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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Spanish works were widely read and translated


[Sidenote:

Influence of Spanish intellectual achievements upon western European thought.]

In dealing with the various phases of the _siglo de oro_ much has already been said about the diffusion of Spanish thought in Europe and its influence in foreign countries. Two factors tended to bring Spanish intellectual achievements to the notice of the world. In the first place, Spanish professors were to be found in many foreign universities, while Jesuit teaching, very largely Spanish, profoundly affected Catholic Europe. In the second place, Spanish works were widely read and translated, although not equally at all times or equally in all places. In general, Italy was the centre for the dissemination of Spanish thought in the sixteenth century, though often by a double translation, from Spanish to Italian and from Italian to a third tongue, and France was the distributing point in the seventeenth century. In addition there were the works in Latin, which were equally available to all. Spanish philosophical writings were comparatively little read, abroad, but those concerning theology and religion were seized upon by friend and foe, while the offerings of the Spanish mystics were also widely translated. An even greater diffusion fell to the lot of the works on jurisprudence, politics, and international law, and the essential importance of Spanish writings in geography, cosmography, natural science, and kindred subjects has already been pointed out. The works of

the historians crossed the frontiers, though more particularly those dealing with the Americas, together with the narratives of American travel. The power of Spanish arms was sufficient to induce wide reading of military writings emanating from the peninsula. Naturally, the greatest number of translations was in the field of polite literature. Every type of the Spanish novel found its way to other countries, and the novel of chivalry was almost more admired, abroad, and certainly longer-lived, than in Spain. Cervantes became a veritable cult in Germany and England, and in this special case England became the centre for the diffusion of Spanish genius. In like manner the great dramatists were famous in all of Europe. While the mere knowledge by Europeans of Spanish works would not be a sufficient basis to predicate a vital Spanish influence beyond the peninsula, such information was a condition precedent to its effectuation, and important modifications of western European thought did in fact follow. It would be possible to trace this in every branch of literature and study which has been discussed, but a number of indications have been given already, and the task is one which does not fall within the field of this volume. To those who actually produced an effect should be added the names of those who deserved to do so, but who were prevented by fortuitous circumstances from so doing; the achievements of many of these men are only now being brought to light by investigations in Spanish archives, and in some cases,--for example, in that of the anthropological group of writers about the Americas,--their works still represent contributions to universal knowledge. Toward the close of the seventeenth century Spain's hegemony in the world of letters began to be supplanted by the rising power of France.

[Sidenote: Causes of the decline in Spanish intellectual productivity]


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