More than Muses

Inés Joyes y Blake

Inés Joyes y Blake (1731-1808)

An image from a work by Inés Joyes y Blake
From the title page of her translation El príncipe de Abisinia (1798)

¨No puedo sufrir con paciencia el ridículo papel que generalmente hacemos las mugeres en el mundo, una veces idolatradas como deidades y otras despreciadas aun de hombres que tienen fama de sabios.¨

—Inés Joyes y Blake

Miscellaneous Works by Inés Joyes y Blake


Though her original published works are limited to Una apología de las mujeres and its prologue, both of which are adjoined to her translation of The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissina, Inés Joyes y Blake is an important feminist figure in the 18th century literary community of Málaga, Spain in that she demonstrated the intellectual prowess as well as the potential for international reach that women had. Unique among her peers, Joyes y Blake was fluent in English as well as Spanish due to her Irish family connections which she regularly maintained throughout her life, so she remained current in both languages. 

Inés Joyes y Blake, an eighteenth-century Spanish author, is best known for her translation of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia and her essay Una apología de las mujeres, which contributed to the feminist discourse of her time. Born in Madrid on December 27, 1731, Inés’s early circumstances predicted the strength of her character and access to the education that would hone her writing prowess. She belonged to a wealthy merchant family that owned a banking firm named “Patricio Joyes e hijos,” after her father. Patricio Joyes e hijos had important financial connections in London, Rome, Livorno, and Paris (Bolufer “Enlightened Women” 329), inspiring Inés from a young age to take an interest in international relations and learn the mechanics of diplomacy. Inés’s father died in 1745, when she was just 13 years old, after which her mother, also named Inés, assumed control of the distribution of her family’s assets, thus preserving the family business after Patricio’s death and salvaging the way of life she and her children had come to know (Bolufer “Enlightened Women” 330). 

Despite the tragedy they faced, the Joyes family remained dedicated to providing all their children, both boys and girls, with a well rounded, secular education. Among the subjects Inés studied, most notable was her consistent exposure to and practice with the English language, through her formal education and correspondence with relatives in Ireland and the UK (Bolufer “Enlightened Women” 331). Inés had a talent and passion for language, which later informed her professional work as a translator. 

In 1751, at 21 years old, Inés married 33-year-old Agustín Blake and moved to Málaga (Bolufer “Escribir la experiencia” 89). As was the case with the marriages of many other family members, Inés’s husband was selected for her because of his close ties to her family, as a relative on her mother’s side. Like Inés, Agustín  also came from a prominent financial family, which allowed him to forge a successful career in business and shape a respectable reputation in society for his wife and children (Bolufer “Enlightened Women” 330). 

Between 1764 and 1771, Inés and Agustín moved from Málaga to a smaller town nearby called Vélez-Málaga. Their lifestyle in the town was quaint yet fulfilling, as Inés preferred. According to Joseph Townsend, who stayed with the family in 1786 after Agustín’s death, Inés was a somewhat private person who preferred intimate gatherings with friends over the opulence of high society (Bolufer “Enlightened Women” 330). Together in the cozy, tight-knit world they crafted together in Vélez-Málaga, Inés and Agustín had nine children: four daughters and five sons (Bolufer, “Inés Joyes y Blake: Una ilustrada” 37). Their clan remained close to Inés’s immediate family throughout their lives (Bolufer “Enlightened Women” 330), relationships that became especially important when after 30 years of marriage, Inés became a widow at the age of 51. Her husband's death forced her to participate in society more than she would have liked because of various lawsuits regarding the inheritance she and her children were to receive. In response to the struggles, Inés quickly arranged  the marriages of her daughters and sons, tying them to more financially secure households and ensuring their well-being (Bolufer “Enlightened Women” 330). 

Following her mother’s example, Inés faced her challenges by working harder and seeking purposeful ways to contribute to the world around her. With her children safe and settled in their marriages, Inés became a translator and wrote in defense of women in her original work Una apología de las mujeres. Translation was one of the few ways women of Inés’s time could make space for themselves in the literary profession in response to an extensive and growing demand to appease the foreign market (Bolufer “Enlightened Women” 335). Inés’s translation work was significant because most translations in Spain at the time were based on French texts. Breaking this paradigm, she published English author Samuel Johnson’s Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia as El príncipe de Abisinia in 1798. In addition to the translation, the book includes a personal dedication to Josefa Pimentel, the Duchess of Osuna, and Inés’s apologia, in the form of a letter dedicated to her daughters. 

Two newspapers, Diario de Madrid and Correo de Madrid, announced the publication of her book and Secretary of State Manuel Godoy mentioned it in his memoirs: “Inés Joyes y Blake, translator of an English novel entitled El Príncipe de Abisinia, to which she added an original Una apología de las mujeres, was written with talent and expertise” (cited in Bolufer “Enlightened Women” 332-33). Beyond those references, Inés’s book received little critical attention. Even women writers of aristocratic nobility were just beginning to break into the sphere of high brow literary conversation, and only in recent years have critics begun to discover and study in depth the works of writers like Inés or her contemporaries Josefa Amar y Borbón, Josefa Jovellanos, and Francisca Ruiz de Larrea (Bolufer “Enlightened Women” 331).

Inés died in Málaga on May 21, 1808. Considering the fact that resources such as property and money had dwindled as a result of prior financial troubles that were only worsened by her husband's death, she did not have much to give away. Pomp and circumstance related to funeral rites were also severely limited. Enlightenment philosophy reigned above religious principle for Inés, so she would have had no desire or taste for a ceremonious Catholic funeral as the custom of her time and location would have dictated (Bolufer “Enlightened Women” 330).

Annotated Bibliography

Barker, Joanna M. "Inés Joyes y Blake and the War Between the Sexes." In Defence of Women, vol. 14, Cambridge, Modern Humanities Research Association, p. 132-55.

In this chapter, Joanna Barker addresses not only the life and experiences of Inés Joyes y Blake, but also her choices as a writer and a translator. Barker goes into Inés Joyes y Blake’s background, such as her family and the high expectations set on her, as well as the strong female influences in her life, such as her mother, who, when Inés’s father died, took over the family business. Unlike many Spanish authors before her, Inés Joyes did not enter the church, but got married to a man by the name of Augustín Blake, her second cousin, and gave birth to nine children. After he died, Inés Joyes y Blake began to venture into printing her works and translations, including her Spanish translation of The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissina, which precedes her famous letter to her daughters, Una apología de las mujeres. This chapter also includes a brief summary of The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissina and an English translation of Una apología de las mujeres or An Apology for Women (Annotation by Tacha Hamilton)

Bolufer Peruga, Mónica, and Morant Deusa, Isabel. "On Women’s Reason, Education and Love: Women and Men of the Enlightenment in Spain and France." Gender & History, vol. 10, no. 2, p. 183–216.

This article focuses on how the Enlightenment brought about a new version of femininity, thereby breaking away from the traditional views of earlier times. Specifically, the authors compare and contrast how the Enlightenment affected Spain and France by looking at the various influential women who participated in the gender equality debate. Some of the themes presented include love, education, and social injustice. In the context of Spanish writers, Josefa Amar y Borbón, as well as Inés Joyes y Blake, are discussed extensively. Their responses to other influential figures and their writings are discussed throughout this article. (Annotation by Maxwell Marks)

Bolufer Peruga, Mónica. "¿Escribir la experiencia? Familia, identidad y reflexión intelectual en Inés Joyes (s. XVIII)." Arenal: Revista de la Historia de las Mujeres, vol. 13, no. 1, p. 83-105.

This article serves as a rather extensive biography of the 18th-century translator and writer Inés Joyes y Blake. The author makes an intentional effort to avoid drawing arbitrary lines around the public and private spheres of Joyes’s life, and instead illustrates how these interact with each other. For example, Bolufer gives information about Joyes’s family life but also shows how the women were active participants in family affairs and how this relationship dynamic impacted the family business. Furthermore, the article gives detailed information about Joyes’s experience with motherhood and old age without failing to demonstrate how these experiences shaped and informed her writings. (Annotation by Bailey Willden)

Bolufer Peruga, Mónica. "Inés Joyes y Blake: Una Ilustrada, entre privado y público,." Mujeres para la historia: Figuras destacadas del primer feminismo, Madrid, Abada, p. 28-55.

This chapter provides biographical and social context for Joyes y Blake’s Una apología de las mujeres. It was first believed that her daughter wrote Una apología, but after much research scholars discovered that Joyes y Blake was the author. Joyes y Blake was born into a family of Irish descent that had powerful banking connections in Spain. The family valued education for both boys and girls, and from a young age Inés was educated and learned various languages, including French, Spanish, and English. The family encouraged women to handle family affairs and represent the family. Like many women of her time, Inés was unable to participate in the public sphere of literary, academic, and artistic circles, but she shows through her apología that she was an avid and dynamic observer and thinker even outside those circles. Her essay reflects her personal experience and those she shared with other contemporary women authors. (Annotation by Amanda Galán Vintimilla)

Bolufer, Mónica. "Translation and Intellectual Reflection in the Works of Enlightened Spanish Women: Inés Joyes (1731-1808)." Women Writing Back / Writing Women Back : Transnational Perspectives From the Late Middle Ages to the Dawn of the Modern Era, vol. 16, Leiden, Brill, p. 327-45.

In this chapter, Mónica Bolufer seeks to define Inés Joyes y Blake in three distinct categories: first, as an individual, second as a translator, and third as a feminist. As an individual, Joyes y Blake was well educated, family-centered, and socially conservative. As a translator, she was precise, intentional, and critically well received. As a feminist, she was bold and compassionate, concerned largely with the rights of women to choose how they will direct their lives, whether that be in marriage, motherhood, or education.  She was also adamant about securing the protection and appreciation for women within each of those respective roles once they have decided. Bolufer concludes that Joyes y Blake, though not as widely known as some of her contemporaries, was exemplary in terms of translation and feminist discourse, and venerable as a mother and wife despite consistent hardship in her life. (Annotation by Marissa Luquette)


7 April 2022

Last Updated

11 May 2022