Biography of Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo (1856-1912)

Spanish polygraph born in Santander on November 3, 1856, and died in the same city on May 19, 1912.

Biographical synthesis

Very precocious intellectually, began his university studies in philosophy and letters in Barcelona, completing them in Madrid and Valladolid and expanding them through several journeys by different European countries; in this period of training was intellectually influenced by Llorens, Mila i Fontanal and Laverde. In 1878, with only 21 years of age, he/she won the Chair of literature at the Universidad Central de Madrid; two years later, he/she joined the Royal Spanish Academy and at the Royal Academy of history in 1882 (would be its director in 1911); It would also later member of the of moral and political sciences (1889) and San Fernando (1892). He/She was also elected several times Deputy and Senator from 1884. In 1898 he/she left teaching to lead the national library.

He wrote a large number of books on philosophy, poetry, history and literature; the most important were: the Spanish Science (c. 1874); Horacio in Spain and Epistle to Horacio (1876); History of the Spanish heterodox (1880-1882); Calderon and his theatre (1881); History of aesthetic ideas in Spain (1882-1886); Studies of literary criticism (1884-1908); Anthology of líricos castellanos (1890-1908); Essays in philosophical criticism (1892); Anthology of American poets (1893-1895); Bibliography hispanolatina classic (1902); and origins of the novel (1905-1910). His work, patriotic and Catholic, was used as ideology by conservative movements of the restoration period (see the Spanish restoration in Spain, history of (13): 1875-1931) and even later. He/She came to own a library of more than 40,000 volumes, which was formed after his death the library Menéndez Pelayo in Santander.

Formation of Menéndez Pelayo: a precocious scholar

He was the son of Marcelino Menéndez painted, originally from Asturias (Professor of mathematics and then Mayor of Santander), and María Jesús Pelayo, Cantabria. He/She began his studies in his hometown, emphasizing soon by his intellectual capacity. He/She obtained ordinary Prize in all subjects in high school, except in geometry, where resigned from the exam (his father was one of the judges). He/She then learned latin and English (which would add then French, Italian and German). He/She frequented the tertulia of the bookshop Hernández which involved his uncle Juan Pelayo with little age. Through its philosophy professor Agustín Gutiérrez was informed of school founded by Thomas Reid, Scottish psychologistic why was interested since then.

In 1871 he/she moved to Barcelona to study philosophy and literature, by choosing this University not by chance, but because there was teaching the Professor José Ramón de Luanco, friend of his father, and because it was one of the few schools that had escaped to the existing rationalism at that time, he/she was not partisan Menéndez Pelayo. His stay there was high incidence in their formation, receiving the influence of two teachers, especially the second: Francesc Xavier Llorens i Barba and Manuel Milà i Fontanals. Llorens gave him, during the few months that was unable to attend their classes before his death, his first philosophical foundations, while Mila gave him their aesthetic and historical sense to so own it would be after Menéndez Pelayo. Established also friendship with characters such as the scholar Antoni Rubió i Lluch or the poet Miquel Costa and Llobera.

He moved to the University of Madrid Professor Luanco, in 1873, the Menéndez Pelayo young followed, there doing the course 1873-1874. In addition to his studies continued scholarly work promptly initiated in Barcelona, looking for different library information for a project of the library of Spanish translators; also it continued to collaborate in the miscellaneous Barcelona magazine. It was submitted to the final review of metaphysics by rejecting krausism of the professor who taught the course, Nicolás Salmerón (also President of the Republic). That is why he/she went to Valladolid to approve it, graduating here on September 27, 1874; It was in this city where he/she met the philosopher Gumersindo Laverde, the third of their masters. He/She returned to Madrid for his PhD, degree obtained in June of the following year with a thesis titled the novel among latinos (published shortly afterwards in Santander). In your search for information on translators had added data to a bibliography of Spanish writers and a few studies about writers Highlanders, as well as writing some articles for the Catholic Spain.

Dedicating from then to write with prodigality, he/she continued with their old projects and initiated various works and collaborations, including the history of the Spanish heterodox, history of aesthetics in Spain and some letters (also called Spanish science) that refute a thesis of Gumersindo de Azcárate, defended the existence of a scientific tradition and philosophical Spanish. These recent writings have symbol value of the Menéndez Pelayo, controversial young and his style. In January 1875, received a grant from the Santander City Council to travel around Europe and studying the literature of the countries visited (this would be added funds in May 1876 by the provincial Council of Santander and in 1877 by the Ministry of development). Thus, in September 1876 he/she moved to Lisbon; then ended his Horacio in Spain in Santander and, related to this work, his best poem: Epistle to Horacio, Latin author whose poetry was considered the most perfect. It was in Italy from January 1877, visiting libraries, Rome, Naples, Florence, Bologna, Venice and Milan. While in June in Paris he/she met the catalan poet Jacinto Verdaguer, which praised intensely. He/She continued his trip by Belgium (Brussels and Antwerp) and the Netherlands (Amsterdam).

The maturity of Menéndez Pelayo: writer, Professor, academician and politician

I visited the Colombina library in Seville when he/she learned of the death of José Amador the Ríos (January 1878), which left free the Chair of literature at the Central University. Menéndez Pelayo, after approved in May the lowering of the minimum age to be eligible for chairs (he was then 21 years), went to Santander to prepare the programme of open competitions. In October he/she took with great brilliance the three exercises that are demanded, December 20, received the appointment and two days later took possession. In January 1879 he/she began his work as a Professor; in December 1880, deceased Eugenio Hartzenbusch, occupied this site in the Royal Spanish Academy at only 24 years of age. In March of that year he/she had published the first volume of the history of the Spanish heterodox, and in December the second (third and last in 1882). Passionate about youth work at the same time that at first maturity, he/she reviewed various intellectuals, scientists and Spanish writers of the past and contemporary. He/She was very apologetic in many of its passages, and he/she himself, when he/she had already perfected their methods of analysis, would later point out faults in some "preliminary warnings" included in a new edition of the book. In any case, its publication had great effect on the intellectual atmosphere of the period.

In 1881 he/she gave some lectures about Calderon and his theatre, then published in book form, and in 1882 entered the Royal Academy of history instead of José Moreno Nieto. During the summer brought materials for the history of aesthetic ideas in Spain, another of his great works (its first volume was given to the printing house in 1882, the second in 1883, and ended publication in 1886, when came the third), which in its content exceeds by far the Spanish field to relate the Hispanic culture with the European. In 1884 he/she entered politics, being elected Deputy for Mallorca, although his work in this field was very small. The following years, among others many commissions began publishing anthology of líricos castellanos (1890-1908, collection still in use) and the works of Mila i Fontanals, who died in 1884, his roles had left. In 1889 he/she was appointed Librarian of the Academy of history; He/She took on behalf of the Spanish Academy, the direction of a very scholarly complete edition of the works of Lope de Vega (1892-1902), and was elected member of the Academy of moral sciences and Politicas.en October 1890 died his master and friend Laverde; This event marked the rest of his work, more focused since then on the literary and the historical which in philosophy. Member of the conservative party, in 1892 (the issue date of her essays in philosophical criticism) was elected Deputy by Zaragoza, between 1893 and 1895 was Senator of the University of Oviedo, and from 1899 until his death, representative of the Spanish Academy in the Senate. From 1895 he/she was also Dean of the Faculty of Arts of the Central University, while he/she continued with the publication of the works of Lope de Vega and began anthology of American poets (1893-1895). In 1898, leaving his chair in literature, replaced the recently deceased Manuel Tamayo and Baus in the direction of the national library, at the time dealing with the edition of the magazine's archives.

In 1901 he/she entered also at the Academia de San Fernando; in 1902 he/she published bibliography hispanolatina classic, and in 1905 was proposed for the Nobel Prize for literature. From 1905 until 1910 he/she devoted himself especially to the origins of the novel and the publication of his complete works, which was unable to complete more than in its first two volumes of the planned 19 (many of its loose works were collected in studies of literary criticism, 1884-1908). In 1911 he/she was elected director of the Academy of history, but the following year died on 2 may from cirrhosis, at age 51. He/She bequeathed his enormous and valuable library of some 40,000 books ("the work of my patient effort, only my work which I am fairly satisfied") to the city of Santander, base of the current library Menéndez Pelayo, for which the architect Leonardo Rucabado built a large building next to the former home of the polygraph. It also gave its name to International University after the reopening of their courses, after the Civil War, in the Palacio de la Magdalena.

Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo and his work

Great curiosity and incredible memory capacity, constant worker, spent almost all of his salary (remained unmarried all his life) in acquiring books. Insert in the cultural world of his time, who praised him, was related to the politician and historian Antonio Cánovas de Castillo; with the writer and politician Ramón de Campoamor; with the man of letters and politician Gaspar Núñez de Arce; with the novelist and diplomat Juan Valera; or with Juan, Luis and Ramón Menéndez Pidal (poet, painter and scholar, respectively). About Ramón Menéndez Pidal had great influence in their early days, as well as in a whole generation of intellectuals who later studied his work and the scope of this.

Scholar and critic, but loving beauty, tried to give his artistic sense, according to its principle of "idealization of reality", the modifications imposed by the artist objects. Philosophically not was assigned to any of the major existing schools then, the neotomismo and the krausismo; He/She declared it "vivista", in reference to the philosophy of Luis Vives, which for him was a synonym for freedom of thought. Driven by its strong patriotic sense, regeneracionista and Catholic, created, by way of personal contribution to the nation, the first accurate picture of Spanish culture. For this purpose he/she studied thoroughly not only sources in Spanish, but also not Castilian Spanish literature and its Latin predecessor, as well as works and hitherto little-known writers. This picture, of unquestionable value, was moreover conditioned by their ideas, that sometimes, especially in his youth, became conservative prejudices and bias (as for example, his animosity toward the Germanic, which for him would be the opposite of the latino-cristiano spirit). By its immense intellectual work can not be considered him only a literary critic, a historian of philosophy or a poet, but a polygraph interested in all fields of the humanities.

Thereof, to plan the edition of his complete works and distributed materials: I) history of the Spanish heterodox; (II) history of the Castilian poetry in the middle ages; (III) Treaty of the old romances; (IV) Juan Boscán; (V) history of Hispano-American poetry, from its origins until 1892; (VI) origins of the Spanish novel, and study of the previous Cervantes novelists; (VII) studies and speeches of literary criticism; (VIII) essays in philosophical criticism; (IX) the Spanish science; (X) history of aesthetic ideas in Spain until the end of the 18th century; (XI) history of aesthetic ideas in Spain until the end of the 19th century; (XII) history of French romanticism; (XIII) complete poems and translations of works of poetry; (XIV) a translation of some works of Cicero; (XV) Calderon and his theatre; (XVI) hispanolatina classical bibliography; (XVII) booklets of erudition and literature; (XVIII) Horacio in Spain; and 19th) studies on the theater of Lope de Vega.

Links on the Internet ; Page about Menéndez Pelayo (with photos and bibliography on his life and work), the House-Museum and library Menéndez Pelayo, the Menéndez Pelayo society, etc. (in Spanish). ; Page with more information and pictures of the library Menéndez Pelayo of Santander (in Spanish). ; Page with a section that includes the full text of some of the works of Menéndez Pelayo (in Spanish). ; Page with information on the complete works of Menéndez Pelayo, included a version on CD-ROM (in Spanish).


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