PERIOD FIRST. FROM THE FIRST APPEARANCE OF THE WRITTEN LANGUAGE TO THE EARLY PART OF THE REIGN OF CHARLES V. (1200-1500).
1. EARLY NATIONAL LITERATURE.—There are two traits of the earliest Spanish literature which so peculiarly distinguish it that they deserve to be noticed from the outset—religious faith and knightly loyalty. The Spanish national character, as it has existed from the earliest times to the present day, was formed in that solemn contest which began when the Moors landed beneath the rock of Gibraltar, and which did not end until eight centuries after, when the last remnants of the race were driven from the shores of Spain. During this contest, especially that part of it when the earliest Spanish poetry appeared, nothing but an invincible faith and a not less invincible loyalty to their own princes could have sustained the Christian Spaniards in their struggles against their infidel oppressors. It was, therefore, a stern necessity which made these two high qualities elements of the Spanish national character, and it is not surprising that we find submission to the church and loyalty to the king constantly breathing through every portion of Spanish literature.
The first monument of the Spanish, or, as it was oftener called, the Castilian tongue, the most ancient epic in any of the Romance languages, is “The Poem of the Cid.” It consists of more than three thousand lines, and was probably not composed later than the year 1200. This poem celebrates the achievements of the great hero of the chivalrous age of Spain, Rodrigo Diaz (1020-1099), who obtained from five Moorish kings, whom he had vanquished in battle, the title of El Seid, or my lord. He was also called by the Spaniards El Campeador or El Cid Campeador, the Champion or the Lord Champion, and he well deserved the honorable title, for he passed almost the whole of his life in the field against the oppressors of his country, and led the conquering arms of the Christians over nearly a quarter of Spain. No hero has been so universally celebrated by his countrymen, and poetry and tradition have delighted to attach to his name a long series of fabulous achievements, which remind us as often of Amadis and Arthur, as they do of the sober heroes of history. His memory is so sacredly dear to the Spanish nation, that to say “by the faith of Rodrigo,” is still considered the strongest vow of loyalty.
The poem of the Cid is valuable mainly for the living picture it presents of manners and character in the eleventh century. It is a contemporary and spirited exhibition of the chivalrous times of Spain, given occasionally with an admirable and Homeric simplicity. It is the history of the most romantic hero of Spanish tradition, continually mingled with domestic and personal details, that bring the character of the Cid and his age very near to our own sympathies and interests. The language is the same which he himself spoke—still only imperfectly developed—it expresses the bold and original spirit of the time, and the metre and rhyme are rude and unsettled; but the poem throughout is striking and original, and breathes everywhere the true Castilian spirit. During the thousand years which elapsed from the time of the decay of Greek and Roman culture down to the appearance of the Divine Comedy, no poetry was produced so original in its tone, or so full of natural feeling, picturesqueness, and energy.
There are a few other poems, anonymous, like that of the Cid, whose language and style carry them back to the thirteenth century. The next poetry we meet is by a known author, Gonzalo (1220-1260), a priest commonly called Berceo, from the place of his birth. His works, all on religious subjects, amount to more than thirteen thousand lines. His language shows some advance from that in which the Cid was written, but the power and movement of that remarkable legend are entirely wanting in these poems. There is a simple-hearted piety in them, however, that is very attractive, and in some of them a story-telling spirit that is occasionally vivid and graphic.
Alfonso, surnamed the Wise (1221-1284), united the crowns of Leon and Castile, and attracted to his court many of the philosophers and learned men of the East. He was a poet closely connected with the Provencal troubadours of his time, and so skilled in astronomy and the occult sciences that his fame spread throughout Europe. He had more political, philosophical, and elegant learning than any man of his age, and made further advances in some of the exact sciences. At one period his consideration was so great, that he was elected Emperor of Germany; but his claims were set aside by the subsequent election of Rudolph of Hapsburg. The last great work undertaken by Alfonso was a kind of code known as “Las Siete Partidas,” or The Seven Parts, from the divisions of the work itself. This is the most important legislative monument of the age, and forms a sort of Spanish common law, which, with the decisions under it, has been the basis of Spanish jurisprudence ever since. Becoming a part of the Constitution of the State in all Spanish colonies, it has, from the time Louisiana and Florida were added to the United States, become in some cases the law in our own country.
The life of Alfonso was full of painful vicissitudes. He was driven from his throne by factious nobles and a rebellious son, and died in exile, leaving behind him the reputation of being the wisest fool in Christendom. Mariana says of him: “He was more fit for letters than for the government of his subjects; he studied the heavens and watched the stars, but forgot the earth and lost his kingdom.” Yet Alfonso is among the chief founders of his country's intellectual fame, and he is to be remembered alike for the great advancement Castilian prose composition made in his hands, for his poetry, for his astronomical tables—which all the progress of modern science has not deprived of their value—and for his great work on legislation, which is at this moment an authority in both hemispheres.
Juan Lorenzo Segura (1176-1250) was the author of a poem containing more than ten thousand lines, on the history of Alexander the Great. In this poem the manners and customs of Spain in the thirteenth century are substituted for those of ancient Greece, and the Macedonian hero is invested with all the virtues and even equipments of European chivalry.
Don Juan Manuel, (1282-1347), a nephew of Alfonso the Wise, was one of the most turbulent and dangerous Spanish barons of his time. His life was full of intrigue and violence, and for thirty years he disturbed his country by his military and rebellious enterprises. But in all these circumstances, so adverse to intellectual pursuits, he showed himself worthy of the family in which for more than a century letters had been honored and cultivated. Don Juan is known to have written twelve works, but it is uncertain how many of these are still in existence; only one, “Count Lucanor,” has been placed beyond the reach of accident by being printed. The Count Lucanor is the most valuable monument of Spanish literature in the fourteenth century, and one of the earliest prose works in the Castilian tongue, as the Decameron, which appeared about the same time, was the first in the Italian. Both are collections of tales; but the object of the Decameron is to amuse, while the Count Lucanor is the production of a statesman, instructing a grave and serious nation in lessons of policy and morality in the form of apologues. These stories have suggested many subjects for the Spanish stage, and one of them contains the groundwork of Shakspeare's “Taming of the Shrew.”
Juan Ruiz, arch-priest of Hita (1292-1351), was a contemporary of Don Manuel. His works consist of nearly seven thousand verses, forming a series of stories which appear to be sketches from his own history, mingled with fictions and allegories. The most curious is “The Battle of Don Carnival with Madame Lent,” in which Don Bacon, Madame Hungbeef, and a train of other savory personages, are marshaled in mortal combat. The cause of Madame Lent triumphs, and Don Carnival is condemned to solitary imprisonment and one spare meal each day. At the end of forty days the allegorical prisoner escapes, raises new followers, Don Breakfast and others, and re-appears in alliance with Don Amor. The poetry of the arch- priest is very various in tone. In general, it is satirical and pervaded by a quiet humor. His happiest success is in the tales and apologues which illustrate the adventures that constitute a framework for his poetry, which is natural and spirited; and in this, as in other points, he strikingly resembles Chaucer. Both often sought their materials in Northern French poetry, and both have that mixture of devotion and of licentiousness belonging to their age, as well as to the personal character of each.
Rabbi Santob, a Jew of Carrion (fl. 1350), was the author of many poems, the most important of which is “The Dance of Death,” a favorite subject of the painters and poets of the Middle Ages, representing a kind of spiritual masquerade, in which persons of every rank and age appear dancing with the skeleton form of Death. In this Spanish version it is perhaps more striking and picturesque than in any other—the ghastly nature of the subject being brought into very lively contrast with the festive tone of the verses. This grim fiction had for several centuries great success throughout Europe.
Pedro Lopez Ayala (1332-1407), grand chancellor of Castile under four successive sovereigns, was both a poet and a historian. His poem, “Court Rhymes,” is the most remarkable of his productions. His style is grave, gentle, and didactic, with occasional expressions of poetic feeling, which seem, however, to belong as much to their age as to their author.
2. OLD BALLADS.—From the thirteenth to the fifteenth century, the period we have just gone over, the courts of the different sovereigns of Europe were the principal centres of refinement and civilization, and this was peculiarly the case in Spain during this period, when literature was produced or encouraged by the sovereigns and other distinguished men. But this was not the only literature of Spain. The spirit of poetry diffused throughout the peninsula, excited by the romantic events of Spanish history, now began to assume the form of a popular literature, and to assert for itself a place which in some particulars it has maintained ever since. This popular literature may be distributed into four different classes. The first contains the Ballads, or the narrative and lyrical poetry of the common people from the earliest times; the second, the Chronicles, or the half-genuine, half-fabulous histories of the great events and heroes of the national annals; the third class comprises the Romances of Chivalry, intimately connected with both the others, and, after a time, as passionately admired by the whole nation; and the fourth includes the Drama, which in its origin has always been a popular and religious amusement, and was hardly less so in Spain than it was in Greece or in France. These four classes compose what was generally most valued in Spanish literature during the latter part of the fourteenth century, the whole of the fifteenth, and much of the sixteenth. They rested on the deep foundations of the national character, and therefore by their very nature were opposed to the Provencal, the Italian, and the courtly schools, which flourished during the same period.
The metrical structure of the old Spanish ballad was extremely simple, consisting of eight-syllable lines, which are composed with great facility in other languages as well as the Castilian. Sometimes they were broken into stanzas of four lines each, thence called redondillas, or roundelays, but their prominent peculiarity is that of the asonante, an imperfect rhyme that echoes the same vowel, but not the same final consonant in the terminating syllables. This metrical form was at a later period adopted by the dramatists, and is now used in every department of Spanish poetry.
The old Spanish ballads comprise more than a thousand poems, first collected in the sixteenth century, whose authors and dates are alike unknown. Indeed, until after the middle of that century, it is difficult to find ballads written by known authors. These collections, arranged without regard to chronological order, relate to the fictions of chivalry, especially to Charlemagne and his peers, to the traditions and history of Spain, to Moorish adventures, and to the private life and manners of the Spaniards themselves; they belong to the unchronicled popular life and character of the age which gave them birth. The ballads of chivalry, with the exception of those relating to Charlemagne, occupy a less important place than those founded on national subjects. The historical ballads are by far the most numerous and the most interesting; and of those the first in the order of time are those relating to Bernardo del Carpio, concerning whom there are about forty. Bernardo (fl. 800) was the offspring of a secret marriage between the Count de Saldana and a sister of Alfonso the Chaste, at which the king was so much offended that he sent the Infanta to a convent, and kept the Count in perpetual imprisonment, educating Bernardo as his own son, and keeping him in ignorance of his birth. The achievements of Bernardo ending with the victory of Roncesvalles, his efforts to procure the release of his father, the falsehood of the king, and the despair and rebellion of Bernardo after the death of the Count in prison, constitute the romantic incidents of these ballads.
The next series is that on Fernan Gonzalez, a chieftain who, in the middle of the tenth century, recovered Castile from the Moors and became its first sovereign count. The most romantic are those which describe his being twice rescued from prison by his heroic wife, and his contest with King Sancho, in which he displayed all the turbulence and cunning of a robber baron of the Middle Ages.
The Seven Lords of Lara form the next group; some of them are beautiful, and the story they contain is one of the most romantic in Spanish history. The Seven Lords of Lara are betrayed by their uncle into the hands of the Moors, and put to death, while their father, by the basest treason, is confined in a Moorish prison. An eighth son, the famous Mudarra, whose mother is a noble Moorish lady, at last avenges all the wrongs of his race.
But from the earliest period, the Cid has been the occasion of more ballads than any other of the great heroes of Spanish history or fable. They were first collected in 1612, and have been continually republished to the present day. There are at least a hundred and sixty of them, forming a more complete series than any other, all strongly marked with the spirit of their age and country.
The Moorish ballads form a large and brilliant class by themselves. The period when this style of poetry came into favor was the century after the fall of Granada, when the south, with its refinement and effeminacy, its magnificent and fantastic architecture, the foreign yet not strange manners of its people, and the stories of their warlike achievements, all took strong hold of the Spanish imagination, and made of Granada a fairy land.
Of the ballads relating to private life, most of them are effusions of love, others are satirical, pastoral, and burlesque, and many descriptive of the manners and amusements of the people at large; but all of them are true representations of Spanish life. They are marked by an attractive simplicity of thought and expression, united to a sort of mischievous shrewdness. No such popular poetry exists in any other language, and no other exhibits in so great a degree that nationality which is the truest element of such poetry everywhere. The English and Scotch ballads, with which they may most naturally be compared, belong to a ruder state of society, which gave to the poetry less dignity and elevation than belong to a people who, like the Spanish, were for centuries engaged in a contest ennobled by a sense of religion and loyalty, and which could not fail to raise the minds of those engaged in it far above the atmosphere that settled around the bloody feuds of rival barons, or the gross maraudings of border warfare. The great Castilian heroes, the Cid, Bernardo del Carpio, and Pelayo, are even now an essential portion of the faith and poetry of the common people of Spain, and are still honored as they were centuries ago. The stories of Guarinos and of the defeat at Roncesvalles are still sung by the wayfaring muleteers, as they were when Don Quixote heard them on his journey to Toboso, and the showmen still rehearse the same adventures in the streets of Seville, that they did at the solitary inn of Montesinos when he encountered them there.
3. THE CHRONICLES.—As the great Moorish contest was transferred to the south of Spain, the north became comparatively quiet. Wealth and leisure followed; the castles became the abodes of a crude but free hospitality, and the distinctions of society grew more apparent. The ballads from this time began to subside into the lower portions of society; the educated sought forms of literature more in accordance with their increased knowledge and leisure, and their more settled system of social life. The oldest of these forms was that of the Spanish prose chronicles, of which there are general and royal chronicles, chronicles of particular events, chronicles of particular persons, chronicles of travels, and romantic chronicles.
The first of these chronicles in the order of time as well as that of merit, comes from the royal hand of Alfonso the Wise, and is entitled “The Chronicle of Spain.” It begins with the creation of the world, and concludes with the death of St. Ferdinand, the father of Alfonso. The last part, relating to the history of Spain, is by far the most attractive, and sets forth in a truly national spirit all the rich old traditions of the country. This is not only the most interesting of the Spanish chronicles, but the most interesting of all that in any country mark the transition from its poetical and romantic traditions to the grave exactness of historical truth. The chronicle of the Cid was probably taken from this work.
Alfonso XI. ordered the annals of the kingdom to be continued down to his own reign, or through the period from 1252 to 1312. During many succeeding reigns the royal chronicles were continued,—that of Ferdinand and Isabella, by Pulgar, is the last instance of the old style; but though the annals were still kept up, the free and picturesque spirit that gave them life was no longer there.
The chronicles of particular events and persons are most of them of little value.
Among the chronicles of travels, the oldest one of any value is an account of a Spanish embassy to Tamerlane, the great Tartar potentate.
Of the romantic chronicles, the principal specimen is that of Don Roderic, a fabulous account of the reign of King Roderic, the conquest of the country by the Moors, and the first attempts to recover it in the beginning of the eighth century. The style is heavy and verbose, although upon it Southey has founded much of his beautiful poem of “Roderic, the last of the Goths.” This chronicle of Don Roderic, which was little more than a romance of chivalry, marks the transition to those romantic fictions that had already begun to inundate Spain. But the series which it concludes extends over a period of two hundred and fifty years, from the time of Alfonso the Wise to the accession of Charles V. (1221-1516), and is unrivaled in the richness and variety of its poetic elements. In truth, these old Spanish chronicles cannot be compared with those of any other nation, and whether they have their foundation in truth or in fable, they strike their strong roots further down into the deep soil of popular feeling and character. The old Spanish loyalty, the old Spanish religious faith, as both were formed and nourished in long periods of national trial and suffering, everywhere appear; and they contain such a body of antiquities, traditions, and fables as has been offered to no other people; furnishing not only materials from which a multitude of old Spanish plays, ballads, and romances have been drawn, but a mine which has unceasingly been wrought by the rest of Europe for similar purposes, and which still remains unexhausted.
4. ROMANCES OF CHIVALRY.—The ballads originally belonged to the whole nation, but especially to its less cultivated portions. The chronicles, on the contrary, belonged to the knightly classes, who sought in these picturesque records of their fathers a stimulus to their own virtue. But as the nation advanced in refinement, books of less grave character were demanded, and the spirit of poetical invention soon turned to the national traditions, and produced from these new and attractive forms of fiction. Before the middle of the fourteenth century, the romances of chivalry connected with the stories of Arthur and the knights of the Round Table, and Charlemagne and his peers, which had appeared in France two centuries before, were scarcely known in Spain; but after that time they were imitated, and a new series of fictions was invented, which soon spread through the world, and became more famous than, either of its predecessors.
This extraordinary family of romances is that of which “Amadis” is the poetical head and type, and this was probably produced before the year 1400, by Vasco de Lobeira, a Portuguese. The structure and tone of this fiction are original, and much more free than those of the French romances that had preceded it. The stories of Arthur and Charlemagne are both somewhat limited in invention by the adventures ascribed to them in the traditions and chronicles, while that of Amadis belongs purely to the imagination, and its sole purpose is to set forth the character of a perfect knight. Amadis is admitted by general consent to be the best of all the old romances of chivalry. The series which followed, founded upon the Amadis, reached the number of twenty-four. They were successively translated into French, and at once became famous. Considering the passionate admiration which this work so long excited, and the influence that, with little merit of its own, it has ever since exercised on the poetry and romance of modern Europe, it is a phenomenon without parallel in literary history.
Many other series of romances followed, numbering more than seventy volumes, most of them in folio, and their influence over the Spanish character extended through two hundred years. Their extraordinary popularity may be accounted for, if we remember that, when they first appeared in Spain, it had long been peculiarly the land of knighthood. Extravagant and impossible as are many of the adventures recorded in these books of chivalry, they so little exceeded the absurdities of living men that many persons took the romances themselves to be true histories, and believed them. The happiest work of the greatest genius Spain has produced bears witness on every page to the prevalence of an absolute fanaticism for these books of chivalry, and becomes at once the seal of their vast popularity and the monument of their fate.
5. THE DRAMA.—The ancient theatre of the Greeks and Romans was continued in some of its grosser forms in Constantinople and in other parts of the fallen empire far into the Middle Ages. But it was essentially mythological or heathenish, and, as such, it was opposed by the Christian church, which, however, provided a substitute for what it thus opposed, by adding a dramatic element to its festivals. Thus the manger at Bethlehem, with the worship of the shepherds and magi, was at a very early period solemnly exhibited every year before the altars of the churches, at Christmas, as were the tragical events of the last days of the Saviour's life, during Lent and at the approach of Easter. To these spectacles, dialogue was afterwards added, and they were called, as we have seen, Mysteries; they were used successfully not only as a means of amusement, but for the religious edification of an ignorant multitude, and in some countries they have been continued quite down to our own times. The period when these representations were first made in Spain cannot now be determined, though it was certainly before the middle of the thirteenth century, and no distinct account of them now remains.
A singular combination of pastoral and satirical poetry indicates the first origin of the Spanish secular drama. Towards the close of the fifteenth century, these pastoral dialogues were converted into real dramas by Enzina, and were publicly represented. But the most important of these early productions is the “Tragi-comedy of Calisto and Meliboea,” or “Celestina.” Though it can never have been represented, it has left unmistakable traces of its influence on the national drama ever since. It was translated into various languages, and few works ever had a more brilliant success. The great fault of the Celestina is its shameless libertinism of thought and language; and its chief merits are its life- like exhibition of the most unworthy forms of human character, and its singularly pure, rich, and idiomatic Castilian style.
The dramatic writers of this period seem to have had no idea of founding a popular national drama, of which there is no trace as late as the close of the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella.
6. PROVENCAL LITERATURE IN SPAIN.—When the crown of Provence was transferred, by the marriage of its heir, in 1113, to Berenger, Count of Barcelona, numbers of the Provencal poets followed their liege lady from Arles to Barcelona, and established themselves in her new capital. At the very commencement, therefore, of the twelfth century, Provencal refinement was introduced into the northeastern corner of Spain. Political causes soon carried it farther towards the centre of the country. The Counts of Barcelona obtained, by marriage, the kingdom of Aragon, and soon spread through their new territories many of the refinements of Provence. The literature thus introduced retained its Provencal character till it came in contact with that more vigorous spirit which had been advancing from the northwest, and which afterwards gave its tone to the consolidated monarchy.
The poetry of the troubadours in Catalonia, as well as in its native home, belonged much to the court, and the highest in rank and power were earliest and foremost on its lists. From 1209 to 1229, the war against the Albigenses was carried on with extraordinary cruelty and fury. To this sect nearly all the contemporary troubadours belonged, and when they were compelled to escape from the burnt and bloody ruins of their homes, many of them hastened to the friendly court of Aragon, sure of being protected and honored by princes who were at the same time poets.
From the close of the thirteenth century, the songs of the troubadours were rarely heard in the land that gave them birth three hundred years before; and the plant that was not permitted to expand in its native soil, soon perished in that to which it had been transplanted. After the opening of the fourteenth century, no genuinely Provencal poetry appears in Castile, and from the middle of that century it begins to recede from Catalonia and Aragon; or rather, to be corrupted by the hardier dialect spoken there by the mass of the people. The retreat of the troubadours over the Pyrenees, from Aix to Barcelona, from Barcelona to Saragossa and Valencia, is everywhere marked by the wrecks and fragments of their peculiar poetry and cultivation. At length, oppressed by the more powerful Castilian, what remained of the language, that gave the first impulse to poetic feeling in modern times, sank into a neglected dialect.
7. THE INFLUENCE OF ITALIAN LITERATURE IN SPAIN.—The influence of the Italian literature over the Spanish, though less apparent at first, was more deep and lasting than that of the Provencal. The long wars that the Christians of Spain waged against the Moors brought them into closer spiritual connection with the Church of Rome than any other people of modern times. Spanish students repaired to the famous universities of Italy, and returned to Spain, bringing with them the influence of Italian culture; and commercial and political relations still further promoted a free communication of the manners and literature of Italy to Spain. The language, also, from its affinity with the Spanish, constituted a still more important and effectual medium of intercourse. In the reign of John II. (1407-1454), the attempt to form an Italian school in Spain became apparent. This sovereign gathered about him a sort of poetical court, and gave an impulse to refinement that was perceptible for several generations.
Among those who interested themselves most directly in the progress of poetry in Spain, the first in rank, after the king himself, was the Marquis of Villena (1384-1434), whose fame rests chiefly on the “Labors of Hercules,” a short prose treatise or allegory.
First of all the courtiers and poets of this reign, in point of merit, stands the Marquis of Santillana (1398-1458), whose works belong more or less to the Provencal, Italian, and Spanish schools. He was the founder of an Italian and courtly school in Spanish poetry—one adverse to the national school and finally overcome by it, but one that long exercised a considerable sway. Another poet of the court of John II. is Juan de Mena, historiographer of Castile. His principal works are, “The Coronation” and “The Labyrinth,” both imitations of Dante. They are of consequence as marking the progress of the language. The principal poem of Manrique the younger, one of an illustrious family of that name, who were poets, statesmen, and soldiers, on the death of his father, is remarkable for depth and truth of feeling. Its greatest charm is its beautiful simplicity, and its merit entitles it to the place it has taken among the most admired portions of the elder Spanish literature.
8. THE CANCIONEROS AND PROSE WRITINGS.—The most distinct idea of the poetical culture of Spain, during the fifteenth century, may he obtained from the “Cancioneros,” or collections of poetry, sometimes all by one author, sometimes by many. The oldest of these dates from about 1450, and was the work of Baena. Many similar collections followed, and they were among the fashionable wants of the age. In 1511, Castillo printed at Valencia the “Cancionero General,” which contained poems attributed to about a hundred different poets, from the time of Santillana to the period in which it was made. Ten editions of this remarkable book followed, and in it we find the poetry most in favor at the court and with the refined society of Spain. It contains no trace of the earliest poetry of the country, but the spirit of the troubadours is everywhere present; the occasional imitations from the Italian are more apparent than successful, and in general it is wearisome and monotonous, overstrained, formal, and cold. But it was impossible that such a state of poetical culture should become permanent in a country so full of stirring events as Spain was in the age that followed the fall of Granada and the discovery of America; everything announced a decided movement in the literature of the nation, and almost everything seemed to favor and facilitate it.
The prose writers of the fifteenth century deserve mention chiefly because they were so much valued in their own age. Their writings are encumbered with the bad taste and pedantry of the time. Among them are Lucena, Alfonso de la Torre, Pulgar, and a few others.
9. THE INQUISITION.—The first period of the history of Spanish literature, now concluded, extends through nearly four centuries, from the first breathings of the poetical enthusiasm of the mass of the people, down to the decay of the courtly literature in the latter part of the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella. The elements of a national literature which it contains—the old ballads, the old chronicles, the old theatre— are of a vigor and promise not to be mistaken. They constitute a mine of more various wealth than had been offered under similar circumstances, at so early a period, to any other people; and they give indications of a subsequent literature that must vindicate for itself a place among the permanent monuments of modern civilization.
The condition of things in Spain, at the close of the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, seemed to promise a long period of national prosperity. But one institution, destined to check and discourage all intellectual freedom, was already beginning to give token of its great and blighting power. The Christian Spaniards had from an early period been essentially intolerant. The Moors and the Jews were regarded by them with an intense and bitter hatred; the first as their conquerors, and the last for the oppressive claims which their wealth gave them on numbers of the Christian inhabitants; and as enemies of the Cross, it was regarded as a merit to punish them. The establishment of the Inquisition, therefore, in 1481, which had been so effectually used to exterminate the heresy of the Albigenses, met with little opposition. The Jews and the Moors were its first victims, and with them it was permitted to deal unchecked by the power of the state. But the movements of this power were in darkness and secrecy. From the moment when the Inquisition laid its grasp on the object of its suspicions to that of his execution, no voice was heard to issue from its cells. The very witnesses it summoned were punished with death if they revealed the secrets of its dread tribunals; and often of the victim nothing was known but that he had disappeared from his accustomed haunts never again to be seen. The effect was appalling. The imaginations of men were filled with horror at the idea of a power so vast, so noiseless, constantly and invisibly around them, whose blow was death, but whose step could neither be heard nor followed amidst the gloom into which it retreated. From this time, Spanish intolerance took that air of sombre fanaticism which it never afterwards lost. The Inquisition gradually enlarged its jurisdiction, until none was too humble to escape its notice, or too high to be reached by its power. From an inquiry into the private opinions of individuals to an interference with books and the press was but a step, and this was soon taken, hastened by the appearance and progress of the Reformation of Luther.