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Cultural exchanges

Cultural exchanges between Great Britain-Ireland

and Spain during the 18th Century

Spanish and Portuguese Studies. Queen’s University Belfast

Friday 2 and Saturday 3 of May 2003

This conference, organized by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese of Queen’s University Belfast, drew attention to the productive cultural and literary exchanges between Spain on the one hand, and Britain and Ireland on the other, which took place either directly, or indirectly through France, during the century that ran from the Spanish War of Succession (1702-1714) to the beginning of the Peninsular War (1808).

Against the background of difficult but intensive political and economic relations between rival powers throughout the whole of the 18th Century, which were the result of a struggle for control of the American colonies and the new Spanish alliance with France, Spain and its enlightened minority demonstrated a growing curiosity and attraction towards British society, literature and manners. Ample evidence of this is provided by the contacts between Jorge Juan and Antonio de Ulloa and the Royal Society in the reign of Fernando VI, the influence of The Spectator and The Tatler edited by Addison and Steele on the periodical publications of the Spanish Enlightenment, curiosity about English philosophical and pre-Romantic poetry, the continued presence of the English urban environment in Spanish domestic tragedies and novels of the Enlightenment (for instance in Montengón’s El Eusebio), and the journeys around England of ilustrados such as Antonio Ponz, Leandro Fernández de Moratín and the Marqués de Ureña, among others, who have left a written record of their visits. Small wonder then that during the final decade of the century, Spain found itself torn between the extremes of anglomania and anglophobia.

From the British perspective, we need only allude to the outstanding role played by Don Quixote in the development of the 18th-Century English novel, to the contacts between British intellectuals and the Spanish institutions of the Enlightenment (as in the case of the Scottish historian Robertson and the Academia de la Historia), to the activities in travel and literature of those curiosos impertinentes who would eventually make Spain fashionable (one could cite among the most outstanding at the end of the century William Beckford, Robert Southey, and Lord and Lady Holland), and to the growing interest of British connoisseurs and collectors for Spanish art.

          On the other  hand, one of the richest sources for Spanish historical research in recent years, has been the study of the active participation of foreigners in the political, military, cultural and economic life of 18th-century Spain. Spain is rediscovering the important role played in its Enlightenment by Irish men and women who were naturalized Spaniards, as indicated by the impact of names like Bernardo Ward, Guillermo Bowles, Félix O’Neille, María Gertrudis Hore, and José Blanco White, among others.

This conference on Cultural exchanges between Great Britain-Ireland and Spain during the 18th Century, organized by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese of Queen’s University Belfast, and coordinated by  Dr. Gabriel Sánchez Espinosa, was sponsored by the Cervantes Institute (Manchester) and the Consejería Cultural of the Spanish Embassy in London.

Summary of the papers

Dr Philip Deacon (University of Sheffield): The Fortunes of Jonathan Swift in Spain: Notes on Eighteenth-Century Cultural History.

Swift was known in eighteenth-century Spain through translations of Gulliver's Travels, A Tale of a Tub and some of his journalism. The paper will examine what happened in each of these cases in order to throw light on literary culture in Spain, focusing on translation, civil and Inquisitorial censorship, and the functioning of the essay press as a means of enlightenment.  

Mr. John McBride (School of English. QUB) : Don Manuel's Travels: Narratives of Cultural Exchange in Robert Southey's Letters from England (1807).

Recent reassessments of Robert Southey's career have done much to reinstate him as a figure central to British culture in the romantic period. However, relatively little attention has been paid to Southey's hispanophilism, an interest that began with his first journey through the Peninsula in 1795, and which lasted to the end of his career as a writer in the 1830s. This paper will begin by introducing the idea of Southey as hispanophile (mentioning key texts and events) before exploring one of Southey's most intriguing works on the Spanish theme, Letters from England: By Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807).

Professor Nigel Glendinning (Queen Mary and Westfield College, London): Visual Images of the Irish in Spain in the 18TH and Early 19TH Centuries.

The paper analyses and comments on a selection of portraits painted of people of Irish descent living in Spain in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Many of these images show individuals who are well integrated into Spanish society, wearing official uniforms or sporting decorations and orders given them by the Spanish crown. But some images made of,  or specifically for, such Irish persons, rather concentrate on their individual interests or reflect their personalities and characters. These different kinds of visual image are hardly surprising in paintings made of, or for, exiles: needing, on the one hand, to be accepted by the country in which they had settled, but, on the other, requiring to preserve their own identity.

Dr Patricia O Connell (NUI Galway): The Irish Colleges in 18th-century Spain. A bird’s eye view.

This paper gives a resumé of the founding of the six Irish Colleges in Lisbon, Salamanca, Santiago de Compostela, Seville, Madrid and Alcalá de Henares and traces their brief existence and final closure. It touches on their colourful history in the 18th Century.

Dr Gabriel Sánchez Espinosa (Spanish and Portuguese Studies, QUB): The work of the Irish naturalist Guillermo Bowles and the editorial policy of the Spanish enlightened government.

This paper will present the figure of the Irishman William Bowles (Cork, ca. 1714-Madrid, 1780), who lived in Spain from the early 1750s., where he was in charge of the mining prospecting in the country. Bowles published in Spanish in 1775 an Introduction to the Natural History and Physical Geography of Spain, reprinted in 1782, that is a result of his Spanish journeys and commissions. The importance of Bowles’ book lies in it being the first modern Spanish work to dedicate all its attention to the non-urbanised landscape of Spain.

Ms. Fiona Clark (Spanish and Portuguese Studies, QUB): The plurality of the Spanish-American identity as portrayed by José Antonio Alzate y Ramírez in the Gazeta de Literatura de México, 1788-1795

This paper will offer a reading of the Gazeta de Literatura de México (1788–1795) that shows how a literary periodical was used as a vehicle to encourage public debate on certain European perceptions of Spanish America and its inhabitants. Its editor José Antonio Alzate y Ramírez was concerned not only with the education of his fellow Mexicans but also with providing a defence of the Americas in light of the misinformation published in the Europe. I hope to be able to demonstrate the delicate balance between the opposition to, and correction of, this misinformation and the adoption and adaptation of valuable information also generated by European sources.