September 29

A well-written life is almost as rare as a well spent one.

- Thomas Carlyle

Today's Journal quote compliments today's birthday remarkably well. As author of Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616) is considered the father of the modern novel, and is universally considered a towering presence in modern literature. The life of his character Don Quixote, of course, is a "well-written" one of legendary proportions - the man of adventure and romance, tilting at windmills, etc.

But the creator of Quixote led a life that was itself dramatic almost beyond belief. Indeed, Cervantes was no less the man of adventure; a soldier, he was badly wounded at the Battle of Lepanto; later, he was captured by pirates, sold into slavery in Algiers, made several daring but unsuccessful escape attempts, and was finally ransomed - which caused his family's financial ruin. He became a tax collector, but was thrown into prison for irregular accounts. There he began his masterpiece, and published the first part of Don Quixote in 1605.