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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Critical Introduction by Marathon Montrose Ramsey (b. 1867)

By Latin-American Literature: I. Before 1888

THE RIO BRAVO DEL NORTE, better known to English-speaking readers as the Rio Grande, serves as a dividing line between what may be termed “Saxon America” and “Latin America.” The latter, and now quite familiar, designation might more aptly take the form Celtiberian America; since the European portion of its population belongs mainly to the same race that has occupied the Iberian peninsula from the dawn of history,—a people allied to and similar to the great Celtic race that has been for untold ages pushed by men of other mold ever towards the western sea and the setting sun.

The Carthaginians, the Romans, the Goths, and the Moors became successively masters of the Iberian soil, while the great body of the people remained substantially the same in all their inherent characteristics. The spirit of clanship, always a prominent organic feature among the Celts, and productive of numerous petty principalities, was the primal cause of the present dialectic divergences, which are so great as to render the common forms of speech of many of the provinces of Spain mutually unintelligible to their respective inhabitants.

Before the discovery of America the majority of these clans had become united into what was to be known as the Kingdom of Spain; while the people inhabiting a strip of territory along the western coast maintained a separate independence under the crown of Portugal. The modern distinction between Spanish and Portuguese, which has been perpetuated upon South-American soil, is therefore a purely political one: no marked geographical features distinguish their territorial boundaries; the Portuguese language is so close to one of the Spanish dialects that a Gallician can be understood more readily in Lisbon than in Madrid; and the mental temperament, the tastes and emotions, the modes of thought,—in short, all that is individual as distinguished from what is superficial and acquired,—will be found identical among the people of both nations.

Between these Iberian Celts, or Celtiberians, and the Teutonic race,—German, Saxon, Scandinavian,—there are marked contrasts which have an important bearing upon the subject under investigation. The Celt is vivacious, imaginative, impulsive, with strong, even violent emotions,—a being to love or fear; the Teuton counts the cost, relies more upon facts than fancies, and is not so much to be loved or feared as to be trusted. The Celt is loyal and devout, prone to reverence God, saint, or secular chief, and will bear a great weight of law or ceremonial; the Teuton is fond of individual freedom, and hates all trammels. Each is brave in his way; but while the Celt would fight for glory or mere love of fighting, the Teuton would rather not fight at all unless something were to be accomplished.

The Roman dominion in the peninsula lasted about six hundred and twenty years, and the Gothic kingdom two hundred and ninety-three; and during these nine centuries the inhabitants had become Romanized, Latinized, and Christianized,—indeed, intensely orthodox. In the Moorish invasion they were confronted by a people alien in race, language, and religion,—abhorred as infidels and polygamists; and with some intervals of relaxation, there followed seven hundred and eighty years of a war of races, in which each felt that religion was the principal point of dispute. At length the Christian succeeded in expelling the Moors and the Jews and establishing the Inquisition; and thenceforth, where his hand could reach, no form of unbelief or misbelief should be tolerated. That long “holy war” furrowed the face of early Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin-American literature with lines of thought to be found nowhere else on the globe; and the effect has not yet entirely passed away.

Shut off from the rest of the world by the mountain wall of the Pyrenees, absorbed in religious wars and purgations and distant conquests, Spain and Portugal gave little heed to the change that was coming over the mind of Europe. That change was wide, deep, and many-sided. It has sometimes been called in English “the Baconian philosophy.” It was turning men’s minds from words and notions to facts and things: the world was no longer to be understood by sitting down and thinking with closed eyes, or by reading Aristotle and Ptolemy, but by going into the light of day, observing, experimenting, and above all, measuring. The little learning that existed on the Iberian peninsula was centuries old, and was in the possession of the ecclesiastics,—a conservative class, opposed to every change. The mass of the people were profoundly ignorant, knowing only their daily labors, their favorite sports, a few prayers and formularies of the Church, and the legends of the neighborhood. Every further extension of intelligence was regarded with dread, as opening a way to the “new knowledge,” to heresy and unbelief.

We of Saxon America are apt to look complacently upon ourselves as considerably in advance of our neighbors to the South, at least in material prosperity. But let us consider a moment the difference of circumstances under which we have grown up. From the discovery of Haiti to the founding of Jamestown was one hundred and twenty-five years; to the landing of the Pilgrims, one hundred and thirty-eight. During those years Europe had been growing—England and Holland quite vigorously. Papal omnipotence had been rejected; and already the divine right of kings and bishops was in peril. The prelates had been obliged to hold a conference with the Puritans, instead of burning them. The priority of Spain and Portugal was therefore a disadvantage: they reached the Western Hemisphere in their intellectual infancy; England in her rough, growing youth.

The American possessions of Spain and Portugal were practically twice as remote as those of England. A royal edict took seventeen months to travel from Madrid to Lima; and history has not recorded the speed of private packages. The English colonists kept close to the eastern edge of the continent, and to navigable waters; the most important settlements in Latin America were far inland, and could communicate with the outer world only by means of pack-mules. The maritime districts of the tropical regions were scarcely habitable by Europeans; and when the colonists moved into the interior, it was to be shaken by earthquakes and scared by the blaze of volcanoes.

The English settlements were private enterprises, undertaken to find roomy homes for the development of liberty, manhood, and womanhood; whereas the colonization of Latin America was a national project, and all who set out for the New World were under royal patronage and control. Their prime object was to find gold and honors for a needy monarch and equally needy adventurers, and gewgaws for court ladies. John Smith, indeed, informs us that the English were not without their craze for gold; but fortunately they found little to encourage it. As the quest for gold was the chief motive with the Spaniards, they clustered around the old seats of aboriginal civilization,—the plateau of Mexico, Cundinamarca, Quito, and Lima. Subsequently communities of Europeans were established at Caracas, Santiago de Chile, the mouth of the Plata, and at various points along the Brazilian coast; but these did not attain prominence as literary centers until far into the eighteenth century. In the meantime, the intervening portions of the continent were pathless expanses of prairie and forest traversed by mighty rivers and lofty mountain ranges. This isolation was extremely unfavorable to progress.

We have already referred to the causes which made the Latin-American colonist of those ages what Mr. Carlyle might have called “a religious animal”; and in the matter of acquiring and settling the new continent, the Church naturally took an active part. In addition to the bishops and the parochial clergy, whose duty was to provide for the spiritual needs of the European settlers, large numbers of the monastic orders were assigned to the conversion of the natives. By far the most important of these religious bodies was the Society of Jesus, whose members are popularly known as Jesuits. They were the latest in making their appearance; but their great business ability enabled them to outstrip all the rest. They were able, by persuasion or force, to command all the Indian labor they needed: and they established great cattle ranches and sheep farms, together with mills, workshops, warehouses, and routes of trade. Paraguay became in effect a Jesuit State, until its prosperity raised combinations hostile to the order.

Although these missionary monks undoubtedly exploited the Indian to the benefit of their own treasuries, there is yet just reason to honor their memories. Their influence was peaceful, industrial, civilizing up to a limit. To preserve that limit uncrossed, the Inquisition was introduced in 1569. It had not only the oversight of faith and morals, but also the control of education and of the admission of books into the country.

Such instruction as the “Holy Office” was willing to sanction was with scarcely an exception imparted by members of the monastic orders. The frailes in their monasteries taught gratuitously reading and the prayers of the Church; but these slender advantages were available only in the towns. Boys might also be taught writing and the four operations of arithmetic. As to the girls, they were taught by the nuns reading, prayers, and the use of the needle; a few added music and painting. It was shrewdly objected that if they should learn to write, they might correspond with their lovers and lead to no end of complications. Arístides Rojas, the Venezuelan historian, has related how the first municipal school was established in Caracas. It was twenty-four years after the founding of the city, and it required a mission to Spain and two years of lobbying to obtain the royal permission to have a school at all; and its field of usefulness was at first limited to Spanish grammar and rhetoric.

Books could be imported only on permits, obtainable with difficulty, after close scrutiny and long delay. An equally strict surveillance was exercised over colonial literary productions: each volume of each edition had to be registered separately, after donating twenty copies to the legal and regal authorities; and the publisher had not even the privilege of fixing the price.

The Colonial Period

IT was in such arid and sulphurous soil as has been described that Latin-American literature had to germinate. The first cultivators had to overcome difficulties unknown to those of happier countries; and it is with a feeling of wonder mixed with reverence that we realize how patiently and successfully they did overcome them.

Learning made its first appearance—where alone it could—among the monks. Several lines of research were open to them without hindrance; and others could occasionally be indulged in surreptitiously.

As their special mission was to convert the Indians, they might study Indian languages, customs, and antiquities; and it is to the diligence of these men that ethnologists owe nearly all that is known of the ancient civilizations of Mexico, Peru, and Cundinamarca. Botany and vegetable pharmacy afforded another appropriate field; and the various colonial governments fitted out at different times as many as five botanical expeditions. The students of the mathematics found exercise in geodetic surveys; and a knowledge of mechanics was essential in the working of the mines.

Clavijero furnishes a long list of those who had made translations into the native tongues. All with one or two exceptions belonged to the monastic orders; and their studies embraced fifteen languages. Humboldt himself saw dictionaries and grammars of fourteen. Quesada says that printing was introduced into Mexico in 1535, and into Lima in 1538; and that the first books printed in America were for the use of the Indians. In the remainder of the century there were written or printed eighty-two books for the religious instruction of the aborigines in Mexico, and fifty for learning the native languages.

In time higher schools, colleges, and universities were established in the principal colonies,—the instructors being, with scarcely an exception, ecclesiastics. The little Jesuit college of Bahia began its dubious existence in 1543, and another and larger one was established at Piratininga in 1554; and the roll of alumni of these two schools contains the most prominent names of early Brazilian literature and jurisprudence. The University of the City of Mexico opened its doors to students in June 1553; and two years later saw the establishment of the University of San Marcos, at Lima. In Ecuador, not to mention several colleges founded in the sixteenth century, the University of San Gregorio was opened at Quito in 1620; and the famous university of Santo Tomás at Bogotá dates its existence from the year 1627. The University of Chuquisaca (the modern Sucre) in Bolivia, the University of Córdoba in what is now the Argentine Republic, and the College of Santa Rosa which afterwards became the University of Caracas, were all founded in the seventeenth century.

As the good fathers had abundant leisure, they committed to writing an enormous amount of details of the matters that chiefly interested them. During the three centuries of the colonial period, no part of the world furnished a greater amount of historical material. The single national library of Santiago de Chile contains a catalogued collection of 2,740 manuscripts by the Jesuits alone. The material is indeed somewhat monotonous; and a larger space is devoted to monastic and episcopal interests, and to miraculous manifestations of the Virgin and her pictures, than accords with our northern tastes. In reading these old authors, one is often reminded of the wide difference between the sixteenth or seventeenth century and some parts of the world in the nineteenth; as when Antonio de León Pinela, scholar and poet, historiographer of the Indies, authorized by royal order to lay three continents and the isles of the ocean under contribution for light and knowledge, seriously discusses the gravity of the sin of drinking chocolate on fast days.

Foremost upon the long roll of early chroniclers stands the princely name of Ixtlilxóchitl, the descendant of the ancient chiefs of Texcoco. Three of the family acquired literary reputations; but the one here meant bore the Christian appellation of Fernando de Alva. His vast knowledge of native languages, songs, traditions, and pictographs procured him employment as interpreter to the viceroy; and about the beginning of the seventeenth century that ruler employed him to write in Spanish a history of his race. No one was equally qualified. His style alone has earned for him, from Europeans, the titles of the Cicero and the Livy of Anáhuac. His industry and his opportunities were equally great. He was personally acquainted with all the Indian sages—some over a hundred years old—who had seen the empire of Motecuhzoma at the height of its glory. His work, in thirteen books, began with the oldest traditions, and came down to his own time. The thirteenth book, dealing with the Spanish conquest, was printed separately in Mexico in 1829; but the whole is now accessible to the general reader in the French translation of Ternaux Compans. Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora (1645–1700) acquired a high reputation for writing a similar history from the materials furnished by Ixtlilxóchitl. Although far from being the only native work of importance, that of the Indian prince is the most interesting product of the aboriginal mind. The translator, in his preface, names thirteen other natives who attempted history. The most successful of these was Tezozomoc, who wrote (about 1598) a minute and circumstantial history of the Aztec nation from its original starting-place. As he and Ixtlilxóchitl were not of the same nation, they had their partialities, and do not always agree with each other or with the Spanish chroniclers; but the art of ascertaining and telling the truth was then in its infancy,—nearly as much in the Old World as in the New.

Of the many writers belonging to the monastic orders who made valuable contributions to Indian ethnology and early colonial history, none is more widely known than Francisco Bernardino Sahagún, who went to Mexico as a young man in 1529 and died there in 1590, after spending sixty-one years in teaching the Indians. He acquired such facility in using the native tongues that he wrote his great work, ‘Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva España,’ in one of them. It is a fine tribute to his human sympathies and his justice to a fallen race, that his contemporaries accused him of paganism. In the latter part of the eighteenth century, Francisco Xavier Clavijero (1721–93), a Jesuit and a native of Vera Cruz, spent many years as a missionary among the Indians, acquiring an extensive knowledge of their languages, customs, and traditions. Upon the suppression of the Jesuits he was compelled to leave his country, and he took refuge in Italy, where he wrote in Italian his great work ‘Storia Antica del Messico’ (4 vols., 1780–83). Although the work is not free from the inaccuracy that belongs to almost everything written in that age and from materials so uncertain, it has been the great storehouse of information regarding the ancient inhabitants of Mexico.

No American historian of his time surpassed the Brazilian Sebastião Rocha Pitta (1660–1738), a graduate of the ancient Jesuit college of Bahia. His great work ‘Historia da America Portugueza desde o seu Descobrimento Até o Anno 1724’ is the outcome of great labor and fidelity, involving the special study of the native languages and the examination of the archives of several European nations. It is true that the author sometimes failed, as did most of his contemporaries, in distinguishing history from legend.

Not a few of the early historical productions were in verse; but these were usually commemorative of some particular event. One of the most extensive of these rhyming chronicles was that entitled ‘Elegías de Varones Ilustres,’ written by Juan de Castellanos, one of the original conquistadores of Venezuela.

Numerous epics, half history half romance, were written in Latin America about the episodes of the conquest. Of these the ‘Arauco Domado’ is one of the earliest and most famous. Of all the native American races, the Araucans of Chile possessed in the highest degree those qualities that make up the ideal of manhood,—bodily strength and activity, intelligence, honorable truthfulness, indomitable courage, and love of independence. The Incas had never been able to subdue them; and they resisted the Spaniards with varying results 186 years, when in 1732 their independence south of the Bío-Bío River was acknowledged by treaty. During one of the periods of Spanish success, when Santiago and Valdivia were founded, Diego Hurtado de Mendoza led a party to the conquest of Chiloe in 1558. Among his followers was a young poet, Alonso de Ercilla y Zúñiga, who began by the nightly camp-fires to write a narrative of the war. Being afterwards banished for supposed complicity in some attempt at revolt, he returned to Spain and lived in great poverty; but completed his poem ‘La Araucana,’ which has been praised as one of the truly great epics of the world. The scenery of that distant country between the Andes and the ocean, varied by earthquake shocks and volcanic fires, the trained valor of the Spaniards, the heroic courage of the natives, the hand-to-hand battles where the Indian women fought by the side of their husbands, all furnished abundant fresh material which the poet presented in colors vivid and deep. A recollection of his own treatment may have contributed to his making the Araucan the nobler combatant. It was to remedy this defect, and to render what he thought justice to the Spanish commander, that the Peruvian poet Pedro de Oña recast the epic and produced the shorter and inferior ‘Arauco Domado,’ in which the European is entirely victorious. It is to be regretted that from the fact of their living and writing in Spain, Ercilla y Zúñiga, together with Garcilaso de la Vega, the descendant of the Incas, cannot be reckoned among American authors.

Another famous epic dealing with episodes of the conquest is the ‘Lima Fundada,’ composed by the Peruvian poet Pedro de Peralta y Barnuevo (1663–1743); a man of almost universal genius and attainments, as is attested by his numerous writings upon a wide range of subjects. A Mexican bishop, Bernardo Balbuena, who died in 1627, left a descriptive patriotic poem of great literary worth, entitled ‘La Grandeza de México’; a pastoral called ‘El Siglo de Oro,’ the scene of which is laid in the New World; and ‘El Bernardo,’ an epic in three volumes, which is one of the most finished productions in the language.

Along with a considerable number of local chroniclers and tolerable versifiers, Brazil presented in the eighteenth century two epic poets of distinction, José da Santa-Rita Durão and José Basilio da Gama. The former is best known to the present age by his epic ‘Caramurú.’ The hero, Diogo Alvares Correa, is a personage of actual history,—a Portuguese adventurer, who with a number of others was shipwrecked on the Brazilian coast about 1509. They were able to save a good part of their effects, including arms and ammunition; and by the possession of these, Alvares became a powerful chief by the name of Caramurú (Man-of-fire), and played an important part in the history of the early Brazilian settlements. The poet has embroidered the tale with a golden thread of romance by introducing as his heroine the beautiful Indian maiden Paraguassú, the Brazilian Pocahontas. Da Gama’s epic, the ‘Uruguay,’ although containing some fine descriptive passages, is not of equal merit. It is a polemic against the Jesuits, accusing them of trying to found an ecclesiastical empire; and fails to do justice to their civilizing influence.

No other American writer of colonial times was surrounded with such a halo of mystery and glory as Juana Inés de Azbaje y Ramírez (1651–94), more generally known as Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Her beauty, genius, and learning were alike celebrated in the most exalted terms; and she was called by her admirers “the Tenth Muse.” She was the one peerless star of the viceregal court of Mexico. Suddenly, for reasons known to herself, among which may be safely surmised one of those disappointments to which young women are so greatly exposed, she forsook domestic ties and the splendors of a court for the seclusion of a convent. But she could not escape from her fame; and the highest dignitaries in Church and State sought the wisdom that dropped from her inspired lips. Her modesty was equal to her other virtues; and when twice elected abbess she declined the honor. Yet with all this sanctity and austerity, whenever the vestal veil is blown aside, the features revealed beneath are not only mortal but distinctly feminine. Her thoughts dwelt on love, jealousy, desertion, and disappointment; as is revealed in her drama ‘Amor es Laberinto,’ based on the legend of Theseus and Ariadne. In ‘Los Empeños de una Casa,’ a drama of intrigue and unrequited affection, she herself is evidently the heroine. ‘Ovillejos’ is a satire on a rival beauty; and her criticism on a famous sermon has a flavor of modern free-thinking. So too her sonnets reveal not the incloistered devotee, but the living, susceptible woman.

As is well known, the “Golden Era” of the literature of the Iberian peninsula, which reached its height during the lifetime of Camões, of Cervantes, and of Lope de Vega, was followed by a period of rapid literary and political decadence extending well into the eighteenth century. This condition could not fail to be reflected, after a time, in the colonies; and the close of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth centuries mark the center of a period of intellectual coma almost as profound as that existing in the mother countries. But as the eighteenth century advances, we begin to perceive there, just as in the Peninsula, the signs of a coming change. Numerous traces are to be found of an early influence, on the one hand of the Encyclopædists, and on the other of Rousseau. More important still was the revival of interest in the physical sciences, which was particularly in evidence on the plateaus of New Granada and Mexico.

The pioneer of this movement was José Celestino Mutis, a native of Cádiz; who came to America in 1760 along with Mesía de la Cerda, then recently appointed viceroy of New Granada. He was made professor of mathematics in the College of Nuestra Señora del Rosario; and it was due to his efforts that the Observatory of Bogotá was built, at that time the finest in the New World. He devoted forty years to the botany of those regions, and determined the species that yield quinine, balsam of tolu, balsam of Peru, and other valuable products. He was also the patron and instructor of a whole generation of men whose names are honorable in the history of science. Of those none was more famous, or more unfortunate, than Francisco José de Caldas. He was one of the earliest scientists in America to make and record meteorological observations; and he measured with great accuracy the altitudes of Chimborazo and Tunguragua. He accompanied Mutis in his botanical explorations, and in 1804 was made director of the observatory. In 1816, when revolution was all abroad in Spanish America, a Spanish commander, Morillo, took possession of Bogotá. He knew the republican preferences of the professors; and they knew their consequent fate. On bended knees Caldas begged for a year of close confinement prior to his execution, in order that he might finish the great botanical work that had been in progress half a century, and the plan of which he alone understood; but he plead to insensate ears, and he and all the savants who had not effected their escape were butchered.

Meanwhile in Mexico, the astronomical observations of Velázquez y Cárdenas, Alzate y Ramírez, and León y Gama were attracting the attention of the French Academy and the leading astronomers of Europe; the Botanic Garden was established; and the Royal School of Mines and the Academy of Fine Arts were founded,—institutions which earned the unstinted encomiums of Humboldt.

The accession of Philip V., the grandson of Louis XIV. of France, to the throne of Spain, was distinguished by the advent of French influences, and the founding of academies and literary societies. The Spanish Royal Academy and the Lisbon Royal Academy of Sciences were established in 1714, and numerous societies, formed upon French or Italian models, sprang up in the Peninsula and the colonies, being especially noticeable in Brazil and the regions of the Plata. Another phase of the general intellectual revival was in progress in Caracas, the capital and leading commercial port of Venezuela, where foreign intercourse was spreading new and revolutionary ideas in politics.

It is in colonial Venezuela that we first meet, on American soil, with the Basques of the Pyrenees,—a people that are the living enigma of ethnology, without known kinship among the races of men. Shrewd, energetic, sturdy maintainers of liberty, they came over in great numbers in the eighteenth century, not to dig for gold, but to clear farms and introduce the culture of cocoa, cotton, coffee, and indigo. To them were largely due the material prosperity of Venezuela and its readiness to cast off the Spanish yoke. The liberator Simón Bolívar was a Basque, as were many of his principal followers. For the past hundred years the stream of Basque emigration has been toward the region of the Plata, where they have contributed to make the Argentine Republic a second New England: but they are scattered everywhere, and recognized by their industry, thrift, and un-Castilian names, as Icazbalceta, the Mexican archæologist; Narciso Aréstegui of Perú, author of the historical novel ‘El Padre Oraní’; the brothers Amunátegui of Chile, authors of ‘Los Precursores de la Independencia de Chile’; Anauzamendí, Arrechaveleta, Goicoerrotea, etc.

Thus we see that many important influences were tending towards a greater maturity of intelligence and independence of judgment in the Latin-American colonies, and energy was gradually accumulating for the next great advance in their national development.

The Revolutionary Period

THE YOKE of Spain, however legitimate, had long been felt to be heavy on the neck of her colonies; and the prostration of the Iberian peninsula beneath the heel of Napoleon furnished an opportunity for insurrections, which in 1810 broke out almost simultaneously in Mexico, Venezuela, New Granada, Quito, Chile, and Buenos Aires. The last viceroys of Mexico and Peru departed in 1821; and the independent empire of Brazil was proclaimed October 12th, 1822. That date may be held to close the revolutionary period, considered as a struggle for national independence.

The revolutionary period, as thus defined, covered only twelve years; and during this epoch the constant demands for action were a check to the powers of reflection. The poet abandoned his pen to grasp a flint-lock; and the diligent consumer of midnight oil now kept lonely vigil as a sentry on some rugged mountain pathway. There was neither time nor opportunity for deliberate literary composition; yet almost every day brought forth some event that served as material for writers during the years to come. Wordsworth’s statement that “poetry is the outcome of emotion reflected in tranquillity” finds here a wider application; for these stirring scenes proved, in the calm of later years, to be the most prolific of themes that poet or historian could desire.

There is little permanent merit in the numerous harangues and pamphlets that were the “trumpet-call to arms” of the early American patriots; and the popular rhymes in which some colonial hero was glorified, or some Peninsular leader ridiculed, lack importance except as rough embodiments of the sentiment of the hour. It is not until the waves of the contest begin to recede that the true literature engendered by the revolution comes into evidence.

One poet of the revolution, José Joaquín Olmedo of Ecuador (1781–1847), rises far above all others for the sublimity and classic finish of his style, which earned for him the epithet of “the American Pindar”; and it is no exaggeration to say that he possessed a magnificence of rhetoric and a power of patriotic exaltation such as few poets besides the great Theban have exhibited. Miguel Luis Amunátegui, the Chilean critic, says of him:—“He applies in his writing a system of poetical tactics, as a general employs strategy. He locates his figures, his comparisons, his thoughts, according to a carefully preconceived plan: he places an apostrophe here, a maxim there; on the one hand an antithesis, on the other an exclamation; he paves the way for a profound observation by introducing a pleasant and flowery description; he is careful to place near the somber portions, colors of a warmer tone in order to diversify impressions; he selects words that possess imitative harmony; he handles his ideas and phrases as a general does his men, his horses, and his field-pieces.” Yet the patriotic fervor of Olmedo’s verse is such that the reader sees only the perfection of the finished production, without discerning the assemblage of its parts. Olmedo’s masterpiece is his ‘Canto á Junín,’ an epic ode without an equal in the Spanish language. Some of the patriotic poems of Numa Pompilio Llona of Peru are especially fine; and the sonnet to Bolívar by the Peruvian Adolfo García is one of the most beautiful compositions of its kind.

The name of Andrés Bello recalls all that is ripest and best in Latin-American scholarship, statesmanship, and patriotism. The teacher of Bolívar, the personal friend and companion of Humboldt, in the inception of the revolution Bello took his place by the side of his illustrious pupil, and was by him sent on a difficult and delicate mission to England. There he labored assiduously, from 1810 to 1829, to strengthen the hands of his compatriots and procure for them the means of resistance. On the close of the revolutionary struggle he was induced by the Chileans to make his home in their country; where, as rector of the University of Santiago, he was universally recognized until his death in 1865, at the ripe age of eighty-four, as the brightest intellectual light of the southern continent. Deeply read in the ancient and modern literatures of Europe, in national and international affairs, his field of usefulness covered all that concerns mankind; and every part of Chilean life felt his invigorating influence. He prepared the great civil code that became law in 1855; and wrote treatises on international law, literary history, grammar, rhetoric, philology, pedagogics, and mental philosophy. To crown all, his poetic temperament, added to his clear and comprehensive intellect, made him one of the greatest masters of Castilian verse. His ‘Agricultura en la Zona Tórrida’ is a magnificent georgic of the remote south; and not less admired is his ‘Oración por Todos,’—suggested by Victor Hugo’s ‘Prière pour Tous.’

Of the revolutionary heroes who aided the cause of liberty with the tongue and pen as well as with the sword, one of the most prolific writers was Carlos María de Bustamante (1774–1848), the author of the Mexican “declaration of independence.” During the war he was four times a prisoner, and often a fugitive in peril of his life. His greatest literary work was a history of the Mexican revolution in six quarto volumes; and he was the author of several other considerable works on Mexican affairs. He edited eight successive newspapers; and wrote seventy-eight pamphlets, nearly all relating to political or other national matters.

The revolution in the region watered by the Plata was illustrated by the names and writings of Mariano Moreno, the disciple of Adam Smith; Estebán Lena y Patrón, diplomat, editor, and poet, the author of ‘La Libertad de Lima’; the philosophic Juan Crisostomo Lafinur, famed for his beautiful elegy on the death of General Belgrano, the hero of Tucumán; and Vincente López y Planes, who wrote ‘El Triunfo Argentino’ in honor of the repulse of the English invasion of Buenos Aires (1806–7), and also composed the national hymn of the republic.

During the period under consideration, the literary tone of Brazil presented a more placid character, due to her exemption from the violent contests that were agitating the remainder of the continent. This difference of tone is finely exemplified in the writings of Domingo Borges de Barros, Viscount of Pedra Branca (1783–1855),—more frequently spoken of simply as Pedra Branca. Born in affluence, he was educated in the mother country, where he became the boon companion of the literary coteries of Lisbon; and his sojourn of four years in France (1806–10) served to imbue him with the light Epicureanism of Paris. On his return to his native country, he showed republican leanings, and even carried them so far as to suffer a brief and genteel imprisonment. That, however, was soon over; in 1820 he was elected delegate to the Cortes at Lisbon; and on the establishment of independence he was made a senator of the Empire. Yet he never took any leading part as a legislator. He was essentially one of those who seek to enliven the brevity of life with the enjoyments of friendship, wine, gallantry, and song. The song too was characteristic: no grand epic or solemn ode, but ‘Poesias offerecidas ás Senhoras Brazileiras.’ His polished manners, light brilliancy, and unvarying geniality made him the favorite poet of the young empire; so that he was as truly a representative man as if he had been the Moses of a great emancipation.

The Period of Independence

OF the present sixteen independent republics of Latin America, three great countries—Chile, the Argentine Republic, and Brazil—have attained in the nineteenth century to greater importance than the early seats of aboriginal or viceregal splendor.

Chile had been a doubtful appendage of the empire of the Incas: after the downfall of that dynasty, the brave Araucans contested its possession with the Spanish invaders one hundred and eighty years; and when at length they were driven to the regions south of the Bío-Bío River, the northern portion was held as a part of the viceroyalty of Peru until the time of the revolution. Independence was secured in 1817; and the next few years were taken up with domestic wrangling and political experiments, until the present constitution was adopted in 1833. Since that time there has been continuous progress and prosperity. The great mineral and agricultural resources have been developed; education has been vigorously advanced; and in its national organization the republic compares favorably with the most progressive nations of the northern hemisphere.

The settlements in the region of the Plata and its great tributaries were made fitfully and under unusual disadvantages; and it was only in 1776 that Buenos Aires was made the residence of a viceroy, whose authority extended over the present Argentine Republic, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay. The existence of this government was neither tranquil nor durable; and active revolutionary measures were begun in 1813. Independence was secured and a federal constitution adopted in 1825. Half a century of domestic factions and foreign wars succeeded; and now the country has enjoyed twenty years of peace and prosperity, during which its growth has been rapid and healthy. As at present constituted, the Argentine Republic is one of the best-situated countries in the world, and seems destined to become in the next century one of the most powerful of nations. It is as large as Central and Western Europe, and nearly equal in extent to all of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains; its climate admits of the full development of man’s physical and mental powers; it has a vast extent of fertile soil; and its future prosperity depends not on precarious mines of gold, silver, or diamonds, but on steady labor and the orderly succession of seed-time and harvest.

Brazil is equal in area to the entire United States excluding Alaska; but its tropical climate is an obstacle to advancement. Before the present century the settlements in that country had a feeble, often disturbed existence; and until the discovery of diamonds in 1786, the peculiar red dye-stuff called “Brazil wood” was about the sole attraction to Europeans. When Napoleon was turning all European affairs into chaos and dissolution, João VI. left Lisbon in 1807 and set up his throne in Rio de Janeiro. That seemed to the Brazilians a great event, as it was the first time in history that a colony had become the head of a united kingdom. In time, however, they became discontented at seeing themselves as subordinate as ever, and that the Portuguese court retained all the powers and honors. When the King returned to Portugal in 1821, his son Dom Pedro was left as regent of the kingdom of Brazil. He became so popular that in the following year the Cortes at Lisbon ordered him to return home; but the people of Brazil begged him not to go, and proclaimed him emperor as Dom Pedro I. Thus Brazil’s independence of European control was attained without bloodshed or display of armed force; and under the wise direction of a permanent ruler, she was spared the internal dissensions that long proved a formidable obstacle to the progress of some of her neighbors.

Politics and literature are much allied in Latin America. The beginnings of revolution had little to do with theories of government or abstract rights of man: they aimed at the immediate ends of free trade and relief from foreign domination. Brazil accepted an emperor with enthusiasm; independent Mexico offered the crown to a Spanish prince, and on his refusal made Iturbide emperor; and Venezuela, Peru, Chile, Paraguay, and the Argentine admitted dictators. There has always been a tendency to run into dictatorial government. There is a permanent party—including the powerful influence of the Church—in favor of a strong personal government and a large amount of interference with individual interests. At the same time there have been large numbers with the apparent ideal of “every man his own lawgiver, judge, and executioner.” The contest has been between these parties, over the question of how much government people require. The Church and the older men generally have upheld rule and authority; literary men—the young, enthusiastic, and poetic—have as generally striven for larger freedom. It is almost a stereotyped phrase in any account of a poet that he was “an ardent advocate of liberty.” It is encouraging to observe that the distance between the two wings is diminishing; that the one party is becoming less eager to govern, and the other a little more willing to be governed.

WRITERS ON POLITICAL SCIENCE.—The necessities arising from the acquisition of national independence caused such subjects as political economy, international and constitutional law, and public education, to occupy a prominent place in the minds of the founders of the new republics. Early in the century, treatises on these topics began to appear which won the encomiums of eminent European authorities. The valuable labors of Andrés Bello have been already referred to. Juan Bautista Alberdi, the Argentine jurist (born 1808), is entitled to take rank in the class of publicists represented in Europe by Guizot, de Tocqueville, and the Mills, and by Kent and Story in the United States. He was the author of the Argentine constitution, and of eight substantial works, of which the most important are ‘Bases y Puntos de Partida para la Organización de la República Argentina’ and ‘Sistema Económico y Rentístico de la Confederación Argentina.’ A slight, delicate man, he was when aroused a powerful writer and speaker, his power being augmented by a vein of caustic irony. As polemic articles, his pamphlets are as famous for their aggressive virility as those of Paul Louis Courier. A celebrated work of more recent date is ‘La Reforma Política’ of Dr. Rafael Núñez, recently president of the republic of Colombia; Núñez is an ultra-conservative, and his great treatise favors a “paternal despotism.” Rafael Seijas of Venezuela is a distinguished jurist who has written ably upon international law; he is also a diligent student of English, French, and Italian literatures, upon which he has given to the public some interesting articles.

After Andrés Bello, few promoters of public education have better earned the esteem of their countrymen than Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, an Argentine born in 1811. He began his career as head of a female college; and in 1842 he established the first normal school of South America, at the same time that as an editor he was combating with all his might the “separatist” dictatorship of Rosas and advocating the union of the several States. While minister to the United States (1865–67) he made a careful study of the school system; and the results of his investigations were given to the world in an essay entitled ‘Las Escuelas: Base de la Prosperidad de los Estados Unidos.’ He was favored by the personal friendship and assistance of Horace Mann, who was perhaps the best-known educationalist that the United States has ever produced. Sarmiento was president of the Argentine Republic from 1868 to 1874. As a writer he was gifted with great originality and vigor of expression, which make his ‘Recuerdos de Provincia’ one of the most entertaining books of its kind. His masterpiece is entitled ‘Facundo,’ in which he presents in a series of glowing pictures a comprehensive survey of the points of difference between civilization and barbarism.

HISTORIANS.—History has always been well represented in the literature of Latin America. Most of the States have comprehensive histories, the fruit of much research, and written with careful regard to facts and form. There are also numerous historical works of more limited scope, devoted to certain districts or periods, or gathered around the achievements of individuals.

The national or State histories often surprise the stranger by the liberal scale upon which they are constructed. A profusion of material handed down from the old days of viceregal and monastic supremacy, combined with the greater leisure of the southern life, and a certain tendency to wordiness on the part of writers, have resulted in making these histories bulky, if not at times wearisome. We could wish a broader treatment of essentials, and less space devoted to details. The authors often lived too near the events they record, or were too deeply interested in them, to be able to take an impartial, panoramic view; or are weighted by religious, political, or social prepossessions.

Father Suárez informs his readers that in collecting material for his history of Ecuador, he examined ten thousand packages of papers filed in the Archives of the Indies in Seville. León Fernández, finding no history of his native State of Costa Rica, set about collecting materials; and in 1881–86 he gave to the world 1,917 closely printed pages of documents, not previously edited, bearing upon the history of a country of less than a quarter of a million of inhabitants, and whose first printing-press was set up in 1830. The history of Mexico from the earliest times to the death of Maximilian, by Niceto de Zamacóis, fills eighteen thick octavo volumes. Lorenzo Montúfar’s ‘Reseña Histórica de Centre-América’—a mere outline—makes seven volumes royal octavo; and the recent ‘Historia General de Chile,’ by Diego Barros Arana, comprises thirteen octavo volumes. Another Chilean historian, Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna, has written an account of a single campaign, ‘Historia de la Campaña de Tarapacá,’ in two volumes of a thousand pages each; his collective historical works fill fifteen volumes. The government of Venezuela is now publishing the historical essays of Arístides Rojas relative to that country, and they are estimated to form thirteen or fourteen volumes. The third stout volume of the ‘Historia General de la República del Ecuador,’ by Suárez, reaches only to the year 1718. Then there are the exhaustive works relating to Peru, of which we may mention the magnificent treatise of Raimondi, cut short in its fourth volume by the author’s death in 1892. The tenth volume of the ‘Historia de la República Argentina’ by Vicente Fidel López has just appeared, and its venerable author is continuing the work with an industry unchecked by the weight of his seventy-six years.

Among special historical works which even the briefest enumeration would include, the most widely known are probably the twin histories of General Bartolomé Mitre of Buenos Aires (born 1821), bearing the titles ‘Historia de Belgrano y de la Independencia Argentina,’ and ‘Historia de San Martín y de la Emancipación Sud-Americana.’ Special mention should be given to the standard work of Rafael María Baralt of Maracaibo (1810–60), entitled ‘Resumen de la Historia Antigua y Moderna de Venezuela,’ which Arístides Rojas has more recently supplemented by seven “studies” on various epochs and aspects of the national history. Two histories written by Colombians rank very high; namely, the ‘Historia de la Nueva Granada’ by José Antonio de Plaza, and the ‘Historia de la Revolutión de Colombia’ by José Manuel Restrepo. The historical works of Mariano Paz Soldán are characterized by that patient accumulation of facts which is supposed to distinguish German scholarship; his reputation rests more especially upon his ‘Historia del Perú Independiente de 1819 á 1827,’ and his ‘Diccionario Geográfico-Estadístico del Perú.’

Manuel Orozco y Berra gave to the public in 1880 an elaborate account of the ancient nations of Mexico in his ‘Historia Antigua y de la Conquista de México,’ in which he goes over the whole subject treated by Prescott, and adds a profusion of further details. Vicente Fidel López, the author of the large ‘History of the Argentine Republic’ previously mentioned, has written two historical works of great interest to the ethnologist and antiquarian; they are entitled ‘Las Razas del Perú Anteriores á la Conquista’ and ‘Les Races Aryennes au Pérou.’

Brazil has produced several historical writers of merit. The standard history is by Fr. Antonio de Varnhagen, and is entitled ‘Historia Geral do Brazil.’ It extends to the last half of the present century, but does not reach the abdication of Pedro II. Varnhagen’s style is lucid and dignified, as required by the subject, and free from the rhetorical inflation too common among inferior writers in the southern continent. His descriptive passages are often particularly fine. He published in 1860 an interesting little book, ‘A Caça no Brazil,’—the first of the kind that has appeared in South America,—describing the wild animals and the modes of pursuing them in the great forests and on the plains of that country. Pereira da Silva’s ‘Historia da Fundação do Imperio Brazileiro’ is one of the standard works of Brazilian history.

LITERARY CRITICS.—Opinions on authors and books occupy a larger relative space in Latin-American literature than in that of Anglo-Saxon nations. Criticism, among our southern neighbors, deals less with the views and statements of an author than with his manner of presenting them; so by treating literature as a fine art, along with painting and music, it becomes in itself a fine art, requiring artistic faculties carefully cultivated. One of the highest authorities in the southern continent has said: “That which above all other things exalts an author and enables him to reach posterity, is style.” The more staid people of the north hold that substance is even more important than form, and that the enduring masterpieces of the world’s literature combine both. It is a question of relative estimate.

Criticism, as a fine art, has been cultivated in Latin America with surprising assiduity; and includes among its eminent masters such men as Torres Caicedo, Miguel Luis Amunátegui, and Calixto Oyuela, the author of ‘Estudios y Artículos Literarios.’ A few words must be spared for Rafael M. Merchán, the Cuban exile, of whom it has been elegantly said that he “writes with a gloved hand and a pen of gold.” He made his home in Bogotá, one of the foremost literary centers of the southern continent, and became secretary to the President. His poetic temperament, wide reading, and fine discernment furnish the qualifications that make him above all a critic, and which shine conspicuously in his study on Juan Clemente Zenea and in his ‘Estudios Críticos.’

Of all this wealth of critical discussion, no part affords more attractive reading than the works of Martín García Mérou, the present Argentine minister to the United States. They show a wide familiarity with the literatures of Europe and America, a delicate judgment, and that kind of fairness that can appreciate the merits of one with whom he does not agree. In addition, his personal acquaintance with the leading contemporary authors of South America imparts to his writings a peculiar interest that is lacking in the works of less-favored critics. His essay on the poet Echeverría may be cited as one of his most thorough studies; while in his two recent reminiscences, ‘Recuerdos Literarios’ and ‘Confidencias Literarias,’ he flits from one author or book to another with all the vivacity and brilliancy of a tropical humming-bird.

Those most interested in the subject of Latin-American literature are now eagerly awaiting the great work in preparation by Professor García Velloso, of Buenos Aires. It is to be a comprehensive history of the literature of the entire southern continent.

NOVELISTS.—The novel, as a means of interesting and influencing the public mind, did not begin to assume prominence in Latin America until the latter half of the present century; and the class of writers whose specialty is prose fiction is still relatively small. Jorge Isaacs, the Colombian poet, is widely known by his ‘María,’ a simple and pathetic story of rural life, a translation of which has been extensively read in the United States. His compatriot Julio Arboleda has given the public a bright contrast to this somber picture, in his sparkling romance ‘Casimiro el Montañés.’

The collection of stories known as ‘La Linterna Mágica,’ written by José T. del Cuellar, of Mexico, has been deservedly popular. Ignacio M. Altamirano, a Mexican lawyer and orator of pure Indian blood, has left a novel, ‘Clemencia,’ which for style and pathos has seldom been surpassed. The Mexican historian Orozco y Berra wrote a beautiful novel, ‘Escenas de Treinta Años,’ relating the experiences of an unfortunate disappointed invalid. Dr. J. J. Fernández Lizardi, generally known by the pseudonym of “El Pensador Mexicano,” has revived the old Spanish picaresque type of romance in his ‘Periquillo Sarmiento.’

The Argentine historian Vicente Fidel Lopez is the author of a thrilling historical novel entitled ‘La Novia del Hereje,’ the scene of which is laid in Lima in the time of the Inquisition; but the favorite romance of the region of the Plata is the ‘Amalia’ of José Mármol, one of the most beautiful of modern novels. Chile has produced several noted works of fiction, among which the ‘Alberto el Jugador’ of the poetess Rosario Orrego de Uribe, ‘La Dote de una Joven,’ by Vicente Grez, and the historical novel ‘Los Héroes del Pacífico,’ by Ramón Pacheco, are much admired. ‘Contra la Marea,’ by the Chilean Alberto del Solar, is one of the most powerful of recent American novels.

Quite a number of romances have been founded upon Indian legends, or tell of Indian life and customs, after the manner of Fenimore Cooper. Two of the best of these are quite recent,—the ‘Painé’ and ‘Relmú’ of the Argentine publicist Estanislao S. Zeballos, who, still young, combines every form of literary activity. The ‘Huincahual,’ by Alberto del Solar, is one of the most able productions of this class, and gives evidence of a diligent study of Araucan customs and character. The Brazilian novelist José Martinião Alencar wrote two famous Indian romances, entitled ‘Iracema’ and ‘Guarany.’ ‘Iracema’ develops the main feature of the story of John Smith and Pocahontas. The other novel, like Helen Hunt Jackson’s ‘Ramona,’ tells how a young Indian loves a Portuguese woman. Carlos Gomes has transformed it into an opera which has become well known in Europe, retaining the name of ‘Guarany.’

Besides Martinião Alencar, Brazil has produced during the present century two highly successful writers of prose fiction,—Joaquim Manoel de Macedo and Bernardo Guimarães. Macedo was a doctor of medicine, a professor in the University of Rio, a member of Congress, and a prolific writer in prose and verse. His ‘Moreninha’ (Brunette), published in 1840, undertook for the first time to portray Brazilian society as it really was; it enjoyed extraordinary popularity, as did also his ‘Senhora,’ which some critics consider superior to ‘Moreninha.’ Guimarães is one of the most powerful and original writers of Brazil. ‘Ermitão de Muquem’ is considered his best novel. It is written in three versions or styles: one plain prose, one poetic prose, and one peculiar to the author, like the styles of Bentham and Carlyle. His ‘Seminarista’ is a romance with a tragic outcome, and is directed against the enforced celibacy of the clergy.

POETS AND DRAMATISTS.—The Spanish and Portuguese languages lend themselves so readily to versification that the amount of poetry produced is enormous; indeed, it may almost be assumed that every South-American writer not a scientific specialist is also a poet. Juan León Mera published in 1868 a critical history of the poets of Ecuador, at a time when many persons were not aware that that country had ever possessed any. Cortés, in his ‘Parnaso Peruano,’ fills eight hundred pages with choice extracts from forty-four of the leading poets of Peru; and the great anthology of Menéndez y Pelayo, consisting of four thick volumes of poetical selections, purports to give “only the very best that Spanish-American writers have produced in verse.”

Four names may represent the different styles of poetry cultivated in Mexico. Manuel Carpio, a physician by profession, was well read in Greek and Roman literatures, and a still more diligent student of Jewish lore. His ‘Tierra Santa’ is a work of great learning, not inferior to Robinson’s ‘Biblical Researches.’ He is best known, however, by his poems; one of which, ‘La Cena de Baltasar,’ shows remarkable descriptive power. Fernando Calderón is distinguished rather by the sweetness than the strength of his verse. The tenderness of his sentiments is well displayed in ‘Hermán, ó la Vuelta del Cruzado.’ He was the author of a comedy entitled ‘Á Ninguna de las Tres,’ intended as a satire on those who return from foreign travel only to find fault with everything at home. José Joaquín Pesado has at once tenderness, sublimity, and classic finish. In ‘La Revelación’ he has essayed to wake anew the harp which Dante swept; and he has given to his countrymen in their own tongue the odes of Horace and the psalms of David, along with some minor poems of rare beauty. Last of all, in ‘Los Aztecas’ he has sought to restore and interpret the hymns, chants, and lost lore of the primitive races of Anáhuac. Manuel Acuña, whose unhappy life extended only from 1849 to 1873, holds the place among Mexican poets that Edgar A. Poe does among those of the United States. In his nervous, delicate nature, poetry was a morbid secretion, like the pearl in the oyster; and he became the self-appointed priest and prophet of sorrow and disappointment. His most noted poems are ‘El Pasado,’ ‘Á Rosario,’ and a drama entitled ‘Gloria.’

One of the most enduring masterpieces of Spanish-American verse is ‘Gonzalo de Oyón,’ a beautifully wrought tale based upon an episode in the early history of the country. Its author, Julio Arboleda (1817–62), held the foremost rank among the Colombian writers of the first half of this century. Another Colombian writer who reflects the sentiments of the past is Silveria Espinosa de Rendón, who laments the expulsion of the Jesuits in her ‘Lágrimas i Recuerdos.’ Among the young and hopeful spirits that enliven the brilliant society of Bogotá at the present time, Antonio José Restrepo is the poet laureate. The most celebrated of his longer poems are ‘Un Canto’ and ‘El Dios Pan’; in which the author shows himself to be a liberalist of the most pronounced type, who writes in utter fearlessness of all absolute rulers for man’s mind, body, or estate.

The extensive writings of Estebán Echeverría (1809–51) contain many passages that are weak and commonplace; but he stands forth as the national poet of the Argentine Republic, reflecting the life and thought found on its vast plains and along its mighty rivers. The productions to which his fame is chiefly due are ‘Avellaneda,’ ‘La Revolución del Sur,’ and ‘La Cautiva.’ The last-named poem, an Indian story of the Pampas, deserves a place by the side of ‘Hiawatha,’ which it resembles in the unaffected beauty of its descriptive passages and the flowing simplicity of its versification. Martín Coronado and Rafael Obligado, two of the leading poets of Buenos Aires, are disciples of Echeverría, though of different types. Coronado’s verse is impassioned and dazzling; while Obligado’s muse loves the contentment of the family hearth or the shady banks of the majestic Paraná, where the stillness is broken only by the cry of a wild bird or the lazy dip of an oar.

The poems of Arnaldo Márquez and Clemente Althaus of Peru take a very high rank for their beauty and tenderness of sentiment as well as purity of style. The ‘Noche de Dolor en las Montañas’ and the ‘Canto de la Vida’ of the Peruvian Numa Pompilio Llona are compositions which will be admired for centuries. The ‘Romances Americanos’ of the Chilean poet Carlos Walker Martínez, and the ‘Flores del Aire’ of Dr. Adán Quiroga of Argentina, are collections of poems of great merit and originality. Compositions of remarkable beauty will be found in the ‘Brisas del Mar’ of the Peruvian Manuel Nicolás Corpancho, the ‘Armonías’ of Guillermo Blest Gana of Chile, and the ‘Flores Silvestres’ of Francisco Javier de Acha of Uruguay.

José Batrés y Montúfar of Guatemala, a lyric poet of merit, is one of the most noted satirists of America. Matías Córdoba and García Goyena of Guatemala have been justly compared, as fabulists, to Æsop and La Fontaine.

Among Brazilian writers of the present century, two representative poets may be selected: Antonio Gonçalves Dias and Domingos José Gonçalves Magalhães. Dias was even more esteemed as a patriot than as a poet; and was much employed by the late emperor in carrying out educational and other reforms, in which that estimable sovereign was deeply interested. The successive issues of miscellaneous poems by Dias are now known collectively as his ‘Canteiros,’ and won the enthusiastic commendation of the Portuguese critic Herculão. He also left some Indian epics, and the two dramas ‘Leonor de Mendonça’ and ‘Sextilhas de Frei Antão.’ He was so far honored in his own country that his fellow-townsmen erected a statue to his memory, with an inscription declaring him the foremost poet of Brazil. The best productions of Magalhães are a tragedy entitled ‘Antonio José ou o Poeta e a Inquisição,’ and ‘A Confederação dos Tamayos,’ the latter an epic founded on an outbreak of the Tamayo and other Indians.


ON looking across the Rio Grande at authors and books beyond, one is struck by some points that contrast with our northern life. There, public men are writers. Whether it be that political life stimulates literary activity, or that the latter is a passport to the former, presidents, senators, cabinet officers, judges, and ministers plenipotentiary all write. Many of them read, write, and speak a number of languages,—an accomplishment so rare in Saxon America that an envoy is sometimes sent on an important mission without being able to speak the language of the country to which he is accredited.

Again, the literary men of the far South, with scarce an exception, write poetry as readily as prose. Nothing could be more incongruous than the idea of the average public man in the United States writing poetry. Something is due to the character of the language, that a stranger does not readily appreciate. In Spanish and Portuguese verse the words roll and swell, liquid and lengthy, like the waves of the sea, and tempt one to prolong the billowy movement. An excellent critic has said on this point, “The seeming ease of the versification is constantly enticing the poet on.” The result is that we get not only good measure in the length of words, but liberal count in their number. Furthermore, we of the north are actively looking around, watching the chances; the man of the south is reflective, introspective, and he commits his soliloquies to paper. He is often more intent on photographing his own mind than on reaching the minds of others. Latin-American verse is glowingly descriptive, or plaintive and tender, with an occasional tinge of melancholy; but it all possesses a healthy and natural tone, and has not yet been infected by the morbid unrest and hopeless cynicism that characterizes much of the recent poetry of older nations.

In most Latin-American countries the persons of unmixed European descent are still in a minority. This alone would lead to a marked distinction of classes. Actually the difference between the highest and the lowest is still extreme. On the one hand there are learning and careful education—somewhat different from ours in kind, but by no means inferior in degree; on the other, the densest ignorance and superstition. The great bulk of the people from Texas to Cape Horn cannot read and write. Great efforts are put forth to remedy this state of things by general education, and much has already been accomplished; but the task is immense and will occupy several generations. In the United States, books are intended for a reading class numbering many millions, and are made as cheap as possible, so as to come within their reach. This is still more conspicuously the case in Germany. In Latin America there are no millions to read, and the best books are addressed to a relatively small class. As sales are limited, large works of general interest or permanent value are published or aided by the governments, or by wealthy and public-spirited individuals. Lesser works are often put forth in small editions at the cost of the author. No pains or expense is spared to make some of these masterpieces of their kind; and combinations of paper, typography, and binding are produced whose elegance is nowhere surpassed.

Of the lighter literature of the southern republics, a large part first appears in the various revistas and other literary periodicals maintained in all the principal cities. It consists principally of odes, sonnets, short stories, and essays. These essays embrace every variety of subject: the authors traverse—often literally—the Old World and the New, view them geographically, ethnologically, sociologically, and write under such captions as ‘A Winter in Russia,’ ‘The Bedouins of the City,’ ‘The Literature of Slang,’ or ‘The History of an Umbrella.’ The subjects are generally treated in a light, sketchy style, so as to be pleasant reading, and afford at least as much entertainment as information.

Novelists and dramatists are under a great disadvantage, having no protective tariff to save them from European, and especially French, competition. Editors and managers find translations cheaper and easier to obtain than native productions. There is happily a growing reaction in favor of native writers who represent American subjects as seen by American eyes. When the cultivated public becomes fully aware of the greater genuineness of these domestic productions, native talent will have an ampler field; and there is every reason to believe that it will be prepared to satisfy the fullest demand.

AUTHORITIES.—J. M. Pereira da Silva, ‘Os Varões Illustres do Brazil durante os Tempos Coloniaes,’ Paris, 1858. Ferdinand Wolff, ‘Histoire de la Littérature Brésilienne,’ Berlin, 1863. ‘Lira Americana,’ by R. Palma, Paris, 1865. Domingo Cortés, ‘América Poética,’ Paris, 1875; and ‘Diccionario Biográfico Americano,’ Paris, 1875. Juan León Mera, ‘Ojeada histórico-crítica sobre la Poesía Ecuatoriana,’ Quito, 1868. Francisco Largomaggiore, ‘América Literaria,’ Buenos Aires, 1883. Francisco Pimentel, ‘Historia Crítica de la Literatura y de las Ciencias en México.’ J. M. Torres Caicedo, ‘Ensayos Biográficos i de Crítica Literaria sobre los Principales Publicistas i Literatos de la América Latina.’ Marcelino Menéndez y Pelayo, ‘Antología de Poetas Hispano-Americanos,’ 4 vols., Madrid, 1893–95.