CHAPTER XIX. THE EIGHTEENTH AND NINETEENTH CENTURIES: SPAIN
The Drama still Brilliant: Moratin. Historians and Philosophers, Novelists, Orators.
THE DRAMA. Since the middle of the seventeenth century, approximately, Spain has exercised less literary influence than in the preceding centuries. Nevertheless Spanish literature was not extinct; it was in the drama more especially that it was manifest. Candamo, Canizares, and Zamora all illumined the stage. Candamo devoted himself to the historical drama; his masterpiece in this type was The Slave in Golden Chains; Canizares, powerful satirist, displayed the comic spirit in his comedies of character; Zamora manipulated the comedy of intrigue with remarkable dexterity. Then came Vincente de la Huerta, skilful in combining the type of French tragedy with something of the ancient dramatic national genius; then Leandro Moratin (called Moratin the Younger to distinguish him from his father Nicholas), very imitative, no doubt, of Moliere, but in himself highly gifted, and of whose works can still be read with pleasure The Old Man and the Young Girl, The New Comedy on the Coffee, The Female Hypocrite, etc. He also wrote lyrical poems and sonnets. He lived long in France, where he became impregnated with Gallic classical literature.
PROSE.—Stronger and more brilliant at that period than the poetry, the prose was represented by Father Florez, author of Ecclesiastical Spain; by the Marquis de San Phillipo, author of the War of Succession in Spain; by Antonio de Solis, author of The Conquest of Mexico. In fiction there was the interesting Father Isla, a Jesuit, who gave a clever imitation of the Don Quixote of Cervantes in hisHistory of the Preacher Friar Gerund. He was well read and patriotic. He was convinced that Le Sage had taken all his Gil Blas from various Spanish authors, and he published a translation of his novel under the title: The Adventures of Gil Blas of Santiago, stolen from Spain and adopted in France by M. Le Sage, restored to their country and native tongue by a jealous Spaniard who will not endure being laughed at. Another Jesuit (and it may be noticed that Spanish Jesuits of the seventeenth century often displayed a very liberal and modern mind), Father Feijoo, wrote a kind of philosophical dictionary entitled Universal Dramatic Criticism, a review of human opinions which was satirical, humorous, and often extremely able. The historian Antonio de Solis, who was also a reasonably capable dramatist, produced a History of the Conquest of South America Known under the name of New Spain, in a chartered style that was very elegant and even too elegant. Jovellanos wrote much in various styles. Among others he wrote one fine tragedy, Pelagia ; a comedy presenting clever contrasts, entitled The Honorable Criminal; a mass of studies on the past of Spain, economic treatises, satires, and pamphlets. Engaged in all the historical and political vicissitudes of his country, he expired miserably in 1811, after having been alternately in exile and at the head of affairs.
ROMANTICISM.—In the nineteenth century Spanish romanticism was brought back in dignified poetic style by Angel Saavedra, Jose Zorilla, Ventura de la Vega, Ramon Campoamor, Espronceda. The latter especially counts among the great literary Spaniards, for he was poet and novelist, who wrote The Student of Salamanca (Don Juan), The Devil World (a kind of Faust), lyrical poems, and an historical novel, Sancho Saldano.
THE NINETEENTH CENTURY.—In drama, Quintana also produced a Pelagia; the Duke of Rivas a Don Alvaro, which enjoyed an immediate success; Zorilla a Don Juan entirely novel in conception; Martinez de la Rose tragedies, some in the classic vein, others with modern intrigue and comedies; Gutierrez, by his Foundling, attracted the attention of librettists of French operas; Breton de los Herreros wrote sparkling comedies, the multiplicity of which suggest Scribe. In prose, Fernan Caballero was a fertile novelist and an attentive and accurate painter of manner. Trueba (who was also an elegant poet) was an affecting idyllic novelist. Emilio Castelar, the Lamartine of Spain as he was called by Edmond About, was a splendid orator, thrown by the chances of political life for one hour at the head of national affairs, who raised himself to the highest rank in the admiration of his contemporaries by his novels: for instance, The Sister of Charity and his works on philosophical history and the history of art, Civilisation in the First Centuries of Christianity, The Life of Byron, Souvenirs of Italy, etc. In our day, there have been numerous distinguished authors (and for us, at least, out of the crowd stands forth the dramatist Jose Echegaray), who carry on the glorious tradition of Spanish literature.