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The Fifth Annual Pérez Galdós Lecture

Galdós: Our Contemporary


Professor James Whiston

Associate Professor of Spanish
and Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin

It is a real pleasure, in delivering the Pérez Galdós lecture, to be associated with the outstanding research being undertaken in this University of Sheffield through the Pérez Galdós Editions Project, which is breaking new ground in the area of the use of computers in literary study. The vision of Professor Nicholas Round and the patient, painstaking skill of Dr Rhian Davies have established and advanced the Project with admirable provision and execution. It is also an honour indeed to have been selected to complete the first of the five-a-side teams chosen for the task of giving this lecture, in the illustrious company of my predecessors: that of a civic statesman of the stature of Roy Hattersley; of Geoffrey Ribbans, one of the giants of Galdós studies; of Germán Gullón, a hugely influential figure in the area of Spanish nineteenth-century narrative; and of Rodolfo Cardona, who may be called the father of modern Galdós studies, having founded the scholarly journal Anales Galdosianos and the Asociación Internacional de Galdodistas. The comforting reflection that I draw from my earlier analogy is that at least in the five-a-side game there is plenty of room for everybody on the pitch. So, in thanking the distinguished team manager Professor Nicholas Round and the noble club of the University of Sheffield for honouring me with selection for this particular team, let me proceed without more ado to my offering on the field of play.

My title is borrowed unashamedly from a book that made its mark in the 1960s, called Shakespeare: our Contemporary by the Polish writer Jan Kott. In it, Kott sought to link contemporary experiences to the representation of violence in the plays of Shakespeare. Galdós in his historical novels was no stranger to war, because Spain had seen plenty of it on her home soil and sea in the nineteenth century. His first historical novel bore the resounding title Trafalgar, charting Nelson's destruction of the Spanish navy. The consequences of that defeat are still very much with us in our world today. The feeble heirs of that Spanish navy devastated by Nelson were also blown out of the water by the Americans in the dispute over Cuba in 1898. The Treaty of Paris (in reality, the Spanish surrender in Paris) in the following year paved the way for the United States's emergence as a world power. Galdós's subsequent novels on the Spanish Peninsular Wars, and on the Spanish civil wars of the 1830s and 1870s, saw the consolidation of an abiding theme that was also transferred into what the writer dubbed his 'Contemporary Novels', namely the conflict between the social and political conservatives and those who wished to see progress in the country. Usually in Galdós's work the conservatives hold the trumps and the others must use all their ingenuity to circumvent or overcome established conventions, suffering for their beliefs along the way. The classic liberal stance, however, (to which the liberal Galdós is no exception) is to wish for a rapprochement between tradition and progress. In these Novelas españolas contemporáneas Galdós is able to play off nineteenth-century conventions against what he expected his readers to see and accept as a more equitable and up-to-date means of regulating social exchange, and it is this area that I will concentrate on for the purposes of this lecture.

What never ceases to amaze those of us who have given over significant portions of our lives to studying Galdós's work is how this Canary Islander, from the then very provincial backwater of Las Palmas, is of relevance today. He came from a background and a period many of whose great social institutions of his time, which were the subject of his novels, have since passed into history: the power of the Church, the culture of arranged marriages, the tight restricting bonds and conventions of family and social life, the legal and social subordination of women, the pivotal role as social centres of the coffee houses of Madrid, the marginalization of what the Victorians called the lower classes. Galdós was able to use such institutions and conventions when writing about the personal search for some authentic means of finding one's role in the human drama. Galdós was fortunate to live at a time when the tension between the search for personal authenticity (following the European Romantic movement) and the demands of institutions and social conventions was at a sufficient pitch to enable him to exploit this tension, for artistic as well as for commercial purposes. It is in his artistic conjugation of these three words, 'personal', 'social' and 'human' that Galdós found a voice in his contemporary novels to speak to us today.

In the immense panorama of Galdós's production of 78 novels there is an astonishing cluster of four works composed between 1884 and 1887 that I will use to give some examples of how Galdós exploited this tension between convention and progress. These novels are Tormento, La de Bringas, Lo prohibido and Fortunata y Jacinta. One of the ways that Galdós most touches our lives today is in the very ordinary and down-to-earth manner in which he sets out his narrative stall. The four novels listed above could be summarized in the order given as, 'getting married', 'being married', 'finding a house that will be a home', and finally 'finding one's role in society'. A famous description of Galdós's novels by the novelist and playwright Ramón del Valle Inclán, labelling him as a 'garbancero' or chick-pea vendor is indeed a very apt one. Readers of a romantic disposition, in other words that part of the human race that reads novels, will sometimes be impatient with Galdós, who may appear on first reading to be somewhat grey and insipid - rather like the chick- peas themselves - and in need of something sharp or piquant to liven up the flavour of the narrative. Dickens obliges his readers by dramatizing or 'symbolizing' the ordinary, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky treat us to the contemplation of a grander and more overtly tragic destiny, Henry James's dissection of character is performed using a steel scalpel as a pen. Galdós, on the other hand, allows the reader and re-reader themselves to bring along the spice for what may seem at first savour to be without much taste. As he wrote in an early article, prophetic of his own later novels: if we change because of what we read, fine; if not, the novel has done what it had to do ('Si nos corregimos, bien. Si no, el arte ha cumplido su misión').[1] It is this relentless concern with creativity rather than making a point or even scoring one that makes Galdós a jewel in the crown of the wonderful cultural phenomenon that we call the nineteenth-century realist novel.

But let us get down to concrete examples in the Galdós novels mentioned, taking the large topics roughly in the order in which they were outlined above: religion, family and social life, marriage, the position of women and of the so-called lower classes of society.

In his portrayal of Father Pedro Polo, the unfrocked priest who has a sexual affair with the eponymous protagonist of Tormento, Galdós was able to walk the tightrope between his liberal sympathy for the priest's inability to conform to the strictures of the Church's requirements of chastity, and his simultaneous disdain for the priest's bullying misogyny. (The latter tries to blackmail Tormento, who is engaged to the wealthy Agustín, either to have one final love tryst with him or to accompany him on his ecclesiastical banishment to the Philippines.) As a prophetic snapshot of a church in turmoil over matters sexual, the representation of Polo could hardly be bettered. Slumped in his chair in his dirty apartment, his formerly potent energies now dormant but not extinct, the domestic image provided by Galdós resonates far beyond its narrow confines. Amparo (Tormento's real name) cleans the house for Polo and brings him food, while he looks on, a mixture of seigneurial indifference and injured unrequited lover. Galdós delighted in the creation of hybrids, monsters even - characters, that is, who are 'de-synchronized' from their milieu - and in having them appear in the most awkward places for those who aspire to a singular humanity. So it is with Polo, we are told, who would have been better off had he been born into the time of the conquest of the New World, which would have provided an outlet for his bursting energies. Polo's raw, physical passion, that to some degree he wishes to channel into domesticity with the unwilling Amparo, is a graphic artistic expression by Galdós of the terrible dilemma of the Roman Church in facing or facing down its hidden sexuality. This is wonderfully presented in an understated way in the brooding Polo, who also has the power to do the conventionally right thing - expose Amparo's guilty secret - for all the wrong reasons. Aside from blackmail, Polo is not above using his considerable physical strength to keep Amparo prisoner - a parodic image of domestic violence that also resonates back in time to the Spanish Inquisition and its violent methods. Incidentally the secular arm is represented in the other three novels, La de Bringas, Lo prohibido and Fortunata y Jacinta, in a beautiful ironic twist, by Franscisco Torquemada, a moneylender who tortures financially the men and women who fall into his power. Torquemada, described as half clerical, half military in appearance, is another glorious Galdosian monster who preys on society and, at the same time, lectures his victims on their social shortcomings.

Another notable social hybrid, this time in Fortunata y Jacinta, is Guillermina Pacheco, an unmarried lady who dresses like a widow or a nun. Not for her, Galdós tells us, the constrictions of the convent. She is happy enough, however, to send other women there for the salvation of their souls, with disastrous results. The convent in Fortunata y Jacinta prides itself on its modernity. In the original manuscript Galdós had given it the name of Las Adoratrices ('Sisters of the Adoration of the Sacrament') but in a later draft of the novel he gave the convent the more militantly active name Las Micaelas, chosen by the nuns in honour of the archangel Michael. The active philanthropy of the nuns, however, in caring for fallen women, is shot through with the irony attaching to the source of the financial patronage which enables them to carry on their work. In the case of Fortunata, a girl from the slums of Madrid, it is none other than the very family whose scion, Juanito, is, both before and after her convent incarceration, the cause of her downfall. Juanito is also the likely client and sexual patron of Mauricia, a prostitute, who becomes Fortunata's convent friend. The monstrance used to enclose the Host for adoration (in this way Galdós retains to superb effect something of his original manuscript concept of the nuns as contemplatives) turns out to be a gift from Juanito's family. It then becomes a magnetic focus for Fortunata at prayer to brood on her callous upper-class lover. Fortunata's other convent friend, Doña Manolita - another informant in matters regarding Juanito's relatives - tells her that the robe for the statue of the Virgin Mary, which Fortunata has been asked to clean, was a thanksgiving gift from that family - this time from Juanito's wife, Jacinta - for her husband's recovery from pneumonia. Seeing her listener's amazement, Manolita, 'gozándose en el asombro de [Fortunata]',[2] cannot resist telling her interlocutor that the monstrance was also a gift from Juanito's mother for the same reason. Galdós thus extracts the maximum return from his artistic investment, by making the gift of the monstrance a thanksgiving offering from the family for Juanito's recovery from pneumonia, acquired through his imprudent and unfaithful search for Fortunata in the freezing Madrid winter of a few months earlier. Thus, another bastion of the old order - the wealthy patronage of religious institutions - is revealed as self-serving and ruinous for all those who are caught in its meshes.

In a memorable article published in 1984, Harriet S. Turner wrote of the 'family ties and tyrannies'[3] in Galdós's masterpiece Fortunata y Jacinta. Together with the culture of arranged marriages, the conditions of family life then prevailing, as seen by Galdós, form a huge area of the conventional social domain that he exposed and exploited artistically, as a source of social pressure which the novelist can bring to near-boiling point. However, Galdós prefers to maintain the temperature at a slowly simmering level, creating in the process (if I may be allowed to mix the metaphor) a form of artistic death by a thousand cuts for his characters, as they struggle to satisfy the incompatible demands of self and society. No matter whether desire is socially constructed or inwardly incited, it still drives the major characters in Galdós's novels to express and experience it. Even the hateful Rosalía Bringas, Amparo's most deadly and despicable enemy in Tormento - more hateful even than the mahogany-faced and utterly hypocritical Doña Marcelina, Pedro Polo's sister - even Rosalía becomes an object of pity for the reader, when she succumbs to the innocent, quasi-sexual caress of a silken shawl. In La de Bringas she buys it on credit and falls into the hands of the moneylender Torquemada. In one of those extraordinarily creative throwaway lines in which the works of Galdós abound, Torquemada greets his distraught female client with what seems like an expression of mild social concern : '¿Y la familia?'[4] But this, in reality, is a reminder to the woman that if she does not pay up on time, that same family, the husband in particular, will hear of her guilty burden of debt.

What is arguably the most socially devastating and artistically highly wrought scene in the whole of Galdós's work occurs in the same novel, La de Bringas as Rosalía, frantically attempting to keep the secret of her purchases from her husband, has to resort to borrowing the money from Refugio, Amparo's sister. Although not overtly stated, it has to be understood that Refugio is a prostitute. The agonizing scene takes place in Refugio's apartment in the intolerable heat of a September day in Madrid, just hours before the due repayment time. Rosalía, who imagines herself to be a pillar of the Palace establishment (her husband is a Palace employee), nearly combusts with unexpressed rage at having to beg from such a person, who is the despised Amparo's sister to boot. The result of this encounter is the destruction of Rosalía's formerly close-knit family unit, as she herself decides to take to prostitution, ostensibly in order to maintain her family in the wake of her husband's loss of his position in the Royal Palace following the Spanish Revolution of 1868. In reality she does so in order never to have to undergo again the humiliation that she has suffered at the hands of Amparo's sister. In his portrayal of this process Galdós calmly tears to shreds the concept of personality as a recognizable and trustworthy medium of social exchange, and anticipates the phenomenon of the privatization and fragmentation of society in our own time.

And what of Lo prohibido? Here too Galdós exposes the myth of the supposed cohesion of Spanish family values and shows us that some 'kissing cousins' can certainly do more than kiss. The forbidden fruit of the title are the three female cousins of the narrator-protagonist, with each of whom he has, or attempts to have, sexual relations even though all three are married by the time he arrives in Madrid. This handsome, wealthy and cultured narrator is Galdós's vehicle for breaching, in the case of two of the female cousins, the carefully constructed marriages arranged for the daughters by their parents. The culture of arranged marriages into which Galdós was born gave him ample scope for bringing his characters together in matrimonial misalliances. One of the cousin's marriages in Lo prohibido is with a terminally ill aristocrat, the other with a wealthy dwarf; in both cases, social status and money were the prime targets, to the detriment of any authentic personal relationship. The third marriage in Lo prohibido, condemned as a social disaster, because it was not arranged, turns out to be a spontaneous marriage of minds and bodies. It becomes the rock on which the narrator's advances perish, or on which he comes to see the error of his ways: the choice is the reader's. Here too the fact that the narrator is indeed as cultured and observant as he appears to be offers no guarantee that he can avoid creating mayhem in the lives of those supposedly nearest and dearest to him. For Galdós, the possession of education and 'culture' does not ensure automatic entry into communion with goodness and truth. The two characters who are the object of the narrator's destructive impulses, the married couple Constantino and Camila, have not had the benefit of much schooling and yet can give real lessons in living to all who are ready to listen. Nobody does so in the novel, as it turns out, except for the narrator at the novel's end, and only then because he finds himself at death's door.

As an example of the way in which Galdós was able to exploit the social conventions of his day to bring about an exquisite juxtaposition of the desire of intimacy with the wall of reserve confronting it, I will analyse a little scene in Fortunata y Jacinta. It occurs towards the beginning of the last chapter of Part III, 'La idea… la pícara idea' (II, pp. 238-43), when the aspiring lover, Manuel Moreno-Isla and his hoped-for lady, Jacinta, appear together. The scene, set fictionally in 1875, takes place in Moreno-Isla's rooms in the building also occupied by Guillermina, the philanthropic lady we encountered earlier, who is Moreno's aunt. Introducing the chapter, the narrator speaks of 'aquel día que debía de ser memorable' (II, p. 238), doubtless thinking of the meeting later that morning between Guillermina and Fortunata, which will result in Fortunata's decision the following day to return to her lover Juanito, and put into effect her 'pícara idea' of conceiving a child with him to prove her natural superiority over her rival Jacinta, Juanito's wife. But the chapter's first scene, describing the presence of Guillermina and Jacinta in Moreno's study, is in no way inferior; it is very far indeed from being a mere prologue to the later confrontation between the saintly lady and the woman of the streets. Its note of tantalizing proximity between Moreno and Jacinta and the strict distance between them required at the same time by protocol is presented in an exquisite social key, a grating melody produced by social conventions that Galdós was able to express and exploit to the full. He does so here, by using the quite close family relationship between Moreno and Guillermina (she is, we remember, his aunt) and the much more distant social one between him and Jacinta, which he longs to bridge and breach.

The moment Jacinta enters, 'avanzando hacia la mesa' where Moreno is sitting at work, the tempo of the scene is increased as she directly accuses the wealthy bachelor of not wishing to give the amount needed to finish the main floor of the orphanage projected by Guillermina as part of her philanthropic plans. There follow a series of socially choreographed movements subtly placed in the text by Galdós. First Jacinta, 'avanzando más y poniendo la palma de la mano sobre el pupitre' asks Moreno, with her hand open (but always with the desk between them) for money for the charitable cause. Moreno sits back in his chair and gazes in prolonged fascination at Jacinta's hand, 'sonrosada y gordita', provocatively repeating his reference to it ('esta mano que pide, mano del Cielo es'), to which Jacinta responds by wiggling her hand, in a kind of fiscal flirtation, renewing her request. Her language, of course, cannot contain any sexual innuendo, but her plea, phrased in the way that it is - 'Si me echa la limosnita, Vd. me estrena' - causes the wishful Moreno great disquiet. Indeed in an earlier manuscript version (removed at the galley stage) Jacinta's reply makes him jump out of his chair. If we recall Moreno's reference to Jacinta's hands earlier in the novel, and his rather forward compliment '¡Oh, puerta del paraíso!, que manos te abren…!' we will remember that Jacinta did not answer this greeting (II, p. 68). In the later scene Jacinta replies to the compliment in a very affirmative way ('Y tan del Cielo'), presumably causing Moreno's jump of surprise, not to mention the wonderfully provocative juxtaposition of pronouns and verb in the phrase 'Vd. me estrena'.

It is now Guillermina's turn to use her hands to make him confirm his offer, taking the key of Moreno's bureau in order to oblige him to put his promise to Jacinta into practice. Moreno intercepts his aunt's attempt 'sujetándole la mano' - she all the while 'luchando por desasirse'. Guillermina then shouts to Jacinta to open the bureau and take out Moreno's bank book. Jacinta becomes excited, but does not take the key from Guillermina because, without Galdós having to tell us (he merely leaves it to the reader's understanding), she runs the risk that Moreno might try to stop her in the same way that he had stopped Guillermina, by catching her hand. At this moment Jacinta withdraws her hand from the desk, shrieking at Moreno to get out his bank book, and clapping her hands as she does so. Moreno now uses his hand, putting it on his heart, to formally promise the money to Jacinta. It is the nearest both Platonic lovers get to the recognition of a solemn promise between them. The section ends as Guillermina reassures Jacinta that Moreno will keep his word: 'Como tenerlo en la mano' is how she puts it.

Doubtless Galdós is using these 'hand signals' as a kind of metonymy, or synecdoche, to show how little Moreno has advanced in his pursuit of Jacinta, because the latter's hand is only offered to advance the construction of the orphanage, not in any emotive way. As an acute observer of his society, Galdós used the choreography of hand-touching to great effect. In a crucial scene in the penultimate paragraph of Chapter VIII of Lo prohibido, the narrator and his cousin Eloísa make their decisive sexual assignation through a handshake that causes them both to tremble with guilt and anticipation. In the scene with Moreno, Jacinta is incredulous to the end that she can influence him so much, but it is Guillermina who unwittingly sows the seed in Jacinta's consciousness of the likelihood of Moreno's sexual interest in her when she confides in Jacinta that 'a ti no te había de negar', and that 'Has estado muy hábil'. Jacinta's incredulity, on the other hand, has had the effect of making her treat the whole incident as a game. This attitude on Jacinta's part, together with Guillermina's more businesslike and singleminded high spirits, and Moreno's altogether more earnest reaction to Jacinta's petitioning (at times disguised as a game of robbery) brings about a finely ironic blend of frivolity and deep seriousness, of social intimacy and the distance required by protocol. Jacinta's physical closeness to Moreno increases as the scene advances, her hand kept extended, but only to receive and not to give. The whole mixture of the comic and the serious in the scene involves a tensely wrought level of ambiguity of dialogue that has the effect of stretching Moreno's nerves to breaking point, while at the same time continuing to raise his hopes that he may win over Jacinta to his desires.

In this scene Galdós brings together a number of criss-crossing character motivations, representing them in terms of the 'hand signals' analysed above. Gullermina wants to have her orphanage built; the childless Jacinta wishes to embark on a compensatory life of philanthropy with Guillermina; the wealthy bachelor Moreno wants Jacinta. The way in which Galdós can make these currents of passion and institutional realities flow into each other, is beautifully illustrated here, crossing the boundaries of time, making the reader sort out the mixed-up signals that the characters send out to one another. It is in this highly discriminating collaboration between reader and author that these volumes of Galdós can span the centuries.

As regards café life, one example from Fortunata y Jacinta must suffice to show how Galdós integrated such scenes of commonplace, daily social exchange into his narrative, as he reprises several elements from Part I of that novel in the fourth and final part. This is the scene in Madrid's Café del Gallo on the feast of St Joseph, the nineteenth of March 1876, the saint's day of two characters from Part I, José Ido and José Izquierdo, who now reappear in Part IV. Ido celebrates the feast by eating too much, Izquierdo by drinking to excess, and the latter, who is Fortunata's uncle, unwittingly reveals her hiding place to her estranged and deranged husband Maxi, who is in the café. The equally mad Ido's fantasies of wife-murder are reprised from Part I of the novel, but he now includes Maxi in these fantasies. His words to Maxi in the café are: 'los que tenemos la desgracia de ser esposos de una adúltera… los que tenemos esa desgracia, no podemos responder de aquel mandamiento que dice: no matar' (II, p. 426) This repetitive tic in Ido's speech ensures that Maxi clearly registers the slight to his own honour as a husband. Then Izquierdo's drunken verbosity (also a feature of Part I of the novel) gives Maxi the final key to Fortunata's hitherto hidden whereabouts, and both insinuation and revelation become part of Maxi's reflections in a friend's house, after dinner that evening. He can thus think decisively: 'The moment for punishment has come' ('Llegó la hora de castigar' [II, p. 428]). As an example of the way in which Galdós can project the fantastical (Ido's impotent wife-murder fantasies of Part I of the novel) into the 'real' (Maxi's decision to punish Fortunata, which Ido now brings about), there can be few scenes in any novel that improve on this ironic relationship between prolepsis and analepsis.

Galdós's description of this café scene and its immediate aftermath is itself a miniature masterpiece of composition. On his return home from the café, Maxi eats his dinner quietly ('sosegadamente'), tells his aunt Doña Lupe 'algo' of what has happened, to which she responds, advising him not to go back there, 'porque en él [el café] siempre encontraría una sociedad inculta y ordinaria' (II, p. 428). Lupe's reply leaves the reader to infer that Maxi has told his aunt of Izquierdo's drunken antics in the café, but not of Ido's dangerous fantasies. The adjective 'inculta' is the perfectly ironic authorial word to remind the reader that it was precisely from Ido, a schoolteacher, and hence the only educated person present in the café (apart from Maxi himself, who is a pharmacist) that the latter has received the advice to kill Fortunata - one of the many instances of the oxymoronic 'razón de la sinrazón' in this chapter that bears the same title.

The novel Fortunata y Jacinta may be read in myriad ways, but one of the attractive interpretations is to view it as representing the development of a consciousness of self-worth on the part of a representative of the marginalized social class, in the figure of Fortunata. In this regard, the key encounter in the book is that between Guillermina and Fortunata, immediately following on the 'hand scene' between Moreno, Jacinta and Guillermina, when the latter, with her protegée Jacinta secretly listening in an adjoining room, attempts to interrogate Fortunata about her relationship with Jacinta's husband Juanito, and to persuade her to give him up. Galdós took a great deal of care in writing the scene, and it would be impossible here today to do justice to its stages of composition. Suffice it to say that Guillermina's compromised situation vis-à-vis the hidden Jacinta encourages Fortunata to pursue her own destiny with Juanito, and use him as an instrument, by becoming pregnant, in order to justify her claim that she is his legitimate wife, since Jacinta and Juanito have been unable to have children.

In his final version of this scene, Galdós raised the emotional temperature considerably, in particular on Fortunata's side. This is very well illustrated in the shift from Fortunata's act of formal, indeed ceremonial, obeisance in the early version of the MS (where she kisses Guillermina's hand, sobbing as she does so), to the later version, in which she grabs both her interlocutor's hands, to prevent her from shutting her ears to her 'pícara idea'. Galdós's narrative strategy in the early MS version had been centred on Fortunata's unflappable belief in her theoretical conjugal rights vis-à-vis Juanito, arising from her original affair with him. In the later version he moves this belief into the practical realm of Fortunata's conviction that she can have another child with Juanito. At one stage Guillermina in the earlier MS cannot help exclaiming: 'Las cosas que dice esta mujer con esa calma' (AB III, p. 629)[5], so that in the later version Fortunata's outrageous further claim about having a child with Juanito increases the tension to breaking point. When Guillermina, in this early version of the MS, accuses Fortunata of 'la mayor de las locuras' for continuing to consider Juanito as her true husband, Fortunata is described as replying 'con calor'. This phrase was written in interlinearly, in the smaller handwriting Galdós used for later insertions, an indication that his mind was already turning towards a more spirited response from Fortunata than heretofore.

In the later version, indeed, Fortunata is described in very radical terms: as being surrounded by 'una aureola de inspiración que le envolvía toda la cara', possessed by 'la inspiración de un apóstol y la audacia criminal de un nihilista', and like 'el exaltado artista que no tiene conciencia de lo que dice o canta'. Her words are compared to 'una bomba explosiva', and she is willing to go to hell for her beliefs (B III, p. 636). There is nothing to compare with this type of description of Fortunata in the early MS version. In fact the nearest thing to it in the earlier version is the phrase used of the now revealed Jacinta's anger: 'Estalló su ira como una mina' (AB III, p. 648). The impact of her rage is such that Guillermina actually makes a movement to protect Fortunata - something which would be inconceivable in the printed version given the ways in which Fortunata is described there. There is no doubt that in rewriting this scene for the printer Galdós made the firm decision to raise the status of his heroine by overturning the acoloyte/mentor relationship between the lowly Fortunata and the middle-class Guillermina. He thus paves the way for Fortunata to claim towards the novel's end that she is as good as, and better than, the best of those who inhabit and inherit the domain of the socially privileged. However, in the final encounter between the two women towards the end of Part IV- a stunning reversal of this scene from Part III -Galdós also used his rewriting of the manuscript version of the death of Fortunata in Guillermina's presence to allow the latter some final benign influence over her adopted protegeé. In the process, as we shall now see, he radically altered the pages depicting Fortunata's final moments of life.

Galdós's rewriting of the scene of Fortunata's death (II, pp. 525-28 in Caudet) is a truly major change to the manuscript, and probably the most important of the MS changes affecting his conception of any character in the novel - doubly important, indeed, because of Fortunata's role and status in it. With the earlier text in front of him, Galdós began the later version in broadly similar fashion, as Guillermina expresses Jacinta's gratitude for the gift of the child. In the earlier version this is then followed by Guillermina's attempt to extract a promise from Fortunata, that should she recover, she will not interfere with the Santa Cruz marriage. There then follows Guillermina's appeal to Fortunata to set aside her 'idea mala' that a childless marriage is not valid, and that Fortunata, through having had his children, is Juanito's wife. (In the subsequent version, as we shall see, this was used at a later stage in the scene.) The following is the early MS version of Fortunata's death:

Fortunata no respondía nada. Su cabeza echada hacia atras, se movía sobre la almohada con cierta inquietud, y los ojos los tenía clavados en el techo. Después se llevó la mano á la frente como quien se va a recoger un mechón de pelo ó á quitarse algo que le estorba. Quería arrancar la idea. Guillermina vió que inflaba el pecho. Hacía grandes esfuerzos por activar los pulmones y llevar aire a la laringe y hacerla funcionar para decir algo. Por fin, con una voz que mas parecía suplica que voz, sudorosa la frente y los ojos muy abiertos soltó estas palabras: 'No puedo, no puedo'.

La santa se recogió en sí. Creía sentir los tirones que daba el diablo para quitársela.

'Pero hija mía, haga V. un esfuerzo. Comprende que su idea es la fuente de todos sus pecados. Quítesela, quítesela…

Con la cabeza siguió expresando que no podía. Guillermina dijo para sí: 'Ah! Si no estuviera [tan abatida] acabando, el padre Nones la convencería; pero ya es muy tarde. Dios mío, ten compasión de ella… (En alta voz) Y si viniera Jacinta, y se lo pidiera á usted, lo haría?

'Tampoco, - dijo Fortunata casi con el mecanismo de los labios, y sin que el sonido se oyera.

La santa se dió por vencida, y poniéndole la mano en el pecho, le dijo con voz dulce y patética: 'Dios lo verá'.

Y se puso a rezar. El último resplandor que echó el pensamiento de la infeliz mujer antes de extinguirse, como una llama moribunda fué este: [Le doy mi hijo á la mujer de mi marido] 'Si el viniera · verme le diría 'cásate con Jacinta, y hazte cuenta de que aquel hijo te lo ha dado ella… Pero es un pillo… no viene… Estará con Aurora… Bribona, si la cojo…!

Alguna de las palabras de este soliloquio fué articulada. 'Habla V.?, le dijo Guillermina. (AB pp. 769-72)

At this point Galdós ended this first version of the death scene, and penned the following few words as notes for the continuation of the plot:

Abajo Jacinta, Barbarita, contentas.
Maxi y Da Lupe en su casa.
After jotting down some figures and other notes extraneous to the work in hand he began to write the final MS version of the above, for the most part the one that was to become the version in the printed edition as well, though with an important galley change ['G'], to be dealt with later.

The reader of the earlier manuscript version, comparing it with the final one, and faced with another last-minute, but this time very substantial change in Galdós's conception of the death of Fortunata, can only stand back in wonder at the magnitude of the change here. This encapsulates everything that is at the heart of the debate which began nearly forty years ago in Anales Galdosianos between Stephen Gilman (1966) and Carlos Blanco Aguinaga (1968) concerning the mythical heroine of Gilman's article and the historically conditioned protagonist of Blanco's reply. In essence, what we see in the printed version of Fortunata's death corresponds more closely to Gilman's thesis (although the galley changes are also very significant, as evidence that a less exalted interpretation is called for), while the early version quoted above is nearer to Blanco's interpretation - always accepting that the latter based his judgement on the printed version alone. Evidently Galdós preferred as his superior and hence definitive version the final one, where Fortunata forgives Juanito and Aurora, and claims to be an angel, rather than the earlier account of her unyielding bitterness against her rival and lover. In some ways it was a pity to lose Fortunata's very understandable bitterness at Juanito's failure to appear at her deathbed; nonetheless, that moment of psychological realism was excised in the final MS version. Its removal, however, does inch the death of the heroine a little more in the direction of a 'gloriosa ascensión'. In the same deterministic mode which marks the early version are the more overtly physiological descriptions of her death struggle that we also see in the long passage quoted above.

Evidently, having concluded the first version with Fortunata's determination not to forgive Juanito or Aurora, and then decided to rewrite the whole episode, Galdós turned the scene on its head, and began the final version where he had left off in writing the earlier one. He thus inverted the concept of Fortunata's resentment against the new lovers and in his final MS version turned it, through Guillermina's initial and insistent questioning on the subject, into Fortunata's forgiveness for them, individually. This left the thorny question of the legitimacy of Fortunata's relationship with Juanito, introduced by Guillermina as a memory of their previous encounter in her house nearly a year before (another of those links that Galdós seemed to forge effortlessly in this novel). Fortunata's earlier words, 'No puedo, no puedo', and 'Tampoco' are without ambiguity, but the words deleted by Galdós, in which Fortunata refers to Jacinta as 'la mujer de mi marido', constitute a wonderful paradox, allowed by the Spanish language, which makes it surprising that he should have decided against their eventual use). Fortunata's advice to Juanito, to 'marry' Jacinta, presumably after her death, is another variation on a solution to the legitimacy question that was not used in the later version. However, Galdós did use a variation on Fortunata's own deathbed imagining that 'aquel hijo te lo ha dado ella', in Jacinta's birthing fantasies at the end of the following section (XV).

Apart from the conviction of her angelhood, twice expressed in the early version, since Father Nones is indeed brought in at the later stage, the first description that antecedes this declaration is also radically different from its predecessor, and was, in its turn, changed significantly at the galley stage. The three versions are as follows (in the interests of clarity of presentation, the early version is given again, but without any of the author's deletions):

[First Version] El último resplandor que echó el pensamiento de la infeliz mujer antes de extinguirse, como una llama moribunda fué este: 'Si el viniera á verme le diría 'cásate con Jacinta y hazte cuenta de que aquel hijo te lo ha dado ella… Pero es un pillo… no viene… Estará con Aurora… Bribona, si la cojo…!

[Second Version] Fortunata volvió á tener la llamarada. La voluntad y la palabra reaparecieron en ella; pero solo fué para decir: 'soy angel....

[Galley] Fortunata volvió a tener la llamarada en sus ojos, al modo de un reflejo de iluminación cerebral, y en su cuerpo vibraciones de gozo, como si entrara alborotadamente en ella un espíritu benigno. La voluntad y la palabra reaparecieron; pero sólo fue para decir:
-Soy ángel… ¿no lo ve?…

The three versions do not show a steady incremental rise in Fortunata's stature in her death scene. From First to Second Version there is an unimaginable leap in this respect. The shining light of Fortunata's face has been materialized from her thought to her features in the transition from First through Second to Galley version, which the latter version amalgamates in the reference to 'la llamarada en sus ojos al modo de un reflejo de iluminación cerebral'. Guillermina's fearful sense in the early version that she feels the devil pulling at Fortunata's soul is answered in G by the reference to the 'espíritu benigno' that the narrator imagines entering her. The addition of these two words in G also performed another function, which was to echo and answer positively Guillermina's earlier assertion concerning Fortunata's 'idea maligna' about the legitimacy of the Santa Cruz marriage. There is no doubt that Galdós made this change in the most deliberate way, since he had already changed the earlier version from 'aquella idea mala' to the phrase 'idea maligna'. Of course the grammar and semantics of the narrator's 'como si entrara en ella un espíritu benigno' are much less direct than those of Guillermina's contention that Fortunata 'tenía una idea maligna, origen de muchos pecados': Galdós's tracing of Fortunata's death from first version to Galley in this scene does not offer new certainties in lieu of the old ones propounded by Guillermina. Yet neither can we echo Maxi's - and the novel's - last words - 'Lo mismo da' - in respect of these two radically different versions of Fortunata's death.

The last word on Fortunata, indeed, might be left to Father Nones, as he is presented in the final manuscript version. Before Galdós took Guillermina's judgement on Fortunata's angelhood from the early version ('Dios lo verá': see the transcription above) and assigned it to Nones at the end of the scene (II, p. 528), he had represented the priest's words in this last MS version as, '¡Pobrecita! Dice que es angel, y puede que lo sea'. Even those four final words, constructed as hypothesis and subjunctive, were deemed too affirmative, and the thin black line of the author's pen deleted them from the novel, but not from the critic's absorbed scrutiny of the manuscript of Fortunata y Jacinta. The thrust of this last correction - from 'puede que lo sea' to 'Dios lo verá' - may be the most wickedly contemporary comment of all on Galdós's part, to the effect that where angelic status is concerned, it is best left to the Deity, and not to mortal authors, critics or common readers to decide.

In the 1880s Galdós discovered that he did not need to write about 'war and war's alarms', whether civil or religious, because the struggle for life looked out at him from the streets and the buildings of his adopted city of Madrid. Applying to Galdós Isaiah Berlin's famous essay on Tolstoy, The Hedgehog and the Fox, - the hedgehog digs deep in one spot, the fox roams the surface of the land - we could say that Galdós adapted metaphorically the habits of both these animals to the composition of his novels of this period, digging deep into what binds and breaks families, lovers, friends and acquaintances, and at the same time making his characters traverse incessantly the urban spaces of his re-created Madrid. In so doing he creates new links, among others, between the inhabitants and frequenters of house and hovel, café and tavern, shops and stalls, theatres, convents and churches, streets, parks and squares - places of assignation all - in the search for self and the encounter with society. Galdós's novels are not, of course, coaching manuals for life's problems. What this valuable Sheffield encounter enables us to do is to rejoice in the study and interpretation of Galdós's creative vocation, one that bequeathed such riches of observation and expression to his and our generation, and beyond.

[1] 'Observaciones sobre la novela contempor·nea en España', in Benito Pérez Galdós, Ensayos de crítica literaria, ed. Laureano Bonet (Barcelona: Ediciones Península, 1972), p. 127.

[2] Fortunata y Jacinta, ed. Francisco Caudet (Madrid: Cátedra, 1983), 2 vols., I, p. 623. All quotations here are taken from this edition.

[3] 'Family Ties and Tyrannies: a Reassessment of Jacinta', Hispanic Review, 51 (1983), 1-22.

[4] La de Bringas, ed. Alda Blanco and Carlos Blanco Aguinaga (Madrid: Cátedra, 1983), p. 261.

[5] The first MS version, Alpha or 'A', did not contain this scene; 'AB' is used to denote some writing that is intermediate between the A and B ('Beta') MS versions of Fortunata y Jacinta.


Isaiah Berlin, The Hedgehog and the Fox: an Essay on Tolstoy's View of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1967.
Carlos Blanco Aguinaga, 'On 'The Birth of Fortunata'', Anales Galdosianos, 3 (1968), 13-24.
Stephen Gilman, 'The Birth of Fortunata', Anales Galdosianos, 1 (1966), 71-83.
Jan Kott, Shakespeare: our Contemporary. London: Methuen, 1965.
Benito Pérez Galdós, Ensayos de crítica literaria, ed. Laureano Bonet. Barcelona: Ediciones Península, 1972.
--------------- Fortunata y Jacinta, ed. Francisco Caudet. Madrid, Cátedra, 1983.
-------------- La de Bringas, ed. Alda Blanco and Carlos Blanco Aguinaga. Madrid, Cátedra, 1983.
-------------- Lo prohibido, ed. James Whiston. Madrid, Cátedra, 2001.
-------------- Manuscript of Fortunata y Jacinta (MS Span 93).Cambridge: Harvard University, Houghton Library.
-------------- Tormento, ed. Eamonn Rodgers. Oxford, Pergamon Press, 1977.
Harriet S. Turner, 'Family Ties and Tyrannies: a Reassessment of Jacinta', Hispanic Review, 51 (1983), 1-22.

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Professor James Whiston

James Whiston has been distinguished throughout his career with Trinity College, Dublin, whose distinguished graduate he was. His PhD there (1975) was followed in 2001 by the award of a Doctorate of Letters for a long record of outstanding publication, mainly - but far from exclusively - on Galdós. Appointed Lecturer in 1969, he has been Head of the Department of Spanish since 1995 and Associate Professor since 1997. He was elected a Fellow of the College in 1991, and in 2000 became its first holder of a Berkeley Research Fellowship. He is Vice-President (from 1999) of the Asociación Internacional de Galdosistas, and has served for over ten years on the board of Anales Galdosianos. In 2002 he became a General Editor of the Bulletin of Spanish Studies, the oldest and most prestigious Hispanic journal in the British Isles.

His publications range widely across 19th and 20th-century Spanish themes, and sometimes further afield, but the bulk of his work (four of his books and over two dozen articles) has been concerned with Galdós. The Early Stages of Composition of Galdós's 'Lo prohibido' (1983) and two subsequent editions of that novel (1998, 2001) have set new standards of textual scholarship, exemplary for the Sheffield Project (to which James Whiston has also been a generous friend). But he shares with colleagues here the conviction that work on texts exists to promote and inform better readings and better understandings. Creatividad textual e intertextual en Galdós (1999) confirms, along with his many shorter pieces, just how well and how wisely he undertakes both these things.

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