Don Francisco de Quevedo - Drama en Cuatro Actos by Eulogio Florentino Sanz - HTML preview
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The features of "Don Francisco de Quevedo" that led to its selection asa text for the use of students of the second or even first year are itshistorical background, its ease and purity of style, and the sustainedinterest of the plot. As regards the chief character, Quevedo, he is ina large measure the embodiment of the whole literary spirit of the firsthalf of the seventeenth century and at the same time the champion ofpolitical reform.
The play is written in Castilian of such simplicitythat it presents almost no syntactical difficulties, and at the sametime embodies a useful vocabulary. The development of the plot, thestruggle between Olivares and Quevedo, is thoroughly logical and isaided by scenes so intensely dramatic that they hold the interest of thereader at all times. Some of these scenes, so characteristic of even thebest plays of the Romantic School, today seem to verge on themelodramatic. For this reason the student should be reminded that theheroic thunder of this kind of play was most acceptable to thetheater-goers of the middle of the last century. A sense of humor, then,should temper any critical attitude on the part of those who may beinclined to take our play's shortcomings or exaggerations too seriously.
The fact that Florentino Sanz is comparatively unknown will justify thedetailed Biographical Sketch.
The text is a careful reproduction of that of the first edition, Madrid,1848, except, of course, for frequent corrections in punctuation. Onlythe important stage directions have been retained; others that in greatprofusion specify the facial expression and tone of voice of the actorshave been rejected in many places as more cumbersome than useful.
EULOGIO FLORENTINO SANZ
The name of Eulogio Florentino Sanz is little known outside of Spain,where for more than seventy years it has been closely linked with hischief dramatic achievement, "Don Francisco de Quevedo," and with histranslations from Heine. Now and then the plea that something be donetoward bringing out an edition of his works has found expression but metwith no response. To read his scattered verses it is necessary to searchthe pages of that wilderness of papers, dailies, weeklies, monthlies,and annuals, which appeared in Madrid between 1840 and 1870.
Though weare told that he wrote much, it is none the less true that he publishednext to nothing. In 1848, at the age of twenty-seven he was freelyspoken of as one of the most promising of his generation of poets anddramatists. Vanity and indolence at maturity prevented his fulfillingthe promise.
His boyhood was spent in Arévalo in the province of Ávila, where he wasborn March 11, 1821. The village priest taught him Latin, and later hemay have been a student at the University of Valladolid. Of the yearsthat passed before he came to Madrid we know little besides a fewanecdotes. According to one of these Sanz paid youthful court to thedaughter of a glazier whose ruin was threatened by lack of business. Thedaughter told young Florentino of her father's difficulties in thecourse of an evening interview, whereupon the ambitious lover quicklyorganized a band of followers and broke all the windows in Arévalo.
Early in February of 1843 he was in Madrid, where he began to write forthe newspapers. Two years later a few poems published in the SemanarioPintoresco, El Heraldo, and La Risa won him some recognition. Henow identified himself with the group of romantic poets who held theirmeetings in the famous Café del Príncipe. His sonnet "La Discordia,"published in the Semanario Pintoresco, February, 1843, furnishesindisputable evidence of his romantic tendencies. In it a waning moon,fratricide, corpses, "infernal sonrisa," and an agonized mother provideall the thrills of romantic horror; but it may be wiser to pass over insilence such outbursts as this.
As a member of a circle which gathered in the Café del Recreo (1846) helived in the very thick of romanticism. Its meetings are thus described:
At that time there existed in Madrid a club of literary fledglings.The majority of the young men who ten years later had wonconspicuous places in the world of letters gathered there withoutknowing exactly why. The nucleus at the Café del Recreo had beenformed by no one, nobody was formally presented, no one of ournumber had been a friend or schoolmate of any one of the others;the gathering was there because it was there, it existed becauseit existed. The company included besides Sanz himself the poetsMariano Cazurro, Antonio Trueba, Ventura Ruiz Aguilera, AntonioHurtado, José Albuerne, Antonio Arnao, the journalist EduardoAsquerino, the statesman Cánovas, and the dramatist Fernández yGonzález.—
José de Castro y Serrano, Prólogo (pp. ix-x) to "Obrasde Francisco Zea," Madrid, 1858.
The movements and activities of Sanz in the literary world began to bechronicled in such papers as the Fandango, published by WencelaoAyguals de Izco and Francisco Villegas.
They speak of him as "our friendand collaborator." From them we learn that he was occupied in writing semblanzas, or portraits, of the most conspicuous literary lights ofthe hour.
Though these semblanzas seem to have circulated inmanuscript, they never were printed. Eduardo de Lustoñó declaredthat Sanz was always a presumptuous person and particularly so in 1845.Lustoñó wrote a squib, stupid enough to be sure, in which he impliesthat the purpose of the semblanzas was to ridicule the pedants.Lustoñó enrolled him as private soldier in what he called his "Regimentof Men of Letters," but it was an unconscious tribute to the ability ofSanz to admit him even as a private in a regiment whose officers were:Colonel, Quintana; Majors, Hartzenbusch, Tassara; Captains, Bretón,Rivas; Lieutenants, Campoamor, Mesonero Romanos, and Frías,—all of whomhave won enduring fame.
On the night of February 1, 1848, "Don Francisco de Quevedo" waspresented in the Teatro del Príncipe. The distinguished actor and poetDon Julian Romea chose the occasion for a benefit performance. The playwas an instant success.
whichfollowed the first performance printed a flattering review: The drama "Don Francisco de Quevedo," presented at the Príncipe forthe benefit of Don Julian Romea, has won for its author, DonEulogio Florentino Sanz, a place of distinction among ourdramatists. Success in portraying the personage from whom the piecetakes its name, resourceful stagecraft, daring situations, and aversification now serious, now gay, frolicsome or sorrowful, butalways agreeable, facile, and correct, these are the distinguishingfeatures of the play with which Señor Sanz has made himself knownto the theater-going public. Don Julian Romea gave an ableinterpretation of the part of Don Francisco de Quevedo, Señora Díazwas excellent as the Infanta Margarita.
The rest of the castcontributed ably to the success of the drama.
This notice conveys some idea of the striking enthusiasm with which thepiece was received.
In keeping with his literary predilections Sanz had already identifiedhimself politically with the progressive liberal party.
In the years immediately preceding the overthrow of the Conservatives(1845) Sanz gave his services to the progressive liberal cause. In 1849he was editor of La Patria, whose first number appeared on January 2.It announced a policy of political moderation, but its real purpose wasthe most strenuous opposition to the government of the reactionaryconservatives.
Sanz was generally believed to be editor-in-chief.Suddenly on the
explanationwhatsoever to the subscribers. A little later he appeared on the staffof La Víbora, periódico venenoso redactado por los peores literatos deEspaña, bajo la dirección de nadie ("The Viper, a venomous paper,edited by the worst scribblers in Spain, under the management ofnobody"). The censorship was as crushing as in the days of Larra. Later,in September, La Patria announced another periodical, La Sátira,adding that it was to be under the direction of the editors of theshort-lived Víbora. This second attempt also met with disaster. Againin June of 1851 Sanz resigned from another paper, El Mundo Nuevo.
In 1854 the tide turned. The revolution of July found him writing hissecond play, "Los Achaques de la Vejez. " The conclusion of the lastact had to be postponed while Sanz was taking part in the popular risingwhich he had so earnestly sought. While he was waiting for his share ofthe rewards of victory the play was produced at the Príncipe on theevening of October 13. On the fourteenth there appeared in La Iberia the following notice, written probably by his devoted friend Pedro CalvoAsensio:
Los Achaques de la Vejez. This notable comedy by the gifted andwell-known author Don Eulogio Florentino Sanz was played last night with brilliant success. At the end of the second act theauthor was called upon the stage, and at the end of the play theenthusiasm of the audience grew to such extraordinary proportionsthat Sr. Sanz was again called upon to appear.
However, we weredenied the satisfaction of seeing him, as he had left the theater.The actors also were called before the curtain amidst tumultuousapplause as a just reward for their signal success in thepresentation of the play. The audience was as we had expected,large and select. Our conviction that the management may lookforward to well-filled houses gives us great satisfaction.
The writing of this play was in a measure Sanz's answer to the challengeof his enemies and detractors to repeat the success of
"Don Francisco deQuevedo." By this second triumph his fame and reputation were firmlyestablished. This time the theme is a domestic one developed with evengreater skill than that displayed in the earlier play. As might beexpected, Act I, scene iv, contains a pessimistic and cynical allusionto the tangled politics that preceded the revolution.
By a royal order of November 11 Sanz was appointed secretary of thefirst class to the Spanish legation in Berlin. This appointment heprobably owed to the good offices of his friend Nicomedes Pastor Díaz.Sanz took possession of his new post on the ninth of January, 1855,after having made the journey from Madrid in the company of GregorioCruzada Villamil. In June he was granted four months' leave of absenceon account of ill health due to the severity of the climate. In Augusthe was made Commander of the Order of Charles III in recognition of hisdistinguished service. His final resignation from the post was receivedin November of 1856. He left Berlin for Madrid on February 1, 1857.
His only poem surely written in Berlin is the "Epístola a Pedro. " Itis a tender tribute to the memory of the poet Enrique Gil, who had diedin Berlin ten years before. Its verses are among the most delicatelybeautiful that Sanz ever wrote. The poem opens with an expression of thelonging which Sanz feels for his beloved Spain, and above all forMadrid:
Pues recuerda la patria, a los reflejos
de su distante sol, el desterrado
como recuerdan su niñez los viejos.
He stands before the grave of Enrique Gil and mourns for the poet whodied unwept in a foreign land. In deep sincerity of feeling no otherpoem of Sanz approaches the "Epístola."
Fortunately it has been given tothe public both in Menéndez y Pelayo's "Cien Mejores Poesías" and in"The Oxford Book of Spanish Verse."
These two years of residence in Berlin had a profound effect upon thetemper of Sanz's later verse. It was only natural that his removal fromthe turmoil of life in Madrid, with its petty jealousies and quarrels,literary and political, should exercise a broadening and soberinginfluence upon his muse. After this date the flow of idle humorous verseceased. Inspired chiefly by the exquisite delicacy of Heine's lyrics, heset himself to imitation and translation of his German model. It is nottoo much to say that all his published verse after this was deeplytinged with this side of Heine.
In the spring of 1857 he was in Madrid again, enjoying his prestige as apoet, diplomat, and political writer. His presence at a gathering ofliterary men in May to do honor to the memory of the great Quintana wasan event. A week earlier his translation of fifteen of Heine's lyricshad appeared in the Museo Universal under the caption "Poesía Alemana,Canciones de Enrique Heine." What a grateful contrast they furnish tothe undisciplined bursts of romantic thunder that he was writing only afew years before! Sanz had been completely won over to the intenserefinement of emotion and diction of Heine. From this time on, theexpression of gentle melancholy and spiritual sensitiveness dominatesthe few poems that he published.
The brief taste of diplomatic life which he had had seems to have put anend to any really creative activity. A tribute to the memory of theyoung poet Francisco Zea, written in May, 1858,
contains what isreally his farewell to a life of letters. Therein, after discussing thepessimistic statement of Larra that in Spain
"No se lee porque no seescribe, y no se escribe porque no se lee," he declares that people inSpain are writing, but that no one is reading. It is not the fault ofthose who write, he continues, and waste the treasures of their youth ina fruitless struggle. In Spain one must write for pure love of letters,and unfortunately this is the most platonic of loves. There are fewreaders of literature in general, and of lyric poetry almost none. Heresents the intrusion of the latter into the drama, where it is heardwith pleasure by people, comfortably seated in stalls, who in themorning could not endure Fray Luis de León or Francisco de la Torre. Hissmall stock of patience exhausted, Sanz turned to diplomatic life.
On the eleventh of August of 1859 he was appointed Minister to theEmpire of Brazil, and on the same day he was named representative in theCortes. A month later he wrote to the Secretary of State to say that hemust resign the post "for reasons which I have had the honor to submitverbally to your Excellency's consideration." At this time he seems tohave gone into complete retirement, resisting the entreaties oftheater-managers and actors to write again for the stage. In the nextfourteen years he published only a half-dozen or more poems, althoughhis name appeared in the list of colaboradores of several papers,among them the Gaceta Literaria, España Literaria, and La América.Apparently his disillusionment was complete. In the Versos a Amalia( La América, Sept. 8, 1858) are these significant lines:
Sonreí de ambición ante la vana
Sombra de mi deseo;
Y al despuntar el sol de mi mañana,
Vi mi horizonte azul (¡que ya no veo!)...
Yo fué persiguiendo la límpida estrella
Que allá en lontananza
Resplandece entre todas; aquella
Que deslumbra con locos reflejos,
Que siempre se sigue, que nunca se alcanza.
¡Pérfida estrella de la esperanza
Que alumbra sólo, sólo de lejos!
Yo en la mar busqué la gloria
Y de allí torno sin ella.
In September of 1872 Sanz was drawn from his retreat by an appointmentto Tangier as Minister Plenipotentiary at a salary of 15,000 pesetasannually. He began his duties in December and continued at his post forexactly a year. Again he pleaded ill health and was granted two months'leave of absence. That he did not return immediately to Madrid is clearfrom his request of February 12 to be allowed to bring into Cadiz, dutyfree, a hundred bottles of wine. Early in January, 1873, his appointmentto Tangier was confirmed by Amadeo. On the establishment of therepublic in February Sanz tendered his resignation, but Castelar himselfrefused to accept it. In June he finally left his post at Tangier afterhaving been appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States ofMexico. As usual he excused himself on the ground of ill health, and hisresignation was accepted in the following September. Sanz certainlycould not complain that his merits were unrecognized.
In the decreeappointing him to the post at Tangier his honors are mentioned as GranCruz de la Real y Distinguida Orden de Carlos III, Orden Civil de MariaVictoria, Caballero de la Ínclita de San Juan de Jerusalem, ex Diputadoa Cortes.
His movements from this time forward are extremely difficult to follow.In 1878 his name appears in the official list of members of the Asociación de Escritores y Artistas, and his domicile is given as 45Calle de Atocha. The men that knew him in the closing years of his lifeagree that he dragged out a miserable existence in the utmost poverty,dependent upon the generosity of his friends. They speak highly of hismoral integrity, deploring at the same time the weakness of characterwhich prevented his realizing the promise of his early years. He diedApril 29, 1881, and was buried in the cemetery of San Lorenzo.
When Philip IV became king of Spain in 1621 he inherited a kingdom whoseresources had been recklessly wasted. His father, Philip III, had beenruled by the most inept of ministers, the Duke of Lerma. Great sums ofmoney, wrung from the productive lower classes, had been spent to carryon a fruitless war in the Netherlands, to provide amusement for an idle,frivolous court, and to fill the pockets of the minister's creatures.Government was in the hands of a bureaucracy of parasites. Thecollective conscience of the governing class had withered and died. Theoffice-holders in this bureaucracy had come to regard the acquisition ofriches at the expense of the state as one of their official privileges.
If Spain were to maintain her preëminent position as the greatest powerin Europe the most radical economic reform was necessary. Stimulus mustbe given to the productive activity of the country by relief fromoppressive taxation, and expenditure must be wisely restrained andadministered.
The situation demanded a man of exceptional keenness of vision, greatenergy, and absolute integrity. There were not lacking men who foresawthe disaster that threatened, men who still kept some of that energy andfearlessness that had made America a Spanish dependency, but suchindividuals were silenced as menaces rather than encouraged as helpers.In Philip himself the mental vigor and physical stamina of the SpanishHapsburgs
consanguineous marriages ofhis immediate ancestors had weakened the stock. There can be no doubtthat he loved his people in his own pitiful, ineffectual way, but hewas hopelessly weak; lacking in the ability and even the will to rule,he delegated government to Don Gaspar de Guzmán, Count of Olivares andsoon to be the first Duke of San Lúcar.
Here, on the other hand, was a man of undoubted energy and courage. Yethis weakness was his utter lack of vision and his inability to profit bythe mistakes of his predecessors. He had many a lesson to learn in thefailure of the reigns of Philip II and Philip III; he should have seenthat the reason for the disasters of the former was the continuance of ahopeless war in the Netherlands for the sake of an ideal of religiousunity which the progress of the sixteenth century had made impossible;above all he should have realized the economic folly of a system oftaxation and industrial repression that was choking the nation.
Olivares himself was to blame for the initial appearance in themachinery of the State of only a few vital weaknesses, for at thebeginning of his administration many fatal tendencies were already atwork. But because he failed to check those tendencies he must ever bethe scapegoat. To be sure he signalized his arrival by a few months ofrigid economy, but he did not cut deep enough. He soon realized thefutility of saving where there was nothing to save. Then, either becausehe failed to see the source of the evil or because he lacked theconstructive ability to attack it, he went to the extreme of lavishexpenditure. As the situation grew more and more hopeless he temporized,striving to hide the internal decay beneath a gilded exterior ofostentatious wealth. As he plunged deeper his critics grew bolder, andto silence them his rule became more barbarously arbitrary.
Moreover, he found himself face to face with the great Richelieu at thehead of a rich and well-administered France.
Under him France was tobecome organized and to extend her dominions to her natural physicalboundaries—at the expense of Spain. Olivares ruled Spain from 1621until 1643, Richelieu ruled France from 1622 until 1642; it was alife-long duel between the two ministers. Richelieu laid the foundationfor the greatness of Louis XIV, while Olivares made inevitable theabject impotence of Spain under Charles II.
The culminating disasters began to arrive in 1640 with the rebellion ofCatalonia. The determination of the Catalans in 1626
to grant Philip nomore arbitrary taxes marks the beginning of the revolt that ended withthe entire loss of Catalonia. Olivares could never forget its oppositionto his will. While the Catalans in 1639 were bravely resisting theentrance of French troops into Roussillon, Santa Coloma, the viceroy ofOlivares, made even more severe his policy of sternness and repression.The Catalans were to be driven against the French and to be made tounderstand by the application of brute force that the welfare of theirparticular province was of small importance beside the prosperity of thekingdom in general. The Spanish soldiers quartered upon them behavedwith such lawlessness that in May of 1640 the population of Barcelonabroke into open rebellion.
Santa Coloma was cut down in his attempt toescape the consequences of his lack of diplomacy and tact. FromBarcelona the revolt soon spread through the entire province. It hasbeen said that the gentle measures of repression inaugurated by the newviceroy, the Duke of Cardona, particularly displeased Olivares, who sawat last what he believed to be his opportunity utterly to crush Catalanliberty. The answer of the Catalans was to throw themselves into thehands of the French and Richelieu, by seeking foreign aid againstCastile.
In September 1640 an army under the Marqués de los Vélez was sent northto straighten out the tangled affairs of Catalonia.
At first he wassuccessful, but in January 1641 he was beaten back from Barcelona itselfafter a bloody defeat at the hands of the local soldiery.
To make sure of French aid the rebels offered their allegiance to LouisXIII of France, and the revolt was kept alive with French money andsoldiers, while Philip's armies were invariably defeated.
To complete our picture of the political situation we must turn for amoment to Portugal. There reluctant allegiance to the Spanish crown hadalready been severely strained during the previous reign by thehigh-handed procedure of Lerma, the favorite of Philip III. Portugueseadministrative offices had been filled in Madrid, and the country wasinconsiderately taxed to maintain Castilian sovereignty. Under Philip IVthe regent of the kingdom
andgranddaughter of Philip II. While she was ostensibly in control ofthe difficult Portuguese situation, the real ruler was Don MiguelVasconcellos, a Portuguese of scant ability and bloodthirsty instincts;he was kept in command by Olivares dictating from Madrid. Theannouncement of Vasconcellos to the nation that it was the intention ofOlivares to remove the last vestige of constitutional rule in Portugalby the suppression of the Portuguese Cortes drove the patriots to rallyabout the Duke of Braganza. A well-planned conspiracy was set on foot toplace Braganza on the throne of Portugal and thus to rid the countryforever of the hated Castilian sovereignty.
After the failure of all his attempts to bring Braganza to Madrid,Olivares tried desperately to win his favor by apparently putting thefate of Portugal entirely in his hands. It was a fatal course. Olivaressent him large sums of money to raise troops to keep the Portuguesesituation in control and help in the repression of the Catalans; then heput Braganza at the head of them.
In November of 1640 Braganza proclaimed himself king. The regentMargaret was imprisoned. Vasconcellos was killed by the mob.
The news was received in Madrid with the deepest dismay.
Pellicerwrote: "These announcements should be written with blood, and deserve tobe wept over rather than written, for they contain nothing less than therebellion of Portugal and the coronation of Don Juan, whom they callJuan IV, the Duke of Braganza." It is commonly stated that Olivaresannounced the news of the rebellion to Philip by congratulating him uponthe opportunity thus offered to seize the property of Braganza.
To add to the troubles in Portugal and Catalonia just described, a plotby the Duke of Medina Sidonia to make himself independent sovereign ofAndalusia was discovered only just in time to prevent a serious rising.
The advisability of Philip's putting himself in person at the head ofthe troops in the north had long been the subject of earnest and bitterdiscussion between Olivares and his enemies.
The latter had urged uponPhilip the necessity of seeing with his own eyes the pass to whichmatters had been brought by the ineptitude and recklessness of hisminister. This could best be accomplished by a visit of inspection tothe revolted provinces.
Moreover, with Philip and Olivares away from thecapital the queen and those of the nobility who were working for thedownfall of Olivares could proceed with a freer hand.
When once the royal party had left, Doña Isabel set about her task withtrue nobility and great energy. She was almost heroic in her efforts toencourage and inspire with loyalty to the crown the troops garrisoned inMadrid. She even sold her jewels to raise money for the campaign inAragon.
Philip, meanwhile, was traveling slowly northward with great pomp andceremony. Olivares was straining every nerve to prevent the king'srealizing the desperateness of the situation.
The monarch was denied toall visitors, and his attention was distracted by elaborate huntingexpeditions. As he progressed toward Aragon, the French, movingsouthward, occupied Monzón.
December of 1642 found Philip again in Madrid. Portugal was hopelesslylost, Roussillon was in the hands of the French, while Catalonia andAragon were in open revolt. Briefly sketched, this was the politicalsituation at the opening of our play.
While Spain was at this time economically bankrupt, the reigns of PhilipIII and Philip IV comprise nevertheless the most brilliant decades ofthe Golden Century. These are the years that are marked by the greatestliterary activity of Lope de Vega, Cervantes, and Quevedo. Lope had madethe theater national and had prepared the way for the romantic genius ofCalderón, while a throng of lesser lights, such as Tirso de Molina andJuan Ruiz de Alarcón, were delighting the capital with plays in greatprofusion. For all this a great stimulus had come from thetheater-loving Philip III, who lavished money without stint upon thegorgeous production of comedies, pageants, and masques.
Cervantes had shown the way to the novelists. In prose fiction truecharacterization had developed to keep pace with extensive and elaboratenarrative elements. At the same time the outburst of lyric poetry was noless striking. The ability to write verse had become truly a necessaryqualification for social success and even for political advancement.Great magnates surrounded themselves with a retinue of poets and men ofletters who depended upon them for their support.
Don Francisco de Quevedo y Villegas, the central figure of our play, wasone of the greatest personalities in this brilliant court.
He was bornin 1580. At barely twenty he left the University of Alcalá and plungedimmediately into the life of the magnificently corrupt court of PhilipIII at Valladolid. When the capital was moved to Madrid in 1606 he hadalready won fame as a poet. The manuscripts of his satirical writingsin prose and verse were eagerly sought and widely read. His thrusts wereaimed at the ridiculous aspects of court life. His own indulgence in acareer of thorough dissipation filled him with contempt for his wretchedcompanions. Intimate association with men in high positions reached byeither noble birth or corrupt influence made him familiar with the vicesof Philip's government
Spanishbureaucratic administration. In his "Sueños" (Visions) he satirizedunsparingly men from all the walks of life. His attacks were at timesmocking jeers at human weaknesses and at others outbursts of desperatefury against current injustice and stupidity.
After a short period of retirement from the capital he became the firmfriend of Don Pedro Téllez Girón, Duke of Osuna, who had been namedviceroy of Sicily in 1610. The uncommonly strong bond of friendshipbetween these two men was founded upon mutual admiration of commonqualities of fearlessness and red-blooded dash and spirit. In 1616Quevedo followed Osuna to Naples, where he was of great service to himas adviser and confidential emissary. These years of semi-officialactivity brought Quevedo into the very midst of the tangle of politicsinvolving France, Italy, and Spain, and above all into the bog ofbureaucratic corruption. Osuna's business in Madrid with the primeminister, Lerma, was managed by Quevedo. Now Lerma and his creatureswere amenable to reason only when accompanied by bribes. Access to himwas denied to all who brought no gifts. Quevedo's disgust at thesemethods was boundless, but there was no avoiding them. Inrecognition of his distinguished services Quevedo was made a knight ofthe order of St. James in 1618.
In 1620 Osuna came to Madrid to answer the charge of having conspired tomake himself independent viceroy of Naples. On his arrival he was throwninto prison, while Quevedo was held in custody at a distance fromMadrid. Osuna died in 1624 before his guilt or innocence could beclearly proved. Quevedo afterward fought to clear his protector's name.At least he has secured his fame to posterity by the famous sonnet,
Faltar pudo su patria al grande Osuna,
Pero no a su defensa sus hazañas;
Diéronle muerte y carcel las Españas,
De quien el hizo esclava la Fortuna.
Lloraron sus invidias una a una
Con las propias naciones las extrañas;
Su tumba son de Flandes las campañas,
Y su epitafio la sangrienta luna.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
While Quevedo was enduring his enforced retirement Philip III died(March, 1621) and was succeeded by his son Philip IV.
Uceda, theformer's minister, was sent to follow his father Lerma into retirementand disgrace. Olivares, who had already won the confidence of youngPhilip, was installed as prime minister.
Superficial reforms by which Olivares signalized his arrival momentarilyled Quevedo to hope for better things. He wrote to celebrate the wisdomof the new minister and to assure him of his loyalty. He was soon atliberty to enjoy the fame and wholesome respect that his politicalprominence and keen satire had won him. His enemies were numerous, butthey dared not attack him. Olivares himself courted Quevedo, but thelatter, grown discreet for the moment, lent his ear and not his heart:he could not give himself to a minister who was already beginning toshow his unwillingness to go to the root of the evils that were ruiningthe country.
During these years of comparative political inactivity Quevedo hadgreater opportunity to study the vicious standards of living that stainthis period of Spanish history. His writings are full of the scathingirony of his youth on the one hand, or of passionate religious fervor onthe other. At other moments he indulges his tendency to seek refuge andcomfort in the gentle stoicism of Seneca.
His reckless slurs on women did not prevent his taking a wife in 1633.Perhaps Doña Esperanza de Aragón possessed the qualities that Quevedohad flippantly demanded:
Noble, virtuous, and of good understanding, neither ugly norbeautiful; of these two extremes I prefer her beautiful, because itis better to have something to guard than some one to flee from.Neither rich nor poor, that she may not be buying me, nor I her. Idesire her cheerful, for in our daily life we shall not lack forgloom. I wish her neither a young girl nor an old woman, cradle norcoffin, because I have forgotten my lullabies and not yet learnedthe prayers for the dying. I should thank God infinitely if shewere deaf and a stammerer. But after all I shall esteem a womansuch as I desire y sabré sufrir la que fuere como yo la merezco.
Their married life was cut short by the death of Doña Esperanza in themiddle of the following year.
There can be no doubt of Quevedo's thinly-veiled distrust of theadministration of Olivares during these years, nor that he foresaw theimpending catastrophe. The campaign which he was now carrying on againstthe favorite drew upon him not only the fear but the hatred of Olivares.Philip himself was blind to the state of the peninsula, thanks toOlivares' successful efforts to keep him amused.
Finally one day early in December of 1639 Philip found in his napkin apetition in verse. It contained an eloquent description of the wretchedcondition of the country and a bitter arraignment of Olivares. Everycircumstance pointed to Quevedo as the author.
On the seventh ofDecember he was arrested and his papers were confiscated. Hisdisappearance was so sudden and complete that it was generally believedthat he had been summarily done to death, but in reality he had beenrushed to a dungeon in the monastery of San Marcos just outside thewalls of the city of León. Here he received treatment probably intendedto cause his death, for he wrote to his friend Adán de la Parra:
Although at first I had a tower of this holy dwelling for myprison... within a short time I was brought to another a great dealmore comfortless. There I remain. It is nothing more than anunderground room, as damp as a spring, so dark that it is almostalways night in it, and so cold that it never ceases to seemJanuary. Clear enough! they that take pleasure in seeing me sufferdo not wish to cut once for all that which they must finally cut,but they wish rather that the frequency of their blows may make mymartyrdom more painful by its longer continuance; for thus theirsatisfaction gains in length.
The tomb where I am buried alive is barely twenty-four feet longand nineteen wide. The vault and walls are in many places crumblingwith dampness, and everything is so miserable that it appearsrather the refuge of outlaw robbers than the prison of an honestman.
To enter it one must pass through two doors equally strong.
One isat the level of the monastery floor and the other at the level ofmy cell, after twenty-eight steps that have the look of aprecipice. Both are always closed except at moments when, more bycourtesy than through confidence, they leave one open but the otherdoubly guarded.
In the middle of the room there stands a table where I am writing.It is large enough to permit of thirty or more books, with which myholy brothers keep me provided. At the right (to the south) I havemy neither very comfortable nor extremely wretched bed.
The furniture of this miserable habitation consists of four chairs,a brasier, and a lamp. There is always noise enough, for the soundof my fetters drowns other greater ones, if not by its volume, byits pitifulness.... Not long ago I had two pairs, but one of themonks obtained permission to leave me with only one pair. Thosethat I am wearing now weigh about eight or nine pounds; the onesthey took off were much heavier.... Such is the life to which Ihave been reduced by him who because I would not be his favorite isto-day my enemy.
He endured his confinement with fortitude, sustained by the convictionthat he had given his best for the cause of justice.
The series of disasters that ultimately caused the fall of Olivares onJanuary 23, 1643, has been discussed in another part of thisintroduction. Quevedo's release followed in June, but the iron hadalready entered his soul. A little more than two weeks before his deathhe wrote to his friend Francisco de Oviedo in a tone of profounddiscouragement:
They write bad news from everywhere, desperate news; and the worstof it is that every one expected it. All this, Don Francisco, Iknow not if it be drawing to its close or if it be already ended.God knows, for there are many things which, though they seem toexist and to have being, are no longer more than a word and a form.
He died at the age of sixty-five on September 8, 1645, at Villanueva delos Infantes.
Even the bare enumeration of the more important events of Quevedo's lifesuggests his eager activity. This characteristic is the most strikingfeature of his style. An idea is no sooner suggested than it is leftundeveloped to make way for another, set down often in a sentence whichin its turn is without a satisfactory conclusion; or the expression ofit is so condensed that we marvel at its retaining any lucidity. Many ofhis earlier writings are little more than a series of sketches thatappear to have been written with feverish impatience but at the sametime with great penetration. In his satirical verses there is a world ofdouble meanings and allusions that leaves the reader's mind dizzy. Thevariety of his works is great. His facile creative brain passed from aribald ballad or letrilla to a life of St. Francis de Sales or atreatise on Divine Providence. But through them all one can discern themotif of patriotism in the form of virulent satire against the vicesthat were gnawing at the life of the nation, or of a fervent plea forbetter standards in public and private life. When he felt the impotenceof his rage or the fruitlessness of his pleas he turned earnestly andlongingly to his cherished Seneca. But even in this frame of mind wecannot help feeling that there is something intensely passionate in hisvery patience. He gave his best years to the battle against nationaldecay. Perhaps it is not too much to say that he died of disappointmentand disgust.
Quevedo's life, then, is by no means devoid of aspects that would appealstrongly to a romantic poet like Florentino Sanz.
The most strikingfeature, of course, is his struggle with Olivares, followed by apparentdefeat and imprisonment at San Marcos de León, which in reality meant amoral victory in the face of persecution. This in itself was an idealsituation to call forth the heroics of a romantic poet. Furthermore,Quevedo could properly complain that he had been misunderstood. He wasgiving himself to a great cause while many of his contemporariesrecognized only the superficial wit or the obscenity of his satire. Hisproud scorn of stupidity and all mediocrity was easily susceptible of aromantic twist into a lofty contempt for the miserable human creaturesthat drag out their darkened groveling lives. To make the play anunqualified success it was necessary that Quevedo succumb to the gentlepassion, although in reality Quevedo's stern heart had little room forit. There can be no denying his cynical disbelief in feminine virtue.Associations of his own choice gave him little opportunity for illusionson that score. To be sure, he married at fifty-two, but circumstanceslead us to doubt his happiness.
Quevedo in love is thorny ground forany author. It is difficult to understand how Sanz succeeded in makingthis innovation as plausible as it is. It is his surrender to virtues sosterling as those of Margarita de Saboya that saves him from beingridiculous.
Perhaps one may be pardoned for a furtive smile at theimplication that Quevedo must depart to mope in his tower, whileMargarita, herself a widow, pines in the convent.
The name Quevedo has come to connote vaguely a personage of achievementsas fabulous as those of Robin Hood. His undoubted skill as a swordsmanhas made him the hero of a thousand nocturnal escapades. His proverbialwit has forced upon him the responsibility for doubtful puns andinnumerable bits of repartee. Unfortunately this is true to such adegree that to the uninitiated Quevedo is little more than a buffoon ora swaggering swordsman. It is easy to see that in his play Sanz intendedto combat this mistaken conception. When it was first presented in 1848there existed no authoritative and accessible edition of Quevedo'sworks where he could be adequately studied and a fair estimate ofhim made. Such works of his as were spread broad-cast were usually themore objectionable excerpts from his less creditable works. Theyappeared in wretched volumes bearing a close resemblance to some thatare published even now under such titles as "Quevedo, His WittiestProse, His Funniest Verses." Sanz felt the injustice deeply and setabout its correction.
Those who knew Sanz personally have been left with the clearimpression that through the medium of Quevedo, Sanz poured forth hisinvective against those that refused to recognize his own ability.
There can be no doubt that the ultimate source, or rather theinspiration, of the play was the appeal to Sanz of the personality ofQuevedo. There are other more tangible sources that may be brieflyindicated. An important element in the plot is Queen Isabel's struggleto obtain from Olivares a certain letter which had been written in bloodby the Conde de Villamediana and which would prove her fidelity to herhusband, Philip. The existence of such a valuable document is pureinvention.
Villamediana's contemporaries are unanimous in saying thatafter being stabbed he died almost instantly and that his only wordswere "Esto es hecho." The romantic circumstances of Villamediana'sattachment to the queen had been rehearsed to the public only a fewyears before the production of "Don Francisco de Quevedo." In 1841 theDuke of Rivas had published his four ballads, "Los Toros," "Las Máscarasy Cañas," "El Sarao," and
"Final," under the title "El Conde deVillamediana." The affair then would be fresh in the minds of Sanz andhis public. Don Juan de Tassis y Peralta, Count of Villamediana, wasborn in Lisbon in 1580, and was brought up in the court of Philip III.In 1614 he served in Italy, and the end of 1618 found him again inMadrid, where he lived magnificently, indulging freely his tastes forpaintings, jewels, and horses. His satirical pen, attacking even theDuke of Lerma and the royal confessor, Fray Luis de Aliaga, was thecause of his exile from Madrid in 1618.
At the accession of Philip IV hewas recalled to Madrid and made a gentleman in waiting to the queen.Fallen ministers and the favorites of Philip III continued to be marksfor his attacks.
Olivares, the enemy of Villamediana and Doña Isabel,probably brought his libels to the attention of Philip. On August 21,1622, as Villamediana was driving through the Calle Mayor, a man haltedhis coach, and, as the count was descending, ran him through the heart.The gossips of Madrid attributed the murder to Olivares, giving as hismotive his hatred and fear of Villamediana. Others laid the blame uponPhilip, whose jealousy had been aroused, they said, by Villamediana'smarked attentions to Doña Isabel.
Further historical material for the play Sanz took from two arraignmentsof the administration of Olivares published by Valladares. The use ofthese sources by Sanz will be pointed out as briefly as possible. Thecircumstances of the imprisonment of Doña Margarita in Ocaña, her flightto Madrid, and her subsequent treatment at the hands of Olivares arepresented in detail in the "Caída de su Privanza y Muerte delConde-Duque de Olivares, Gran Privado del Señor Rey Don Felipe IV, elGrande, con los motivos y no imaginada disposición de dicha Caída, "and in the "Memorial de Don Francisco de Quevedo contra el Conde-Duquede Olivares. Dado al Rey Don Felipe Quarto. " According to theaccount in the latter she had received no reply to her complaintsagainst the evil conduct of Vasconcellos and the suicidal policy ofOlivares toward the Duke of Braganza.
The interview between Olivares and the queen about the establishment ofthe young Prince of the Asturias in separate apartments with anindependent household (Act II, scene ii) was evidently taken from the"Memorial" (p. 214) and from the
"Caída" (p. 49). Says Philip, "And why,Conde-Duque, would he not be better off in the apartment that youyourself occupy? It is especially for the firstborn of the king, and isthe one in which my father and myself were when we were princes." Therealso is mentioned the removal of the Count of Lemos, the Marquis ofCastel Rodrigo, and Don Fernando de Borja from the palace.
In Act III, scene ii, Margarita laments the loss of Spanish possessionsthrough the ineptitude of Olivares:
por él perdimos
a Esthin, Wiranzan y Dola,
y a más las Islas Terceras,
y el Ducado de Borgoña
y el Brasil y el Rosellón,
y Ormuz, Pernambuco y Hoa;
y no ha mucho Portugal...
The same catalogue of losses, even to the peculiar spelling of Hesdinand Bisanzón (Besançon), appears in the "Caída."
The intensely dramatic episode of the presentation of the golden cup toOlivares as a memorial from Philip is founded upon fact. Pellicer's Avisos contain even the detail of the note.
There too is theaccount of the ceremonial at the first presentation.
The meters used by Sanz in Don Francisco de Quevedo are the following:
Redondilla, strophe of four eight-syllable or seven-syllable verses,riming abba.
Romance, eight-syllable or seven-syllable verses, indefinite innumber, with even lines in assonance.
Romance Heroico or Real, romance of eleven-syllable verses.
Quintilla, strophe of five eight-syllable verses with but two rimes.Of the possible combinations we have only abaab.
Cuarteto, strophe of four eleven-syllable verses rimed abba.
Cuarteta, strophe of four eight-syllable verses rimed abab.
Silva, eleven-syllable and seven-syllable verses, mixed with wideliberty. There is wide liberty in the use of rime as well.
SCHEME OF METERS
DON FRANCISCO DE QUEVEDO
DRAMA EN CUATRO ACTOS
DON FRANCISCO DE QUEVEDO
MARGARITA DE SABOYA
EL CONDE-DUQUE DE OLIVARES
DON JUAN DE CASTILLA
DON PABLO MENDAÑA
EL MARQUÉS DE LA GRANA
UN ALCALDE DE CASA Y CORTE
Ronda de capa, guardias, damas, meninas,caballeros, pajes, etc.
La escena en Madrid, año de 1643
Noche.—Una plazuela que se supone ser la de San Martín, conforme estabaen la época del drama. A la izquierda, en primer término, la fachada ygradería del templo; en segundo, una calle, y otra en el fondo, queparte casi en la misma dirección. A la derecha, en segundo término, otracalle que cae en frente de la de la izquierda; en primero, una casa conpuerta y balcón practicables, y delante de la casa una imagen en sunicho sobre la pared, alumbrada por un farolillo, única luz que hay enla escena.
MENDAÑA, CASTILLA, GRANA, que al levantarse el telón aparecen mirandocon curiosidad a varias damas, que a su espalda se dirigen hacia eltemplo, todas con el velo levantado.