Although El abuelo strikes the modern reader as hollow and pretentious in its ideology and excessively melodramatic in its presentation, the drama was a great success with the theatre-going public when first performed in the Teatro Español on February 14, 1904. José Arimón, reporting the «estreno» in El Liberal, noted that El abuelo had received «una ovación final de lo más estruendosa y prolongada de que pueda formarse idea» and ten or twelve curtain calls91. Critical opinion was equally enthusiastic. Manuel Bueno in El Heraldo, Ricardo J. Catarineu («Caramanchel») in La Correspondencia de España, Joaquín Dicenta in El Liberal, Francisco Fernández Villegas («Zeda») in La Época, José de Laserna in El Imparcial, «Miss-Teriosa» in La Correspondencia Militar and «P.» in El País all found El abuelo to be Shakespearian in scope92. Vicente Blasco Ibáñez (El Pueblo de Valencia) and Manuel Bueno (El Heraldo) compared the play with the dramas of Ibsen93. Anselmo González («Alejandro Miquis») declared El abuelo to be «escrito con pluma de novelista, folletín de periódico, la mejor obra escénica de Galdós»94.
To celebrate the success of El abuelo, a banquet was held in the Restaurante Fornos on 16 March 1904. The principal speaker, apart from Galdós, was Julio Burell, the prominent liberal journalist and politician95. Burell proposed, to the approbation of an enthusiastic public, that Galdós be offered «un homenaje nacional digno de so genio, de su obra y de su nombre».
Galdós was greeted with a «nutrida y prolongadísima salva de aplausos». His address to the assembled guests was strongly regenerationist in import. After a ritualistic expression of a timidity which prevented his speaking spontaneously in public, Galdós associated himself with the generation of intellectuals which had survived national disaster and which was now struggling «por las ideas, por la cultura, por el bienestar patrio». For Galdós, the essential quality of those who would reconstruct a broken nation was «la tenacidad» or «la perseverancia». Intellectual endeavour (Art and Science) would be the foundations of the future happiness of Spain. Of interest also are Galdós's proclamation of solidarity with the youth of Spain and his use of terms with religious associations («lo sagrado», «la perdurable paz») when referring to Art and Science.
Galdós's speech has not previously been noted by historians. The text is as follows:
|[El Liberal de Munia, 19-III-1904]|
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