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  • The Italian Encounter with Tudor England: A Cultural Politics of Translation
  • Kenneth Bartlett
Michael Wyatt . The Italian Encounter with Tudor England: A Cultural Politics of Translation. Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. xiv + 372 pp. index. append. illus. bibl. $90. ISBN: 0-521-84896-2.

This is an important book that addresses a significant moment in the complex cultural and intellectual interaction between England and Italy in the sixteenth century. Wyatt investigates the role played by Italians in England and the instruments of translation and language in the mediation between Italian Renaissance and English Tudor culture, culminating in a discussion of the career of John Florio. Since the appearance of Frances Yates's 1934 study John Florio: The Life of an Italian in Shakespeare's London, the importance of the Italian language and Italian texts in creating the cultural environment of Tudor and Jacobean England has been widely recognized, especially when linked to heterodox religious ideas. Wyatt's book enriches our understanding of this connection and clarifies the role of Florio as the product of a lengthy tradition in which Protestant ideas, language teaching, dictionaries, and translation all offer necessary, if complex, contributions.

The book is consequently ambitious, despite Wyatt's wise decision to discuss only Italians in England, rather than English travelers and students in Italy, a subject heavily researched over the past decades. Even in this restricted intention, however, there are serious omissions of individuals whose place in Anglo-Italian cultural and intellectual relations are central. For example, Pietro Bizzarri does not appear, even though a still-definitive biography by Massimo Firpo, Pietro Bizzarri: esule italiano del cinquecento, discusses the important contributions he made in England, first at Cambridge, where his fellowship was arranged by his close friends Ochino and Peter Martyr, and then in the household of Francis Russell, subsequently Earl of Bedford. Equally neglected is the extended Bruschetto (Bryskett) family. The patriarch, Antonio, a Genoese merchant in London from about 1523, and who was naturalized in 1536, carried on secret correspondence with Italians associated with the Papal Curia during the early years of Elizabeth's reign as an agent of Cecil. His eldest son, Sebastian, nominally a student in Padua and Rome, functioned as an intelligencer before his return to England; a daughter, Lucrezia, married the recusant merchant patrician, Vincenzo Guicciardini (Vincent Guicciardine), long resident in England; and the younger son, Lodowick, was Sir Philip Sidney's companion in Italy and later the translator of Cinthio's Della Vita civile. How could this kin group not appear, particularly since Antonio and his family were leading members of Michelangelo Florio's congregation and were active in the disputes the elder Florio encountered?

There are other lacunae: Emanuele Tremelli, reader in Hebrew at Cambridge through the patronage of his friend Cranmer, was a Jew from Ferrara who when at the studio of Padua had been converted by Reginald Pole, who served as his godfather. Similarly, the Milanese Giulio Terenziano, arrested in Venice for heresy, had been defended by Ochino before fleeing Italy to join him and Peter Martyr in England. And there was Girolamo Cardano, physician, mathematician, and astrologer, who lived in England in the house of Sir John Cheke, where he cast [End Page 1309] horoscopes of the English court and introduced an Italian mystical element into an otherwise very Calvinist environment.

Important instances of translation from Italian, or the use of Italian materials for political purposes, are also missed. For example, Edward Courtenay, son of the Marquis of Exeter, imprisoned in the tower from the time of his father's execution, attempted to win the sympathy of Somerset by translating from Italian the spirituale text, Il Trattato utilissimo del beneficio di Gesù Cristo. The translation of an Italian tract of the Valdès circle was seen by Courtenay as an instrument of rehabilitation, reflecting both his linguistic skill and his insincere reformed sympathies. Furthermore, although Wyatt provides extremely useful insight into the career of Giovanni Battista Castiglione, Elizabeth's Italian master and servant, he does not investigate the charges against him under Mary for conspiracy, which consisted largely of possessing anti-Habsburg materials for distribution. These pamphlets had...


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pp. 1309-1310
Launched on MUSE
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Archived 2009
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