Nineteenth-Century Anglo-Irish Cervantine (1)

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Abstract: To commemorate the fourth centenary of the publication of the first part of the Spanish masterpiece of all times Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, this article approaches in an introductory manner some of the literary productions which sprang from Cervantes's original within the Irish context. In the case of Ireland the Cervantine inspiration, albeit minor and neglected, has also been present; and, it is most probably the nineteenth century which provides the most ample and varied response to Cervantes's masterpiece in many a different way. Our aim is to see briefly how the legacy of Don Quixote found distinct expression on the Emerald Isle. Indeed, all these Cervantine contributions from Ireland during the nineteenth century were also deeply imbued with the politics of literature and society in a country which experienced historical, social and cultural turmoil. The reference to Cervantes as a key writer in Spanish letters will not only be reduced to his masterpiece of all times; but, will also be tackled in critical pieces of importance in Ireland.

Key Words: Don Quixote, Cervantes, The Dublin University Magazine, Chenevix, Maxwell, Wellington, Anglo-Irish

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The year 2005 marks the celebration of the fourth centenary of the publication of the first part of the Spanish masterpiece of all times Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. The influence of Cervantes's work has already been covered in a myriad of scholarly studies in many languages in the course of these four centuries and it would be impossible to trace, even in the age of computers nowadays, the extensive amount of interference, intertextuality, inspiration and critical approaches Cervantes's original has produced. To commemorate this literary event it is, therefore, not merely coincidental in time, but also peremptory, that the first issue of Estudios Irlandeses should approach in a brief introductory manner some of the literary productions which sprang from Cervantes's original within the Irish context at large. In the case of Ireland the Cervantine inspiration, albeit minor and neglected, has also been present; and, it is most probably the nineteenth century which best provides the most ample and varied response to Cervantes's masterpiece in many a different way. Accordingly, from many a number of critical responses in most of the contemporary Irish and Anglo-Irish periodicals and magazines, in which Cervantes's mastery would be linked to the very essence of the Spanish character, through a minor theatrical adaptation of one of Miguel de Cervantes's most famous independent episodes in Don Quixote --'The Novel of the Curious Impertinent'-- to other, more Irish perhaps, novelistic forms of adaptation and interpretation of the Spanish masterpiece, the legacy of Don Quixote found distinct expression on the Emerald Isle.

Indeed, all these Cervantine contributions from Ireland during the nineteenth century were also deeply imbued with the politics of literature and society in a country which experienced historical, social and cultural turmoil at the time: a country that view Spain and Spanish culture as a beacon in terms of continuity and nationhood in many respects. But, also, the place in which Britain's supremacy over Europe was established, reinforcing therefore the aesthetics of Anglo-Irish unionism too. Thus, we will outline, firstly, the numerous critical references to Miguel de Cervantes and his work, which can be found in the principal literary periodicals of the time in Ireland, or should we say, Anglo-Ireland. These, as we will see, were undertaken by key figures--journalists, literary critics and writers--of both the Irish and Anglo-Irish discourses. After this overall and brief approach, we shall briefly pay attention to some of the works, which were produced within literary the discourse in Ireland, in a minor or major way, clashing at times with the idea of an Anglo-Irish canon. A Cervantine inspiration which would culminate, among many other examples, at the beginning of the twentieth century with a close-to-the-original theatrical adaptation by Lady Augusta Gregory for The Abbey Theatre in Dublin of Miguel de Cervantes's masterpiece in her intriguing and not much-approached by contemporary or even by today's criticism, Sancho's Master (1927). …