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A biographical sketch.

The most trivial act of the daily life of some men has a unique interest, independent of idle curiosity, which dissatisfies us with the meagre food of date, place, and pedigree.  So in the “Cartas de Indias” was published, two years ago, in Spain, a facsimile letter from Cervantes when tax-gatherer to Philip II., informing him of the efforts he had made to collect the taxes in certain Andalusian villages.

It is difficult, from the slight social record that we have of
Cervantes, to draw the line where imagination begins and facts end.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, the contemporary of Shakspeare, Galileo, Camoens, Rubens, Tasso, and Lope de Vega, was born obscurely and in poverty, but with good antecedents.  His grandfather, Juan de Cervantes, was the corregidor, or mayor, of Ossuna, and our poet was the youngest son of Rodrigo and Leonora de Cortinos, of the Barajas family.  On either side he belonged to illustrious houses.  He speaks of his birthplace as the “famous Henares,” ­“Alcala de Henares,” sometimes called Alcala de San Justo, from the saint San Justo having there suffered martyrdom under the traitor Daciamos.  The town is beautifully situated on the borders of the Henares River, two thousand feet above the level of the sea.

He was born on Sunday, October 9, 1547, and was baptized in the church of Santa Maria la Mayor, receiving his name on the fête day of his patron Saint Miguel, which some biographers have confounded with that of his birthday.

We may be forgiven for a few words about Alcala de Henares, since, had it only produced so rare a man as was Cervantes, it would have had sufficient distinction; but it was a town of an eventful historical record.  It was destroyed about the year 1000, and rebuilt and possessed by the Moors, was afterwards conquered by Bernardo, Archbishop of Toledo.  Three hundred years later it was the favorite retreat of Ximenes, then Cardinal Archbishop of Toledo, who returned to it, after his splendid conquests, laden with gold and silver spoil taken from the mosques of Oran, and with a far richer treasure of precious Arabian manuscripts, intended for such a university as had long been his ambition to create, and the corner-stone of which he laid with his own hands in 1500.  There was a very solemn ceremonial at the founding of this famous university, and a hiding away of coins and inscriptions under its massive walls, and a pious invocation to Heaven for a special blessing on the archbishop’s design!  At the end of eight years the extensive and splendid buildings were finished and the whole town improved.  With the quickening of literary labor and the increase of opportunities of acquiring knowledge, the reputation of the university was of the highest.

The cardinal’s comprehensive mind included in its professorships all that he considered useful in the arts.  Emulation was encouraged, and every effort was made to draw talent from obscurity.  To this enlightened ecclesiastic is the world indebted for the undertaking of the Polyglot Bible, which, in connection with other learned works, led the university to be spoken of as one of the greatest educational establishments in the world.  From far and near were people drawn to it.  King Ferdinand paid homage to his subject’s noble testimonial of labor, by visiting the cardinal at Alcala de Henares, and acknowledging that his own reign had received both benefit and glory from it.  The people of Alcala punningly said, the church of Toledo had never had a bishop of greater edification than Ximenes; and Erasmus, in a letter to his friend Vergara, perpetrates a Greek pun on the classic name of Alcala, intimating the highest opinion of the state of science there.  The reclining statue of Ximenes, beautifully carved in alabaster, now ornaments his sepulchre in the College of St. Ildefonso.

Cervantes shared the honor of the birthplace with the Emperor Ferdinand; he of “blessed memory,” who failed to obtain permission from the Pope for priests to marry, but who, in spite of turbulent times, maintained religious peace in Germany, and lived to see the closing of the Council of Trent, marking his reign as one of the most enlightened of the age.

Alcala also claims Antonio de Solis, the well-known historian, whose “Conquest of Mexico” has been translated into many languages, as well as Teodora de Beza, a zealous Calvinistic reformer and famous divine, a sharer of Calvin’s labors in Switzerland and author of the celebrated manuscripts known as Beza’s manuscripts.

Judging from the character of the town and the refining educational influence that so grand a university must have had over its inhabitants, we have a right to believe that Cervantes was early imbued with all that was noble and good, and it is difficult to understand why, with all the advantages which the College of St. Ildefonso opened to him, he should have been sent away from it to that of Salamanca.  Even allowing that the supposition of early poverty was correct, it would have appeared an additional reason for his being educated in his native town, particularly as liberal foundations were made for indigent students.  The fact of his being sent to Salamanca would seem to disprove the supposition of pecuniary necessity.  In its early days, the university of Salamanca was justly celebrated for its progress in astronomy and familiarity with Greek and Arabian writers; but, during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, it seems to have remained very stationary, little attention being paid to aught beside medicine and dogmatic theology.

After being two years at Salamanca he changed to Madrid, where he is supposed to have made great progress, under the care of Juan Lopez de Hoyos, a professor of belles lettres, who spoke of Cervantes as “our dear and beloved pupil.”  Hoyos was himself a poet, and occasionally published collections to which Cervantes contributed his pastoral “Filena,” which was much admired at the time.  He also wrote several ballads; but ballads generally belong to their own age, and those that remain to us of his have lost much of their poignancy.  Two poems, written on the death of Isabella of Valois, wife of Philip II., specially pleased Hoyos, who at the time gave full credit to his promising pupil.  That eighth wonder of the world, the Escurial, was in progress during Cervantes’ time in Madrid; built as expiatory by the king, the husband of the same unfortunate Isabella.  He was that subtle tyrant of Spain, who had the grace to say, on the destruction of the Invincible Armada, “I sent my fleet to combat with the English, not with the elements.  God’s will be done.”

While he was yet a boy, bull-fights were introduced into Spain: ­

  “Such the ungentle sport that oft invites
   The Spanish maid, and cheers the Spanish swain,
   Nurtured in blood betimes, his heart delights
   In vengeance, gloating on another’s pain.”

The attention of the Cardinal Acquaviva was called to him through his composition of “Filena,” and, in 1568 or 1569, he joined the household of the cardinal and accompanied him to Rome.  It is sad to think that only a few meagre items are all that remain to tell us of his daily life at this important period of his life.  By some of his biographers he is mentioned as being under the protection of the cardinal; by one as seeking to better his penniless condition; by another as having the place of valet de chambre; and still again, we find him mentioned as a chamberlain in the household.  Monsignor Guilio Acquaviva, in 1568, went as ambassador to Spain to offer the king the condolences of the Pontiff on the death of Don Carlos.  The cardinal was a man of high position, young, yet of great accomplishments, and with cultivated literary tastes.  What then could have been more natural than that he should have found companionship in Cervantes, and have desired to attach him to himself as a friend or as a confidential secretary, to be always near him.  It is more than probable that his impressions of Southern France, which he immortalized in his early pastoral romance of “Galatea” were imbibed while making the journey to Rome with the cardinal, in whose service he must have remained three years, as in October 7, 1571, we find him joining the united Venetian, Papal, and Spanish expedition commanded by Don John of Austria, against the Turks and the African corsairs.

In the naval engagement at Lepanto, Cervantes was badly wounded, and finally lost his left hand and part of the arm.  For six months he was immured in the hospital at Messina.  After his recovery, he joined the expedition to the Levant, commanded by Marco Antonio Colonna, Duke of Valiano.  He joined at intervals various other expeditions, and not till after his prominence in the engagement at Tunis, did he, in 1575, start to return to Spain, the land of his heart, the theme of the poet, and the region supposed by the Moors to have dropped from heaven.  Don John of Austria and Don Carlos of Arragon, Viceroy of Sicily, each bore the warmest testimony to the bravery and heroism of our poet, and each gave him strong letters of commendation to the king of Spain.

In company with his own brother Roderigo, and other wounded soldiers who were returning home, he started in the ship El Sol, which had the misfortune, September 26, 1575, to be captured by an Algerine squadron.  Then it happened that the letters from the two kings, so highly prized and upon which he had built so many hopes, proved a great misfortune to him.  The pirates cast lots for the captives.  Cervantes fell to the share of the captain, Dali Mami by name, who, in consequence of finding these two letters, imagined he must be some Don of great importance and worth a heavy ransom.  He was watched and guarded with great strictness, loaded with heavy fetters, and subjected to cruelties of every kind, till his captor, not finding him of so much account as he had supposed, and no money being offered for his ransom, the captain finally sold him for five hundred escudos to the Dey Azan.

Inasmuch as a change might lead to something better, Cervantes rejoiced.  His gallant spirit, ever hopeful, looked for the open door in misfortune.  But, alas! his increased sufferings with the Dey reached a climax almost beyond endurance.  He made every struggle to escape; but even in the midst of all his own sufferings, he found ways of aiding his fellow-victims and inspiring them with the hopes denied to himself.  Roderigo had escaped long before, and from that time was making constant exertion to raise the needful amount to redeem Miguel from the Dey, but not till September, 1580, did he succeed in effecting his release; some biographers making it a still later date.

His father had long been dead, and his mother and sisters gathered what they could, but the combined family efforts were insufficient.  There was a society of pious and generous monks, who made special exertions to assist in the liberation of Christian captives, and they finally made up the amount demanded by Azan for Cervantes’ release.

Worn down in spirit, broken in health, crushed at heart, who may venture to speak of the effect upon him when he once more found himself at home and in the embraces of his family?  He himself says:  “What transport in life can equal that which a man feels on the restoration of his liberty?” There is probably no more thrilling or exact an account of the Algerine slavery than he has given in “Don Quixote.”  Whether his love for a military life still pursued him, whether he desired an opportunity for revenge upon his persecutors, or whether it was fatality, ­maimed and ruined as he was he once more entered the army.  We cannot analyze his motive.  He makes his bachelor Sampson say, “The historian must pen things not as they ought to have been but as they really were, without adding to or diminishing aught from the truth.”  The lives of literary men are not always devoid of stirring incidents.  M. Viardot says of him:  “Cervantes was an illustrious man before he became an illustrious author; the doer of great deeds before he produced an immortal book.”  Don Lope de Figueras then commanded a regiment of tried and veteran soldiers in the army of the Duke of Alva, in Portugal.  His brother Roderigo was serving in it when he joined it; and as Figueras had known Cervantes in former campaigns, it is most probable he was in his regiment.  Later on, we find Cervantes accompanying the Marquis de Santa Cruz on an expedition to the Azores, serving long and bravely under him.  The conquest of the Azores is described as a fiercely won but brilliant victory over all the islands; and Cervantes immortalized the genius and gallantry of the admiral in a sonnet.

The spirit of adventure ran high among the Castilians, while the whole nation was at the same time in course of mental as well as moral development.  We are obliged to acknowledge that Spain in many ways was far behind Italy, though hardly as some would have it, at the distance of half a century.  We must remember that, in 1530, there were only two hundred printing-presses in the whole of Europe, and that when the first one was set up in London, the Westminster abbot exclaimed, “Brethren, this is a tremendous engine!  We must control it, or it will conquer us.”  The first press in Spain was set up in Valencia, in 1474, and Clemencin says that more printing-presses in the infancy of the art were probably at work in Spain than there are at the present day.

A change seemed to have crept gradually over the whole national character of Spain after the brilliant and prosperous reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, commencing with the severity of the Inquisition and continuing under the tyranny of Philip II., predisposing the army to savage deeds, till even the women and children were infected and the literature of the period slightly tinged.

Cervantes is too often merged into Don Quixote as if he had no separate existence.  He accomplished more for the improvement of Spanish literature with his well-timed satire than all the laws or sermons could effect.  His remarkable mind seems to have escaped the influence of the times, unless we make an exception of his drama “Numancia,” which, while it excites the imagination, fills us with horror at its details, and fails to touch our hearts, but is full of historical truths.  Schlegel, however, reviews it with enthusiasm.  He calls his “Life in Algiers” a comedy, but undoubtedly it is a true picture of his own captivity.  We are touched and filled with gloom at its perusal, and only remember it as a tragedy.  These two dramas were lost sight of till the end of the eighteenth century, and they are superior to later dramatic efforts.  He was proud of his original conception of a tragedy composed of ideal and allegorical characters which he permitted to have part in the “Life in Algiers,” as well as in “Numancia.”  Of the thirty plays spoken of as given to the stage but few now remain; but others may yet be found.  The Spaniards say the faults of a great writer are not left in the ink-stand.  Spain, in Cervantes’ day, had passed the chivalric age, though many relics of it still remained in its legends, songs, and proverbs.  Cervantes becomes his own critic in his “Supplement to a Journey to Parnassus,” and speaking of his dramas, says:  “I should declare them worthy the favor they have received were they not my own.”  Unfortunately, his comedy of “La Confusa” is among the lost ones.  He alludes to it as a good one among the best.

We have known Cervantes as a student, a soldier, a captive, and an author, and now we have to imagine our maimed and bronzed soldier-poet, after his many fortunes of war, in the new character of a lover.  In thought we trace his noble features, his intelligent look and expressive eye, combined with his dignified bearing and thoughtful manner, and in so tracing we find it congenial to imagine him as being well dressed and enveloped in the ample Spanish cloak thrown gracefully over his breast and left shoulder, concealing the poor mutilated arm, and at the same time making it all the more difficult to believe that the right one had ever wielded a “Toledo blade” or sworn that very strongest vow of loyalty, “A fe de Rodrigo."

We find him much interested in the quaint old-fashioned town of Esquivias, making many friends therein, and sometimes gossiping with the host of the fonda, so famed for the generous wines of Esquivias that it needed no “bush;” and while enjoying his cigarito and taking an occasional morsel from the dish of quisado before him, he is learning from the same gossiping host many items of interest about the very illustrious families of Esquivias, ­for it was famed for its chivalrous prowess and its “claims of long descent.”  He had commenced his “Galatea,” and in it he was painting living portraits, and with great delicacy he was, as the shepherd Elicio, portraying his passion for Catalina, the daughter of Fernando de Salazar y Voxmediano and Catalina de Palacios, both of illustrious families.  Her father was dead, and she had been educated by her uncle, Francisco de Salazar, who left her a legacy in his will.

The fair Catalina, like other Spanish senoritas, was under the espionage of a strict duena, and his opportunities of seeing her were very limited.  Sometimes we fancy him awaiting the passing of the hour of the siesta and knocking at the grating of the heavy door of the house of the Salazars, and in reply to the porter’s question of Quién es? answering, in his melodious tones, Gente de paz (literally, “a friend"), ­a precaution which still continues in Spain.  Meanwhile, his romance of “Galatea” and of his own life are both growing.  The occasion inspires him.  He is still in Esquivias, wandering through the olive groves and by the river side, sometimes resting, and drinking in the fragrance from an orange-tree while his untold wealth of brain was seeking for its exit.  Sometimes he had Catalina for a companion, the duena lingering slightly behind.  Sometimes he saw her at the church like a fair saint, kneeling; but oftener he wandered alone with his now happy thoughts, scarce knowing that the night was closing about him, or scarce heeding the watchman who cried, “All hail, Mary, mother of Jesus! half past twelve o’clock and a cloudy morning!” and thus, to this day, are the Spaniards warned of the hour and the weather.  His “Galatea” remains unfinished.  He had not meant that all this song should be for the public ear.  The end was for his love alone!

On the 12th of December, 1584, he was married to Catalina.  Not many years ago, the marriage contract was found in the public registry of Esquivias.  It contains an inventory of the marriage-dowry promised by the bride’s mother, of “lands, furniture, utensils, and live-stock.”  Then follows the details, “several vineyards, amounting to twelve acres, beds, chairs, brooms, brushes, poultry, and sundry sacks of flour.”  It is spoken of as a very respectable dowry at a time when sacks of wheat were worth eight reals.  Then follows, in the same document, his own settlement upon his wife, which is stated to be one hundred ducats.  By the custom of the time that was one-tenth of his whole property, or to quote again, which “must have amounted to a thousand ducats, which at present would be equivalent to about four hundred and fifty pounds sterling.”  Gladly would we find some pleasant items of happy home life, though, for the next four years, he lived quietly at Esquivias, and cared for the vineyards like any landholder, till, perhaps, he tired and went on to Seville, where he took up some mercantile business, though never entirely giving up the pen; but from 1598 till 1605, there are no real traces of him, when it would appear that he had removed to Valladolid.

There is little doubt but that he suffered both in purse and feeling from want of appreciation; but the Spanish proverb says, “An author’s work who looks to money is the coat of a tailor who works late on the vespers of Easter Sunday.”  He had too noble a mind to harbor so mean a sentiment as jealousy, and was far in advance of his age.  His countrymen, with characteristic indolence, were ready to cry, mañana, mañana (to-morrow, to-morrow), and so it was left for later generations to honor his memory, for his power of invention and purity of imagination can never be rivalled.  While acting as clerk in Seville to Antonio de Guevara, the Commissary-General to the Indian and American dependencies, he must have been sadly disappointed, particularly as, during that time, he had been unjustly thrown into prison on the plea of not accounting for trust-money with satisfaction.  Mr. Ticknor gives the following interesting account:  “During his residence at Seville, Cervantes made an ineffectual application to the king for an appointment in America, setting forth by the exact documents a general account of his adventures, services, and sufferings while a soldier in the Levant, and of the miseries of his life while a slave in Algiers; but no other than a formal answer seems to have been returned to his application, and the whole affair leaves us to infer the severity of that distress which could induce him to seek relief in exile to a colony of which he has elsewhere spoken as the great resort for rogues.”  The appointment he desired was either corregidor (or mayor) of the city of Paz or the auditorship of New Grenada, the governorship of the province of Socunusco or that of the galleys of Carthagena.  His removal to Valladolid seems to have been by command of the revenue authorities, where he still collected taxes for public and private persons.  While collecting for the prior of the order of St. John, he was again ill-treated and thrown into prison.

Not till he was fifty-eight years old did he give to the world his master-piece, and thus immortalizes La Mancha, in return for his inhospitable and cruel treatment.  “Don Quixote” was licensed at Valladolid in 1604, and printed at Madrid in 1605.  Its success was so great that, during his lifetime, thirty thousand volumes were printed, which in that day was little short of marvellous.  Four editions were published the first year, two at Madrid, one at Valencia, and one at Lisbon.  Byron says:  “Cervantes laugh’d Spain’s chivalry away!” So popular was it, that a spurious second part, under the fictitious authorship of Avellanada was published.  Cervantes was furious, and called him a blockhead; but Germond de Lavigue, the distinguished Spanish scholar, rashly asserts that but for this Avellanada, he would never have finished “Don Quixote.”  Even before it was printed, jealousy evidently existed in the hearts of rival writers, for in one of Lope’s letters he refers to it, and spitefully hints that no poet could be found to write commendatory verses on it.

He recognized the fact of universal selfishness when he makes Sancho Panza refuse to learn the Don’s love-letter and say, “Write it, your worship, for it’s sheer nonsense to trust anything to my memory.”

Spain is so full of rich material for romance that from it his mature mind seemed to inaugurate a new age in Spanish literature.  After the gloomy intolerance of Philip II., the advent of Philip III. added much to the literary freedom of Spain, which still belonged to the “Age of Chivalry,” and to this day the true Spaniard nourishes the lofty and romantic qualities which, combined with a tone of sentiment and gravity and nobility of conversation, embellishes the legitimate grandee.  Sismondi de Sismondi says the style of “Don Quixote” is inimitable.  Montesquieu says:  “It is written to prove all others useless.”  To some it is an allegory, to some a tragedy, to some a parable, and to others a satire.  As a satirist we think him unrivalled, and this spirit found a choice opportunity for vent when the troops of Don Carlos I. marched upon Rome, taking Pope Clement VII. prisoner, while at the same time the king was having prayers said in the churches of Madrid for the deliverance of the Pope, on the plea that “he was obliged to make war against the temporal sovereign of Rome, but not upon the spiritual head of the Church!” No wonder the king, after proving himself so good a Catholic, should end his days in a monastery, or that he should mortify himself by lying in a coffin, wrapped in a shroud, while funeral services were performed over him.  What, again, could have appealed more to his sense of the ridiculous than the contest between the priests and the authorities over the funeral obsequies of Philip II., so intolerant a tyrant that he caused every Spaniard to breathe more freely as he ceased so to do.  He used his people as

  “Broken tools, that tyrants cast away
   By myriads, when they dare to pave their way
   With human hearts.”

We can easily believe in the greater freedom during the reign of Philip III.  “Viva el Rey.”

The Count de Lemos was his near friend and protector when he brought out the second part of “Don Quixote,” and ridiculed his rival imitator.  He was a pioneer of so elevated a character as to preclude the possibility of followers.  Every one is familiar with it as a story, and the mishaps of the gentle, noble-minded, kind-hearted old Don, as well as the delusions, simplicity, and selfishness of the devoted squire, will never lose their power to amuse.  It may be extravagant, but it is not a burlesque.  The strong character painting, the ideas, situations, and language, clothed in such simplicity that at times it becomes almost solemn, give it a grandeur that no other book, considered as a romance, possesses.  The old anecdote of the king observing a student walking by the river side and bursting into involuntary fits of laughter over a book, exclaiming, “The man is either mad or reading ‘Don Quixote,’” is well preserved.  One peculiar feature of the book is that, even now, for some places, it would be a useful guide, many of the habits and customs of Spain three hundred years ago being still the same.  What a volume of wit and wisdom is contained in the proverbs and aphorisms.  One might quote from it indefinitely had he not told us that “without discretion there is no wit.”  His own motive in writing it we find in the last paragraph of the book, namely, “My sole object has been to expose to the contempt they deserved the extravagant and silly tricks of chivalry, which this my true and genuine ‘Don Quixote’ has nearly accomplished, their worldly credit being now actually tottering, and will doubtless soon sink, never to rise again.”

Now, all languages have it.  There are eight translations into English alone; but it is always impossible for the translator to render its true spirit or to give it full justice.  With all its vivacity and drollery, its delicate satire and keen ridicule, it has a mournful tinge of melancholy running through, and here and there peeping out, only to have been gathered from such experience as his.  He wrote with neither bitterness nor a diseased imagination, always realizing what is due to himself and with a full appreciation of and desire for fame.  Many scenes of real suffering appear under a dramatic guise, and here and there creep out bits of personal history.  His nature was chivalrous in the highest degree.  His sorrows were greater than his joys.  Born for the library, he prefers the camp, and abandons literature to fight the Turks.  Does he not make the Don say, “Let none presume to tell me the pen is preferable to the sword.”  Again he says:  “Allowing that the end of war is peace, and that in this it exceeds the end of learning, let us weigh the bodily labors the scholar undergoes against those the warrior suffers, and then see which are the greatest.”  Then he enumerates:  “First, poverty; and having said he endures poverty, methinks nothing more need be urged to express his misery, for he that is poor enjoys no happiness, but labors under this poverty in all its guises, at one time in hunger, at another in cold, another in nakedness, and sometimes in all of them together.”  Later on he makes him say:  “It gives me some concern to think that powder and lead may suddenly cut short my career of glory.”

The world can only be grateful that “his career of glory” did not end in the military advancement he had the right to expect.  Had he been a general, his Rozinante might still have been wandering without a name, and Sancho Panza have died a common laborer.  Again he says:  “Would to God I could find a place to serve as a private tomb for this wearisome burden of life which I bear so much against my inclination.”  Surviving almost unheard-of grievances only to emerge from them with greater power; depicting in his works true outlines of his own adventures, sometimes by a proverb, often by a romance, he never loses one jot of his pride, giving golden advice to Sancho when a governor, and finishing with the expression, “So may’st thou escape the PITY of the world.”  In May, 1605, he was called upon as a witness in a case of a man who was mortally wounded and dragged at night into his apartment, which almost accidentally gives us his household, consisting of his wife; his natural daughter Isabel, twenty years of age, unmarried; his sister, a widow, above fifty years; her unmarried daughter, aged twenty-eight; his half-sister, a religieuse; and a maid-servant.  His “Espanola Inglesa” appeared in 1611.  His moral tales, the pioneers in Spanish literature, are a combination without special plan of serious and comic, romance and anecdote, evidently giving, under the guise of fiction, poetically colored bits of his own experience in Italy and Africa.  In his story of “La Gitanilla” (the gipsy girl) may be found the argument of Weber’s opera of “Preciosa.”  “Parnassus” was written two years before his death, after which he wrote eight comedies and a sequel to his twelve moral tales.  In his story of “Rinconete y Cortadilla” he evidently derives the names from rincón (a corner) and cortar (to cut).  His last work was “Persiles and Sigismunda,” the preface of which is a near presentiment of his closing labors.  He says:  “Farewell, gayety; farewell, humor; farewell, my pleasant friends.  I must now die, and I desire nothing more than to soon see you again happy in another world.”  His industry was wonderful.  We can but have a grateful feeling towards the Count de Lemos for adding to his physical comfort for the last few years, and feel a regret that the Count, who had lingered in Naples, could not have arrived in time to see him once more when he so ardently desired it.  In a dedication to the Count of his final romance, written only four days before his death, he very touchingly says:  “I could have wished not to have been obliged to make so close a personal application of the old verses commencing ‘With the foot already in the stirrup,’ for with very little alteration I may truly say that with my foot in the stirrup, feeling this moment the pains of dissolution, I address this letter to you.  Yesterday I received extreme unction.  To-day I have resumed my pen.  Time is short, my pains increase, my hopes diminish, yet I do wish my life might be prolonged till I could see you again in Spain.”  His wish was not to be gratified; the Count, unaware of the near danger of his friend, only returned to find himself overwhelmed with grief at his loss.

After sixty-nine years of varied fortunes and many struggles, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra breathed his last, unsoothed by the hands he had loved, for even this privilege seems to have been denied to him.  At the near end of his life he had joined the kindly third order of the Franciscan friars, and the brethren cared for him at the last.  His remarkable clearness of intellect never failed him, and on April 23, 1616, the very day that Shakspeare died at Stratford, Cervantes died at Madrid.  Unlike the great English contemporary, whose undisturbed bones have lain quietly under peril of his malediction, the bones of the great Spanish poet were irrevocably lost when the old Convent of the Trinity, in the Calle del Humilladero, was destroyed.  Ungrateful Spain! the spot had never been marked with a common tombstone.

The old house in the Calle de Francos, where he died, was so dilapidated that, in 1835, it was destroyed.  It was rebuilt, and a marble bust of Cervantes was placed over the entrance by the sculptor, Antonio Sola.

The “Madrid Epoca,” under the heading of “The Prison of Cervantes,” calls attention to the alarming state of decay of the house in Argamasilla del Alba, in the cellar of which, as an extemporized dungeon, tradition asserts that Cervantes was imprisoned, and where he penned at least a portion of his work.  It was in this cellar that, a few years since, the Madrid publishing house of Rivadeneyra erected a press and printed their edition de luxe of “Don Quijote.”  The house was, some years since, purchased by the late Infante Don Sebastian, with a view to a complete and careful restoration; but political changes and his death prevented a realization of his project.  The “Epoca” now calls public attention to the state of decay of the house, with a view to an immediate restoration.

In the Plaza de las Cortes, the city of Madrid has placed a beautiful bronze statue of Cervantes upon a square pedestal of granite.  Upon the sides are bas-reliefs representing subjects taken from “Don Quijote de la Mancha.”

The present time honors his memory; and for all time he will live in the hearts of all true lovers of genius.