely that no ministrations are offered without an attendant charge. Clerics scorn the reference to selling, yet they force the people into recompense. Even the bishop of a diocese does not consider such shorn sheep as belonging to his fold and pasture.

So, there is no one to see that these beggars go to confession or receive communion with others at the Lord’s Supper. Since they never hear instructions, they inevitably judge things by false standards and lead most disorderly lives. If it happens in some way that they come into money, they are intolerable because of their base and discreditable upbringing. So it follows that those vices (which I cited earlier) are not so much the fault of the poor as of the administrators who do not provide adequate regulations for the good government of the people. Rather, they consider themselves chosen to preside exclusively over legal suits concerning money or to pass sentences on crimes.

On the contrary, it is much more important for magistrates to work on ways of producing good citizens than on punishing or restraining evil-doers. How much less need there would be of punishment if these matters were attended to in the first place! The Romans of ancient times provided in such manner for their citizens that no one needed to beg; hence begging was forbidden in the Twelve Tables. The Athenians took the same preventive measures for their populace. Again, the Lord gave to the Jewish people a peculiar law, hard and intractable, such as became a people of similar temperament; yet in Deuter­ onomy He commands them to such precautions that, so far as it was within their power, there was to be no indigent or beggar among them, especially in that year of rest so acceptable to the Lord. In such manner are all people to live; for them the Lord Jesus was buried-with the Old Law and ceremonials and the “old man’ -and rose again in a regeneration of life and spirit. Unquestionably, it is a scandal and disgrace that we Christians confront everywhere in our cities so many poor and indigent, we to whom no injunction has been more explicitly commanded than charity (I might say, the only one).

Wherever you turn, you encounter poverty and want, always along with those who are obliged to hold out their hands for a dole. In a state, anything ravaged or ruined by time or fortune is renewed, such as walls, ditches, ramparts, streams, institutions, customs, laws themselves; so it would be equally reasonable to reform that method of poor relief which in various ways in the passage of time has become outmoded. The most eminent men, and others interested in the welfare of the city, have devised some salutary measures: taxes have been eased; public lands have been turned over to the poor for cultivation; certain surplus funds have been distributed by the state—things which we have seen even in our own day. However, measures of this sort require specific conditions which appear only too rarely in our times. Recourse must be made, therefore, to other more appropriate and more enduring solutions.


Someone may ask me: “How do you propose to relieve such numbers?” If true charity dwelt in us, if it were truly a law (though compulsion is not necessary for one who loves), it would hold all things in common. One man would regard another’s distress as though it were his own. As it is, however, no one extends his concern beyond his own home, and sometimes not even beyond his own room or himself personally. Too many are not sufficiently concerned about their own parents or children or brothers or wife. Therefore, since human countermeasures must be employed-especially among those for whom divine commands are ineffective-I suggest the following plan.

Some of the poor live in places usually called “hospitals”—the Greek word is Ptochotrophia, but I will use the more familiar word-and others beg in public; still others endure their afflictions as best they can in their own places. I define a hospital as any place where the sick are fed and nursed, where a given number of indigent persons are supported, boys and girls educated, abandoned infants nourished, the insane confined, and the blind allowed to spend their days. Rulers of states must understand that these institutions are part of their responsibilities.

No one may circumvent the founders’ stipulations in setting up these institutions; these must remain inviolable. With these one should interpret not merely the words but attend primarily to their jurisdiction (as in deeds of trust) and intent (as in wills). On this point, no doubt it was the donors’ desire that the funds left by them should be distributed to the best possible purposes and used in the worthiest places; they were not so much concerned by whom this should be done, or how, as that it should be done.

In the next place, there is nothing so free in the state that it could not be subject to inquiry by those who administer the government. Liberty is found in yielding obedience to the magistrates of the community rather than in that encouragement to violence or in the opportunity for widespread license in whatever direction caprice may lead. No one can remove his property from the custody and control of the state unless he gives up his citizenship. Even more, he may not even give up his life, which is of more importance and value than property. Indeed, everyone has acquired his property with the help of the state, as if it were a gift, and can keep and hold his wealth only through the state.

Therefore, going in two’s and with a secretary, the Senators should visit each of these institutions and inspect it. They should write a full account of its condition, of the number of inmates, their names, who supports them there, and the reason for each person’s being there. These results should be reported to the Councilors and the Senate in assembly.

Those who suffer poverty at home should be registered also, along with their family, by two Senators for each parish, their needs ascertained, their manner of living up until then, and the reason for their decline into poverty. It will be easy to discover from their neighbors what kind of individuals they are, how they live, and what their habits are. However, the testimony of one pauper should not be taken too seriously concerning another pauper, for the one would not be free from jealousy of the other. The Councilors and Senate should be informed of all these things. If someone suddenly becomes destitute, he should notify them through one of the Senators; then his situation can be judged adequately, on the basis of his condition and circumstances.

Beggars in good health who wander about with no fixed dwelling-place should submit their names, and state the reason for their mendicancy to the Senate-however, in some open place or vacant lot, so that their filth may not pollute the Senate chamber. Beggars who are ill should do likewise in the presence of two or four Senators apart, along with a doctor, so that the eyes of the entire Senate may be spared. Witnesses should be sought out by both classes of paupers to testify in regard to their manner of life.

The Senators appointed to make these examinations and perform these duties should be given authority to coerce and compel obedience, even to the point of imprisonment, so that the Senate will be aware of the recalcitrant.


From the outset this principle must be accepted which the Lord imposed on the human race as a punishment for its many sins-that each man should eat the bread which is the fruit of his labor. When I use the word “eat” or “nourish” or “support,” I do not intend to suggest food alone, but clothes, shelter, fuel, and light; in a word, everything that is related to the sustenance of the body.

None among the poor should be idle, provided, of course, that he is fit for work by his age and health. As the Apostle writes to the Thessalonians:

For even when we were with you, we commanded that if anyone will not work, then let him not eat. For we hear that some who walk among you in disorderly manner do not work at all, but are mere busybodies. Now, those who are like that we denounce, and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ that they work in silence and eat their own bread.

And the Psalmist promises a double joy, both in this life and in the next, to him who has eaten out of the labor of his own hands. Therefore, no one must be permitted to live indolently in the state; rather, as in a well-ordered home, everyone has his own role and its related tasks to perform. As the saying goes, “By doing nothing, men learn to do evil.”

Breakdowns in health and age must be taken into consideration. However, in order that a pretense of sickness or infirmity may not be foisted on you—which happens quite frequently-the opinion of physicians must be consulted. Impostors are to be penalized. Of the able-bodied vagrants, those who are aliens should be returned to their own country-as is provided for, according to Imperial law-but they should be supplied with money for the journey. It would be inhuman to send a destitute man on a journey with no provision for the trip; otherwise such a person might question, What is this measure other than commanding him to pillage on the way? If they are from areas ravaged by war, then the teaching of Paul must be borne in mind: that among those who have been baptized in the blood of Christ, there is neither Greek nor pagan, neither Frenchman nor Lowlander, but a new and elevated creature. Hence, these should be treated as though they were native-born.

Should the native-born poor be asked whether they have learned a trade? Yes, and those who have not-if they are of suitable age-should be taught the one to which they are most strongly attracted, provided that it is practical, or else a similar or related occupation. For example, if it is not possible for him to sew clothing, he could sew what they call caligas (soldiers’ boots). If a craft is too difficult, or if he is too slow in learning, another and easier task should be assigned to him, all the way down to one in which he could be sufficiently instructed in a very short time, such as digging, drawing water, carrying loads, pushing a wheelbarrow, serving magistrates, running errands, carrying letters or mail packets, or driving the scheduled horses.

Even those who have dissipated their fortunes in dissolute living-through gaming, harlots, excessive luxury, gluttony, and gambling-should be given food, for no one should die of hunger. However, smaller rations and more irksome tasks should be assigned to them so that they may be an example to others. Perhaps they would come to repent of their prior life and not relapse as easily into the same vices, restrained as they are by the lack of food and the duress of their tasks. They must not die of hunger, but they must feel its pangs.

Many workshops could provide them employment. The woolweavers of Armentium-indeed, craftsmen in almost all the shops-complain of the scarcity of workmen. The silkweavers of Bruges would be glad to hire almost anybody for turning the little wheels of their looms; they would pay a fairly good wage each day, including board, to such workers. Even so, they cannot find boys as apprentices because their parents say that the children bring home more from begging.

Public authority should authorize a certain number of laborers who cannot find work by themselves to be assigned to one director of a workshop. When such a worker has progressed far enough in his craft, he should open his own workshop. To these, as well as to those to whom the magistrates had assigned apprentices, contracts should be given for manufacturing the numerous items which the state uses for public purposes, such as portraits, statues, robes, sewers, ditches, buildings, and supplies required by the hospitals.

Since funds for such measures of support were originally given for the poor, they should be spent on the poor. I would like to remind bishops, theologians, and abbots of this, but will write for them elsewhere. I would hope that they would do these things spontaneously, without being urged on by me.

As for those not yet assigned to a specific work or master-artisan, they should be maintained in some place by alms for the time being; but they should not remain idle in the meantime or learn slothfulness through inactivity. In places of this sort, breakfast or dinner should be given to healthy vagrants along with enough money for travel to take them to the next city which lies on their way.

The able-bodied who remain in the hospitals like drones, living by the sweat of others, should leave and be put to work. However, some must be allowed to remain because of a given estate-such as the law of gentility—or the prerogative willed by a generous benefactor or because of having made over their property to the institution. Even in these cases, they should be obliged to work in the hospital so that the result of their labors may be shared by all. If anyone healthy and robust ask to be allowed to remain because of his love for the home and for his companions, he could be granted this favor, but on the same condition.

No one should be attracted by the money that was contributed earlier for pious works. This warning is not without foundation. For there are those who, from servants, have become masters. Ladies living delicately in splendor and luxury were originally admitted to perform works of piety; but now, having thrust out the poor or else keeping them grudgingly, they have become haughty mistresses. This office of ministration must be taken from them so that they will not grow fat from the pennies of the starving poor; so let them perform the duty which they came there to do. They should be intent upon ministering to the sick, like those widows of the early church who were so highly praised by the Apostles. In the balance of their time, they could pray, read, spin, weave, or occupy themselves in some good and honest labor-all of which Jerome advises for even the richest and most aristocratic matrons.

The blind should not be allowed to sit idle or wander about aimlessly. There are many occupations in which they might be employed. Some are suited for academic training; these should be allowed to study since their aptitude for letters is no small thing. Others are suited to the art of music; they could sing, pluck the lute, or play the flute. Others might turn weavers’ wheels, work treadmills, tread winepresses, or blow bellows in the smithies. Still other blind are particularly skilled in making little boxes and chests, fruit-baskets and cages. Women who are blind could spin and wind yarn. Since it is easy enough to find employment for them, none of the blind should be willing to sit idle or avoid work. Laziness and a love of ease are the reasons for pretending they cannot do things, not physical defect.

The infirm and the aged, too, should have lighter tasks assigned them suited to their age and strength. No one is so feeble or lacking in strength that he can do nothing. It follows that the evil thoughts and affections likely in the minds of the idle will be controlled by those who are employed and intent upon work.

Then, when all the leeches have been eliminated from the hospitals, the resources of each institution should be examined, taking into account its regular expenses, annual revenues, and the money on hand. Treasure rooms and superfluous trappings should be eliminated, since they are only toys for children or misers, useless in a life of piety. Then, assign to each of the hospitals as many of the sick poor as it will seem proper, taking care that the food is not so scanty that their hunger will not be easily satisfied. This is one of the essentials in the care of those who are sick in body or mind, for invalids often grow worse from an inadequate diet. On the other hand, there should be no luxury by which they might easily fall into bad practices.

Now let us refer to the insane. Since there is nothing in the world more excellent than man, and nothing more excellent in man than his mind, particular care should be given to its welfare. It should be considered the highest of ministries to restore the mind of others to sanity, or to keep them sane and rational. Therefore, when a man of disturbed mental faculties is brought to the hospital, first of all, it must be determined whether his insanity is congenital or has resulted from some environmental cause, and whether there is hope for health or whether the case is completely hopeless. One ought to feel a compassion before such a great disaster to this noblest of human faculties. He who has suffered so should be treated with such care and delicacy that the cure will not enlarge or increase the condition, such as would result from mocking, exciting, or irritating him, approving and applauding the foolish things which he says or does, and inciting him to act more ridiculously, applying a stimulus, as it were, to his absurdity and stupidity. What could be more inhuman than to drive a man to insanity just for the sake of laughing at him and entertaining oneself with such a misfortune!

Remedies suited to the individual patient should be prescribed. Some need care and attention to their mode of living. Others need mild and gentle treatment so that, like wild animals, they may gradually grow less violent. Some require education. Some may need force and chains, but these should be used in such a way that the patients will not become the more violent because of them. Above all, as far as it is possible, tranquillity must be introduced into their minds, for it is through this that reason and mental health return.

If the hospitals cannot accommodate all the diseased beggars, one or more homes should be built, as many as are necessary, where they can be treated separately. A doctor, a pharmacist, and male and female nurses should be hired. Doing this is what nature (as well as a builder of ships) does, locating the repugnant in one place so that it may not offend the rest of the body. Likewise, those afflicted with a loathsome or contagious disease should sleep and eat their food in a place apart so that their repulsive condition, or the infection itself, may not creep over the rest of the population—or else there will never be an end to disease.

When a patient recovers, he should be treated in the same manner as the rest who are healthy. He should be sent out to work unless, out of compassion, he would prefer to remain serving in the hospital with his particular skills.

For the poor who live at home, work should be furnished by the public officials, by the hospitals, or by private citizens. If their work is not enough to supply their needs, whatever seems adequate should be added to their earnings.

Investigators into the needs of the poor should perform their task humanely and kindly. While nothing should be given if the judgment on their needs is unfavorable, still intimidation should never be applied unless deemed necessary in dealing with the refractory or the rebels against public authority.

This one law should be inviolable: “If anyone request money or exert influence in favor of a person supposedly in need, he should not receive it; instead, there should be a penalty according as the Senate sees fit.” It should always be permissible to inform the Senate of the needs of others. The administrators of charities—or whoever may be appointed by the Senate—should find the balance, and give alms in proportion to the need. This is to guard against the situation in the future when wealthy men, preserving their own moneys, might demand that money which belongs to the destitute should be expended on their own servants, domestics, relatives, and friends. Such favoritism steals from those who need it so much more, as we have already seen happen in the hospitals.


A hospital must be established for abandoned children where they may be reared. If mothers are known, they should nurture the infants until the sixth year. After this age, all such children would enter a publicly supported school where they would be educated in letters and morals, and be maintained.

As far as possible, this school should be in charge of men who are trustworthy and who have a solid and broad education themselves, so that they may pour out their culture into this basic school with their own example. No greater danger for the sons of the poor exists than a cheap, inferior, and demoralizing education. In order to secure teachers of this upright character, magistrates should spare no expense. At relatively small cost, the latter will thus perform a great service to the state over which they preside.

The students should learn to live frugally, but neatly and clean, and to be, content with little. They should be protected from all forms of dissipation. They must not develop habits of intemperance and gluttony, becoming slaves of the belly. Otherwise, when they are deprived of something that their appetite calls for, they will shamelessly take up begging, as we have seen some do the moment they do not get, not just the food, but even their condiments such as mustard, sauce, or some such trifle.

They should be taught not only reading and writing but, above all, the duty of a Christian and right attitudes toward things.

I suggest a similar school for girls, in which they can be taught the fundamentals of literacy. If one girl is particularly qualified for studies and is inclined to them, she should be permitted to progress farther, provided that the courses coincide with the development of her character. In addition to spinning, sewing, weaving, embroidery, cooking, and home management, all girls should be taught a virtuous perspective and morality as well as modesty, frugality, gentleness, good manners, and, primarily, chastity (convinced, as they ought to be, of the excellence of this virtue in women).

Any of the boys who are particularly skilled at letters should be retained by the school to become teachers themselves; later on, they might become candidates for the priesthood. The others should learn the trades in which they are most interested.


Two supervisors should be appointed every year from among the members of the Senate, eminent individuals of obvious integrity, to become acquainted with the way of life of the poor, of boys, youths, and old men alike. With regard to boys, inquiry should be made concerning their occupations, the progress they are making, the sort of lives they lead, the talents they possess, the promise they show, and, if any one of them is in trouble, who is to blame. From these, corrections can be made.

In regard to young adults and old men, the supervisors should inquire if they are living according to the laws governing them. Such investigators should also inquire most carefully concerning old women, who are master-hands at pandering and sorcery. Further, they should study whether all of these persons lead a frugal and sober life. Those who frequent gaming places and wine and beer taverns should be penalized. If reprimands have no effect, such persons should be punished severely.

A system of penalties should be devised in each state, asjudged applicable by its wisest and most prestigious citizens. The same measures do not apply equally to all places and times; some men are influenced by some things, and others, by other things. In any case, the fraud of idle, lazy men must be guarded against so that deception has no profit.

I would also suggest that the supervisors investigate as well the youth who are the sons of the wealthy. It could be very valuable to the well-being of the state if they were to oblige such young men to render an account to the magistrates (as though to fathers) concerning their use of time, and what activities and occupations they follow. This could prove a greater alms than that which is distributed to the poor.

In ancient times, this service was provided by the office of Questor, or Censor, among the Romans, and among the Athenians in the court of Areopagus. When the old practices had deteriorated, they were revived by the Emperor Justinian in codifying the duties of the Questor. These included the injunction to survey all persons—both ecclesiastical and secular, of whatever rank and fortune-asking who they were, from whence they came, and for what reason they were there. That same law allowed no one to live in idleness.


The above plan sounds wonderful, someone will say, but where are we to get the funds for all these projects? As I see it, not only will funds not be lacking but-I believe with complete assurance-they will abound. They will be available not only for the basic necessities of life but for extraordinary needs as well, of the sort that inevitably occur to people everywhere.

In another era when the life of Christ was still vital, all believers cast their wealth at the feet of the Apostles to be distributed by them to everyone according to need. In time, the Apostles relinquished this responsibility as not becoming for them. In truth, it was more appropriate for them to teach the community and to preach the Gospel than to spend their time in soliciting and distributing money; therefore, this duty was given to deacons. These latter did not retain it very long, for so great was their zeal for teaching and spreading Christian living that they hurried on through a blessed death to everlasting bliss. Consequently, lay persons supplied the needs of the poor. The number of Christians increased, many persons of questionable probity were admitted, and the administration of moneys began to be managed dishonestly by some of them. Out of love for the poor, bishops and priests once again assumed the responsibility for the funds collected for charity. At that time, there was nothing that men would not entrust to bishops, who were persons of tried and universally recognized integrity and fidelity, a fact mentioned by John Chrysostom.

However, as the ardor for the blood of Christ increasingly abated and the
Spirit of the Lord was communicated to fewer, the Church began to copy the world and to rival it in pomp, pride, and luxury. Jerome complained that the governors of the provinces dined more sumptuously in the monastery than in the palace. This extravagance required large sums of money, and so the bishops and priests diverted to this purpose money that belonged to the poor. If only the Spirit of God would touch them and recall to their minds whence they had received it, who had given it, and for what reason! If only they would remember that out of the substance of the poor they had become powerful!

It is the obligation of bishops not only to teach, console, and correct in concerns of the souls of men but also to heal their bodies, succoring the poor from their own substance (even if that is extremely small). They would do this to their great advantage and their peace of mind if their faith in Christ were as great as they wish the faith of others to be. Of course, this is a common failing: all of us mercilessly demand in another the virtue which we do not ourselves possess.

In a word, bishops should follow the example of Paul, to be absolutely perfect in charity that they might be all things to all men, neither deferring to the mighty nor despising the lowly, but placing themselves on the same level with all men in order to help them and edify them, according to the word of Christ. Bishops, abbots, and other officials of the Church (if only they wished it) could relieve a very large portion of the existing poverty out of their large incomes; if they do not do so, Christ will avenge it!

Turmoil and civil disorder must always be avoided because this is a greater evil than the misappropriation of the funds for the poor. However vast wealth may be, it should never be so highly revered that men would take up arms on its account. Above all, respect must be had for the general peace, as Christ taught, and also Paul, restating his master. Nor should the poor yearn for any disorder in the state whereby they would profit. Rather, it is proper for them to be unconcerned about the times, devoting themselves day and night to meditation upon the end of this life’s journey to that haven and fatherland where they will hear, “Lazarus once suffered in his lifetime; now, therefore, he will be comforted and refreshed.”

The annual revenue of hospitals should be calculated as a whole. I have no doubt that, when work has been assigned to those able to do it, not only will the income be sufficient to care for those who live there; it will be enough to care for those who live on the outside as well. I am told that the wealth of hospitals in any town you can name is so great that, if it were properly administered, there would be more than enough for supplying all the ordinary as well as unforeseen and extraordinary needs of the citizens.

Wealthy institutions should share their superfluous income with the poorer and if the poorer are not desperate, the surplus should go to those suffering in secret. Let Christian charity diffuse itself thus not only throughout the whole state making, as it were, one harmonious household, with common interests among them all, each a friend to all—but spread out and enclose the whole Christian world. Let it come to pass, as we read it was among the Apostles:

The multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul. No one of them said that anything he possessed was his own. Rather, they held all things in common … neither was there among them any who lacked for anything.

So it follows that wealthy hospitals and rich men will send their contributions to neighboring places when there are none in their own city who need help, or even to distant places where there are greater needs. This is true Christian action.

For each hospital the Senate should appoint by vote two overseers, who are respected, God-fearing men. They should render a yearly account of their administration. If their performance is satisfactory, they could continue in office; if not, new officers should be selected.

Many a man at his death wills something to the poor, according to his means. He should be encouraged to stipulate that money for the poor be deducted from the pomp of his funeral. If this were so, such a funeral would be more acceptable to God and would still not lack honor among men. Those about to depart this life should have no concern for praise and glory except from God. At the funeral, meat would then be distributed, and bread, as well as money or supplies. This should be at the discretion of those who have charge of the decedent’s estate, both on the occasion of the funeral and on the anniversary of his death.

In the next place, if money is willed for the poor, the overseers should investigate in what manner it is dispensed, so that it may not be given to those not in need of it.

If all these sources of money are not sufficient, then little boxes should be placed in three or four of the principal churches of the town where attendance is laigest. Into these boxes everyone would be able to deposit as much as his devotion would suggest. There would not be a devout person who would not prefer to place a large sum therein than give a small sum directly into the hands of wandering beggars. The boxes would not be set out every week but only when need demanded it. Two honest and trustworthy men would be in charge of them, men chosen by the Senate not so much for wealth as for a mind free from greed and selfishness, a qualification of highest importance for such a position.

The policy should be to collect not as much as possible but, generally, only enough to suffice from week to week (perhaps a little more) lest the collectors become accustomed to handling large sums of money, and the same thing happen to them as to those in charge of the hospitals. What the practice in this state is, I do not know-nor do I seek to know, since I am intent on my studies. However, I have heard that in Spain the elders of a family would enrich their own houses greatly from the wealth of hospitals, feeding themselves and their families instead of the poor, keeping these homes filled with relatives, so that the hospitals actually have few paupers. These things are the result of easy access to so much ready money.

In a similar vein, no lands for farming (which would offset the difficulties of the poor) should be purchased. This furnishes a pretext to the directors of the hospitals to retain the money given them while the full sum is being collected for the investment and being kept until it is proper to buy. In the meantime, the pauper wastes away from hunger and want, and dies.

If there is a large sum of money in the hands of those who have charge of public finances, it should be circulated, as I said before, and sent to needier localities. For a large sum of money magnifies the desire for it to such a degree that those who handle it are more reluctant to withdraw something from it than they would be from a small amount. Whatever is strictly necessary should be kept in the hands of the Senate under oath and protected by bans and threats, so that it will not be diverted to any other use. It should be expended at the first opportunity so that it will not become customary to keep any of it undisclosed. There will never be a lack of persons who need aid, as Our Lord predicted, “The poor you have always with you.”

Care should be exercised that the priests, under cover of their prayers and masses, do not turn the money to their own pockets. They are adequately cared for and need nothing more.

If it happens that voluntary contributions do not suffice, wealthy men should be approached by the overseers and asked to aid the poor whom God has committed to the latter’s zealous care. At least the hospital could borrow what is needed; if the wealthy insist on it, this loan could be repaid later in good faith when alms are more plentiful.

Besides this, the state itself should deduct something from public expenses, such as from funds for solemn feasts, gifts to honored guests, state-financed entertainments for foreign ambassadors, and the largesse of money which is distributed to the people on special occasions, annual games, and processions. All these contribute only to a waste of time, to pride, and to ambition. I do not doubt that a prince would be just as well pleased, if not more so, if he were welcomed with less display, provided he knew for what good purpose the money, customarily poured out at his coming, was being spent. If he did not take to this well, he would indeed be childishly conceited and stupidly ambitious. However, if the state did not want to do this, then at least it could lend what it might later recoup at a time more promising for alms.

Almsgiving should always be voluntary, as Paul said, “Each man… according as he has decided in his heart, not grudgingly or from obligation.” No one should be forced to do good, otherwise the very concept of doing good is lost. I do not doubt that by these means there will be sufficient and even more. However, in so holy a business, we should not measure ourselves solely by human strength, but place our reliance primarily on God. He will bless righteous undertakings, increasing for the rich the sources of their charity, as well as the alms of the poor who modestly ask, gratefully receive, and prudently spend. The Lord provides for all: “His is the earth and the fullness thereof.” He created all things abundantly for our use, asking in return only a ready and genuine good will, and a grateful love for so many immeasurable blessings.

Many examples prove that when a holy work has been undertaken by men with some anxiety and even hopelessness on their part lest the funds for it should not be sufficient, as the work progressed it has been so blessed that even those who have charge of it are forced to wonder by what hidden ways resources have opened. You will remember one experience, typical of many, in your own school for poor boys which you established ten years ago with such minimum funds that not more than eighteen boys could be maintained there. You were concerned that you would not be able to maintain the institution. Now, more or less one hundred boys are supported there, and the funds have grown so large that even more could be assisted. When extra boys arrive, there is always something for them to eat.

Undoubtedly it is by the universal bounty of God that everything is maintained and augmented, lives and grows, not by wealth and private resources or human counsels. Hence, in pious undertakings, it would be impious to gloat over your own talents; rather, rejoice in the confidence you have in Him to Whom all things are possible.

As for the unemployed poor themselves, they should learn not to make provisions for the distant future, for this increases their sense of human security and lessens their dependence on God. They should not rely on human assistance but on Christ alone, Who has exhorted us to relinquish all concerns for our sustenance to Him and His Father Who feeds and clothes those creatures that neither sow nor reap, weave or spin. The poor should lead an angelic life, so to speak, intent on prayer first for themselves and then for the weal of those by whom they have been assisted, so that the Lord Jesus might consider them worthy to receive recompense a hundredfold in everlasting blessings.


Relief should be given not only to the poor who are without day-to-day necessities of life, but also to those on whom some sudden calamity has fallen, such as captivity in war, imprisonment for debt, fire, shipwreck, floods, all kinds of sicknesses, or any of those numerous catastrophes that bring disaster to ordinary homes. To these unfortunate individuals may be added young girls whom poverty has driven to prostitution. It is intolerable in any state-I will not say Christian, nor even heathen, only provided one live in a community where men live as humans that, where some of the citizens so give themselves to extravagances as to squander huge sums on a sepulchre, palace, useless building, banquets, or public offices, for lack of a few pennies the chastity of a virgin is tempted, the health and life of an honest man is threatened, or a husband is forced to desert his wife and children.

Captives must be ransomed, an action mentioned by the ancient philosophers (Aristotle, Cicero, and others) as one of the noblest acts of benevolence. First attention should be given to those who suffer a cruel servitude among enemies, such as the Christians who are in the power of the Turks and are daily in peril of renouncing their faith. Similar consideration should be taken for the business­ men and noncombatants who have fallen into the hands of the enemy. Armed combatants who have been captured deserve the least pity since they are the cause of the ills of others.

Of those in prisons, the first to consider are those who have fallen into poverty and bankruptcy through misfortune rather than their own fault; and then attention should be given to those who have been imprisoned for a long time. The man who has been precipitated from his once happy circumstances into misery through no fault of his own is to be greatly pitied, whether because he represents the mutual fate of humanity and stands as a symbol of the experiences of all men, or because he suffers the most acutely through a vestigial recollection of former happiness.

Men of breeding should not have to wait until they disclose their needs themselves. They should be diligently sought out and assisted secretly, such as Arcesilaus did, and many others similar, who placed a large sum of money under the pillow of a sleeping friend, a man both poor and ill, who concealed both facts from a feeling of shame. Then when the troubled individual awoke, he found relief without any injury to his honest pride. For as a principle in assisting, through public charity, a man who has been reared in gentility, care should be exercised not to wound his pride, which he may value more than the relief, however acceptable and useful that may be.

The same men to whom we assigned the supervision of the parishes should also investigate concealed needs of this sort and report them to the Senate and to men of wealth, at the same time withholding the names of the deprived and the amount of assistance needed. On the other hand, it might be better if even those poor would accept charity openly so that they can know whom to thank; further, there would be no suspicion on either side as, for instance, that those through whom it is given have funneled off some of the money. This openness would not do if the rank of the destitute man is so high that he ought not to be exposed to the embarrassment.

“But,” someone will object, “if men of that class are to be assisted too, where will be the end of giving?” Indeed, what more ideal situation can be imagined than the boundlessness of charity? You have said something extremely petty—1 was hoping that you would deplore the fact that at some future time there would be none left on whom to bestow compassion. Indeed, you ought to wish, for the sake of your neighbor, that there would come a time when none would need the wealth of others; for your own sake, you should hope that you would never lack the opportunity of such great profit to yourself, securing eternal blessings in exchange for things liable to varying fortunes and passing fancies.

It seems to me, in the present state of things, that these suggestions should be implemented. It may not be expedient in every city and in every circumstance to institute everything I have prescribed. Wise men in every nation will perceive this, and will consult the best interests of their own states. Still, the overall aim, intention, and goal that I have outlined will, I believe, be expedient and necessary always and in every place. If it is not possible for all these matters to be carried out at once-perhaps because traditional practices run contrary to innovation-it should be feasible with ingenuity to introduce the more moderate reforms first, and after that gradually those considered more extreme.


Although virtue is most beautiful and desirable in itself, it nevertheless has many enemies who are exceedingly irritated by the very notion of it and its excellence, as well as by its attacks—fierce and uncompromising-upon their dissipated lives. The world, past and present, fights against the law of Christ whose brightness neither the darkness of sinners nor the vitiated eyes of evil men can withstand or endure.

So in the matter being discussed; although everything refers to the provision for the needs of man and the relief of the poverty-stricken (as anyone can easily judge, provided he is a fair, unbiased critic), still there will be no lack of persons to misinterpret and object, even though the thrust toward humaneness is made. For example, when certain individuals hear that this proposes nothing else than the elimination of the poor, they assume that paupers will be banished in person and cry out against the inhumanity of thus evicting those miserable individuals. As if we would desire to drive them out, or do anything to make them more miserable! This is not our purpose; rather, it is to free them from their distress, their struggles, and their perpetual misfortunes so that they may live more humanly and be treated with compassion.

There are some who would like to be thought of as theologians who cite a passage from the Gospel, without reference to the context in which it is located, where Christ our Lord and God prophesied, “The poor you will always have with you.” What of that? Did He not predict future scandals? And Paul-that there would be heresies? Shall we therefore not assist the poor, or live unoffensively or resist heresies, for fear that we might prove the prophecies false? God forbid! Christ did not predict that the poor would always be with us because this is what He desired, or that scandals would eventuate because this is what He hoped for. In fact, He recommends nothing to us more explicitly than the relief of the poor, condemning those who cause this deplorable condition.

For He knows the weakness through which we fall into poverty, and lie knows our malice through which we are reluctant to raise up a fallen man, preferring him to remain lying almost dead, and wasted. For this reason Me says that we shall always have the poor with us; the same thing can be said in regard to the prophecy of sin.

Concerning heresies, Paul maintained that they would come because of the corrupted nature of man, defiled as it is with many vices. Yet he wished them to be resisted when they arose, as he said to Titus: “The bishop should exhort with sound doctrine and confound the dissidents.” So in these predictions Christ does not command us to act in that manner, but sees that we will. In the same line of thinking, these proposals of mine will not eliminate poverty but will relieve it; they will not prevent a man from becoming a pauper but will preclude his remaining one for long by a prompt offer of a hand to help him to his feet.

I wish we were able to eliminate poverty completely in this city. I do not worry that Christ’s words will be judged false. There would be so many remaining who would be poor in other respects. It is not only those without money who are poor but those who lack bodily vitality, physical well-being, and mental health and sanity, as was explained at the beginning of this work.

Moreover, he must be called poor, even if he has money, to whom—whether in a hospital or in his own home-delicate food is supplied which has not been obtained by his own industry and labor but through the kindness of another. Tell me, who act more humanly-those who leave the poor to rot in their filth, squalor, vice, crime, shamelessness, immodesty, ignorance, madness, misfortune, and misery?-or those who devise a way by which they may rescue them from that life and lead them into a mode of living, more social, cleaner, and wiser, clearly salvaging so many men who were formerly lost and useless? We are acting here in the same manner as the medical profession who cannot eradicate diseases completely from the population but bend every effort to cure them.

If only the law of Christ were more deeply rooted in our minds and hearts, that it might be more effective than medical knowledge! Then it might happen that there would be no paupers among us, as there were none in the early Church, according to the account of Luke in the Acts of the Apostles-nor scandals or heresies. However, our sins encumber us; men continue to profess the name of Christian not so much in their heart and by the action of their lives as by their mouths; hence, there will always be paupers and scandals and heresies.

In addition, perhaps there will be some men, as is likely in public office, who-in order to be judged wise so as to acquire influence for that reason-approve of nothing except what they have proposed. Surely these men have an erroneous concept not only of men but of God, if they believe-and wish others to be so persuaded that God has been ineffective in all His other acts of creation, but has poured out upon these “thinkers” all the mental power of ingenuity, judgment, and wisdom. In this matter, Job said sarcastically, “Are you then the only man, and shall wisdom die with you?” I would not deny that there are some men who have such initiative, skill, and keenness of judgment that, in thinking and in deliberating, they generate more ideas than the rest of mankind. But even for that reason, to judge that which has been conceived by one’s self as best is to become a man of arrogance without experience, as Terrence says of administrators “who judge nothing of value except what they do themselves.”

Specifically, I anticipate two classes of men to be hostile to these plans: first, the very ones whom this philanthropy is intended to benefit; and, second, those who will be ousted from the management of funds. In the first case, some have grown so accustomed to their squalor and filth and misery that they resent being raised out of it. Captivated as they are by a certain sweetness of inertia and idleness, they think activity, labor, industry, and frugality more painful than death. How difficult, then, the task of doing good among these, since their depravity interprets kindness as injury! How odious of them to receive charity haughtily, as if offended, and to interpret it as an insult! This invidious attitude is very like that of the Jews who persecuted with death the Author of life because He showed them kindness, helped them, and brought them health, salvation, and light. They heaped insults on Him in return for the charity poured out on all who would accept it. Immersed in pride, arrogance, ambition, and avarice, they judged it an affront to be liberated from those demanding masters. In the same way, these poor, buried in squalor, filth, shame, idleness, and crime, think they are being dragged into slavery if their condition is ameliorated. We could imitate the true Christ Himself Who was not diverted from doing good by the ingratitude of those who received His advantages.

Consideration should be given not so much to what a man would like, as to what is good for him to have, not what pleases him but what is expedient for him. In time, they will recognize this value when they return to a more positive mind and will say, “The Senate of Bruges saved us against our will.” But should you indulge them and follow along with their desires—if even for a moment they recover sight and reason-undoubtedly they will say, ‘The Senate ruined us with love.” This is the complaint which every son, indulged in too freely, makes of his father. The poor so indulged will despise those by whom they have been assisted to their destruction.

In order that this may not occur, let us treat them as experienced physicians treat delirious patients—or wise fathers, their rebellious children—seeking their true good, no matter the resistance and the clamor. In a word, it is the duty of the ruler of the state not to be disturbed by what this one or that one or a given few think about the laws and administration, so long as he has consulted with the common good of the entire state. For laws are of benefit even to the law-breakers themselves by correcting and checking them in their wrongdoing.

Those who have been handling the funds for the poor will be annoyed at being removed from office. They will search out an eloquent vocabulary with which to exaggerate the enormity of the proposal: “This, these matters should be left alone… What has been confirmed by years of approval should not be interfered with. . . . It is dangerous to introduce new practices… The stipula­ tions of founders should not be changed… Everything is close to ruin.”

To these we reply: “First, will not good practices weaken that which has been rooted in evil customs?” They will not dare to descend into that argument. Then: “Which is better?—what we are attempting to introduce, or what they wish to retain?” More: “If nothing is to be changed, why have they themselves gradually altered the first regulations established by the founders of an institution to such a degree that those in force today run counter to the original?”

Let the records be opened, let the memories of old men be questioned. It will be discovered how much the present administration differs from that when the institution was new, and while the founder was still alive or only recently deceased. Here we have caught them on a crucial matter. We do not wish to change the original organization; we will not tolerate the violation of the founder’s intent, for in every will this is the first—or, rather, the only—issue. The original intent can be discovered from records and the memory of many individuals. As for the will of the founder, who does not understand that these men left their money and endowments, not that the rich might be sated but that the poor might be supported, even as they pray for their deceased benefactors that they might be forgiven their sins and be received by God into His heavenly dwelling?

Now if these objectors raise too much opposition, they will certainly make it clear to all that they are looking out for their own interests instead of that of the poor. We undertake a responsibility for the poor, and yet they oppose it—what do they have in view? If it is for their own interests, they stand convicted of avarice, and make it clear that they have managed things for their own advantage and not for the poor. Such avarice is not only ignoble but is absolutely pernicious and detestable. Since it is a crime to steal anything from a wealthy man, how much more scandalous is it to rob the poor! From the rich man, it is money which is stolen; from the poor, it is life.

If, however, it is the poor for whom they are concerned, the Senate wishes the poor to be supported even more generously. Is it any concern of these individuals by whom poor relief is provided, so long as it is done, and done as well as possible?—as by the Senate in whom confidence has been placed with good reason in the past. As St. Paul said, “That Christ may be preached—in what manner, I do not care, provided only that He is preached.”

However, they wish to run the work themselves. If they have respect for God, they will joyfully concede; but if for men, their ambition has been found out. Further, would they dare to complain because you do not offer yourselves as ministers of their ambitions and avarice? Indeed, if you remain silent, are you not abetting them? I will pass over things which might be said on this matter if their long-term administration were to be examined, I will not be mired in this bog; I will not stir up this mud. But in truth, they would have no small honor-if they did not oppose these measures, and if they did not hold on to the money entrusted to them or deposited in their keeping-if they advanced the interests of the poor, devoted themselves to promoting the harmony of the state, and proved themselves such friends of the public good that they consider it their personal possession.


The most eloquent comments have been made by classical writers on every sort of virtue, while their acts were of highest import and dignity. Yet they never conducted themselves with such constancy, courage, and worthiness as when loyalty to their country and love of their fellow citizens, implanted in their hearts, caused them to endure misrepresentations, unjust accusations, curses, and insults with undisturbed and resolute minds. They did not deviate a hair’s breadth for that reason from their determination to aid their nation, even when the very ones who would be most helpful censured and condemned their actions.

Prominent among the number of such men are Miltiades, Themistocles, Scipio, and above all Epaminandos the Theban and Quintus Fabius Maximus of Rome. The latter knew that Hannibal could be defeated not by force but by delay, and therefore he prolonged the war with stalling actions, convinced that this was the only hope for victory. Many idle and craftily argumentative men complained of these tactics, saying that Fabius was doing this by agreement with Hannibal, or from ambition—that he might remain longer in power as the chief officer of the state—or from cowardice and fear, that they would abrogate his power.

As a matter of fact, Minucius, the Master of Horse, was made equal to the Dictator himself by popular vote, which had never been heard of before. The old man was undaunted by the calumny and folly of his fellow citizens and persisted in his plans, bringing his people to victory. Undoubtedly, Hannibal would have conquered the land if the strategy of Fabius had not thwarted him. The event declared how great a mind that hero possessed, what insight he had, what love for his country and his fellowmen.

These little verses about him have been universally popular, ancient and crude though they are, but eloquent and enthusiastic in their praise:

One man with his delaying restored
everything to us;
Nor did he place common opinion
above the common good;
Therefore, more and more men now
enlarge his glory.

Others of similar mind performed noble deeds even though they did not know God (since, for them, the sun of Christianity had not arisen). They were merely acting as they had been taught, or were seeking honor and fame for their country.

How much greater and nobler should our actions be! We have witnessed the one Christ despise—indeed, disdain and score human power. For us, that most glorious sun has dawned, and we have been reared in the true faith. To us charity has been commended and commanded, with a heavy penalty if we neglect the command and a great reward if we execute it. The reward will be amplified according to the suffering we endure for the grace of God.

Therefore, this plan must not merely be approved; it must be adopted and put into operation. It is not enough to have good intentions unless you also put your hand to the work when occasion arises. It is not appropriate that those who are urged and spurred on by divine commands should be held back by human obstacles, especially since material and spiritual benefits accrue to both the state and the individual.


  1. Tremendous honor adheres in the state in which no beggar is seen, for a great multitude of paupers argues malice and apathy in the citizenry and neglect of the public good by the magistrates.
  2. Fewer thefts, acts of violence, robberies, murders, and capital offenses will be committed. Pandering and sorcery will be less frequent. This follows because the poverty will be mitigated which drives men first into vices and bad habits and then encourages and provokes crimes like the above.
  3. Greater peace will prevail where everyone is provided for.
  4. Greater concord will prevail. The poor will not envy the wealthy, but will esteem them as benefactors; the rich will not turn away from the destitute in suspicion, but will esteem them as the reason for their bounty and the objects of their rightful charity. Nature demands that we love those to whom we give support; thus, love begets love.
  5. It will be safer, healthier, and pleasanter to attend churches and to dwell in the city. The hideousness of ulcers and diseases will no longer be imposed on the general viewing, eliminating a spectacle revolting to nature and even to the most humane and compassionate mind. Those of small means will not be forced to give alms through pressure. If a man is inclined to give, he will not be deterred either by the great multitude of beggars or by the fear of giving to someone unworthy.
  6. The state will gain enormously. More citizens will become more virtuous, more law-abiding, and more useful to the nation. Everyone will hold the state dearer in which-or by means of which-they are sustained. Nor will they participate in revolution or sedition. Women will withdraw from their pernicious practices, young women from dangers to their modesty, old women from their evil designs. Boys and girls will be taught letters, religion, temperance, and self-support, all of which form the basis of an upright, honest, pious life. Finally, everyone will exercise judgment, sensitivity, and piety. They will live among men as educated and disciplined persons, observing human laws. They will hold back their hands from violence, serving God truly and in good faith. They will be men. They will be what they are called, Christians. What else is this, I ask, than restoring many thousands of men to themselves and winning them for Christ! That is heaven’s profit, for innumerable souls will be liberated through religion.

Some know that they ought to discharge the duties of charity, yet they do not perform what has been commanded; others are repelled by the unworthiness of the applicants; others withdraw because their good intention is embarrassed by the great number, and they are drawn in the opposite direction, as it were, uncertain where first or most effectively to bestow their money. They see so many oppressed by want that in a sort of despair they succor no one, feeling that whatever is given is too little, like sprinkling a drop of water here and there on raging flames of fire.

However, if our plan is adopted, those who have means will give them generously, delighted that things are so carefully and exactingly managed. In being sure that their contributions are well placed, they will help mankind, according to the commands of Christ, and win His generous favor. Undoubtedly, many wealthy men of other cities—who have not in similar fashion made the affairs of the poor their concern—will send generous contributions here, where they know funds are wisely spent and aid given to those most in need. Added to this, God will protect as His own a people who are compassionate, and make them truly blessed.

Listen to the kind of nation properly termed blessed according to the testimony, not of an ordinary man but of a prophet:

From the peril of sword save me;
rescue me from the power of aliens
who tell nothing but lies,
who are prepared to swear to falsehood!
May our sons be like plants
growing strong from their earliest days,
our daughters like corner-statues, carvings fit for a palace;
may our barns overflow with every possible crop;
may the sheep in our fields be counted
in their thousands and tens of thousands;
may our cattle be stout and strong;
and may there be an end of raids and exile, and of panic in our streets.
Happy the nation of whom this is true,
happy the nation whose God is Yahweh!

Nor will temporal blessings be lacking, as it was written of the widow who gave food to Elias. Also, the Psalmist sings of that nation in which the Lord dwells:

I will bless her provisions with riches, I will satisfy her with bread.

And in another place he says, speaking to the same nation:

He has granted you peace on your frontiers, He has fed you on the finest wheat.

Seriously, an increase of mutual love is beyond all things because it dispenses charity near and far, honestly and joyfully, without suspicion of unworthiness. Hereafter, we shall obtain that celestial reward which we have shown is prepared for the man of charity.

Spanish Verse

The Penguin Book of Spanish Verse, introduced and edited by J. M. Cohen, with plain prose translations of each poem, was published in 1988 in its third edition, in a parallel English – Spanish text edition.

J. M. (John Michael) Cohen (5 February 1903 – 19 July 1989) was a prolific translator of European literature into English.

Born in London in 1903 and a Cambridge graduate, Cohen was the translator of many volumes for the Penguin Classics, including versions of Cervantes, Rabelais and Montaigne. For some years he assisted E. V. Rieu in editing the Penguin Classics.

He played an instrumental role in the Latin Boom of the 1960s by translating works by Jorge Luis Borges, Octavio Paz, and Carlos Fuentes, and by bringing the works of Gabriel García Márquez to the attention of his future English publisher. He also wrote a number of works of literary criticism and biography.

He collected the three books of Comic and Curious Verse and anthologies of Latin American and Cuban writing. With his son Mark Cohen he also edited the Penguin Dictionary of Quotations and the two editions of its companion Dictionary of Modern Quotations. He frequently visited Spain and made several visits to Mexico, Cuba and other Spanish American countries.

In its obituary, The Times described him as ‘one of the last great English men of letters’, while the Independent wrote that ‘his influence will be felt for generations to come’. The Guardian declared that he “did perhaps more than anyone else in his generation to introduce British readers to the classics of world literature by making them available in good modern English translations.”

The Penguin Book of Spanish Verse starts by saying ‘Nobody of lyrical poetry is so seriously underestimated by British readers as the Spanish.’ Later it goes ‘Much of Cervantes’s poetry that appears in Don Quixote and in the Exemplary Novels is mediocre. One or two light and traditional pieces, however, have charm’

These two sentences illustrate well the quality of the book: a great effort to encompass all Spanish poetry throughout ten centuries that is obviously doomed to failure. However, having such a good summary of Spanish poetry in 644 pages, in a parallel text edition, has a merit in itself.

However, the author emphatically states in his Introduction: ‘The prose translations on each facing page aim at no literary merit; they are intended purely as aids to the reading of the Spanish.’ And I can not agree more on this.

For a link to this book, please write a comment.

The Black Legend and the Golden Age Dramatic Canon

by Barbara Fuchs (University of California, Los Angeles, UCLA)

Published in LA LEYENDA NEGRA EN EL CRISOL DE LA COMEDIA. El teatro del Siglo de Oro frente a los estereotipos antihispánicos (2016)

Yolanda Rodríguez Pérez Antonio Sánchez Jiménez (eds.)

This essay examines how the canon of Hispanic Golden Age theater is constructed outside Spain, to consider, first, how it relates to Black Legend epiphenomena and, second, how it might be profitably expanded and diversified. I am interested not only in how our present-day canon came to be, but also in the critical and performance initiatives that might profitably change what otherwise seems like an unavoidable fait accompli. My premise is that the Black Legend impacts not only the content of specific works, but also the context in which they are received, particularly outside Spain. The discipline of literary criticism is not immune or impermeable to the Black Legend, and it behooves us as critics to identify the ideological contexts that mark the reception of Spanish literature in the longue durée. Just as Spain itself is tarred by the Black Legend, its literary production is understood according to the stereotypes and received wisdom that the legend fosters.

I. Black Legend Canons

«I hate your Spanish honor ever since it spoyl’d our English Playes».
Wildblood, in Dryden, An Evening’s Love (5.1)

«Anyone desirous of throwing light on the old English Drama should read extensively the less known works of the Spaniards».
George Henry Lewes, The Spanish Drama (7)

In my work on the uses of Spain and Spanish literary materials in early modern England, I have identified the persistence and utility of belligerent attitudes towards Spain, even at the moments of greatest English fascination with Spanish sources. Thus for much of the early modern period and well into our own time, literary transmission is imagined in terms of forcible taking or even looting, as appropriation is lionized into national heroism. This is what in The Poetics of Piracy I termed the «Armada paradigm» of Anglo-Spanish literary relations (Fuchs 2013). At least in Anglo-American contexts, this paradigm was alive and well throughout the twentieth century, if not into the twenty-first. A classic example is one of the very influential early Norton anthologies of Elizabethan poetry, from 1942, which was entitled The Golden Hind. In the prologue, the editors explain the symbolism of their title, which refers to the ship on which Francis Drake carried out his circumnavigation of the globe, looting and plundering Spanish possessions along the way: «Our title, taken from the name of Drake’s ship, seems to us an appropriate symbol of the riches the Elizabethans found in a new world and in the English language and of the spirit of freedom and defiance of tyranny which is the greatest link between their age and ours» (Lamson and Smith 1942). This kind of conflation between the riches of poetry, privateering, and a timeless English «defiance of tyranny» marks the Anglo-American stance towards Spanish cultural production across the centuries. The larger question I want to consider here is how this broader climate of an enduring Black Legend shapes the Hispanic theatrical canon, particularly in Anglo-American contexts.1

The long-term engagement of English letters with Spanish culture has been tinged with ambivalence at least since the Reformation. As Alexander Samson and others have shown, the fascination with Spanish letters paradoxically never waned, even at the times of greatest military and religious rivalry between England and Spain (Samson 2006, 2009; Darby and Samson 2009). Yet even as literary studies came into its own as a distinct discipline, it continued to reflect the Black Legend prejudices—and the imperial rivalries—that characterized the Elizabethan moment. While Shakespeare became canonized as a uniquely English author, a free spirit who might not conform to classical rules but who found direct inspiration in English nature, Spanish theater was generally characterized as a much more problematic reflection of the Spanish character. In the case of Shakespeare, nature denoted the untarnished and pure landscape that the poet channeled; conversely, when describing Spanish traditions nature meant a human nature marked by the genealogical taint of otherness. Especially in a comparative framework, Spanish theater was considered an extension of Spanish national traits.

Already in the late seventeenth century, John Dryden, who made extensive use of Spanish materials in his own plays, wrote «the first important English criticism of Spanish drama» (Loftis 1973: 3) in his dialogue Of Dramatick Poesie (1668). The comedia was an uneasy fit for Dryden’s neoclassicist preconceptions, especially when compared to the more recent French drama—one of the interlocutors decries the theater of Calderón for «being hurried from one thing to another» (Dryden 1668: 59). Nonetheless, Dryden favored the tragicomedy, and with it the long English tradition of turning to Spanish plots, from Fletcher until Dryden’s own time. Yet in his own play An Evening’s Love, or, The Mock Astrologer (based on Calderón’s El astrólogo fingido), Dryden has a character voice his reservations about Spanish honor in the drama, which I reproduce in the first epigraph above. John Loftis argues that Wildblood’s complaint is generalizable more broadly to the dramatists of the Restoration, «who treated the pundonor with casualness or contempt» (1973: 252). Loftis’ own account of this dynamic—unsupported except for Wildblood’s line—betrays the critic’s prejudices as much as the writers’: «Few of the better dramatists cared to approximate, without satirical comment, the Spanish gravity of manner and sensitivity to affront. Hence the paradox that the best renderings of Spanish plots, by Dryden and his younger contemporaries, are those most thoroughly anglicized…» (Loftis 1973: 253). Eliding the distance between Spaniards and their texts, Loftis has made up his mind about their character, as well as their characters. Moreover, the many critics who stress the English turn to Spanish sources in the drama, as does Loftis, beg the question of the difference between the corpora: whatever distinctive national characters marked the Spanish and the English, it remained eminently possible for a transnational drama to emerge.

A striking text in the development of a literary history marred by national prejudice is the colorful A Complete History of the English Stage (London, 1800), a survey by the composer, writer, and consummate man of the theater Charles Dibdin. Dibdin was a prolific song-writer and occasional collaborator with the famous theater impresario David Garrick; he composed some of the music for Garrick’s famous Shakespeare Jubilee of 1769. Dibdin’s assessment of Spanish theater in his History sets up a tacit contrast with Shakespeare, whom the era crowned as the epitome of Englishness, magically produced by English soil. At the same time, the critic betrays a certain envy of Spanish prolificness: although he is critical of the Spanish theater’s disregard for classical measure, he reluctantly acknowledges his admiration for the sheer number of Spanish plays. Even this praise, however, undergoes a tortuous rhetorical operation to become a criticism of Spanish facility:

The Spaniards have a great number of rhapsodies under the titles of chronicles, annals, romances, and legends. In these they find some historical anecdote, some entertaining adventure, which they transcribe without choice or exception. All the details they put into dialogue and to this compilation is given the distinction, PLAY: thus one can easily imagine that a man in the habit of copying with facility, could write forty of these plays in less time than an author of real genius and regulated habitude could put out of his hands a single act, for the latter is obliged to design his characters, to prepare, graduate, and develop his intrigue, and to reconcile all this to the rules of decency, taste, probability and, indeed, custom (Dibdin 1800: 1.138).

The comparison with Shakespeare is implicit but no less powerful for that: by implication, the Spanish playwrights do not possess the «regulated habitude» that a more decorous, less excessive corpus signals. Thus is the uncomfortable question of the sheer numerical superiority of the Spanish canon handled—there may be more plays, but they are superficial, mere copies, requiring nothing like what an author of «real genius» would need for a play.

Dibdin is ambivalent about Spanish theater throughout, recognizing the power of the comedia yet qualifying his praise with his account of the Spanish national character. He emphasizes the utility of Spanish materials for other literatures, returning to the long tradition of figuration that makes Spain the source for a second-order English extraction, whether by piracy, looting, or other forms of forcible taking (Fuchs 2013; Jones 1953).2 Spanish theater is the mother lode, providing the ore that other Europeans will mine to mint treasures:

The wit and humour that have so lavishly pervaded [Spanish theater], manifest the most luxuriant fertility in the genius of their dramatic writers; whose works, crude and irregular as they are, have served like a rich mine for the French, and, indeed, the English at second hand to dig in. Their wit, however, like their hard dollars, can never be considered as staple, but a useless mass of no intrinsic value till manufactured into literary merchandize by the ingenuity and labour of other countries (Dibdin 1800: 1.131).

Dibdin further characterizes the French and English use of Spanish sources as «plunder» (Dibdin 1800: 1.139), imagining the exploitation of Spanish theater in terms of European imperial rivalries. Spanish literature thus becomes the mine to be dug, the raw material to be manufactured into a valuable commodity. As the metaphor evolves, the French and the English become «theatrical chymists» who «have ingeniously extracted» from the «very rich materials» of Spanish theater «to ornament their own productions» (Dibdin 1800: 1.145). Dibdin here voices a fantasy of appropriation by which the Spanish New World wealth of minerals is transmuted into a literary lode available for English extraction.

Yet even this recognition of a valuable source is tinged with ambivalence. Most striking in this respect, perhaps, is Dibdin’s move to characterize Spanish literary production in racialized and genealogical terms, as tainted with Moorishness:

Spanish gallantry consists entirely of stratagem; and fancy is perpetually upon the stretch to bring about natural events by extraordinary means. Their manners are derived originally from the Moors, and are tinged with a sort of African taste, too wilde and extravagant for the adoption of other nations, and which cannot accommodate itself to rule or precision.

Impressed with an idea of that knight errantry which Cervantes so successfully exposed, Spanish lovers seem as if they took a gloomy pleasure in disappointment. They enter the lists of gallantry as if they were more pleased with the dangers of the tournament than the enjoyment of the reward; and, at length, when they arrive at the possession of that object with which they were originally smitten with a glance from a lattice, or a regard in a cloister through a thick veil; disappointment succeeds to admiration, and they grow jealous and outrageous to find that love is the very reverse of caprice, and that happiness cannot be ensured but by a long and intimate acquaintance with the heart.

On the other side, the lady, immured from the sight of men, reads romances, and heroically resolves to consider, as her destined lover, the first who has the address and the courage to rescue her from her giant father, and her monster duenna. Reason, prudence, mutual intelligence, purity of sentiments, and affection; these have nothing to do in the affair (Dibdin 1800: 1.140-41).

Theater, and literature more broadly, are here presumed to reflect national characteristics. Spain’s ‘Moorish’ or ‘African’ manners lie behind its extravagant plots, its histrionic affairs. Already in this account the anxiety about sexual propriety looms large—in the gallant’s outrageous jealousy, or the exaggerated protection of the lady— setting the stage for the characterization of Spanish drama as obsessively concerned with honra.

Although the Romantic triumph of Calderón in Germany at the hands of Schlegel and other critics somewhat countered neo-Classical prejudice, it failed to dislodge stubborn conceptions about the Spanish national character (Sullivan 1983: 4). As literary history became increasingly formalized on both sides of the Atlantic in the nineteenth century, it continued to be conceived as a discipline that shed light on national characteristics. «I have been persuaded that literary history… should be made, like civil history, to give a knowledge of the character of the people to which it relates. I have endeavored, therefore, so to write my account of Spanish literature as to make the literature itself the exponent of the peculiar culture and civilization of the Spanish people», claimed George Ticknor in a letter that accompanied a presentation copy of his signal History of Spanish Literature (1849), the first exclusive treatment of the subject, with six editions over the course of the century (Hillard in Kagan 2002: 106). In discussing Golden Age theater, Ticknor attributes Lope de Vega’s greatness to the way in which «he gave himself up to the leading of the national spirit» (Ticknor 1849: 2.229) in his plays. Yet even though he regards Spain as fanatically religious and characterized by an «over-sensitive honor» (Ticknor 1849: 2.257), he himself looks beyond. Even as he commends a number of other plays for how they channel the national character, Ticknor cannot help but praise a play like El acero de Madrid, which he compares favorably to Molière and in which he praises female agency and the proximity to «the manners of its time» (Ticknor 1849: 2.246-48). Although Ticknor does not reflect on the tension between an immutable national character and the manners of early modern Madrid, for the attentive reader the praise of the fashionable play complicates any claim for an unchanging Spanish character expressed in the national literature.

As Ticknor turns to considering Calderón’s wife-murder plays and the question of honor, he refutes the idea that Spanish sexual morality is «derived from the Arabs» (1849: 2.473), attributing it instead to «ancient Gothic laws» which far predate the Moorish invasion. Strikingly anticipating the recent work of historians who have urged us to reconsider the place of honra in actual social and legal contexts (Taylor 2008), Ticknor argues moreover that only the distance between the reality of early modern Spain and the excesses committed on stage in the name of honor would have protected the comedia from even greater censure than it received. Overall, Ticknor seems attached to his theory of national characters but able to see beyond it to the merits of individual plays, many of which in no way fit his own preconceived notion of a Spanish national character. Recent work on Ticknor’s extensive collaboration with—and dependence on—the Spanish polymath Pascual de Gayangos suggests that this may have influenced the Bostonian’s specific, fine-grained departures from the broad prejudice that he announces at the outset (Heide 2008).

In general, US histories of Spanish literature are less prejudicial than comparative works, even when they do invoke comparisons between Spanish classical theater and other European corpora. Thus Hugo Rennert, in his The Spanish Stage in the Time of Lope de Vega (New York, 1909), argues that «the Spanish comedia, especially as it is represented by three of its greatest writers, Lope de Vega, Alarcon and Calderon [sic], compares very favorably, as regards its moral tone, with the contemporary plays of England, Italy or France» (Rennert 1909: 266). Rennert acknowledges that the same, distinguishing high moral tone may not be found in Tirso de Molina, but notes the censure of the playwright in his own time. Even when Rennert foregrounds the national character of Spanish drama, he does so in order to praise it:

Whatever its subject-matter, whether mythology, history, or legend, all was translated into the Spain of the day; its characters not only spoke Spanish, but they were Spaniards in every vein and fiber. In a word, it was truly national in character, and herein lies one of the chief glories of the Spanish drama, which is shared only by England among the countries of modern Europe (Rennert 1909: 339).

Rennert in no way challenges the idea that Hispanic drama encapsulates and reflects a national identity; he simply valorizes that identity rather than condemning it.

Less nuanced is the treatment of Spain in a comparative early twentieth-century history such as Sheldon Cheney’s The Theater: Three Thousand Years of Drama, Acting, and Stagecraft (1929). Cheney’s chapter on Spain betrays his preconceptions from its very title— «The Chivalrous Theater of Spain». The figure he chooses to move his discussion from Italy to Spain— the vainglorious Capitano of commedia dell’arte, whom he rightly associates with Italian resentment of Spanish invaders (Cheney 1929: 242)—further underscores the chapter’s reliance on hallmarks of the Black Legend. Cheney depicts Spain as having essentially missed out on the Renaissance: it was «too fiercely Catholic to welcome that new freedom of thought», «an organized religion and an artificial code of honor ruling all men’s actions, drama and literature failed to take on that warm glow of humanism so notable elsewhere» (Cheney 1929: 244). Lope, for his part, «purveying to a mass public that demanded sensation, and asked constantly for racial flattery… failed to write any drama that has lived through the years with the best out of the Greek, English, French, and German theatres» (Cheney 1929: 250). If Lope’s plays are not serene or deep enough, Cheney argues, it is because Spain itself was too violent for such reflection (Cheney 1929: 251-252)—life was cheap, murder common. In discussing Calderón, whom he deems deeper and «the greater poet» than Lope (Cheney 1929: 256), Cheney focuses on El médico de su honra, as an illustration of the «over-punctiliousness that excuses even murder, which is so favorite a theme in Spanish drama and romance» (Cheney 1929: 256), and offers the soliloquy of Isabel in the last act of El alcalde de Zalamea to drive home his points about an excessive concern for honor (Cheney 1929: 258).

Even a text focused on Spain, such as Ernest Mérimée’s History of Spanish Literature, translated from the French and expanded by the Berkeley scholar S. Griswold Morley (1930), describes Calderón’s concern for honor as «so Castilian, so castizo» (Mérimée and Morley 1930: 376). Moreover, therein lies his greatness: «His most lasting claim to glory», the authors argue, «is that he was in his time the most perfect representative of the race as the centuries had molded it, the preeminently Spanish poet» (Mérimée and Morley 1930: 382). The authors include a direct citation of Menéndez y Pelayo to support their claim, although no source is given: «Calderón is ancient Spain with all its crossings of light and shadow, of grandeur and defects» (Mérimée and Morley 1930: 382). As this claim attributed to the eminent Spanish philologist suggests, the construction of an exceptional Spain, for better or for worse, was not solely the work of foreigners or Black Legend propagandists: Spaniards themselves manipulated Spanish difference to their advantage.

Unlike Ticknor, who expressed his skepticism about whether the place of honor on the Spanish stage matched historical reality, Mérimée and Morley claim that «nowhere more than at this point did the theater draw directly from contemporary manners, and it is probably because he gave more faithful and energetic expression than anyone else to essentially national passions that Calderón has remained so popular» (Mérimée and Morley 1930: 377). Yet the authors soon reveal their debt to a textual tradition of Spanish stereotypes that has little to do with any specific historical moment, but instead reiterates what is always already known about Spain. Stressing the purported historical precision of Calderón, they claim: «Psychologically his characters scarcely exist; historically they are very exact, so exact that one could compose a commentary on much of his theater with nothing else than the travel notes of Mme. D’Aulnoy» (Mérimée and Morley 1930: 379). Though critics disagree on whether D’Aulnoy, the popular late seventeenth-century author of fairy tales, ever actually visited Spain, they concur that she provides a highly fanciful, literary account of the place. Yet her influential and hugely popular sketches, published in 1690 as Mémoires de la Cour d’Espagne and in 1691 as Relation du voyage d’Espagne align perfectly with a stereotypical conception of Spain that is also privileged in accounts of Spanish theater. Thus R. Foulché-Delbosc, in his introduction to D’Aulnoy, completes a perfect tautological circuit with Mérimée and Morley: «But whatever misstatements and alterations we may observe in Madame D’Aulnoy, the whole air of the Travels is that of the Spanish drama of the seventeenth century and more particularly of the drama of Calderón» (D’Aulnoy 1930: lxx).3

The Calderón-D’Aulnoy circularity reminds us that canonicity privileges and promotes plays that tell us what we have always known, or thought we knew, about Spain. In this sense, the hypercanonicity of Fuenteovejuna, El alcalde de Zalamea, and Calderon’s wife-murder plays, to take some of the most salient examples, confirms the stereotypical conception of a Spain consumed by pundonor, while occluding other versions of Spain that are abundantly present in the corpus, as even Ticknor, malgré lui, recognized. The question then becomes how one might dislodge that canonicity and complicate long-standing prejudices about Spain by promoting plays that present a very different set of concerns. I turn now to a contemporary initiative at UCLA that addresses precisely these goals.

II. Diversifying the classics, or, What Lies beyond Shakespeare?

Although it behooves us as critics to understand where our canons come from and how they are constructed, the transformation of a purely scholarly or textual canon would only get us so far in challenging anti-Spanish prejudices, in that these texts are not part of a broader, public conversation in an Anglo-American context. Conversely, performance might help to dislodge these by now venerable prejudices, and the canon of plays that ensues from them if, instead of rehearsing age-old stereotypes, it could present a more varied—if not completely alternative—vision of Spain.

My own thinking about performance was radically marked by my tenure from 2011 to 2016 as director of the Center for 17/18th-Century Studies and the Clark Memorial Library at UCLA. Located in West Adams, some twelve miles from the main campus, the Clark offers a valuable alternative location for reaching diverse audiences, and its multiple lawns, amphitheater, and marble outdoor reading room provide a wealth of spaces for performance. It became one of my first goals as Director to expand our performance offerings, through an initiative I called ‘Arts on the Grounds.’ This included ‘L.A. Escena,’ a series designed to introduce Los Angeles audiences to the Hispanic theatrical tradition.

The creation of L.A. Escena was inspired by a number of factors: one, Out of the Wings, the British online database of Spanish-language theater for scholars and practitioners that takes seriously the proposition that in order to change literary canons we need to change the canon in repertory; two, the general lack of Hispanic classical theater in LA, a city of over 4 million speakers of Spanish (the main festival of Hispanic classical theater in the US takes place on the US/Mexico border, at Chamizal, Texas, while LA has nothing of the sort), and, three, the trend by well-meaning theatrical companies in Los Angeles, specializing in educational outreach to disadvantaged communities, to hispanicize Shakespeare, with titles such as Romeo and Juliet—A Zoot Suit Musical, or Much Ado about Nothing—Mariachi Style, rather than exposing schoolchildren to the very rich traditions of Hispanic classical theater. As is the case across the U.S., cultural capital is so profoundly bound up in Shakespeare that the most proximate and arguably most appropriate texts through which to give students in Los Angeles, or indeed broader audiences, an appreciation for the arts are neglected. The project gradually matured into what we call ‘Diversifying the Classics,’ an initiative to introduce and promote Hispanic classical theater—in the original, in translation, or in adaptations—in the Los Angeles theater scene and beyond.

Diversifying the Classics is a broad and long-term project, which encompasses five initiatives:

1) the L.A. Escena Performance Series of Hispanic classical theater and adaptations for Los Angeles audiences;

2) a Library of Translated Hispanic Classical Plays, envisioned as a digital resource for theater practitioners;

3) 90 Monologues from Classical Spanish Theater, a bilingual anthology of monologues for actors;

4) Classics in the Classroom, a program to introduce Hispanic classical theater to students via adaptations, the compilation of supporting materials, and connections with K–12 arts educators; and

5) a future Performance Studies Database, listing scholars in the field prepared to guide theater professionals approaching new and underrepresented texts. All materials produced by Diversifying the Classics are open-access, made available on the project website, as they are completed.

At the heart of the project is the translation initiative, which hopes not only to broaden the set of texts available to theatrical practitioners but also productively to complexify the canon of Golden Age plays that we have inherited in an Anglo-American context. As was evident at the 2013 Association for Hispanic Classical Theater conference on «The Comedia in Translation and Performance» held in conjunction with Laurence Boswell’s season of Golden Age plays at the Theatre Royal in Bath, translation continues to play a crucial role in the dissemination of this theatrical tradition beyond Spain itself. At the conference, directors and translators complained about the paucity of available plays, with a few plays translated over and over again while others languish untranslated. The actors’ constant reference to their Shakespearean training as they discussed their experience of working on Lope de Vega or Tirso de Molina, moreover, underscored how deep and wide the familiarity with Shakespeare runs, from school through university through professional training, so that any effort to expand the theatrical canon beyond Shakespeare would have to consider these multiple arenas. In recent years, Spanish companies such as Rakatá, too, have recognized the essential role of contemporary, vernacular translations in promoting Hispanic classical theater in Anglo-American contexts.

In January 2014, stimulated by the great discussions in Bath, I decided to convene graduate students and theater professionals in a translation workshop. The result was the «Working Group on the Comedia in Translation and Performance», which has met since then on a regular schedule during the academic year. It has included up to a dozen people, primarily graduate students from the UCLA department of Spanish and Portuguese, but also actors, writers, directors, and colleagues from other institutions. The initial goal was for the workshop to translate plays that had no published translation, with an eye to engaging theater groups in material that was fresh to them and deliberately crafted for performance. What does this mean, in practice? We decided early on that we would translate every line, every mythological reference, providing annotations as necessary and leaving it up to directors to decide where and what to cut. We aim for a language that is as accessible as possible, while avoiding anachronism. A great advantage of translation in this sense, of course, is that it makes the texts historical proximate, unless one is deliberately translating into ‘Shakespearese.’ (The translated corpus thus bypasses the problems of linguistic distance that seem to vex Shakespeare productions, leading one distinguished US venue, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, to commission translations and adaptations of Shakespeare plays into contemporary English [see link, consulted Oct. 30, 2015]).

Some plays are translated by the working group as a whole, with heavy doses of subsequent editing. Others are translated by individual members of the working group, or by members working in collaboration, and then workshopped by the larger group. When we need to translate an untranslatable pun, or render something that makes no sense in translation, we make a point of preserving the imagery that an actor would be able to work with, such as any clues to physical humor, or sexual innuendo. We decided early on against translating into verse, because while there are certainly some very successful examples, it seemed to us that it would be more difficult for actors in Los Angeles, and even across the US, to work with verse than with prose. It is also the case that the comedia’s highly flexible versification, with different forms for different registers, has no real equivalent in English.

More importantly, we decided early on that we would translate plays that challenged stereotypical understandings of Spain and its theatrical canon. Guided by these principles, the entire group has translated Guillén de Castro’s La fuerza de la costumbre (The Force of Habit) and Lope de Vega’s La noche toledana (A Wild Night in Toledo). I workshopped my translation of Lope’s Mujeres y criados (Women and Servants, Juan de la Cuesta, 2016), while Laura Muñoz and Veronica Wilson workshopped their version of Guillén de Castro’s Los malcasados de Valencia (Unhappily Married in Valencia). We anticipate that we will continue to translate at least one play a year.

We began with La fuerza de la costumbre, which one of the students in the group, Kathryn Renton, had attempted to translate for an earlier research paper (I should note that Dr. Kathleen Jeffs of Gonzaga University has also recently translated and produced the play, although it has not been published). The rudiments of the play have long been known to English-speaking audiences, through Beaumont, Fletcher, and Massinger’s Love’s Cure (published 1647), which bases its plot on Guillén de Castro, yet is far from an actual translation. The fascination of this text for modern audiences, as, arguably, for its first audiences, lies in its incredibly self-aware presentation of the constructedness of gender. The question it poses most insistently is whether gender can be learned and unlearned. Thus Félix and Hipólita, two siblings born of a secret marriage and separated at birth, are brought up in the habits of the opposite gender. Kept close by his mother’s side, Félix is timid and sensitive. Hipólita, trained by her father on the battlefield in Flanders, is fiercely attached to her sword. This is no mere occasional cross-dressing, but a long-term experience of living as the «other» gender. When the family is reunited after twenty years, the father, Don Pedro, insists on making the siblings conform to traditional gender roles. Helped along the way by their respective love interests, the two gradually assume traditional positions, but their journeys expose the limitations of the gender system. One key scene shows the siblings’ discomfort with their newly imposed gender identities, as Hipólita enters teetering precariously on her chapines:

Hip. I swear I cannot manage
a single step.
She trips on her platform shoes and hurls them away.
Hip. How can one be even-headed
when teetering on something so flimsy?
How can a woman,
standing on this cork,
on the verge of falling at every moment,
keep herself from tumbling in the end?
I refuse to wear these shoes,
this dress and this hairpiece—
useless concerns
and to such dubious ends.
D. Pedro. What is it, Hipólita? What’s wrong?
You look very nice.
Hip. I appeal to you, sir.
Rid me of this dress,
of this hairpiece
that smothers my head.
The thinnest strand of it
is a noose around my neck…
(The Force of Habit: 22-23).

For the working group, this play was a revelation for its wry humor, its irony, its strong argument for the force of nurture over nature. It launched extensive discussions about how we came to have a canon of Hispanic classical theater that is earnestly concerned with honor, full of wife-murder and revenge. Clearly, within the enormous archive that is the comedia there are also plenty of plays that cast a skeptical eye on such pieties. Many of the questions that animate the first part of this essay thus emerged from our practice as translators, as we confronted the profound challenge that La fuerza de la costumbre (The Force of Habit) posed to our own habits of thought about the Hispanic classical canon.

Yet, from the moment we sent our translation into the world, via a staged reading at UCLA by our frequent collaborators, Chalk Repertory Theatre, we began to see how complex it might be to assume that the contestatory reading of such a finely balanced play would prevail with audiences. To begin with, Ruth McKee, who directed the staged reading, decided that the character of the father, Don Pedro, sounded bombastic, redundant, and rebarbative, so she decided to cut many of his lines. This intervention, plus the casting of a very appealing actor in the role, immediately made Don Pedro into a far less objectionable character. This threatened to make the play a story about the characters finding their gender destiny—a conservative, reactionary reading that always lurks in the wings, particularly for readers or audiences all too ready to take hetero-happy endings as the last word. For this play this kind of reading is particularly problematic, as it is some sexual business behind a tree between Hipólita and her suitor that finally brings about her transformation. As Hipólita describes it afterwards to her mother:

We wrestled for a while, both of us determined to win, but dew on grass is as slippery as soap… I slipped, stumbled, and fell down at my enemy’s feet. And that was nothing, but after I fell he—oh mother—he did what I could never have imagined. He shook my soul, transformed my entire being, and he said: «So that you can see that you’re a woman, for you are». Well can I believe it! And now all I can do is cry because he’s gone and I love him, and so, dear mother, I am indeed a woman (The Force of Habit: 130-131).

Is this a rape, or a first, consensual sexual experience narrated through the generic parameters of decorum? It is very difficult to say. But it makes the adaptation and broader circulation of this text especially challenging, particularly as we envision it reaching school audiences in future stages of the Diversifying the Classics project.

Most tellingly, the complexities of La fuerza de la costumbre underscore the intricacy of the larger project: it is not a simple matter of recuperating Spain, or of a white legend to replace a black one. Instead, the texts we are translating are complex and multivalent—they deserve their status as classics precisely because they offer themselves up for multiple and at times contradictory readings. As we expand our corpus of translations, the texts themselves refute any simplistic or stereotypical understandings of Spain, offering instead a vibrant and complex vision of gender and class relations and of the performativity of identity in urban spaces, as well as a generalized skepticism towards social pieties of all sorts. Making canons is no easy matter, of course, but our hope is at least to promote these texts as an alternative vision of Spain, one that may well appeal to modern theater practitioners given its degree of female agency and its remarkably self-aware sophistication.

Diversifying the Classics breaks down for all the scholars involved the lines between arts outreach, performance, and research, encouraging us to expand the theatrical canon that we study, teach, and continue to canonize. In addition to the patriotic Lope of the plays discussed elsewhere in the volume LA LEYENDA NEGRA EN EL CRISOL DE LA COMEDIA. El teatro del Siglo de Oro frente a los estereotipos antihispánicos (2016), we find the irreverent and wry Lope of Mujeres y criados or La noche toledana. The move beyond Lope to study, translate, and produce playwrights such as Guillén de Castro or even Tirso de Molina (so problematic for Rennert), who are relatively neglected, also promises do much to right our sense of the comedia’s true range and possibilities. As the project evolves, so does our critical sense of the transformation of texts through performance, and, crucially, of the limitations of established canons, theatrical and otherwise.

I am grateful to Laura Muñoz for her research assistance with this essay.

Works Cited

Aulnoy, Marie Catherine Le Jumel de Barneville d’, Travels into Spain, ed. R. Foulché-Delbosc, London, Routledge, 1930.
Relation Du Voyage D’Espagne, ed. Maria S. Seguin, Paris, Desjonquères, 2005.

Castro, Guillén de, The Force of Habit, in <http://diversifyingtheclassics.humanities.ucla.edu>.

Cheney, Sheldon, The Theatre: Three Thousand Years of Drama, Acting and Stagecraft, New York, Longmans, Green and Co, 1929.

Darby, Trudi L. and Alexander Samson, «Cervantes on the Jacobean Stage», in The Cervantean Heritage: Reception and Influence of Cervantes in Britain, ed. by J. A. G. Ardila, London, Legenda, 2009, pp. 206-22.

Dibdin, Charles. A Complete History of the English Stage: Introduced by a … Review of the Asiatic, the Grecian, the Roman, the Spanish, the Italian, the Portuguese, the German, the French, and Other Theatres and … Biographical Tracts and Anecdotes, vol. I, London, 1800, Digital text: <http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001011978>.

Dryden, John, An Evening’s Love, Or, the Mock-Astrologer: Acted at the Theatre-Royal by His Majesties Servants, London, 1671, Digital text: <http://gateway.proquest.com/openurlctx_ver=Z39.88-2003&res_id=xri:eebo&rft_id=xri:eebo:image:51131:3>.
Of Dramatic Poesie: An Essay, London, 1668.

Fuchs, Barbara, The Poetics of Piracy: Emulating Spain in English Literature, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.

Hart, Thomas R. Jr., «George Ticknor’s History of Spanish Literature», in Richard Kagan, ed., Spain in America: The Origins of Hispanism in the United States, Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 2002, pp. 106-121.

Heide, Claudia, «Más ven cuatro ojos que dos: Gayangos and Anglo-
American Hispanism», in Pascual de Gayangos: A Nineteenth-Century Spanish Arabist, ed. by Cristina Alvarez Millán, Claudia Heide, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2008, 132-158.

Hillard, George S., Life, Letters, and Journals of George Ticknor, 2 vols., Boston, James R. Osgood, 1876, pp. 2.253-54.

Jones, Richard Foster, The Triumph of the English Language: A Survey of Opinions Concerning the Vernacular from the Introduction of Printing to the Restoration, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1953.

Lamson, Roy, and Hallett Smith, The Golden Hind: An Anthology of Elizabethan Prose and Poetry, New York, Norton, 1942.

Lewes, George Henry, The Spanish Drama: Lope de Vega and Calderón, London, C. Knight & Co., 1846, in <https://archive.org/ stream/spanishdramalope00leweuoft#page/n11/mode/2up>.

Loftis, John, The Spanish Plays of Neoclassical England, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1973.

Mérimée, Ernest, and S. G. Morley, A History of Spanish Literature, New York, H. Holt and Co., 1930.

Rennert, Hugo, The Spanish Stage in the Time of Lope de Vega, New York, 1909.

Samson, Alexander, «1623 and the Politics of Translation», in The Spanish Match: Prince Charles’s Journey to Madrid, 1623, ed. Alexander Samson, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2006, pp. 91-106.
— «“Last Thought upon a Windmill”?: Cervantes and Fletcher», in The Cervantean Heritage: Reception and Influence of Cervantes
in Britain, London, Legenda, 2009, pp. 223-33.

Smith, Dawn L, «El teatro clásico español en Inglaterra», La puesta
en escena del teatro clásico, ed. José María Ruano de la Haza, Madrid, Compañía Nacional de Teatro Clásico, 1992, Cuadernos de Teatro Clásico 8, pp. 299-309.

Sullivan, Henry W., Calderón in the German Lands and Low Countries: His Reception and Influence, 1654-1980, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1983.

Taylor, Scott K., Honor and Violence in Golden Age Spain, New Haven, Yale University Press, 2008.

Ticknor, George, History of Spanish Literature, London, John Murray, 1849.


1. The effects of the Black Legend are felt in performance as well as in scholarly contexts. Although she does not elaborate, Dawn L. Smith claims, in a survey of the very recent turn to productions of the comedia in England, «La comedia del Siglo de Oro fue una víctima más de la tristemente famosa Leyenda Negra nacida en el siglo xvi, que tanto deformó el punto de vista británico sobre España» (1992: 300).

2. Even a broadly sympathetic critic such as George Henry Lewes recurs to the metaphor: «It is not enough to say that our own writers pillaged [Spanish sources] without scruple. To express the obligation truly, we must say that the European drama is saturated with Spanish influence» (Lewes 1846: 6).

3. In her edition, María Susana Seguin cites a similar circularity in Hyppolite Taine’s reception of D’Aulnoy: «d’ordinaire, on ne connaît l’Espagne que par son drame, ses romans picaresques et sa peinture. Quand sur de tels documents, on essaie de se figurer la vie réelle, on hésite et on n’ose conclure, des pareilles moeurs semblent fabuleuses. Après avoir lu cet ouvrage, on les voit, on les touche […]; ni les livres ni les tableaux n’avaient menti; les personnages de Lope, de Calderón, de Murillo et de Zurbaran couraient les rues» (D’Aulnoy 2005: 8).

Literary Hispanophobia and Hispanophilia in Britain and the Low Countries (1550-1850)

Edited by Yolanda Rodríguez Pérez (2020)

“Spain has been a fruitful locus for the European imagination for centuries, and it has been most often perceived in black-and-white oppositions — either as a tyrannical and fanatical force in the early modern period or as an imaginary geography of a ‘Romantic’ Spain in later centuries. However, the image of Spain, its culture and its inhabitants did not evolve inexorably from negative to positive. From the early modern period onwards, it responded to an ambiguous matrix of conflicting Hispanophobic and Hispanophilic representations. Just as in the nineteenth century latent negative stereotypes continued to resurface, even in the Romantic heyday, in the early modern period appreciation for Spain was equally undeniable. When Spain was a political and military superpower, it also enjoyed cultural hegemony with a literary Golden Age producing internationally hailed masterpieces. Literary Hispanophobia and Hispanophilia in Britain and the Low Countries (1550-1850) explores the protracted interest in Spain and its culture, and it exposes the co-existent ambiguity between scorn and fascination that characterizes Western historical perceptions, in particular in Britain and the Low Countries, two geographical spaces with a shared sense of historical connectedness and an overlapping, sometimes complicated, history with Spain.”

The case studies presented in this edited volume presents a broader historical and theoretical context. It exposes the triangular literary, cultural and political relationship between Britain, the Low Countries and Spain in two very different – though strongly interconnected – historical periods, the early modern period and the nineteenth century. It contends that to fully understand how cultural representations of Spain and its cultural legacy have been forged, it is essential to expose the intricate historical dynamics of Hispanophobia and Hispanophilia. Furthermore, it exposes and problematizes certain historiographical biases regarding the cultural role of Spain and the historical asymmetry in the representation of Spain.

Yolanda Rodríguez Pérez and Antonio Sánchez Jiménez have earlier explored the paths of the Black Legend within the NWO project (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, 2013-2015) ‘The Black Legend and the Spanish Identity in Golden Age Spanish Theatre (1580-1665)’

The Black Legend is the perception/theory that Spaniards are especially tyrannical, cruel, intolerant, lustful, and greedy people. These powerful stereotypes prevent an accurate understanding of Early-Modern, and even contemporary Spain. This NWO project studied the Black Legend as an Early-Modern cultural dialogue, one in which Spanish intellectuals saw foreign prejudices as challenges that they needed to answer. It approach the Black Legend from an interdisciplinary angle by combining literary studies with theory on nation building, propaganda, and identity forming. In particular, it examines how the Black Legend influenced the Spanish self-conception during the Golden Age: how Golden Age Spanish writers received those ideas and how they used theater to respond to them, how commercial and court plays contributed to a nation-building process, and how even a nation already previously constructed, such as Spain, adopted foreign perceptions to reshape its own self-image.

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The Printing of the Second Part of Don Quijote

John O’Neill

The Printing of the Second Part of Don Quijote and Ocho comedias: Evidence of a Late Change in Cervantes’s Attitude to Print and of Concurrent Production as Practised by both Author and Printers

The Library, Volume 16, Issue 1, March 2015, Pages 3–23, https://doi.org/10.1093/library/16.1.3

Published: 26 March 2015

THE TITLE OF CERVANTES’S Ocho comedias y ocho entremeses nuevos, nunca representados (‘Eight New Plays and Interludes, Never Performed’) provides us with an ironic reminder of his failure as a playwright in his later years.1 In the prologue he elaborates on the reasons for his inability to find an audience for his plays, telling us that, although he had enjoyed some success with the works for the stage that he wrote in the 1580s, his later plays, completed in the early part of the seventeenth century—by which time the new style of theatre championed by Lope de Vega and his followers held sway—did not arouse any interest amongst the autores, the all-powerful actor-managers who determined the repertoire of the theatre companies:

I did not find an actor-manager who wanted them, even though they knew I had them; and so I threw them into a chest, consigning and condemning them to perpetual silence. At the time a bookseller informed me that he would have bought them, had an actor-manager of some note not told him that much could be expected of my prose, but of my verse nothing.2

For much of the period of four hundred years that has passed since their publication, Cervantes’s plays have continued to attract much less attention than his prose fiction, although in recent years there have been signs that the originality of his theatre is gradually becoming more widely acknowledged. Jonathan Thacker, for example, states that Cervantes is ‘a far more important dramatic voice than has habitually been recognized’, and Pedro, The Great Pretender, Phillip Osment’s translation of Pedro de Urdemalas, was included in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Golden Age season of 2004.3 Most critics, however, still consider Cervantes to be a much less significant dramatist than the famous triumvirate of Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina, and Calderón de la Barca, and that opinion is reflected in the fact that many of the full-length plays have yet to be either translated or performed.

The first edition of Ocho comedias, like the plays themselves, has generated little interest, yet the preliminares, or front matter, of this volume reveal a connection with the second part of Don Quijote that is of interest both to students of Cervantes and to bibliographers in general.4 The purpose of this study is to investigate the significance of that connection—a process that has involved looking at the difficult conditions under which Cervantes wrote and his changing attitude to print, and analyzing data relating to books produced at two different Madrid print-shops during a period of four years from the beginning of 1612 to the end of 1615. The results of the research provide new insights into the working practices both of Cervantes and of his printers, challenging assumptions that have been made about modes of production in Spanish printing-houses during the early-modern period, and thereby supplying an answer to a question that has been raised about the length of time it took to print the second part of the Quijote.

The items usually included in the preliminares were the privilegio or licencia, the fe de erratas, the tasa, and the aprobación. There might also be a prologue and a dedication to the author’s patron, as was the case with both of Cervantes’s books. A licencia was simply a licence to print the work, whereas the privilegio gave exclusive rights of publication to the author for a limited period—twenty years for the second part of the Quijote and ten years for Ocho comedias. The author could—and usually did—sell the privilegio to a bookseller, who would then make a contract with a printer.5 The fe de erratas was not, as one might perhaps expect, a list of typographical errors, but an official testimony that the printed work was a faithful copy of the original de imprenta, a transcription of the author’s manuscript prepared for the printer by a scribe, which had to be submitted to the censor for approval (the aprobación). The date of the fe de erratas therefore indicates when the printing of the body of the work was finished.6 The process of production was not, however, quite complete, since the fe de erratas was usually followed, in most cases just a few days later, by the tasa— the setting of the selling price of the book—although in some cases the order is reversed and the tasa precedes the fe de erratas. In certain books other material from the front matter may also carry a later date than the tasa. For example, in the second part of Don Quijote the dedication was signed by Cervantes on 31 October, ten days after the tasa and fe de erratas, and the final date in the preliminares is 5 November, when Gutierre de Cetina signed the third aprobación.

Printing normally began only after the privilegio had been granted.7 It would have been in the interests of all parties—author, bookseller, and printer—that this should be as soon as possible, but the precise date on which production began may have depended on other factors, such as the other work that the printer had on hand. Since printing was generally completed—with the possible exception of certain other items in the preliminares—by the date of the fe de erratas, the period between the dates of the privilegio and the fe de erratas can be described as the production window— the period during which production must have occurred. In the case of the second part of Don Quijote almost seven months elapsed from the granting of the privilegio, on 30 March 1615, to the signing of the fe de erratas, on 21 October.8 That was more than twice the length of time it took to produce the first part—a significantly bigger book financed by the same bookseller, Francisco de Robles, and produced at the same print-shop, the one that bore the name of Juan de la Cuesta, but was actually owned by María Rodríguez de Ribalde.9

Returning to the preliminares of Ocho comedias, one finds that the privilegio for that volume was granted on 25 July 1615 and that the fe de erratas is dated 13 September, which means that, while the second part of Don Quijote was in production, the printing of the collection of plays, financed by a different bookseller, Juan de Villarroel, was completed at another print-shop, that of ‘La viuda de Alonso Martín’ (the widow of Alonso Martín), in just two months.10 Ocho comedias consists of sixty-five sheets of quarto, five fewer than the second part of Don Quijote, but it would have been a far more complex project for a printer to set the volume of eight plays and interludes, especially since the full-length plays were written in a number of different verse forms.

If the unnamed bookseller mentioned in the prologue to Ocho comedias as having rejected the plays were Robles, that would provide us with a neat rationale for Cervantes’s placing them with another publisher and printer. However, the full explanation, it will be argued here, is more complex, and the key to understanding it, and also the delay in the production of the second part of Don Quijote, is provided by evidence that Spanish printers of this period had in place a system of concurrent production similar to the one described by McKenzie in his famous study of a Cambridge print-shop, operating over eighty years later.11 There is also strong evidence to suggest that Cervantes, who had a keen understanding of the way the printing business worked, had his own system of concurrent production in place, designed to expedite the publication of his late works. However, in order to appreciate fully the significance of the events surrounding the production of Cervantes’s works in Madrid in 1615 it is necessary first to place them in the context of his publishing history, which is characterized by a strangely uneven chronology and an uneasy relationship with print.

Few of Cervantes’s writings were published in the first sixty-five years of his life. His first novel, La Galatea, appeared in 1585, when he was thirty-seven years old.12 This pastoral romance was well received at the time, running to seven editions by 1618.13 In his aprobación to the second part of Don Quijote Francisco Márquez Torres recounts having met some French noblemen, one of whom ‘had almost managed to memorize it’.14 Even Cervantes’s rival Lope de Vega voiced his approval, through a character in La viuda valenciana (‘The Widow of Valencia’), who declares: ‘This is Galatea, if you want a good book then look no further’.15 Despite this success, twenty years passed before the publication of the first part of Don Quijote in 1605, a period that he refers to in the prologue of that work as ‘the silence of oblivion’ (‘el silencio del olvido’), and another eight years followed before the appearance of the Novelas ejemplares (‘Exemplary Stories’) in 1613.16 However, this trickle was followed by a deluge, with four more works printed in the last eighteen months of his life: Viaje del Parnaso (‘Journey to Parnassus’, November 1614), Ocho comedias (September 1615), the second part of Don Quijote (October 1615), and Persiles y Sigismunda, which he finished writing in April 1616, just before he died, and which was published posthumously early in 1617.17 Moreover, according to what Cervantes tells us in the various prol ogues and dedications of these late works, he was preparing three more works for publication when he died: the second part of La Galatea, Semanas del jardín (‘Weeks in the Garden’), and Bernardo. This late flurry of activity becomes even more remarkable when we consider that Cervantes was not only in his mid to late sixties but suffering from chronic ill-health with oedema.

The story of the printing of Cervantes’s works is, therefore, a curious one: sixty-five years of relative inactivity followed by a frenetic three years in which he seemed determined to publish as much as possible. The long gap between La Galatea and Don Quijote can, at least in part, be explained by the circumstances of his life, for during much of this period, from 1587 until 1597 or later, he was working as a government civil servant in Andalusia, first as a commissary for supplies for the Armada and then as a tax collector. These were demanding and stressful jobs, involving a lot of traveling and a considerable amount of paperwork, which would have left him with less time for writing. The period of eight years between Don Quijote and the Novelas ejemplares is, however, more difficult to account for. Why did Cervantes not seek to build on the extraordinary success of the Quijote, which had made him the most famous writer of prose fiction in Europe? The answer probably lies in the reservations he felt about the medium of print, which he expresses on two different points in the second part of Don Quijote: in the conversation between Don Quixote and Sansón Carrasco in Chapter 3, which I will return to later, and during Don Quixote’s visit to the Barcelona Print-shop in Chapter 62.

Don Quixote’s visit to a Barcelona print-shop in Chapter 62 indicates that Cervantes was very familiar not only with the technical aspect of printing but also with the way the business worked.18 Don Quixote witnesses the key activities that take place—composition of the formes by the typesetters, the operation of the presses, and correction of the proofs—and then strikes up a conversation with a man who is having his translation of an Italian work called Le Bagatele (sic) printed there. The translator, who is determined to have his book printed at his own expense, responds as follows to Don Quixote’s warning that he may end up with a lot of unsold copies on his hands, as a result of the shenanigans of printers: ‘“Well what would you have me do?”, said the author. “Do you want me to sell the rights to a bookseller, who’ll give me three maravedís for them and think he’s doing me a favour?”’19 It is a complaint that is echoed in Chapter 1 of the Fourth Book of Persiles y Sigismunda, by a Spanish pilgrim, whom Periandro and Auristela encounter in an inn near Rome, who is writing a book of aphorisms:

I won’t give up the rights to my book to any bookseller in Madrid even if he pays two thousand ducados for them. There isn’t a single one of them there who doesn’t want the rights for free, or for such a low price that it doesn’t benefit the author of the book.20

The translator’s experience probably reflects that of Cervantes, who had recently financed the printing of Viaje del Parnaso out of his own pocket, and who had ample experience of how little money could be made from writing novels and how the odds were stacked in favour of the bookseller when it came to selling the privilegio. In June 1584 Blas de Robles agreed to pay him 1336 reales for the rights to La Galatea, yet just eighteen months later he was in such dire straits that he needed to borrow more than four times that amount—204,000 maravedís, or 6,000 reales—in order to settle a debt.21 The success of Don Quijote had brought fame, but not riches, for even that bestseller, which ran to two editions in the first year, had earned him very little. He had sold the rights to the bookseller Francisco de Robles for 1500 reales, which, bearing in mind the rampant inflation that the Spanish economy was experiencing at the time, was probably an even worse deal than the one he had struck for Galatea.22 While the fact that he had not published anything for twenty years might explain his failing to profit from selling the privilegio of Don Quijote, it does not account for the similarly unfavourable arrangement regarding the rights to the Novelas ejemplares, which were sold on 9 September 1613 for just 1600 reales, at a time when Cervantes was famous throughout Europe.23 A playwright could make money from having their work performed on stage, but there was little profit in writing novels, even for an author as celebrated as Cervantes. In the aforementioned aprobación of the second part of Don Quijote Francisco Márquez Torres relates how, when asked by the French noblemen who were aficionados of Cervantes’s writing about the author’s ‘age, profession, status and wealth’, he replied, to their surprise, ‘old, a soldier, low-ranking nobility, and poor’ (‘viejo, soldado, hidalgo y pobre’).24 That picture of hardship is confirmed by Cervantes himself in the dedication to his patron, the Count of Lemos, in which he describes himself as ‘extremely hard-up’ (‘muy sin dineros’).25 These words, and those of Márquez Torres, who was a chaplain employed by the Archbishop of Toledo, one of Cervantes’s benefactors, are an ironic reminder that, while patronage may have eased his financial situation somewhat, it certainly did not make him comfortable.

Since the vast majority of the profits from printed books went to the bookseller, and since Cervantes, for most of his life, received little or no benefit from patronage, he had no great financial incentive to have his writings printed. The possibility of achieving celebrity was, of course, another motive, as Cervantes indicates in the prologue to the second part of Don Quijote:

I know only too well the temptations of the devil, and one of the greatest is to put the idea in a man’s mind that he can write and print a book that will earn him as much fame as money and as much money as fame.26

Here, and in the conversation between Don Quixote and the translator in the print-shop, Cervantes seems to be suggesting that the writer needs to choose between fame or profit. The translator makes it clear that his motives are purely mercenary: ‘I do not have my books printed to attain fame in the world, for I am already known for my work. I want profit. Without it, fame is not worth a farthing’.27 Choosing literary celebrity, however, as Cervantes had done, also involved risks, as we are reminded by the fact that the remarks in the prologue to the second part of Don Quijote are directed at an unknown writer going by the pseudonym of Alonso Fernández Avellaneda, who, in the autumn of 1614, had published a hostile sequel to the first part, in the prologue of which he had launched a vitriolic attack on Cervantes.28 The hijacking of his literary creation outraged Cervantes to such an extent that he changed the timetable that he had planned for the publication of his works, suspending work on Persiles to bring forward the completion of the Quijote. He expressed his contempt for Avellaneda at various points throughout the text, for example in the episode in the print-shop, which ends with the knight storming out, piqued by his discovery that one of the works being produced there is Avellaneda’s Quijote.

Don Quixote thinks Avellaneda’s book should have been ‘burned to cinders for its impertinence’ (‘quemado y hecho polvos por impertinente’), and goes on to stress the importance of truth in fiction.29 However, the book-trade does not make a distinction between works of fiction that are true and those which are false, and that lack of discrimination clearly infuriated Cervantes. It also irritated him that it was the publication of Don Quijote that had given rise to Avellaneda’s apocryphal sequel, as is clear from one of the items in Don Quixote’s last will and testament:

Item: I beseech the aforementioned gentlemen my executors that if by chance they should meet the author who is said to have composed a story that goes by the name of The Second Part of the Adventures of Don Quixote of La Mancha, they should, on my behalf, ask him, as insistently as possible, to pardon me for unthinkingly having given him the opportunity to write such a load of claptrap, because I leave this life with pangs of conscience for having given him the motive for writing it.30

That print could have negative consequences, and expose one to criticism or ridicule, was something that Cervantes had realized several years previously, when the first part of Don Quijote was published. It is a theme that emerges in Chapter 3 of the second part, in a conversation between Don Quixote and Sansón Carrasco, who, as the reader learns in the previous chapter, has brought news from Salamanca that Sancho and Don Quixote have become literary celebrities through the publication of the first book:

‘It often happens that those who have cultivated and achieved great fame through their writings either lose it completely or see it somewhat diminished when they hand them over to be printed.’

‘The reason for that’, said Sansón, ‘is that, as printed works are viewed at one’s leisure, it is easy to see their faults, and, the more famous the person who wrote them, the more they are subject to scrutiny.’31

Cervantes, in the Adjunta al Parnaso, the prose postscript to his narrative poem Viaje del Parnaso, is keen to stress an advantage, where plays are concerned, of the medium of print, which allows the reader to appreciate at his or her leisure what passes quickly in performance:

I am considering handing over the plays to be printed, so that one might see at one’s leisure what happens quickly, or is disguised or misunderstood when they are performed. Moreover, plays, like songs, have their seasons and their times.32

However, in the conversation between Don Quixote and Sansón, and again in the following chapter, Cervantes dwells on a major disadvantage of publication. Errors, once fixed in print, can be difficult to erase, both from the book and from the memory of the reader.

The most infamous of the faults in the first part of Don Quijote that Sansón Carrasco mentions is the narrative of the theft of Sancho’s donkey. In the first edition of Juan de la Cuesta reference is made to its having gone missing, but with no explanation as to how, between Chapters 25 and 29. In Chapter 42 the donkey reappears, again with no explanation. In the second Cuesta edition of 1605 an attempt was made to resolve the problem by inserting an episode in Chapter 23 in which Ginés de Pasamonte steals the animal, but the donkey is referred to six times, as if the theft had not occurred, before its recapture is described in Chapter 30.33 These discrepancies were all corrected in the Brussels edition of 1607, printed by Roger Velpius, but, astonishingly, only two of those corrections found their way into the third Cuesta edition of 1608.34 Cervantes decided to make light of the issue by incorporating these botched attempts at repairing the original error into the metafictional fun and games that characterize the second part of Don Quijote. When Sansón remarks that ‘before the ass reappeared the author states that Sancho was riding it’, Sancho retorts that ‘either the chronicler was mistaken, or it was carelessness on the part of the printer’, thus laying the blame on the fictional narrator, Cide Hamete Benengeli, or the actual print-shop of Juan de la Cuesta.35 That Cervantes felt the need to address the issue ten years after the error had first appeared in print demonstrates how much it bothered him. However, if he thought that his authorial sleight of hand would spare him further embarrassment, he was mistaken. Lope de Vega, who had been angered by some disparaging comments that Cervantes made in Chapter 42 of the first part, concerning his commercial attitude to the theatre, was certainly not inclined to let his rival off the hook. In Act III of Amar sin saber a quién (‘Loving, Without Knowing Who’) he refers not just to the original mistake, but to Cervantes’s attempts at exculpating himself, when the gracioso Limón, regarding the loss of an ass, says: ‘Tell us its colour, shape and name, for there is a man who is still waiting to find out what happened to a brownish grey mule. If you don’t, they will say it was “forgetfulness on the writer’s part”.’36 For Chartier the textual inconsistencies in the narration of the theft of Sancho’s donkey ‘point up the similarities that exist between Cervantes’s writing and certain practices of orality’.37 However, while such errors may have been part and parcel of the episodic, oral approach to storytelling in which Cervantes excelled, once fixed in print they laid him open to ridicule.

Cervantes therefore had good reason to develop ambivalent feelings about the medium of print, for although it made him famous, it also exposed him to criticism, some of it vicious, gave Avellaneda the opportunity to kidnap his hero, and made him very little money. However, in the period leading up to the publication of the Novelas ejemplares in 1613 any reservations that he felt about print probably began to be outweighed by a growing awareness, as a result of his age and ill health, of his own mortality, and the knowledge that the printed book was the only means whereby he could ensure that his writings would be preserved for posterity. Everything that he writes in the prologues and dedications of his late works is indicative of an author who is striving to complete, and have printed, as much of his work as possible. In the prologue to the Novelas he refers to Viaje del Parnaso as already having been written, even though the narrative poem was not printed until over a year later, at the end of 1614.38 He also announces that the volume of stories will be followed by Persiles, the continuation of Don Quijote and Semanas del jardín, a work that was never completed, the title of which suggests that it may have been conceived as another book of novelas.39 In the dedication to Ocho comedias he informs the Count of Lemos that ‘Don Quijote de la Mancha has put his spurs on, in his Second Part, in order to go and kiss Your Excellency’s feet’ and that Persiles, Semanas del jardín, and the second part of La Galatea will follow.40 In the prologue to the second part of Don Quijote and the dedication that follows it, dated 31 October 1615, he tells his readers to expect both Persiles, which he is ‘in the process of finishing’ and ‘will complete, God willing, within four months’, and the sequel to La Galatea, while in the dedication to Persiles, written just three days before he died, he indicates his intention to complete, if his health allows, not only Semanas del jardín and the second part of La Galatea but also Bernardo.41 Since that is the first mention of the latter work, whose title suggests a chivalric theme, it may have only existed in embryonic form.42 However, the consistency with which Cervantes refers to Semanas del jardín and the continuation of La Galatea from 1613 onwards makes it likely that these works were, indeed, at an advanced stage.

Taking into account what Cervantes himself tells us, and other information garnered from the front matter of the books written in the last few years of his life, it is possible to construct the following timetable for the production of his late works:

Links to notes 43 and 44

The schedule that Cervantes set for himself in the final four years of his life would have been demanding for any writer, but it is particularly remarkable when we consider that he was a man in his late sixties in poor health. In all but two months of the period of approximately fourteen months between mid September 1614 and early November 1615 Cervantes had at least one work at the printers. From 1612 he was not only writing continuously, but also making plans for the completion of as many as four other projects at the same time. This feverish activity reached its peak in the late summer of 1615, for, during August and September of that year, while he was writing Persiles, both the second part of Don Quijote and Ocho comedias were in production, with two different printers. Cervantes, who, as he indicates in Chapter 62 of the second part, was familiar with the ‘ins and outs of the printing business’ (‘las entradas y salidas de los impresores’), knew that printers had a system of concurrent production in place, which could produce lengthy delays.45 He had, accordingly, devised his own method of concurrent production, in order to ensure that as much of his writing as possible would be printed.

Garza Merino has stated that Spanish print-shops were organized around one major project at a time: ‘We know from surviving printing contracts that generally, once an edition had been agreed, it was a requirement that no other work would be accepted until the new one had been finished, which, barring exceptional circumstances, implied that the print-shop would organize itself around one project, apart from any small jobs that might be taken on’.46

Garza Merino is not specific about her sources, but her remarks would, at first blush, appear to be supported by a sixteenth-century document by Juan Vásquez de Mármol, the corrector at the Royal Printing-House (Imprenta de Su Majestad), listing thirteen conditions that an author could require a printer to meet before entering into a contract.47 The first of these stated that the printer was obliged to begin printing within a certain period, and not to abandon the process once begun.48 It is possible, however, to interpret that condition in different ways. An author or bookseller keen to see their book produced quickly might hope that it meant that the print-shop would focus exclusively on their job, whereas the printer could argue that dividing time between two or three jobs did not mean that the process of printing any one of them had been abandoned.49 In any case, Garza Merino’s views are clearly at odds with those of McKenzie, who, in his essay Printers of the Mind, which considered the records of the Cambridge University Press between 1696 and 1712 and of the London printing-house of Bowyer and Son between 1730 and 1739, found that ‘the Cambridge and Bowyer presses, like any other printing-house today or any other printing-house before them, followed the principle of concurrent production’, and that there was no evidence to suggest that any printing-houses of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries did not habitually print several books concurrently.50 McKenzie’s findings are supported by what happens in the episode in the print-shop, for there Don Quixote witnesses three books being produced concurrently. The aforementioned translation of Le Bagateleis being set by a compositor, while two other books are being proofed and corrected: a work entitled Luz del alma (‘Light of the Soul’) and—much to the knight’s displeasure—Avellaneda’s Segunda parte del ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha.

Analysis of information contained in the preliminares of sixty-five books produced at the print-shops of Juan de la Cuesta and La viuda de Alonso Martín between 1612 and 1615, obtained from Pérez Pastor’s Bibliografía madrileña, shows that printers in Madrid, like their English counterparts at the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth centuries, and like those in the Barcelona printing-house described in the Quijote, did indeed operate a system of concurrent production. Table 1 shows part of the data that was collated: the key dates that indicate the production windows of seven other books printed at the Cuesta and Martín shops between 30 March 1615 and 5 November 1615, while Ocho comedias and the second part of Don Quijote were also in production. 

Production windows of seven other books printed at the Cuesta and Martín shops between 30 March 1615 and 5 November 1615

The table helps to explain a question raised by Rico, who, in his study of the printing of the two parts of the Quijote, was puzzled by the fact that the second volume took so much longer to produce than the first one. The privilegio for the first part was granted on 26 September 1604, while the testimonio de las erratas is dated 1 December, which means that printing was completed in a little over two months.51 The corresponding period for the second part ran from 30 March to 21 October 1615—nearly seven months, even though the second volume is significantly shorter, at 280 folios, than the first one (316 fols.).52 Since there are more errors—almost double the number—in the second part, Rico thought it unlikely that the delay in the printing of the second part could be ascribed to a slower rate of production, and was unable to find any other explanation than bad luck, going on to say that the standard of printing in Spain at this time was incredibly low, and that print-shops were poorly equipped, undermanned, and lacking typesetters and correctors who were sufficiently qualified.53 That explanation is, however, thrown into question by Moll’s assertion that the Spanish printing industry of this period, despite facing technical problems, had a number of well equipped shops, with skilled workers who had an in-depth knowledge of their business and were capable of producing books of quality.54

It seems that Rico did not take into account concurrent production and must have assumed, like Garza Merino, that work in the print-shop would have been organized around one project. If one takes into account the other jobs with which the Cuesta shop was occupied, the real reason for the delay becomes clear. The production window of the second part of Don Quijote overlapped with that of four other works: parts V—VIII of Herrera’s Historia general; a new edition of Nebrija’s Dictionarium; Murcia de la Llana’s Compendio;and the second edition of Salas Barbadillo’s El Cavallero puntual (‘The Punctilious Knight’).55 The first two of these books were very large projects—319 and 213 sheets respectively, in folio format. Indeed, it is quite conceivable that, even though the privilegio for the second part of the Quijote was granted on 30 March, production did not get fully up to speed until the beginning of August, when work on the books by Herrera and Nebrija was completed. It would then have shared production time with the Compendio, another work in quarto, whose fe de erratas precedes that of the Quijote by only eight days, and El Cavallero puntual, a work in the comparatively rare duodecimo format, the erratas of which is dated 9 November, just four days after the final date in the front matter of the Segunda parte— the aprobación of Gutierre de Cetina.56

That the second part of the Quijote took longer to produce than the first part was therefore nothing to do with bad luck, poor equipment or insufficient manpower, but rather can be attributed to the fact that the book was printed concurrently with at least two others, and possibly as many as four. This was normal practice in the Cuesta shop during the period in question, and it was also the case in the printing-house of La viuda de Alonso Martín, where Ocho comedias was produced. As Table 1 shows, the volume of plays, comprising sixty-five sheets in quarto, was printed concurrently with three others: a book of sermons of one hundred and twelve sheets, also in quarto, and two works in octavo, the Rhetoricae Compendium ex scriptis patris Ioannis Baptistae and Ledesma’s Romancero, comprising twenty-five and twenty-four sheets respectively.57  The fact that these books were not printed serially is demonstrated by the fact that printing of the body of the four works was completed in quick succession: Ocho comedias on 13 September, the Sermones on 22 September, the Rhetoricae Compendium on 5 October, and the Romancero on 13 October.

Gaskell has summarized the reasons for concurrent production as follows: ‘Books varied so much in size that a balance between composition and presswork could not have been kept if they had been printed serially… for, depending on the relative magnitude of their tasks and on accident, either pressmen or compositors would constantly have been waiting for the others to catch up. Printers therefore had several books in production at once… so that when a man came to the end of a stage in the work, he would be in a position to take up something else’.58

This meant that an individual book took longer to print than it might have done if all the workmen had concentrated on it alone; but also that, by using plant and labour less wastefully, all the books could be printed in less time altogether, and at less cost, than they would have been by serial production.

In most cases production would not, therefore, as Garza Merino suggests, have involved two typesetters working in synchronized fashion on one book in order to supply one or two pressmen, thus ensuring that by the end of the day one sheet of a run of 1,000 or 1,500 copies had been printed.59 The organization of work would instead, as McKenzie argues, have been far more complex and varied, with typesetters and pressmen taking up whatever work was to hand, in order that they should not stand idle. What McKenzie discovered in the records of the Cambridge University Press was that each compositor would work on two or three books simultaneously, and that, even when two compositors worked on one book, the usual practice was that one would take over where the other left off. Like the compositors, a press-crew would usually be working on several books simultaneously, and the most efficient system was not to try to maintain a relationship between a particular compositor and crew.60 If the method of production in Madrid at the beginning of the seventeenth century were similar, as the evidence presented here suggests, then any study of the printing of a Spanish book from this period cannot view the production of that volume as an isolated event, but also needs to take into account other works that were printed concurrently in the same shop.

Since it was based on efficiency, the system of concurrent production worked to the advantage of both printer and author. However, writers keen to see their work published as quickly as possible would not necessarily have seen it that way. Cervantes had already experienced the frustrating delays that this mode of production involved during the printing of the Novelas ejemplares. The privilegio for that work, which was printed concurrently with Aranda’s Lugares comunes (Commonplaces) and the second part of Illescas’s Historia Pontifical y Catholica, was granted on 22 November 1612, yet the fe de erratas was not signed until 7 August 1613, over eight months later.61 By 1615 the ailing author, now sixty-seven years old, had probably realized that, if he were to achieve his ambition of publishing as much of his work as possible before he died, and, in particular, to have his beloved plays printed, he was going to need the services of more than one printer. It may well have been the case, as Cervantes hints in the prologue to Ocho comedias, that Robles, the bookseller who financed both parts of the Quijote and the Novelas ejemplares, was decidedly unenthusiastic about the idea of publishing the plays, but, even if that had not been so, Cervantes, for whom time was running out, would have been keen for him to find another printer, since the Cuesta shop was already occupied with the second part of the Quijote and the other works which were printed concurrently with it.

In the event, Cervantes managed to interest a newcomer to the book trade, the twenty-five year old Juan de Villarroel, in Ocho comedias. His shortlived career in publishing began in 1614, when he financed an edition of Juan Pérez de Moya’s Arithmetica Practica.62 He also acquired the rights to a new edition of Fernando de Mena’s translation of Heliodorus’s Historia etiopica de los amores de Teogenes y Cariclea, which appeared in the summer of 1615, just before Ocho comedias, although the title page of that volume indicates that it was financed by Pedro de Bogia.63 All of these books were printed at the print-shop of La viuda de Alonso Martín, which had been run by Francisca Medina since her husband’s death in 1613.64 Villaroel clearly ran into financial difficulties, for on 6 November 1615 there is a record of his owing 1,500 reales to Medina for the cost of printing both the Arithmetica and Ocho comedias.65 In the prologue to Ocho comedias, Cervantes mentions, with scarcely veiled irony, having been paid ‘a reasonable sum’ for the volume of plays; but he was never actually paid in full, for in 1626, nine years after his death, his widow, Catalina Palacios Salazar y Vozmediano, mentioned in her last will and testament an amount of 400 reales that Villarroel still owed.66

Medina’s print-shop was an obvious choice for the volume of plays. It was situated in Calle de los Preciados, a little further away than the Cuesta shop in Calle de Atocha, but still just a ten-minute walk from where Cervantes was living at the time, on the corner of Calle de León and Calle de Francos (now known as Calle de Cervantes), and even closer to Villarroel, whose address on the title page of Ocho comedias is given as ‘plaçuela del Angel’ (now known as Plaza del Ángel).67 The Medina shop, which printed many classic works of the Spanish Golden Age, had already produced Cervantes’s Viaje del Parnaso, and had just recently, on 3 April, completed printing of the Sexta parte (sixth part) of the plays of Lope de Vega, Spain’s most celebrated dramatist.68 Moreover, while the Cuesta shop specialized in the folio format, the printing-house of Medina was noted for working in octavo—the format in which Viaje del Parnaso appeared—and quarto, which was the usual format for plays. In 1615 it produced eight works in quarto, comprising 568 sheets, as opposed to Cuesta’s three (113 sheets). Ocho comedias, a work of sixty-five sheets, was produced in just eight weeks, with the result that although the privilegio for the plays was granted a month later than that of the Sermones and over two months later than that of Ledesma’s Romancero—the two books with which it was printed concurrently—Ocho comedias was the first of the three works to be completed. The privilegio for the plays was granted four months later than that of the second part of Don Quijote, yet the production of the plays was completed six weeks before the printing of the novel was finished. The efficiency of the Medina print-shop was such that, on 24 September, just two days after completing work on Ocho comedias, it finished the printing of the Sermones, a work of almost double the size in the same quarto format, the privilegio of which had been granted just three months previously; and by 5 October it had managed to produce the twenty-five sheets of octavo of the Rhetoricae Compendium, having only started work after 12 September. These are impressive rates of productivity for three books that were printed concurrently, and are an indication that the Medina shop probably had four presses at its disposal. It may also have been able to distribute work to other shops, for, as Moll points out, this often happened when a book needed to be produced quickly, as, for example, in the case of the second Madrid edition of the first part of Don Quijote.69 Time was certainly of the essence where Ocho comedias was concerned, for Cervantes must have been anxious to see his plays printed before he died, and one imagines he would have conveyed his concerns to both Villarroel and Francisca Medina.

While Ocho comedias and the second part of the Quijote were at the printers, Cervantes was working hard to complete Persiles. He had long been aware that printers in Madrid worked on many jobs at the same time, with the result that authors could experience lengthy delays in the printing of their works, and had therefore developed his own method of concurrent production, which proved to be particularly important in preserving his plays for posterity. For much of his life he had felt ambivalent about print, and with good reason, for it had made him little money and had exposed him both to ridicule and literary piracy. Now, however, with his health failing, he worked feverishly to ensure that as much of his work as possible would be passed on to future generations. The printed book, whatever its shortcomings, was the storage medium that would ensure that his writing survived. The dedication to Don Pedro Fernández de Castro, Count of Lemos, dated 19 April 1616, just three days before his death, is a moving testament to his determination to keep writing as long as he still has the strength to hold his pen:

I still retain in my soul the vestiges and traces of Weeks in the Garden and the famous Bernardo. If, by chance, by good fortune (though it would not be fortune, but a miracle), heaven allows me to live, you will see them, and also the final part of Galatea.70

In presenting his last work, Cervantes, who knows he is dying, also offers his patron and his readers, present and future, the ghosts of unfinished projects, those that neither the print-shop nor the wider world would ever see.


1 Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Ocho comedias, y ocho entremeses nuevos, Nunca representados (Madrid: La viuda de Alonso Martín, 1615). In references to early editions, including titles and quotations, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and accentuation is reproduced as found in the source consulted, with the following exceptions, all of which have been regularized: the long ‘s’; where ‘u’ stands for ‘v’ (e.g. ‘auenturas’) and vice-versa (e.g. ‘Don Qvixote’); and where ‘i’ stands for ‘j’ (e.g. ‘trabaios’).

2 ‘No hallé autor que me las pidiese, puesto que sabían que las tenía; y así las arrinconé en un cofre y las consagré y condené al perpetuo silencio. En esta sazón me dijo un librero que él me las comprara si un autor de título no le hubiera dicho que de mi prosa se podía esperar mucho, pero que del verso nada.’ La entretenida, ed. by John O’Neill (London: King’s College, 2014), published online at http://entretenida.outofthewings.org. All translations are my own.

3 Jonathan Thacker, A Companion to Golden Age Theatre (Woodbridge: Tamesis, 2007), p. 59. Miguel Cervantes, Pedro, The Great Pretender, trans. by Philip Osment (London: Oberon Books, 2004).

4 Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Segunda parte del ingenioso cavallero Don Quixote de la Mancha (Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1615 ).

5 Fermín de los Reyes Gómez, ‘La censura del libro: legislación y consecuencias. La impresión del Quijote’, in Imprenta, libros y lectura en la España del Quijote, ed. by José Manuel Lucía Megías (Madrid: Imprenta Artesanal, 2006), pp. 159—80 (p. 163).

6 Gómez, ‘La censura del libro’, p. 165.

7 ibid. pp. 164—65.

8 Cervantes, Segunda parte, fols. [ii]r—[v]v.

9 When Cuesta joined the printing-house of Pedro Madrigal in 1599, it was jointly owned by Madrigal’s widow María Rodríguez de Ribalde (who had married Juan Iñiguez de Lequerica, and been widowed again), and their son, also called Pedro Madrigal. In 1604, after the younger Pedro died, his widow, María Quiñones, married Cuesta, who took over the running of the shop. Books produced there continued to bear his name until Ribalde’s death in 1626, even though Cuesta moved to Sevilla in 1607, abandoning his pregnant wife. Juan Delgado Casado, Diccionario de impresores españoles (siglos XV—XVII), 2 vols (Madrid: Arco/Libros, 1996), I, 175; Jaime Moll, ‘Juan de la Cuesta’, in Gran enciclopedia cervantina, ed. by Carlos Alvar, 10 vols (Madrid: Castalia, 2005— ), III(2006), 3020.[Note from Spanish Classic Books: more correct information at this link]

10 Cervantes, Ocho comedias, fol. [ii]r.

11 D. F. McKenzie, ‘Printers of the Mind: Some Notes on Bibliographical Theories and Printing-House Practices’, in Making Meaning: ‘Printers of the Mind’ and Other Essays, ed. by Peter D. McDonald and Michael Felix Suarez (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2002), pp. 13—85.

12 Miguel de Cervantes, Primera parte de La Galatea, dividida en seys libros (Alcalá: Juan Gracián, 1585).

13 The other six editions were produced in Lisbon (1590), Paris (1611), Baeza (1617), Valladolid (1617), Lisbon (1618), and Barcelona (1618). See La Galatea, ed. by Francisco López Estrada and María Teresa López García-Berdoy (Madrid: Cátedra, 1999), pp. 124—25.

14 ‘Que alguno dellos tiene casi de memoria, la primera parte desta’; Don Quijote de La Mancha, ed. by the Instituto Cervantes, dir. by Francisco Rico (Barcelona: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores; Centro para la Edición de los Clásicos Españoles, 2004), I, 669. References to this edition are by part, chapter (where applicable), and page.

15 ‘Aquesta es La Galatea | que, si buen libro desea | no tiene más que pedir’; cited in La Galatea, ed. Estrada & García-Berdoy, p. 99.

16 Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha (Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1605). For the quotation see Don Quijote, I, Prólogo; ed. Instituto Cervantes, p. 11. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Novelas exemplares (Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1613).

17 Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Viage del Parnaso (Madrid: La viuda de Alonso Martín, 1614); Los trabajos de Persiles, y Sigismunda, historia Setentrional (Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1617).

18 Don Quijote, II. 62; ed. Instituto Cervantes, pp. 1247—51.

19 ‘—Pues ¿qué? —dijo el autor—. ^Quiere vuesa merced que se lo dé a un librero que me dé por el privilegio tres maravedís, y aun piensa que me hace merced en dármelos?’; Don Quijote, II. 62; ed. Instituto Cervantes, p. 1250. The basic units of currency when Cervantes was writing were the copper maravedí, the silver real (royal), equivalent to 34 maravedís, and the gold escudo (shield), the value of which fluctuated, from 350 maravedíswhen it was introduced in 1535, to 400 maravedís in 1566, to 440 maravedís in 1609. The gold ducado, worth 375 maravedís or 11 reales, was an older coin, which was replaced by the escudo during the reign of Charles V, but still functioned as a unit of account in Cervantes’s time. See Bernat Hernández, ‘Monedas, pesos y medidas’, in Don Quijote, ed. Instituto Cervantes, pp. 941—47 (pp. 941—42)

20 ‘-No daré el privilegio de este mi libro a ningún librero de Madrid, si me da por él dos mil ducados; que allí no hay ninguno que no quiera los privilegios de balde, o, a lo menos, por tan poco precio que no le luzga al autor del libro’; Los trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda, ed. by Carlos Romero Muñoz (Madrid: Cátedra, 2002), p. 635.

21 Krzysztof Sliwa, ‘Documentación’, in Gran enciclopedia cervantina,IV (2007), 3570—3646 (p22p. 3589—90).

22 Gómez, ‘La censura del libro’, p. 171.

23 Cristobál Pérez Pastor, Bibliografía madrileña, ó descripción de las obras impresas en Madrid, 3 vols (Madrid: Tipografía de los Huérfanos/Tipografía de la Revista de Archivos, Bibliotecas y Museos, 1891—1907), II, 250.

24 Don Quijote, II, ed. Instituto Cervantes, p. 670.

25 Don Quijote, II, ed. Instituto Cervantes, p. 679.

26 ‘Bien sé lo que son tentaciones del demonio, y que una de las mayores es ponerle a un hombre en el entendimiento que puede componer y imprimir un libro con que gane tanta fama como dineros y tantos dineros cuanta fama.’ Don Quijote, II, ed. Instituto Cervantes, p. 675.

27 ‘Yo no imprimo mis libros para alcanzar fama en el mundo, que ya en él soy conocido por mis obras: provecho quiero, que sin él no vale un cuatrín la buena fama.’ Don Quijote, II. 62; ed. Instituto Cervantes, p. 1250.

28 Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda, Segundo tomo del ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha, que contiene su tercera salida : y es la quinta parte de sus aventuras (Tarragona: Felipe Roberto, 1614).

29 Don Quijote, II. 62; ed. Instituto Cervantes, p. 1251.

30 ‘Iten, suplico a los dichos señores mis albaceas que si la buena suerte les trujere a conocer al autor que dicen que compuso una historia que anda por ahí con el título de Segunda parte de las hazañas de don Quijote de la Mancha, de mi parte le pidan, cuan encarecidamente ser pueda, perdone la ocasión que sin yo pensarlo le di de haber escrito tantos y tan grandes disparates como en ella escribe, porque parto desta vida con escrúpulo de haberle dado motivo para escribirlos’; Don Quijote, II. 74; ed. Instituto Cervantes, p. 1334.

31 ‘Muchas veces acontece que los que tenían méritamente granjeada y alcanzada gran fama por sus escritos, en dándolos a la estampa la perdieron del todo o la menoscabaron en algo. —La causa deso es —dijo Sansón— que, como las obras impresas se miran despacio, fácilmente se veen sus faltas, y tanto más se escudriñan cuanto es mayor la fama del que las compuso’; Don Quijote, II. 3; ed. Instituto Cervantes, p. 713.

32 ‘Pero yo pienso darlas a la estampa, para que se vea despacio lo que pasa apriesa, y se disimula, o no se entiende cuando las representan. Y las comedias tienen sus sazones y tiempos, como los cantares.’ Viaje del Parnaso, ed. by Miguel Herrero García (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Instituto Miguel de Cervantes, 1983), p. 314.

33 El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha, 2nd edn (Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1605). The six occasions on which reference is made to the donkey can be found on fols. 109r, IIIV, 112r, 120V; 121r and 122r.

34 El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha (Brussels: Roger Velpius, 1607). The six corrections are located on fols. 210r, 215r, 216r, 232r, 233r and 235r. El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha (Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1608). The two corrections can be found on fols. 96r and 98v.

35 ‘—No está en eso el yerro —replicó Sansón—, sino en que antes de haber parecido el jumento dice el autor que iba a caballo Sancho en el mesmo rucio. —A eso —dijo Sancho— no sé qué responder, sino que el historiador se engañó, o ya sería descuido del impresor.’ Don Quijote, II. 4; ed. Instituto Cervantes, p. 716.

36 ‘Dezidnos della, que ay hombre | que hasta de una mula parda | saber el sucesso aguarda, | la color, el talle, y nombre: | O si no dirán que fue | olvido del escritor’. Lope de Vega Carpio, Ventidos parte perfeta de las comedias(Madrid: La viuda de Juan Gonzalez, 1635), fol. 166r.

37 Roger Chartier, Inscription and Erasure: Literature and Written Culture from the Eleventh to the Eighteenth Century (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007), p. 34.

38 Miguel de Cervantes, ed. by Jorge García López, Novelas ejemplares (Barcelona: Circulo de Lectores/Galaxia Gutenberg, 2005), p. 16.

39 Novelas ejemplares, ed. García López, pp. 19—20.

40 ‘Don Quijote de la Mancha queda calzadas las espuelas en su segunda parte, para ir a besar los pies a V. E. […] Luego irá el gran Persiles, y luego Las semanas del jardín, y luego la segunda parte de La Galatea’; La entretenida,ed. O’Neill.

41 See Don Quijote, II; ed. Instituto Cervantes, pp. 677 and 679, and Persiles, ed. Romero Muñoz, pp. 117—18.

42 The title of Bernardo could be a reference to the legendary Spanish hero Bernardo del Carpio, who appears as a character in Cervantes’s play La casa de los celos, and is mentioned in El gallardo español and (several times) in Don Quijote.

43 The preliminares of Avellaneda’s Quijote do not include a privilegio, fe de erratas or tasa. The last date in the front matter is 4 July, which is when the second aprobacián was signed (fol. [ii]r). It is unlikely that a work of this size (sixty-eight sheets of quarto) could have been printed in less than two months, so the earliest date that it could have been published is September, which is the date that Canavaggio gives (Don Quijote, ed. Instituto Cervantes, p. CCCI). However, it is difficult to imagine that Cervantes, had he known about Avellaneda’s Quijote,would not have found a way of inserting some reference to it in the preliminares to Viaje del Parnaso, just as he did in the dedication to Ocho comedias and the prologue to the second part of Don Quijote. Such a reference could even have been added after the fe de erratas (11 November) and tasa (17 November), as was the case with the dedication of the Segunda parte. It therefore seems unlikely that Cervantes found out about Avellaneda’s Quijote until late November or December 1614.

44 Since Cervantes mentions having only six plays and interludes ready for publication in the Adjunta al Parnaso(see Viaje del Parnaso, ed. Herrero García, p. 314), he probably wrote the new material in the period of approximately five months between finishing Don Quijote and handing over the manuscript of Ocho comedias to the printers.

45 Don Quijote, II. 62; ed. Instituto Cervantes, p. 1250.

46 ‘Sabemos por los contratos de impresión conservados que, por lo general, cuando se acordaba una edición, se exigía que no se aceptara otro trabajo hasta que se acabara el recién admitido, lo cual, descartando las salidas de la norma que hubiera, implicaba la organización de la empresa en torno a un proyecto, al margen de los pequeños encargos que se aceptaran’; Sonia Garza Merino, ‘La cuenta del original’, in Imprenta y crítica textual en el siglo de oro, ed. by Francisco Rico, Pablo Andrés, and Sonia Garza (Valladolid: Universidad de Valladolid, Centro para la Edición de los Clásicos Españoles, 2000), pp. 65—95 (p. 73).

47 Juan Vázquez de Mármol, Condiciones que se pueden poner cuando se da a imprimir un libro (Madrid: El Crotalón, 1983). The Condiciones are part of an autograph miscellany preserved at the Biblioteca Nacional de Madrid (sig. Mss/9226, fol. 243r—v).

48 ‘Que el impressor se obligue a començar a imprimirlo dentro de tanto tiempo y despues de comenzado no dexe de proseguir en el so cierta pena.’

49 Neither the Dictionarium nor El cavallero puntual required a privilegio, since they were new editions, so estimates have been provided. If the speed of printing of the Dictionarium matched that of the Historia general,which was 319 sheets of folio and in production for nine months, then this work, which was almost exactly two thirds as long at 213 sheets of folio, would have been in production for six months. If, on the other hand, one assumes that production was at the average rate of 4. 5 sheets a week for folio at the la Cuesta shop between 1612 and 1615, printing of the Dictionarium would not have started until late September 1614. The only other work in duodecimo format, apart from El cavallero puntual, produced by Juan de la Cuesta in the period in question was the 1614 edition of Jorge Manrique’s Coplas (see Pérez Pastor, Bibliografía madrileña, p. 297). The production window of that book, which comprised 17 sheets, spanned seven months, from 21 June 1613 until 17 January 1614. If the 13 sheets of El cavallero puntual were printed at a similar rate, production would have started sometime around the beginning of June 1615. However, none of these estimates should be regarded as reliable, since, as this study shows, it is very difficult to calculate rates of production for works that are printed concurrently.

50 McKenzie, ‘Printers of the Mind’, pp. 25—26.

51 El ingenioso hidalgo, fols. [ii]rand [iii]v.

52 Segunda parte, fols. [ii]rand [v]v.

53 Francisco Rico, El texto del ‘Quijote’: preliminares a una ecdótica del siglo de oro (Barcelona: Ediciones Destino, 2005), p. 210.

54 Jaime Moll, Problemas bibliográficos del libro del siglo de oro (Madrid: Arco/Libros, 2011), pp. 118—19.

55 Antonio de Herrera, Historia General de los Hechos de los Castellanos en las Islas y Tierra Firme del Mar Oceano [General History of the Deeds of the Castilian People in the Islands and Mainlands of the Oceans], pt. V—VIII, 2 vols (Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1615); Antonio Nebrija, Dictionarium (repr. Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1615); Francisco Murcia de la Llana, Compendio de los Metheoros del Principe de los Filosofos Griegos y Latinos Aristoteles[‘Compendium of the Meteorological Observations of the Prince of Greek and Latin Philosophers Aristoteles’] (Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1615); Alonso Jerónimo de Salas Barbadillo, El Cavallero puntual, pt. 1, 2nd edn (Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1615).

56 Segunda parte, fol. [ii]v.

57 Sermones predicados en la Beatificacion de La B. M. Teresa de Jesus Virgen (Madrid: La viuda de Alonso Martín, 1615); Rhetoricae Compendium ex scriptis Patris Ioannis Baptistae Poza (Madrid: La viuda de Alonso Martín, 1615); Alonso de Ledesma, Romancero y Monstro imaginado (Madrid: La viuda de Alonso Martín, 1615). A romancero is a collection of romances (ballads).

58 Philip Gaskell, A New Introduction to Bibliography (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), p. 164.

59 ‘La práctica más común fue el reparto de la composición de un cuaderno entre cajistas que, trabajando sincronizadamente, fueran suministrando las formas a uno o dos tiradores diferentes, de manera que al cabo del día pudieran tener impreso un pliego, por lo menos, de una tirada corriente de mil o mil quinientos ejemplares’; Garza Merino, ‘La cuenta del original’, p. 73.

60 McKenzie ‘Printers of the Mind’, pp. 28—30.

61 Juan de Aranda, Lugares comunes de Conceptos, Dichos y Sentencias en diversas materias, 2nd edn (Madrid: Juan de La Cuesta, 1613); Gonzalo de Illescas, Segunda parte de la Historia Pontifical y Catholica (repr. Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1613). See Pérez Pastor, Bibliografía madrileña, pp. 246—47, 26524.

62 Arithmetica Practica y Speculativa (Madrid: La viuda de Alonso Martín, 1615). Villaroel was granted a licencia on 4 December 1614 (see Pérez Pastor, Bibliografía madrileña, p. 351).

63 Historia etiopica de los amores de Teogenes y Cariclea (Madrid: La viuda de Alonso Martín, 1615). The licenciawas granted on 10 February 1615, and the last date in the front matter is 13 June, which is when the dedication was signed (see Pérez Pastor, Bibliografía madrileña, p. 334).

64 The only other work with which Villarroel was associated was Persiles y Sigismunda, but that was printed by Juan de la Cuesta, although Medina’s shop did produce an edition, in 1619 (see Pérez Pastor, Bibliografía madrileña, p. 481).

65 K. Sliwa, Documentos de Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (Pamplona: Ediciones Universidad de Navarra, S.A., 1999), p. 369.

66 ‘Él me las pagó razonablemente’; La entretenida, ed. O’Neill. Regarding the debt, see Sliwa, Documentos, pp. 371—72.

67 Jaime Moll, ‘Viuda de Alonso Martín’, in Gran Enciclopedia Cervantina, VIII (2011), p. 7639.

68 Lope de Vega, Sexta parte de sus Comedias (Madrid: la viuda de Alonso Martín, 1615). Other important works produced at the Medina shop included editions of Cervantes’s Novelas ejemplares (1622), Montemayor’s La Diana(1622), and Rojas’s Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea (1632).

69 Moll, Problemas bibliográficos, p. 120.

70 ‘Todavía me quedan en el alma ciertas reliquias y asomos de Las semanas del jardín, y del famoso Bernardo. Si, a dicha, por buena ventura mía (que ya no sería ventura, sino milagro), me diese el cielo vida, las verá, y, con ellas, fin de La Galatea’; Persiles y Sigismunda, ed. Romero Muñoz, pp. 117—18.

© The Author 2015; all rights reserved

Baroque Culture as a Concept of Epoch

Jose Antonio Maravall was born in Spain in 1911. He was professor at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, and associate professor at the University of Paris. He was a member of the Spanish Royal Academy of History and a visiting professor at many universities in the United States and Europe. He is the author of more than 30 books and articles. 

This article is the Introduction to his book La cultura del Barroco, first published in 1975, that is also available in English.

Among the different approaches valid for arriving at an interpretation of baroque culture —whose results, precisely because of its diversity, will always be incomplete —I have focused my inquiry on the meaning and range of the characteristics making up this culture, so that its nexus, with its social relations, will stand out from those relations on which it depends and to whose slow transformation it, in turn, contributes. Perhaps this point of view will give us a broader and more systematic panorama, but we also must accept an accompanying limitation: the baroque is no longer a concept of style that can be repeated and that is assumed to have been repeated in many phases of human history; it has come to be, in frank contradiction with baroque as a style, a mere concept of epoch. My examination presents the baroque as a delimited epoch in the history of certain European countries whose historical situation maintained, at a specific moment, a close relation, whatever the differences between them. By way of derivation, the culture of a baroque epoch can manifest itself (and has become manifest) in the American countries indirectly affected by the European cultural conditions of that time.

But my approach certainly does not define the baroque as a European epoch situated between two perfectly defined dates. Historical epochs are not snipped away and isolated from one another by the dividing line of one year or one date; rather, by means of the arbitrary intervention of the human mind contemplating them, they are separated from one another along a broad zone of dates throughout which they mature and afterwards disappear, being transformed into others, passing their inheritance on to others in a way that it cannot be refused. The baroque, then, runs approximately from 1600 (without discarding the possibility that certain advanced phenomena of baroque significance appeared some years previously, in the later times of Michelangelesque Mannerism and, in Spain, with the construction of the Escorial) to 1670-80 (a time of economic change and the first echoes of modern science in Spain; cultural, political, and economic Colbertism in France; the unimpeded emergence of the Industrial Revolution in England). One may discover baroque manifestations counting among the most outlandish and extreme until well into the eighteenth century, but the sense of the epoch is different. In Spain, the years of Philip III’s reign (1598-1621) encompass the period of transformation; those of Philip IV (1621-65) the period of its peak; and those of Charles II, at least in the first two decades, the final phase of decadence and degeneration, until a time of restoration toward a new epoch begins before the end of the century.{1}

The baroque, then, is a historical concept. It encompasses, approximately, the first three quarters of the seventeenth century, having its center of greater intensity and fuller significance between 1605 and 1650. If this zone of dates refers specifically to Spanish history, it is also valid (with slight adjustments) for other European countries. In Italy, however, with such names as Botero and Tasso, its beginning could be set earlier, at least in some aspects of art, politics, and literature.

I do not, therefore, use the term baroque to designate morphological or stylistic concepts, repeatable in culture, that are chronologically and geographically disparate. One may certainly establish certain relations between external, purely formal elements of the baroque in seventeenth-century Europe and elements present in very different historical epochs in unrelated cultural areas. A culture always has borrowings and legacies from previous and distant cultures. Let us recall the considerable and curious harvest of iconographic terms that Southeast Asia contributed to the European Middle Ages, as some of Baltrusaitis’ ingenious studies have revealed.{2} But these antecedents and influences do not define a culture. They tell us, at most, that a culture of a given period is open to exotic currents that are geographically mobile. Examples include the introduction of the cupola in pre-Roman Catalan art{3} or the title basileus that was used for some Asturian or British kings.{4} Perhaps we are required, in characterizing a culture, to point out the dependence on a distant tradition (as with Mozarabic art, which has a Visigothic base with Islamic elements;{5} or the Brahmanic metaphors that until the eighteenth century were used to express the European estatist conception of society).{6} But tnese cases do not represent intracultural kinship so much as isolated contributions that are integrated into different complexes. Neither the mere coincidence in the utilization of separate elements nor the repetition of formal elements whose connection occurs in very different systems can serve as a basis for defining cultures spanning centuries and geographic regions of very diverse characteristics. These morphological correlations, established in abstraction from many other aspects that one needs in order to define a cultural moment, say little or nothing to the historian. The seeking out and formulation of such morphologies are no more than a play of wit that ordinarily becomes limited to a pleasant arbitrariness. Nevertheless, in recognizing these correlations through space and time we are able to ground some generalizations whose application in other fields of knowledge is indisputable.

But we situate ourselves in the realm of social history, which is first and foremost history: its object is not to limit what is conceived in consideration of its observable data, so that their observation —and every possible resulting induction —is maintained only on the superficial level of aspects recurring throughout distinct phases of the human past. Rather, its purpose is to attain the most systematic knowledge possible about each of the periods it submits to study, without discarding the possibility that they will afterward be compared with great precision. Its orientation is to supplement concretely the best knowledge of each epoch, not to establish abstract generalizations, and its method takes into account the greatest quantity and most varied data obtainable from what an epoch might offer and then interprets them in the complex in which they are integrated. These data include some that reveal similarities or congruences with other epochs. All this effort is not directed toward discovering baroque periods all the way from ancient Egypt to present America, but to completing the panorama of connections between facts of a multiple nature that may lead us to a better knowledge of what the baroque was as a unique period of European culture during the seventeenth century.

In the following pages I will refer to phenomena from various fields, but I have no expectation of running across similarities or morphological kinships that from outside bring the facts together, nor across manifestations of a style that from within inspires economic, political, religious, artistic, or literary phenomena. Yet I believe that one can speak of a baroque at a given time, in any field of human endeavor. In 1944, I noted in my book about Spanish political thought in the seventeenth century that I could just as well have substituted the phrase “in the epoch of the baroque.”{7} Because such an expression would have still been unusual at that time, I decided not to use it in the book’s title. Some years later, in 1953, a specialist in the history of painting, who was speaking about the baroque as the epoch concept of the seventeenth century, expressed the need for a study on baroque political thought.{8} By this time, my book had already been written and would soon be published in French, with a preface by Mesnard wherein he stressed the basic formulation that the work was advancing. Some German authors have spoken, in another realm, of baroque theology, an expression —untenable today —that was easy to elaborate because the appearance and development of baroque culture were for a long time closely related to its religious element.{9} Today it has even become common to speak about baroque science, the baroque’s art of war, baroque economy, baroque politics, and soforth. Clearly in this one must proceed carefully. There can be a certain correspondence among external or formal characteristics occurring in one field or another. Undoubtedly certain aspects of the epoch’s architecture or pictorial depiction can be (by way of example) especially apt for containing a reference to the majestic condition of the baroque’s absolute kings. But, contrary to the arbitrary connection between cupola and monarchy proposed by Eugenio d’Ors,{10} Mousnier led me to observe that there is no seventeenth-century royal palace with a cupola crowning it at its center. I don’t know whether it would be possible to establish similarities between navigation technology and Gongora’s Soledades or between Quevedo’s Sueños and the economy of fleece. I am sure that attempts of this type would be entertaining to read, but I fear that they do little to add to our historical knowledge of the epoch.

My thesis is that all these fields of culture coincide as factors of a historical situation and have repercussions in it, some more than others. In their transformation, proper to the situation of each time, they come to be what they are by the combined and reciprocal action of all the other factors. That is to say, it is not that baroque painting, baroque economy, and the baroque art of war have similarities among themselves (or, at least, their similarity is not what counts, without discarding the possibility that some formal comparison might emerge). Instead, given that they develop in the same situation, as a result of the same conditions, responding to the same vital necessities, undergoing an undeniable modifying influence on the part of the other factors, each factor thus ends up being altered, dependent on the epoch as a complex to which all the observed changes must be referred. In these terms, it is possible to attribute determining characteristics of the epoch —in this case, its baroque character —to theology, painting, the warring arts, physics, economy, politics, and so on. It is in this way that the crisis economy, monetary upheavals, credit insecurity, economic wars, and (along with this) the strengthening of seignorial agrarian landholdings and the growing impoverishment of the masses foster a feeling of being threatened and of instability in one’s personal and social life, a feeling that is held in control by the imposing forces of repression that underlie the dramatic gesticulation of the baroque human being and permit us the use of such a name.

So the baroque is a concept of epoch that in principle extends to all the manifestations making up this epoch’s culture.{11} The new concept of epoch came to be identified by means of art in Italian culture; Burckhardt noticed that, after the Renaissance period and continuing for a specific number of years, the works he contemplated in Rome had, in their deformations and corruptions of previous models, characteristics appearing to belong to a time that was somehow different. Around 1887, in the churches he was studying, Gurlitt, a historian of Roman architecture, observed forms of Renaissance classicism that were lacking in order. At first glance these forms differed among themselves, certainly, but they were dislocated by the same whirlwind of a disordered expression, and all of its products could also be framed between specific dates. Thus resulted the first observations about the baroque, and the vacillating estimations regarding it emerged already in reference to a more or less defined epoch: the epoch following the classicist Renaissance. Wolfflin ventured to extend the new category to the more extensive area of literature. When the characteristics pointed out in this series of works were broadened to other fields, the concept of epoch defining this new post-Renaissance culture was already prepared and, with it, its extension to the diverse sectors of a culture and to the group of countries where it had spread.

As interest in the baroque continued to grow and research on it became more productive, the estimation of its works changed in turn and its interpretation became more complicated and better adapted. The investigative work and the positive valorization of the baroque stage in European culture had its starting point in Germany, from there passing rapidly to Italy, then Spain and England, and finally to France. There the weight of tradition, specifically of classicism— considered only a few years ago to be incompatible with the baroque — made comprehension of the baroque more difficult, at least until recent times (always with some exceptions that must stand as precedents, such as M. Raymond). At present, however, some of the most suggestive works proceed from French scholars. The change in the historical formulation of baroque interpretation can be illustrated with one of its most extreme expressions, taken from the sociohistorian Lewis Mumford, for whom the Renaissance comes to be the initial phase of a new epoch that reaches its fullest meaning in the baroque. According to his thesis, we can characterize the Renaissance, with all its purity of precepts, as the first manifestation of the subsequent baroque.{12} It is worthwhile to underscore this definitive recognition of a conditioning link between both periods and the appraisal of a highly positive value that one must attribute to the baroque in European culture. Certainly, I do not refer here to subjective personal appraisals regarding the works of artists, politicians, thinkers, or writers of the baroque epoch, which would be similar to attributing them with qualities of good or bad taste according to the preferences of each historian. In the eighteenth century, when the wordbaroque first emerged to qualify specific products of the creative activity of poets, dramatists, and the plastic arts, it was already tinted with a pejorative meaning. Inversely, in other circumstances —such as in Spain during the second quarter of this century —a heated enthusiasm arose around the gongorine movement for baroque creations. Here we have to dispense with such appraisals. Appealing to personal taste disrupts the perception of a cultural phenomenon; although its study takes into account appraisals of such a nature, we are ultimately liable for not seeing things with clarity. In a book that contains validcontributions but also serious limitations, V. L. Tapie, studying the baroque in comparison with classicism counterposes the permanent admiration produced (according to him) by a work of a classical character, such as Versailles, to the repulsion that contemporary good taste experiences before a baroque production.{13} But during the very years when Tapie was writing, the young reseacher J.G. Simpson considered Versailles to be saturated with baroqueness, despite its classicist details, and simultaneously tells us that its lack of restraint and proportion makes us lose ourselves there: “the grandeur turns into megalomania.”{14}

The participation of scholars from different countries in baroque studies has enriched and helped give a more precise direction to its interpretation. Although the Germans (Wolfflin, Riegl, Weisbach) insisted (more the first than the last) on formal aspects, they already brought out the connection with historical circumstances: the counterreformist renewal of the Church, the strengthening of papal authority, the expansion of the Society of Jesus —all of which led ultimately to the systematic positing of the baroque as the “art of the Counter-Reformation.” This interpretation, which was so influential for several years, gave maximum emphasis to the role of Italy, above all in art, and compensated by reserving for Germany the greater part of the literary baroque. Because of the recognition of Italy’s predominant role, it was possible better to appreciate something that we have pointed out: the nexus between classicism and the baroque, whose affirmation led H. Hatzfeld to say that “wherever the problem of the baroque emerges, the existence of Classicism remains implicit.”{15} Hatzfeld observed that keeping the Greco-Latin ideal and accepting Aristotle’s Poetics go together at the baroque’s origin (let us recall the role that Robortello’s Aristotelian poetics played in Lope). The panorama that Hatzfeld outlined regarding the evolution of the baroque movement is of interest:

With inevitable differences from generation to generation and with more or less ability, the theorizing Italy, Spain, which experimented with the Italian forms, and France, which, in slow maturation, came to its creations with a fully theoretical consciousness, harmonized their particular national literary and linguistic traditions in a baroque style. This is the same as saying that certain forms of the Italian Renaissance had become common to all of Europe, thanks to the mediation and modifying activity of Spain, and paradoxically culminated in French classicism.{16}

In granting the Mediterranean and Latin countries such a preponderant role in the appearance and development of baroque culture, we cannot forget the significance of such central-European figures as Comenius, whose work as a pedagogue and moralist is decisive in any attempt to define the baroque, nor, on the other hand, English literature and the art and thought of the Low Countries. From this new perspective, the baroque, while in force in Europe, covered more ground than it did in those already outmoded explanations that presented it as a complex of literary or pseudoartistic aberrations saturated with the bad taste that counterreformist Catholicism had cultivated in countries subject to Rome. At the same time, the period was accompanied by a complexity of resources and results that made it one of those most in need of study in order to understand the history of modern Europe. In any case, it can no longer be seen as a consequence following from a single factor, nor even from the varied consequences it provoked on the cultural plane; instead, it became manifest in connection with an extremely varied repertory of factors that together determined the moment’s historical situation and imbued all its manifestations with those interdependent and related characteristics that permit us to speak, in a general sense, of the culture of the baroque.

The transformations of sensibility that in recent times came to be tied to new social conditions —whose first phase of maximum critical tension was reached in the 1920s —awakened a new interest in certain productions of Spanish culture. Until then, under pressure of a pedagogical classicism, many of these productions had been cast aside; the recently awakening interest has resulted in the incorporation of the rich area of seventeenth-century Spain into the study of the European baroque. The rediscovery of El Greco, the growing admiration for Velazquez, Zurbaran, and Ribera, the appreciation of the theater, of the picaresque novel and even of the more trivial lyric poetry, and, finally, of economic and political thought have prepared the way for a more developed study of the Spanish baroque. Admittedly, the rise of Spanish baroque studies was favored by the tendency, vigorously followed in the diffusion of seventeenth-century studies, to link baroque creations with Tridentine Catholicism, civil monarchy, pontifical absolutism, and Jesuit instruction, factors that were widely developed in Spain. Even in Tapie’s book on the baroque, which dealt with France, Italy, central Europe, and Brazil, there was no mention made of Spain, although the fact would have proven unjustifiable from any point of view even at the time when the work was published. Francastel advanced the harsh objection that for this simple reason the work represented an improper development of the theme:

Tapie takes the Italian origin of the baroque as an absolute given; personally I believe that the baroque is not born in Italy but as a consequence of the forceful penetration of certain religious forms that arrived from Spain and also, undoubtedly, through the penetration of certain modalities of a taste that, without being Spanish, perhaps was linked to the social order imposed by Hispanicization.{17}

Previously, S. Sitwell had maintained that one must study Spanish examples to find the characteristics that define the baroque with greater clarity and a more general validity; hence the advantage of also making use of the Portuguese and Spanish-American examples that are related to them.{18} This author as well as another English author, Watkin,{19} in accentuating the Hispanic factor in the baroque, link it to a dependency upon Catholic and Hispanic religiosity. What is certain is that the Spanish component in the baroque has tended to be more and more amplified. For reasons similar to those of the English writers I have cited, Weisbach also utilized Spanish data to a great extent in making the baroque an art of the Counter-Reformation. But perhaps no one has taken this position to as much of an extreme as H. Hatzfeld: for him, the baroque is linked to far-removed and constant ingredients of the Spanish genius —certain aspects could already be discovered in Hispano-Latin writers (Lucan, Seneca, Prudentius); the forms of religiosity that make the Spanish spirit unique (in St. John of the Cross, St. Ignatius) had a strong influence on its development; and, finally, one must take into account the presence of certain elements occurring in the Hispanic tradition (i.e., Islamic and North African elements). According to Hatzfeld, since the second half of the sixteenth century, Spain —penetrated with Italian culture in the sixteenth century, saturated with Italianism, present in Italy and influential there to a great degree —provoked an alteration in the circumstances in which the Italian Renaissance was developing and compelled writers and artists to seek new forms that led to the baroque. In the formation of the baroque it would be impossible to deny the circumstances of Hispanicization in Rome, Naples, and indirectly at other points on the Italian peninsula. Spain, which contributed so effectively to the breakdown and removal of the Renaissance order, rapidly assimilated the incipient baroque forms of Italy, carried them to maturity, and diffused them into France, Flanders, Italy itself, and also into the Protestant milieu of England and Germany.{20} Counterreform, absolutism, and baroque went together, betokened by their Spanish base, and even the baroque art produced in Protestant countries was found to have a relation to the Hispanic influence —a thesis that others had already stated without playing down (contrary to what Hatzfeld does) the creative value of the Protestant baroque.{21}

Baroque culture thus extended to the most varied manifestations of social life and human works, although different manifestations predominated in different places; the geographic zone to which this culture extended —without making distinction between original and derived production —encompassed all western European countries, from where it is exported to the American colonies or had repercussions in eastern Europe. Finally, given the multiplicity of human resources participating in it, no less than the extremely varied attributes of the groups where it developed, the baroque depended upon similar or connected circumstances of a historical situation and not on other factors —for example, on its popular characteristics or on the particular causes of an ethnic group.

On the other hand, after the valid criticism of A. Castro and others, it is today impossible to take seriously the reference to similarities of style in Latin writers of peninsular origin, the attempt to find Hispanic characteristics “from their most remote origins” (as it was postulated by M. Pelayo), or the belief of finding echoes of Lucan or Seneca in Spanish writers when they are deemed of high quality. The thesis is no more tenable that aims to recognize Islamic components, in an attempt to show a Hispanic predisposition toward the baroque; the same arguments militate against this as against the former, although not all of the many who have spoken about the subject — arbitrarily to a certain degree —are disposed to recognize it. Besides, in what North African or Islamic country has the baroque taken place, if this concept is endowed with a meaning somewhat more consistent than a certain tendency to decorative outlandishness that is so common to so many peoples in so many epochs and civilizations, and which plays a secondary role in the historical structure of the baroque?{22}

There remains the question of appealing to the Spanish character itself, which in this case refers to religious attitudes and more particularly to mystical ones. Frequently —and this is what Hatzfeld does —the baroque is combined with mysticism and both are linked to the Spanish character and spirituality. In Spain, however, mysticism was an imported form of religiousness that arrived from Flanders and Germany before passing, in turn, to Germany and France —leaving aside at each moment the case of Italy. Spanish mysticism was a shortlived and delimited phenomenon, and nothing remained of it in the seventeenth century when, inversely, French and above all German mysticism were thriving magnificently. There did exist forms of magical thought that cannot be merely equated with mysticism; on the other hand, they could be found in all of Europe in this same epoch. Finally, the aspects characterizing mysticism, at least as it occurred in Spain (with St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross) were straightforwardly different from those of the baroque; they were rather anti-Baroque, without being divorced from the common ground of scholastic philosophy that was present in both.{23} Of course, I am not including St. Ignatius here as a mystic. The Ignatian mentality was disseminated and came to fruition in almost all European countries. To discuss the correspondences of Ignatian mentality with baroque propositions — which occurred more in his followers than in St. Ignatius —we have to appreciate the results of the coinciding dependency with respect to the same historical situation.

The reader of the voluminous collection of Cartas dejesuitas — which spanned the lengthy Baroque — encounters abundant materials that reveal the mentality of the time. I shall make use of some of them in the following chapters. But although there were baroque writers who proved susceptible to Jesuit culture (Tirso de Molina, Salas Barbadillo, Diaz Rengifo, etc.), another body of opinion disagreed with what they were proposing as a new mode of acting and feeling. Barrionuevo tells us that for many it was an error to admit such writers in any republic at all.{24} In several of the first group of the Cartas (those dated from January to July, 1634), there is talk of numerous writings from diverse sources against the Society: one of them (February 23) says that “it was raining papers against the Society.” But we know that the king, in a harsh decision, gave the order to gather up the papers and condemn their authors, and he charged the Spanish Inquisition with carrying out the order.{25} These references continue to be valuable as an index: not everything remained in line with the Jesuits in the mentality of their contemporaries.

The baroque epoch was, certainly, a time of the faithful (which is not very significantly Jesuit, either, though it may not be entirely estranged), but of a faith that not only retained but reinforced its kinship with magical forms, which were frequently inclined toward superstitious manifestations—Volpe, Buisson, Granjel, and Caro Baroja have studied them in Italy, France, Spain, and elsewhere. The baroque mind was familiar with exalted and irrational forms of religious, political and even physical beliefs, and to a certain extent baroque culture displayed itself in support of these feelings. This doesn’t have anything to do with Spanish mysticism directly: not Spanish, because it was a phenomenon taking place extensively and vigorously everywhere; and not mysticism, because its ground of belief was saturated with the current of rationalization that sustained scholasticism. The Church, the monarchy, and other privileged groups that had to draw to themselves sectors of opinion exerted all possible pressure to strengthen these extrarational aspects so they could make use of them. This process had also taken place in other epochs, but in the seventeenth century both within and outside of Spain the question had become much more difficult. And that greater difficulty is explained by the quantitative increase in the population affected, by the individualist energies that had become more intense, by a comparatively richer information disseminated in the media of the city, and by the very complexity of the media available. It no longer sufficed to sculpt an exemplary “history” in the capital of a column, to paint it on stained glass, or to recount it with the innocuous simplicity of a hagiographic legend.{26} For the new time in which the European societies were living, one had to find the most adequate — we might even say the most rational —mode for utilizing every extrarational resource, and one had to possess the technology for its most efficient application.

But the preceding leaves much unsaid. Although religious life and the Church played a decisive role in the formation and development of the baroque —religion occupied a central position for Catholics and Protestants in the seventeenth century and was incorporated by political interests —the manifestations of that culture did not always or everywhere correspond with those of religious life, nor did the problems it poses for our knowledge of it derive from a religious spirit. In the entire Spanish baroque, the greatest weight must perhaps be attributed to the monarchy and the composite of monarchical-seignorial interests that it enveloped. When E. Male tried to link the art of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries to counterreformist influences (already pointed out by Dejob),{27} he scarcely mentioned Velazquez, and even this was in reference to the apocryphal portrait of St. Teresa.

The baroque, as an epoch of interesting contrasts and perhaps many times one of bad taste (individualism and traditionalism, inquisitive authority and unsteadying freedom, mysticism and sensualism, theology and superstition, war and commerce, geometry and capriciousness), was not the result of multisecular influences on a country whose character they shaped, nor did it result frominfluences that irradiated from one country that was supposedly endowed with such characteristics upon others related to it. Baroque culture emerged not from influences or character but from the historical situation. Consequently, whoever was connected with the historical situation participated in that culture, although in each case it varied according to the social position of the individuals in question. The baroque depended, then, on a certain state of society by virtue of which, and because of its breadth, all the societies of western Europe exhibited connected aspects. Within this framework personal and singular influences can be studied, such as those of Tintoretto or Veronese in Spain, of Bernini in France, of Botero or Suarez in the western monarchies. But what explains the characteristics of baroque culture is the condition of the societies in the general and particular circumstances as present in seventeenth-century European countries; within those circumstances, we must take into account the relation of religious and political power with the mass of subjects. Therefore, rather than a question of religion, the baroque was a question of the Church, and especially the Catholic Church because of its status as an absolute monarchical power. It is not any less connected with the other monarchies and inevitably with nearby republics that were related to countries of monarchical absolutism, such as Venice or the Low Countries.

When I speak of the baroque, I do so always in general terms; the national connotation that is present in this work serves only to introduce the nuances that vary the panoramic view when the vantage point shifts, although without losing sight of the whole. Saying Spanish baroque is equivalent to saying European baroque seen from Spain. Nowadays, it is possible and perhaps even appropriate to speak of the baroque in one country, while securing the theme within a general context. This geographic and historical consideration is parallel to another of a cultural type. The baroque cannot be abstracted as a period of art, nor even as a period of the history of ideas. It affected and belonged to the total ambit of social history, and every study of the subject matter, although legitimately becoming specialized, must unfold by projecting itself into the entire sphere of culture.

I intend this interpretation of the baroque, which will surely be debated, to be recognized nonetheless as applicable to those European countries in which that culture developed. The materials largely come from Spanish sources, and here I try to relate them to one another, placing them in the perspective of the history of Spain. But I take into account, when possible, diverse data from other countries, especially those most closely related with Spanish history. P. Vilar has written that “the drama of 1600 moves beyond the Spanish ambit and announces that seventeenth century, a severe one for Europe, which is today recognized as the time of a general crisis of society.”{28} Later I shall return to this concept of “general crisis.” The formation and development of baroque culture must be referred to that crisis, which offers a basis for explaining how it affects the whole of Europe. If only because of its peculiar situation and, consequently, the gravity of the characteristics of this crisis, Spain’s part in the history of the baroque and its weight in relation to other countries is manifestly considerable. Therefore I believe that it is important to situate ourselves along the perspective of Spanish history. In few occasions has Spain’s participation in European life played a role as decisive as in the seventeenth century. Its role was negative —using this word conventionally and, in this case, in a nonpejorative sense —because of the particular seriousness that this century’s economic and social crisis reached in Spain, and its role was positive —using this word not in its affirmative sense —because of the efficacy with which baroque expedients [resortes] were manipulated, with the early techniques of mass social operation in the ambit of the Spanish monarchy, in achieving the social and political effects of a conservative character.

I recognize, however, that mass society cannot be spoken of in rigorously socioeconomic terms except within the framework of industrial society. Even at the end of the seventeenth century, nowhere —not even in France after Colbert — is there scarcely a statistical change from the previous phase (except for the initial takeoff of England). In Spain there is not even this, despite the pathetic recommendations of Sancho de Moncada, Martinez de Mata, and Alvarez de Ossorio; economically, this previous stage, corresponding to the conditions that prepare for the takeoff (in Rostow’s terms, which are easily comprehensible today) can barely begin to be recognized during the century. The frequent use of the words manufacture and factory in an industrial sense and not merely traditionally would be a weak indication of what we are saying.{29} Soon we will have to emphasize this point from another perspective. Nevertheless, I have no doubts about applying the expression mass society. Why? The historian has to be aware that between traditional society and mass society, with its increase in population, there is an intermediate position in which society no longer exhibits the signs of its traditional period and offers others that will make possible the later concentration of manual labor and the modern world’s division of labor. Perhaps few things have changed economically, above all in the order of the modes of production; socially, however, changes of greater import can be discerned, changes that may have their origin in the early economic transformations but that far exceed them. It is a society of spreading anonymity. The bonds of neighborhood, kinship, and friendship don’t disappear, but they grow pale and are frequently lacking between those living nearby in the same locality (this is one of the most distinctly reflected phenomena in the picaresque novel). To a great extent, relations exhibit the character of a contract: in terms of houses (rent), workday (salary), clothes (buying and selling), and so forth; and to a considerable degree displacements of population occur (it suffices to think about the growth of cities and the rural exodus, which means that a considerable part of the population does not live and die in their place of birth).{30}

In such a way there appear social connections that are not interindividual, that are not between people known to one another. This alters the modes of behavior: a mass of people who know themselves to be unknown to one another behaves in a different way than a group of individuals who know they can be easily identified. Hence socially this is already a mass society, and at its core it produces that depersonalization that turns humankind into a totality of manual laborers within a mechanical and anonymous svstem of production.


{1} See Lopez Piñero, Introducción de la ciencia moderna en España (Barcelona, 1969); he distinguished periods for the crisis of Spanish historical thought that are close to those established here.
{2} J. Baltrusaitis, Le Moyen Age fantastique (Paris, 1955).
{3} See J. Puig y Cadalfach, Le premier art roman (Paris, 1928).
{4} See my Concepto de España en la Edad Media (Madrid, 1954); examples cited are on pp. 403ff.
{5} See Gomez Moreno, Las iglesias mozárabes, vol. I (Madrid, 1919).
{6} Ossowski, Estructura de clases y consciencia social (Madrid, 1944).
{7} See my Teoria española del Estado en el siglo XVII (Madrid, 1944).
{8} R. Huyghe, “Classicisme et baroque dans la peinture française du XVIIe siècle,” XVIIe Siècle, no. 20 (Paris, 1953).
{9} From Weisbach, Gothein, and many others, to the French translator of my work cited in note 7, who attempted to introduce the thought studied there “dans ses rapports avec l’esprit de la Contre-Reforme.” On the theme of baroque metaphysics and theology, see L. Legaz, Horizontes del pensamiento jurídico (Barcelona, 1947), pp. 93ff.
{10}  Las ideas y las formas (Madrid, n.d.).
{11} Sánchez Cantón, who did not think it inappropriate to broaden the concept to the liberal arts, instead asked for the closest chronological delimitation possible in “El barroco español: Antecedentes y empleo hispánicos de barroco,” in Manierismo, Barocco, Rococo [Convegno Internazionale, Rome, 1960], (Rome, 1962).
{12}  The City in History (New York, 1961), p. 351. Referring to the new epoch, L. Mumford makes this characterization: “The new pattern of existence sprang out of a new economy, that of mercantilist capitalism; a new political framework, mainly that of a centralized despotism or oligarchy, usually embodied in a national state; and a new ideological form, that derived from mechanistic physics, whose underlying postulates had been laid down, long before, in the army and the monastery” (p. 345). This is without a doubt an essential aspect of the question: the utilization of rational and mechanical elements that scientific thought and modern technology allocate for accomplishing magical, extrarational objectives, which in the Baroque was formulated with calculation. This is the epoch’s double perspective that I have been insisting on for many years.
{13}  Baroque et classicisme (Paris, 1957), p. 26.
{14} Joyce G. Simpson, Le Tasse et la littérature et I’art baroques en France (Paris, 1962),p. 112.
{15}  Estudios sobre el barroco (Madrid, 1964), p. 62. The passage comes from the study on “Los estilos generacionales de la epoca: manierismo, barroco, barroquismo.”
{16} Ibid., 106.
{17} P. Francastel, “Baroque et classicisme: histoire ou typologie des civilisations,” Annales: Economies, Sociétés, Civilisations 14, no. 1 (January-May 1951), p. 146. Tapie’s response in the same journal recognizes the large part played by Spain, whose shadow, according to his own words, was cast over the entire book. His subsequent monograph, Le baroque (Paris, 1961), corrected to a certain extent the previous absence, but it didn’t prove satisfactory in terms of his general posing of the question. One can see that Tapie is insufficiently acquainted with Spanish sources.
{18}  Southern Baroque Art (London, 1924) and Spanish Baroque Art (London, 1931).
{19} E. I. Watkin, Catholic Art and Culture (London, 1942).
{20} Hatzfeld, Estudios sobre el barroco. See in particular the article “La misión europea de la España barroca.”
{21} See Gerhardt, “Rembrandt y Spinoza,” Revista de Occidents 23, 1929.
{22} Hatzfeld, Estudios sobre el barroco, pp. 467-68.
{23} On Scholasticism in Spanish mysticism, see A. A. Ortega, Razón teológica y experiencia mística (Madrid, 1944); and Garrigou-Lagrange, “Saint Jean de la Croix,” La Vie Spirituelle, supplement, 1930. For a formulation in terms of the baroque, A. A. Parker, “Calderón, el dramaturgo de la escolástica,” Revista de Estudios Hispánicos, nos. 3-4 (1935), 273-85, 393-420.
{24}  Avisos de don Jerónimo de Barrionuevo (see the correspondence on 2 October 1655), BAE, 221, vol. I, p. 199.
{25} Cartas de jesuitas, in MHE, vols. 13-19, published by Gayangos. The quote comes from vol. 13, p. 24.
{26} In chapter 3, we note a curious statement contained in La Pícara Justina that shows that the taste for hagiographies was not as common as has been supposed. The very fact that many of the stories and comedies of saints contain such a great percentage of grotesque realism —think about Santo y sastre, the title of one of Tirso’s comedies, in which hagiography made its appearance at the theater with St. Homobono ascending to the sky with his cross —reveals an undebatable realist erosion of supernatural elements.
{27}  De l’influence du Concile du Trente sur la litterature et les beaux-arts chez les peuples catholiques (Paris, 1884).
{28}  Crescimiento y desarrollo (Barcelona, 1964), p. 438.
{29} González de Celleorigo’s declaration that “every kind of manufacture necessary to the realm” was lacking because the increase in population already represented an incipient consciousness of it (Manual de la política necesaria y útil Restauracion a la República de España [Madrid, 1600]. fols. 12, 2).
{30} I am utilizing Tönnies’ categories, though only approximately.

Don Quixote Virtual Printing

[Based on DIY Quarto: Printing quartos in Shakespeare’s time  https://www.folger.edu/publishing-shakespeare/diy-quarto]

Virtually Printing Don Quixote


Welcome to the Virtual Printing House

Try arranging pages into your own quarto edition of El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de La Mancha.

We base this example on digital images of the BNE’s copy of the first printed edition of Don Quijote, in Madrid, 1605. One of our goals is to heighten the sense that you are viewing a freshly printed sheet.

Eight pages per sheet of paper

Take a single sheet of paper, print eight pages out of sequence, then with folding, create a readable text in what’s known as a gathering in quarto format. That is what the printers of Don Quijote did. To see how, drag and drop the text of four pages onto one side of a sheet of paper. Note the change in orientation for some of the pages. Then flip the sheet to “print” four additional pages. Fold to create one quarto gathering with the first eight pages of the play.

1r | [p. 1]
1v [p. 2]
2r [p. 3]
2v [p. 4]
3r [p. 5]
3v [p. 6]
4r [p. 7]
4v [p. 8]









For Don Quijote, the printers followed this process for eighty-two more sheets, to create eleven more regular gatherings, with eight pages each. To keep these sheets in order, each gathering was given an identifying letter of the alphabet as a “signature” by the printers. The text of Don Quijote started here with the letter A. Unlike England, where texts often started with the signature B, as printers left the A for materials like title pages, which were often printed last. In comparison, Hamlet has 12 sheets

The sequence of regular gatherings in Don Quijote runs from A through Z, then Aa through Az, Bb etc.

After the printing was finished, the sheets were folded and assembled in alphabetic order to be ready for sale.

Comic poetry in Golden Age Spain

In Golden Age Spain, most major “serious” poets also wrote superb and exuberant comic verse. Cervantes, Quevedo and Góngora are but three examples.

1. Cervantes

In his book Cervantes and the Burlesque Sonnet, author Adrienne Laskier Martín seeks ‘to contribute to a new understanding and reappraisal of Cervantes as both an accomplished poet and a comic genius. Indeed, these poems reveal the model of comicity that Cervantes utilizes in his masterpiece of humor, Don Quixote.’

by Adrienne Laskier Martín

This book is a revised version of author’s doctoral dissertation, written at Harvard University under the direction of Francisco Márquez Villanueva:

Cervantes, recognized as Spain’s greatest humorist, is especially alluring as a humorous poet since his festive corpus stands as a barely sampled treat waiting to be savored. It exemplifies his humor, the touchstone of all Cervantine literature, and at the same time confirms his substantial poetic gifts.

The purpose in this book is to provide an artistic analysis of Cervantes’s burlesque sonnets, a genre of which he was particularly fond and in which he excelled.

‘The burlesque sonnet is a rich vein within the comic verse tradition in Europe. And Cervantes was an excellent burlesque sonneteer. But what does “burlesque” actually mean? Although the origin of the word “burla” is unknown, it is apparently a Spanish creation whose later derivation, “burlesco” nevertheless derives from the Italian. The term means both a trick—”la acción que se hace con alguno, o la palabra que se le dice, con la cual se le procura engañar [an action or words used to deceive someone]” and mockery: “la acción, ademán, o palabras con que se hace irrisión y mofa de alguno, o de alguna cosa [an action, gesture, or words used to deride and ridicule someone or something]” (Autoridades, s.v. “burla “). The acceptations combine in burlesque poetry, whose purpose is to mock and ridicule someone or something, often itself. Burlesque can mock a literary style or movement or a specific work. It can also mock a person, a society, an institution, or even a nation. Burlesque is not specifically limited to literature, yet its richest expression is achieved through this medium. Burlesque is a certain attitude toward life and toward the object of the burla . Rather than criticize and censure bitterly as satire does, burlesque is festive and comic in spirit and in style. It does not imply satire’s superior stance with regard to its object. While satire tends to portray life as tragically flawed and vice-ridden, burlesque depicts life as ridiculous and, therefore, worthy of being ridiculed. This element of burla —of mockery and ridicule and of pulling a trick on someone or something—is essential to the aesthetic category of the burlesque. It must be allowed, however, that burlesque and satire cannot be rigidly separated and often overlap in practice.

Indispensible to a proper appreciation of the burlesque is the realization that it has its own aesthetic standards and conventions. Unfortunately, in the late twentieth century we still operate to an extent under the often prudish nineteenth-century canons of literary “good taste.” But the burlesque deliberately turns its back on “the beautiful” in its search for the festive image, the quick joke, the laugh. It does not seek harmonious, melodic language but one designed to ridicule and provoke laughter, to debase, and to shock our ears and even our sensibilities. Its concerns are not the intricacies of the soul, of love, or of metaphysics, but the parodic inversion of such sublime themes. This is not to say, however, that the burlesque is without its own profound philosophical “meaning.”

Paradoxically, through exaggeration, burlesque is a call to truth and antidogmatism. It bids us to cast aside the prevailing deadly serious world view so that we might see and enjoy ourselves in all our complexity: imperfect, illogical, and irrational, yet vital and irresistibly comical creatures.

2. Quevedo y Góngora

Along with his lifelong rival, Luis de Góngora, Quevedo was one of the most prominent Spanish poets of the age. His style is characterized by what was called conceptismo. This style existed in stark contrast to Góngora’s culteranismo.

Alix Ingber, Professor Emerita of Spanish at Sweet Briar College, USA, developed a web site with 115 translations of Golden Age Spanish sonnets to English: http://sonnets.spanish.sbc.edu

Quevedo: http://sonnets.spanish.sbc.edu/Quevedo.html
Góngora: http://sonnets.spanish.sbc.edu/Gongora.html

And more poets translated: http://sonnets.spanish.sbc.edu/Poets.html