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Perez Galdos, Benito

PEREZ GALDOS, BENITO (1845- ), was born at Las Palmas, in the Canary Islands, on the loth of May 1845. In 1863 he was sent to Madrid to study law, drifted into literature, and was speedily recognized as one of the most promising recruits on the Liberal side. Shortly after the Revolution of 1868 he abandoned journalism, and employed fiction as the vehicle for propagating advanced opinions. His first novel, La Fontana de oro, was printed in 1871, and later in the same year appeared El Audaz. The reception given to these early essays encouraged the writer to adopt novel-writing as a profession. He had already determined upon the scheme of his Episodios nacionales, a series which might compare with the Comedie humaine. Old charters, old letters, old newspapers were collected by him with the minuteness of a German archivist; no novelist was ever more thoroughly equipped as regards the details of his period. Trafalgar, the first volume of the Episodios nacionales, appeared in 1879; the remaining books of this first series are entitled La Cort de Carlos IV., El 19 de marzo y el 2 de mayo, BaiUn, Napoledn en Chamartin, Zaragoza, Gerona, Cadiz, Juan Martin el Empecinado and La Batalla de A r piles. As the titles suffice to show, the author's aim was to write the national epic of the 19th century in prose; and he so completely succeeded that, long before the first series ended in 1881, he took rank among the foremost novelists of his time. A second series of Episodios nacionales, beginning with El Equipaje del rey Jose and ending with a tenth volume, Un Faccioso mas y algunas frailes menos, was brought to a close in 1883, and was, like its predecessor, a monument of industry and exact knowledge, of jrealism and romantic conception; and he carried on the Episodios nacionales into a fourth series, raising the total of volumes to forty. In fecundity and in the power of creating characters, Perez Galdos vies with Balzac. Parallel with his immense achievement in historical fiction, P6rez Galdos published a collection of romances dealing with contemporary life, its social problems and religious difficulties. Of these the best known, and perhaps the best, are Dona Perfecta (1876); Gloria (1877) ; La Familia de Ledn Roch (1878) ; Marianela (1878) ; Fortunata y Jacinta (1887); and Angel Guerra (1891). Nor does this exhaust his prodigious activity. Besides adapting several of his novels for stage purposes, he wrote original dramas such as La Loca de la casa (1893), San Quintin (1894), Electra (1900) and Mariucha (1904); but his diffuse, exuberant genius was scarcely accommodated to the convention of theatrical form. Perez Gald6s became a member of the Spanish Academy, and was also elected to the Cortes; but it is solely as a romancer that his name is familiar wherever Spanish is spoken, as a national novelist of fertile talent, and a most happy humorist who in his eccentrics and oddities is hardly inferior to Dickens. (J- F.-K.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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