From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
16.1 (1996): 12-31.
Copyright © 1996, The Cervantes Society of America
|en su biblioteca,|
|je ne cherche aux livres qu'à m'y donner du plaisir par un honneste amusement; [. . .].|
Michel de Montaigne
|Porque, ¿qué otra cosa son los libros de amores y las Dianas y Boscanes y Garcilasos, y los monstruosos libros y silvas de fabulosos cuentos y mentiras de los Amadises, Floriseles, y Don Beleanís, y una flota de semejantes portentos, como hay escritos, puestos en manos de pocos años, sino cuchillo en poder del hombre furioso?|
Pedro Malón de Chaide
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ichel de Montaigne wrote of his library, C'est là mon siège. J'essaie à m'en rendre la domination pure et à soustraire ce seul coin à la communauté et conjugale, et filiale, et civile (Chartier 127). There, in the solitary meeting place not just of pleasure but of knowledge and power, the great lord was alone with his books and free of the demands placed upon him by society, both domestic and civil. Montaigne's library, though secluded, is not a particularly large room or in any way an imposing one, and is at a great remove from the appetite for the gigantic and the spectacular characteristic of French high culture, particularly that of the court, in a succeeding age. The room itself does not at all seem to have been created with the forethought that Gabriel Naudé recommends in the Advis pour dresser une bibliothèque. Naudé devotes Chapter VI of his treatise, published in 1627, to the important topic of choosing a room for one's books, La disposition du lieu où on les doit garder, and begins it with a justification of the chapter's brevity. It should, he allows, be as long as the preceding ones but constraints on putting its precepts into practice make brevity the most reasonable course. He writes,
Mais d'autant qu'il n'appartien qu'à ceux-là qui veulent bastir des lieux exprès pour cet effet d'y obseruer precisément toutes les regles & circonstances qui dependent de l'Architecture, beaucoup de particuliers estans contraints de se regler sur la diuerse façon de leurs logemens pour placer leurs Bibliotheques au moins mal qu'il leur est possible, il sembleroit quasi superflu d'en prescrire aucuns [. . .] (Naudé 91-92).
Naudé recognized that the ideal room for a library was not always
in consonance with the vagaries of domestic architecture, and we could take
Montaigne's as a case in point. It seems a relatively modest thing, a place
conforming more to the disposition of his house and his need for solitude
than to the rules of architecture as they were set down by Vitruvius and
his Renaissance commentators. Nonetheless, with its passages from Latin and
Greek authors inscribed on the crossbeams, it was the textualized space where
he could be at one with the self that he had constructed.
In this the French nobleman and essayist bears a certain similitude to his fictional near-contemporary, the Castilian hidalgo who, alone in a room set aside exclusively for his books, fashioned an identity made of their spirit and matter. Here, however, the similarity ends, for Montaigne was the greatest French writer of his time and Don Quixote was a madman the nature of whose madness is
inseparable from his library, that is, both the books and the place where
they were housed. That place, the room where the hidalgo kept his books and
shut himself in to read them, requires some examination for it is of itself
unusual. In the Castile of 1600, petty rural hidalgos of scant resources
owned few books, especially of the kind that Don Quixote favored, (Chevalier
24-29; Bennassar 519) and thus had no need of a special room in which to
display and, should the occasion arise, to read them. The character who in
Cervantes' tale of madness is about to reinvent himself as a knight errant
owns a very great many books for a man of his time, place and station, and
has set aside a room solely for his delectation of them. It is, as is
Montaigne's, his siège, the redoubt where he goes to be alone
and free of obligations, the place where literally he shuts the door on the
The hidalgo's library is the site of a breach in an otherwise harmonious, albeit modest, domestic order. His life prior to the onset of madness, the moment when, filled with chivalric fantasies, his brain dries up and he takes leave of his sanity, occupies three short paragraphs in a work, according to the Tasa, of seventy three pliegos (1, 27). Yet despite their brevity and apparent triviality, their interest in enumerating the seemingly insignificant, the minutia of everyday life, those lines command our attention, for they tell us in some detail of the hidalgo's meagre expenditures on food and clothing, which consume the entirety of his income:
Una olla de algo más vaca que carnero, salpicón las más noches, duelos y quebrantos los sábados, lantejas los viernes, algún palomino de añadidura los domingos, consumían las tres partes de su hacienda. El resto della concluían sayo de velarte, calzas de velludo para las fiestas, con sus pantuflos de to mesmo, y los días de entresemana se honraba con su vellorí de lo más fino (I, 1, 69-71).
This is a life rooted firmly and deeply and to all appearances unchangingly
in the quotidian. It is governed by the immediacy of daily life and, within
the framework of that immediacy, the profane. A single detail may suffice
to illustrate the latter point. In his library of more than three hundred
volumes, devotional works, the one category of books universally present
in early modern Castilian book lists, are entirely absent. In sum, the hidalgo's
life is parsimonious and uneventful, defined by the one-dimensional facticity
of the present, and provides the fabulist with no material, no story to
Here a caveat is in order: we should not misconstrue the hidalgo's poverty. Plainly he is near, although not quite at, the Spanish
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nobility's lower reaches. Infinitely removed from the titled aristocracy's wealth and power, he also stands in contrast to comfortable hidalgos like Don Quixote's own character, Don Diego de Miranda, who we are told is un caballero labrador y rico (II, 18, 169), and to wealthy farmers such as Dorotea, who describes herself and her family as commoners whose riqueza y magnífico trato les va poco a poco adquiriendo nombre de hidalgos, y aun de caballeros [. . .] (I, 28, 348).1 Her account of her work, indeed the very fact of her work, which occupies nearly all her time, is revealing, for it is she who had managed her father's large and prosperous estate until her disgrace at Don Fernando's hand:
[P]or mí se recebían y despedían los criados; la razón y cuenta de lo que se sembraba y cogía pasaba por mi mano; los molinos de aceite, los lagares del vino, el número del ganado mayor y menor, el de las colmenas. Finalmente, de todo aquello que un tan rico labrador como mi padre puede tener y tiene, tenía yo la cuenta, y era la mayordoma y señora, con tanta solicitud mía y con tanto gusto suyo, que buenamente no acertaré a encarecerlo. Los ratos que del día me quedaban, después de haber dado lo que convenía a los mayorales, a capataces y a otros jornaleros, los entretenía en ejercicios que son a las doncellas tan lícitos como necesarios, . . . (I, 28, 348-9).
The contrast between wealthy, hard-working commoners with a large, varied and productive agricultural enterprise employing numerous laborers and a houseful of servants on the one hand, and on the other a straitened hidalgo, is very striking. Don Quijote's estate has no oil or wine presses, no cattle or sheep, no beehives, nothing at all beyond wheatlands which cannot have been very productive because there were no mayorales, no capataces and, of course, no one to work them. The household is constituted solely by his housekeeper and his niece. There is, in addition, a single all-purpose laborer, the mozo de campo y plaza who is mentioned at the outset of the book and never reappears. Nor is there any need for him to do so once the hidalgo's daily routine is shattered by his demented pursuit of knight errantry, for the fields and very nearly all other saleable possessions have been sold off Don Quixote himself tells Don Diego de Miranda that empeñé mi hacienda (II, 16, 151) and there is no longer anything to bring to market, if ever, as seems unlikely, there was very much. Finally, to complete the picture of the
the distinction between hidalgos and caballeros, see El mundo social del
household, we may add a hunting dog and a horse who will be named when his
master acquires an identity.
Yet no matter how dramatic the difference between some of the more prosperous characters, both aristocratic and common, and the petty nobleman who becomes Don Quijote, the latter is not exactly poor, at least not in the way that ordinarily we understand the word. He does not live uncomfortably and wants for nothing. (Indeed, this is the very essence of his life prior to devouring and, in turn, being devoured by books: he is unmoved by desire.) He owns an estate that, if we go beyond the immediate reproduction of the household's material conditions of existence, does not produce a surplus. Consequently, there is no money and he stands at the margins, if not entirely outside, an economy of exchange mediated by coin. But rather than poor in a sense that is meaningful to a world like ours in which very nearly everything has been commodified, he simply does not have any money. And in a pre- or even proto-capitalist rural economy, that is not necessarily the same thing as poverty. It is rather that, as both Noël Salomon (302-3) and Pierre Vilar (46-59) have argued, he belongs to a dying, although in his case still propertied, stratum of the lesser Castilian nobility in the historically ambiguous circumstance of slowly but very surely disappearing as a class fraction.
Indeed, Cervantes' fable of madness can be read, at one level, as an allegory of that disappearance. Its protagonist lives in a very nearly self-sustaining, although only barely self-sustaining, agricultural economy, something very much like the so-called natural economies characteristic of European feudalism but common enough in a variety of pre-capitalist economic formations. Natural economies stood entirely or almost entirely outside the networks of even simple commodity production and exchange and, in the context of European feudalism, produced a surplus sufficient only for the reproduction, that is the physical survival, of the immediate household. This is the context of Don Quixote's poverty, which is of a kind not uncommon in both the Middle Ages and early modernity, where labor power is not yet fully commodified and money does not yet function as a generalized mediation of social relations. Consequently, rather than poor in an absolute sense and in early modern Castile many hidalgos were literally destitute Cervantes' character is relatively poor and in a very particular way: he is both moneyless and propertied.
He is also immensely leisured, although not in the sense that we associate with the nobility's sumptuary expenditures. Before the onset of madness, our hidalgo administers his property and, since there
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seems rather little requiring his attention, he has a very great deal of time on his hands, which he spends hunting. We learn of this in the negative, so to speak, when he has begun to abandon those pursuits, the normal occupations of a man like Quixada/Quesada/Quijana / Quexana:
Es, pues, de saber, que este sobredicho hidalgo, los ratos que estaba ocioso que eran los más del año, se daba a leer libros de caballerías con tanta afición y gusto, que olvidó casi de todo punto el ejercicio de la caza, y aun la administración de su hacienda; [. . .] (I, 1, 71).
We should take note of the fact that in this scheme of things, hunting does
not exactly come under the heading of leisure, and so does not correspond
to the time when the hidalgo is ocioso. Rather, it is an
ejercicio and Cervantes very clearly counterposes that activity to
otium or non-activity. Thus, hunting must be included in the time taken up
by occupations of one kind or another. In the hidalgo's daily life,
ocio is filled entirely by books, and only books of a certain kind.
At this point, the narration essays a spatial movement away from both the work and leisure of the external world the administration of property; the hunt. The text turns inward, gravitating toward the domestic interior and settling momentarily in a single space which previously did not exist and has now to be created: the library, a room where there is nothing but books. Cervantes, however, takes that movement one final and utterly decisive step further. The narrowing of the space in which the hidalgo exists leads to an increasingly enclosed existence which has as its terminus ad quem the printed page. At this point the time and space of the opening pages an unspecified town of La Mancha, the hidalgo's estate and household; the repetitive time of village life are effaced, at least for the protagonist. Henceforth, the hidalgo, transformed into Don Quixote, lives in the space of print and the time of reading.
In Don Quixote, work and other occupations, and leisure, are important not just thematically but because they constitute the structures within which the characters, the fictitious lectores in fabula, read. The characters in Cervantes' tale who read do so within a framework created by the exigencies of everyday life, society's demands upon them and, of course, their occupations. This is true of characters belonging to very diverse strata of society: Dorotea, Juan Palomeque, his family and his servant, Maritornes, the harvesters, the priest and the barber, the Canon of Toledo, Don Diego de Miranda, and, of course, Don Quixote himself. That framework is
twofold in nature: it is both social and discursive. Social, because the
desocupado lector, the idle reader whom the author of the 1605
prologue addresses, is only temporarily idle. As Mario Socrate observes of
the modifier desocupado, l'epiteto ritaglia un tipo di
lettore da una zona di ozio e di casualità; (90) he or
she is the sort of reader that Juan de Zabaleta writes about in the
chapter of the Día de fiesta por la mañana y por la tarde
devoted to books (205-216). The readers in Don Quixote momentarily
put aside their work, their cares, the obligations attendant upon rank, in
a word their occupations, and, temporarily unoccupied, read for recreation.
In sum, they conform to one of the definitions of entretenimiento
that Covarrubias gives in the Tesoro de la lengua castellana:
qualquier cosa que divierta o entretenga al hombre, como el juego o
la conversación o la lección.
What they read are, virtually by definition, libros de entretenimiento, recreational books. But recreational books come in a great variety of shapes and sizes and their contents vary considerably. At the conclusion of the chapter on books in his Día de fiesta por la mañana y por la tarde and on the mostly frivolous uses to which he believes recreational reading is put, Zabaleta contrasts this reality with a desideratum. One of his readers wanders about in his well-stocked and prominently displayed but largely unused library:
Cansado al fin de estar en pie tanto tiempo, toma un libro pequeño y se sienta junto a una ventana. Es el libro la vida de Estebanillo González, un mozo de hato de la comedia. ¿Para leer en éste compra vuestra merced tantos libros? ¿No está por ahí La ciudad de Dios de San Agustín? Allí está. En tarde tan sagrada, bueno será ser pasajero de ciudad tan divina (215).
Whether sacred or profane, what recreational books have in common is a function,
literally to re-create, to furnish the mind and the body with the repose
that will allow readers to return to their habitual tasks. And it is not
entirely clear that in a confrontation between Estebanillo and Augustine,
the former was a hands-down choice. Keith Whinnom has called attention to
the preponderance of devotional reading in early modern Spain and, in any
event, it is not necessarily the case that early modern readers, as distinct
from more or less professional moralists, antinomialized the
pícaro and the saint.
In Don Quixote, Dorotea presents herself as a paragon of virtue whose recreational reading is comprised exclusively of devotional works.
Los ratos que del día me quedaban, después de haber dado lo que convenía a los mayorales, a capataces y a otros jornaleros, los entretenía
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en ejercicios que son a las doncellas tan lícitos como necesarios, como son los que ofrece la aguja y la almohadilla, y la rueca muchas veces; y si alguna, por recrear el ánimo, estos ejercicios dejaba, me acogía al entretenimiento de leer algún libro devoto, o a tocar una arpa, [. . .] (I, 28, 348-9).
In this regard she is unlike most of the characters in Don Quixote,
whose reading is overwhelmingly and admittedly profane, with a distinct
preference for the fabulous. And we might underline the word
admittedly, because the facility with which Dorotea assumes her
role as Princesa Micomicona and weaves a tale of necromancy and adventure
(I, 30, 373-374) suggests that she very well might have had some familiarity
with romance. In every instance, however, including that of Dorotea, worldly
occupations frame or enclose recreation reading, no matter what the precise
nature of that reading may be. We should note, however, that in Dorotea's
case, work, the management of her father's estate, is not only the frame
of recreational reading. It also forms part of a tradition going back to
the ancient world in which the free time of women is simultaneously
a kind of productive labor associated with domesticity (in Spain the housewife's
traditional profession of sus labores), in this instance sewing,
embroidery and weaving. Consequently, Dorotea is exceptional on both accounts.
Her recreational reading, at least the kind to which she is willing to admit,
is devotional, and work both frames her leisure and, in the purely domestic
sphere, fills most of her otherwise unoccupied time.
Discourse is supposed to provide the second frame, or so the humanists and moralists of the time believed. Early modern humanists conceived of recreational reading as surcease not only from more ordinary kinds of work but also from occupations which required constant traffic with books: law, medicine, theology, historical and philological studies, etc. Consequently, recreational books had a rightful place, although not necessarily a prominent one, in the libraries of learned men. We may take Francisco de Araoz's De bene disponenda bibliotheca, published in 1631, as a representative example of the status of recreational reading in the context of a real and ideal library.
Like his French contemporary Naudé's Advis, Araoz's De bene disponenda bibliotheca is a treatise on how to organize a library. The library in question is both real and ideal. On the one hand, it was intended as an ideal model, a broad and harmonious picture of Christian and humanistic learning. But on the other, it was based on the perfectly real collection of perhaps the greatest Spanish
bibliophile of the first half of the seventeenth century, Lorenzo Ramírez
de Prado (Entrambasaguas I, vii-xxxv; Rodríguez Moñino 13-20;
Sánchez Mariana 50-51).2 The treatise
is divided into fifteen chapters or praedicamenta. These include a
chapter on grammars and dictionaries, one on rhetoric, both theoretical and
practical, as well as a chapter on profane history, both true and fabulous,
and another on profane poetry, including dramatic poetry. As regards the
last two categories, profane history and poetry, there are other
praedicamenta in which their sacred analogues find their rightful
place. Araoz's well-furnished and properly organized library has a chapter
on geometers, musicians, mathematicians, and astrologers. And, there is still
another on natural philosophy what we would call natural science
agriculture and medicine. In addition, he has a chapter on moral philosophy
and another on politics and the law, and a separate one on Church law, another
on Church history, still another which includes scholastic theology, and
What Araoz's ideal library does not have, of course, is a section on literature, because in the discursive taxonomies of early modern Europe there is no such thing, or rather, literature denotes all the disciplines that we associate with Renaissance humanism. Thus, by way of an example, when Erasmus of Rotterdam writes that wherever Lutherism is dominant the study of literature is extinguished, he does not at all give an aestheticizing or belletristic twist to his word (Huizinga 178). He means that Luther's doctrines are inimical to the entire range of humane letters, in sum, that they are uncivil. Literature, then, has very different meanings for early modern Europeans on both sides of the religious divide than it does for us, for, as Claudio Guillén has remarked on the meaning that we today assign to the word literature,
2 The title page of the treatise, which was dedicated to Ramírez de Prado, is as follows:
DE BENE | DISPONENDA | BIBLIOTHECA,
AD MELIOREM COGNITIO- | nem loci & materiae, qualitatisque | Librorum, Litteratis perutile | OPVSCVLVM, |
AVCTORE D. FRANCISCO | de Araoz, Regalis Audientiae Hispa- | lensis Executore maximo, |
D.D. LAVRENTIO RAMIREZ | de Prado, Consiliario, Legatoq; Regis | Hispaniarum, Vtriusque Iuris, aliarum; | Bonarum Litterarum Peritissimo | Dicatvm. | CVM LICENTIA, | Matriti, Ex Officina Frãcisci Martinez | Anno clc lcc xxxi.
Ramírez de Prado's library contained a great number of prohibited
books (Entrambasaguas xxv-xxvi), which, not surprisingly, fail to make an
appearance in De bene disponenda bibliotheca.
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Sólo a mediados del XVIII (Lessing, Briefe, die neuste Literatur betreffend 1759-1765; Tiraboschi, Storia della letteratura italiana desde 1772) y principios del XIX (Mme. de Staël, De la Littérature, 1800) se impondrán las principales acepciones modernas: literatura como conjunto de obras literarias; o como arte literario (244).
What, then, does Araoz do with the kinds of writing that for no more than
the last two centuries we have classified as literary? His chief concern
in this regard is poetry and his most important generic distinction is between
the sacred and the profane. Thus, profane poetry of every kind and dramatic
verse are to be found in the fifth praedicamentum, while the fifteenth
and last praedicamentum brings together books on the Mass, sacerdotal
duties, rites, etc., as well as a section de poetis spiritualibus.
However, the pages of De bene disponenda bibliotheca that most concern us are those of the Quartum Praedicamentum, the chapter devoted to profane historians, De Historicis profanis veris & fabulosis. It is here, in the four pages on fabulous historians as distinct from true ones, that we encounter works for the sorts of idle readers invoked in the 1605 prologue of Don Quixote. In this chapter, as in every one, Araoz provides a short list of works by way of illustration. The list of fabulous histories is as follows:
Adolescentula illa, vel (ut fabulatur) Dea a qua dies nomen accepit, quae de amore diserte sermocinatur.
Scelesta Senex, illustrisque lena Salmanticae orta.
Puerulus Lazarus à flumine dictae civitatis de Tormes appellatus.
Vita Marci Obregon cuiusdam dominae famuli à comitatu.
Novellae Cervantes, & ille cui ipse nomen dedit non dissimile Hispanico mandibuli, qui comite Sanctio Equitis ambulantis professione arduis & fortuitis se eventibus exposuit.
Floresta Hispana, & alii multi (Fol. 9).
It is in these pages alone that the author eschews precise references to particular authors and titles. Elsewhere, for example in the early part of the chapter, in the pages devoted to historici veri, he provides rather precise references to authors and titles, albeit in Latin translation. For example, in a subheading of the section on true historians which bears the title De regnis in particulari, he refers to Mariana's Historia general de España and Zurita's Anales de la corona de Aragón in the following way: Ioannes de Mariana de Hispano, and Didacus (sic) de Zurita de Regno Aragonio. When it comes to the fabulosi, however, he employs language that in nearly every instance is
allusive and, as in the first title's play on día and
Diana, ludic and conceptista. No doubt he feels that he can
allow himself a moment of playfulness because here he is alluding to books
that contain no lasting truth, unlike works on scholastic theology, canon
law and Zurita's annals of the kingdom of Aragon. Still, it is not terribly
difficult for a reader conversant in early modern Spanish letters to discern
in his list of fabulous histories references to Montemayor's
Diana, the Celestina, Lazarillo de Tormes, Espinel's Marcos
de Obregón, as well as Cervantes' Novelas ejemplares and
Don Quixote. Less familiar today is the last title in this list, a
volume compiled by Melchor de Santa Cruz de Dueñas, the Floresta
española de apothegmas o sentencias, sabia y graciosamente dichas,
published in Toledo by Francisco de Guzmán in 1574. There were numerous
printings of this work from the princeps to 1716, along with a
continuation by Francisco Asensio, first published in
1728.3 The Floresta interests us because
it was a miscellaneous collection, in this case of apothegms, a genre much
favored by Spanish Erasmists and used to great effect by Cervantes in El
Licenciado Vidriera. Miscellanies of every kind, especially collections
of jokes, witticisms, apothegms, etc, and potpourris such as the
Silva de varia lección, Pero Mexía's hugely popular
compilation of prêt-à-porter humanism first printed in
Seville in 1540, were a key category of entertaining books.
Miscellanies were not, however, the most important category. That honor was reserved for the remaining books by fabulous historians on Araoz's list. Today we would say that these are works of narrative fiction, although the Celestina would give us pause because it does not fit comfortably into the generic pigeonholes that have constituted the foundation of our idea of literature since the mid-nineteenth century. It is that discomfort which should cause us to meditate on the usefulness of applying our genre systems retroactively to a historical reality in which they did not and could not exist. In the period when Cervantes wrote his novels and Araoz his prescriptions for the well-furnished library, the novel as a genre did not exist(Blasco 44-45). There was no single and broadly agreed upon category in the taxonomies of the time, no unified discursive field that could encompass, in addition to the works in Araoz's list,
#297920 to #297936. The most recent listing of Asensio's continuation is
from 1957, and it gives several editions of what it terms imitations. In
addition, it provides references to translations in English, French, Italian
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the Amadís, La lozana andaluza, Diana enamorada,
the Persiles, Los cigarrales de Toledo, etc. To make the same
point in another way, Cervantes' own prose fiction the Galatea,
Don Quixote, the Novelas ejemplares, and the
Persiles belonged to four distinct classes of books at the time
Cervantes wrote them. There was no genre for these books, and Araoz's
fabulous histories are not so much a genre as the improvised
recognition that these kinds of books were not readily categorizable. What
Araoz has done, simply, is to invent a subset within the classification that
could be found in early modern Aristotelian poetics history. Thus,
in a jerry-built fashion, he manages to preserve poetics and assimilate to
it a series of discursive practices which did not seem easily
Nonetheless, his fabulous histories do belong to a category, although it has no real place in early modern poetics or taxonomies of knowledge. They are all libros de entretenimiento, and Cervantes, discussing his own work, uses the expression in the 1615 dedication of Part II of Don Quixote to Lemos:
[C]on esto me despido, ofreciendo a Vuestra Excelencia los Trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda, libro a quien daré fin dentro de cuatro meses, Deo volente; el cual ha de ser o el más malo o el mejor que en nuestra lengua se haya compuesto, quiero decir de los de entretenimiento; . . . (II, Dedicatoria, 39).
Los de entretenimiento were the kinds of books that Cervantes thought he wrote when he was not writing dramatic verse, and rather than constituting a genre, they were recognized as having a social function, what Montaigne called honneste amusement. Thus, in Don Quixote, when Don Diego de Miranda, the Caballero del Verde Gabán, discusses his own library, he tells us that
Tengo hasta seis docenas de libros, cuáles de romance y cuáles de latín, de historia algunos y de devoción otros; los de caballerías aún no han entrado por los umbrales de mis puertas. Hojeo más los que son profanos que los devotos, como sean de honesto entretenimiento, que deleiten con el lenguaje y admiren y suspendan con la invención, puesto que déstos hay muy pocos en España (II, 16, 153).
Don Diego's library is organized according to language Latin and Spanish and theme histories and devotional writing. He prefers profane books to sacred ones, and consequently historias written in the vernacular. But his preference, like Montaigne's, is especially for books which provide him with honesto entretenimiento, and
that delight him with their language and astonish him with their invention.
We are not, then, on the terrain of Zurita's Anales or of Mariana's
Historia general, for there is no invention in these works and no
need to astonish the reader. They are true rather than fabulous histories,
that is, according to Aristotelian poetics, they are based upon actual events
rather than possible ones. The books Don Diego frequents are of a kind with
Araoz's list of historici fabulosi. And it is one of Don
Quixote's lovelier self-referential ironies that Don Diego believes there
are few such books in Spain, for Cervantes uses that judgement as a delicate
way of suggesting that the book in which Don Diego is a character just might
be one of them.
The books that Araoz lists and that Don Diego reads may not have a separate taxonomic classification in the early seventeenth century, but they obviously do have a function. Araoz states, referring to their authors, the historici, that
Historici sunt, qui plerumque historijs ridiculis non sine ingenijacumine adinventis plenis facetijs, animos hominum superioribus studijs fatigatos, seu alijs curis & laboribus opressos; interdum ab anxietate & molestia horum omnium eripiunt, leniunt & recreant . . . (fol. 9).
The priest, humanist and moralist places these books in a context of higher studies, as well as work and other obligations which weigh heavily upon us (alijs curis & laboribus oppressos). But it is especially revealing, and very typical of early modern moralists, that recreational reading should take place within the context of, and in effect be framed or enclosed by, higher and more serious works and that the former properly may be read only when the spirit is fatigued (animos hominum superioribus studijs fatigatos). In this view, Araoz has a very great deal of company. As B. W. Ife observes in his study of early modern narrative and Christian humanists' opposition to it,
Critic after critic waves a dismissive hand at novels which, in Fr. Antonio de Guevara's words, do not pass the time as much as waste it. And we find this point made even by authors who admit that the variety and ease afforded by light reading are beneficial for the human spirit. Jacques Amyot, writing in the prologue to the Spanish translation of the Aethiopica of Heliodorus, one of the few novels to gain the approval of the age as a worthwhile piece of entertainment, argues that the mind perturbed by misfortune or fatigued from much study will benefit from change as much as from rest. But it is nevertheless still an imbecilidad de nuestra natura that we cannot concentrate for long on weightier matters, and
|16.1 (1996)||Breaking the Frame||25|
even some learned men find history rather too austere for their taste (Ife 15).
Ideally, then, it is men, and only men, and only learned men, who should
read these books, and only when they require surcease from study and other
cares, and only because they are exemplars of an imperfect humankind.
Don Diego is nearer to the moralists' norm than Don Quixote, for he reads recreational books between other occupations, including attending to his affairs and is, in every way, a model of equilibrium, although the same cannot be said for his son, the poet. Even the harvesters in I, 32, who read are read to aloud4 in Juan Palomeque's inn are closer to it, for if their spirits are not fatigued from higher studies, their bodies certainly are from toil in the fields. Although they are not the model readers of recreational writing that Araoz had in mind, their traffic with books takes place within the social frame of labor, in this case physical labor. Like Juan Palomeque and his household, as well as Don Diego, albeit in a very different way, they are desocupados lectores of the kind the 1605 prologue invokes. They are temporarily idle and fill their idleness with books that provide them with entretenimiento of an enormously pleasurable kind, even though not all the books the harvesters read would find a place in the Caballero del Verde Gabán's library.
If they and other characters conform in some fashion to the category of desocupados lectores, it is clear that Don Quixote does not.5 On the contrary, everything that the hidalgo does with books
Read is placed in quotation marks, for as Margit Frenk has noted
in two perfectly illuminating articles (1982; 1984), in early modern Spain,
the verb leer meant, among other things, listening to voiced
readings. Indeed, Covarrubias' definition presupposes that reading,
pronunciar con palabras lo que por letras está escrito,
is an exercise in voice.
5 Don Quixote is, of course, the chief exception to the rule that the readers in Cervantes' tale, are lectores desocupados. There is, however, one more exception and it is an important one the narrator and first reader. When his reading is interrupted in I, 8, he drops everything and occupies himself fully and quixotically with finding the continuation. But he does not belong so much to the fiction as to the metafiction, that is, both the fiction's condition of possibility and the source of its legitimacy. Moreover, reading is not his sole occupation for he takes on authorial and patronage functions as well, and in consequence he can be seen as a parodic embodiment of literary institutions.
In this regard we may further observe that once the social and discursive frames have been broken, the metafiction, deployed both in the text and the paratexts of Don Quixote, is the only framing device that remains. This reader and his multiple roles in the metafiction are the subject of an article in progress.
tends to break down and ultimately destroy both the social and the discursive
frame that humanism had constructed to contain recreational reading. The
social frame cannot contain him because he has so thoroughly abandoned his
habitual occupations the hunt and the administration of his property
that he does nothing but read. His books have become his sole occupation
to an extent, and with consequences, that we have already seen. The first
is that he alienates his patrimony or a substantial part of it the
most immediately productive part in order to buy books. Following the
purchase of his library, and in the course of reading, he enters into a dialectic
of identity and alterity in which he, a Castilian hidalgo of whose surname
the fictional historian is uncertain enough to give us four possible versions
of it five if we count Alonso Quijano becomes Don Quixote.
The breakdown of the discursive frame, on the other hand, is both less obvious at first glance and has consequences that are very far reaching. With no more than a single possible exception, Dr. Andrés Laguna's Dioscórides Anazarbeo, Don Quijote's library is composed entirely of recreational books and of these, the most important for him are the kinds that Araoz calls fabulous histories, or, to be precise, books written by historici fabulosi. Further, there is no trace in the library of miscellanea, collections of apothegms, of proverbs and of witticisms which, along with fictional narrative, constitute the bulk of early modern recreational books. As I have shown elsewhere, there is no precedent in early modern Castile for the kind of library that Don Quixote has assembled, no library composed chiefly, much less exclusively, of recreational books (Baker). Thus, it cannot reasonably be argued that Don Quixote's readings conform to one of the definitions of entretenimiento found in Covarrubias' Tesoro de la lengua castellana and in the Diccionario de Autoridades, and that most closely corresponds to the kinds of books meant by the expression libros de entretenimiento. For entretenimiento Covarrubias gives qualquier cosa que divierta o entretenga al hombre, como el juego o la conversación o la lección. Don Quixote's library manifestly is something other than a pastime. An activity assimilated to the status of conversation and games is not what Don Quixote does in, and with, his library. Reading for him is something of immeasurably greater heft, depth and import.
This is evident in the single instance where Don Quixote speaks of his library. Cardenio has just related to him Luscinda's delight at reading the Amadís, and he tells Cardenio that, along with the latter
|16.1 (1996)||Breaking the Frame||27|
he should have given her Don Rugel de Grecia, which he is certain would delight her.
Pero tiempo podrá venir en que se enmiende esa falta, y no dura más en hacerse la enmienda de cuanto quiera vuestra merced ser servido de venirse conmigo a mi aldea; que allí le podré dar más de trescientos libros, que son el regalo de mi alma y el entretenimiento de mi vida; [. . .] (I, 24, 297).
In this context, what the mad knight errant means by
entretenimiento is another, very different definition that also
can be found in Covarrubias, as well as in the Diccionario de
Autoridades. The former gives the following: Entretenido, el que
está esperando ocasión de que se le haga alguna merced de oficio
o cargo, y en el entretanto le dan alguna cosa con que sustentarse.
This sense is adumbrated in Autoridades, which devotes nearly two
whole columns to entretener and the words derived from it. Here
entretenido is el que está esperando ocasión
de que se le haga alguna merced de oficio u cargo, y en el entretanto le
dan algunos gages con que pueda sustentarse.
Gages are stipends, emoluments of one sort or another and in this sense, entretenimiento is an occupation, however temporary, although Don Quixote takes this sense and, in effect, absolutizes the temporary. In addition, entretenimiento is an ayuda de costa, sueldo y merced pecuniaria que se da para ayuda de mantenerse al que ha servido y al que se le ha esperanzado de conferirle algun empleo u exercicio, y acomodarle. Thus, entretenimiento is the sustenance, in this case the money, that a servant of whatever category receives while awaiting a lord's favor, and as Don Quixote himself states, his books are his spiritual, rather than pecuniary, sustenance.
But the word can also connote a life's work and its dutiful pursuit, as in the passage Autoridades provides from Pedro Fernández de Navarrete's Conservación de monarquías: Los reyes han de buscar sus mayores entretenimientos en el despacho de sus negocios. This meaning conveys a sense of occupation and duty, which, along with the joy they provide his soul and the sustenance to his life, is precisely how Don Quixote sees his books. Thus, unlike the temporarily leisured readers who entertain themselves reading with the ulterior purpose of returning to their habitual occupations, he understands himself to be the kind of reader whose life is dedicated in its entirety to the kinds of books that, by the standards of the time, should not and could not conceivably sustain a life. Saint Thomas,
yes, the world of Greco-Roman antiquity, fine, not to mention devotional
readings. Books of every sort, both sacred and profane, on ancient and modern
themes, without doubt, but Amadís de Gaula, Don Rogel de Grecia,
and every other chivalric romance ever printed in the Castilian language
over nearly a century's time? Surely not, for what by these standards is
so mad about Don Quixote's madness is that he reads the latter with the perfervid
love of learning and devotion to truth, not to mention the patience and attention
to detail, that humanists and scholars properly devoted to the former. Simply
put, he is a full-time reader of what supposedly are part-time books.
Don Quixote concludes the characterization in I, 24, of his más de trescientos libros in an wistful tone, [. . .]; aunque tengo para mí que ya no tengo ninguno, merced a la malicia de malos y envidiosos encantadores. In this he is more than half right, for the books truly are gone, consigned to the flames following the inquisitorial scrutiny (Gilman) to which the priest and barber subjected them in I, 6. Following the scrutiny, but not as a result of it, for in fact it is ultimately the housekeeper, that is, socially the least qualified of the four people in attendance, who decides quite literally to clean house and burn [. . .] cuantos libros había en el corral y en toda la casa . . . (I, 6, 123). So much for the barber's opinions and the priest's fine distinctions. Once the books have been burned, the library itself, the room in which they had been kept, is walled up:
Uno de los remedios que el cura y el barbero dieron, por entonces, para el mal de su amigo, fue que le murasen y tapiasen el aposento de los libros, porque cuando se levantase no los hallase quizá quitando la causa, cesaría el efeto, y que dijesen que un encantador se los había llevado, y el aposento y todo; y así fue hecho con mucha presteza (I, 6, 123).
The madman's friends have done what they can to separate them from the source of his madness but it is too late, for Don Quixote's library has in effect been imprinted upon him and when next he sallies forth he bears that imprint. Here, the tale effects a reversal of the inward movement that began with the hidalgo's abandonment of his habitual occupations, the purchase of his books and the creation of a special room the library where he could commune with and read them. Narrative movement now turns outward and in Don Quixote's second and definitive sally the text of the library goes forth into the world. It is that text which has been set loose, never again to be enclosed, and the knight errant has become the sole bearer of a unique text; we could say that he has become a text errant,
|16.1 (1996)||Breaking the Frame||29|
simultaneously the subject and object of literature (Baker). Thus, in Don Quixote the frame of discourse that early modern Christian humanists and moralists constructed to contain recreational reading has not simply been broken, it has been destroyed. In consequence, print made flesh, however dessicated, and flesh made print, though mere entertainment, go forth in dialectical synthesis to narratize the world.
|UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA|
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