Francisco de Quevedo was one of the most representative men of letters of the Spanish Baroque. He was possessed of an unparalleled wit and black humor, a mixture that would help him spread his fame throughout the kingdom. His skills as a satirical writer also led him to win the friendship of great lawyers of the time, as well as the enmity of many others.
Life received him with a disability in his legs, greatly deformed, in addition to a notable myopia. His condition was a mockery for many, causing him to hide in libraries and spend a lonely childhood. Despite his suffering, some scholars assert that it was thanks to this that he achieved his wisdom, as he took refuge in reading.
He came from a family of low nobility servants of the king, a situation that facilitated his approach to scholars and studies of a respected level. He excelled in many literary genres, poetry being one of his strengths. His works today are the subject of multiple studies and represent an enormous treasure for Latin and world literature.
Francisco Gómez de Quevedo Villegas y Santibáñez Cevallos – as he was baptized by his parents, although he would later become better known as Francisco de Quevedo – was born in 1580, on September 14 in the city of Madrid. He was a renowned writer belonging to the well-known Spanish Golden Age.
Francisco was the third of five siblings, the fruit of the love of a courtly aristocratic marriage that came from the village of Vejorís. His father was Pedro Gómez de Quevedo, a mountaineer under the orders of Princess María —who was the wife of Emperor Maximiliano II and daughter of Carlos V—, whom he served as secretary.
The writer’s mother was Ana de Santibáñez, belonging to the court of ladies at the service of the queen and the infanta Isabel Clara Eugenia. From an early age, just 6 years old, Francisco lost his father, so Agustín de Villanueva, who was his distant relative, was assigned to him as guardian.
After the loss of his father, and also carried away by the deformity of his legs and the cruelty of the treatment of children, he spent his childhood as a refugee in the palace. There he learned very early the details of court life, it was in that place where his mother noticed his peculiar and advanced intelligence.
To take advantage of his gifts, and knowing how bloody life is for those who are not the same as the rest, his relatives confined him in the Imperial College of the Society of Jesus, which is currently the San Isidro Institute of Madrid. There he learned Latin and Greek and reinforced the other Romance languages, in addition to his passion for letters.
At the age of 11, he again felt the pain caused by the death of a loved one when his brother Pedro died in 1591. In 1596 he enrolled at the University of Alcalá, where he studied Theology; There he also studied and strengthened his knowledge of ancient and modern languages.
In Alcalá he remained until 1600, but then, in 1601, he moved to Valladolid where he continued his studies in theology; the transfer was due to the fact that the queen’s court had moved there. He was tempted to ordain himself as a priest, but gave up.
First satirical poems
In those years, what are considered to be Quevedo’s first satirical poems began to circulate in Valladolid. These writings were signed under the pseudonym of Miguel de Musa, and with these the Madrilenian parodied the life and work of the poet Luis de Góngora.
Since then there has been talk of an enmity between the two writers. Luis de Góngora considered that the young writer wanted to gain fame at the cost of his career, so he attacked him as a poet knows best: with degrading verses. Quevedo responded and the differences widened until death.
Work in Valladolid
Quevedo, thanks to his grace, was able to quickly penetrate the palace. The Duchess of Lerma, delighted by her gifts, employed her.
The lyrics of the Madrid poet began to do their thing and his fame began to grow in the city. His intelligence was a common point of conversations, as well as his fierce criticism of Góngora.
Return to Madrid
In 1606 he returned to Madrid. In those moments his pen went off and he began to write like never before. It was there that he wrote his famous and censored Dreams, with content so out of tune that they could only be published 21 years later.
Sueños was not the only work by Quevedo to suffer from censorship, it was something very common in his career. However, many handmade copies roamed the streets.
At first the author felt great and the massification of his work suited his fame, but then he had to take measures because he was losing money by not receiving the corresponding financial credit for these.
He remained in Madrid until 1611. He also made a large number of short prose satires, in addition to large-scale works such as Castilian Jeremiah’s Tears. He also contributed a thesis in which he advocated areas relevant to humanism in Spain, called Spain defended.
In those years a strong attraction to demagogy applied to politics began to emerge in him, which is why he also wrote about it; his work Discourse of the privanzas is a clear example of this. Love was not alien to him, in fact, it was an opportune motive in many of his lyrics.
Thanks to the reach obtained, to his intelligence and excellent command of the Spanish language, he won the friendship of Félix Lope de Vega and Miguel de Cervantes. With them he belonged to the Brotherhood of Slaves of the Blessed Sacrament. In several of their works, the three writers praised each other.
A death with passage to Italy
In 1611 Quevedo witnessed the humiliation of a woman. In Holy Week of that year, Francisco was in the respective offices.
The poet witnessed how a gentleman slapped a lady. Without thinking, the writer became emboldened and challenged the man to a duel. The knight accepted and the poet ended up killing him with a thrust on the outskirts of the building.
Due to this crime, the Madrid satyr had to flee to Sicily to save his life. However, this action in defense of women crowned him with honor, chivalry and gallantry. In 1613 the viceroy of Naples requested it and offered him protection.
Grateful and seduced by his political interests, Quevedo traveled to the viceroy, who at that time was the Duke of Osuna. The Duke, knowing his excellent command of the language, entrusted him to carry out some very risky diplomatic missions that were intended to safeguard the viceroyalty that was at risk.
For 7 years, as a thank you and then for the enormous friendship that was generated between the two, Quevedo served Osuna in countless tasks. The poet was the viceroy’s secretary and confidant, assisting and advising him in such a virtuous manner that he managed to stabilize the unstable situation of the viceroyalty.
Arrival to the power of Felipe IV
In 1621 Felipe IV, who was King of Spain from 1621 to 1655, ascended to the throne. Together with Felipe the Count-Duke of Olivares ascended, and together they ordered Osuna to be imprisoned. As a result of this, Quevedo fell from grace and was banished to the Tower.
Osuna could not bear the confinement and died behind bars, Quevedo was in charge of honoring him and exalting him with well-deserved sonnets. All the adversity that surrounded Quevedo in those years served to further forge his character. The writer hit rock bottom, and from that collapse his lyrics emerged victorious.
After Osuna’s death, Quevedo tried more than once to please the Duke of Olivares. He wrote him a very flattering private letter from his exile, requesting his freedom, which, because of his wise words, was transferred to him. In gratitude he later sent him his Policy of God and Government of Christ.
He also later wrote his renowned satirical Epistle. In 1626 he accompanied the king of Aragon and in 1627 he wrote his comedy How to be private, a piece with a clearly flattering cut. Thanks to these pieces, written with all intention, he managed to have a good friendship with the count-duke, who ended up protecting him.
Banishment for a saint
Despite having managed to stabilize again thanks to the offices of Count-Duke Olivares, Quevedo could not remain calm. At that time Santa Teresa was elected patron saint of Spain, Quevedo opposed and advocated for Santiago Apóstol. Olivares warned him not to interfere, but the poet manifested himself.
His pronouncement cost him exile in 1628. Quevedo was sent that time to the convent of San Marcos de León as an exile. However, despite their stubbornness, it was not long before their services were again required at the king’s court.
In 1632, due to the notoriety achieved, he was assigned the position of poet secretary to the king. The writer accepted it as his exclusive trade, refusing to do any other work than that.
Marriage, cheating and death
In 1634 Quevedo met Esperanza Mendoza, a widow, through Olivares’s wife. The dukes convinced him to woo her and they married; however, very shortly after the poet left him.
Between 1635 and 1639 there was a series of corruption events around Count-Duke Olivares. These events caused the hidalgo to doubt his closest circle, including, of course, the satirical poet.
In the year 1639 Quevedo was surprised in his bed, he did not have time to settle down. He was arrested by the royal guard and taken to the convent of San Marcos, where he served a 4-year sentence. He was charged with conspiracy, together with agents from France.
The stay in jail crumbled Quevedo’s face, ending him completely. When he came out he was not even the shadow of what he had been previously. His humor and his pen seemed faded.
When he was released in 1643, he went to his estate in La Torre. Then he settled in the Villanueva de los Infantes area, where he later died, on September 8, 1645.
That brilliant mind was blown out of nowhere and disgraced in his later years. He died with none of the glory of old; However, his works still persist today as a clear example of ingenuity and perseverance.
Francisco de Quevedo’s work is extremely broad. It is not simply limited to the literary plane; Quevedo was a great thinker whose works spanned philosophy, politics, criticism, and ascetics, as well as dedicating himself to translation.
Below is a small compendium of all his works:
Quevedo is the owner of a vast poetic work, containing about 875 poems. In this he handled most of the poetic subgenres of his time: love, moral, immoral, funereal, descriptive, heroic and religious poetry.
During his lifetime, the First Part of the Flowers of Illustrious Poets of Spain was published in 1605. Most of his poems appeared posthumously in two books: El Parnaso español , in 1648; and The Three Last Castilian Muses , in 1670.
– History of the life of the Buscón called Don Pablos; example of vagamundos and mirror of stingy , in 1626.
– Dreams and speeches, in 1627: The dream of the final judgment , The demonized bailiff , The dream of hell and The world from within.
– Letters of the Knight of the Pincer , 1625.
– Thanks and misfortunes from the asshole , in 1631.
– Book of all things and many more , in 1631.
– The knight of the Pincer (1625).
– The Panther Husband (1626).
– The sayings of the jealous old man (1626). .
– Spain defended, and the times of now, from the calumnies of the noveleros and seditious , in 1916.
– Great annals of fifteen days , in 1621.
– Out of date world and ravings of age , in 1621.
– Politics of God, government of Christ , in 1626.
– Memorial for the patronage of Santiago , in 1627.
– Lynx of Italy and Spanish dowser , in 1628.
– The chiton of Tarabillas , in 1630.
– Execration against the Jews , in 1633.
– Letter to the most serene, very tall and very powerful Louis XIII, very Christian king of France , in 1635.
– Brief compendium of the services of Francisco Gómez de Sandoval, Duke of Lerma , in 1636.
– The rebellion in Barcelona is neither by the güevo nor by the jurisdiction , in 1641.
– Life of Santo Tomás de Villanueva , in 1620.
– Providence of God , in 1641.
– Life of Saint Paul , in 1644.
– The constancy and patience of Saint Job , in 1713.
– Moral doctrine of self-knowledge, and the disappointment of other people’s things , in 1630.
– The cradle and the grave for self-knowledge and disappointment with the things of others , in 1634.
– Epictetus and Phocilides in Spanish with consonants, with the Origin of the Stoics and their defense against Plutarch, and the Defense of Epicurus against common opinion , in 1635.
– The four plagues of the world and the four ghosts of life , in 1651.
– The needle to navigate cults with the recipe to make solitudes in a day, in 1631.
– The cultured Latiniparla , in 1624.
– The whirligig , in 1633.
– Storytelling , in 1626.
It contains all your letters. It was edited by Luis Astrana Marín in 1946.
– The Romulus , in 1632.
– Of the remedies of any fortune , in 1638.
- Arellano, I. and Zafra, R. (2007). Francisco de Quevedo. Spain: virtual Cervantes. Recovered from: cervantesvirtual.com
- Fernández López, J. (S. f.). Francisco de Quevedo y Villegas (1580-1645). (n / a): Hispanoteca. Recovered from: hispanoteca.eu
- Francisco de Quevedo. (S. f.). (n / a): Biographies and lives. Recovered from: biografiasyvidas.com
- Francisco de Quevedo and Villegas. (S. f.). Spain: UAH. Recovered from: uah.es
- Biography of Quevedo. (S. f.). Spain: Francisco de Quevedo. Recovered from: franciscodequevedo.org