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The 2014 Pérez Galdós Lecture:

'Percy' Galdós and his British Readers, 1870-1920


Dr Kirsty Hooper

(University of Warwick)


Contemporary Spain was an unfamiliar destination for nineteenth-century British readers. While classic medieval and golden-age works had long been available in English translation, the majority of Spain’s contemporary literature remained inaccessible to British audiences. This began to change in the last third of the century, when the boom in British commercial investment and tourist travel to Spain made the country, its culture and language more accessible to ordinary Britons. Galdós’s emergence as a novelist during the 1870s thus coincided with a renewed British interest in the ‘real’ Spain, as opposed to its French-mediated, Romantic counterpart. His works were immediately (and often repeatedly) translated, and we have evidence of their appeal to diverse audiences, from the Coventry Book Club to The Woman’s World. This talk will explore the growth of Galdós’s reputation in Britain during his lifetime, paying especial attention to the strategies used by readers and reviewers to make sense of the man whose obituary in The Athenaeum described him as ‘like Mr Hardy writing (only quite seriously) a la maniere de Hans Andersen’.

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