MARGARET TYLER, “M.T. TO THE READER” (1578)

The first part of the Mirrour of princely deedes and knighthood Wherin is shewed the worthinesse of the Knight of the Sunne, and his brother Rosicleer, sonnes to the great Emperour Trebatio, with the straunge loue of the beautifull Princesse Briana, and the valiaunt actes of other noble princes and knights. Now newly translated out of Spanish into our vulgar English tongue, by M.T.

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Note sur le texte

Trois exemplaires sont consultables à partir de la base de données EEBO. Un exemplaire de l’édition princeps de 1578 (STC 2e édition n° 18859), un exemplaire de 1580 (STC 2e édition n° 18860) et un dernier exemplaire datant de 1599 (STC 2e édition n° 18861), tous trois imprimés à Londres par Thomas East, et conservés aujourd’hui à la Huntington Library.  Le texte présenté ici se fonde sur  l’édition de 1580, plus complète que la précédente.

Le texte anglais est retranscrit dans son orthographe d’époque. L’usage des u et v, I et j, ainsi que celui des s longs a néanmoins été normalisé, et les abréviations ont été systématiquement développées.

Not much is known about Margaret Tyler’s life. She is mainly remembered today as the first English woman who translated a work of prose fiction and who, in a rather long preface, defended the place of women in literature and not just in devotional works, often seen as a refuge by female translators in quest of respectability in spite of their transgressive involvement in the predominantly masculine world of Renaissance letters. Of humble origins but nonetheless literate, Margaret Tyler probably mixed in her youth with the rising Elizabethan middle class, and her intimate knowledge of the Spanish tongue indicates that she must have been familiar with the world of the English merchants who traded with Spain out of necessity. Because Tyler is bold enough to translate work coming from Spain and imbued with Catholicism, and because she dares to address the issue of courtly love, her preface has often been regarded as a feminist manifesto. The preface to The first part of the Mirrour of princely deedes and knighthood can be regarded a subtle rhetorical exercise testifying to the cleverness of a translator who wanted to subvert the conventions of her time, and also perhaps to her personal desire to defend her work while trying to protect herself behind the alleged responsibility of those who read and supervised her translation.

Preface

M T. to the Reader.

 

Thou hast heere, gentle Reader, the historie of Trebatio an Emperour in Greece: whether a true storie of him in deed, or a fained[1] fable, I wot not, neither dyd I greatlye seeke after it in the translation, but by me it is done into English for thy profit and delight[2]. The chiefe matter therein conteined, is of exployts of warres, and the parties therein named, are especially renowmed for their maganimitie and courage. The authors purpose appeareth to be this, to animate[3] thereby, and to set on fire the lustie courages of young Gentlemen, to the advauncement of their line, by ensuing such like steps. The first tongue wherein it was penned was the Spanish, in which nation by common report, the inheritaunce of all worldy commendation[4] hath to this day rested. The whole discourse in respect of the ende not unnecessary: for the varietie and continuall shifte of fresh matter, verie delightfull: in the speaches short and sweete, wise in sentence, and warie in the provision of contrarie accidents. For I take the grace thereof to be rather in the reporters device, then in the truth of this report, as I wold that I could so well impart with thee that delight, which my selfe findeth in reading the Spanish: but seldome is the tale carried cleane from anothers mouth. Such deliverie as I have made I hope thou wilt friendly accept, the rather for that it is a womans worke, though in a storye prophane, and a matter more manlike then becommeth my sexe. But as for the manlinesse of the matter, thou knowest that it is not necessarie for every trumpetter or drumslare in the warre to be a good fighter[5]. They take wages onely to incite others, though themselves have privie maymes, and are therby recurelesse[6]. So gentle Reader if my travell in Englishing this Authour, may bring thee to a liking of the vertues heerein commended, and by example thereof in thy Princes and Countries quarrell to hazard thy person, and purchase good name, as for hope of well deserving my selfe that way, I neither bend my selfe thereto, nor yet feare the speach of people if I be found backward, I trust every man holdes not the plough, which would the ground were tilled, and it is no sinne to talke of Robinhood though you never shot in his bowe: Or be that the attempt were bolde to intermeddle in armes, so as the auncient Amazons did, and in this storie Claridiana doth, and in other stories not a few, yet to report of armes is not so odious, but that it may be borne withall, not onely in you men which your selves are fighters, but in us women, to whome the benefit in equall part apperteineth of your victories, either for that the matter is so commendable that it carryeth no discredit from the homelynesse of the speaker[7], or for that it is so generally knowen, that it fitteth everie man to speake thereof, or for that it jumpeth[8] with this common feare on all parts of warre and invasion. The invention, disposicion, trimming, and what else in this storie, is wholy an other mans, my part none therein but the translation, as it were onely in giving entertainment to a straunger, before this time unacquainted with our countrie guise[9]. Marie the worst perhaps is this, that amonge so many straungers as dayly come over, some more auncient, and some but new set forth, some penning matters of great weight and sadnesse[10] in divinitie, or other studies, the profession wherof more neerely beseemeth my yeres, other some discoursing of matters more easie and ordinary in common talke, wherein a Gentlewoman may honestly employ her travaile[11]. I have notwithstanding made countenance onely to this gentleman, whom neither his personage might sufficiently commend it selfe unto my sexe, nor his behaviour (being light and soldier like) might in good order acquaint it selfe with my yeares. So the question now ariseth of my choice, not of my labour, wherefore I preferred this storie before matter of more importance. For answere whereto gentle reader, the truth is, that as the first motion to this kind of labour came not from my selfe, so was this peece of worke put upon me by others, and they which first counsailed me to fall to worke, tooke upon them also to bee my taskemasters and overseers, least I should be idle, and yet because the refusall was in my power, I must stand to answere for my easie yeelding, and may not be unprovided of excuse, wherin if I should alledge for my selfe, that matters of lesse worthinesse by as aged yeares have bene taken in hande, and that dayly new devises are published, in songs, sonets, enterludes, and other discourses, and yet are borne out without reproch, onely to please the humour[12] of some men: I think I should make no good plea therin, for besides that I should finde therby so many knowen enimies, as knowen men have bene authors of such idle conceits, yet woulde my other adversaries be never the rather quieted: For they would say, that as well the one as the other were all naught, and though peradventure I might passe unknowen amongst a multitude, and not be the onely gaze or odde partie in my ill doing, yet because there is lesse merit of pardon if the fault be excused as comon, I will not make that my defence which cannot helpe me, and doth hinder other men. But my defence is by example of the best, amongst which, many have dedicated their labours, some stories, some of warre, some Phisicke[13], some Lawe, some as concerning government, some divine matters, unto diverse Ladyes and Gentlewoman. And if men may and do bestow such of their travailes upon Gentlewomen, then may we women read such of their workes as they dedicate unto us, and if wee may read them, why not farther wade in them to the search of a truth. And then much more why not deale by translation in such arguments, especially this kinde of exercise, beeing a matter of more heede then of deepe invention or exquisite learning, and they must needes leave this as confessed, that in their dedications, they minde not only to borrowe names of worthie personages, but the testimonies also for their further credite, which neither the one may demaund without ambition, nor the other graunt with out overlightnesse: if women be excluded from the viewe of such workes, as appeare in their name, or if glory onely be sought in our common inscriptions[14], it mattereth not whether the partyes be men or women, whether alive or dead. But to returne whatsomever the truth is, whether that women may not at all discourse in learning, for men laie in their claime to be sole possessioners of knowledge, or whether they may in some manner, that is by limitation or appointment in some kinde of learning, my perswasion hath bene thus, that it is all one for a woman to pen a story, as for a man to addresse his storie to a woman. But amongst all my ill willers, some I hope are not so straight that they would enforce me necessarily either not to write or to write of divinitie[15]. Wheras neither durst I trust mine owne judgment sufficiently, if matter of controversie were handled, nor yet could I finde any booke in the tongue, which would not breed offence to some, but I perceive some may be rather angrie to see their Spanish delight tourned to an English pastime: they could well allow the storie in Spanish, but they may not afford it so cheape, or they woulde have it proper to themselves[16]. What natures such men bee of, I list not greatly dispute, but my meaning hath bene to make other partners of my liking, as I doubt not gentle Reader, but if it shall please thee after serious matters to sport thy selfe with this Spaniard, that thou shalt finde in him the just reward of mallice and cowardise, with the good speede[17] of honestie and courage, beeing able to furnish thee with sufficient store of forreine example to both purposes[18]. And as in such matters which have bene rather devised to beguile time, then to breede matter of sad learning, he hath ever borne away the price[19], which could season such delights with some profitable reading: so shalt thou have this stranger an honest man when need serveth, and at other times, either a good companion to drive out a wearie night, or a merrie jest at thy boord. And thus much concerning this present storie, that it is neither unseemely for a woman to deale in, neither greatly requiring a lesse staied age then mine is. But of these two poynts gentle Reader I thought to give thee warning, least perhaps understanding of my name and yeares, thou mightest be carried into a wrong suspect of my boldnesse and rashnesse, from which I wold gladly free my selfe by this plaine excuse, and if I may deserve thy good favour by lyke labour, when the choyce is mine owne, I will have a speciall regard of thy liking[20].  So I wish thee well.

 

Thine to use, M. T.

 

 

[1] OED: “Fain”, Obs. 1. a. intr. To be delighted or glad, rejoice. Const. of (earlier gen.), on, in; with to and inf. also, to desire, wish.

[2] Margin note : The commendation of the storie.

[3] OED: “Animate”, I. To give spirit, inspiration, or impulse. 1. a. trans. To fill with boldness, courage, spirit; to encourage. Now rare.

[4] OED: “Commendation”, I. General sense: The action of commending. 2. c. pl. = Renown, credit, repute. Obs.

[5] Margin note : That a woman maye write of warre.

[6] OED: “Recureless”, Obs. Without hope of recovery or amendment; incurable, irremediable; irretrievable.

[7] OED: “Homely”, 2.a. a. Characteristic or suggestive of a home (esp. a modest one) or of domestic life; ordinary, everyday; simple, plain, unsophisticated; rough, rustic.

[8] OED: “Jump”, 5.a. To act or come exactly together; to agree completely, to coincide, tally. Const. with.

[9] OED: “Guise”, †1.a. Manner, method, way; fashion, style. Rarely pl. Obs.

[10] OED: “Sad”, 3.†c. Of thought, consideration, etc.: mature, serious, grave, considered. Obs

[11] Margin note: That a woman of your yeres maye write in this argument.

[12] OED: “Humour”, 5. †b. Mood natural to one’s temperament; habitual frame of mind. Obs.

[13] OED: “Physic”, 3.†c. Physicians collectively; the medical profession personified. Obs.

[14] OED: “Inscription,” 3.b. A brief dedication of a book or work of art to a person […].

[15] Margin note: That you may not write of divinitie.

[16] Margin note: That you meant to make a common benefit of your paines.

[17] OED: “Speed”, 3.b. With adjs., as good, evil, etc.: Success, fortune, lot.

[18] Margin note: The use and profit of this Spanish translation.

[19] OED: “Price”, †I. Praise, honour. 1. a. An expression of commendation, esteem, or honour; praise. Obs.

[20] Margin note : The conclusion.


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