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Converging Ideologies in William Fowler’s Hybrid Translation of Machiavelli’s Il Principe

DELC (Hispanic Studies), University of Edinburgh, David Hume Tower, George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9JX, UK
Humanities 2014, 3(1), 42-58;
Received: 19 October 2013 / Revised: 23 January 2014 / Accepted: 23 January 2014 / Published: 6 February 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Translation as the Foundation for Humanistic Investigations)


This article explores the place of William Fowler’s translation of Machiavelli’s Prince in the Scottish Jacobean polysystem. Even if it was never finished, Fowler may have seen his rendering of Il Principe as a way of gaining King James’s favor at a time when Fowler had become a peripheral member at the sovereign’s court. Consequently, the translator’s hybrid deployment of three different sources, together with his own additions and suppressions, were aimed to conform to James VI’s political and cultural project. The ideological convergences between the king’s political thought and Fowler’s manipulated Prince supported and legitimized the existing power structures of the target culture. The unfinished/unedited state of the manuscript may suggest that a total reconciliation between James’s markedly idealized vision of kingship and government and Machiavelli’s treatise was impossible despite the translator’s intercultural and ethnocentric appropriation of the source text.

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).

3. James VI, Meaning and Interpretation

James’s obsession with governmental control and strategies of cultural politics help to identify Fowler’s translation strategy of legitimizing The Prince within the discursive social order of the reception culture. The king’s infancy and adolescence were not easy: his father, Lord Darnley, was killed (1567) less than a year after James’s birth, whilst his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, was accused of being involved in the plot and later beheaded in England after long confinement (1587). The last time James saw his mother, he must have been about one year old. Erskine of Mar, the Earl Marischal of the Realm, became his guardian, whereas the classicist and Mary’s archenemy (author of the Detectio Mariae), George Buchanan, together with Peter Young, cared for the youngster’s education. James extensively learned about the classics, contemporary literature, and languages. He also became acquainted with the damaging political literature and pamphlets that circulated during his mother’s eventful reign; as he acknowledges in the 1603 English edition of the Basilicon Doron:
The other point is onely grounded vpon the strait charge I giue my Sonne, not to heare nor suffer any vnreuerent speeches or bookes against any of his parents or progenitors: wherein I doe alledge my owne experience anent the Queen my mother.
([32], p. 5)
Whether James is expressing his disgust, from an indignant son’s perspective, against those who discredited and calumniated Mary Queen of Scots or is just reverting to her image to make a more general point about loyalty and subjection to the reigning sovereign (or actually both), what also transpires from this extract is the sovereign’s obsession with guiding and controlling interpretation. He was aware that the written word could be a dangerous instrument of resistance and contestation against any ruling monarch.
The very complicated first years of his reign operated as a lesson on both power and vulnerability. These years likely framed his subsequent understanding of government and literature:
Between the formal end of the regency of the earl of Morton in 1578 and the overturn of the regime of the earl of Arran in September 1585 there were at least six such coups [to kidnap James] which were more or less successful and one which failed.
([33], p. 4)
Under such volatile circumstances, it is not surprising that the young ruler felt the need to assert his power and control of government and influence as many narratives as possible in Scotland. While his Reulis and Cautelis was an attempt to impose and sanction the norms of acceptability for written texts under his rule, the Basilicon Doron and The Trew Law of Free Monarchies were designed to promote and justify his absolutist views on government. Despite his endeavors to delimit the parameters of meaning, James had to admit the possibility of the “death of the author” once a text was widely circulated [34,35]. Indeed, in the 1603 edition of the Basilicon Doron, he warns Prince Henry of the dangers of interpretation. The king asserts that:
bookes are viue Idees of the authours minde… [but] some fraughted with causlesse enuie at the Authour, did greedily search out the booke, thinking their stomacke fit ynough, for turning neueer wholesome foode into noisome and infectiue humours.
([32], p. 9)
James fully comprehended the power of writing to impose his authority and the importance of an effective self-representation ([27], p. 35). For instance, he was the first sovereign whose poetry was released in the marketplace ([36], p. 83). Although he was aware of the reader’s active role creating meaning, he needed to express his conviction that authorial intention can be unproblematically transferred to the reader’s mind; hence, the capitalization of “Idees” and “Authour,” relegating the reader to a submissive secondary position. At the same time, he denounced other interpretations as being purposely fraudulent and offensive, which points to his implicit recognition that he could not control conflicting political interpretations.
Nonetheless, James represents his ideal reader as the passive recipient of the writer’s thoughts. There is no dialogue between text and audience, but a submissive reverence towards the author’s incontestable meaning. The food metaphor, whose interpretation is unequivocal of the intentio auctoris, is doubly crucial: first, as a metaphor, it conveys a very powerful image of impregnating the reader’s mind; second, even if figurative, its meaning is crystal clear; the metaphor substantiated James’s postulate concerning the transmission of ideas to the audience: the interpretation of ideas must coincide with the author’s intentions. Understandably, someone in a marginal position, such as William Fowler, was particularly careful, as the translator (and as such, new author) of The Prince, to devise translational strategies that are acceptable to Jacobean hegemonic discourses insofar as Fowler aspired to return to James’s court.

4. James VI’s Political Views and William Fowler’s Prince

James projected an image of himself as rex pacificus at a time of constant European wars and conflicts concerning the exploitation of the so-called New World. Thus, his discursive strategies had to be carefully articulated to avoid appearing as a cowardly king. In The Lepanto, for instance, although James narrates the victory of Christendom over Islam, and of the West over the East, he does not represent war as a glorious enterprise: The Lepanto depicts the horrors of war while condemning violence ([37], p. 189). In fact, in James’s first speech to the English Parliament on 1 March 1603, after his preliminary introduction, he first advocated “Peace”:
The first then of these blessings, which God hath iontly with my Person sent vnto you, is outward Peace: that is, peace abroad with all forreine neighbours: for I thanke God I may iustly say, that neuer since I was a King, I either receiued wrong of any other Christian Prince or State, or did wrong to any.
([32], p. 133)
James resorts to the greatest possible authority, God, to justify his peacemaking policy, being aware that such a characteristic might have been regarded as inappropriate to the figure of the King of England. From divine support, he methodically moves on to earthly prosperity: “for by Peace abroad with their neighbours the Townes flourish, the Merchants become rich, the Trade doeth encrease” ([32], p. 134). Therefore, James presents and represents himself as the bringer of peace and economic growth to post-Elizabethan England (in consonance with his previous image in Scotland). However, in practical terms, his policy of reconciliation with Catholic Spain proved very unpopular and was ultimately unsuccessful. In the same way, in the Basilicon Doron, James expressed similar views: while he concedes that “a honourable and iust warre is more tollerable, then a dishonourable and dis-aduantageous peace” ([32], p. 34), he openly advised Henry to cultivate friendship amongst the other Christian monarchs and envisaged an ideal of a prosperous Europe living in brotherhood ([32], pp. 32, 34). This vision had to wait until the very late twentieth century to become partially true. The preference for European peace goes as far back as James IV, James’s VI’s great-grandfather, even if the former ultimately died at the Battle of Flodden. As a man versed in contemporary politics, Fowler aimed to develop ethnocentric translation techniques, while avoiding ideological inconsistencies with Jacobean formulations of policy and power.
Fowler’s active participation in the creation of meaning in accordance with Jacobean ideology affects his representation of warfare. Some additions subtly alter the source text, promoting peace and condemning unjustified violence. In chapter 12, “Hou Manye Sorts and Kyndes ar they of Militarye Discipline and of Mercenarye and Waged Suddarts,” one of the translator’s subtle additions accords with James’s abhorrence of the dreadfulness of war as constructed in the Basilicon Doron and in The Lepanto. In the primary source text, Machiavelli discusses the Venetians’ military exploits and failures. When Machiavelli refers to the terrible losses in the Battle of Vailà, he just writes “con tanta fatica” ([9], p. 46); in contrast, the Scots author elaborates on the consequences of the defeat: “with such hazard, pains, expenses and deaths, they had purcessed” ([15], 2:99). With such a simple amplificatio, Fowler’s intervention strengthens the dramatic and emotive tone of the target text; it contrasts with Machiavelli’s more detached language concerning the effects of using untrustworthy mercenaries instead of native armies. James VI’s indirect influence may have prompted Fowler’s strategies of cultural transfer to domesticate an otherwise very different political treatise, which may have challenged indigenous visions of kingship. In a subject as critical as James’s well-known peacemaking foreign policy, Fowler’s subtle recontextualization of the source text serves to replicate James’s ideology more closely.
In a similarly conciliatory manner, the translator also manipulates Machiavelli’s writings concerning a king’s relationship with his people. Fowler fabricates an imaginary strong link between the king and subjects, which is also present in the Basilicon Doron. In the latter, the first piece of advice James gave to Henry is to lead by example to conquer the hearts of the Scottish people and to confront those tyrants who want to usurp power:
to procure and maintaine, by the making and execution of good Lawes, the well-fare and peace of his people; and as their naturall father and kindly master, thinketh his greatest contentment standeth in their properitie, and his greatest suretie in hauing their hearts, subiecting his owne priuate affections and appetites to the weale and standing of his Subiects, euer thinking the common interesse his chiefest particular.
([32], p. 20)
Such an idealized perception of a sovereign at the service of his subjects surpasses general abstract notions of good government in early modern Europe. Regardless of his excellent education in the theory of power, it was not always easy for James to identify the trustworthy factions of the nobility and clergy. James created a direct link with often distant subjects based on his good rule and trust being rewarded with their fidelity and love. Interestingly, at a time when his authority was not yet securely established, James also makes explicit what he had already hinted more tenuously at in his Reulis and Cautelis. On the same page, he warns Henry of the potential “vsurping Tyran” (read “local enemies” for “Tyran”) with “his ambitious pretences” ([32], p. 20). In such a situation, the trustworthy people would rise up in arms to defend their truthful leader against rebellion.
James’s affective vision of kingship appears to be rather irreconcilable with Machiavelli’s famous maxim “è molto più sicuro essere temuto che amato” ([9], p. 61), rendered by Fowler as: “it is mair suretye for a prence to be feared then loved” ([15], 2:117). Even if Fowler does not suppress Machiavelli’s dictum from his translation, in previous and subsequent chapters, he deploys different translation strategies to develop James’s less mordant and more idealistic articulation of kingship at the expense of the dialectic consistency of the source text.
As early as chapter 3, Fowler seems to anticipate and relativize Machiavelli’s well-known statement. While referring to the people in a newly conquered territory, he includes a very significant alteration to the source text insofar as “the master” should be “beloved of the best and feared of the warst” ([15], 2:77). Fowler’s subtle reordering of Machiavelli’s exact words places the interpretation in the discursive regulations of James’s understanding of government rather than those of the Italian author. Again, in chapter 19, on “How that a Prence Sould Avoyde to be Contempned and Haited”, the translator replicates the same idea of the special relationship between king and people absent from Machiavelli. In the section dealing with seditious tyrants, the Italian “ma, quando creda offenderlo” (“when [the conspirator] thinks he will offend them”) ([9], p. 68) is rendered as “bot whils as the pepill ar not displesed with the proceidings of there prence, the conIurer feareth to attempt any sic thing” ([15], 2:126). As in the Basilicon Doron, The king’s reliance on his people as dissuasive of potential usurpers is explicitly emphasized. Along the same lines, chapter 19 also presents a final and possibly more extreme illustration of Fowler’s domestication of Machiavelli to conform to James’s tenets. While the Italian author claims that the king, through soldiery, should exercise his warlike qualities “ne’ populi” (“on or against the people”) ([9], p. 70), Fowler translates it as “in the pepills behalf” ([15], 2:129). Even if The Prince was a work in progress and still contained some ideological contradictions, Fowler deviated from the source text to reproduce sanctioned socio-political ideas in the reception culture.
Another sensitive political concern in Scotland, from the late Middle Ages to James VI’s reign, was the asymmetrical power relation with England, which was considered a menace to Scottish autonomy for long periods of time. For example, in the sixteenth century, Henry VIII’s army invaded Scotland twice (1544 and 1545) in an attempt to force the marriage between his son Edward and Mary Stuart (both babies at the time). Henry’s daughter, Elizabeth I, also considered invading Scotland during the regency of the Catholic Marie de Guise, and she later beheaded Mary Queen of Scots, which put a strain on the diplomatic relations between both countries. At the same time, however, after his mother’s execution, James was in a privileged position to succeed Elizabeth. Yet, as Susan Doran argues, the succession was not settled until James officially became King of England in 1603 due to mostly three reasons: first, the constitutional debate on Elizabeth’s succession was by no means closed in the 1590s; second, foreign princes may have intervened in favor of their preferred claimant; and third, in England, certain interest groups were verbalizing their preference for their candidates ([38], p. 26). Hence, in Fowler’s Prince, the socio-political and cultural divergences between Machiavelli’s discussion (in chapter 3) on the legitimization of power through tradition, and the ways in which newly governed territories should be ruled, needed to be acculturated. Fowler’s rendering intended to assuage anxieties and satisfy views on both sides of the border:
Becaus in other things the conquerour keiping vnto theme there ancient laues, liberties, and priuilidges, and not disavouing nor abrogating there auld customes, the pepill be thir meanes easelye reposis.
([15], 2:76)
Fowler recodifies the meaning of the source text: Il Principe states that if the customs between the conquered province and the invading country are not very different, the former would be easily subdued. Although James was obviously not going to take England by force but by diplomacy, he needed to show total respect for the political mechanisms and institutions in England. In this way, Fowler transforms the problematic Italian source into an apology of mutual respect of cultural and political difference—so much so that in the following paragraph, the original “provincia” ([9], p. 5) is rendered as “nation” ([15], 2:76), underlining the Anglo-Scottish reference. This was also central to James’s policies in Scotland and his sense of royal independence from external pressure, since before his accession to the English throne, James was quite zealous in maintaining his political decisions outside of Elizabeth’s scope of influence ([38], p. 28).
Similarly, later in the narrative, Fowler translates “quello che ordinò quel regno” (that who established that kingdom) ([9], p. 69) into “the antient foundations of the kingdome” ([15], 2:128). As in the alterations on p. 76, this is constructed within the same ethnocentric framework: old traditions and deep-rooted history justify and legitimize the existence and autonomy of a country without any kind of subjection to a superior force and present its monarch as a legitimate figure for future claims to other thrones. As early as 1320, the Declaration of Arbroath, a letter from the Scottish nobility to the Pope (regarded as the document recognizing the sovereignty of Scotland after the Wars of Independence), explicitly referred to the mythological origins of Scotland:
Most holy father and lord, we know, and we gather from the deeds and books of the ancients, that among other distinguished nations our own nation, namely of Scots, has been marked by many distinctions. It journeyed from Greater Scythia by the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Pillars of Hercules, and dwelt a long span of time in Spain.
([39], p. 779)
The first argument enacts a powerful discourse of a journeying nation’s old roots until they settled in Scotland to fulfil their destiny. Conforming to these tenets, Fowler’s Prince conveys the same preoccupation with Scotland’s ancient origins in accordance with a long-standing Scottish tradition.
James VI particularly liked to represent himself vis-à-vis mythological figures—particularly to Apollo, to which the poetry of the Jacobean poets repeatedly allude. In his “To the Queene, Anonimos” in the Amatoria sequence, he refers to Anne as Juno; hence, he becomes Jove. In l.9, he also connects himself with the heir to another mythological character related to the origins of Scotland, Fergus. Fleming argues that the monarch is more concerned with elevating his own regal status than with eulogizing Anne ([40], p. 142). At the same time, the political framework of this sonnet operates at a national level: classical and Scottish mythologies are fused, allegorically ennobling Scotland’s past and legitimizing Scotland as the heir to classical culture and politics. Once again, Fowler does his best to incorporate his translation into James’s political plan, as if The Prince were part of a shared ideological legacy, thus creating the image of a unifying discourse of symbolical continuity from the mythological times of Fergus, Gaythelos, and Scota to James VI’s reign.

5. The Advice to Princes Tradition

During the late Middle Ages and the early modern period, it was a recurrent feature of Scottish history that the Stewart sovereigns accessed the throne as minors. Over the years, regardless of the political particularities of each reign, a constant preoccupation with the nature of kingship prevailed ([5], p. 348). As a consequence, as well as contributing to reigning dynastic tenets, William Fowler’s Prince also adheres to the Advice to Princes Tradition. He does so “by introducing into Scotland one of the most controversial writers of the time” ([14], pp. 44–45). The minority of different Scottish monarchs underlined the need for good advice and guidance from a young age. In chapter 3, for instance, the target text reads:
Bot he [King Louis XII of France] was na soner in Milan quhils he began to forgett him self, sending soccourse to pape Alex. for the subdeuing of romagne. And the gud king was not weill advysed herin, nor yet did he see how that in the executioun of the papes desyre he weakened his auen conquests, lossing therby his best frends and confederats.
([15], 2:82)
The added sentence recodifies the meaning of the whole paragraph: it is no longer King Louis’s initiative to help the Pope that debilitates his power over the conquered territories and divides his followers, but that of his bad counsellors. Fowler’s insertion transforms the sense of the source text and transfers its significance to the Scottish context of royal minorities, in which James VI himself was crowned shortly after his birth.
Necessarily, in Stewart Scotland, the contrast between good and bad counselling became a focus of debate. Again in chapter 24, “Quhairfor the Prences of Italye hes Lost there Estates”, Fowler reiterates the importance of good advisors: he claims that a new kingdom should be “beautifyed, adorned, and fortified… with gud lawes, with gud arms, gud friends, and gud examples” ([15], 2:153). The addition of “gud friends” just before “gud examples” underlines the need for good counsellors at court once more. As late medieval and early modern Scottish literature and political treatises emphasize, it is the king’s responsibility to choose good advisers and avoid the dangers of flattery. For example, in Sir David Lindsay’s Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis, one of the characters contaminating young King Humanitie is self-evidently called Flatterie; for most of the first Act, Flatterie disguises himself/herself as Devotioun. As a result, King Humanitie’s ruling of the country becomes ineffectual, causing unrest among his subjects. In a similar way, the intercultural appropriation of the Old French Lancelot en prose by Lancelot of the Laik introduces and condemns the subject of flattery as one of the most destructive dangers a nation and a king must confront [41].
In connection with flattery and good counsel, in chapter 16, Fowler also introduces a comment on rewards, which accords with the Jacobean stress on the correct distribution of presents:
he dois notheles vse his liberalitie touards all these that he takketh no thing from, wheroff the number is infinit, and exerciseth bot his niggardnes on thame quha ar his mignons and favourites, that ar noe more enriched by his presents and wasterye, quha ar bot a few courteours.
([15], 2:114)
In a section that argues the appropriateness of a ruler’s miserliness, Fowler strategically inserts a remark of particular relevance to past and contemporary Scottish political theory. This extra comment comes from the French translation; the comment furthers non-linguistic purposes. By combining the French translation with Machiavelli’s Principe, the target text encodes a message of weight in the Scottish polysystem, otherwise absent from Il Principe. This hybrid process of textual selection captures political subtleties of consequence to late sixteenth-century Scotland, in which James VI was known for his extravagant use of presents and rewards. S.J. Houston remarks that when James VI became James I of England, the royal expenditure for “diverse causes and rewards” rocketed year after year from £11,741 in the year of his coronation to £18,510 in 1604 and £35,239 in 1605 ([42], pp. 24–25), giving the impression that the king was spending money irresponsibly. Yet Linda Levy Peck suggests that the sovereign’s “patronage is a performance, that is, a self-consciously constructed language and a set of symbols signifying and reinforcing the bond between patron and client” ([43], p. 34). Indeed, patronage as a whole is more concerned with the ideology of literature/culture rather than with its aesthetics ([44], p. 15). Then, James’s enormous expenses become a symbolic tool of enforcing his power and control. In the Basilicon Doron, he articulates his vision of how rewards should be distributed amongst people:
Vse trew liberalitie in rewarding the good… [E]uery man may be served according to his measure, wherein respect must be had to his ranke, deserts, and necessitie… And aboue all, enrich not your selfe with exactions vpon your subiects; but thinke the riches of your people your best treasure.
([32], p. 48)
Even if his actual practices did not always follow his own guidance, James highlights the best possible way of distributing wealth amongst his subjects. Although the ultimate aim is the political use of largesse, at least idealistically, the king puts forward an impartial allocation of riches according to rank and merit, which should avoid friction amongst the beneficiaries. He imagines a solution to end with the perpetual factionary conflicts between his nobles. Again, regarding the Scottish Advice to Princes Tradition, in Lancelot of the Laik, Amytans teaches Arthur to properly use rewards to conquer his people’s hearts (as opposed to obtaining short-lived loyalty). In The Prince, by including d’Auvergne, Fowler elaborates on a subject whose socio-political repercussions were of specific relevance to contemporary Scotland, to the long-standing Advice to Princes Tradition in general, and to James’s rule in particular.

6. Conclusions

Fowler’s translation of Machiavelli’s Principe intends to encode the ideology of the Jacobean political discourse by domesticating the main source. The translation selected different sources and added new material to the target text. The translator, being familiar with Jacobean policies and attitudes towards the administration of power, domesticated the source text to participate actively in the formation and support of Jacobean ideologies at a time when he had fallen out of favor with James. Textual evidence suggests that the political acculturation of the text was at the core of Fowler’s translational strategies. Whilst translators assume and adhere to some norms, they also resist and withstand some others. For what they regard as the “greater good,” these translators establish their own priorities and carry out some kind of self-censorship ([20], p. 258).
Fowler’s productive self-censorship and intercultural appropriation of Machiavelli endeavored to avoid ideological inconsistencies with the hegemonic articulations of power in Jacobean Scotland, and prioritized certain discursive features while silencing others. The translation was a recontextualizing process of acceptance and submission to James. The suppression of ideological and cultural difference may have been aimed at regaining a privileged and favored position at the king’s court. The incomplete (or at least unedited) state of The Prince might also be the consequence of Fowler’s incapacity to reconcile the source text completely with James’s strategies of cultural politics in the target culture (as some contradictions do occur in the translation). The translator’s stylistic choices, such as alliteration and syntactic experimentation, domesticate the source text to recognizable native standards. Moreover, conceptually, the translator’s choices conformed with the hegemonic social and political manifestations of order in contemporary Scotland. Thus, Fowler’s translation strategies helped justify and legitimize existing structural power relations and ideologies during James’s reign.

Conflicts of Interest

The author declares no conflict of interest.

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