« السابقةمتابعة »
niggardly, and, in 1523, conferred upon Martyr the German title of Pfalzgraf, with the privilege of naming imperial notaries and legitimising natural children. On August 15, 1524, the King presented his name to Clement VII. for confirmation as mitred abbot of Santiago in the island of Jamaica, a benefice rendered vacant by the translation of Don Luis Figueroa to the bishopric of San Domingo and La Concepcion." A greater title would have doubtless pleased him less, since this one linked his name with the Church in the New World, of which he was the first historian. He surrendered his priory of Granada to accept the Jamaican dignity, the revenues from which he devoted to the construction of the first stone church built at Sevilla del 'Oro in that island. Above its portal an inscription bore witness to his generosity: Petrus Martyr ab Angleria, italus civis mediolamensis, protonotarius apostolicus hujus insulae, abbas, senatus indici consiliarius, ligneam priusacdem hanc bis igne consumptam, latericio et quadrato lapide primus a fundamentis extruxit.” In the month of June, 1526, the Court took up its residence in Granada with Peter Martyr, as usual, in attendance. Before the walls of Moorish Granada he had begun his career in Spain; within the walls of Christian Granada he was destined to close it and be laid to his final rest. A sufferer during many years from a disease of the liver, he was aware of his approaching end, and made his will on September 23, bequeathing the greater part of the property he had amassed to his nephews and nieces in Lombardy, though none of his friends and servants in Spain was forgotten. He devoted careful attention to the preparations for his funeral; eminently a friend of order and decorum, he left nothing to chance, but provided for the precise number of masses to be said, the exact amount of wax to be consumed, and the kind of mourning liveries to be worn by his servants. He asked that his body should be borne to its grave by the dean and the canons of the cathedral, an honour to which his dignity of prior of that chapter entitled him; but in order to ensure the chapter's participation, as he quaintly expressed it, “with more goodwill,” he set aside a legacy of three thousand maravedis as compensation. Not only were his wishes in this and all respects carried out, but the cathedral chapter erected a tablet to his memory, upon which an epitaph he would not have disdained was inscribed: Rerum AEtate Nostra Gestarum—Et Novi Orbis Ignoti Hactenus—Illustratori Petro Martyri Mediolamensi —Caesareo Senatori–Qui, Patria Relicta—Bello Granatensi Miles Interfuit—Mox Urbe Capta, Primum Canonico– Deinde Priori Hujus Ecclesiae—Decanus Et Capitulum — Carissimo Collegae Posuere Sepulchrum — Anno MDXXVI.
* The King instructed his ambassador in Rome to propose Luis Figueroa to succeed Alessandro Geraldino as bishop of Santo Domingo and Concepcion, and for the vacant abbacy of Jamaica presentareis de nuestra parte al protonotario Pedro Mártir de nuestro Consejo. Dejando tambien Mártir el priorado de Granada que posée, etc. Coleccion de Indias, vii., 449.
* Cantu, Storia Universale, tom. i., p. 9oo.
• His last will was published in the Documentos Ineditos, tom. xxxix., pp. 400-4I4.
Peter Martyr was perhaps the first man in Spain to realise the importance of the discovery made by Columbus. Where others beheld but a novel and exciting incident in the history of navigation, he, with all but prophetic forecast, divined an event of unique and far-reaching importance. He promptly assumed the functions of historian of the new epoch whose dawn he
* Harrisse, in his Christoph Colomb, fixes upon the 23d or 24th of September as the date of Martyr's death, believing that his last will was
executed on his deathbed. There is, however, nothing that absolutely .
proves that such was the fact. The epitaph gives but the year. In the Documentos Ineditos the month of September is given in one place, that of October in another.
presaged, and in the month of October, 1494, he began the series of letters to be known as the Ocean Decades, continuing his labours, with interruptions, until 1526, the year of his death. The value of his manuscripts obtained immediate recognition; they were the only source of authentic information concerning the New World, accessible to men of letters and politicians outside Spain. His material was new and original; every arriving caravel brought him fresh news; ship-captains, cosmographers, conquerors of fabulous realms in the mysterious west, all reported to him; even the common sailors and camp-followers poured their tales into his discriminating ears. Las Casas averred that Peter Martyr was more worthy of credence than any other Latin writer." No sooner had Columbus returned from his first voyage than Martyr hastened to announce his success to his friends, Count Tendilla and Archbishop Talavera. Meministis Colonum Ligurem institisse in Castris apud reges de percurrendo per occiduos antipodes novo terrarum haemisphaerio; meminisse opportet. He was present in Barcelona and witnessed the reception accorded the successful discoverer by the Catholic sovereigns. He, who had gone forth an obscure adventurer upon whose purposes, and even sanity, doubts had been cast, returned, a Grandee of Spain, Admiral of the Ocean, and Viceroy of the Indies. In the presence of the court, standing, he, alone, by invitation of the sovereigns, sat. The ambassadors from his native Republic of Genoa, Marchisio and Grimaldi, witnessed the exaltation of their fellow countryman with eyes that hardly trusted their own vision. An alien amidst the most exclusive and jealous of occidental peoples, Martyr's abilities and fidelity won a recognition from the successive monarchs he served, that was only equalled by the voluntary tributes of respect and affection paid him by the generation of Spanish nobles whose characters he was so influential in forming. Of all the Italians who invaded Spain in search of fortune and glory, he was the most beloved because he was the most trusted. Government functionaries sought his protection, Franciscan and Dominican missionaries gave him their confidence and, after he was appointed to a seat in the India Council, he had official cognisance of all correspondence relating to American affairs. Prior to the appearance in Spain of the celebrated Letters of Cortes, Peter Martyr's narrative stood alone. Heidenheimer rightly describes him: Als echter Kind seiner Zeit, war Peter Martyr Lehrer und Gelehrter, Soldat und Priester, Schriftsteller und Diplomat. It was characteristic of the epoch of the Renaissance that a man of culture should embrace all branches of learning, thus Martyr's observation extended over the broadest field of human knowledge. Diligent, discriminating, and conscientious, he was keen, clever, and tactful, not without touches of dry humour, but rarely brilliant. Scientific questions, the variations of the magnetic pole, calculations of latitude and longitude, the newly discovered Gulf Stream and the mare sargassum, and the whereabouts of a possible strait uniting the Atlantic with the Pacific Ocean, occupied his speculations. Likewise are the flora and the fauna of the New World described to his readers, as they were described to him by the home-coming explorers. Pages of his writings are devoted to the inhabitants of the islands and of the mainland, their customs and superstitions, their religions and forms of government. He has tales of giants, harpies, mermaids, and sea-serpents. Wild men living in trees, Amazons dwelling on lonely islands, cannibals scouring seas and forests in search of human prey, figure in his narrative. Erroneous facts, mistaken judgments due to a credulity that may seem to us ingenuous, are frequent, but it must be borne in mind that he worked without a pre-established plan, his chronicle developing as fresh material reached him; also that he wrote at a time when the world seemed each day to expand before the astonished eyes of men, revealing magic isles floating in unknown seas, vaster horizons in whose heavens novel constellations gleamed; mysterious ocean currents, flowing whence no man knew, to break upon the shores of immense continents inhabited by strange races, living amidst conditions of fabulous wealth and incredible barbarism. The limits of the possible receded, discrimination between truth and fiction became purely speculative, since new data, uninterruptedly supplied, contradicted former experience and invalidated accepted theories. The Decades were compiled from verbal and written reports from sources the writer was warranted in trusting. Since geographical surprises are now exhausted, and the division of land and water on the earth's surface has passed from the sphere of navigation into that of politics, no writer will ever again have such material at his disposition. The arrival of his letters in Italy was eagerly awaited and constituted a literary event of the first magnitude. Popes sent him messages urging him to continue, the King of Naples borrowed copies from Cardinal Sforza, and the contents of these romantic chronicles furnished the most welcome staple of conversation in palaces and universities. Leo X. had them read aloud during supper, in the presence of his sister and a chosen group of cardinals. It must be noted that the form of the Decades did not escape criticism at the pontifical court, nor did the censures, passed on the liberties he took with the tongue of Cicero, fail to reach and sting his ears. In several passages, he defends his use of words taken from the Italian and Spanish languages. He handled Latin as a living, not as a dead language, and his style is vigorous, terse, vital
'Las Casas, Histo. de las Indias., tom. ii, p. 272: A Pedro Martyr se le debe was credito que à otro ninguno de los que escribieran en latin, porque se hallo entonces en Castilla por aquellos tiempos y hablaba con todos, y todos holgaban de le dar cuenta de lo que vian y hallaban, como à hombre de autioridad y el que tenia cuidado de preguntarlo.