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Christopher Columbus and How He Received and Imparted the Spirit of Discovery By Justin Winsor Characters: 76080

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Contemporary notices.


We may most readily divide by the nationalities of the writers our enumeration of those who have used the material which has been considered in the previous chapter. We begin, naturally, with the Italians, the countrymen of Columbus. We may look first to three Genoese, and it has been shown that while they used documents apparently now lost, they took nothing from them which we cannot get from other sources; and they all borrowed from common originals, or from each other. Two of these writers are Antonio Gallo, the official chronicler of the Genoese Republic, on the first and second voyages of Columbus, and so presumably writing before the third was made, and Bartholomew Senarega on the affairs of Genoa, both of which recitals were published by Muratori, in his great Italian collection. The third is Giustiniani, the Bishop of Nebbio, who, publishing in 1516, at Genoa, a polyglot Psalter, added, as one of his elucidations of the nineteenth psalm, on the plea that Columbus had often boasted he was chosen to fulfill its prophecy, a brief life of Columbus, in which the story of the humble origin of the navigator has in the past been supposed to have first been told. The other accounts, it now appears, had given that condition an equal prominence. Giustiniani was but a child when Columbus left Genoa, and could not have known him; and taking, very likely, much from hearsay, he might have made some errors, which were repeated or only partly corrected in his Annals of Genoa, published in 1537, the year following his own death. It is not found, however, that the sketch is in any essential particular far from correct, and it has been confirmed by recent investigations. The English of it is given in Harrisse's Notes on Columbus (pp. 74-79). The statements of the Psalter respecting Columbus were reckoned with other things so false that the Senate of Genoa prohibited its perusal and allowed no one to possess it,-at least so it is claimed in the Historie of 1571; but no one has ever found such a decree, nor is it mentioned by any who would have been likely to revert to it, had it ever existed.


The account in the Collectanea of Battista Fulgoso (sometimes written Fregoso), printed at Milan in 1509, is of scarcely any original value, though of interest as the work of another Genoese. Allegetto degli Allegetti, whose Ephemerides is also published in Muratori, deserves scarcely more credit, though he seems to have got his information from the letters of Italian merchants living in Spain, who communicated current news to their home correspondents. Bergomas, who had published a chronicle as early as 1483, made additions to his work from time to time, and in an edition printed at Venice, in 1503, he paraphrased Columbus's own account of his first voyage, which was reprinted in the subsequent edition of 1506. In this latter year Maffei de Volterra published a commentary at Rome, of much the same importance. Such was the filtering process by which Italy, through her own writers, acquired contemporary knowledge of her adventurous son.

The method was scarcely improved in the condensation of Jovius (1551), or in the traveler's tales of Benzoni (1565).

Casoni, 1708.


Harrisse affirms that it is not till we come down to the Annals of Genoa, published by Filippo Casoni, in 1708, that we get any new material in an Italian writer, and on a few points this last writer has adduced documentary evidence, not earlier made known. It is only when we pass into the present century that we find any of the countrymen of Columbus undertaking in a sustained way to tell the whole story of Columbus's life. Léon had noted that at some time in Spain, without giving place and date, Columbus had printed a little tract, Declaration de Tabla Navigatoria; but no one before Luigi Bossi had undertaken to investigate the writings of Columbus. He is precursor of all the modern biographers of Columbus, and his book was published at Milan, in 1818. He claimed in his appendix to have added rare and unpublished documents, but Harrisse points out how they had all been printed earlier.

Bossi expresses opinions respecting the Spanish nation that are by no means acceptable to that people, and Navarrete not infrequently takes the Italian writer to task for this as for his many errors of statement, and for the confidence which he places even in the pictorial designs of De Bry as historical records.

There is nothing more striking in the history of American discovery than the fact that the Italian people furnished to Spain Columbus, to England Cabot, and to France Verrazano; and that the three leading powers of Europe, following as maritime explorers in the lead of Portugal, who could not dispense with Vespucius, another Italian, pushed their rights through men whom they had borrowed from the central region of the Mediterranean, while Italy in its own name never possessed a rood of American soil. The adopted country of each of these Italians gave more or less of its own impress to its foster child. No one of these men was so impressible as Columbus, and no country so much as Spain was likely at this time to exercise an influence on the character of an alien. Humboldt has remarked that Columbus got his theological fervor in Andalusia and Granada, and we can scarcely imagine Columbus in the garb of a Franciscan walking the streets of free and commercial Genoa as he did those of Seville, when he returned from his second voyage.

The latest of the considerable popular Italian lives of Columbus is G. B. Lemoyne's Colombo e la Scoperta dell' America, issued at Turin, in 1873.

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Portuguese writers.

We may pass now to the historians of that country to which Columbus betook himself on leaving Italy; but about all to be found at first hand is in the chronicle of Jo?o II. of Portugal, as prepared by Ruy de Pina, the archivist of the Torre do Tombo. At the time of the voyage of Columbus Ruy was over fifty, while Garcia de Resende was a young man then living at the Portuguese court, who in his Choronica, published in 1596, did little more than borrow from his elder, Ruy; and Resende in turn furnished to Jo?o de Barros the staple of the latter's narrative in his Decada da Asia, printed at Lisbon, in 1752.

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Spanish writers.

Peter Martyr.

We find more of value when we summon the Spanish writers. Although Peter Martyr d'Anghiera was an Italian, Mu?oz reckons him a Spaniard, since he was naturalized in Spain. He was a man of thirty years, when, coming from Rome, he settled in Spain, a few years before Columbus attracted much notice. Martyr had been borne thither on a reputation of his own, which had commended his busy young nature to the attention of the Spanish court. He took orders and entered upon a prosperous career, proceeding by steps, which successively made him the chaplain of Queen Isabella, a prior of the Cathedral of Granada, and ultimately the official chronicler of the Indies. Very soon after his arrival in Spain, he had disclosed a quick eye for the changeful life about him, and he began in 1488 the writing of those letters which, to the number of over eight hundred, exist to attest his active interest in the events of his day. These events he continued to observe till 1525. We have no more vivid source of the contemporary history, particularly as it concerned the maritime enterprise of the peninsular peoples. He wrote fluently, and, as he tells us, sometimes while waiting for dinner, and necessarily with haste. He jotted down first and unconfirmed reports, and let them stand. He got news by hearsay, and confounded events. He had candor and sincerity enough, however, not to prize his own works above their true value. He knew Columbus, and, his letters readily reflect what interest there was in the exploits of Columbus, immediately on his return from his first voyage; but the earlier preparations of the navigator for that voyage, with the problematical characteristics of the undertaking, do not seem to have made any impression upon Peter Martyr, and it is not till May of 1493, when the discovery had been made, and later in September, that he chronicles the divulged existence of the newly discovered islands. The three letters in which this wonderful intelligence was first communicated are printed by Harrisse in English, in his Notes on Columbus. Las Casas tells us how Peter Martyr got his accounts of the first discoveries directly from the lips of Columbus himself and from those who accompanied him; but he does not fail to tell us also of the dangers of too implicitly trusting to all that Peter says. From May 14, 1493, to June 5, 1497, in twelve separate letters, we read what this observer has to say of the great navigator who had suddenly and temporarily stepped into the glare of notice. These and other letters of Peter Martyr have not escaped some serious criticism. There are contradictions and anachronisms in them that have forcibly helped Ranke, Hallam, Gerigk, and others to count the text which we have as more or less changed from what must have been the text, if honestly written by Martyr. They have imagined that some editor, willful or careless, has thrown this luckless accompaniment upon them. The letters, however, claimed the confidence of Prescott, and have, as regards the parts touching the new discoveries, seldom failed to impress with their importance those who have used them. It is the opinion of the last examiner of them, J. H. Mariéjol, in his Peter Martyr d'Anghera (Paris, 1887), that to read them attentively is the best refutation of the skeptics. Martyr ceased to refer to the affairs of the New World after 1499, and those of his earlier letters which illustrate the early voyage have appeared in a French version, made by Gaffarel and Louvot (Paris, 1885).

The representations of Columbus easily convinced Martyr that there opened a subject worthy of his pen, and he set about composing a special treatise on the discoveries in the New World, and, under the title of De Orbe Novo, it occupied his attention from October, 1494, to the day of his death. For the earlier years he had, if we may believe him, not a little help from Columbus himself; and it would seem from his one hundred and thirty-five epistles that he was not altogether prepared to go with Columbus, in accounting the new islands as lying off the coast of Asia. He is particularly valuable to us in treating of Columbus's conflicts with the natives of Espa?ola, and Las Casas found him as helpful as we do.

These Decades, as the treatise is usually called, formed enlarged bulletins, which, in several copies, were transmitted by him to some of his noble friends in Italy, to keep them conversant with the passing events.


A certain Angelo Trivigiano, into whose hands a copy of some of the early sections fell, translated them into easy, not to say vulgar, Italian, and sent them to Venice, in four different copies, a few months after they were written; and in this way the first seven books of the first decade fell into the hands of a Venetian printer, who, in April, 1504, brought out a little book of sixteen leaves in the dialect of that region, known in bibliography as the Libretto de Tutta la Navigation de Re de Spagna de le Isole et Terreni novamente trovati. This publication is known to us in a single copy lacking a title, in the Biblioteca Marciana. Here we have the first account of the new discoveries, written upon report, and supplementing the narrative of Columbus himself. We also find in this little narrative some personal details about Columbus, not contained in the same portions when embodied in the larger De Orbe Novo of Martyr, and it may be a question if somebody who acted as editor to the Venetian version may not have added them to the translation. The story of the new discoveries attracted enough notice to make Zorzi or Montalboddo-if one or the other were its editor-include this Venetian version of Martyr bodily in the collection of voyages which, as Paesi novamente retrovati, was published at Vicentia somewhere about November, 1507. It is, perhaps, a measure of the interest felt in the undertakings of Columbus, not easily understood at this day, that it took fourteen years for a scant recital of such events to work themselves into the context of so composite a record of discovery as the Paesi proved to be; and still more remarkable it may be accounted that the story could be told with but few actual references to the hero of the transactions, "Columbus, the Genoese." It is not only the compiler who is so reticent, but it is the author whence he borrowed what he had to say, Martyr himself, the observer and acquaintance of Columbus, who buries the discoverer under the event. With such an augury, it is not so strange that at about the same time in the little town of St. Dié, in the Vosges, a sequestered teacher could suggest a name derived from that of a follower of Columbus, Americus Vespucius, for that part of the new lands then brought into prominence. If the documentary proofs of Columbus's priority had given to the Admiral's name the same prominence which the event received, the result might not, in the end, have been so discouraging to justice.

Martyr, unfortunately, with all his advantages, and with his access to the archives of the Indies, did not burden his recital with documents. He was even less observant of the lighter traits that interest those eager for news than might have been expected, for the busy chaplain was a gossip by nature: he liked to retail hearsays and rumors; he enlivened his letters with personal characteristics; but in speaking of Columbus he is singularly reticent upon all that might picture the man to us as he lived.



When, in 1534, these portions of Martyr's Decades were combined with a summary of Oviedo, in a fresh publication, there were some curious personal details added to Martyr's narrative; but as Ramusio is supposed to have edited the compilation, these particulars are usually accredited to that author. It is not known whence this Italian compiler could have got them, and there is no confirmation of them elsewhere to be found. If these additions, as is supposed, were a foreign graft upon Martyr's recitals, the staple of his narrative still remains not altogether free from some suspicions that, as a writer himself, he was not wholly frank and trustworthy. At least a certain confusion in his method leads some of the critics to discover something like imposture in what they charge as a habit of antedating a letter so as to appear prophetic; while his defenders find in these same evidences of incongruity a sign of spontaneity that argues freshness and sincerity.

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The confidence which we may readily place in what is said of Columbus in the chronicle of Ferdinand and Isabella, written by Andrès Bernaldez, is prompted by his acquaintance with Columbus, and by his being the recipient of some of the navigator's own writings from his own hands. He is also known to have had access to what Chanca and other companions of Columbus had written. This country curate, who lived in the neighborhood of Seville, was also the chaplain of the Archbishop of Seville, a personal friend of the Admiral, and from him Bernaldez received some help. He does not add much, however, to what is given us by Peter Martyr, though in respect to the second voyage and to a few personal details Bernaldez is of some confirmatory value. The manuscript of his narrative remained unprinted in the royal library at Madrid till about thirty-five years ago; but nearly all the leading writers have made use of it in copies which have been furnished.

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In coming to Oviedo, we encounter a chronicler who, as a writer, possesses an art far from skillful. Mu?oz laments that his learning was not equal to his diligence. He finds him of little service for the times of Columbus, and largely because he was neglectful of documents and pursued uncritical combinations of tales and truths. With all his vagaries he is a helpful guide. "It is not," says Harrisse, "that Oviedo shows so much critical sagacity, as it is that he collates all the sources available to him, and gives the reader the clues to a final judgment." He is generally deemed honest, though Las Casas thought him otherwise. The author of the Historie looks upon him as an enemy of Columbus, and would make it appear that he listened to the tales of the Pinzons, who were enemies of the Admiral. His administrative services in the Indies show that he could be faithful to a trust, even at the risk of popularity. This gives a presumption in favor of his historic fairness. He was intelligent if not learned, and a power of happy judgments served him in good stead, even with a somewhat loose method of taking things as he heard them. He further inspires us with a certain amount of confidence, because he is not always a hero-worshiper, and he does not hesitate to tell a story, which seems to have been in circulation, to the effect that Columbus got his geographical ideas from an old pilot. Oviedo, however, refrains from setting the tale down as a fact, as some of the later writers, using little of Oviedo's caution, and borrowing from him, did. His opportunities of knowing the truth were certainly exceptional, though it does not appear that he ever had direct communication with the Admiral himself. He was but a lad of fifteen when we find him jotting down notes of what he saw and heard, as a page in attendance upon Don Juan, the son of the Spanish sovereigns, when, at Barcelona, he saw them receive Columbus after his first voyage. During five years, between 1497 and 1502, he was in Italy. With that exception he was living within the Spanish court up to 1514, when he was sent to the New World, and passed there the greater part of his remaining life. While he had been at court in his earlier years, the sons of Columbus, Diego and Ferdinand, were his companions in the pages' anteroom, and he could hardly have failed to profit by their acquaintance. We know that from the younger son he did derive not a little information. When he went to America, some of Columbus's companions and followers were still living,-Pinzon, Ponce de Leon, and Diego Velasquez,-and all these could hardly have failed to help him in his note-taking. He also tells us that he sought some of the Italian compatriots of the Admiral, though Harrisse judges that what he got from them was not altogether trustworthy. Oviedo rose naturally in due time into the position of chronicler of the Indies, and tried his skill at first in a descriptive account of the New World. A command of Charles the Fifth, with all the facilities which such an order implied, though doubtless in some degree embarrassed by many of the documentary proofs being preserved rather in Spain than in the Indies, finally set him to work on a Historia General de las Indias, the opening portions of which, and those covering the career of Columbus, were printed at Seville in 1535. It is the work of a consistent though not blinded admirer of the Discoverer, and while we might wish he had helped us to more of the proofs of his narrative, his recital is, on the whole, one to be signally grateful for.

Gomara, in the early part of his history, mixed up what he took from Oviedo with what else came in his way, with an avidity that rejected little.

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Historie ascribed to Ferdinand Columbus.

But it is to a biography of Columbus, written by his youngest son, Ferdinand, as was universally believed up to 1871, that all the historians of the Admiral have been mainly indebted for the personal details and other circumstances which lend vividness to his story. As the book has to-day a good many able defenders, notwithstanding the discredit which Harrisse has sought to place upon it, it is worth while to trace the devious paths of its transmission, and to measure the burden of confidence placed upon it from the days of Ferdinand to our own.

The rumor goes that some of the statements in the Psalter note of 1516, particularly one respecting the low origin of the Admiral, disturbed the pride of Ferdinand to such a degree that this son of Columbus undertook to leave behind him a detailed account of his father's career, such as the Admiral, though urged to do it, had never found time to write. Ferdinand was his youngest son, and was born only three or four years before his father left Palos. There are two dates given for his birth, each apparently on good authority, but these are a year apart.

Career of Ferdinand Columbus.

The language of Columbus's will, as well as the explicit statements of Oviedo and Las Casas, leaves no reasonable ground for doubting his illegitimacy. Bastardy was no bar to heirship in Spain, if a testator chose to make a natural son his heir, as Columbus did, in giving Ferdinand the right to his titles after the failure of heirs to Diego, his legitimate son. Columbus's influence early found him a place as a page at court, and during the Admiral's fourth voyage, in 1502-1504, the boy accompanied his father, and once or twice at a later day he again visited the Indies. When Columbus died, this son inherited many of his papers; but if his own avowal be believed, he had neglected occasions in his father's lifetime to question the Admiral respecting his early life, not having, as he says, at that time learned to have interest in such matters. His subsequent education at court, however, implanted in his mind a good deal of the scholar's taste, and as a courtier in attendance upon Charles the Fifth he had seasons of travel, visiting pretty much every part of Western Europe, during which he had opportunities to pick up in many places a large collection of books. He often noted in them the place and date of purchase, so that it is not difficult to learn in this way something of his wanderings.

The income of Ferdinand was large, or the equivalent of what Harrisse calls to-day 180,000 francs, which was derived from territorial rights in San Domingo, coming to him from the Admiral, increased by slave labor in the mines, assigned to him by King Ferdinand, which at one time included the service of four hundred Indians, and enlarged by pensions bestowed by Charles the Fifth.

It has been said sometimes that he was in orders; but Harrisse, his chief biographer, could find no proof of it. Oviedo describes him in 1535 as a person of "much nobility of character, of an affable turn and of a sweet conversation."

Biblioteca Colombina.

When he died at Seville, July 12, 1539, he had amassed a collection of books, variously estimated in contemporary accounts at from twelve to twenty thousand volumes. Harrisse, in his Grandeur et Décadence de la Colombine (2d ed., Paris, 1885), represents Ferdinand as having searched from 1510 to 1537 all the principal book marts of Europe. He left these books by will to his minor nephew, Luis Colon, son of Diego, but there was a considerable delay before Luis renounced the legacy, with the conditions attached. Legal proceedings, which accompanied the transactions of its executors, so delayed the consummation of the alternative injunction of the will that the chapter of the Cathedral of Seville, which, was to receive the library in case Don Luis declined it, did not get possession of it till 1552.

The care of it which ensued seems to have been of a varied nature. Forty years later a scholar bitterly complains that it was inaccessible. It is known that by royal command certain books and papers were given up to enrich the national archives, which, however, no longer contain them. When, in 1684, the monks awoke to a sense of their responsibility and had a new inventory of the books made, it was found that the collection had been reduced to four or five thousand volumes. After the librarian who then had charge of it died in 1709, the collection again fell into neglect. There are sad stories of roistering children let loose in its halls to make havoc of its treasures. There was no responsible care again taken of it till a new librarian was chosen, in 1832, who discovered what any one might have learned before, that the money which Ferdinand left for the care and increase of the library had never been applied to it, and that the principal, even, had disappeared. Other means of increasing it were availed of, and the loss of the original inestimable bibliographical treasures was forgotten in the crowd of modern books which were placed upon its shelves. Amid all this new growth, it does not appear just how many of the books which descended from Ferdinand still remain in it. Something of the old carelessness-to give it no worse name-has despoiled it, even as late as 1884 and 1885, when large numbers of the priceless treasures still remaining found a way to the Quay Voltaire and other marts for old books in Paris, while others were disposed of in London, Amsterdam, and even in Spain. This outrage was promptly exposed by Harrisse in the Revue Critique, and in two monographs, Grandeur et Décadence, etc., already named, and in his Colombine et Clément Marot (Paris, 1886); and the story has been further recapitulated in the accounts of Ferdinand and his library, which Harrisse has also given in his Excerpta Colombiana: Bibliographie de Quatre Cents Pièces Gothiques Francaises, Italiennes et Latines du Commencement du XVI Siecle (Paris, 1887), an account of book rarities found in that library.


[From Harrisse's Grandeur el Décadence de la Colombine (Paris, 1885).]

Perez de Oliva.

We are fortunate, nevertheless, in having a manuscript catalogue of it in Ferdinand's own hand, though not a complete one, for he died while he was making it. This library, as well as what we know of his writings and of the reputation which he bore among his contemporaries, many of whom speak of him and of his library with approbation, shows us that a habit, careless of inquiry in his boyhood, gave place in his riper years to study and respect for learning. He is said by the inscription on his tomb to have composed an extensive work on the New World and his father's finding of it, but it has disappeared. Neither in his library nor in his catalogue do we find any trace of the life of his father which he is credited with having prepared. None of his friends, some of them writers on the New World, make any mention of such a book. There is in the catalogue a note, however, of a life of Columbus written about 1525, of which the manuscript is credited to Ferdinand Perez de Oliva, a man of some repute, who died in 1530. Whether this writing bore any significant relation to the life which is associated with the owner of the library is apparently beyond discovery. It can scarcely be supposed that it could have been written other than with Ferdinand's cognizance. That there was an account of the Admiral's career, quoted in Las Casas and attributed to Ferdinand Columbus, and that it existed before 1559, seems to be nearly certain. A manuscript of the end of the sixteenth century, by Gonzalo Argote de Molina, mentions a report that Ferdinand had written a life of his father. Harrisse tells us that he has seen a printed book catalogue, apparently of the time of Mu?oz or Navarette, in which a Spanish life of Columbus by Ferdinand Columbus is entered; but the fact stands without any explanation or verification. Spotorno, in 1823, in an introduction to his collection of documents about Columbus, says that the manuscript of what has passed for Ferdinand's memoir of his father was taken from Spain to Genoa by Luis Colon, the Duke of Veragua, son of Diego and grandson of Christopher Columbus. It is not known that Luis ever had any personal relations with Ferdinand, who died while Luis was still in Santo Domingo.

Character of the Historie.

It is said that it was in 1568 that Luis took the manuscript to Genoa, but in that year he is known to have been living elsewhere. He had been arrested in Spain in 1558 for having three wives, when he was exiled to Oran, in Africa, for ten years, and he died in 1572. Spotorno adds that the manuscript afterwards fell into the hands of a patrician, Marini, from whom Alfonzo de Ullua received it, and translated it into Italian. It is shown, however, that Marini was not living at this time. The original Spanish, if that was the tongue of the manuscript, then disappeared, and the world has only known it in this Italian Historie, published in 1571. Whether the copy brought to Italy had been in any way changed from its original condition, or whether the version then made public fairly represented it, there does not seem any way of determining to the satisfaction of everybody. At all events, the world thought it had got something of value and of authority, and in sundry editions and retranslations, with more or less editing and augmentation, it has passed down to our time-the last edition appearing in 1867-unquestioned for its service to the biographers of Columbus. Mu?oz hardly knew what to make of some of "its unaccountable errors," and conjectured that the Italian version had been made from "a corrupt and false copy;" and coupling with it the "miserable" Spanish rendering in Barcia's Historiadores, Mu?oz adds that "a number of falsities and absurdities is discernible in both." Humboldt had indeed expressed wonder at the ignorance of the book in nautical matters, considering the reputation which Ferdinand held in such affairs. It began the Admiral's story in detail when he was said to be fifty-six years of age. It has never been clear to all minds that Ferdinand's asseveration of a youthful want of curiosity respecting the Admiral's early life was sufficient to account for so much reticence respecting that formative period. It has been, accordingly, sometimes suspected that a desire to ignore the family's early insignificance rather than ignorance had most to do with this absence of information. This seems to be Irving's inference from the facts.

Attacked by Harrisse.

In 1871, Henry Harrisse, who in 1866 had written of the book, "It is generally accepted with some latitude," made the first assault on its integrity, in his Fernando Colon, published in Seville, in Spanish, which was followed the next year by his Fernand Colomb, in the original French text as it had been written, and published at Paris. Harrisse's view was re?nforced in the Additions to his Bibliotheca Americana Vetustissima, and he again reverted to the subject in the first volume of his Christophe Colomb, in 1884. In the interim the entire text of Las Casas's Historia had been published for the first time, rendering a comparison of the two books more easy. Harrisse availed himself of this facility of examination, and made no abatement of his confident disbelief. That Las Casas borrowed from the Historie, or rather that the two books had a common source, Harrisse thinks satisfactorily shown. He further throws out the hint that this source, or prototype, may have been one of the lost essays of Ferdinand, in which he had followed the career of his father; or indeed, in some way, the account written by Oliva may have formed the basis of the book. He further implies that, in the transformation to the Italian edition of 1571, there were engrafted upon the narrative many contradictions and anachronisms, which seriously impair its value. Hence, as he contends, it is a shame to impose its authorship in that foreign shape upon Ferdinand. He also denies in the main the story of its transmission as told by Spotorno.

So much of this book as is authentic, and may be found to be corroborated by other evidence, may very likely be due to the manuscript of Oliva, transported to Italy, and used as the work of Ferdinand Columbus, to give it larger interest than the name of Oliva would carry; while, to gratify prejudices and increase its attractions, the various interpolations were made, which Harrisse thinks-and with much reason-could not have proceeded from one so near to Columbus, so well informed, and so kindly in disposition as we know his son Ferdinand to have been.

Defended by Stevens and others.

So iconoclastic an outburst was sure to elicit vindicators of the world's faith as it had long been held. In counter publications, Harrisse and D'Avezac, the latter an eminent French authority on questions of this period, fought out their battle, not without some sharpness. Henry Stevens, an old antagonist of Harrisse, assailed the new views with his accustomed confidence and rasping assertion. Oscar Peschel, the German historian, and Count Circourt, the French student, gave their opposing opinions; and the issue has been joined by others, particularly within a few years by Prospero Peragallo, the pastor of an Italian church in Lisbon, who has pressed defensive views with some force in his L'Autenticità delle Historie di Fernando Colombo (1884), and later in his Cristoforo Colombo et sua Famiglia (1888). It is held by some of these later advocates of the book that parts of the original Spanish text can be identified in Las Casas. The controversy has thus had two stages. The first was marked by the strenuousness of D'Avezac fifteen years ago. The second sprang from the renewed propositions of Harrisse in his Christophe Colomb, ten years later. Sundry critics have summed up the opposing arguments with more or less tendency to oppose the iconoclast, and chief among them are two German scholars: Professor Max Büdinger, in his Acten zur Columbus' Geschichte (Wien, 1886), and his Zur Columbus Literatur (Wien, 1889); and Professor Eugen Gelcich, in the Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für Erdkunde zu Berlin (1887).

Harrisse's views cannot be said to have conquered a position; but his own scrutiny and that which he has engendered in others have done good work in keeping the Historie constantly subject to critical caution. Dr. Shea still says of it: "It is based on the same documents of Christopher Columbus which Las Casas used. It is a work of authority."

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Las Casas.

Reference has already been made to the tardy publication of the narrative of Las Casas. Columbus had been dead something over twenty years, when this good man set about the task of describing in this work what he had seen and heard respecting the New World,-or at least this is the generally accredited interval, making him begin the work in 1527; and yet it is best to remember that Helps could not find any positive evidence of his being at work on the manuscript before 1552. Las Casas did not live to finish the task, though he labored upon it down to 1561, when he was eighty-seven years old. He died five years later. Irving, who made great use of Las Casas, professed to consult him with that caution which he deemed necessary in respect to a writer given to prejudice and overheated zeal. For the period of Columbus's public life (1492-1506), no other one of his contemporaries gives us so much of documentary proof. Of the thirty-one papers, falling within this interval, which he transcribed into his pages nearly in their entirety,-throwing out some preserved in the archives of the Duke of Veragua, and others found at Simancas or Seville,-there remain seventeen, that would be lost to us but for this faithful chronicler. How did he command this rich resource? As a native of Seville, Las Casas had come there to be consecrated as bishop in 1544, and again in 1547, after he had quitted the New World forever. At this time the family papers of Columbus, then held for Luis Colon, a minor, were locked up in a strong box in the custody of the monks of the neighboring monastery of Las Cuevas. There is no evidence, however, that the chest was opened for the inspection of the chronicler. He also professes to use original letters sent by Columbus to Ferdinand and Isabella, which he must have found in the archives at Valladolid before 1545, or at Simancas after that date. Again he speaks of citing as in his own collection attested copies of some of Columbus's letters.

In 1550, and during his later years, Las Casas lived in the monastery of San Gregorio, at Valladolid, leaving it only for visits to Toledo or Madrid, unless it was for briefer visits to Simancas, not far off. Some of the documents, which he might have found in that repository, are not at present in those archives. It was there that he might have found numerous letters which he cites, but which are not otherwise known. From the use Las Casas makes of them, it would seem that they were of more importance in showing the discontent and querulousness of Columbus than as adding to details of his career. Again it appears clear that Las Casas got documents in some way from the royal archives. We know the journal of Columbus on his first voyage only from the abridgment which Las Casas made of it, and much the same is true of the record of his third voyage.

In some portion, at least, of his citations from the letters of Columbus, there may be reason to think that Las Casas took them at second hand, and Harrisse, with his belief in the derivative character of the Historie of Ferdinand Columbus, very easily conjectures that this primal source may have been the manuscript upon which the compiler of the Historie was equally dependent. One kind of reasoning which Harrisse uses is this: If Las Casas had used the original Latin of the correspondence with Toscanelli, instead of the text of this supposed Spanish prototype, it would not appear in so bad a state as it does in Las Casas's book.


If this missing prototype of the Historie was among Ferdinand's books in his library, which had been removed from his house in 1544 to the convent of San Pablo in Seville, and was not remove

d to the cathedral till 1552, it may also have happened that along with it he used there the De Imagine Mundi of Pierre d'Ailly, Columbus's own copy of which was, and still is, preserved in the Biblioteca Colombina, and shows the Admiral's own manuscript annotations.

It was in the chapel of San Pablo that Las Casas had been consecrated as bishop in 1544, and his associations with the monks could have given easy access to what they held in custody,-too easy, perhaps, if Harrisse's supposition is correct, that they let him take away the map which Toscanelli sent to Columbus, and which would account for its not being in the library now.

His opportunities.

We know, also, that Las Casas had use of the famous letter respecting his third voyage, which the Admiral addressed to the nurse of the Infant Don Juan, and which was first laid before modern students when Spotorno printed it, in 1823. We further understand that the account of the fourth voyage, which students now call, in its Italian form, the Lettera Rarissima, was also at his disposal, as were many letters of Bartholomew, the brother of Columbus, though they apparently only elucidate the African voyage of Diaz.

In addition to these manuscript sources, Las Casas shows that, as a student, he was familiar with and appreciated the decades of Peter Martyr, and had read the accounts of Columbus in Garcia de Resende, Barros, and Casta?eda,-to say nothing of what he may have derived from the supposable prototype of the Historie. It is certain that his personal acquaintance brought him into relations with the Admiral himself,-for he accompanied him on his fourth voyage,-with the Admiral's brother, son, and son's wife; and moreover his own father and uncle had sailed with Columbus. There were, among his other acquaintances, the Archbishop of Seville, Pinzon, and other of the contemporary navigators. It has been claimed by some, not accurately, we suspect, that Las Casas had also accompanied Columbus on his third voyage. Notwithstanding all these opportunities of acquiring a thorough intimacy with the story of Columbus, it is contended by Harrisse that the aid afforded by Las Casas disappoints one; and that all essential data with which his narrative is supplied can be found elsewhere nearer the primal source.

Character of his writings.

This condition arises, as he thinks, from the fact that the one engrossing purpose of Las Casas-his aim to emancipate the Indians from a cruel domination-constantly stood in the way of a critical consideration of the other aspects of the early Spanish contact with the New World. It was while at the University of Salamanca that the father of Las Casas gave the son an Indian slave, one of those whom Columbus had sent home; and it was taken from the young student when Isabella decreed the undoing of Columbus's kidnapping exploits. It was this event which set Las Casas to thinking on the miseries of the poor natives, which Columbus had planned, and which enables us to discover, in the example of Las Casas, that the customs of the time are not altogether an unanswerable defense of the time's inhumanity and greed.

As is well known, all but the most recent writers on Spanish-American history have been forced to use this work of Las Casas in manuscript copies, as a license to print such an exposure of Spanish cruelty could not be obtained till 1875, when the Historia was first printed at Madrid.

* * *


Herrera, so far as his record concerns Columbus, simply gives us what he takes from Las Casas. He was born about the time that the older writer was probably making his investigations. Herrera did not publish his results, which are slavishly chronological in their method, till half a century later (1601-15). Though then the official historiographer of the Indies, with all the chances for close investigation which that situation afforded him, Herrera failed in all ways to make the record of his Historia that comprehensive and genuine source of the story of Columbus which the reader might naturally look for. The continued obscuration of Las Casas by reason of the long delay in printing his manuscript served to give Herrera, through many generations, a prominence as an authoritative source which he could not otherwise have had. Irving, when he worked at the subject, soon discovered that Las Casas stood behind the story as Herrera told it, and accordingly the American writer resorted by preference to such a copy of the manuscript of Las Casas as he could get. There is a manifest tendency in Herrera to turn Las Casas's qualified statements into absolute ones.

Later Spanish writers.

The personal contributions of the later writers, Mu?oz and Navarrete, have been already considered, in speaking of the diversified mass of documentary proofs which accompany or gave rise to their narratives.

The Colon en Espa?a of Tomas Rodriguez Pinilla (Madrid, 1884) is in effect a life of the Admiral; but it ignores much of the recent critical and controversial literature, and deals mainly with the old established outline of events.

* * *

German writers.


Among the Germans there was nothing published of any importance till the critical studies of Forster, Peschel, and Ruge, in recent days. De Bry had, indeed, by his translations of Benzoni (1594) and Herrera (1623), familiarized the Germans with the main facts of the career of Columbus. During the present century, Humboldt, in his Examen Critique de l'Histoire et de la Geographie du Nouveau Continent, has borrowed the language of France to show the scope of his critical and learned inquiries into the early history of the Spanish contact in America, and has left it to another hand to give a German rendering to his labors. With this work by Humboldt, brought out in its completer shape in 1836-39, and using most happily all that had been done by Mu?oz and Navarrete to make clear both the acts and environments of the Admiral, the intelligence of our own time may indeed be said to have first clearly apprehended, under the light of a critical spirit, in which Irving was deficient, the true significance of the great deeds that gave America to Europe. Humboldt has strikingly grouped the lives of Toscanelli and Las Casas, from the birth of the Florentine physician in 1397 to the death of the Apostle to the Indians in 1566, as covering the beginning and end of the great discoveries of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Henry Harrisse.

It is also to be remarked that this service of broadly, and at the same time critically, surveying the field was the work of a German writing in French; while it is to an American citizen writing in French that we owe, in more recent years, such a minute collation and examination of every original source of information as set the labors of Henry Harrisse, for thoroughness and discrimination, in advance of any critical labor that has ever before been given to the career and character of Christopher Columbus. Without the aid of his researches, as embodied in his Christophe Colomb (Paris, 1884), it would have been quite impossible for the present writer to have reached conclusions on a good many mooted points in the history of the Admiral and of his reputation. Of almost equal usefulness have been the various subsidiary books and tracts which Harrisse has devoted to similar fields.

Harrisse's books constitute a good example of the constant change of opinion and revision of the relations of facts which are going on incessantly in the mind of a vigilant student in recondite fields of research. The progress of the correction of error respecting Columbus is illustrated continually in his series of books on the great navigator, beginning with the Notes on Columbus (N. Y., 1866), which have been intermittently published by him during the last twenty-five years.

Harrisse himself is a good deal addicted to hypotheses; but they fare hard at his hands if advanced by others.

French writers.

Attempted canonization of Columbus.


The only other significant essays which have been made in French have been a series of biographies of Columbus, emphasizing his missionary spirit, which have been aimed to prepare the way for the canonization of the great navigator, in recognition of his instrumentality in carrying the cross to the New World. That, in the spirit which characterized the age of discovery, the voyage of Columbus was, at least in profession, held to be one conducted primarily for that end does not, certainly, admit of dispute. Columbus himself, in his letter to Sanchez, speaks of the rejoicing of Christ at seeing the future redemption of souls. He made a first offering of the foreign gold by converting a mass of it into a cup to hold the sacred host, and he spent a wordy enthusiasm in promises of a new crusade to wrest the Holy Sepulchre from the Moslems. Ferdinand and Isabella dwelt upon the propagandist spirit of the enterprise they had sanctioned, in their appeals to the Pontiff to confirm their worldly gain in its results. Ferdinand, the son of the Admiral, referring to the family name of Colombo, speaks of his father as like Noah's dove, carrying the olive branch and oil of baptism over the ocean. Professions, however, were easy; faith is always exuberant under success, and the world, and even the Catholic world, learned, as the ages went on, to look upon the spirit that put the poor heathen beyond the pale of humanity as not particularly sanctifying a pioneer of devastation.

Roselly de Lorgues.

It is the world's misfortune when a great opportunity loses any of its dignity; and it is no great satisfaction to look upon a person of Columbus's environments and find him but a creature of questionable grace. So his canonization has not, with all the endeavors which have been made, been brought about. The most conspicuous of the advocates of it, with a crowd of imitators about him, has been Antoine Fran?ois Félix Valalette, Comte Roselly de Lorgues, who began in 1844 to devote his energies to this end. He has published several books on Columbus, part of them biographical, and all of them, including his Christoph Colomb of 1864, mere disguised supplications to the Pope to order a deserved sanctification. As contributions to the historical study of the life of Columbus, they are of no importance whatever. Every act and saying of the Admiral capable of subserving the purpose in view are simply made the salient points of a career assumed to be holy. Columbus was in fact of a piece, in this respect, with the age in which he lived. The official and officious religious profession of the time belonged to a period which invented the Inquisition and extirpated a race in order to send them to heaven. None knew this better than those, like Las Casas, who mated their faith with charity of act. Columbus and Las Casas had little in common.

The Histoire Posthume de Colomb, which Roselly de Lorgues finally published in 1885, is recognized even by Catholic writers as a work of great violence and indiscretion, in its denunciations of all who fail to see the saintly character of Columbus. Its inordinate intemperance gave a great advantage to Cesario Fernandez Duro in his examination of De Lorgues's position, made in his Colon y la Historia Postuma.

Columbus was certainly a mundane verity. De Lorgues tells us that if we cannot believe in the supernatural we cannot understand this worldly man. The writers who have followed him, like Charles Buet in his Christophe Colomb (Paris, 1886), have taken this position. The Catholic body has so far summoned enough advocates of historic truth to prevent the result which these enthusiasts have kept in view, notwithstanding the seeming acquiescence of Pius IX. The most popular of the idealizing lives of Columbus is probably that by Auguste, Marquis de Belloy, which is tricked out with a display of engravings as idealized as the text, and has been reproduced in English at Philadelphia (1878, 1889). It is simply an ordinary rendering of the common and conventional stories of the last four centuries. The most eminent Catholic historical student of the United States, Dr. John Gilmary Shea, in a paper on this century's estimates of Columbus, in the American Catholic Quarterly Review (1887), while referring to the "imposing array of members of the hierarchy" who have urged the beatification of Columbus, added, "But calm official scrutiny of the question was required before permission could be given to introduce the cause;" and this permission has not yet been given, and the evidence in its favor has not yet been officially produced.

France has taken the lead in these movements for canonization, ostensibly for the reason that she needed to make some reparation for snatching the honor of naming the New World from Columbus, through the printing-presses of Saint Dié and Strassburg. A sketch of the literature which has followed this movement is given in Baron van Brocken's Des Vicissitudes Posthumes de Christophe Colomb, et de sa Beatification Possible (Leipzig et Paris, 1865).

* * *

English writers.


Of the writers in English, the labors of Hakluyt and Purchas only incidentally touched the career of Columbus; and it was not till Stevens issued his garbled version of Herrera in 1725, that the English public got the record of the Spanish historian, garnished with something that did not represent the original. This book of Stevens is responsible for not a little in English opinion respecting the Spanish age of discovery, which needs in these later days to be qualified. Some of the early collections of voyages, like those of Churchill, Pinkerton, and Kerr, included the story of the Historie of 1571. It was not till Robertson, in 1777, published the beginning of a contemplated History of America that the English reader had for the first time a scholarly and justified narrative, which indeed for a long time remained the ordinary source of the English view of Columbus. It was, however, but an outline sketch, not a sixth or seventh part in extent of what Irving, when he was considering the subject, thought necessary for a reasonable presentation of the subject. Robertson's footnotes show that his main dependence for the story of Columbus was upon the pages of the Historie of 1571, Peter Martyr, Oviedo, and Herrera. He was debarred the help to be derived from what we now use, as conveying Columbus's own record of his story. Lord Grantham, then the British ambassador at Madrid, did all the service he could, and his secretary of legation worked asssiduously in complying with the wishes which Robertson preferred; but no solicitation could at that day render easily accessible the archives at Simancas. Still, Robertson got from one source or another more than it was pleasant to the Spanish authorities to see in print, and they later contrived to prevent a publication of his work in Spanish.

Jeremy Belknap.

The earliest considerable recounting of the story of Columbus in America was by Dr. Jeremy Belknap, who, having delivered a commemorative discourse in Bos ton in 1792, before the Massachusetts Historical Society, afterward augmented his text when it became a part of his well-known American Biography, a work of respectable standing for the time, but little remembered to-day.

Washington Irving.

It was in 1827 that Washington Irving published his Life of Columbus, and he produced a book that has long remained for the English reader a standard biography. Irving's canons of historical criticism were not, however, such as the fearless and discriminating student to-day would approve. He commended Herrera for "the amiable and pardonable error of softening excesses," as if a historian sat in a confessional to deal out exculpations. The learning which probes long established pretenses and grateful deceits was not acceptable to Irving. "There is a certain meddlesome spirit," he says, "which, in the garb of learned research, goes prying about the traces of history, casting down its monuments, and marring and mutilating its fairest trophies. Care should be taken to vindicate great names from such pernicious erudition."

Under such conditions as Irving summoned, there was little chance that a world's exemplar would be pushed from his pedestal, no matter what the evidence. The vera pro gratis in personal characterization must not assail the traditional hero. And such was Irving's notion of the upright intelligence of a historian.

Mr. Alexander H. Everett, who was then the minister of the United States at Madrid, saw a chance of making a readable book out of the journal of Columbus as preserved by Las Casas, and recommended the task of translating it to Irving, then in Europe. This proposition carried the willing writer to Madrid, where he found comfortable quarters, with quick sympathy of intercourse, under the roof of a Boston scholar then living there, Obadiah Rich. The first two volumes of the documentary work of Navarrete coming out opportunely, Irving was not long in determining that, with its wealth of material, there was a better opportunity for a newly studied life of Columbus than for the proposed task. So Irving settled down in Madrid to the larger endeavor, and soon found that he could have other assistance and encouragement from Navarrete himself, from the Duke of Veragua, and from the then possessor of the papers of Mu?oz. The subject grew under his hands. "I had no idea," he says, "of what a complete labyrinth I had entangled myself in." He regretted that the third volume of Navarrete's book was not far enough advanced to be serviceable; but he worked as best he could, and found many more facilities than Robertson's helper had discovered. He went to the Biblioteca Colombina, and he even brought the annotations of Columbus in the copy of Pierre d'Ailly, there preserved, to the attention of its custodians for the first time; almost feeling himself the discoverer of the book, though it was known to him that Las Casas, at least, had had the advantage of using these minutes of Columbus. Irving knew that his pains were not unavailing, at any rate, for the English reader. "I have woven into my book," he says, "many curious particulars not hitherto known concerning Columbus; and I think I have thrown light upon some points of his character which have not been brought out by his former biographers." One of the things that pleased the new biographer most was his discovery, as he felt, in the account by Bernaldez, that Columbus was born ten years earlier than had been usually reckoned; and he supposed that this increase of the age of the discoverer at the time of his voyage added much greater force to the characteristics of his career. Irving's book readily made a mark. Jeffrey thought that its fame would be enduring, and at a time when no one looked for new light from Italy, he considered that Irving had done best in working, almost exclusively, the Spanish field, where alone "it was obvious" material could be found.

When Alexander H. Everett, pardonably, as a godfather to the work, undertook in January, 1829, to say in the North American Review that Irving's book was a delight of readers, he anticipated the judgment of posterity; but when he added that it was, by its perfection, the despair of critics, he was forgetful of a method of critical research that is not prone to be dazed by the prestige of demigods.

In the interval between the first and second editions of the book, Irving paid a visit to Palos and the convent of La Rabida, and he got elsewhere some new light in the papers of the lawsuit of Columbus's heirs. The new edition which soon followed profited by all these circumstances.


Irving's occupation of the field rendered it both easy and gracious for Prescott, when, ten years later (1837), he published his Ferdinand and Isabella, to say that his predecessor had stripped the story of Columbus of the charm of novelty; but he was not quite sure, however, in the privacy of his correspondence, that Irving, by attempting to continue the course of Columbus's life in detail after the striking crisis of the discovery, had made so imposing a drama as he would have done by condensing the story of his later years. In this Prescott shared something of the spirit of Irving, in composing history to be read as a pastime, rather than as a study of completed truth. Prescott's own treatment of the subject is scant, as he confined his detailed record to the actions incident to the inception and perfection of the enterprise of the Admiral, to the doings in Spain or at court. He was, at the same time, far more independent than Irving had been, in his views of the individual character round which so much revolves, and the reader is not wholly blinded to the unwholesome deceit and overweening selfishness of Columbus.

Arthur Helps.

Within twenty years Arthur Helps approached the subject from the point of view of one who was determined, as he thought no one of the writers on the subject of the Spanish Conquest had been, to trace the origin of, and responsibility for, the devastating methods of Spanish colonial government; "not conquest only, but the result of conquest, the mode of colonial government which ultimately prevailed, the extirpation of native races, the introduction of other races, the growth of slavery, and the settlement of the encomiendas, on which all Indian society depended." It is not to Helps, therefore, that we are to look for any extended biography of Columbus; and when he finds him in chains, sent back to Spain, he says of the prisoner, "He did not know how many wretched beings would have to traverse those seas, in bonds much worse than his; nor did he foresee, I trust, that some of his doings would further all this coming misery." It does not appear from his footnotes that Helps depended upon other than the obvious authorities, though he says that he examined the Mu?oz collection, then as now in the Royal Academy of History at Madrid.

R. H. Major.

The last scholarly summary of Columbus's career previous to the views incident to the criticism of Harrisse on the Historie of 1571 was that which was given by R. H. Major, in the second edition of his Select Letters of Columbus (London, 1870).

* * *

Aaron Goodrich.

There have been two treatments of the subject by Americans within the last twenty years, which are characteristic. The Life and Achievements of the So-called Christopher Columbus (New York, 1874), by Aaron Goodrich, mixes that unreasoning trust and querulous conceit which is so often thrown into the scale when the merits of the discoverers of the alleged Vinland are contrasted with those of the imagined Indies. With a craze of petulancy, he is not able to see anything that cannot be twisted into defamation, and his book is as absurdly constant in derogation as the hallucinations of De Lorgues are in the other direction.

H. H. Bancroft.

When Hubert Howe Bancroft opened the story of his Pacific States in his History of Central America (San Francisco, 1882), he rehearsed the story of Columbus, but did not attempt to follow it critically except as he tracked the Admiral along the coasts of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. This writer's estimate of the character of Columbus conveys a representation of what the Admiral really was, juster than national pride, religious sympathy, or kindly adulation has usually permitted. It is unfortunately, not altogether chaste in its literary presentation. His characterization of Irving and Prescott in their endeavors to draw the character of Columbus has more merit in its insight than skill in its drafting.


Bibliography of Columbus.

The brief sketch of the career of Columbus, and the examination of the events that culminated in his maritime risks and developments, as it was included in the Narrative and Critical History of America (vol. ii., Boston, 1885), gave the present writer an opportunity to study the sources and trace the bibliographical threads that run through an extended and diversified literature, in a way, it may be, not earlier presented to the English reader. If any one desires to compass all the elucidations and guides which a thorough student of the career and fame of Columbus would wish to consider, the apparatus thus referred to, and the footnotes in Harrisse's Christophe Colomb and in his other germane publications, would probably most essentially shorten his labors. Harrisse, who has prepared, but not yet published, lists of the books devoted to Columbus exclusively, says that they number about six hundred titles. The literature which treats of him incidentally is of a vast extent.

* * *

Varied estimates of Columbus.

In concluding this summary of the commentaries upon the life of Columbus, the thought comes back that his career has been singularly subject to the gauging of opinionated chroniclers. The figure of the man, as he lives to-day in the mind of the general reader, in whatever country, comports in the main with the characterizations of Irving, De Lorgues, or Goodrich. These last two have entered upon their works with a determined purpose, the Frenchman of making a saint, and the American a scamp, of the great discoverer of America. They each, in their twists, pervert and emphasize every trait and every incident to favor their views. Their narratives are each without any background of that mixture of incongruity, inconsistency, and fatality from which no human being is wholly free. Their books are absolutely worthless as historical records. That of Goodrich has probably done little to make proselytes. That of De Lorgues has infected a large body of tributary devotees of the Catholic Church.

The work of Irving is much above any such level; but it has done more harm because its charms are insidious. He recognized at least that human life is composite; but he had as much of a predetermination as they, and his purpose was to create a hero. He glorified what was heroic, palliated what was unheroic, and minimized the doubtful aspects of Columbus's character. His book is, therefore, dangerously seductive to the popular sense. The genuine Columbus evaporates under the warmth of the writer's genius, and we have nothing left but a refinement of his clay. The Life of Columbus was a sudden product of success, and it has kept its hold on the public very constantly; but it has lost ground in these later years among scholarly inquirers. They have, by their collation of its narrative with the original sources, discovered its flaccid character. They have outgrown the witcheries of its graceful style. They have learned to put at their value the repetitionary changes of stock sentiment, which swell the body of the text, sometimes, provokingly.

Portraits of Columbus.

Columbus's person.

Out of the variety of testimony respecting the person of the adult Columbus, it is not easy to draw a picture that his contemporaries would surely recognize. Likeness we have none that can be proved beyond a question the result of any sitting, or even of any acquaintance. If we were called upon to picture him as he stood on San Salvador, we might figure a man of impressive stature with lofty, not to say austere, bearing, his face longer by something more than its breadth, his cheek bones high, his nose aquiline, his eyes a light gray, his complexion fair with freckles spotting a ruddy glow, his hair once light, but then turned to gray. His favorite garb seems to have been the frock of a Franciscan monk. Such a figure would not conflict with the descriptions which those who knew him, and those who had questioned his associates, have transmitted to us, as we read them in the pages ascribed to Ferdinand, his son; in those of the Spanish historian, Oviedo; of the priest Las Casas; and in the later recitals of Gomara and Benzoni, and of the official chronicler of the Spanish Indies, Antonio Herrera. The oldest description of all is one made in 1501, in the unauthorized version of the first decade of Peter Martyr, emanating, very likely, from the translator Trivigiano, who had then recently come in contact with Columbus.

La Cosa's St. Christopher.

Turning from these descriptions to the pictures that have been put forth as likenesses, we find not a little difficulty in reconciling the two. There is nothing that unmistakably goes back to the lifetime of Columbus except the figure of St. Christopher, which makes a vignette in colors on the mappemonde, which was drawn in 1500, by one of Columbus's pilots, Juan de la Cosa, and is now preserved in Madrid. It has been fondly claimed that Cosa transferred the features of his master to the lineaments of the saint; but the assertion is wholly without proof.


[The vignette of La Cosa's map.]

Jovius's gallery.


Paolo Giovio, or, as better known in the Latin form, Paulus Jovius, was old enough in 1492 to have, in later life, remembered the thrill of expectation which ran for the moment through parts of Europe, when the letter of Columbus describing his voyage was published in Italy, where Jovius was then a schoolboy. He was but an infant, or perhaps not born when Columbus left Italy. So the interest of Jovius in the Discoverer could hardly have arisen from any other associations than those easily suggestive to one who, like Jovius, was a student of his own times. Columbus had been dead ten years when Jovius, as a historian, attracted the notice of Pope Leo X., and entered upon such a career of prosperity that he could build a villa on Lake Como, and adorn it with a gallery of portraits of those who had made his age famous. That he included a likeness of Columbus among his heroes there seems to be no doubt. Whether the likeness was painted from life, and by whom, or modeled after an ideal, more or less accordant with the reports of those who may have known the Genoese, is entirely beyond our knowledge. As a historian Jovius professed the right to distort the truth for any purpose that suited him, and his conceptions of the truth of portraiture may quite as well have been equally loose. Just a year before his own death, Jovius gave a sketch of Columbus's career in his Elogia Virorum Illustrium, published at Florence in 1551; but it was not till twenty-four years later, in 1575, that a new edition of the book gave wood-cuts of the portraits in the gallery of the Como villa, to illustrate the sketches, and that of Columbus appeared among them. This engraving, then, is the oldest likeness of Columbus presenting any claims to consideration. It found place also, within a year or two, in what purported to be a collection of portraits from the Jovian gallery; and the engraver of them was Tobias Stimmer, a Swiss designer, who stands in the biographical dictionaries of artists as born in 1534, and of course could not have assisted his skill by any knowledge of Columbus, on his own part. This picture, to which a large part of the very various likenesses called those of Columbus can be traced, is done in the bold, easy handling common in the wood-cuts of that day, and with a precision of skill that might well make one believe that it preserves a dashing verisimilitude to the original picture. It represents a full-face, shaven, curly-haired man, with a thoughtful and somewhat sad countenance, his hands gathering about the waist a priest's robe, of which the hood has fallen about his neck. If there is any picture to be judged authentic, this is best entitled to that estimation.

The Florence picture.

Connection with the Como gallery is held to be so significant of the authenticity of any portrait of Columbus that it is claimed for two other pictures, which are near enough alike to have followed the same prototype, and which are not, except in garb, very unlike the Jovian wood-cut. As copies of the Como original in features, they may easily have varied in apparel. One of these is a picture preserved in the gallery at Florence,-a well-moulded, intellectual head, full-faced, above a closely buttoned tunic, or frock, seen within drapery that falls off the shoulders. It is not claimed to be the Como portrait, but it may have been painted from it, perhaps by Christofano dell' Altissimo, some time before 1568. A copy of it was made for Thomas Jefferson, which, having hung for a while at Monticello, came at last to Boston, and passed into the gallery of the Massachusetts Historical Society.


The Yanez picture.

The picture resembling this, and which may have had equal claims of association with the Jovian gallery, is one now preserved in Madrid, and the oldest canvas representing Columbus that is known in Spain. It takes the name of the Yanez portrait from that of the owner of it, from whom it was bought in Granada, in 1763. Representing, when brought to notice, a garment trimmed with fur, there has been disclosed upon it, and underlying this later paint, an original, close-fitting tunic, much like the Florence picture; while a further removal of the superposed pigment has revealed an inscription, supposed to authenticate it as Columbus, the discoverer of the New World. It is said that the Duke of Veragua holds it to be the most authentic likeness of his ancestor.



[A reproduction of the so-called Capriolo cut given in Giuseppe Banchero's La Tavola di Bronzo, (Genoa, 1857), and based on the Jovian type.]

De Bry's picture.

Another conspicuous portrait is that given by De Bry in the larger series of his Collection of Early Voyages. De Bry claims that it was painted by order of King Ferdinand, and that it was purloined from the offices of the Council of the Indies in Spain, and brought to the Netherlands, and in this way fell into the hands of that engraver and editor. It bears little resemblance to the pictures already mentioned; nor does it appear to conform to the descriptions of Columbus's person. It has a more rugged and shorter face, with a profusion of closely waved hair falling beneath an ugly, angular cap. De Bry engraved it, or rather published it, in 1595, twenty years after the Jovian wood-cut appeared, and we know of no engraving intervening. No one of the generation that was old enough to have known the navigator could then have survived, and the picture has no other voucher than the professions of the engraver of it.


Other portraits.

Havana monument.

Peschiera's bust.

These are but a few of the many pictures that have been made to pass, first and last, for Columbus, and the only ones meriting serious study for their claims. The American public was long taught to regard the effigy of Columbus as that of a bedizened courtier, because Prescott selected for an engraving to adorn his Ferdinand and Isabella a picture of such a person, which is ascribed to Parmigiano, and is preserved in the Museo Borbonico, at Naples. Its claims long ago ceased to be considered. The traveler in Cuba sees in the Cathedral at Havana a monumental effigy, of which there is no evidence of authenticity worthy of consideration. The traveler in Italy can see in Genoa, placed on the cabinet which was made to hold the manuscript titles of Columbus, a bust by Peschiera. It has the negative merit of having no relation to any of the alleged portraits; but represents the sculptor's conception of the man, guided by the scant descriptions of him given to us by his contemporaries.


If the reader desires to see how extensive the field of research is, for one who can spend the time in tracing all the clues connected with all the representations which pass for Columbus, he can make a beginning, at least, under the guidance of the essay on the portraits which the present writer contributed to the Narrative and Critical History of America, vol. ii.

When Columbus, in 1502, ordered a tenth of his income to be paid annually to the Bank of St. George, in Genoa, for the purpose of reducing the tax upon corn, wine, and other provisions, the generous act, if it had been carried out, would have entitled him to such a recognition as a public benefactor as the bank was accustomed to bestow. The main hall of the palace of this institution commemorates such patriotic efforts by showing a sitting statue for the largest benefactors; a standing figure for lesser gifts, while still lower gradations of charitable help are indicated in busts, or in mere inscriptions on a mural tablet. It has been thought that posterity, curious to see the great Admiral as his contemporaries saw him, suffers with the state of Genoa, in not having such an effigy, by the neglect or inattention which followed upon the announced purpose of Columbus. We certainly find there to-day no such visible proof of his munificence or aspect. Harrisse, while referring to this deprivation, takes occasion, in his Bank of St. George (p. 108), to say that he does not "believe that the portrait of Columbus was ever drawn, carved, or painted from the life." He contends that portrait-painting was not common in Spain, in Columbus's day, and that we have no trace of the painters, whose work constitutes the beginning of the art, in any record, or authentic effigy, to show that the person of the Admiral was ever made the subject of the art. The same writer indicates that the interval during which Columbus was popular enough to be painted extended over only six weeks in April and May, 1493. He finds that much greater heroes, as the world then determined, like Boabdil and Cordova, were not thus honored, and holds that the portraits of Ferdinand and Isabella, which editions of Prescott have made familiar, are really fancy pictures of the close of the sixteenth century.

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