Gómez de Avellaneda, Gertrudis (1814–1873)

views updated

Gómez de Avellaneda, Gertrudis (1814–1873)

Nineteenth-century Spanish dramatist and poet. Name variations: (nicknames) La Avellaneda, Tula; (pseudonym) La Peregrina. Born María Gertrudis de los Dolores Gómez de Avellaneda y Artega or Arteaga on March 23, 1814, at Puerto Príncipe, Cuba; died in Madrid, Spain, on February 1 (some sources cite February 2), 1873; daughter of Francisca de Arteaga y Betancourt and Manuel de Avellaneda (a naval officer); married Pedro Sabater, on May 10, 1846 (died, August 1, 1846); married Colonel Domingo Verdugo y Massieu, on April 26, 1855; children: (with poet Gabriel García Tassara) Brenhilde (b. 1845).

Born in Puerto Príncipe, Cuba, on March 23, 1814, Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda was the daughter of Francisca de Arteaga y Betan-court and naval officer Manuel de Avellaneda. Early on "Tula," as she was nicknamed, showed signs of literary genius. She read widely and by age 12 was writing poetry, drama, and novels. Meanwhile, her father died in 1823, and Tula's mother quickly remarried, to Isidoro de Escalada. Beautiful and talented, Tula dreamed of visiting Andalusia, her father's homeland. In 1836, the family sailed to Europe, and Tula and her brother Manuel went to Seville. There she published poetry under the pseudonym "La Peregrina" (the Wanderer). She also entertained and rejected several suitors. In 1838, however, she met and fell passionately in love with Ignacio de Cepeda, who sometimes encouraged her affections but ultimately rejected her. Tula's frustration evoked a series of love letters to Cepeda and underlay much of her literary production from 1838 to 1845.

La Avellaneda moved to Madrid in 1840, where she quickly established herself among Spain's literary elite. The following year saw the publication of her first volume of poetry, Poesías, and her first novel, Sab. Tula wrote prolifically. Several plays, including Munio Alfonso and El Príncipe de Viana, opened to enthusiastic receptions. Meanwhile, her personal life was turbulent and even scandalous. In 1844, she had an affair with Gabriel García Tassara, a poet, and gave birth to an illegitimate daughter, Brenhilde, a year later. García Tassara rejected the infant, which lived only nine months, and Tula soon began writing Cepeda again. She married Pedro Sabater in 1846 even though he was ill with cancer of the larynx and died four months later. Tula sought refuge in a convent at Bordeaux but soon emerged to resume her career. Her pen was as prolific as ever: in 1852 five of her plays premiered in Madrid, and another two the next year. In 1853, she applied for membership in the Royal Spanish Academy but was rejected. Academy members acknowledged her literary merit but decided that membership must be restricted to men.

In 1855, La Avellaneda married again. Her second husband was Colonel Domingo Verdugo y Massieu, a Liberal politician. Given his political stature and Tula's friendship with Isabella II , their wedding took place in the Royal Palace of Madrid on April 26, 1855. Verdugo received a serious but not fatal wound in an attempted assassination in 1858. His appointment as governor-general of Cuba provided Tula a chance to return to her native island. Cubans greeted her return with lavish receptions and great fanfare. Verdugo died in 1863, and Tula left Cuba the following year, visiting the U.S., Great Britain and France on her return to Spain. She lived until 1873, when complications from diabetes claimed her life.

Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda achieved lasting renown among Spanish literary critics as a lyric poet. Her plays, while not reaching the stature of the greatest Spanish drama, nonetheless measure up to any written in the 19th century. Tula's novels and shorter prose works add to her fame as one of the chief Spanish literary figures of any gender during the 1800s.


Bravo Villasante, Carmen. Una vida romántica, La Avellaneda. Barcelona: Enrique Granados, 1967.

Harter, Hugh A. Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda. Boston, MA: Twayne, 1981.

Kendall W. Brown , Professor of History, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah

About this article

Gómez de Avellaneda, Gertrudis (1814–1873)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article