H butler clarke, M. A


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First published March 1893

Reprinted October 1908

Reprinted June 1921

This is a reformatted print of the 1921 version. The material is out of copyright and remains in the public domain.

Mike Thornton

Thornholme, East Yorkshire

January 2016
Henry Butler Clarke 1863-1904
Henry Butler Clarke was born at Marchinton, Staffordshire, on November 9, 1863. He was educated at Whorlton near Rokeby and at Richmond, Yorkshire, and finally at San Juan de Luz. His father was an Anglican priest, the chaplain of San Juan de Luz. While Butler Clarke lived there, he absorbed the Spanish culture from learned friends such as Wentworth Webster, and Mrs. Lilburn, who helped him later with the editing of his books. Here he also met the novelist George Gissing. He frequently travelled as far as Madrid.

He studied Greek at Oxford University, but had to stop due to his frequent attacks of neurasthenia. So because of his knowledge of the language, he decided to study Spanish instead. In 1890, Henry Butler Clarke was appointed to lecture on Spanish language and literature in the Taylorian Institute of Oxford University. As well as teaching he studied and researched Spanish culture and history. Butler Clarke travelled much in Spain and became a great expert of Spanish literature, culture and society. He became known in the literary and cultural circles of Madrid, and was made a member of the Royal Academy of History and of the Royal Economic Society of Madrid.

As well as books for teaching Spanish, he wrote on themes from Spanish history such as The Cid Campeador in 1897, the collection of Heroes of the nations, and The Catholic Kings of Spain. He emphasised the use of primary sources. He gained most recognition for Modern Spain 1815-1898, published posthumously in 1906. He always stressed the importance of history, saying that the roots of the present are embedded in the deepest parts of the past, and the true significance of contemporary events cannot be understood without knowing the historical causes that have led to them.
Butler Clarke left the post of Professor of Spanish in the Taylorian Institute in 1894, because of his health, but continued to study Spanish literature and culture. He planned an extensive study of Spanish civilisation from the fall of the Roman Empire to the colonisation of America. However his mental health failed again, and, while recuperating at Torquay he broke down and shot himself on September 10th. He was buried in the local cemetery. His work deserves to be better known by students of Spanish history and language.










During the time that I have held the Taylorian Teachership of Spanish at Oxford, I have frequently received letters asking what there is to read in Spanish besides Cervantes and Calderón, and what editions should be used. The present volume is intended to answer these questions, and to show the position occupied by the great writers in the general scheme of the literature of their country. The various divisions of this great subject have been exhaustively treated up to their several dates by Nicolás Antonio, Ticknor, Amador de los Rios, Schack and Wolf, to whose books I beg to acknowledge my many obligations, hoping at the same time that the present general sketch may be useful to the general reader, and to the beginner, and may serve as an introduction to more extensive works.

I am aware that a few short extracts, however well chosen, can give no adequate idea of the manner of a great writer or of the merits of a great book, and that translations, even by the most skilful hands, are wont to reproduce the defects rather than the beauties of their original. The extracts here printed are intended to relieve the monotony of a long list of short notices of authors, and to illustrate the development of the language and the progress of literary method; they are, as far as possible, characteristically Spanish in subject and, it is hoped, of sufficient interest to induce readers to refer to the books from which they are taken. The translations are literal rather than literary, and are meant to assist beginners in reading the extracts without the help of a dictionary. My aim has been to stimulate inquiry rather than to satisfy it. I have given brief outlines of well-known stories, such as that of the Cid, in order that on opening the Romancero del Cid, or meeting with an allusion to it, the reader may at once recognise his whereabouts.

If the literature of a country forms an organic whole, all divisions into periods must necessarily be somewhat arbitrary. I have avoided them as much as possible. The short chapter on the novel ranges from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century, from the period preceding the Golden Age of Spanish literature to its decadence. As a mere aid to memory a division into five periods may be adopted. The first period extends from the earliest documents in the language to the beginning of the fifteenth century; the second brings us down to Garcilaso de la Vega; the Golden Age reaches from the middle of the sixteenth century to the death of Calderón; it is followed by a period of stagnation which prevailed until late in the last century; the fifth period includes the last hundred years. The eighteenth century has been passed over in a few pages because of the lack of originality in its colourless writings. Of contemporary authors few only have been mentioned, for the Spanish literature of the present day cannot vie with that of a more glorious age.

English booksellers are generally almost entirely ignorant of Spanish books. Existing bibliographies are chiefly occupied with the rare editions dear to collectors. It was my original intention to give a select bibliography of all authors mentioned. Finding, however, that it took up too much space, and was likely to confuse the beginner without satisfying the student, I have merely appended a list of the cheap and easily obtainable editions of the books best suited for a preliminary course of Spanish reading. For help in its compilation I beg to thank Señor Murillo of Madrid, the most learned and courteous of Spanish booksellers.

A list of some of the principal writers on Spanish literature is added for those who wish to continue the study of the subject.

My best thanks are due to Miss Florence Freeman whose help in revising proofs has been invaluable, to Mr. York-Powell for advice and encouragement, and to other friends.

We have good reason to be proud of the illustrious English-speaking men of letters who have devoted themselves to Spanish subjects. Most of them, however, are primarily though not exclusively students of Cervantes or Calderón; it is to be hoped that, without neglecting the greatest writers, someone will come forward to bring up our knowledge of the more illustrious of their rivals to the same level of perfection. A large amount of treasures lie ready for him who will seek in the rich storehouses of our great libraries. I have recently discovered in the library of Wadham College, Oxford, a manuscript of parts of the works of Luís de León, some twenty years older than the first edition and containing some interesting variants.

Writing in sight of the Spanish hills, with my memory full of Spanish kindness, and the echo of the most stately of languages still in my ears, I hope that the time is approaching for a better understanding between my own country and what was once the greatest, and is still the most chivalrous, nation upon earth. If, by aiding the study of the ancient literature, the present volume in any degree furthers this great end, its author's purpose will have been amply fulfilled.

H. B. C.

St. Jean de Luz,

1st January 1893.




1. Introduction


2. Formation of the Spanish Language and Beginning of Spanish literature


3. Chronicles and Romances of Chivalry


4. The Ballads


5. Catalan Literature


6. Origin of the Drama


7. Poetry of the Fifteenth Century — Foreign Influences


8. The Novel


9. Mystic and Religious Writers


10. History


11. Religious and Secular Poets of the Golden Age - culteranismo


12. Didactic Works and Collection of Proverbs


13. Cervantes


14. Lope de Vega


15. Quevedo


16. Calderón


17. Other Dramatists of the Golden Age


18. Epic and Narrative Poetry in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries


19. From the Beginning of the 18th Century to the War of Independence


20. The First Half of the Nineteenth Century


21. Contemporary Literature


Alphabetical Index of Authors and Editions

recommended for a Course of Spanish Reading


Alphabetical List of a Few of the

Principal Authorities on Spanish literature






Remarks on the History of Spain down to the Time of the earliest Writers in the Vernacular, Local Distributions of Language and Character

Among the histories of the great nations of the world, it would be difficult to find any one more characteristic and interesting than that of Spain. Its interest, however, is romantic rather than political or social; it is the history of great individuals and of great deeds rather than of corporate bodies and of great ideas. In spite of the by no means unimportant part taken by Spain in the struggle for liberty against oppressors from within, her constitutional development has been irregular, and her present position is far from satisfactory. But the history of the Spanish municipalities, of the liberties of Aragón and of other provinces, of the war of the Comunidades (guilds) in the sixteenth century, and of the bitter contest that marked the beginning of the present century, affords sufficient proof of her free spirit and of her sturdy independence.

Except during the centuries of the Roman occupation, and the short and fictitiously brilliant period during which she herself was the most powerful country in the world, Spain has, as it were, stood apart from what have been at different times the centres of civilisation. Her development and her success, her struggles and her failures, have been the work of her own sons; she has stood or fallen alone. To this may be attributed the romantic charm which she has exercised, and continues to exercise, over the minds of most of those to whom her history and literature, her art and national characteristics, are familiar. From the first the Western Land was a land of mystery, the land from which came the gold, and of whose riches fabulous accounts were given by the Phoenician and Greek traders whose factories fringed her coasts. The interior remained unknown to them, and beyond lay the great encircling ocean and the Islands of the Blessed.

The Roman conquest here, as elsewhere, introduced order amongst a host of contending elements, but it cost centuries to carry it out. The north, the traditional mountain home of Spanish liberty, was indeed never thoroughly subdued. In other parts of the country repeated rebellions gave rise to bloody and obstinately contested wars, which taught the conquerors to respect the proud and warlike spirit of their subjects. When resistance became hopeless, the Iberian and Celtic inhabitants rapidly and thoroughly assimilated the language, laws, and manners of the Romans. It is certain, however, that the native languages were still spoken side by side with Latin. Money with Celt-Iberian inscriptions was coined in the time of Augustus, and Cicero mentions a Spanish tongue unintelligible to the Romans; but the thoroughness with which the centralising process was carried out is best proved by the list of distinguished writers, natives of Spain, who contributed to the Latin literature of the Silver Age. Quintilian, Martial, Lucan, and Seneca, were Spaniards; Latin names are borne by many of the principal towns of the peninsula, and the gigantic public works by which the Mistress of the World adorned and strengthened her empire may still be seen in almost every part of the country. Once pacified, Spain rose rapidly to the position of one of the most prosperous provinces of the Empire. The almost incredible amount of wealth that flowed yearly from her mines and fields to the Imperial treasury seems to have been incapable of exhausting her marvellous resources. Agriculture, mining, manufactures, and commerce flourished; Christianity was introduced and spread rapidly. The last three centuries of Roman rule are almost qualified to rank among the happy class that have no history.

With the dismemberment of the Empire Spain shared the fate of the other Roman provinces. Successive armies of conquering Teutonic tribes overran the land. Some of these passed through on their way to Africa, as the Vandals who have left their name in (V)andalucía. Others remained to carve out for themselves an empire amongst a people which, under the powerful protection of its former masters, had lost the habit of carrying arms and, with it, the power of defending its own independence. The numerical importance of the so-called Gothic conquerors of Spain seems to have been as greatly over-rated as their level of civilisation has been under-rated. The bodies of aliens that settled in the country were rather armies than tribes. For some generations they maintained their position as a conquering and privileged race by means of laws forbidding intermarriage with their subjects. Of Gothic blood there remains little trace in the present population of the Peninsula. The Teutonic conquerors of Spain had, for the most part, been for some time established in Gaul before they crossed the Pyrenees, and they had adopted the more civilised customs as well as the laws and language of the people amongst whom they had settled. In Spain they have not left a single Teutonic inscription or monument, and it is doubtful if to them can be traced the origin of any of the few Gothic words existing in the languages now spoken in the Peninsula. The fuero juzgo, the so-called Gothic code of law, is almost entirely Roman in character.

The government of the Gothic kings was feeble and suspicious. They acted on the system of weakening the subject race, in order that they themselves might be proportionately stronger. All their efforts were powerless to prevent their absorption into the larger body of Celt-Iberian people. When, in the eighth century, the Saracens arrived, they conquered the whole country in a single battle, and at once parcelled it out into a number of states owning a more or less nominal allegiance to the Califs of Bagdad. Coming from the warm southern countries, the Moors found the climate of the north of Spain unsuited to them, and the mountainous region, inhabited by rough and warlike shepherds, not worth the trouble of conquest. Here, in the mountain fastnesses of Cantabria, they left the germ of a hardy race that was fated in after times to exact from their descendants a bitter retribution for the invasion of its native land, and the subjection of its brethren. Almost immediately after the Saracen conquest, the war of liberation was begun by Pelayo's valiant band of refugees, sheltered in the cave of Covadonga, around which centre so many of the national traditions. After lasting for seven centuries, the struggle ended only when the miserable remnant of the Moors turned their backs on Granada, carrying with them to Africa the keys of their houses as relics of their beloved homes in Spain.

The rule of the Moors was by no means harsh. They found in the south a population accustomed to subjection, and allowed to it a considerable share in the administration of its own affairs. Patriotic historians have endeavoured to show that the Christians of the old stock persistently held aloof from their conquerors, and looked upon them as enemies throughout. This is far from being the truth. An ecclesiastical writer of the ninth century1 complains that his co-religionists in Andalucía had so thoroughly adopted the Arabic tongue that they were unable to follow the services of the Church in their native Romance, but were capable of writing verse in the language of their so-called oppressors. These Christians of the south rose against the Moslems amongst whom they lived, only when summoned by the trumpet-call from the north. When freed by their more hardy compatriots, they were regarded by them with some suspicion, and did not always escape the opprobrious but well-deserved name of Cristianos nuevos (new Christians). Until the thirteenth century, and even later, it is by no means rare to find Christians fighting side by side with Moors against their fellow-Christians. The spirit of religious and national intolerance originated outside Spain with the Crusaders; it was cultivated by the Church, and was carried south by the early conquistadores. The sentiment expressed in the lines of the ballad

2Caballeros granadinos

Aunque moros hijosdalgo

probably belongs to a date when, after the completion of the re-conquest, the attribution of noble qualities to the vanquished became a means of glorifying the victor.

Of the civilisation and learning of the Moors very little filtered through to the rough Christian soldiers whom they successfully resisted when Islam was the common cause, but to whom they afforded an easy prey when, as so often happened, dissension prevailed amongst the Moslem states, or when single states were torn by internal division. More than half the land was already won back from the alien when, in the fourth century of this great war, Spanish literature begins.

The re-conquest, the story of which forms the history of Spain during so many centuries, has left its lasting mark on the country. Those who won back the several provinces planted respectively their native dialects in them. The Castilian language, known to foreigners as Spanish, is spoken, with slight local variations, throughout three-fourths of the country included in the present boundaries of Spain. This tract is roughly equivalent to the district won back by the descendants of the refugees from the mountains of Asturias. Their language is the language in which is written almost the whole of the works that will come under consideration in the present volume; and well does it deserve the title that has been bestowed upon it of "noblest daughter of the Latin." For from Latin it derives seven-tenths of its vocabulary, and the whole of its syntax. Sonorous and cadenced more than other tongues, it is peculiarly fitted for lofty verse and oratorical prose, yet in spite of its grave and dignified character it can scarcely be equalled for tenderness and pathos. Galicia keeps a dialect of its own, closely resembling the Portuguese, but possessing little or no literature.3 In Catalonia a dialect of Provençal is still spoken, but day by day it is adopting Castilian forms, in spite of the efforts of a small number of writers to revive a literature in the vernacular. In literature, as well as in ethnology and language, the Catalans belong rather to Provence than to Spain. (See chapter on Catalan Literature.)

Much misapprehension has been caused by regarding the inhabitants of the Peninsula as one people. Only in a political sense can they be properly so regarded. All general propositions about Spanish national character and customs must necessarily be false or only partially true. It would be as vain to seek a description which should apply equally to the national characteristics of Scotch and Irish, as to attempt to include in a single portrait the distinctive features of Asturian and Andalucian, To those who believe in the influence of physical environment upon national character this will be evident from a glance at the map, or better still, by a visit to the country. The climate and productions of Galicia, and parts of Asturias, are not unlike those of the south-west of Ireland. In Murcia is found an almost rainless region, producing the date, sugar-cane, and rice, a region in which camels may be used as beasts of burden under an African sky. The lofty table-land, intersected by high mountain ranges, which forms almost the whole of the interior of the Peninsula, is bare, and in great part treeless; its bleak brown uplands are parched by bitter winds in winter, and by a burning sun in summer, yet they produce corn, wine, and oil in abundance, and are capable, with the help of irrigation, of yielding the most delicious fruits and the most brilliant flowers.

The inhabitants of this country vary as much as the land in which they live. Brave, sober, honest, and persevering, but somewhat heavy and slow-witted as compared with his Andalucian cousin, the Asturian possesses in a marked degree the qualities common to mountaineers. His pride lies in his descent from the old stock, alike unconquered by Roman, Goth, or Moor, Writers of all times have made him a subject for good-natured ridicule on account of his claim to a long pedigree, his habit of presuming on his nobility, and his extreme poverty. Asturias now provides the men of letters, and, in conjunction with Aragón, the lawyers of Spain; almost all the noble houses trace their origin to the montaña.

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