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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Critical and Biographical Introduction

By Pedro Antonio de Alarcón (1833–1891)

THIS novelist, poet, and politician was born at Guadix, in Spain, near Granada, March 10th, 1833, and received his early training in the seminary of his native city. His family destined him for the Church; but he was averse to that profession, subsequently studied law and modern languages at the University of Granada, and took pains to cultivate his natural love for literature and poetry. In 1853 he established at Cadiz the literary review Eco del Occidente (Echo of the West). Greatly interested in politics, he joined a democratic club with headquarters at Madrid. During the revolution of 1854 he published El Látigo (The Whip), a pamphlet in which he satirized the government. The spirit of adventure being always strong in him, he joined the African campaign under O’Donnell in 1859.

His next occupation was the editorship of the journals La Epoca and La Politica. Condemned to a brief period of exile as one of the signers of a protest of Unionist deputies, he passed this time in Paris. Shortly after his return he became involved in the revolution of 1868, but without incurring personal disaster. After Alfonso XII. came to the throne in 1875, he was appointed Councilor of State.

It was in the domain of letters, however, and more especially as a novelist, that he won his most enduring laurels. In 1855 he produced ‘EL Final de Norma’ (The End of Norma), which was his first romance of importance. Four years later he began to publish that series of notable novels which brought him fame, both at home and abroad. The list includes ‘EL Sombrero de Tres Picos’ (The Three-Cornered Hat), a charming genre sketch famous for its pungent wit and humor, and its clever portraiture of provincial life in Spain at the beginning of this century; ‘La Alpujarra’; ‘EL Escándalo’ (The Scandal), a story which at once created a profound sensation because of its ultramontane cast and opposition to prevalent scientific opinion; ‘El Niño de la Bola’ (The Child of the Ball), thought by many to be his masterpiece; ‘El Capitán Veneno’ (Captain Veneno); ‘Novelas Cortas’ (Short Stories), 3 vols.; and ‘La Pródiga’ (The Prodigal). Alarcón is also favorably known as poet, dramatic critic, and an incisive and effective writer of general prose.

His other publications comprise:—‘Diario de un Testigo de la Guerra de Africa’ (Journal of a Witness of the African War), a work which is said to have netted the publishers a profit of three million pesetas ($600,000); ‘De Madrid à Nápoles’ (from Madrid to Naples); ‘Poesias Serias y Humorísticas’ (Serious and Humorous Poems); ‘Judicios Literários y Artísticos’ (Literary and Artistic Critiques); ‘Viages por España’ (Travels through Spain); ‘El Hijo Pródigo’ (The Prodigal Son), a drama for children; and ‘Ultimos Escritos’ (Last Writings). Alarcón was elected a member of the Spanish Academy December 15th, 1875. Many of his novels have been translated into English and French. He died July 20th, 1891.