The historians of the wars of Flanders, such as Carlos Coloma, Bernardino de Mendoza, Alonso Vazquez and Francisco Verdugo, are less refined, and more vivid. The accounts of transatlantic conquests are either by eyewitnesses, e.g., Bernal Diaz del Castillo (1492-1581), one of the companions of Cortes, and Bartolome de las Casas, the apostle of the Indians; or by official historiographers, such as Francisco Lopez de Gornara, who wrote in Spain second hand.
Lay moralists are numerous in the i6th and 17th centuries. Some write long and heavy treatises on the art of governing, the education of princes, the duties of subjects, etc. But there is a kind of morality in which the Spaniard excels, namely, in social satire, which, under all its forms—dialogue and dream in the style of Lucian, epistle after the manner of Juvenal, or pamphlet —has produced several masterpieces and a host of ingenious, caustic and amusing compositions. Juan de Valdes (d. 1541), the most celebrated of the Spanish Protestants, led the way with his Dicilogo de Mercurio y Car6n—admirable in vigour.
The most eminent author in the department of social satire, as in those of literary and political satire, is Quevedo. Nothing escapes his scrutinizing spirit and pitiless irony. All the vices of contemporary society are remorselessly pilloried and cruelly dissected in his Suelios and other short works. This great satirist is a disciple of Seneca. His phrases are charged with a double meaning (Conceptism). This new school had its Boileau in Balta sar Gracian, who published his Agudeza y arte de ingenio (1642), in which all the subtleties of conceptism are reduced to an exact code.
Spanish thought as well as public spirit and all other forms of national activity began to decline towards the close of the 17th century. The advent of the house of Bourbon, and the increasing invasion of French influence in the domain of politics as well as in literature and science, frustrated the efforts of a few writers who had remained faithful to the pure Spanish tradition. The first symptoms, not of a revival, but of a certain resumption of intellectual production, appear in the department of linguistic study. In 1714 there was created, on the model of the French academies, La Real Academia Espanola, intended to maintain the purity of the language and to correct its abuses. This academy set itself at once to work, and in 1726 began the publication of its dictionary in six folio volumes, the best title of this association to the gratitude of men of letters. The Gramdtica de la lengua castellana, drawn up by the academy, did not appear till 1771.
Ignacio de Luzin, well read in the literatures of Italy and France, a disciple of Boileau and the French rhetoricians, yet not without some originality of his own, undertook in his Poetica (1737) to expound to his fellow countrymen the rules of the new school, and, above all, the principle of the famous "unities" ac cepted by the French stage from Corneille's day onward. What Luzin had done for letters, Benito FeijOo, a Benedictine of good sense and great learning, did for the sciences. His Teatro critico and Cartas eniditas y curiosas, collections of dissertations in almost every department of human knowledge, introduced the Spaniards to the leading scientific discoveries of foreign countries.