Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Question from shtove - Source of Armada quote

Here's a famous Armada quote: "we are sailing against England in the confident hope of a miracle."

It's reported by a papal legate as spoken to him by a Spanish government official a few weeks before the Armada sailed in 1588.

It's the end part of a short, ironic speech that shows the official was fully aware the Armada was doomed to defeat, and is cited all over the place as an example of the folly of religious absolutism. One author uses the very final phrase as the title of his book on the Armada. Important stuff.

So I looked for the source, and everything led back to Garrett Mattingly from his Armada book in 1960 - I think he got a Pulitzer for it: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=t-edY-ANItwC&pg=PT252&lpg=PT252&dq=thus+when+we+meet+the+english+god+will+surely+arrange+matters+so+that+we+can+grapple+and+board+them&source=bl&ots=XP__DF4Vt2&sig=AvBLwlqivworLlYCe9QXmDTCDm0&hl=en&sa=X&ei=my6XU-2RAsaOO9vHgOAK&ved=0CD4Q6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=thus%20when%20we%20meet%20the%20english%20god%20will%20surely%20arrange%20matters%20so%20that%20we%20can%20grapple%20and%20board%20them&f=false

It reads very nicely, but no source. Then I found Geoffrey Parker using it - good, a serious historian - in his revised book on the Armada with a footnote that gives the source as ... Mattingly.

I can't get past Mattingly. And Britannica says this about him: "However, Garrett Mattingly (190062), generally regarded as the master of historical narrative among American historians, enlivened his work with speeches he wrote and attributed to historical characters without always identifying them as invented."

Not good. Can anyone get past Mattingly? (I tried Foosean search terms - no luck.)



Foose said...

If it's one thing that this site has taught me, it's to be suspicious of sources, no matter how respectable-seeming.

However, to be fair, Mattingly's book Armada does cite a source for this alleged conversation. It was not the Papal nuncio, nor a legate (there was no legate) but a "Papal emissary" in Lisbon who spoke with the high-ranking officer of the Armada. I have the book somewhere in the Tudorheap, but rather than spend days looking for it I am relying on Google Books, which has a spotty preview.

In his notes at the end of the book, Mattingly does not specifically identify the "Papal emissary" but gives as a source for the situation in Lisbon (where the Armada was mustered) the report of one Mutio Buongiovanni, described as a Papal "envoy" (also spelled, elsewhere, Muzio Bongiovanni) who appears to have been in the Portuguese capital as the Papal Collector. (The Collector, I think, is the official sent to raise funds for the crusade; the crusade was traditionally against the Turk, but of course Philip II saw his Armada expedition as a crusade as well; there is documentation that the Pope was not all that enthused about Philip's rival project, so the Papal Collector might have seen like a safe person to express discontent to.)

The "Papal emissary's" report was sent to Cardinal Montalto in Rome in 1588 - Montalto was the Pope's nephew and Secretary of State. Mattingly believes the Spanish commander who used the phrase "confident hope of a miracle" was Juan Martinez de Recalde.

Parker, by contrast, cites Mattingly but says it was the Papal nuncio who had the conversation - I think this is a mistake made from a hurried reading of Mattingly. Parker also thinks the Spanish commander as Martin de Bertendona.

So where did Mattingly get the information? His book's notes cite the Vatican Archives ("the chief source of new material"), specifically the "Spagna" files, numbered in the 30s (possibly 36 for the Buongiovanni report to Montalto).

There exists a sleek impenetrable Website for the Vatican Secret Archives ("Archivum Secretum Vaticanum") and no way I could see to look at any of the materials online, unlike British History Online with its abundant access to Letters and Papers. The Vatican Archives' "Access and Consultation" Webpage specifies that you must have a 5-year university degree (or, if you are a clergyman, a licentiate degree or a Ph.D.) in order to request materials.

Perhaps you might apply in person to a stony-faced cardinal for a jolly rummage through the sacred docs for the Montalto report. Only then could you conclusively decide whether Mattingly made it all up or he did indeed gain access to the Vatican files and found the original reference.

The citation first appears in his book of 1959 - I couldn't find anything earlier, so he probably is the Ur-source for Armada writers after him. There were no citations of the phrase "confident hope of a miracle" in Spanish or Italian sources that I googled, rather crudely (the phrase in another language might be structured differently than English; possibly Mattingly did not invent the phrase wholesale but he may have improved upon its translation into English to create the now-famous catchphrase ...?). I imagine the original report was made in Latin, so I had a go at that as well, but nothing came up.

So ... maybe a trip to Rome is in order?

shtove said...

I've already booked my ticket and packed a Dan Brown novel.

As ever, that's a really generous reply.

I see what you found in the end notes - overlooked it in my own search:

I've followed up your leads and cannot get beyond your final suggestion.

An email to Geoffrey Parker might help, but it would take boots on the ground to sort out Mattingly's coyness.


shtove said...

Soz, linking that google result is a bit screwy - this instead:


Foose said...

Well, it might make for an intriguing grant proposal - travel to Rome to search the Vatican Archives to prove or disprove that Mattingly adulterated his research; if a project so blunt is not quite comme il faut in grad school circles, maybe Kickstarter is an option. Your query is the first I heard that Mattingly might be suspect, and a lot of Tudor scholarship is founded on him, so I think it's worthwhile investigating. Maybe disguised as a clergyman (since clergyladies appear to be pointedly omitted from the Vatican Archives' rules of entree).

shtove said...

The Britannica observation on Mattingly (actually in praise of him) has no reference.

Here's an interesting note that is specific about his Armada book - although not referring to the pages (216-217) in my last link of that book - and his Aragon book:

That's probably the basis of the Britannica ref, but the google link doesn't allow scroll-back to the meat of the criticism. It may refer to the miracle speech, but in a different edition.

Just laying pipe.

Foose said...

Hm, the footnote in your link references Hans Kellner's Language and Historical Representation: Getting the Story Crooked ("the best short discussion of invented speeches").

This book appears to analyze some of Mattingly's dialogues between various principals in Catherine of Aragon as examples of "historical narrative" derived from "nineteenth-century storytelling conventions" rather than strictly based on the extant records, from what I can see in a Google Books snippet view.

You can't read Mattingly without enjoying the sheer pleasure of the writing, and this usually means the actual events being related have been touched up a bit or improved upon, at least in my experience. You do see a lot of this "invented speeches" type of thing in earlier historians, when a strong moral line, colorful anecdotes and Plutarchian personalities were rather expected by their audiences. Without being able to look at the complete argument in Kellner's book, perhaps one thing to consider is that the ground may have shifted sharply during Mattingly's lifetime, from this kind of thing being reasonably acceptable to a very hard line increasingly being adopted on sources and accuracy.

On the credit side, the historian seems to have opened up a lot of new sources and taken a fresh, intriguing look at Tudor topics, while making them accessible to new audiences.

shtove said...

I started the thread while reading Elizabeth's Sea Dogs - compelling read, but I found several references didn't stand up.

I've read plenty of Tudor MSS. So have you, yes? The Mattingly speech is good, but it doesn't read Tudor - but of course it's a modern translation, except Mattingly doesn't say it's a translation.

Clearly it's too difficult to source, even after 50 years, so I'm tempted to call BS. I suspect he's in the tradition of Livy, and that's just story telling - no comment on the purpose.

My last link was setting a reminder to find the non-non history essay by Richard T Vann (#9), rather than chase down the Kellner book.

I'm sceptical. You a believer? I'm surprised at your last comment.

Foose said...

But I love Livy!

Seriously. I think I come at the question from two sometimes opposing points of view - I love history, and I love well-written books about history, even if they shade the truth. I'm an adult, and I can handle it (and do my own research).

Essentially, I enjoy Mattingly as a writer of history as much as a historian, and consequently I'm prepared to cut him some slack. It's apparent to me now, but not when I first read it, that Catherine of Aragon is a work of popular narrative history (his bias is very apparent) woven around what appear to be some genuine new sources. However, it stood alone in the field for a number of years and a huge number of scholars seem to have used it as an authoritative source for their own efforts (this I discovered when researching this question).

Hence, there's a serious question as to whether Mattingly did indeed uncover new sources and perhaps deliberately (or accidentally; maybe he relied on a researcher) misinterpreted or doctored them, or whether he made things up wholesale, without real sources to back them up.

I can't tell whether the alleged statement by the Spanish fleet official is legitimate or not. I can look at an alleged quote by an English Tudor person, in English, and figure out in some cases whether it's authentic or not by the language; but this case is complicated by the fact that it was conducted originally in a non-English language, and perhaps further confused by the fact that neither participant in the conversation may have been using his native language.

In Mattingly's favor is that there was apparently no shortage of croakers on the Spanish side, starting right at the top (Santa Cruz). He also traces the quote, at least in his initial edition, to a satisfyingly obscure Papal official reporting to the Pope.

Against Mattingly are the allegations that he has "invented speeches," with some apparently solid examples. This weekend I was rummaging through a book sale and came across a later reissue of Mattingly's Armada in paperback, and lo! the notes pertaining to "Mutio Buoncampagni" had been removed from this edition, which may further substantiate the allegation in Robert Doran's Philosophy of History After Hayden White that Mattingly more or less acknowledged the accusation of inventing dialogue and characters (!!!) when "in 1960 [Mattingly] issued an edition of Catherine of Aragon without any footnotes."

At this point, without further information, I would guess that perhaps the conversation in its basic outline took place, but that the Spanish official's remarks were more pious than cynical. In particular, I'd like to know what was the original word translated as "confident" - in modern English, it suggests bombastic credulity, but the original meaning was closer to "belief" or "trust" - after listing the factors in favor of an English victory, the Spaniard might have described his compatriots as "trusting in the hope of a miracle."

So ... I dunno. I actually do wish you'd go to Rome and explore further.

shtove said...

"I heart Livy"

Stick it on your bumper!

You're not getting away with this: "I love history, and I love well-written books about history, even if they shade the truth"

Stories are wonderful, until they contradict the evidence.

The Mattingly conversation was in Latin. Or maybe they both spoke Italian, or Spanish. Or English - convenient for English speaking historians.

I haven't read Mattingly. Your admiration of him is inspiring, but is he really interested in evidence?

So far there is no record of this conversation - just evidence of evidence.

This is not over. I will appeal to the Curia.