Cervantes in the English-Speaking World: New Essays

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Cervantes in the English-Speaking World: New Essays. Ed. Dario Fernandez-Morera and Michael Hanke. Barcelona: Reichenberger, 2005.220 pp. ISBN: 3-937734-00-7.

Judging from the present volume, every century seems to have its English or at least its English-speaking Cervantes: Samuel Butler in the seventeenth, Henry Fielding and Tobias Smollett in the eighteenth, Mark Twain in the nineteenth, and Roy Campbell in the twentieth. And these are just the writers explicitly so called. Dario Fernandez-Morera and Michael Hanke have assembled a collection of newly-commissioned essays that address, in addition to the above, Ben Jonson, Laurence Sterne, Charlotte Lennox, Tabitha Tenney, Charles Dickens, G. K. Chesterton, and Walker Percy.

Yumiko Yamada, in "Ben Jonson: A Neoclassical Response to Cervantes," addresses one of Cervantes' later contemporaries. The essay reiterates the argument of Yamada's own book-length treatment of the subject, referencing it periodically as necessary support for the abbreviated discussion at hand. Yamada argues that Jonson learned from Cervantes a distrust of "Bookes of Chivalrie" and their influence and saw Sir Philip Sidney as an especially pernicious exponent of the chivalric romance. Yamada may make too insistent a case for Cervantes' influence on Jonson's neoclassical views, especially as regards the "unities." Many of these ideas were very much in the wind, and there were other likely influences nearer at hand, not least Sidney himself. The Apologie for Poesie provides still closer verbal analogues than those Yamada finds in Cervantes. Still, Jonson's unquestionable familiarity with Cervantes offers a prominent illustration of the rapid spread of the Spanish author's fame. By the second half of the same century Samuel Butler's Hudibras was to become the English equivalent to Don Quixote itself, as both Voltaire and Samuel Johnson would point out a century later.

Werner von Koppenfels's essay, "Samuel Butler's Hudibras: A Quixotic Perspective of Civil War," the one essay in the volume that scans the whole range of English reception, briefly surveys changing English attitudes to Don Quixote. In some respects, von Koppenfels's inclusiveness supplies something lacking in the overall collection, which would have been strengthened by an introductory overview. Only two essays in the collection give a nod to the fact that they are parts of a larger whole, the essay on Roy Campbell, by the editors themselves, and Christopher Ehland's essay on Smollett. Von Koppenfels notes that until well into the eighteenth century English readers of Don Quixote primarily reacted, as did Butler, to the foolishness of the protagonist; only later, in writers like Fielding and Sterne, did the Don's virtues come to be appreciated.

In "Henry Fielding and His Spanish Model: 'Our English Cervantes," Raimund Borgmeier credits Fielding with anticipating Samuel Johnson's appreciation of Quixote's admirable personal qualities. Although Fielding wrote an opera entitled Don Quixote in England and included on the title page of Joseph Andrews the affirmation that it was "Written in Imitation of the Manner of Cervantes, Author of Don Quixote," Borgmeier suggests that by the time he wrote Tom Jones he had tempered his enthusiasm, avoiding in the structure of his masterpiece what he had criticized as the disconnections of Don Quixote but retaining the ironic narrator, creating a Sancho in Partridge, and echoing many episodes.

Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy, like Don Quixote; met with immediate success upon publication and was just as immediately translated into other European languages. Felicitas Kleber, in "Laurence Sterne's 'Tristram Shandy and Don Quixote;" finds numerous parallels in narrative technique, style, and characterization. (One of Sterne's favorite adjectives seems to have been Cervantic.) Kleber explores the thematic relationship between such noted Sternean "hobby horses" as Uncle Toby's obsession with fortification and Quixote's with knight errantry. …