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THE PICARESQUE NOVEL

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Originally appearing in Volume V21, Page 579 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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THE PICARESQUE NOVEL. This special form of the roman d'aventures may be defined as the prose autobiography of a real or fictitious personage who describes his experiences as a social parasite, and who satirizes the society which he has exploited. The picaroon, or rogue type, is represented by Encolpos, Ascyltos and Giton in the Salyricon which tradition ascribes to Petronius; it persists in Lucian, in the Roman de Renart, in the fableaux, and in other works popular during the middle ages; and it is incarnated in real life by such men of genius as the Archpriest of Hita and Francois Villon. But in its final form the picaresque novel may be regarded as a Spanish invention. The word picaro is first used, apparently, in a letter written by Eugenio de Salazar at Toledo on the 15th of April 156o; the etymology which derives picaro from picar (to pick up) is unsatisfactory to philologists, but it suggests the picaroon's chief business in life. In the Tesoro de la lengua castellana (Madrid, 1611) Sebastian Covarrubias y Orozco, the best of Spanish lexicographers, describes a picaro as a man of loose character engaged in menial work and—by extension—a rascal who attains his ends by skilful dissimulation; and the earliest application of the expression picaro to a character in fiction occurs in Mateo Alema.n's Guzman de Alfarache, the first part of which was published in 1599. But a genuine novela picaresca existed in Spain before the word picaro became generally current. The earliest specimen of the kind is La Vida de Lazarillo de Tormes y de sus fortunas y adversidades, an anonymous tale long attributed, on insufficient grounds, to Diego Hurtado de Mendoza (q.v.). The authorship of this brilliant book and the circumstances of its publication are obscure; however, it was certainly issued not later than 1554, and was thrice reprinted before 1559, when it was placed on the Index. Imitations of so successful a story were inevitable, and so early as 1555 there appeared at Antwerp La Segunda parte de Lazarillo de Tormes, an anonymous sequel which completely misinterpreted the irreverent wit of the original. The first part had been prohibited because of its attacks on the clergy; in the second part the hero is presented as a devout youth transformed into a tunny at the intercession of the Virgin Mary, who thus saved him from death; after many extravagant experiences in this form he is restored to human shape, and proposes to teach the submarine language at the university of Salamanca. This dull performance naturally failed to please and, meanwhile, many surreptitious copies of the first part were introduced into Spain; the Inquisition finally gave up the attempt to suppress it, and in 1573 an expurgated edition was authorized. With this mutilated version the Spanish public was forced to be content during the remaining fifteen years of Philip II.'s reign. Upon the death of this sombre monarch society relaxed its hypocritical pose of austerity, and in 1599 Mateo Aleman (q.v.) published the Primera parte de Guzman de Alfarache. It is modelled upon Lazarillo de Tormes, being the autobiography of the son of a ruined Genoese money-lender; but the writer indulges in a tedious series of moralizings. This contrasts sharply with the laconic cynicism of Lazarillo de Tormes; but Guzman de Alfarache is richer in invention, in variety of episode and in the presentation of character. Its extraordinary popularity tempted a Valencian lawyer named Juan Jose Marti to publish a Segunda park de la vida del picaro Guzman de Alfarache (1602) under the pseudonym of Mateo Lujan de Sayavedra. Though partly plagiarized from the manuscript of the genuine second part to which Marti had somehow obtained access, the continuation was coldly received; in 1604 Aleman brought out the true continuation, and revenged himself by introducing into the narrative a brother of Marti—a crazy picaroon of the lowest morality who ultimately commits suicide in disgust at his own turpitude. In Lazarillo de Tormes, and still more in Guzman de Alfarache, it is difficult to distinguish between the invented episodes and the personal reminiscences of the authors. The Viage entretenido (1603) of Agustin de Rojas is a realistic account of the writer's experiences as a strolling actor and playwright, and, apart from its considerable literary merits, it is an invaluable contribution to the history of the Spanish stage as well as a graphic record of contemporary low life; the chief character in the book is called the caballero del milagro, an expression which recurs in Spanish literature as the equivalent of a chevalier d'industrie. The next in chronological order of the Spanish picaresque tales is La Picara Justina (16o5), the history of a woman picaroon, which it has long been customary to ascribe to Andres Perez, a Dominican monk: there is, however, no good reason to suppose that the name of Francisco Lopez de Ubeda on the title-page is a pseudonym. The Picara Justina has wrongly acquired a reputation for indecency; its real defects are an affected diction and a want of originality. The writer frankly admits that he has taken material from the Celestina, from Lazarillo de Tormes, from Guevara, Timoneda and Aleman, and he boastfully asserts that " there is nothing good in ballad, play or Spanish poet, but that its quintessence is given here." Unluckily he has not the talent to utilize these stolen goods. The Picara Justina was thrice reprinted during the seventeenth century; this is the only basis for the untenable theory that it is the source of the culteranismo which reaches its climax in Gracian's treatises. The Picara Justina is now read solely by philologists in quest of verbal eccentricities. Gives de Pasamonte, one of the secondary figures in Don Quixote (160 1615), is a singularly vivid sketch of the Spanish rogue, and in the comedy entitled Pedro de Urdemalas Cervantes again presents a brilliant panorama of picaresque existence. He returns to the subject in Rinconete y Cortadillo and in the Coloquio de los perros, two of the best stories in the Novelas ejemplares (1613). The attraction of picaresque life was felt by pious and learned critics, and expounded in print. In the Viage del mundo (1614) the zealous missionary Pedro de Cevallos interpolates amusing tales of what befell him in the slums of Andalusia before he fled from justice to America, where he lived as a sinful soldier till his spiritual conversion was accomplished. Cristobal Suarez de Figueroa, a caustic critic of his contemporaries and an arbiter of taste, did not think it beneath his dignity to show a disconcerting acquaintance with the ways of professional rogues, and in El Pasagero (1617) he The roving instinct of Vicente Martinez Espinel (q.v.) had led him into strange and dangerous company before and after his ordination as a priest, and a great part of his Relaciones de la vida del escudero Marcos de ObregOn (1618) is manifestly the confession of one who has regretfully outlived his pleasant vices. The baffling compound of fact with fiction and the lucid style of which Espinel was a master would suffice to win for Marcos de ObregOn a permanent place in the history of Spanish literature; the fact that it was largely utilized by Le Sage in Gil Blas has won for it a place in the history of comparative literature. Within five months of its publication at Madrid a fragmentary French version by the Sieur d'Audiguier was issued at Paris, and at Paris also there appeared a Spanish picaresque story entitled La Desordenada codicia de los bienes ajenos (1619), ascribed conjecturally to a certain Dr Carlos Garcia, who reports his conversation with a garrulous gaol-bird, and appends a glossary of slang terms used by the confraternity of thieves; he was not, however, the first worker in this field, for a key to their gross jargon had been given ten years previously by Juan Hidalgo in his Romances de germania (1609), a series of gipsy ballads. Every kind of picaroon is portrayed with intelligent sympathy by Alonso Jeronimo de Salas Barbadillo, who is always described as a picaresque novelist; yet he so constantly neglects the recognized conventions of the Spanish school that his right to the title is disputable. Thus in La Hija de Celestina (1612) he abandons the autobiographical form, in El Subtil cordobes Pedro de Urdemalas (162o) he alternates between dialogue and verse, and in El Necio bien afortunado (1621) the chief character is rather a cunning dolt than a successful scoundrel. The pretence of warning new-comers against the innumerable occasions of sin in the capital is solemnly kept up by Antonio Linan y Verdugo in his Guia y avisos de forasteros que vienen a la carte (162o), but in most of his tales there is more entertainment than decorum. The profession of a serious moral purpose on the part of many picaresque writers is often a transparent excuse for the introduction of unsavoury incident. There is, however, no ground for doubting the sincerity of the physician Jeronimo de Alcala Yanez y Ribera, who at one time thought of taking holy orders, and studied theology under St John of the Cross. An unusual gravity of intention is visible in Alonso, mono de muchos amos (1624-1626), in which the repentant picaro Alonso, now a lay-brother, tells the story of his past life to the superior of the monastery in which he has taken refuge. It abounds with pointed anecdotes and with curious information concerning the Spanish gipsies, and this last characteristic explains George Borrow's hyperbolical praise of the work as competing with Don Quixote in grave humour, and as unequalled " for knowledge of the human mind and acute observation." At about this time there lived in Spain an ex-nun named Catalina de Erauso, who fled from her convent, dressed herself in men's clothes, enlisted, was promoted ensign, and saw more of life than any other nun in history. Broadsides relating the story of this picaresque amazon were circulated during her lifetime, and the details of her adventures arrested the attention of De Quincey, who would seem to have read them in a Spanish original which has been admirably translated since then by the French poet Jose Maria de Heredia. The Spanish original, in its existing form, was issued no earlier than 1829 by Joaquin Maria de Ferrer, whose character is not a satisfact:.:y guarantee of the work's authenticity; but its interest is unquestionable. No such suspicion attaches to the Vida of Alonso de Contreras, first published in 1899; this out-at-elbows soldier faithfully records how he became a knight of the Order of Santiago, how he II broke all the Commandments, how he found himself stranded in Madrid, how his fine air captivated Lope de Vega, who housed him for eight months and dedicated to him a play entitled Rey sin reino, and how the ex-captain ended by " resolving to retire to a lonely spot and there serve God as a hermit." Every convention of the picaresque novel is faithfully observed, and the incidents are no doubt substantially true, though Contreras, like most converts, judges his own past with unnecessary harshness. This subtle form of vanity also pervades the Comentarios de el desenganado de si mismo of Diego duque de Estrada, a rakish soldier and inferior dramatist whose autobiography (begun in 1614 and continued at intervals during many years) was not printed till 186o. A far higher order of talent distinguishes the Capitulaciones de la vida de la cork y oficios entretenidos in ella, a bitterly unsparing review of picaresque life written by the great satirist Francisco Gomez de Quevedo y Villegas (q.v.). These thumbnail sketches were the preparatory studies worked up into the more elaborate Vida del buscan Don Pablos (1626), the cleverest and most revolting book of its class. There is no attempt to scare the wicked by means of awful examples; the moral lesson is contemptuously thrown aside; the veil of romance is rent in twain, and the picaro—the nephew of the public executioner—is revealed as he is, gloating in cruelty and revelling in the conscious enjoyment of crime. But though Quevedo detests mankind, his morose vision of existence rarely degenerates into caricature. In his repugnant, misanthropic masterpiece the sordid genius of the Spanish picaroon finds absolute expression. Nothing further remained to be done in the matter of realism; henceforth the taste for picaresque novels grew less keen, and later writers unconsciously began to humanize their personages. The Varia fortuna del soldado Pindaro (1626) added nothing to the established reputation of Gonzalo Cfspedes y Meneses. A clever anonymous story, Don Raimundo el entretenido (1627), missed fire, even though it was attributed to Quevedo; yet the author, Diego Tovar y Valderrama, compiled a sprightly diary of the events which make up a picaroon's crowded day, and failed solely because the interest in rogues was waning. Other writers of undoubted gifts were slow to see that the fashion had changed. Alonso de Castillo Sol6rzano (q.v.) tempted the public with three picaresque stories published in quick succession: La Nina de los embustes, Teresa de Manzanares (1634), the Aventuras del Bachiller Trapaza (1637) and a sequel to the latter entitled La Garduna de Sevilla (1642). Clever as Castillo Sol6rzano's stories are, their tricky heroes and heroines were no longer welcomed with the old enthusiasm in Spain; the Bachiller Trapaza was destined to be continued by Mateo da Silva Cabral in Portugal and to be exploited by Le Sage in France, and to these two accidents it owes its survival. Le Sage likewise utilized in Gil Blas episodes taken from El Siglo pitagOrico (1644), the work of Antonio Enrfquez Gomez (q.v.); but most of El Siglo pitageirico is in verse, and as it was published at Paris by an exiled Portuguese Jew, its circulation in Spain must have been limited. The normal primitive rogue returns to the scene in La Vida y hechos de Estebanillo Gonzalez (1646), which is no doubt the genuine autobiography that it purports to be. If he is still occasionally read by students he owes it to the fact that Le Sage drew upon him in the Histoire al'Estev¢nille Gonzales. By the general public he is completely forgotten, and the same may be said of many subsequent Spanish writers who adopted the picaresque formula. The Buscan is the last great book of its kind. Meanwhile, the rogue had forced his way into other European literatures. The Antwerp continuation (1555) of Lazarillo de Tormes brought the original to the notice of northern readers, and this first part was translated into French by Jean Saugrain in 1561. A Dutch version was issued anonymously in 1579, and it seems extremely likely that the book had been translated into English before this date. This follows from a manuscript note written by Gabriel Harvey in a copy of the Howleglass given him by Edmund Spenser; Harvey here mentions that he had received the Howleglass, Skoggin, Skelton and Lazarillo from Spenser on the loth of December 1578. The earliest known edition of David Rowland's version of Lazarillo de Tormes is dated 1586,but as a licence to print a translation of this tale was granted on the 22nd of July 1568/1569, it is probable that a 1576 edition which appears in the Harleian Catalogue really existed. Numerous reprints (1599, 1639, 1669-167o, 1672, 1677) go to prove that Lazarillo de Tormes was very popular, and that Shakespeare had read it seems to follow from an allusion in Much Ado about Nothing (Act. 11., sc. i.) : " Now you strike like the blind man; 't was the boy that stole your meat, and you will beat the post." To Thomas Nash belongs the credit, such as it is, of being the first to write a picaresque novel in English: The Unfortunate Traveller; or the Life of Jack Wilton (1594). Nash carefully points out that his work is a new experiment, " being a cleane different veine from other my former courses of writing "; the only possible Spanish model that he can have had was Lazarillo de Tormes, but he has nothing of his predecessor's sardonic brevity, and he anticipates later Spanish writers by his emphatic insistence on the pleasures of eating and drinking to repletion. Nash led the way, and a reference to " Spanish pickaroes " in Middleton's Spanish Gipsie indicates that the picaroon type had speedily become familiar enough for London playgoers to understand the reference. Interest in picaresque literature was kept alive in England by a translation (1622) of a sequel to Lazarillo de Tormes published at Paris two years earlier by Juan de Luna, who came to London to supervise the English rendering; by James Mabbe's admirable version (1622) of Guzman de Alfarache; by The Son of the Rogue or the Politic Thief (1638), an anonymous translation, done through the French, of La desordenada codicia; and by another anonymous translation (1657), likewise done through the French, of Quevedo's Buscan. The result of this campaign was The English Rogue described in the Life of Meriton Latroon, a witty Extravagant (1665), by Richard Head and Francis Kirkman. The authors of this farrago insist on the English nationality of their chief character, and repudiate the idea that they are in any way indebted to Aleman and Quevedo. It is no exaggeration, however, to say that almost all the material in the text is taken from Spanish sources, and even the thieves' vocabulary is stolen from John Awdeley's Fraternitye of Vacabondes or Thomas Harman's Caveat, or Warning for Common Cursetors. It is not till Defoe's time that the English picaresque novel acquires any real importance, and the picaresque intention informs much of his work that contravenes the accepted rules of composition. There is a female picaroon in Moll Flanders, and, as Defoe read Spanish, it is conceivable that Moll Flanders was suggested by the Picara Justina; but this resemblance does not make a picaresque novel of Moll Flanders. The satirical spirit which is lacking in Moll Flanders is abundantly present in Colonel Jack, which bravely aims at exhibiting " vice and all kinds of wickedness attended with misery." Henceforward the picaroon is naturalized in English literature, and is gloriously reincarnated in Fielding's Jonathan Wild and in Smollett's Ferdinand, Count Fathom. The classification of Sterne's Tristram Shandy and Morier's Hajji Baba as picaresque novels is not strictly accurate; like Pickwick and Oliver Twist and Barry Lyndon, they are rather varieties of the peripatetic novel, but many incidents in all five recall the pleasing wiles of the Spanish picaroons. The Dutch translation of Lazarillo de Tormes (1579) did not enable the picaresque novel to strike root in Holland, yet from it is derived one of the best Dutch comedies, De Spaensche Brabander Jorolimo (1616) of Gerbrand Bredero. A German translation of Guzman de Alfarache was published by Aegidius Alberitnus in 1615; both Lazarillo and Rinconete y Cortadillo were translated by Niclas Ulenhart in 1716, and in 1627 there appeared an anonymous version of the Picara Justina. The Spanish tradition was followed by Martin Frewden in a continuation (1626) of Guzman de Alfarache, but the only original picaresque novel of real value in German is Grimmelhausen's Simplicissimus. The attempt to acclimatize the picaresque novel in Italy failed completely. Barezzo Barezzi translated Guzman de Alfarache, Lazarillo de Tormes and the Picara Justina in 16o6, 1622 and 1624 respectively, and Giovanni Pietro Franco did the BuscOn into Italian in 1634; but there was no important native development. The same may be said of Portugal; for though Silva Cabral's continuation of the Bachiller Trapaza is called the most remarkable of Portuguese picaresque romances, it is significant that 0 peralvilho de Cordova remains in manuscript. The case was very different in France, where pictures of low life had always found admirers. The first translation of Lazarillo de Tormes appeared, as already noted, at Paris in 1561; the first translation of the first part of Guzman de Alfarache was issued there by Gabriel Chappuis in 1600, and the dictator Chapelain deigned to translate both parts in 1619–162o; the first translation of the Novelas ejemplares was published at Paris in 1618 by Rosset and d'Audiguier; and French translations of Marcos de Obregon, of La Desordenada codicia, of the Buscon and of the Picara Justina were printed in 1618, 1621, 1633 and 1635 respectively. Before this series of translations was completed Charles Sorel recounted in Francion (1622) " the comic mishaps which befall evil-doers," invoking the common excuse that it is " lawful to find pleasure at their expense." Many of the episodes in Francion are picaresque in tone, but unfortunately Sorel wanders from his subject, and devotes no small part of his book to satirizing literary men who, though fribbles or paupers, are in no sense picaroons. The legitimate Spanish tradition is followed more closely and with much more ability by Paul Scarron in the Roman comique (1651), in which horseplay is predominant. The framework may have been suggested by Agustin de Rojas or Quevedo, both of whom introduce a strolling company. and such characters as Lfandre, Angelique de 1'Etoile and Ragotin might be found in any average novela picaresca. Scarron frankly mentions Castillo Sol6rzano's Garduna de Sevilla in his text, and his Precaution inutile and Les Hypocrites are convincing proofs of close study of Spanish picaresque stories: the Precaution inutile is taken from Guzman de Alf arache, and Les Hypocrites is merely a translation of Salas Barbadillo's Hija de Celestina. The Roman bourgeois (1666) of Antoine Furetiere is generally described as a picaresque novel, but this involves a new definition of the adjective; the Roman bourgeois includes some portraits and more satire which seem suggested by picaresque reading, but it is concerned with the foibles of the middle class rather than with the sly devices of common vagabonds. The Spanish picaroon lives again in Gil Blas, where, with a dexterity almost rarer than original genius, a master of literary manipulation fuses materials unearthed from forgotten and seemingly worthless Spanish quarries. Gil Blas is a creation of the gentler, sunnier French spirit; like Beaumarchais' Figaro he is a Spaniard born, reared and humanized in Paris, and these two are the only picaroons whose relative refinement has not been gained at the cost of verisimilitude. But the old original scoundrel was not yet extinct: in the interval between the appearance of the Barbier de Seville and the Mariage de Figaro Restif de la Bretonne produced a sequel (1776) to the BuscOn—a sequel so dull as to be wellnigh unreadable. The untamed Spanish rogue had become impossible towards the end of the 18th century: in the 19th he was deliberately rejected when Theophile Gautier wrote his Capitaine Fracasse. Yet Gautier conscientiously provides a Spanish atmosphere; the personages have Spanish names; the knife has a Spanish inscription; the host speaks French with a Spanish accent; Vallombreuse parts from the marquis with a Spanish formula: " beso a vuestra merced la mano, caballero." Capitaine Fracasse is the last important book which continues the picaresque tradition. The possibilities of picaresque fiction can never be exhausted while human nature is unchanged. Pereda (q.v.) in Pedro Sanchez (1884) touches the old theme with the accent of modernity. It may be that instead of one continuous tale, interrupted by episodical digressions, the picaresque fiction of the future will take the form of short stories independent of one another; but this would be nothing more than a convenient mechanical device, a readjustment of means to ends.
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