Diana…Translated out of Spanish into English by Bartholomew Yong

Chrzanowski 1598mThe curate, the barber, and Don Quixote’s niece ventured into the errant knight’s library to throw into the courtyard and burn the books that drove him to madness. After discarding many, they found some smaller books. In the rendition by Thomas Shelton, the first English translator of Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote, “These as I take, said the Curate are not bookes of Knighthood, but of Poetry; and opening one, hee perceived it was The Diana of Montemayor, beleeving that all the rest were of that stampe, hee said, these deserve not to bee burned with the rest, for they have not, nor can doe so much hurt as bookes of Knighthood, being all of them works full of understanding and conceits, and doe not prejudice any other.” The niece objected that her uncle “may fall, by reading these, in an humor of becoming a Sheepheard, and so wander through the woods and fields.” With deletion of selected offending parts and long poems, the Curate decided to “let him remaine with his Proses, and the honour of being the beste of that kinde.”

Jorge de Montemayor (ca. 1520–1561) was a Portuguese novelist and poet, who wrote almost exclusively in Castilian—and so well that Cervantes greatly admired his prose. Montemayor’s Diana was the first pastoral novel published in Spain (about 1559); the author was killed soon after, apparently because of a love affair. An international hit, seventeen editions and two continuations of Diana were published in the 16th century. Cervantes’s reviews of the continuations were mixed: the first by Alonso Perez was tossed into the pyre but the second by Gaspar Gil Polo was spared.

In England Philip Sidney wrote his pastoral novel Arcadia in the late 1570s (not printed until 1590)—about the time that Edmund Spenser published his Shepheardes Calendar in verse. Bartholomew Young completed his translation of the Seven Books of Diana (and Perez’s and Gil Polo’s continuations) about 1584. It widely circulated in manuscript form. Shakespeare likely used it for the episode of Félix and Felismena in Two Gentlemen of Verona. Idyllic pastoral settings and themes are prominent in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Cymbeline, as well as other plays.

The present copy is an example of the first printed edition of Young’s translation of The Seven Books of Diana, published in 1598. It has the bookplate of William Foyle.

Chrzanowski 1598m *

STC 18044

Title List

1479–1550 | 1551–1580 | 1583–1608 | 1609–1675