From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
5.2 (1985): 87-127.
Copyright © 1985, The Cervantes Society of America
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N THE PROLOGUE, already problematical as a deed of exculpation and authorial intent, to the Novelas ejemplares, Cervantes is guilty at least of misrepresentation when he asserts that he is the first writer to compose original short stories in Spanish: yo soy el primero que he novelado en lengua castellana (52).1 Alemán masterfully precedes him with the four fine narrations intercalated into the Guzmán de Alfarache, although Cervantes might have argued, unconvincingly to my mind, that Ozmín y Daraja is imitative of El Abencerraje, and that the other three tales were adapted from Italianate models, or seemingly Italianate sources. At all events, the simple dogmatic declaration is highly debatable and, far more importantly, appears almost deliberately to distort the status of prose fiction in Spain in the first years of the seventeenth century, when the supreme practitioner of it surely was Alemán, whose massive miscellany demonstrates how a wide variety of extremely accomplished prose can successfully enter
* This essay constitutes
the final chapter of the Spanish section of a book in progress The
Fortunes of the Novel on the Spanish origins of the mainstream
of English and French prose fiction. A discussion of the Guzmán
de Alfarache immediately precedes it, and it is followed by chapters
on Defoe and Walter Scott. Fortunes will probably be published in
1 All citations of La gitanilla are to the Cátedra edition of Harry Sieber, Vol. I (Madrid, 1981).
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into the texture of the novel.2 Of course, with both the publication of Guzmán II and the delivery for publication of Quijote I in 1604, the second volume could not have affected Cervantes, although the first might have; and the whole undertaking, so structurally like the Quijote in its bipartite arrangement and with its tales fitted into the main text, ought to have attracted Cervantes' attention with respect to the Novelas ejemplares, published in 1613. And just as Cervantes in the prologue sets Alemán aside, so a critic like Américo Castro makes of the Guzmán a kind of navigational hazard that Cervantes managed to avoid: La genialidad de Cervantes consistió en administrar con prudencia su gran empresa de salazón de mitos, para, por evitar a Lope, no dar en Guzmán de Alfarache o en Quevedo. Entre estos dos polos se orientó su arte. (Cervantes' genius amounted to skilled management of his large myth-pickling factory as as not to end up with Alemán or Quevedo for the sake of avoiding Lope. His art was oriented between those two poles).3 Rarely is literary criticism as amusing as Castro is here. One wonders whether the Guzmán is Scylla or Charybdis, but the point is plain. Cervantes kept clear of Alemán. That is a notion which I find extraordinarily difficult to accept, for, aside from his skills as a fabricator, Alemán is one of the great Spanish prose stylists, a virtuoso with the word on the order of James Joyce. No contemporary writer of fiction could have ignored him. In his prologue to the Novelas ejemplares Cervantes chooses to remove his predecessor from any sequence leading up to the Novelas; and his motives are, I should conjecture, not altogether invidious, for the Novelas ejemplares, as well as being what they are, also thrive on rejection, rejection of the ignominious. They take up certain themes for the sake of getting rid of them. In fiction, Alemán is the poet of the ignominious; and Cervantes goes to the great theoretical extreme
2 In a
review of Marina Scordilis Brownlee's The Poetics of Literary Theory:
Lope de Vega's Novelas a Marcia Leonarda and their Cervantine
Context, Donald McGrady pointedly observes that: Although the usual
tendency is to accept Cervantes' claim that he was the indisputable
initiator of the short story in Spain . . . , the facts
show otherwise. Besides Timoneda's important and influential
Patrañuelo, there were the interesting Novelas en verso
by the Licenciado Tamariz, which circulated in manuscript. Granted, most
of the tales by Timoneda and Tamariz were initiated from Italian models,
but they cannot be considered traducidas de lenguas extranjeras,
as claimed by Cervantes of all Spanish novellas previous to his own. The
same holds true for the four stories interpolated by Alemán in his
Guzmán de Alfarache, which compare in quality with the best
of Cervantes. It is time we realized that Cervantes' statement is not factual,
but polemical. Hispanic Review 51 (1983), p. 330.
3 Hacia Cervantes (Madrid: Taurus, 1967), p. 268. Castro's next phrase is revealing: De ahí la elusión, y cuando conviene, la amnesia . . . .
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of denouncing translation and imitation as theft (mías propias,
no imitadas ni hurtadas) (these are mine, neither copied nor
stolen)4 at a time when imitation was seen
as a kind of genesis of the work of literary art, in order to suppress the
place of Alemán in the propagation of his own fiction. Nonetheless,
this very absence would embolden me to assert that the fallen world of the
Guzmán de Alfarache is the point of departure for the Novelas
ejemplares and especially for the liminal piece in the collection, La
The major mode of ignominy that links La gitanilla and the Novelas ejemplares to the Guzmán de Alfarache is theft, of things and persons. Stealing for Guzmán himself constitutes a fundamental trait of character, is stamped on his soul as permanently as the Christianity imparted to it by the sacrament of baptism ought to be, so that the great struggle in Guzmán comes to be that between his two basic natures, the acquisitive and the non-acquisitive, the economic and the moral, the low and the high. Similarly, in La gitanilla, Cervantes establishes acquisitiveness in the form of thievery as the major premise of the phenomenon which in the tale he will attack. One might be tempted to limit the applicability of his study of the gypsies by pointing out their small numbers and their marginality to the main flow of society in seventeenth-century Spain but: Piensa el ladrón que todos son de su condición (The thief makes thieves of us all). A principle of contagion precedes this Cervantine etiology, or, to speak more neutrally, the rhetoric deployed is a synecdoche, so that a small society comes to represent the great one.5 At all events, in his shocking and frequently quoted first statement Cervantes cites the family history of gypsy covetousness:
Parece que los gitanos y gitanas solamente nacieron en el mundo para ser ladrones: nacen de padres ladrones, críanse con ladrones, estudian para ladrones, y finalmente, salen con ser ladrones corrientes y molientes a todo ruedo, y la gana del hurtar y el hurtar son en ellos como ac[c]identes inseparables, que no se quitan sino con la muerte (61) (It would seem that gypsies, men and women, are born into this world only so as to become thieves. They are born to thieving parents, they are brought up among thieves, they are schooled in theft, and they come at last to function as accomplished thieves under all circumstances, and the
4 P. 52
5 Joaquín Casalduero's attempt, in his Sentido y forma de las Novelas ejemplares (Madrid: Gredos, 1969), p. 68, to gloss over this basic confrontation with vileness is a major critical blunder: El ritmo de la frase desposee a ladrones y hurtar de todo sentido peyorativo, al transformar las palabras en un atributo tipificador. But taxonomy can only identify characteristic problems, not solve them.
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desire to steal and stealing itself are in them as inseparable qualities which disappear only at death.)
Anaphorically, Cervantes here asserts that acquisitiveness overwhelmingly characterizes gypsy existence, collective and individual. It stamps their lives as definitively as stealing possesses Guzmán's soul. Among the gypsies covetousness is, then, a law or, better, a sentence, a judgment. So they live under a sentence but it does not deter them, for like Quevedo's userers and Pliny's greedy mariners, they are incessant, know no season: todas las cosas desta vida están sujetas a diversos peligros, y las acciones del ladrón al de las galeras, azotes y horca; pero no por que corra un navío tormenta, han de dejar los hombres de navegar (Every undertaking in this life is exposed to risk, the thief's actions to that of the galleys, the scourge and the scaffold; but a ship's running into heavy weather is no reason for others to renounce navigation) (105). Accordingly, in the Old Gypsy's dictum, the whole moral economy of Quevedo's poetry collapses. The gypsies are venture capitalists. They accept risk even as the poet recoils from it in fear and trembling. They are landlubberly entrepreneurs who closely resemble their fellow predators at sea in manners and habits, for like mariners they have no really fixed abode but rather wheel about everywhere in search of gain. Indeed, as one most perceptive critic has already noticed,6 this great spiralling, wheeling motion is a basic figure in the choreography of La gitanilla, which through a multiplicity of designs, material and spiritual, strives for blesses abundance, felices ganancias (86), as Preciosa expresses it. Like a poem by Quevedo, the story of the little gypsy employs two economies, a material and a spiritual; but, unlike Quevedo, Cervantes welds his two economies into a single ambivalent artifact, a coin with two faces, freely circulating everywhere because of its ambivalence. Each face is a pattern of imagery, and imagery organizes La gitanilla as if it were in form a poem. On the material side, one major set of
N. Dunn, Las Novelas ejemplares in Suma
Cervantina (London: Támesis, 1973), p. 96: El baile de Preciosa
no es nunca de esas representaciones eróticas que se suelen asociar
con los gitanos; ella ni se exhibe ni tiene compañero. En el baile
el espíritu y el cuerpo rivalizan, y su contienda se resuelve en ritmo
y movimiento. Como acción, es al mismo tiempo energía sensual
y una imitación del orden puro, del orden del movimiento. Es así
a la vez una imitación de los poderes físicos del mundo y de
las formas íntimas de naturaleza. Como movimiento alrededor de un
eje repite la danza de las estrellas, los planetas y los elementos alrededor
de su centro. La bailarina siempre vuelve al centro de su propio círculo;
ése es el punto al que el cuerpo es atraído, al que debe volver
cuando más alejado, como bien lo intuyen bailarina y espectador. La
poesía y la danza, por lo tanto absorben y transforman lo
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images is that of the bird of prey. It may remind the reader of Guzmán's
manos de águila as well as of the talons of the monster
of Ravenna. Thus Preciosa's putative grandmother soon realizes that in the
girl she has a real money-maker: la abuela conoció el tesoro
que en la nieta tenía, y así determinó el águila
vieja sacar a volar su aguilucho y enseñarle a vivir por sus
uñas (The grandmother recognized that he granddaughter was a
goldmine, and so the old eagle decided to teach its fledgling to fly and
to live by its claws) (62). Similarly, when Andrés bridles at the
prospect of stealing, the Old Gypsy imagines that he is being reassuring
when he declares: Calla, hijo, . . . que aquí te
industriaremos de manera que salgas un águila en el oficio (Don't
worry, my boy. You'll get such good coaching here that you'll end up by having
an eagle eye for our line of work) (105). The older man also views his ward
as a fledgling, for he ends his address to Andrés with the confident
command: . . . reposad ahora en el nido debajo de nuestras
alas, que a su tiempo os sacaremos a volar, y en parte donde no volváis
sin presa (For now you can stay under our wings in the nest, because,
when the time is right, we'll send you aloft to a place from which you will
not return without prey) (l05).
This little flock of images coined to the reverse has, nonetheless, its set of obverses. A major technique of La gitanilla is its tendency to produce a profusion of images, to be prodigal with the figures that cluster around its matrices, St. Anne, Margaret of Austria, Preciosa herself. Moreover, the tale is a profoundly festive work and its rich sense of occasion and season results in multiplicity, crowds, quantities, a general and happy abundance.7 Accordingly, in the poem to Margaret, one excited bystander converts the previously predatory bird imagery into a related notion of maternal creation and fostering of virile virtue: ¡Vivas, oh blanca paloma! / que nos has de dar por crías / águilas de dos coronas, / para ahuyentar de los aires / las de rapiña furiosas, / para cubrir con sus alas / a las virtudes medrosas (Long may you live, white dove, for you are destined to give us in your chicks eagles doubly crowned that will cleanse the skies of those rabid for prey and will protect cowed virtue with their wings) (69).
has become, I am well aware, a special new-critical season, and one in which,
precisely, the orgiastic and demonic are seen as being liberated. An excellent
example is Gustavo Pérez's Carnival in Don Juan Tenorio,
Hispanic Review 51 (1983), p. 269-81. As with LeRoy Ladurie's Carnival
in Romans, the emphasis is on the monstruous, le démon du midi.
But while he certainly does not minimize the gross and the malign, Cervantes'
progression in La gitanilla is in the direction of a contrapuntal
opulence and blessedness, a true paradise of wealth as distinguished from
the paradis artificiels of the romantics, of Baudelaire, of
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The image of the bird of prey thus is perfectly reversible. The eagle has
two heads. Images in La gitanilla are coins with both obverse and
reverse faces, each a doblón de oro de a dos caras such
as that which is given to Preciosa in Don Juan de Cárcamo's house
(95).8 Furthermore, each aspect of the eagle
suggests motion, the spiralling descent of the predator, the circular ascent
of the liberator. Metaphor has its rhythm.
Another reversible symbol in the story is the insignia of the several military orders that figure so prominently in it. Indeed, for Don Juan, his hábito is the outward manifestation and confirmation of his noble inner essence: . . . soy caballero, como lo puede mostrar este hábito y apartando el herreruelo, descubrió en el pecho uno de los más calificados que hay en España . . . (I am noble, as this decoration will showand, pushing back his cape, he disclosed on his chest one of the most esteemed of the Spanish orders) (84).Then, in the gambling casino, one of the players assures Preciosa that she and her companions may enter without fear of harm with: No, a fe de caballero . . . bien puedes entrar, niña, segura de que nadie te tocara a la vira de tu zapato, no, por el hábito que traigo en el pecho. Y púsose la mano sobre uno de Calatrava (No, by my honor as a nobleman, you certainly may come in, child, positive that nobody will harm a hair on your head; I swear it by the insignia on my chest. And he put his hand on the order of Calatrava) (72-73). Preciosa's first impressive sight of her future father-in-law is that of a caballero de hasta edad de cincuenta años, with insignia in the form of a red cross on his chest (92). In the convenient document concerning her ward's parentage which the Old Gypsy has preserved, Preciosa's father is described as don Fernando de Azevedo, caballero de hábito de Calatrava (Don Fernando de Azevedo, a knight of the Order of Calatrava) (127). In the same fashion the Old Gypsy qualifies Preciosa's lover's father and the young man himself as don Francisco de Cárcamo, caballero del hábito de Santiago, y . . . don Juan de Cárcamo, asimismo del mismo hábito (Don Francisco de Cárcamo, a knight of the Order of Santiago and Don Juan de Cárcamo, a knight of the Order of Santiago and Don Juan de Cárcamo, also a knight of the same order) (129). With these allusions one is tempted to exult over having caught Cervantes in the very act of pickling myths. But what genius can pickle it can also unpickle. Consequently, Andrés' same mentor in the world of the gypsies metaphorically converts the signs of infamy into a badge of honor when he protests
note 70, p. 89: . . . Mateu y Llopis, Glosario, pág.
59a: El doble ducado de los Reyes Católicos, acuñado
también con los mismos tipos durante el siglo XVI por Carlos I y Felipe
II. Las dos caras, aluden a los bustos afrontados de los Reyes
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that his fellows think nothing of a whipping: Cuanto más, que
el que es azotado por justicia entre nosotros, es tener un hábito
en las espaldas que le parece mejor que si le trujese en los pechos, y de
los buenos (Quite the contrary, for one of us a sentence to be whipped
means insignia on the back that seem better than a decoration of the chest,
even a highly regarded one) (105). It is this contagious interplay between
the fallen and the elevated worlds that makes any neat division of the
Novelas ejemplares into spheres of the real as against the ideal quite
untenable and quite unprofitable or, worse, impoverishing, for each is a
mode and reflection of the other, each appearing in the other in a multiplicity
of guises and disguises. Despite his lofty eloquence, we are not surprised
to hear the Old Gypsy confess his tribe's utter venality by means of a by
now familiar comparison: No hay águila, ni ninguna otra ave
de rapiña, que más presto se abalance a la presa que se le
ofrece que nosotros nos abalanzamos a las ocasiones que algún
interés nos señale (No eagle or other bird of prey swoops
more quickly down upon its victim than we swoop down upon any target of
profitable opportunity) (102). But we are, I think, surprised to find base
predators, aves de rapiña, among Margaret's imperial eagles
or a prestigious knightly decoration among thieves.
Cervantes systematically, in La gitanilla, violates lexical, semantic, moral, and imagistic jurisdictions. His first and liminal tale is an act of artistic outlawry, with the paradoxical correlative that, in removing himself from one dispensation, the miscreant unavoidably comes to contend with a substitute set of rules. Every person in the tale thus comes under the law; but jurisdictions overlap, are redundant, and individuals exempt themselves partly or altogether from the code that would normally apply to them. At all events, La gitanilla engages and disengages itself from the strictures of human not divine law with a confusing prolixity and intensity as the focus of its action shifts from one jurisprudence to another. It consequently illustrates the clash and conflict of laws and seeks to transcend this strident legal strife. Nonetheless, the inheritance from the Guzmán de Alfarache and its four intercalated tales of judgment is unmistakable. The progress of La gitanilla is a progress to judgment. The experience of criminality, of economic crime above all, propels the story to an encounter with an earthly tribunal that, once for all, clarifies the ambiguous status of Preciosa-Costanza and Andrés Caballero. In them Guzmán wins his appeal, except that theirs is now a radically different appeal, one that looks to the lapse of every code whatsoever rather than to the regulation and justification of a life given over to gain under it.
The fundamental outlawry of La gitanilla assumes a sacred character when, in pursuit of some substitute benefit, willingly or
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unwillingly, a person is removed from that jurisdiction to which she or he
customarily appertains. Abduction takes Preciosa away from the tutelage of
her parents. The gypsies' entire mode of life is a passage into and out of
jurisdictions which they do not recognize, for, unlike Preciosa and Andrés,
they are scofflaws. Andrés consciously repeats Preciosa's removal
when he furtively exempts himself from the government of a benevolent father.
Dwelling by the side of his titled young relative thrusts Clemente out of
Madrid into another stealthy and shifting world where movement is dictated
not by honor but by economics. Loss is the prime experience in La
gitanilla, while recovery is its great concomitant aspiration. When the
exile yearns to return, it is then that hope assumes clerical garb.
Andrés clothes his acceptance speech in monastic dress as well as legal when he officially joins the gypsy band. The ceremony of initiation is impressive and eloquent as, in the words of the Old Gypsy Man, Cervantes steals a lawyer's courtroom rhetoric to invest the outlaw with it. But that expropriation ought not to disconcert anyone who has heard Preciosa's guardian boast that she has reared her ward as if she were an attorney's daughter: que a mi nieta hela criado yo como si fuera hija de un letrado (73); and of course she is indeed a magistrate's daughter, just as Don Juan is. The two fathers are, as corregidores, compadres, so that Don Fernando de Azevedo, well informed through professional gossip, is able to disclose to Don Juan the fact that his father has been posted to Cartagena: estaba proveído por Corregidor de aquella ciudad (134). Cervantes effects an admirable cloture with that announcement, since in his first address to Preciosa Juan explained his family's presence in Madrid in terms of his father's pursuit of employment: Mi padre está en la Corte pretendiendo un cargo, y ya está consultado, y tiene casi ciertas esperanzas de salir con él. (My father is here in Madrid trying to get a post, which is now going through channels, so that he's almost positive he'll be given it) (84). Not only is Andrés' father the governor-designate of Cartagena but also that is the city which Clemente, as Andrés learns, intends to travel in order to sail on over to Italy with a shipment of bullion. Clemente will thus come under the elder Cárcamo's jurisdiction, especially if he is apprehended. Are we to assume that Andrés' companion will be pardoned just as the Corregidor pardoned Andrés? I am inclined to believe so, particularly in view of the young man's assumed name, and in view of his first encounter with Andrés among the gypsies, which is, as we shall see, semijuridical in character and which leads to first a grudging and then a plenary indulgence. In any case, Clemente, whom I believe Alban
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Forcione seriously misjudges,9 has, among a variety of functions, a major role to play as outlaw. He is the rejected suitor. Preciosa accepts his verses but not his money, while she does come to allow Andrés' many largesses. His poetry is likewise a poetry of rejection. His career as a fugitive continues after Andrés' has come to a halt. Clemente's unreconciled persistence in a course of flight from justice suggests that outlawry is the all-encompassing concept of the tale. Individuals may be brought before the tribunal but miscreancy beyond all jurisdiction is the great ocean or current that circles the tierra firme of law and magistracy. The life of the gypsies is a maremagnum onto which Andrés embarks when he steals away from Madrid. Thus Juan purloins himself from his father's jurisdiction: estoy debajo de su tutela y amparo to join the gypsies. Indeed, one notes a mobility in magistrates and their families that matches the restlessness of the lawless wanderers they would like to bring to justice. Andrés' new freedom nonetheless acquires much of the binding strength of monastic vows when he takes his place in Preciosa's society. His speech is almost surcharged with a sense of obligation:
. . . el novicio dijo que se holgaba mucho de haber sabido tan loables estatutos, y que él pensaba hacer profesión en aquella orden tan puesta en razón y en políticos fundamentos, y que sólo le pesaba no haber venido más presto en conocimiento de tan alegre vida, y que desde aquel punto renunciaba la profesión de caballero y la vanagloria de su ilustre linaje, y lo ponía toda debajo del yugo, o, por mejor decir, debajo de las leyes con que ellos vivían, pues con tan alta recompensa le satisfacían el deseo de servirlos, entregándole a la divina Preciosa, por quien él dejaría coronas e imperios, y sólo los desearía para servirla. (The novice said that he was very happy indeed to be informed of such admirable statutes and that he proposed to take final vows in an order so sagely and sensibly constituted, that his only regret was not to have learned sooner of so joyous an existence, and that from thence onwards he renounces his calling as a nobleman and the pomp of his proud descent, putting everything under the yoke or, better, under the laws that governed them, since they were responding to his desire
his initial appearances Clemente represents a flawed experience of love which
to some extent mars Juan's early courtship and which Cervantes would explore
through isolation and emphasis in a shadowy double figure, Cervantes
and the Humanist Vision (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982),
p. 129. Clemente does double Andrés in his early address to Preciosa,
while his brush with the law and exile into the gypsy world of economic
motivation parallel Andrés sojourn away from Madrid and his definitive
encounter with justice. However, the great and vital difference between the
two men is that Clemente has not fallen under Preciosa's jurisdiction, or
any other, until the tale is told out.
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to be of service to them with the noble recompense of the divine Preciosa, for whom he would abandon crowns and sceptres and could desire them for her service alone) (l03).
The imagery of Andrés' speech quite appropriately combines the idea of life in gypsy society as membership in a religious order with the depiction of that society as governed by a code of law, the law of the outlaws. But the gypsy world also reflects high society within the law; and so the organization parodied by Andrés' language must be that of las Órdenes Militares, Santiago, Calatrava, and Alcántara. These powerful establishments came into being in Spain in the twelfth century on the model of similar bodies designed to forward the work of the Crusades, but the Spanish orders dedicated themselves to the reconquest of the Iberian peninsula. Only nobles of unblemished lineage could be admitted. At the same time, from the twelfth through the sixteenth centuries, new members were obliged to take meaningful vows and to lead a monastic existence. Knights of Santiago pledged themselves to obedience, communal property, and to conjugal chastity rather than celibacy. The cavaliers of Calatrava, on the other hand, bound themselves to lifelong celibacy, a rule that was not relaxed until the sixteenth century, and to the utmost austerity. The orders grew rich and powerful as, with the progress of the Reconquest, they came to govern the lands which they had helped to win back. The actual governors were the comendadores, knights to whom territories had been entrusted, together with their inhabitants. They had complete jurisdiction over the encomienda, a unit constituted equally by the land and the people. By the time of Fernando and Isabel, the military orders had attained the status of kingdoms within the kingdom, their rentrolls as rich as those of dukedoms and sufficient to raise powerful little armies to oppose the sovereign, as was the case when Isabel was struggling to make good her claim to the crown of Castile against that of her cousin Juana. The solution was for the monarchy itself to assume the grand-mastership of each order, as it did with Calatrava in 1487, with Alcántara in 1494, and with Santiago in 1499. Prescott concludes his discussion of their fate with this paragraph:
In the following reign, the grand-masterships of these fraternities were annexed in perpetuity to the crown of Castile by a bull of Pope Adrian the Sixth; while their subordinate dignities, having survived the object of their original creation, the subjugation of the Moors, degenerated into the empty decorations, the stars and garters, of an order of nobility.10
H. Prescott, History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, the
Catholic, Vol. I (Philadelphia: McKay, n.d.), p. 299.
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These empty decorations are the insignia so prominent in La
gitanilla, on the obverse and reverse both.
Yet Prescott is a little too hasty when he consigns the others to oblivion in the sixteenth century. They survived to answer to a different purpose. Thus we find Charles V rewarding the long and faithful services of Diego Hurtado de Mendoza with a hábito in the order of Calatrava, in 1553. The encomienda by then had become an annuity requiring no government service but the hábito was still real, as was much of the monastic character of the organization. Erika Spivakovsky explains:
In the sixteenth century, many parts of Spain were still covered with the orders' castles, monasteries, and whole townships. Corporations of huge vested financial interests, the orders belonged nominally to the crown of Spain. When their original purpose no longer obtained after the eclipse of the Moors, the revenues from these landed properties provided the King with an inexhaustible fund for endowing the greater nobles among his veteran ministers. Prospective members had to prove that they were descended from at least three generations of nobility and were free of Jewish and Moorish blood . . . .
Originally the fighting Christian knights had to observe vows of poverty and celibacy, although these rules were modified in the sixteenth century. A member of the order could now marry, and instead of the former chastity, the knights now pledged themselves to defend the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. They were required to submit annual inventories of all their holdings: this served to pay lip service to the vow of poverty. One rule still valid was that the candidate had to retire temporarily, usually for a year's time, from the world before becoming comendador.
Mendoza's retreat, the monastery of San Benito, was located in Alcántara, the place where he now disposed of the revenues of the townships, Justica and Solana. It was a solitary edifice that crowned the summit of a steep rock above the town. Here, he had to conform to the austere discipline within the cloister and observe silence during the frugal meals he shared with the fraternity.11
In La gitanilla Cervantes, characteristically, deploys all of the suggestive powers immanent in a hábito. As emblem it constitutes an irrefutable de facto proof of nobility, imbuing high rank with a legal as well as a customary confirmation. Indeed, the background investigation which a candidate had to endure so as to be accepted amounted to putting his lineage on trial. The investigators adopted a hostile, an
Spivakovsky, Son of the Alhambra: Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, 1504-1575
(Austin: University of Texas Press, 1970), pp. 327-28.
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adversary stance. If, as in the case of Pedro Calderón de la Barca,
one survived the scrutiny to win nomination even on appeal, the triumph was
tremendous. Once he had been granted the hábito of Santiago,
he identified himself as a knight of that order immediately after his name
on nearly all the legal documents transcribed by Pérez
Moreover, Calderón assimilated this ordeal into his art, rather as Cervantes relived his years of Algerian captivity in plays and prose narrations designed in part to alleviate the primordial horror of an experience which both men felt as an attack on their human essence. Thus, in the marvelously complex and ironic comedia Cada uno para sí, Carlos returns to Madrid after the successful siege of Barcelona to have his military service rewarded by King Philip IV with a hábito. But this fortunate warrior must still emerge vindicated from an inquiry into the quality of his descent. And, enjoying his leave in Madrid, he has got into a quarrel with another gentleman in a gambling house, a quarrel which the friends of both men compel them to make up. Soon after this incident, however, Carlos learns that a secret enemy is defaming him in Toledo. He assumes that his detractor is the gambling-house adversary and proceeds to Toledo to try to clear the matter up before the denunciations ruin his candidacy for the order. This central problem, this encounter with defamation, is what Calderón combines into his usual excellent mix of love and duelling. It turns out that Carlos' adversary is not the detractor. Indeed, Enrique, the man with whom he had quarreled , clears his name: Ya el Consejo aprobó vuestras / pruebas, cuya luz demienten / infames nubes que el sol / de la verdad desvanece, / para que en vuestra nobleza / ningún cobarde se vengue (The Council has now accepted your proofs; clouds of infamy had obscured their light. These the day of truth has dispelled, so that the coward no longer may avenge himself on your nobility).13 Similarly, in the auto entitled Las órdenes militares Calderón allegorizes a personal agony. Adam has derogated from his original nobility by sins, villanías. Christ comes to expunge this vileness from the record so as to make a successful candidacy for heaven possible, an extraordinary translation of human pride to the cosmic scheme.
Consequently, the noble Spaniard of Cervantes' day came to have a hábito at considerable personal risk and cost. He exposed himself to a revelation not only of his own but also of his entire ancestry's sins and weaknesses. The process of securing this great and real honor
Cristóbal Pérez Pastor, Documentos para la biografía
de D. Pedro Calderón de la Barca (Madrid: Fortanet, 1905).
13 Pedro Calderón de la Barca, Obras completas ed. Angel Valbuena Briones, Vol. II Comedias (Madrid: Aguilar, 1973), p. 1702.
|5 (1985)||Une Saison en enfer: La gitanilla||99|
basically brought the candidate to trial with an assumption of guilt, the accusation being ignominy. Accordingly, there is between the decorated knights disposed on the upper levels, on the piano nobile, of La gitanilla and the Guzmanish gypsies peopling its lower reaches a secret correspondence in the charge of degradation directed against ranks otherwise so dissimilar. Even when an illustrious lineage is put on trial and vindicated, the descendent emerges from the process fundamentally shaken. Greed, desire, ambition these are the forces that impel the postulant to submit to humiliation. Quevedo wisely counsels against taking the risk in a potently monitory sonnet. The poet tells his friend to leave the past inviolate: Solar y ejecutoria de tu abuelo / es la ignorada antigüedad sin dolo. / No escudriñes al tiempo el protocolo / ni corras al silencio antiguo el velo (Of undisturbed antiquity and innocent of deceit are your ancestor's patent and estate. Do not search the deed-book of time or draw the curtain on long-standing silence). Then Quevedo vivifies the legal dust of negation with a powerful example, that of Phaeton, conventional indeed, but here superbly renewed in a combination of the idea of falling with that of genealogical descent: Estudia en el osar de este mozuelo, / descaminado escándalo del polo: / para probar que descendió de Apolo / probó cayendo descender del cielo (Learn from the presumption of that boy who, shockingly aberrant on heaven's vault, tried to prove by a fatal plummet his descent from Apollo). Next Quevedo warns that by digging up the past one is likely to find more worms than scutcheons and menacingly concludes on a contemporary theme of the possibility of impure blood: que, de multiplicar informaciones, / puedes temer multiplicar quemados / y con las mismas pruebas, Faetontes (For in the welter of official inquiries, you may unhappily discover a welter of autos de fe, in so many trials, that many Phaetons).14 Plainly put, the records brought to light may show conversos, New Christians of Jewish or Moorish descent, burnt by the courts for their recidivism. This brilliant poem pivots on a multiplicity of its own, the many meanings of pruebas as trial, legal proof, ordeal, daring enterprise. It also renews an ancient myth of disaster by allying it to the modern vainglory of pride of line. Above all, it once again traces for noble fiction a genetic line of descent. This fecund line of descent, artistic genealogy, impregnates La gitanilla with a wealth of potentialities but is not by any means an exclusive mode, for to the paradise of poetry lost in the plunge Cervantes appends a corresponding tendency to rise from the prose of ignominy. Loss implies recovery. In developing such implications
de Quevedo, Obra poética ed. José Manuel Blecua, Vol.
I (Madrid: Castalia, 1969), p. 213.
|100||ROBERT TER HORST||Cervantes|
Cervantes also restores a good measure of its sacred character to the
hábito, unpickling the myths of honor.
For example, when Preciosa and her companions decide to venture into the gambling casino so as to receive barato, which is to say a share in the winnings of those fortunate enough to have won, they do so in part because one of the players, a knight of Calatrava, pledges their safety on the strength of the order adorning his chest (73). I don't believe that this is, as Forcione would have it, 15 an evil place. Cervantes presents it attractively. Preciosa, looking through the grille into a street level establishment saw: en una sala muy bien aderezado y muy fresca muchos caballeros que, unos paseándose y otros jugando a diversos juegos, se entretenían (in an agreeable and very well fitted-out hall many gentlemen who were amusing themselves, some by strolling about and others by playing at various games) (72). The scene hardly qualifies the place as a gambling den, because it lacks that passionate, addictive concentration on the play which anyone from outside immediately senses when he moves into the circle of influence exerted by deeply serious games of chance. Play itself is the cynosure. This little scene is eccentric, however, until Preciosa and her friends make of themselves its focus. Indeed, to ascribe a malefic character to the incident is to suppress an artistic jurisdiction which, especially in the Novelas ejemplares, Cervantes has carved out for himself, a metaphysical encomienda of his own making. Fray Juan Bautista sketches, in his Aprobación, the contours of this country as the land of eutropelia, a virtud, la que consiste en un entretenimiento honesto (good thing, which consists in innocent amusement) (45). The friar adds: juzgo que la verdadera eutropelia está en estas Novelas (I consider these Novelas as having genuine
. . . the brief scene of the gambling house, where we observe
the knights of the court occupied in idle pursuits which the leaders of Spain
avidly enjoyed at the time and where the cross of Calatrava, one of the central
symbols of the work, appears in a context of perversion, Cervantes
and the Humanist Vision, p. 212. Forcione pursues the idea of the wickedness
of the scene even more zealously in the long note attached to the phrase
cited above but would perhaps do well to apply his own observation on an
incident in the Persiles: Cervantes's fiction resists reduction
according to the conventional moralizing literature with which he was
familiar (p. 213, n.). On the other hand, Forcione's treatment of La
gitanilla, in contrast to a great deal of previous criticism of it and
of the Novelas ejemplares generally, is anything but reductive; and
while I occasionally differ from and, I hope, extend the interpretation found
in Cervantes and the Humanist Vision, I gratefully acknowledge its
unprecedentedly high level of acuity. Forcione's two volumes of the
Novelas brings us into a new and much richer phase of understanding.
|5 (1985)||Une Saison en enfer: La gitanilla||101|
eutropelia).16 Cervantes himself expresses his intent with regard to the tales as the provision of a mesa de trucos, donde cada uno pueda llegar a entretenerse, sin daño de barras; digo sin daño del alma ni del cuerpo, porque los ejercicios honestos y agradables, antes aprovechan que dañan (billiard table, to which anyone can go to amuse himself without being hurt by the bar,17 I mean with no ill effect either to mind or body, because innocent activity produces benefits rather than disadvantages) (52). The declaration, formed on its precise central image of the game that, while enjoyable, can cause a grief which Cervantes vehemently hopes to avoid, leads the reader into that region between the sacred and the profane, between prayer and work, which is the cultivated native land of the Novelas:
Sí, que no siempre se está en los templos; no siempre se ocupan los oratorios; no siempre se asiste a los negocios, por calificados que sean. Horas hay de recreación, donde el afligido espíritu descanse.
Para este efeto se plantan las alamedas, se buscan las fuentes, se allanan las cuestas y se cultivan, con curiosidad, los jardines (52).
(Indeed, one is not always in church, not always at prayer, not always attentive to business, however pressing it may be. There are periods of recreation during which the harassed mined takes its refreshment.
To this end are trees planted by the waters, springs sought out, heights graded, and gardens cultivated for their beauty.)
Not many passages in Cervantes have the intense evocative power of this moving assertion, which is both manifesto and apologia. It is in fact a little poem in prose, near Baudelairean. And it has its narrative equivalent in the gambling scene of La gitanilla. There we look in upon eutropelia. The gentlemen are refreshing both body and mind as some of them walk and some of them gamble. These are ejercicios honestos y agradables. They should be distinguished from the leisure-time obsessions of the fallen world. Guzmán, while in service with the Cardinal, gives himself completely over to gambling. In a tortured discussion of his addiction he argues for regulated gambling houses on the order of maisons de tolérance, licensed brothels; but even his crypto-Calvinistic conscience can still envision uncorrupted play: El juego fue inventado para recreación del ánimo, dándole alivio del cansancio y cuidados de la vida; y los que desta raya pasa es maldad,
a fascinating study of this word in Cervantes, see Bruce W. Wardropper, La
eutrapelia en las Novelas ejemplares of Cervantes, Actas
del Séptimo Congreso Internacional de Hispanistas (Rome: Bulzoni,
1982). Pp. 153-69.
17 Autoridades: Barra. Se llama en la mesa del juego de trucos un hierro en forma de arco, ò pórtico, que está colocado como à cinco palmas de la superiór tabilla, y sirve para encubrir las bolas, hacerlas dificultosas de jugar, y otros primóres del juego.
|102||ROBERT TER HORST||Cervantes|
infamia y hurto, pues pocas veces se hace que no se le junten estos
atributos (Gaming was invented for mental recreation, so as to provide
surcease from life's worries and toil. Whatever exceeds that is wickedness,
degradation and theft, for rarely does gambling take place without such
The scene at the casino in La gitanilla is one of those rare instances. It preserves its innocence because of two effective guarantees. The first is that of the knight of Calatrava. Preciosa can safely entrust, encomendar, herself to him because in him the first mission of any Spanish order, to keep pilgrims to Santiago from harm, still flourishes. On her visit to the club she is of course passing through neutral territory but protection is also welcome there. Like Andrés, Preciosa is momentarily bajo la protección y amparo of a benevolent guardian. Within herself she has, moreover, a devotion to her personal integrity that helps to insure immunity in a dangerous world where prudence, as the address to her companions shows, must always accompany purity. Preciosa is not only good; she is also smart, nearly to the point of being a hardboiled virgin, a Marcela whose disdain is devastating. Even so, Preciosa takes firm jurisdiction over herself, and this solid sense of self powerfully draws men to her sponsorship. Andrés is her personal fledgling even as he is the gypsies' student in the school of theft. For a moment in Madrid we have witnessed in the casino a conformity of jurisdictions, the knight's exactly matching Preciosa's. But when the locale shifts to the ill-defined borders of gypsy country, laws come into conflict, especially along the lines of lower to higher.
The gypsies are primitive and barbaric legislators. Yet to an extent Preciosa voluntarily submits to their constitution. Nonetheless, when binding custom would dispose of her person, she, rather than rebelling, exempts herself from the rule through appeal to a higher law. Technically, by refusing to be handed over to Andrés as a discardable wife or mistress, Preciosa outlaws herself from the gypsy jurisdiction. Yet her refusal to obey imbues the decision with it sacred or sacramental character. As she does so, for her at least, a central tenet of the old compact shatters. That breaking is a profound and powerful moment in the tale. The utterance of condiciones rompen leyes, (Covenants break laws) (103), moves the story up to that higher ground, that piano nobile, which is Preciosa's most congenial level of operations. At her height, the freedom and sanctity acquired in breaking out of a lower moral order Preciosa calls it a bárbara e insolente licencia (barbarous and outlandish license)
Guzmán de Alfarache ed. Benito Brancaforte (Madrid: Cátedra,
|5 (1985)||Une Saison en enfer: La gitanilla||103|
(104) reform themselves into a new legal constitution into which the
contracting parties freely enter. Time is the main clause in the contract
which Preciosa proffers to Andrés: Dos años has de vivir
en nuestra compañía primero que de la mía goces
(You must live for two years in our society before you may enjoy partnership
with me) (103). And, of course, time, timing, and season are major modes
of this essentially festive tale. But here also Preciosa instinctively has
chosen the proper period of aristocratic courtship. The first act of
Calderón's witty El astrólogo fingido features an anguished
declaration of love to María by Don Juan, who has been expressing
his feelings, with no hint of reciprocity from the object of them, for two
years: Que te quise habrá dos años, he
exclaims.19 She, María, finally feels
it proper to speak out after that lapse of time and does allow that she returns
her suitor's affection. Thus Preciosa's moral instinct conforms exactly to
upper-class decorum; and one of the multiple secondary senses of
condiciones, that of social rank, is accordingly suggested.
In Andrés Caballero one sees precisely how high rank imposes a superior law which exempts the member of that class from lower rules. Gypsy society is built upon one main tenent, theft; and from it Andrés begs a temporary exemption which he extends until Juana Carducha falsely accuses him of taking her valuables: Sola una cosa pido a estos señores y compañeros míos, y es que no me fuercen a que hurte ninguna cosa, por tiempo de un mes siquiera (I ask only one thing of these associates of mine, that they do not compel me to steal anything for at least the period of a month) (104). Thievery is universal law among the gypsies, according to Cervantes, and Mateo Alemán projects it out over all mankind. Yet when Andrés Caballero pleads to be excepted, he sets his own and Cervantes' fiction on the path to aristocratic recovery. For with the initiation of the nobleman into a society of thieves, two notions of economy meet and come into conflict. The gypsies act from a feeling of want and emptiness. Out of this hungry void there emerges immense desire: Ya es cosa de burla salir vacío por la mañana y volver cargado a la noche al rancho (Now, it's really great to go out empty in the morning and come back full at night) (104). The emblem of this kind of appetite is the clutching, grasping talon. Its reciprocal is the open aristocratic hand of Andrés, which is abundant, liberal, prodigal in contrast to the predatory sterility, or lack, of the gypsies. Andrés never conforms, by stealing, to the basic law of the gypsy land. He excepts himself from its economy with showers of gold, exempting himself with a literal buying out: Pues para recompensar dijo Andrés lo que yo podía
Comedias, p. 131.
|104||ROBERT TER HORST||Cervantes|
hurtar en este tiempo que se me da de venia, quiero repartir docientos escudos
de oro entre todos los del rancho (Then, so as to make up for what
I could have stolen during this grace period, I want to divide up 200 gold
escudos among the encampment) (105). The law in La gitanilla
is simply inescapable, for Cervantes describes Andrés' removal of
himself from the rules with the technical term venia: Perdon,
ú remissión de la ofensa, ó culpa (Pardon or remission
from the offense or guilt), according to the Autoridades dictionary. Rising
progressively from its base perception of human kind as outlaws and thieves,
La gitanilla is itself a kind of venia, an outlawry in
search of some higher order that, when attained, will pardon the violation
of lesser codes on the way to a universal rule that knows no exception, permits
no exemption. And just as the scourged backs of the gypsies parody the emblems
of the military orders, so gypsy society parodies a dispensation in which
right is perfect. Andrés' money is distributed con equidad y
justicia (fairly and justly)
A fundamental progress in the tale is, then, that from obedience, to outlawry, to a confrontation with justice and, finally, pardon. This is, in the abstract, Andrés' story. But it is also Clemente's less complete trajectory. Like Andrés, he lives under the amparo y tutela of his powerful and titled relative, and conformity to the family code of loyalty involves him in murder by duelling, so that he must flee Madrid as an outlaw. Once he becomes an outlaw, his life takes on an aura of the sacred, for he and the son of his protector take refuge in the church of S. Jerónimo, and leave it in religious garb. After 15 days of reclusion, Clemente's companion departs for Italy en hábito de fraile, while Clemente emerges en hábito de mozo de fraile. He is presumable wearing this white costume when the dogs attack and wound him at night. After his bites have been dressed and he has had some sleep, Andrés interrogates the intruder. This examination promptly takes on a juridical character. Even before Andrés can question Clemente he speaks of tomar la confesión al herido, (hearing the wounded man's confession) (111). Clemente's story (he calls himself, echoes of Quevedo!, Alonso Hurtado) is not very plausible, so that Andrés' suspicions are aroused: No le pareció a Andrés legítima esta declaración, sino muy bastarda (This declaration didn't strike Andrés as being legitimate, on the contrary, [it seemed] bastardly) (114). Now Andrés acts like his father's son and assumes the proper inquisitorial manner: Hermano, si yo fuera juez y vos hubiérades caído debajo de mi jurisdic[c]ión por algún delito, el cual pidiera que se os hicieran las preguntas que yo os he
as Roque Guinart does in Quijote II.
|5 (1985)||Une Saison en enfer: La gitanilla||105|
hecho, la respuesta que me habéis dado obligara a que os apretara
los cordeles (Friend, if I were a judge and you had fallen under my
jurisdiction because of some crime which would require my interrogating you,
the answers you have given me would compel me to use the third degree) (112).
This is one of La gitanilla's most pregnant utterances. A misdeed
has most certainly caused Clemente to come under Andrés' jurisdiction,
to fall under it. And the inquisitor finally extracts by the threat
of torture a true confession. It wins a pardon and admission to gypsy society
on equal footing with Andrés. It anticipates Andrés' own
confrontation with justice and his exculpation while suggesting that Clemente
will ultimately be likewise absolved. But legality is the universal of La
gitanilla. All fall under some kind of jurisdiction, from its lowest
expression among the gypsy outcasts to that highest emblem of rightful rule
as figured by Preciosa. Even though Andrés is relieved to discover
that Clemente is immune to her control of him through love, his immunity
to her universality suggests that he is not yet ready for pardon. His season
is not ripe. Even so, clemency for him need not be despaired of, in fact
appears to be his fate.
And although Cervantes on the whole organizes his tale as if it were a poem by Quevedo, where aristocratic values bristle in their dialogue with plebeian greed, his real narrative economy is mixed. The two systems are roughly the same, an upper sphere blessed with abundance confronting a lower dimension cursed with sterility, longing, and waste. Yet the essential poetry of La gitanilla reveals coded elements of the open-handed economy in the grasping one as well as liberality in the operations of greed. These insights in the shape of reflections and reversions are, if possible, even profounder than Quevedan contamination through opponency and while intensely poetic in the sense that they establish real but secret and hidden connections are nonetheless subversive of poetic conventions which thrive on the ideal of source pure and unalloyed. Specifically, in La gitanilla Cervantes deliberately corrupts and perverts the pastoral with the tale's gypsy personnel, a band of thieves who in some ways live nobly with nature. La gitanilla is in fact a fallen pastoral, a daemonic, labyrinthine Galatea. Quevedo, despite every disabusement, clings to the Beautus-ille principle as to the very essence of his expression. Accordingly, he can apostrophize a friend who spent his life away from court as blessed: Dichoso tú que, alegre en tu cabaña, / mozo y viejo espiraste la aura pura (Blessed are you who in your hut as both stripling and ancient breathed a pure atmosphere to
|106||ROBERT TER HORST||Cervantes|
the last).21 Cervantes contaminates that
myth of incorruptibility, prosifies it.
A marvelous example of the degradation of poetry into prose is his free adaptation of the celebrated lines from Horace's fourth ode in Book I: Pallida mors aequo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas / Regumque turris (Pale death with equal foot strikes wide the door / Of royal halls and hovels of the poor [Cowper trans.]). Also cited in the prologue to the First Part of the Quijote, these words haunt a passage in La gitanilla which occurs just after Andrés has announced his intention to distribute largesse, and the gypsies have exultantly lifted him and Preciosa onto their shoulders: . . . no sin envidia de Cristina y de otras gitanillas que se hallaron presentes, que la envida tan bien se aloja en los aduares de los barbaros y en las chozas de pastores como en palacios de príncipes (rather to the envy of Christina and of other gypsy girls present, for envy as much abides in the camps of barbarians and in the huts of shepherds as in the palaces of kings) (105). The dictum destroys not only the form of poetry but the moral substance of the Beatus ille, most succinctly voiced by Fray Luis de León in a poem22 probably written after his release from prison:
Aquí la envidia y mentira
me tuvieron encerrado.
Dichoso el humilde estado
del sabio que se retira
de aqueste mundo malvado,
y con pobre mesa y casa,
en el campo deleitoso
con solo Dios se compasa,
y a solas su vida pasa,
ni envidiado ni envidioso.
Here envy and falsehood held
me fast. Blessed is the condition
of the sage who withdraws from
this malevolent world and,
frugally fed and housed,
the countryside his delight,
makes God his only measure,
spending his life in solitude,
neither envied nor envious.
poética I, 212.
22 The Original Poems of Fray Luis de León, ed. Edward Sarmiento (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1953), p. 48. I have altered the punctuation.
|5 (1985)||Une Saison en enfer: La gitanilla||107|
When Cristina and her companions resent Preciosa's prominence, a sacred poetic
precinct is violated, a single jurisdiction invaded and alloyed. The poetry
of La gitanilla, poetry fallen down to prose, is impure.
And if envy can poison the pastoral atmosphere, scarcity occasionally contaminates noble halls in the city. La gitanilla replaces the Beatus ille dialogue of much Golden-Age poetry with counterpoint between want and plenty, esterilidad y abundancia. To be sure, in the declension from the poetic to the prosaic, the memory of origin is not altogether lost. The Vida retiradaof Fray Luis haunts the Old Gypsy Man's portrayal of the life of these outcasts, which he disguises as pastoral:
No nos fatiga el temor de perder la honra, ni nos desvela la ambición de acrecenterla, ni sustentamos bandos, ni madrugamos a dar memoriales, ni [a] acompañar magnates, ni a solicitar favores. Por dorados techos y suntuosos palacios estimamos estas barracas y movibles ranchos; por cuadros y países de Flandes, los que nos de la naturaleza en esos levantados riscos y nevadas peñas, tendidos prados y espesos bosques que a cada paso a los ojos se nos muestra (102).
(The fear of being dishonored does not obsess us, nor does ambition to grow in fame disturb our rest. We do not support followers, nor do we rise at dawn to present memoranda, to wait upon the mighty, or to ask for favors. These shacks and shiftable encampments we hold to be gilded domes and splendid palaces, to be Flemish pictures and landscapes these natural vistas of rocky prominences and snowy peaks, long meadows and dense groves which we have always before out eyes.)
The key Luisian phrase is dorados techos, but retirement from courtly pomp and its attendant distractions does not mean relaxation into a morally sound tranquillity. Gypsies are a cursed and blighted breed who forever lack and forever hunger.23 They could never content themselves with a sufficient modicum, con pobre mesa y
Covarrubias' discussion of gypsies is one diatribe: Harto está
dicho desta ruin gente. he also relates a popular legend explaining
the curse that had fallen on them for having failed to give the holy family
refuge on the flight to Egypt: El vulgo cree que éstos vinieron
de Egypto y de aquella tierra a donde estuvo retirada la Virgen nuestra
Señora con su preciosísimo Hijo, por orden del Espíritu
Santo, según se lo reveló al santo Joseph, por el ángel
. . . Y que por no haver querido alvergar al niño
peregrino y a su Madre y a Joseph, les cayó la maldición de
que ellos y sus decendientes fuessen peregrinos por el mundo, sin tener assiento
ni morada permanente . . . . In view of this folktale,
Preciosa's particular reverence for the women in Christ's genealogy acquires
heightened significance. From the beginning, Preciosa's posture is redemptive.
The sentence passed on her people does not apply to her. Ave Eva.
|108||ROBERT TER HORST||Cervantes|
casa. Esterilidad is for them a spur to abundancia. Empty
in the morning, they hope to be full by night. Thus the Old Gypsy Man's clever
rhetoric conceals what must be described as the new economic and non-aristocratic
rhythm of oscillation between want and plenty and the new morality of desire,
of which the mask is stoical, to diminish the extreme distance between these.
Under the old poetic dispensation, courtiers lived to excess, too many costly
things and too many worries, while their counterparts in the country, by
choice, got by with too little, welcoming their poverty of care. But the
gypsies live a daily life of extremes and of extreme peril. They are merchants
who try to close the circuit of trade between dawn and dusk, going out light,
coming back heavy yet fearfully vulnerable. The only way for them to survive
emotionally is through a criminal hardening that appears to be stoical but
which in fact is unfeeling: un mismo rostro hacemos al sol que al yelo,
a la esterilidad que a la abundancia (We face heat and cold, want and
plenty, with the same expression) (102). Moreover, the statement is not
altogether true. Preciosa's guardian is prudent and puts money aside for
the inevitable confrontation with justice, which she rightly fears, as does
Andrés. Preciosa herself, the changeling, while pleased that her lover
has fitted in well, fears with reason that he may fall afoul of the authorities:
no poco se holgaba Preciosa, viendo a su tierno amente tan lindo y
tan despejado ladrón; pero, con todo eso, estaba temerosa de alguna
desgracia, que no quisiera ella verle en afrenta por todo el tesoro de
Venecia (Preciosa was not a little pleased to find in her devoted lover
so fine and accomplished a thief; yet, for all that, she was constantly
apprehensive of some misfortune and would not have had him in trouble with
the law for all the gold in Venice) (107). The pastoral world of the gypsies
is, for some, as heavy with care as the life of the courtier.
And courtiers, while their original poetic element may be plenty, also know esterilidad. Cervantes' idea of abundance is at root Old-Testamentary. God lavishes good things on those he has chosen, and denies them to those who displease him or his agents, so that Margaret offers her child to the Virgin gratefully secure in the knowledge of her patroness' liberality to her: Lo que me has dado te doy, / mano siempre dadivosa, / que a do falta el favor tuyo, / siempre la miseria sobra (to you I give what you have given me, o ever-beneficent hand, for where your blessing is wanting, there wretchedness ever abounds) (70). This contrastive relationship between open-handed bountifulness and tight-fisted acquisitiveness is a (I would in truth say the) central structural principle of La gitanilla. Accordingly in Madrid we visit three establishments. Two of them, the gambling casino and Don Juan de Cárcamo's father's house, are
|5 (1985)||Une Saison en enfer: La gitanilla||109|
places of plenty. They are golden. In the house of Doña Clara, the
native metal is silver, and there is almost none of it, only one solitary
thimble, which a girl retainer donzella, probably the donzella
de labor or fancy seamstress very reluctantly offers. Unlike
Forcione,24 I find no social criticism whatsoever
here. Rather, the esterilidad de la casa points to a faulty
understanding of economics in its master's mind. His wife is at least named
but he is always called el señor teniente or
tiniente. Even though the term basically points to substitution
in office, the facts in this case suggest that our man was a submagistrate,
whose next step up the administrative ladder would be a post as
corregidor. So Preciosa prophesies to Doña Clara: Su
tu esposo no se muere / dentro de cuatro semanas, / verásle corregidor
/ de Burgos o Salamanca (If your husband doesn't die within the next
four weeks, you will see him the magistrate of Burgos or Salamanca) (80).
Alemán's Dorotea of the tale of Bonifacio y Dorotea was, it
may be well to remember, pursued and arrested by the teniente of her
town Sevilla and he witnessed her safe return home con
infernal celo (diabolical
jealousy).25 One guesses that the job as
teniente was badly underpaid, therefore abused, therefore of ill-repute.
Preciosa responds to the pretentious poverty of the establishment with a
wealth of irony, of which the greatest expression is the contrast between
her own opulent beauty and wit and the want of these with her hosts. Preciosa
lavishes her talents on them and they neither can nor will give in return.
The model relationship in Cervantes' economics is that obtaining between
Queen Margaret and the Virgin: lo que me has dado te doy. Giving
invites bounty to flow. But the submagistrate is a teniente, of which
adjective the Autoridades dictionary gives the third acceptation as
miserable, y escaso (miserly, and niggardly).
Now it would appear that the parallel between the house of Don Francisco de Cárcamo and the teniente's is complete in that both men are seeking promotion in their careers. Don Francisco succeeds. One never learns how Doña Clara's husband has fared. Preciosa foretells a future of abundance for the couple, a considerable inheritance as well as children for the wife, a better-paid job for the husband; but the almost cruel banter of her predictions brings their reliability into doubt. At all events, the submagistrate lives a life which parodies that of Don Franscisco, who will have laid out considerable sums to get his nomination as corregidor of Cartagena. His motives, one must, I think, assume, will have been to help his merit to shine, to give luster to his competence and to his benevolence, to avoid condemnation, fine, and
Cervantes and the Humanist Vision, pp. 208-15.
25 Guzmán II, 292.
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judgment in short a high-minded captatio benevolentiae from
his superiors. But on another level there flourishes a completely mercenary
system, not of give-and-give but of give-and-take.
El amante liberal, a tale which treats of the conversion of a mercenary lover who desires for himself into a generous lover who desires for the sake of the beloved, begins explicitly at precisely that moment of transition between one government job and the next which is the implicit point of departure for La gitanilla. So, in El amante, Ricaredo, a Christian slave of the new Turkish governor of Nicosia, asks his renegade friend Mahamut why Ricaredo's master has established himself and his retinue in an encampment outside the city, instead of entering and taking up his duties. Mahamut explains that the newly appointed governor must remain outside his capital city until the previous incumbent allows him to enter and examine the record of his administration. For this scrutiny Cervantes uses the Spanish term hacer residencia, and the Autoridades dictionary defines residencia in this sense as: . . . la cuenta que toma un Juez à otro, o à otra persona de cargo público, de la administracion de su oficio, de aquel tiempo que estuvo à su cuidado . . . (the accounting made by one judge with respect to another or to a public official of the administration of his trust during the period of his incumbency). Mahamut goes on to explain how the residencia effects an outgoing Turkish official's next assignment:
Hecha, pues, la residencia, se la dan al que deja el cargo en un pergamino cerrado y sellado, y con ella se presenta a la Puerta del Gran Señor, que es como decir en la Corte ante un Gran Consejo del Turco, la cual vista por el viserbajá, y por los otros cuatro bajaes menores, como si dijésemos ante el presidente del Real Consejo y oidores, o le premian o le castigan, según la relación de la residencia; puesto que si viene culpado, con dineros rescata y excusa el castigo. Si no viene culpado y no le premian, como sucede de ordinario, con dádivas y presentes alcanza el cargo que más se le antoja, porque no se dan allí los cargos por merecimientos, sino por dineros: todo se vende y todo se compra. Los proveedores de los cargos roban a los proveídos en ellos y los desuellan; dese oficio comprado sale la sustancia para comprar otro que más ganancia promete. (After the audit has been made, it is given to the retiring office-holder in a folded and sealed parchment, with which he appears before the Sublime Porte, that is, at court before the Supreme Turkish Council. The vizir and four subordinate pashas whose equivalents in our system would be the chairman of the Royal Council and his inspectors examine the document and then either commend or reprimand the functionary according to it, although, if he is reprimanded, he can avoid punishment with money. Everything can be bought and sold.
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Those assigning jobs rob and despoil those assigned to them and by purchasing an assignment one can get from it the means needed to buy another more profitable one) (141).
The central phrase in this key narration is
todo se vende y todo se compra; anything and anyone can be bought
and sold. Ricaredo, Mahamut, and Ricaredo's beloved Leonisa are all eminently
merchandizable in El amante liberal. And with respect to the saleability
of Christian persons Cervantes, moreover, speaks from terrible personal
experience. Just as Leonisa was abducted so he was captured by the Turk,
to be exchanged after the five-and-a-half years of captivity in Algiers of
which he makes such poignant mention in the prologue. As a soldier, then,
he was seized and sold back, after dreadful delay, to his own side. That
experience was, I would venture to say, the agony, the passion, from which
Cervantes' mature fiction flowered. In it the prime event is expropriation
by theft, abduction, imprisonment or enchantment into a daemonic and labyrinthine
world of which the universe is the marketplace, in which material values
define value absolutely. To this exile among mercenaries the response in
art, as it was in life is rescate, an undertaking to repurchase, to
redeem the expropriated spirit from its carnal captivity. Thus the core event
in Cervantine fiction comes to be what it will be in later fiction a
transaction, an instrument of exchange, a deal. But the purpose of Cervantes'
deal is to translate the object of it from the marketplace to a noncommercial
economy founded on giving, to remove the soul from the circuit of trade by
definitively closing the commercial circle, much as a merchant might wind
up his affairs and retire as a gentleman with the proceeds to a newly purchased
country seat. Cervantes by redemption would put a stop to the incessancy
of Quevedo's usurers. But to do so his art must cohabit for the term of exile
with greed and the pursuers of profit. It begins with those despised qualities
that Quevedo engaged from aristocratic height. Codicia is the point
of departure for Cervantes, who, the captive of his fecundating opponent,
his enemy's inferior, seeks to rise above the rules of profit to a generous
and noble dispensation of abundance where there is more than enough for all,
thus to translate the sterility of the marketplace into the profusions of
an economy of blessedness.
In La gitanilla, from the base and primordial perspective of the expropriating gypsies, the world is a market place and Madrid a particularly choice one. The gypsies are the Turks of the tale, and Preciosa's guardian takes her ward to the bazaars of the capital city just as she would take any prized thing there to sell, pensando en la Corte vender su mercadería, donde todo se compra y todo se vende
|112||ROBERT TER HORST||Cervantes|
(intending to sell her merchandise in Madrid, where everything is bought and sold) (63). The capital is therefore the equivalent of Alemán's and Guzmán's Sevilla which, the reader may recall, was bien acomodada a cualquier granjería y tanto se lleve a vender como se compra, porque hay merchantes para todo (well suited to any kind of profit-seeking and whatever may be offered for sale is purchased, because there are pedlars for everything).26 Like Preciosa's grandmother, the product which Guzmán is most interested in hustling is sex. But Madrid is also the court and so is a mixed marketplace featuring both the aristocratic idea of merit and the plebeian pursuit of profit, Quevedo's Hurtado de Mendoza and Ladrón de Guevara once again. These two economies are not, however, mutually exclusive. Emphasis defines them. The plebeian principally values gain while the aristocrat prizes merit. Yet essential worth is not at its best unadorned and unaccompanied by material wealth. Profusion enhances immanent virtue. Preciosa makes her debut in a swirl of poems written for profit: Salió Preciosa rica de villancicos, de coplas, seguidillas y zarabandas . . . (62). Similarly, Queen Margaret shows herself to the public marvelously dressed, bejewelled, and perfumed: Milán con sus ricas telas / allí va en vista curiosa; / las Indias con sus diamantes, / y Arabia con sus aromas (With her the sumptuous fabrics of Milán are splendidly on view, as are Indian adamantine and the fragrances of Arabia) (69). In the same vein, Preciosa criticizes Don Sancho's first poem in which he calls himself her poor lover: En pobre acaba el último verso . . . mala señal! Nunca las enamorados han de decir que son pobres, porque a los principios, a mi parecer, la pobreza es muy enemiga del amor (The last line ends with poor. That's a bad sign, because, in my opinion, poverty at its beginning is a great enemy to love) (76). Merit, consequently, takes priority but shines most brightly when attended by abundance, while the search for plenty without merit is a spiritually barren endeavor. As between gypsies and nobles we have something on the order of two competing economic theories, the gypsies' a Turkish one of getting and saving for the next profitable opportunity or danger, the nobles' a method of expenditure or investment so as to cause bounty to flow freely. In present-day terms one might liken the aristocratic approach to the Keynesian method of stimulating growth through deficit spending and the plebeian theory to classical concepts of saving and capital formation so as to have funds in hand for any opportunity or emergency. Though her gypsy mentors favor the Smithian idea of accumulation, Preciosa herself inclines to the Keynesian. When, therefore, she is confronted with
Guzmán I, 141.
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the sterility of the submagistrate's family and career, she enjoins him to
prime the pump: Coheche vuesa merced, señor Tiniente; coheche
y tendrá dineros y no haga usos nuevos, que morirá de hambre
(Bribe, your honor; go ahead and bribe and then you'll have money but don't
fight the system or else you'll go to the poorhouse) (81). Even so, Preciosa
well understands the system to be a Turkish and Smithian one: por ahí
he oído decir (y aunque moza, entiendo que no son buenos dichos) que
de los oficios se ha de sacar dineros para pagar las condenaciones de las
residencias y para pretender otros cargos (I've heard it rumored and,
though quite young I realize these are not good rumors, that one appointment
should yield the cash to pay fines resulting from audit and to get other
appointments) (81). Now, after suggesting Keynes, Preciosa has returned to
the pure marketplace, Smith. Her magistrate counters with protestations of
unadorned merit. Así lo dicen y lo hacen los desalmados
. . . pero el juez que da buena residencia no tendrá que
pagar condenación alguna y el haber usado bien su oficio sera el valedor
para que le den otra (That's what unprincipled people say and do, but
the judge who gives a good account of himself won't have to pay any fine
at all and conscientious performance of his duty will warrant his promotion).
Preciosa wisely scoffs at that proposition. She knows that merit alone will
not secure advancement. To get ahead one must employ a mixed approach, merit
accompanied by adaptation to the system, yet with merit the major emphasis.
Virtue in isolation is sterile, withers. Only saints and martyrs live under
a single dispensation. The rest of us must accommodate ourselves to a
multiplicity of laws, rules, regulations, and usages, reserving, however,
the essential from blemish or fatal contamination. Such is, I think, the
fuller significance in this tale of the habit of the several military orders.
It symbolizes one's living subject to a variety of rules, sacred and profane,
military and religious, plebeian and aristocratic. The non-saint must contend
with many overlapping jurisdictions. The submagistrate has no
hábito and owes his barrenness to a narrowminded adhesion to
the principle of singleness: Habla vuesa merced muy a lo santo
. . . ándese a eso y cortarémosle de los harapos
muchas reliquias (Your honor takes a very holy stance . . .
keep it up and we'll be cutting off pieces of your sackcloth as relics).
The sarcasm shows Preciosa's devotion to plurality and profusion, to a myth
of abundance. Love should not begin in poverty.
Hers for Andrés starts and continues in plenty as the aristocrat subverts gypsy greed by means of a noble prodigality, even profligacy. His too is a mano siempre dadivosa. Thus the young man's initiation into a microcosm of the universal marketplace brings about
|114||ROBERT TER HORST||Cervantes|
a second mixed economy on the Madrid model but here again, as with the gypsy
version of the hábito, reversed. Abundance in Madrid was the
upper-class rule, want the exception. Among the gypsies want is the lower-class
rule, abundance the exception. In essence Andrés brings to his companions
a code of conduct based on charity, on giving. They find meaning in their
lives by taking and understand a charitable disposition as the destruction
of their society built on codicia. The collision between the aristocrat
and the thieves means, therefore, a collision between his moral and their
economic order. Indeed, during his apprenticeship as a thief, Andrés
on occasion, taking pity on the despoiled, makes restitution to them for
what they have lost: . . . de lo cual los gitanos se
desesperaban, diciéndole que era contravenir a sus estatutos y ordenanzas,
que prohibían la entrada a la caridad en sus pechos, la cual, en
teniéndola, habían de dejar de ser ladrones, cosa que no les
estaba bien en ninguna manera (over which the gypsies wrung their hands,
telling him that this was a violation of their statutes and ordinances which
outlawed charity from their hearts, for if they were to acquire it, they
would have to stop being thieves, something completely unacceptable to them)
(107). Andrés overcomes the incompatibility of their code with his
by purchasing an exemption, pretending to have stolen what he in fact has
bought with his own money. In addition to being a charitable one his disposition
consequently takes on tones of the sacrificial for Preciosa's sake as he
renounces parents, honor, rank, and opulent ease to abide with vagabonds.
Love translates charitableness into a higher economy of sacrifice, identical
with the Quevedan. At the same time Andrés learns how to mediate the
hostility between morality and economics with a form of art related directly
neither to religion nor to business. Perfecting his body's strength and grace
he becomes, like Preciosa herself, an entertainer; their exhibitions of their
beauty in motion constitute a kind of that honesto entretenimiento
alluded to in the prologue.
Beauty has, nonetheless, a powerful moral potential in addition to its sensual evocativeness: it tiene la fuerza de despertar la caridad dormida (has the strength to awaken sleeping charity) (66). Even among the gypsies, on guard against the enemy, it has something of this effect, for when Clemente at night breaks into their encampment and is bitten b the dogs, Andrés invites him into their midst, to have his wounds attended to and to rest, with: aunque somos gitanos, no lo parecemos en la caridad (although we are gypsies, we don't seem to be where charity is concerned) (l08). Clemente needs assistance to walk and: Llegóse a él Andrés y otro gitano caritativo que aun entre los demonios hay unos peores que otros, y entre muchos malos
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hombres suele haber alguno bueno, y entre los dos le llevaron (To his side went Andrés and another charitable gypsy for even among demons some are worse than others and among many wicked men there usually is one good one and between them they carried him) (109). So it is that one learns that the diabolic world of the gypsies morally sleeps under an evil enchantment, a dark spell which intrusion by Andrés, whom other laws govern, begins to dissolve. Condiciones rompen leyes. Even so, despite inherent contradiction, Andrés knows how to live with two hostile jurisdictions, for he perfectly assumes the gypsy manner when, testing Clemente, he offers Preciosa to him precisely as she had been advertised to Andrés at his initiation: Si la quisiéredes por esposa, yo y todos sus parientes gustaremos dello; si por amiga, no usaremos de ningún melindre, con tal que tengáis dineros, porque la codicia por jamás sale de nuestros ranchos (If you want her for your wife, all her relatives and I will be glad of it. If you want her for your mistress we will not haggle, provided you have money, for acquisitiveness abides forever in our encampments) (113). Thus the social world of La gitanilla manifests itself as an unstable compound made up of codicia and caridad. Between them the physico-spiritual exercises of Preciosa and Andrés temporarily mediate, so that under the lovers' guidance the gypsies enjoy a brief golden age: iba el aduar rico, próspero y contento (the band found itself rich, prosperous, and contented) (l08). However, despite Preciosa's virtuous enchantment, sensuality and covetousness cannot be put to sleep and in the person of Juana Carducha, the innkeeper's daughter so reminiscent of Gracia in the Guzmán de Alfarache, come to try and nearly to destroy Andrés, who is brought to justice as a thief and murderer. These charges in effect explode the world of the gypsies and bring to a close the lovers' season with them. Yet in the passage from their lower to the tale's higher final dispensation, the spirit cannot altogether rid itself of sense. Andrés in particular is redeemed with money; he is ransomed with wergild: Recibió el tío del muerto la promesa de dos mil ducados, que le hicieron por que bajase de la querella y perdonase a don Juan . . . (The dead man's uncle received a pledge of two thousand ducats to get him to withdraw his suit and forgive Don Juan) (133). The major premise of La gitanilla accordingly is that la codicia por jamás sale de nuestros ranchos. Acquisitiveness has become a permanent feature of the human landscape with which Cervantes as a novelist must deal. From the Lazarillo de Tormes and the Guzmán de Alfarache he has inherited a major new subject, economic woman and man. His response in La gitanilla is to reverse the evolution of Lázaro, to reconvert the economic order to moral rule, to ascend out of the labyrinth of greed
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to the firmament of beauty and virtue. Nonetheless, for as long as the soul
is resident on earth, it is wedded to matter and to materialism, which saints
alone can expunge before death. No usual life can be lived unaccompanied
by covetousness, even if the spirit aspires to the pure poetry of unimpeded
soulfulness. The poetry of this life is an alloy of flesh and spirit, a failed
poetry, a prose. Spirit, to be sure, has always struggled in some way with
matter; but in the fictional world of the rising Spanish novel Lázaro
and Guzmán have indelibly stamped human character with their incessant,
their eternal desire, greatly unsettling the old balance of power. Cervantes'
art comes to restore equilibrium but the proportions have already been so
profoundly altered that poetry is lastingly outlawed, is Paradise Lost,
is Le Livre of Mallarmé.
Thus Forcione is in a measure right to treat La gitanilla as a disquisition on the sacrament of marriage,27 as a study in the spiritual redemption of concupiscence after the fashion of La fuerza de la sangre. In such a view its model would be medieval debate literature as, for example, it acquires fresh significance in works like Calderón's auto El pleito matrimonial del cuerpo y el alma. Yet in that probably early work separation rather than union furnishes the major motif, for the soul files a bill of divorcement against the body and their cohabitation ends when the soul wins its suit at the moment of the body's death. Spirit is the auto's basic bias and we see life from the height of its plunge to misery incarnate. Cervantes, however, although it would seem that his own marriage was none of the happiest, expresses in his writings a fearful devotion to the lifelong bond between wife and husband. Contemporary readers perhaps feel a considerable inclination to shudder at the refrain of his El juez de los divorcios: más vale el peor concierto que no el divorcio mejor28 (the worst marriage is better than the finest divorce). With Calderón's allegory, then, spirit is primordial and dictates the play's perspective, whereas Cervantes in La gitanilla is constrained both by the immediate literary past and his own vision to begin extremely low on the ladder of creation, in the flesh and its desires, to rise as far as he may from them. Yet with the way to the ultimate poetry of the soul barred, La gitanilla is disbarred from divorce. The judge presiding over it will grant no final decree sundering mind from matter. They must continue to cohabit as best they can, on an ascending scale from the gypsies' crude arrangements
particularly The Matrimonial Ideal and the Poetry of La
Gitanilla in Cervantes and the Humanist Vision, pp.
28 Comedias y entremeses, ed. Schevill y Bonilla, IV (Madrid: Bernardo Rodríguez, 1918), 19.
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to Preciosa's instinctively decorous and highminded plane. In consequence,
the great fact of La gitanilla is this irrefragable accompaniment
concierto of flesh by spirit, matter by mind.
Codicia cannot altogether exclude caridad, nor caridad
codicia. Spirit has not, as it did with Lázaro in Toledo, mounted
up to heaven, leaving men to their own devices. Gypsy society is the most
densely incarnate, least inspired, that Cervantes can imagine within Spain;
but, aside from Preciosa and Andrés, it has at least one member disposed
to charity. Matter also accompanies spirit in much more harmonious mixtures
when the Queen appears to the people splendidly arrayed, when Preciosa performs
enriched with verse, when Don Sancho transmits poems sealed up with coins.
The universe of this tale is an altogether contaminated one in which one
operation can never function in sterile philosophical solitude but must always
accept something of the ministrations of its opposite. The gypsies think
that they have sealed their marketplace society against charity yet admit
Andrés to it and come to be governed by his noble spirit. Although
all its personages are monads, there are no nomads in La gitanilla.
Its ruling spirit requires material profusion. Wealth is no mere accident
or adjunct to true nobility. It is an essential part of the idea of superiority,
an indispensable aspect of its decorum in the original latin sense of
decet as truly appertaining to. Such a system could scarcely support
the phenomenon of an hidalgo pobre, and the Tratado Tercero
of the Lazarillo constitutes an enormous subversion of its coherence.
Even so, since poverty is La gitanilla's fundamental challenge,
Lázaro's escudero makes a modified appearance as his honor
el señor teniente. His straitened circumstances are acceptable
to the intellectual economy of the tale because Preciosa brings to his household
the promise, the hope, though ironic, of future profusion. The union of
Doña Clara and her stingy spouse is La gitanilla's peor
concierto. The wife is something of a shrew, and death and religion
threaten the family with a spiritual in addition to its material barrenness.
Indeed, if there is a truly demonstrable touch of Erasmus in Cervantes, I
should think it would be this profound and structural aversion to monasticism.
His fiction lives entirely outside the cloister, is exclaustrado by
definition, exactly as Clemente's history begins again when he leaves
Coins are nowhere to be found in the pockets of the residents of Doña Clara's house. They abound with and in the family of Don Francisco de Cárcamo. The teniente's esterilidad contrasts contrapuntually with the corregidor's abundancia. One coin in particular reigns over La gitanilla, is its mejor concierto. This is the doblón de a dos caras. First mentioned by Preciosa's guardian as the sovereign remedy for the perils to which the gypsies are exposed: Por un doblón de a dos caras
|118||ROBERT TER HORST||Cervantes|
se nos muestra alegre la triste del procurador . . . (For a doubloon the prosecutor's frown is changed into a smile) (89), it promptly reappears in the corregidor's hand, with the same trope: que aquí tengo un doblón de oro de a dos caras, que ninguna es como la vuestra, aunque son de dos reyes (I have here a doubloon with two faces, neither of which rivals yours, though both are regal) (95); and is at last given over to Preciosa: Finalmente, el doblón de dos caras se le dieron a Preciosa, y ella dijo a sus compañeras que le trocaría y repartía con ellas hidalgamente (They finally gave the doubloon to Preciosa, who told her companions that she would change it and nobly share the proceeds with them) (97). Narratively this coin links the lowly world of the gypsies with the higher sphere of justice on a rising motion and brings the largesses of the aristocracy down into their midst on a descending curve. It is the medium of exchange between the tale's two economies, codicia and caridad, and is its maximum expression of value. Outside La gitanilla it has its own history, told in part by the Autoridades dictionary:
Monedas de oro en España, que ha tenido diferentes precios segun los tiempos, siendo lo más regular equivaler à cuatro pesos escudos. Los Reyes Católicos en el año de 1497, mandaron fabricar una moneda do oro fino de ley de veinte y tres quilates and tres quartos largos que fuesse de sesenta y cinco pesos y un tercio por marco, y del duplicado peso destos (segun Juan Perez de Moya) se hizo una moneda con las caras destos Reyes por ambos lados; y por ser de las mayóres que hasta alli se havian fabricado y de mayór valor, se debieron de llamar Doblones, para diferenciarlas de las Doblas, pues este nobre (como dice el señor Corarrubias in su tratado de Monetis) parece se le dió el vulgo; pero los doblónes que posteriormente se han batido tienen por una cara las armas de Castilla y Leon, y por otra la Cruz de Boroña, y vale dos escúdos de oro.
As well as being a real thing, this great coin emblematizes that weddedness of contraries which is the main motif of La gitanilla, a narration that by nature is a coincidentia oppositorum, Castile and Aragón, female and male, to name only the obvious jointures. Moreover, in the perspective of a tale purportedly taking place in 1595, three years before the end of the reign of Philip II, the doubloon, the largest and finest ever struck in Spain, contrasts painfully with the bankruptcies and debased currency of the three Philips. The vellón or coinage made from a mixture of copper and silver, with ever-decreasing amounts of silver, is the silent partner to the beautiful golden coin. In its turn it calls to mind the reform of the currency effected by the Catholic Monarchs, Isabel and Fernando, at the time of its issue: The
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stabilizing of the coinage proved to be a difficult operation, but it was finally achieved by the pragmatic of 1497, which formed the basis of the Castilian coinage in the following centuries.29 That difficult task represents the total feat performed by the Catholic Sovereigns in unifying and creating a new Spain. Control over the coinage was central to their achievement: Under Henry the Fourth, it is computed that there were no less [sic] than one hundred and fifty mints licensed by the crown, in addition to many others erected by individuals without any legal authority. The abuse came to such a height that people at length refused to receive in payment of their debts the debased coin, whose value depreciated more and more every day; and the little trade, which remained in Castile was carried on my barter . . . . To correct these evils, Prescott shows Isabel and Fernando not only as reformers of the currency but also as masters of the mint: Five royal mints alone were authorized, afterward augmented to seven, and severe penalties denounced against the fabrication of money elsewhere. The reform of the currency gradually infused new life into commerce . . . .30 As well as into the kingdom of Spain so that:
The reign of Ferdinand and Isabella was called by Prescott the most glorious epoch in the annals of Spain. Generations of Spaniards, contrasting their own times with those of the Catholic Kings, would look back upon them as the golden age of Castile. The conquest of Granada, the discovery of America, and the triumphant emergence of Spain onto the European political state lent unparalleled lustre to the new state created by the Union of the Crowns, and set the seal of success on the political, religious, and economic reforms of the royal couple.31
Once again, the contrast is between past profusion and present want, between
past adherence to incorruptibility of standards and present degradation and
debasement. The doblón de a dos caras is a poetic myth of the
golden age, as eloquent in its silence and in its reproaches as is, in its
own wonderful volubility, Don Quijote's discourse on the same subject of
Part I of the Quijote. The doblón is poetry, actual
currency a prose extracted from the exchange of it into baser metals.
But the force which the great golden coin expresses best if mando, effective authority. Its two main aspects are material and spiritual. One gains ascendance over others through physical might and through love, which cannot be commanded. Conventionally, the male
H. Elliott, Imperial Spain (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1964), p.
30 Ferdinand and Isabella, pp. 303-04.
31 Imperial Spain, p. 115.
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signifies force, brute or graceful, graceful in the case of Andrés
and Clemente, while the female signifies love. Similarly, he imposes punishment,
while she grants pardon. These respective modes find equal and balanced
expression when Andrés appears as an accused before the
corregidor and the corregidora. He condemns while she confesses
and absolves. They find a cognate equilibrium in the doubloon, the female
weighing the same as the male. Nonetheless, its Gleichschaltung amounts
to a fixed and ideal equalization of potentialities the strengths of which
vary widely in practice. The pragmatic and conventional discrepancy is that
men are stronger physically, women spiritually more resolute. In La
gitanilla, woman is sovereign. She in a measure rules even the mightiest
male. Men who fail to recognize this cannot come well within the magic circle
of her transforming power, as the case is with Clemente. But as a rule in
the tale men accept the authority of women, as Preciosa makes clear in the
ballad to St. Anne: En cierta manera / tenéis, no lo dudo /
sobre el Nieto imperio / piadoso y justo (In a manner of speaking you
exercise, I doubt not, a merciful and just sovereignty over your grandson)
(65). In like fashion Queen Margaret entrusts her royal offspring not to
God directly but through the Virgin: Sé que el corazón
del Rey / en las manos de Dios mora / y sé que puedes con Dios / cuanto
quieres piadosa (I know that the heart of the king is in God's hands
and I know that God will grant all requests for mercy from you) (71). Don
Sancho patterns his poetic idea of Preciosa's effect upon him after the examples
of St. Anne and the Virgin: Sobre el más exento pecho / tienes
mando y señorío, / de lo que es testigo el mío / de
tu imperio satisfecho (You are the order and the command of even the
most immoveable heart, as mine, rejoicing in your rule, will bear witness)
(76). However, Don Sancho as Clemente does in fact remove himself from Preciosa's
jurisdiction. It is Andrés who altogether accepts her strict but
compassionate order of love.
At all events, through the emblem of the double golden coin, Cervantes reached back through the generations to the origins of the myth of union which in La gitanilla he so eloquently propounds. Coinage developed in the seventh century B.C. in Lydia and, as Marc Shell32 pregnantly suggests, because it combined wealth with products of mind and spirit, gold with the craftsman's art, treasure with the power of the rule, it contaminated material with spiritual expression, the visible with the invisible, with the result that religion, politics, philosophy, and art have had to struggle with the inherent
Shell, The Economy of Literature (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University
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contradictions between matter and spirit ever since. La gitanilla's profoundest theme is the coming of spirit to matter and of matter to spirit. It treats, then, of incarnation. And while it does not omit to tell the complete biological story of Christ, from its fallenness it recaptures the potency of the old myth with a startling new image. St. Anne's womb is the mint in which was forged the die that gave Christ his distinctive stamp as a man, incarnate: casa de moneda / do se forjó el cuño / que dio a Dios la forma / que como hombre tuvo.33 Thus coinage, and in particular the doblón de oro de a dos caras, comes to be the central metaphor of La gitanilla, its medium of exchange or chief clearing house that links its multiple jurisdictions and its double, mixed economy. Here, in art as well as in theology and political economy, Cervantes' instinct for the source of utterance is inerrant, for, as Shell observes: Coins were the first widely circulating publications of impressions in history. The charaktér (upper die used by the coinmaker, or impressed mark on the coin [cuño] is in Spanish precisely both of these] and the coin preceded by two millennia the printing press and the printed page (p. 64). When he emits his verse accompanied by a ducat, Don Sancho expresses a relationship of which he is only viscerally aware, that obtaining between poetry and coinage, for both are mediums of exchange, and La gitanilla is basically a transaction, a redemption, so that the tale is a poetic treatise on numismatics, the magical science of the transformation of the visible into the invisible and the invisible into the visible. The doubloon enacts, legislates, the conversion of spirit to matter and of matter to spirit, is La gitanilla's eucharist, its golden wafer. In Christ is found their perfect interchangeability, each aspect of equal weight. But the tale in fact must struggle with an imbalance of matter over spirit, of codicia over caridad, among the gypsies and their fellow travellers. To correct the disequilibrium, it therefore appeals to the highest moral authority, to justice, but that indirectly, through the female, whose voice is preponderant, in the feminine trinity of Anne,
gives the following etymology for mint. It is highly suggestive
in terms of the interrelationships in La gitanilla among poetry, the
female, coinage, and the sacred: . . . fr. Moneta,
epithet of Juno, ancient Italian goddess, wife of Jupiter; fr. the fact that
the Romans coined money in the temple of Juno Moneta. It is also useful
to recall here that Juno, the sister and wife of Jupiter, was the special
protector of women . . . every woman had her juno, pro presided
over all aspects of her womanly life especially marriage and childbirth.
She was the guardian of the bride's girdle, the protector of the newly married
woman as she entered her new home, presided over the ritual of marriage,
helped women in childbirth, and enabled the newly born child to see. Women
who were sterile [sic] prayed to her for fertility . . .
Larousse World Mythology (London: Hamlyn, 1972), p. 178.
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Mary, and Constance (Preciosa). Justice for Cervantes is in the last analysis
an artistic balance of disparate elements and claims. It is equity. It is
the marriage of inequalities. Once again here, coinage symbolizes a problematical
fusion. Thus our great doubloon was: de ley de veinte y tres quilates
y tres cuartos largos. The Autoridades dictionary defines ley
in this acceptation as En los metáles y la monéda es
la calidad debida que resulta, después de la mezcla permitida por
el establecimiento (In metals and coinage it is the proper finished
quality after the alloy allowed by the fabricator). Cervantes in La
gitanilla seeks a balanced mixture but his noble metal is debased, so
that the narration, because it strives for redress, is itself unbalanced
in an inclination to the invisible power of the feminine and the spiritual.
It therefore fails both of poetry and of justice because it is disproportionate
in effective emphasis. La gitanilla lacks, wants, desires what is
not. It is rooted in esterilidad.
This esterilidad is the vegetative setting of the nascent novel, which blooms on barren ground. Lazarillo in Toledo, serving the escudero, does not dare beg too openly for the bread that sustains him and his master because the poor have been ordered out of the city: como el año en esta tierra fuése estéril de pan, acordaron el Ayuntamiento que todos los pobres extranjeros se fuesen de la ciudad (since the local wheat crop had failed, the town council decreed that all the poor from elsewhere had to leave).34 The scarcity of bread in Toledo brings Lázaro's inverted relationship with the escudero to an end, thus completing his essay in charity, and beginning his career as an economically independent person. Guzmán, shortly after abandoning Seville, buys at an inn a grotesquely bad meal of eggs and bread. The eggs are suspicious, the bread of the wretched composition allowed in periods of shortage. And the year of Guzmán's début was one of drought: Era el año estéril de seco y en aquellos tiempos solía Sevilla padecer. Que aun en los prósperos pasaba trabajosamente, mirad lo que sería en los adversos (That year there was drought and on such occasions Seville really suffered, for if at best it got by only with great difficulty, you can imagine what things were like at bad times).35 There follows a devious disquisition on the way in which one municipality in Southern Spain had mishandled its food supply. Guzmán accuses rich insiders there of price-fixing and manipulation of the market. Charity has, once again, retreated to heaven, leaving the poor to starve.
Lazarillo de Tormes, ed. Francisco Rico (Barcelona: Planeta, 1976),
35 Guzmán I, 148.
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La gitanilla is a work of season closely connected to the vegetative cycle. When Preciosa is about to reach a nubile fifteen, her guardian brings her only the Madrid market on the occasion of the feast of St. Anne, June 26. According to the gypsy grandmother, she will actually celebrate her fifteenth birthday at michaelmas, September 29: aunque de quince años (que, según la cuenta de mi abuela, para este San Miguel los haré) . . . (Although only fifteen, because, by my grandmother's reckoning I'll be fifteen this coming michaelmas) (85). Accordingly, Preciosa suggests the blending, in her brief history, of two cycles: a winter season ushered in not long after her birth when she was abducted, and a blooming and fertile summer season introduced by her début in Madrid. Indeed the contrast between her youthful beauty and the appearance of her aged guardian is one of summer to winter, of bloom to blight. In addition, the ballad that Preciosa dances and sings in honor of St. Anne takes its first utterance as a prayer to the spirit of vegetation, to a tree: Árbol preciosísimo / que tardó en dar fruto / años que pudieron / cubrirle de luto (Most precious tree that for years filled with mourning forbore to bear fruit) (64). The specific reference here is to the tree of Jesse, Christ's genealogical chart as represented in sculpture or painting; but Christian syncretism allows the reader to perceive behind Anne an antecedent dryad or hamadryad. Even more, the worship of trees extends out to fertility and marriage once trees are seen as sexual. James Frazer in The Golden Bough offers this case:
The ancients knew the difference between the male and the female date palm, and fertilised them artificially by shaking the pollen of the male over the flowers of the female. The fertilisation took place in spring. Among the heathen of Harran the month during which the palms were fertilised bore the name of the Date Month, and at this time they celebrated the marriage festival of all the gods and goddesses. Different from this true and fruitful marriage of the palm are the false and barren marriages of plants which play a part in Hindoo superstition. For example, if a Hindoo has planted a grove of mangos, neither he nor his wife may taste of the fruit until he has formally married one of the trees, as a bridegroom, to a tree of a different sort, commonly a tamarind tree, which grows near it in the grove.36
With Anne, Christ's grandmother and his first proximate female forbear, Cervantes inaugurates the season of the incarnation in the Christian calendar, the period when spirit took on flesh, married the human body. She, then, helps to introduce the tale's great
George Frazer, The Golden Bough (New York: Macmillan, 1963), p. 132.
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preoccupation with balance between mind and body, their concierto.
This concern acquires an economic cast when it expresses itself in terms
of esterilidad and abundancia, for the adjustment of want to
plenty is, or ought to be, one main goal in economics. St. Anne's personal
history illustrates both esterilidad and abundancia in her
marriage. In The Golden Legend, Jacobus de Voragine, citing Jerome,
tells how Anne married Joachim and lived uprightly with him for twenty years,
but they had no child. As a result, when Joachim went to Jerusalem for the
feast of Dedication, a priest drove him away from the altar because his marriage
was barren. Confused and ashamed, Joachim ran away and took refuge with some
shepherds. One day when he was alone an angel appeared to him and told him
that he would sire on Anne a daughter, the mother of Christ. Anne also received
the same visitation with the message that she would become Mary's
mother.37 Preciosa refers to Joachim's expulsion
from the temple when she ascribes it to the twenty years of childlessness:
de cuyo tardarse / nació aquel disgusto / que lanzó del
templo / al varón mas justo (from which delay there came that
misunderstanding which evicted a most upright man from the temple) (64-65).
More importantly, Cervantes in the person and history of St. Anne perceives
and presents a seasonal connection between sterility and fertility. The economic
goal of La gitanilla is blessed abundance, profusion, an embarrassment
of riches. The increase it aims for will come about through a variety of
types of union, the highest being eucharistical, the miraculous and mysterious
joining of God to man. But the model for these multiple mergers is sexual,
male with female. Their intercourse is the tale's central, though hidden,
rite. It has produced the royal child whom Margaret offers in sacrifice to
the Queen of Heaven. It has produced Mary herself. But it has not produced
the Christ. Consequently, as a rite and myth of fertility, La gitanilla
must address itself to the uses of sterility in the service of plenty, to
the relationship between them. The only phenomenon that the tale rejects
entire is poetic isolation, withdrawal into self-contemplation. La
gitanilla is a symphony to every kind of congress, a holy orgy. It you
do not strive for plenty, it will drive you away from its altars.
In this light, the major issue is that of winter's service to summer. Ancient rites of union attempted to influence vegetation in two principal ways. One was to stimulate plant growth with the sympathetic magic of human sexual intercourse: For four days before they committed the seed to the earth the Pipiles of Central America kept apart from their wives in order that on the night
de Voragine, The Golden Legend (New York: Arno Press, 1969), pp.
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before planting they might indulge their passions to the fullest extent;
certain persons are even said to have been appointed to perform the sexual
act at the very moment when the first seeds were deposited in the ground.
The use of their wives at that time was indeed enjoined upon the people by
the priests as a religious duty, in default of which it was not lawful to
sow the seed.38 The second method of
magical crop increase is just the opposite of this, abstinence. Indeed, the
purpose of abstinence is already suggested in the male Pipiles' not having
sex with their wives four days before planting. They will intensify their
potential for bringing about abundance by desisting for a season. Frazer
seems rather puzzled by that application: To the student who cares
to track the devious course of the human mind in its gropings after truth,
it is of some interest to observe that the same theoretical belief in the
sympathetic influence of the sexes on vegetation, which has led some peoples
to indulge their passions as a means of fertilising the earth, has led others
to seek the same end by directly opposite means. From the moment that they
sowed the maize till the time that they reaped it, the Indians of Nicaragua
lived chastely, keeping apart from their wives and sleeping in a separate
place. They ate no salt, and drank neither cocoa nor chicha, the fermented
liquor made from maize; in short the season was for them, as the Spanish
historian observes, a time of
abstinence.39 As much as union, abstinence
is, then, in Cervantes' La gitanilla a fertilizing principle. The
result is rich: Santa tierra estéril, / que al cabo produjo
/ toda la abundancia / que sustenta el mundo (Holy barren ground which
at last brought forth that total abundance sustaining the world) (65). This
wealth is neither vegetative nor monetary but its models are. And Cervantes
understands abstinence as a season of preparation, a winter of restraint,
that will in time produce great bounty.
Tardarse, delays postponing union, thus gives the tale the narrative extent it needs in order to flower. Preciosa pledges Andrés to a trial period of two years at the conclusion of which they may, if each is satisfied with the other, marry. His time with the gypsies in penitential service to a queen in dark surroundings is accordingly a season in hell, a burial in fallow ground, a winter. It is, moreover, a winter that with difficulty grows light. Yet finally, just as Andrés and Clemente have one night transcended their gypsy prison with a poetic view of heaven where Preciosa properly reigns in perfect order and brightness, so also at the last the Corregidor descends into Andrés dungeon and opens it to a few beams: Era la estancia escura, pero
Golden Bough, p. 157.
39 Ibid., p. 159.
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hizo que por arriba abriesen una lumbrera, por donde entraba luz, aunque
muy escasa. (The place was dark but he had a skylight opened from above,
through which light came in, although very little) (130). Yet even when all
is clear, delays continue. The Corregidor is reluctant to marry his daughter
off immediately to her lover: Gocémosla algún tiempo
(Let's enjoy having her for a while) (130). In the same vein, the assistant
priest, pressed to marry the gypsy lovers, refuses to do so because the
preliminary steps have not been taken. Indeed, the Corregidor finds much
of benefit in waiting for events to unfold in the fullness and ripeness of
time se dará tiempo al tiempo. He therefore pledges
a future union between his daughter and Don Juan de Cárcamo: a
su tiempo haré que Preciosa sea vuestra legítima consorte
(At the proper time I will see to it that Preciosa become your lawful consort)
(133). But that season comes slowly on. True, the archbishop allowed the
lovers to publish only one bann. However, Preciosa's father prefers to delay
the wedding until it can take place in the presence and with the blessing
of Don Francisco de Cárcamo. So the lovers are betrothed rather than
married. Once he has received the good news, Don Juan's father takes twenty
days to get to Murcia from Madrid. La gitanilla unquestionably is
an epithalamium but there is no rush whatsoever to the altar. Abstinence
delays union so as to make the ultimate consummation all the more productive.
In truth, abstinence intrudes upon and alloys marriage for the purpose of
a Christian spiritual increase. The perfect union in this sense is Mary's
with God, spiritual intercourse with no carnal blemish. Letter humans, however,
belong to a more relaxed order that mixes spirituality with carnality, chastity
with indulgence, sterility with abundance, an accommodation that makes life
richer for the season that it is lived on earth.
And in the rhythms of the vegetative cycle as they insinuate themselves into the economics of human civilization one detects an ancient and original poetry that, adapting its circular memory to a spiralling rise, attempts to ascend from the labyrinth to a heavenly home. Preciosa's dance, at one chaste and orgiastic, sets her and her story on the path of a pilgrimage out of a fallen world, spirit lost in matter but straining for the light. This effort to emerge from prison, so Platonic, is, as it seems to me, one of the futures of European fiction. In Spain it has made the Flaubertian plunge into sense. Cervantes shows, even there, a possible route of ascent, one that is mounted at last, I believe, in some Victorian fiction which understood the struggle with matter so well. Cervantes in his fiction has indissolubly wedded the soul to matter and his successors outside of Spain have had to work out the consequences, no one more
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memorably than Henry James as interpreted by Richard Blackmur in his beautiful introduction to The Golden Bowl:
In his three novels, The Ambassadors, The Wings of the Dove, and The Golden Bowl, written one a year as he approached the age of sixty, Henry James made a spiritual trilogy which, with each succeeding volume, approached nearer and nearer the condition of poetry. This is one way of stating James' achievement as a novelist and one way of qualifying the stature of his imagination. I mean that the authority and the mystery the riches and the waste places of these novels tend increasingly to lie in the poetry of his language, but that the poetry is the poetry of the soul in action. These novels, then, constitute poetic dramas of the inner life of the soul at the height of its struggle, for good and for evil, with the outer world in which it must live and to which it must respond, the world which it must deny, or renounce, or accept. It is by such means that the soul seems, in these novels to do something to actual life and is itself changed by them through a shifting equilibrium in which a very little soul may by its spiritual intensity balance a great deal of life.40
|UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA|
40 Henry James, The Golden Bowl (New York: Grove Press, 1952), Introduction, p. v.
||Prepared with the help of Myrna Douglas||
|Fred Jehle firstname.lastname@example.org||Publications of the CSA||HCervantes|