Sir Richard Fanshawe Analysis

Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

With the exception of one essay and English versions of two Spanish plays, the published writings of Sir Richard Fanshawe (FAN-shaw) are all poems: either original verse or translations from Latin, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. Both the essay and the plays are undistinguished. No collected edition of Fanshawe’s works exists, but most of the poetry is available in modern texts. Geoffrey Bullough edited The Lusiad (1963), N. W. Bawcutt collected both printed and manuscript material in The Shorter Poems and Translations (1964), and J. H. Whitfield’s Il pastor fido prints the original Italian and Fanshawe’s English on facing pages. The Cyclopedia of English Literature (1847) reprints two poems found nowhere else.

Two extraliterary works throw considerable light on the man and his times: The Memoirs of Anne, Lady Fanshawe, written in 1676 and edited by John Loftis (1979), gives a fond wife’s view of her husband’s private and public life, and Original Letters and Negotiations of His Excellency Sir Richard Fanshawe, published in two volumes (1724), records his years as ambassador to Spain.


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Sir Richard Fanshawe’s reputation as a poet is small. He wrote only a few poems in English; they demonstrate a good ear for sound and a good eye for images, but the canon is too small to be of major importance. Fanshawe put more effort into translations, which in the 1640’s and 1650’s expanded English literary horizons by introducing European classics and by prompting poetic experimentation. Besides translating Latin poets such as Horace and Vergil, Fanshawe rendered into English many poems and plays from the Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. He translated authors (such as Luis de Góngora y Argote, Luis de Camões, and Giambattista Guarini) who, like himself, were courtiers, soldiers, and diplomats as well as poets. He preferred the genres that appealed to an aristocratic audience: the sonnet, the epic, pastoral verse drama, and plays of intrigue.

Translation, however, is a sandy foundation for literary fame. If one translates works that later lose international stature, the translator’s fame declines as well. If one renders acknowledged classics, translators of the next generation will offer more “modern” versions. Fanshawe’s translations suffered both fates. His well-done translations of Guarini’s Il pastor fido (1590; The Faithful Shepherd) and Camões’s Os Lusíadas (1572; The Lusiads) are little remarked because the originals are now scarcely read. Fanshawe did fine versions of Horace’s odes and Vergil’s Aeneid (c. 29-19 b.c.e.), but modern readers of these Roman poets can easily find equally adept translations in contemporary idiom. No wonder, then, that Fanshawe’s name appears only in the most thorough literary histories and anthologies.

If Fanshawe lacks a popular reputation, he preserves one among period specialists. They acknowledge his importance in helping open English literature to foreign influence. They also point out that Fanshawe began a new emphasis in translating the spirit more than the literal sense of a work. Finally, they testify to the fluidity and grace of Fanshawe’s verse, which maintains a measure of Elizabethan lyricism amid the bombast and brittleness of much interregnum literature.


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Cordner, Michael. “Dryden’s ’Astraea Redux’ and Fanshawe’s ’Ode.’” Notes and Queries 31 (September, 1984): 341-342. An examination of Fanshawe’s “An Ode upon Occasion of His Majesty’s Proclamation in the Year 1630.” Cordner studies this work as it relates to Fanshawe’s Royalist politics, the political situation in seventeenth century England and, in particular, Oliver Cromwell’s achievements and England’s political relations to France. Of interest to the Fanshawe scholar only.

Davidson, P. R. K., and A. K. Jones. “New Light on Marvell’s ’The Unfortunate Lover’?” Notes and Queries 32 (June, 1985): 170-172. A discussion of a newly discovered collection of Fanshawe’s miscellaneous letters, papers, and literary notes probably originally compiled in Madrid in the 1660’s. Among the findings examined are verses presumed to be from his later “Latin Poems” and several epigrams. The “Prophetic Epigram” of 1648 is presented in its original Latin and translated. This work is of interest to the Fanshawe scholar only.

Fanshawe, Anne, and Anne Halkett. The Memoirs of Lady Anne Halkett and Lady Ann Fanshawe. Edited by John Loftis. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980. Lady Anne Fanshawe’s memoirs offer exceptional insights into the life and work of her husband. Sir Richard’s diplomatic duties to the court of James I and James II are well chronicled as is the couple’s life during Sir Richard’s tenure as England’s ambassador to Spain and Portugal. Loftis includes comprehensive chronologies, annotated bibliographies, and an index.

Graham, Judith Hanson. “Sir Richard Fanshawe’s Works as Public Poetry.” Dissertation Abstracts International 46 (July, 1985): 157A. This is the first work to explore the relationship between Fanshawe’s literature and his fierce Royalist politics. Graham carefully examines the content, form, and style of Fanshawe’s poetry and convincingly argues that Fanshawe intended to affect the politics of the age through his poetry. Graham offers a new and valid approach to understanding Fanshawe.

Martindale, Charles. “Unlocking the Word-Hoard: In Praise of Metaphrase.” Comparative Criticism: A Yearbook 6 (1984): 47-72. This dense, complex work applies various translation theories to the literary forms utilized by Fanshawe and such contemporaries as John Milton and John Dryden in their translations of classical literature. Martindale’s study is best appreciated by the advanced Fanshawe scholar.

Pugh, Syrithe. Herrick, Fanshawe and the Politics of Intertextuality: Classical Literature and Seventeenth Century Royalism. Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2010. Examines Royalistic polemics and classical allusion in the poetry of Robert Herrick and Fanshawe.