1902 Encyclopedia > Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
(often known as: Miguel de Cervantes)
Spanish novelist, dramatist and poet
MIGUEL DE CERVANTES-SAAVEDRA (1547-1616), the author of Don Quixote, was born at Alcalá de Henares, the ancient Complutum, a small town in the province of New castile, in 1547. The day of his birth is not known, but as he was baptized on the 9th of October it is conjectured from his Christian name that he was born on St Michaelmas day preceding. The place of his nativity also remained in doubt until the year 1748, when Don Juan de Yriarte found in the Royal Library of Madrid a manuscript entitled La Verdadera Patria de Miguel de Cervantes, written by the learned Benedictine Martin Sarmiento. Till then seven cities, Madrid, Seville, Lucena, Toledo, Esquivias, Alcazar de San Juan, and Consuegra, had contended for the honour of being his birthplace, although in the Topography of Algiers, by Father Haedo, published in 1612, mention was made of Cervantes as a native of Alcalá de Henares, and the genealogist Mendez de Silva, in his tract on Nuño Alfonso, published in 1648, had also spoken of him as a noble Castilian gentleman of the same town. All doubts on the subject, their long ignorance as to which is one of the many proofs of the carelessness with which the Spaniards have treasured what belongs to the memory of their illustrious countryman, were finally resolved by the discovery of the petition for an inquiry into his conduct at Algiers addressed by Cervantes to the Government in 1580. The family of Cervantes, which had for some generations attached to their patronymic the name of Saavedra, was of respectable if not noble origin. The patriotic zeal of some later biographers has even claimed for it affinity to the royal blood of Castile. The cradle of the race was Galicia, from which province the ancestors of Cervantes emigrated at an early date. Members of the family accompanied Ferdinand III. on his expedition against the Moorish kingdom of Seville and obtained a share of the conquered territory. The grandfather of Miguel was Juan de Cervantes, a knight of some distinction, who held the office of corregidor of Ossuna at the beginning of the 16th century. His son Rodrigo married in 1540 Leonora de Cortinas, a lady of Essquivias, of birth equal to his own but, it is presumed, of no greater fortune. There were four children of the marriage, two sons, Rodrigo and Miguel, and two daughters. Although ranking themselves with the hidalgos, the parents must have been, at the birth of their younger son, in humble circumstances. The biographers have been able to glean but few details of the early life of our hero, and for these they are indebted almost entirely to the chance allusions in Cervantess own writings. He studied grammar and the humanities under a master of some repute, Lopez de Hoyos, and, according to a doubtful tradition, spent two years at the university of Salamanca, residing in the Calle de Moros. That he received a fair education according to the standard of the age, and had an extensive though not exact knowledge of classical and general literature, his works bear witness. When a boy he describe himself as having attended the representations of the first regular company of Spanish actors under Lope de Rueda, the founder of the dramatic art in Spain. Upon the occasion of the magnificent obsequies held in honour of Isabel de Valois, the wife of Philip II., in 1568, the most advanced scholars of Lopez de Hoyos competed in the literary exercises, in Latin and in Spanish, which formed part of the funeral ceremony; and chief among the victors was Miguel de Cervantes, who is mentioned by his master in the most affectionate and laudatory terms as his "dear and beloved pupil." These compositions, among which were sonnets, letrillas, the redondillas, have perished, together with many of the early poetical essays of their essay of their author, probably with no loss to the world or to his reputation. In his Journey to Parnassus Cervantes speaks of these effusions of his youthful name with characteristic modesty and candour, averring that "from his tenderest years he had loved the sweet art of poesy," and had composed endless ballads and sonnets, good and bad, but confessing with a touching humility that Heaven has not granted him the poets grace. Among the last works belonging to this period, of which their author speaks with more complacency, was Filena, a pastoral poem, esteemed sufficiently good by his contemporaries to earn for the author a place among the multitude of those who wrote themselves poets in that fruitful harvest-time of Spanish literature.
Miguel de Cervantes
(full name: Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra)
Portrait (c. 1600) painted by Juan Martínez de Jáuregui y Aguilar.
In 1568 there came to Madrid -- charged with a message of condolence from the Pope to Philip II., on the death of his son Don Carlos, and with sundry complaints respecting default of allegiance to Rome -- the Cardinal Acquaviva, who, though only in his twenty-fifth year, had already earned a name for culture and a good disposition to letters. With him Cervantes tool service as a camarero or page, -- an employment held to be no humiliation in that age even to young men of noble birth, -- returning in the suite of his patron to Rome by way of Valencia, Barcelona, and the south of France. Apparently the past was not to the taste of one in whom the sight of Italy -- then for the greater part a fief of Spain -- awakened more of warlike than of poetic ambition. In the beginning of 1570 the cardinals page exchanged his livery for the soldiers uniform, enlisting in the company of the famous captain Don Diego de Urbina of the regiment of Don Miguel de Moncada. It was the period when the military glory of Spain was at the highest, and the profession of arms the surest road to advancement. The first campaign of Cervantes was made at sea, his regiment being engaged in the expedition which, in the summer of 1570, under the orders of the Papal general , Marco Antonio Colonna, made an ineffectual attempt to relieve the Island of Cyprus, then hotly besieged by the Turks. The capture of Nicosia by the Mahometans, and the fall of the island, which spread consternation throughout Christendom, gave rise to the memorable Holy League against Selim II. Through the exhortations of the Pope, Pius V., Spain and Venice were induced to lay aside for a time their old dissensions and to unite with Rome in an attempt to bridle the Ottomans, then in the flush and vigour of their genius. The pact between these Christian powers was formally ratified on the 25th of May 1571, the confederates binding themselves to "make perpetual war" not only against the Turks but against the Moors of Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli.
The armament provided -- the expenses of which were distributed among the three states in the proportion of three-sixth to Spain, two-sixths to Venice, and one-sixth to Rome -- was to consist of 200 galleys of war, with 100 store-ships, 50,000 infantry, 4500 light horse, and a sufficient supply of artillery and ammunition. The generalissimo whom the unanimous voice of the allies called to the command of this fleet -- the most formidable which had even been assembled in the Mediterranean -- was Don John of Austria, the natural son of Charles V., then in his twenty-fourth years -- a youth not more recommended by his near connection with the Spanish king than by his brilliant talents, amiable character, and great popularity. The mutual jealousies and fears of the allied princes, and the hesitation of Philip II. to entrust so important a command to his half-brother, the object of his secret envy and distrust, caused many delays in the assembling of the Christian forces, and have the Turks ample time for preparation. The armada, after rendezvousing at Messina, put to sea finally in quest of the enemy on the 15th of September. The company in which Cervantes still served as a private soldier was embarked in the gallery "La Marquesa," commanded by Francisco San Pietro. After relieving and provisioning Corfu, Don John came up with the Turkish fleet on the 7th of October, drawn up in order of battle in the Gulf of Lepanto. The Christians advanced in three divisions, their right commanded by the Genoese admiral, Juan Andrea Doria, the centre under Don John himself, and the left under Agostino Barbarigo, the Venerian Proveditore; the Marques de Santa Cruz, with his squadron, being in reverse. The "Marquesa" was on the left wing, having on board Miguel de Cervantes, who lay in his cabin ill of a fever. On coming into action, his ship being in the van of the squadron, Cervantess captain and comrades besought him to remain quietly in his bed, but he, according to the sworn testimony of ear-witnesses, asked them what would they think of him if he did not, do his duty, and declared his resolve to die fighting for God and his king, rather than remain under shelter and take care of his heath. His entreaties to be allowed to share in the fighting having been granted, Cervantes was stationed with twelve soldiers under his command in what was reckoned the post of greatest danger, namely, in the boat which hung by the galley side, most exposed to the enemys fire. Here he performed his part in that glorious days work so valiantly as to attract the notice of his commanders, even of Don John himself. The vessel immediately opposed to the "Marquesa" was the galley of the Captain Pasha of Alexandria, who commanded on the Turkish right, bearing the royal standard of Egypt. After a stubborn resistance, and the slaughter of 500 of her crew, she was compelled to surrender, her fate involving the flight or capture of the entire squadron, and contributing materially to the final defeat of the Turks. On their right wing the Christians were less succession, -- Marco Antonio Colonna having to encounter the celebrated renegade, Uluch Ali, a sea-captain of great skill and experience, to whose good conduct and abilities Cervantes himself, with characteristic generosity between witness. The issue was highly honourable to the allied arms. The victory at Lepanto, though barren of results, and spoilt by the contentions among the Christian leaders, broke the spell of Turkish invincibility at sea, and is to be reckoned among the most glorious feats of arms ever performed by Spain when at the zenith of her greatness. In this battle, to the remembrance of which he ever fondly clung, which he loved to speak of as the proudest event of his life, Cervantes was severely wounded -- receiving two gun-shot wounds in the chest and one in the left hand, which was mained and rendered useless "fro the greater glory of the right," as its owner said, holding this defect ever after to be his greatest ornament. Lepanto was to Spain what Salamis was to Athens. All Europe rang with the fame of "the man set from God whose name was John," according to the fervent exclamation of the grateful Pope when he heard the news of the victory; and the exploits of Doria, Colonna, Santa Cruz were on all mens tongues. But while generals and admirals are now forgotten, it is a striking evidence of the power of genius to override even the traditions of patriotism and of warlike glory that of all the memories which survive of this once renowned day, that which remains green and flourishing is of the private soldier who fought in the "Marquesa," of him whom his countrymen love to designate as El Manco de Lepanto. It would be absurd to attribute to the single arm of Miguel de Cervantes any appreciable share in the event of that day, but making all allowances for the partiality of his biographers, there can be no reason to doubt that Cervantes did earn a very extraordinary amount of renown for his behaviour in the battle. As a private soldier he was nor debarred, according to the fashion of the times, from receiving from his superiors those marks of consideration due to men of good birth and breeding; yet the extraordinary favours bestowed on him by Don John and the order leaders, the letters of credit which they gave him on his return to Spain, the numerous references to him by his contemporaries, and the influence he afterwards exercised among his fellow-captives at Algiers, are sufficient to prove that at this early period of his life Cervantes had attained to much distinction over and above what he had won as a man of letters.
After the battle of Lepanto the lateness of the season compelled Don John to return to Sicily, leaving the Turks leisure to recover from their losses and to recruit their strength. The wounded were tended at Messina, among whom Cervantes was visited in the hospital by Don John in person, receiving upon his recovery a special increase of pay to the amount of three crowns a month. From the company of Moncada our soldier was now transferred to that of Don Ponce de Leon, in the Tercio de Figueroa, the most distinguished of all the Spanish regiments of that period -- of that famous infantry which sustained the Spanish dominion over half Europe, making, in the words of the chronicler, "the earth tremble with their muskets." The further enterprises of the league at sea were checked by the growing dissensions between Spain and Venice, and also by the quarrel now on foot between the former nation and its old rival France. The jealousies between the confederate princes extended to their commander, and it was in vain that Don John urged upon his allies the necessity of striking another blow at the Turk before he had time to repair his shattered forces. It was not until the 9th of August 1572, that the Christian fleet again set sail for the scene of its great exploit of the year previous. In this second campaign, through the supineness of the leaders, perhaps from some incapacity of the generalissimo, scarcely fitted by the age or force of character to control so vast and incongruous a host, but chiefly from the superior skill and vigilance of the Turkish commander-in-chief, a post now held by Uluch Ali, the armada did nothing more than make a feeble demonstration against the enemys fleet, which was found at anchor in Navarino Bay. Cervantes, who has given a minute account of this inglorious affair in his story of the captive in Don Quixote, served in this expedition in the aquadron commanded by Antonio Colonia. Returning to Messina to winter, the armada was next year dispersed in consequence of the dissolution of the Holy League, the Venetians having concluded a separate peace with the Turks. In 1573 Cervantes took part in the expedition of Don John against Tunis and in the capture of the Goleta -- his wounds being still unhealed, as we learn from his letter to Mateo Vasquez. That winter he was in garrison in Sardinia, and in the next spring in Lombardy, being ordered to Messina in August 1574, and thence to Naples. On the 15th of June 1575 he obtained leave of the viceroy, the Duke de Sesa, to visit Spain, and thus ended the first portion of his military career, with small profit but with much honour. During his five years active service by land and sea, however, Cervantes had acquired that knowledge of men and life which was so useful to him in after years. He had visited the most famous cities of Italy, and had stored his mind with impressions of her art and literary culture, traces of which are to be found in all his writing, even to the extent of making him liable to the charge of introducing Italian idioms into his style. Of his intercourse with Italian men of letters there is no evidence, though his works furnish abundant testimony of his familiarity with the best models of Italian literature. That he had won the respect and esteem of his commanders as a good soldier is proved by the highly flattering letters which he received form Don John, recommending him to the king for promotion as a man of singular merit and of great services; also from the viceroy of Naples, speaking of him as a worthy but unfortunate soldier who, "by his noble virtue and temper, had secured the good will of his comrades and officers." Furnished with these letters, which in the event were to prove to him so fatal a possession, Cervantes, with his brother Rodrigo, embarked at Naples in the gallery "El Sol." On the 26th of September, when off the coast of Minorca, his vessel fell in with a squadron of Algerine cruisers under the command of the dreaded pirate captain, Arnaut Mami. Attacked by three of the enemys ships, the Spanish galley, after an obstinate resistance, in which Cervantes bore a conspicuous part, was forced to surrender to overwhelming odds, and was brought in a prize to Algiers. On the division of the prisoners Cervantes fell to the lot of Déli Mami, a Greek renegade, noted for his ferocity and greed among the Algerines. The letters of Don John and the viceroy of Naples found on this Spanish soldier served but to mislead his captors as to his true rank, and therefore to stimulate their cupidity and to aggravate his sufferings. Being supposed to be able to purchase his liberty at a high price, Cervantes was guarded with special care, and that he might be induced the more quickly to ransom himself, he was loaded with chains and treated with extraordinary rigour. According to the testimony of Father Haedo, in whose curious and important work on the Topography of Algiers, published in 1612, we have the most valuable authority for this period of Cervantess life, and who was an eye-witness of the cruelties practiced in this pirates; den upon the Christian slaves, the captivity of Cervantes was one of the hardest ever known in Algiers. It was borne with a courage and constancy which, had there been nothing else to make his name memorable, must have sufficed to rank Cervantes among the heroes of his age an country. No episode more romantic is contained in the books of chivalry. No adventures more strange were encountered by any knight errant. Not Amadis nor Esplandian, notany of those whose fabled deeds has kindled his youthful imagination displayed a loftier spirit of honour or more worthily discharged his knightly devoir than did Miguel de Cervantes when inn duresse at Algiers. A slave in the power of the bitter enemy of his creed and nation, cut off in the hay-day of his fame from the path of ambition which fortune seemed to have opened to him, no lot could be more cruel than that which in the prime of his manhood and genius fell to our hero. Nor is there any chapter of his life more honourable than the record of the singular daring, fortitude, patience, and cheerfulness with which he bore his fate during this miserable period of five years. With no other support than his own indomitable spirit, forgotten by those whom he had served unable to receive any help from his friends, subjected to every kind of hardship which the tyranny or caprice of his masters might order, pursued by an unrelenting evil destiny which seemed in this, as in every other passage of his career, to mock at his efforts to live that high heroic life which he had conceived to himself, this poor maimed soldier was looked up to by that wretched colony of Christian captives, including among them many men of higher birth and rank, as their chief counseller, comforter, and guide. In the formal information laid before the commissary of the Spanish Government at Algiers, Father Juan Gil, of the order of the Redemptorists, very particular testimony is borne by Cervantess fellow-captives to his character and conduct, as one who bore himself always as a faithful Christian, who cheered those who were despondent, who shared with the poor the title which he possessed, who helped the sick in their faith, behaving himself always like a true soldier of the king and a noble gentleman, -- all which good record is confirmed by the honest father himself of his own personal knowledge.
The captivity of Cervantes in Algiers lasted five years, during which period he never ceased to plot schemes of deliverance, which, however daringly conceived and skillfully planned, were doomed to be always foiled by accident or by treachery. On such occasions he was invariably the first to come forward to shield his associates and to take the whole blame upon himself, rendering himself liable to the barbarous punishments then inflicted by the Algerines upon such of their slaves as sought to escape from their chains. Twice was Cervantes brought into the kings presence, with a rope round his neck, to be hanged. Once he was ordered two thousand blows with a stick, the penalty being remitted at the last moment only through the prayers of the other captives. The king or viceroy of Algiers at this time was Hassan Pasha, a Venetian renegade, whose name was a terror throughout Christendom. Cervantes himself in Don Quixote calls him "the worst of the apostate race," and "the homicide of human kind." Haedo pronounces him "the most cruel tyrant of all those who have been kings in Algiers." Over this monster, who had purchased Cervantes from Déli Mami for 1500 crowns, our hero seems to have exercised an extraordinary influence. Though repeatedly menaced with death in the most horrible forms, and condemned to witness the torture and mutilation of his companions, Cervantes never actually suffered any ill-treatment in person, beyond being fettered, nor was ever abused by an ill-word, as he himself has borne testimony in Don Quixote. For this exceptional immunity it is not easy to account, even on the theory that his master took him for a person of greater consequence than he really was, and we must attribute it to the extraordinary influence acquired by Cervantes over the other captives, and to the respect engendered by his magnanimity and daring. Hassan Pasha, according to Haedo, was wont to say that "could he keep hold of that maimed Spaniard he would regard as secure his Christians, his ships and his whole city." Hassan Pashas fears were not wholly unwarranted, although the object of them was but a simple soldier, for Cervantes had conceived the design of a general rising of the captives in Algiers and the seizure of the city. "And assuredly," says Haedo, "the plan would have succeeded, and Algiers would have been Christian, if his fortune has corresponded to his courage, his zeal, or the greatness of the undertaking." From the dungeons of Hassan Pasha Cervantes wrote to Mateo Vasquez, the secretary of Philip II., suggesting the enterprise as one befitting the arms of his royal master; nor was it so desperate as might appear, seeing that the number of Christian captives in that say was nearly 25,000. Philip, however, was then too much occupied in the conquest of the Christian kingdom of Portugal to bestow any attention on the daring project of Cervantes.
In the meantime, while the captive was wasting his heart away in chains and in fruitless struggles for liberty, his friends in Spain were not neglectful of his condition. His family were too poor to be able of their own resources to raise the sum demanded by Hassan Pasha for his reason. At the prayer of his brother Rodrigo an official investigation was held upon the conduct of Cervantes and the circumstances of his captivity, and at the solicitation of the father and mother, the Duke de Sesa wrote a strong letter to King Philip on behalf of the soldier of Lepanto, recounting his services and entreating his majestys assistance. No other response, however, was vouchsafed to this and other petitions which were addressed to the Court by Cervantess mother (his father being now dead), save a gracious permission to Doña Leonora, dated the 17th of January 1581, to export licensed goods from Valencia to Algiers, to the value of 2000 ducats. The profit in this venture was only 60 ducats. The window and her daughters having raised 300 more, a sum of 500 ducats was made up with the assistance of friends, and entrusted to the hands of Father Juan Gil, the Redemptorist, who embarked fro Algiers in May 1580. Hassan Pasha, however, would abate nothing of his demand, which was 1000 ducats, and threatened to take Cervantes with him to Constantinople, whither he was now recalled on the expiration of his term of government. Cervantes was actually embarked and chained to his place at the oar, when, finally, through the pious zeal of the good friar Juan Gil, aided by the liberality of some Christian merchants of Algiers, the sum required was made up. After a little delay in Algiers rendered necessary to clear himself of some false accusations made against him by his old enemy, Blanco de Paz, Cervnates had at last the joy of arriving, after a long captivity, safe and sound in his native country, landing in Spain towards the close of the year 1580.
The captivity in Algiers is worthy of more study than it has received from Cervantess biographers. Not only did it turn the whole current of his life and influence all his subsequent career, but in it, as the period of his darkest adversity, may be discovered no little of the material on which his character, and even his literary work, was founded. In the hard school of an Algerine bagnio, amidst chains and misery and the constant sight of death in its most appalling forms, were learnt those lessons of humanity which, controlling his heroic spirit and tempering his romantic fancy, were turned to so memorable a use in Don Quixote. Like him of La Mancha our knight has started in his lifes adventure with a mind nursed in the glowing visions of chivalry, impatient of wrong-doing, eager for the good, full of faith in manhood, and quick to believe in the ideals of honour which his imagination had conceived. He found himself amidst a generation which cared fro none of these things, confronted by the stern realities of a commonplace age, tossed about and buffeted in a world in which chivalry had become already an anachronism. There is no need for us to search for the key to the parable of Don Quixote, knowing the life of the author. The experience was a bitter one, such as no man of letters ever had to endure; but from the long ordeal, which ended only with his life, Cervantes emerged sweetened and strengthened. The gay courage which was the essential attribute of his nature, the dauntless good humour --
"That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine,"
Had to survive ever greater trials than the five years slavery in Algiers. On his return to Spain Cervantes was destined to taste of miseries compared to which even the cruelty of Hassan Pasha was kindness. His services, his works, his sufferings, were all forgotten. His absence of five years from the scene had been long enough to erase from the memories of the king and the Court the gallant soldier who had fought and bled at Lepanto. In 1580 Philip II. was marching his army into Portugal, and Cervantes rejoined his old regiment of Figueroa, in which his brother Rodrigo was also serving. The nest year we find him engaged in the expedition against the Azores, where the partisans of Don Antonio, known to history as the Prior of Ocrato, the rival claimant to the Portuguese throne were holding out with the assistance of England and France. On the miscarriage of this enterprise through the dissensions between the military and naval commanders, the fleet returned to Lisbon. The next year it took the sea again under the command of Don Alvaro de Bazan, Marques de Santa Cruz, celebrated by Cervantes in Don Quixote as "that thunderbolt of war, that father of his soldiers that fortunate and invincible captain." In the victory gained by Santa Cruz over the allied squadrons off Terceira, on the 25th of July 1582 -- one of the most brilliant achievements in the annuals of the Spanish navy -- Cervantes took a part, being on board the admirals galleon, the "San Mateo," which bore the brunt of the fighting. It was not until the year following, however, that the Azores were finally reduced, Rodrigo Cervantes distinguishing himself greatly in the storm of Terceira. During his service and residence in Portugal, of which country and its people he ever spoke with a kindliness rare among Spaniards, Cervantes had some passages of love with a noble Portuguese lady, who bore him a daughter, Isabel, his only child, the object of her fathers tenderest affection and a sharer in all his troubles till his death.
Of the next few years the record is a brief one. Towards the last months of 1583 we hear of Cervantes being at Mostagan, a Spanish post on the Algerine coast, probably still with his regiment, whence he was sent with dispatches to the king, by whom he was ordered to return to Oran. He does not seem to have been employed again in any official capacity, and perhaps form this time he began to despair of that military preferment to which his services had given him so just a claim. Even if it were possible for one in his station on attract the personal notice of the king, we could not expect that such a man as Philip should recognize the merit of the future author of Don Quixote, nor could the morose tyrant who grudged the glory of Lepanto to his brother he particularly well disposed to one whose chief title to remembrance was his share in that victory. By the end of 1583 Cervantes appears to have quitted the profession of arms and returned to literature, being now in his thirty-sixth year. About this time he wrote Galatea, a prose pastoral interspersed with lyrics, inspired, according to the tradition, by love of the lady he was then courting, and who became his wife. Dedicated to Ascanio Colonna, son of Marco Antonio of that name, Cervantes old commander, it appears to have been favourably received, and is not more unreadable than the books of that class so happily ridiculed by Cervantes himself in the frankly informs his readers, his "shepherds and shepherdesses are many of them only such in their dress." Their names of Lauso, Tirsi, and Damon are but the grotesque disguises of celebrated poets of the time and friends of Cervantes -- in Galatea being pictured his future wife and in Elisio himself. They talk high-flown sentiment and make stilled love after the manner of the school of Gil Polo in his Diana Enamorada, nor is their talk more insipid than is usual to the pastoral profession in fable. There is no better criticism of the book than that which Cervantes himself has given through the mouth of the priest in the scrutiny of Don Quixotes library. "What book is that? "The Galatea of Migueal de Cervantes," said the barber. "Tis many years since he has been a great friend of mine that Cervantes, and I know that he is rather versed in sorrow than in poetry. This book has some invention; it proposes something, and it concludes nothing; it behoves us to wait for the second part which he promises. Perhaps with his amendment he will obtain that entire pardon which is now denied to him; in the meantime, gossip, keep him a recluse in your chamber." This second part never appeared, perhaps with no loss to the authors reputation. Poor as the verse is in Galatea, it secured for Cervantes a place among the chief poets of the age, and there is evidence to show that it was held in esteem, even out of Spain, before and after the appearance of Don Quixote.
On the 12th of Decemvber 1584 Cervantes added to his happiness if not to his fortune by a marriage with Doña Catalina de Palacios Salazar y Vozmediano, a lady of good family of Esquivias. The settlement on his wife of a hundred ducats, supposed to be one-tenth of his estate, and the inventory of his effects taken at this time, among which are included "45 hens, some chickens, and a cock," prove that he bridegroom was in but indifferent circumstances, even for a poor hidalgo of the time. Of the lady the records give us scarcely a glimpse, and indeed for some years after his marriage the life of Cervantes is wrapt in obscurity. All that is known is that he wrote poetry, and won many friends among the poets by his good nature and genial humour. He wrote for the stage also for a living, producing between twenty and thirty plays, chiefly comedies, of which only two survive, La Numancia and El Trato de Argel. There seems to be no reason to doubt Cervantess own statement that as a playwright he gained considerable applause, and it has been proved that the payment he received was quite as high as that given to Lope de Vega. August Schlegel has assigned high rank to La Numancia as one of the most striking and original of modern tragedies, and La Confusa, a comedy now lost, is spoken of with much complacency by its author. The gifts of Cervantes, however, were not those of the dramatist, and such fame as he had begun to win paled before the rising star of that "monster of nature," Lope de Vega. Once more disappointed in his hopes of a livelihood, and having now to support his wife his widowed sister, and his natural daughter, Cervantes was forced to seek for breed by other means that literature. For twenty years -- the darkest period of his life -- he ceased to write, or at least to publish. The poor crippled soldier had to drink of a cup even more bitter than loss or liberty among the Moors. A veil hangs over this portion of his career, which his countrymen, for their own sake no less than for his, are not eager to loft, hiding, as it is only too certain that it does, penury, rags almost beggary, misery of every kind except shame. Throughout all these trails what is known of Cervantes proves him at least to have retained undimmed his cheerfulness of spirit, his rare sweetness of disposition and faith in humanity, "as one in suffering all that suffers nothing." In 1588 he is found at Seville filling the humble place of a commissary under Don Antonio de Guevara, the Proveédor-General of the Indian fleets. In this capacity he had to assist in the victualling of the Invincible Armada, and documents preserved in the archives of Seville prove his activity in the purchase of grain, oil, and wine among the villages of Andalusia, -- gleaning, besides naval stores, much of that knowledge of life and character of which he afterwards made such admirable use. In 1590 he petitioned the king for employment in the Indies, minutely recapitulating his past services, and naming four offices when vacant as those he was qualified to fill -- the accountantship of new Granada, that of the galleys of Carthagena, the government of the province of Socomusco, in Guatemala, and the corregidorship of the city of La Paz. The petition was coldly received and bore no fruit, for which perhaps the ingratitude of the Government was not wholly to blame. The habits of unthrift and restlessness which he had acquired as a soldier, together with such weaknesses as were the natural defects of his virtues of extreme good nature and easiness of disposition, must have unfitted him to some extent for the sober pursuits of civil life; and Cervantes himself seems to hint, in a passage in Don Quixote, as well as in his Journey to Parnassus, at some imprudence which contributed to spoil his advancement. He continued for some years to hold his poor place of commissary, residing chiefly at Seville. At a poetical competition held at Saragossa in honour of the canonization of San Jacinto, in 1595, he was adjudged the first prize -- three silver spoons. The next year, on the occasion of the sacking of Seville by the English under Essex, he wrote a sonnet, ridiculing with fine irony the behaviour of the Duke of medina-Celi, who, having a large force at his command for the defence of the city, only appeared on the scene when the English had departed. Owing to the treachery and failure of an agent, through whom he had remitted to Madrid a sum of money, collected on account of the Government, Cervantes about this time became involved in a pecuniary difficulty, which continued to be a source of annoyance to him for some years, in addition to his other troubles. Being unable to repay the money at the kings mandate, he was cast into prison, but having succeeded in scraping together enough to reduce his debt to a few hundred reals, he was released after a few days detention. Neither on this occasion, nor on two subsequent ones when he fell under the cognizance of the law, was there left any stain upon his honour, nor any fault alleged beyond that of carelessness or undue trustfulness. On the death of Philip II., in 1598, his obsequies were celebrated at Seville wit such extravagant pomp and grandeur of decoration as to awake the ridicule of Cervantes, who, never a lover of the defunct monarch, gave vent to his feeling in a sonnet which is one of the happiest of his lighter effusions in this which was his true vein in poetry. At this period the author, in spite of his poverty and mean condition, seems to have enjoyed the society and friendship of his countrymen most famous in literature and art, among others of the celebrated poet Fernando de Herrera and the artists Pacheco and Jaureguy, by both of whom his portrait was painted. He wrote and circulated in manuscript some of those novels which many years later he completed and published; but like the poor poet whom he has described, half of his divine thoughts and imaginations were taken up in the study of the means of daily bread for himself and his family.
The four years succeeding 1598 are wholly a blank in the life of Cervantes. Tradition assigns to this period the visit to La Mancha where occurred that new trouble of which Don Quixote is supposed to be the vengeance. The story is, that Cervantes had a commission from the prior of St John to collect his tithes in the district of Agramasilla, and that while he was employed in this ungrateful function the villagers set upon him, and after maltreating him threw him into prison, his place of imprisonment being a house still standing called La Casa de Medrano. Here, according to a general consensus of opinion, was conceived, if not written, the first part of Don Quixote, conformably to what the author says in the prologue of this "child of his wit" being "born in a gaol."
In 1603 Cervantes is found living at Valladolid, among the herd of starving soldiers and needy writers expectant of preferment which then filled the Court. The favours of Philip III., good natured and well-disposed to literature, were dispensed by the Duke de Lerma, the n at the height of his power, whose haughty, cold, and selfish nature was little likely to see merit in Cervantes. Once more disappointed in his hopes of preferment, Cervantes was reduced to the utmost straits of poverty, eking out a living by business agencies and humble literary employment, such as writing petitions and correcting manuscripts, aided by such small gains as the ladies of his household were able to earn by the labours of the needle. By the beginning of 1604 he had completed the work which was destined to give him, if not bread , immortality. The First Part of Don Quixote, begun, according to internal evidence, before the death of Philip II., was now ready for the press. The date is the same which the majority of Shakesperian critics have assigned to the first appearance of the second and perfect Hamlet; nor is this the only coincidence between the lives of these two great contemporaries. A patron being in that age as necessary to an author as a publisher, Cervantes with some difficulty found one in the Duke de Bejar, a nobleman ofhigh rank and honour, ambitious of the name of a Maecenas. The tradition which tells how the dukes scruples at connecting his name with a book of so novel a charcter and equivocal a purpose were surmounted is probably well founded. Instigated, it is said, by his confessor, who scented heresy, or at least a dangerous humour, in this book with a strange name, the Duke de Bejar withdrew the promise of patronage he had given and would not accept Cervantess dedication. The author, however, begged hard for permission to read a chapter of his story before the duke, and pleased him so well that his objections were overcome. The licence for publication was obtained on the 26th September 1604, and in the beginning of the next year the first part of Don Quixote was printed at Madrid by Juan de la Cuesta, and published by Francisco de Robles, to whocm Cervantes had sold the copyright for ten years. The theory that the book was received coldly at first, so that Cervantes was induced to write a tract called El Buscapie, in order to attract the attention of the public to Don Quixote and to stimulate their curiosity by hinting that the characters and incidents were not wholly imaginary, must be rejected as unsupported by a tittle of evidence and wholly opposed to the facts. There is no prood that any such tract as El Buscapie ever existed until Don Adolfo de Castro published in 1848, what all competent Spanish critics have pronounced to be a clumsy and impudent forgery. There could be no reason for such a publication by Cervantes, seeing that Don Quixote was recived by the great mass of the public with marked and singular applause. Although certain great literary personages, and some of Cervantess own friends, from suspicion that they were included in the satire or from jealously of his success, professed to sneer at the book because of its vulgar style, its unbecoming subject, and its bizarre title, there can be no doubt of the extraodirnary popularity achieved by Don Quixote on its first appearance. No fewer than six impressions of the first edition of 1605 are extant, of which two more issued at Madrid, tow at Valencia, and two at Lisbon. There had appeared up to that date no book since the invention of printing which had so many readers. To that artificial age, reared in the insipid extravagances of the successors of Amadis, Don Quixote was as the dawn of a new revelation. The humuor, equally simple and deep, the easy, careless grace of the narrative, and fine wisdom and tenderness, the true charity, of this book which professed to be a burlesque of the romances of chivalry, were qualities as rare as they were delightful in Spanish literature. Even those who missed the allegory and were insensible to the satire could not but enjoy the story with its fresh and lively pictures of nationally life and character. That which has become, to use the phrase of Sainte-Beuve, "the book of humanity," was no less successful in its age as a book of popular recreation. The author himself was probably amazed at his own success. Like his great contemporary Shakespeare, while careful of his lesser works he seems to have abandoned his masterpiece to the printers with scarcely a thought of his literary reputation. All the first editions of Don Quixote swarm with blunders of the most extraordinary kind, proving that Cervantes could never have revised the printing, even if he had looked through his manuscript before committing it to the press. He is made to forget in one chapter what he had written in another. He confounds even the names of his characters, calling Sanchos wife Theresa in one place and Maria in another -- the very blunders of which he afterwards accused his enemy Avellañeda. He makes Sancho ride his ass immediately after it had been stolen by Gines de Passamonte, and bewail its loss when it had been recovered. He confounds time, place, and persons, and abounds in inaccuracies and anachronisms, to the distraction of his readers, the perturbation of his critics, and the serious grief of his admirers. The style of this first part of Don Quixote, in spite of occasional passages of beauty which are among the models of the Castilian tongue, is loose, slovenly, and inartistic. Even in the second edition, published in 1608 and revised by the author, a great may patent blunders were suffered to stand, over which Cervantes himself makes merry in the second part. All this is unfavourable to the theory which some critics have formed that there was a purpose in the book other than what appears on the surface. There is no reason to doubt Cervantess own declaration, several times repeated, that in writing Don Quixote he had no other design than to destroy the credit of those romances of chivalry whose reading was so pernicious to the taste and morals of the age, and to furnish, "a pastime for melancholy and gloomy spirits." The idea of Byron that Cervantes "laughed Spains chivalry away" is not more absurd than some recent conjectures that Don Quixote was intended as a satire upon certain leading personages of the Spanish court, especially upon the Duke de Lerma. The chivalry of Spain was already gone before Cervantes wrote. Had it not been gone Don Quixote would not have been written, nor would it have fallen to Cervantes, the most chivalrous of men, to deliver its death stroke. Not chivalry, but the foolish and extravagant romances of chivalry it was which Cervantes undertook to destroy; and so completely was his work done that none of them appeared after 1604. There was no man of that age more deeply imbued, as his life bears witness, with the true chivalrous spirit, nor was there any better affected, as his book shows, to all the literature of chivalry. Don Quixote itself is a romance of chivalry, certainly not less inspired with the purest sentiment of honour, or furnishing a less exalted model of knighthood than Amadis of Gaul or Palmerin of England. Every passage of it proves how carefully and sympathetically Cervantes had studied his originals. For the romance of Amadis itself, as contained in the four first books of Garci-Ordoñez, Cervantes always professed a high respect. What he intended to ridicule was the continuation of Amadis in all the endless series of his descendants, each surpassing its predecessor in extravagance and folly. The theory that Cervantes wrote Don Quixote in order to revenge himself on the Duke de Lerma and his satellites, which has been revived in these latter days, scarcely deserves serious refutation. To those who are able to believe that in the character of the knight of La Mancha the author intended to portray his moral enemy the more material improbabilities which surround this hypothesis will present no difficulty. In one sense Don Quixote is indeed a satire; but the follies it ridicules are those common to all humanity and to every age, and the satire is of that rare which moves not to depreciation but to love and pity oft eh object -- to sympathy rather than to contempt, and to tears as well as laughter. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are permanent types individualized. They are as true for all time as fro the sixteenth century -- for all the world as for Spain. The antithesis of the pure imagination without understanding and the commonplace good sense without imagination which these two represent is the eternal conflict which possesses the world. The secret of the marvelous success of Don Quixote, of the extraordinary popularity which makes it not only the great book of Spain but a book for all mankind, has been aptly described by Coleridge to lie in the race combination of the permanent with the individual which the genius of the author has been enabled to achieve. Don Quixote is not only the perfect man of imagination, less the understanding, but he is a living picture of the Spanish hidalgo of the time of Philip II. Sancho is the ideal commonplace man of sense, less the imagination, and also the pure Manchegan peasant. In the carrying out of his happy conception Cervantes was doubtless careless of his own main purpose, so that this burlesque of romance has become a real picture of life -- this caricature of chivalry the truest chivalric model -- this life of a fool the wisest of books.
The fame acquired by the publication of the first part of Don Quixote does not appear to have contributed. In 1605 he was still living at Valladoid, where, with his usual ill-luck, he was involved in a painful incident which brought him one more, though perfectly innocent, into collision with the authorities. A young nobleman of the court, being wounded in a street brawl, was carried into the house where Cervantes lodged to be tended, and died there of his hurts. Cervantes and his family, with the other inmates of the house, were cast into prison, according to the rough process of Spanish law, until they could be examined before the alcalde. From the depositions of the witnesses, which are extant, we learn that at this time Cervantess household consisted of his wife, his natural daughter Isabel, over 20 years old, his widowed sister Andrea, with her daughter Constanza, and another sister, Magdalena, with one female servant; and that he made his living by writing and general agency. In May of this year there arrived at Madrid the earl of Huntingdon with a retinue of 600 persons from England, bearing a message of congratulation to the king on the birth of his heir after wards Philip IV., on which occasion were given a series of magnificent entertainments. On the strength of an allusion in a satirical sonnet by Gongara, a narrative of the festivities, published in 1605 and still extant, has been attributed to Cervantes, but it bears no marks of his style, and it is not probable that he would be employed on such a purpose. There is better evidence of his hand in a letter to Don Diego de Astudillo Carillo, discovered in the Bibliotheca Colombina at Seville in 1845, giving an account of a burlesque tourney or poetical joust held in the suburb of San Juan de Alfarache on the feast of St Laurence. From this it would appear that Cervantes was on a visit to Seville in 1606, and on terms of familiar intercourse with many distinguished poets; also that allusions to Don Quixote and quotations from the book were familiar in the mounts of the wits of the time. Thenceforward to his death, Cervantes seems to have resided at Madrid, whither he had followed the court form Valladolid, with but little improvement in his worldly circumstances, supported chiefly by a pension from the archbishop of Toledo, and causal gratuities from his other patron the Count de Lemos. In 1608 was published the second edition of the first part of Don Quixote, with some corrections and additions by the author. The next year, following the fashion of the times, he entered as a lay brother into the Oratory of Cañizares, together with Lope de Vega, Quevedo, Espinel, and many other of his contemporaries and friends. In 1610, the Count de Lemos was appointed viceroy of Naples, and Cervantes seems to have been indulged with some promises of being made his secretary, but his advanced age and his dependent family w remade the pretext for his being passed over in favour of his rival and pretended friend, Leonardo Argensola. In 1613, he gave to the world his Novelas Exemplares, some of which had been written many years before -- a collection of tales of very various character, in a style till then unknown in Spain , owing little beyond their form to the Italian models. These stories, undeservedly neglected out of their native country, must be reckoned as second in merit among Cervantess writings, and even superior to Don Quixote in elegance of style. They are indeed the true originals in the modern literature of Europe of the novel, or story of real life, with plot, character, and scenery, and display in a very remarkable degree not only the versatility of their authors genius but his extreme familiarity with every type of Spanish society, especially of the lower orders of the people. In the charming story of La Gitanella, among some of the best of Cervantess lyrics, is to be found the germ of all the gipsy romances, poems, and operas, which have since delighted the world, and in Rinconete y Cortadillo w have a picture of a Spanish Alsatia as vivid and real as anything by Defoe or Dickens. Indeed, these stories rich in incident, character, and invention, have been a mine in which the novelists and dramatists of all countries have delved, -- Scott himself, according to Lockhart, confessing that he first drew from them his idea of writing the Waverley Novels. In his dedication of the Novelas to the Court de Lemos, Cervantes speaks of being engaged on several other works, among them the second part of Don Quixote; and in the prologue, which contains some interesting details of his biography, he gives this portrait of himself in his 65th years: -- "Of aquiline features, chestnut hair, a smooth and open forehead, with cheerful eyes, a nose curved though well proportioned, long mustaches, the beard of silver (which twenty years ago was of gold), the mouth small, the tenth not much, for he has but six, and those in bad condition and worse placed for they have no concert one with another; the body between two extremes,. Neither large nor small, the complexion lively, rather white than brown, somewhat crooked in the shoulders, and not very light of feet -- this, I say is the effigy of the author of Galatea and of Don Quixote de la Mancha." Upon this description of his person -- to which it may be added that he stammered in his speech and had lost the use of his left hand by the wound received at Lepanto -- has been founded that ideal portrait, first designed by the NEglish engraver Kent for Lord Carterets edition of 1753, and since then ignorantly copied and repeated in Spain and everywhere as the true image of Miguel de Cervantes.
In 1614 was published the Viage al Parnaso, which with all its faults may be said to be the most successful of our authors essay in verse . It is a burlesque poem, professedly in imitation of one with the same title by the Italian, Cesare Caporali,. But having little but the name in common with its predecessor. The half serious half jesting vein in which Cervantes here indulges was unquestionably that which was most natural to his genius, and in spite oft eh cumbrousness of the allegorical machinery, and the excessive laudation which, as usual, he heaps on the small writers his contemporaries, the poem abounds in fancy, humour, and invention. The seventh book, in which is described the encounter between the armies of the good and bad poets, may compare with the Battle of the Books and the fifth canto of the Lutrin Cervantess fancy of making the combatants would one another with odes and sonnest is surely happier than either Swifts where the authors use the ordinary weapojs of Homeric war, or Boileaus, where the monks discharge material volumes. Not the least interesting portion of this poem is the fourth book, wherein the author speaks of himself, his labours, and his misfortunes, with a characteristic mixture of modesty, gaiety, and simple self-confidence. In the prose appendix is a spirited and humorous dialogue with a messenger from Apollo concerning Cervantess relation to the theatre, and the reason of his ill-successes as a dramatist. After thirty-years retirement from the stage, during which interval the great Lope de Vega had arisen in all his glory, and he and his imitators had, by their fertility and their submissive devotion to the vulgar taste no less than by their genius, obtained the complete mastery of the national drama, Cervantes could hardly hope to recover for himself that position as a playwright to the memory of which he seems to have always clung with tenacity. Encouraged, however, by the renewal of his popularity as a writer, or stimulated perhaps by his necessities, he made in his old age another experiment in the drama, in which it is sad to find that he abandoned all those admirable principles which he had advocated through the mouth of the Canon in Don Quixote , surrendering himself to the vicious models he had himself so eloquently condemned. The result was unfortunate for his reputation. A collection of eight comedies and as many interludes was published in 1614, with a preface in which the author reports naively of his ill-success in the negotiation for a sale of their copyright. He would buy them, the bookseller said, were it not that he had been told by a certain person of distinction that "of the prose of Miguel de Cervantes much could be expected, but of his poetry nothing." This opinion was probably confirmed by these plays, which are so unworthy of their author that when reproduced in 1749 by Blas de Nasarre, that editor mainatiend the ingenious paradox that Cervantes had made them purposely bad in order to ridicule the plays of the day, just as he had written Don Quixote to ridicule the books of chivalry. There is no need of any such theory to account for the failure of Cervantes in the drama. His genius was unsuited to the stage. The qualities in which he most excelled were essentially undramatic, nor can his persistent efforts to recover his position as a playwright, even after the success of Don Quixote had been assured, be explained otherwise than by the fact that the stage was then almost the only road to literary fortune. The first part of Don Quixote had brought him fame, but nothing more. Before the appearance of the second part, the plan of which had been freely announced to his friend for some time previously, Cervantes was destined to encounter perhaps the strangest of the many crosses with which his pitiless evil star teased him to the end of his troubled and painful life. He had seen, while in the flush of manhood, his dream of soldiership dispelled by a cruel captivity. He had experience the overthrow of all his hopes of civil preferment. He had been subject to every kind of mortification in his literary ambition. He had been jostled out of the arena by his rivals in poetry and in the drama. When old, infirm, and destitute, his genius had at last found in Don Quixote its proper filed of employment and something like a fitting recognition. But even here he was not to be left undisturbed. The ill-fortune which never ceased to make him its mark was able to send a shaft through this his strongest side, which poisoned all his hardly-earned triumph and vexes him to the grave. The story of the false second part of Don Quixote, published under the name of Avellañeda, is one of the strangest in literary history, the mystery of which, though it has occupied many volumes, is not yet wholly unravelled. It is sufficient here to say that after it was well known that Cervantes was employed upon and had nearly competed his second part of Don Quixote, there appeared at Tarragona in 1614 a book pretending to be a continuation of the knights adventurers, by Alonso Fernandez de Avellañeda, a natove of Tordesillas. The manifest object of this impudent fabrication was to malign the character of Cervantes, to destroy the credit of his book, and to deprive him of the fame and profit which he expected to derive from its completion. In a preface, full of a curious malignity, evidently arising form some cause deeper than literary envy, Cervantes was reproached in the grossest terms with his infirmities and misfortunes, even with his wounds, -- sneered at as one "with more tongue than hands," -- reviled as old, poor, and without friends, -- branded as envious and discontended, a calumniator of great men, and an evil-speaker even of the Church and the Holy Office. In the body of the book, under pretence of carrying on the story, every opportunity is taken to spoil it, by degrading the characters and giving a coarse turn to the incidents. Don Quixote is debased into a wild lunatic, who ends his days in a mad-house; Sancho is turned into a dull buffoon and his humour into brutal gluttony. In place of the witty and beautiful Dorothea we have the gross wench Barbara; and the graceful episodes of the original are represented by a string of dreary and vulgar adventures, without life, colour, or probability. Apart from the spirit of malice, the book, in the words of Ticknor, is "so completely without dignity or consistency that it is clear the writer did not possess the power of comprehending the genius he at once basely libeled and meanly attempted to supplant." Nothing in viler taste has ever disfigured the literature of any nation, and it is greatly to the scandal of Cervantess countrymen, nor the least of the injuries they have done him, alive and dead, that they have suffered such a book to be reprinted and to retain a place in their national collections. The false Don Quixote, in which Le Sage, and even some later critics, both French and Spanish, have pretended to see merits equal if not superior to those of the true, is now remembered only by Cervantess perhaps too frequent references to it in the later chapters of his own book, and has little interest except in connection with the mystery of his life. The identity of Avellañeda is a problem which has greatly exercised the Spanish critics. The weight of opinion is in favour of its being the disguise of the notorious Fray Luis de Aliaga, the low-born confessor and minion of the Duke de Lerma, who was high in power during the reign of Philip III. Of all whose names have been suggested as the probable author of the spurious Quixote Aliaga is the only one who fulfils the required conditions. He was a Dominican, a preacher, and an Aragonese. He was an intimate friend of Lope de Vega, whose cause he openly espoused. He was in the confidence of the Holy Office, and may be suspected of not being well-disposed to Cervantess patron the archbishop of Toledo, whom he succeeded as Inquisitor-General. He was known to be of a rancorous and envious spirit, who had written more than one pseudonymous libel, and was himself the mark of frequent caricatures and lampoons. Lastly, it has been proved that, before the appearance of Don Quixote, Aliagas well-known nickname was Sancho. There was much in the book of Cervnates to give such a man offense, ever whether such offence was intended to not, -- in his person. His character, his office, and his religion. That as Avellañeda he found assistance among some of the writers of the period, rivals of Cervantes and jealous of his fame , is very probable; and there is only too much reason for suspecting that the great Lope de Vega himself was one of Aliagas allies. Although Spanish writers are slow to admit that the relations between the two illustrious contemporaries were otherwise than friendly, and although on the side of Cervantes there never was any other than the spirit of perfect courtesy, loyalty, and magnanimity which became his own noble nature, recent researches have proved that by Lope de Vega these feelings were not honestly reciprocated. He who was called by his own familiar friend Alarcon "the universal envier of other mens meeds" is known to have regarded with jealous eyes the sudden popularity achieved by his despised competitor in Don Quixote. In addition to other proofs of an indirect kind tending to show that about the time of the appearance of Don Quixote Lope de Vega was ill-disposed towards his once intimate friend, we have the direct evidence of the letter discovered by Schack among the manuscripts of Count Altamira, dated August 4, 1604, wherein occurs this passage: -- "of poets I speak not; many are budding for the year to come; but none is so bad as Cervantes, or so stupid as to praise Don Quixote." With Don Quixote it could scarcely be expected that Lope would be pleased; and there was much in the book, especially in the Canons strictures on the popular drama, to give him offence. If he stooped so low for his revenge as to inspire or to aid his friend Aliaga to write the false Don Quixote, his triumph was but brief. At the close of 1615 Cervantes published his own second part, and from that moment the other was for ever blotted from the worlds memory. This second part, though bearing marks of haste in the concluding chapters, belies, according to the judgment of the best critics, the opinion of the author himself as expressed through the mouth of the Priest, that second parts are never good. Although written in old age it contains at least as much of the glow and warmth of imagination as the first, while it is ever superior in invention. There is more harmony in the construction, more correctness is not more vigour in the style, with fewer distraction and digressions. The author has more confidence in himself and more love of his work. His hero is more consistent in his madness, Sancho more pleasant in his sanity. Both master and man, especially the latter, while still true to their character, have developed into an ampler and richer nature. They have evidently advanced in their creators favour, and have more pains taken with their behavior. The knight is more lovable, the square more humorous; and the whole treatment of the story, with its vivacity and variety, its easy flow of narrative, and its masterly and pathetic lose, is worthy of the happy genius of which it is the crown and full development.
By this time the fame of Cervantes had spread through many lands. Numerous editions of his Don Quixote had been printed, wither in the original or in translation, thus realizing the authors prediction that there would be no nation or language to which his book would not be carried. According to the interesting story told by the archbishop of Toledos secretary, in his approbation appended to the second part, dated February 1615, foreigners of distinction, when they visited Madrid, made it their first business to enquire after the author of Don Quixote. To a party of French gentlemen, members of the suite of the ambassador, the Due de Mayenne, who were anxious to learn of the condition and mode of life of the celebrated writer, the secretary of the archbishop was obliged to respond that "he who had made all the world rich was poor and infirm, though a soldier and a gentleman." The man who was the delight of his age and destined to be the chief glory of his country was indeed still in great misery, depending on alms for his subsistence, and now in his sixty-ninth year stricken by a moral disease. In the dedication of his second part of Don Quixote to the Count de Lemos, Cervantes speaks of his broken health and approaching end, still with unabated courage and cheerfulness. His last work, not published till after his death, was adventure after the model of Heliodorus, on which he bestowed great pains and singular affection, declaring that it would be either the best or the worst of his books. The dedication to the Count de Lemos is written with an astonishing gaiety and spirit, though it announces that the author had yesterday received extreme, and had "one foot in the stirrups," waiting for a summons. About this time must have occurred that adventures, which is so pleasantly told in the prologue, of the meeting with the student near Toledo, when our author, in a grievous state from dropsy, was returning from a visit to his wifes family at Esquivias, at the close of which he wrote: -- "And so farewell, humours; farewell, my gay friends, for I fell myself dying, and have no desire but soon to see you happy in the other world." On the 4th of April he entered the order of the Franciscan Friars, whose habit, following the fashion of the period, he has assumed three years before, and on the 23rd of that month he ended, in all serenity and cheerfulness, his life of many troubles. In the same year, and nominally on the same day, though really ten days later, allowance being made for the difference of calendars, died William Shakespeare in England. Cervantess body was buried humbly at the expense of his religious order in the convent of the Trinitarian Nuns in the Calle de Humilladero, of which community his daughter Isabel was a professed member. In 1633 the nuns moved to a new site in the Calle de Cantarreans, and having exhumed and brought away their dead with them, the bones of Cervantes were mingled with others in a common ossuary, so that Spain, who had shown herself so careless of him in life, has lost al, trace of him in death. So closes a record as glorious and as calamitous as any in literary history, of one worlds greatest benefactors, whom the world knew not -- of the best of all Spaniards, the very type and perfect embodiment of the highest Castilian nature, whom his country starved and who has made her immortal.
The language of eulogy has been exhausted over that work of Miguel de Cervantes which for two hundred and fifty years has been the delight of mankind in a degree such as no other book has ever approached. There is nothing to add to the tribute which the critics of all countries have joined in paying to the wisest, tenderest, and deepest of humourists.
The popularity of Don Quizote is best attested by the extraordinary number of editions and translations which have appeared in all languages. According to a computation made by Don Lope de Fabra, in his appendix to the Barcelona fac-simile of the first edition, there were published, up to 1874, 278 editions of Don Quixote, of which 87 appeared in Spain, and 191 in other countries. Of these, 136 are in the original. Translations have appeared in English, French, German, Dutch, Italian, Danish, and indeed in every European tongue, including Turkish. England, who of all foreign nations has ever been foremost in recognizing the genius of Cervantes, is entitled to the honour of having produced the first critical edition of the Spanish text, which is that of Dr John Bowle, published at Salisbury in 1781. This has served as the basis of all the subsequent Spanish editions; fro although the Royal Academy anticipated Bowle by a year in its magnificent edition printed by Ibarra, it was a knowledge of the Englishmans design, and to some extent of his labours, which prompted that undertaking. The other most important critical editions in Spanish are that of Pellicer, published in 1797, who has borrowed largely, and not with due acknowledgement, from Bowle; that of Clemencin, in 1833-39, with a very elaborate commentary, displaying much industry and learning but little taste or sympathy, and sadly lacking in reverence for the author; and that in the complete edition of Cervantess works printed at Argamasilla in 1864, under the editorship of Don Eugenio de Hartzenbusch and Don cayetano Alverto de Rosell -- superb in type and paper, but otherwise of little value, with a text disfigured by wanton emendations. The principal English translation are -- the first, by Thomas Shelton, which is also the earliest version of Don Quixote in any foreign language, published in 1612-20, vigorous , and of a spirit akin to the original, but rude and incorrect; that of Motteux, absurdly over-praised by Lockhart, which is nothing more than a loose paraphrase of Cervantess text, in a style consciously comic and therefore of all the most unhappy for Don Quixote; that of Jarvis, which, with some trifling revisions, is the current accepted version -- correct and careful, but dull, commonplace, and destitute of humour; and that of Smollett, which is the worst of all, being a piece of hack-work done for the booksellers, without knowledge of Spanish, or even such an insight into his authors meaning as his kindred genius should have suggested. By far the best life of Cervantes is that by Don Martin Fernandez de Navarrete, published in Madrid in 1819. (H. E. W.)
The above article was written by Henry Edward Watts; editor of The Melbourne Argus; author of Life of Cervantes, History of Spain; translated Don Quixote.