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16 posts categorized "Portugal"

20 March 2017

Actaeon was not a voyeur

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The current small exhibition about Ovid in art (primarily ceramics) at the Wallace Collection reminded me of an earlier one at the National Gallery. Here some artists of our time paid homage to Actaeon on the entirely bogus grounds that he was a voyeur, and regaled us with a mock-up of a peep-show and similar treats.

But let’s back to the text, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, book III: Actaeon was out hunting and stumbled on Diana, goddess of chastity and the hunt, bathing with her nymphs.

Actaeon MS Harley 4431

Actaeon surprising Diana at her bath, miniature from Christine de Pizan, L’Épître Othéa, part of MS Harley 4431.

In Mary Innes’s translation for Penguin Classics (1955 and much reprinted):

The nymphs, discovered in their nakedness, beat their breasts at the sight of a man ... Crowding around Diana, they sheltered her with their bodies, but the goddess was taller than they, head and shoulders above them all

Vengefully, the goddess sprinkles Actaeon with water, turning him into a stag and causing him to be killed by his hounds.

Actaeon Emblemata 12305.bbb.37 Actaeon transformed, and pursued by his own hounds, from Andreas Alciatus, Emblemata (Lyons, 1551). 12305.bbb.37

Ovid gives the message right at the start:

Fortunae crimen in illo,
non scelus invenies; quod enim scelus error habebat?
(Destiny was to blame for Actaeon’s misfortunes, not any guilt on his part; for there is nothing sinful in losing one’s way.)

Ovid himself likens himself to Actaeon in Tristia II. Explaining why the Emperor Augustus exiled him to Romania, he says “Like Actaeon, I saw something”. What we don’t know, but Ovid obviously thought Actaeon was innocent, which meant that he was innocent too.

Actaeon 833.l.1

Diana and Actaeon from Ovid, Metamporphoses (Venice, 1513) 833.l.1.

But later authorities couldn’t help wanting to put the blame on Actaeon.

Fulgentius (5th century) said that Actaeon wasted all his time on money on leisure (hunting) and was therefore consumed by his hobby.

Actaeon IB.23185

 The story of Actaeon, from Ovidio methamorphoseos vulgare, translated and allegorised by Giovanni di Bonsignore (Venice, 1497) IB.23185.

Giovanni di Bonsignore (14th century) said he turned into a stag because his love of the solitary pursuit of hunting had made his proud and anti-social, like the stag.

Camões in the Lusiads (16th century) says much the same about Actaeon, but this is interpreted by Manuel de Faria e Sousa in the 17th century as something to be applied to the young King Sebastian.


Actaeon King Sebastian 10631.c.4
 The headstrong King Sebastian of Portugal from Fray Bernardo de Brito, Elogios dos reis de Portugal (Lisbon,
1603) 10631.c.4

Headstrong young Sebastian, like Actaeon, was too keen on sports and neglectful of the need to find a wife. And of course he died young, at the battle of Alcacer Quibir, because of his hot-headedness and left Portugal without an heir, leading to what the Portuguese call the “Philippine Domination” of 1580-1640.

So, be careful when you go down to the woods.

But whatever his mistakes Actaeon was not a voyeur.

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Studies

References:

Barry Taylor, ‘O mito de Actéon: interpretação e poetização’, in Mythos: a tradição mitográfica portuguesa; representações e identidade séculos XVI-XVIII, ed. Abel N. Pena (Lisbon, 2008), pp. 55-66. YF.2012.a.29085

The Metamorphoses of Ovid. Translated and with an introduction by Mary M. Innes (Harmondsworth, 1955) W.P.513/58.

Gerlinde Huber-Rebenich, Sabine Lütkemeyer, Hermann Walter, Ikonographisches Repertorium zu den Metamorphosen des Ovid : die textbegleitende Druckgraphik (Berlin, 2004-), I.1, pp. 38-39. YF.2008.b.1354

 

11 January 2017

Father Manuel Alvares, the Portuguese Jesuit who taught the British Latin

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When John Aubrey, best known for his unbuttoned biographical sketches Brief Lives, drew up the programme of studies for his ideal school, he referred no less than five times to the work of a Portuguese Jesuit:

In the first year (age 10) the boys should learn “the rules of Emmanuel Alvarus’s Grammar” (p. 64)
The library should include “Emmanuel Alvarus, Grammatica” (p. 71)
“Let them learn the XXI Praecepta de Constructione (translated into English) Institutionum Linguae Latinae, Emmanuelis Alvari” (p. 89)
“When they understand Latin pretty well, then they learn the second part of Alvarus’s Grammar. Many of the priests go no further than the first part.” (p. 93)
“Let them repeat the Latin Alvarus and Greek grammar every month or six weeks: only that memoriter, except in a week or fortnight some good short speech by way of narrare in the hall at diner time” (p. 94-95).

These references are to Father Manuel Alvares (1526-1583) SJ and his De institutione grammatica libri tres. Born in Madeira, he was ordained priest in 1538 and was persuaded to join the Society when a Jesuit stopped off on the island on the way to India. Adept in the three biblical tongues, he was a successful teacher and was commissioned to write a Latin grammar for the Jesuit schools. (A Jesuit education, you will remember, was the best schooling a Catholic boy could get at this period.)

Alvarus tp

Title page of Alvares’s Grammar (Evora, 1599). British Library 1509/4497. Note the device of the Society of Jesus. 

He was Rector of the Colégio das Artes in Coimbra from 1561 to 1566. The Colégio had been founded by John III in 1548 in a spirit of liberal openness to Europe: top scholars were recruited from France and Scotland. But this golden age was not to last: in 1550 the teachers were persecuted for heresy and in 1555 the College handed over to those Cerberuses of orthodoxy, the Jesuits, one of whom was Alvares.

The ESTC lists 26 British editions of his various grammatical works, in Latin or in translation, from 1671 to 1794. A Japanese translation was produced for Jesuit schools in the East.

Alvarus English tp

 An early 18th-Century English edition of Alvares’s Grammar (London, 1707) 1568/3623.

But Alvares thrived into much more recent times. James Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus  learned “what little he knew of the laws of Latin verse from a ragged book written by a Portuguese priest” (cited Schork, p. 21).

What this shows is the international quality of Latin in the modern period. Nobody seemed to care that Alvares was a Jesuit: knowledge is knowledge regardless of the vessel which contains it. (I hope that doesn’t sound too sententious.)

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance collections.

References:

R. J. Schork, Latin and Roman Culture in Joyce (Gainesville’, 1997) YC.2001.a.5813

J. E. Stephens, Aubrey on Education (London, 1972) X.529/13983

B. Taylor, ‘Recent Acquisitions: a Rare Work by Jacobus Tevius’, eBLJ, 2003, Article 5

22 November 2016

The philologist and the silkworm

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Rafael Bluteau (1638-1734) was born of French parents in London and spent most of his life in Portugal. His training in English, French, Italian, Spanish, Latin and Greek qualified him superbly to produce his most famous work, the Vocabulário Portuguez e Latino (Coimbra, 1712; British Library 828.i.1-8.).

Less known is this newly acquired work on the breeding and cultivation of the mulberry and the silkworm which feeds on it, the first Portuguese treatise on the subject.

Silkworms Bluteau

 Title page of Instrucçam sobre a cultura das amoreiras, & criaçaõ dos bichos de seda [...] pelo P. D. Rafael Bluteau (Lisbon, 1679). RB.23.a.36973

It doesn’t do to underestimate the importance of the silk trade, and the silkworm lived like a prince.

They don’t like noise, so keep them away from noisy mechanicals such as blacksmiths (p. 136). They don’t like the wet, so ensure the mulberry leaves on which they feed are kept dry (p. 151). They do like beautiful smells (incense and benzoin, p. 160) but don’t like the breath of people who’ve been eating garlic, onions or leeks (p. 162). Naturally they don’t like thunderstorms. Obviously you can’t stop the weather, but you can try to counter its effects with nice smells such as slices of ham or fried chouriço (p. 165) and by getting a large number of people to make a noise to cover up the thunder (p. 166).

Silkworms Merian

Silkworms, from Maria Sybilla Merian Der Raupen wunderbare Verwandlung und sonderbare Blumen-nährung (Nuremberg, 1679). 445.c.15.

The silkworm was fêted in poetry from the earliest years of the printing press: Marco Girolamo Vida wrote an epic on the life of Christ, the Christiad (published 1535) but also the De bombyce, printed in a collection published in Rome in 1527 (C.4.h.5) and cited by Bluteau (p. 177).

Bluteau closes his technical treatise with two Latin paeans, one in prose and one in verse, to the not so humble worm.

And I end by quoting the finale of his Portuguese text:

Let us close by saying of the silkworms that all is miraculous while they live, and everything that remains of them after death is of benefit.

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Studies

03 June 2016

Cats and Dogs

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Cats and Dogs Covarrubias Horozco
 Sebastián de Covarrubias Horozco, Emblemas morales (Madrid, 1610) 637.g.22. Centura III, emblema 79 (f. 279).

Anda agora el mundo tal
que no se cual va tras cual
[It’s upside-down!
Now, who can say
Who’s the chaser
And who the prey?]

This emblem shows mice chasing cats and hares chasing dogs (or is it the other way round?).

Nowadays I think we’d think in terms of cats chasing dogs: after all, the two are natural antagonists, as in the film of 2001. And in the 18th century this Portuguese mock epic does indeed pit the cat against the dog:

Cats and Dogs CarvalhoJoão Jorge de Carvalho, Gaticanea, ou Crudelissima guerra entre os cães, e os gatos (Lisbon, 1781) 11452.aaa.20.

(I wonder if the phrase “raining cats and dogs” refers to the commotion caused when cats and dogs fight.)

But cat vs dog isn’t the only bout in town.

Back at the dawn of literature, in Aesop’s fables, the protagonists are never cats and dogs. To further complicate the matter, cats aren’t cats. Olivia and Robert Temple argue:

Precision in the terminology also reveals facts such as that household pets in ancient Greece were not cats but domesticated polecats, or house-ferrets (galē). (The Complete Fables, p. xix).

Terminological exactitude, or the translator’s age-old desire to outdo his predecessors?

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Studies

References:

Alberto Pimentel, Poemas herói-comicos portugueses (Porto, 1922)
X.908/25214.

Aesop, The complete fables; translated by Olivia and Robert Temple; with an introduction by Robert Temple. (London, 1998) YK.1998.a.7044

 

08 April 2016

Portuguese Anagrammatic Nun Novelist

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If that title sounds like a cryptic crossword clue, so much the better.

Leonarda tpBrados do desengano contra o profundo sono do esquecimento. II. Parte. Escrita por Leonarda Gil da Gama, natural da Serra de Cintra. (Lisbon, 1739). RB.23.a.36813

An improving novel in the baroque style, interspersed with poems. The author (1672-1760?) was born Maria Magdalena Eufémia da Glória. When she entered the Franciscan order at the convent of Nossa Senhora da Esperança in Lisbon, she took the name in religion Magdalena da Gloria. She wrote under the pseudonym Leonarda Gil da Gama, an anagram of her religious name. Her convent was home also to Maria do Ceu (b. 1658), author of several baroque works. Sister Maria has been studied in recent years, but it looks as if Leonarda’s star has yet to rise again.

The reason for her affecting a pseudonym was not her sex (Maria do Ceu had no such problem) but presumably her vocation. One wonders how much of a secret this was: the Prologues recognise that her name is an anagram, and given the anagram-crazy culture of the Baroque it must have been child’s play to unmask her.


Leonarda preface 2
Leonarda’s use of an anagrammatic pseudonym as mentioned in the preliminaries to the book. 

The Spanish Jesuit Baltasar Gracián (1601-1658) hid his identity under that of his brother Lorenzo and the anagram García de Marlones.

Baroque style lived on in Portugal in prose and verse when it was rather in decline elsewhere. One indication of this is that most of the 17th-century poets are to be read in the anthology A Fenix renascida (‘Phoenix reborn’) of 1716-28 (we have a mixed set at 11452.a.23.).

In his bibliography, Innocêncio Francisco da Silva tells us she was much admired in her own time, dubbed the Phoenix of Wits (Phenix dos Ingenhos), although ‘today [1860] few would be able to bear reading her works, on account of her exquisitely conceptista style’.

This is a new acquisition. We have other works by her, all apparently acquired quite recently, an indication both of the long period of neglect which she has suffered and a sign that her fortunes may be rallying.

Should you wish to assist this process of reassessment, where better to start than the British Library?

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance language collections

References:

Leonarda Gil da Gama, Aguia real, fenix abrazado, pelicano amante, historia panegyrica, e vida prodigioza do inclito Patriarca ... S. Agostinho ... (Lisbon, 1744). RB.23.a.8047

Leonarda Gil da Gama, Reyno de Babylonia, ganhado pelas armas do empyreo; discurso moral …
(Lisbon, 1749). Cup.407.n.4. (also available online) Illustrated with alegorical emblems.

Sóror Maria do Céu, Triunfo do rosário : repartido em cinco autos; tradução e apresentação de Ana Hatherly. (Lisbon, 1992). YA.1995.a.8273

Rellaçaõ da vida e morte da serva de Deos a veneravel Madre Elenna da Crus : transcriçaõ do Códice 87 da Biblioteca Nacional precedida de um estudo histórico / por Maria do Céu ; Filomena Belo. (Lisbon, 1993). YA.2000.a.29236

Walter Begley, Biblia Anagrammatica, or the Anagrammatic Bible: a literary curiosity gathered from unexplored sources and from books of the greatest rarity ... With a general introduction and a special bibliography. (London, 1904) 3129.e.77.

  Leonarda decoration
Decorative header from Brados do desengano contra o profundo sono do esquecimento

 

21 December 2015

World proverbs in speech, text and image

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All the world over, wise people say “Nobody knows his own defects” and “What the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over”. 

You may find this an inspiring indication of the oneness of mankind, or alternatively depressing proof of the lack of originality of the human mind.

The current BL exhibition “West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song” includes some small figures which are thought to refer to popular proverbs.

  African proverbs weightAs described in the exhibition catalogue, “The gold-weight [above, from the collections of the British Museum] depicting two crocodiles with one stomach embodies the Asante proverb Funtufunefu, denkyemfunefu, won efuru bom, nso woredidi a na woreko, meaning that even though they have one stomach, they fight over food when eating.” (p. 123).

It’s from Ghana, and dated somewhere in the 18th to 20th centuries.

I’m reminded of European  misericords, carvings under the seats in the choir stalls of medieval churches. These often show motifs which can  be matched to popular tales or sayings. The examples below from the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam show a man banging his head against a brick wall and another falling between two stools.  (These two images also occur in Bruegel).  

  Proverbs misericords 1            Proverbs misericords 2

 European popular proverbs are written down, in the context of Latin literature, as early as the 13th century. The most common contexts are sermons and grammar books.

Arabic proverbs (more properly learned than popular) made their entrance in the West in 13th-century Spain, and were printed in erudite bilingual Arabic-Latin collections from the early 17th century on.

African proverbs, at least in those parts which were occupied by Britain and France, were not printed until the 19th century (see Moll’s bibliography).

The BL recently acquired a book which I think is typical of the first printing of African proverbs:

Elementos Grammaticaes tp
Elementos grammaticaes da lingua Nbundu  offerecidos a S.M.F.O. Senhor D. Luis I por Dr. Saturnino de Sousa e Oliveira e Manuel Alves de Castro Francina (Loanda, 1864) YF.2015.a.25009

The context is a grammar of the Nbundu (Kimbundu) language, spoken in Angola. Early printed grammars of French (etc.)  for English (etc.)  speakers regularly included an anthology of proverbs.  And so it is in this book of 1864.

Here the Nbundu original is given followed by the literal Portuguese translation, and then the Portuguese equivalent.

  Elementos Grammaticaes proverbs
Elementos Grammaticaes proverbs


The monkey doesn’t look at his tail

Often the ant dominates the elephant

What the eyes see, causes envy

The rat is an expert in his hole

One who makes water often cannot lie down in a wet place

The witchdoctor starts with his own house and ends up outside

 

 Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Studies

References/further reading:

Walter S. Gibson, Figures of speech : picturing proverbs in renaissance Netherlands (London, 2010) YC.2010.a.7023

Otto E. Moll, Sprichwörterbibliographie (Frankfurt am Main, [1958]) Humanities 1 Reading Room HLR 398.9

Barry Taylor, ‘Los Libros de proverbios bilingües: disposición e intención’, in Corpus, genres, théories et méthodes: construction d’une base de données, ed. Marie-Christine Bornes-Varol and Marie-Sol Ortola (Nancy, 2010), pp. 119-29. YF.2012.a.22372

Barry Taylor, ‘Éditions bilingues de textes espagnols’, K výzkumu zámeckých, měšťanských a cirkevnich knihoven, ‘Jazyk a  řeč knihy’, Opera romanica, 11 (2009), 385-94. ZF.9.a.4837

West Africa : word, symbol, song / general editors, Gus Casely-Hayford, Janet Topp Fargion and Marion Wallace. 2015.

 

07 August 2015

Monkeys ahoy!

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In Lisuarte de Grecia, Book VII of the Amadis de Gaula cycle, what should heave into view but a ship crewed by monkeys, sent by the damsel Alquifa to summon Perion, son of Amadis, to her aid:

Amadis MonkeysThe ship crewed by monkeys, from Le quatriesme liure d'Amadis de Gaule (Paris, 1560). British Library RB.23.a.36495

The medievals knew well how good imitators monkeys were (Peter of Blois called wine “simia vini”, according to Curtius) and discerned a resemblance between man and monkey, but did not consider there was a genetic relationship.

Don Juan Manuel, among other things a keen huntsman, classified the animals according to their way of getting food: Some animals hunt each other, such as lions and leopards;

Et otras bestias [ay] pequennas que caçan caças pequennas, et de noche, a fuerça o con enganno, asy commo xymios et adiues et raposos et maymones et fuynas et tessugos et furones et gardunnas et turones, et otras bestias sus semejantes. Libro del cavallero e del escudero, ch. xl.

(there are other small animals that hunt other small animals, and by night, by strength or cunning, such as monkeys and jackals and foxes and apes and weasels and badgers and ferrets and martens and stoats, and other animals like them)

The author of the Orto do esposo, the Old Portuguese  (14th century?) compilation of ascetic, exemplary and pseudozoological literature, was not a hunting man but he was a chauvinist: he classifies the animal kingdom by their human-serving function:

todalas geerações das animalias forom criadas pera bõo uso e proveito do homen, segundo diz o filosafo e Joaham Demaceno, doctor catolico mui grande.  Ca algūas animalias forom criadas pera comer e mantiimento do homem, assi como os gaados e os cervos e as lebres, e as outras animalias semelhantes a estas.  E outras forom creados pera serviço do homem, assi como os asnos e os cavalos e as outras taes animalias.  (IV, iii, p. 96)

(all the generations of animals were created for the good use of man, as the philosopher [Aristotle] and St John Damascene, a very great Catholic doctor, say.  For some animals were created for the eating and nourishment of man, such as cattle and stags and hares, and other animals like them.  And other animals were created for the service of man, such as donkeys and horses and other such animals.)

And he was also something of a poet:

E outras forom criadas pera solaz e prazer do homem, assi como as simeas e as aves que bem cantam e os paãos

(And others were created for the consolation and pleasure of man, such as monkeys and beautifully singing birds and peacocks.)

Monkeys and birds (Harley 3469)‘Consolation and pleasure’: Monkeys and birds in the border of a 16th-century German manuscript of Salomon Trismosin, Splendor Solis (Harley 3469)

 

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Studies

References:  

Ernst Robert Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages [German original 1948] (Princeton, 1990) HLR 809.02

H. W. Janson, Apes and ape lore in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (London, 1952) Ac.4569/6.(20.)

Horto do Esposo; coordenação, Helder Godinho (Lisbon, 2007)  YF.2010.b.34

Don Juan Manuel, Obras completas, ed. J.M. Blecua (Madrid, 1982-83), vol. I.  X.0800/1790

 

24 July 2015

What European Studies owe to J. M. Cohen (1903-1989)

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We’re always hearing how the UK publishes a shamefully small number of  translations compared with other nations: 3 per cent?

This is probably true of new bestsellers, but is it true of long-sellers? In my formative years, and possibly yours, the sole locus of European literature on the high street was the Penguin Classics, much more visible than the World’s Classics or Everyman.  There’s a good history of the collection in the 1987 festschrift for Betty Radice. Founded in 1946, its first authors included Homer, Voltaire and Maupassant. The introductions were non-academic – Aubrey De Sélincourt’s  prologue to Herodotus is four pages – and the translations middle-brow (W.C. Atkinson translating Camões: “Venus is now Cytherea, now Erycina, now Dione, now the Cyprian goddess, now the Paphian.  It is in short a mark of erudition [...].  For such learning the modern term is pedantry, and it becomes a service to the reader of today [...] to call things by their names and ask of each divinity that he or she be content with one.”)  The translators were rarely university lecturers (unlike today): in fact they seemed to me mostly to be schoolteachers.

The series was edited by people with names whose pronunciation a London teenager could only guess at: Betty Radice I now assume is pronounced like Giles Radice MP; but what of E. V. Rieu:  ‘REE-oo’ or ‘ ree-YERR’?

Penguin Quixote 2

One of my school-leaving prizes was J. M. Cohen’s translation of Don Quixote (in print 1950-1999, my well-read copy shown above).  The biographical (as opposed to bibliographical) information on the half-title was meager: ‘J. M. Cohen was born in 1903 and has been writing and translating since 1946.’  As I read more Romance literature, again and again these works were translated by Cohen: Rousseau (in print 1953-), Rabelais (1955-1987),  Montaigne (1958-1993), Teresa of Avila, The Penguin Book of Spanish Verse, Bernal Diaz’s Conquest of New Spain, Columbus, Rojas.

These were reprinted again and again.

Whenever I was faced with the question from the man in the street, “Oh, is there any Spanish literature?”, my rock and refuge were the Penguin Classics, and Cohen the prophet.

But of Cohen’s translations, only Rousseau, St Teresa and Columbus, I believe are in print any more.  It’s a maxim of the translation industry that each generation needs its own Cervantes et al.  This may or not be true (it isn’t true, but I want to appear broad-minded) but that’s no reason to consign earlier translators of the callibre of Cohen to a damnatio memoriae: M.A. Screech never refers to Cohen in his Rabelais or Montaigne.

A project is now underway to catalogue Cohen’s  papers, which are in Queens’ College Cambridge.  But his true legacy is in the minds of people like you and me.

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Collections

Penguin classics editions translated by J.M. Cohen:

Miguel de Cervantes, The Adventures of Don Quixote (1950) W.P.513/10a.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Confessions (1953) W.P.513/33.

François Rabelais, The Histories of Gargantua and Pantagruel (1955) W.P.513/47.

St Teresa of Ávila, The Life of Saint Teresa of Ávila (1957) W.P.513/73.

Michel de Montaigne, Essays (1958) W.P.513/83.

Blaise Pascal, The Pensées (1961) W.P.513/110.

Bernal Díaz del Castillo, The Conquest of New Spain (1963) W.P.513/123.

Fernando de Rojas, The Spanish Bawd. La Celestina (1964) W.P.513/142.

Benito Pérez Galdós, Miau (1966) W.P.513/181.

Agustín de Zárate, Discovery and Conquest of Peru (1968) X.708/3888.

The Four Voyages of Christopher Columbus (1969) X.808/6013.

References:

‘J. M. Cohen, Gifted translator of foreign prose classics’ (Obituary), The Times (London), 22 July 1989

‘Obituary of JM Cohen: An opener of closed books’, Guardian, 20 July 1989

The Translator’s Art : Essays in Honour of Betty Radice, edited by William Radice and Barbara Reynolds (Harmondsworth, 1987).  YC.1988.a.329

Vladimir Alexander Smith-Mesa, ‘Making Our America Visible.  J. M. Cohen (1903-1989): El Transculturador’, Aclaiir Newsletter, 23 (2014), 14-17.  P.525/398; a version of the article as a blog post can be read here




19 June 2015

Lisbon, 20 June 1647: assassination of king of Portugal foiled by miracle

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John, Duke of Bragança, came to the throne of Portugal in 1640, putting an end to sixty years of Spanish rule under Philips II through IV, the ‘dominação filipina’.  Alongside his political life, he was also a composer and musicologist.

Luso-Hispanic relations remained tense for a good while, and when an attempt was made on the King’s life in 1647, Father Francisco Brandão had no doubt who the culprits were: Castile.  

The opportunity was the King’s attendance at the Corpus Christi procession at Lisbon cathedral on 20 June 1647.  The culprit, Domingos Leite Pereira, “unworthy of having been born in the noble and loyal town of Guimarães”, set out for the capital armed with a musket (“espingarda”) with twelve bullets and two phials of poison to make the shots even more deadly.  He set himself up in a good position to fire, and had two horses ready for his escape.  But at the sight of the pious monarch, he was overcome with “a happy stupor”, threw down his weapon and escaped.

Espingarda 1420.c.3 The potential murder weapon, from Cesar Fiosconi and Jordam Guserio, Espingarda perfeyta e regras para a sua operaçam (Lisbon, 1718). British Library 1420.c.3.

Brandão’s account has been digitised by the Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal.

The British Library has just acquired another pamphlet on the assassination attempt, a self-styled Mercurius gratulatorius (celebratory newsheet):

RB23a36385Lucas Velloso, Pro Ioanne IV rege serenissimo Portucalensium: quem proditor auro corruptus occidendum suscepit in communi pompa celebritatis Eucharisticae … (Lisbon, 1647).  RB.23.a.36385.

Velloso is not narrative but elegiac: though he gives the detail that the traitor was corrupted by gold (“proditor auro corruptus”) he does not name him or give the date of his attempted crime.  He describes the criminal as being not happily stupefied but terrified, either by the majesty of God apparent in the king, or by the king’s majesty itself.  Brandão in contrast describes in great detail  the route of the Corpus procession through the streets of Lisbon.  If challenged, Velloso would doubtless have quoted Aristotle: “poetry is more philosophical and more elevated than history, since poetry states more universal things whereas history states particular things” (Poetics IX).

This is a rather modern concept of the miraculous: a sudden change of heart is a more subtle miracle than the speaking babies and reattached limbs of medieval tradition.

Stop press: while working on this post I discovered that the BL has another pamphlet on this topic:

Antonio de Sousa de Macedo. Panegyrico sobre o milagroso sucesso, con que Deos livrou a el Rey nosso senhor da sacrilega treiçaõ dos Castelhanos ([Lisbon?, 1647]) 1444.g.4.(3.)

Previously wrongly dated to 1642 in our catalogue, it has now been corrected to 1647.

Macedo is light on facts but knows his Scripture: he ranks the miracle of the king’s deliverance with the sacrifice of Isaac, David’s victory over Goliath and the conversion of Saul to St Paul.  

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Collections

27 March 2015

The Growth of the Beard

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All the media assure us we are living in a new age of the beard.

A landmark in pogonology is the pioneer study A Barba em Portugal. Estudo de etnografia comparativa [The Beard in Portugal.  A Study in Comparative Ethnography] (Lisbon, 1925; British Library 10009.t.29) by  José Leite de Vasconcellos  (1858-1941).

Beards - Leite de Vasconcelos                                    José Leite de Vasconcellos (with beard). Image from Wikimedia Commons

Beards - Barba em Portugal tp                                                    Title-page of Leite’s A barba em Portugal.

Leite (1858-1941) was a distinguished professor of Latin and Medieval French at the University of Lisbon and editor of the journal Revista Lusitana, but the bulk of his publications are ethnographic studies of topics such as the “figa” gesture: in this respect his work prefigured much 20th and 21st-century research on the body.  The figa’s opposite number in British culture is the V-sign, now sadly depleted to the single finger.

Beards - Figa tp José Leite de Vasconcellos,  A Figa : estudo de etnografia comparativa, precedido de algumas palavras a respeito do ”sobrenatural” na medicina popular portuguesa. (Porto, 1925). Ac.3709.d.

Like many Portuguese men of letters (Júlio Dinis and Trindade Coelho  among them), Leite studied medicine although he practised for  only a year on account of his own ill health.

The chapters of A Barba em Portugal cover: The beard anthropologically, the making of the beard, beard forms and cuts, the beard through the centuries, the symbolism of the beard, and the beard in vocabulary and literature; in an appendix Leite edits the ordenances of the guild of barbers from the 16th century.

Beards - Effigies
A selection of historical Portuguese beards from A Barba em Portugal

A habit which 21st-century hipsters seem not to have adopted is swearing on the beard.  The Cid did it, and Leite was told by an old man of A Beira that he had heard in his youth that in olden times the oath was “Juro por estas minhas barbas” [I swear by these my beards], accompanied by the appropiate gesture.  

Perhaps its time has come again, by my beard!

Barry Taylor, Curator Hispanic Studies


Beards - Herod                                  Beards - Ancient
Ancient beard ideas for the hipsters of today? King Herod (left) and an Bronze Age figurine (right) from A barba em Portugal