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Charting the Future of Translation History

Georges L. Bastin
Paul F. Bandia

Current Discourses

Amadis of Gaul (1803) and Chronicle of the Cid (1808) by Robert Southey

The Medieval History of Spain Translated

Juan Miguel Zarandona

Texte intégral


1This article will deal with a "past translator," Robert Southey (1774–1843), and two of his "past translations," Amadis of Gaul (1803) and Chronicle of the Cid (1808), and will place its findings and proposals within the context of a combined double interest in translation and the future of history.

2The historical figure of Robert Southey, as writer, historian, translator and human being, cannot be studied apart from the legendary fates of those British romantic aristocratic travellers who began including Spain and Portugal in their Grand Tour itineraries from the last decades of the eighteenth century. Before the Anglo-Italian Giuseppe Baretti, encouraged by Samuel Johnson, made up his mind to visit the region from 1770 and wrote a diary that aroused a surprising interest among readers, the Peninsula had been kept as a no-go territory due to its alleged lack of cultural interest and its sure dangers (García-Romeral 2000, 11–13). However, once the door had been opened, the number of travellers and the quality of their literary and/or historical output were epoch-making and have been regarded as a unique treasure for travel lovers and historians (Mitchell 1988, 7–8). This enthusiasm for Spain and Portugal among British romantics (Buceta 1923, 1–25) includes eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century names such as Beckford, Carter, Clarke, Dalrymple, James, Jardine, Townsend, Swinburne, Twiss, Young, Murphy, and indeed Southey, for whom the impact of Iberia lasted the rest of his long life. But the trend continued up to the end of the twentieth century.

3The characteristics of Southey's travel make it a very special case. First, he was neither a wealthy nor an aristocratic heir, but a poor young man, 21 years old, full of revolutionary social and political ideals. He came invited by his uncle, the Reverend Herbert Hill, who served the religious needs of the British colony at Lisbon. Secondly, he can be described as an individual endowed with an extraordinary gift for languages — one that allowed him to master both Spanish and Portuguese very quickly — and a soul with an unconquerable love for literature and history books and learning in general. This would eventually transform him into the first modern pioneer and vindicator of the literature of the Peninsula in the British Isles. Thirdly, he was a traveller who translated. He was a scholar who translated abundantly from Spanish into English as proved by both Amadis of Gaul and Chronicle of the Cid. In this regard, Lewis Spence, a renowned British scholar specializing in medieval Spanish heroic legends and books of knighthood, wrote: "Since the days of Southey the romantic literature of Spain has not received from English writers and critics the amount of study and attention it undoubtedly deserves" (1995 [1920], 5).

About Robert Southey and his translations

4We will deal with Robert Southey and his translations through an approach characterized by a clear focus on the human factor in translation and a well defined end, namely to construct a history of translation based on a history of translators. We will therefore ground our discussions and analysis on Pym's (1998) and Delisle and Woodworth's (1995) models.

5As will be revealed in this article, everything about the talents of Robert Southey points to history. He was not only a historian by vocation who devoted thousands of pages to historical research, but an unavoidable figure in the history of English-Spanish translation. Consequently, we strongly believe that he deserves to be included in a history of translation based on the guidelines mentioned by Pym (1998, ix–xi).

a. Causation

6As already mentioned, Robert Southey was one of those legendary English romantic travellers who wandered around the Iberian Peninsula (See Alberich 1981, Buceta 1923, Burns 1988, Freixa 1993, García-Romeral 2000, García Mercadal 1999, Guerrero 1990, Locker 1998, Mitchell 1988, Robertson 1976). He visited Spain and Portugal during two different short periods: 1795–1796 and 1800–1801 respectively (see Martínez Barbeito 1972–73, 169–196); but brief as the total amount of time may have been, it was more than enough for him to become an expert lover of Spain, Portugal, and Latin America; of their languages, Spanish and Portuguese, and of their cultures and literatures, one of the main subject matters of his life and his vast literary and research careers.

b. The translator and his social entourage

7Southey was a most devoted man of letters and a professional writer who led a life of continuous work. He was a biographer, poet, translator, essayist, scholar, researcher, and prose writer. His only patrons (or clients) were his readers. He can also be described as a devoted family man who brought up his children in the rural Lake District of England, where they all learned to enjoy life peacefully. All these people were involved in his career as a professional translator because most of his translations, like most of his many other texts, were done for very pragmatic ends: to please his readers/customers in order to earn his wages and to raise and feed his family.

c. The target culture

8Southey became the main interpreter of Spain and Portugal for nineteenth-century British audiences — his target culture — who developed a great national interest in the things of the Iberian peninsula, unexpectedly aroused by the glorious Peninsular War against Napoleon at the beginning of the century. His translation Chronicle of the Cid (1808) was mainly produced to meet this interest (Buceta 1922, 52–57). He could provide what his target culture demanded.

d. The present

9There is no doubt that what translators did in the past and what their translations were like are the best examples that today's translators and translation researchers can turn to for help and guidance. This is what the most traditional mission of History, History of translation included, is supposed to be about. From that point of view, Southey is still of great interest for the present. He set an enduring example.

e. Robert Southey's views on translation

10Southey was not only a devoted translator but an individual who used to read incessantly. Consequently, it can no doubt be claimed that he had to be aware of past and current theories or reflections on translation. For example, he most probably read and gave some thought to John Dryden's Preface to his popular translation of Ovid's Epistles (1680), where he proposed his simplified classification of translation into three main categories: 1. Metaphrase or "Word by word and line by line" translation (literal translation); 2. Paraphrase or "Translation with latitude," that is, when words are not so strictly followed as their sense (faithful or sense-for-sense translation); and 3. Imitation or "Forsaking both words and sense" (very free translation, more or less adaptation). As is very well known, Dryden, who gave new life to very old concepts, discouraged the first and the third, and prescribed the second, the via media. He was a man of the Enlightenment.

11Southey most probably also read and pondered over the Essay of the principles of translation (1790, 1791) by his contemporary Alexander Fraser Tytler, who published it only a few years before our Bristol intellectual started producing his own long translated volumes. Tytler avoids the traditional dichotomy between literal and free translation and also defines a "good translation" in TL-reader-oriented terms. A good translation is one in which the merit of the original work is so completely transfused into another language as to be as distinctly apprehended, and as strongly felt, by a native of the country to which that language belongs as it is by those who speak the language of the original work. For this purpose, he also proposed his own three general laws of translation:

1. The translation should give a complete transcript of the ideas of the original work; 2. The style and manner of the writing should be of the same character as that of the original; and 3. The translation should have all the ease of the original composition.

12In case of conflict among these laws, ease of composition (3) should be sacrificed if necessary for manner (2), and a departure would be made from manner in the interest of sense (1). Fidelity to the content comes first. Form comes second. And search for naturalness in the target language closes the circle.

13Southey obviously could not have read The Translator's Invisibility, where Venuti (1995, 65) not only claims that "invisibility" has always been dominant in Anglo-American translation practice but also emphasizes that "In DRYDEN's wake, from ALEXANDER POPE's to ALEXANDER TYTLER's systematic Essay on the Principles of Translation (1791), domestication dominated the theory and practice of English-language translation in every genre, prose as well as poetry." What about Robert Southey's medievalizing translations of Spanish medieval texts? Venuti only mentions him briefly. Southey not only rejected the theory he inherited (Dryden or Tytler), but produced something new that anticipated what some Victorians would do decades later and some contemporary translation studies scholars would promote many years later. This is the importance of being Southey.

14Frequently, ideas on translation must be found hidden in prologues, letters, essays, notes, dictionaries, speeches, and so on. Specific treatises on translation have been very rare until contemporary times (Lafarga 1996, 16). Southey's thinking on translation can only be found dispersed in a good number of items belonging to his vast bibliography. There is no coherent long piece of writing of his but many small-range textual instances instead. For example, in his Omniana, or Horae Otiosiores (1812), the following two paragraphs can be read:

6. TRANSLATIONS. It has been well said, that to translate a book is like pouring honey from one vessel into another... something must always be lost. Both the Dutch and the French words for "translated," will bear to be literally rendered; overgezet, and traduit. Milton may more truly be said to be overset in one language and traduced in the other, than translated into either. Done into English was not so happy a phrase, for many a book was undone by the operation (Southey 1969, 37).
218. MISTRANSLATIONS. A curious collection might be made of the mistranslations in our language, not those which have grown out of an idiomatic expression, like La dernière chemise de l'amour, for love's last shift, but those which have proceeded from the ignorance of the translator. Thevenot in his Travels speaks of the fables of Damné et Calilve, meaning the Heetopades, or Pilpay's fables. The translator, however, calls them the fables of damned Calilve. In the compilation from the Mercurio Peruano, which was published some years ago, under the title The Present State of Peru, P. Geronymo Roman de la Higuera, a name well known in Spanish literature, is translated, Father Geronymo, a Romance of La Higuera (Southey 1969, 150).

15His numerous letters are also an excellent source of reflection on translation, as the following examples prove:

To the Messrs. Longman and Co.
June 29, 1807.
Dear Sirs,
I have been told by persons most capable of judging, that the old translation of Don Quixote is very beautiful. The book has never fallen in my way. If it be well translated, the language of Elizabeth's reign must needs accord better with the style of Cervantes than more modern English would do; and I should think it very probable that it would be better to correct this, than to translate the work anew. As for my undertaking any translation, or indeed any revision, which might lead to the labour, of half the labour, which Palmerin cost me, it is out of question; but if Mr. Heber can lend you this translation; I will give you my opinion upon it: and I will do for you, if you want it, what you would find much difficulty in getting done by any other person (Southey 1849, 104–105).

To Grosvenor C. Bedford, Esq. April 13, 1805.
Dear Grosvenor,
There is a translation of Sallust by Gordon. I have never seen it, but having read his Tacitus, do not think it likely that any new version would surpass his, for he was a man of great powers. It is not likely that Longus Homo, or any other Homo would pay for such a translation, — because the speculation is not promising, every person who wishes to read Sallust, being able to read the original. There are some Greek authors which we want in English, Diodorus Siculus in particular (Southey 1849, 327).

16His references to the old history of translation also abound: "St Jerome is said to have translated the Old and New Testament into the Illyrian (or Slavonic) language, his native tongue. And this version was still used in the church when Dubrarius wrote" (Southey 1850, 120–121); but an avoidable text in this regard is his Preface to Amadis of Gaule (Lobeira 1872a 2, v–xxvi). This work by Southey is a translation of the original Spanish medieval classic Amadís de Gaula, a chivalric romance in prose and the major contribution in Spanish to medieval Arthurian literature. A primitive non-extant Amadís was composed about 1340, probably in Castile, by a single author who adapted Arthurian motifs and characters from French sources and produced a new original story. After a number of enlargements and modifications, Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo, a Castilian nobleman of whom little is known, restyled, frequently shortened, and also added new passages to his sources, and published the only version of the romance kept in 1508 (Lacy 1996, 326–327). This is the one that Southey knew and translated. The Bristol man of letters also adapted and shortened his source very much. Amadis was always very successful, not only in Spain but in many other European countries, thanks to the publication of many sixteenth-century translations of it into French, German, Dutch, Italian, English, and Hebrew. It is also the origin of a very productive genre: the so-called native Spanish and Portuguese Books of Knighthood, at length to be parodied ruthlessly and closed forever by Don Quixote. However, Cervantes saved the Amadís when all Don Quixote's Books of Knighthood were burned in order to deter future readers from its dangers.

17The following general statements from the aforementioned Preface help us to enumerate characteristics of this monumental translation enterprise undertaken by Southey:

  1. RATHER FRE E THAN TOO LITERAL: "To have translated a closely printed folio would have been absurd" (xxxi).
  2. CONDENSATION BUT NOT LOSS OF THE TREASURES OF THE ORIGINAL: "I have reduced it to about half its length, by abridging the words, not the story; by curtailing the dialogue, avoiding all recapitulations of the past action, consolidating many of those single blows which have no reference to armorial anatomy, and passing over the occasional moralizing of the author. There is no vanity in saying that this has improved the book, for what long work may not be improved by compression" (xxxi–xxxii).
  3. RESPECT FOR THE ORIGINAL BALANCE OF THE ORIGINAL TEXT ELEMENTS: "The minutest traits of manners have been preserved, and not an incident of the narrative omitted. I have merely reduced the picture, every part is preserved, and in the same proportions" (xxxii).
  4. KEEPING THE ORIGINAL EPOCH STYLE WHERE IT IS REASONABLE TO DO SO: "A modern style would have altered the character of the book; as far as was my power I have avoided that fault, not by intermixing obsolete words, but by rendering the original structure of sentences as literally as was convenient, and by rejecting modern phraseology and forms of period" (xxxiv).
  5. SPECIAL CARE WHEN TRANSLATING THE NAMES OF THE CHARACTERS: "The names which have a meaning in the original have not been translated. I have used Beltenebras instead of the Beautiful Darkling or the Fair Forlorn; Florestan instead of Forester; El Patin instead of the Emperor Gosling; as we speak of Barbarrosa, not Red-Beard; Bocanegra, not Black Muzzle; St. Peter, not Stone the Apostle" (xxxiv).
  6. THE EXERCISE OF MODESTY AS THE I DEAL VIRTUE OF A GOOD TRANSLATOR: "It cannot be supposed that I have uniformly succeeded" (xxxv).

18Points 4 and 5 follow a clear foreignizing strategy, whereas points 1, 2, and 3 support domestication, turning him into a kind of bridge between classical predecessors and some of those he was to precede. In other words, modernized medieval classics must display a combination of old and new flavours at the same time. This fact has sometimes been underlined by researchers: "The archaic flavour of the translation is an objection sometimes made to Southey's translations, but his attempt to give the impression of a work written in medieval times by archaizing the language is certainly defensible and a practice of many translators since Southey's day" (Curry 1975, 136). Finally, as maintained by descriptive translation studies, and more specifically product-oriented translation studies (Holmes and Toury), there is no translation practice without a conscious or unconscious, explicit or implicit theory of translation hidden behind it. For historical reasons, a full treatment of the theoretical challenges attached to translation activities cannot be demanded from Southey, but this does not mean that it cannot be deduced from his thousands of translated lines and paragraphs.

The impressive wealth of Southey's Hispanic and Portuguese collection

  • 1 Unfortunately, the whole of the library of Robert Southey was sold in an auction soon after his de (...)

19Robert Southey is one of the most prolific writers in the English language. The complete corpus of his works is almost impossible to list, and many of them consist of hundreds of pages in prose and verse. He was also the proud owner of one of the biggest and most valuable private libraries of his times in the United Kingdom. His Hispanic and Portuguese collection, consisting of his own corpus among many other volumes, was also quite impressive and no doubt the most outstanding and complete Hispanic and Portuguese library of the period in the British Isles.1

  • 2 For a Monument at Tordesillas (1796)

20Any list of examples drawn from his original work, in prose and in verse, can provide sound testimony to the above claim. The ancient history of the Spanish Goths and the Moorish invaders, for example, keeps company with glorious epic tales of the new American Vice-Royalties and its Conquistadores and Indian peoples.2

21A chapter apart is that epitomized by his abundant verse translations from Portuguese and Spanish poets, and his three massive prose volumes from medieval and Renaissance classics: Amadis of Gaul (1803), Palmerin of England (1807) and Chronicle of the Cid (1808).

22And finally, as noted above, there is his impressive library consisting of hundreds of books in Spanish and Portuguese patiently sought, bought, transported to England, and stored, studied, and read near the Lakes. It must also be observed that most of the titles and subject matters belonging to his aforementioned Hispanic and Portuguese Collection are related to history or historical characters.

Amadis of Gaul: A domesticating experience

23The following example and its corresponding translation, taken from both original and translated texts, illustrate what Southey wanted to do and did when dealing with The Amadis, insofar as his compression for improvement and medievalizing strategies appear in action. The middle text represents our own literal translation into English of the original Spanish excerpt.

Capítulo VI
Como el Donzel del Mar combatió con los peones del cavallero, que Galpano se llamava, y después con sus hermanos del señor del castillo y con el mesmo señor y lo mató sin dél haver piedad.
Pues llegando del Doncel del Mar cerca del castillo vio venir contra él una doncella haziendo muy gran duelo, y con ella un escudero y un doncel que la aguardavan. La doncella era muy hermosa y de hermosos cabellos, y ívalos messando. El Doncel del Mar le dixo:
— Amiga, ¿qué es la causa de tan gran cuita?
— Ay, señor — dixo ella — es tanto el mal que vos lo no puedo decir!
— Dezídmelo — dixo él — y si con derecho vos puedo remediar, fazerlo he.
— Señor — dixo ella — yo vengo con mandado de mi señor a un cavallero mançebo de los buenos que agora se saben, y tomáronme allí cuatro peones, y llevándome al castillo fue escarnida de un traidor, y sobre todo hízome jurar que no haya otro amigo en tanto que él biva (Rodríguez de Montalvo 1987a, 293).

Chapter VI.
How the young Knight of the Sea battled with the men of the knight, whose name was Galpano, and then with the brothers of the Lord of the castle and with the very Lord himself, whom he killed taking no pity on him. Since, when the young Knight of the Sea was approaching the castle, he saw a damsel coming towards him in great sorrow, and with her a squire and a page, who were taking care of her. The damsel was very beautiful and with beautiful hair, that she was tearing. The young Knight of the Sea asked her:
Friend, what is the source of your great grief?
Oh, sir — she said — the evil is so terrible that I cannot tell it!
Tell it to me — he said — and if I can honestly help you, I will do it.
Sir — she said — I come with a message from my Lord for a young knight, one of those good ones there are these days, and four men took me there and carried me to the castle where a traitor made fun of me, and, above all, made me swear not to have any other friend while he is alive [my translation].

Chap. VII.Of the battle which the Child of the Sea had with Galpano and his people.
As the Child of the Sea approached the castle he met a damsel accompanied by a squire and page, she was a fair damsel, and her hair was beautiful which she rent as she went along, and made great lamentation. When the knight heard how she had suffered from the custom of that castle, he took his bridle and said, Come with me and I shall avenge you (Lobeira 1872a, 40).

24The differences in length and structure between Southey's translation and the original are very marked. It cannot be denied that Southey followed his own rules very faithfully. He was not literal because such a naive medieval dialogue would (obviously) not have been appropriate for a modern audience. He used the strategy of condensation or compression, but without loss of the treasures of the original, which still seems or sounds very medieval, although it is not any more. There is also no omission of any main incident. All these facts point to "domestication," as has been claimed above. Besides, there is also some temporal "foreignization," suggesting a distant medieval setting by means of lexical units such as "damzel," "knight," "page," or "squire." Finally, Southey did not translate the foreign name Galpano, as he wrote that he was not going to in his Preface.

25The twentieth century knew some Spanish abridgements and adaptations of Amadis de Gaula, such as the one by Ángel Rosenblat, which was probably the most successful. Rosenblat supports very passionately the idea that this medieval work must be modernized for modern popular audiences to have again the opportunity to enjoy its many merits. He also claims that this had been the regular practice since the first nonextant fourteenth-century version of the Romance until the only one remaining, dating from the sixteenth century (Anonymous 1979, 13).

26The following sets of parallel examples from Montalbo's, Southey's and Rosenblat's versions show how closely Southey's abridgements anticipated those to be made by Rosenblat many years later. They also prove how carefully the puritan Robert Southey proceeded to manipulate his original medieval source and to eliminate all sexual and/or erotic references. Curiously enough, many years later, Ángel Rosenblat did the same.

27The text placed between Montalbo's and Southey's versions is my own literal translation of the Spanish original from the sixteenth century. I have also literally translated into English what Rosenblat did in the twentieth century:

AMADÍS DE GAULA (Rodríguez de Montalbo 1508)
Cómo la infanta Helisena y su donzella Darioleta fueron a la cámara donde el rey Perión estava.
Cuando la gente fue sossegada, Darioleta se levantó y tomó a Helisena assí desnuda como en su lecho estava, solamente la camisa y cubierta de un manto, y salieron ambas a la huerta, y el lunar hazía muy claro. La donzella miró a su señora, y abriéndole el manto, católe el cuerpo y dixo riendo: — Señora, en buena hora nasció el cavallero que vos esta noche avrá, y bien dezían que ésta era la más hermosa donzella de rostro y de cuerpo que entonces se sabía. Helisena se sonrió y dixo: — Assí lo podéis de mí dezir, que nascí en buena ventura en ser llegada a tal cavallero.
How princess Helisena and her maid Darioleta went to the chamber where king Perion was.
When everybody was sleeping, Darioleta rose and called for Helisena naked as she was in her bed, with only her nightdress and a mantle over it, and they both went out into the garden, and the moonlight was very bright. The maid looked at her lady and drawing her mantle, felt her body and said laughing: How fortunate was born the knight that will have you tonight, and well they said that you were the most beautiful maiden ever known because of your face and body. Helisena smiled and said: — The same you can say of me, that I was born lucky to be with such a knight.

AMADIS OF GAUL (Southey 1803)
How Amadis was begotten and born.
At night when all was husht, Darioleta rose, and threw a mantle over her mistress, and they went into the garden. When Elisena came to the chamber door her whole body trembled, and her voice that she could not speak.

AMADÍS DE GAULA (Rosenblat 1940)
Cuando la gente de palacio dormía, Elisena y Darioleta salieron a la huerta. A Elisena le temblaba el cuerpo.
When everybody was sleeping in the palace, Elisena y Darioleta went to the garden. Elisena's body was trembling.

28Southey did not omit as much as Rosenblat did, but nearly. However, the similarities show that the modernity and intuition of the former were very outstanding.

29This second example displays that Southey could also domesticate his text, although not without guilt, as his gentleman/donzel footnote proves:

AMADIS OF GAUL (Southey 1803)
Then, said she, make this my Gentleman* knight; and she showed him to Perion; kneeling before the altar. The king saw him how fair he was, and approaching him, said, Would you receive the order of knighthood? — I would. — In the name of God, then! and may He order it that it be well bestowed on you, and that you may grow in honour as you have in person.
* An awkward word, but mi donzel cannot here be rendered otherwise.

Chronicle of the Cid: A blending experience

  • 3 Robert Southey's monumental History of Brazil was and is still a very much appreciated handbook, f (...)

30Robert Southey can also be classified as a landmark in the history of History as a discipline. Almost everything is history in his pages, and after so many years of commitment to his studies, the Lake Poet became one of the most relevant and devoted scientific historians of English letters, as the following titles prove: History of Brasil (1810–1819),3 The Life of Nelson (1813), The Life of Wesley and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820), History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832) and Lives of the British Admirals (1833–1840).

31But among all his works, there is nothing so intrinsically historical as his Chronicle of the Cid (1808): a unique blending of translation of a historical work and fiction based on historical facts. (See Chamosa 1987; Zarandona 1992–94). "Medieval history," a "historian" and "English-Spanish translation history" all together turn Chronicle of the Cid into a one-off opportunity to discuss the role of history in translation studies: the influence of the translator-historian, the manipulation-recreation of history, translation as a tool in the service of history/history as a tool in the service of translation, history and historiographic methods and translation approaches.

32In other words, Chronicle of the Cid not only dealt with a key historical foreign figure and period but also constitutes a key example in the long history of translation between the English and Spanish languages and cultures.

33Southey loved this work of his and his different sources without restraint, placing them on the level of Homeric epics and Shakespearean dramas. And this translation — his most reputed one — also enjoyed a very successful reception and made the national medieval historical hero of Spain very popular among contemporary English-speaking peoples, and was highly praised by Samuel Coleridge in 1808.

34As the perfect translator-manipulator he always was, Southey stated in his Preface — another of his short texts reflecting on translation — that Chronicle of the Cid was translated from three sources:

This Chronicle of the Cid is wholly translation, but it is not the translation of any single work. The three following have been used:
1. Crónica del famoso cavallero Cid Ruydiez Campeador. [Chronicle]
2. Poema del Cid. [Poem]
3. Romances del Cid. [Ballads]
Chronicle of the Cid is the main web of the present volume.... I have incorporated with it whatever additional circumstances, either of fact or costume, are contained in the Crónica General or the Poema del Cid (Anonymous 1823, 177–183).

  • 4 The deeds of The Cid had been told before within different general chronicles, such as the one wri (...)

35Unfortunately, the ballads, the poem, and his main source, the Crónica del famoso cavallero Cid Ruy Diez Campeador, published in Burgos, Spain, in 1593, but closely indebted to medieval chronicles, are anonymous texts.4 Southey had this last book in his library. What he did was to add to the historical chronicle of the hero of Castile the literature of the epic poem of the Cid and the knight-warrior's popular ballads. The result was to be a unique hybrid consisting of, or originating in, three different genres.

36And the mixture was a success. Thanks to the magical powers of translation, a wholly forgotten old chronicle text staged a comeback, becoming popular once more and reaching wide audiences and a huge readership in a different language and culture. Such emotional and dramatic passages as these two translated by Southey about the popular and noble hero of Castile make it easy to understand why:

My Cid Ruydiez entered Burgos, having sixty streamers in his company. And men and women went forth to see him, and the men of Burgos and the women of Burgos were at their windows, weeping, so great was their sorrow. (Anonymous 1823, 277).
When this was done the King bade the Cid make his demand; and the Cid rose and said, Sir, there is no reason for making long speeches here, which would detain the Cortes. I demand of the Infantes of Carrion, before you, two swords which I gave into their keeping; the one is Colada and the other Tizona. I won them like a man, and gave them to the keeping of the Infantes that they might honour my daughters with them, and serve you (Anonymous 1823, 411).

37The first of the next two series of related examples, the one dealing with the legendary Jura de Santa Gadea — Swearing at Santa Gadea — when The Cid made King Alphonsus swear three times against his will, shows how Southey departed from the original Crónica to take advantage of the much livelier tellings of popular ballads dealing with those momentous events.

38The Swearing at Santa Gadea by Southey (Chronicle of the Cid 1808) gives a detailed account of the evolution of the King's feelings as the three oaths are demanded, from increasing fear to violent anger: "And the King's colour changed.... In the like manner the countenance of the King was changed again... but the wrath of the King was exceeding great." This brilliant gradation does not come from the Spanish Chronicle (Crónica particular del Cid 1593), where there is only the final wrath: ". . . pero fue ay muy sañudo el rey don Alfonso" [but King Alphonsus was very angry then]. The origin must be found in popular ballads, where there is the same triple combination of feelings: "Las palabras son tan fuertes / que al buen rey ponen espanto.... Las juras eran tan fuertes / que el rey no las ha otorgado... pero también dijo presto, / malamente y enojado" [The words are so strong / that the good king is scared.... The swearings were so strong / that the king has not consented to them... but he also spoke quickly / rudely and angrily].

39Now, this second series of examples proves how Southey privileged the dramatic Poem, rather than the dull Crónica, to write his own Chronicle. I have added my own literal translation of the excerpt from the Spanish Chronicle:

(Southey, 1808)
Cortes de Toledo
When this was done the King bade the Cid make his demand; and the Cid rose and said, Sir, there is no reason for making long speeches here, which would detain the Cortes. I demand of the Infantes of Carrion, before you, two swords which I gave into their keeping; the one is Colada and the other Tizona. I won them like a man, and gave them to the keeping of the Infantes that they might honour my daughters with them, and serve you. When they left my daughters in the Oak-forest of Corpes they chose to have nothing to do with me, and renounced my love; let them therefore give me back the swords, seeing that they are no longer my sons-in-law.

Cortes de toledo
Se leuantó entonces el Cid y dixo: Señor razón luenga non hauemos por que dezir aquí ca sería gran detenimiento de la corte mas demando ante vos alos infantes de Carrión dos espadas que les empreste la una es Colada y la otra es Tizona. E pido voz Señor derecho que me las mandes dar que non han razón por que las tener contra mi voluntad.
The Cid rose and said: Sir I have sound motives to speak here in the Cortes for a long time, but I will claim in your presence of the princes of Carrión those two swords that I lent them, one is Colada and the other Tizona. I ask you, Sir, to command them to return them to me because there is no reason for them to have them against my will.

40This original cannot be the only source for Southey's target text. Chronicle neither provides any information about the swords being won by the Cid like a man, nor about the Oak-forest of Corpes, where the Infantes dishonoured the Campeador's daughters, lost Mio Cid's love, chose not to have anything to do with him, and stopped being his sons-in-law. All these elements come from the Poem of the Cid (Cantar del Mío Cid), lines 2148–2158, where readers can find a much more dramatic retelling of the misfortunes of the Cid's daughters and the evils inflicted upon them by their mischievous husbands. Southey knew the Poem well. Again, this proves the originality, merit and sophistication of this translation by Southey and its three sources, which can be described as a "most unique blending experience."

41As well, Southey provides some examples of his interest in medievalizing and foreignizing his text when he keeps the Spanish words Infantes and Cortes, instead of "Princes" or "Parliament."


42There is no doubt that Robert Southey is a landmark in the history of world literature, being a leading member of the so-called Lake District Poets together with Samuel T. Coleridge and William Wordsworth. There is no doubt also that he is a landmark in the history of intercultural communication between the English-speaking and Spanish/Portuguese communities because of his pioneering and brilliant translations, his travels and travel books and journals, and his contacts with prominent Iberian cultural institutions and individuals. (See Carnall 1971, Curry 1975, Madden 1972, Raimond 1968, Simmons 1945).

43What Robert Southey and his Chronicle of the Cid prove, too, is that the translation of history can be regarded as a central area of study of the history of translation, giving rise to a challenging overlap of aims and methods. The translation of the humanities can also be deemed as rewarding as literary translation is for specialists in literary studies.

44The human factor is a key factor in the history of translation as a whole and in the history of history in translation in particular. Southey sets a perfect example. The human factor — biography, interests, character — can be equally detected in the "translation process," the "translation product," and the "translation function." The making of a general history of translators is a fascinating challenge for historians of translation.

  • 5 To honour his merits, Robert Southey was invited to join the restricted census of the Immortal, th (...)

45Finally, Robert Southey, who loved, wrote and translated so many pages on Iberian and Latin American subject matter, could be regarded to a kind of patron or protector of such endeavours. Everything surrounding Southey is covered by a heavy curtain of neglect and oblivion nowadays. He deserves neither of them.5 Neither does a general history of translation.



Primary sources

Anonymous . (1593). Crónica de la famoso cavallero Cid Ruy Diez Campeador. Burgos.

Anonymous. (1823). The Spanish Ballads and the Chronicle of the Cid, Rodrigo Díaz de Bivar, The Campeador, trans. J.G. Lockhart and Robert Southey. London: Frederick Warne and Co.

Anonymous. (1979). [1a 1940]. Amadís de Gaula. Novela de caballerías, modernizada y prologada por Ángel Rosenblat. Buenos Aires: Losada.

Anonymous. (1998). Cantar de Mío Cid. Introd. Alberto Montaner. Preface by Francisco Rico. Barcelona: Crítica.

Lobeira, Vasco. (1872a). Amadis of Gaul, trans. from the Spanish version of Garciordonez de Montalvo by Robert Southey. Vol. I. London: John Russell Smith.

———. (1872b). Amadis of Gaul, trans. from the Spanish version of Garciordonez de Montalvo by Robert Southey. Vol. II. London: John Russell Smith.

———. (1872c). Amadis of Gaul, trans. from the Spanish version of Garciordonez de Montalvo by Robert Southey. Vol. III. London: John Russell Smith.

Menéndez Pidal, Ramón, ed. (1955). Primera Crónica General de España que mandó componer Alfonso El Sabio y se continuaba bajo Sancho IV en 1289. Vol. II. Madrid: Universidad de Madrid, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras: Seminario Menéndez Pidal/Editorial Gredos.

Rodríguez de Montalvo, Garci. (1987a). Amadís de Gaula, ed. Juan Manuel Cacho Blecua. Vol. I. Madrid: Cátedra.

———. (1987b). Amadís de Gaula, ed. Juan Manuel Cacho Blecua Vol. II. Madrid: Cátedra.

Southey, Robert. (1826a). Roderick, the Last of the Goths. Vol. I. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green.

———. (1826b). Roderick, the Last of the Goths. Vol. II. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green.

———. (1849). Life and Correspondence, ed. Charles Cuthbert Southey. Vol. III. London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans.

———. (1850). Common-Place Book. Second Series. Special Collections, ed. John Wood Warter. London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans.

———. (1977a). História do Brasil, trans. Luís Joaquim de Oliveira e Castro. Vol. I. São Paulo: Edições Melhoramentos.

———. (1977b). História do Brasil, trans. Luís Joaquim de Oliveira e Castro. Vol. II. São Paulo: Edições Melhoramentos.

———. (1977c). História do Brasil. Vol. III. Trans. Luís Joaquim de Oliveira e Castro. São Paulo: Edições Melhoramentos.

Southey, Robert and S. T. Coleridge. (1969). Omniana or Horae Otiosiores, ed. Robert Gittings. Fontwell, Sussex: Centaur Press.

Secondary sources

Alberich, José. (1981). "En torno a los viajeros ingleses de la época romántica." In Imagen romántica de España: Introducción. Madrid: Ministerio de Cultura– Dirección General de Bellas Artes, Archivos y Bibliotecas, 29–36.

Buceta, Erasmo. (1922). "Opiniones de Southey y de Coleridge acerca del 'Poema del Cid.'" In Revista de Filología Española, IX, 52–57.

———. (1923). "El entusiasmo por España en algunos románticos ingleses." In Revista de Filología Española, X, 1–25.

Burns, Tom. (1988). "La España que debe citarse." In Viajeros por España de Borrow a Hemingway, Madrid: Mondadori, 7–37.

Carnall, Geoffrey. (1971). Robert Southey. London: The British Council; Longman Group.

Caskey, H. (1943). "Catalogue of the Spanish and Portuguese Portion of the Library of Late Robert Southey, Esq., LL.D., Poet Laureate." In Revista do Instituto Histórico e Geográfico Brasileiro, 178, 91–155.

Chamosa, José Luis, and Trinidad Guzmán. (1987). "Robert Southey, traductor de poesía española." In Fidus Interpres. Actas de las Primeras Jornadas Nacionales de Historia de la Traducción. León: Universidad de León–Servicio de Publicaciones, 340–348.

Curry, Kenneth. (1975). Southey. London and Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Delisle, Jean, and Judith Woodsworth, eds. (1995). Les traducteurs dans l'histoire. Ottawa: Les Presses de L'Université d'Ottawa / Éditions Unesco.

Freixa, Consol. (1993). Los ingleses y el arte de viajar. Una visión de las ciudades españolas en el siglo XVIII. Barcelona: Ediciones del Serbal.

García Mercadal, José. (1999). Viajes de extranjeros por España y Portugal. Desde los tiempos más remotos hasta comienzos del siglo XX, pref. Agustín García Simón. Salamanca: Junta de Castilla y León–Consejería de Educación y Cultura.

García-Romeral Pérez, Carlos. (2000). Bio-Bibliografía de Viajeros por España y Portugal. Madrid: Ollero and Ramos Editores.

Guerrero, Ana Clara. (1990). Viajeros británicos en la España del siglo XVIII. Madrid: Aguilar.

Lacy, Norris J. (1996). The New Arthurian Encyclopedia. New York–London: Garland.

Lafarga, Francisco, ed. (1996). El discurso de la traducción en la historia: Antología bilingüe. Barcelona: EUB.

Locker, Edward H. (1998). Paisajes de España. Entre lo pintoresco y lo sublime, ed. Consol Freixa. Barcelona: Ediciones del Serbal.

Madden, Lionel, ed. (1972). Robert Southey: The Critical Heritage. London and Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Martínez-Barbeito, Carlos. (1972–1973). "Robert Southey desembarca en la Coruña." Revista del Instituto José Cornide, 8:9, 169–196.

Mitchell, David. (1988). Viajeros por España de Borrow a Hemingway, trans. Isabel Gómez-Arnau. Madrid: Mondadori.

Munday, Jeremy. (2001). Introducing Translation Studies: Theories and Applications. London and New York: Routledge.

Pym, Anthony. (1998). Method in Translation History. Manchester: St. Jerome.

Raimond, Jean. (1968). Robert Southey: L'homme et son temps, l'œuvre, le rôle. Paris: Faculté des Lettres et Sciences Humaines–Librairie Marcel Didier.

Robertson, Ian. (1976). Los curiosos impertinentes. Viajeros ingleses por España. 1760–1855, trans. Francisco José Mayan, pref. Manuel Fraga Iribarne. Madrid: Editora Nacional.

Santoyo, Julio-César, and Isabel Verdaguer. (1987). De clásicos y traducciones. Clásicos españoles en versiones inglesas: los siglos XVI y XVII. Barcelona: PPU Promociones y Publicaciones Universitarias.

Simmons, Jack. (1945). Southey. London: Collins.

Spence, Lewis. 1995 [1920]. Spain. London: Senate.

Tytler, Alexander Fraser, Lord Woodhouselee. (1978). Essay on the Principles of Translation, intro. Jeffrey F. Huntsman. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Venuti, Lawrence. (1995). The Translator's Invisibility: A History of Translation. London: Routledge.

Zarandona, Juan Miguel. (1992–1994). "Robert Southey: Hispanista y traductor de obras clásicas castellanas medievales." In Revista de Investigación. Filología, XII:1, 7–27.

———. (2004). "The English Letters by Don Manuel Álvarez Espriella, Pseudo-Translated by Robert Southey (1807)." Odisea, 5, 187–198.

Notes de fin

1 Unfortunately, the whole of the library of Robert Southey was sold in an auction soon after his death, the Hispanic and Portuguese section of it included. However, the auctioneers produced a full catalogue of all his books, which at least lets modern researchers have a precise idea of its scope and resources. This is what H. Caskey also did when he published a complete listing of the Iberian collection (1943). The following volumes from this listing must be supposed to be the ones that Southey himself made use of to translate and write his Chronicle of the Cid:

3344. Crónica de la famoso cavallero Cid Ruy Diez Campeador. Burgos, 1593. [. . .]

3449. Romancero e Historia del Cid Ruy Diez de Bivar en Lenguaje Antiguo, recopilados por Juan de Escobar. [. . .]

3719. Romancero General, en que se contienen todos los Romances que andan impresos. Medina del Campo 1602 (Caskey 1943, 91–155).

2 For a Monument at Tordesillas (1796)

For a Column at Truxillo (1796)

Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (1797)

For the Cell of Honorius, at the Core Convent, near Cintra (1798)

The Spanish Armada (1798)

The Peruvian's Dirge over the Body of his Father (1799)

Song of the Araucans (1799)

St. Juan Gualberto (1799)

Gonzalo Hermínguez (1801)

La Caba (1802)

King Ramiro (1802)

Queen Orraca and the five Martyrs of Morocco (1802)

The History of Brazil (1810–1819)

The Life of Nelson (1813)

Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814)

History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832)

A Tale of Paraguay (1825)

The Pilgrim to Compostella (1829)

Journals of a Residence in Portugal 1800–1801 (1960)

3 Robert Southey's monumental History of Brazil was and is still a very much appreciated handbook, for consultation purposes, in this very Latin American Republic itself. It was also translated into Brazilian Portuguese in three volumes in 1977 (Southey 1977a, 1977b, 1977c).

4 The deeds of The Cid had been told before within different general chronicles, such as the one written during the times of King Alfonso X El Sabio (see Menéndez Pidal 1955), but later on new chronicles were published devoted only to the materials directly associated with El Campeador.

5 To honour his merits, Robert Southey was invited to join the restricted census of the Immortal, that is, the membership of the Spanish Royal Academy of Language. That he felt very happy about this flattering distinction is indicated by the inscription he used to include at the beginning of all his published works:

Robert Southey, Esq. LL.D.

Poet Laureate

Honorary Member of the Royal Spanish Academy,

of the Royal Spanish Academy of History,

of the Royal Institute of the Netherlands,

of the Cymmrodorion,

of the Massachusetts Historical Society.


Associate Professor in the Faculty of Translation and Interpreting at the University of Valladolid at Soria. His research interests are in literary translation and history of translation in English and Spanish. His fields of study are Arthurian studies, African studies, and utopian studies and their relationships with translation: the history of Spanish Arthurian literature in translation, sub-Saharan literature in European languages translated into Spanish, and the translation of utopian newspeaks into Spanish. He is Editor of the Hermeneus Project of the University of Valladolid, consisting of three series: Hermeneus, a periodical on translation studies, Vertere, a collection of monographs on translation studies, and Disbabelia, a collection of unknown translations into Spanish

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