Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/605

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.
584
[LITERATURE
SPAIN


ancient chronicles; his Andes de la corona de Aragdn is a book of great value, though written in a laboured style. With Juan de Mariana history ceases to be a mere compilation of facts or a work of pure erudition, and becomes a work of art. The Historia de Espaiia by the celebrated Jesuit, first written in Latin (1592) in the interest especially of foreigners, was after- wards rendered by its author into excellent Castilian; as a general survey of its history, well planned, well written and well thought out, Spain possesses nothing that can be compared with it. Various works of less extent — accounts of more or less important episodes in the history of Spain — may take their place beside Mariana's great monument: for example, the Guerra de Granada, by Diego Hurtado de Mendoza (a history of the revolt of the Moors of the Alpujarras under Philip II.), written about 1572, immediately after the events, but not published till 1627; the narrative of the expedition of the Catalans in the Morea in the 14th century, by Francisco de Moncada (d. 1635); that of the revolt of the same Catalans during the reign of Philip IV., by Francisco Manuel de Mello, a Portuguese by birth; and that of the conquest of Mexico by Antonio de Soils. Each of these writers was more or less inspired by some Latin author, one preferring Livy, another Sallust, &c. Most of these imitations are somewhat stilted, and their artificiality in the long run proves as fatiguing as the heaviness of the medieval chroniclers. On the other hand, the historians of the wars of Flanders, such as Carlos Coloma, Bernardino de Mendoza, Alonso Vazquez and Francisco Verdugo, are less refined, and for that very reason are more vivid and more capable of interesting us in the struggle of two races so foreign to each other and of such different genius. As for the accounts of the transatlantic discoveries and con- quests, they are of two kinds — either (1) memoirs of the actors or witnesses of those great dramas, as, e.g. the Historia verdadera de la conquista de la nueva Espana, by Bernal Diaz del Castillo (1492-1581), one of the companions of Cortes, and the Historia de las Indias, by Bartolome de las Casas, the apostle of the Indians; or (2) works by professional writers, such as Francisco Lopez de Gomara, official historiographers who wrote in Spain on information sent to them from the newly-discovered lands. Letter writers, a rather numerous body in Spanish literature, are nearly related to the historians; in fact, letters written to be read by others than the persons addressed, or Writers. ' n an y case revised afterwards, are only a method of writing history in a familiar style. Fernando del Pulgar appended to his Claros varones a series of letters on the affairs of his time; and in the 16th century Antonio de Guevara (d. 1544) collected, under the title of Epistolas familiares, his correspondence with his contemporaries, which throws a great light on the early part of the reign of Charles V., although it must be used with caution because of the numerous recasts it has undergone. A celebrated victim of Philip II., Antonio Perez (d. 1611), revenged himself on his master by relating in innumerable letters, addressed during his exile to his friends and protectors, all the incidents of his disgrace, and by selling to the ministers of France and England the secrets of the Spanish policy in which he had a hand; some of these letters are perfect specimens of urbane gallantry.

Philosophy is rather poorly represented in the 16th and 17th centuries in the literature of the vernacular. The greater number of the Spanish thinkers of this epoch, ' whatever the school to which they belonged — scholastic, Platonic, Aristotelian or independent — wrote in Latin. Ascetic and mystical authors alone made use of the vulgar tongue for the readier diffusion of their doctrine among the illiterate, from whose ranks many of their disciples were recruited. Luis de Granada (1504-1588), Luis Ponce de Leon (1528-1598), Teresa de Jesus (151 5-1 582), Pedro Mal6n de Chaide and St John of the Cross are the brighter lights of this class of writers. Some of their books, like the Guia de pecadores of Luis de Granada, the autobiography of St Theresa, and Malonde Chaide 's Conversion of the Magdalen (1588), have obtained a lasting


Philosophy.


Mysticism.


Moralists.


success beyond the limits of the Peninsula, and have influenced the development of mysticism in France. The Spanish mystics are not only remarkable for the depth or subtlety of their thoughts and the intensity of the divine love with which they are inspired; many of them are masters of style, and some, like St John of the Cross, have composed verses which rank with the most sublime in the language. A notable fact is that those who are regarded as illuminati profess the most practical ideas in the matter of morality. Nothing is more sensible, nothing less ecstatic, than the manual of domestic economy by Luis de Leon — La Perfecta casada. Lay moralists are numerous in the 16th and 17th centuries. Some write long and heavy treatises on the art of governing, the education of princes, the duties of subjects, &c. Pedro Fernandez de Navarrete's Conservacidn de monarquias, Diego de Saavedra Fajardo's Idea de un principe cristiano, Quevedo's La Politica de Dios y gobierno de Cristo, give a correct idea of the ability which the Spaniards have displayed in this kind of didactic literature — ability of no high order, for the Spaniard, when he means to expound a doctrine, loses himself in distinctions and easily becomes diffuse, pedantic and obscure. But there is a kind of morality in which he indubitably excels, namely, in social satire, which, under all its forms — dialogue and dream in the style of Lucian, epistle after the manner of Juvenal, or pamphlet — has produced several masterpieces and a host of ingenious, caustic and amusing compositions. Juan de Valdes (d. 1 541), the most celebrated of the Spanish Protes- tants, led the way with his Didlogo de Murcurio y Cardn, where the great political and religious questions of the first half of the 1 6th century are discussed with admirable vigour and freedom. The most eminent author in the department of social satire, as in those of literary and political satire, is Quevedo. Nothing escapes his scrutinizing spirit and pitiless irony. All the vices of contemporary society are remorselessly pilloried and cruelly dissected in his Suefios and other short works. While this great satirist, in philosophy a disciple of Seneca, imitates his master even in his diction, he is none the less one of the most vigorous and original writers of the 17th century. The only serious defect in his style is that it is too full, not of figures and epithets, but of thoughts. His phrases are of set purpose charged with a double meaning, and we are never sure on reading whether we have grasped all that the author meant to convey. Conceptism is the name that has been given to this refinement of thought, which was doomed in time to fall into ambiguity; it must not be confounded with the cultism of Gongora, the artifice of which lies solely in the choice and arrangement of words. This new school, of which Quevedo may be regarded as the founder, had its Boileau in the person of Baltasar Gracian, who published his Agudeza y arte de ingenio (1642), in which all the subtleties of conceptism are reduced to an exact code. Gracian, who had the gift of sententious moralizing rather than of satire, produced in his Criticdn animated pictures of the society of his own day, while he also displayed much ingenuity in collections of political and moral aphorisms which have won him a great reputation abroad.

Spanish thought as well as public spirit and all other forms of national activity began to decline towards the close of the 17th century. The advent of the house of Bourbon, and the increasing invasion of French influence in century. the domain of politics as well as in literature and science, frustrated the efforts of a few writers who had remained faithful to the pure Spanish tradition. In the hands of the second-rate imitators of Calder6n the stage sank lower and lower; lyric poetry, already compromised by the affected diction of G6ngora, was abandoned to rhymesters who tried to make up by extravagance of stylefor poverty of thought. The first symptoms, not of a revival, but of a certain resumption of intellectual production, appear in the department of linguistic study. In 1714 there was created, on the model of the French academies, La Real Academia Espaiiola, intended to maintain the purity of the language and to correct its abuses. This academy set itself at once to work, and in 1726 began the