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ArribaA note of the genesis of the Episodios Nacionales

Brian J. Dendle

Hans Hinterhäuser, in studying the genesis of the episodios nacionales, has drawn attention to Gabriel's statements -defining the period and certain historical events which he will evoke in Trafalgar and subsequent novels- in the two closing paragraphs of the first chapter of Trafalgar.253 Hinterhäuser argues that Gabriel's declarations provide evidence of Galdós' plan for the first series of episodios and suggest that Galdós originally intended Gabriel to be the protagonist of two series of episodios. Furthermore, supplementing Hinterhäuser's findings, Rodolfo Cardona has presented conclusive evidence that, by the early summer of 1873, Galdós had already decided on the scope and titles of the first series of episodios and that, at the time of publication of Trafalgar (February, 1873), Galdós had already determined that Trafalgar was to be the first of a series of ten novels bearing the general title of episodios nacionales.254

My present research confirms, albeit with certain modifications, Hinterhäuser's conclusions. However, Gabriel's statements, as quoted by Hinterhäuser, cannot be adduced as evidence of Galdós' intent in any discussion of the genesis of the episodios nacionales. Hinterhäuser quotes from a recent edition of Trafalgar. The passages on which he bases his arguments differ, however, in significant details in the first edition of Trafalgar. Consideration of Gabriel's statements as given in the 1873 edition will establish that:

(1) as Hinterhäuser suggested, Galdós, at the time of composition of Trafalgar, intended to write two series of episodios nacionales255 presented in the form of the first-person narrative of Gabriel Araceli; Gabriel's memorias, however, were to cover the period 1805 to 1840 (and thus, presumably, the First Carlist War), not 1805 to 1834;

(2) Galdós had already decided, when composing Trafalgar, which historical events he wished to treat in the first series of episodios; his original plan, however, included treatment of the Battles of Talavera and San Marcial.

In the penultimate paragraph of the first chapter of Trafalgar (first edition, 1873; second edition, 1874), Gabriel declares that one emotion (patriotism) directed his actions between 1805 and 1840:

Sobre todos mis sentimientos domina uno, el que dirigió siempre mis acciones durante aquel azaroso período que duró desde 1805 hasta 1840.256

For the illustrated edition of the episodios (1881), the date has been modified to read:

Sobre todos mis sentimientos domina uno, el que dirigió siempre mis acciones durante aquel azaroso período que duró desde 1805 hasta 1834.257


The dates, whether revised or original, given by Gabriel bear little apparent relevance to his career as related in the episodios, for the first-person narration of his adventures ends in the year 1812, with the Battle of Los Arapiles. Gabriel reappears but briefly in the second series of episodios, to comment, in Memorias de un cortesano de 1815 (October, 1875), on Fernando's rule between 1814 and 1820. He is, however, for the purposes of Galdós' fiction, still alive (and overflowing with patriotic fervor) in the mid-1870s, from the vantage point of which he regards the experiences of his early youth.

The dates -1805 to 1834- given by Gabriel in the revised text refer, of course, as Hinterhäuser recognized, to the period covered by the first two series of episodios. There is but one possible explanation for Gabriel's statement, namely, that Galdós originally planned to continue the relation of Gabriel's adventures to the year 1840. Galdós then corrected the date -from 1840 to 1834- to correspond to the final year treated in the second series of episodios. That 1834 referred to the conclusion of Salvador Monsalud's adventures, and not Gabriel Araceli's seemingly escaped his attention.

At what stage in the composition of the first series did Galdós decide to abandon the adventures of Gabriel Araceli and the first-person narration which he increasingly found so difficult to handle?258 Possibly the decision was not made until the composition of La batalla de los Arapiles (February, March, 1875), the novel in which Salvador Monsalud is first presented. Certainly Galdós' change of plan is subsequent to the composition of Cádiz (September, October, 1874), for in this novel Gabriel coyly hints that he will later write of his new-found friend, the unsavory Calomarde.259

Professor Cardona has described an advertising sheet placed at the end of the first edition of Trafalgar and announcing plans for further episodios, to be entitled Isidoro Máiquez, El motín de Aranjuez, Bailén, Cádiz en 1809.260 Further information on Galdós' plans at the time of composition of Trafalgar is provided by the final paragraph of the first chapter of the novel, in which Gabriel announces the historical events which he intends to treat:

Muchas cosas voy a contar si Dios me concede un año más de vida. Trafalgar, Bailén, San Marcial, Talavera, Zaragoza, Arapiles, Gerona: de todo esto diré alguna cosa, si no os falta la paciencia.

(Trafalgar, first edition, 1873, p. 16)                

Gabriel's list complements the titles given in the advertising sheet. Combining the two lists, we have the titles of ten novels, which apparently form Galdós' original plan for the first series of episodios: Trafalgar, Isidoro Máiquez (published as La Corte de Carlos IV), El motín de Aranjuez (published as El 19 y el 2 de mayo), Bailén, Zaragoza, Talavera, Gerona, Cádiz en 1809 (published as Cádiz and covering the events of 1810), Arapiles (published as La batalla de los Arapiles), and San Marcial. (I have rearranged the order of the titles to correct Gabriel's chronology).

By early summer of 1873,261 Galdós had revised his plan for the first series of episodios, replacing Talavera and San Marcial by Napoleón en Chamartín and Juan Martín el Empecinado. The change reflects Galdós' first reassessment of the task which he had undertaken.262 Galdós had already written two episodios: Trafalgar, a rather clumsy (in its breathless presentation of heroics)   —139→   account of a naval battle, and the much more animated La Corte de Carlos IV, treating social life and the complicated interplay of life and art. At this stage in the composition of the episodios, Galdós, perhaps recognizing that his talents did not lie in the recreation of military actions, chooses to eliminate two novels which were to relate battles,263 replacing them by episodios placing greater emphasis on social life and literature (Napoleón en Chamartín) and character (Juan Martín el Empecinado).

Galdós' revised plan is reflected in the second edition of Trafalgar (1874). Gabriel's list is now modified to omit Talavera and San Marcial and to include Madrid: «Muchas cosas voy a contar. Trafalgar, Bailén, Madrid, Zaragoza, Arapiles, Gerona...».264

Perhaps Galdós did not immediately abandon his original intention to give some treatment of the Battle of Talavera in the episodios. Thus, in the final paragraph of Zaragoza (March, April, 1874), Gabriel declares that he had met Andrés Marijuán «cuando yo volvía de Talavera y él de Gerona». However, in Gerona (June, 1874), Gabriel lamely explains that he had had no part in the Battle of Talavera. «Poco puedo decir de la de Talavera que no sea por referencia, pues el 27 y 28 de julio me encontraba en Puente del Arzobispo...».265

University of Kentucky

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