Emilia Pardo Bazán

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Biography of La Condesa Emilia Pardo Bazán, aristocrat of the nobility of Spain, novelist, journalist, feminist, essayist, literary critic, poet, playwright, translator, editor, professor and lecturer.

In her ideas and actions, she was a forerunner of women’s rights and the defense of feminism.

She claimed to protect the education of women as something fundamental; she devoted an important part of her public performance to defending them.

Monument Emilia Pardo Bazan
Madrid and the whole of Spain dedicated this monument to Emilia Pardo Bazán, on Calle La Princesa. Credit: Kadellar. Wikipedia

Childhood and family of Emilia Pardo Bazán

Emilia Pardo-Bazán y de la Rúa-Figueroa was born on September 16, 1851 in La Coruña.

Her father, José María Pardo-Bazán y Mosquera.

Her mother, Amalia María de la Rúa-Figueroa y Somoza.

Both were very wealthy aristocrats who stayed at their residence on Calle Tabernas, in the city of La Coruña.

In addition to the residence on Calle Tabernas, the family owned another, near Sangenjo; and a third, on the outskirts of La Coruña, called the Pazo de Meirás.

House Emilia Pardo
Emilia Pardo Bazán House Museum. Headquarters of the Royal Galician Academy. Credit: Iglamela

In addition to having good private tutors at home, Emilia had free access to a wide variety of books in the family library.

From a very young age she had a great interest in reading.

During the winters, the family moved to Madrid. In those months, her parents sent her to a French school.

Thanks to learning the French language, she was able to read and study the literary work of French writers.

Don José María was convinced that women had the full right to educate themselves.

Consequently, her daughter was not limited to learning music and home economics, as was the custom.

Emilia received training on all kinds of subjects related to the humanities.

She had access to writings in the languages: German, French and English.

Emilia Pardo
Emilia Pardo Bazán, when she was 13 years old. Credit: Silvia Hernando. web elpais.com

However, despite her father’s wishes, Emilia was banned from college because she was a woman.

So she continued to train with books and with the help of family friends.

Marriage of Emilia Pardo Bazán with José Quiroga

In 1868, at the age of 16, Emilia Pardo Bazán married José Quiroga and Pérez Deza. This was a young aristocrat, 19 years old and a law student.

The wedding was held at the Pazo de Meirás. After a trip to Spain, the newlyweds stayed to live for several years with their parents.

José Quiroga was a quiet and reserved young man. Emilia supported him in his law studies and he shared her wife’s intellectual interests.

In 1869, Don José María Pardo-Bazán was elected Deputy to the Cortes. The whole family, including the young couple, moved to Madrid.

Later, when Mr. Pardo had to leave his post, the four of them undertook a trip of several months through France and Italy.

Later, in 1901, Doña Emilia published in the newspaper El Imparcial the chronicles of this trip through Europe.

In them she advocated the need for Spain to be Europeanized.

And she recommended that her compatriots travel at least once a year, to other regions of Spain and to other countries.

Beginnings of Emilia Pardo Bazán as a writer

In 1876, Emilia made herself known as a writer, for the first time, with an essay entitled “Critical Study of the Works of Father Feijoo.”

Benito Feijoo was a Benedictine, Galician monk and one of the most prominent figures in Spanish literature of the 18th century.

This work by Emilia Pardo Bazán won the award in a literary competition in which Concepción Arenal also competed.

Emilia Pardo Bazán was 25 years old when her first son, Jaime Quiroga, was born in 1876.

She dedicated her first book of poems to her, entitled “Jaime”, and edited by Francisco Giner de los Ríos.

Three years later, in 1879, their second daughter was born, whom they named Blanca. And Emilia published her first novel entitled “Pascual López“.

This romantic and realistic novel is set in Santiago de Compostela and has a medical student as its protagonist.

Emilia had her third daughter, Carmen, in 1881. The success of her first novel encouraged her to publish another that same year.

She titled it “A honeymoon trip.” It’s about how reckless it is to enter into a marriage of convenience. Contains abundant descriptions of landscapes and characters; It is inspired by the works of Honoré de Balzac and Alphonse Daudet.

Emilia Pardo Bazán publishes articles in a magazine

In 1882, in the magazine “La Época”, she began to publish, in installments, a series of articles about Émile Zola and the experimental novel.

Emilia Pardo Bazán participated in a pedagogical Congress of the Institución Libre de Enseñanza held in Madrid in 1882.

Emilia intervened by openly criticizing the education that Spanish women received.

She referred to the fact that this was not an education, but a “taming”, by means of which passivity, obedience and submission to their husbands were instilled in women.

Emilia Pardo
The serene and firm gaze of Emilia Pardo Bazán. Credit: Manuel de la Fuente. web abc.es 2013

The writer championed the defense of women

Emilia Pardo Bazán was a champion of women’s rights.

Her careful education, her travels through Europe and the obstacles she encountered in her life as a woman, developed her interest in the female question.

She dedicated her life and her literary work to defending the need for education and the access of women to all the opportunities that men had.

In that year, Emilia’s marital relationship with her husband José Quiroga was suffering. Probably because of her intense dedication to literary work and social activities.

Emilia Pardo Bazán had an intense social life that did not limit her activity as a writer.

She concentrated her social activities during the months of stay in Madrid and her literary works in the months she spent in Galicia, generally in the Pazo de Meirás.

Relations of Emilia Pardo Bazán with intellectuals

From her first move to Madrid she began to interact with politicians and intellectuals of the time, including Giner de los Ríos.

This man was a friend of her parents. Emilia shared with him her interest in education and reformist concerns. She considered him one of her best friends.

Emilia Pardo Expo 1917
Emilia Pardo Bazán during the Regional Exhibition of Galician Art, in La Coruña, 1917. Credit: Wikimedia

She also had friendship and many debates with Menéndez Pelayo, Pérez de Ayala, Miguel de Unamuno, Ramón de Campoamor, Leopoldo Alas, Emilio Castelar, Pi y Margall, Cánovas and Canalejas.

Emilia Pardo Bazán published a book with her articles

In 1883, Emilia published a volume in which she brought together the successive articles that she had written in the magazine “La Época” about Émile Zola and naturalism.

The book was titled “The Burning Question.”

In the work, prefaced by Leopoldo Alas, Clarín defended the “Spanish-style” realism of her contemporaries Galdós and Pereda.

At the same time, she praised the literary aspect of the works of the French. The book caused a great stir and a major scandal.

The numerous attacks that Emilia received, insisted that the book was a manifesto in favor of the pornographic and atheistic literature of French writers.

It was considered indecent for a respectable married woman and mother of three to identify with the writings of such individuals.

Some of her friends and fans were scandalized.

With the scandal, the book increased its sales and the notoriety of Emilia Pardo Bazán became greater.

Her husband was horrified by the attacks Emilia was receiving, and asked her to stop writing.

Emilia flatly refused. She left him and went on a trip to Italy. Afterwards they no longer lived together.

Emilia Pardo ventured into the novelistic genre

In 1883, Emilia Pardo Bazán published the first social novel and the first Spanish naturalist novel.

It was titled “La Tribuna” and tells the story of a working-class woman, beautiful and deceived by a “gentleman.”

The plot of the novel is the story of a strike. The protagonist is a brave and determined young woman who leads the workers’ demands.

It is set in “Marineda”, a fictitious name that she gave to the city of La Coruña.

For the first time in the Spanish novel, she brought in the proletariat – before Pérez Galdós and Blasco Ibáñez did – and starkly described industrial working methods and long hours.

It reflected with great realism the work environment in a factory in La Coruña; and made a deep analysis of the feminine world and the double shift of the workers who are mothers, housewives and workers.

As of 1884, without disqualifying Zola’s literary work, Emilia stopped expressing her admiration for this writer.

Her lectures were oriented towards Russian literature and spiritualism, especially by the novelist Leo Tolstoy.

In 1885 she published “The young lady“, a novel in which she talks about marital crisis.

The “naturalism” promoted by Pardo Bazán came a little closer to the Spanish realistic tradition and allowed her to reconcile somewhat with the Catholic ideology.

The naturalistic method culminated in her most famous novel: “Los pazos de Ulloa” (1886-1887).

This work established her as one of the great writers of Spanish literature.

In it she describes the decline of the landed oligarchy, which has lost its role of social leadership.

And she makes a detailed description of the pathetic decline of the Galician aristocracy and rural world.

Emilia Pardo
Emilia Pardo Bazán, indefatigable writer. Image published on the 166th anniversary of her birth. Credit: Laguardia.com web archive

A year later, in 1887, she published “Mother Nature“, a naturalistic fable in which she recounts the incestuous love affairs between two young men who do not know that they are brothers.

New literary paths of Emilia Pardo Bazán

Starting in the 1890s, she moved away from naturalism and explored the most important new literary paths of the 19th century in Europe, such as idealism and symbolism. also European trends.

The novels she wrote at this time influenced Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, one of the great writers of the end of the century.

In 1884, they agreed, with her husband, a friendly separation.

He retired to live on his Galician properties and she continued with her writing activity in Madrid and Galicia.

When he died in 1912, Emilia was in deep mourning for a year.

Years of great literary and social activity in Emilia

The amicable separation allowed Emilia Pardo Bazán to pursue her literary and intellectual interests more freely.

Her life became a veritable hurricane of activities.

Testimony of this are the novels she wrote between 1890 and 1911.

Also in the more than 500 stories and tales published in “Cuentos de la tierra“, “Chosen stories“, “Cuentos de Marineda“, “Cuentos sacro-profanos” and others.

She participated in literary polemics, intervened in political journalism, gave lectures at renowned institutions, and began to tirelessly fight for the social and intellectual emancipation of women.

Once without a marriage commitment, she began a love affair with Benito Pérez Galdós, with whom she had previously had a literary relationship.

Some critics thought that in the novel “Memories of a Bachelor“, she tried to justify or explain her relationship with Benito Pérez Galdós.

Starting in 1890, coinciding with the death of her father, her writings evolved towards greater symbolism and spiritualism.

In her desire to reform, in 1890 Doña Emilia took advantage of her paternal inheritance to create a magazine of social and political thought totally written and financed by her: “New Critical Theater“.

In this magazine essays, literary criticisms, news about other writers and current political and social studies were incorporated with the aim of reflecting the intellectual life of her time.

The experience lasted only three years, for financial reasons.

The rich work of Emilia Pardo Bazán also includes travel books in Spain and Europe. She wrote the biographies of San Francisco de Asís and Hernán Cortés.

Also from this time is her novel “La Chimera“, where she masterfully portrays the dusty Madrid of those years.

Emilia Pardo Statue
Sculptural complex in La Coruña, in memory of Emilia Pardo Bazán. Credit: Xosé Calvo. Wikipedia

Last years in the life of Emilia Pardo Bazán

Emilia Pardo Bazán was the first woman to preside over the Literature Section of the Ateneo de Madrid (1905).

She was a contemporary of the great Galician poet, Rosalía de Castro.

She was also the first to hold a chair of Neo-Latin literatures at the Central University of Madrid (in 1916).

King Alfonso XIII appointed her Minister of Public Instruction, in 1910.

However, the Royal Spanish Academy rejected her candidacy to be a member of this prestigious institution three times: in 1889, in 1892 and in 1912.

The candidacies of Concepción Arenal and Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda had also been rejected.

Countess Emilia Pardo Bazán died in Madrid on May 12, 1921.

The day after her death, the entire press recognized her for the merits and worth that society denied her in her lifetime.

Emilia Pardo Bazán is buried in the crypt of the Concepción church in Madrid.

Click here if you want to see this biography in Spanish translation.

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