From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 4.2 (1984): 139-53.
Copyright © 1984, The Cervantes Society of America


The Refracted Image: Porras and Cervantes*


E. T. Aylward. Cervantes: Pioneer and Plagiarist. London: Támesis Books, 1983. 96 pp. (Colección Támesis, Serie A—Monografías, XCIII)


IN 1788 ISIDORO BOSARTE ANNOUNCED, in the Diario de Madrid, his discovery of the so-called Porras MS., containing in part, not only “La tía fingida,” but also “Rinconete y Cortadillo” and “El celoso extremeño” in anonymous versions differing in considerable detail from those published in 1613.1 Bosarte entertained, but rejected, the suspicion that Cervantes had appropriated these two latter tales whole, choosing rather to believe that “estas dos novelas las

     * For a response to this item, see “Reply by E. T. Aylward to Geoffrey StaggCervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 14.1 (1994): 109-16. Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 14.1 (1994): 109-16. -F.J.
     1 Amezúa y Mayo, Cervantes creador de la novela corta española, Tomo I, Volumen II (Madrid: C.S.I.C., 1956), p. 467, n. 1, gives an adequate bibliography for the history and criticism of the MS. To be added to his list are the Schevill and Bonilla edition of “Rinconete y Cortadillo” and “El celoso extremeño” in Novelas exemplares, I and II respectively (Madrid: Gráficas Reunidas, 1922-23); Navarrete's “Nota final” to La tía fingida, ed. Franceson and Wolf (Berlin: Nauck, 1818); Julián Apráiz, “Apéndice II. Sobre Porras y Bosarte,” in Juicio de “La Tía Fingida” (Madrid: Sucesores de Hernando, 1906), pp. 255-71, and the items listed at the end of Section I of our text.


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compuso, y adornó el mismo Cervantes sobre memorias y apuntaciones que recogería en Sevilla y le daría algún curioso.”2 Later scholars, rejecting any suggestion of plagiarism, decided that the Porras MS. contained early Cervantine versions of “Rinconete y Cortadillo” and “El celoso extremeño.” Now the wheel has come full circle, with Dr. Aylward arguing that Cervantes did indeed plagiarize both these stories, as well, probably, as “La tía fingida,” from a copy of the Porras MS. “as it circulated,” or from Porras's source, and print them as his own (p. 28).
     Aylward begins by recalling what is known of the history of the manuscript, which was compiled by the Licenciado Francisco Porras de la Cámara, prebendary of the Cathedral of Seville, for the delectation of his friend Cardinal Niño de Guevara during his term as Archbishop from 1600 to 1609. This Compilación de curiosidades españolas, which included some contributions by Porras himself, was eventually destroyed in 1823, with the rest of Gallardo's books and manuscripts.3 The author gives a critical history of early evaluations of the MS., with special reference to the views of the only four scholars who handled and reported on the codex  —Bosarte, Pellicer, Navarrete and Gallardo— and of Bosarte's friend, Arrieta, and glances briefly at a few later opinions. With reference to the two exemplary tales, he concludes that the only “hard evidence” available consists of the Porras and 1613 texts. “All the rest has been pure speculation” (p. 28).
     Chapter II concerns itself with this “hard evidence.” But first Aylward argues that Cervantes's strong protestations of originality in the Prologue to the Novelas ejemplares arouse the suspicion that “one or more of the tales contained in this volume could be less than original” (p. 30); he then draws attention to the “studied vagueness” of the novelist's reference (in Don Quijote, I, 47) to “Rinconete y Cortadillo,” with the priest speculating that it might be by the author of “El curioso impertinente.” This, says Aylward, is Cervantes' sly way of “lay[ing] the foundation for a future claim to [its] authorship” (p. 31), a claim consolidated by its publication among the Novelas ejemplares. Finally, having advanced the need for a

     2 Bosarte's “Carta to the Diario de Madrid” is reproduced by Foulché-Delbosc in Revue Hispanique, 6 (1899), 289-93. The words quoted appear on p. 293.
     3 See Antonio Rodríguez-Moñino, Historia de una infamia bibliográfica. La de San Antonio de 1823 (Valencia: Castalia, 1957).

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close stylistic analysis of the two versions of the stories, he summarizes the findings in this area of Criado de Val and Amezúa.
     There follow a comparison of the Porras and Cuesta texts of “Rinconete y Cortadillo” (Ch. 3) and a study of stylistic, ethical and linguistic differences between the two versions of “El celoso extremeño” (Ch. 4). The author's general conclusion is that “the Porras versions of R / C and ZE are stylistically incompatible with Cervantes' demonstrated literary style. As a consequence, his claim to the true authorship of these stories is highly suspect” (p. 69). Hence Cervantes the plagiarist.
     In an Appendix Aylward presents “Additional Speculations” on “Rinconete y Cortadillo” as “An Experiment in Character Autonomy” and on “El celoso extremeño” as a possible political allegory, with Philip II as a model for Carrizales (this latter idea deriving from Américo Castro). His argument is that, in the Porras versions of the two stories, Cervantes would have found “virtues which would have inspired him to rework [and] polish them” (p. 72), so that they became “experiments in new narrative forms that were carried out by the creator of Don Quixote” (p. 11). Hence Cervantes the pioneer.
     The list of works consulted gives good coverage of the subject. Items that might usefully have been added are Medina's edition of “La tía fingida” (Santiago de Chile: Imprenta Elzeviriana, 1919), Rius' discussion in his Bibliografía (I, 128-31), and Rodríguez-Moñino's Historia de una infamia bibliográfica. La de San Antonio de 1823 (Valencia: Castalia, 1957). The head-name “Valera” in the list should read “Varela.”


     In his conclusion Aylward says that the time has come to examine Cervantes's works objectively, and expresses the hope that his study has cautioned colleagues to approach the subject of the novelist's plagiarism “with a dispassionate mind” (p. 71). We gather that he is presenting himself as the dispassionate investigator objectively rejecting all “speculation” and relying exclusively on “hand evidence.” Yet already on the first page of the first chapter (p. 13) he is referring to “the fact [my italics] that an ambitious and clever writer, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, somehow managed to obtain a copy of the Porras MS. and later claimed [my italics] R / C and

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ZE as his own,” and stating baldly in a footnote that “the TF was so bawdy that C. wisely chose to omit it” [that is, from the Novelas ejemplares]. There are, it seems, assumptions so convenient as to be upgraded to the status of facts. Later he writes: “Without any basis in fact, Arrieta affirms here: a) that Cervantes is the author of R / C, ZE and TF . . .” (p. 20); contrariwise, there are apparently facts so inconvenient as to be downgraded to the status of unjustified assumptions.
     There is an admirable principle of justice that a man is to be presumed innocent until he is proved guilty. Aylward has decided that Cervantes is guilty (of plagiarism) before the trial has begun. His attitude and method may be gauged from the following statement: “In summary, what is truly amazing about all this is that there is absolutely no [Aylward's italics] evidence to link Cervantes with the Porras MS. or any of the stories contained therein. The connection has been made . . . solely because Cervantes happened to publish two of these tales as his own in 1613” [my italics] (p. 28). No comment seems necessary.
     The author, having pre-judged the whole issue, is reluctant to give serious consideration to any fact on argument that is not consonant with his views. He will, on occasion, even defy logic. For example, he castigates those (in this case Arrieta and Navarrete) who assume that Porras obtained a manuscript copy of Cervantes's tales that was circulating in Seville; he objects that such a borrador has never been found and that Cervantes never alluded to its existence. One could point out that the borrador of, say, La Galatea has never been found, nor did Cervantes ever allude to its existence. Are we then to conclude that such a manuscript never existed and that La Galatea was never written? (Incidentally, the manuscript of “Rinconete y Cortadillo” is alluded to in Don Quijote, I, 47, and Aylward makes great play with the fact.)
     An illustration of the author's technique is provided by his rejection of Criado de Val's espousal of the hypothesis already mentioned, namely, that Cervantes's borrador of “Rinconete y Cortadillo” “mysteriously” (Aylward's word) fell into the hands of a copyist. He criticizes the Spanish scholar for offering no theory “as to how Cervantes managed to retain another copy or how the primitive one may have been returned to the author's hand for eventual publication” (p. 35), and for failing to explain how or why the Porras version is anonymous (p. 45). Yet Aylward finds no

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difficulty at all with his own “most likely explanation” that Cervantes “came into contact with Porras' manuscript version of these stories . . . and made a copy of them” (p. 69). How did Cervantes “mysteriously” “come into contact (note the “studied vagueness” of this phrase) with the Porras versions? How was he able to retain copies of them or return the originals to the Licentiate's hand for eventual presentation to the Archbishop? Why is Aylward's explanation one whit more likely than Criado de Val's?
     In fact, the traditional assumption carries far more conviction than Aylward's. One may hypothesize as follows. Cervantes's duties often caused him to be absent from Seville. It is not credible that he would always take all his belongings on his travels; rather he would leave them behind in storage at his lodging or inn. Those belongings would include his literary works, put away in some trunk (like his dramatic works) or case (such as contained the manuscripts of “El curioso impertinente” and “Rinconete y Cortadillo” and was left behind at the inn in Don Quijote). Cervantes, who liked to “deceive with the truth,” may, indeed, have been limning life when he showed the cura (a cleric, like Porras!) receiving and taking away the “papeles” on which the story of “Rinconete y Cortadillo” was inscribed. Left at an inn, such papers could easily have been abstracted, copied and returned during the author's absence, and the passage in Don Quijote may be fairly interpreted as Cervantes's way of staking his claim to work that was his but that he knew had been copied. As for anonymity, there was no reason why Cervantes should conveniently have signed every page or piece that he wrote. In any case, do we not have his assurance (given in the Prologue to the Novelas ejemplares) that he was the author of “obras que andan por ahi descarriadas, y, quiza, sin el nombre de su dueño”? One can indeed make a case.4
     Aylward does not even try to make a case for the existence of the “primitive draft” (by an unknown) that he suggests (p. 28) both Porras and Cervantes might have used; he offers no arguments or evidence to support such a suggestion or to show how, had such a draft existed, copies of it might by chance have fallen into the hands of both the men concerned, of such different social levels.

     4 Luis Astrana Marín, Vida ejemplar y heroica de Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, V (Madrid: Reus, 1953), 418-20, also sees the passage in Don Quijote, I, 47, as reflecting events of real life and establishing Cervantes's claim to authorship of his story. “Rinconete y Cortadillo.”

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     In view of this deficiency, it becomes even more important that the author should demonstrate that the Porras MS. itself was compiled early enough to permit Cervantes to see it and insert his reference to “Rinconete y Cortadillo” in Don Quijote, I, 47, even if only as a last-minute interpolation. (The Privilege of the novel is dated 26 September, 1604.) But this is another matter that Aylward does not even bother to discuss. Worse still, he variously places the time of compilation at “circa 1604” (p. 13), “at some time during the period 1604-1606” (p. 14) and “pre-1606” (p. 80), apparently unaware that any time after the summer of 1604 seriously weakens his whole theory.
     In his letter to the Diario de Madrid, Bosarte, with reference to the Compilación, states that Porras “se la remitió á Umbrete, donde aquel Prelado [i.e., the Archbishop] se hallaba en recreación el año de 1604.”5 No evidence is given in support of this date; nevertheless the assertion is so definite that one can argue that Bosarte took it directly from the manuscript; but, if so, why did the others who saw the MS. not give the same date? Pellicer suggests that Porras collected the material for the codex “por los años de 1606,”6 Gallardo says only that it is “del tiempo de Cervantes,”7 and Navarrete assigns it to the period “por los años de 1606 a 1610.”8 Most scholars have rejected or ignored this last dating, because the Archbishop died in 1609, so the terminus ad quem is, they reason, impossible. But, according to some hand-written notes made by Navarrete and seen by Apráiz, the MS. contains a narrative of a journey made by Porras himself in 1591-92 to Portugal, where a fortune-teller made a number of predictions, none of which had come true “al menos hasta mediados del año de 1605,” undoubtedly the time of writing. Navarrete further reports that certain late events, of 1607 and even 1610, are related in the MS. and that “según signos visibles, muchos de estos sucesos parecen interpolados y escritos en los blancos que dejaban las hojas del Códice.”9 Navarrete was a careful scholar, his report is

     5 Revue Hispanique, 6 (1899), p. 291.
     6 Juan Antonio Pellicer, “Vida de Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra” in his edition of Don Quijote, I (Madrid: Gabriel de Sancha, 1797), cxlvii.
     7 Bartolomé José Gallardo, El Criticón, I, (1835), 11.
     8 “Nota final” to La tía fingida, ed. Franceson and Wolf (Berlin: Nauck, 1818).
     9 Julián Apráiz, Juicio de “La Tía Fingida” (Madrid: Sucesores de Hernando, 1906), p. 258. Astrana Marín, Vida, V. 403-4, repeats Apráiz's information (without acknowledgment of source).

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circumstantial and precise, and it leaves little doubt that Porras completed the main body of his compilation not earlier than the summer of 1605. His observations further undermine Aylward's thesis.
     In the Appendix Aylward tries to have his cake and eat it: having proved, to his own satisfaction at least, that Cervantes plagiarized “Rinconete y Cortadillo,” he now maintains that the novelist's reworking of this tale casts him in the mould of literary pioneer. This simply will not do. The differences between the Porras and Cuesta versions of the story are largely of stylistic detail, not of general form or treatment, and it is completely illogical for Aylward, given his acceptance of Cervantes as plagiarist, to analyse the content of the short story as a demonstration of Cervantine originality in novelistic technique. He himself, with reference to one passage, observes: “The differences between the Porras and 1613 versions are slight and insignificant; the technique of letting characters paint their own portrait was already present in the original and was merely embellished by Cervantes” (p. 76). Four pages later he adds: “Cervantes' . . . attempts at letting his literary characters paint their own psychological profile are truly innovative for the seventeenth century.” Confusion can hardly go further.
     The analysis of “El celoso extremeño” is equally confused. Aylward claims to see it as a political allegory. He concludes by stating that Cervantes left the introductory portion “almost intact” and that the remaining narrative “has no new or striking symbolic content” (p. 90). One fails to see how Cervantes can emerge, in this perspective, as a “pioneer.” Surely the pioneer, if anyone, is Porras or his source?
     Aylward's book, it is clear, has grave faults. Nevertheless, its author deserves high praise for having identified and documented the most significant aspect of the whole Porras affair. Criado de Val had caught a partial glimpse of it when he wrote, with respect to one passage of “Rinconete y Cortadillo”: “Son dos manos las que han redactado estas versiones, y son dos mentalidades muy distintas las que han imaginado, de forma tan opuesta, una misma escena.”10 Aylward's great contribution lies in perceiving that the Spanish scholar's conclusion is valid for both “Rinconete y Cortadillo” and “El celoso extremeño” in their entirety; as he puts it, “the Porras

     10 M. Criado de Val, Análisis verbal del estilo (Madrid: C.S.I.C., 1953), p. 39.

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and 1613 versions of R / C and ZE were not written in the same style or by the same author” (p. 36). This is excellent. But, we submit, the conclusion that he drew from this revealing insight is open to the most serious doubt.


     It has long been agreed that the Cuesta texts of “Rinconete y Cortadillo” and “El celoso extremeño” embody a remarkable series of detailed and painstaking revisions of the “primitive” versions of these two tales contained in the Porras MS. What is odd about this consensus is that it runs directly counter to what is now known or postulated about Cervantes's general methods of revision. Evidence is accumulating that these were of the most rudimentary and haphazard kind. To them may be attributed some at least of the novelist's many so-called “descuidos.” These flaws vitiate a number of passages of Don Quijote, producing, for example, the nonsense of the walling up of the hidalgo's library after all his books have been burnt, “por que cuando se levantase no los hallase” (I, 7), or causing the silent disappearance of Sancho's ass. Osuna has devoted a substantial article to “Vacilaciones y olvidos de Cervantes en el Persiles,”11 and Harrison has related a number of contradictions in that work to a process of hasty and incomplete revision.12 I shall elsewhere demonstrate that the same type of clumsy emendation was already being practised in La Galatea. This with reference to novels written at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of Cervantes's literary career. Yet with regard to the two short stories under consideration we are asked to believe that the novelist carried through the most meticulous correction of earlier versions. This serious inconsistency demands that we take another look at the “Porras problem.”
     Past investigators have considered only a limited number of possible answers to the questions that it raises. Our first task then is to list all the possibilities inherent in the situation, seeking later to eliminate those that for one reason or another are judged inadmissible. (One possibility that we shall ignore is that of intermediate

     11 Anales Cervantinos, 11 (1972), 69-85.
     12 Stephen Harrison, “The Composition of Persiles y Sigismunda” (Doctoral Thesis, University of Toronto, 1979), DAI 39 (1979); see also his “Magic in the Spanish Golden Age: Cervantes's Second Thoughts,” Renaissance and Reformation, N.S. IV, O.S. XVI (1980), 47-64.

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copies, which would not affect the patterns of textual transmission.) First, let us assume that only two texts (Porras and Cuesta) were involved; this assumption furnishes two possibilities:

(a)  Porras —> Cuesta (i.e., Cuesta is a revision of Porras);
(b) Cuesta —> Porras.

     Secondly, let us assume that a third, original, text was involved. This third text may have been written by Cervantes, by Porras, or by an unknown. For each of these assumed originals we must postulate three possible developments:

(a)  O (i.e., the original) —> Porras —> Cuesta;
(b) O —> Cuesta —>Porras;

This gives us a total of nine further possibilities, making a grand total of eleven.
     We can simplify our investigation by considering, in the first place, only the final terms of each possibility; all eleven possibilities can accordingly be arranged in three sets:

Set 1:    Porras —> Cuesta, and combinations so terminating;
Set 2: Cuesta —> Porras, and combinations so terminating;
Set 3: Porras and Cuesta as products of a common source.

This arrangement may permit us to reach conclusions more expeditiously.
     We turn to the texts, in the hope that they will provide clues to their relative place in the stemma. They differ in a multitude of details, but —the point is important— in the great majority of cases their differences will tell us nothing about anteriority or derivation. Porras is seen, for example, to prefer the -se form of the subjunctive, and Cervantes the -ra form,13 but from this fact we cannot deduce whether Porras changed Cervantes's inflections, or vice-versa. If Porras dates the stories and Cervantes does not,14 we cannot know whether Porras added dates to the Cervantine text, or Cervantes removed them from the Licentiate's. Et sic de similibus. The mere accumulation of data of this kind will throw no light on the matter at issue.

     13 Criado de Val, Análisis verbal, pp. 35-39; Aylward, pp. 32-35.
     14 Aylward, pp. 38-39, alludes to this.
     * The printed version reads: O —> Porras —> Cuesta; it has been changed to conform to the correction sheet issued by T. Lathrop. -FJ.

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     Yet differences there are that will do so, differences that are not, so to speak, “reversible.”15 Criado lists three from “El celoso extremeño” under the heading of “erratas.”16

1.  (a)   Cuesta text: “¡O luengas y repulgadas tocas, escogidas para autorizar las salas y los estrados de señoras principales, . . . !” (SB., II, 240, 1.25).
(b) Porras text: “. . . para autorizar salas y entradas de principales señoras, . . .!” (SB., II, 241, 1.22).

     The Cuesta reading “estrados” makes perfect sense in the context, and the Porras reading “entradas” (also of eight letters, six of them identical with those of the previous word) does not. It is clear that the scribe17 here misread two letters of the manuscript that he was copying.

2.  Loaysa has a desire to enter the Carrizales household.
(a)  Cuesta text: “Y comunicandolo con dos virotes y vn manton, sus amigos, . . .” (SB., II, 174, 1.6).
(b)  Porras text: “. . . con dos birotes y un montón de amigos suyos, . . .” (SB, II, 175, 1.3).

     This is another example of miscopying: “mantón” has been misread as “montón,” which the scribe has then attempted to work into his text. Criado de Val suggests that he was not familiar with the term “mantón,” but this theory is hardly tenable, as the word occurs in correct form in both manuscripts a few lines earlier; rather we have a confusion, in copying, of o and a —a confusion that, significantly, occurs in the first example also.

     15 Aylward, under the heading “Scribal Inconsistencies,” lists (p. 66) some of these differences (in “El celoso extremeño”), but as short phrases out of context; he is more concerned with their artistic appropriateness than with the direction of textual transmission (e.g., “Is acertó a mirar . . . a more satisfying phrase . . . than assestó a mirar. . .? ”). One pair listed is “salas y entradas” — “las salas y los estrados.”
     16 “De estilística cervantina; correcciones, interpolaciones y variantes en el ‘Rinconete y Cortadillo’ y en el ‘Zeloso extremeño,’” Anales Cervantinos, 2 (1952), 237. References are to the Schevill and Bonilla edition of the Novelas exemplares, II (Madrid: Gráficas Reunidas, 1923).
     17 According to Bosarte (Foulché-Delbosc text, p. 290), the Porras version of “El celoso extremeño” was written by the Licentiate's amanuensis, with interpolations in the hand of the latter and of Porras. Navarrete says that it was in a hand different from that of Porras, with interpolations by the latter.

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3.  (a)   Cuesta text: “Compro assimismo quatro esclauas blancas y herrolas en el rostro” (SB., II, 160, 1.26).
(b) Porras text: “. . . blancas y hermosas en el rostro (SB., II, 161, 1.21).

     As Criado de Val remarks: “dada la intención de la escena, en la que se describen las precauciones del viejo estremeño, carece de sentido el calificativo ‘hermosas’ del manuscrito.” But, again, a word of eight letters has been replaced by another of similar length, with six of the eight letters identical.
     Elsewhere,18 is the same scholar draws attention to another such “erratum,” this time in “Rinconete y Cortadillo.”19

4.  Monipodio is explaining the nature of the “immunities” enjoyed by the “cofradía”:
(a)  Cuesta text: “eran no pagar media nata del primer hurto que hiziessen, . . . piar el turco puro, hazer banquete, quando, como y adonde quisieren, . . .” (SB., I, 264, 11.7-14).
(b)  Porras text: “y a los seis meses no pagar media nata, sino sólo la tercera parte de los fructos; y sentaros a la mesa redonda; y, desde luego, para el trueco in puribus; . . .” (SB., I, 265, 11.1-4).

Porras, clearly baffled by the cant phrase “piar el turco puro” —“drink pure wine”20— was driven to set down the nonsense “para el trueco in puribus”, which, as Criado de Val comments, “sólo tiene una semejanza acústica y formal que explica la errata.” The introduction of the Latin tag was no doubt intended to distract attention from the scribe's confusion.
     These few but telling examples suffice to demonstrate that the Porras MS. was copied from a Cervantes original. That that original was Cervantes's own autograph manuscript is also probable. Surviving samples of the novelist's handwriting are few in number,

     18 Análisis verbal, p. 40.
     19 Bosarte and Navarrete both report that the Porras text of “Rinconete y Cortadillo” was in the prebendary's hand. Aylward comments that the fact that the two Cervantine stories were copied in the Porras MS. in two different hands makes it “difficult to posit a single author for the two works” (p. 70). Is he not reading too much into what was almost certainly a convenient division of labour?
     20 F. Rodríguez Marín, ed., Rinconete y Cortadillo (Madrid: Tipografía de la Revista de Archivos, Bibliotecas y Museos, 1920), p. 413.

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restricted in vocabulary and most unevenly formed. Romera-Navarro, who has studied the autographs carefully, concludes that of the six major Golden Age writers whose handwriting is known to us “el menos uniforme, repito, el más irregular, aun dentro de una misma página, aun firmando su nombre mismo, es Cervantes.”21 Such a difficult hand could easily have led to the errata and confusions noted above. More particularly, of lower-case a the scholar says: “apenas tiene rabillo . . ., o éste es muy corto . . .”22 It can indeed often be mistaken for o; l, mistaken by the scribe for s, can sometimes take the shape of “un trazo recto sin curva arriba,” a description to be compared to that of the s, sometimes written by Cervantes as merely “una raya oblicua. 23 It was easy for the copyist to go wrong.
     If, as we believe, the Porras MS. is a copy of a Cervantes original, we can eliminate from the field of possibilities the whole of Set 1 (“Porras —> Cuesta, and combinations so terminating”). For the combinations “Porras original —> Porras —> Cuesta,” “Unknown original —> Porras —> Cuesta” and “Porras —> Cuesta” are clearly impossible. The only combination of the Set that can even be considered is “Cervantes original —> Porras —> Cuesta,” but it is inconceivable that Porras would chance upon Cervantes's original and revise it and that Cervantes would then chance upon Porras's revision and revise that.
     We can even make judgments about Set 3 (“Porras and Cuesta as products of a common source”). If Porras were that source, it is not plausible that Cervantes could read his text better than the author himself; if the source were an unknown, it is again unlikely that Cervantes would transcribe more accurately in all the examples given than Porras; it could be argued that Cervantes obtained a fair copy of the anonymous manuscript and Porras a corrupt one, but such a situation would imply the existence of a number of copies in circulation at different social levels, not one of which has come down to us; this again appears improbable. The only possibility of the set that carries conviction is the third, namely, that both Cervantes and Porras used a Cervantine original.
     We come to the remaining set (“Cuesta —> Porras, and combinations so terminating”). It will undoubtedly be objected that, in view of universal agreement that the Porras MS. contains the “primitive” versions of the Cuesta texts, “Cuesta —> Porras” is a logical impossibility.

     21 M. Romera-Navarro, Autógrafos cervantinos. Estudio (Austin, Texas: University of Texas, 1954), p. 2.
     22 Ibid., p. 3.
     23 Ibid., pp. 8, 10.

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This brings us to the most astonishing aspect of the whole critical history of the codex. From 1788 to 1983, all the scholars concerned, as far as I am aware —even the most illustrious— have fallen into the same elementary trap of false logic; all of them, hypnotised, it seems, by dates, have assumed, without evidence, argument or even discussion, that the manuscript (1600-1609 by the broadest estimate), having preceded the printed work (1613), therefore contained the “primitive versions” of the stories common to both, and that the Cuesta texts were “revised versions” of those in the Porras MS.
     The fallacy, upon reflection, becomes obvious. The Novelas ejemplares were published in 1613, but were written over a long period preceding. There are no better grounds for assuming that the versions of the two tales printed in 1613 were revisions of the Porras text than that they were those originally written many years before —before the Porras MS. was compiled. By this view, the Porras texts could well derive from the Cuesta texts, and not vice-versa. To support this view there are two weighty considerations. First, is it not significant that we have been able to “correct” passages from the Porras MS. by reference to the parallel texts in the Cuesta edition? Secondly, would not acceptance of this view remove the conflict observable between Cervantes's clumsy revising practices in general and his alleged painstaking revision of the two stories?
     We must therefore regard “Cuesta —> Porras” (whether the Cuesta text was the original borrador or an early minor revision of it) as highly possible. It is quite unlikely that the Cuesta text would itself have derived from an original by either Porras or an unknown, for in either case we would have to assume that Cervantes came across such an original, and that Porras then happened to come across Cervantes's version of it; such a double coincidence is hardly credible.24
     We are left, then, with three admissible possibilities:

(A)  Cervantes original —> Cuesta —> Porras;
Cervantes original    Cuesta
(C) Cuesta —> Porras.

     24 Straining the argument to the utmost, one could hypothesize that, in 1604, Porras, aware of Cervantes's literary gifts, employed him to polish the two originals, but it is again improbable that the Licentiate would then painstakingly revise the revision of the man hired as the expert. In any case, if Cervantes had been the amanuensis (see note 17), the scholars who handled the manuscript would surely have recognised his handwriting and reported the fact.
     ** The printed version reads: Cervantes original —> Cuesta —> Porras; it has been changed to conform to the correction sheet issued by T. Lathrop. -FJ.

152 GEOFFREY STAGG Cervantes

Of these, we consider the third the strongest. The other two assume a degree of revision by Cervantes of his borrador; and though one may point to “descuidos” in the Cuesta texts,25 they have none of the marks of the “revisionary” type.
     Certain hypothetical objections to our main thesis may be briefly met.

(a)   The final words of the Porras version of “Rinconete y Cortadillo” —not found in the Cuesta edition— are as follows: “para huir y abominar una vida tan detestable y que tanto se usa en una ciudad que había de ser espejo de verdad y de justicia en todo el mundo, como lo es de grandeza” (SB., I, 327, 11.29-32). This is most certainly in the “exemplary” mode; but before we jump to conclusions let us recall that in 1601 the Licentiate wrote a Memorial to the new Archbishop, attacking at length and in detail the immorality rampant in Seville.26 The addition of the quoted words —and, more broadly, the very inclusion of “Rinconete y Cortadillo,” “El celoso extremeño” and “La tía fingida” in the MS.— may be regarded as a further effort by the prebendary to awaken the Archbishop to the need to deal with the disorders in his see.
(b) The more “realistic” Porras ending to “El celoso extremeño” would lend further colour to this supposition, as emphasizing the grave threat to the morals of the Archbishop's flock posed by the “gente de barrio,” to a description of whom the Porras MS. devotes a long passage not found in the 1613 text. The greater “realism” of the Porras conclusion, far from offending the Archbishop, might in any case be expected to gain credibility in the eyes of one accustomed to the revelation of human frailties in the confessional.
(c) Aylward (pp. 67-68) argues that Cervantes misread the Porras MS. passage “a los viejos ancianos y hombres maduros . . . llaman mantones; a los recién casados . . . llámanlos socarrones . . .,” overlooked the semi-colon, and construed “a los recién casados llaman mantones.” The argument is ingenious, but one must point out that the assumed error would have involved Cervantes in syntactical difficulties as he read on, forcing him to re-read the passage and correct his error; furthermore, the Porras MS. passage quoted occurs

     25 See, for example, Aden W. Hayes, “Narrative ‘errors’ in Rinconete y Cortadillo,” Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, 58 (1981), 13-20.
     26 Julián Apráiz describes this Memorial and quotes a long passage from it in his “Curiosidades cervantinas,” Homenaje a Menéndez y Pelayo (Madrid: Suárez, 1899), pp. 242-44.

4 (1984) Porras and Cervantes 153

  in a sentence that begins: “Cada parroquia o barrio tiene su título diferente” [i.e., for the “gente de barrio”]; Cervantes's “mistake” is just as well explained by the proliferation of special terms in the various barrios.
(d) Aylward also notes (p. 69, n. 1) that Cervantes “removed the episode of Juliana la Cariharta and the Breton from R / C and later inserted it (in expanded form) in the Coloquio de los perros.” This statement is hardly justifiable. The Porras MS. interpolates Cariharta's explanation that “la Correosa . . . me llevó a dormir con un bretón,” a phrase which can scarcely be considered the basis for the extended story in “El coloquio de los perros.” The fact that the word “bretón” occurs in both contexts is of little moment, the term being applied in the Seville of the time to any foreigner (the “bretón” of “El coloquio” being an Italian).27

     Our conclusion remains that the texts of the two stories in the Porras MS. are revisions of originals written earlier by Cervantes and printed by Cuesta in 1613.


     Comparisons have in the past been made between the Porras “primitive versions” and the Cuesta “definitive versions” of “Rinconete y Cortadillo” and “El celoso extremeño” with a view to extending our knowledge of Cervantes's creative processes, ethics and ideology. Useful critical results (e.g., insights into the artistic reasons for the Cuesta ending of “El celoso extremeño”) have been obtained from such comparisons, even though these, we believe, were based on false premises. Henceforth, we suggest, the Porras MS. should be regarded as of only limited interest, as embodying a contemporary's critical view of Cervantes's narrative and stylistic abilities. For the rest, it may be consigned to that special limbo reserved for the red herrings of literary history.


     27 A. C. de Amezúa y Mayo, ed., El casamiento engañoso y El coloquio de los perros (Madrid: Bailly-Baillière, 1912), pp. 520-21 (note 164).

Fred Jehle Publications of the CSA HCervantes