26 SEPTEMBER 1863, Page 21

TICKNOR'S SPANISH LITERATURE.* THERE has been in Spain, if anywhere

in Europe, a very distinct province occupied by literature proper, which is in that country mixed up as little as possible with material science, positive philosophy, or rigid and independent criticism of doctrine, or even of history. Her authors are authors above all things, and lose no opportunity of displaying wit, fancy, invention, or rhetoric, by devoting themselves to intractable though instructive topics. They do not repel or embarrass the mere literary glutton by imperceptibly engaging him in severe studies, or by demanding resolute efforts of moral judgment. If elsewhere the fine style and imagination of Lucretius are expended on atomic theories, if the admirer of Bacon's brilliant sentences must glean them from volumes of crude physical memoranda, if Milton's grand epic con- ceptions are clogged by a dry exposition of Arian theology, if Cole- ridge's subtle trains of thought are cut short to serve others as "aids to reflection," we find in Spain few such sacrifices to extra-literary duties, few such voluntary steppings to the debateable frontiers of the Musnan region. All is written to dazzle and gratify the court or the people. What we find of serious sentiment is conformable to national prepossessions. There is no spirit of inquiry or individuality in it. Its manner charms the reader everywhere, its character makes no practical impression beyond the Pyrenees. This is for the foreigner a literature of luxury, which can convey no seeds of agitation or of progress. The Spaniard's love of marvel and adventure, his hotheaded faith and violent zeal, cannot be transplanted by books. In his early ballads they excite a vague sympathy, which cannot be realized under the conditions of modem life—in the works of a cultivated age they astonish without attracting us. We are deaf to the moral while we enjoy the tale in which it is embodied. The domain of Spanish thought attracts many tourists and no settlers.

As a guide to this literature Mr. Ticknor has taken an impor- tant position by his extensive reading and diligent research. His critiques are not very profound or ingenious, but evince a taste which satisfies us in the majority of instances. His metrical translations are rough, but abundant and materially accurate ; and the great number of extracts and abstracts he supplies enables us to form an opinion of the style and inventive power of as many authors as could be desired. Tho value of his work has been attested by various translations and annotations which have been produced by Continental scholars, as Don Pascual de Gayangos, Dr. Julius, and Dr. Ferdinand Wolf, whose work on Brazilian literature we hope soon to notice. His first editions em- bodied the studies and researches of thirty years, to which fifteen have been added to prepare the " corrected and enlarged edition." He has revisited numerous libraries in Spain and various parts of Europe, and carefully examined the observations of his foreign translators. The chief result of these labours has been to give the history a more cyclopardic completeness as a work of refer- ence. The author tells us :—

"The lives of Garcilasso de 1a Vega, the poet, and of Luis do Leon, the persecuted scholar, have been re-written and enlarged, from materials not known to exist, or at least not published, when the earlier editions of this history appeared. Tho lives of Cervantes, of Lope de Vega, and of not a few others, have, in the same way, received additions or corrections. Above a hundred authors of inferior importance, no doubt, but, as I suppose, worthy of a notice they had not before received, have now found their appropriate places, generally in the notes, but sometimes in the text ; and discussions which, taken together, are of no small amount, have been introduced respecting books already examined with more or less care, but now examined afresh. There are accordingly but few consecutive pages . . . . which do not boar witness to what, I hope, may be accounted improvements, and what are certainly considerable changes."

We will glance at one of the first of the above-mentioned lives, in which we find some very interesting additions, that leave ttnatnended, however, a partial incompleteness in the scope of the original notice. We mean the memoir of Luis Ponce de Leon, an author distinguished by his able translations of clas- sical and sacred poetry, by his comparatively pure and antique taste as en original lyrist, and by his biblical and theological

• History of Spaniel& Literature. By George Ticknor. Corseted and Enlarged Edition. Landon Triibner and Co.

learning. He had scarcely been promoted for the latter attain. ments to the highest posts in the university of Salamanca, when he was denounced before the Inquisition, 1571, partly for having disparaged, in various modes, the all but infallible and impeccable authority of the Vulgate ; partly for having trans- lated the " Song of Solomon" into Castilian, treating it, to all appearance, as a mere secular eclogue (carmen amatorium). On the former points he was prepared to tender explanations and qualifications, which, in most cases, the Church could not formally reject, though it might have proved unpleasant if they had been much talked of. Against the second charge he had partly screened himself by his preface, in which he admitted that the book had other significations than the amatory ; but all such, as he maintained, had been fully treated by others ; so that it only remained for his weaker pen to remove some difficulties in the literal and external in- terpretation. Moreover, he had done this, as he afterwards deposed, for the edification of one lady in a religious order; and it was only by the fraud of a neighbour of his that the work had been more widely circulated. One would think that Luis de Leon, his friend, and his accusers had been alike unable to appreciate the simple maxim of Dante, that to get at the inner and spiritual meaning of an allegory people must first master the outer and physical, as they must break the nut to get at the kernel. But the Churchmen who accused Luis may have been prompted by a sagacious instinct (though many of them were defeated rivals or opponents in controversy, or for other reasons personal enemies of his), to consider his work as one calculated to endanger received opinions. He had plausibly cleared his text of its difficult constructions and allusions (though, indeed, by dint of poetic subtlety rather than the historic scrutiny a modem reader would require), and had ex- hibited it as a complete and beautiful eclogue ; did he not re- move the most powerful motive by which the popular mind is con- vinced of the existence of the allegory? Luis himself was, perhaps, unconscious of the tendency of his labours. He was a devout Catholic, if we may repose any trust in the general professions of submission to the Church which he made during his imprison- ment (amidst frank protests against the corruption of some of his judges), or the works which he published after his liberation, including another commentary on Canticles, written in Latin, and comprising an orthodox threefold interpretation. It is likely that his fastidiousness in the literal interpretation arose from the delicacy of his poetic feeling, rather than from any decided scepticism in his general views. At the same time, he was a very independent inquirer, and may have practised a prudent dissimulation in the expressions in which he suggested new lines of thought to his contemporaries, oppressed as their minds were by the shackles of hereditary opinion and ecclesiastic authority.

We should have been glad to see this "Commentary" more fully examined than it is in the work of Mr. Ticknor, who is always, however, very cautious, and, perhaps, wisely so, in quitting the discussion of mere literary merit or personal character for that of the few solid efforts of thought which we encounter in Spanish literature. But we have more cause to complain of the formal and undiscriminating style of the opening of the chapter on Luis de Leon, in which he seems to be taken as a representative of the most ordinary, credulous, and fanatical Castilian piety. On the other hand, Mr. Ticknor's account of the actual proceed- ings of the Inquisition in this man's case is now enriched with numerous particulars taken from the entire official record, which has been published in the " Documentos Ineditos " of Salad and Saint de Baranda,1847-8. He has hence culled some striking details about the hardships of Luis's imprisonment, the examina- tions (no fewer than fifty) to which he was subjected, the spirit and skilfulness of his depositions, his narrow escape after five years from an application of the rack, though it was to have been a moderate one, from regard to his delicate health, and lastly, his sudden and unexplained acquittal, when the Metropolitan Council of the Inquisition had taken the b usiness out of the hands of the Valladolid Court (to which it had been removed from that of Salamanca). These additions will be highly welcome to the general reader, and relate to a matter very slightly noticed by Bouterwek and Sismondi.

In the much-debated question of the relations that subsisted between Cervantes and Lope de Vega, Mr. Ticknor's well-con- sidered views, crediting Cervantes with a candid admiration of his contemporary, in which personal regard had no share, and im- puting more of jealousy and unkindness to Lope de Vega, have received a striking confirmation from the discovery of some autograph letters of the latter author, which were inherited by the Duke de Sessa, and from which extracts have been published by A. F. Schack, in an appendix to his "History of the Spanish Drama, 1854." It appears that in August, 1604, while "Don Quixote " was yet in the press, Lope wrote to his patron, " Of poets I speak not. Many are in the bud for next year ; but there is none so bad as Cervantes, or so foolish as to praise ' Don Quixote;"' further on, again, he writes concerning satire, "It is a thing as hateful to me as my little books are to Almendares and my plays to Cervantes." The intellectual characters of these most remarkable men are so strongly contrasted that we are not surprised by its producing the antipathy here disclosed ; but it must be remembered that they both survived the date of this letter, the one by twelve and the other by thirty-one years.

Our historian's notices of authors, of which the regular series terminated with the year 1818, has not been carried down to the present day, except in regard to a few critics and editors of early works. The fame of Fernan Caballero has not suggested to him any speculations on the future of novel-writing in the Peninsula. He has paid little attention to De los Rios's two volumes on the early literature of Spain, because they barely reach the period in which the modern language superseded Latin ; and he has thus left unnoticed a curious and well-supported theory that the modem system of rhyming grew up spontaneously in Latin com- position, and that the first rhymes were mostly assonances or vowel rhymes.

In form the present edition is much more portable than its predecessors ; but the notes are printed too small to allow the Spanish, especially the poetical extracts, to be read with perfect comfort.