12 JANUARY 1850, Page 15


TICKNOR'S HISTORY OP SPANISH LITERATURE.* IT is a remarkable circumstance, and perhaps shows the practical character of the people, that while the Americans fail altogether in mere belles lettres, they excel in more practical literature. Among the myriads of their versifiers they have not produced an original poet. The only novelist of originality, or even of mark, is Cooper ; and his school—the manner in which he plans and conducts his story, as well as his general treatment—is European ; his novelty arises from the novelty of his subject, rather than from any ori- ginal conceptions of his own. Even in delineation of manners, reflections on social morals, and all that class of light literature which takes the form of essays, sketches, tales, no original writer has appeared, nor any very notable one except Washington Irving. Irving's model, however, was English ; and the greater part of his best works was European not only in style but in subject. In matters more directly practical this deficiency is reversed. If the Americans have not produced a Boerhaave, a Hunter, a Leen- nen, they have contributed their share to medical and surgical sci- ence. In jurisprudence and municipal law they have rivalled Europe. But it is in the literature of history that the Americans are most distinguished. Besides historical biographies, and histori- cal collections, that equal those of any other people when the short period of their national existence is borne in mind, as well as several histories of a respectable character, they have Bancroft, Prescott, and Washington Irving., who, if not original in their class, are eminent of their class, eontbming- extensive research with high literary excellence.

To this trio Mr. George Manor must now be added. With the qualities we have just mentioned he combines greater novelty otsubject, and consequently supplies a more useful book than the Life of Columbus, the Conquests of Mexico and Peru, or even than the History of the United States ; since these stories were already accessible, whichis more than could be said of the history of Spanish literature. The subject had not been treated sufficiently by Bon- terwek, or Sismondi; and by English writers not at all, except in detached portions. A history of it was therefore wanted ; not only for the general use of such books, but because few Englishmen study Spanish without a purpose. At the same time, the language and literature of Spain have so many remarkable features, that every one who aspires to literary knowledge should be acquainted with their outlines.

The Spanish language was one of the earliest formed and com- pleted in modern Europe, and Spain was the first country to pos- sess a really national literature. Like other precocious children, however, she stopped short, and, with the exception of Don Quixote, never afterwards produced & work that obtained a popu- lar European reputation and by operating upon the European mind assisted in the formation of character or the advance of civi- lization. Italy, France, England, and at a later date Germany, have not only produced works in every department of literature of a higher intrinsic merit, but those works have possessed that general character which, by their influence upon the minds of authors, has indirectly enriched and varied the literature of other nations, or operated still more directly by means of translations. The cause of this may be ascribed to various circumstances: the Southern and isolated position of Spain ; the destruction of ancient freedom and the establishment of despotism by Charles the Fifth, so quickly after the downfall of the last Moorish kingdom; the restraint upon men's minds exercised by the Inquisition • and last, but not least, the proud, bigoted, self-conceited character of the Spaniard, who, acknowledging no equal in anything, would_ of course learn nothing from any one. The date of the first Spanish document is 1155; and the lan- guage itself, as distinct from the barbarous Latin that arose after the fall of the Roman power, is supposed to be only fifty years earlier. The great epic ballad poem The Cid was composed within a hundred years of this formation of the language,—that is, before the year 1200 at the latest, while some authorities fix it half a century earlier. Castilian prose rapidly followed, and was dis- played in works of structure, utility, and even learning, at a time when the rest of Europe was sunk in barbarism, at least as regarded vernacular literature. Alfonso the Wise was born in 1221, ascended the throne in 1252, and died in 1284: during his father's reign the laws of the Visigoths were translated into Cas- tilian and it is supposed that Alfonso was :personally engaged in the work. Under his own reign the Bible was translated; and he produced between 1256 and 1265 the celebrated Partides, a code of laws with a primitive commentary, ostensibly argumenta- tive and hortative, but frequently descriptive of the manners of the age. As regards style' the Partidas not only formed or rather embodied the genius of the Castilian tongue, but continued to be superior in diction to anything that was produced for several centuries. As a body of''law it is still authoritative both in Spain and her former dependencies. Dunham observes that "if. all the other codes were banished,, Spain would still have a re- spectable body of jurisprudence ; for we have the experience of a respectable advocate in the Royal Tribunal of Appeals for assert- ing, that during an extensive practice of twenty-nine years, scarcely a case occurred that could not be virtually or expressly decided. by the code in question." Mr. Ticknor says, that "it is • History of Spanish Literature. By George Ticknor. In three Tolumes. Pub- lished by Murray. in fact a sort of Spanish common law, which, with the decisions under it, has been the basis of Spanish. jurisprudence ever since.; and becoming in. this way a part of the constitution of -the state in all Spanish colonies, it has from the time when Louisiana and Flo- rida were added to the United States, become in. some eases the law in. our own country: so wide may be the influence of a wise le • tion."

on Jahn Manuel, the nephew of Alfonso the Wise, was born in 1282, and died in 1347 ; and was a. man of action, as well as an author. He abridged the Chronicle of his uncle, wrote poems, treatises, and, what we should. now call essays ; but his great claim to consideration, arises from his having originated Spanish prose fiction, and in the Conde Lucanor anticipated the framework and manner of Boccaccio, however he might fall below him in genius. Contemporary with Don John-1330-1350—was the Arch-priest Hits.; who seems to us to have satirized the vices and.immoralities of priests and nuns-under the guise of an autobiography, and though he cannot be said .to have originated satirical fiction, since it perhaps was never altogether lost sight of from the time of Petronius or even Lucian, the Arch-priest appears to have given it a more consistent form than was found in the Fabliaux, and to have adapted it to the Spanish character. He was-followed by Don Pedro Lopez de Ayala, who dielin 1407; and whose chronicle is the best and completest authority for the reigns of Pedro the Cruel, his bastard brother Henry the Second, Sohn the First, and Henry the Third. This, however, is but a small part of his praise : he is entitled to be considered the first modem original historian—the first man of rank and action who took up his pen to record a continuous

of the events in which. he was engaged and the characters of the actors, and to do it with the cool judgment of a man of the world. In ballad literature Spain was preeminent, perhaps unrivalled. Although the time of the composition of the earlier ballads is unknown, and .the names of their authors have perished, there is. little question that the ballad itself is as ancient as The Cid, if not older; going back to a period coeval with the Norman Kings of England. In point- of merit the Spanish ballads surpass those of our own country : having less coarse- ness and vulgarity of tone an& style, more directness and con- densation in the narrative, with more vraisemblanee in the story, and more genuine manners—in short, being altogether more 'ballad, like. The Cid rises occasionally to an almost Homeric picturesque- ness and even force. The following picture of the quarrel between the followers of the Cid and of his sons-in-law is litre a scene from the Odyssey. The insolence of the retainer and the loyalty of the feudal .vassal are admirably depicted ; and the retainer is the

of classes yet existing: Frere, however, seems to have somewhat improved the original; which was hardly to have been looked for.

" Azur Gee zdlez was enfr...rg at the door,

With his ermine mantle trailing along the floor ; With his sauntering pace and his hardy look, Of manners or of courtesy little heed he took; He was flushed and hot with breakfast and with drink.

What ho ! my masters, your spirits seem.to sink ! Have we no news stirring from the Cid, Buy Diaz.of River? Has he been to Iliodivirna, to besiege the windmills there ? Does he tax the millers for their toll? or is that practice past?

Will he make a-match for his daughters; another like the last?'

Munio Gustioz rose. and made reply- ' Traitor, wilt thou never cease to dander and to lie ? You breakfast before mass, you drink before you pray; There is no honour in your heart, nor truth in what you say ; You cheat your comrade and your lord, you flatter to betray : Your hatred I despise, your friendship I defy !

False to all mankind, and most to God on high,

I shall force you ti confess that what I say-is true.' Thus was ended the parley and challenge betwixt these two."

The preparation for the combat of necessity has not so much spirit; but it . is curious for its precision and information, and shows how little like a genuine are the modern, reproduc- tions.

"The heralds and the King are foremost in the place. They clear away the people from the middle space : They measure out the lists, the bathers they fix, They point them out in order, and explain to all the six- ' If you are forced beyond the line where they are fixed and traced, You shall be held as conquered and beaten and disgraced.' Six lances' length on either .side an open space is laid; They share the field between them, the sunshine and the shade. Their office is performed ; and from the middle space The heralds are withdrawn, and leave them face to face. Here stood the warriors of the Cid, that noble champion ; Opposite, on the other side, the lords of Carrion. Earnestly their minds are fixed each upon his foe. Face to face they take their place, anon the trumpets blow;

They stir their horses with the spur, they lay. their lances low; They bend their shields before their breasts, their face to the siddle-

bow - Earnestly their minds are fixed each upon his foe. The heavens are overcast above, the earth trembles below ; The people stand in silence, gazing on the show."

The-first printed collection of ballads is in 1511: Some of them are by known anthers, and must have been written between 1460 and 1500. Others are more ancient... The fifteenth century was not, however, so distinguishedas the two preceding centuries for works of character, or for writers who originated a new class of literature, except it be the courtly school and a sort of imitatioii of the Provencals. Towards the close of the century, however, ap- peared. La Celeetina. Whatever this piece may be called, however long and rude its structure, and however coarse and rofii- gate its sentiments and language, it.was in reality a naodern

nearly a century before any other country possessed one. It con- tained too the germ of that bustle and intrigue which subsequently

formed the Spanish comedy, and either in " adaptation " or imita- tion influenced the drama of what was formerly civilized Europe,— that is, Italy, France, and Great Britain. In the first half of the sixteenth century appeared the Lazart7lo de Tomes of Mendoza ; which also gave to Europe a type for the novel of knavery and low adventure. The highest and most artistica' form is exhibited in Gil Bias ; but so congenial is the subject to the facts of modern life' that no generation,, perhaps no decade, passes without a repro- duction of the idea in some form or other. With Lazarillo de Tormes Spanish literature may be said to have stopped short or declined, except in the instance of Don Quixote, just at the time when other nations were arising to the race. Quevedo has given us a household phrase, in "Nell is paved with good intentions." The names of Lope de Vega and Calderon are familiarized to the eye if not the mouth ; but they are only read in the original by a few scattered scholars; while the occasional translations of par- ticular plays %aye, we believe, "dropped still-born from the press." Either Spam has not produced a work of that lofty character which is emphatically denominated classic,--one whose basis, whatever the forms may be, is universal nature, whose characters are types of mankind in general, whose lessons of life apply to all circumstances, and whose execution is as faultless and finished as the failings of man's nature and language permit literary execution to be,—or else there is a luck in literature, and Spain has not been lucky enough to 'become a fashion. For this reason a history of Spanish literature is a desideratum to England, apart from the general utility of such works when well executed; and Mr. Tielmor's history is as well executed as we are entitled to expect such a book to be. It is a labour of love and of time ; Mr. Tielmor's first studies in Spanish literature were commenced upwards of thirty years ago, at Madrid, and have been continued with increasing zest to the present day. In the pursuit of his studies, and the formation of his collection, he has enjoyed the assistance of many Spaniards of literary eminence, as well as of his countrymen Irving and Prescott. These external aids, however, are of little consequence without natural aptitude, and Mr. Ticknor is in himself well qualified for his task. His critical taste and acumen are good, with a leaning to the favour- able side : he is not only well read in Spanish literature, but in the collateral lines of French and English critics and German scho- lars. In the important matter of scale he is more judicious than many other writers; giving a sufficient account of the author or the book without drawing it out to an undue length. Sometimes we may hear more about a minor writer than we care to know; r- haps fuller specimens of the earlier authors, especially- the b

writers, might have been desirable ; and the account of the writers on newly-discovered America is bald : but on the whole, the management of this part is sound. The plan is well digested, and well arranged, both to facilitate the reader's inquiry and to classify the materials. The division is by epochs ; which, though in some sense dynastic, distinctly enough mark the literary characteris- tics of Spain. The first period extends from the origin of the language to the end of the reigns of Ferdinand and Isabella, circa 1150-1516. The next begins with the accession of the house of Austria under the Emperor Charles, and closes with its extinc- tion in 1700, when the death of Charles the Second plunged Eu- rope into the war of the Succession. The third embraces Spanish letters under the house of Bourbon until the invasion of Napoleon Bonaparte. These grand divisions are judiciously subdivided, ac- cording to the class of the ]iterature,—as chronicles, ballads, the drama; unless where the weight and character of a particular writer supersedes the school in the person of the master,—as in the case of Alfonso the Wise for an early period, Cervantes and Lope de Vega for a later day. Besides the more direct literary mat- ter, the subject naturally gives rise to a description of the manners that the books illustrate, and involves some account of the age it- self, while a notice of the author is mostly desirable and frequently indispensable. Thus the literary history is varied by pictures of the age, sketches of the more striking parts of Spanish story, and a pretty complete gallery of Spanish authors. The distinguishing characteristics of the author's style are clear- ness, precision, and propriety. There is no redundancy of words, no possibility of mistaking his meaning ; the reader is never delayed by involved or encumbered sentences; and the diction varies su.ffi- ciently with its subject to avoid monotony. If Mr. Ticknor does not rise to high eloquence, he is equal to his theme, and he rarely or never falls into that rather stilted rhetoric from which few of his countrymen are altogether free, especially when dealing with chivalrous subjects. It might perhaps be critically objected that his book is rather an historical review of Spanish literature than in strictness a history; but such would be a theoretical objection. If the work has not the condensed and comprehensive elevation of history, it is more useful and informing than that species of compo- sition can ever become when its subject matter is books. In such case the reader must altogether rely upon his author. Mr. Ticknor enables him to judge for liimself, so far as it is practicable to do so. The critical reviewer, indeed, is not altogether free from the fault of raising the relative and occasionally the absolute merit of his authors too high. This, however, is so difficult to avoid that we can conceive no other method than a structural arrangement, assisted by mechanical means. The originators or principals of a class or school might be considered singly, and the others follow in a smaller type. If, however, there is to be any notice of a writer, anything beyond a summary characteristic and dismissal, it is al- most impossible to avoid some exaggeration of his attractive if not of his abstract merit.

A work like this suffers by extracts, that must be taken in small portions • because it is not in its parts that the value or character of the book consists. Our .quotations must therefore be looked upon as specimens of manner, or the sort of matter, rather than anything else. The following is Mr. Ticknor's criticism on The Cid, after describing its story. "The story of the poem constitutes the least of its claims to our notice. In truth, we do not read it at all for its mere facts, which are often detailed with the minuteness and formality of a monkish chronicle; but for its living pic- tures of the age it represents, and for the vivacity with which it brings up manners and interests so remote from our own experience, that, where they are attempted in formal history, they come to us as cold as the fables of mythology. We read it because it is a contemporary and spirited exhibition of the chivalrous times of Spain, given occasionally with an Homeric simpli- city altogether admirable. For the story it tells is not only that of the most romantic achievements, attributed to the most romantic hero of Spanish tra- dition, but it is mingled continually with domestic and personal details, that bring the character of the Cid and his age near to our own sympathies and interests. The very language in which it is told is the language he him- self spoke, still only half developed; dm' encumbering itself with difficulty from the characteristics of the Latin ; its new constructions by no means es- tablished; imperfect in its forms, and ill furnished with the connecting par- ticles in which resides so much of the power and. grace of all languages; but still breathing the bold, sincere, and original spirit of its times, and showing plainly that it is struggling with success for a place among the other wild elements of the national genius. And finally, the metre and rhyme into which the whole poem is cast are rude and unsettled : the verse claiming to be of fourteen ayllables, divided by an abrupt =aural pause after the eighth, yet often running out to sixteen or twenty, and sometimes falling back to twelve ; but always bearing the impress of a free and fearless spirit, .which harmonizes alike with the poet's language, subject, and age, and so gives to the story a stir and interest, which, though we are separated from it by. so many centuries, bring some of its scenes before us like those of a drama."

Don John Manuel, regent, warrior, and statesmen, was very particular in having his works fairly transcribed, (though his la- bour was in vain, for the manuscripts are lost or imperfect) ; and he gives this quaint story as a reason for it. "In the time of King Jayme the First of Majorca,' says he, there was a knight of Perpignan, who was a great Troubadour, and made brave songs wonderfully well. But one that he made was better than the rest, and moreover was set to good music ; and people were so delighted with that song, that for a long time they would sing no other. And so the knight that made it was well pleased. But one day, going through the streets, he heard a shoemaker singing this song and he sang it so ill both in words and tune, that any man who had not it before would have held it to be a very poor sons and very ill made. Now when the knight heard that shoemaker spoil his good work, he was full of grief and anger, and got down from his beast and sat down by him. But the shoemaker gave no heed to the knight, and did not cease from singing; and the further he sang the worse he spoiled the song that knight had made. And when the knight heard his good work so spoiled by the foolishness of the shoemaker, he took up very gently some shears that laythere and cut all the shoemaker's shoes in pieces, and mounted his beast and rode away. "'Now when the shoemaker saw his shoes and beheld how they were cut to pieces and that he had lost all his labour, he was much troubled, and went shouting after the knight that had done it. And the knight answered, My friend, our lord the King, as you well know, is a good king and a just : let us, then, go to him, and let him determine as may seem right the difference between us.' And they were agreed to do so. And when they came before the King, the shoemaker told him how all his shoes had been cut in pieces and much harm done to him. And the King was wroth at it, and asked the knight if this were truth. And the knight said that it was, but that he would like to say why he did it. And the King told him to say on. And the knight answered, that the King well knew that he had made a song—the one that was very good and had good music ; and he said that the shoemaker had spoiled it in singing; in proof whereof he prayed the King to command him now to sing it. And the King did so, and saw how he spoiled it. Then the knight said, that since the shoemaker had spoiled the good work he had made with great pains and labour, so he might spoil the works of the shoemaker. And the King and all they that were there with him were very merry at this, and laughed; and the King commanded the shoemaker never to sing that song again, nor trouble the good work of the knight ; but the King paid the shoemaker for the harm that was done him, and commanded the knight not to vex the shoemaker any more. "'And now, knowing that I cannot hinder the books I have made from being copied many times, and seeing that in copies one thing is put for an- other, either because he who copies is ignorant, or because one word looks so much like another, and so the meaning and sense are changed without any fault in him who first wrote it; therefore I, Don John Manuel, to avoid this wrong as much as I may, have caused this volume to be made, in which are written out all the works I have composed; and they are twelve.' " The following passage on the present popular estimation of Spanish ballads' is an example of the living spirit the author can at fitting times throw into his work. "But, besides what the Spanish ballads possess different from the popular poetry of the rest of Europe, they exhibit, as no others exhibit it, that nation- ality which is the truest element of such poetry everywhere. They seem, indeed, as we read them, to be often little more than the great traits of the old Spanish character brought out by the force of poetical enthusiasm ; so that, if their nationality were taken away from them, they would cease to exist. This, in its turn, has preserved them down to the present day., and will continue to pre- serve them hereafter. The great Castilian heroes, such as the (Did, Bernardo del Carpio, and Pelayo, are even now an essential portion of the faith and poetry of the common people of Spain, and are still in some degree honoured as they were honoured in the ago of the Great Captain, or, far back, in that of Saint Ferdinand. The stories of Guarinos, too and of the defeat of Roncesvalles, are still sung by the wayfaring muleteers as they were when Don Quixote heard them in his journeying to Toboso and the showmen still rehearse the adventures of Gayferos and Melisendra in the streets of Seville, as they did at the solitary inn of Montesinos when he encountered them there. In short, the ancient Spanish ballads are so truly national in their spirit that they become at once identified with the popular character that had produced them, and with that same character will go onward, we doubt not, till the Spanish people shall cease to have a separate and independent existence." The poetical specimens of The Cid are from Frere's version ; those of the Coplas of Mamique are taken from Mr. Longfellow's ; the remaining poetical translations are by Mr. Ticknor. Like most other translations, they are often somewhat too modern in their spirit, preserving the ideas rather than the antique character which Frere has caught so well. The following version of a ballad de- scriptive of manners may be taken as a favourable specimen.

"Her sister Miguela Once chid little Jane, And the words that she spoke Gave a great deal of pain.

" ' You went yesterday playing, A child like the rest ; And now you come out, More than other girls dressed.

" ' You take pleasure in sighs,

In end music delight;

With the dawning you rise, Yet sit up half the night.

"'When you take up your work, You look vacant and stare And gaze on your sampler,

But miss the stitch there.

" ' You 're in love, people say, Your actions all show it : New ways we shall have When mother shall know it.

" 'She '11 nail up the windows, And lock up the door;

Leave to frolic and dance

She will give us no more.

" ' Old aunt will be sent To take us to mass, And stop all our talk With the girls as we pass.

"'And when we walk out, - She will bid our old shrew Keep a faithful account Of what our eyes do ; " ' And mark who goes by, If I peep through the blind,

And be sure and detect us

In looking behind.

" ' If when but a child Love's power you own, Pray what will you do When you older are grown ?' "

" 'Thus for your idle follies

Must I suffer too, And, though nothing I've done, Be punished like you.'

"'Ox sister Miguela,

Your chiding pray spare ;

That I've troubles you guess, But not what they are.

"'Young Pedro it is, Old Juan's fair youth; But he's gone to the wars ; And where is his truth?

"'I loved him sincerely, I loved all he said; But I fear he is fickle, I fear he is fled.

" ' He is gone of free choice

Without summons or call;

And 'tits foolish to love him, Or like him at all.'

"'Nay, rather do thou To God pray above, Lest Pedro return, And again you should love,' "Said Miguela in jest, As she answered poor Jane; For when love has been bought At cost of such pain, " ' What hope is there mister,

Unless the soul part,

That the passion you cherish Should yield up your heart?

" 'Your years will increase, But so will your pains ; And this you may learn From the proverb' s old strains--