Authors: Benito Pérez Galdós

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Spanish novelist and playwright

Author Works

Long Fiction:

La fontana de oro, 1868 (The Golden Fountain Cafe, 1989)

El audaz, 1871

La sombra, 1871 (The Shadow, 1980)

Episodios nacionales, 1873-1912 (46 historical novellas written in 5 series, many of which were also published separately and are included in this list)

La corte de Carlos IV, 1873 (The Court of Charles IV: A Romance of the Escorial, 1888)

Trafalgar, 1873 (English translation, 1884)

Gerona, 1874

Zaragoza, 1874 (Saragossa: A Story of Spanish Valor, 1899)

La batalla de los Arapiles, 1875 (The Battle of Salamanca: A Tale of the Napoleonic War, 1895)

Doña Perfecta, 1876 (English translation, 1880)

Gloria, 1876-1877 (English translation, 1879)

La familia de León Roch, 1878 (The Family of León Roch, 1888; also known as León Roch: A Romance, 1888)

Marianela, 1878 (English translation, 1883)

La desheredada, 1881 (The Disinherited Lady, 1957)

El amigo Manso, 1882 (Our Friend Manso, 1987)

El doctor Centeno, 1883

La de Bringas, 1884 (The Spendthrifts, 1951; also known as That Bringas Woman, 1996)

Tormento, 1884 (Torment, 1952)

Lo prohibido, 1884-1885

Fortunata y Jacinta, 1886-1887 (Fortunata and Jacinta: Two Stories of Married Women, 1973)

Miau, 1888 (English translation, 1963)

La incógnita, 1889 (The Unknown, 1991)

Realidad, 1889 (Reality, 1992)

Torquemada en la hoguera, 1889 (Torquemada in the Flames, 1956; also known as Torquemada at the Stake, 1986)

Ángel Guerra, 1890-1891 (English translation, 1990)

La loca de la casa, 1892

Tristana, 1892 (English translation, 1961)

Torquemada en la cruz, 1893 (Torquemada’s Cross, 1973; also known as Torquemada on the Cross, 1986)

Torquemada en el purgatorio, 1894 (Torquemada in Purgatory, 1986)

Halma, 1895

Nazarín, 1895 (English translation, 1993)

Torquemada y San Pedro, 1895 (Torquemada and Saint Peter, 1986)

El abuelo, 1897

Misericordia, 1897 (Compassion, 1962)

Casandra, 1905

Prim, 1906 (English translation, 1944)

El caballero encantado, 1909

La razón de la sinrazón, 1915

Torquemada, 1986 (collection contains Torquemada at the Stake, Torquemada on the Cross, Torquemada in Purgatory, and Torquemada and Saint Peter)


El hombre fuerte, wr. 1864-1868, pb. 1902

Un joven de provecho, wr. 1867, pb. 1935

Realidad, pr., pb. 1892 (adaptation of his novel)

La loca de la casa, pr., pb. 1893

Gerona, pr. 1893 (adaptation of his novel)

La de San Quintín, pr., pb. 1894 (The Duchess of San Quintín, 1917)

Los condenados, pr. 1894

Voluntad, pr. 1895

Doña Perfecta, pr., pb. 1896 (adaptation of his novel)

La fiera, pr. 1896

Electra, pr., pb. 1901 (English translation, 1911)

Alma y vida, pr., pb. 1902

Mariucha, pr., pb. 1903

El abuelo, pr., pb. 1904 (adaptation of his novel; The Grandfather, 1910)

Bárbara, pr., pb. 1905

Amor y ciencia, pr., pb. 1905

Pedro Minio, pr. 1908

Zaragoza, pr., pb. 1908 (music by Arturo Lapuerto; adaptation of his novel)

Casandra, pr., pb. 1910 (adaptation of his novel)

Celia en los infiernos, pr., pb. 1913

Alceste, pr., pb. 1914

Sor Simona, pr., pb. 1915

El tacaño Salomón, pr., pb. 1916

Santa Juana de Castilla, pr., pb. 1918

Antón Caballero, pr. 1921 (completed by Serafín and Joaquín Álvarez Quintero)


Discursos académicos, 1897

Memoranda, 1906

Arte y crítica, 1923

Fisonomías sociales, 1923

Nuestro teatro, 1923

Política española, 1923

Cronicón, 1924

Toledo, 1924

Viajes y fantasías, 1928

Memorias, 1930

Cronica de Madrid, 1933

Cartas a Mesoneros Romanos, 1943

Crónica de la Quincena, 1949

Madrid, 1956


Benito Pérez Galdós (PAY-rays gahl-DOHS) was born in Las Palmas on May 10, 1843, the last of ten children. Some critics feel that his place of birth, geographically and socially separate from the mainstream of Spanish life, contributed to his subsequent ability to view national events with relative candor and objectivity. Benito’s father, Sebastián Pérez, sixteen years older than his wife and more a grandfather than a father to his younger children, had inherited sufficient property to maintain his family in comfort and had ample leisure time to regale his youngest offspring with tales of his military exploits, events which were to become part of Episodios nacionales (national episodes). It was Benito’s mother, however, Doña Dolores, who was to dominate the family. Her rigid, puritanical religiosity, intolerance, strength of will, and constant need for order were to be reflected in several of Pérez Galdós’s characters, most particularly Doña Perfecta. From his mother, Pérez Galdós seems to have inherited a Basque physique, stubbornness, and the ability to adhere to an unswerving, ordered routine.{$I[AN]9810001487}{$I[A]Pérez Galdós, Benito}{$S[A]Galdós, Benito Pérez;Pérez Galdós, Benito}{$I[geo]SPAIN;Pérez Galdós, Benito}{$I[tim]1843;Pérez Galdós, Benito}

Benito Pérez Galdós

(Library of Congress)

Although interested in painting and music, the young Pérez Galdós found little to enjoy in his childhood schooling, usually appearing bored and absent-minded. In 1862, he was sent to Madrid by Doña Dolores to study law, a course which, despite poor grades, irregular class attendance, and extensive extracurricular writing, he finished in 1869. His real interest during these years was the Ateneo, a literary and artistic club in Madrid which housed a remarkably good library and sponsored lectures and discussion groups. Here, Pérez Galdós developed the progressive, liberal spirit which would dominate his first novels, became exposed to the Krausist perspective of tolerance toward opposing views, and discovered the works of such European writers as Honoré de Balzac, whose eighty volumes he himself collected.

It was during these years that Pérez Galdós began to write for such newspapers as La nacíon, Las cortes, and El debate. Later, in 1872 and 1873, he himself was the general director of the prestigious Revista de España. He traveled widely and in 1866 witnessed the uprising of “los sargentos de San Gil,” a historical event which perhaps stimulated him to initiate the first series of Episodios nacionales. The composition of these works, which he undertook in 1873 and continued intermittently until his death, reflected a conception of history as a slow but inevitable development toward the establishment of a just and equitable society, one in which the growing bourgeoisie would absorb a decadent aristocracy and a well-meaning but ignorant lower class. The series was instantly popular, perhaps because of its stress on the importance of everyday events in the lives of common citizens. At first, the Episodios nacionales gave him the economic stability that he needed; later, however, even the resounding financial success of his play Electra was not enough to liquidate the debts which were to plague him sporadically throughout his life.

In 1886, Pérez Galdós entered politics, and in 1889, he accepted the governmentally rigged election results which made him a deputy for Puerto Rico; he served in Congress until 1890. While he did little to improve the well-being of his constituents across the ocean, he did subsequently devote considerable energy to liberal causes and eventually expended much of his meager financial resources on republican politics.

It was also in 1889 that Pérez Galdós traveled to the Rhine Valley, where he met and had a brief affair with the Galician novelist Emilia Pardo Bazán. Despite her wish to continue the relationship, however, Pérez Galdós soon broke it off when he became involved with Lorenza Cobián, the woman who was to be the mother of his daughter María, born January 12, 1891. After Lorenza became insane and committed suicide in 1906, the novelist took charge of María’s education and made her his legal beneficiary.

In 1889, Pérez Galdós was elected to the Royal Spanish Academy, but he did not take his seat until 1897. This, says Walter Pattison, was “owing in part to his timidity about making a public speech and perhaps partly to his resentment at having been passed over on the first vote.”

In later years, Pérez Galdós served further republican terms in Congress–in 1907 and 1910–but his health deteriorated rapidly. To the problem of arteriosclerosis was added a hemiplegic stroke in 1905. Several operations on his eyes were not enough to prevent blindness. These events, coupled with the disdain of the reactionaries and the indifference of the young generación del 98, left him bitter and resentful. The failure of his proponents to gain for him the Nobel Prize and the continued financial insecurity that came from his mismanagement of money matters added to the aging novelist’s despair. Pérez Galdós had outlived his literary career. When his statue in Madrid’s Retiro Park was unveiled in 1919, few prominent figures were present. Death came from uremia on January 4, 1920.

Benito Pérez Galdós belonged to the mature stage of the realistic movement in Spanish literature. He rejected the portrayal of static elements of human nature and turned instead to the description of the varying relationships between the individual personality and the environment. Next to Miguel de Cervantes, Pérez Galdós is perhaps the most important novelist that Spain has produced; he is the only Spaniard of his age who can be compared to Honoré de Balzac, Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy, or Fyodor Dostoevski. In the course of his long career, he alone succeeded in reconciling the traditional and the liberal ideological currents then prevalent in Spain, demonstrating the significance of both past events and recent developments. In spite of the fact that most of his works were set in Madrid, he alone was able to transcend the regionalism of the Spanish realistic novel. Although his works represent a historical, social, and literary synthesis of his era, he was able to penetrate and develop themes of truly universal significance–ideas concerning charity and spiritual values, problems of modern science and of materialism, the yearning for social justice, the necessity of tolerance and of personal liberty, and the notion of human equality achieved through love.

In part, the historical importance of Pérez Galdós’s novels is that of having united and perfected the prevailing literary tendencies of the times: the interest in history and the past, initiated by the Romantics (whose sentimentality and imaginative excesses he avoided); the didactic or “thesis” approach, offered now without the sacrifice of psychological verisimilitude or artistic balance; and the emphasis on costumbrismo, extended from a local, regional level to a broader, national perspective in order to analyze and interpret the life and character of the entire Spanish community. For Pérez Galdós, these three aims were combined toward achieving a constant objective: to help his countrymen become conscious of their reality as a people, searching in the recent past for the explanation of current conditions, for a sense of direction which would work toward a future ideal of “trabajo y educación” (work and education), an ideal which would encourage an atmosphere of tolerance instead of constant civil strife.

BibliographyCondé, Lisa P. Women in the Theatre of Galdós: From “Realidad” (1892) to “Voluntad” (1895). Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1990. A look at the portrayal of women in the plays of Pérez Galdós. Bibliography and index.Gilman, Stephen. Galdós and the Art of the European Novel, 1867-1887. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1981. Divided into one part on the historical novelist and two parts on Fortunata and Jacinta. A perceptive work of scholarship that provides an important context for understanding the novels. Includes an appendix on classical references in Doña Perfecta.Gold, Hazel. The Reframing of Realism: Galdós and the Discourses of the Nineteenth-Century Spanish Novel. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1993. Divided into three sections, “Narrative Frames,” “Cultural Frames,” and “Critical Frames.” Excellent discussions of individual novels as well a concluding chapter on the novelist’s place in his native tradition. Includes an appendix on the political intertext in Torquemada in the Flames. Recommended for advanced students.Labanyi, Jo, ed. Galdós. New York: Longman, 1993. A critical analysis of the works of Pérez Galdós. Bibliography and index.Larsen, Kevin. Cervantes and Galdós in “Fortunata y Jacinta: Tales of Impertinent Curiosity.” Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1999. Traces Cervantes’s influence in one of Pérez Galdós’s works.McGovern, Timothy Michael. Dickens in Galdós. New York: Peter Lang, 2000. McGovern compares and contrasts the works of Pérez Galdós and Charles Dickens. Bibliography and index.Pattison, Walter T. Benito Pérez Galdós. Boston: Twayne, 1975. A very helpful introduction, with a chapter on the novelist’s life, his journalism and early novels, his first contemporary novels, his naturalistic style, and the end of his career. Includes chronology, detailed notes, and bibliography.Percival, Anthony. Galdós and His Critics. Buffalo, N.Y.: University of Toronto Press, 1985. An analysis and interpretation of the works of Pérez Galdós, with emphasis on critical reaction to his work. Bibliography and index.Ribbans, Geoffrey. Reality Plan or Fancy? Some Reflections on Galdós’s Concept of Realism. Liverpool, England: Liverpool University Press, 1986. Ribbans examines the works of Pérez Galdós, paying particular attention to the use of realism. Bibliography.Turner, Harriet S. Benito Pérez Galdós, “Fortunata and Jacinta.” New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992. A painstaking study of this masterpiece, with a chronology of the novel’s main events; genealogical tables; a biographical introduction to the author; chapters on the social and historical contexts, the characters, and the novel’s metaphors; and a guide to further reading.Urey, Diane F. Galdós and the Irony of Language. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982. A study that focuses on the use of irony in its examination of the works of Pérez Galdós.Willem, Linda M. Galdós’s Secunda Manera: Rhetorical Strategies and Affective Response. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999. A study of Pérez Galdós’s literary style.Willem, Linda M, ed. A Sesquicentennial Tribute to Galdós, 1843-1993. Newark, Del.: Juan de la Cuesta, 1993. A group of essays on various aspects of Pérez Galdós’s life and works. Bibliography.Zlotchew, Clark M. Libido into Literature: The “Primera época” of Benito Pérez Galdós. Edited by Daryl F. Mallett. San Bernardino, Calif.: Borgo Press, 1993. A good study of the life and works.
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