Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
763
CERVANTES

objects are explained by its title: La Feuille villageoise, adressée chaque semaine à tous les villages de France pour les instruire des lois, des événements, des découvertes qui intéressent tout bon citoyen, &c. It was continued by Grouvelle after Cerutti’s death, the last number appearing on the 2nd of August 1795.

Cerutti’s works were published in 1793 in 3 volumes. On the Mémoire pour le peuple français, see F. A. Aulard in La Révolution française, tom. xv. (1888).


CERVANTES SAAVEDRA, MIGUEL DE (1547–1616), Spanish novelist, playwright and poet, was born at Alcalá de Henares in 1547. The attempts of biographers to provide him with an illustrious genealogy are unsuccessful. The family history begins with the author’s grandfather, Juan de Cervantes (b. 1490), a lawyer who at one time (1545–6) administered the estates of the duke de Osuna, and resided later at Cordova, where he died about 1555. Cervantes’ father was Rodrigo de Cervantes, an apothecary-surgeon, who married Leonor de Cortinas in 1540 or 1541. The children of this marriage were Andrés (b. 1543), Andrea (b. 1544), Luisa (b. 1546), Miguel, Rodrigo (b. 1550), Magdalena (b. 1554) and Juan (of whom nothing is known beyond the mention of him in his father’s will).

The exact date of Cervantes’ birth is not recorded: he was baptized on the 9th of October 1547, in the church of Santa Maria la Mayor at Alcalá. There are indications that Rodrigo de Cervantes resided at Valladolid in 1554, at Madrid in 1561, at Seville in 1564–1565, and at Madrid from 1566 onwards. It may be assumed that his family accompanied him, and it seems likely that either at Valladolid or at Madrid Cervantes saw the famous actor-manager and dramatist, Lope de Rueda, of whose performances he speaks enthusiastically in the preface to his plays. In 1569 a Madrid schoolmaster, Juan Lopez de Hoyos, issued a work commemorative of Philip II.’s third wife, Isabel de Valois, who had died on the 3rd of October 1568. This volume, entitled Historia y relación verdadera de la enfermedad, felicisimo tránsito y sumptuosas exequias fúnebres de la Serenisima Reyna de España Doña Isabel de Valoys, contains six contributions by Cervantes: a sonnet, four redondillas, and an elegy. Lopez de Hoyos introduces Cervantes as “our dear and beloved pupil,” and the elegy is dedicated to Cardinal Espinosa “in the name of the whole school.” It has been inferred that Cervantes was educated by Lopez de Hoyos, but this conclusion is untenable, for Lopez de Hoyos’ school was not opened till 1567. On the 13th of October 1568, Giulio Acquaviva reached Madrid charged with a special mission to Philip II.; he left for Rome on the 2nd of December, and Cervantes is supposed to have accompanied him. This conjecture is based solely on a passage in the dedication of the Galatea, where the writer speaks of having been “camarero to Cardinal Acquaviva at Rome.” There is, however, no reason to think that Cervantes met Acquaviva in Madrid; the probability is that he enlisted as a supernumerary towards the end of 1568, that he served in Italy, and there entered the household of Acquaviva, who had been raised to the cardinalate on the 17th of May 1570. There exists a warrant (dated September 15, 1569) for the arrest of one Miguel de Cervantes, who had wounded Antonio de Sigura, and had been condemned in absence to have his right hand cut off and to be exiled from the capital for ten years; and it has been sought to identify the offender with the future author of Don Quixote. No evidence is available. All that is known with certainty is that Cervantes was in Rome at the end of 1569, for on the 22nd of December of that year the fact was recorded in an official information lodged by Rodrigo de Cervantes with a view to proving his sons legitimacy and untainted Christian descent.

If it is difficult to say precisely when Cervantes was in Acquaviva’s service, it is no less difficult to say when he left it to join the regular army. There is evidence, more or less satisfactory, that his enlistment took place in 1570; in 1571 he was serving as a private in the company commanded by Captain Diego de Urbina which formed part of Miguel de Moncada’s famous regiment, and on the 16th of September he sailed from Messina on board the “Marquesa,” which formed part of the armada under Don John of Austria. At the battle of Lepanto (October 7, 1571) the “Marquesa” was in the thickest of the conflict. As the fleet came into action Cervantes lay below, ill with fever; but, despite the remonstrances of his comrades, he vehemently insisted on rising to take his share in the fighting, and was posted with twelve men under him in a boat by the galley’s side. He received three gunshot wounds, two in the chest, and one which permanently maimed his right hand—“for the greater glory of the right,” in his own phrase. On the 30th of October the fleet returned to Messina, where Cervantes went into hospital, and during his convalescence received grants-in-aid amounting to eighty-two ducats. On the 29th of April 1572 he was transferred to Captain Manuel Ponce de León’s company in Lope de Figueroa’s regiment; he shared in the indecisive naval engagement off Navarino on the 7th of October 1572, in the capture of Tunis on the 10th of October 1573, and in the unsuccessful expedition to relieve the Goletta in the autumn of 1574. The rest of his military service was spent in garrison at Palermo and Naples, and shortly after the arrival of Don John at Naples on the 18th of June 1575, Cervantes was granted leave to return to Spain; he received a recommendatory letter from Don John to Philip II., and a similar testimonial from the duke de Sessa, viceroy of Sicily. Armed with these credentials, Cervantes embarked on the “Sol” to push his claim for promotion in Spain.

On the 26th of September 1575, near Les Trois Maries off the coast of Marseilles, the “Sol” and its companion ships the “Mendoza” and the “Higuera” encountered a squadron of Barbary corsairs under Arnaut Mami; Cervantes, his brother Rodrigo and other Spaniards were captured, and were taken as prisoners to Algiers. Cervantes became the slave of a Greek renegade named Dali Mami, and, as the letters found on him were taken to prove that he was a man of importance in a position to pay a high ransom, he was put under special surveillance. With undaunted courage and persistence he organized plans of escape. In 1576 he induced a Moor to guide him and other Christian captives to Oran; the Moor deserted them on the road, the baffled fugitives returned to Algiers, and Cervantes was treated with additional severity. In the spring of 1577 two priests of the Order of Mercy arrived in Algiers with a sum of three hundred crowns entrusted to them by Cervantes’ parents; the amount was insufficient to free him, and was spent in ransoming his brother Rodrigo. Cervantes made another attempt to escape in September 1577, but was betrayed by the renegade whose services he had enlisted. On being brought before Hassan Pasha, the viceroy of Algiers, he took the blame on himself, and was threatened with death; struck, however, by the heroic bearing of the prisoner, Hassan remitted the sentence, and bought Cervantes from Dali Mami for five hundred crowns. In 1577 the captive addressed to the Spanish secretary of state, Mateo Vazquez, a versified letter suggesting that an expedition should be fitted out to seize Algiers; the project, though practicable, was not entertained. In 1578 Cervantes was sentenced to two thousand strokes for sending a letter begging help from Martín de Córdoba, governor of Oran; the punishment was not, however, inflicted on him. Meanwhile his family were not idle. In March 1578 his father presented a petition to the king setting forth Cervantes’ services; the duke de Sessa repeated his testimony to the captive’s merits; in the spring of 1579 Cervantes’ mother applied for leave to export two thousand ducats’ worth of goods from Valencia to Algiers, and on the 31st of July 1579 she gave the Trinitarian monks, Juan Gil and Antón de la Bella, a sum of two hundred and fifty ducats to be applied to her son’s ransom. On his side Cervantes was indefatigable, and towards the end of 1579 he arranged to secure a frigate; but the plot was revealed to Hassan by Juan Blanco de Paz, a Dominican monk, who appears to have conceived an unaccountable hatred of Cervantes. Once more the conspirator’s life was spared by Hassan who, it is recorded, declared that “so long as he had the maimed Spaniard in safe keeping, his Christians, ships and city were secure.” On the 29th of May 1580 the two Trinitarians arrived in Algiers: they were barely in time, for Hassan’s term of office was drawing