Translation, diplomacy and espionage: new insights into James Mabbe’s career
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James MabbeAnglo-Spanish relationsTranslation studiesComparative literatureEarly Modern DiplomacyEarly Modern Political ThoughtCrypto-CatholicismFray Juan de SantamariaEdward BlountRepública y policía cristiana para reyes y príncipesMagdalen College, OxfordCharles ButlerGeorge Calvert, first Baron BaltimoreWilliam TrumbullJohn Digby, first Earl of BristolSir John StrangwaysCristóbal de FonsecaObservations touching some of the more solemne tymes and festival days of the yeare (BL Harleian MS. 5077)Accepted FrewenJohn Browne
James Mabbe is arguably the most eminent among early modern English Hispanists. His translations included Fernando de Rojas’s La Celestina, Cervantes’s Novelas ejemplares, and an influential rendering of Mateo Alemán’s Guzmán de Alfarache. This article aims to focus on less known translations, and to demonstrate that a proper understanding of Mabbe’s career and production requires a careful analysis of his context and his contacts. A survey of Mabbe’s intriguing political, religious and diplomatic connections will provide new insights into his career. Thus, the political activities of his patrons—e.g. Sir John Digby, 1st Earl of Bristol, or Sir John Strangways—will show his work under a new light. A comparative chronology of his publications and activities with political and religious controversies in Madrid and in London, hand in hand with an examination of unpublished manuscript material, will contribute to provide plausible hypotheses about the agenda that lurked behind his choice of texts and patrons, as well as about the controversial topic of Mabbe’s religious allegiance. This survey will display Mabbe’s activities as part of larger networks of publishers, translators, diplomats, intelligencers and politicians. Mabbe’s position within these international circles constitutes a most interesting case study to illustrate the of intricate networks that lay at the foundations of cultural, political and religious exchanges and controversies, not just between England and Spain, but also all over Europe, in the early decades of the seventeenth century.