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@jasonblackley i've read a lot of his poems and essays but never any of his novels. he's a lot like whitman or emerson.

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1. The Centrality of Translation at James VI’s Court

Translation has always played a central role in the formation of cultural and national identities. For many years in early modern Scotland (after Gavin Douglas’s monumental rendering of Virgil’s Aeneid in 1513), the only translations into Scots were of national, historical chronicles that were written in Latin ([1], p. 185). Thus, for a long period in the sixteenth century, intracultural translations were prioritized over intercultural ones. The affirmation and dissemination of an existing national identity to a broader audience became more important than interchanges with other cultures.

Nonetheless, James himself devised translation strategies to enrich Scottish literary production ([2], p. 178). His literary circle was keen to follow these strategies ([3], p. 66). His reign witnessed the proliferation of numerous translations, mainly from French and Italian, which contributed to the re-emergence of Scots culture. As Alessandra Petrina claims, apart from Alexander Montgomerie, who was a recognized poet before James’s rule, most poets entering James’s coterie during this period shone more as translators than as original poets ([4], p. 948). This was not a random coincidence, but “courtier poets and musicians were encouraged by the young King James to enrich Scottish vernacular culture through translation and adaptation from the highest European sources, with the aim of building national identity through language and political power.” ([5], pp. 346–47)

In minorized cultures, translated literature occupies a central position in the literary system of the target culture. Translated literature by virtue of its central position suppresses the unambiguous difference between “original” and “translated” writing ([6], pp. 46–47). Such circumstances are typical of “young” literatures that are in the process of being internationally recognized; or of “peripheral” literatures, which are “peripheral” in the context of larger systems of analogous literatures; or of literatures that undergo moments of crises or cultural voids ([6], pp. 47–51). Sometimes, James VI assigned the translations to specific writers; at other times, the translators themselves took the initiative. In both cases, the target text can be regarded as an intercultural appropriation trying to be relevant to the audience in the reception culture, even if some translators felt free to depart from James’s rhetorical principles, as delineated in his Reulis and Cautelis (1584). Thus, in this article, I shall examine why Fowler’s choices, as opposed to other members of James’s coterie, together with his additions, suppressions, and selections from three difference sources, strictly aimed to comply with the king’s cultural and ideological policies even if the translation was never fully completed.

2. William Fowler and the Reasons for the Hybrid Translation of Il Principe

William Fowler (1560–1612) was more than just a poet and courtier at James VI’s court. His professional activities ranged from being a spy to being a secretary to Queen Anne of Denmark, the sovereign’s wife. He managed to enjoy a freer role than other poets and musicians at the king’s service. Likewise, as a well-off Edinburgh burgher, he did not need royal or aristocratic patronage as much as other members of James’s coterie. However, during the 1590s, he fell out of regal favor while he was translating Machiavelli’s Principe; at this time, Fowler was also becoming a close friend of a political enemy of the king: Walter Scott, Laird of Buccleuch. Fowler’s Prince is dedicated to the Laird of Buccleuch himself ([7], p. 31).

Fowler appears as a strategist who was able to navigate difficult political waters and used literature as a way of social advancement. For example, Theo Van Heijnsbergen discusses the political significance of Fowler’s dedication of his translation of Petrarch’s Triumphs. Having Jean Fleming as the addressee allowed the poet to include, indirectly, both Jean’s husband and James VI in his dedication ([8], p. 48). With such an understanding of literature and translation, then, it is logical to assume that Fowler may have thought of his translation of Il Principe as a way of gaining back James’s favor. Even if dedicated to the Laird of Buccleuch, the ultimate political goal of translating The Prince may have been to return to the king’s court. In fact, both his subsequent services to James and Anne, and the ideological intersections between Fowler’s translational alterations and the monarch’s political views, point in that direction.

James VI preferred and promulgated French literature rather than Italian as a model for Scottish writers; however, like the more peripheral John Stewart of Baldynneis, William Fowler opted to revert to Italian authors and texts for inspiration. In addition to translating Machiavelli’s Principe (1590s) [9], in the 1580s, he even more freely rendered Petrarch’s Trionfi into early modern Scots and adapted the latter’s Canzoniere to the socio-political context of late sixteenth-century Protestant Scotland in the Tarantula of Love. Although scholars have recognized the artistic achievement of the Tarantula [10,11,12,13], Fowler’s rendering of Petrarch’s Trionfi has not met with general approval, having been regarded as “the work of an inexperienced and rather careless artist” ([10], p. 486). Not until very recently has Van Heijnsbergen underscored the crucial contribution of Fowler’s Triumphs to the development of “a Scottish Jacobean poetics” ([8], p. 47).

Fowler’s almost full translation of Machiavelli’s Principe has received attention from critics only in recent years ([14], p. 99). John Purves’s excellent edition of the treatise [15], to which I am very much indebted, seems to have answered many lines of enquiry. He successfully demonstrates Fowler’s use of Gaspard d’Auvergne’s French translation (1553) [16] and of a Latin version [17] printed in Basle in 1560 ([15], 3:47–48). More recently, in her thorough approach to Fowler’s Machiavelli, Petrina has claimed that the translator “destroys Machiavelli’s conciseness and beauty for the sake of clarity and explanation” ([4], p. 959; [14], p. 128), concluding that Fowler’s Prince is “a very imperfect acquaintance with his [Machiavelli’s] works and a far from systematic approach” ([14], p. 39). At any rate, I would like to approach Fowler’s translation from a different perspective; not so much with respect to the translator’s accuracy and fidelity to the source text, but from the angle of the strategic positioning of the target text in the reception culture. A foreignizing translation, which would have been the only possibility to render the source text in an “accurate” manner, does not always fit with minorized cultures, still establishing their own ideological tenets and cultural codes ([18], p. 10). Quite irrespective of the text status in the source culture, translations tend to go beyond “transposition” towards “innovation and creation” ([19], p. 42). Moreover, according to Maria Tymoczko, the various levels of a translated text show the translation strategies deployed to contribute to the formation of culture. In this way, culture can be “represented, transferred, or transculturalized at all textual levels consonant with the translator’s program.” All the possible silences and cultural assimilations from the source text are important to the target culture both ideologically and ethically ([20], p. 262). Translation Studies primarily examine questions of “power relations and textual production” inasmuch as a text cannot exist “outside a network of power relations” ([21], p. 135). At times, then, the Scots translation differs from the Italian, the French and the Latin, implying that the translator’s objective went beyond a mere transposition of the Italian text into early modern Scots, but to reframe it both temporarily and spatially ([22], p. 112). A close examination of these instances suggests that not only did Fowler adapt Machiavelli to late sixteenth-century Protestant, Jacobean Scotland but he also designed his translation along the lines of the long-standing Scottish Advice to Princes Tradition and James VI’s ideology—what Lawrence Venuti regards as the “violence of translation”: that is, the reconstitution of the source text according to existing linguistic and cultural standards of the target culture ([23], p. 67).

In this way, Fowler’s interferences with the source text can be regarded as responding to a strategic, hybrid deployment of the Italian Principe and the French and Latin translations. Although, as Petrina has demonstrated, Fowler’s reiterative use of and reliance on d’Auvergne may be the consequence of the Scotsman’s unfamiliarity with Italian ([14], pp. 124–27), the Scots poet also makes use of the Latin translation on other occasions, which indicates that factors other than linguistic also conditioned his choices. In some of these other instances, Fowler freely borrows from the French and Latin translations either to clarify the meaning and context of the source text, or to suit his tenets to make them converge with hegemonic royal Jacobean discourses. The ideology of translation is interlaced with culture inasmuch as it is one of the main goals of cultural translation to affirm identity and autonomy or claim power ([20], p. 257). Petrina has also demonstrated that d’Auvergne domesticated the source text in France to make it “useful rather than controversial,” reducing and simplifying Machiavelli’s thought ([14], p. 13). Such a reductionist and conciliatory approach served Fowler’s dialectics better than the source text itself as his translation testifies. In the following example, then, Fowler intertwines his own comments with those from the French translation, conditioning the final interpretation of Machiavelli:

I discommend not the kings [Louis XII of France’s] interpryse quha, intending to pass beyond the Alpes, ad being vnprovided of freinds, yea, having all the portes of italye closed aganst him (be the fresh memoire of the vndiscreit handlings & actions off the predecessour) was constrained to help him with the assistance and confederaceis of these that he culd haue at that seasoun.

([15], 2:81–82)

While “the predecessour” comes from d’Auvergne’s translation ([15], 3:51), the rest of the phrase supplies extra information about Louis’s forerunner, Charles VIII. Since audiences tend to interpret texts according to their own target culture expectations, in addition to socio-historical situations and patterns ([24], p. 13), the newly added material could easily be assimilated to the Scottish political arena during the early years of James’s rule. With this new additional meaning, a country’s state of affairs is not only the present sovereign’s responsibility but also a result of the policies and actions of his/her predecessors. The relevance of this claim to James’s reign contextualizes almost a century of political conflicts in Scotland: his great-grandfather, James IV, lost his life at the Battle of Flodden (1513), his grandfather James V died soon after another military defeat against the English at Solway Moss (1542), and the two regencies that followed, those of Arran and Marie de Guise, together with his mother Mary Queen of Scots’ reign, were marked by an extremely unstable situation with religious struggles, fights for power amongst different factions of the Scottish nobility and the everlasting tensions with England. Hence, Scotland’s current state of affairs was an inherited endemic situation for which James could not be held responsible, but he was the one who could redress the nation’s present and future.

Fowler is also very methodical in his deployment of the Latin translation as part of his target-culture-oriented translational strategies. Most of the time, the Latin complements the information about places and proper names, with which the reception audience would not have been familiar. In the following example, both the Latin and the French translation are deployed with the purpose of contextualizing an unfamiliar passage to the Scottish readership: “Lord anniball bentiuoli … having no other posteretie left behind but lord Johne bentiuoli, who then was in the suedlen clouts, yet the whole multitud of Cologna [sic.] abhorring sic a massacre raise vp and gathered thame together and vtterlye destroyed and killed the hale familie of the cannesheis” ([15], 2:127). While these alterations to the Italian source text are minimal (the first from the French and the second from the Latin), they clarify and contextualize foreign references. These otherwise trivial additions (sometimes a surname, sometimes a personal allusion) reveal Fowler’s understanding of his job as a cultural mediator and his translational strategies to disseminate unfamiliar knowledge to his potential Scottish readers.

In addition to his calculated use of these three different sources, the translator’s choice of style shows his adherence to the monarch’s suggested cultural policies, helping the contemporary reader understand the divergences between Machiavelli’s Principe and Fowler’s Prince. According to Rita Copeland, “the aim of translation is to reinvent the source, so that, as in rhetorical theory, attention is focused on the active production of a new text endowed with its own affective powers and suited to the particular historical circumstances of its reception” ([25], p. 30). In this context, Fowler’s style must be understood as an ideological, more than aesthetic, choice insofar as James’s conception of literature at the time favored innovation and translation albeit within his proposed cultural and political practices. One of the stylistic recommendations James VI makes in his treatise on rhetorical theory, Reulis and Cautelis, is that “Let your verse be literall [alliterative], quhatsumever kynde they be of, bot speciallie tumbling verse for flyting” ([26], p. 467). James’s political and literary strategies disseminate a consciously scotticising, ethnocentric endeavor: he thought that alliteration was particularly suited for the guttural and plosive sounds of Scots, aggrandizing the linguistic gap between southern English and Scots. Alliterative verse, therefore, operates as an instrument of literary, linguistic and political alterity. By promoting vernacular Scots culture and difference, James is imagining himself as the powerful monarch of an equally powerful nation. Even if Fowler does not follow James’s literary suggestions to the letter—preferring Italian to French models, for instance—the former’s extensive use of alliteration in a prose (not even a verse!) translation as an acculturation technique demonstrates his observance of James’s Reulis. While alliteration is not alien to prose writing, often being used to emphasize the alliterated words, Fowler reiteratively deploys this technique. In the following example, the translator is particularly keen to create alliterative effects when employing doublets: “a member and Limme coupled and conjoined with the ancient countryeis of the usurper” or “as they behald be experience theme [?] baith damnefyed and destroyed: quhilk dependeth vpon a natural and ordianrye necessetie” ([15], 2:74). The recurrent deployment of this technique not only links Fowler’s writings to James’s political and literary agenda, but also to earlier Scots literature, in which alliteration was also a distinctive compositional feature, rhetorically and symbolically re-enacting the literary and national past. It creates an imagined continuity of uninterrupted literary and dynastic tradition and differentiated identity, which functions as an ideological emblem of James’s status as the King of Scots. Fowler thus contributes to the creation of the king’s image both literarily and politically, which was a collaborative construction between James and his courtiers ([27], p. 30).

Also stylistically, Fowler places his translation along existing European models, by generally writing sentences more complicated than those of Machiavelli’s source text. It was a characteristic of the Renaissance in Western Europe to generate very elaborate and ornamented sentences with heavy subordination. Fowler himself repeatedly makes use of ornaments, elaborating on long, subordinated sentences in his writing ([10], pp. 483–84)—a similar technique to that of his acculturating translation of Petrarch’s Trionfi. In chapter 19 of The Prince, for instance:

And for this cause sic a prence suld be endeued and provided with double feare, ane within in regaird of his subiects and another without in respect of the powerfull stranger, from the which he may be defended be his gud armes and his conferat friends, which will never fail him quhen he hes to do, iff he be weill reuled and disciplined in his auen forces.

([15], 2:126)

As Purves notes, Machiavelli is much simpler ([15], 3:61): Il Principe just reads “e sempre, se arà buone arme, arà buoni amici” ([9], p. 67), which means basically the same, but written in a much less complicated manner. Fowler’s sentences and his translation style as a whole, with so much subordination, may seem obscure and clumsy ([4], p. 959), but should be understood within the intellectual and literary panorama in which he was writing, James VI’s Scotland. For James and his coterie, experimenting with the limits (or lack of limits) of linguistic and literary expression in Scots was of paramount importance. Scots, being at the heart of James’s political and literary project, as a form of national and linguistic representation of Scotland, should be as elaborate as any other vernacular language, and if possible, as much as Latin and Greek. With the deployment of these difference techniques, Fowler places his Prince within both the Scots and the European traditions at once.

Fowler’s selection of sources and style lead to the motivations that prompted him to translate Il Principe. Petrina underlines what she considers the two main ones: first, “the availability of such an important and polemic treatise to the Scottish audience text” ([14], p. 120); and second, “the linguistic challenge of the text” for Fowler, who was learning Italian at the time ([4], p. 948). True though these claims are from an intercultural perspective, it would be also necessary to dissect the intracultural value of Fowler’s translation and how the geopolitical and historical background conditioned and influenced the target text. A translation is always norm-governed and permeated with given ideologies in the reception culture. It can never be diaphanous, innocent or transparent, but is always conditioned by intermingling voices ([28], p. 66). As a consequence, the resulting narrative is constituted by “the orders of discourse [which] are ideologically shaped by power relations in social institutions and in society as a whole” ([29], p. 17). Therefore, Fowler most probably saw his task as a double enterprise, both cultural, as Petrina implies, and also political. The Prince can be regarded as part of the cultural capital of Scottish culture through acculturation. In such a context, audiences and the needs to comply with their tastes and beliefs are mainly responsible for the translators’ strategies ([30], p. 51). Hence, Fowler understood that he was not just someone who purported to make Machiavelli available to the target culture unproblematically, but someone who domesticated the text to the ideology and aesthetics of James VI and his circle.

Thus, both Fowler as a translator and James VI as the promoter of contemporary Scots culture and a translator himself were aware of the translator’s agency to convey new meanings for the reception audience. Even if James never saw the translation, he was still the most important and dangerous member of the potential audience. Therefore, although R.D.S. Jack rightly suggests James’s influence on Fowler’s Prince, such influence, I would propose, did not materialize as “a process of mutual correction” also involving James’s Basilicon Doron ([10], p. 490), but as Fowler’s need to comply with James’s both political and aesthetic programs. At the time of the composition (1590s), Fowler was out of favor with the sovereign after having been sent to Denmark to be in charge of the final negotiations regarding the marriage of James and Anne. He also became Queen Anne’s secretary and was an “instrument of James’s policy” when the court moved to England in 1603 ([4], pp. 949–50; [14], pp. 77, 85). Therefore, not only was he very familiar with the monarch’s politics, but he also wanted to regain James’s favor. Fowler might have considered that a translation of the Prince which had pleased the king would have opened the doors to the latter’s coterie again in the same way as John Stewart of Baldynneis unsuccessfully intended with his Roland Furious. The standing text (even if not a final version), then, is not just Fowler’s translation of Machiavelli, attempting to transmit the latter’s ideology to Jacobean Scotland, but an intricate dialogue and negotiation between the source text, the French and Latin versions, together with the indirect interference of James VI’s political standings. Every decision in the translation process is inevitably mediated by a network of cultural values and ideologies in the target cultures, always regimented in a hierarchical order ([31], p. 308).