Pardo Bazán, Emilia (1852–1921)

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Pardo Bazán, Emilia (1852–1921)

Leading Spanish writer of the 19th century, known for her novels, essays, and short stories. Name variations: Emilia Pardo-Bazán or Pardo-Bazan. Born on September 16, 1852, in La Coruña, Spain; died in Madrid on May 12, 1921, from complications of diabetes; only child of the count and countess of Pardo Bazán; married José Quiroga (a lawyer), on July 10, 1868; children: Jaime, Carmen, Blanca.

Born on September 16, 1852, in La Coruña, Spain, Emilia Pardo Bazán was the only child of the count and countess of Pardo Bazán. Her parents considered her intellectually precocious and took great pains with her education. To some extent, they used Rousseau's Emile as a model for her upbringing and apparently encouraged her to read everything, except modern French novels. Her marriage to José Quiroga, a lawyer, in 1868, and her father's election in 1869 to the Constitutent Cortes of Spain's First Republic, took Emilia to the fringes of aristocratic circles of Madrid. She also traveled widely in Western Europe, compiling diaries that served her later literary efforts, and read contemporary science, history, and philosophy but for a while ignored novels as too frivolous.

Although she had written poetry for years, Pardo Bazán turned seriously to other literary endeavors in the mid-1870s. Her first triumph, albeit a local one, was winning first prize in a provincial contest for an essay about an 18th-century Spanish intellectual (Ensayo crítico de las obras del Padre Feijóo). Reading contemporary French and then Spanish novels, however, turned her to that literary genre, which earned Pardo Bazán her greatest renown. Her first novel, Pascual López, appeared in 1879, fol lowed by Un viaje de novios two years later. Meanwhile, she wrote a series of es says explaining Nat uralism to Spanish readers (published as La cuestión palpi tante), which progressives extolled and conservatives condemned. Yet she also wrote a religious study of St. Francis of Assisi that was warmly received by many Spanish readers. Although Pardo Bazán rejected Naturalism's atheism, her novels of the 1880s pioneered the movement's entry into Spain. In 1886, she met leading French advocates of Naturalism, including Edmond de Goncourt and Emile Zola, and published Los pazos de Ulloa, one of her most important novels.

As her fame grew, Pardo Bazán delighted in the attention she received. Controversy often enveloped her, in part because of her own contradictions. She supported the religiously conservative Carlist cause, and her Catholicism prevented Pardo Bazán from fully adhering to Naturalism. Nonetheless, she championed feminism in Spain and published a number of important essays advocating equal rights and better education for women. Her views on literature and feminism offended her husband, and they separated. In some ways she was politically progressive, but she also yearned to be a full-fledged aristocrat. Although Pardo Bazán inherited her father's title in 1890, it was a papal rather than a hereditary Spanish one. In 1891, she campaigned for membership in the Spanish Royal Academy. Had her gender not been an issue, her achievements undoubtedly would have secured her election. Pardo Bazán's novels of the 1890s did not match the quality of her earlier works, but she remained a leading cultural figure in Spain.

Celebrity and frustration characterized her later years. Spain's defeat in the Spanish-American War dismayed her, and she became increasingly critical of what she perceived to be the degenerate culture of her homeland. In 1906, two of her plays received indifferent critical and popular responses, yet she was chosen to head the Literary Section of the Atheneum, Madrid's most prestigious intellectual club. The next year Alphonso XIII acknowledged her achievements by conferring the hereditary title of countess upon her. In 1916, her hometown of La Coruña erected a statue in her honor and the Central University of Madrid named her a professor. Nearly all her students were men, however, and most rejected her as an unconventional woman. Pardo Bazán died in Madrid on May 12, 1921, from complications of diabetes.


González-Arias, Francisca. Portrait of a Woman as Artist: Emilia Pardo Bazán and the Modern Novel in France and Spain. NY: Garland, 1992.

Hemingway, Maurice. Emilia Pardo Bazán: The Making of a Novelist. NY: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

Pattison, Walter T. Emilia Pardo Bazán. NY: Twayne, 1971.

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