1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gracián y Morales, Baltasar

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GRACIÁN Y MORALES, BALTASAR (1601–1658), Spanish prose writer, was born at Calatayud (Aragon) on the 8th of January 1601. Little is known of his personal history except that on May 14, 1619, he entered the Society of Jesus, and that ultimately he became rector of the Jesuit college at Tarazona, where he died on the 6th of December, 1658. His principal works are El Héroe (1630), which describes in apophthegmatic phrases the qualities of the ideal man; the Arte de ingenio, tratado de la Agudeza (1642), republished six years afterwards under the title of Agudeza, y arte de ingenio (1648), a system of rhetoric in which the principles of conceptismo as opposed to culteranismo are inculcated; El Discreto (1645), a delineation of the typical courtier; El Oráculo manual y arte de prudencia (1647), a system of rules for the conduct of life; and El Criticón (1651–1653–1657), an ingenious philosophical allegory of human existence. The only publication which bears Gracián’s name is El Comulgatorio (1655); his more important books were issued under the pseudonym of Lorenzo Gracián (possibly a brother of the writer) or under the anagram of Gracian de Marlones. Gracián was punished for publishing without his superior’s permission El Criticón (in which Defoe is alleged to have found the germ of Robinson Crusoe); but no objection was taken to its substance. He has been excessively praised by Schopenhauer, whose appreciation of the author induced him to translate the Oráculo manual, and he has been unduly depreciated by Ticknor and others. He is an acute thinker and observer, misled by his systematic misanthropy and by his fantastic literary theories.

See Karl Borinski, Baltasar Gracián und die Hoflitteratur in Deutschland (Halle, 1894); Benedetto Croce, I Trattatisti italiani delconcettismoe Baltasar Gracián (Napoli, 1899); Narciso José Liñán y Heredia, Baltasar Gracián (Madrid, 1902). Schopenhauer and Joseph Jacobs have respectively translated the Oráculo manual into German and English.