European Countries

Spain Literature in the 19th Century

Patriotic literature. The European romantic movements, although beginning to penetrate Spain, especially the French and English ones, from the first years of the 19th century, exert their true influence only later. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the anti-Napoleonic popular revolts and the constitutional aspirations had waves of unrest as a literary correlative and not a real romantic conscience. Indeed, not only can classicism coexist with patriotism (Quintana), but it is even the language of the new patriotic and irredentist rhetoric, and it prevails in many authors who live up to the late nineteenth century (J. Gómez Hermosilla; JN Gallego; A. Lista y Aragón). What is most interesting to identify in these authors is that eighteenth-century criticism which tends to focus on national problems and which, continuing to flourish during the nineteenth century, it gives rise to a varied literature of costume. 6.2 Romanticism. Among the initiators of the romantic season is MJ Larra, who committed suicide. But more than in the dark tones of the drama (Macías, 1834) or of the historical novel (El doncel de don Enrique el doliente, 1834), his disordered sensitivity finds the right balance in literary and costume criticism. Essential in the nineteenth century will be the alternative between the happy observation of costume, the costumbrismo, and rhetoric and provincialism into which any attempt to adhere to the universal forms and humanitarian tones of nineteenth-century European literature, first with Romanticism, then with naturalism.

● Overall, Romanticism in Spain finds it hard to fix itself in works worthy of remembrance. His birth certificate takes place on the Spanish stages: La conjuración de Venecia (1830) by F. Martínez de la Rosa and the Macías (1834) by Larra, Don Álvaro (1835) by A. Saavedra duke of Rivas, El Trovador (1836) by A. García Gutiérrez (source of inspiration for the melodrama Il Trovatore by G. Verdi), Los amantes de Teruel (1837) by JE Hartzenbusch and later the first edition of the Poesías (1840) by J. Espronceda and Don Juan Tenorio (1844) by J. Zorrilla. This return to the Middle Ages and to epic-lyric themes is not, however, simply the effect of an internal circuit of national values; in reality, the Spanish poets who lived as political emigrants in France between 1830 and 1840 (Rivas, Martínez de la Rosa, Espronceda) and were surprised to find a Spain already partially rediscovered there, are affected in their works of this first foreign and exotic experience.

● According to, Spanish writers are not, however, mere repeaters. In the Duke of Rivas (in the Romances históricos, 1841, more than in Don Álvaro) and above all in Zorrilla (in the medieval ‘legends’ more than in the popular Don Juan) there is a gradual work, to restore to the usual romantic themes that flavor of originality that can only give them a certain adherence to tradition. It is to this that Spanish Romanticism, initially (when it was not satirical with Larra), gave its best in the descriptive forms of romance, while it proved clumsy in attempts at lyricism, where a new adaptation to European themes ( individualism, melancholy, unhappiness and totality of love, etc.) resulted in Espronceda’s too languid and tearful poetry.

● The only, authentic Spanish poet of the nineteenth century is GA Bécquer, who expresses himself beyond any ideological and patriotic commitment. But, apart from the example of Bécquer and that of R. de Castro’s lyric, the poetry of the second half of the nineteenth century offers only the case of a disordered talent like that of R. de Campoamor. Nor does G. Núñez de Arce’s most modest and most authentic poetry, for which we usually speak of Parnassian taste, go beyond a somewhat external descriptivism, still dotted with romantic clichés.

● As far as the theater is concerned, the birth of a costume genre, rather than bourgeois, had been very early with M. Bretón de los Herreros. After him, with V. de la Vega, M. Tamayo, A. López de Ayala, a moralizing realism emerges, which maintains a certain interest when immersed in specific forms of costume, such as the zarzuela, mass finely staged by Tamayo and López de Ayala, or as the género chico, bourgeois and nineteenth-century version of the single act model. Spanish naturalism, on the other hand, hides a pathetic legacy of romantic ways, as happens to the last and most famous nineteenth-century playwright, J. de Echegaray. 6.3 The novel. But the form in which Spanish society of the second half of the nineteenth century most fully expresses, in its medium tone, the various concerns of a liberal and bourgeois brand, is the realistic narrative, which, also and above all in the context of costumbrism, reaches a constant dignity of style, an easier adherence to reality, a rich observation of human types. This had already happened in the first half of the century in the Escenas andaluzas (1847) by Spain Estébanez Calderón and in the Escenas matritenses (1842), set in Madrid, by R. de Mesonero Romanos. But it wasn’t the novel yet. This, among the flourishing of mediocre novelas históricas, was born in 1849 with La gaviota by Fernán Caballero (pseudonym of the writer C. Böhl de Faber y Larrea). This is not a new imitation of foreign forms: G. Flaubert, while sharpening towards the last years of the century, will always remain as a marginal fact with respect to the prevailing costumbrism and regionalism.

● Regionalism is perhaps the limit of this literature, but it is also the condition for the development of an attentive, surely and discreetly evocative prose. In PA de Alarcón, the prevalence of factors such as the landscape, the local impression give rise, in the fictional novel, to politely satirical reconstructions of provincial life, such as the very famous one of El sombrero de tres picos (1874). And, again, Andalusism is very strong in an ambitious narrator like J. Valera, with an unusually accurate stylistic discipline in the realistic novel. Even when, in her most demanding novel, Pepita Jiménez (1874), Valera tackles the psychological case, what is still convincing is the combination of the provincial picture and what one feels typically Spanish in Catholicism, in the very crisis of the protagonist. The same can be said of the Galician environment of some novellas by E. Pardo Bazán and of that, montañés by JM de Pereda, a typical ‘regionalist’ both in the Escenas montañesas (1864) and in the ambient novels (Sotileza, 1885; Peñas arriba, 1895).

● And in B. Pérez Galdós, the greatest Spanish narrator of the nineteenth century, in the variety of his human types, in the historical sense with which characters and environments are specified, the costumbrismo finds, not the overcoming, but its best characterization. It is the merit of some of the most famous novels (Marianela, 1878; Nazarín, 1895; Misericordia, 1897) and the large gallery of Episodios nacionales (5 series published between 1873 and 1912), a large fresco of historical events. 6.4 Krausism. In the context of a culture that is being liberalized, and thanks to the influence of a particular current of thought, krausism (from the name of the German philosopher KCF Krause), a wave of unscrupulousness and rigor begins to assert itself even among literati critic. Also known as harmonic racionalism due to its rationalist and optimistic component, krausism, which had great influence between 1854 and 1874, it was the source of ideological and ethical inspiration of the liberal intellectuals of the second half of the 20th century, taking the form of a lifestyle based on dignity, tolerance and trust in reason and progress. Here are the premises of contemporary non-fiction, there are speakers and politicians of different talents such as E. Castelar and A. Cánovas del Castillo, educators with a liberal tendency such as F. Giner de los Ríos, journalists and storytellers of costume such as L. Alas y Ureña (known as Clarín) and Á. Ganivet, scholars such as M. Menéndez y Pelayo.

Spain Literature in the 19th Century