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Chapter VIII

Miscellaneous Writings

In other chapters of this study we have seen something of the amazing variety of Jovellanos' writings. Without trying to make a complete catalogue of all our author's works, we should now briefly examine a few additional topics to which he was led by his duties and his genuine breadth of interests, and two special genres which he cultivated with distinction.

Minor Topics

Jovellanos, as a reformer, realized the importance of understanding the past, without which any attempt to improve the present is only arrogant ignorance. Thus his writings on the agrarian problem and on the State's policy toward public entertainments were preceded and supported by historical research. We have seen that the history of architecture also attracted Jovellanos. Furthermore, his diary shows him not only reading history, but also pursuing historical investigations on his travels. He was an indefatigable collector and copier of documents; and wherever his duties took him, he was sure to spend some time in the local archives. In its attention to documents, the historiography of the Enlightenment had progressed beyond purely humanistic historiography. It also began to study the history of commerce, industry, and other activities which before had seemed beneath the historian's notice, and to examine such matters from the point of view of the governed, not invariably that of the governors. In these respects Jovellanos, though not a professional historian, was abreast of the most advanced of his time. Indeed, in his emphasis on the importance of the unique national character as developed in the historical growth of institutions and laws, he anticipates the Romantic historians79. He knew that the texture of history is woven of many strands besides the will of kings and the skill of generals, and he called for more attention to these ongoing historical processes and less insistence on climactic and catastrophic events (I, 298). He consistently stressed that the welfare of the governed is the aim of the activities of government.

Don Gaspar also concerned himself with prison reform, believing that the evil influence of the most depraved convicts and the equal treatment given to all prisoners were so depressing and demoralizing as to make genuine rehabilitation almost a miracle. He therefore urged that only those criminals who absolutely could not be tolerated elsewhere should be imprisoned, while the others should serve in the armed forces or on public works projects, or be placed in «houses of correction». These were to be a transitional stage between prison and liberty, with less hard labor and more encouragement of habits of work and sobriety. Former convicts, Jovellanos believed, should be obliged to reside and work in their native towns, where their behavior could be easily supervised by the local magistrates (I, 451 ff.).

Jovellanos devoted himself to the cultivation of the national language, becoming a member of the Royal Spanish Academy and leaving, among his papers, some notes toward the formation of an etymological supplement to the Academy's dictionary (Ceán, p. 212). More interesting, perhaps, is his concern with Spain's local languages and dialects. He urged the study of Majorcan Catalan, and he naturally paid special attention to the dialect of Asturias. In a letter written in 1791, he expresses his hope for its methodical investigation (IV, 170 ff.); and he later joined some friends in planning the establishment of an Asturian Academy, among whose tasks was to be the preparation of a dictionary complete with etymologies and documentation of usage, for which proverbs, folk songs, and old poems were to be gathered and analyzed. About 1804, Jovellanos wrote his Apuntamientos sobre el dialecto de Asturias (Notes on the Asturian Dialect), related to a planned geographical dictionary. In this brief essay he stresses the importance of etymology for historical studies, explaining how the origin of a word can reveal the origin and history of the object it signifies (I, 343-49).

Though Jovellanos' general vision of language seems modern, some of his approaches and findings would not be accepted today. The etymologies he proposes are sometimes capricious; and although he recognizes the value of non-Classical Latin as a source of the Romance languages, the relative importance he ascribes to it is the inverse of what a modern Romance linguist would teach: Jovellanos wants the etymon of every Asturian word to be sought in Classical Latin and only «if the root should not be discovered in good Latin, will it be sought in Low Latin, where many roots will be found» (II, 209a). When different pronunciations exist for a single word, Jovellanos prefers not the most common but that closest to the original Latin (II, 210a), a normative approach which no student of dialects would sustain today.

Minor Genres

Our author holds a distinguished place in the history of two genres but lightly represented in Spanish literature. To judge by surviving texts and the notes in his diary, Jovellanos was a tireless correspondent. His age valued the letter as a means of interpersonal contact and as a source of news; and it enjoyed such epistolary novels as Cadalso's Moroccan Letters, Montesquieu's Persian Letters, and Samuel Richardson's Clarissa and Pamela. Jovellanos' letters are not only examples of polished prose; they help us to understand their author's thought and to interpret the writings which he destined for publication. There is thus more than personal interest in reading Don Gaspar's extensive correspondence with Carlos González Posada or with Lord Holland, and every reason to lament the apparent loss or destruction of his letters to Alexander Jardine, the English radical.

Diaries and memoirs are also rare in Spanish literature. The preserved and published diary of Jovellanos covers, with many and occasionally sizeable lapses, nearly two decades of his life, from August 20, 1790, to March 6, 1810. Jovellanos probably also wrote a diary before and after these dates, but such texts are unknown to us.

The first edition of the diary carried the subtitle Intimate Memoirs, which, unfortunately for anyone seeking details, or even outlines, of Don Gaspar's amours, is quite misleading. Our author's sentimental life is forever hidden behind an impenetrable screen of modesty and decorum, which there is no point in trying to circumvent by means of fanciful conjectures. The diary offers us no confession, no self-analysis, and few witty or quasi profound Great Thoughts about God, the Meaning of Life, etc. It does, however, reflect the broad range of Jovellanos' interests, both the important and the minute. In it we can follow the creation and operation of the Royal Asturian Institute; we can join Jovellanos on his travels and read his comments on roads and inns. We see his concern with cleanliness, with the quality of food and drink; his interest in amusements; his love of trees; his passion for antiquities, whether they be documents, buildings, or paintings; his close observation of local customs and the local economy. We find reflections of current events, great and small, together with Jovellanos' comments on them. And we can trace the development of Jovellanos' friendships, his correspondence, the course of his readings, his health, and even the weather. Some of the author's remarks are, in a sense, intimate, because they could not safely be divulged in his time; but others were intended for eventual publication, as Don Gaspar explains to González Posada: «How many things I've seen on my journey from Asturias to the French border! But they are in my diary; and some day you will see them, and perhaps the public, too, if God grants me leisure and tranquillity» (II, 172a).

Like Jovellanos' letters, his diary helps us to interpret those of his works published in his lifetime under an inhibiting censorship and to clarify the influences on his thought and writings. It also affords us a picture of the daily life of an educated gentleman in Enlightenment Spain, with an occasional quaint mixture of the petty and the important: «A bad night; the bed ill made; it turned into a precipice and I fought all night to escape it. How small are the things which cause our travails!» (D II, 19). «Home; reading in The Life of Bacon; pedicure; reading in Risco, Volume XXXIX» (D II, 22-23). Jovellanos' character as revealed in the diary does not differ substantially from what one would expect after reading his other works. Its outstanding traits are intellectual curiosity, loyalty to friends and country, devotion to the common good, an often poetic spirit, love of nature, and a straightforward religiosity unalloyed with affectation and bigotry. The absence of a certain kind of intimate confession reveals an unfailing dignity which may seem almost prudish to an age that no longer values privacy. Jovellanos' diary contrasts sharply with that of his younger contemporary, Leandro F. de Moratín. Moratín's pages are thoroughly intimate but quite unreadable; Jovellanos', in their more restrained way, are one of the most highly readable and, indeed, fascinating texts of his age.


Chapter IX


Jovellanos' writings did not exercise appreciable influence beyond the borders of the Spanish-speaking world. Very few were ever translated; and foreign readers generally have little knowledge of either the Spanish language or its literature, except for one or two figures of the first rank, to which our author did not belong. The significance of Jovellanos must therefore be sought entirely within the Hispanic realm. Here, as we have seen, his political thought had little immediate practical consequence, though Spain subsequently experimented with the constitutional monarchy and bicameral parliamentary system which he envisaged. On the other hand, his pedagogical theories, and his own implementation of them, influenced the educational reforms of the nineteenth century; and his works on economics contributed to the triumph of economic liberalism in Spain and Spanish America (Camacho, 289-93). We have seen that Jovellanos' writings on these subjects were in the main intended to deal with specific current problems and that, with the possible exception of the pedagogical writings (one of the most important of which, however, is unfinished), they are therefore not systematic expositions of doctrine. In fact, Jovellanos occasionally contradicts himself as he adjusts his thought to new circumstances.

In the domain of the more narrowly literary, Jovellanos' The Honorable Culprit showed the possibilities of serious realistic drama devoted to contemporary social issues, a genre which enjoyed a modest success until it was overpowered by the Romantic furor. As a poet, Jovellanos, besides writing a handful of masterpieces, helped, by teaching and example, to create around the turn of the century a more socially oriented poetry in the service of the ideals of the Enlightenment, as well as a poetry directly reflecting the sensations of daily life. Both in verse and in prose, he cultivated a flexible style, correct and elegant, yet open to innovation and thus a forerunner of the stylistic and linguistic freedom of Romanticism.

The variety of Jovellanos' works, both in subject and in genre -a variety which this study has by no means exhausted- testifies to the enormous range of our author's interests and curiosity. Within this variety, however, there is congruity of purpose: we find drama in the service of legal reform, economics designed to promote social justice and stressing the moral benefits of in dependent rural life, poetry criticizing social abuses and advocating political ideals, and descriptions of landscape in which usefulness to man is seen as the culminating beauty. Jovellanos, unwilling to consider life only as suffering, wished to further the material well-being of the individual, a respectable goal for those who are neither devotees of an otherwordly asceticism nor the pampered children of over-abundance. Even more, however, he sought the moral improvement of the individual, society, and the race. He had faith in reason, that imperfect, much abused, much-maligned, but still unique and indispensable instrument; and he believed that education, which he saw as the perfection of reason (I, 232b), would allow man to progress to limits as yet indiscernible.

Utility and truth, the aims which Jovellanos set for the Royal Asturian Institute, were also his own goals, together with virtue. «Life is short», he wrote a friend, «and to fill its term usefully we must hurry. After devoting to that everlasting [life] which awaits us the time and attention which it deserves more than anything else, what better employment shall we find for these sad and fleeting moments than to increase the small supply of truth, whatever its purpose? Or, at least, what use more innocent and sweet?» (II, 214a). Idle speculation, however, did not attract Jovellanos. The truths he most valued were those which would better mankind and its lot on earth.

From Jovellanos' writings there emerges the figure of a man who was pious without superstition, patriotic without chauvinism, loyal in friendship, compassionate of the sufferings of his fellowmen, seeking always to serve others, never himself. He believed that we are social beings; and he held high standards of a citizen's duty, with which his talents and inclinations coincided to an unusually felicitous degree. Ultimately, this figure of a man whose life was dedicated to truth, utility, and virtue is Jovellanos' greatest work. For those who come to know it, its nobility is undeniable, and its attraction, irresistible. I hope that this book may have done something to reveal it to the reader.


Selected Bibliography

Primary Sources

Works by Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos

Colección de varias obras en prosa y verso, ed. Ramón María Cañedo. 7 vols. Madrid: Imprenta de D. León Amarita, 1830-1832. This first collection of Jovellanos' works is neither complete nor very reliable.

Obras publicadas e inéditas. 5 vols.: I and II, ed. Cándido Nocedal. Madrid: Rivadeneyra (Biblioteca de Autores Españoles, XLVI and L), 1858-1859. III-V, ed. Miguel Artola, Madrid: Ediciones Atlas (Biblioteca de Autores Españoles, LXXXV-LXXXVII), 1956. The most extensive and accessible collection, but almost unannotated and deficiently edited.

Obras escogidas, ed. Ángel del Río. 3 vols. Madrid: Espasa-Calpe (Clásicos Castellanos), 1935-1946. An easily available selection of prose, with an introduction by a distinguished Hispanist.

Diarios, ed. Julio Somoza, with a preliminary study by Ángel del Río and indices by José María Martínez Cachero. 3 vols. Oviedo: Instituto de Estudios Asturianos, 1953-1955. The best edition of Jovellanos' diary.

Poesías, ed. José Caso González. Oviedo: Instituto de Estudios Asturianos, 1961. Carefully edited and thoroughly annotated texts of Jovellanos' poetry.

Reglamento para el Colegio de Calatrava, ed. José Caso González. Gijón: Editorial Stella, 1964. The best edition of one of Jovellanos' pedagogical writings.

Espectáculos y diversiones públicas. El castillo de Bellver. Madrid: Espasa-Calpe (Colección Austral), 1966. An easily available edition of two interesting works.

Diarios, ed. Julián Marías. Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1967. A brief and easily available selection from Jovellanos' diary.

Obras en prosa, ed. José Caso González. Madrid: Castalia, 1969. An easily available, fairly extensive selection with notes and biographical and critical introduction.

Secondary Sources


Somoza de Montsoriú, Julio. Inventario de un jovellanista, con variada y copiosa noticia de impresos y manuscritos, publicaciones periódicas, traducciones, dedicatorias, epigrafía, grabado, escultura, etc., etc. Madrid: Sucesores de Rivadeneyra, 1901. A bibliography of works by and about Jovellanos up to 1901, with miscellaneous additional information.

Suárez, Constantino. Escritores y artistas asturianos: índice bio-bibliográfico, IV, 532-616. Oviedo: Instituto de Estudios Asturianos, 1955. A biography of Jovellanos is followed by bibliography for 1902-1950, prepared by José María Martínez Cachero.

Caso González, José. «Notas críticas de bibliografía jovellanista (1950-1959)», Boletín de la Biblioteca de Menéndez Pelayo, XXXVI (1960), 179-213. The latest bibliography.

Other Studies

Arce, Joaquín. «Jovellanos y la sensibilidad prerromántica», Boletín de la Biblioteca de Menéndez Pelayo, XXXVI (1960), 139-77. This article analyzes Pre-Romantic tendencies in Jovellanos' poetry and the relations between Jovellanos and other poets of his time.

Arco, Ricardo del. «Jovellanos y las bellas artes», Revista de ideas estéticas, IV (1946), 31-64. Jovellanos' opinions on the arts of painting, sculpture, and architecture are compared to those current in his time.

Artiñano y de Galdácano, Gervasio de. Jovellanos y su España, Madrid, 1913. Interesting information on the Spain of the eighteenth century and good résumés of Jovellanos' thought.

Camacho y Perea, Ángel María. Estudio crítico de las doctrinas de Jovellanos en lo referente a las ciencias morales y políticas. Madrid, 1913. A study of Jovellanos' political thought and related writings.

Caso González, José. «El delincuente honrado, drama sentimental», Archivum, XIV (1964), 103-33. The latest study on Jovellanos' prose drama.

——— . «Escolásticos e innovadores a finales del siglo XVIII (Sobre el catolicismo de Jovellanos)», Papeles de Son Armadans, No. CIX (April, 1965), 25-48. This article examines and refutes the accusations of heterodoxy brought against Jovellanos.

———. Jovellanos y la reforma de la enseñanza. This book, still in press, promises to study one of the most important aspects of Jovellanos' work.

Ceán Bermúdez, Juan Agustín. Memorias para la vida del Excmo. Señor D. Gaspar Melchor de Jove Llanos, y noticias analíticas de sus obras. Madrid: Imprenta que fue de Fuentenebro, 1814 [1820]. The basic biography of Jovellanos, written by his lifelong friend.

Galino Carrillo, María Angeles. Tres hombres y un problema: Feijoo, Sarmiento y Jovellanos ante la educación moderna. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1953. Educational reform in the writings of three outstanding Spaniards of the Enlightenment.

Jovellanos: su vida y su obra. Homenaje del Centro Asturiano de Buenos Aires en el bicentenario de su nacimiento, con la adhesión de los Centros Asturianos de la Habana y México. Buenos Aires, 1945. A collection of articles, of widely different merit, on various aspects of Jovellanos' life and works.

Polt, John H. R. «Jovellanos' El delincuente honrado», The Romanic Review, L (1959), 170-90. This article studies the genesis, structure, and sources of Jovellanos' play.

———. Jovellanos and his English Sources: Economic, Philosophical, and Political Writings. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series, Vol. 54, Part 7. Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1964.

———. «Jovellanos y la educación», in El P. Feijoo y su siglo: Ponencias y comunicaciones presentadas al simposio celebrado en la Universidad de Oviedo del 28 de septiembre al 5 de octubre de 1964. Cuadernos de la Cátedra Feijoo, No. 18 (Oviedo, 1966), pp. 315-38. A study of Jovellanos' pedagogical theories and their implementation.

Prados Arrarte, Jesús. Jovellanos, economista. Madrid: Taurus, 1967. This comprehensive study first appeared in Jovellanos: su vida y su obra.

Ricard, Robert. «Jovellanos y la nobleza», Atlántida, III (1965), 456-72. Analysis of Jovellanos' ideas on the function and state of hereditary nobility.

Sánchez Agesta, Luis. El pensamiento político del despotismo ilustrado. Madrid: Instituto de Estudios Políticos, 1953. Part III of this important study deals with the political thought of Jovellanos.

Sarrailh, Jean. «À propos du Delincuente honrado de Jovellanos», in Mélanges d'études portugaises offerts à M. Georges Le Gentil, pp. 337-51. [Chartres]: Instituto para a Alta Cultura, 1949. The literary and legal background of Jovellanos' play.

———. L'Espagne éclairée de la seconde moitié du XVIIIe siècle, Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1954. Translated by Antonio Alatorre as La España ilustrada de la segunda mitad del siglo XVIII. Mexico and Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1957. Jovellanos plays a major role in this fundamental study of the Spanish Enlightenment.

Somoza García-Sala, Julio [the same as Somoza de Montsoriú]. Documentos para escribir la biografía de Jovellanos. 2 vols. Madrid, 1911. Contains many interesting documents of a biographical nature, some of which have been subsequently reprinted in Jovellanos' Obras publicadas e inéditas.

Villota Elejalde, Juan Luis. Doctrinas filosófico-jurídicas y morales de Jovellanos. Oviedo: Instituto de Estudios Asturianos, 1958. This book seeks to show Jovellanos' debt to scholasticism.

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