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be allowed afterwards to have excelled all poets, ancient or modern.
A dissertation on his works must necessarily be prolix, and therefore unsuited to our pages; but the extraordinary facility with which he wrote, and the jmmense quantity of his productious, are genuine matter of curiosity, and worthy relation.
In the height of his fame, he dedicated a long poem, in which Mary Queen of Scots was the heroine, to Pope Urban the Eighth.
Upon this occasion he received from that pontiff a letter, written in his own hand, and the degree of doctor of theology. Such a flattering tribute of admiration sanctioned the reverence in which his name was held in Spain, and spread his fame through every catholic country. The cardinal Barberini followed him with veneration in the streets; the king would stop to gaze at such a prodigy; the people crowded round him wherever he appeared : the learned and the studious thronged to Madrid from every part of Spain, to see this phænix of their country, " this monster of literature;” and even Italians, no extravagant admirers in general of poetry that is not their own, made pilgrimages from their country for the sole purpose of conversing with Lope. So associated was the idea of excellence with his name, that it grew in common conversation to signify any thing perfect in its kind; and a Lope diamond, a Lope day, or a Lope woman, became fashionable and familiar modes of expressing their respective good qualities. His poetry was as advantageous to his fortune as to his fame; the king enriched him with pensions and chaplaincies; the pope honoured him with dignities and preferments; and every nobleman at court aspired to the character of his Mæcenas, by conferring upon him frequent and valuable presents. His annual income was not less than 1500 ducats, exclusive of the price of his plays, which Cervantes insinuates that he was never inclined to forego, and Montalvan estimates at 80,000. He received in pre
sents from individuals as much as 10,500 more. His application of these sums partook of the spirit of the nation from which he drew them. Improvident and indiscriminate charity ran away with these gains, immense as they were, and rendered his life unprofitable to his friends, and uncomfortable to himself.
He continued to publish plays and poems, and to receive every remuneration that adulation and generosity could bestow, till the year 1635, when religious thoughts had rendered him so hypochondriac that he could hardly be considered as in full possession of his understanding. On the 22d of August, which was Friday, he felt himself more than usually oppressed in spirits and weak with age; but he was so much more anxious about the health of his soul than of his body, that he would not avail himself of the privilege to which his infirmities entitled him, of eating meat: and even resumed the flagellation, to which he had accustomed himself, with more than usual severity. This discipline is supposed to have hastened his death. He fell ill on that night, and having passed the necessary ceremonies with excessive devotion, he expired on Monday, the 26th of August, 1635.
The sensation produced by his death was, if possible, more astonishing than the reverence in which he was held while living. The splendour of his funeral, which was conducted at the charge of the most munificent of his patrons, the Duke of Sesa, the number and language of the sermons on that occasion, the competition of poets of all countries in celebrating his genius and lamenting his loss, are unparalleled in the annals of poetry, and perhaps scarcely equalled in those of royalty itself. The ceremonies attending his interment continued for nine days. The priests described him as a saint in his life, and represented his superiority over the classics in poetry, as great as that of the religion which he professed was over the heathen. The writings which were selected from the multitude produced on the occasion fill more than two large volumes.
Yet Lope de Vega was not contented either with his fame or his profits, and actually complained of neglect, envy, and poverty!
As an author he is most known, as indeed he is most wonderful, for the prodigious number of his writings. Twenty-one million three hundred thousand of his lines are said to be actually printed; and no less than eighteen hundred plays of his composition to have been acted on the stage. He nevertheless asserts, in one of his last
“ The printed part, though far too large, is less
Than that which yet unprinted waits the press.” It is true that the Castilian language is copious: the verses are often extremely short, and the laws of metre and of rhyme by no means severe.
Yet were we to give credit to such accounts, allowing him to begin his compositions at the age of thirteen, we must believe that, upon an average, he wrote more than nine hundred lines a day; a fertility of imagination and a celerity of pen, which, when we consider the occupations of his life as a soldier, a secretary, a master of a family, and a priest; his acquirements in Latin, Italian, and Portuguese; and his reputation for erudition, become not only improbable, but absolutely, and one may almost say, physically impossible.
As the credibility, however, of miracles must depend upon the weight of evidence, it will not be foreign to the purpose to examine the testimonies we possess of this extraordinary facility and exuberance of composition. There does not now exist the fourth part of the works which he and his admirers mention, yet enough remains to render him one of the most voluminous authors that ever put pen to paper. Such was his facility, that he informs us, in one of his Eclogues, that more than a hundred times he composed a play and produced it on the stage in twenty-four hours. Montalvan declares that he wrote in metre with asmuch rapidity as in prose, and in confirmation of it he relates the following story.
“ His pen was unable to keep pace with his mind,
as he invented even more than his hand was capable of transcribing. He wrote a comedy in two days, which it would not be very easy for the most expeditious amanuensis to copy out in the time. At Toledo he wrote fifteen acts in fifteen days, which made five comedies. Roque de Figueroa, the writer for the theatre at Madrid, was once at such a loss for comedies, that the doors of the theatre de la Cruz were shut; but as it was in the Carnival, he was so anxious upon the subject, that Lope and myself agreed to compose a joint comedy as fast as possible. The first act fell to Lope's lot, and the second to mine; we despatched these in two days; and the third was to be divided into eight leaves each. As it was bad weather, I remained in his house that night, and knowing that I could not equal him in the execution, I thought to beat him in the despatch of the business; for this purpose I got up at two o'clock, and at eleven had completed my share of the work. I immediately went out to look for him, and found him very deeply occupied with an orange-tree that had been frost-bitten in the night. Upon my asking him how he had gone on with his task, he answered, “I set about it at five, but I finished the act an hour ago; took breakfast; wrote an epistle of fifty triplets; and have watered the whole of the garden : which has not a little fatigued me.' Then taking out the papers, he read me the eight leaves and the triplets; a circumstance that would have astonished me, had I not known the fertility of his genius, and the dominion he had over the rhymes of our language."
One of his admirers told an Italian, he was so good a poet, that in order to oblige a friend, lie wrote a whole comedy in one night.
Lope de Vega was contemporary with both Shakspeare and Fletcher; and more than five hundred of his plays are still extant, many of which are exceeding
La Belle Assemblée,
ANECDOTES OF MOZART. The most celebrated of Mozart's Italian operas is Don Juan, which has recently been performed with so much applanse in London. The overture was composed under very remarkable circumstances. Mozart was much addicted to triling amusement, and was accustomed to indulge bimself in that too common attendant upon superior talent, procrastination. The general rehearsal of this opera had taken place, and the evening before the first performance had arrived, but not a note of the overture was written. At about eleven at night, Mozart came home, and desired his wife to make him some punch, and to stay with him to keep bim awake. Accordingly, when he began to write, she began to tell him fairy tales and odd stories, which made him laugh, and by the very exertion preserved him from sleep. The punch, however, made him so drowsy, that he could only write while his wife was talking, and dropped asleep as soon as she ceased. He was at last so fatigued by these unnatural efforts, that he persuaded his wife to suffer him to sleep for an hour. He slept, however, for two hours, and at five o'clock in the morning she awakened him. He had appointed his music-copiers to come at seven, and when they arrived, the overture was finished. It was played without a rehearsal, and was justly applauded as a brilliant and grand composition. We ought at the same time to say, that some very sagacious critics have discovered the passages in the composition where Mozart dropt asleep, and those where he was suddenly awakened.
The bodily frame of Mozart was tender and exquisitely sensible ; ill health soon overtook him, and brought with it a melancholy approaching to despondency. A very short time before his death, which took place when he was only thirty-six, le composed that celebrated requiem, which, by an extraordinary presentiment of his approaching dissolution, he considered as written for his own funeral.