He graduated at Seville University in 1564, studied later at Salamanca and Alcalá, and from 1571 to 1588 held a post in the treasury; in 1594 he was arrested on suspicion of malversation, but was speedily released. In 1599 he published the first part of Guzmán de Alfarache, a celebrated picaresque novel which passed through not less than sixteen editions in five years; a spurious sequel was issued in 1602, but the authentic continuation did not appear till 1604.
In 1608 Aleman emigrated to America, and is said to have carried on business as a printer in Mexico; his Ortografia castellana (1609), published in that city, contains ingenious and practical proposals for the reform of Spanish spelling. Nothing is recorded of Aleman after 1609, but it is sometimes asserted that he was still living in 1617. He married, unhappily, Catalina de Espinosa in 1571, and was constantly in money difficulties, being imprisoned for debt at Seville at the end of 1602.
He is the author of a life (1604) of St Antony of Padua, and versions of two odes of Horace bear witness to his taste and metrical accomplishment. His chief title to remembrance, however, is Guzmán de Alfarache, which was translated into French in 1600, into English in 1623 and into Latin in 1623.
See J Hazanas y la Rua, Discursos leidos en la Real Academia Sevillana de Buenas letras el 25 de marzo de 1542 (Sevilla, 1892); J Gestoso y Perez, Nuevos datos para ilustrar las biografias del Maestro Juan de Malara y de Mateo Aleman (Sevilla, 1896).
This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.