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1. THE EFFECT OF INTOLERANCE ON LETTERS.—The central point in Spanish history is the capture of Granada. During nearly eight centuries before that event, the Christians of Spain were occupied with conflicts that developed extraordinary energies, till the whole land was filled to overflowing with a power which had hardly yet been felt in Europe. But no sooner was the last Moorish fortress yielded up, than this accumulated flood broke loose and threatened to overspread the best portions of the civilized world. Charles the Fifth, grandson of Ferdinand and Isabella, inherited not only Spain, but Naples, Sicily, and the Low Countries. The untold wealth of the Indies was already beginning to pour into his treasury. He was elected Emperor of Germany, and he soon began a career of conquest such as had not been imagined since the days of Charlemagne. Success and glory ever waited for him as he advanced, and this brilliant aspect seemed to promise that Spain would erelong be at the head of an empire more extensive than the Roman. But a moral power was at work, destined to divide Europe anew, and the monk Luther was already become a counterpoise to the military master of so many kingdoms. During the hundred and thirty years of struggle, that terminated with the peace of Westphalia, though Spain was far removed from the fields where the most cruel battles of the religious wars were fought, the interest she took in the contest may be seen from the presence of her armies in every part of Europe where it was possible to assail the great movement of the Reformation.

In Spain, the contest with Protestantism was of short duration. By successive decrees the church ordained that all persons who kept in their possession books infected with the doctrines of Luther, and even all who failed to denounce such persons, should be excommunicated, and subjected to cruel and degrading punishments. The power of the Inquisition was consummated in 1546, when the first “Index Expurgatorius” was published in Spain. This was a list of the books that all persons were forbidden to buy, sell, or keep possession of, under penalty of confiscation and death. The tribunals were authorized and required to proceed against all persons supposed to be infected with the new belief, even though they were cardinals, dukes, kings, or emperors,—a power more formidable to the progress of intellectual improvement, than had ever before been granted to any body of men, civil or ecclesiastical.

The portentous authority thus given was freely exercised. The first public auto da fe of Protestants was held in 1559, and many others followed. The number of victims seldom exceeded twenty burned at one time, and fifty or sixty subjected to the severest punishments; but many of those who suffered were among the active and leading minds of the age. Men of learning were particularly obnoxious to suspicion, nor were persons of the holiest lives beyond its reach if they showed a tendency to inquiry. So effectually did the Inquisition accomplish its purpose, that, from the latter part of the reign of Philip II., the voice of religious dissent was scarcely heard in the land. The great body of the Spanish people rejoiced alike in their loyalty and their orthodoxy, and the few who differed from the mass of their fellow-subjects were either silenced by their fears, or sunk away from the surface of society. From that time down to its overthrow, in 1808, this institution was chiefly a political engine.

The result of such extraordinary traits in the national character could not fail to be impressed upon the literature. Loyalty, which had once been so generous an element in the Spanish character and cultivation, was now infected with the ambition of universal empire, and the Christian spirit which gave an air of duty to the wildest forms of adventure in its long contest with misbelief, was now fallen into a bigotry so pervading that the romances of the time are full of it, and the national theatre becomes its grotesque monument.

Of course the literature of Spain produced during this interval—the earlier part of which was the period of the greatest glory the country ever enjoyed—was injuriously affected by so diseased a condition of the national mind. Some departments hardly appeared at all, others were strangely perverted, while yet others, like the drama, ballads, and lyrical verse, grew exuberant and lawless, from the very restraints imposed on the rest. But it would be an error to suppose that these peculiarities in Spanish literature were produced by the direct action either of the Inquisition or of the government. The foundations of this dark work were laid deep and sure in the old Castilian character. It was the result of the excess and misdirection of that very Christian zeal which fought so gloriously against the intrusion of Mohammedanism into Spain, and of that loyalty which sustained the Spanish princes so faithfully through the whole of that terrible contest. This state of things, however, involved the ultimate sacrifice of the best elements of the national character. Only a little more than a century elapsed, before the government that had threatened the world with a universal empire, was hardly able to repel invasion from abroad or maintain its subjects at home. The vigorous poetical life which had been kindled through the country in its ages of trial and adversity, was evidently passing out of the whole Spanish character. The crude wealth from their American possessions sustained, for a century longer, the forms of a miserable political existence; but the earnest faith, the loyalty, the dignity of the Spanish people were gone, and little remained in their place but a weak subserviency to unworthy masters of state, and a low, timid bigotry in whatever related to religion. The old enthusiasm faded away, and the poetry of the country, which had always depended more on the state of the popular feeling than any other poetry of modern times, faded and failed with it.

2. INFLUENCE OF ITALY ON SPANISH LITERATURE.—The political connection between Spain and Italy in the early part of the sixteenth century, and the superior civilization and refinement of the latter country, could not fail to influence Spanish literature. Juan Boscan (d. 1543) was the first to attempt the proper Italian measures as they were then practiced. He established in Spain the Italian iambic, the sonnet, and canzone of Petrarch, the terza rima of Dante, and the flowing octaves of Ariosto. As an original poet, the talents of Boscan were not of the highest order.

Garcilasso de la Vega (1503-1536), the contemporary and friend of Boscan, united with him in introducing an Italian school of poetry, which has been an important part of Spanish literature ever since. The poems of Garcilasso are remarkable for their gentleness and melancholy, and his versification is uncommonly sweet, and well adapted to the tender and sad character of his poetry.

The example set by Boscan and Garcilasso so well suited the demands of the age, that it became as much a fashion at the court of Charles V. to write in the Italian manner, as it did to travel in Italy, or make a military campaign there. Among those who did most to establish the Italian influence in Spanish literature was Diego de Mendoza (1503-1575), a scholar, a soldier, a poet, a diplomatist, a statesman, a historian, and a man who rose to great consideration in whatever he undertook. One of his earliest works, “Lazarillo de Tormes,” the auto-biography of a boy, little Lazarus, was written with the object of satirizing all classes of society under the character of a servant, who sees them in undress behind the scenes. The style of this work is bold, rich, and idiomatic, and some of its sketches are among the most fresh and spirited that can be found in the whole class of prose works of fiction. It has been more or less a favorite in all languages, down to the present day, and was the foundation of a class of fictions which the “Gil Blas” of Le Sage has made famous throughout the world. Mendoza, after having filled many high offices under Charles V., when Philip ascended the throne, was, for some slight offense, banished from the court as a madman. In the poems which he occasionally wrote during his exile, he gave the influence of his example to the new form introduced by Boscan and Garcilasso. At a later period he occupied himself in writing some portions of the history of his native city, Granada, relating to the rebellion of the Moors (1568-1570). Familiar with everything of which he speaks, there is a freshness and power in his sketches that carry us at once into the midst of the scenes and events he describes. “The War of Granada” is an imitation of Sallust. Nothing in the style of the old chronicles is to be compared to it, and little in any subsequent period is equal to it for manliness, vigor, and truth.

3. HISTORY.—The imperfect chronicles of the age of Charles V. were surpassed in importance by the histories or narratives, more or less ample, of the discoverers of the western world, all of which were interesting from their subject and their materials. First in the foreground of this picturesque group stands Fernando Cortes (1485-1554), of whose voluminous documents the most remarkable were five long reports to the Emperor on the affairs of Mexico.

The marvelous achievements of Cortes, however, were more fully recorded by Gomara (b. 1510), the oldest of the regular historians of the New World. His principal works are the “History of the Indies,” chiefly devoted to Columbus and the conquest of Peru, and the “Chronicle of New Spain,” which is merely the history and life of Cortes, under which title it has since been republished. The style of Gomara is easy and flowing, but his work was of no permanent authority, in consequence of the great and frequent mistakes into which he was led by those who were too much a part of the story to relate it fairly. These mistakes Bernal Diaz, an old soldier who had been long in the New World, set himself at work to correct, and the book he thus produced, with many faults, has something of the honest nationality, and the fervor and faith of the old chronicles.

Among those who have left records of their adventures in America, one of the most considerable is Oviedo (1478-1557), who for nearly forty years devoted himself to the affairs of the Spanish colonies in which he resided. His most important work is “The Natural and General History of the Indies,” a series of accounts of the natural condition, the aboriginal inhabitants, and the political affairs of the Spanish provinces in America, as they stood in the middle of the sixteenth century. It is of great value as a vast repository of facts, and not without merit as a composition.

In Las Casas (1474-1566) Oviedo had a formidable rival, who, pursuing the same course of inquiries in the New World, came to conclusions quite opposite. Convinced from his first arrival in Hispaniola that the gentle nature and slight frames of the natives were subjected to toil and servitude so hard that they were wasting away, he thenceforth devoted his life to their emancipation. He crossed the Atlantic six times, in order to persuade the government of Charles V. to ameliorate their condition, and always with more or less success. His earliest work, “A Short Account of the Ruin of the Indies,” was a tract in which the sufferings and wrongs of the Indians were doubtless much overstated by the zeal of its author, but it awakened all Europe to a sense of the injustice it set forth. Other short treatises followed, but none ever produced so deep and solemn an effect on the world.

The great work of Las Casas, however, still remains inedited,—“A General History of the Indies from 1492 to 1525.” Like his other works, it shows marks of haste and carelessness, but its value is great, notwithstanding his too fervent zeal for the Indians. It is a repository to which Herrera, and, through him, all subsequent historians of the Indies resorted for materials, and without which the history of the earliest period of the Spanish settlements in America cannot even now be written.

There are numerous other works on the discovery and conquest of America, but they are of less consequence than those already mentioned. As a class, they resemble the old chronicles, though they announce the approach of the more regular form of history.

4. THE DRAMA.—Before the middle of the sixteenth century, the Mysteries were the only dramatic exhibitions of Spain. They were upheld by ecclesiastical power, and the people, as such, had no share in them. The first attempt to create a popular drama was made by Lope de Rueda, a goldbeater of Seville, who flourished between 1544 and 1567, and who became both a dramatic writer and an actor. His works consist of comedies, pastoral colloquies, and dialogues in prose and verse. They were written for representation, and were acted before popular audiences by a strolling company led about by Lope de Rueda himself. Naturalness of thought, the most easy, idiomatic Castilian terms of expression, a good-humored gayety, a strong sense of the ridiculous, and a happy imitation of the tone and manners of common life, are the prominent characteristics of these plays, and their author was justly reckoned by Cervantes and Lope de Vega as the true founder of the popular national theatre. The ancient simplicity and severity of the Spanish people had now been superseded by the luxury and extravagance which the treasures of America had introduced; the ecclesiastical fetters imposed on opinion and conscience had so connected all ideas of morality and religion with inquisitorial severity, that the mind longed for an escape, and gladly took refuge in amusements where these unwelcome topics had no place. So far, the number of dramas was small, and these had been written in forms so different and so often opposed to each other as to have little consistency or authority, and to offer no sufficient indication of the channel in which the dramatic literature of the country was at last to flow. It was reserved for Lope de Vega to seize, with the instinct of genius, the crude and unsettled elements of the existing drama, and to form from them, and from the abundant and rich inventions of his own overflowing fancy, a drama which, as a whole, was unlike anything that had preceded it, and yet was so truly national and rested so faithfully on tradition, that it was never afterwards disturbed, till the whole literature of which it was so brilliant a part was swept away with it.

Lope de Vega (1562-1635) early manifested extraordinary powers and a marvelous poetic genius. After completing his education, he became secretary to the Duke of Alba. Engaging in an affair of honor, in which he dangerously wounded his adversary, he was obliged to fly and to remain several years in exile. On his return to Madrid, religious and patriotic zeal induced him to join the expedition of the Invincible Armada for the invasion of England, and he was one of the few who returned in safety to his native country. Domestic afflictions soon after determined him to renounce the world and to enter holy orders. Notwithstanding this change, he continued to cultivate poetry to the close of his long life, with so wonderful a facility that a drama of more than two thousand lines, intermingled with sonnets and enlivened with all kinds of unexpected incidents and intrigues, frequently cost him no more than the labor of a single day. He composed more rapidly than his amanuensis could transcribe, and the managers of the theatres left him no time to copy or correct his compositions; so that his plays were frequently represented within twenty- four hours after their first conception. His fertility of invention and his talent for versification are unparalleled in the history of literature. He produced two thousand two hundred dramas, of which only about five hundred were printed. His other poems were published at Madrid in 1776, in twenty-one volumes quarto. His prodigious literary labors produced him nearly as much money as glory; but his liberality to the poor and his taste for pomp soon dissipated his wealth, and after living in splendor, he died almost in poverty.

No poet has ever in his lifetime enjoyed such honors. Eager crowds surrounded him whenever he showed himself abroad, and saluted him with the appellation of Prodigy of Nature. Every eye was fixed on him, and children followed him with cries of pleasure. He was chosen President of the Spiritual College at Madrid, and the pope conferred upon him high marks of distinction, not only for his poetical talents, but for his enthusiastic zeal for the interests of religion. He was also appointed one of the familiars of the Inquisition, an office to which the highest honor was at that time attached.

The fame of Lope de Vega rests upon his dramas alone, and in these there is no end to their diversity, the subjects varying from the deepest tragedy to the broadest farce, from the solemn mysteries of religion to the loosest frolics of common life, and the style embracing every variety of tone and measure known to the language of the country. In these dramas, too, the sacred and secular, the tragic and comic, the heroic and vulgar, all run into each other, until it seems that there is neither separate form nor distinction attributed to any of them.

The first class of plays that Lope seems to have invented, and the one which still remains most popular in Spain, are dramas of the cloak and sword, so called from the picturesque national dress of the fashionable class of society from which the principal characters were selected. Their main principle is gallantry. The story is almost always involved and intriguing, accompanied with an under-plot and parody on the principal parties, formed by the servants and other inferior persons. The action is chiefly carried on by lovers full of romance, or by low characters, whose wit is mixed with buffoonery.

To the second class belong the historical or heroic dramas. Their characters are usually kings, princes, and personages in the highest rank of life, and their prevailing tone is imposing and tragical. A love story, filled as usual with hair-breadth escapes, jealous quarrels, and questions of honor, runs through nearly every one of them; but truth, in regard to facts, manners, and customs, is entirely disregarded.

The third class contains the dramas founded on the manners of common life; of these there are but few. Lope de Vega would doubtless have confined himself to these three forms, but that the interference of the church for a time forbade the representations of the secular drama, and he therefore turned his attention to the composition of religious plays. The subjects of these are taken from the Scriptures, or lives of the saints, and they approach so near to the comedies of intrigue, that but for the religious passages they would seem to belong to them. His “Sacramental Acts” was another form of the religious drama which was still more grotesque than the last. They were performed in the streets during the religious ceremonies of the Corpus Christi. The spiritual dramas of Lope de Vega are a heterogeneous mixture of bright examples of piety, according to the views of the age and country, and the wildest flights of imagination, combined into a whole by a fine poetic spirit.

The variety and inexhaustible fertility of the genius of this writer constituted the corner-stone of his success, and did much to make him the monarch of the stage while he lived, and the great master of the national theatre ever since. But there were other circumstances that aided in producing these surprising results, the first of which is the principle, that runs through all his plays, of making all other interests subordinate to the interest of the story. For this purpose he used dialogue rather to bring out the plot than the characters, and to this end also he sacrificed dramatic probabilities and possibilities, geography, history, and a decent morality.

Another element which he established in the Spanish drama, was the comic under-plot, and the witty gracioso or droll, the parody of the heroic character of the play. Much of his power over the people of his time is also to be found in the charm of his versification, which was always fresh, flowing, and effective. The success of Lope de Vega was in proportion to his rare powers. For the forty or fifty years that he wrote, nobody else was willingly heard upon the stage, and his dramas were performed in France, Italy, and even in Constantinople. His extraordinary talent was nearly allied to improvisation, and it required but a little more indulgence of his feeling and fancy to have made him not only an improvisator, but the most remarkable one that ever lived.

Nearly thirty dramatic writers followed Lope de Vega, but the school was not received with universal applause. In its gross extravagances and irregularities, severe critics found just cause for complaint. The opposition of the church to the theatre, however, which had been for a time so formidable, had at last given way, and from the beginning of the seventeenth century, the popular drama was too strong to be subjected either to classical criticism or ecclesiastical rule.

Calderon de la Barca (1600-1681) was the great successor and rival of Lope de Vega. At the age of thirty-two, his reputation as a poet was an enviable one. Soon after, when the death of Lope de Vega left the theatre without a master, he was formally attached to the court for the purpose of furnishing dramas to be represented in the royal theatres. In 1651, he followed the example of Lope de Vega and other men of letters of his time, by entering a religious brotherhood. Many ecclesiastical dignities were conferred upon him, but he did not, however, on this account intermit his dramatic labors, but continued through his long life to write for the theatres, for the court, and for the churches. Many dramas of Calderon were printed without his consent, and many were attributed to him which he never wrote. His reputation as a dramatic poet rests on the seventy-three sacramental autos, and one hundred and eight dramas, which are known to be his. The autos, from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, were among the favorite amusements of the people; but in the age of Calderon they were much increased in number and importance; they had become attractive to all classes of society, and were represented with great luxury and at great expense in the streets of all the larger cities. A procession, in which the king and court appeared, preceded by the fantastic figures of giants, with music, banners, and religious shows, followed the sacrament through the street, and then, before the houses of the great officers of state, the autos were performed; the giants made sport for the multitude, and the entertainment concluded with music and dancing. Sometimes the procession was headed by the figure of a monster called the Tarasca, half serpent in form, borne by men concealed in its cumbrous bulk, and surmounted by another figure representing the woman of Babylon, —all so managed as to fill with wonder and terror the country people who crowded round it, and whose hats and caps were generally snatched away by the grinning beast, and became the lawful prize of his conductors. This exhibition was at first rude and simple, but under the influence of Lope de Vega it became a well-defined, popular entertainment, divided into three parts, each distinct from the other. First came the loa, a kind of prologue; then the entremes, a kind of interlude or farce; and last, the autos sacramentales, or sacred acts themselves, which were more grave in their tone, though often whimsical and extravagant.

The seventy-three autos written by Calderon are all allegorical, and by the music and show with which they abound, they closely approach to the opera. They are upon a great variety of subjects, and indicate by their structure that elaborate and costly machinery must have been used in their representation. They are crowded with such personages as Sin, Death, Judaism, Mercy, and Charity, and the purpose of all is to set forth the Real Presence in the Eucharist. The great enemy of mankind of course fills a large place in them. Almost all of them contain passages of striking lyrical poetry.

The secular plays of Calderon can scarcely be classified, for in many of them even more than two forms of the drama are mingled. To the principle of making a story that should sustain the interest throughout, Calderon sacrificed almost as much as Lope de Vega did. To him facts are never obstacles. Coriolanus is a general under Romulus; the Danube is placed between Sweden and Russia; and Herodotus is made to describe America. But in these dramas we rarely miss the interest and charm of a dramatic story, which provokes the curiosity and enchains the attention.

In the dramas of the Cloak and Sword the plots of Calderon are intricate. He excelled in the accumulation of surprises, in plunging his characters into one difficulty after another, maintaining the interest to the last. In style and versification Calderon has high merits, though they are occasionally mingled with the defects of his age. He added no new forms to dramatic composition, nor did he much modify those which had been already settled by Lope de Vega; but he showed greater skill in the arrangement of his incidents, and more poetry in the structure and tendency of his dramas. To his elevated tone we owe much of what distinguishes Calderon from his predecessors, and nearly all that is most individual in his merits and defects. In carrying out his theory of the national drama, he often succeeds and often fails; and when he succeeds, he sets before us an idealized drama, resting on the noblest elements of the Spanish national character, and one which, with all its unquestionable defects, is to be placed among the extraordinary phenomena of modern poetry.

The most brilliant period of the Spanish drama falls within the reign of Philip II., which extended from 1620 to 1665, and embraced the last years of the life of Lope de Vega, and the thirty most fortunate years of the life of Calderon. After this period a change begins to be apparent; for the school of Lope was that of a drama in the freshness and buoyancy of youth, while that of Calderon belongs to the season of its maturity and gradual decay. The many writers who were either contemporary with Lope de Vega and Calderon, or who succeeded them, had little influence on the character of the theatre. This, in its proper outlines, always remained as it was left by these great masters, who maintained an almost unquestioned control over it while they lived, and at their death left a character impressed upon it, which it never lost till it ceased to exist altogether.

When Lope de Vega first appeared as a dramatic writer at Madrid, the only theatres he found were two unsheltered courtyards, which depended on such companies of strolling players as occasionally visited the capital. Before he died, there were, besides the court-yards in Madrid, several theatres of great magnificence in the royal palaces, and many thousand actors; and half a century later, the passion for dramatic representations had spread into every part of the kingdom, and there was hardly a village that did not possess a theatre.

During the whole of the successful period of the drama, the representations took place in the daytime. Dancing was early an important part of the theatrical exhibitions in Spain, even of the religious, and its importance has continued down to the present day. From the earliest antiquity it was the favorite amusement of the rude inhabitants of the country, and in modern times dancing has been to Spain what music has been to Italy, a passion with the whole population.

In all its forms and subsidiary attractions, the Spanish drama was essentially a popular entertainment, governed by the popular will. Its purpose was to please all equally, and it was not only necessary that the play should be interesting; it was, above all, required that it should be Spanish, and, therefore, whatever the subject might be, whether actual or mythological, Greek or Roman, the characters were always represented as Castilian, and Castilian of the seventeenth century. It was the same with their costumes. Coriolanus appeared in the costume of Don Juan of Austria, and Aristotle came on the stage dressed like a Spanish Abbe, with curled periwig and buckles on his shoes.

The Spanish theatre, therefore, in many of its characteristics and attributes, stands by itself. It is entirely national, it takes no cognizance of ancient example, and it borrowed nothing from the drama of France, Italy, or England. Founded on traits of national character, with all its faults, it maintained itself as long as that character existed in its original attributes, and even now it remains one of the most striking and interesting portions of modern literature.

5. ROMANCES AND TALES.—Hitherto the writers of Spain had been little known, except in their own country; but we are now introduced to an author whose fame is bounded by no language and no country, and whose name is not alone familiar to men of taste and learning, but to almost every class of society.

Cervantes (1547-1616), though of noble family, was born in poverty and obscurity, not far from Madrid. When he was about twenty-one years of age, he attached himself to the person of Cardinal Aquaviva, with whom he visited Rome. He soon after enlisted as a common soldier in the war against the Turks, and, in the great battle of Lepanto, 1572, he received a wound which deprived him of the use of his left hand and arm, and obliged him to quit the military profession. On his way home he was captured by pirates, carried to Algiers, and sold for a slave. Here he passed five years full of adventure and suffering. At length his ransom was effected, and he returned home to find his father dead, his family reduced to a still more bitter poverty by his ransom, and himself friendless and unknown. He withdrew from the world to devote himself to literature, and to gain a subsistence by his pen.

One of the first productions of Cervantes was the pastoral romance of “Galatea.” This was followed by several dramas, the principal of which is founded on the tragical fate of Numantia. Notwithstanding its want of dramatic skill, it may be cited as a proof of the author's poetical talent, and as a bold effort to raise the condition of the stage.

After many years of poverty and embarrassment, in 1605, when Cervantes had reached his fiftieth year, he published the first part of “Don Quixote.” The success of this effort was incredible. Many thousand copies are said to have been printed during the author's lifetime. It was translated into various languages, and eulogized by every class of readers, yet it occasioned little improvement in the pecuniary circumstances of the author. In 1615, he published the second part of the same work, and, in the year following, his eventful and troubled life drew to its close.

“Don Quixote,” of all the works of all modern times, bears most deeply the impression of the national character it represents, and it has in return enjoyed a degree of national favor never granted to any other. The object of Cervantes in writing it was, as he himself declares, “to render abhorred of men the false and absurd stories contained in books of chivalry.” The fanaticism for these romances was so great in Spain during the sixteenth century, and they were deemed so noxious, that the burning of all copies extant in the country was earnestly asked for by the Cortes. To destroy a passion that had struck its roots so deeply in the character of all classes of men, to break up the only reading which, at that time, was fashionable and popular, was a bold undertaking, yet one in which Cervantes succeeded. No book of chivalry was written after the appearance of “Don Quixote;” and from that time to the present they have been constantly disappearing, until they are now among the rarest of literary curiosities,—a solitary instance of the power of genius to destroy, by a well-timed blow, an entire department of literature.

In accomplishing this object, Cervantes represents “Don Quixote” as a country gentleman of La Mancha, full of Castilian honor and enthusiasm, but so completely crazed by reading the most famous books of chivalry, that he not only believes them to be true, but feels himself called upon to become the impossible knight-errant they describe, and actually goes forth into the world, like them, to defend the oppressed and avenge the injured. To complete his chivalrous equipment, which he had begun by fitting up for himself a suit of armor strange to his century, he took an esquire out of his neighborhood, a middle-aged peasant, ignorant, credulous, and good-natured, but shrewd enough occasionally to see the folly of their position. The two sally forth from their native village in search of adventures, of which the excited imagination of the knight— turning windmills into giants, solitary turrets into castles, and galley slaves into oppressed gentlemen—finds abundance wherever he goes, while the esquire translates them all into the plain prose of truth, with a simplicity strikingly contrasted with the lofty dignity and the magnificent illusions of the knight. After a series of ridiculous discomfitures, the two are at last brought home like madmen to their native village.

Ten years later, Cervantes published the second part of Don Quixote, which is even better than the first. It shows more vigor and freedom, the invention and the style of thought are richer, and the finish more exact. Both Don Quixote and Sancho are brought before us like such living realities, that at this moment the figures of the crazed, gaunt, and dignified knight, and of his round, selfish, and most amusing esquire, dwell bodied forth in the imagination of more, among all conditions of men throughout Christendom, than any other of the creations of human talent. In this work Cervantes has shown himself of kindred to all times and all lands, to the humblest as well as to the highest degrees of cultivation, and he has received in return, beyond all other writers, a tribute of sympathy and admiration from the universal spirit of humanity.

This romance, which Cervantes threw so carelessly from him, and which he regarded only as a bold effort to break up the absurd taste for the fancies of chivalry, has been established by an uninterrupted and an unquestioned success ever since, as the oldest classical specimen of romantic fiction, and as one of the most remarkable monuments of modern genius. But Cervantes is entitled to a higher glory: it should be borne in mind that this delightful romance was not the result of a youthful exuberance of feeling, and a happy external condition; with all its unquenchable and irresistible humor, its bright views, and its cheerful trust in goodness and virtue, it was written in his old age, at the conclusion of a life which had been marked at nearly every step with struggle, disappointment, and calamity; it was begun in prison, and finished when he felt the hand of death pressing cold and heavy upon his heart. If this be remembered as we read, we may feel what admiration and reverence are due, not only to the living power of Don Quixote, but to the character and genius of Cervantes; if it be forgotten or underrated, we shall fail in regard to both.

The first form of romantic fiction which succeeded the romances of chivalry was that of prose pastorals, which was introduced into Spain by Montemayor, a Portuguese, who lived, probably, between 1520 and 1561. To divert his mind from the sorrow of an unrequited attachment, he composed a romance entitled “Diana,” which, with numerous faults, possesses a high degree of merit. It was succeeded by many similar tales.

The next form of Spanish prose fiction, and the one which has enjoyed a more permanent regard, is that known as tales in the gusto picaresco, or style of the rogues. As a class, they constitute a singular exhibition of character, and are as separate and national as anything in modern literature. The first fiction of this class was the “Lazarillo de Tormes” of Mendoza, already spoken of, published in 1554,—a bold, unfinished sketch of the life of a rogue from the very lowest condition of society. Forty-five years afterwards this was followed by the “Guzman de Alfarache” of Aleman, the most ample portraiture of its class to be found in Spanish literature. It is chiefly curious and interesting because it shows us, in the costume of the times, the life of an ingenious Machiavelian rogue, who is never at a loss for an expedient, and who speaks of himself always as an honest man. The work was received with great favor, and translated into all the languages of Europe.

But the work which most plainly shows the condition of social life which produced this class of tales, is the “Life of Estevanillo Gonzalez,” first printed in 1646. It is the autobiography of a buffoon who was long in the service of Piccolomini, the great general of the Thirty Years' War. The brilliant success of these works at home and abroad subsequently produced the Gil Blas of Le Sage, an imitation more brilliant than any of the originals that it followed.

The serious and historical fictions produced in Spain were limited in number, and with few exceptions deserved little favor. Short stories or tales were more successful than any other form of prose-fiction during the latter part of the sixteenth, and the whole of the seventeenth century. They belonged to the spirit of their own times and to the state of society in which they appeared. Taken together, the number of fictions in Spanish literature is enormous; but what is more remarkable than their multitude, is the fact that they were produced when the rest of Europe, with a partial exception in favor of Italy, was not yet awakened to corresponding efforts of the imagination. The creative spirit, however, soon ceased, and a spirit of French imitation took its place.

6. HISTORICAL NARRATIVE POEMS.—Epic poetry, from its dignity and pretensions, is almost uniformly placed at the head of the different divisions of a nation's literature. But in Spain little has been achieved in this department that is worthy of memory. The old half-epic poem of the Cid—the first attempt at narration in the languages of modern Europe that deserves the name—is one of the most remarkable outbreaks of poetical and national enthusiasm on record. The few similar attempts that followed during the next three centuries, while they serve to mark the progress of Spanish culture, show little of the power manifested in the Cid.

In the reign of Charles V., the poets of the time evidently imagined that to them was assigned the task of celebrating the achievements in the Old World and in the New, which had raised their country to the first place among the powers of Europe. There were written, therefore, during this and the succeeding reigns, an extraordinary number of epic and narrative poems on subjects connected with ancient and modern Spanish glory, but they all belong to patriotism rather than to poetry; the best of these come with equal pretension into the province of history. There is but one long poem of this class which obtained much regard when it appeared, and which has been remembered ever since, the “Araucana.” The author of this work, Ercilla (1533-1595), was a page of Philip the Second, and accompanied him to England on the occasion of his marriage with Mary. News having arrived that the Araucans, a tribe of Indians in Chili, had revolted against the Spanish authority, Ercilla joined the adventurous expedition that was sent out to subdue them. In the midst of his exploits he conceived the plan of writing a narrative of the war in the form of an epic poem. After the tumult of a battle, or the fatigues of a march, he devoted the hours of the night to his literary labors, wielding the pen and sword by turns, and often obliged to write on pieces of skin or scraps of paper so small as to contain only a few lines. In this poem the descriptive powers of Ercilla are remarkable, and his characters, especially those of the American chiefs, are drawn with force and distinctness. The whole poem is pervaded by that deep sense of loyalty, always a chief ingredient in Spanish honor and heroism, and which, in Ercilla, seems never to have been chilled by the ingratitude of the master to whom he devoted his life, and to whose glory he consecrated this poem.

These narrative and heroic poems continued long in favor in Spain, and they retained to the last those ambitious feelings of national greatness which had given them birth. Devoted to the glory of their country, they were produced when the national character was on the decline; and as they sprang more directly from that character, and depended more on its spirit than did the similar poetry of any other people in modern times, so they now visibly declined with them.

7. LYRIC POETRY.—The number of authors in the various classes of Spanish lyric poetry, whose works have been preserved between the beginning of the reign of Charles V. and the end of that of the last of his race, is not less than a hundred and twenty; but the number of those who were successful is small. A little of what was written by the Argensolas, more of Herrera, and nearly the whole of the Bachiller de la Torre and Luis de Leon, with occasional efforts of Lope de Vega and Quevedo, and single odes of other writers, make up what gives its character to the graver and less popular portion of Spanish lyric poetry. Their writings form a body of poetry, not large, but one that from its living, national feeling on the one side, and its dignity on the other, may be placed without question among the most successful efforts of modern literature.

The Argensolas were two brothers who flourished in Spain at the beginning of the seventeenth century; both occupy a high place in this department of poetry. The original poems of Luis de Leon (1528-1591) fill no more than a hundred pages, but there is hardly a line of them which has not its value, and the whole taken together are to be placed at the head of Spanish lyric poetry. They are chiefly religious, and the source of their inspiration is the Hebrew Scriptures. Herrera (1534-1597) is the earliest classic ode writer in modern literature, and his poems are characterized by dignity of language, harmony of versification, and elevation of ideas. Luis de Leon and Herrera are considered the two great masters of Spanish lyric poetry.

Quevedo (1580-1645) was successful in many departments of letters. The most prominent characteristics of his verse are a broad, grotesque humor, and a satire often imitated from the ancients. His amatory and religious poems are occasionally marked by extreme beauty and tenderness. The works upon which his reputation principally rests, however, are in prose, and belong to theology and metaphysics rather than to elegant literature. They were produced during the weary years of an unjust imprisonment. His prose satires are the most celebrated of his compositions, and by these he will always be remembered throughout the world.

In the early part of the seventeenth century there arose a sect who attempted to create a new epoch in Spanish poetry, by affecting an exquisite refinement, and who ran into the most ridiculous extravagance and pedantry. The founder of this “cultivated style,” as it was called, was Luis Gongora (1561-1627), and his name, like that of Marini in Italy, has become a byword in literature. The style he introduced became at once fashionable at court, and it struck so deep root in the soil of the whole country, that it has not yet been completely eradicated. The most odious feature of this style is, that it consists entirely of metaphors, so heaped upon one another that it is as difficult to find out the meaning hidden under their grotesque mass, as if it were a series of confused riddles. The success of this style was very great, and inferior poets bowed to it throughout the country.

8. SATIRICAL AND OTHER POETRY.—Satirical poetry never enjoyed a wide success in Spain. The nation has always been too grave and dignified to endure the censure it implied. It was looked upon with, distrust, and thought contrary to the conventions of good society to indulge in its composition. Neither was elegiac poetry extensively cultivated. The Spanish temperament was little fitted to the subdued, simple, and gentle tone of the proper elegy. The echoes of pastoral poetry in Spain are heard far back among the old ballads; but the Italian forms were early introduced and naturalized. Two Portuguese writers, Montemayor and Miranda, were most successful in this department of poetry. Equally characteristic of the Spanish genius, with its pastorals, were the short epigrammatic poems which appeared through the best age of its literature. They are generally in the truest tone of popular verse. Of didactic poetry, there were many irregular varieties; but the popular character of Spanish poetry, and the severe nature of the ecclesiastical and political constitutions of Spain, were unfavorable to the development of this form of verse, and unlikely to tolerate it on any important subject. It remained, therefore, one of the feeblest and least successful departments of the national literature.

In the seventeenth century, ballads had become the delight of the whole Spanish people. The soldier solaced himself with them in his tent, the maiden danced to them on the green, the lover sang them for his serenade, the street beggar chanted them for alms; they entered into the sumptuous entertainments of the nobility, the holiday services of the church, and into the orgies of thieves and vagabonds. No poetry of modern times has been so widely spread through all classes of society, and none has so entered into the national character. They were often written by authors otherwise little known, and they were always found in the works of those poets of note who desired to stand well with the mass of their countrymen.

9. HISTORY AND OTHER PROSE WRITINGS.—The fathers of Spanish history are Zurita and Morales. Zurita (1512-1580) was the author of the “Annals of Aragon,” a work more important to Spanish history than any that had preceded it. Morales (1513-1591) was historiographer to the crown of Castile, and his unfinished history of that country is marked by much general ability. Contemporary with these writers was Mendoza, already mentioned. The honor of being the first historian of the country, however, belongs to Mariana (1536-1623), a foundling who was educated a Jesuit. His main occupation for the last thirty or forty years of his life was his great “History of Spain.” There is an air of good faith in his accounts and a vividness in his details which are singularly attractive. If not in all respects the most trustworthy of annals, it is at least the most remarkable union of picturesque chronicling with sober history that the world has ever seen. Sandoval (d. 1621) took up the history of Spain where Mariana left it; but while his is a work of authority, it is unattractive in style. “The General History of the Indies,” by Herrera, is a work of great value, and the one on which the reputation of the author as a historian chiefly rests.

One of the most pleasing of the minor Spanish histories is Argensola's account of the Moluccas. It is full of the traditions found among the natives by the Portuguese when they first landed there, and of the wild adventures that followed when they had taken possession of the island. Garcilasso de la Vega, the son of one of the unscrupulous conquerors of Peru, descended on his mother's side from the Incas, wrote the “History of Florida,” of which the adventures of De Soto constitute the most brilliant portion. His “Commentaries on Peru” is a striking and interesting work.

The last of the historians of eminence in the elder school of Spanish history was Solis, whose “Conquest of Mexico” is beautifully written, and as it was flattering to the national history, it was at once successful, and has enjoyed an unimpaired popularity down to our times.

The spirit of political tyranny in the government, and of religious tyranny in the Inquisition, now more than ever united, were more hostile to bold and faithful inquiry in the department of history than in almost any other. Still, the historians of this period were not unworthy of the national character. Their works abound in feeling rather than philosophy, and are written in a style that marks, not so much the peculiar genius of their authors, perhaps, as that of the country that gave them birth. Although they may not be entirely classical, they are entirely Spanish; and what they want in finish and grace they make up in picturesqueness and originality.

In one form of didactic composition, Spain stands in advance of other countries: that of proverbs, which Cervantes has happily called “short sentences drawn from long experience.” Spanish proverbs can be traced back to the earliest times. Although twenty-four thousand have been collected, many thousands still remain known only among the traditions of the humbler classes of society that have given birth to them all.

From the early part of the seventeenth century, Spanish prose became infected with that pedantry and affectation already spoken of as Gongorism, or “the cultivated style;” and from this time, everything in prose as well as in poetry announced that corrupted taste which both precedes and hastens the decay of a literature, and which in the latter half of the seventeenth century was in Spain but the concomitant of a general decline in the arts and the gradual degradation of the monarchy. No country in Christendom had fallen from such a height of power as that which Spain occupied in the time of Charles V. into such an abyss of degradation as she reached when Charles II., the last of the house of Austria, ceased to reign. The old religion of the country, the most prominent of all the national characteristics, was now so perverted from its true character by intolerance that it had become a means of oppression, such as Europe never before witnessed. The principle of loyalty, now equally perverted and mischievous, had sunk into servile submission, and as we approach the conclusion of the century, the Inquisition and the despotism seem to have cast their blight over everything.