Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/606

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LITERATURE]
585
SPAIN


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. For the new ideas which were intro- duced into Spain as the result of more intimate relations with France, and which were in many cases repugnant to a nation for two centuries accustomed to live a self-contained life, it was necessary that authoritative sanction should be found. Ignacio de Luzan, well read in the literatures of Italy and France, a disciple of Boileau and the French rhetoricians, yet not without seme 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 " accepted by the French stage from Corneille's day onward. What Luzan had done for letters, Benito Feyjoo, a Benedictine of good sense and great learning, did for the sciences. His Teatro critico and Cartas eruditas y curiosas, collections of dissertations in almost every department of human knowledge, introduced the Spaniards to the leading scientific discoveries of foreign countries, and helped to deliver them from many superstitions and absurd prejudices. The study of the ancient classics and the department of learned research in the domain of national histories and literatures had an eminent representative in Gregorio Mayans y Siscar (1699-1781), who worthily carried on the great traditions of the Renaissance; besides publishing good editions of old Spanish authors, he gave to the world in 1757 a Retorica which is still worth consulting, and a number of learned memoirs. What may be called the littirature d'agrtment did not recover much lost ground; it would seem as if the vein had been exhausted. Something of the old picaresque novel came to life again in the Fray Gerundio of the Jesuit Isla, a _ biographical romance which is also and above all —

to the detriment, it is true, of the interest of the narrative— a satire on the follies of the preachers of the day. The lyric poetry of this period is colourless when compared with its variegated splendour in the preceding century. Nevertheless one or two poets can be named who possessed oe refinement of taste, and whose collections of verse

at least show respect for the language. At the head of the new school is Menendez Valdes, and with him are associated Diego Gonzalez (1733-1794), Jose Iglesias de la Casa (1748-1791), known by his letrillas, Cienfuegos, and some others. Among the verse writers of the 18th century who produced odes and didactic poetry it is only necessary to mention Leandro Fernandez de Moratin and Quintana, but the latter belongs rather to the 19th century, during the early part of which he published his most important works. The poverty of the period in lyric poetry is even exceeded by that of the stage. No kind of comedy or tragical drama arose to take the place of the ancient comedia, whose platitudes and absurdities of thought and expression had ended by disgusting even the least exact- ing portion of the public. The attempt was indeed made to introduce the comedy and the tragedy of France, but the stiff and pedantic adaptations of such writers as the elder Moratin, Agustin de Montiano y Luyando (1697-1764), Tomas de Iriarte, Garcia de la Huerta and the well-known economist Caspar de Jovellanos failed to interest the great mass of playgoers. The only dramatist who was really successful in composing on the French pattern some pleasant comedies, which owe much of their charm to the great purity of the language in which they are written, is Leandro Fernandez de Moratin. It has to be added that the sainete was cultivated in the 18th century by one writer of genuine talent, Ramon de la Cruz; nothing helps us better to an acquaintance with the curious Spanish society of the reign of Charles IV. than the interludes of this genial and light- hearted author, who was succeeded by Juan Ignacio Gonzalez del Castillo.

The struggle of the War of Independence (1808-14), which was destined to have such important consequences in the 19th world of politics, exerted no immediate influence on

Century. tne literature of Spain. One might have expected as a consequence of the rising of the whole nation against


Napoleon that Spanish writers would no longer seek their inspiration from France, and would resume the national traditions which had been broken at the end of the 17th century. But nothing of the sort occurred. Not only the afrancesados (as those were called who had accepted the new regime), but also the most ardent partisans of the patriotic cause, continued in literature to be the submissive disciples of France. Quintana, who in his odes preached to his compatriots the duty of resistance, has nothing of the innovator about him; by his education and by his literary doctrines he remains a man of the 18th century. The same may be said of Martinez de la Rosa, who, though less powerful and impressive, had a greater independence of spirit and a more highly trained and classical taste. And when romanticism begins to find its way into Spain and to enter into conflict with the spirit and habits of the 18th century, it is still to France that the poets and prose writers of the new school turn, much more than to England or to Germany. The first decidedly romantic poet of the generation which flourished about 1830 was the duke of Rivas; no one succeeded better in reconciling the genius of Spain and the tendencies of modern poetry; his poem El Moro expdsito and his drama of Don Alvaro 6 la fuerza del sino belong as much to the old romances and old theatre of Spain as to the romantic spirit of 1830. On the other hand, Espronceda, who has sometimes been called the Spanish Musset, savours much less of the soil than the duke of Rivas; he is a cosmopolitan romantic of the school of Byron and the French imitators of Byron; an exclusively lyric poet, he did not live long enough to give full proof of his genius, but what he has left is often exquisite. Zorilla has a more flexible and exuberant, but much more unequal, talent than Espronceda, and if the latter has written too little it cannot but be regretted that the former should have produced too much; nevertheless, among a multitude of hasty performances, brought out before they had been matured, his Don Juan Tenorio, a new and fantastic version of the legend treated by Tirso de Molina and Moliere, will remain as one of the most curious specimens of Spanish romanticism. In the dramatic literature of this period it is noticeable that the tragedy more than the comedy is modelled on the examples furnished by the French drama of the Restoration; thus, if we leave out of account the play by Garcia Gutierrez, entitled El Trovador, which inspired Verdi's well-known opera, and Los Amantes de T cruel, by Hartzenbusch, and a few others, all the dramatic work belonging to this date recalls more or less the manner of the professional playwrights of the boulevard theatres, while on the other hand the comedy of manners still preserves a certain originality and a genuine local colour. Breton de los Herreros, who wrote a hundred comedies or more, some of them of the first order in their kind, apart from the fact that their diction is of remarkable excellence, adheres with great fidelity to the tradition of the 17th century; he is the last of the dramatists who preserved the feeling of the ancient comedia. Mariano Jose de Larra, a prose writer of the highest talent, must be placed beside Espronceda, with whom he has several features in common. Caustic in temper, of a keenly observant spirit, remarkably sober and clear as a writer, he was specially successful in the political pamphlet, the article d'actualite, in which he ridicules without pity the vices and oddities of his contemporaries; his reputation is much more largely due to these letters than either to his plays or his novel El Doncel de Don Enrique el Doliente. With Larra must be associated two other humoristic writers. The first of these is Mesonero Romanos, whose Escenas matrilenses, although of less literary value than Larra's articles, give pleasure by their good-natured gaiety and by the curious details they furnish with regard to the contemporary society of Madrid. The other is Estebanez Calderon, who in his Escenas atidaluzas sought to revive the manner of the satirical and picaresque writers of the 17th century; in a uselessly archaic language of his own, tesselated with fragments taken from Cervantes, Quevedo and others, he has delineated with a somewhat artificial grace various piquant scenes of Andalusian or Madrid life. The most prominent literary critics belonging to the first generation of the