Biography of Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos (1744-1811)

Portrait of Jovellanos. Goya.

Writer, jurist, poet, Economist, antiquarian, magistrate and Spanish politician, born in Gijón 5 January 1744 (in what today is House of Jovellanos Museum), during the reign of Felipe V, and died in Vega (Asturias) in 1811, one of the most prominent men of the age of enlightenment.


He was son of a noble family of long descent, which enjoyed an average economy. His childhood was developed in an atmosphere of intellectual curiosity. He received his first training of latinity in his hometown. In 1757, he began his studies of philosophy at the University of Oviedo, where he met P. Feijoo, a Benedictine monk who was then eighty-four years old. He then joined make ecclesiastical studies in Ávila, the University and established Seminary created in the Spanish city to the Asturian Bishop don Romualdo Velarde Cienfuegos. In June 1761 he graduated Bachelor in canons by the University of Osma, and in 1763 of Bachelor in canons by the University of Ávila. During these years his humanistic spirit was formed with learning latin and reading of the classics Horacio, Virgil, Cicero, Sallust, Pliny, among others.

In 1764 Jovellanos was awarded a scholarship as a schoolboy of the Mayor de San Ildefonso of the University of Alcalá de Henares, after approving the corresponding exercises, to continue his ecclesiastical studies. In this city he met gallows, which probably oriented in the literary field, and don Pedro Rodríguez de Campomanes, paisano's own and one of the leading figures of the enlightenment. That same year graduated of Bachelor in canons by the University of Alcalá and in June, 1767 opositó unsuccessfully to a professorship of Decree of that University. Decided to follow an ecclesiastical career, had intention of opositar to a doctoral canonry of Tuy, but he changed his mind due perhaps to the advice they received from Juan Agustín Ceán Bermúdez, historian and art critic and, later, academic of San Fernando. This made a thorough portrait of the Jovellanos at that time: "was stature provided, high to low, graceful body, head-up, white and blond, bright eyes, legs, and arms well facts, feet and hands as bridesmaid, and stepped on firm and Honourable by nature, although some believed that by impacting." It was clean and neat in dress, sober in the eating and drinking, caring and restrained in the family deal, which drew with nice and well modulated voice [...] and if ever he was distinguished with the beautiful, was with gloss, talent and education, but never the foolish and misconduct. Mostly it was generous, gorgeous, and even prodigal in their short powers: religious without concern, naive and simple, lover of truth, order and justice: firm decisions, but always gentle and benign with the destitute; constant in friendship, grateful to their benefactors, tireless in the study, and hard and strong for the job"(memories for life. Mr. D. Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, 1814, pp. (12-13).

On October 31, 1767 the Chamber Council proposed to Jovellanos to the post of Mayor of the crime of the Real audience of Seville, which was named the 13 February 1768, perhaps by mediation of Campomanes. I had no experience in the judiciary, but was well prepared intellectually, had a great fondness for the study and a strong sense of the values of Justice. Read profitably to Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Beccaria, while learning English reading in their native language to Milton and translating to Young. In the Andalusian city was his first love, a woman poetically named Enarda or Chloris, that we can not identify, and although it must have been a requited love ended this relationship in 1769 when she left Seville. From the rise to the throne of Carlos III, in 1759, the enlightened policy entered a phase of growth. Campomanes, count of Aranda and Rodawere the main promoters of this policy, which exerted a great influence among reform-minded young people beginning to occupy positions of responsibility. In these years Aranda promoted reform of the University of Alcalá, and Olavideof Sevilla. These years were very important for the ideological formation of Jovellanos, who was forced to confront the laws with the daily problems of the Sevillian society. It belonged to the Group of enlightened leaders and participated in a regular way in the tertulia intendente Olavide organized at his residence in the Alcázar, where Jovellanos had the opportunity to refine his pictorial ideas and cultivating his love of letters. She wrote numerous tax reports and wrote several dramatic works to represent in the Coliseum of the Palace (the tragedy Pelayo, the sentimental drama the honest delinquent, or the translation of the tragedy of Racine Ifigenia in Aulide), and his poetic hobby, took hold as he entered in connection with Juan Meléndez Valdés, poet in the Salmantina school. His professional worth favoured his rise, in 1774, to the post of judge of the same Royal audience, from which it became one of the most prominent members of his Government room. His ten years Jovellanos in Seville were of vital importance for its professional, intellectual, human and literary formation.

Appointed mayor of House and Court, left Sevilla 27 August 1778, and took possession of his new office in Madrid on 20 October. Then it started to be a character known in the Court in his dual role of judge and man of letters, due to its own merits, as the protection of Campomanes. That same year he joined the Madrid economic society, which worked actively; in 1779 in the Academy's history; in 1780 at the Academia de San Fernandocomo member of honour, and in the economic society of Asturias as an honorary individual; in 1781 the Spanish Academy and in 1782 in the canyons as fee. He developed a feverish activity during these years, forming part of diverse societies, chairing meetings, pronouncing speeches and praise, reporting and receiving, in general, all kinds of commissions. He defended numerous causes to the Minister Floridablanca, especially those related to his Asturian homeland. It manifested itself as a full judge and great firmness in defence of the principles of the law. Jovellanos was gradually turning into one of the most prominent characters of the enlightened policy.

It also conducted activities in relation to the letters and the arts. For the first time, he was portrayed by Goya. He attended the political gathering of Campomanes and himself gathered in his house to his friends writers. He wrote the "Epistle of el Paular", two "satires to Arnesto" (1786 and 87) and a praise of Carlos III (1789), political argument in favour of the Earl of Aranda and against Floridablanca. He participated in various literary polemics in defense of neoclassical aesthetics. He traveled much, interested to find manuscripts or historical documents that I read and sent copy whole or extracted. Accepted on behalf of the Academy of history the drafting of a report on the shows, a thoughtful reform of public entertainment project.

Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos: memory for the array of entertainment and amusement, public policy.

After the death of Carlos III in 1788, and in particular with the policy which began to be implemented because of the effects of the French Revolution (1789) changed the tide for Jovellanos. Since I had worked for several years in the record of reform of studies in the schools of the military orders in Salamanca, Carlos IV named him in 1790 visitor of the Calatrava. He undertook the voyage on 5 April and once done the literary and institutional regulation returned to the Court in August, in the days of the persecution of Cabarrus, intending to defend it. This earned him the enmity of Queen María Luisa and Godoy . The Inquisition opened a process and Government away it from the Court and, under the pretext of a visit to the coal mines of Asturias, he was banished to Gijón from 28 August until the year 1797. From the intellectual point of view, exile was fruitful: she wrote the report of the agrarian law, ended up memory shows (re-fashioned in 1796), founded the Real Instituto Asturiano of nautical and Mineralogy (1794), read numerous works of Spanish and foreign, made several trips and maintained an abundant correspondence with his friends.

Away from the Court, there was a sector of the Government, which missed its work and its ability to intellectual and literary, so it started to miss to Jovellanos and seek an apology for its return. It was finally rehabilitated in 1797. He was first named Ambassador to Russia and then Minister of grace and justice, who played only for nine months in a difficult situation, despite which brought forward several educational projects and a representation to the King about the Holy Office, agency seeking again the control of the Spanish society. It appears that supporters of the Inquisition and the antipathy that Queen María Luisa professed him were the immediate causes of early dismissal. Returned to Gijón, he devoted himself to the Institute, which he had founded, to reading, walking and to cultivate friendly relations. It was a time of tranquility, not exempt from misunderstanding by some.

In a new campaign against the enlightened unorthodox Jovellanos is accused. He was again arrested and 13 March 1801 he was sentenced to exile on the island of Majorca, the first led to the Carthusian monastery of Valldemossa, and the following year to Bellver Castle in Palma, where he remained imprisoned until April, 1808, subjected to all sorts of harassment. The loneliness of exile served to expand their knowledge and specialize in subjects previously unknown to it, as the history of Mallorca. After the mutiny of Aranjuez, which ended with the power of Godoy, and shortly after climbing to the throne Fernando VII, was left at liberty. He returned to the peninsula in the dates in which began the war of independence. Both sides wanted to have the political experience of Jovellanos. While the people saw in Napoleon an invader, a large part of the enlightened thought that with the Bonaparte could definitely fruitful "spirit of lights" that placed our country at a higher level. However, Jovellanos refused to be Interior Minister of King José I as that, on the contrary, accepted the appointment of the Principality of Asturias to represent you in the Central Board, directing the political and military actions against the French. He had to flee to Andalusia. When the Regency Council was established in 1810, the writer asked permission to retire to his native land. He took refuge in Galicia unable to get to Asturias, occupied by the French. There he wrote the memory in defense of the Central Board, which was published in La Coruña in 1811. That same year became back to Gijón, which again had to leave before a new conquest by the French. Shortly after he contracted pneumonia and died at age 68 in Puerto de Vega (Asturias).

The prose of Jovellanos

The literary work of Jovellanos is abundant and varied. Many of his books are trials that are in relation with the occupations of the author. The most frequent topics are those of Economics, politics and pedagogy, although it dealt with other issues. As a member of the economic societies had to carry out reports on various issues: Trade Union legislation, the import of oils, road construction, mining, the participation of women in the Madrid, in praise of the fine arts, the study and education, on the placement of the graves outside the temples... His writings combine the implementation of the principles of the new school enlightened and liberal with the clarity of a modern style, away from the old baroque flourishes.

The most interesting is the report on the record of the agrarian law, model of methodical presentation with certain amenity, taking into account the arid theme. The report was requested by the Council of Castile to the economic society of Madrid, who commissioned him to Jovellanos, which, after several years of study, delivered it in 1794 and was published the following year in the printing of Sancha. The author highlights the the decline of agriculture, the causes that motivated it and clogs who oppose their progress. The work was not well received by some sectors of society, especially by the Church, because he believed it was an attack on the privileges of the Church.

Commissioned by the Academy of history, which the Council of Castile had asked it to reform legislation, Jovellanos wrote memory for the arrangement of police shows and public amusements and its origin in Spain. After a first version of 1790, it had its final version in 1796. It is a study divided into two parts: the first, historical, is about the origin and development of the public entertainment in our country; the second, more critical and reformist, proposes solutions to the limitations that the people have in the forms of fun. His proposals for the reform of the play are very interesting.

In some of the works in prose the author exposed his political thinking. His ideal was the monarchy constitutional and, socially, the defense of the existence of an industrious people in which property was distributed equally, which will enjoy maximum freedom in their customs and their economic activities. So it seemed that combined order, freedom and the rights of the individual. It condemned abuses of authority and breach of duties by the leaders. They are works as speech... on the establishment of a Montepio for the nobles of the Court and the memory in defense of the Central Board, in 1810, one of the last works written by Jovellanos.

Linked with the political and economic thought is the subject of the teaching, which appears in several speeches about the need to modernize it and to encourage studies: regulation for the Colegio de Calatrava (1790), report on public education (1802), a heated defense of education as an instrument of progress, or Bases for the formation of a general plan of public instruction (1809).

The description of Bellver Castle was written by Jovellanos in 1805 to send it to his friend Juan Agustín Ceán Bermúdez, art historian. Interested in the architecture of stones, fauna and flora that had been in place, and the human past is associating with them. Watching the landscape surrounding the Castle, set in the natural beauty and the crops.

The correspondence of Jovellanos is very abundant, as correspondence occupied a pride of place in his intellectual activity. In him are all the problems that worried the writer, so it is important to understand their thinking and even read some of his writings. 1782 are letters of the tour of Asturias, written by incitement of Antonio Ponz, of great importance in the artistic, economic and anthropological aspect of his girl.

The Asturian writer left unpublished an interesting folders that contained his diaries (1790-1801), published later, including a detailed and interesting information from his biography of these years. His reading is necessary to clarify some of the problems experienced in these years, political and cultural interests, and relationships that the author had with certain people.

Jovellanos, poet

A taste for poetry and the poetry readings was always accompanied by Jovellanos. Read the Greek and Latin, classics to which cited on numerous occasions; the Italians (Petrarch, Tasso, Ariosto, Guarini); and above all the poets of the Spanish Renaissance: Garcilaso de la Vega and Fray Luis de León, which considered to be the most advisable for everyone.

Jovellanos wrote poetry since his youth. His older compositions are of 1768, one year after his arrival in Seville, although it was from 1779 to 1787 when he wrote the most famous. In life of the author were only published seven poems, one identified as yours, signed two and the remaining anonymous. Sixty poems, some translated, and other five fragments and drafts, as well as eleven poems of questionable attribution are preserved. Are love theme, occasion verses, satires about social issues and against specific individuals, Epistles, etc. The metric shapes used were the sonnet, the romance, the romancillo, the sapphic stanza and the trio, although it preferred the loose endecasilabos that believed that the poetic rhythm manifested itself better.

When he began writing his first poems already it was in full decline Baroque lyric and practiced a simple poetry, metaphors without wit, of neoclassic style games. Contact with gallows, big driver of the new poetry in his time, oriented their poetic tastes. Both exerted the Magisterium for components in the Salmantina school (Meléndez Valdés and José Iglesias de la Casa, Fray Diego Tadeo González, Juan Fernández de Rojas...). These poets wrote them Jovellanos in 1776 from Sevilla the "letter from Jovino Salamanca friends", of the didactic genre, which was intended to convince them that they abandon the pointless poetry pastoral and anacreontics, and would be devoted to philosophical issues that seemed most useful to him. To leave Seville, composed the "Jovino Epistle to friends of Seville", which expresses his sadness at leaving this city in which he had lived happy moments.

The loving theme was one of the favorites by Jovellanos in the first period. In his poems are numerous female poetic names: Enarda, Chloris, Marina, Belisa, Galatea, Alcmene; Perhaps some of them were given a same lady at different times. One of the earliest compositions, "Elegy to the absence of Marina", in 1769 or 1770, focused on the theme of the absence, recalls singing Salicio the Eclogue I of Garcilaso. In 1779, he wrote one of his best lyrical poems, the "Jovino Epistle to Anfriso" or "Epistle of El Paular", whose theme is the memory of the infidelities of Enarda that can not forget in the quiet landscape of El Paular. The poem is transformed completely the following year, perhaps out of a desire to not act out their innermost feelings.

Jovellanos also wrote satirical poetry in two satires aimed "To Arnesto", which are a statement against the sexual disorder of high society, caused perhaps by fans to the luxury and fashion that comes from France. "Satire against the poor education of the nobility" criticizes the nobles that failed its function in society (the aplebeyados, the francized, the degenerate...). Philosophical theme is the "Epistle to Batilo", focused on the description of the landscape that can be seen from San Marcos de León, and recommended his friend Melendez who abandon classrooms for this beauty. Other poems that have been recalled are: "Epistle to Inarco", "Epistle to Bermudo".

Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos. "To Arnesto" (first satire).

Obra dramática de Jovellanos

In 1769 he wrote the tragedy the death of Munuza (or Pelayo). He corrected it between 1771 and 1772, says the author in the prologue, and thought to edit it before its release. But it remained unpublished, although it was known by his friends. It seems that it was represented in 1782 in Gijón by a group of fans, and later in Madrid in 1792 with Munuza title. According to the author there he imitated to Racine and Voltaire, although imitation is above all to follow the mandatory neoclassical derived, ultimately, of the poetics of Aristotle. It is divided into five acts. The subject is historical and narrates the events which are taking place on the eve of the battle of Covadonga. The characters are high class and versification is in romance hendecasyllable, preferred by several tragic authors of the time. He was a translator of the tragedy of Racine, Iphigénie en Aulide, which is represented in the tertulia de Olavide in Seville.

During their stay in Seville, in 1773, Jovellanos wrote another play, honored offenders, who represented successfully in 1774 at the theatre of the Royal sites, case González not can specify if in Aranjuez or San Ildefonso. It was first published in an Edition, unauthorized by the author and then, in 1787, under the pseudonym of Toribio Suárez of Langreo. From 1786 clearly has the authorship of Jovellanos. The work follows the dramatic units: single action that lasts for about a day and that happens in the Alcazar of Segovia, although in different parts of the building. Offers some new features: is written in prose; the characters belong to the world of the judiciary and are expressed not only by words but also by gestures and attitudes that are already specified in the stage directions; It does not follow the neoclassical rule that distinguished between the dramatic genres by the social class of the characters. Also the title offers a contrast, which is manifest in the judge, forced to violate their personal convictions and to act against his human instincts. These characteristics correspond to a new theatrical genre that existed in France and in England, urban tragedy or comedy lacrimosa. Jovellanos is intended with this work demonstrate the injustice of a law which condemned the two participants in a duel, challenged and Challenger, were or not guilty. How to understand justice so critical.

Essential bibliography


Anthology, ed. J. M. case González. Barcelona: Planeta, 1992. Journal, ed. Miguel Artola. Madrid: Rivadeneyra, 1956 (2 vols). Literary writings, ed. J. M. Caso González. Madrid: Espasa Calpe, 1987. Report on shows and public amusements. Report on the agrarian law, ed. Guillermo Carnero. Madrid: Cátedra, 1996. Complete works, ed. J. M. Caso. Oviedo: Institute Feijoo, 1984-1990 (6 vols). Poetry, ed. J. M. case González. Oviedo: IEA, 1961. Poetry. Theatre. Literary prose, ed. J. H. R. Polt. Madrid: Taurus, 1993.


AGUILAR PIÑAL, Francisco: Olavide Seville, 1767-1778. Sevilla: Ayuntamiento, 1966.--: Seville and the theatre in the 18th century. Oviedo: CE Feijoo, 1974--: Jovellanos (1778) library. Madrid: CSIC, 1984.ANDIOC, René: Theatre and society in eighteenth-century Madrid. 2nd ed. Madrid: Fundación Juan March-Castalia, 1988.ARCE, Joaquin: the poetry of the century illustrated. Madrid: Alhambra, 1981.BARAS school, f.: the political reformism of Jovellanos. Zaragoza: Universidad, 1993.CASO GONZÁLEZ, José Miguel: the poetics of Jovellanos. Madrid: Press Spanish, 1972--: Jovellanos. Barcelona: Ariel, 1998.fernandez ALVAREZ, Manuel: Jovellanos. Madrid, 1988.GALINDO, f.: the spirit of century XVIII and the personality of Jovellanos. Oviedo: IDEA, 1971.PALACIOS FERNÁNDEZ, Emilio: Spanish folk theatre of the 18th century. Lleida: Millennium, 1998.POLT, John H. R.: Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos. New York: Twayne, 1971.RICK, Lilian L.: critical bibliography of Jovellanos (1901-1976). Oviedo: Chair Feijoo, 1977 (texts and studies of the eighteenth century, 7).