Born: Las Palmas, Grand Canary Island, 10 May 1843. Education: Educated at an English school, Las Palmas; Colegio de San Agustin, 1856-62; studied law at the University of Madrid, 1862-65. Career: Staff member, La Nacion from 1865, and associated with LaRevista de Espana from 1870; abandoned journalism for writing and travel, 1873; Liberal deputy for Puerto Rico, 1886-90; Republican deputy for Madrid, from 1907. Blind after about 1912. Member: Spanish Academy, 1897. Died: 4 January 1920.
Obras ineditas, edited by Alberto Ghiraldo. 11 vols., 1923-33. Obras completas, edited by F.C. Sainz de Robles. 6 vols., 1942-45.
La fontana de oro. 1870; as The Golden Fountain Cafe, translated by Walter Rubin, 1989.
La sombra. 1871; edited by Rodolfo Cardona, 1964; as The Shadow, translated by Karen O. Austin, 1980.
El audaz: Historia de un radical de antano. 1871.
Dona Perfecta. 1876; edited by Rodolfo Cardona, 1965; as Lady Perfecta, 1883; also translated by Mary Wharton, 1894; as Dona Perfecta, 1883; also translated by Mary J. Serrano, 1895; Harriet de Onfs, 1960; as Dona Perfecta, translated by Alexander R. Tulloch, 1999.
Gloria. 1876-77; edited by Alexander H. Krappe, 1927; as Gloria, translated by Nathan Wetherell, 1879; also translated by Clara Bell, 1882.
Marianela. 1878; as Marianela, translated by Clara Bell, 1883; also translated by Helen W. Lester, 1892; Mary Wharton, 1893.
La familia de Leon Roch. 1878; as The Family of Leon Roch, translated by Clara Bell, 1886; as Leon Roch, translated by Bell, 1888.
La desheredada. 1881; as The Disinherited Lady, translated by Guy E. Smith, 1957; as The Disinherited, translated by Lester Clark, 1976.
El amigo Manso. 1882; as Our Friend Manso, translated by Robert Russell, 1987.
El doctor Centeno. 1883.
Tormento. 1884; edited by Eamonn J. Rodgers, 1977; as Torment, translated by J.M. Cohen, 1952; as Inferno, translated and edited by Abigail Lee Six, 1998.
La de Bringas. 1884; as The Spendthrifts, translated by Gamel Woolsey, 1951; translated and edited by Catherine Jagoe, 1996.
Lo prohibido. 1884-85; commentary by James Whiston, 1983.
Fortunata y Jacinta. 1886-87; as Fortunata and Jacinta, translated by Lester Clark, 1973; also translated by Agnes Moncy Gullon, 1986.
Miau. 1888; as Miau, translated by J.M. Cohen, 1963.
La incognita. 1889; as The Unknown, translated by Karen O. Austin, 1991.
Torquemada en la hoguera, Torquemada en la cruz, Torquemada en el purgatorio, Torquemada y San Pedro. 4 vols., 1889-95; as Torquemada, translated by Frances M. Lopez-Morillas, 1986; Torquemada en la hoguera as Torquemada in the Fire, translated by Nicholas G. Round, 1985.
Realidad. 1889; edited by Lisa Pauline Conde, 1993; as Reality, translated by Karen O. Austin, 1992.
Angel Guerra. 1890-91; as Angel Guerra, translated by Karen O. Austin, 1990.
Tristana. 1892; as Tristana, translated by R. Selden Rose, 1961.
La loca de la casa. 1892; as La loca de la casa, translated by Frances Exum, 1963.
Nazarin. 1895; as Nazarin, translated by Robert S. Rudder and Gloria Arjona, 1997.
Misericordia. 1897; edited by Angel del Rio and McKendree Petty, 1946; as Compassion, translated by Toby Talbot, 1962; also translated by Joan MacLean, 1966; translated by Charles de Salis, 1995.
El abuelo. 1897.
El caballero encantado. 1909.
La razon de la sinrazon. 1915.
Fiction: Episodios Nacionales series
Trafalgar. 1873; edited by F.A. Kirkpatrick, 1905; as Trafalgar, translated by Clara Bell, 1884.
La Corte de Carlos IV. 1873; as The Court of Charles IV, translated by Clara Bell, 1888.
El 19 de marzo y el 2 de mayo. 1873.
Napoleon en Chamartin. 1874.
Zaragoza. 1874; edited by John Van Home, 1926; as Saragossa, translated by Minna Caroline Smith, 1899.
Gerona. 1874; as Gerona, translated by G.J. Racz, 1993.
Juan Martin, el Empecinado. 1874.
La batalla de los Arapiles. 1875; as The Battle of Salamanca, translated by Rollo Ogden, 1895.
El equipaje del Rey Jose. 1875.
Memorias de un cortesano de 1815. 1875.
La segunda casaca. 1876.
El Grande Oriente. 1876.
El 7 de julio. 1876.
Los Cien Mil Hijos de San Luis. 1877.
El terror de 1824. 1877.
Un voluntario realista. 1878.
Los apostolicos. 1879.
Un faccioso mas y algunos frailes menos. 1879.
De Onate a La Granja. 1898.
La campana del Maestrazgo. 1899.
La estafeta romantica. 1899.
Montes de Oca. 1900.
Los Ayacuchos. 1900.
Bodas reales. 1900.
Las tormentas de1 48. 1902.
Los duendes de la camarilla. 1903.
La revolucion de julio. 1904.
Aita Tettauen. 1905.
Carlos VI en La Rapita. 1905.
La vuelta al mundo en la Numancia. 1906.
La de los tristes destinos. 1907.
Espana sin Rey. 1908.
Espana tragica. 1909.
Amadeo I. 1910.
La primera Republica. 1911.
De Cartago a Sagunto. 1911.
Realidad, from his own novel (produced 1892). 1892; edited with introduction and notes by Lisa Pauline Conde, 1993.
Gerona, from his own novel (produced 1893). 1893.
La loca de la casa, from his own novel (produced 1893). 1893; edited by J. Warshaw, 1924.
La de San Quintin (produced 1894). 1894; as The Duchess of San Quentin, in Masterpieces of Modern Spanish Drama, edited by Barret H. Clark, 1928.
Las condenados. 1894.
Voluntad (produced 1895). 1895.
Dona Perfecta, from his own novel (produced 1896). 1896.
La fiera. 1896.
Teatro. 5 vols., 1897-1918.
Electra (produced 1901). 1901; as Electra, 1901; also translated by Charles Alfred Turrell, 1919; and in Modern Continental Plays, edited by S.M. Tucker, 1929.
Alma y vida (produced 1902). 1902.
Mariucha (produced 1903). 1903.
El abuelo, from his own novel (produced 1904). 1904; as The Grandfather, translated by Elizabeth Wallace, 1910.
Barbara (produced 1905). 1905.
Amory ciencia. 1905.
Pedro Minio. 1908.
Casandra, from his own novel (produced 1910). 1910.
Celia en los infiernos (produced 1913). 1913.
Sor Simona (produced 1915). 1915.
El tacano Salomon. 1916.
Santa Juana de Castilla (produced 1918). 1918.
Un joven de provecho, edited by H.C. Berkowitz, in Publications of the Modern Language Association, September 1935.
Cartas a Mesonero Romanos, edited by E. Varela Hervfas. 1943.
Madrid, edited by J. Perez Vidal. 1955.
Cartas a Galdos, edited by Soledad Ortega. 1964.
Cartas del archivo de Galdos, edited by Sebastian de la Nuez and Joseph Schraibman. 1967.
Las cartas desconocidas en ”La Prensa” de Buenos Aires, edited by William H. Shoemaker. 1973.
Los articulos politicos en la ”evista de Espana,” 1871-1872, edited by Brian J. Dendle and Joseph Schraibman. 1982.
Perez Galdos and the Spanish Novel of the Nineteenth Century by Leslie B. Walton, 1927; Perez Galdos, Spanish Liberal Crusader by H.C. Berkowitz, 1948; The Novels of Perez Galdos by S.H. Eoff, 1954; Benito Perez Galdos and the Creative Process, 1954, and Benito Perez Galdos, 1975, both by Walter T. Pattison; An Introduction to the ”Episodios Nacionales” of Galdos by Alfredo Rodriguez, 1967; Humour in Galdos: A Study of the Novelas contemporaneas by Michael Nimetz, 1968; Gatdos Studies I edited by J.E. Varey, 1970, and Perez Galdos: Dona Perfecta by Varey, 1971; The Tragic Import in the Novels of Perez Galdos by Joaquin Santalo, 1973; Galdos Studies II edited by Robert J. Weber, 1974; Galdos and Beethoven: Fortunata y Jacinta: A Symphonic Novel by Vernon A. Chamberlin, 1977; Perez Galdos, Fortunata y Jacinta, 1977, Reality Plain or Fancy?: Some Reflections on Galdos’s Concept of Realism, 1986, and History and Fiction in Galdos’s Narratives, 1993, all by Geoffrey Ribbans; Perez Galdos, Miau, 1978, and From Enlightenment to Realism: The Novels of Galdos 1870-1887, 1987, both by Eamonn Rodgers; The Jew in the Novels of Benito Perez Galdos by Sara E. Schyfter, 1979; Galdos: The Mature Thought, 1980, and Galdos: The Early Historical Novels, 1987, both by Brian J. Dendle; Perez Galdos, La de Bringas, 1981,Galdos’s Novel of the Historical Imagination: A Study of the Contemporary Novels, 1983, Vision and the Visual Arts in Galdos: A Study of the Novels and Newspaper Articles, 1986, and Perez Galdos, Nazarin, 1991, all by Peter A. Bly; Galdos and the Art of the European Novel 1867-1887 by Stephen Gilman, 1981; Galdos and the Irony of Language, 1982, and The Novel Histories of Galdos, 1989, both by Diane Faye Urey; Galdos and His Critics by Anthony Percival, 1985; Psychology, Religion and Ethics in Galdos Novels: The Quest for Authenticity by A.M. Penuel, 1988; Perez Galdos: Marianela by Geraldine M. Scanlon, 1988; Stages in the Development of a Feminist Consciousness in Perez Galdos 1843-1920: A Biographical Sketch, 1990, and Women in the Theatre of Galdos: From Realidad (1892) to Voluntad (1895), 1991, both by Lisa P. Condo; Images of the Sign: Semiotic Consciousness in the Novels of Benito Perez Galdos by Akiko Tsuchiya, 1990; Galdos’ House of Fiction: Papers Given at the Birmingham Galdos Colloquium edited by A.H. Clarke and others, 1991; Benito Perez Galdos: Fortunata and Jacinta by Harriet S. Turner, 1992; Tristana: Bunuel’s Film and Galdos’ Novel: A Case Study in the Relation Between Literature and Film by Colin Partridge, 1995; Conflicts and Conciliations: The Evolution of Galdos’s Fortunata y Jacinta by Geoffrey Ribbans, 1997; Galdos’s Segunda Manera: Rhetorical Strategies and Affective Response by Linda M. Willem, 1998; Cervantes and Galdos in Fortunata y Jacinta: Tales of Impertinent Curiosity by Kevin S. Larsen, 1999; Dickens in Galdos by Timothy Michael McGovern, 2000; Perez Galdos: Tristana by Lisa Pauline Conde, 2000.
As he began his literary career, around 1870, Benito Perez Galdos was uncomfortably aware that Spain, the country of Cervantes, had produced, in the 19th century, no works of prose fiction to rival the achievements of Dickens and Balzac. The remedy, however, could not consist merely in a slavish imitation of foreign models, for although Perez Galdos was more open to European trends than his conservative Catholic contemporaries, he was still influenced by the cultural nationalism which was one of the keynotes of Spanish literary life. In seeking, therefore, to provide a counterpart to Balzac’s encyclopedic view of French society in La Comedie humaine, Perez Galdos preferred to choose as models Spanish writers such as Cervantes and Quevedo, who represented a tradition of realism that was humorous, satirical, and moralistic.
This moralistic element sometimes gives rise to a certain polemical quality, especially in novels like Dona Perfecta (Lady Perfecta), which portrays contemporary religious and political conflict in the aftermath of the Revolution of 1868. However, the novels of the 1870s do not represent Perez Galdos’s most characteristic mode. By 1881, some of the tensions in post-revolutionary society had become less acute, and this is reflected in a more sober, complex, and detached presentation of contemporary reality in Perez Galdos’s novels. Nevertheless, the primary focus of interest in his work remains ethical: his major themes are social pretence, self-deception, vanity, and egoism. The treatment of these themes, however, is by no means schematic or theoretical, for Perez Galdos’s depiction of the context in which moral choices have to be made gives rise to a vivid and detailed recreation of the atmosphere of Madrid society in the last quarter of the century. For example, El amigo Manso (Our Friend Manso) is the story of a professor of philosophy who, at the very beginning of the novel, asserts that he exists only as a fictional being, and who spends his life unsuccessfully pursuing the ideal of perfect balance between reason and feeling, and between abstract principle and concrete action. Yet by portraying in detail the various social relationships in which Manso is involved, the novel also immerses the reader in the spheres of politics, fashion, the theatre, family life, and amorous intrigue. In one very characteristic scene, for instance, the philosopher is shown trying to assess the qualifications of various peasant women for the position of wet-nurse to his nephew.
This vivid quotidian realism places Perez Galdos firmly within the broad tradition of the 19th-century European novel. At the same time, however, his links with his native literary traditions give his writings a characteristically Spanish flavour which goes beyond mere local colour. Moreover, his work is informed throughout by the desire to reeducate his contemporaries to a true understanding of their experience. This is particularly obvious in the series of historical novels, the Episodios Nacionales, which Perez Galdos composed at various times between 1873 and 1912, and which trace the history of Spain from the Battle of Trafalgar (1805) to the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy (1875). This sense of educational and moral mission gives his work a tone of civic seriousness tempered by humour which is perhaps his most characteristic contribution to world literature.