John Florio is the main protagonist of a new study about learning languages in Early Modern England. Written by John Gallagher, “Learning Languages in Early Modern England” is the first major study of how English-speakers learnt a variety of continental vernacular languages in the period between 1480 and 1720. Gallgher shows how multilingualism was fundamental to English history in an age of encounter and exchange. Among the foreign teachers of the time, John Florio stands out from the crowd, as the recent article of the Guardian points out:
“If this learned, imaginative and enlightening book has a hero, it must surely be John Florio (1553-1625), the son of an Italian refugee and his English wife. He was born in London, grew up an exile in Switzerland and Germany, then returned to England as a young man. This European Englishman was a superlative translator of Montaigne, and an influential acquaintance of Shakespeare. He was friends with the brilliant polymath Giordano Bruno, a spy for Queen Elizabeth, language tutor to the Stuart royal family, and a pioneering grammarian and dictionary maker. Hard working, broad minded and cosmopolitan, he was scathing in his critique of his insular, monoglot compatriots. “What a shame is that!”, if one only spoke English and could therefore understand nothing of the wide world beyond, he wrote in 1578, “what a loss!” Indeed. We could do with more of his spirit right now.”
You can read the full article here.