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The Life of Miguel de Cervantes

The Proverbs of Cervantes

Chronological Repertoire of Documents Relating to the Life of Cervantes


MIGUEL DE CERVANTES SAAVEDRA occupies an isolated and unique position among the great ones of Spanish history. As Columbus stands for the genius of discovery, Cervantes, in the mind of the civilized world, is analogous with Spanish literature. Mendoza and Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina or Calderon are but shadows beside the reality of Cervantes as a living force in letters. The record of Spain’s military glory is gemmed with a cluster of such names as those of the Cid and the Duke of Parma, of Boabdil, and Spinola; its sea fame rests upon the records of a long roll of mighty admirals. In art, Velasquez shares precedence with Murillo, and Ribera and Goya are worthy of a place in the same gallery; and while in song there is no national composer to associate Spain with the music of Europe, in the literary firmament the star of Cervantes rises in single splendour, and obscures all lesser luminaries.

Viewed in another and more personal light, Cervantes is still found to be “without like or similar;” in himself, as in his work, he retains his peculiar solitariness. He may not rank equal with Shakespeare and Homer, Dante and Milton, Balzac and Moliere, among the giants of literature; but as soldier and author he has a double claim upon the admiration and regard of posterity. Edmund Spencer and Walter Raleigh sustained the dual role with distinction; but the one is now only known for his poetry, and the other lives only by virtue of his military exploits. If Cervantes had not written Don Quixote, his literary worth would never have been recognized; but his name would yet have been preserved to us as “the manco of Lepanto” and the captive of Algiers. That he survived his wounds and captivity, his poverty and persecution, to publish in his fifty-ninth year a work which Dr. Johnson esteemed the greatest book in the world after the Iliad, is not less remarkable than the fact that his whole career, with all his varied and unrelieved vicissitudes, was necessary for its composition.

Under Philip II, Spain was at the zenith of her glory, and her hardly-won and short-lived supremacy was already on the wane. At a time when Spain was a nest of singing birds, the youthful Cervantes won his spurs as a poet—Navarrete regards him as among “the most celebrated poets of the nation”— and in an era when valour was the profession of the nation, he was esteemed one of the most valorous soldiers of his day. Subsequently he became “probably the first man of genius since the revival of learning who made an attempt to earn a livelihood by his pen”, and his enterprise was rewarded with penury and imprisonment. The character of the man, whom we have learnt to revere as an unappreciated genius, an unhonoured soldier, and an unrecognised martyr for the Christian faith, has been finely summed up for us by his Spanish biographer, Aribau, in the following vivid passage : “Fearless in peril, strong in adversity, modest in triumph, careless and generous in his own concerns, delighting in conferring favours, indulgent to the well-meant efforts of mediocrity, endowed with a sound and very clear judgment, of an imagination without example in its fecundity—he passed through the world as a stranger whose language was not understood. His contemporaries knew him not, but regarded him with indifference. Posterity has given him but tardy compensation. It has recognized him as a man who went before his age, who divined the tastes and tendencies of another society; and, making himself popular with his inexhaustible graces, announced the dawn of a civilization which broke long afterwards”.  

Miguel de Cervantes came of a good, if not noble family, which traced its origin back to the tenth century. Poverty, as he himself has said, may cloud, but cannot wholly obscure nobility and although his parents appear to have possessed an indifferent share of this world’s goods, they ranked among the hidalgos of Alcala de Henares, in New Castile, where Miguel was born, in 1547. Today Alcala is a dull, featureless little town, decaying by the sleepy waters of the Henares, memorable only by reason of the mighty names which are associated with its history. Here Charles V entertained his royal prisoner Francis I; here Francisco Ximenes de Cisneros, in 1510, founded its university; and, in 1517, superintended the printing of the Complutensian Bible, which was produced at a cost of 80,000 ducats; and here the body of the great Cardinal Statesman lies beneath a princely monument in the Colegio Mayor.

From 1616 until 1748 the identity of Cervantes’ birthplace was lost. The place of Don Quixote’s nativity, it will be remembered, was obscured by his inventor, in order that “all the towns and villages of La Mancha might contend among themselves for the honour of giving him birth and adopting him for their own, as the Seven Cities of Greece contended for Homer”, and for over 130 years he was himself the subject of a similar uncertainty. Until 1748, when the discovery of his baptismal registrar in the Parish Church of Saint Mary the Creator, at Alcala de Henares, made an end of the mystery that had existed on the point, seven cities of Spain contended fiercely for the honour of claiming Cervantes for their own. But the pretentions of Madrid, Seville, Toledo, Lucena, Esquivias, Alcazar de San Juan and Consuegra were disposed of by this documentary evidence, and speculation was shifted from Cervantes’ birthplace to his place of education; indeed the little that is known of the author’s early days leaves ample scope for conjecture. Tradition says that he spent two years at the University of Salamanca, and the house in which he is supposed to have resided, in the Calle de Moros, is still regarded as one of the lions of this once famous seat of learning. The city is now without learning, society, or commerce—a ruin of its former greatness. Yet in the fourteenth century its university boasted 10,000 students, and in Cervantes’ youth some 5,000 students resorted thither. But the University of Alcala was also at that time a famous centre of learning, and it is unlikely that Cervantes, having regard to the financial status of his family, would go further afield for his collegiate course. Mr. Fitzmaurice-Kelly, who does not believe that he was a student of any university, regards the assumption that he was sent to the distant University of Salamanca, as something like mockery.

All that we can ascertain, concerning his student life, is that he learnt grammar and the humanities under Lopez de Hoyos, a man of culture and a teacher of some distinction in his age and generation. In 1568, upon the death of Isabel de Valois, the third wife of Philip II, Cervantes, among Hoyos’ pupils, won much commendation for some verses written in commemoration of the national bereavement, and we find his master alluding to the youthful poet as his “dear and beloved pupil”, and eulogizing the “elegant style”, “rhetorical colours”, and “delicate conceits” of his literary exercises. These compositions, together with many other early poetical effusions of the author, are to be found in some Spanish editions of Cervantes’ works, but the general reader will be content to take them as read. Their author, in his reference to these immature effusions in his Journey around Parnassus, admits that “from his tenderest years he had loved the sweet art of poesy”, he volunteers the information that he had produced an endless variety of ballads and sonnets of varying degrees of merit, and modestly confesses that “Heaven had not granted him the poet’s grace”.

Cervantes was still a stripling when he first evinced that interest in the acted drama, which he never entirely lost. Lope de Rueda, who did so much to produce order out of chaos in the drama of Spain, was at that time an actor-manager at the head of his own company of strolling players. It was this gold-beater of Seville, “admirable in Pastoral Poetry”, distinguished alike “for his acting and for his intelligence”, who brought comedies “out of their swaddling clothes and gave them habitation, and attired them decently and handsomely”. Cervantes must have attended the performances of the Rueda Company when they were in the neighbourhood of Segovia, in 1558; and in the preface to his volume of Comedies and Farces, published a year before his death, he gives us some interesting particulars of the theatrical impedimenta in use at that time. The performances were given in the morning and afternoon in the public square, and the only decoration of the theatre was “an old blanket drawn aside by two ropes, which made what they call the greenroom; behind which were the musicians, singing some old ballad without a guitar”. The properties consisted of “four benches arranged in a square, with five or six planks on top of them, raised but four hands breadth from the ground”, while the whole apparatus of a manager of plays, was contained in a sack, and consisted of “four white sheep-skin dresses, trimmed with gilt leather, and four beards, wigs, and crooks, more or less.”

In 1568, an event occurred which altered the trend of Cervantes’ life, and carried him for a period of twelve years from his native land. In that year, the young and cultured Cardinal Acquaviva came to the Court of Philip II on a ceremonial mission from the Pope. Though received with scant courtesy by the King, the learned envoy was warmly welcomed by the men of letters of Madrid. By one of these, it is suggested by Cardinal Espinosa to whom Cervantes had dedicated some of his verses, the poet was presented to Acquaviva; and when the Papal legate brought his visit to an end, Cervantes returned with him to Rome in the capacity of camarero, or page. Mr. Kelly treats at some length, if with scant credulity, the vague legend, that in his early youth Cervantes held some minor post at Court; and while he attaches no importance to the traditions that he left Spain to escape the consequences of having wounded a courtier in a duel, or of having had some love passages with a lady about the Court, he takes it for granted that he “fled to Italy in half-voluntary, half-compulsory exile”. Whether that was so or not, he only remained for little more than a year in the service of his ecclesiastical patron, and in the beginning of 1570 he entered the Spanish Army as a private soldier in the company of the famous captain, Don Diego de Urbina.

While it is generally recognized that Cervantes, the author and philosopher, was in advance of his age, Cervantes, the man, was, it would appear, the natural product of his generation and his environment. In the university city of Alcala, “in that fruitful harvest-time of Spanish literature”, he cultivated the muses; in Italy—which, at that period, was dominated by Spain—surrounded, as he was, on all sides by the indomitable Spanish infantry, who “made the earth tremble with their firelocks”, the spirit of Cervantes was fired with military ardour. Christendom, too, was at perpetual war with the Turks, and to a youth of Cervantes’ chivalrous temperament the prospects offered by a career which united the services of both Church and King would prove irresistible. He was present, in 1570, at the ineffectual attempt to relieve the Island of Cyprus, a failure which led up to the formation of the Holy League of Spain, Venice, and Rome against Selim II, and found its crowning glory in the Battle of Lepanto.

The troops went into Winter quarters on their return from Cyprus, and Cervantes trod the streets of Naples for more than a year, while the allied fleets were being mobilized. On September 15th, Don Juan of Austria found himself in command of the squadron of 208 galleys, 7 galleons, and 24 sailing ships, which sailed from Messina with a complement of 26,000 soldiers to give battle to the Turkish fleet. The enemy were discovered within the Gulf of Lepanto, where, on October 7th, was fought one of the greatest sea-actions of all times. The Turkish ships, though more numerous than those of the allies, were smaller in design, inferior in their armaments, and less skillfully navigated, while the wind, veering suddenly at the crisis of the struggle, gave the advantage to the united fleet. Though the result was not the beginning of the end of Moslem supremacy, the victory of the Holy League was complete and emphatic. The power of the Turk was arrested, and all Christendom rang with the glory of the achievement.

The story of the Battle of Lepanto does not call for special description in these pages; its personal and peculiar interest for us lies in the fact that the two names that are associated with the victory in the most notable prominence are those of Don Juan of Austria, the generalissimo of the forces, and Miguel de Cervantes, the private soldier on the Marquesa,—the one for his skill and generalship, the other for his personal heroism. Of Cervantes’ share in the battle, we have ample and detailed evidence. On the morning of the action he was, according to Martin Fernandez de Navarrete, stricken with fever, and ordered to remain in the safety of his cabin. But on the representations of the young soldier, who protested that he would rather die fighting for God and his King than tend his health in security, his captain gave him a command of twelve men, and stationed him in a boat on the fighting side of the galley. Opposed to the Marquesa was the flagship of the Turkish right squadron, commanded by the Captain-Pasha of Alexandria, and floating the royal standard of Egypt. The duel between the two galleys was fought with the utmost gallantry on both sides, but the Turk was captured after the loss of 500 of her crew, and her surrender involved the rout of the entire right squadron.

That Cervantes’ share in this encounter was of material service in contributing to its successful issue, is evidenced by the fact that in an army of 26,000 soldiers and sailors he won the most distinguished measure of individual renown. That he held the post of greatest danger, that he was the first to board the galley, and bore himself with intrepid gallantry, we know on the sworn testimony of Mateo de Santisteban and others of his comrades. The evidence is supported by the unusual interest and concern that Don Juan evinced in him, raising his pay by five or six escudos, and visiting him in the Hospital of Messina. For Cervantes had not come through the battle unscathed. In his breast he received two arquebus wounds, while his left hand was injured by a ball, which rendered it useless for the remainder of his life. In Sola’s bronze statue of Cervantes, at Barcelona, “El manco de Lepanto”, as his countrymen have proudly styled him, is represented with his maimed hand hidden beneath his cloak; although, during his lifetime, he carried with pride the wounds received in “the most memorable of all occasions past, present, or to come”—“wounds that show like stars, lighting us on to heaven and to fame”—and declared that his useless left hand was crippled “for the greater glory of the right.”

Between 1571 and 1575 Cervantes lived the strenuous life of a private soldier, taking part in two campaigns, fighting with enthusiasm, enduring wounds and hardships with stoical fortitude, and acquiring that knowledge of men and things which he was afterwards to employ to such good purpose. His injuries were tended at Messina, but he returned to his duties before they were properly healed; and two years later, when he went to Tunis in the army of Don Juan, he writes to Mateo Vasquez that his wounds were “yet dripping with blood”. After his discharge from the hospital, he was transferred to the tercio de Figueroa, commanded by Don Manuel Ponce de Leon; and, as a soldado aventajado, or select soldier, in the most famous infantry regiment of Spain, he was on the high road to promotion and a distinguished career. In the story of “The Captive”, in Don Quixote (Part I., Chapter xxxix.), Cervantes has left us a graphic account of the ineffective and inglorious second campaign of the allies in the Levant, which was followed by the dissolution of the Holy League. Cervantes repaired with his regiment to Naples, and, after the Tunis expedition, he was for some time in garrison in the Island of Sardinia, before being sent to Genoa by the order of Don Juan.

The inadequacy of the Spanish garrison left for the protection of Tunis, and the growing boldness and activity of the combined Moors and Turks, called for prompt measures; and, in 1574, Don Juan held himself in readiness with a fleet to restore Spanish prestige in Africa. But the delays, caused by the procrastination of Philip, proved fatal. Before the squadron received the supplies and materials required for the expedition, the allies, after a desperate military and naval engagement, captured the Goletta, and obtained possession of Tunis. With this last prospect of active service dispelled, Cervantes, weary of inaction, disgusted with the unchivalrous termination of the Crusade which had commenced so gloriously at Lepanto, and eager for the sight of his native land, obtained leave to return to Spain. The high opinion in which he was held by “men of state and of might” with whom he had come in contact, is shown by the fact that this private soldier received from the Commander-in-Chief, Don Juan, a letter to the King, strongly recommending him as “a man of valour, of merit, and of many signal services”, while the Viceroy of Sicily, the Duke of Sessa, provided him with letters to Philip, and to his Council, in which he speaks of him as “a soldier as deserving as he was unfortunate; who, by his noble virtue and gentle disposition, had won the esteem of his comrades and his chiefs”. In August, 1575, he set sail for Naples on board the galley El Sol, but five years more were to elapse before he was again to tread the shores of Spain.

In the following month, El Sol was attacked within sight of the Spanish coast by a squadron of Algerine pirates. In the unequal contest which followed, Cervantes is reported to have borne himself with characteristic gallantry, but such an encounter could have but one issue, and the captured Spaniards were divided up among the Moors as spoils of victory. Cervantes became the prize of a Captain, named Delí Mamí, a renegade Greek, who had earned the distinction of being one of the most ferocious of that notoriously savage and revengeful race of corsairs. For the following five years Cervantes endured a tyranny of serfdom as rigorous and unrelaxing as ever slave suffered in the mines of Spain. He was already known as el manco de Lepanto; he was now to earn, if not to wear, the title of el manco de Argel.

It is not our purpose here to give a detailed description of the sufferings he bore with knightly fortitude and undaunted spirit for those long five years. The particulars are preserved to us in official documents, but a brief summary must find a place in our sketch.

According to the testimony of Father Haedo, in whose Topography of Algiers, published in 1612, we have the most valuable authority for this period of Cervantes’ life, and who was an eye-witness to the cruelties practised upon the Christian slaves, the captivity of Cervantes was one of the hardest ever known in Algiers. Mr. Watts has given us an eloquent account of our hero in this bondage. It was borne, he says, 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 and 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, nor any of those whose fabled deeds had kindled his youthful imagination, displayed a loftier spirit of honour, or more worthily discharged his knightly devoir, than did Miguel de Cervantes when in duress in Algiers. A slave in the power of the bitter enemy of his creed and nation, cut off in the heyday 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 fullness of his manhood and genius, fell to his share.

Nor is there any chapter of his life more honourable than that record of the singular daring, fortitude, patience and cheerfulness with which he bore his fate during this miserable period. 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 counsellor, comforter, and guide. In his 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 Cervantes’ 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 little that he possessed, who helped the sick in their necessities, who risked every danger in the cause of the faith, behaving himself always like a true soldier of the King and a noble gentleman—all of which good record is confirmed by the honest Father himself of his own personal knowledge.

The daring escapes that Cervantes planned, the intrepid courage with which he set himself to invent new schemes when the old ones miscarried; the indomitable cheerfulness he always maintained, and especially the spell he exercised over his master, the brutal Hassan Pasha of evil memory, are sufficient to mark him as a man of extraordinary resource, magnetism, and force of character. Delí Mamí, misled by the letters which were found upon the person of his captive, regarded Cervantes as a man of position and substance, and the treatment meted out to him was the more severe, in order that his family would the more speedily effect his release. These Algerine pirates lived upon the ransoms which they extorted from the friends of their captives, and at the time of Cervantes’ bondage, no fewer than 25,000 Christians, including many men of rank and fortune, were waiting the arrival of the price of their freedom, and frequently enlivening the monotony of their servitude by attempting to escape. Cervantes earned a peculiar celebrity among this army of captives by the ingenuity and persistence of the plans he put into practice in order to achieve the ambition of every bondman. But while his courage became proverbial, and his craft amazed both his captors and his fellow-prisoners, his ill-luck ever intervened to frustrate his best-laid plans.

A further reference may be permitted here to the influence which Cervantes exercised upon his barbarous gaoler, Hassan Pasha, who had purchased him from Deli Mami for the sum of 500 gold crowns. The author of Don Quixote has told us (Part I., Chapter XI.) of “the unheard-of and unseen cruelties which my master practised on the Christians. Every day he hanged a slave; impaled one; cut off the ears of another; and this upon so little occasion, or so entirely without cause, that the Turks would own he did it merely for the sake of doing it, and because it was his nature”. This “homicide of all human kind”, as Cervantes stigmatizes him in another place, was so inexplicably dominated by fear and respect of his slave that he was wont to declare that, “if he had this maimed Spaniard in safe keeping, he would reckon as secure his Christians, his ships, and his city”. But the most difficult feat of his governorship—Hassan Pasha was at this period Viceroy and virtual King of Algeria—was to retain his intrepid prisoner in custody. Twice the hangman’s rope was drawn upon his neck, and twice his head was, at the last moment, taken from the noose. On one occasion he was ordered 2,000 blows with a stick by “the most cruel tyrant of all those who have been kings of Algiers”, but the rod never descended upon his body. Yet it is known that he did not volunteer one word on his own behalf, or urge a single plea in extenuation of his designs. When the viceroy’s soldiers captured a little band of Christians, on the eve of their embarkation on a frigate sent to their relief, it was Miguel de Cervantes who went forward alone to meet the captors, declaring that he alone was the instigator of the whole plot, and that none of his companions had any part or blame in the business. He repeated his statement in the presence of Hassan Pasha, and although “threatened with torture and instant death, with the spectacle of many of his companions hanged or mutilated before his eyes, Cervantes refused to implicate any one in his schemes of flight.”

In 1577, Cervantes, recognizing the unpreparedness of the Algerians, the weakness of the city’s fortifications, and the numerical superiority of the Christian population to support from within a systematic scheme to capture the city, made an ineffectual appeal to the king to come to the rescue of his captive subjects. The petition, if ever it came to Philip, fell upon deaf ears; and the arch-plotter, disappointed but undeterred, sent a secret message to Don Martin de Cordova, the Governor of Oran, praying him to provide men to assist in a general escape. The miscarriage of this adventure, through the capture and death of the messenger, brought Cervantes once more within an ace of the rod and the halter, but the irrepressible schemer was presently surprised in hatching still another device to obtain his liberty, and had to seek refuge with a friend from the rage of the viceroy. A proclamation, threatening instant death to anyone sheltering the fugitive, was published in Algiers, and rather than expose his concealer to this danger, Cervantes voluntarily presented himself before Hassan Pasha, who vainly endeavoured, by threats of torture and death, to extort from him the names of his accomplices.

Loaded with chains, and guarded with unceasing vigilance, he was now kept for five months in the closest confinement, but the viceroy still refrained from visiting the defiance of his prisoner with stripes or personal indignity. As Cervantes has recorded, in his modest reference to this period of captivity in Don Quixote : “The only one who held his own with him (Hassan Pasha) was a Spanish soldier, called De Saavedra, to whom, though he did things which will dwell in the memory of those people for many years, and all for the recovery of his freedom, his master never gave him a blow, nor bade anyone to do so, nor even spoke to him an ill word, though for the least of the many things he did we all feared he would be impaled, as he himself feared more than once.” This story is confirmed by Father Haedo, who says that while the captivity of Cervantes was  one of the worst ever known in Algiers,” he was never beaten, or hurt, or abused in his person; and the worthy Benedictine monk, in his Topografia e Historia General de Argel (1612), further declares that “had his (Cervantes’) fortune corresponded to his intrepidity, his industry, and his projects, this day Algiers would belong to the Christians; for to no other end did his intents aspire.”

While we must deplore the wounds which Cervantes received in the wars, and sorrow over the duress he suffered in Algiers, it must be always remembered with pride that it was to his personal valour, and nobility in adversity, that we owe the full and particular account that we have of these years of his career. As he gained the commendation of Don Juan in action, he won in adversity “great fame, praise, honour, and glory among the Christians” in Algiers. And that the record of his unswerving loyalty to creed and country, his “mingled genius and greatness”, and his magnanimous refusal to inculpate anyone in his many attempts to escape, should not be lost, a base Dominican, one Blanco de Paz, circulated such calumnies against Cervantes that he demanded the charges should be investigated before Father Juan Gil. Cervantes had, at this time, been ransomed by the efforts of his family and the generosity of the local merchants, who supplemented the 600 ducats his mother and sister had managed to raise by a contribution of a further 400 ducats, with which Hassan Pasha was satisfied. The inquiry lasted for twelve days, and ended in the complete acquittal of Cervantes, who was declared to be deserving, for his conduct in captivity, of all the praises which he had received. The abstract of these proceedings, signed by Father Juan Gil, are still reserved in the archives of Simancas, and from these we obtain the materials for the biographical account of Cervantes’ career during his Algerine captivity. “Had there survived no other record than this of the life of Cervantes”, Mr. Watts justly remarks, “had he not written a line of the books which have made him famous, the proofs we have here of his greatness of soul, constancy, and cheerfulness under the severest of trials which a man could endure, would be sufficient to ensure him lasting fame. The enthusiasm, the alacrity, and the unanimity with which all the witnesses—including the captives of the highest rank and character in Algiers—give their testimony in favour of their beloved comrade, are quite remarkable, and without precedent. They speak of him in terms such as no knight of romance ever deserved; of his courage in danger; his resolution under suffering; his patience in trouble; his daring and fertility of resource in action. He seems to have won the hearts of all the captives, both laymen and clerics, by his good humour, unselfish devotion, and kindliness of heart.” His liberation was effected on the 19th September, 1580; the inquiry held by Father Gil was concluded on the 22nd October; and in the last days of the same year he landed in Spain, and learned from experience the truth of his confident declaration: “There is not a satisfaction on earth equal to that of recovered liberty.”

Mr. Fitzmaurice-Kelly, whose study of Cervantes’ life and character is instinct with a wholesome sanity and a freedom from all sentimental adulation, does not fail to detect the extravagant sanguineness which inspired many of these attempts at escape. To him, “the whole story of this captivity reads like a page from some wild impossible romance”, but while his judicious biographer can smile at Cervantes’ “sublime self-confidence”, and regard his affair with the unknown Portuguese lady without hysteria, and is not even convinced that Christendom was saved on the great day of Lepanto, by the single arm of our hero, he is not lacking in sincere appreciation of the many virtues of the author of Don Quixote. Cervantes was not a great poet, or a great dramatist, or a great man of business; viewed in the light of the age in which he lived, and Mr. Kelly never fails to bear this fundamental condition in mind, he was an honourable, right-living man, who made no pretentions to being an ascetic or a saint. Mr. Kelly can detect the minor blemishes of a nature which had the defects of its own virtues; he realizes that his frequent and fruitless dashes for liberty, which only intensified the severity of his captivity, were inspired by a reckless, uncalculating optimism; but he is not blind to the sympathetic, generous spirit which not even malignant oppression could embitter, or to the buoyant temperament which the sternest fates could not deaden.

“To say that when Cervantes left his home of servitude”, Mr. Kelly writes, “he was in every respect the same man as when he entered it, would be to say that he was deaf to the voice of wisdom, and blind to the disillusioning teaching of experience. He had had borne in on him ‘the sense that every struggle brings defeat’, and had realized the width and depth of the vast abyss which yawns between the easy project and the painful, nebulous, far-off achievement. Something of the invincible confidence, the early ardour, the unquestioning trustfulness of youth had passed with the passing years, and melted into the grey, sombre ether of the past; but nothing misanthropic mingled with his splendid scorn, his magnificent disdain for the base and the ignoble; nothing of the cruel, fierce indignation of Swift gleamed from those quiet, searching eyes, which watched the absurdities of his fellow-men with a humorous, whimsical, indulgent smile. In the squalid prison life his strenuous courage, his iron constancy and self-sacrificing devotion had drawn every heart towards him with one exception—that of the scandalous, shameless friar, Blanco de Paz.” After seven years of intermittent activity, and yet another five of terrible captivity, in the service of Spain, we find Cervantes, at the age of thirty-three, the “captain of his fate,” but attached to no regiment; the “master of his soul”, but master of nothing else. He carried his honourable wounds and the traces of his duress with pride, but so far as worldly advancement went, they did not serve him. He might well have cried, in the spirit and words of W. E. Henley:

“Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody but unbowed”

but the king, for whom he had shed his blood, was unmindful of him; his patron, Don Juan of Austria, was dead, and he had perforce to commence the business of life over again, without a friend and with a financial liability in the matter of his ransom, which was to take him four years to pay off. But he would appear to have been without regrets or repinings—he had regained his liberty, and we know in what measure he prized it. He must have been re-living the emotions he experienced on his return to his native land, when he made Don Quixote declare to his faithful squire: “Liberty ... is one of the most valuable blessings that heaven has bestowed upon mankind. Not all the treasures concealed in the bowels of the earth, nor those in the bosom of the sea can be compared with it. For liberty a man may—nay, ought—to hazard even his life, as well as for honour, accounting captivity the greatest misery he can endure.”

History tells us that even in the comparatively brief period of Cervantes’ captivity the decline of the mighty Empire of Spain had commenced. The inherent meanness of Philip’s spirit, his religious intolerance, his incompetence as both statesman and soldier, and the dominant power of the priests, had sapped the nation’s energy, and crushed national ambition. The character of the king set the seal on the country’s destiny. He abhorred letters, and was jealous of intellectual eminence; he was feeble and timorous in his foreign policy, and starved the soldiers upon whom the burden of maintaining the Empire rested; his one love and ambition was for the Church, which was sapping the life blood of the nation. Of the 50,000,000 people who constituted the population of his dominions, no fewer than a million persons were in the service of the Church. There were archbishops by the score, bishops by the hundred, and lesser ecclesiasts by the hundreds of thousands. The Holy Office alone offered a sure road to advancement and position, and many there were that walked therein.

But Cervantes, undashed by ingratitude and undaunted by hardship, retained his loyalty, and relinquished not a tittle of his chivalrous conceptions and aspirations. He was still desperately sincere in the convictions, which never left him, that “there is nothing in the world more commendable than to serve God in the first place, and the King in the next, especially in the profession of arms, which, if it does not procure a man so much riches as learning, may at least entitle him to more honour”. As the profession of arms had won him no honour, so he was to learn by experience that learning would deny him riches; but the knowledge that he had deserved the one, and had been instrumental in the accumulation, if not in the participation, of the other, may have afforded him some slight comfort. That he revelled in the desperate chances, as well as in the prospect of winning honour, which the soldiers’ life had to give, may be gathered from the exhortation which he makes Don Quixote give to the young soldier: “I would not have you be uneasy with thoughts of what misfortunes may befall you; the worst can be but to die, and if it be a good, honourable death your fortune is made, and you are certainly happy.....For suppose you should be cut off at the very first engagement by a cannon ball, or the springing of a mine, what matters it? it is but dying, and there is an end of the business.”

We may be sure that some such reflections filled the mind of Miguel de Cervantes when he rejoined his old regiment, now known, from its exploits in the Low Countries, as the tercio de Flandes, and marched under his old commander, Lope de Figueroa, to the subjugation of Portugal. He was serving God in the first place, and his King in the next, believing that at the worst he would find fortune and happiness in “a good, honourable death”. His lifetime rival and disparager, “that prodigy of Nature”, Lope de Vega, has told us that he carried a musket in the same campaign; but it is unlikely that he was animated by the same honourable philosophy.

The conquest of Portugal was a simple undertaking, the land forces of Don Antonio making but a feeble show of resistance; but with the aid of France, the illegitimate son of Luis, the brother of Joam III, made a more formidable opponent on the seas. His fleet, which had its base in the Azores, was joined by some sixty French ships, under Philippo Strozzi, and six English privateers, and this flotilla gave battle to the Spanish squadron, commanded by the Marquess of Santa Cruz, off Terceira, in the Summer of 1582. Cervantes was serving on the flagship San Mateo, which was opposed to three of the enemy’s vessels, and again our hero failed to obtain advancement, or achieve a good, honourable death. The engagement ended in a signal victory for the Spaniards, but it benefited Cervantes not at all, and he left his regiment (probably in the late Autumn of 1582) as poor and unfavoured as he had rejoined it.

Many years afterwards, in May, 1590, in his petition addressed to Philip II, praying for one of the offices then vacant in America, as a compensation for his sufferings, and in acknowledgment of his services on behalf of the King, he recapitulates his engagements at Lepanto and Tunis, alludes to his period of captivity, and refers to his campaign “in the Kingdom of Portugal and in the Terceiras with the Marquess of Santa Cruz.”

This Portuguese campaign is interesting, so far as Cervantes is concerned, as recording the only instance of a liaison that is known in his career. Most of his biographers have either glossed over the fact, or declined to believe it, but it is a matter that calls for neither apology nor incredulity. We know that he entertained a very favourable opinion of the Portuguese, and was loud in his appreciation of the beauty and amiability of the Portuguese ladies. The identity of the fair, frail one who won his good will is wrapped in mystery; but the memory of this affair must have been with him when he wrote, nearly a quarter of a century later, “the passion of love is to be vanquished by flight alone, and that we must not pretend to grapple with so powerful an adversary since, though the force be human, Divine succours are necessary to subdue it”. The fruit of this amour was a daughter, called Dona Isabel de Saavedra, who became his life companion, and who, after his death, entered the convent of the barefooted Trinitarian nuns at Madrid.

All sorts of conjectures as to the identity of the lady have been made; but, as Mr. Kelly, with his characteristic common-sense declares, “nothing whatever is known of her; nothing at this day is likely to be discovered about her; and the whole question might be passed over were it not for the curiosos impertinentes, the literary ghouls who manifest their interest in high literature by leaving Don Quixote unread, and striving to discover the name of Cervantes’ mistress.”

But Mr. Kelly, in this part, as in one or two other instances in his scholarly Life of Cervantes, is inclined to claim less for his hero than he is entitled to. He says here that, “so far as Cervantes himself is concerned in this matter, his biographer must be content to admit that his subject was no saint, but an impetuous man of genius, with quite as full a share of frailty as though he had been a peer”. Yet a study of the career of Cervantes discloses him, if not a saint, at least a man of less frailty than the majority of the world’s great ones; and to suppose him habitually frail because one indiscretion can be attributed to him, seems scarcely generous. Again, in dealing with that period of Cervantes’ life in Valladolid, after the publication of Don Quixote, Mr. Kelly says, “He probably had a little money at this time, and, though it would seem that he spent some of it in very undesirable ways, it may be hoped that the woman of the family no longer needed to take in the sewing from the Marques de Villafranca”; and, in another place, he refers to the “supererogatory folly” which misled him in Valladolid. He bases this supposition on the evidence on a MS., entitled, Memorias de Valladolid, now in the British Museum, in which the name of Cervantes is put into the mouth of a woman in a gambling house. As the author was not the only bearer of the name of Cervantes in Spain in that day, and as none of his candid friends refer to his vices or immoralities, either in prose or verse, one might, I think, regard this piece of evidence with more than usual suspicion. Mr. Watts dismisses the charge as unworthy of any credence, and most Cervantists will, doubtless, treat the imputation in the same fashion.

Between his retirement from the Army and the publication of the first, and only published part, of the Galatea, Cervantes, on the evidence of his petition to the King, conveyed letters and advices from Mostagan, a Spanish possession on the Coast of Barbary, to Philip, and was sent by His Majesty to Oran, where he was employed in affairs of the fleet, under the orders of Antonio de Guevara. But the nature and duration of his employment are matters of conjecture, and we must turn to 1584 for the next authentic details of his career. In that year our author married a wife, and published the Galatea.

The Galatea, which was not translated into English until 1867, has enjoyed less vogue in this country than in France, where Florian’s translation is still in demand. In Spain, at least half-a-dozen editions were called for during the lifetime of the author, and so great was the esteem in which it was held at the time, that gentlemen from France, affected to letters, had their Galatea by heart. Cervantes’ Eclogue, or, as we should style it, pastoral romance, was not a literary experiment, being an exercise in the manner of Montemayor’s Diana, and having its inspiration in the fashion of the period. This “ first fruits of his poor wit,” as the author calls it in his preface, is concerned with shepherds and shepherdesses, their loves, their longings, and their lassitudes. The fable is artificial, the language is stilted, the passion false, and the whole, to modern eyes and ears, is tedious, and not a little ridiculous. That it appealed to the current fancy in poetry and fiction is its excuse; that it was at least equal in merit, if not superior, to any contemporary effort of the same class, is its only substantial merit. Some personal interest the pastoral has in the introduction of real persons under romantic names. Cervantes’ own love story is rehearsed in the prologue, the poet masquerades as Elicio, and his wife as Galatea, while Tirsi, Timbrio, Damon, and Erasteso are all friends of the author. Twenty years later Cervantes made merry over this class of literature, when in Don Quixote he makes the Knight, returning vanquished from the Tourney at Barcelona, propose to Sancho Panza that they shall turn shepherds and lead a rural life. He decides to call himself Quixotis, to re-name his Squire, Pansino and Teresa Panza is to be celebrated in the annal of arcady by the style of Teresania. The objects and employment of the shepherds were to consist of poetry and protestation. “For my part,” the Don declared, “I will complain of absence, thou” (his Squire) “shall celebrate thy own loyalty and constancy, the Shepherd Larrascon shall expostulate on his shepherdess’s disdain, and the Pastor Curiambio choose what subject he likes best; and so all will be managed to our hearts’ content”—even as it was managed by Cervantes in the Galatea.

Yet, artificial and uninspiriting as the pastoral appears today, it was acclaimed with unstinted praise, both at home and abroad, and caused the author to be classed by Galvez de Montalvo and by Pedro de Padilla among the most famous poets of Castile. It brought him friends; it gave him enemies; but it was powerless to advance his worldly fortune—the money derived from the sale of the various editions of the book found their way into other pockets.

Of the Galatea, Cervantes has left us his own critical estimate in Chapter IV., Part I., of Don Quixote. The curate and the barber are overhauling the Don’s library—“those unconscionable books of disventures”, the tales of chivalry over which he would pore for eight-and-forty hours together—and of the hundred large volumes, and a good number of small ones, only some half-dozen escape the bonfire that has been built of them in the backyard. The Galatea was one of the exempt. “That Cervantes has been my intimate acquaintance these many years,” cried the curate, “and I know he has been more conversant with misfortunes than with poetry. His book, indeed, has I don’t know what, that looks like a good design; he aims at something, but concludes nothing; therefore, we must stay for the second part, which he has promised us; perhaps he may make us amends, and obtain a full pardon, which is denied him for the present. . .”

The Galatea, the second part of which was never written, is not lost to us, though it is little read; but of the rest of the survivors of the curate’s conflagration, and which Cervantes praises through the lips of his character—Amadis de Gaul, Palmerin of England, Ten Books of the Fortunes of Love, by Anthony de LofracoThe Shepherd of Filida, together with the Araucana, of Don Alonso de Ercilla; the Austirada, of Jean Ruffo, a magistrate of Cordova; and the Monserrato, of Christopher de Virves, a Valentian poet—they are now only known because they are mentioned in Don Quixote. Yet of the last three works Cervantes makes the curate declare: “These are the best heroic poems we have in Spanish, and may vie with the most celebrated in Italy. Reserve them as the most valuable performances which Spain has to boast of in poetry.”

Into the profession of letters Cervantes carried a principle and a philosophy as commendable and ennobling as the ambition that had sustained him in the profession of arms. “It is laudable,” he declared, “for a poet to employ his pen in a virtuous cause,” and he preached nothing that he did not practise consistently. “Let him direct the shafts of satire against vice,” he continued, “in all its various forms, but not level them at individuals; like some who, rather than not indulge their mischievous wit will hazard a disgraceful banishment to the Isles of Pontus. If the poet be correct in his morals, his verse will partake of the same purity; the pen is the tongue of the mind, and what his conceptions are, such will be his productions.”

so, with these high ideals in his mind, and but few pieces in his wallet, he married on 12th December, 1584, with Dona Catalina de Palacios Salazar y Vozmediano, a young lady of good family, and in worldly substance the superior of her husband. The tenth of his fortune, which Cervantes settled upon his wife, amounted to 100 ducats, while an inventory of the bride’s effects include several plantations of young vines in the district of Esquivias, a small town of New Castile; six bushels of meal and one of wheat at eight reals, or 1s. 8d.; some articles of household furniture; two linen and three cotton sheets, a cushion and two pillows stuffed with wool; one good blanket, and one worn; tables, chairs, pots, and pans; a brasier, a grater, several jars, sacred images, in alabaster and silver gilt; a crucifix, two little images of the baby Jesus; four beehives, forty-five hens and pullets, and one cock. The lady who brought these curiously varied articles into the common stock bore Cervantes no children, survived him over ten years, and was buried, at her request, at her husband’s side in the convent of the Trinitarian nuns. And in these few lines, her story, so far as we know it, is told.

For a few months Cervantes continued to live at Esquivias, and in 1585 we find him removed to Madrid, where his household consisted, in addition to his wife and his little daughter, Isabel, his widowed sister, Andrea, and her eight-year-old daughter, Constanza. Letters had not then become a recognized profession, and in the domain of poetry, amateurism was a disease. Tinkers, tailors, soldiers, sailors—all rhymed unceasingly. Lope de Vega, who was of the number, wrote: “In every street 4,000 poets;” and Cervantes, in his Voyage around Parnassus, refers to “the vulgar squadron of seven-month poets, 20,000 strong, whose being is a mystery.” Lope de Vega, then, as always, more fortunate than Cervantes, a youth of twenty-three, already famous as a poet and a libertine, was acting as the confidential secretary of the young Duke of Alva. His dissolute life, which occasionally brought him into conflict with the authorities was, on the whole, far more to his advancement than was the virtuous rectitude of Cervantes, and it is possible that the jealousy and rancour with which the younger dramatist followed his less affluent but more gifted rival was inspired by the knowledge of his purity in his life and his works. Their careers for awhile progressed along the same lines, but with Cervantes always in the van. They were writing innumerable verses at the same period; but while Lope de Vega, following the custom of the day, lampooned his colleagues, and levelled foul and venomous sonnets at his contemporaries, Cervantes steadily set his face against the practice. He had laid down a rule for his own guidance, from which he never diverged. He can jest a brother poet and banter the foibles of the writers of his day with gentle irony and good humour, but he reserves his censure and his sarcasm for the castigation of evil, vice and folly.

If, as seems more than probable, the relations between Cervantes and Vega were strained, their differences could have had no origin in the attitude of the former. It is true that in Don Quixote the literary artifices and affectations of Lope de Vega are treated with benignant banter, and the bad taste and vulgarity which he indulged in many of his plays came in for some severe and judicious criticism, but in the same place other of his dramas are selected for special praise, and the dramatist is eulogized as “that most happy genius of these kingdoms, who has composed such an infinite number of plays with so much glory, with so much grace, such elegant verse, such choice language, such weighty sentiments—so rich in eloquence and loftiness of style, as that the world is filled with his renown.”

In return for this eulogy, and many other flattering references, Lope de Vega has mentioned Cervantes’ name exactly four times in print, and then only in cold and restrained terms; and in a letter written to his late patron, the Duke of Sessa, he disclosed his animus in the following item of news: “Of poets I speak not. Many are in the bud for next year, but there are none so bad as Cervantes, or so foolish as to praise Don Quixote.” It was inevitable that a man of the disposition of Vega, whom his friend, Alarcon, has described as “the universal envier of the applause given to others,” should have envied the fame and genius of Cervantes, who, as Mr. Watts has written, was “of a temper the sweetest among men of genius, who had come through the fiery ordeal of a life of hardship with a heart unsoured as with honour unblemished.” As poet and novelist, Cervantes outdistanced the younger writer in public estimation, and as the author of Don Quixote, he soared to a height which has been unattained by any other Spanish novelist; in the realm of the drama alone Lope de Vega was paramount.

It has been seen that Cervantes early acquired a taste for theatrical representations, and at the close of the sixteenth century he doubtless turned to this style of composition as offering the only available means of making an income. Between 1585 and 1588 he wrote and produced between twenty and thirty plays, and claimed, on insufficient grounds, to have introduced several important changes in the material of stage representations. The trick of introducing allegorical characters among the sublunary personages, which Cervantes assumes as one of his improvements, was in practice in the old miracle plays, and his further pretention to having reduced the number of acts from five to three had been done long before by Avendano. Indeed it is possible that Cervantes produced no more than a number of respectable pieces which gained their full mead of popularity; and we know that his rate of payment, which averaged 800 reals per play, was equal to that received by Vega at any period of his career. But of his dramas only two have outlived their day—La Numancia and El Trato de Argel.

La Numancia, a play dealing with the famous siege of Numantia by the Romans, was subsequently acted at Zaragoza, in 1808, to inspire the besieged inhabitants to a last desperate effort, a device which succeeded so well that the French were driven from the battlements in the very moment of victory, and the city was saved. El Trato de Argel, in which Cervantes stages episodes in his captivity in Algeria, is a poorly-constructed, ineffective, and tedious piece of work, which gives one furiously to think that if the plays of our author won favour, it could only have been at a time when competition was weak or non-existent. Matos Fragoso, a dramatist who flourished a century later, alludes to the “famous comedies of the ingenious Cervantes,” but of contemporary criticism we have none; and Cervantes, in his prologue to his Eight Comedies and Eight Interludes, published in 1614, claims for his plays, with characteristic reticence: “They all ran their course without hisses, cries, or disturbances. They were all repeated without receiving tribute of cucumbers or any other missiles.” Of the lost La Confusa (The Perplexed Lady), the dramatist speaks with particular satisfaction as ranking “good among the best of the comedies of the Cloak and Sword, which had been, up to that time, acted.” Well, the Spaniards are a conservative people, and today one may witness in that country, performances of stage plays that are listened to without the disconcerting accompaniment of the hurtling cucumbers, but which in an English theatre would be received with all manner of unfriendly disapprobation.

As a playwright, Mr. Fitzmaurice-Kelly refuses to take Cervantes seriously, and he asserts that it “requires the eye of faith to see any high form of dramatic talent in the examples which have come down to us.” But even as Richelieu plumed himself more upon his small gift as a poet than his genius as a statesman, and as Napoleon turned from the planning of world conquests to revise the regulations of the Theatre Française, so Cervantes appears to have been observed with an ambition to shine in the realms of theatrical art. He was, as his biographer points out, ready at the invitation of the manager to supply “tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, and so contagious, so irresistible was his sublime self-confidence, that he actually persuaded managers into a belief in him”. And, despite the modesty of his prefaces there is no grounds for challenging the truth of Mr. Kelly’s conclusion that Cervantes was immensely proud of his dramatic work. “No man,” says this writer, “was more sublimely confident of the sincerity of his own mission; no man more certain that he deserved success. Years afterwards, when he had found his true way, when the fame of the author of Don Quixote was gone abroad in every land, he still turned his wistful eyes to the memory of the days when he had hoped to win immortality upon the stage. Nor does he ever seemed to have imagined that the cause of failure lay in himself. Even his hopeful spirit was a little staggered by the knowledge that his plays could get no hearing. That was a fact which no amount of self-delusion could blink; and Cervantes accounted for it by assuming, not that his plays were poor, but that he had fallen on evil days.”

Cervantes, according to Mr. Watts’s computation, was writing for the stage two years before Lope de Vega made his appearance as a dramatist. But the younger man carried everything in the theatrical world before him from the first. He came, and saw, and conquered, and Cervantes was swept from the arena by his triumphant onrush. “I gave up the pen and comedies,” Cervantes admits, “and there entered presently that prodigy of nature, the great Lope de Vega, and assumed the dramatic throne. He subjected all the actors, and placed them under his jurisdiction. He filled the world with comedies—suitable, felicitous, and well-worded—and so many that those in writing exceeded 10,000 sheets, all of which have been represented.” Cervantes scarcely overstated the fecundity of his rival. Vega flooded the theatres of Spain with an unending stream of plays of every description, and Montalvon records of this prodigy that he could turn out a comedy of more than 2,400 lines, complete with plot, dialogue, and stage directions, in twenty-four hours. In forty years he wrote upwards of eighteen hundred three-act comedies, besides poems, stories, and other literary exercises, of which, outside the little circle of savants and students, not half-a-dozen are today remembered even by name. Unless he was really the author of the false second part of Don Quixote, it may be said that not a line of Lope de Vega’s prodigious output is now either read or discussed.

With the star of Lope de Vega in the ascendant Cervantes found his stage occupation gone, and he appears to have cast about for some other employment that would enable him to support his household. While he was turning out plays at the rate of eight to ten a year, his income, if not large, was at least sufficient for his modest requirements; but the possibility of being able to make a competence by his pen in any other branch of letters impressed him so little that he removed his family to Seville, and re-entered the king’s service in a civil capacity. The next twenty years were to be the hardest and the leanest in his hard, lean life, and during all this time he wrote little and published nothing. His appointment as a commissary is signed 12th June, 1588, and by virtue of his office he was engaged in the purchase of grain and oil for the provisioning of the fleets and armaments of the Indies. Many receipts, invoices, and official papers written out by Cervantes in a clear, bold hand are in existence, though not a line of his other manuscripts has been preserved. His official duties were uncongenial and poorly paid, and in 1590 he addressed the memorial to the king, which amplifies and confirms our record of his military service. In this memorial, he “prays and beseeches humbly, so far as he can, that your Majesty should bestow on him the favour of a place in the Indies, of the three or four which are now vacant, one of them the accountantship of the new kingdom of Granada, or the governorship of the province of Soconuso in Guatemala, or treasurer of the galleys of Carthagena, or magistrate of the city of La Paz.” If the king considered this petition seriously, and examined the qualifications that Cervantes possessed for the discharge of treasury or accountancy duties, and if he came to the conclusion that such offices could be more capably filled by other and less deserving men, the world will scarcely question his judgment. For although our author emerged from all his misfortunes with an honourable name and an unblemished reputation, it must be confessed that the incapacity he betrayed in the execution of his official tasks proved him unequal to the responsibilities of a more exalted official position. His naturally liberal disposition, his unmethodical habits, and his quixotic confidence in his fellow-men, were so many disabilities in the equipment of a commissary and tax-collector under Philip II.

The good nature and bad luck which at all times militated against the success of Cervantes, thwarted his civil aspirations, but his first incarceration, which occurred in 1592, arose from an excess of zeal on behalf of the Royal Treasury. He overlooked the important fact that the clergy were exempt from taxation, and for the heinous offence of laying an embargo on wheat belonging to a priest, he served a term of three months in the prison of Castro del Rio, of Ecija. In 1595 he won the prize of three silver spoons for the best set of verses written in honour of San Jacinto on the occasion of his canonization at Zaragoza; and in the following year he was again thrown into prison, this time through the defalcation of an agent, by whom he remitted a sum of 7,400 reals from Seville to Madrid. As his official salary was only 3,000 reals a year, such a liability must have appeared to him to be practically indischargeable. But by the recovery of 2,600 reals from the estate of his defaulting agent, Cervantes obtained his liberty; and although he was re-arrested at a later period for delay in his repayments of the balance, his personal rectitude was in no way impugned.

But while his days were full of petty duties and financial troubles, he appeared to have found leisure for literary exercises, and there can be no doubt but that during these dead years he wrote the majority of his novels. If, however, he attempted to find a publisher for his work his efforts were ineffectual, and his fortunes fell to such a low ebb that he was dependant at times upon the benevolence of his friends for the necessities of life. Two sonnets, which he wrote about this period, are considered the best examples of his skill in this style of composition that have come down to us. In the one he ridicules the incredible delay of the great Duke of Medina Sidonia in coming to the relief of Cadiz after that city had been destroyed by the English, under Lord Howard of Effingham and the Earl of Essex, and in the other he satirizes the extravagant splendour and “profane magnificence” which was lavished on the catafalque of Philip II in Seville.

The exact date on which Cervantes made his home in La Mancha, and the circumstances which governed his change of habitation, are unknown. That he had resigned, or lost, his post of commissary is evident, since we find him employed by the Grand Priory of San Juan, in the collection of overdue rents in the neighbourhood of Argamasilla. The exercise of such a calling would naturally make him unpopular with the local community; but whether his duties would in themselves bring him under the notice of the authorities, or whether, as it is said, he supplemented his unwelcome office by satirizing the chief citizens, it is practically certain that he was seized and imprisoned for several weeks. In a letter he wrote to an uncle praying for assistance in this new affliction, he says, “Long days and troubled nights are wearing me out in this cell, or I should say cavern”; and if the underground cellar in the Casa de Medrano, which is still pointed out to visitors, was the scene of his durance, his condition was not overstated. Don Quixote was, it is generally believed, “engendered in this prison”, but since the cell is too dark for the exercise of penmanship, it may be presumed that the author whiled away his solitude by moulding and rehearsing the scenes in his mind. But it is as well to bear in mind that Mr. Kelly has cast grave doubts upon the authenticity of this letter. The original is unknown; Sanchez Liaño himself, who is responsible for the story, states that he only had a copy of it; the fact that it was written from Argamasilla is unsupported; and his biographer asserts that there is not a jot of absolute evidence to prove that Cervantes ever suffered imprisonment at Argamasilla at all. But though the story rests chiefly upon tradition, it has a savour of veracity about it; and while it neither adds to or detracts from the fame of Cervantes, it is one of those stories which the public will not lightly relinquish.

Near by the house in the Casa de Medrano stands the parish church of Argamasilla, where, in one of the side chapels, hangs a picture, representing a lady and gentleman kneeling devoutly before a vision of the Virgin. The gentleman has a typical Spanish caste of countenance, with high cheek bones and lantern jaws, a dust complexion, wandering eyes, and large mustachios. The inscription beneath the portraits explains that the gentleman had been cured by Our Lady of a mental affliction, and that the young, and not uncomely, lady by his side was his niece. The donor of the picture, whose lineaments are portrayed therein, was one, Rodrigo Pacheco, who was the owner of the house in the Casa de Medrano at the time that Cervantes sojourned in La Mancha. It was probably by Pacheco’s order that Cervantes was lodged in the dungeon beneath his house. Upon these traditional particulars the good people of Argamasilla have based their legend, which identifies Cervantes with their city, and makes one of their leading citizens the original of Don Quixote. If the legend be true, and there would appear to be no substantial reason for doubting it, we may dismiss the idea that the author had departed from the principles he laid down as worthy of adoption by all writers. Supposing that he selected this individual as the victim of his satirical bent, we may learn from the affection with which he develops the character of the afflicted knight, how little of rancour and uncharitableness had place in his heart. It must be conceded that he made merry at the expense of the Manchegans and their customs, but he did it with so glad a humour, and such gentle sarcasm, that La Mancha today is proud of the fame it has achieved in his immortal pages, and reveres the memory of their adopted townsman as piously as if he were their patron Saint. But if, as internal evidence gives some excuse for believing, Don Quixote was commenced before the death of Philip II, this interesting and circumstantially proved legend becomes no more than a literary tradition, since that monarch had died before Cervantes quitted Seville.

The only authenticated detail that we have of Cervantes’ career between 1598 and 1602 is this incident of his imprisonment at Argamasilla. When next we hear of him, in 1603, he is among the unrewarded soldiers and unrecognized men of letters who crowded the outer precincts of the Court of Philip III, at Valladolid. The king, though priest-ridden, and lacking in force of character, was not devoid of a kindly tolerance for learning, but the crumbs of royal favour were distributed by the ostentatious and uncultured Duke of Lerma, who despised literature, and had his own ends to serve by the allocation of the kingly bounty. From Lerma, as far as his biographers can discover, Cervantes received nothing; but in the Duke of Bejar—a nobleman, distinguished in arms and in poesy, and in his love of romances of chivalry, such as were still the vogue in Spain—he found a patron. But the Duke might almost have been described as an hereditary patron of works of chivalry, and when he learned the nature and object of Don Quixote, for which the influence of his name had been obtained, he withdrew his patronage. Cervantes prevailed upon the Duke to listen to the reading of a chapter from the book before making his decision absolute, and, according to Vicente de los Rios, who is responsible for the story, his Grace was so delighted with the humour and humanity of the history, that he reversed his verdict, and consented to accept the dedication. The king’s printer, Francisco de Robles, having secured a ten years’ copyright in the work, the privilege of publication was granted on 26th September, 1604, and the book was issued from the press of Juan de la Cuesta, at Madrid, in January, 1605.

The success of “the book of humanity”, as Sainte-Beuve has happily described Don Quixote, was instantaneous and unprecedented, up to that date, in the world of letters. Spain rang with admiration and plaudits of this inspired story-teller and of the story, the like of which had never before been told. In an age when readers were few, the book was widely read, and in a country where the buying of books was a limited indulgence, the book sold in its thousands. Mr. Watts estimates that no fewer than 4,000 copies went into circulation in 1605. Copies of six editions, published in that year, are extant—Madrid, Lisbon, and Valencia each being responsible for two editions within a few months of its first appearance. So competent an authority as Senor Gayangos is of opinion that further impressions were printed at Barcelona, Pamplona, and Zaragoza. Prior to the publication of Don Quixote, no masterpiece of fiction had ever found so enthusiastic a public, or a sale so enormous. It became in a flash the common-place book of the nation. Cervantes tells us, through the mouth of the Bachelor Carrasco, in the Second Part, which was not published until ten years later: “I do not in the least doubt but at this day there have been published about 12,000 of it. Portugal, Barcelona, and Valencia, where they have been printed, can witness that, if there were occasion. It is said that it is also now in the press at Antwerp. And I verily believe there is scarce a language into which it is not to be translated.” In the same forty-fourth Chapter of the Second Part, the rightly proud and complacent author speaks no more than the literal truth when he says of it: “The author has made everything so plain that there is nothing in that book but what anyone may understand. Children handle it, youngsters read it, grown men understand it, and old people applaud it. In short, it is universally so thumbed, so gleaned, so studied, and so known, that if the people do but see a lean horse, they presently cry, ‘There goes Rozinante’. But no description of persons is so devoted to it as your pages; there is not a nobleman’s ante-chamber in which you will not find a Don Quixote. If one lays it down, another takes it up; while one is asking for it, another one snatches it; in short, this history affords the most pleasing and least prejudicial entertainment that ever was published, for there is not so much as the appearance of an immodest word in it, nor a thought that is not entirely catholic.”

Concerning the publication and popularity of Don Quixote, many stories of varying degrees of improbability have sprung up, and are common to most of the biographies of Cervantes. But the following incident, showing that “even in his lifetime the author obtained the glory of having his work receive a royal approbation,” is culled from an anonymous “tract” published in 1853. The author does not quote any authority for the narrative, which I have not encountered elsewhere. “As Philip III,” says this chronicler, “was standing in a balcony of his palace at Madrid, viewing the country, he observed a student on the banks of the river Manzanares reading in a book, and from time to time breaking off and beating his forehead with extraordinary tokens of pleasure and delight; upon which the king observed to those about him : ‘That scholar is either mad, or he is reading Don Quixote’. The biographer rounds up his story with the gratifying assurance that ‘the latter proved to be the case’. ”

It must not be supposed that, amid the almost universal applause which welcomed the appearance of Don Quixote, some discordant notes were not heard. People of fashion, whose chief literary recreation was the reading of the very books of chivalry, which Cervantes so boldly and humourously satirized, regarded it with cold displeasure; the clergy frowned upon it, and rival authors professed to find it vulgar, unbecoming, and absurd. But its popularity increased, despite, if not even by reason of these captious criticisms, and the object of the author in writing it gave rise to more speculation and disputings than the interpretation of Ibsen has provoked in recent times. Cervantes himself declared that he compiled his romance for the purpose of “causing the false and silly books of chivalries to be abhorred by mankind”, and in the attainment of this object he was wholly successful. The publication of such romances suddenly ceased; the writing of them was abandoned; the creation of these lovelorn shepherds and shepherdesses, and of impossible cavaliers was arrested as if by magic. And having marked the effect of the book, the public sought for some hidden intention that was supposed to work behind the author’s pages, and were content to find it in the character of the Knight of La Mancha. They concluded that Don Quixote was intended to satirize someone; but whom? Was it the prosaic sovereign, Charles V, who was here held up to ridicule, or the least romantic King Philip II, or that contemptuous and unlettered disburser of royal favours, the Duke of Lerma? But the people who hazarded such wild guesses must have failed to detect the subtle delicacy and nobility of the knight’s nature, and the loving sympathy with which Cervantes dwells upon the wisdom and sterling merit of his hero. Could a man satirize an enemy with such gentleness and affection? Could a genius like Cervantes so far overshoot his bolt as to make not only the other characters in the book, but all the reading world, honour and love the figure that he purposed to hold up to ridicule?

If Cervantes, in writing Don Quixote, was laughing away Spain’s chivalry, as Lord Byron erroneously declared, then he was the target of his own destructive cynicism, for the story of his career is that of a man who practised a chivalry which was already extinct in Spain, and maintained unswervingly a code of honour which had fallen into desuetude. If Montesquieu’s similarly extravagant comment that “the Spaniards have but one book—that which has made all the others ridiculous” comes nearer to the truth, it must be conceded that the romances which Cervantes exterminated were scarcely worth preserving. But the book affords also another proof that truth surpasses fiction in strangeness, since the popularity of Don Quixote, its effect; and its immortality surprised no one so much as its author. Having disposed of his rights in the publication to Francisco de Robles—the sum he obtained for them is nowhere mentioned, but it may be surmised that it was all too small for his need—Cervantes proceeded about his daily task of providing bread for his family, and left this “child of his sterile, ill-cultured wit” to its fate. He remained in Valladolid while his book was being printed at Madrid, and the number of glaring and absurd errors that marred the first edition is proof positive that he did not see a single sheet. Many of these more palpable blunders were absent from the 1608 edition which was revised by the author, who was then resident in the capital.

Mr. Watts, who has evidently made a close and scholarly study of the old romances of chivalry which Don Quixote brought into such sudden disfavour, has endeavoured, as I think, with much plausibility, to demonstrate Cervantes’ precise attitude towards this class of literature. Having traced the romantic vein from its genesis to the time when the author of Galatea employed it as his model, and eulogized in high terms such examples of the genre as Amadis of Gaul and Palmerin of England, Mr. Watts points out that Cervantes carefully differentiated between the romances of merit and the nauseating imitations; that he was one of the most omnivorous readers of such books in that age, and the most deeply-imbued with their spirit. He specially and enthusiastically praises the good volumes among the bad in Don Quixote’s library; he praises again, through the mouth of the Canon of Toledo, the feeling of romances of chivalry, and lays down the rules on which such a history should be written. If he had any other object in composing Don Quixote than to “write out of the fullness of his own heart,” it was to check the perpetration of fatuous and mischievous stories which were bringing into disrepute and ridicule his old and well-loved stories of chivalry and romance. The secret of the enduring success of Don Quixote, Mr. Watts concludes, is not to be found in its motive, but in the fact that the romance was drawn from the story of the author’s own life.

“The hero himself, the enthusiast, nursed on visions of chivalry, who is ever mocked by fortune; the reviver of the old knighthood, who is buffeted by clowns and made sport of by the baser sort; who, in spite of the frequent blows, jeers, reverses, and indignities he receives, never ceases to command our love and sympathy—who is he but the man of Lepanto himself, whose life is a romance at least as various, eventful, and arduous as full of hardships, troubles, and sadness; as prolific of surprising adventures and strange accidents as the immortal story he has written? This is the key to Don Quixote, which, unless we use, we shall not reach the heart of the mystery.”

Let us linger for awhile with Cervantes in the great square and broad streets of Valladolid. Today, Valladolid, “the Rich,” is a fallen city. Here still stand the old Royal Palace, upon which Cervantes’ eyes must so often have rested—a ruin. The great Cathedral, an imposing mass of granite, which was begun in 1585, is still unfinished. Here still stand the house in the Calle de Colon, in which Columbus died; and Cervantes’ own lodging at No. 14, Calle de Rastro; and the huge Plaza Major where, on October 7th, 1559, Philip II celebrated the first memorable Auto de Fe, and which was, in Cervantes’ day, the meeting place of all the poets and soldiers, the historians and savants, who haunted the Court of His Most Religious Majesty. Here Cervantes remained while his work circulated throughout the country, and overflowed into every country in Europe.

Would you know the social conditions that prevailed in Spain in the latter half of the sixteenth century? You can obtain the information in “The Life and Achievement of Don Quixote de la Mancha.” If you would have wit and wisdom, or if you would take humanity to be your study, you have only to turn to this same work. If you seek to realize the condition under which a man bore arms, or wielded a pen, under that royal barbarian, Philip II, you must have resource to this history. Would you understand Cervantes’ own experience in arms and in letters? Turn to Chapter 31 of the First Part of Don Quixote. What higher ideal ever had any man, both for the soldier and the writer? Listen to the Don in what Cervantes assures his readers is his hero’s most rational and logical humour: “Now the end and design of letters,” he says, “is to regulate distributive justice, and give to every man his due; to institute good laws, and cause them to be strictly observed; an end most certainly generous and exalted, and worthy of high commendation ; but not equal to that which is annexed to the profession of arms, the object and end of which is peace, the greatest blessing mortals can wish for in this wearisome life.”

The purpose of letters has never been placed on a higher standard, and militarism is robbed of its sordidness in his definition of its aims. Cervantes was a soldier and an author by trade, let us listen to his verdict when, granting that the end of war is peace, and that in this it has the advantage of the end proposed by letters, he weighs the labours of the scholar against those of the warrior, and decides on which side the balance turns.

“I say then,” he asserts, “that the hardships of the scholar are these: in the first place poverty; not that they are all poor, but I would put the case in the strongest manner possible; and when I have mentioned that the scholar endures poverty, no more need be said to evince his misery; for he that is poor is destitute of every good thing, he has to contend with misery in all its forms, sometimes in hunger, sometimes in cold, sometimes in nakedness, and sometimes in all these together. Yet his necessity is not so great but that still he eats, though somewhat later than usual, either by partaking of the rich man’s scraps and leavings, or, which is his greatest misery, by going a sopping. Neither does he always want the fireside or chimney-corner of some charitable person, where, if he is not quite warmed, at least the extreme cold is abated; and, lastly, at night he sleeps under cover. I will not mention other trifles, such as want of linen, deficiency of shoes, his thin and threadbare clothes, not the surfeits to which he is liable from intemperance, when good fortune sets a plentiful table in his way. By this path, rough and difficult as I have described it, now stumbling, now falling, now rising, then falling and rising again, do scholars arrive at last to the end of their wishes; which, being attained, we have seen many who, having passed these Syrtes, these Scyllas, these Charybdisis, buoyed up, as it were, by a favourable tide, have exercised authority from a chair of state, and governed the world; their hunger converted into satiety, their pinching cold into refreshing coolness, their nakedness into embroidered raiment, and their bare mats to beds of down, with furniture of fine holland and damask, a reward justly merited by their virtues.

“But their hardships, when fairly brought together and compared, fall short of those of the warrior, as I shall presently demonstrate. Since, in speaking of the scholar, we began with his poverty and its several branches, let us see how it is with the soldier in that respect, and we shall find that such is his lot poverty itself is not poorer, for he depends on his wretched pay, which comes late, or perhaps never, or what he can plunder, with great peril both of life and conscience. Sometimes his want of clothing is such that his slashed buff doublet serves him both for doublet and for shirt; and in the midst of Winter, being in the open field, he has nothing but the breath of his mouth to warm him, which, issuing from an empty stomach, must needs be cold, against all the rules of Nature. But come, Night, and let us see whether bed will make amends for these inconveniences. If it be not his own fault, it will never offend in point of narrowness, for he may measure out as many feet of earth as he pleases, and roll himself thereon at leisure, without fear of rumpling the sheets.

“Suppose, again, the day and hour arrived of taking the degree of his profession. I mean, suppose the day of battle come, wherein he is to put in practice the exercise of his profession, and strike to gain some new honour, then, as a mark of distinction, shall his head be dignified by a cap made of lint, to stop a hole made by a bullet, or perhaps be carried off maimed, at the expense of a leg or arm. And if this do not happen, but that merciful Heaven preserve his life and limbs, it may fall out that he shall remain as poor as before, and must run through many encounters and battles, nay, always come off victorious, to obtain some small preferment—and these miracles, too, are rare—but, I pray tell me, if ever you made it your observation, how few are those who obtain due rewards in war, in comparison of those numbers who perish ? Doubtless you will answer that there is no parity between them, that the dead cannot be reckoned up; whereas those who live and are rewarded may be numbered with three figures.

“It is quite otherwise with scholars, not only those who follow the lead, but others also, who all either by hook or by crook get a livelihood; so that though the soldier’s sufferings be much greater, yet his reward is much less. To this it may be answered, that it is easier to reward two thousand scholars than thirty thousand soldiers, because the former are recompensed at the expense of the public, by giving them employment, but the latter cannot be gratified but at the cost of the master that employs them : yet this very difficulty makes good my argument. Now for a man to attain to an eminent degree of learning costs him time, watching, hunger, nakedness, dizziness in the head, weakness in the stomach, and other inconveniences, which are the consequence of those, of which I have already in part made mention. But the rising gradually to be a good soldier is purchased at the whole expense of all that is required for learning, and that in so surpassing a degree that there is no comparison betwixt them, because he is every moment in danger of his life. To what danger or distress can a scholar be reduced equal to that of a soldier, who, being besieged in some strong place, and at his post in some ravelin or bastion, perceives the enemy carrying on a mine under him, and yet must upon no account remove from thence, or shun the danger which threatens him  All he can do is to give notice to his commander that he may countermine, but must himself stand still, fearing and expecting when on a sudden he shall soar to the clouds without wings, and be again cast down headlong against his will. If this danger seems inconsiderable, let us see whether there be not greater when two galleys shock one another with their prows in the midst of the spacious sea. When they have thus grappled, and are clinging together, the soldier is confined to the narrow gangway, being a board not above two feet wide; and yet though he sees before him so many ministers of death threatening, as there are pieces of cannon on the other side pointing against him, and not half a pike’s length from his body; and being sensible that the first slip of his feet sends him to the bottom of Neptune’s dominions—still, for all this, inspired by honour, with an undaunted heart, he stands a mark to so much fire, and endeavours to make his way by that narrow passage into the enemy’s vessel. But what is most to be admired is, that no sooner one falls, where he shall never rise till the end of the world, than another steps into the same place; and if he also drops into the sea, which lies in wait for him like an enemy, another, and after him another, stills fills up the place, without suffering any interval of time to separate their deaths, a resolution and boldness scarce to be paralleled in any other trials of war. Blessed be those happy ages that were strangers to the dreadful fury of those devilish instruments of artillery which is the cause that very often a cowardly, base hand takes away the life of the bravest gentleman; and that in the midst of that vigour and resolution which animates and inflames the bold, a chance bullet (shot perhaps by one that fled, and was frightened at the very flash which the mischievous piece gave when it went off) coming nobody knows how or from whence, in a moment puts a period to the brave designs and the life of one that deserved to have survived many years.”

I have quoted thus freely because the passage illustrates better than pages of comment, the high ideals that inspired Cervantes both in the tented field and in the long solitude of his poor study. He fought as he wrote like a Christian gentleman; and if, in his lifetime, arms did not bring him honours, nor letters riches, posterity is agreed to recognize in him one of the truest soldiers and greatest writers of all times. It was his persistent evil chance which, when he had abandoned the perilous calling of a warrior, should dog his steps with sufferings from which the writer is usually exempt. In June, 1605 within a month or two of the publication of Don Quixote, a court gallant, Don Gaspar de Ezpeleta, was suddenly assailed by two men, wounded and left for dead in the street before Cervantes’ house. The author and his family hearing his cries carried the stricken man into their lodging, where he died in a few hours. Justice, in taking up the affair, clapped Cervantes and his family in gaol, where they were detained until the result of the inquiry exonerated them from playing anything but the Samaritan’s part in the matter. This too, as Edmondo de Amicis reflects, had to fall to the lot of the poor author of Don Quixote, so that he could be said to have experienced every kind of trial.

“We crossed the Mancha,” writes de Amicis in another reference to Cervantes in his work on Spain, “the celebrated Mancha, the immortal theatre of the adventures of Don Quixote. It is just as I imagined it. There are broad, bare plains, long tracts of sandy earth, some windmills, a few miserable villages, solitary paths, and wretched, abandoned houses. On seeing those places I experienced a feeling of melancholy which the perusal of Cervantes’ book always rouses; and I repeated to myself what I always say in reading it: ‘This man cannot make one laugh; or, if he does, under the smile, the tears are springing up’. Don Quixote is a sad and solemn character; his mania is a lament; his life is the history of the dreams, illusions, disappointments and aberrations of us all; the struggle of reason with the imagination, of the true with the false, the ideal with the real! We all have something of Don Quixote about us; we all take windmills for giants; all are spurred upward from time to time by an impulse of enthusiasm, and driven back by a laugh of disdain; are all a mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous, and feel, with profound bitterness, the perpetual contrast between the greatness of our aspirations and the weakness of our powers.”

One reads the opinion of the eminent Italian author, and it but confirms the opinion that Mr. Watts is doubtless right in his belief that Don Quixote and the man of Lepanto are one and the same.

From the depositions made at this inquiry into the murder of Ezpeleta, which have been preserved, we learn that the family, which was at this time dependent upon Cervantes, consisted of his wife, his natural daughter Isabel, aged twenty; his widowed sister, Andrea, aged sixty-one; a cousin, Dona Magdalena de Sotomayor, a lady of forty; and their servant, Maria. The household followed the Court to Madrid in 1606, where Cervantes found two eminent, if not by any means prodigal, patrons in Bernardo Sandoval y Rojas, the Cardinal-Archbishop of Toledo, and the Conde de Lemos, nephew and son-in-law of the Duke de Lerma. But if the Inquisitor-General, who ranked after the Pope as the most powerful Prelate in Christendom, was not lavish in his disbursements of patrimony, his patronage saved the author from molestation at the hands of the Inquisition, and it was not until the death of Archbishop Sandoval that the Holy Office cast a censorial eye upon Don Quixote, and expunged certain passages which did not meet with its approval.

For the next seven years Cervantes appears to have published nothing, and it may be assumed that he eked out a precarious existence by undertaking clerical work, and on the occasional alms doled out to him by his patrons. We know, from the evidence given at the inquiry before the Alcaide at Valladolid, that he “wrote and transacted business,” and that his slender means were augmented by the sale of needlework made by the women of his household. His fame, as the author of Don Quixote, would give him entrance to the intellectual circle of Madrid, and there seems no reason to doubt the statement of his biographer, Navarrete, that he joined the Literary Society, known as the Selvages, which included the most eminent men of letters of Madrid in its membership. We learn that in 1609 he forearmed himself against his burial by becoming a lay brother of the Oratory of the Knights of Grace—a prudent precaution that was customary among men of letters of the time—where he had, as colleagues, Lope de Vega, and his good friend, Francisco de Quevedo, one of the few contemporary writers who never disclosed envy or pretended contempt for the author of Don Quixote.

Of some of Cervantes’ other friends at this time it is not possible to speak in the same terms. Lope de Vega was always jealous of his genius and his comparatively limited meed of popularity; Luis de Leon, whom, Cervantes said, “I revere, adore, and follow,” and Fernando de Herrera were dead; Luis de Gongora disliked him, and the brothers Lupercio and Bartolome Argensola returned his good-natured eulogies with envy and evil works, and by their intriguing they prevented the Conde de Lemos from redeeming the promise of employment he had made Cervantes when that nobleman was appointed Viceroy of Naples. Cervantes also had friends among the painters of the period, and was warmly attached to the two then celebrated artists, Juan de Jaureguy and Francisco Pacheco. Our author tells us, in his prologue to Novelas Exemplares, that Jaureguy had painted his picture, and he also figured among the 170 portraits of eminent contemporaries, which Pacheco made in black and red chalk. This collection, which was presented by the painter to Olivares, the generous art patron and celebrated minister of Philip IV, was broken up after his death, and is now reduced to fifty-six portraits, but that of Cervantes is not among the survivors. Nor has any other pictured memorial of him been preserved. His good-humoured plaint that his publishers should have reproduced an engraving of Jaureguy’s picture on the first leaf of Novelas Exemplares has since been echoed in all sincerity. Two hundred years after his death it suddenly dawned upon Spain that no portrait of this, one of her greatest sons, was in existence, or if such a work existed it has not yet been found.

Lord Carteret, who brought out his handsomely-printed and bound edition of Don Quixote in 1738, was arrested in his efforts on the eve of publication by the discovery that the engraving of Cervantes, which he desired to make his frontispiece, could not be reproduced for want of an original likeness from which to make a copy. The British Ambassador, at Madrid, instituted an energetic search in Spain, but he could find no trace of the pictures which it was known had been painted, and Lord Carteret commissioned William Kent to execute the necessary portrait. Kent followed faithfully the details which the author had revealed of his features and outward appearance in the preface to Novelets Exemplares; and in order to fend himself from any charge of deception he labelled it, “Portrait of Miguel de Cervantes by Himself.” William Kent’s imaginary portrait—a three-quarter length painting of a man in the prime of life of the stately and ultra-Spanish type of countenance, splendidly attired in ruffs and frills to resemble an exquisite of the period, has been used as the basis of all subsequent portraits of Cervantes. It is fanciful, somewhat ridiculous—since Cervantes never boasted purple and fine linen for his adornment—incorrect,—for the man of Lepanto’s maimed hand is represented as amputated—and generally misleading. But the conventional portrait and fanciful invention of Kent—the hooked nose, large moustache, round eyes and baby mouth—appealed to the Spanish imagination; and when, in 1780, the Spanish Academy published their own first classical edition of Don Quixote, a variant of Kent’s portrait graced the work. They declared, in the first place, that their discovery was pointed out that the deaf and dumb painter was not born until nine years after the death of the author, they declared it a copy of an original painted by one of Cervantes’ contemporaries. When the strong family resemblance between the Alonso de Arco portrait and that of William Kent was insisted upon, the Spanish Academy decided that the English picture was a copy of their discovered prize, and with that explanation they professed themselves entirely contented.

What is probably an equally unauthentic portrait of Cervantes, but one based upon a more ingenious and plausible theory, was unearthed by the energies of Don Jose Maria Asensio of Seville, who, in an anonymous manuscript, happened upon a note to the effect that in one of six pictures, painted by Pacheco for a convent at Seville, there was a portrait of Cervantes. Armed with this clue, Senor Asensio went to the Provincial Museum of Seville, and made a careful inspection of the pictures which were painted to commemorate the effective labours of the Redemptorist brethren in releasing captives from Algiers. In one of these, entitled “St. Peter of Nola, in one of the Passages of his Life,” the saint is represented as superintending the launching of a boat. Among the half-dozen figures in the foreground, which are declared to be all portraits, is a man under middle age, with a striking head set upon a strong neck and shoulders, and with the defect of the left hand seemingly disguised by obscure painting. The fine eyes are set beneath a broad forehead, the nose is prominent and well defined, while the weakness in the chin and jaw are not uncharacteristic of the general character of Cervantes. These features are, moreover, in keeping with the description which the author has given us of himself in the prologue of Novelas Exemplares, already referred to, and which, of course, was followed by William Kent. Thus he presents himself to his readers: “He, whom you see here, of aquiline feature, with chestnut hair, a smooth, unruffled forehead, with sparkling eyes, and a nose arched though well proportioned; a beard of silver, which, not twenty years since, was of gold; great moustaches, a small mouth, the teeth of no account, for he has but six of them, and they in bad condition and worse arranged, for they do not hold correspondence one with another; the body between two extremes, neither great nor little; the complexion bright, rather white than brown, somewhat heavy in the shoulders. This, I say, is the aspect of the author of Don Quixote of La Mancha” With this detailed description we must be content; and if it is not a portrait, it is sufficient to afford us material for recreating a picture of Cervantes according to our individual tastes.

It is generally agreed that the novels which Cervantes published in 1613, under the title of Novelas Exemplares—because “there is not one of them from which some profitable example cannot be drawn”—were written many years before, but there seems equally as good reason for supposing that they were the results of his last seven years residence in Madrid. In variety of subject and manner, in the extraordinary knowledge of life that they reveal, in the mature art with which they are told, they exhibit the hand of the experienced craftsman, and warrant the eulogy of the author, who wrote of them that “had they not been turned out of the workshop of his wit, he might presume to place them by the side of the best ever designed.” After Don Quixote, they are reckoned in Spain amongst the best stories of their kind in the language; but they have achieved little popularity out of the Peninsula. Yet they have not been without their fervent admirers in this country, and amongst them Sir Walter Scott must be acknowledged the chief, since Lockhart declares that it was these stories of Cervantes that inspired the author of the Waverley novels to his first essay in fiction.

In the following year, 1614, Cervantes published two volumes of his writings, Viaja del Parnaso and a collection of plays. The poem, though based on an ingenious idea, and containing some of the best verse which the poet has given us, justifies the contemporary verdict upon his compositions, which was, as Cervantes himself tells us, that “ of his prose much was to be expected, but of his verse nothing.” The Journey Around Parnassus is written in imitation of a poem, now forgotten, by the Italian author, Cesare Caporali, and it serves as a record of the names of a string of Spanish minor poets whom Cervantes praises with more credit to his heart than his discrimination. His own generation allowed the book to fall still-born from the press, and its one interest to modern Cervantists lies in the autobiographical details which are to be found in the prose prefix. We read here that he is residing in the Calle de las Huertas, in a house “over against the mansion where the Prince of Morocco used to live”; we are introduced to the be ruffled, exquisite, and would-be poet (by the correction of whose verses Cervantes doubtless derived part of his slender income); we learn that his niece paid a real for postage on a letter which contained nothing more valuable than an anonymous, defamatory sonnet upon the author of Don Quixote; and, finally, we are told that the writer has in hand a dozen comedies and farces in equal proportions, which, having been rejected of theatre-managers, he proposes to present to the world in book form.

The volume of eight comedies and eight farces here referred to was published in the same year. A bookseller, being found, willing to take the risks of publishing them, Cervantes tells us in his preface that he “made the venture and sold them to the bookseller, who sent them to the Press. He paid me a reasonable sum for them; I took the money meekly, without making account of the quirks and quibbles of the players. I would they were the best in the world, or, at least, of fair worth.” But the pieces fared no better at the hands of the public than they had with the theatre-managers. Nor did they deserve a better fate, being unworthy of the author of Don Quixote, or even of the Numancia of his earlier days. Cervantes, rendered desperate by want, has in these pages deviated from the principles that he had laid down for his own guidance, and his object would appear to be to woo the public by pandering to their debased taste. But as he had before been compelled to give place, as a playwright, to men who possessed a greater share of dramatic sense and fitness, so now he was competing vainly with men, less gifted than himself, who had more accurately gauged the public taste, and were more dexterous in catering for it. In letters, more often than in any other branch of the arts, the man of genius who writes down to his public falls short of success. It is the second-rate writers who undertake seriously the task which the master attempts, with his tongue in his cheek and contempt for his output in his heart, who achieve their object. So Cervantes failed again as a playwright, and he failed so conspicuously that Bias de Nasarre, who republished these poor farces and more inferior comedies in 1749, claimed that the author had written them in ridicule of Lope de Vega, just as he had written Don Quixote in ridicule of the books of chivalry; while his always appreciative biographer, H. E. Watts, concludes that Cervantes “intended them as specimens of the drama which was in vogue in his day, rather than as models of that true art of which we know he had grasped the principles.”

Cervantes had, we must suppose, been wrenched from his artistic principles and ideals by the pinch of poverty; yet at this late period of his life, his fame as an author was spread not only throughout Spain, but in France, Italy, Germany, and Flanders. When Francisco Marquez Torres, Chaplain to the Archbishop of Toledo, was interrogated by some members of the French Embassy in Madrid, as to the age, profession, quality, and fortune of the celebrated author of Don Quixote, Senor Torres found himself “compelled to say that he was an old man, a soldier, a gentleman, and poor.” The chaplain, who tells this story in the approbation prefixed to the Second Part of Don Quixote, continues : “To which one of them responded in these precise words : “But does not Spain keep such a man rich, and supported out of the public Treasury?”. Another of these gentlemen broke in with this idea, saying, with much acuteness, “If it is necessity compels him to write, may God send he may never have abundance; so that, poor himself, he may make the whole world rich”.

Cervantes, in his long and varied career, had suffered much from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, but in the last months of his life he was to endure the most cruel and malignant hurt that the envy and enmity of man could inflict on an author. In the summer of 1614, just two years before his death, when Cervantes was leisurely completing the second part of the work, which was to make his name immortal, there appeared at Tarragona a work entitled, “The Second Part of the Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, containing his Third Sally”. This work, vulgar, lewd and malicious, purposed to be the continuation and the end of the story which Cervantes had published ten years before. The name of the author was given as Alonso Fernandez de Avellaneda, of Tordesillas; the book was dedicated to the “Alcaide, Regidors, and Hidalgos of the noble city of Argam-silla,” &c.; the licensing for printing was in the handwriting of Doctor Francisco de Torne, of Lion, Vicar-General to the Archbishop of Tarragona, and the publication was justified by the contention of one Dr. Rafael Orthoneda, who declared that it “ought to be printed, because it seemed to him to contain nothing immodest or forbidden.”

If this publication had revealed no more than a mean and avaricious desire to profit by the popularity of the First Part of Don Quixote, and to defraud Cervantes by forestalling him in the demand which was in waiting for the completion of the work; if the author had imitated the style and spirit of the great original with the sole thought of skimming Cervantes’ market—even so the outrage would have been almost unparalleled at that period in the history of letters. But the conspiracy, for conspiracy it was beyond doubt, was deeper, more subtle and diabolical in its inspiration and execution. Avellaneda, whoever the man was who clothed his identity beneath this sobriquet, was a person of some literary talent, but his malice outstripped his wit, and his humour is choked with lewdness. The aim and purpose of the book is deliberately divulged in the prologue, which is nothing less than a savage revilement of Cervantes. His literary defects are assailed with ungovernable fury; his age, his poverty, even the wounds, of which he was so proud, are hurled in his teeth. He is described as having “more tongue than hands”; his impediment in his speech is made matter for mockery; his state is compared with the ruined castle of San Cervantes; and his person, temperament, and condition are summarized in a venomous sentence, in which he is called “a cripple, a soldier old in years, though youthful in spirit; envious, discontented, a back-biter, a malefactor, or, at least, a jail-bird”. It is curious and characteristic of the tone of this attack that Cervantes, the gallant soldier who had won his wounds in the service of his country, but who had not allowed his buoyant spirit or kindliness of heart to be conquered by hardship, penury, and suffering, should be vilified for the very things for which the world now holds him in love and esteem. Finally, having attempted to belittle his achievements, and blast his character, his assailant acknowledges that his book is a deliberate attempt to deprive Cervantes of the profit expected from his labours.

In the false Don Quixote thus thrust upon the public the whole design of the original is studied only for the purpose of destroying it; it is written with the set and determined idea of making the name of the Knight of La Mancha stink in the nostrils of the admirers of Cervantes. Here the Don is represented as a common lunatic, who disappears from the story into an asylum for the insane. Sancho Panza is transformed into a gluttonous, vulgar, ignoramus. Dorothea, whose grace and daintiness add fragrance and wit to the original story, becomes a mere wanton. The whole story reeks of obscenity, vulgarity, and dullness, yet an eminent cleric licensed it; Le Sage professed to see in it merits equal to the true history; and the Spanish Academy has preserved the work as being worthy a place in the national collection of classics. Not a detail is wanting to detract from the enormity of the outrage, to give Cervantes the unenviable distinction of being the most basely treated man among the many unfortunates in literature ; for surely, never before or since, was an author so villainously used.

Nearly three centuries have elapsed since Cervantes laid aside his pen and rested from the indignities which his generation piled upon him, but the identity of the author of the crowning indignity of his career is still to be revealed. Cervantes himself must have had a shrewd suspicion of the author of this conspiracy, but he either refrained from publishing his name, or felt too insecure in his facts, to be able to prove the charge; or, as his first biographer asserts, his assailant was so powerful as to defy accusation. The secret was kept, at the time, with a success that to us seems incomprehensible, and has created controversy and speculation which has not decreased with years. But it would appear that until the ploughshare of accident shall turn up from the fallow earth of the literary past, or until the jealous guard which is posted over the letters in the Biblioteca National shall be relaxed, speculation and conjecture are vain. Luis de Aliaga, the King’s Confessor, Alarcon the Dramatist, Bartolomé de Argensola, Cervantes’ one-time friend; the monk Perez, who wrote La Picara Justina; and the great Lope de Vega himself have all been laid under the suspicion of being the writer of the false Don Quixote. The weight of circumstantial evidence bears hardest upon Vega, whose private letters have disclosed his ill-will and envy towards Cervantes; whose life and character—despite the arguments urged by his apologists—convict him, at least, of being capable of committing so foul a deed; and whose method of waging literary warfare was quite in the manner of the false Prologue. A man of his arrogant disposition would resent bitterly the criticism which Cervantes applied to his plans in the First Part of his magnum opus, and we can believe of him that he would stop at nothing to be revenged upon his critic. A jealous, unscrupulous, intolerant man, confident of the protection of friends in high places; a libertine who acted as procurer for the Duke of Sessa; an officer of the Holy Inquisition; and the only real rival to Cervantes in the arena of letters—if Lope de Vega did not himself pen the false Don Quixote, he will go down to posterity as the suspected inspirer of the basest literary atrocity that has ever been perpetrated.

On this point, as on most details affecting Cervantes, Mr. Fitzmaurice-Kelly is emphatic in his conclusion, and he accepts the decision by Mainez, that if the hand is the hand of Avellaneda, the voice is the voice of Lope de Vega. He finds in the character of the celebrated dramatist the temperamental fitness for such a task, and he locates the incentive in his unsupportable jealousy. “Till Don Quixote appeared no rival had ever dared to come within the shadow of his throne, and its lasting success was torment to his soul. It was too plain that the world had gone stark mad, captivated by the book of the poverty-stricken, maimed wanderer who, after a life of squalid failure, had had the assurance to produce a masterpiece. It was no longer possible to kill Don Quixote by the cheap sneer that no one was such an ass as to praise it. Lope had played that card, and no longer cherished any such delusion.....But it was still possible to injure; still possible to defame; still possible to rob the old man of a few doubloons; still possible to deride him, to wound his pride, to forestall his market by writing a continuation of the accursed volume which had dared to thrust itself between Lope and the public”; and so, though other biographers may canvass every contemporary writer and weigh the relative qualifications and provocations of envious poets and resentful prelates, Mr. Kelly refuses to look beyond Lope de Vega for the author of the false Second Part of Don Quixote.

Germond de Lavigne, with a sophistry, inspired, we may suppose, by admiration of Vega, declared that we owe a debt to Avellaneda, seeing that but for him Don Quixote would have remained a mere torso, instead of a complete work. Such a piece of special pleading is, of course, fallacious, since Cervantes had pledged himself to produce a second part, and the book must have been nearing completion, in 1614, when Avellaneda’s travesty was published. It is evident that he had progressed as far as the nineteenth chapter, and was within ten chapters of the end, when the Tarragonese bastard was put into circulation, and Cervantes, changing his published plan of procedure, turns Don Quixote from his purpose of entering the lists at Zaragoza and hurries him off to Barcelona. With this counterfeit upon the market Cervantes could no longer pursue the leisurely tenor of his way, and the injury he had received spurred him to new flights of pungent humour. But although our author in this Second Part of Don Quixote deals with his enemy with dignified restraint, and introduces him in person to drub him with the jester’s bladder, rather than becudgel him with his own club, we descry in the dedication of his last book of comedies (1615) how keenly he felt the smart.

Avellaneda had charged him with disparaging the innumerable “stupendous comedies” of Lope de Vega, and of persecuting the Inquisition. Cervantes straightly denies both these imputations, declaring that he “adores Vega’s genius, and admires his works continuous and virtuous”, and protests that he is not likely to persecute any ecclesiastic—above all, if he is a familiar of the Holy Office to boot. “But,” he writes in this dedication to the Conde de Lemos, “that which I cannot help feeling is that he charges me with being old and maimed, as though it had been in my power to stop time from passing over me, or as though my deformity had been produced in some tavern, and not on the grandest occasion which ages past and present have seen, or those to come can hope to see. If my wounds do not shine in the eyes of him who looks on them, they are at least honoured in the estimation of those who know where they were acquired; for the soldier looks better dead in battle than alive in flight. And so much I am of this opinion that if now I could devise and bring about the impossible, I would rather be present again in that wonderful action than now be whole of my wounds, without having taken part therein.”

With this manly and characteristic protest we may, I think, close the volume of this scandal, and press forward to the near close of Cervantes’ career. In this same dedication there is the intimation that Don Quixote is “waiting in the Second Part, booted and spurred, to do homage” to the Conde de Lemos, and before the end of the year (1615) the completion of the great work was published. The book was printed by Juan de la Cuesta, who had printed the First Part, and Francisco de Robles was again associated with Cervantes as publisher. The public received the new volume with the same enthusiasm that they had extended to its predecessor, and although posthumous criticism has in some instances refused to regard it as equal in merit to the first instalment—Charles Lamb went out of his way to refer to it as “that unfortunate Second Part”—the general reading public of successive generations have agreed in regarding it as the most diverting half of the novel. Cervantes himself has declared, through the mouth of the scholar, Samson Carrasco, that second parts are never good, but this rule found a striking exception in the case of his own work. With increasing years the author betrayed no sign of flagging vivacity; experience had lent him a surer hand in the development of character; and while the Knight of La Mancha’s adventures take on a less fantastic guise, and his reflections increase in wisdom, the wit of Sancho Panza broadens and ripens, and the humanity of the immortal comrades acquires a deeper note. Lamb wrote of “that unworthy Duke,” and he condemned the Duchess as “ most contemptible.” Many readers of Cervantes must at times have rebelled against the ingenuity with which the Don’s ducal entertainers conspired to make sport of their guest, and have deplored the means they employed in accomplishing their purpose. But if Cervantes had not had resource to these exalted conspirators we should have lost the passages between Sancho and the Duchess, the story of the squire’s government, and the course prescribed for the disenchantment of Dulcinea del Toboso—surely among the most richly humorous chapters in the whole story!—and, finally, the death-bed scene, with the old knight-errant, disillusioned, but resigned, dictating his will with his weeping friends around him, and his faithful squire beseeching him “not to die this time, but even take my counsel, and live on many years”, since “the maddest thing ever a man can do is to die!”. Yet in the face of facts there are critics who would argue that the Second Part was inferior to the First, both as a work of art and as a commercial venture. It is certainly incorrect to say, as one writer does, that “when the second part of Don Quixote came before the world it was universally felt that in nearly every respect it betrayed a great falling off.” Nor can the following criticism, taken from the same source, be accepted : “The fire of imagination, which had sustained him throughout the earlier cycle of adventures, now began to burn low; there was less wit in the speeches, less vivacity in the conversation, less humour and pathos in the situations and incidents. He perceived that he had a great rival to contend with, and that rival was himself. He had, properly speaking, exhausted his originality in the first part, together with his store of situations, his brilliancy of wit, his freshness of imagery, his peculiar power of delineating singular characters, and placing them in singular circumstances. There is wit in the second part, but it is pale; comedy, but it is forced; vivacity, but it is artificial. You discover nearly everywhere comparative poverty of invention, but a perpetual tendency to imitate himself.” What shall be said of Don Quixote that has not been said already? or why should we marvel because different men have read it differently? Is it the joyfullest of books, as Carlyle calls it, or do we find it, with Sismondi and De Amicis, the most melancholy of histories? Humour it has, the ripest and rarest that has ever been translated into our language, and pathos that touches the depths of the human emotion. Sir Walter Scott speaks of Cervantes’ humour as “the very poetry of the comic, founded on a tender sympathy with all forms of existence, though displaying itself in sportive reflection, and issuing, not in superficial laughter, but in still smiles, the source of which lies far deeper”; yet others have declared that it lacks “a thread of pathos.” Edward Fitzgerald praised it as “the most delightful of books.” Dr. Johnson declared it to be one of the three books written by a man which the reader wishes to be longer. From Swift to Heine, from Charles Lamb to Sainte-Beuve, from Johnson to Schlegel, the literary giants of all ages and all nationalities have joined in praise of Don Quixote.

In England and France and Germany it is still regarded as a romance, unapproachable in its genre; a work of true genius, supreme, imperishable. But in Spain it has passed from romance, in the national mind, into the realms of reality. In La Mancha the people point to the windmills as proof of the Don’s existence; in Argamasilla they show you the house in which the Knight lived, and draw attention to the ruins of a large, round window, out of which the curate and the barber consigned Don Quixote’s library to the flames. Here is the sluggish Guadiana, in which Sancho Panza’s daughter washed the family linen, and the parish church which guards the veritable portrait of Rodrigo Pacheco, alias Alonzo Quixano, known to fame as Don Quixote de la Mancha, and variously styled the Knight of the Lions and the Knight of the Rueful Countenance. These good, simple Manchegans, who are too wise to mistake Don Quixote for clumsy satire, and recognize the nobility, and wisdom, and virtue of the gallant, fantastic knight-errant, who is “nobly wild —not mad,” have not failed to detect the moral for the age, indeed for all ages, which Mr. Austin Dobson has used as the kernel of his sonnet on the Don:

“Alas! poor Knight! Alas ! poor soul possest!

Yet would today, when courtesy grows chill

And life’s fine loyalties are turned to jest,

Some fire of thine might burn within us still!

Ah, would but one might lay his lance in rest,

And charge in earnest—were it but a mill! ”

Cervantes survived the publication of Don Quixote some six months—long enough to see the false Second Part routed and extinguished by his own all-conquering creation. Inspired to renewed activity by the chorus of praise which greeted his latest production, we find him, in his 69th year, arranging his plans for the output of three more works—The Weeks of the Garden, the second part of the Galatea, and the Travels of Persiles and Sigismunda, which latter was to be “either the worst or the best of books of entertainment in our language”. The sequel to the Galatea and the projected Weeks of the Garden were probably never commenced, although he refers to them both again in the prologue to Persiles, which was written on his death-bed, and published by his widow in 1617.

Although Persiles and Sigismunda has been extravagantly praised by Valdivielso—“Of the many books written by Cervantes,” he says, “none is more ingenious, more cultured, or more entertaining”— and although it has gone into more editions than any of the minor works of its author, this return to the monstrous artificial style which he had been the means of destroying, is a paradoxical and incomprehensible variant of his genius. In the last chapter of Don Quixote he had caused the Knight to aver: “I now declare myself an enemy to Amadis de Gaul, and his whole generation; all stories of knight-errantry I detest.” Yet within a few months of writing this passage he was engaged in completing a conglomeration of adventures, experienced by a pair of impossible lovers, under every kind of impossible condition. The Spanish critics admire the book for the beauty and correctness of the language, and the grace and charm of its style, but, as a work of creative art, it lacks invention and originality; and, as a piece of fiction—a “pastime for the melancholy and mopish soul”—it is tedious and ineffective.

But because it carries with it the biographically-conceived dedication to the Conde de Lemos, we are grateful to Cervantes for his last romance. In it we read of the return journey from the famous town of Esquivias—“famous for a thousand things, one for its illustrious families, and another for its most illustrious wines”—on which Cervantes tells us he was overtaken by the grey student on the little she-ass. His chance companion having addressed him as “the all famous, the merry writer, and, indeed, the joy of the muses”, they resumed their journey, in the course of which the infirmity of the merry writer was touched upon. “ At which,” says Cervantes, “the good student checked my mirth in a moment: ‘This malady is the dropsy, which not all the water of ocean, let it be ever so sweet drinking, can cure. Let your worship, Senor Cervantes, set bounds to your drink, not forgetting to eat, for so without other medicine you will do well’. ‘That many have told me,’ answered I, ‘but I can no more give up drinking for pleasure than if I had been born for nothing else. My life is slipping away, and, by the diary my pulse is keeping, which at the latest will end its reckoning this coming Sunday, I have to close my life’s account. Your worship has come to know me in a rude moment, since there is no time for me to show my gratitude for the goodwill you have shown me”.

In a letter to his “very illustrious lord,” the Archbishop of Toledo, dated 26th March, 1616, Cervantes wrote: “If for the malady which affects me there could be any relief, the repeated marks of favour and protection which your illustrious person bestows on me would be sufficient to relieve me: but, indeed, it increases so greatly that I think it will make an end of me, although not of my gratitude.” In his valedictory dedication to the Conde de Lemos he speaks of himself as “with one foot in the stirrup, waiting the call of death”. “Yesterday,” he continues, “they gave me extreme unction, and today I am writing. The time is short, my agonies increase; my hopes diminish”. And then comes his brave, blithesome, parting message : “Good-bye, humours; good-bye, pleasant fancies; good-bye, merry friends; for I perceive I am dying, in the wish to see you happy in the other life.”

This was his last greeting to his patron, and to the world that had learned to love him so well. His dedication is dated 19th April, and on 23rd April, 1616—nominally on the same day that Shakespeare died—the illustrious Spaniard heard the summons of Death, and passed into the great beyond. He was buried as a member of the Franciscan Order in the graveyard of the Convent in the Calle del Humilladero, to which his daughter Isabel shortly afterwards retired. No stone marked the place where the body of Cervantes was laid, but we know that his widow, his daughters, and the other members of his family were laid to rest in the same hallowed ground, and that in 1635, when the Trinitarian sisters removed themselves to the Calle de Cantaranas, the remains of the departed members of their Order were collected into a common heap and carried by the sisterhood to their new Convent. The manuscripts, the pictures, even the bones of the author of Don Quixote are thus lost to the knowledge of the world. But the man lives again today in the commendations of his generals, in the testimony of his brothers-in-arms, in the evidence of his devoted fellow-captives in Algeria, and in his own modest biographical memoranda. We recognize him in the brilliant description of him that has been penned by the Spanish biographer, Aribau, as the man who “passed through the world as a stranger whose language was not understood,” announcing “the dawn of a civilization which broke long afterwards.”"

But even as Cervantes has given us the best picture of himself, he has given us also the best epithet that has ever been penned concerning him. He was thinking not of himself, but of Chrysostom, when he uttered the eulogy in which we may apostrophise the body of Cervantes: “This body was one enlivened by a soul which Heaven had enriched with the greatest part of its most valuable graces, who was unrivalled in wit, matchless in courteousness, a phoenix in friendship, prudent and grave without pride, modest without affectation, pleasant and complaisant without meanness; in a word, the first in everything good, though second to none in misfortune.”


The Proverbs of Cervantes.


IT has been declared, without provoking contradiction, that Spanish proverbs are undoubtedly wiser and wittier, as well as more numerous than those of any other language. At least a dozen collections of these tabloids of wisdom have been published in Spain; the largest, which was compiled by Juan de Yriarte, containing no fewer than 24,000 proverbs. At least half-a-dozen volumes were in existence in the time of Cervantes; and from these sources it may be presumed he went for much of the sage and pointed witicisms with which Sancho Panza garnishes his conversation. Though it was not the purpose of the author of Don Quixote to select the most characteristic and representative specimens in the language, he has brought together in his book some 300 examples of the refranes which were then in current use; and from those which he considered worthy of quotation I have made the following selection:


“The devil lurks behind the cross.”

“What is good is never too abundant.”

“Many go for wool, and come back shorn.”

“One swallow does not make a summer.”

“There is no recollection which time does not obliterate, nor grief which death does not destroy.”

“There is nothing certain in this life.”

“What hath been, hath been.”

“All will come out in the washing”.

“Do not ask as a favour what you can obtain by force.”

“When one door is shut, another is opened.”

“Let him be wretched who thinks himself so.”

“No discourse that is long can be pleasing.”

“Man goes as God is pleased.”

“He who sings frightens away his ills.”

“No contains the same number of letters as Ay”

“To do good to low fellows is to throw water into the sea.”—I. 23.

“The absent feel and fear every ill.”—1.25.

“Many think to find bacon where there are not even hooks to hang it on.”—

“He who does not intend to pay is not troubled in making his bargain.”—I.

“The danger is generally in the delay.”

“A bird in the hand is better than an eagle on the wing.”

“We must suit our behaviour to the occasion.”

 “To know where the shoe pinches.”

“You often find a good drinker under a bad cloak.”

“He who gives quickly, gives twice.”

“There is a great distance between said and done.”

“Diligence is the mother of success.”

“Every one is the son of his own works.”

“Since I am a man, I may come to be Pope.”

“When the head aches, all the members feel it.”

“Everyone is as God has made him, and very often worse.”

“He who covers thee, discovers thee.”

“The virtuous maid and the broken leg must stay at home.”

“Better a daughter ill-married than well kept.”

“Great deeds are reserved for great men.”

“He who cannot take advantage of fortune when it comes, should not complain if it passes him by.”

“The counsel of a woman is not worth much, but he who does not take it is worth nothing.”

“Many littles makes much.”

“He who shuffles the cards does not cut them.”

“The lamb goes (to the butcher) as soon as the sheep.”

“Tell me with whom you live, and I will tell you what you are.”

“Truth always gets above falsehood, as oil above water.”

“Not with whom thou art bred, but with whom thou art fed.”

“Madness must necessarily have more followers than discretion.”

“Those who seek adventures do not always find happy ones.”

“It is other people’s burdens that kill the ass.”

“If the blind lead the blind, both are in danger of falling into the ditch.”

“There is no road so level as to have no rough places.”

 “To know how many three and two make”.

“The lance never blunted the pen, nor the pen the lance.”

“Between a woman’s Yes and No I would not venture to stick the point of a pin.”

“For God who sends the wounds, sends the cure.”

 “Love looks through spectacles which make copper appear gold, riches poverty, and weak eyes distil pearls.”

“Every sheep with his fellow.”

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

“Let him preach well who lives well.”

“He who does not rise with the sun, does not enjoy the day.”

“He who errs and repents recommends himself to God.”

“To talk of a rope in the house of one who has been hanged.”

“Where you least expect it up starts the hare.”

“He who lives a long life, must needs go through many evils.”

“Associate with good men and thou wilt be one of them.”

“The little birds have God for a caterer.”

“All is not gold that glitters.”

 “Four yards of Cuenca cloth keep one warmer than as many of fine Segovia serge.”

“To begin an affair is to have it half finished.”

“At night all cats are grey.”

“Nobody is born learned; and (even) bishops are made of men.”

“I am an old dog, and ‘ tus, tus,’ will not do for me.”

 “A good name is better than great riches.”

“The corpse of the Pope takes no more ground than that of the sacristan.”

“The fire gives light, and the flames brightness, and yet they may both destroy us.”

“We make less account of that which costs us little.”

 “A good heart overcomes evil fortune.”

“The ass laden with gold mounts lightly up the hill.”

 “There is nothing that costs less than civility”.

 “There is no avenging yourself upon a rich man.”

 “You may lose as well by a card too much as by a card too little.”

“ Make yourself into honey and the flies will devour you.”

“To ‘Get out of my house!’ and ‘What do you want with my wife?’ there is no answer.”

“We are all equals when we are asleep.”

“The foolish sayings of the rich man pass for saws in society.”

“As much as you have, so much you are worth.”

 “Heaven always favours good desires.”

“To whom God wishes well, his house knows it.”

 “There can be no true pleasantry without discretion.”

 “We do not know what is goodruntil we have lost it.”

 “It is better for him whom God helps than for him who always rises early.”—

 “She who desires to see, desires also to be seen.”

 “When God sends the dawn, He sends it for all.”

 “As long as I am warm, let them laugh (who will).”

 “Ingratitude is the child of pride.”

“When you are at Rome, do as you see.”

“Man proposes and God disposes.”

“Until death, all is life.”

“He who falls today, may rise tomorrow.”

“Said the pot to the kettle, I Get away, blackface!’ ”

“What the eyes see not, breaks not the heart.”

“ The righteous sometimes suffer for sinners.”

“Do away with the motive, and you do away with the sin.”

“He who rails is not far from forgiving.”