James Fitzmaurice-Kelly.

Relations between Spanish and English literature online

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age ; new translations of Don Quixote were made by Motteux,
by Jervas, and by Smollett ; the first attempt at a critical
edition of the text was made by John Bowie, a country
parson, who brought down on his head a torrent of petty
abusive criticism from Giuseppe Barejti, a bumptious and



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malignant person, but a competent Spanish scholar a
combination still found occasionally, and by no means so
seldom as one could wish. Perhaps a word may be spared
for Mrs. Lennox's Female Quixote, greatly admired when it
first appeared in 1752 : the title implies a desire to tread
in Cervantes's footsteps, but the dust of oblivion has settled
on the English book.

So far we have been concerned mostly with the effect
produced by Spanish literature in England. Meanwhile,
to what extent was English literature known in Spain ?
Not at all, so far as the external evidence goes. No doubt
an individual Spaniard, now and then and here and there,
read a stray book by an English author, but this was not
necessarily a book written in English. Herrera, the celebrated
Andalusian poet, probably went to some such source in the
sixteenth century for his memoir of Sir Thomas More :
I have not identified the work consulted by Herrera, but
should expect it to be a Latin book like Stapleton's (though
not Stapleton's book itself). The material for La Corona
Trdgica was obtained by Lope de Vega from George Conn,
a Roman Catholic divine long resident at Rome, whose Latin
book on Mary Stuart was published there in 1624. As
Latin offers few difficulties to an educated Spaniard, the
fact that a contemporary Latin text was translated into
Spanish argues that it was expected to interest the general
public. Under this heading we have Spanish versions of
John Owen's Epigrammata, and translations by Pellicer de
Salas and (later) by Gabriel de Corral of John Barclay's
Argenis, which was dramatized by Calderon under the title
of Argenis y Foliar co in 1637 or earlier. Very likely there
are other instances of the same kind ; but there is not, so far
as I am aware, any external evidence that English literature
proper was known in Spain.

The War of Succession left Spain exhausted, and its own



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literature was much impoverished during the first half of the
eighteenth century. Little interest was taken in national
classics, and less in what was being produced abroad. The few
who had the curiosity to enquire sometimes made dis-
concerting discoveries : they learned, for instance, from
The Spectator that there had once existed a Spanish thinker
named Huarte, long since forgotten by his countrymen,
but still highly esteemed abroad. This experience actually
befell Feijoo, the most enlightened and encyclopaedic
Spaniard of his generation. If native writers were thus
neglected, foreigners naturally fared worse. With respect
to translations of English books into Spanish, so far as my
knowledge goes, there is a blank between the end of the
fourteenth century (when Juan de Cuenca translated Gower)
and the middle of the eighteenth century, when some
passages of Paradise Lost appear to have been translated
by Ignacio Luzan, the leader of a new literary movement
in Spain. These fragmentary renderings of Milton were
apparently unknown to Luzan's friend and ally Luis Jose de
Velazquez as late as 1754, the year of Luzan's death ; for, in
his Origenes de la poesia castellana of that date, Velazquez
refers to Alonso Dalda's unpublished version of Paradise
Lost as ' the only translation from English that we have.'
Like the rest of the world, Velazquez knew nothing of Juan
de Cuenca's Confision del Amante.^

During the latter half of the eighteenth century a
breath of the cosmopolitan spirit passed over Spain, and
English literature came in for some small share of notice.
It was not altogether a happy moment for us. Cadalso,
like Luzan, translated passages of Paradise Lost, and in his
Cartas marruecas there is an occasional reminiscence of
Goldsmith's Chinese Letters (afterwards entitled The Citizen
of the World} ; but Young was the idol of the hour, and
Cadalso respectfully modelled his Nocbes lugubres after



30

Young's Night Thoughts. Jovellanos also translated the
first book of Paradise Lost, while his protege Melendez Valdes,
a more gifted poet than himself, sought inspiration most
often in Thomson, Young and Pope, though he also imitated
Milton fitfully. Later on Quintana translated passages from
Addison, and based his uninteresting tragedy El Duque de
Viseo on Matthew Gregory Lewis's dull play The Castle
Spectre. This takes us just beyond the eighteenth century,
and, as we have trespassed over the border-line, it may be
noted that a certain tinge of English influence is found in the
liberal school of poets centred at Seville. Lista imitated
The Dunciad, and passages of Hamlet were admirably trans-
lated by Blanco White, that restless self-torturing man
of genius who, after securing for himself a niche in the
temple of English literature by his once famous sonnet,
made his home among you here in Liverpool. A passing
reference must suffice for translations of Burke and Blair,,
for NoronYs rendering of Alexander's Feast, and for his
Spanish versions of Sir William Jones's Latin translations
from the Arabic. But these casual essays in exoticism did
not affect the development of Spanish literature.

A marked revival of interest in Spanish took place
amongst us after the Peninsular War. Certain stanzas of
Childe Harold and Shelley's magnificent fragment from
Calderon's Mdgico prodigioso survive from that period ;
poems on Roderick by Scott and Southey found many readers
and perhaps some admirers (such as Mr. Arthur Pendennis,
who ' projected an epic poem in blank verse, Cortez, or the
Conqueror of Mexico, and the Inca*s Daughter ') ; Lockhart's
translations of Spanish ballads continued the work begun by
Percy, and it is, no doubt, to their initiative that the English-
speaking world owes Longfellow's admirable versions of the
Coplas de Jorge Manrique, and the mystic song embodied in
The Seaside and the Fireside. When Ferdinand VIPs



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Online LibraryJames Fitzmaurice-KellyRelations between Spanish and English literature → online text (page 3 of 3)