Francisco Gómez de Quevedo y Santibáñez Villegas (Spanish
pronunciation: [fɾanˈθisko ðe keˈβeðo]; 14 September 1580
– 8 September 1645) was a Spanish nobleman, politician and writer of
the Baroque era. Along with his lifelong rival, Luis de Góngora,
Quevedo was one of the most prominent Spanish poets of the age. His
style is characterized by what was called conceptismo. This style
existed in stark contrast to Góngora's culteranismo.
1.2 Relationships with the Duke of Osuna
1.3 Temporary exile and retirement
1.4 Arrest and exile
3.3 Theological works
3.4 Literary criticism
3.6 Political works
4 Popular culture
5 See also
8 External links
Quevedo was born on September 14th, 1580 in
Madrid into a family of
hidalgos from the village of Vejorís, located in the northern
mountainous region of Cantabria. His family was descended from the
Quevedo's father, Francisco Gómez de Quevedo, was secretary to Maria
of Spain, daughter of emperor Charles V and wife of Maximilian II,
Holy Roman Emperor, and his mother, Madrid-born María de
Santibáñez, was lady-in-waiting to the queen. Quevedo matured
surrounded by dignitaries and nobility at the royal court.
Intellectually gifted, Quevedo was physically handicapped with a club
foot, and myopia. Since he always wore pince-nez, his name in the
plural, quevedos, came to mean "pince-nez" in the Spanish language.
Portrait of Quevedo (c. 1618) by Francisco Pacheco.
Orphaned by the age of six, he was able to attend the Imperial School
run by the Jesuits in Madrid. He then attended university at Alcalá
de Henares from 1596 to 1600. By his own account, he made independent
studies in philosophy, classical languages, Arabic, Hebrew, French and
In 1601, Quevedo, as a member of the Court, moved to Valladolid, where
the Court had been transferred by the King's minister, the Duke of
Lerma. There he studied theology, a subject that would become a
lifelong interest, and on which in later life he would compose the
treatise Providencia de Dios (God's Providence), against atheism.
By this time, he was becoming noted as both a poet and a prose writer.
Some of his poetry was collected in a 1605 generational anthology by
Pedro Espinosa entitled Flores de Poetas Ilustres (Flowers by
We can also date back to this time the first draft of his picaresque
Vida del Buscón
Vida del Buscón -apparently written as an exercise in courtly
wit- and a few satirical pamphlets that made him famous among his
fellow students and which he would later disown as juvenile pranks.
Around this time, he began a very erudite exchange of letters with the
humanist Justus Lipsius, in which Quevedo deplored the wars that were
ravaging Europe. The Court returned to
Madrid in 1606, and Quevedo
followed, remaining till 1611. By then, he was a well-known and
accomplished man-of-letters. He befriended and was praised by Miguel
de Cervantes and Lope de Vega, the premier playwright of the age.
Quevedo's enemies included, among others, the dramatist Juan Ruiz de
Alarcón for, despite his own physical handicaps, Quevedo found
Alarcón's redheaded and hunchbacked physique a source of amusement.
Quevedo also attacked Juan Pérez de Montalbán, the son of a
bookseller with whom he had quarrelled, satirizing him in "La
Perinola" ("The Whirligig"), a cruel piece that he included in his
book Para Todos (To Everyone). In 1608, Quevedo dueled with the author
and fencing master
Luis Pacheco de Narváez
Luis Pacheco de Narváez as a result of Quevedo
criticizing one of Pacheco's works. Quevedo took off Pacheco's hat in
the first encounter. They remained enemies all their lives. In
Quevedo's Buscón, this duel was parodied with a fencer relying on
mathematical calculations having to run away from a duel with an
Quevedo could be impulsive. He was present at the church of San
Madrid when a woman praying there was slapped on the cheek
by another man who had rushed up to her. Quevedo seized the man,
dragging him outside the church. The two men drew swords, and Quevedo
ran his opponent through. The man, who died of his wounds some time
later, was someone of importance. Quevedo thus retired temporarily to
the palace of his friend and patron, Pedro Téllez-Girón, 3rd Duke of
The preferred object of his fury and ridicule, however, was the poet
Góngora, whom, in a series of scathing satires, he accused of being
an unworthy priest, a homosexual, a gambler, and a writer of indecent
verse who used a purposefully obscure language. Quevedo lampooned his
rival by writing a sonnet, "Aguja de navegar cultos," which listed
words from Góngora's lexicon: "He would like to be a culto poet in
just one day, / must the following jargon learn: / Fulgores, arrogar,
joven, presiente / candor, construye, métrica, armonía..."
With the bluntness of his age, Quevedo mercilessly satirized even
Góngora's physique, particularly his prominent nose (most famously in
the sonnet "A una nariz", ["To a Nose"]), which in his day was thought
to imply a
Jewish heritage, with all the shame, possible censorship,
and persecution that such a connection implied in the
Spain of the
time. Quevedo's "A una nariz" begins with the lines: Érase un hombre
a una nariz pegado, / érase una nariz superlativa, / érase una nariz
sayón y escriba, / érase un peje espada muy barbado.
Góngora reciprocated with almost equal virulence.
Relationships with the Duke of Osuna
About that time, Quevedo grew very close to Pedro Téllez-Girón, 3rd
Duke of Osuna, one of the great statesmen and generals of the age,
whom he accompanied as secretary to Italy in 1613, carrying out a
number of missions for him which took him to Nice,
Venice and finally
back to Madrid. There he engaged in all manner of courtly intrigue to
get the viceroyalty of Naples for Osuna, an effort that finally bore
fruit in 1616. He then returned to Italy in the Duke's entourage,
where he was entrusted with putting in order the Viceroyalty's
finances, and sent on several espionage-related missions to the rival
Republic of Venice, although it is now believed these did not involve
him personally. He was rewarded for his efforts with a knighthood in
the order of Santiago in 1618.
Temporary exile and retirement
Casa Quevedo in Torre de Juan Abad.
With the fall from favor of Osuna in 1620, Quevedo lost his patron and
protector and was exiled to
Torre de Juan Abad
Torre de Juan Abad (Ciudad Real), whose
fiefdom his mother had purchased for him. His supposed vassals,
however, refused to acknowledge him, forcing Quevedo into an
interminable legal battle with the town's council that would not be
won until after his death.
Quevedo would write some of his better poetry in this retirement, such
as the sonnet "Retirado a la paz de estos desiertos..." or "Son las
torres de Joray...". He found consolation to his failed ambitions as a
courtier in the
Stoicism of Seneca, his study and commentary turning
him into one of the main exponents of Spanish Neostoicism.
The elevation of Philip IV to the throne in 1621 meant the end of
Quevedo's exile, and his return to Court and politics, now under the
influence of the new minister, the Count-Duke of Olivares. Quevedo
accompanied the young king in trips to
Andalusia and Aragon,
recounting some of its various incidents in interesting letters.
At this time he decided to denounce to the
Spanish Inquisition his own
works, published without his consent by profiteering booksellers. It
was a move to frighten off the booksellers and regain control over his
writings, with a view to a definitive edition of his work that was not
to come in his lifetime.
He became known for a disorderly lifestyle: he was a heavy smoker, a
frequent visitor to brothels and taverns, and cohabited with a woman
only known as "Ledesma." Góngora derided him as a drunkard in a
satirical poem as Don Francisco de Quebebo (a play on his name that
can be roughly translated as "Don Francisco of What-I-drink.")
None of this put a stop to his career at court, perhaps because the
king had an equally rowdy reputation. In fact, in 1632 he would become
secretary to the king, thus reaching the apex of his political career.
His friend Antonio Juan de la Cerda, the Duke de Medinaceli, forced
Quevedo to marry against his will with Doña Esperanza de Aragón, a
widow with children. The marriage, made in 1634, barely lasted three
months. Quevedo filled these years with febrile creative activity.
In 1634 he published La cuna y la sepultura ("The cradle and the
sepulchre") and the translation of La introducción a la vida devota
("The introduction to a life of devotion") of Francis of Sales;
1635 he completed works like De los remedios de cualquier
fortuna ("Of the remedies of any fortune"), the Epicteto, Virtud
Militante, Los cuatro fantasmas ("The four ghosts"), the second part
of Política de Dios ("Politics of God"), Visita y anatomía de la
cabeza del cardenal Richelieu ("Visit and anatomy of the head of the
Cardinal Richelieu") or Carta a Luis XIII ("Letter to Louis XIII").
1635 there appeared in Valencia the most important of the numerous
libels destined to defame him, El tribunal de la justa venganza,
erigido contra los escritos de Francisco de Quevedo, maestro de
errores, doctor en desvergüenzas, licenciado en bufonerías,
bachiller en suciedades, catedrático de vicios y protodiablo entre
los hombres. ("The Court of the rightful revenge, erected against the
writings of Francisco de Quevedo, teacher of errors, doctor in
shamelessness, licensed in buffonery, bachelor in dirt, university
professor of vices and proto-devil among men").
Arrest and exile
Convent of San Marcos in León.
In 1639, he was arrested. His books were confiscated. The authorities,
hardly giving Quevedo time to get dressed, took the poet to the
convent of San Marcos in León. In the monastery Quevedo dedicated
himself to reading, as recounted in his Carta moral e instructiva
(Moral and instructive letter), written to his friend, Adán de la
Parra, depicting hour by hour his prison life ("From ten to eleven, I
spend my time in prayer and devotions, and from eleven to noon I read
good and bad authors; because there is no book, despicable as it can
be, that does not contain something good...").
Quevedo, who was frail and very ill when he left from his confinement
in 1643, resigned from royal court definitively to retire at Torre de
Juan Abad. He died in the Dominican convent of Villanueva de los
Infantes, on 8 September 1645. One tale tells that his tomb was
pillaged days later by a gentleman who wished to have the gold spurs
with which Quevedo had been buried.
Wall poem in Leiden
Quevedo was an adherent of the style known as conceptismo, a name
derived from concepto, which has been defined as "a brilliant flash of
wit expressed in pithy or epigrammatic style."
characterized by a rapid rhythm, directness, simple vocabulary, witty
metaphors, and wordplay. In this style, multiple meanings are conveyed
in a very concise manner, and conceptual intricacies are emphasised
over elaborate vocabulary.
Conceptismo can effect elegant
philosophical depth, as well as biting satire and humor, such as in
the case of the works of Quevedo and Baltasar Gracián.
The first tercet from Quevedo's sonnet "¡Ah de la vida!" is
considered to exemplify conceptismo in poetry at its peak:
Ayer se fue, mañana no ha llegado,
Hoy se está yendo sin parar un punto;
Soy un fue, y un será y un es cansado.
Monument to Quevedo in Madrid, by Agustí Querol Subirats.
Quevedo produced a vast quantity of poetry. His poetry, which was
not published in book form during his lifetime, "shows the
caricature-like vision its author had of men, a vision sometimes
deformed by a sharp, cruel, violently critical nature." This
attitude is of a piece with the "black seventeenth century" he
lived in. Despite his satirical work, however, Quevedo was primarily a
serious poet who valued love poems.
His poetry gives evidence not only of his literary gifts but also of
his erudition (Quevedo had studied Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Arabic,
French and Italian). His poetic works range from satirical and
mythological subjects to love poetry and philosophical pieces.
Quevedo constantly attacked avarice and avaricious people. His "Cartas
del Caballero de la Tenaza" attack a notorious tightwad. He also
attacked apothecaries, who had a reputation for adulterating and badly
His love poetry includes such works as "Afectos varios de su corazón,
fluctuando en las ondas de los cabellos de Lisi" ("Several reactions
of his heart, bobbing on the waves of Lisi's hair"). As one scholar
has written, "Even though women were never very much appreciated by
Quevedo, who is labeled as a misogynist, it is impossible to imagine
that there was anyone else who could adore them more." The first
four lines run as follows:
Within a curly storm of wavy gold
must swim great gulfs of pure and blazing light
my heart, for beauty eagerly athirst,
when your abundant tresses you unbind.
Plaque dedicated to
El Buscón in Segovia.
His work also employed mythological themes, typical of the age,
though it also employs satirical elements, for example in his "To
Apollo chasing Daphne":
Ruddy silversmith from up on high,
in whose bright beams the rabble pick their fleas:
Daphne, that nymph, who takes off and won't speak,
if you'd possess her, pay, and douse your light.
Quevedo's poetry also includes pieces such as an imagined dedication
to Columbus by a piece of the ship in which the navigator had
discovered the New World:
Once I had an empire, wanderer,
upon the billows of the salty sea;
I was moved by the wind and well-respected,
to southern lands I forged an opening.
Main article: El Buscón
The only novel written by Quevedo is the picaresque Vida del Buscón
El Buscón (Full title: Historia de la vida del Buscón, llamado
Don Pablos, ejemplo de vagamundos y espejo de tacaños (1626; "Paul
the Sharper or The Scavenger; The Swindler"). It is a work divided
into three books.
Obras de don
Francisco de Quevedo
Francisco de Quevedo Villegas, 1699
Quevedo produced about 15 books on theological and ascetic
subjects. These include La cuna y la sepultura (1612; "The Cradle
and the Grave") and La providencia de Dios (1641; "The Providence of
His works on literary criticism include La culta latiniparla ("The
Craze for Speaking Latin") and Aguja de navegar cultos (Compass for
Euphuistic Reefs). Both works were written with the
purpose of attacking culteranismo.
Quevedo's satire includes Sueños y discursos, also known as Los
Sueños (1627; "Dreams and Discourses"). Quevedo employed lots of
word-play in this work, which consists of five "dream-visions." The
first is "The Dream of the Last Judgment", in which Quevedo finds
himself witnessing the Day of Judgment, and closes with a glimpse of
Hell itself. The second dream is "The Bedeviled Constable" in which
constable is possessed by an evil spirit, which results in the evil
spirit begging to be exorcised, since the constable is more evil of
the two. The third dream is the long "The Vision of Hell". The fourth
dream-vision is called "The World from the Inside". The last dream is
"The Dream of Death", in which Quevedo offers examples of man's
In the Dreams, the somewhat misanthropic Quevedo showcased his
antipathy for numerous groups, including but not limited to tailors,
innkeepers, alchemists, astrologers, women, the Genovese, Protestants,
constables, accountants, Jews, doctors, dentists, apothecaries, and
hypocrites of all kinds.
He wrote too, in a satirical tone, La hora de todos y la Fortuna con
seso (1699), with many political, social and religious allusions. He
shows his ability in the use of language, with word-play and fantastic
and real characters.
His political works include La política de Dios, y gobierno de Cristo
(1617–1626; "The Politics of the Lord") and La vida de Marco Bruto
(1632–1644; "The Life of Marcus Brutus"). According to writers
Javier Martínez-Pinna and Diego Peña In his writings he always
manifested an obsession for the defense of the country, being
convinced of the necessity and inevitability of the hegemony of Spain
in the world, something that in the full Spanish decline had to do him
much harm. It was also integrated in the tradition of laus Hispaniae,
established by San Isidoro and used by Quevedo himself to try to
recover the values that he thought, made the nation powerful. In a
series of works like his defended Spain, he praised the greatness of
his most prestigious compatriots, highlighting the Spanish superiority
in the field of letters, visible in authors such as Fray Luis de
León, Jorge Manrique or Garcilaso de la Vega, but also in The art of
war, making possible the victory of Castilian weapons in their
confrontations against Arabs and other European powers during the
In Giannina Braschi's novel Yo-Yo Boing! contemporary
poets have a heated, drunken debate about Francisco de Quevedo's
profile in defining the Spanish Golden Age.
Quevedo is a main character of Captain Alatriste's books written by
Arturo Pérez-Reverte. In the movie Alatriste, he was played by Juan
He is also a main character in the alternate history novel 1635: The
Cannon Law by
Eric Flint and Andrew Dennis.
And he is a main character in the 2013 novel "Sudden Death" (Spanish
title "Muerte subita") by Alvaro Enrigue.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Francisco de Quevedo.
Siglo de Oro
EFE (July 31, 2008). "Una carta de Quevedo permite fijar la fecha
exacta de su nacimiento".
El País (in Spanish). Toledo: Ediciones El
País S.L. Retrieved October 16, 2014.
^ Contraction of hijos de algo, meaning sons of someone or something
who were a middle class of landed gentry just below the nobility
^ a b c d e
Francisco de Quevedo
Francisco de Quevedo Biography and Analysis
^ "Famous Duels and Duellists". Destreza Translation & Research
Project. Ghost Sparrow Publications. 2005. Archived from the original
on October 8, 2007. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
^ Epton, Nina (1961). Love and the Spanish. London: Cassell.
^ Alonso, Dámaso (1935). La lengua poética de Góngora. Revista de
Filología Española. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones
Científicas, Instituto Miguel de Cervantes. p. 114.
^ Ingber, Alix. "A un hombre de gran nariz". Golden Age Sonnets (in
Spanish). Sweet Briar College. Archived from the original on March 9,
2001. Retrieved January 7, 2008.
^ de Quevedo, Francisco; Fernández-Guerra y Orbe, Aureliano;
Menéndez y Pelayo, Marcelino (1859). Obras de Don Francisco de
Quevedo Villegas. Madrid: M. Rivadeneyra. p. 590.
^ Newmark, Maxim (January 1, 1956). Dictionary of Spanish Literature.
Rowman & Littlefield. p. 71. ISBN 9781442234093.
^ a b Bleiberg, Ihrie & Pérez 1993, p. 425.
^ Bleiberg, Ihrie & Pérez 1993, p. 426.
Francisco de Quevedo
Francisco de Quevedo y Villegas
^ a b Eugenio Florit, Introduction to Spanish
Poetry (Courier Dover,
^ Andreas Dorschel, 'Herrsche in Dir selbst', in: Süddeutsche Zeitung
nr. 32 (9 February 2004), p. 14.
^ a b c d e Faltar pudo el mundo al gran Quevedo pero no a su defensa
^ Quoted and translated at "Archived copy". Archived from the original
on 2007-08-21. Retrieved 2007-08-21.
^ Quoted and translated in "Archived copy". Archived from the original
on 2007-08-05. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
^ Quoted and translated in "Archived copy". Archived from the original
on 2007-08-05. Retrieved 2007-08-05. .
^ Dreams and Discourses - Francisco de Quevedo
^ Martínez-Pinna, Javier; Peña, Diego (2017). "Francisco de Quevedo.
Su obra más polémica". Revista Clío Historia: 88–91.
Bleiberg, Germán; Ihrie, Maureen; Pérez, Janet (1993). Dictionary of
the Literature of the Iberian Peninsula. 1. Greenwood Press.
p. 425. ISBN 9780313287312.
Crosby, James O., The sources of the text of Quevedo's Política de
Dios. Millwood, New York: Kraus Reprint Co., 1975 (first edited,
1959). ISBN 0-527-20680-6.
Francisco de Quevedo
Francisco de Quevedo and the Neostoic movement.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972. ISBN 0-19-815521-2.
Hennigfeld, Ursula, Der ruinierte Körper. Petrarkistische Sonette in
transkultureller Perspektive. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann,
2008. ISBN 978-3-8260-3768-9.
Quevedo, Francisco de. Edited and Translated by Christopher Johnson
Poetry of Francisco de Quevedo: A Bilingual Edition.
University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-69889-2.
Ariadna García-Bryce, Transcending Textuality: Quevedo and Political
Authority in the Age of Print (University Park, Pennsylvania,
Pennsylvania State University Press, 2011).
Francisco de Quevedo
Francisco de Quevedo at Project Gutenberg
Works by or about
Francisco de Quevedo
Francisco de Quevedo at Internet Archive
Francisco de Quevedo
Francisco de Quevedo at
LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
English translations of some of Quevedo’s sonnets
English translation of Quevedo's Miré los muros de la patria mía
English translation of Quevedo's Cerrar podrá mis ojos la postrera
(in Spanish) Fundación Francisco de Quevedo
(in Spanish) Author's page on the
Miguel de Cervantes
Miguel de Cervantes Virtual Library
Portal dedicated to the author on the Universidad de
Santiago de Compostela website
(in Spanish) Quevedo y la crítica on the Centro Virtual
Cervantes[permanent dead link]
(in Spanish) Works by the author
(in Spanish) El Colegio Imperial y el Instituto de San Isidro,
Quevedo's high school
(in Spanish) Analysis of Francisco de Quevedo: Life and Works
(in Spanish) Biography and short analysis of his works by Paul
ISNI: 0000 0001 2133 9650
BNF: cb118873287 (data)