Count Lucanor

Don Juan Manuel

Count Lucanor
The Fifty Pleasant Stories of Patronio
by Don Juan Manuel
Preface, English Translation by James York, M.D.

Gibbings & Company, Limited

IN introducing for the first time in England one of the choicest productions of early Spanish lieterature -- a book written a century before the invention of printing -- it may be as well to say a few words as to the author and the times in which he lived.
Don Juan Manuel was born in Escalona, on the 5th May, 1282. His father, Don Pedro Manuel, a brother of Alfonso the Wise, died when he was two years old. Don Juan was educated by his cousin, Sancho IV, and lived with him on the same familiar terms as his father had with Alfonso. He exhibited early those warlike tendencies which characterized all the great Spanish nobles of that time; in 1294, while yet a boy, he was already in the field against the Moors.
Under Ferdinand IV, who succeeded Sancho, and knew how to appreciate the qualities of Don Manuel, the latter reached, at the age of twenty-eight, to the highest employments of the State. Unfortunately, Ferdinand, dying in 1312, left his successor, Alfonso XI, only thirteen months old, which gave rise to iv a long series of disturbances and disputes for the regency, which, in those rude times, could only be settled by an appeal to arms. In 1320, Don Manuel, succeeded in having himself declared joint regent, which office he held till the king's majority was proclaimed in 1325. During this regency much disorder and irregularity prevailed, which, however, are attributed to Don Manuel's colleagues. It appears that he himself, as far as he was concerned, administered the kingdom wisely and firmly.
The young monarch, however, on reaching his majority, was dissatisfied with the state of things. Alfonso XI. had many of the qualities which were most appreciated in that age -- courage, vigour, address, and activity. He was hardy, sober, simple in his habits, and skilled in all athletic sports. But all these gifts were neutralized and rendered unavailing by the evil counsels of those by whom he was surrounded. He chose his advisers among men whose ambition and turbulence had ravaged the country, but whose lawless deeds he attributed only to zeal for his cause. Accustomed from his earliest youth to regard them as his friends, while their sole thought was to captivate his favour and make it a stepping-stone for their ambition, he appointed them to the exclusion of Don Manuel, whose influence, though insufficient to check every abuse, had hitherto been a beneficial restraint.
But Don Juan was not a man to be trifled with thus with impunity. He retired from the court and v armed his friends against the king, who, at length, terrified by the power of Don Manuel and his adherents, who numbered among them some of the most influential men in the kingdom, with a view to effect a reconciliation, proposed a marriage with Don Juan's daughter, Constantia. The betrothal took place, and for a time all went well. But the treacherous murder of Don Juan's uncle, at Toro, in 1327, awakened his suspicions of the king; and quitting hastily his victorious army which was then engaged against the Moors, he retired to the kingdom of Murcia. Alphonso remonstrated and asseverated, but the one proof of his good faith -- the fulfilment of his contract of marriage with Dona Constantia -- was wanting. He now, indeed, accepted the hand of Dona Maria, the Infanta of Portugal; writing to Don Juan that, since he refused him his fealty, he was no longer bound to him, and at the same time giving orders for the imprisonment of Constantia in the citadel of Toro. Don Manuel, touched to the quick in his pride and affection, took arms against the king, and entered into all the alliances he could make, heedless whether it was with friends or foes. After a long and sanguinary succession of struggles, the king's party gained a final victory in 1335. But Alphonso, who admired the brave persistence of his adversaries, took Don Manuel again into his favour, who gave the king, during the remainder of his life, the advantage of his bold arm and varied experience. Deserted Constantia was married to the heir-apparent vi of Portugal; much, however, against the wish of Alphonso, who was touched, perhaps, with a too tardy regret for his breach of faith, or with a jealous aversion that another should supersede him in the affections of her whom he had so grossly outraged. Meanwhile, Don Manuel, after waging victorious war for the king against the Moors, died, at the age of sixty-five, in 1347.
Allied by descent and marriage with nearly all the royal families of Spain and Portugal, Don Juan Manuel may be considered as a type of those
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