Editing Elizabeth I s Italian Letters

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Journal of Early Modern Studies, n. 3 (2014), pp Editing Elizabeth I s Italian Letters Carlo M. Bajetta University of Valle d Aosta Abstract
Journal of Early Modern Studies, n. 3 (2014), pp Editing Elizabeth I s Italian Letters Carlo M. Bajetta University of Valle d Aosta Abstract Much excellent scholarship has been based upon the fine editions of Elizabeth s letters and works which have been published to date. Modern scholars, however, have unjustly neglected her Italian missives, leaving untouched a critical source for scholarly work. By means of some hitherto unpublished documents, the article will endeavour to cast some light on Elizabeth s Italian correspondence, and will describe some of the challenges (and intriguing mysteries) one has to face when editing these letters. Keywords: Correspondence, Editing, Elizabeth I, Letter Writing, Manuscripts 1. Introduction Writing to Secretary Gabriel de Zayas in 1578, the Spanish Ambassador Bernardino De Mendoza noted that the Queen had recently paid him what almost amounted to a compliment: she said that if I were a gaglioffo (for she likes to use such terms as these in Italian) I should not have remained here so long (Hume , II, 617). While the affirmation that Mendoza, a nobleman of the highest Spanish lineage was not, after all, a worthless knave was not exactly flattering, the ambassador s incidental remark is intriguing. It is in fact revealing of Elizabeth s use of Italian in her diplomatic relationships, a language she often employed, in conversation and in writing, for irony, understatement, or as a means to establish a more intimate rapport with her interlocutor or addressee. While evidence abounds as to Elizabeth I s proficiency in Italian, only a fraction of her letters in this language has so far come to light, and only one has been edited in Mueller and Marcus Autograph Compositions and Foreign Language Originals (2003, 5-6), the well-known first extant letter by the then Princess to Katherine Parr. A research project commenced in 2009 has so far located about 30 of these missives, including seven entirely in the Queen s hand. These documents comprise three addressed to Emperor Maximilian II in the mid-1560s, for which both the holograph drafts and the sent copies, in Elizabeth s best hand, have been discovered. 1 If one can feel quite confident about the authorial element in these texts, which deal with an issue as delicate as that of the Queen s marriage to Archduke Charles of Austria, much of the non-holograph texts touch on far less exciting topics. One may expect the Queen s most trusted collaborators, such as her Principal Secretaries and the office of the Latin Secretary, to have played a considerable part in the composition of such material. Questions of authorship ISSN (online) 2013 Firenze University 42 carlo maria bajetta related to these letters clearly arise: how is one supposed to distinguish between what the Queen wrote and what her ministers asked her to sign? As will become evident in the following pages, the Queen may have been more involved with their composition than has been previously acknowledged, which clearly calls for a new approach to these materials. 2. Material Letters An analysis of the holographs shows that the Queen penned and revised her drafts very carefully. In the case of the Vienna letters, she later copied out the final versions in what are three exceptional examples of her best hand, resembling, in various ways, the beautiful calligraphic Palatino script of her early writings. When one considers the attention which Elizabeth devoted to her lexical choices, her careful use of rhetoric, and examines a document such as the one reproduced here as figure 1 (which Elizabeth sent to Maximilian on 22 June 1567) it becomes evident that she considered both the verbal element and the presentation of the letters to be of equal importance for the content she intended to convey. 2 Such significant features suggest a new approach to Elizabeth s epistolary texts. In Shakespeare s Letters, Alan Stewart has pointed out that the material evidence of Renaissance correspondence force[s] us to consider the letter not as a text but as an object (2008, 66), and a number of recent publications have proven how fruitful such an approach can be (see e.g. Daybell and Hinds 2010; Daybell 2012; Allinson 2012). Focusing on material evidence (including, for example, seals, watermarks, endorsements and handwriting styles) can lead to exciting discoveries. When one examines the non-holograph material from this perspective, in fact, a number of important issues come to light; in particular one can understand that the commonly accepted accounts of how what F.J. Platt (1994) has termed the Elizabethan Foreign office worked, may not always apply to the Italian missives and perhaps not even to the entirety of the Latin correspondence. A joint study of these two categories can, in fact, be very useful to dispel some generally held beliefs. In his edition of the letters sent to the Protestant Powers, for example, E.I. Kouri states that letters given under the signet were in English, but those belonging to the queen s diplomatic correspondence with foreign powers... were not sealed with the signet... The Royal signature written at the foot sufficed as proof of genuineness (Kouri 1982, 13; see also below, note 14). The small but unique collection of letters sent to some continental Princes in Latin and Italian signed by Elizabeth preserved at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington (MS X d 138) seems to contradict this statement. All of the letters in this volume, in fact, show traces of a seal, and at least one bears a papered signet seal (Folger X d 138, fig. 2). The size of the wax stains (1.5 x 1.5 inches) visible on the letters in this manuscript are certainly compatible with the surviving seal, and with another one of the same dimension and appearance now in Folger V b 181. This detail is significant: the presence of a signet seal suggests that the production of these editing elizabeth i s italian letters 43 missives should be seen in relation to an identifiable group of court employees, the clerks of the signet. Among these were men such as Thomas Windebanke, who often enjoyed a unique working relationship with Elizabeth, which even included transcribing the prose parts of her translation of Boethius De Consolatione Philosophiae, into which she added, in her own hand, the poetry sections (National Archives, Kew, State Papers [hereafter SP ] 12/289 ; see the edition by Kaylor and Phillips, 2009; for a facsimile see Pryor 2003, 112). One can clearly see that an exploration of the links between these documents and the Elizabethan bureaucratic apparatus is one which can bear much fruit. 3. Offices and Official Hands The production of the majority of the official foreign correspondence, the greater portion of which was in Latin, was dealt with by the secretariats of State (the office of the Principal Secretary) and of the Latin Tongue (cf. Kouri 1982, 13-18; Platt 1994; Allinson 2012, 17-19; 25-28). Roger Ascham, Elizabeth s first appointed Latin secretary, apparently made a point of penning and personally countersigning most of the Queen s missives which he was required to compose, and used collaborators mostly in order to keep copies of these texts for his records. 3 Ascham s successor in this post from about 1568, Sir John Wolley, had evidently a very different view of his position. Not being endowed with what one may term beautiful handwriting, and having to deal with a significantly increased workload, he regularly employed various copyists for both drafts and the final versions to be sent. 4 Probably in an effort to ensure that the numerous Latin letters by the Queen produced under his supervision were not too dissimilar from one another, Wolley seems to have established a house style which featured engrossed capital letters placed to the left of the text to mark the beginning of paragraphs, and an overall similar script for the first line, which normally included a formal salutation starting with the name of the queen (fig. 2a). 5 His successor from 1596, Christopher Parkins, whose italic was much more acceptable, was to continue, at least in part, this tradition. 6 The office of the Principal Secretary would frequently provide the Latin secretariat with either English versions of the missives to be translated or with Latin texts to be revised (cf. Kouri 1982, 13; Ryan 1963, 225; Platt 1994, 730; Allinson 2012, 46-47). Just like Ascham, Elizabeth s most trusted collaborator, William Cecil, first Baron Burghley from 1571, was frequently personally involved in the shaping of a letter, following its iter from draft to final copy. A typical example of the concluding phases of such a procedure may be seen in SP 70/8, fol. 12, in which the Lord Secretary provided the final touches to the Latin text prepared by Ascham (but probably not copied by him), including the various titles of the addressee, Fredrick II of Saxony, the final formal salutation, and the place and date (fig. 3). 7 44 carlo maria bajetta With respect to the vernacular correspondence, it should be noted that during Elizabeth s reign no secretary for the Italian tongue was ever appointed. The office of the Latin secretary at least, in theory would have to deal with this language as well. Interestingly, though, no example of an Italian letter signed by Elizabeth in Ascham s hand has come to light, and in fact there are no Italian texts in his letter books (BL Royal 13 b I and Add MS 35840, the latter relating to Ascham s brief service under Mary I, ), nor have any been included in the printed collections of letters attributed to him. 8 One could suppose that the Italian missives of this period were mostly taken care of by the collaborators of the Lord Secretary; however, out of five letters in this language extant for the years in which Ascham was in office, three are in Elizabeth s holograph, and only two (which will be discussed below) are in an unidentified scribal hand. It was, furthermore, not one of the scribes working for the Secretary, but Cecil himself who inserted the date 2 aprilis on one of the Italian letters to Maximilian (cf. Bajetta forthcoming). It seems reasonable that Cecil, who could certainly read Italian, wanted to be privy to the contents of these letters: they touched, after all, upon a crucial theme for the realm of England, that of the marriage of its sovereign. Hence, in all likelihood, he may have dealt with them in a way similar to that in which he dealt with the most important Latin missives he usually handled. 9 The man Elizabeth affectionately nicknamed her Spirit had a prominent role in the foreign correspondence for a large part of the Queen s reign. He was appointed Lord Treasurer in 1572, a position which entailed rather different commitments from those of the Principal Secretary; nevertheless, he exercised considerable influence in the area of foreign policy also during the brief term of office ( ) of his successor, Sir Thomas Smith to the extent that Elizabeth sometimes refused to sign papers until Burghley had approved them. Furthermore, on Walsingham s death (which took place on 6 April 1590), the vacant secretaryship was not filled, and Burghley took over most of the work, with the assistance of his son Robert. 10 Burghley s careful scrutiny was thus behind much of the early correspondence as well as a number of the missives sent abroad in the 1590s. 11 A series of Italian letters written between the early 1580s and mid-1590s represents a good example of how the analysis of handwriting can help to reconstruct the origin and textual vicissitudes of documents such as these. The first draft of a missive to the Albanian-born diplomat Bartolomeo Brutti (SP 97/2, fol. 41), penned by an unidentified scribe in 1590, was endorsed by Cecil and bears at least one correction made by him. The second, corrected version of this (on fol. 43) is in the hand of a different scribe ( A ), who also worked on a letter which Elizabeth addressed to Don Antonio of Portugal in 1594 (SP 89/2, fol. 216 and 219). The same man s hand is visible in the draft of a message sent in the following year to Ferdinando I of Tuscany (SP 98/1, fol. 107). A note on the back of this document states that the wording of this editing elizabeth i s italian letters 45 missive was the result of the joint efforts of Sir John Wolley and Dr. James, almost certainly John James (c ), one of the Queen s physicians and keeper of the State Papers. Scribe A, who inserted this note after the endorsement (in another man s hand), which typically summarised briefly the identity of the addressee and the purpose of the letter, may simply have wanted to signal the fact that he had had no role in drafting (or translating) the text. One wonders, though, if this addition could also be meant to indicate that the text was originally composed in Italian. Such an iter would probably not have been an exception: an English text of a missive sent to Venice in April 1584, headed translated out of the Italian Language is, in fact, extant in SP 99/1, fols Pace Evan s suggestion (1923, 171) that the Latin secretary s duties were bureaucratic, not political, Wolley was paid 40 a year, a sum almost equivalent to the earnings of a minor country gentleman (cf. ibid., 21 and Allinson 2012, 27). Valued at such an amount of money, his services may well have extended beyond the mere translation of documents. His unofficial sharing of the principal role of secretary with Robert Cecil (who had taken over a significant proportion of his father s responsibilities since the early 1590s) between 1593 and 1596, moreover, would almost certainly entail the drafting of important pieces of correspondence (Allinson 2012, 27; Croft 2008). The main body of the sent copy of the letter to Ferdinando I (Archivio di Stato di Firenze, Mediceo del Principato 4183, fol. 36) was not, however, penned by James, the Latin Secretary, or by A. It presents, in fact, the typical house style of Wolley s secretariat (with a handwriting which will be identified as that of scribe B ). A, however, had a role in this document as well, since he added the place and date at the bottom of the text (fig. 4b) and the address Al Serenissimo Principe / il gran Duca di / Toscana on what is now fol. 51. Quite interestingly, a third scribe ( C ) was employed for an earlier draft, with a significantly different text (now SP 98/1, fol. 105). This man was evidently known to be a trusted servant of the court. It was him whom Agostino Graffigna (the Genoese merchant who briefly got involved in the negotiations with the Duke of Parma in the mid-late 1580s) asked to write a rather curious letter of self-recommendation which he had composed in 1586, in the hope that Elizabeth would sign it immediately and send it to the Doge of Genoa (cf. BL Cotton Nero B. VI, fols ). 12 Graffigna, who clearly knew that C s hand was used in royal correspondence, evidently saw calligraphy as a means of obtaining the sovereign s approval. C s career may have begun at least some four years earlier, when he had penned a beautiful letter sent to Venice in He went on to write three more letters which were sent during the 1580s as well as one to the previous Duke of Florence, Francesco I, in 1585 (Mediceo del Principato 4183, fol. 26). While A was working with the Cecils and Wolley (and, later, Parkins, cf. SP 98/1, fols. 113 and 118), C was clearly collaborating with Wolley and the office of the previous Principal Secretary: some English drafts of the Venice 46 carlo maria bajetta letters (BL Add 48126, fols and 178) were, in fact, annotated by Walsingham and his close collaborator and kinsman Robert Beale. 13 What the data presented so far indicate is that the production of the Italian letters was far less straightforward than some modern accounts such as Platt and Kouri s would have us believe. These and other studies, in fact, have presented what appears to be a simplified iter for the production of the international correspondence: from State to Latin secretariat, and hence, via the Signet Office, to the hands of the Queen for her signature. 14 The evidence, however, would suggest that the process was less clear-cut: draft letters and copies, in fact, seem to go both ways between the office of the Principal Secretary and that of the Latin Tongue. In a way, this may be simply the result of what Beale, who was evidently familiar with the workings of the Foreign Office, suggested as standard practice: When anie businesses cometh into the Secretarie s handes, he shall doe well for the ease of himselfe to distribute the same and to use the helpe of such her Majestie s servants as serve underneath him, as the Clercks of the Councell, the Clercks of the Signett, the Secretarie of the Latin and of the French tonge, and of his own servants. (Read 1925, I, 426) Beyond the mere analysis of handwriting styles, one needs, then, to turn to the work carried out by these men. 4. From Hands to Heads One would expect the first category of these court employees, the clerks of the Privy Council, to have had a significant role in the shaping of the Italian letters. The Council clerks had frequently travelled abroad and/or had experience of diplomatic missions. They were important collaborators of the Secretary of State on matters of foreign policy, and were, at least at Whitehall, located conveniently near the Latin secretariat (cf. Platt 1982, 124; id., 1994, ; Vaughan 2006, 64). However, no example of the handwriting of civil servants such as Bernard Hampton, Edmund Tremayne (who had spent a year in Italy), Robert Beale, Thomas Wilkes, Henry Cheke (both of whom had certainly a working knowledge of Italian), William Waad, Anthony Ashley, Daniel Rogers, Thomas Smith (the future Secretary of State, who had earned his degree from Padua), another man of this name, 15 or Thomas Edmondes (later Secretary of the French Tongue), has been identified in the forty-eight known surviving specimens (which include drafts, copies and sent versions) of Italian correspondence examined in the course of this research. Among the other members of the Elizabethan Foreign Office, the clerks of the signet, which included men of significant expertise in the writing of official correspondence such as Thomas Lake (nicknamed Swiftsure for his ability to speedily dispatch with business) editing elizabeth i s italian letters 47 and Nicholas Faunt (the author of the Discourse Touching the Office of Principal Secretary of State, 1592), only the hand of Thomas Windebanke was identified in documents connected to the Italian letters (albeit, as will be shown below, in what appears to be an early English draft). 16 Walsingham, Burghley and Robert Cecil (who de facto took over his father s job after his death) employed a large number of persons to deal with the enormous amount of paperwork which their respective position and status entailed. As his servants Michael Hicks, Vincent Skinner and Henry Maynard knew only too well, Burghley alone received hundreds of letters from petitioners every week, in addition to the burden of the foreign and home affairs he would have been required to deal with (cf. Alford 2008, 305 and passim). 17 In fact, the Secretaries private collaborators were, as Platt (1994) has shown, a sort of unofficial appendix to the Foreign Office staff. Quite importantly, the difference between the official and unofficial members of this group was sometimes blurred by the fact that some of the Council and signet clerks were either former, current or soon-to-be employees and even, sometimes, relatives of Burghley (e.g., Bernard Hampton was his secretary, and Henry Cheke his nephew) and Walsingham (Faunt had been in his service since 1578 and after his master s death was employed by Cecil; Lake was taken on in 1584 and became a clerk five years later; Edmondes was employed to assist Sir Francis in making ciphers in 1589 and may have later worked for Robert Cecil; Beale served as secretary
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