Emilia Pardo Bazán

* 1851 (A Coruña) 1921 (Madrid) Spain
Fields of activity: Lliterature
Author: Carmen Vives Cases

A noble and powerful family in A Coruña (Galicia, Spain). Her mother encouraged her to read and write in an era when women were seldom encouraged to do so, even in the most privileged families of Spain. It comes as no surprise that she wrote her first poems at the age of 9 and published her first work at 15, a story called El Matrimonio del S.XIX (The XIXth Century Couple. As time went by she became a novelist of renowned influence in the realist and naturalist literary movement, which, as described in 1856 in the magazine Realisme, was a literary movement where authors strived for their works to provide an exact, complete, sincere reproduction of the social context of the era they were living in. Some Spanish sociologists recognise in the works of Emilia Pardo Bazán and other authors from this literary movement, the first driving forces of the sociology of the end of the 19th and start of the 20th centuries. Emilia Pardo became a recognised figure of Spanish literature of that era.


Emilia Pardo Bazán was born on 16th September 1851 in A Coruña, a city that always appeared in her novels by the name of “Marineda”. She was the only daughter of Mr José Pardo Bazán y Mosquera and Mrs Amalia de la Rúa Figueroa y Somoza. In 1966 she wrote her first story, Un matrimonio del siglo XIX, published in el Almanaque de La Soberanía Nacional.

In 1868 she married Mr José Quiroga, a law student with whom she would share her life, her family and her literature. From 1873 and for several years she travelled with him and his family to different countries in Europe, a context of important influence which aroused huge interest in her to discover other languages and the literary works of other countries. Her intellectual restlessness grew and, upon returning to Spain, she became familiar with Krausism which drove her to read the mystics and Kant, who, in turn, led her to Descartes, Thomas Aquinas, Aristotle and Plato.

In 1876, the year her first son Jaime was born, she established her reputation as a writer, winning the competition held in Orense to celebrate the centenary of Benito Jerónimo Feijoo. At that time, she was writing more poetry, having published her first poetry book, called Jaime, in 1881.

In 1880, not long before accepting the position of director of the magazine Revista de Galicia, she published her first novel, Pascual López, an autobiography of a medicine student.

In 1881 she published Un viaje de novios (Honeymoon), a novel inspired by her experiences travelling in France, and that summer, in Meirás, she finished San Francisco de Asís (St. Francis of Assisi), pregnant with her second child, a daughter named Carmen. The prologue of Un viaje de novios is of crucial importance in order to understand what naturalism meant in the work of Emilia Pardo Bazán, as well as the series of articles that she published between 1882 and 1883 under the title La cuestión palpitante (The burning question), regarding naturalism, a literary trend that was emerging in Spain.

It was in this naturalist vein that Ms Emilia’s third novel, La Tribuna (The Platform) (1883), was written, as well as Los pazos de Ulloa (Ulloa’s Country Houses) (1886), La madre naturaleza (Mother Nature) (1887) and La piedra angular (The Angular Stone) (1891), although between La Tribuna and Los pazos de Ulloa, Emilia Pardo Bazán wrote a novel that moved away from the naturalist technique. Entitled El cisne de Vilamorta (The Swan of Vilamorta), it combines realist observation with certain romantic elements. Furthermore, between La madre naturaleza (1887) and La piedra angular (1891), she published four novels that cannot be considered as naturalist: Insolación (Sunstroke) and Morriña (Homesickness), both written in 1889 and set in Madrid, have been considered by critics as belonging to realism, while Una cristiana (A Christian) and La prueba (The Test), both written in 1890, have been considered to belong to a certain idealism, a trend that can also be observed —apart from in La piedra angular—, in Adán y Eva (Adam & Eve), composed of Doña Milagros (Mrs Milagros) (1894) and Memorias de un solterón (Memoirs of a Bachelor) (1896).  

In 1891 she embarked on a new journalistic adventure with Nuevo Teatro Crítico (New Critical Theatre), a magazine she founded and wrote. Both in its title and in its miscellaneous, cultural and informative approach, it sought to pay homage to her admired Feijoo. In 1892, she founded and began to edit the Biblioteca de la Mujer (Woman’s Library).

For some time Ms Emilia had been collaborating in several magazines and newspapers, with travel reports, articles, essays and countless stories that she would group together in various collections: Cuentos de Marineda (Stories from Marineda), Cuentos de amor (Love Stories), Cuentos sacroprofanos (Sacred Prophane Stories), En tranvía (By Tram) (Dramatic Stories), Cuentos de Navidad y Reyes (Christmas Stories), Cuentos de la patria (Stories of the Motherland), Cuentos antiguos (Old Stories)…She also collaborated with the press, and in the magazine La Lectura her novel La Quimera (The Illusion) began to emerge(two years later, it was published as a book). Confirming her criterion that a novel must reflect the time in which it is written, certain echoes of modernism and symbolism can be observed in La Quimera.

In 1908 she published La sirena negra (The Black Mermaid), the main theme of which is death. She wrote it in the Ateneo de Madrid, where she was appointed President of the Literature Section in 1906.

A tireless traveller, she also continued to record her impressions in press articles and books. In 1900 her articles on the Exposition Universelle de Paris appeared in El Imparcial and later came together as the book Cuarenta días en la Exposición (Forty Days at the Fair). In 1902 Por la Europa católica (Travels through Catholic Europe) was published; the fruit of a trip to the Netherlands.

She had still not tried to stage any of her theatre works, and in 1906 she premiered Verdad (Truth) and Cuesta abajo (Downhill) in Madrid, with little success.

In 1908 she started to use the title Countess Pardo Bazán, awarded to her by Alfonso XIII in acknowledgement of her importance in the literary world. From 1910 she was a Public Education advisor; and from 1912 she was a fellow of the Sociedad Matritense de Amigos del País. Two years later she was awarded the Sash of the Order of Queen Maria Luisa, and received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal from Pope Benedict XV.

In 1916 the Spanish Minister of Public Education appointed her as professor of Contemporary Literature in Neo-Latin Languages in the Universidad Central.

On May 12th 1921, she died as a result of diabetes-related complications. The following day, the entire press was discussing the deceased author. She was buried in Madrid, in the crypt of the church called Iglesia de la Concepción.

Sources of information: