Miguel de Cervantes

(1547-1616 / Spain)

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Diego Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra ( 29 September 1547 – 23 April 1616) was a Spanish novelist, poet, and playwright. His magnum opus Don Quixote, often considered the first modern novel, is a classic of Western literature, and is regularly regarded amongst the best novels ever written. His work is often considered amongst the most important works in all of Western literature. His influence on the... more »

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  • '''Tis ill talking of halters in the house of a man that was hanged.''
    Miguel De Cervantes (1547-1616), Spanish writer. Sancho Panza, in Don Quixote, pt. 1, bk. 3 ch. 11 (1605), trans. by P. Motteux.
  • ''Tell me thy company, and I'll tell thee what thou art.''
    Miguel De Cervantes (1547-1616), Spanish author. Sancho Panza, in Don Quixote, pt. 2, bk. 3, ch. 23 (1615), trans. by P. Motteux and J. Ozell. San...
  • ''My old grannum (rest her soul) was wont to say, there were but two families in the world, have-much and have-little.''
    Miguel De Cervantes (1547-1616), Spanish author. Sancho Panza, in Don Quixote, pt. 2, ch. 20 (1615), trans. by P. Motteux.
  • ''There's no sauce in the world like hunger.''
    Miguel De Cervantes (1547-1616), Spanish author. Teresa Panza (Sancho's wife), in Don Quixote, pt. 2, ch. 5 (1615), trans. by P. Motteux. This wel...
  • ''The bow cannot always stand bent, nor can human frailty subsist without some lawful recreation.''
    Miguel De Cervantes (1547-1616), Spanish writer. the Canon, in Don Quixote, pt. 1, bk. 4, ch. 21 (1605), trans. by P. Motteux.
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  • Gold Star - 69,158 Points Fabrizio Frosini (11/19/2015 12:50:00 PM)

    Miguel de Cervantes - AKA Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

    Born: 29-Sep-1547, in Alcalá de Henares, Spain
    Military service: Spanish Army (1570-75, wounded, sold into slavery)
    Died: 22-Apr-1616, in Madrid
    Cause of death: unspecified
    Remains: Buried, Convento de los Trinitarios, Madrid, Spain

    Father: Rodrigo de Cervantes (surgeon and barber)
    Mother: Leonor de Cortinas
    Brother: Andrés (b.1543)
    Sister: Andrea (b.1544)
    Sister: Luisa (b.1546)
    Brother: Rodrigo (b.1550)
    Sister: Magdalena (b.1554)
    Brother: Juan
    Wife: Catalina de Salazar y Palacios (m.12-Dec-1584, until his death)
    Daughter: Isabel de Saavedra (b.1584, with de Rojas)
    Mistress: Ana Franca de Rojas (affair, one daughter)

    His books:
    Primera Parte de la Galatea (1585, novel)
    El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha (1605, novel)
    Novelas Exemplares (1613, short stories)
    Viage del Parnaso (1614, poetry)
    Segunda Parte del Ingenioso Cavallero Don Quixote de la Mancha (1615, novel)
    Los Trabaios de Persiles y Sigismunda, Historia Setentrional (1617, novel)

  • Gold Star - 69,158 Points Fabrizio Frosini (11/19/2015 12:44:00 PM)


    The first part of Don Quixote had been reprinted at Madrid in 1608; it had been produced at Brussels in 1607 and 1611, and at Milan in 1610; it had been translated into English in 1612 and into French in 1614. Corvantes was celebrated in and out of Spain, but his celebrity had not brought him wealth. The members of the French special embassy, sent to Madrid in February 1615, under the Commandeur de Sillery, heard with amazement that the author of the Galatea, the Novelas exemplares and Don Quixote was old, a soldier, a gentleman and poor. But his trials were almost at an end. Though failing in health, he worked assiduously at Los Trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda, which, as he had jocosely prophesied in the preface to the second part of Don Quixote, would be either the worst or the best book ever written in our tongue. It is the most carefully written of his prose works, and the least animated or attractive of them; signs of fatigue and of waning powers are unmistakably visible. Cervantes was not destined to see it in print. He was attacked by dropsy, and, on the 18th of April 1616, received the sacrament of extreme unction; next day he wrote the dedication of Persiles y Sigismunda to the count de Lemos - the most moving and gallant of farewells. He died at Madrid in the Calle del León on the 23rd of April; he was borne from his house with his face uncovered, according to the rule of the Tertiaries of St. Francis, and on the 24th of April was buried in the church attached to the convent of the Trinitarian nuns in the Calle de Cantarranas. There he rests - the story of his remains being removed in 1633 to the Calle del Humilladero has no foundation in fact - but the exact position of his grave is unknown. Early in 1617 Persiles y Sigismunda was published, and passed through eight editions within two years; but the interest in it soon died away, and it was not reprinted between 1625 and 1719. Cervantes' wife died without issue on the 31st of October 1626; his natural daughter, who survived both the child of her first marriage and her second husband, died on the 20th of September 1652. Cervantes is represented solely by his works. The Novelas exemplares alone would give him the foremost place among Spanish novelists; Don Quixote entitles him to rank with the greatest writers of all time: children turn its leaves, young people read it, grown men understand it, old folk praise it. It has outlived all changes of literary taste, and is even more popular today than it was centuries ago.

  • Gold Star - 69,158 Points Fabrizio Frosini (11/19/2015 12:44:00 PM)


    In the preface to the Novelas exemplares Cervantes had announced the speedy appearance of the sequel to Don Quixote which he had vaguely promised at the end of the first part. He was at work on the fifty-ninth chapter of his continuation when he learned that he had been anticipated by Alonso Fernandez de Avellaneda of Tordesillas, whose Segundo tomo del ingenioso hidalgo don Quixote de la Mancha was published at Tarragona in 1614. On the assumption that Fernandez de Avellaneda is a pseudonym, this spurious sequel has been ascribed to the king's confessor, Luis de Aliaga, to Cervantes' old enemy, Blanco de Paz, to his old friend, Bartolomé Leonardo de Argensola, to the three great dramatists, Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina and Ruiz de Alarcón, to Alonso Fernandez, to Juan José Martí, to Alfonso Lamberto, to Luis de Granada, and probably to others. Some of these attributions are manifestly absurd - for example, Luis de Granada died seventeen years before the first part of Don Quixote was published - and all of them are improbable conjectures; if Avellaneda be not the real name of the author, his identity is still undiscovered. His book is not devoid of literary talent and robust humor, and possibly he began it under the impression that Cervantes was no more likely to finish Don Quixote than to finish the Galatea. He should, however, have abandoned his project on reading the announcement in the preface to the Novelas exemplares; what he actually did was to disgrace himself by writing an insolent preface taunting Cervantes with his physical defects, his moral infirmities, his age, loneliness and experiences in jail. He was too intelligent to imagine that his continuation could hold its own against the authentic sequel, and malignantly avowed his intention of being first in the field and so spoiling Cervantes' market. It is quite possible that Don Quixote might have been left incomplete but for this insulting intrusion; Cervantes was a leisurely writer and was, as he states, engaged on El Engaño à los ojos, Las Semanas del Jardín and El Famoso Bernardo, none of which have been preserved. Avellaneda forced him to concentrate his attention on his masterpiece, and the authentic second part of Don Quixote appeared towards the end of 1615. No book more signally contradicts the maxim, quoted by the Bachelor Carrasco, that no second part was ever good. It is true that the last fourteen chapters are damaged by undignified denunciations of Avellaneda; but, apart from this, the second part of Don Quixote is an improvement on the first. The humor is more subtle and mature; the style is of more even excellence; and the characters of the bachelor and of the physician, Pedro Recio de Agüero, are presented with a more vivid effect than any of the secondary characters in the first part. Cervantes had clearly profited by the criticism of those who objected to the countless cudgellings inflicted on Señor Don Quixote, and to the irrelevant interpolation of extraneous stories in the text. Don Quixote moves through the second part with unruffled dignity; Sancho Panza loses something of his rustic cunning, but he gains in wit, sense and manners. The original conception is unchanged in essentials, but it is more logically developed, and there is a notable progress in construction. Cervantes had grown to love his knight and squire, and he understood his own creations better than at the outset; more completely master of his craft, he wrote his sequel with the unfaltering confidence of a renowned artist bent on sustaining his reputation.

  • Gold Star - 69,158 Points Fabrizio Frosini (11/19/2015 12:43:00 PM)


    In 1609 he joined the newly founded confraternity of the Slaves of the Most Blessed Sacrament; in 1610 Lemos was appointed viceroy of Naples, and Cervantes was keenly disappointed at not being chosen to accompany his patron. In 1611 he lost his sister Magdalena, who was buried by the charity of the Tertiaries of Saint Francis; in 1612, he joined the Academia Selvaje, and there appears to have renewed his former friendly relations with Lope de Vega; in 1613 he dedicated his Novelas exemplares to the count de Lemos, and disposed of his rights for 1600 reales and twenty-four copies of the book. The twelve tales in this volume, some of them written very much later than others, are of unequal merit, but they contain some of the writer's best work, and the two picaresque stories - Rinconete y Cortadillo and the Coloquio de los perros - are superb examples of their kind, and would alone entitle Cervantes to take rank with the greatest masters of Spanish prose. In 1614 he published the Viage del Parnaso, a burlesque poem suggested by the Viaggio in Parnaso (1582) of the Perugian poet Cesare Caporali. It contains some interesting autobiographical passages, much flattery of contemporary poetasters, and a few happy satirical touches; but, though it is Cervantes' most serious bid for fame as a poet, it has seldom been reprinted, and would probably have been forgotten but for an admirably humorous postscript in prose which is worthy of the author at his best. In the preface to his Ocho comedies y echo entremeses nuevos (1615) he good-humoredly admits that his dramatic works found no favor with managers, and, when this collection was first reprinted (1749) , the editor advanced the fantastic theory that the comedias were deliberate exercises in absurdity, intended to parody the popular dramas of the day. This view cannot be maintained, but a sharp distinction must be drawn between the eight set plays and the eight interludes; with one or two exceptions, the comedias or set plays are unsuccessful experiments in Lope de Vega's manner, while the entremeses or interludes, particularly those in prose, are models of spontaneous gaiety and ingenious wit.

  • Gold Star - 69,158 Points Fabrizio Frosini (11/19/2015 12:42:00 PM)


    Meanwhile, on the 12th of April 1605, Cervantes authorized his publisher to proceed against the Lisbon booksellers who threatened to introduce their piratical reprints into Castile. By June the citizens of Valladolid already regarded Don Quixote and Sancho Panza as proverbial types. Less gratifying experiences awaited the popular author. On the 27th of June 1605 Gaspar de Ezpeleta, a Navarrese gentleman of dissolute life, was wounded outside the lodging-house in which Cervantes and his family lived; he was taken indoors, was nursed by Cervantes' sister Magdalena, and died on the 29th of June. That same day Cervantes, his natural daughter (Isabel de Saavedra) , his sister Andrea and her daughter were lodged in jail on suspicion of being indirectly concerned in Ezpeleta's death; one of the witnesses made damaging charges against Cervantes' daughter, but no substantial evidence was produced, and the prisoners were released. Little is known of Cervantes' life between 1605 and 1608. A Relación of the festivities held to celebrate the birth of Philip IV, and a certain Carta á don Diego Astudillo Carrillo have been erroneously ascribed to him; during these three years he apparently wrote nothing beyond three sonnets, and one of these is of doubtful authenticity. The depositions of the Valladolid enquiry show that he was living in poverty five months after the appearance of Don Quixote, and the fact that he borrowed 450 reales from his publisher before November 1607 would convey the idea that his position improved slowly, if at all. But it is difficult to reconcile this view of his circumstances with the details concerning his illegitimate daughter revealed in documents discovered centuries later. Isabel de Saavedra was stated to be a spinster when arrested at Valladolid in June 1605; the settlement of her marriage with Luis de Molina in 1608 describes her as the widow of Diego Sanz, as the mother of a daughter eight months old, and as owning house-property of some value. These particulars are perplexing, and the situation is further complicated by the publication of a deed in which Cervantes declares that he himself is the real owner of this house-property, and that his daughter has merely a life-interest in it. This claim may be regarded as a legal fiction; it cannot easily be reconciled with Cervantes' statement towards the end of his life, that he was dependent on the bounty of the count de Lemos and of Bernardo de Sandoval, cardinal-archbishop of Toledo.

  • Gold Star - 69,158 Points Fabrizio Frosini (11/19/2015 12:40:00 PM)


    The mention of Bernardo de la Vega's Pastor de Iberia shows that the sixth chapter of Don Quixote cannot have been written before 1591. In the prologue Cervantes describes his masterpiece as being just what might be begotten in a jail; on the strength of this passage, it has been thought that he conceived the story, and perhaps began writing it, during one of his terms of imprisonment at Seville between 1597 and 1602. Within a few weeks of its publication at Madrid, three pirated editions of Don Quixote were issued at Lisbon; a second authorized edition, imperfectly revised, was hurried out at Madrid; and another reprint appeared at Valencia with an aprobación dated 18th July 1605. With the exception of Alemán's Guzmán de Alfarache, no Spanish book of the period was more successful. Modern criticism is prone to regard Don Quixote as a symbolic, didactic or controversial work intended to bring about radical reforms in church and state. Such interpretations did not occur to Cervantes' contemporaries, nor to Cervantes himself. There is no reason for rejecting his plain statement that his main object was to ridicule the romances of chivalry, which in their latest developments had become a tissue of tiresome absurdities. It seems clear that his first intention was merely to parody these extravagances in a short story; but as he proceeded the immense possibilities of the subject became more evident to him, and he ended by expanding his work into a brilliant panorama of Spanish society as it existed during the 16th century. Nobles, knights, poets, courtly gentlemen, priests, traders, farmers, barbers, muleteers, scullions and convicts; accomplished ladies, impassioned damsels, Moorish beauties, simple-hearted country-girls and kindly kitchen-wenches of questionable morals - all these are presented with the genial fidelity which comes of sympathetic insight. The immediate vogue of Don Quixote was due chiefly to its variety of incident, to its wealth of comedy bordering on farce, and perhaps also to its keen thrusts at eminent contemporaries; its reticent pathos, its large humanity, and its penetrating criticism of life were less speedily appreciated.

  • Gold Star - 69,158 Points Fabrizio Frosini (11/19/2015 12:39:00 PM)


    Since the publication of the Galatea in 1585 Cervantes' contributions to literature had been limited to occasional poems. In 1591 he published a ballad in Andrés de Villalta's Flor de varios y nuevos romances; in 1595 he composed a poem, already mentioned, to celebrate the canonization of St. Hyacinth; in 1596 he wrote a sonnet ridiculing Medina Sidonia's tardy entry into Cadiz after the English invaders had retired, and in the same year his sonnet lauding Santa Cruz was printed in Cristóbal. Mosquera de Figueroa's Comentario en breve compendio de disciplina militar; to 1597 is assigned a sonnet (the authenticity of which is disputed) commemorative of the poet Herrera; in 1598 he wrote two sonnets and a copy of quintillas on the death of Philip II; and in 1602 a complimentary sonnet from his pen appeared in the second edition of Lope de Vega's Dragontea. Curiously enough, it is by Lope de Vega that Don Quixote is first mentioned. Writing to an unknown correspondent (apparently a physician) on the 14th of August 1604, Lope de Vega says that no poet is as bad as Cervantes, nor so foolish as to praise Don Quixote, and he goes on to speak of his own plays as being odious to Cervantes. It is obvious that the two men had quarrelled since 1602, and that Lope de Vega smarted under the satire of himself and his works in Cervantes' forthcoming book; Don Quixote may have been circulated in manuscript, or may even have been printed before the official license was granted on the 26th of September 1604. It was published early in 1605, and was dedicated to the seventh duke de Béjar in phrases largely borrowed from the dedication in Herrera's edition (1580) of Garcilaso de la Vega, and from Francisco de Medina's preface to that work.

  • Gold Star - 69,158 Points Fabrizio Frosini (11/19/2015 12:38:00 PM)


    Shortly afterwards Cervantes found himself in difficulties with the exchequer officials. He entrusted a sum of 7400 reales to a merchant named Simón Freire de Lima with instructions to pay the amount into the treasury at Madrid; the agent became bankrupt and absconded, leaving Cervantes responsible for the deficit. By some means the money was raised, and the debt was liquidated on the 21st of January 1597. But Cervantes' position was shaken, and his unbusinesslike habits lent themselves to misinterpretation. On the 6th of September 1597 he was ordered to find sureties that he would present himself at Madrid within twenty days, and there submit to the exchequer vouchers for all official moneys collected by him in Granada and elsewhere. No such sureties being available, he was committed to Seville jail, but was released on the 1st of December on condition that he complied with the original order of the court within thirty days. He was apparently unable to find bail, was dismissed from the public service, and sank into extreme poverty. During a momentary absence from Seville in February 1599, he was again summoned to Madrid by the treasury, but does not appear to have obeyed: it is only too likely that he had not the money to pay for the journey. There is some reason to think that he was imprisoned at Seville in 1602, but nothing positive is known of his existence between 1600 and the 8th of February 1603: at the latter date he seems to have been at Valladolid, to which city Philip III had removed the court in 1601.

  • Gold Star - 69,158 Points Fabrizio Frosini (11/19/2015 12:37:00 PM)

    some interesting facts about Cervantes:


    It had become evident that Cervantes could not gain his bread by literature, and in 1587 he went to Seville to seek employment in connection with the provisioning of the invincible Armada. He was placed under the orders of Antonio de Guevara, and before the 24th of February was excommunicated for excessive zeal in collecting wheat at Écija. During the next few months he was engaged in gathering stores at Seville and the adjacent district, and after the defeat of the Armada he was retained as commissary to the galleys. Tired of the drudgery, and without any prospect of advancement, on the 21st of May 1590 Cervantes drew up a petition to the king, recording his services and applying for one of four posts then vacant in the American colonies: a place in the department of public accounts in New Granada, the governorship of Soconusco in Guatemala, the position of auditor to the galleys at Cartagena, or that of corregidor in the city of La Paz. The petition was referred to the Council of the Indies, and was annotated with the words: Let him look for something nearer home. Cervantes perforce remained at his post; the work was hard, uncongenial and ill-paid, and the salary was in constant arrears. In November 1590 he was in such straits that he borrowed money to buy himself a suit of clothes, and in August 1592 his sureties were called upon to make good a deficiency of 795 reales in his accounts. His thoughts turned to literature once more, and on the 5th of September 1592, he signed a contract with Rodrigo Osorio undertaking to write six plays at fifty ducats each, no payment to be made unless Osorio considered that each of these pieces was one of the best ever produced in Spain. Nothing came of this agreement, and it appears that, between the date of signing it and the 19th of September, Cervantes was imprisoned (for reasons unknown to us) at Castro del Río. He was speedily released, and continued to perquisition as before in Andalusia; but his literary ambitions were not dead, and in May 1595 he won the first prize - three silver spoons - at a poetical tourney held in honor of St. Hyacinth at Saragossa.

    (to be continued)

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