Translation, a Tudor political instrument

Roberto A. Valdeón

Abstract

Starting with an overview of F. O. Matthiessen’s work on the role of translation during the Elizabethan period, this article delves into the paratexts of the translations of Spanish colonial texts by Richard Hakluyt, Edward Grimeston, Michael Lok and John Frampton to discuss the underlying reasons why Spanish accounts of the conquest were rendered into English. The analysis of the dedications and addresses shows that, although these translations may have served to express admiration for the Spanish conquerors or to criticize their actions, the ultimate goals of these texts were to encourage England to replicate the Spanish empire in the Americas, on the one hand, and to obtain social, political and economic benefits for the translators, on the other.

Keywords
Publication history
Table of contents

In 1931 the Harvard scholar F. O. Matthiessen published Translation, an Elizabethan Art, based on his doctoral thesis. Better known for his work in the field of American studies (for instance, with studies on T. S. Eliot, Herman Melville and Henry James), Matthiessen developed an interest in translation which found its origin in his dedication to the historical study of English literature, as indicated in the work’s “Prefatory Note”: “The idea for this book was suggested by the late Charles Whibley’s penetrating analysis of the Elizabethan translations, in The Cambridge History of English Literature (Volume IV, Chapter I)” (vii). Matthiessen highlighted the crucial role of translation for the introduction of the ideals of the Renaissance as well as for the creation of an English national literary canon. In the study, Matthiessen focused on five translations of prose, namely Thomas Hoby’s Castiglione (The Courtyer, 1561), Thomas North’s Plutarch (The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romanes, 1589), John Florio’s Montaigne (The Essayes, 1603), and Philemon Holland’s Livy (The Romane Historie, 1600) and Suetonius (Historie of Twelve Caesars, 1606). These five works span the reign of Elizabeth I, from The Courtyer in 1561 to Twelve Caesars in 1606. In Matthiessen’s view, these works represented the literary achievements of the Elizabethan period, and illustrated the various phases of the Renaissance in England (5-6). The political importance of these translations is also reflected by the dedications to Queen Elizabeth (Weissbort and Eysteinsson 2006, 90). Matthiessen was writing on translation well before the emergence of Translation Studies, but his significant contribution to the discipline would be later highlighted by, among others, Jiří Levy (2011, 167).

Full-text access is restricted to subscribers. Log in to obtain additional credentials. For subscription information see Subscription & Price. Direct PDF access to this article can be purchased through our e-platform.

References

Acosta, José de Acosta
1880The Natural and Moral History of the Indies [orig. Historia natural y moral de las Indias]. Translated by Edward Grimeston. London: Hakluyt Society. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Barrera-Osorio, Antonio
2006Experiencing Nature. The Spanish American Empire and the Early Scientific Revolution. Austin, TX: The University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
Barton, Benjamin Smith
1805The Phildelphia Medical and Physical Journal (Part I Volume II). Philadelphia, PA: Conrad & co.Google Scholar
Beecher, Donald
2006 “John Frampton of Bristol, Trader and Translator.” In Travel and Translation in the Early Modern Period, edited by Carmine G. Di Biase, 103–121. Amsterdam: Rodopi.Google Scholar
Blanshard, Alastair J. R., and Tracey A. Sowerby
2005 “Thomas Wilson’s Demosthenes and the Politics of Tudor Translation.” International Journal of the Classical Tradition 12: 46–80. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Boas, F. S.
1906 “Edward Grimeston, Translator and Sergeant-at-Arms.” Modern Philology 3 (4): 395–406. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Borge, Francisco J.
2007A New World for a New Nation. The Promotion of America in Early Modern England. Bern: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
2012 “ ‘We (upon peril of life) Shall Make the Spaniard Ridiculous to all Europe’: Richard Hakluyt’s ‘Discourse’ of Spain.” In Richard Hakluyt and Travel Writing in Early Modern Europe, edited by Daniel Carey and Claire Jowitt, 167–176. London: Ashgate.Google Scholar
Boro, Joyce
2018 “Spain in Translation: Peritextual Representations of Cultural Difference, 1614–1625.” In Thresholds of Translation. Paratexts, Print, and Cultural Exchange in Early Modern Britain (1473–1660), edited by Marie-Alice Belle and Brenda M. Hosington, 101–136. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Boutcher, Warren
2015 “From Cultural Translation to Cultures of Translation? Early Modern Readers, Sellers and Patrons.” In The Culture of Translation in Early Modern England and France, 1500–1660, edited by Tania Demetriou and Rowan Tomlinson, 22–40. Basingstoke: Palgrave.Google Scholar
Bradley, Peter T., and David Cahill
2000Habsburg Peru. Images, Imagination and Memory. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.Google Scholar
Burke, Peter
2010 “Modern History and Politics.” In The Oxford History of Literary Translation in English. Volume 2: 1550–1660, edited by Gordon Braden, Robert Cummings, and Stuart Gillespie, 312–321. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Clark, G. N.
1928 “Edward Grimeston, the Translator.” The English Historical Review 43 (172): 585–598. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Delabastita, Dirk, and Ton Hoenselaars
eds. 2015Multilingualism in the Drama of Shakespeare and his Contemporaries. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
De Schepper, Susanna
2013 “ ‘For the Common Good and for the National Interest’: Paratexts in English Translation of Navigational Works.” In Renaissance Cultural Crossroads: Translation, Print and Culture in Britain, 1743–1640, edited by Sara K. Barker and Brendan M. Hosington, 185–208. Leiden: Brill. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Evans, J. Martin
1996Milton’s Imperial Epic. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Fuchs, Barbara
2013The Poetics of Piracy. Emulating Spain in English Literature. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Genette, Gérard
1997Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation [orig. Seuils ]. Translated by Jane E. Lewin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Green, John R.
1874A Short History of the English People. London: MacMillan and co.Google Scholar
Hadfield, Andrew
1998Literature, Travel, and Colonial Writing in the English Renaissance 1545–1625. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
2001Amazons, Savages, and Machiavels. Travel and Colonial Writing in English, 1550–1630: An Anthology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Hakluyt, Richard
1877 (orig. 1584)A Discourse Concerning Western Planting. Cambridge, MA: Press of John Wilson and Son.Google Scholar
1884 (orig. 1589)The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques, and Discoveries of the English Nation. Edinburgh: Goldsmith.Google Scholar
Hart, Jonathan
2003Comparing Empires. European Colonialism from Portuguese Expansion to the Spanish-American War. London: Palgrave.Google Scholar
2011Shakespeare and His Contemporaries. London: Palgrave. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
2015The Poetics of Otherness. London: Palgrave. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Hill, Lamar M.
1988Bench and Bureaucracy. The Public Career of Sir Julius Caesar, 1580–1636. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
Hubbard, William
1848A General History of New England. Boston, MA: Charles C. Little and James Brown.Google Scholar
Lawson-Peebles, Robert
2014American Literature before 1880. London: Routledge. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Levý, Jiří
2011The Art of Translation [Umení prekladu]. Translated by Patrick Corness. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Luttikhuizen, Frances
2017Underground Protestantism in Sixteenth Century Spain. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.Google Scholar
Mackenthun, Gesa
1997Metaphors of Dispossession. American Beginnings and the Translation of Empire. 1492–1637. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
Mancall, Peter C.
2007Hakluyt’s Promise. An Elizabethan’s Obsession for an English America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Martínez de Enciso, Martín
1578A briefe description of the portes, creekes, bayes, and hauens, of the Weast India [orig. Suma de Geographia]. Translated by John Frampton. London: Henry Bynneman.Google Scholar
Martyr, Peter
1612De Novo Orbe or the Historie of the West Indies, Contayning the Actes and Adventures of the Spanyardes [orig. De Orbe Novo]. Translated by Michael Lok. London: Thomas Adams.Google Scholar
Matthiessen, Francis Otto
1931Translation, an Elizabethan Art. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
McDermott, James
2001Martin Frobisher: Elizabethan Privateer. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Morini, Massimiliano
2006Tudor Translation in Theory and Practice. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
Oldys, William, and John Malham
eds. 1809The Harleian Miscellany. London: Robert Dutton.Google Scholar
Orr, Bridget
2001Empire on the English Stage 1660–1714. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Peltonen, Markku
2007 “Rhetoric and Citizenship in the Monarchial Republic of Queen Elizabeth I.” In The Monarchical Republic of Early Modern England, edited by John F. McDiarmid, 109–128. London: Ashgate.Google Scholar
Roebuck, Graham
2008 “Sassafras.” In The Mysterious and the Foreign in Early Modern England, edited by Helen Ostovick, Mary V. Silcox, and Graham Roebuck, 170–186. Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press.Google Scholar
Rogers, F. M.
1974 “Hakluyt as Translator.” In The Hakluyt Handbook, edited by David B. Quinn, 37–47. London: Ashgate.Google Scholar
Sherman, William H.
2004 “Bringing the World to England: The Politics of Translation in the Age of Hakluyt.” In Transaction of the Royal Historical Society. Sixth Series, edited by Aled Jones, 199–207. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Test, Edward
2008 “ The Tempest and the Newfoundland Cod Fishery.” In Global Traffic. Discourse and Practices of Trade in English Literature and Culture from 1550 to 1700, edited by Barbara Sebek and Stephen Deng, 201–220. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.Google Scholar
Turquet de Mayerne, Louis
1612The Generall Historie of Spaine [orig. Histoire generale d’Espagne]. Translated by Edward Grimeston. London: A. Islip and G. Eld.Google Scholar
Valdeón, Roberto A.
2014Translation and the Spanish Empire in the Americas. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
2017 “Bartolomé de las Casas and the Spanish-American War: Translation, Appropriation, and the 1898 edition of Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias .” Translation and Interpreting Studies 12 (3): 367–382. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Waters, David
1970 “The Iberian Bases of the English Art of Navigation in the Sixteenth Century.” Revista da Universidade de Coimbra 24: 1–19.Google Scholar
Weissbort, Daniel, and Astradur Eysteinsson
eds. 2006Translation – Theory and Practice: A Historical Reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Wilkinson, Alexander S.
2015 “Vernacular Translation in Renaissance France, Spain, Portugal and Britain: A Comparative Survey.” Renaissance Studies 29 (1): 19–35. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Williamson, James
1953The Tudor Age. London: Longmans.Google Scholar
Wright, Louis B.
1962The Cultural Life of the American Colonies. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications.Google Scholar