City Readers Digital Historic Collections at the New York Society Library
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616)
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (/sərˈvɒnteɪz/ or /sərˈvæntiːz/; Spanish: [miˈɣel de θerˈβantes saˈβeðɾa]; 29 September 1547 (assumed) – 22 April 1616), often simply called Cervantes, was a Spanish novelist, poet, and playwright.
His major work, Don Quixote, considered to be the first modern European novel, is a classic of Western literature, and is regarded amongst the best works of fiction ever written. His influence on the Spanish language has been so great that the language is often called la lengua de Cervantes ("the language of Cervantes"). He was dubbed El Príncipe de los Ingenios ("The Prince of Wits").
In 1569 Cervantes moved to Rome where he worked as chamber assistant of a cardinal. He then enlisted as a soldier in a Spanish Navy infantry regiment and continued his military life until 1575, when he was captured by Algerian corsairs. After five years of captivity, he was released by his captors on payment of a ransom by his parents and the Trinitarians, a Catholic religious order, and he subsequently returned to his family in Madrid.
In 1585 Cervantes published a pastoral novel named La Galatea. He worked as a purchasing agent for the Spanish Armada, and later as a tax collector. In 1597 discrepancies in his accounts for three years previous landed him in the Crown Jail of Seville. In 1605 he was in Valladolid when the immediate success of the first part of his Don Quixote, published in Madrid, signalled his return to the literary world. In 1607 he settled in Madrid, where he lived and worked until his death. During the last nine years of his life, Cervantes solidified his reputation as a writer; he published the Novelas ejemplares (Exemplary Novels) in 1613, the Journey to Parnassus (Viaje al Parnaso) in 1614, and in 1615 the Ocho comedias y ocho entremeses and the second part of Don Quixote.