Sunday, September 26

Pardo Bazán to Pérez Galdós: “I would do for you I don’t know what atrocious thing” | Culture


A guard collected an intimate garment in the Castellana, Madrid, in March or April 1889. Color, use and size are unknown. Its owner is known in origin: Emilia Pardo Bazán. And, wow, your final recipient: Benito Pérez Galdós. “Fortunately, that garment did not have the mark that others of the same genre wear: a crowned E”, she rejoices in a letter, after laughing at the anecdote that a famous lover has told her – she has already published Fortunata and Jacinta and 20 titles of National Episodes– and, literary things, musing with “being ten seconds” in the head of the guard.

In Spanish literature, it is difficult to find a relationship as captivating as that of Pardo Bazán and Pérez Galdós, who enjoyed each other, were simultaneously (with others) and respected each other as writers and former lovers (a very difficult attitude in both unions). Some modern ones of the XIX, who fell into a single conventionalism: clandestinity.

From the outset, to understand it, it is convenient to free oneself from corsets such as Emilia Pardo Bazán’s image of a plump matriarch or that portrait of Sorolla who catches Galdós on the verge of falling down the ramp of the fifties. Between 1888 and 1890 they shared hours without any circumspection. “We have made the foolish world, which prohibits these things; to Moses who forbids them too, with equal success; to reality, which chains us; to life that flees; to the angels of heaven, who think they are the only happy ones, because they are in the Empyrean with silly faces playing the violin … Happy, us ”. All said.

If you want erotic literature, read the letters that Pardo Bazán addresses to Pérez Galdós, collected in My dear (Turner), by Isabel Parreño and Juan Manuel Hernández. “I’ll eat you a cheek piece and a mustache guide.” “I would do for you I do not know what atrocity.” “As soon as I catch you, there is no trace of the great man.” “In test I hug you tight, to see if at once I undo you and reduce you to dust.”

Benito Pérez Galdós, on his last visit to Gran Canaria, in 1894.
Benito Pérez Galdós, on his last visit to Gran Canaria, in 1894.

Unfortunately those that circulated in the opposite direction are not preserved. “All the correspondence of Emilia Pardo Bazán has been lost. Either her daughter Blanca burned her or, according to legend, Carmen Polo destroyed her in Meirás [el pazo coruñés de la escritora fue comprado por forzosa suscripción popular para regalar a Franco]. The most probable thing is that both things happened, that her daughter was afraid of compromised literature and that Carmen Polo would load up what she had found in the drawers, ”explains historian Isabel Burdiel, who is preparing a biography about the Galician writer.

There are indications that the Galdosian erotic eruption must have been up to par: “Didn’t you give me my soul to the last roots?” “Yesterday I was told that Zola is about to go mad from fear of death. What a fool is that man of genius! Fear of death! If he had lived in a week what I … and what you, I would not be afraid of him, ”Pardo Bazán wrote him on September 28, 1889 from Paris. They had just returned from a trip to Germany where they had not had to hide their relationship or hitch a ride. The separation hurts. “I lay down on the bed as if I was lying on the cloudy Sena in moments of despair and I ventured with tears and tried to forget with a dark dream, full of nightmares.” She is cyclonic, unable to suppress a joy, a regret or a controversy. “He was very free, he always did what he wanted. It is said that Benito Pérez Galdós asked her to have a more stable relationship and she did not want to take the step because she appreciated her freedom. They have a very unique love relationship because it was between equals, ”says Burdiel.

An emancipated from the XIX

After parting ways with José Quiroga in good manners, Pardo Bazán made decisions that were as drastic as they were inappropriate for a nineteenth-century lady. Earning a living: “I have proposed to live exclusively from literary work, without receiving anything from my parents (…) this kind of transposition from the state of woman to that of man is more and more accentuated in me.” Live free of ties, even if they belong to Galdós: “Don’t worry about the future (…) any woman better than me (and there are so many!) Will love you dearly”.

Popular authors (she has published the acclaimed The pazos de Ulloa) have a public agenda (of letters, lunches and appointments) and a secret one, in false street encounters, in carriages, in occasional flats. In 1888 they are seen in Barcelona during the Universal Exhibition. And although their relationship was already intimate, the writer does not repress an unexpected love was with a devoted admirer who would become a great patron: José Lázaro Galdiano. In memory of his exploits, Pardo Bazán will give him a collection of poems bound with the skin of one of his gloves.

It bothered Galdós, an unrepentant womanizer who was hitting the shape of his shoe. In parallel he saw Lorenza Cobián, an attractive and illiterate Asturian who worked as a model for the painter Emilio Sala and who would learn to read through the writer’s efforts, according to her biographer Pedro Ortiz-Armengol. “I will say nothing to excuse myself, and only as an explanation I will tell you that I did not resolve to lose your affection by confessing a momentary error of the senses as a result of unforeseen circumstances,” confesses Pardo Bazán about his slip in 1889.

Then they will travel together in Germany and will be happy. On the way back, however, Galdós distances himself, spends more and more time in Santander and, in 1891, Lorenza Cobián gives birth to María, the only descendant (the exact number of illegitimate children will remain in the tree of mysteries). the novelist will recognize with their surnames. The relationship between the literati is then sliding towards the professional. There is no better epitaph for her than this phrase by Pardo Bazán: “We can say that I will not die of everything even if I die.”

Biographical notes of two greats

Emilia Pardo Bazán (A Coruña, 1851-Madrid, 1921). The only daughter of an aristocratic and progressive Galician family, she received a remarkable education, which she completed with travel, readings and languages. He wrote about 600 short stories and a score of novels and travel books. He published articles in Spanish, American and English media. He founded and directed the magazine New Critical Theater and the Women’s Library, where she translated the feminist Stuart Mill. She married José Quiroga and had three children (Jaime, Carmen and Blanca). After his separation, he had relationships with the Catalan writer Narcís Oller, the future collector José Lázaro Galdiano and, of course, Galdós.

Benito Pérez Galdós (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 1843-Madrid, 1920). He wrote a hundred novels, 18 plays and countless articles, he was about to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1915, when geopolitics turned the decision towards Romain Rolland, a French pacifist, according to Pedro Ortiz-Armengol in Vida of Galdós. He was a progressive deputy (first) and a republican (later). He entered the RAE on the second attempt. He never married or lived with his lovers. His best known relationships were with the model Lorenza Cobián (they had a daughter, María), the actress Concha Morell and, in the end, Teodosia Gandarias.


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