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A Quixotic Ramble along the Strand


The Knight of the Woeful Countenance in the Street of the Sagging Purpose: A Quixotic Ramble along the Strand[1]


by Charles Lock

Professor of English Literature, University of Copenhagen


On Strand Green was a windmill…[2]

For Clare Brant


A strand is both a thread and a margin, an agent of binding and of bordering, of holding together and of setting aside: it is, for my purposes, and lack thereof, both a direction and a digression.


The English were quick to imitate the Don, who came into La Mancha in 1605. There were English Quixotes recorded in 1644—the knight as an exemplary Cavalier?—and we find the adjective Quixotical from 1657. Thus in the middle of that most conformist and intolerant and least Quixotic of all decades in English history, we may be amazed to read of ’amazement at impertinent and Quixotical attempts’ (from D’Urfé’s Astraea); the adjective is shortened to its lasting form of ‘Quixotic’ in 1678. Though the OED is not concerned to track the lowering of the case of the Q, I am struck by the fact that the first instance that the OED gives of lower-case ‘quixotic’ is not until 1844, in the US and in adverbial form as ‘quixotically’. In 1857 we find adjectival lower-case ‘quixotic’ in the second most famous novel published that year, Tom Brown’s Schooldays. Today—though not then—the most celebrated novel from 1857 is of course Madame Bovary, itself a rewriting of Don Quixote (Flaubert’s most admired book) that owes much (perhaps unwittingly) to the novel of Charlotte Lennox (of 1752) whose title The Female Quixote might well serve as a soubriquet for Emma Bovary.


The French came late to Don Quixote. Throughout the eighteenth century it is largely an English story, so the spelling Don Quixote is now almost distinctively English. In the mid-nineteenth century in the reform of the Spanish alphabet the x was changed to j, Quixote becoming Quijote, and Mexico, Mejico: happily Mexico itself was by then independent, and wisely decided to retain the x, in its own name as well as in that of the Don. Thus an English translation is in its title no translation at all, unlike the title of any modern Spanish edition of the text left untranslated. Pronounced in Britain as Quiksot, it’s easy to see how the adjectival forms would follow, though surprising to learn that Quixotical precedes Quixotic. In the Danish alphabet x is an endangered letter, giving way to ks in almost all words eksept sex, exit and taxi, so it is pleasing to note that the latest Danish translation of Don QuiXote follows the English spelling rather than the Spanish.


Many guide-books to cities worry their users with their own indecision as to whether to begin an account of a thoroughfare on the right hand or the left. As we are walking along the Strand, I worry as to whether to begin by stepping forth on my first foot, or on my last. Passing Australia House, on my way to King’s, I consider how stable a stressed identity its citizens possess: their land is Australia and they are Australians; very differently stressed are those whose High Commission cannot quite yet be seen on the far side of Trafalgar Square, Canada House. Those from that land are known as Canadians. (Canada House is closed throughout 2011, perhaps due to stress.) As I walk along the Strand I do think about stress, about the way Quixote becomes Quixótic and how Canádians come from Cánada. Philologists have a term for this stressful shifting: proparoxytone.


In English, most nouns of three or more syllables are proparoxtones, bearing the stress on the antepenultimate or third from last: eléctrical, electrícity. This tendency is so strong in English that it frequently leads to the stress moving to a different part of the root in order to preserve an antepenultimate stress, as when the root phótograph gives rise to the nouns photógraphy and photógrapher. However the adjectival form ‘phótográphic’ resists the shift of the stress to the antepenultimate. I cite Wikipedia on proparoxytone with its convincing explanation: ‘Were it to be objected that “photographic” breaks the rule, it would be explained that “graphic” is already a standard English stem, unlike “graphy” and “grapher”, and that it is the photo’s job to attach itself as prefix to graphic as best it may.’ We shall be returning to the proparoxytone.[3]


It is an odd detail that the Danish translation of Don Quixote has exactly—literally —the same title as the English translation, both corresponding to Cervantes’ own title, both diverging from all modern editions of the Spanish ‘original’. Before reaching Australia House, the Strand, almost as soon as it leaves Fleet Street, has to divide itself to negotiate a monumental site of Danish translation, St Clement Danes, a church either built by the Danes before they left in the 9th century, or, according to some, built for those Danes who, married to English girls, chose to stay, despite being thereby consigned to a wild region beyond the pale. Their ghosts continue to intimidate, as Danish ghosts do, at least on the English stage. Can it be a coincidence that the Royal Courts of Justice should have been built right there, even a thousand years after the last Danes had supposedly left, or been integrated out of any visibility? North of the Strand was still a wilderness in the mid-nineteenth century, a pestiferous maze, until 1870; the stretch of road between Temple Bar and St Clement Danes was once known as Butchers Row.[4]


On those Courts let me cite, from William Kent’s Encyclopedia of London (1937), a passage of interest to those literally or alphabetically inclined: ‘The A.B.C. restaurant, north of the Central Hall, is unique in that customers are encouraged to help themselves from the counter.’[5] It is thus among the very first establishments in Britain at which one had to join a queue for lunch. Not inappropriately should a queue be formed here, for the Strand is itself a sort of single tail wagged by two dogs, the City and Westminster; most fitting when we see how the Strand contributed to the distinctively Anglo-Saxon culture of the Quixotic.


Of the church’s origins, Pevsner is blithely indifferent: ‘Goes back probably to Danish times.’ William Kent of the Encyclopedia reports in more responsible tones that the dedication to St Clement, patron saint of sailors, ‘lends colour to the suggestion that the first church on this site was one specially allocated to the Danes. Fleetwood, recorder to Lord Burghley, who may have had some authority, now vanished, said that, when the Danes were driven out of England, those who had married English women were ordered by the King (Alfred the Great) to dwell between the Isle of Thorney (Westminster) and Caer Lud (Ludgate), and that there they erected a place of devotion, which was afterwards consecrated and called “Ecclesia Clementis Danorum”.’[6]


Those Danes might explain why the area now known as the Strand was generally avoided: it was little used as a thoroughfare, nor was it paved at all until the reign of Richard II, shortly before 1400. In 1353 the way is described as ‘profunda et lutosa’.[7] Even as late as 1532 an Act had to be passed ‘for sufficiently paving … the street way between Charing Cross and Strand Cross’ at the western end of St Mary le Strand, ‘the way being full of pits and sloughs, very perilous and noisome’ and ‘so deep and miry as to be almost impassable.’[8] Yet the great houses along what we call the Strand, notably the Savoy, were built much earlier than that, in the reign of Henry III (reigned 1216-72), for the Savoyard favourites of his queen, Eleanor of Provence. There was no paved road to their north: those grand houses faced south, and fronted the river. At their back was a sort of wilderness, legislatively as well as physically, for the area fell within the governance of neither London nor Westminster, rather like Southwark on the other side of the river.[9] The river itself afforded a passage of safe conduct: the noble or courtly mode of travel between Whitehall and London was always by the river. Though Eleanor of Provence was deeply unpopular she was only on one occasion attacked by a London mob in her boat: her usual mode not only of travel but of being outdoors. It was for the aristocracy a water-borne culture, and one in which tides and currents represented less a risk than a sure protection from the rabble.


The great houses built along the Strand during the thirteenth century were on the river-bank, properly known as the Strand. Only later, when the rough area behind them was first paved, did the road to the north of that row of houses come to be known as the Strand. (This disposes of the vulgar explanation, or folk-etymology, that the river must have run much higher in those days.) Until the road was paved, Rocinante could not bring his master down the Strand; nor is Don Quixote ever recorded as travelling by boat.


Steen Eiler Rasmussen (1898-1990) was a Danish architect whose London: The Unique City is one of the most durable of all considerations; its first edition (1937) carries an introduction by James Bone, himself author of another classic, The London Perambulator (1925).[10] Rasmussen understood the advantage of the river for avoiding residual or spectral Danes on the Strand. Yet our sense of new life in Elizabethan London depends to a large degree on the paving of roads and their use by the quality. Rasmussen brings out just how radical was the transformation from oared to wheeled transport. In 1568 Queen Elizabeth is known to have used a coach, if only because the French Ambassador records her having been ‘knocked about’ by being conveyed in it at too rapid a rate. Following the monarch’s example, travel by coach soon became ‘general among the upper classes. As early as 1598 Stow wrote about the terrible number of coaches which were unknown in the old days, [whereas] now “the world runs on wheels”, an expression which rapidly became popular in describing the enervating restlessness of the time.’ Yet the nobility held stubbornly to their usual modes, forming in this, as so often, an alliance with those who served them: ‘Coaches met with serious opposition from the more conservative citizens in general and from the Thames watermen in particular. The Thames was the silent highway connecting the various townships…. A lawyer going from the Temple to Westminster went by boat instead of driving or riding along the rough and muddy roads of the Strand and Charing Cross…. In 1613 the number of the watermen and their families amounted to 40,000, in a city whose entire population hardly exceeded 200,000…. In 1601 they succeeded in getting a Bill passed in the House of Commons “to restrain the excessive and superfluous use of coaches” …. [However,] in 1614 the House of Commons refused to pass a similar measure.’[11]


What might account for this vast revolution in London’s transport system, and consequently for its social life and all the patterns of urban living? For this was the case not only in London: the European sense of human mobility and of the potentials of transport was radically changed, and there is no shortage of those exalted explanations that fall somewhere between history and anthropology. What matters for us, and must serve as adequately pertinent to the Strand, is the singular and most consequential event that occurred between 1601 and 1614: not the Gunpowder Plot but the publication in the same year, 1605, of Don Quixote, whose hero is most emphatically a roadman rather than a waterman. (Given the importance of water transport up until 1614, it is odd that all those watermen have left so few ripples in our literature.)


The Brazilian city of Porto Alegre—now celebrated as a successful example of socialist governance, thus fulfilling its baptism as a cheerful port—was founded on 26 March 1772. Concerning this date there is neither doubt nor dispute, though the event may be regarded as of marginal interest. Four years earlier, in 1768, the Adam brothers had cleared up a neglected area between the Thames and the Strand, formerly the garden of the Bishop of Durham’s palace, and built on the site the Adelphi Terrace, pushing the river further south, towards the line which has been familiar to us since 1870 when it was defined and held firm by the Victoria Embankment.


Northumberland House was one of those great London mansions facing the Strand, its gardens running down to the Thames; so we are often told, though we should think also of the busy passage through or alongside the garden between the house and the mooring-stage or boathouse. The garden is probably a retrospective conversion, at least as a place of repose, after the entrance to the mansion had been shifted to the north, to what we now know as the Strand. Until then the area between the house and the river would have been more like a combination of the front drive and the servants’ entrance. Despite the survival of its name, even to this day in Northumberland Avenue, Northumberland House was only briefly the home of the Percys, Dukes of Northumberland: Hotspur would have been such a duke, had he not too early become food for—for worms, brave Percy. (An example of aposiopesis, cutting the discursive strand, and of aposiopesis redeemed, the dash of vacancy given lexical supplement, syntactic fulfilment.) Hotspur’s father, Henry Percy, was the first Earl of Northumberland; Hotspur was killed at the battle of Shrewsbury in 1403; his father, still alive, was presumed party to his son’s rebellion and cautiously stayed away from London; it was his grandson, Hotspur’s son, who succeeded as the second Earl, and he also chose to remain in Northumberland. For the next century, until the Reformation, the site on the Strand served as the Hospital of St Mary Rouncevall.[12]


After the Reformation, its history is not much happier than that of Hotspur, nor of smoother continuity. Henry Howard, Earl of Northampton, built a great house on the site in 1605—the year of Don Quixote, and Guy Faux—and it was named Suffolk House after his son, the first Earl of Suffolk. The first Earl died in 1626, and his son, the 2nd Earl of Suffolk, had a daughter who in 1642 married the tenth Duke of Northumberland, whose name was Algernon Percy. 1644 is the year in which the very first of all English Quixotes appears, as attested by the OED under ‘quixote’. In 1646 the second Earl of Suffolk died without an heir, and left his property to his brother-in-law, who chanced to be once more Earl of Northumberland, now the tenth of that title. Thus from 1646, after an hiatus of almost 250 years, the mansion resumed its name of Northumberland House. That name was retained, perhaps out of respect for its having been doubly bestowed. We still know it thus, though after the death of the 11th Earl in 1670, without issue, there were no more direct descendants of the Percy family, and the title ‘Earl of Northumberland’ was thereafter extinct. The title ‘Duke of Northumberland’ was created in 1766 for the far from direct descendants of the Earls of Northumberland; the Dukedom prompted them to change their family name from Smithson to Percy, but since 1766 the Dukes of Northumberland, still flourishing at Alnwick Castle, have never owned or resided in Northumberland House.


The Strand front of Northumberland House as painted by Canaletto in 1752, via Wikimedia Commons.

Built in 1605, the facade of Northumberland House, which now—all fifty metres of its extent—faced north, on the Strand, was destroyed by fire in 1780, along with its library. The rebuilt house survived for less than a hundred years: it was subject to purchase by Act of Parliament, for half a million pounds, and entirely demolished in 1874. (Six million bricks were auctioned.) This followed the creation of the Victoria Embankment in 1870, the same year that the Royal Courts of Justice were built: one sees order being imposed on the Strand, simultaneously north and south. Where the gardens of the mansions had (before the building of the Adelphi) given access to the waterfront, now Embankment Gardens offered access to all, though they remain regrettably separated from the river by the new roadway. Northumberland House was demolished in order to create a way from Hungerford Bridge (re-built in 1864) to Charing Cross Station, built in 1864, itself part of the reconstruction and opening of the space around the square dedicated to the memory of that battle off the Spanish coast that took place exactly two hundred years after the publication of Don Quixote, whose author had himself lost not quite an arm, but the use of one hand (happily, not his writing hand), in one of the other great naval engagements of European history, the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. Northumberland Avenue was opened to traffic in 1876.


James Boswell was a frequent visitor to Northumberland House, his friend being the chaplain of the newly-created Dukes of Northumberland. This librarian was named Dr. Thomas Percy (1729-1811), a renowned man of letters, editor of Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765) and (later) a most conscientious and admirably resident Bishop of Dromore in Ireland; as the family’s chaplain, he lived in an apartment in Northumberland House. Despite being named Percy, he was not related either to the family of the Earls of Northumberland, nor to the Dukes, those Smithsons who had recently taken the name of Percy. Sir Thomas was a plain Percy, though his association with the Dukes of Northumberland has inevitably led to much false supposing. This is the entry in Boswell’s journal for 26 March 1772, the very day on which Portuguese settlers were founding a harbour on a distant Brazilian strand:


I called on Dr. Percy at Northumberland House. I had left cards for the Duke and Duchess, but had received neither visit nor message from them. It was agreeable to find Percy in a large room looking into the Strand, and at the same time his room as much a library—as crowded and even confused with books and papers—as any room in a college. He showed me many curiosities; in particular, a collection of all the Spanish authors mentioned in Don Quixote; and he told me that a clergyman down in the country, who has probably more Spanish learning than any Spaniard, was assisting him in finding out the various passages mentioned or alluded to, that he may make a kind of key to Don Quixote. This will be a work of universal curiosity.[13]


Such a key was never published. The fire of 1780 that destroyed the Strand facade of Northumberland House did not spare Percy’s library: ‘Dr. Percy almost lost his fine library.’[14] It may have been this loss or near-loss that precipitated both Percy’s elevation to an Irish bishopric, in 1782, and the publication in 1781 of a monumental work of Cervantes scholarship, though something other than Percy’s projected ‘Key to Don Quixote’.


The ‘clergyman down in the country’ was John Bowle (1725-1788), Rector of Idmiston in Wiltshire, to the north of Salisbury. He was a contributor to Thomas Warton’s History of English Poetry (1774-1781) and Steevens’s revision of Johnson’s Shakespeare (1773-78), Bowle belonged to the generation in which scholarship was undertaking its drift from the ancients to the moderns, in that long-drawn-out battle of the books that was to be finally resolved only with the demise of Latin in the middle of the twentieth century. In 1762 Thomas Warton had neatly justified literary scholarship in the modern languages, by rather bravely making an objection to Pope’s mockery of Theobald’s annotations: ‘If Shakespeare is worth reading, he is worth explaining.’[15] Bowle thought the same about Cervantes, writing to Thomas Percy in 1774: ‘From the commencement of my intimacy with the text of Don Quixote, I was induced to consider the great author as a Classic, and to treat him as such.’[16] Bowle received strong encouragement for this undertaking from Percy, who had himself contributed to shaking the singular authority of the Classical canon; he was among the very first scholars to ascribe literary significance and value to popular ballads. Percy’s Reliques of Ancient Poetry had been published in 1765, and Bowle had made some contributions to that work.[17]


As inventoried at his death in 1788, Bowle’s library at Idmiston consisted of well over 12,000 works and editions: had he been given by Percy whatever survived the fire at Northumberland House? His edition of Don Quixote was published at Salisbury in 1781 at the price of 3 guineas. As well as establishing a scholarly text of Don Quixote, Bowle provided an accompanying volume in three-hundred pages of annotations. To the entire project Bowle affixed an epigraph from Horace:


Libera per vacuum posui vestigia princeps,

Non aliena meo pressi pede

‘I was the first to set free footsteps on virgin soil; I walked not where others trod’[18]


Bowle’s ‘annotations on Cervantes’ text underlie all subsequent work of the kind and have brought him, with time, the highest praise in Spain.’[19] Yet Bowle’s massive labour was on publication at once attacked, on very similar grounds as those on which Pope had mocked Theobald.


Joseph Baretti was an Italian poet and man of letters who had arrived in London in 1751. From 1753 he was tutor in Italian to Charlotte Lennox, already the author of The Female Quixote (1752, when its author seems to have been aged just 22, or thereabouts). Lennox introduced Baretti to Fielding, Reynolds, Garrick, Johnson and her wider circle of eminent friends and admirers.[20] In an extraordinarily virulent attack Baretti pointed out—on behalf of the general reader, of course—that there is no advantage to be gained from reading all those books of chivalry mentioned or alluded to in Don Quixote. In the words of Bowle’s champion in our age, R. W. Truman:


Baretti subsequently made common cause with Captain John Cruickshank RN, whom Bowle had failed to thank in the preliminaries to his edition, even though Cruickshank had, in the mid-1770s, been a warm friend and supportive collaborator. Bowle responded to their criticism of himself and his edition in letters of 1784-85 to the Gentleman’s Magazine and finally in his Remarks on the extraordinary conduct of the knight of the ten stars [Cruickshank] and his Italian squire [Baretti], to the editor of ‘Don Quixote: in a letter to the Rev. J. S., D. D. [probably Joseph Simpson] (1785).


Baretti was already notorious for his intemperate writings; in the early 1780s he had publicly expressed his contempt for Hester Thrale on marrying her daughter’s piano teacher Mr Piozzi: this ’only worsened the reputation that he had acquired in later life as combative and ill-natured.’[21]


Baretti was a dangerous figure with whom to engage in polemics. It was Bowle’s Remarks that unleashed Baretti’s counter-attack, Tolondron: Speeches to John Bowle about his edition of Don Quixote; Together with some account of Spanish literature, in which Baretti ‘presented Bowle as a linguistically incompetent pedant.’[22]


Don Quixote is a book that wants no Comento but what can be contained in two or three pages…. Far from harbouring any such idea, or hinting that, to understand his Don Quixote, we were to read the chivalry and other silly books he had read himself, Cervantes condemned them all to be burnt by means of the Curate…. Fling you, Mr. John Bowle, fling into the fire your Comento likewise; as I tell it you again, that there is not one line throughout Don Quixote in want of any of your explanations; or point out only one that you have explained better than any Spanish girl could have done.[23]


Thus Baretti in 1786. Bowle died in 1788, his scholarship mocked, his publisher displeased; indeed a friend described Tolondron as ‘the efficient cause of the death of poor John Bowle’. After his death Edward Easton, the Salisbury printer who had undertaken the issue of this impressive work—printed entirely in Spanish, posing a challenge in the print shop, for type-setters, and for proof-readers, as well as for the book-buying public in Wiltshire—offered the remaining copies of Bowle’s edition of Don Quixote, in six volumes quarto, ‘at the very low price of One Guinea’.[24]


Let us move from a story about Don Quixote and scholarship in eighteenth-century England to an English novel with Quixote in its title, published in 1773, one year after Boswell’s visit to Thomas Percy in Northumberland House. That England should be the focus is not surprising for, as has often been said, here by Susan Staves: ‘No national literature assimilated the idea of Don Quixote more thoroughly than the English. During the eighteenth century especially, Don Quixote came into its own….’[25] The very phrase ‘came into its own’ hints at a willed appropriation, a liberating surrender to aliens, even pirates, another strand in the web of conversion and temptation that so marks and compromises any notion of ‘Spanish identity’. George Saintsbury observes that ‘both Don Quixote and Gil Blas ranked almost as English novels at this period and till some way on in the nineteenth century. They were certainly far more read, in proportion to the possible number of readers, than they have been since.’[26]


To the astonishment even of his contemporaries, the great translator of the English Don Quixote was himself a French Huguenot, Peter Anthony Motteux (1663-1718; resident in London from 1685) who had already contributed an English version of Rabelais. It was of Motteux that Dryden composed those words, once singularly addressed, that may now honour any of those who achieve literary status in an adopted language:


But whence art thou inspir’d, and Thou alone

To flourish in an Idiom, not thine own?[27]


Like Cervantes, Motteux came into his own in English. Like James Joyce, as well:


— You have a queer name, Dedalus, and I have a queer name too, Athy. My name is the name of a town, Your name is like Latin.

Then he asked: — Are you good at riddles?

Stephen answered:

— Not very good.

Then he said:

— Can you answer me this one? Why is the county of Kildare like the leg of a fellow’s breeches?

Stephen thought what could be the answer and then said:

— I give it up.

— Because there is a thigh in it, he said. Do you see the joke? Athy is the town in the county Kildare and a thigh is the other thigh.

— Oh, I see, Stephen said.

— That’s an old riddle, he said.

After a moment he said:

— I say!

— What? asked Stephen.

— You know, he said, you can ask that riddle in another way.

— Can you? said Stephen.

— The same riddle, he said. Do you know the other way to ask it?

— No, said Stephen.

— Can you not think of the other way? he said.

— No, said Stephen.

— Can you not think of the other way? he said.

He looked at Stephen over the bedclothes as he spoke. Then he lay back on the pillow and said:

— There is another way but I won’t tell you what it is.[28]


The riddle is never told in another way by Athy, nor—to the best of my knowledge—has any commentator on Joyce got its point, or realized the rather obvious leg-pull in this plodding sequence: ‘quixote’ is in Spanish the word for the piece of armour that protects the thigh, and by metonymy for the thigh itself.


One item of interest for sale from Bowle’s library was the Spanish translation, by Cipriano de Valera, of Calvin’s Institutes; Cipriano as a Spanish Protestant had sought refuge in England in 1558 while his translation of the Institutes had already been published in London in 1597. This prompts speculation: the appropriation of Don Quixote by the English throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries seems to have defied all the anti-Spanish sentiments that have been endemic in English politics and culture since the Reformation. Anything Spanish from the Jacobean theatre to the Gothic novel is liable to be associated with the Counter-Reformation, the Jesuits or the Inquisition. Yet nothing of this seems to touch the English admiration for Don Quixote. One may suspect that Cipriano de Valera, Fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge from 1561, and known as ‘the Spanish heretic’, though now largely forgotten, played a role, posthumously, by being paired in the English mind with Cervantes. It may have been thus that Cervantes was rendered a Protestant. Mark Twain phrases the influence of Don Quixote in terms that suggest that it had undertaken work akin to that of the Reformers:


A curious exemplification of the power of a single book for good or harm is shown by the effects wrought by Don Quixote and those wrought by Ivanhoe. The first swept the world’s admiration for this medieval chivalry silliness out of existence; and the other restored it.[29]


For readers in the English language, Don Quixote is the first novel, the book that asserts the yardstick of the windmill (of which one stood in the Strand) against the knights of romance. Perhaps the success of Cervantes in England can be attributed, in part, to the odd fact that English is the only modern European language to distinguish between ‘novel’ and ‘romance’: to translate ‘novel’ into French, Italian, German, Spanish or Russian, one has little choice but to use ‘roman’, or a variant thereof. Thus the distinction so central to our reading of Cervantes is lexically available only in English: it is the novel that challenges and renounces the tiltings of romance. Yet the novel relies on that ambivalence, between head and heart, reason and romance, between ‘reality’ and ‘appearance’, between the basin and the helmet. It also cultivates those palliatives to disenchantment which give fiction its enticing qualities and seductive powers. Critics have been keen to rescue Don Quixote from a purely satiric intention, and seem to agree that, although we can mock Don Quixote, we can never despise him. He is the exemplary reader, caught between the seductive and the actual, and thereby disclosing their mutual dependence, for what would reality be if there were no appearances? or the novel, without the romance?


Apart from the frequent and explicit allusions to and comments on Cervantes in Fielding, Sterne and Smollett, and indeed throughout English literature, one also finds—by less well-known novelists—no fewer than three works whose titles make the point of appropriation, or affiliation: The Female Quixote by Charlotte Lennox of 1752, The Spiritual Quixote by Richard Graves, published in 1773, and The Infernal Quixote by Charles Lucas, of 1800.[30] The peculiar nature of the theme of Richard Graves’ novel, Calvinist ‘enthusiasm’ (in the etymological sense: ‘god-possessed’), seems appropriate for the replication of that ambivalence by which the protagonist can be, at once, both the occasion of satire and yet our hero. Such was the cult of Don Quixote that the ‘enthusiasm’ of Dissenters such as John Wesley and George Whitefield (1714-1770) had attracted the label of ‘Religious Knight Errantry’ some years before Graves’s Spiritual Quixote appeared in 1773: Orator Henley was said in 1757 to have ‘No equal … ’Midst all the Quixots of Divinity’.[31] Barker-Benfield has suggested that ‘Methodism (and probably evangelism generally) and the cult of sensibility were two branches of the same culture’.[32] Much mocked in The Spiritual Quixote are those Calvinist dissenters, Whitefield and his followers (rather than Wesley), who preach faith without works; antinomian instances are given in which it is claimed that, as long as one has faith within, what is done outwardly, in the world, is of no importance. By the same antinomian token, good deeds undertaken without faith are merely so much illusion and dross. Murder and bigamy are among the doings that can be performed in all innocence by those with the true faith of the born-again or twice-born Christian. (Lest anyone suppose these notions to belong merely to antiquarian debate, it should be noted that Whitefield’s preaching in the American colonies had immense influence on Jonathan Edwards: any attempt to understand American culture and politics today would be wise to study Calvinism in its Methodist form.)


Calvin is the somewhat neglected counterpart to Descartes, Don Quixote and Hamlet, one of those founders of the modern age who helped to create that inwardness in which the modern subject finds itself, and finds itself bounded in a nutshell, secure from all outside interference; yet in which each one of us is able to count the self (bad dreams aside) king of infinite space. Subject and object are thereafter to be defined mutually and exclusively. Antinomianism thrives on the possibility of thoughts being kept to their thinkers’ selves; in Protestant societies antinomianism tends to take the place of law in the realm of the subject, the private sphere.


The sense that Don Quixote defines and exemplifies the body/ mind, matter/ spirit, subject/ object division—the dichotomies constitutive of modernity—can be found throughout the work’s critical reception since the mid-eighteenth century. Here is a representative English essay on Cervantes, from the Times Literary Supplement of 1916, by Walter Raleigh, Professor of English Literature at Oxford. It is representative, yet not quite complacent:


Every one sees the irony of Don Quixote in its first degree, and enjoys it in its more obvious forms. … But, with more thought, there comes a check to our frivolity… Does the author, after all, mean to say that the world is right, and that those who try to better it are wrong? If that is what he means, how is it that at every step of our journey we come to like the Don better, until in the end we can hardly put a limit to our love and reverence for him? Is it possible that the criticism is double-edged, and that what we are celebrating with our laughter is the failure of the world?[33]

This is the apocalyptic register—Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33)—yet Raleigh is writing in the middle of the Great War, in which was epitomised the failure of all dreams and schemes of progress and human betterment. In terms of the wager staked by St Augustine (another Algerian captive), we might phrase the play of the reader’s sympathies thus: ‘Grant that it may be given to Don Quixote to overcome the world, but not yet.’ Hence indeed the dilation, that all but endless deferral of narrative closure that will be the entire story of Tristram Shandy; this is the condition of textual possibility by which the novel lives, by which novels enable us, as modern subjects, to live, and to project our lives in the light of the secular awareness that death happens to others, but never to the subject.


One chapter of The Spiritual Quixote is entitled ‘Essay on Quixotism’. Richard Graves there writes that the heroes of antiquity and the noble figures of the Bible, ‘Patriarchs and Prophets, Apostles and Evangelists, and even St. Paul himself, might be styled spiritual Knights-errant.’[34] Graves goes on to distinguish between those who ‘had divine commissions to take the profession upon them’ and ‘our modern itinerant reformers’ who ‘by the mere force of imagination, have conjured up the powers of darkness in an enlightened age.’ For the latter, Graves tells us, ‘are acting in defiance of human laws, without any apparent necessity, or any divine commission.’


What Coleridge and the Romantics will do for the Imagination, within the next thirty years, can be measured by this phrase: ‘mere force of imagination.’ For those who were not Enthusiasts, it was still hard to grasp the power of inwardness, of Innerlichkeit: The Spiritual Quixote appears in 1773, Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther in 1774. And that Innerlichkeit is not without its antinomianism, at least in its ‘sentimental’ trumping of justice by mercy, and of reason by sensibility. For Graves, the problem of Quixotism is to be identified in terms of inappropriate forms of imitation, the attempt to copy the virtuous behaviour of an earlier age ‘when the more perfect regulations of civil society had rendered it, not only unnecessary, but unlawful.’ This is precisely the problem with contemporary ‘Enthusiasts’: ‘even our primitive reformers had both reason and scripture so evidently on their side’ whereas those today ‘are planting the Gospel in a Christian country: they are combating the shadow of Popery, where the Protestant religion is established….’[35]


Our protagonist Geoffry Wildgoose, disaffected with the Church of England, sets out ‘in imitation of our primitive Reformers’ to be an itinerant preacher. After some three hundred pages he is commissioned by Whitefield himself to preach in the coalfields of Derbyshire, and on his way meets a stranger who ‘opposed his opinions with great vehemence’, especially regarding Calvinist doctrine:


‘Sir,’ says Wildgoose, ‘I suppose then you are a follower of John Wesley’s.’—‘No,’ replies the stranger; ‘I am John Wesley himself.’[36]


Soon afterwards, Wildgoose and Tugwell (the Sancho Panza figure) arrive at Shenstone‘s Folly, the Leasowes, renowned for its landscaped garden, and the home of the poet Shenstone. Wildgoose (in his usual mode) argues with Shenstone that the pleasures we receive from woods and fountains should not ‘engross too much of our attention’ and that we should inquire ‘how far too violent a fondness for these merely inanimate beauties might interfere with our love of God, and attach us too strongly to the things of this world.’[37] Shenstone is surprised the next morning to find that his guests have already departed, leaving a letter condemning idolatry, and charging Shenstone with having forsaken the fountains of the living Lord for broken cisterns that will hold no water. Before leaving, Shenstone soon discovers, Wildgoose and Tugwell must have not only tugged well to have pulled down a statue of a piping fawn; they have even emptied the lakes and canals so that the water cannot cascade.


William Shenstone (1714-63) was a man whose great good taste was widely admired. He was indeed fascinated by the uses of water, as Johnson reports in his Life:


he began from this time to point his prospects, to diversify his surface, to entangle his walks, and to wind his waters… to make water run where it will be heard, and to stagnate where it will be seen.[38]


Shenstone is neither a Sentimentalist nor an Enthusiast: he is a man entirely devoted to the outer world, to surfaces and prospects: an emergent aesthete, an aspiring technocrat: a model of Äusserlichkeit (a term coined as an antonym in the 18th century, to indicate the external and inessential). Wildgoose, like any enthusiast, lives by his own inwardness, regardless of the outer world and, unless under compulsion, oblivious to it. That Wildgoose pulls down the statue and blocks the flow of water is not a sign of increased militancy, or ‘applied antinomianism’, but rather a redeeming moment: for now the inner and outer worlds once more enter into negotiation. The meeting with Wesley is already taking its healing effect on Wildgoose, whose happy progress the rest of the novel will trace.


We may recall Graves’ phrase, ‘mere force of imagination’ (from 1783), when we read Johnson’s dazzling epitome of Shenstone, written in 1781:


The pleasure of Shenstone was all in his eye; he valued what he valued merely for its looks; nothing raised his indignation more than to ask if there were any fishes in his water.[39]


This is a truly magnificent exemplification of the antithesis of Innerlichkeit: to deny depth and inwardness even to water: appearance is all: the superficial is the true: the reflected is the real.


From this quixotic divagation let us return not to the Strand but to a village marginal yet cosmopolitan, Idmiston, home of John Bowle, in the catalogue of whose library was listed a Spanish translation of Calvin’s Institutes. Was this book in his library because it is mentioned or alluded to by Cervantes? If not, why would Bowle have had the volume? Does Bowle cite from Calvin in his annotations, in Spanish, to those six volumes published by Edward Eastman of Salisbury? Did the Spanish Calvin perhaps come from Thomas Percy’s library at Northumberland House, before or immediately after the fire of 1780? And did Richard Graves know Bowle, or know of his library? Let us protest (and enact another proparoxytone) that in England the Quixotic comes very close to the Protestant.


Describing his visit to Thomas Percy at Northumberland House in March 1772, Boswell’s Journal continues:


[Percy] showed me also a book which had belonged to the famous but foolish Earl of Pembroke, who had a custom of writing upon the margins of his books, not things which had any connexion with the text, but all sorts of things as they came into his head. The book was scribbled over with the strangest nonsense, as thus: ‘Take away the castle and take away the haven, and then where is my Lord of Castlehaven? Take away the Bridge and take away the Water, and then where is my Lord of Bridgewater? It is hardly possible to conceive the variety of nonsense thus written.[40]


To which our learned editors, Wimsatt and Pottle, append a footnote on the Earl of Pembroke: ‘He was famous and eccentric but apparently not foolish, even though he is well known to have had the habit of writing mysterious remarks in the margins of his books.’[41] In the margin of this paper I will pretend to have written this: ‘Take away the shine and take away the stone, and what is left of the Leasowes? Take away the Wild and take away the goose and what is left of that enthusiastic chase? Take away the haven and take away the happy and then where is that Brazilian city founded on the very day of Boswell’s visit to Northumberland House? Take away the North and take away the Humber, and what is left of the Land?’


A marginal note on Northumberland House, and about the dilapidation of noble structures and noble ideals. Remember the Danes: they do not forget the Strand. On the coping of the Strand front of Northumberland House (then called Suffolk House) was a border of capital letters [note the imbrication of border and capital: the Strand]. ‘At the funeral of Queen Anne of Denmark in 1619 a young man in the crowd was killed by the letter ‘S,’ which had been pushed off by spectators on the roof.’[42] Death by Dilapidation, and literally so: killed by a letter: a stone cast from a house that is now, and by virtue of that stone’s casting, without S—. A tentative solution to the significance of that particular letter might however lie less in sin than in stress, the stress the coping could not bear.


As we reach the western end of the Strand our musings turn to the Square. Here is another death by stress, as celebrated by Byron in his praise of Ocean towards the very end of Canto IV of Childe Harold:


The oak leviathans, whose huge ribs make

Their clay creator the vain title take

Of lord of thee, and arbiter of war;

These are thy toys, and, as the snowy flake,

They melt into thy yeast of waves, which mar

Alike the Armada’s pride, or spoils of Trafalgar.[43]



The rhyme is, we hear, most decisively on the final syllable of Trafalgar. Almost one hundred years later, in 1903, Thomas Hardy seems to add an accent to the last syllable of a song in The Dynasts, to indicate how the name needs to be sounded for the sake of the rhyme:


The victors and the vanquished then the storm it tossed and tore,

As hard they strove, those worn-out men, upon that surly shore;

Dead Nelson and his half-dead crew, his foes from near and far,

Were rolled together on the deep that night at Trafalgár!

The deep,

The deep,

That night at Trafalgár![44]


But no: the small print informs us that there is no accent in the 1903 text: this is one of those ‘helpful’ editorial interventions that suggests that Hardy in his usual clumsy way has had to distort normal pronunciation in order to find a rhyme.[45] Scholarship betrays its very purpose when it obscures difference, for in doing so it can only misrepresent. Even as late as 1903 Hardy heard Trafalgar rhyming with ‘near and far’.


As we reach the end of the Strand—passing King’s College, most fittingly endowed in 1916 with the Cervantes Chair of Hispanic Studies—Hardy’s rhyme takes us back to Quixote and the Quixotic: the proparoxytone of Trafalgar is here occasioned not by the adding of suffix or prefix but by an additional word in the formation of a place name. Where we must leave stranded our ramble of sagging purpose is commemorated the Battle of what was once voiced as Tráfalgár and is now, by the phonetic wandering of proparoxytone, known as Trafálgar Squáre.



Methodological Coda: This essay is a scholar-errant’s exercise in rambling and invites the reproach issued by Gibbon to Claudius Salmasius (1588-1653): ‘Salmasius appears to exhaust the subject, but he too often involves himself in the web of his disorderly erudition.’ Decline and Fall, ch. LI (Everyman edition, V, 357, n. 2) This scholar confesses to a like charge, but would still ask whether erudition must have a proper order, or any at all? The pretence to order may be merely an alibi of erudition.


[1] The latter phrase of the title is that of the chapter on the Strand in Wilfred Whitten, A Londoner’s London (Methuen, 1913), p. 159. This essay had its origins in a lecture given at a symposium on ‘Eighteenth-century Strandlines’, King’s College London, 25 March 2011.

[2] Douglas Newton, London: West of the Bars (Robert Hale, 1951), p. 44.

[3] The occurrence of the word within a poem is sufficiently rare to merit citation, as in Louis MacNeice, ‘Eclogue by a Five-Barred Gate’: Only off and on,/ Thanatos in Greek, the accent proparoxytone—

[4] Douglas Newton, London: West of the Bars, 40.

[5] s.v. ‘Royal Courts of Justice’ in William Kent, ed., Encyclopedia of London (Dent, 1937), p. 542.

[6] Kent, Encyclopedia of London, p. 624

[7] ‘deep and muddy’: Encyclopedia of London, p. 617

[8] Kent, Encyclopedia of London, p. 617.

[9]This may account for some of the difficulties in paving the Strand: the street belongs to no single authority. In the 19th century paving remained a serious problem: ‘The Strand’s three-quarters of a mile was the responsibility of seven different paving boards.’ Jerry White, London in the Nineteenth Century (Vintage, 2008), p. 409.

[10] Steen Eiler Rasmussen, London: The Unique City (Jonathan Cape, 1948); this was for many years available in abridged form as a Pelican.

[11] Rasmussen, London, pp. 124-25.

[12] Stow, Survey of London, ed. C.L. Kingsford (Oxford UP, 1908) vol. 2, p. 343, note to p. 309, line 13; Douglas Newton, London: West of the Bars, p. 162.

[13] Boswell for the Defence 1769-1774, eds W.K. Wimsatt & F.A. Pottle (Heinemann, 1960), p. 65.

[14] Kent, Encyclopedia of London, p. 621.

[15] Thomas Warton, Observations on The fairy queen of Spenser (1762) Volume 2, p. 265

[16] Bowle to Percy, 31 March 1774, cited by R.W. Truman, ‘The Rev. John Bowle’s Quixotic Woes Further Explored’, Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 23:2 (2003), p. 4, note 7.

[17] R.W. Truman, ‘Bowle, John’, ODNB.

[18] Truman, ‘The Rev. John Bowle’s Quixotic Woes’, p. 24

[19] Truman, ‘Bowle’, ODNB

[20] Desmond O’Connor, ‘Baretti, Giuseppe Marc’Antonio’, ODNB

[21] O’Connor, ‘Baretti’, ODNB

[22] Truman, ‘Bowle’, ODNB

[23] Cited in Truman, ‘The Rev. John Bowle’s Quixotic Woes’, p. 31

[24] Truman, ‘The Rev. John Bowle’s Quixotic Woes’, p. 37

[25] Susan Staves, ‘Don Quixote in Eighteenth-Century England’, Comparative Literature, Vol. XXIV, no. 3 (1972), p. 193. See also Ronald Paulson, Don Quixote in England: The aesthetics of laughter (Johns Hopkins UP, 1998). Why and how did English literature assimilate Don Quixote so readily? In his essay ‘On the English Novelists’ in The English Comic Writers (1819), Hazlitt makes no comment on his inclusion of Cervantes; in the words of a standard modern work of reference (Penguin Companion to British & Commonwealth Literature, 1971, s.v. Hazlitt): ‘Cervantes is included as a kind of honorary Englishman.’

[26] George Saintsbury, The Peace of the Augustans [1916] (Oxford, 1948), p. 155, note 1.

[27] ‘To my Friend, the Author [Peter Motteux]’, ll. 48-9, in The Poems of John Dryden, ed. J. Kinsley, (Oxford: at the Clarendon Press, 1958), Vol. III, p. 1436.

[28] A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (New York: Huebsch, 1916), pp. 23-24.

[29] Cited in Staves p. 105. Mark Twain was not merely being witty for he quite seriously blamed Ivanhoe for the delusions of the Confederacy that led to the American Civil War.

[30] These three novels are discussed by Staves, who mentions but does not discuss an anonymous novel, The Philosophical Quixote (1782).

[31] Cited in Paul Goring, The Rhetoric of Sensibility in Eighteenth-Century Culture (Cambridge, 2004), p. 90. (An earlier instance, from 1738, is cited on p. 84.)

[32] G.J. Barker-Benfield, The Culture of Sensibility (Chicago, 1992), p. 273.

[33] Walter Raleigh, Some Authors: A Collection of Literary Essays 1896-1916 (Oxford, 1923), p. 32.

[34] Richard Graves, The Spiritual Quixote, ed. Clarence Tracy (London: OUP, 1967), p. 40.

[35] Graves, The Spiritual Quixote, pp. 40-41.

[36] Graves, The Spiritual Quixote, p. 326.

[37] Graves, The Spiritual Quixote, p. 330.

[38] Johnson, ‘Shenstone’, Lives of the Poets (Oxford, 1952), Vol. 2, p. 389.

[39] Johnson, ‘Shenstone’, p. 390.

[40] Boswell for the Defence, p. 66.

[41] Boswell for the Defence, p. 66, note.

[42] Kent, Encyclopedia of London, p. 621.

[43] Byron, Childe Harold (1818), Canto iv, CLXXXI.

[44] Thomas Hardy, The Dynasts, Part First (1903), Act Fifth, Scene VII, lines 56-62.

[45] Samuel Hynes, ed., The Complete Poetical Works of Thomas Hardy, Volume IV, The Dynasts, Parts First and Second (Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1995), p. 147: textual note to line 45 ‘and throughout song: Trafalgár] no accent’.

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