Biography of José Cadalso y Vázquez (1741-1782)

Writer and Spanish military born in Cádiz October 8, 1741 and died in Gibraltar on February 26, 1782.


José Cadalso and Vázquez came to the world in a family of good social position. His father, of Basque origin, was engaged in mercantile Affairs: trade with America and some European countries. Orphaned of mother at age two and, while remaining absent his father long periods away from home, his childhood was spent under the tutelage of his mother's family, especially his grandfather and his uncle José Vázquez, Jesuit who became Rector of the College which the Jesuits had in Cádiz and, later, Provincial of the Congregation in Andalusia. Around 1750 he began accompanying his father, who had returned from an extended stay in the Indies, in business for Europe. It is supposed, since they lack of accurate data, which remained outside of Spain between 1753 and 1758 approximately. Two or three of these years was gallows at the colegio Luis el Grande, which the Jesuits had in Paris; and also a vague time in England. All this gave the future writer the opportunity to learn modern languages (dominated the English and French) and learn about ways of life and culture different from the Spanish. Although education was of a religious nature, the students learned useful things for social life, as well as knowledge of the classics, literary criticism, history... and other disciplines. Cosmopolitan character which the enlightened wanted was acquiring gallows since then. On his return to Spain, he completed his training at the Royal seminar of Nobles in Madrid, where he remained two years with other young people who would form the future reformist elite.

In 1760 he began a second tour of Europe, in which studied new law and policy. His father died the following year in Copenhagen. The young man returned in 1762 and began his military career joining as a cadet in the Bourbon Regiment of cavalry, in full campaign of war against Portugal. After serving as an addition to the staff of the count of Aranda, he agreed to the rank of captain in 1764. Proved his nobility, was armed Knight of the order of Santiago in 1766. At that time he already wrote some of his works and translated a tragedy of Voltaire, the Zaira, combat of love and the law, titled "tragedy according to the more modern style of the best theatres of Europe". In the prologue it manifested supporter of reform of the theatre in Spain and the adoption of neoclassical aesthetics. It was also defender of freedom in literature and tolerant in all orders.

Parallel to his military and literary life, developed an intense social life: he attended cultured circles, related characters from the aristocracy and attended the literary gatherings. It seems that for some of his criticisms of Madrid society, especially for the high hierarchy of the Court and its affairs, expressed in manual calendar and guide foreigners in Cyprus to 1768, although it did not admit authorship of this pamphlet, it was banished to Zaragoza in 1768, where he later reunite with his regiment. This isolation spurred their desire to write, especially works that were of loneliness, of adverse fortune, or that do a critical review of the society. It also reviewed the verses was written from earlier dates and published in 1773, in Antonio Sancha printing press, with the title of leisures of my youth and the letter dedicated to Hortelio or unpublished poems, which were published, posthumously, in 1792.

In 1770 he returned to Madrid life. By then must meet the actress María Ignacia Ibáñez, famous comic of great popularity in his time. He was interested in the reform of the theatre in Spain and collaborated actively in the count of Aranda projects to improve the scenic art. This year he concluded his Solaya tragedy or the Circassians, work that wanted to brand new real sites but which was not approved by the censors, who denied the license, and was never to be represented or printed until recently. Nevertheless continued with his vocation by tragic estrus in Sancho García, count of Castile, posted in Madrid, imprenta de Ibarra, in 1771, under the pseudonym of Juan de el Valle, that it was first represented in the private Palace of the count of Aranda Coliseum and later at Madrid's teatro de la Cruz. In the Mise en scène of Sancho García participated María Ignacia in the role of the Countess. The early death in 1771, her beautiful friend filled the poet of deep sadness that attest to his compositions written by these dates. The apocryphal books news that distort his biography with a false attempt to dig up his body, buried in the madrilenian Church of San Sebastián, where lay the confraternity of our Lady of the ninth, patron saint of comedians cannot be accepted. For this reason believe some biographers that he was banished to Salamanca, episode that is not documented.

In 1772, it was back to the Court. He frequented high society environments and some renowned literary gatherings as it was celebrated in the Palace of the condesa-duquesa of Benavente, female with which he maintained a close friendship, and the Fonda de San Sebastián, where related to other writers of his time (Nicolás Fernández de Moratín, Tomás de Iriarte, Ignacio López de Ayala(, the Italians Conti and Napoli Signorelli...). At this time composed the scholars to the violet, which Glendinning, could have finished before the death of María Ignacia, although the work was not printed until 1772, and the Noches lúgubres, linked to this tragic episode.

In 1773 he joined Salamanca with his regiment. He then enjoyed a certain literary fame. In this city he met Meléndez Valdés, law student, José Iglesias de la Casa, Juan Pablo Forner, to Fray Diego Tadeo González, all of whom are interested in letters, which formed the so-called poetic school Salamanca. They had one parent of literary and moral order. You used the poetic name of Dalmiro. In their meetings they were reading poems themselves and others, and is commented on different topics related to literature.

In October 1774, after a short stay in Madrid, gallows followed his regiment by Extremadura and, since 1778, in Andalusia. Known for his letters he felt disillusioned military life and that was accentuated in a negative view of society. Intended for the Navy voluntarily, was appointed aide-de-camp of the general in Chief of the Spanish forces besieging Gibraltar, and in 1782 appointed Colonel. He died on February 26, 1782 in this site after being hit by a grenade.

In the opinion of his contemporaries gallows must have been a very sociable and person of great personal appeal, who knew how to keep friendship with people of diverse backgrounds and ideas. They counted among their friends Vicente García de la Huerta, Iriarte Tomás, Nicolás Fernández de Moratín, Juan Meléndez Valdés and the count of Aranda. In the gatherings who attended read the latest literary news and he felt on the writings of the time. The conversation or the epistolary relationship was one of his favorite diversions. Critics, the figure of gallows has attracted various trials. For some it was an unoriginal author, who imitated foreign as Montesquieuand Young writers. Others, in particular the Professor r. p. Sebold, consider him to be the initiator of romanticism in Spain, especially based on his gloomy nights, since they considered how autobiographical the pinpointing of the beloved episode. But of their production has a neoclassical tonality, as much as it distracted some critics with some experience of romantic tone, that relates to their complex production with its European readings. Frequently it has tended to value some aspect of his work, losing the global consideration of this. Thus, his contemporaries considered him above all the author of scholars to violet, while 19th prevailed its prerromanticos values, and the authorship of the Noches lúgubres, and currently is seen, above all, as the author of Marruecas letters. Given its distinctly progressive nature, became a character uncomfortable, particularly because of his military status, which caused him some problems with censorship.

Cadalso, poet

Cadalso was greatly admired in its time for its status as poet, in consonance with the key guidelines in the lyric of his time, and imitated by the young people of the 18th century. Most of his compositions were published in life, unlike most of his works in prose that came to light after the death of the author.

Leisures of my youth is a collection of fifty-four poems published by gallows in 1773 with the name of José Vázquez (her maiden name). The author says in the preface that they should style relief of my sentences "because I made them on the occasion of rushing me any grief, perhaps effect of my many misfortunes, maybe my few years, and maybe the combination of both causes effect". It includes compositions of different moments of his life, mostly from their stay at Aragon, between 1768 and 1770, and his return to Madrid. Among these last are those who refer to his beloved Phillies, poetic name given to the actress María Ignacia Ibáñez. They belong to the poetic genres that were in vogue: loving, they sing the loves and scorn from Phillies; pastoral, both conventional as they exalt the Aragonese landscape; anacreonticos, very much in vogue at the time, praising the simple pleasures; satirical and burlesque in the manner of Quevedo and Góngora; Morales, of origin horaciana, stressing the ideal of withdrawal... Imitates the classics (Horacio, Ovidio...) and the Spanish poets of the golden age (Garcilaso de la Vega, Villegas, Quevedo...). Predominantly pastoralist and anacreonticos poems. In all them part of personal events and reflects on life and adversity in a philosophical way. It was very well received and it was reissued in 1781, 1782, 1786.

From the date of publication of the earlier work until his death in 1782 continued to write poems which were published posthumously in subsequent years. Without abandoning the kind of previous poetry, the author tends towards the more serious and solemn themes, and used longer verses. Some appeared to contemporaries as the mail of the blind newspaper or journal of the muses.

José de Cadalso, "A painter that I portray".

Due to his knowledge of the classical languages, made gallows some translations of Latin authors (Virgil, Horacio, Ovid, martial, Catullus, Tibullus, Propertius). He also wrote a poem in latin: "Referring to a young poet poems of Garcilaso with some verses of mine".

The prose of Cadalso

It has more valued to the gallows as a prose writer, considering his works superior to his poems or dramatic parts. The first work in prose he wrote was satire entitled manual calendar and guide foreigners in Cyprus (1768). It is a parody of the official calendar, published annually in Madrid, in which were recorded the main court dates, the days of the Saints and the worship of the Church, the list of Knights belonging to different military orders with your date of entry, the names and signs of Ministers, courts, and other entities, as well as the military state of the army and the Navy. The parody of Cadalso consists of present erotic year with dates of dances in masks, the names of people of high nests with their respective lovers, objects related to the relationships... It seems that this work was that caused, as stated before, the banishment of the writer.

With the pseudonym of José Vázquez published scholars to violet (Madrid, Antonio de Sancha, 1772), which was written with satiric purpose against those who appear to know much knowing little. It is a parody of the universal science manuals. Gallows uses humor and irony to criticize the shortcomings of these false scholars, which should not be confused with the true sages. The work consists of seven lessons, one for each day of the week, a teacher taught his disciples. It starts with an "overview of the sciences" and continues with Poetics, rhetoric, philosophy, ancient and modern, law, theology and mathematics. Ending the week with a "miscellaneous". The Professor, who is the narrator in the greater part of the composition, teaches the concepts essential to shine in society without studying anything seriously (topics that must be repeated, writers who have to ponder, skills that have to pretend, skills which must be manifested...).He was the most famous composition of gallows during his lifetime (reissues of 1781, 1782, 1786, 1790). Therefore, the same year he published Supplement paper entitled the scholars to the violet, where translations of many fragments of poetry cited in the second lesson is commented and included six letters of disciples on the topics of the other lessons. In 1790, after the death of the author, was published in Seville the good military to violet, booklet in which increases the satirical tone to ridicule society through the immorality of officers and the taste for them fashions. These three compositions today have a historical value since they reflect the State of the customs of his time, seen from a critical perspective. Also the censorship on scaffold, baited because there were who accused him of being himself a scholar to violet, surface, which had fallen into the defects criticized.

The work Summit of gallows are Marruecas letters, although its acceptance has varied over time. They were probably written between 1768 and 1774, and published posthumous serials in the mail of Madrid (February 1788 - July 1789) since the censorship did not allow its publication. The first edition in volume was Madrid, Sancha, 1793, and reprinted in Barcelona in 1796. They form a complete moral, social and critical analysis of the life and Spanish customs of his time, made with remarkable grace and irony. They enroll in the line of epistolary literature of fashion in Europe in the 18th century, combined with the tradition of travel books. Fashion of the traveler from another country, preferably far away and different culture, was used to prosecute the European countries. Montesquieu, with his Lettres Persannes (Persian letters), provided a model that several European authors followed. Gallows declares its purpose in the introduction: "these charts try the national character, which is in the day and which has been". Therefore become one of the fundamental models of our enlightened 18th-century literature.

It is a collection of ninety letters written by three fictional characters: the Moroccan Gazel, young man who stayed in Spain after the return to Morocco's Ambassador in whose Entourage traveled; his former teacher Ben-Beley, old philosopher who lives retired in their country of origin; and Nuño Núñez, his Spanish friend. Gallows marks the differences between these characters through the style of his letters and the views expressed. Not conform to any chronological or thematic order, letters treated very different topics, although subordinate to an intentionality: give a critical vision of the Spanish reality of their time. Gazel stays in different places is giving rise to very heterogeneous topics, something that was usual in these types of works. Many of them have now lost validity: population shortage, University education, the abandonment of cities police, the backwardness of the sciences, the futility of the noble class, the neglect of agriculture, administrative corruption, the ambition of politicians... These various issues are related, on the one hand, the history of Spain, customs, education, language and the values of the country; on the other hand, economic and philosophical issues of universality as a luxury, secluded life and posthumous fame. The point of view of the traveller, distanced itself from this society, is discovering new perspectives with a critical sense.

With regard to the genre of marruecas letters there have been different opinions. The author considered it a not sentimental epistolary novel but exotic travel. Other critics relate them to satirico-didactica prose, are their backgrounds in Cervantes or Quevedo, or consider them a history of the romantic customs, especially of Larra. The cards had great acceptance outside our country. Soon, in 1808 were translated into French by Froment Champ-la-Garde, and in 1825 the English, albeit in a piecemeal manner. At the end of the 19th they acquired new force when the polemics about Spain and its regeneration is exacerbated. They have attracted the attention of many researchers. Gallows left unpublished a defense of the Spanish nation against the blind letter LXXVIII of Montesquieu, which corrects some appreciations of the French essayist on our country.

The Noches lúgubres are published, also posthumous, in the mail of Madrid between December 1789 and January 1790. The first complete edition was Barcelona, printing of tailors, 1798. In this work the author displayed a new sensibility that began to manifest at that time, most in the pre-romantic Europe than in Spain: taste for showcasing the personal feelings of pain, anguish and melancholy. It is difficult to assess the artistic values and the originality of gallows in this work, above all for those who linked life and literature, and only see it as the autobiography of gallows in the episode of the death of his beloved. However, some critics have found other literary sources: the influence of a popular romance and the issue of the deceased pleiteada, treated by various authors including Boccaccio, Bandello, Shakespeare, Lope de Vega, among others. The work belongs to the tombstone, of fashion in Europe in the mid-18th century and characterized by the interest in the macabre, necrophilia, cadaver, the scenery of storms, lights and shadows... Gallows wrote them in imitation of the Young English. Three episodes, related to three nights, tells how the young Tediato trying to unearth, in the crypt of a church, the corpse of his beloved, aided by the gravedigger Lorenzo. The action is complicated with a crime unrelated to the protagonist takes you to jail which prevents you from completing your task. They are written by way of dialogue, although they are rather declamados monologues. Prose, subjected to a poetic rhythm, tends more to awaken sensitivity that reasoning. Both in style and plot situations the author's philosophical concern is reflected by injustice and the adversities of life. The macabre and night themes greatly please the romantics, who edited many times the Noches lúgubres (1802, 1804, 1815, 1817, 1818, 1819, 1823, 1827, 1828, 1829, 1842...).

After the death of Cadalso, several satires in prose, which were published in the press or were including later in various collections of his works were published under his name. One of them is the optics of the procession. Clear mirror in that with practical demonstrations of understanding how pointless such employment is made manifest. Leisure activities political, dealing with relations between the sexes and the bad consequences of intimate friendships which are called courtship. The authorship of scaffold is not very clear. Others are: annals of five days, where the saw and wrote what happens in the century illustrated, and a guide to sons of neighbors and strangers.

Complete the work in prose of Cadalso an unfinished autobiography entitled memory of the specific events of my life, with three "continuations", of which there is a modern Edition of N. Glendinning and N. Harrison; and a patchwork quilt of personal letters to poets of Salamanca and other characters (literary, military, aristocrats) of his time.

Cadalso, playwright

Within the literary production of Cadalso, theatre occupies a secondary place, although it was possibly the genre which first cultivated. Not obtaining great success during his lifetime, and with the passage of time nor it has appreciated. He wrote three tragedies, one of them lost, perhaps by participating in the attempt of the Earl of Aranda of spreading and acclimate this genre to our dramatic ways. Cadalso is in these works of love between people from different countries and cultures, as well as the struggle between personal ambitions and obligations to family, society or the nation. They follow the neoclassical mandatory.

Solaya or the Circassians was written to 1770 and remained unpublished until 1982. In his time is not represented nor was published, since it did not exceed the censorship procedures. It dramatizes a confrontation between the feeling of love and social conventions, with a cruel ending. Don Sancho García, count of Castile, in 1771, is written in paired endecasilabos and divided into five acts. Set in medieval times, presents an old legendary theme: the Countess of Castile, Mrs. Ava, mother of el conde don Sancho García, tries to poison her son please his mistress Almanzor, who aspired to occupy the Castilian throne. There is little dramatic tension and an expected outcome. It was reprinted in Madrid in 1784 and 1785. There are references that wrote another tragedy in five acts, loss, entitled La numantina, read at the gathering of the Fonda de San Sebastián.

Essential bibliography


Autobiography. Noches lúgubres, ed. Manuel Camarero. Madrid: Castalia, 1988. Manual calendar and guide to Cyprus, ed. Nigel Glendinning outsiders. Madrid: CSIC, 1982. Marruecas letters. Noches lúgubres, ed. Rogelio Reyes. Barcelona: Promotions and University publications, 1989. Autobiographical writings and letters, ed. Nigel Glendinning and Nicole Harrison. London: Thames Book, 1979. Poetry, ed. Rogelio Reyes Cano. Cadiz: University, 1993. Solaya or the Circassians, ed. Francisco Aguilar Piñal. Madrid: Castalia, 1982.


VV. AA.: International Symposium on José Cadalso (Bologna, October 26-28, 1982). Abano Terme: Piovan editore, 1985.AA. VV.: good man. Studies on the life and work of Cadalso. Granada: Universidad, 1982.AA. VV.: gallows. Cadiz: Diputación Provincial, 1983, 2 vols.BAQUERO GOYANES, Mariano: Perspectivism and contrast. Of gallows to Pérez de Ayala. Madrid: Gredos, 1963.DOMERGUE, Lucienne: "lights and censorship: the case of gallows", in three coves in the 18th-century censorship. Toulouse: Université de T-Le Mirail, 1981, pp. 9-39.EDWARS, J. K.: three images of José Cadalso: critic, the moralist, the creator. Seville: Publications of the University, 1976.GLENDINNING, Nigel: life and work of Cadalso. Madrid: Gredos, 1962.HUGHES, j. B.: José Cadalso and Marruecas letters. Madrid: Tecnos, 1969.MATUS, e.: "An interpretation of Cadalso marruecas charts", in philological studies, 3 (1967), pp. 67-91.PALACIOS FERNÁNDEZ, Emilio: "José Cadalso, vizcainia lesson", in AA.VV., II seminar of history of the Royal Society Basque of friends of the country. San Sebastián: RSBAP, 1989, pp. 9-29.SEBOLD, R. P.: gallows: the first "European" romantic of Spain. Madrid: Gredos, SANDOVAL, f. 1974.ximenez: gallows. Life and death of a soldier poet. Madrid: Editora Nacional, 1967.