1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Isla, José Francisco de

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ISLA, JOSÉ FRANCISCO DE (1703–1781), Spanish satirist, was born at Villavidanes (León) on the 24th of March 1703. He joined the Jesuits in 1719, was banished from Spain with his brethren in 1767, and settled at Bologna, where he died on the 2nd of November 1781. His earliest publication, a Carta de un residente en Roma (1725), is a panegyric of trifling interest, and La Juventud triunfante (1727) was written in collaboration with Luis de Lovada. Isla’s gifts were first shown in his Triunfo del amor y de la lealtad: Dia Grande de Navarra, a satirical description of the ceremonies at Pamplona in honour of Ferdinand VI.’s accession; its sly humour so far escaped the victims that they thanked the writer for his appreciation of their local efforts, but the true significance of the work was discovered shortly afterwards, and the protests were so violent that Isla was transferred by his superiors to another district. He gained a great reputation as an effective preacher, and his posthumous Sermones morales (1792–1793) justify his fame in this respect. But his position in the history of Spanish literature is due to his Historia del famoso predicador fray Gerundio de Campazas, alias Zotes (1758), a novel which wittily caricatures the bombastic eloquence of pulpit orators in Spain. Owing to the protests of the Dominicans and other regulars, the book was prohibited in 1760, but the second part was issued surreptitiously in 1768. He translated Gil Blas, adopting more or less seriously Voltaire’s unfounded suggestion that Le Sage plagiarized from Espinel’s Marcos de Obregón, and other Spanish books; the text appeared in 1783, and in 1828 was greatly modified by Evaristo Peña y Martín, whose arrangement is still widely read.

See Policarpo Mingote y Tarrazona, Varones ilustres de la provincia de León (León, 1880), pp. 185–215; Bernard Gaudeau, Les Prêcheurs burlesques en Espagne au XVIII e siècle (Paris, 1891); V. Cian, L’ Immigrazione dei Gesuiti spagnuoli letterati in Italia (Torino, 1895).  (J. F.-K.)