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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Castilian was at no time in real danger


seventeenth century); rather,

a current against it had set in. The effect of the other three languages was so great, however, that Castilian temporarily lost some of its prestige, which passed over especially to Latin and Italian. Most works of an erudite character now appeared in Latin, and that language was the official tongue of most of the courses in the universities. The church, too, lent its weight to Latin. Nevertheless, Castilian was at no time in real danger. Anything intended for popular consumption found its way into Castilian, and not a few notable scientific works employed that language. Save for a few inefficacious attempts of the Humanists to use Latin, the field of polite literature was captured wholly by the native tongue. This victory for national sentiment carried with it an exuberant outburst of productivity which affected all classes. Prior to this time the clergy had provided almost the only representatives to win fame in _belles lettres_; now, they were joined and rivalled, even outdone, by laymen, both soldiers and civilians. The noble families caught the enthusiasm and made their houses centres for gatherings, and the kings themselves were carried along in the current. Charles I was exceptionally fond of the novels of chivalry, which he used to have read aloud to him; Philip II, himself little affected, tolerated the tastes of his daughters which led them to make poetry form a part of the palace distractions; but it was under Philip IV that the royal love and patronage of literature
attained to its highest point. Philip IV himself wrote comedies, and filled the palace with poets, dramatists, and writers of prose. Meanwhile, the general public got its first real opportunity to attend the theatre, and bought meritorious books (which printing now rendered available), while men discussed their favorite authors with the same ardor that they might their favorite bull-fighters.

[Sidenote: Spanish contributions to philology.]

One of the principal studies of the Humanists was that of grammar, Latin and Greek chiefly. The classical authors and the patristic writings of the medieval period occupied their attention, together with allied works in other languages, such as ancient Hebrew or modern Italian. The Spanish Humanists held a noteworthy place in the development of this movement in Europe. While many individuals might be named, Arias Montano was perhaps the greatest of Spain's representatives. Interest in language study carried Spaniards far afield among contemporary tongues, and in one respect led to a remarkable contribution to knowledge. As conquerors and as missionaries Spaniards came in contact with a variety of peoples hitherto unknown, or little known, to the world, from the numerous tribes of the Indians in the Americas to the Chinese and Japanese of the Far East. Many valuable data were accumulated in Spanish about these peoples and their customs, and their languages were studied and in many cases written down by Spaniards, who systematized them for the first time. Much of this material has only recently become available, but it ranks as an achievement of the _siglo de oro_; perhaps the more valuable parts were prepared in the sixteenth century. Meanwhile, the process of purifying Castilian grammar was constantly going on, and it is interesting to note the strong nationalistic tendency in favor of a phonetic spelling as opposed to the expression of the etymological form. Rhetoric was regarded as a part of grammar, and it is easy to understand that in an age of Humanism the question of style should be a favorite topic.


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