Page:The Harvard Classics Vol. 51; Lectures.djvu/244

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
234
PROSE FICTION

far more grandiose than at first he had planned, for his work grew under his hand and, transcending the author's original intent, became a great modern novel which may be read and is generally read with intense interest by countless thousands who know not at all and care not at all that it is an attack upon a literary genre. "Under Cervantes's vagabond pen," says Morel-Fatio, a masterly critic of the work, "governed only by the inspiration of the moment, his 'Don Quixote,' issuing forth from a simple idea [that of ridiculing the novels of chivalry], of which no great development could have been expected, has become little by little the great social novel of the Spain of the beginning of the seventeenth century, in which all that marks this epoch, its sentiments, passions, prejudices, and institutions, has found a place. Hence the powerful interest of the book, which, independently of its value as a work of the imagination, and as an admirable treatise in practical philosophy, possesses in addition the advantage of fixing the state of civilization of a nation at a precise moment of its existence, and of showing us the depths of its conscience."