Gower Bibliography

Gower's Lancastrian Affinity: The Iberian Connection

Yeager, R.F. "Gower's Lancastrian Affinity: The Iberian Connection." Viator 35 (2004), pp. 483-515. ISSN 0083-5897


If the place of "Confessio Amantis" in literary history were not already secure, the poem would still be notable as the first work of English literature to be translated into a contemporary vernacular. Both Portuguese and Castilian translations survive (the latter based on the former). Yeager surveys what is known about the origin and circulation of these, based on the evidence contained in the two MSS and on what is known and can be deduced from the historical record about the two named translators, the one named scribe, their patrons, and the circles in which the latter moved; and nowhere else is this information presented in so complete or so engaging a form as in this essay. Yeager gives central importance to Queen Philippa of Portugal (daughter of John of Gaunt), both for the origin of the Portuguese translation and for a likely role in the production of the Castilian translation for her sister, Queen Catherine of Castile; and he cites the long tradition of learning among the members of the House of Lancaster in support of the inferred literary interests of the two women. He also argues that they may have known of CA and even have had copies of the completed portions of the unfinished poem when they left England for Iberia in 1386. He also considers other possible routes by which CA might have reached the peninsula, however, including others in the 1386 entourage and the connections – social, political, and commercial – that resulted from John of Gaunt’s marriage to Costanza of Castile in 1371. One effect of this union was the strengthening of ties between England and Portugal, including a treaty in 1372 that recognized John and Costanza’s claim to the Castilian throne. The community of English merchants in Lisbon and Porto grew considerably, and Robert Payn, the Portuguese translator, may have had his origin there. The two surviving MSS suggest that Gower’s readership on the peninsula, as in England, extended well beyond the royal family. Gower’s anti-authoritarian stance and his advocacy of “comun profit? would have been quite congenial in the political climate of both countries during the first half of the fifteenth century. The production of the two translations is also consistent with other contemporary literary activity, including a multitude of other translations and the composition of such works as the Libro de buen amor. The royal connection remains of central importance in the explanation of the circulation of CA in Iberia, Yeager concludes, but there is also much more to say about the many others who may have played a role, about the tastes to which the work appealed, and about the needs that it supplied, as Yeager so admirably reveals. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society: JGN 24.1]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Facsimiles, Editions, and Translations
Confessio Amantis
Manuscripts and Textual Studies

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