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Los Angeles herald [microform]. (Los Angeles [Calif.]) 1900-1911, May 14, 1905, Image 34

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Persistent link: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85042462/1905-05-14/ed-1/seq-34/

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IN 1605 the first part of "Don Quixote"
was printed in Spain, and now they
are celebrating its tercentenary In
Madrid and honoring the memory of
Cervantes, its author. When even one
of the works of a writer has survived
the destruction of three centuries; when
that one has taken immortal grip upon
the fancy of the world and still ex
hales a genial philosophy and holds up
the standard of a gentle idealism that
will never compromise with the com
monplace, that writer may well enter
the pantheon of ultimate literary fame.
And such is the rightful claim of Miguel
de Cervantes Saavedra.
It Is not astonishing, then, that tha
greatest possible interest U Wit Just
now in the great Cervantes celebration
Which is taking place in Spain. For not
only Spain, but all the reading world,
feels ' itself concerned in these cere
monies and festivities, held as they are
in honor of one of the greatest of all
writers of tales. In New York there
are to be no celebrations this year, for
the Cervantes society is dissolved. As
Senor Martinez, once its president, ex
presses It: "There is no Cervantes club.
It is dead!"
In the past America has Been many
Cervantes celebrations— notably that
held in 1878, in the New York theater,
of the Union league, on April 23, the
anniversary of his death. Every year
sees countless forms of public recogni
tion of the great man throughout Spain.
But the present festivities and services
in Madrid are on an unusual scale, and
are arousing much enthusiasm among
Spaniards everywhere.
Senor Antonio Escomar, a well known
Spanish newpaper man, said yesterday:
"I know very little, accurately, about
the celebrations. I know that they are
to take place on May 7 and 9, and that
they are creating a great deal of excite
ment. There will be processions and
speeches and all that sort of thing, and
the preparations have been very elab
A Festival for the Knight
To us the celebration 'cannot help but
§eem more the festival of "Don
Quixote" than of Miguel de Cervantes.
Of the Spanish, writer we know very
little, but the Don, he is our friend and
has often been our comrade. It is for
him that these elaborate preparations
have been made, surely, to do him honor
as befits a good knight; htm and poor
Iloslnante, and Sancho and the rest of
the delightful beings beloved by us.
In th« world of dream figures beloved
by the readers of books— that universe
of phantoms that seem to us much
more real than many ot our solid,
living contemporaries, that vast multl- '
tude of saints and sinners, humorist*
and figures of romance that were
created by master minds for our de
light—there la no character more uni
versally known or more greatly loved
than that of Don Quixote, the Knight
of the Sorrowful Countenance,
When we are only children, they— the
grownups who have the honor of play-
Ing Bcheherezades to out* small inujet* -
Met, t«ll us wonderful stories of thu
1 tall, pale knight on his queer old horse,
of the fat esquire and his good ass
Dapple, and the strange adventures that
befell the four on their travels. We
hear, open mouthed, of the windmills
that the gentle madman took for giants,
although, as Sancho Panza said, "they
were nothing but windmills, and no
body could mistake them but one that
had the like In his head!" We hear ot
his fealty to his low born Dulcinea,
whom he liked to consider a great lady;
we laugh over his mistakes and are
grieved when his kindliness gets him
into trouble.
Then as we grow older we read the
work for ourselves. At first, perhaps,
In our serious and romantic early
youth we feel a trifle indignant at the
irony, the merciless satire of the work.
We are at an age that likes to believe
In giants and enchanted castles, figur
atively speaking, and we cling to the
conviction that knight errantry has not
utterly departed from the earth. There
fore, down in our secret hearts we think
for a space that Cervantes must have
been a sour natured person, with no
true sentiment, and with a very light,
flippant way of looking; at serious
things such as love and death and puln
and courage and generosity.
This era passes duly, and we return
to the clearer wisdom of our childhood,
loving the fine old tale for itself and
recognizing the depth and power of the
achievement page by page— a depth so
profound that one does not see it In
glancing at the surface. The irony of
the philosophy touches us more an!
more keenly with each forward going
year, and we *oon grow to see that
Cervantes wfci far from deriding
knightly qualities. He merely pointed
out, with that satire which only genius
can handle without letting It become
too bitter, the meager part which
knlghtliness receives in this workaday
If "Don Quixote" had a timely word
to utter when It was written first. Its
message Is a thousand times more
timely today. Cervantes' masterpiece
stands the test of genius; It Is of and
for all centuries, all countries and all
Conflicting Histories
The celebration In honoring Cervan
tes now taking place In Madrid has
brought this famous man to every
one's in 111 1 id. People are .re-reading
their "Don Quixote," and some of them
are making conjectures as to the life
and work of the great Spaniard who
was Its author. It Is uulle recently,
as histories go, since we have had any
truly authentic account* of his person
ality and career, and many varied have
been the conflicting stories told con
cerning him. Our most reliable basis
of information is a manuscript called
"La Vordadera Patrla de Miguel de
Cervantes," written by the great Bene
dict Inc. M;i r! In Surmlento, and brought
to light In 1748 by Don Juan de Triarte.
As nearly as one may assert such a
fact at such a distance of years, this Is
the true story of his life:
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was
born, it it) believed, on Ht. Michaelmas
day, In the year 1517. The saint's day
on which he first saw the world prob
ably gave him his name,' Ha was. born
' la Alcala de Henares, the undent
, Complutum, a small town In the prov-'
Ince of Ntew Castile, about twenty
miles from Madrid. Many Spanish
: towns have advanced claims to the dis
tinction of liclnpr his birthplace, but
; Alciilu de Henares' right to It 1b un
disputed today.
The Cervantes family was a good
one, though not burdened with over
much wealth. His father was Itodrlgo
de Cervantes, his mother Leonora (Je
i Cortlnas. lie studied under Lopez de
Hoyos anil also at the University of
' Salamanca, living, at this time, at tha
Calle de Moros. His work was ulways'
lirllliiiut and original, and he was Mia
! pride and delight of his masters. Ills
Inherent and eminently Spanish love
for things dramatics was early devel
oped through Beelng the first regular
theatrical company organized in. Spain,
a troupe of actors under the direction
gf the clever Lope de Rueda. Orvun
tes went mad about the stage, and
every one who heard his poems praised
them. •
When Isabel de Valols, wife of
Philip 11., died, they had an odd sort of
funeral service. All tha best pupils
of hopes de Iloyos competed in recit
ing original poems in Spanish and Latin
ut the oUeenul mj. However Bhang*
such funeral observances may seem to
us today, it gave Cervantes his first
opportunity to score before the public.
He carried off- the honors easily in the
competition, and thenceforward "was
always spoken of by Lopez de Iloyos
as "My dear and beloved pupil." This
was in 1568, when he was precisely
twenty-one and just at the end of his
Eager for Adventure
When he was twenty-three he was
made chamberlain to Mgr., Aquavlva,
afterward cardinal, in Home, but he
held this position but a short time. He,
like the Immortal hero of whom he
wrote in later years, was eager for
adventure and great deeds; and he vol
unteered as a common soldier In tho
expedition against the Turks, organized
by the Pope and the State of Venice,
and commanded by that greatly adored
figure in Spanish history, Don John of
1 Those were stirring times, and be
sure that Cervantes was always in the
thick of every thing.
The battle of Lepanto, as we know,
took place at sea, Cervantes was
dangerously ill at the time, and his
companions and superiors alike begged
him to remain Am bed during tie en
• gagement. He Insisted, nevertheless,
» on going Into the very thick of the
, action, faint and weak as he was. "It
' I must die," he said, "let me not die on
I my bed like a weakling, but on my .
► feet, fighting for God and the king!" \
| The words have become very historic. .
1 He was the bravest of them all that
| day, and exposed himself to enor
• mous dangers. At last, when the battle
• was almost over a shot crippled his
. left arm, and, as a matter of fact, he ■
| never fully recovered the use of it
, again.
| Not long after this Cervantes ob
» talned leave to go home to see his fam-
J ily. He started in a stout ship, with a
• good crew, and turned his face toward
' Spanish soil. Just off the coast of Mm
' orca he was set upon by a squadron of
I Algerine corsairs commanded by the
• dreaded pirate, Arnaut Mami. He, as
', the chief captive, was given Into the
• hands of Deli Marni, a Greek rene
t gade, who sold him for 1,500 crowns to
' the king of Algiers.
► The king at that time was Hassan
I Pacha. Hassan Pacha called Cervantes
| "the maimed Spaniard," but he re
, spected him, and even seemed curl
| cusly afraid of htm. He never actual
. ly ill-treated "the maimed Spaniard,"
I though he apears to have come very
• near it quite often. Cervantes was
[ twice brought into the king's presence
► to be hanged, and once he was sen
tenced to receive two thousand blows
with a stick. Yet these horrors never
came to pass. What Cervantes did
have to endure was to be present at
the torturing of his companions, and
ta watch their sufferings and th*
amusement of their captors at their
misery 1 . He had, too, the agony of un
certainty year in and year out, for
Miguel de Cervantes was a slave in
Algiers for five years.
In 1580 the ransom offered by his
family and by members of the church
In Spain was accepted by Hassan
Pacha, and Cervantes was freed. He
returned to Spain — to rest after his
sufferings? Never! He re-enlisted
without delay and went off, "maimed
Spaniard" though he was, to serve In
Portugal and the Azores. On his final
return, in ISB4, he married Dona Cata
llna de Palaclos Salazary. One might
imagine that the gods had finished
making sport of poor Cervantes, but
he was to undergo In his own land
humiliations and miseries fur greater
than any which had been his lot in
Algiers. The public which had ap
plauded him In his early youth had
forgotten him entirely and granted him
but a pittance by way of llvllhood.
He wrote and struggled and starved
end wandered about from Madrid to
Seville and back again, but he grew
poorer and poorer until he was finally
reduced to Buch rags und wretched
ness as is only known by beggars.
It was during these years, emblt
tered and broken by the ill return that
his courageous and adventurous spirit
I'.iul received from a grudging world
that he wrote his "Don Quixote," the
Htory of his own disillusionment, his
own generous madness and his own
vast failures.
He wrote many flue things during
his busy career, notably "Galatea, an
Kclogue," 1584; "Novelas Exemplarts;
Twelve Instructive or Moral Talus,"
1013; "Vlaje del Parnuno" (Journey to
Parnassus), 1614, and "Perelles and
Higluiiiunilu, a Northern Romance,"
wWcii hla wld»W published U> W*,.

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