Last year, the Sevilla University, in collaboration with the Instituto Cervantes in London, edited one publication titled ‘Routes of Spanish exile in London’. It contained a succinct and well-documented history of those Spaniards who, for political and ideological reasons, were welcomed by England throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
But what surprise it is the omission of a name in that list of exiles to that country, even more so when it landed there much earlier, even, than all those mentioned in that short guide.
We refer to Jerez Felipe Fernández Argumedo (Jerez, 1741-London, 1815), installed in London twenty years before José María Blanco White himself (Seville, 1775. Liverpool, 1841).
Little has been written about him, if we do not mention the article that I published in the magazine Historia de Jerez, in the one corresponding to the 2008/2009 academic year.
The data exposed at the time have not been replicated, except for some points of his biography that have yet to be fully contrasted, which the researcher Juan Antonio Moreno Arana exposes in his work, dated 2012, ‘Education in Jerez de la Frontera in the century XVIII ‘.
However, in what everyone agrees is in the importance of the figure of this illustrated priest, in the relevant of his work, especially with regard to the teaching Spanish in the Anglo-Saxon world in the early 19th century.
This is evidenced by specialists such as Mar Vilar in ‘Spanish, a second language in the United States (2008)’: “From his success of ‘A New Practical Grammar’ the six London editions attest “.
Estimate that you share Luis Miguel Enciso when in his book ‘Economic Societies in the Century of Enlightenment (2010)’, he deals with Fernández in his involvement in the cultural life of Jerez at the end of the 18th century.
From this period of his life, before leaving Jerez, the Jerez writer and politician, Manuel de Friends, in his study of the Historical-Critical Memory of the Real Sociedad Económica Jerezana de Amigos del País, and of the times before and after its first foundation from 1781 to 1833, published in 1862, states the following: “… he was one of those useful and modest men today relegated to oblivion by the ingratitude of his compatriots. To him, mainly, is due the founding of this Royal Economic Society. “Considered” the soul of the company. “
The Economic Society of Friends of the Country
Felipe Fernández ArgumedoAs stated in the birth certificate of the parish of Santiago, he was born on October 3, 1741.
We know nothing of his childhood and youth, and it is not until 1778 what, according to Moreno Arana, “leave the Dominican habit to pass into the ecclesiastical state of secular “.
In those years is actively involved in the creation of the Royal Patriotic Society of Jerez, but some influential members of the civil and ecclesiastical sectors used compromises to relegate Fernández de la Sociedad.
To this fact will be added the confrontation of positions for the control of the institution and its precarious economic situation, in addition to others of an international scope, such as the French Revolution.
Antonio Cabral describes in a very graphic way the flight of Fernández de Jerez: “the patriots became hateful in Jerez, the houses of these visited by the Inquisition in search of prohibited books, a member of the Society was stoned and, finally, one of the most significant, the priest Fernández, chose calmer waters by exiling himself to London. Meanwhile, from the pulpit, the church inflamed the atmosphere against those “possessed of the spirit of the times.”
Make friends, meanwhile, that places him in London in 1793, although it is possible that it came a few years earlier, he puts it this way: “Liberal Jerez canon, true founder of his Real Sociedad Económica fed up with the political struggles between the ecclesiastical and municipal councils and apparently the ingratitude and ingratitude of his natives one good day “He jumped and did not return.”
Exile in england
In England he would develop all his works, highlighting its didactic works for the teaching of Spanish, books that would have editions in the United States.
Little by little, and with great effort, a niche in London high society, their services being required as Spanish teacher between the young members of the nobility, future leaders of a nation that increasingly expanded its overseas possessions in competition with Spain. Knowledge of Spanish taught by an expert native speaker was in high demand at the time.
He himself recounts, in the prologue of his ‘A New Practical Grammar of the Spanish Language’, his unstable situation of asylee at the beginning and his rapid adaptation “… I arrived in England without any letter of recommendation, and yet although there were a sufficient number of teachers and among them a Spaniard, I was able to easily obtain a sufficient number of disciples, who enabled me to be able to live without disturbing anyone: so that I find myself established in this country, and so sufficiently provided, that I do not miss any of the conveniences that I enjoyed in my homeland ”.
One of the people who helped him on his arrival in the host country was Lord Holland, what years later he would be the protector of Blanco White and other liberal Spaniards fled from Spain.
In the text he writes by way of dedication in his ‘First Dictionary’, published in 1811, is addressed to Lord Henry Richard Fox, Baron of Holland, whom Fernández taught Spanish when he was barely twenty-five years old.
Our countryman did not limit himself to this single aspect, that of teaching, but He also carried out outstanding translation work like the satirical novel, ‘Raselas, Prince of Abisinia’, by Samuel Johnson, which was published in 1813.
On the other hand, it was responsible appreciated and exquisite revised editions of Spanish classics as’ The ingenious hidalgo Don Quijote of La Mancha’, by Cervantes, or ‘Adventures of Gil Blas de Santillana’.
Fernández died in London on August 27, 1815, at the age of 74. He was buried in the chapel of St. Alban, in Wood Street, attached to the Anglican cult, and near his home on Noble Street, in the historic center of the city.
Unfortunately of this religious building, very affected by the German bombings during the Second World War, only its bell tower remains standing, so its tomb would remain under the rubble, as can be seen in the photo taken in the 50s , 20th century.
Recognized in your land?
The Fernández’s personality is well reflected in the sentence in Latin that he used to include in the first pages of his books: I did what I could, may those who are able do better, which translated came to say that of ‘I did what I could, do better than you can’.
Really he dedicated his whole life to culture and teaching. His work proves it. As payment he received the incomprehension of the city that saw him born.
But he never denied his origins, as we see in the text that he included on the covers of his books: “Rev. Don Felipe Fernández AM, a native of Xerez de la Frontera and founder of the Royal Economic Society of the Friends of the Country in that city”. With this he took the revenge against those who had ignored it.
Since 2008, and on the proposal of which this subscribes, a Jerez street bears his name. The label had to include the dates of birth and death, as approved, but this was ignored due to the carelessness of those responsible in carrying out this task. Modest public road near the Fire Station.
In 2009, the Jerez Municipal Library received a donation, for my part, of one of Felipe Fernández’s works, specifically the ‘New Practical Grammar’, edition of 1812
Along with the one that exists in the Provincial Library of Cádiz, which already had a ejemplar de sus ‘Excercises on rules of construction of the Spanish Language’, from 1798, they were the only two public libraries in Andalusia with works by Fernández. The one from Cádiz was donated by José M. Vadillo in 1855.
That same year I prepared a brief semblance for the virtual encyclopedia wikipedia, which can be consulted today.
And after all this, one wonders: For when will a tombstone on the facade of the Municipal Library of Jerez that remembers men like Felipe Fernández ?.
We will continue against the current claiming his work; he, as we have seen, never forgot Jerez. Perhaps the Cervantes Institute in London, currently directed by Ignacio Peyró, can accept the challenge of doing it in the city that received it and provided help. Who knows?.