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king's bedchamber, and inquired whether he saw a light in that direction; the latter replied in the affirmative. Columbus, yet doubtful whether it might not be some delusion of the fancy, called Roderigo Sanchery, of Segovia, and made the same inquiry. By the time the latter had ascended the round-house the light had disappeared. They saw it once or twice afterwards in sudden and passing gleams; as it were a torch in the bark of a fisherman, rising and sinking with the waves; or in the hand of some person on shore, borne up and down as he walked from house to house. So transient and uncertain were these gleams that few attached any importance to them; Columbus, however, considered them as certain signs of land, and, moreover, that the land was inhabited.
They continued their course until two in the morning, when a gun from the Pinta gave the joyful signal of land. It was first discovered by a mariner named Rodrigo de Triano, but the reward was afterwards adjudged to the admiral, for having previously perceived the light. The land was now clearly seen about two leagues distant; whereupon they took in sail and lay to, waiting impatiently for the dawn.
The thoughts and feelings of Columbus in this little space of time must have been tumultuous and intense. At length, in spite of every difficulty and danger, he had accomplished his object. The great mystery of the ocean was revealed; his theory, which had been the scoff of sages, was triumphantly established; he had secured to himself a glory which must be as durable as the world itself.
It is difficult even for the imagination to conceive the feelings of such a man at the moment of so sublime a discovery. What a bewildering crowd of conjectures must have thronged upon his mind as to the land which lay before him, covered with darkness. That it was fruitful was evident, from the vegetables which floated from its shores. He thought, too, that he perceived in the balmy air the fragrance of aromatic groves. The moving light which he had beheld had proved that it was the residence of man. But what were its inhabitants? Were they like those of the other parts of the globe? or were they some strange and monstrous race, such as the imagination in those times was prone to give to all remote and unknown regions? Had he come upon some wild island far in the Indian Sea? or was this the
famed Cipango itself, the object of his golden fancies? A thousand speculations of the kind must have swarmed upon him, as, with his anxious crews, he waited for the night to pass away, wondering whether the morning light would reveal a savage wilderness, or dawn upon spicy groves, and glittering fanes, and gilded cities, and all the splendour of oriental civilization.
63.-CRITICISM ON DON QUIXOTE.
HALLAM. [MR. HENRY HALLAM is one of our most distinguished living authors. His View of the State of Europe during the Middle Ages,' and his Constitutional History of England,' have established his eminent rank as an historian. Of his merits as a scholar and a critic, we have only to open his 'Introduction to the Literature of Europe,' and see the extensive range of his information and the soundness of his judgment.]
The first part of Don Quixote was published in 1605. We have no reason, I believe, to suppose it was written long before. It became immediately popular; and the admiration of the world raised up envious competitors, one of whom, Avellenada, published a continuation in a strain of invective against the author. Cervantes, who cannot be imagined to have ever designed the leaving his romance in so unfinished a state, took time about the second part, which did not appear till 1615.
Don Quixote is the only book in the Spanish language which can now be said to possess much of an European reputation. It has, however, enjoyed enough to compensate for the neglect of all the rest. It is to Europe in general, what Ariosto is to Italy, and Shakspeare to England; the one book to which the slightest allusions may be made without affectation, but not missed without discredit. Numerous translations and countless editions of them, in every language, bespeak its adaptation to mankind; no critic has been paradoxical enough to withhold his admiration, no reader has ventured to confess a want of relish for that in which the young and old, in every climate, have, age after age, taken delight. They have, doubtless, believed that they understood the author's meaning; and, in giving the reins to the gaiety
'that his fertile invention and comic humour inspired, never thought of any deeper meaning than he announces, or delayed their enjoyment for any metaphysical investigation of his plan.
A new school of criticism, however, has of late years arisen in Germany, acute, ingenious, and sometimes eminently successful in philosophical, or, as they denominate it, æsthetic analysis of works of taste, but gliding too much into refinement and conjectural hypothesis, and with a tendency to mislead men of inferior capacities for this kind of investigation into mere paradox and absurdity. An instance is supplied, in my opinion, by some remarks of Bouterwek, still more explicitly developed by Sismondi, on the design of Cervantes in Don Quixote, and which have been repeated in other publications. According to these writers, the primary idea is that of a man of elevated character, excited by heroic and enthusiastic feelings to the extravagant pitch of wishing to restore the age of chivalry; nor is it possible to form a more mistaken notion of this work than by con sidering it merely as a satire, intended by the author to ridicule the absurd passion for reading old romances." "The fundamental idea of Don Quixote," says Sismondi, "is the eternal contrast between the spirit of poetry and that of prose. Men of an elevated soul propose to themselves as the object of life to be the defenders of the weak, the support of the oppressed, the champions of justice and innocence. Like Don Quixote, they find on every side the image of the virtues they worship; they believe that disinterestedness, nobleness, courage, in short, knight errantry, are still prevalent; and, with no calculation of their own powers, they expose themselves for an ungrateful world, they offer themselves as a sacrifice to the laws and rules of an imaginary state of society."
If this were a true representation of the scheme of Don Quixote, we cannot wonder that some persons should, as M. Sismondi tells us they do, consider it as the most melancholy book that has ever been written. They consider it also, no doubt, one of the most immoral, as chilling and pernicious in its influence on the social converse of mankind, as the Prince of Machiavel is on their political intercourse. "Cervantes," he proceeds, "has shown us, in some measure, the vanity of greatness of soul, and the delusion of heroism. He has drawn in Don Quixote a perfect man (un homme accompli), who is nevertheless the constant object of ridicule. Brave beyond the fabled knights he
imitates, disinterested, honourable, generous, the most faithful and respectful of lovers, the best of masters, the most accomplished and well educated of gentlemen, all his enterprizes end in discomforture to himself, and in mischief to others." M. Sismondi descants on the perfections of the Knight of La Mancha with a gravity which is not quite easy for his readers to preserve.
It might be answered by a phlegmatic observer, that a mere enthusiasm for doing good, if excited by vanity, and not accompanied by common sense, will seldom be very serviceable to ourselves or to others; that men who, in their heroism and care for the oppressed, would throw open the cages of lions, and set galley-slaves at liberty, not forgetting to break the limbs of harmless persons whom they mistake for wrong-doers, are a class of whom Don Quixote is the real type; and that, the world being much the worse for such heroes, it might not be immoral, notwithstanding their benevolent enthusiasm, to put them out of countenance by a little ridicule. This, however, is not, as I conceive, the primary aim of Cervantes; nor do I think that the exhibition of one great truth, as the predominant, but concealed, moral of a long work, is in the spirit of his age. He possessed a very thoughtful mind and a profound knowledge of humanity; yet the generalization which the hypothesis of Bouterwek and Sismondi requires for the leading conceptions of Don Quixote, besides its being a little inconsistent with the valorous and romantic character of its author, belongs to a more advanced period of philosophy than his own. It will, at all events, I presume, be admitted that we cannot reason about Don Quixote except from the book, and I think it may be shown in a few words that these ingenious writers have been chiefly misled by some want of consistency which circumstances produced in the author's delineation of his hero.
In the first chapter of this romance, Cervantes, with a few strokes of a great master, sets before us the pauper gentleman, an early riser and keen sportsman, who when he was idle, which was most part of the year," gave himself up to reading books of chivalry till he lost his wits. The events that follow are in every one's recollection; his lunacy consists, no doubt, only in one idea; but this is so absorbing that it perverts the evidence of his senses, and predominates in all his language. It is to be observed, therefore, in relation to the nobleness of soul ascribed to Don Quixote, that every sentiment he utters
is borrowed with a punctilious rigour from the romances of his library; he resorts to them on every occasion for precedents; if he is intrepidly brave, it is because his madness and vanity have made him believe himself unconquerable; if he bestows kingdoms, it is because Amadis would have done the same; if he is honourable, courteous, a redresser of wrongs, it is in pursuance of these prototypes, from whom, except that he seems rather more scrupulous in chastity, it is his only boast not to diverge. Those who talk of the exalted character of Don Quixote seem really to forget that, on these subjects, he has no character at all: he is the echo of romance; and to praise him is merely to say, that the tone of chivalry, which these productions studied to keep up, and, in the hands of inferior artists, foolishly exaggerated, was full of moral dignity, and has, in a subdued degree of force, modelled the character of a man of honour in the present day. But throughout the first two volumes of Don Quixote, though in a few unimportant passages he talks rationally, I cannot find more than two in which he displays any other knowledge or strength of mind than the original delineation of the character would lead us to expect.
The case is much altered in the last two volumes. acquired an immense popularity, and perceived the opportunity, of which he had already availed himself, that this romance gave for displaying his own mind. He had become attached to a hero who had made him illustrious, and suffered himself to lose sight of the clear outline he had once traced for Quixote's personality. Hence we find in all this second part, that, although the lunacy as to knights-errant remains unabated, he is, on all other subjects, not only rational in the low sense of the word, but clear, acute, profound, sarcastic, coolheaded. His philosophy is elevated, but not enthusiastic; his imagination is poetical, but it is restrained by strong sense. There are, in fact, two Don Quixotes; one, whom Cervantes first designed to draw, the foolish gentleman of La Mancha, whose foolishness had made him frantic; the other a highly gifted, accomplished model of the best chivalry, trained in all the court, the camp, or the college could impart, but scathed in one portion of his mind by an inexplicable visitation of monomania. One is inclined to ask why this Don Quixote, who is Cervantes, should have been more likely to lose his intellects by reading romances than Cervantes himself. As a matter of bodily disease, such an event is doubtless possible; but nothing can be con