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ArribaAbajoGaldós as psychiatrist in Fortunata y Jacinta

Joan Connelly Ullman and George H. Allison

The creation of a work of art like Fortunata y Jacinta remains an awesome process by which Galdós transformed the substance of his private life, and that of his society and times, into a unique and autonomous entity. All actions are explained within the text; collective and individual motivations are both selfgenerating and interacting in the development of the plot1. But the totallity of the novel, as of the creative process itself, can be apprehended only through a series of perspectives, and it is in this context that we have studied the creation of Maximiliano Rubín. Part One of this article analyzes in psychiatric terms2 Maximiliano's valiant but unsuccessful struggle to maintain his identity and equilibrium in a hostile world. From this emerges starkly Galdós' grasp of the dynamics of mental health, specifically the impact of unconscious motivation on personality structure and behavior. Part Two explores the possible sources of this knowledge: Galdós' own experiences, and his familiarity with the psychiatric theory and practice of his era.

Part One

Psychiatric Concepts in Fortunata y Jacinta

From the outset of his career, with the publication of La Sombra in 1870, Galdós probed the unconscious roots of behavior and the way men were often impelled to resolve their crises in pathological fashion. By the time he published Fortunata y Jacinta (1886-1887), he had explored with ever more subtle means such mental events as dreams and fantasies wherein individuals attempt to harmonize impulse and ideal in constant, ever fluid interaction with life situations. Thus psychopathology becomes in his work an explicable process, as distinct from the demonic characterization of insanity that lingered on in some Spanish medical circles, and distinct also from the image of the insane as hopeless creatures deserving humanitarian custodial care in the concepts of social reformers like Concepción Arenal.

This interest in abnormal behavior was not, of itself, unusual for Galdós shared this with many nineteenth century novelists (not just the 'Naturalists') who perceived the irrationality below the progress of an industrializing world; in Spain, however, his concern may stand out more because of the façade of rigid conventionality that the «Restoration» era maintained. Nor was Galdós unique in interpreting the present out of the past for by the time he wrote, the genre of the developmental novel (Entwicklungsroman) was almost a century old. What is remarkable is Galdós' understanding of insanity as an illness, as dynamic in nature, and as fundamentally psychological in genesis. In the latter   —8→   two categories he parted company with the reforming generation of Spanish psychiatrists who were his contemporaries for these were, in the words of a medical historian, «rabiosamente organicista»3.

Thus from his earliest novels, Galdós emerges as a practical exponent of such psychoanalytic concepts as the 'normality of abnormality' and of the recognition that the reality of the unconscious is as 'real' as that of the physical world. And this he did long before Sigmund Freud and Josef Bruer published Studies in Histeria (1893-1895)4, considered the pioneer study on the non-organic causes of psychopathology. This dimension of Galdós' work has not gone unnoted: Rodolfo Cardona pointed it out in his discerning introduction to an edition of La Sombra, following up on Federico Carlos Sáinz de Robles' arbitrary classification of that novel as freudiano. Joseph Schraibman's classic study of dreams in the novels of Galdós shows that they were not simply a literary technique (for plot development, or to hint of the supernatural) but were used rather to add depth to characterization by disclosing the unconscious as a vital factor in the personality of an individual5. L. B. Walton specifically discussed Maximiliano Rubín in this context in a speech to the Spanish Institute of London in 1948, asserting (more roundly than we might do) that particularly Galdós' later novels might be described as «monda y lirondamente psicoanalíticas»6. Eight years earlier, Leota W. Elliott and F. M. Kercheville had done much the same thing in an unpretentious article that did, however, employ more professional terminology than Walton's7. The present study offers both a more specialized, and a more precise analysis of Galdós' use of psychoanalytic concepts, and adds the theoretical perspective of very recent studies on ego psychology and on «object relations».

A Clinical Diagnosis of Maximiliano Rubín

Today Maximiliano would be described as a borderline psychotic personality, an experience described for us by an articulate young woman who went to the border but did not cross it8. In a report to her doctor on that voyage, she stressed that «contact with ordinary human reality is never totally lost».

She struggled with «two levels of perception, and like a mal-functioning radio it is difficult to hear anything clearly. Neither consciousness nor unconsciousness... Both are frequently broadcasting together, and the result is often an exhausting state of confusion». She recalled the marked reduction in her efficiency and that «the ability to understand and retain what is being said may at moments almost vanish».

Maximiliano, less fortunate, made the long trip into psychosis although Galdós' account makes clear this was not inevitable. The product of a troubled, loveless childhood, he achieves in adolescence a defense against underlying psychotic tendencies by erecting a façade of neurotic symptoms. This precarious equilibrium is disrupted by the traumatic experience of marriage to the unfaithful Fortunata. Eventually his Ego becomes so fragmented that he is unable to perceive, much less test, reality efficiently. From this, an intermittent paranoid delusional state, he moves on to overt schizophrenia (to use the term coined by Dr. Eugen Bleuler for an illness which, if it was differentiated at   —9→   all from other psychoneuroses in Galdós' time, was usually called Dementia praecox)9.

This diagnosis reflects the dynamic approach to personality formation and to mental illness produced by continuous revision and amplification of theory since Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams in 1900. This first description of the functioning of the psychic apparatus emphasized the individual's unconscious instinctual life (composed initially only of sexual drives, to which aggressive drives are added). Freud substantially revised this model in The Ego and the Id (1923), and his followers have moved still further away from an exclusive concern with instincts and repressed drives. One focus has been the formation of the Ego, and the way it functions as the theoretical agency of control in both normal and pathological behavior striving for an equilibrium among three forces: the demands of the external world on one hand, and on the other, those of the Id (whence instinctual drives derive) and those of the Superego (which cointains the moral imperatives from parents and culture).

Within this conceptual framework, schizophrenia is viewed as the product of a weak and defective Ego development. As a child the individual has failed to establish an autonomous identity, or a stable internal equilibrium in relation to the «objects» (the people and the conditions) of his outer world10. As an adult, and in order to defend himself against underlying psychosis, a schizophrenic-prone individual will develop as a general strategy patterns of relationship designed to avoid those situations in which his control systems might falter or even fail, and cause thereby the psychic disaster of complete Ego disorientation. On the surface he may display nothing more than neurotic and characterological disturbances such as strong but latent homosexual trends, hysterical somatic complaints, and various anxiety symptoms11. These do interfere with achievement, particularly (as with neurotics) with sexual functions. Borderline personalities also frequently display an admixture of true psychosomatic disorders. The defensive function of such behavior patterns can be discerned by a psychiatrist or by an intuitive genius like Galdós, who studies the precise relationship of an individual with the world around him, and the early history of the way the individual has «internalized» object relationships.

Current psychoanalytic theory on «transitional objects» has illuminated still further the adaptive function of such relationships. In the development of any normal personality, teddy bears or blankets play an important role by serving as a «transitional object» in the process of separation and individuation12. But a schizophrenic-prone individual will often cling to such inanimate objects for security. This concept might be one way to understand the famous crisis, highly fraught with emotion, in which Maximiliano breaks a bank of coins in order to secure money with which to install Fortunata in an apartment. In part because his aunt has given him the coins, and then praised him for saving them, Maximiliano finds it difficult to break with this parent figure. But the coins may also be considered «objects» to which he has clung much of his life (as earlier he had clung to buttons robbed from his aunt), and thereby to constitute a symbolic protective relationship with his aunt which the liaison with Fortunata is forcing him to break.


Psychoanalytic concepts can provide valuable insights into a fully realized literary creation such as Fortunata y Jacinta. Freud himself predicted, in an article published in 1925 and deliberately aimed at a wide audience, that «the future will probably attribute far greater importance to psychoanalysis as the science of the unconscious than as a therapeutic procedure»13. The principal danger, with respect to literature, is «reductionism», as critics of Ernest Jones' pioneer study on Hamlet's oedipal complex have pointed out in extenso14. The probability of such distortion has been greatly reduced today, both because writers have gained more skill in using concepts and because the focus of psychoanalysis has shifted from manifestations of the repressed unconscious to the defensive, synthesizing and adaptive activities of the Ego15. Dr. José Barchilon, a psychiatrist and literary critic, suggests that because both the analyst and the novelist seek «synthesis and adaptation» of human conflict, both tend to emphasize «maladaptive and pathological mechanisms» in order to reveal most dramatically, and by default, the conflict-resolving mechanism of the Ego. Dr. Barchilon graciously concedes that the novelist offers «more elegant and harmonious solutions»16. Galdós' portrait of Maximiliano is one such instance. His goal was artistic creation but he achieves a case study of psychopathology that by modern standards is clinically valid.

Maximiliano Rubín: A Case Study

Despite the ill-favored figure of Maximiliano, and the overwhelming odds against which he struggles, Galdós' tone of dignity and compassion enables the reader to empathize even with this most singular tragedy. As would any good psychiatrist, he begins with a brief but specific account of Maximiliano's early stunted relationships which are the wellsprings of his illness.

He is the youngest of three siblings born to a mother who is beautiful, and unfaithful to her husband-atypical behavior for her culture, Madrid petit bourgeois society in the mid-nineteenth century. Her three sons differ so greatly, one from another, that neighbors conjectured each had a different father. In clinical terms, the mother Galdós describes is instinctually free, inconsistent, and socially deviant; Maximiliano's relationship with her would by itself portend the defective development of his internal object relations. But in addition Galdós reports a disturbed relationship with a father who oscillated between «las violencias más bárbaras a las tolerancias más vergonzosas» toward his wayward wife17; five times he threw her out of the home, then took her back. Masochistic, aloof, and emotionally unavailable, he may have rejected Maximiliano because of doubts about the son's paternity. But in any case, he had little time to spare from his effort to save a two-hundred-year-old family business, a task intensified if not occasioned by his wife's extravagances and the ill fame of her escapades (for in the life of a merchant, respectability is a prime assert). The father failed: he died just before the final collapse of the business, and just one year after his wife's death, when Maximiliano was in late adolescence.

The general deviancy of such an inner family constellation, and the implied «skewing» of family relationships, are oft-cited pathogenic factors in schizophrenia18. An additional factor isolated the Rubín family socially. It was tainted   —11→   with the suspicion of being «Cristianos Nuevos», descendants of those converts from Judaism who remained in Spain following the expulsion of 149219. This charge pushed the family to the outer edges of a traditional Catholic society, and the family's small income anchored them there -with no inner family cohesiveness and strength as compensation.

Despite this adverse beginning, Maximiliano began late inadolescence to construct a superficially adequate, albeit tormented, borderline adjustment. He went to live with a paternal aunt who became a 'second mother', functioning as an auxiliary Ego.

Maximiliano continued, however, to suffer from psychosomatic illnesses which had plauged him since childhood: migraine headaches, respiratory difficulties, and aching bones and muscles. Some of these may be due to congenital syphilis20, a supposition based both on Galdós' description of Maximiliano's physical appearance and on the fact that in the nineteenth century this was the most commonly ascribed origin of schizophrenia. Suddenly, at age twenty-three, Maximiliano fell gravely ill with a high fever, after which all his illnesses disappeared except for the migraines. Galdós may well have learned from his medical acquaintances of the experiments to cure neurosyphilis by inducing prolonged high fever (most notably, those of Dr. Julius Wagner von Jauregg), and he may have devised Maximiliano's fever as a cure.

Although Maximiliano's health definitely improved at this time, his use of drugs (to which he had easy access as a university pharmacy student) clouds the issue. Drugs may simply have enabled him to suppress the symptoms of his illness, or dulled him to their pain. Later, as he becomes more severely ill, Maximiliano not only increased the dosage but moved on to more potent drugs; therefore at least some of his later delusional ravings may have been druginduced, perhaps even outright instances of drug intoxication.

Even during the period of his tenuous equilibrium in adolescence, before there is any indication of an impending psychotic break, Maximiliano has difficulty in assessing reality. His schizoid features are documented in Galdós' account of an extensive fantasy life that contrasts harshly with Maximiliano's relatively impoverished relationships in the outer world. He would dream that he was an army officer with «mucha fuerza muscular y una cabeza... una cabeza que no le dolía nunca!» or he was «un paisano pudiente y muy galán... que estaba en sociedad de mujeres como el pez en el agua». Galdós captures the intense grandiose content of these fantasies, and demonstrates their function in Maximiliano's self esteem regulation to the point where he achieves two existences -«la del pan y la de las quimeras». Significantly, the material of Maximiliano's daytime fantasies often returns at night as he slept. This suggests Maxi's tenuous contact with reality, not in itself but because it suggests a merging of dream and fantasy life that is consistent with shizoid borderline personalities.

Recognizing the potential danger of this fantasizing, the narrator in the novel (the implied author, or Galdós' second self) comments that if it continues, Maximiliano -who is beginning to believe these delusions- will become «tan loco como cualquiera de los que están en Leganés». He reflects the belief, current in that time and for a long while after, that too much daydreaming could drive   —12→   one mad. Such a simplistic causality has been discarded, but a core element remains: a person who daydreams excessively is often displaying failing psychological defenses, and may thus foretell impending psychosis21. At this stage, however, Maximiliano was still safe for his fantasies came and went «como pasaría una jaqueca».

While still a university student, however, there is a suggestion that Maximiliano experiences such difficulty in assessing reality as to experience transient psychotic breaks. One day, as Maximiliano is dressing to go to class, he suddenly asks himself:

Verdaderamente, ¿por qué ha de ser una cosa más real que la otra? ¿Por qué ha de ser sueño lo del día y vida efectiva lo de la noche? Es cuestión de nombres y de que diéramos en llamar dormir a lo que llamamos despertar, y acostarse al levantarse...? Qué razón hay para que no diga yo ahora, mientras me visto: Maximiliano, ahora te estás echando a dormir. Vas a pasar mala noche, con pesadilla y todo, o sea, con clase de Materia farmacéutica animal...?

Here Maximiliano appears to be fortifying himself against overt psychosis through intellectual and philosophical rationalizations (intermingled with a good dosage of humor, it might be added). At this stage such minor psychotic episodes are only «islands»; later they will become his predominant psychic reality.

A central theme in Maximiliano's fantasies is denial of inadequacy with women, ever present in the solitary walks in which he finds such solace. At this stage his fantasies about his sexual adequacy are just that, playful pretenses that he himself does not believe. But after his marriage, as his illness progresses, Maxi begins to believe these fantasies which he will bolster with philosophizing.

On his walks, Maximiliano arbitrarily classifies the women he encounters, and follows those whom he considers «honorable» to see where they are going. His «illusion» is to have an honorable woman love him, the natural product of a frustrating childhood experience with an intense but inconstant mother. Maximiliano does not, however, fall in love with his idealized woman, but with Fortunata who is at the nadir of prostitution -a streetwalker. He resolves to redeem her to «honor», a project which initially he keeps within reasonable boundaries. Yet from the beginning he idealizes her to such a degree that his inner image has little contact with reality. Fortunata seems «angelic» and he looks at her with «extáticos ojos», esteeming everything she says «como si fuera una sarta de conceptos ingeniosísimos». Galdós highlights the disparity between Maxi's inner vision and the reality by having the narrator comment that Fortunata actually never said anything worth recording.

This love affair transforms Maximiliano. Here as in all his novels, Galdós omits sexual detail and we are left to conjecture. But Montesinos is undoubtedly right when he argues that upon first meeting Fortunata, as subsequently when he lives with her before marriage, Maximiliano does have sexual relations. He becomes, wrote Montesinos, «un hombre nuevo, y aún de una vez, un hombre»22. Thus subsequent events become explicable, specifically Maximiliano's anguish to find himself impotent after marriage.

Galdós conveys, eloquently, the exhilaration as Maximiliano falls in love:


Él mismo notaba que algo se había abierto dentro de sí, como una arca sellada que se rompe, soltando un mundo de cosas, antes comprimidas y ahogadas. Era la crisis que en otros es larga o poco acentuada, y allí fue violenta y explosiva... ¡Si hasta se figuraba que era saludable...! ¡Si hasta le parecía que tenía talento...! La modestia cedió el puesto a un cierto orgullo que tomaba posesión de su alma...

Such escape from inner torment, and from all feelings of inferiority and shame, characterize not only falling in love but elation and mania. Clinically familiar to all psychiatrists, they might be explained as due to a fusion of Ego with Ego-ideal (part of the Superego), or as the replacement of the Ego-ideal by that of the beloved23. Maximiliano achieves a state of bliss through an unconscious reenactment of reunion with the mother of his earliest infancy, irrespective of the reality of the present situation and particularly of his «co-actor». In point of fact Fortunata is very similar to his real mother, and the entire infantile sequence is to be repeated.

For Maximiliano, the fascination with Fortunata was psychologically 'fatal'. Initially the intensity of relationship merely disrupted the precarious balance achieved in adolescence at the cost of withdrawing from inter-personal contact («object avoidance») and of creating a façade of neurotic symptomatology. But the nature of the relationship impells Maximiliano to regress to infantile needs and a fusion with his mother -an increasingly acute, unconscious 'acting-out' of derivatives of his Oedipal and pre-Oedipal relationship to his mother in which his psychosis becomes manifest. By persisting in the attempt to redeem Fortunata, Maxi seeks both to 'correct' the original pre-Oedipal trauma and to sustain the state of bliss and competence he experienced when he fell in love.

Maximiliano grows ever less mindful of the realities. As in all 'acting-out', but particularly in schizophrenic cases such as this, he is like a sleepwalker, oblivious to the impossibility of fulfilling his plans with an individual such as Fortunata. Not only is his transference distortion of Fortunata delineated, but one grasps how closely her redemption is linked to that of his mother and, equally unconsiciously to his own. This narcisistic goal is clear in the passages where Maximiliano's intrapsychic conflict is described; by now the mental representation of Fortunata was divorced from that «de carne y hueso». And he withdraws into his ideas, making no demands upon her physical nature or upon his own.

Showing uncharacteristic resolve, Maximiliano persists until he secures his family's consent to marry Fortunata. The single stipulation is that she enter a convent of nuns specializing in the reformation of 'fallen women' and undergo a kind of moral therapy. While Fortunata is in the convent, Maxi begins to worry that she will become so enamored of a religious life that she will refuse to leave. He fears he will lose her not to another mortal but to «un rival tan temible como Jesucristo». Here is the seed of the delusion which he will later employ as a shield against the reality that he cannot tolerate: that is, Fortunata's infidelity.

When finally they marry, the inner reality of Maximiliano's relationship to Fortunata becomes clear. At the deepest level of his unconscious mind, he is bedeviled by the incestuous nature of his sexual desire for his motherwife. His response is a migraine attack that makes itimpossible for him to consummate   —14→   the marriage. Given an enormous dose of laudanum, he falls asleep with a look on his face -according to the narrator- «que lo mismo podía ser de dolor que de ironía».

Fortunata, like Maximiliano's mother, is not redeemable. She resists Juanito Santa Cruz on the night of her wedding to Maximiliano, but succumbs the following night. When Maximiliano realizes this, his schizophrenic illness becomes acute. But in the manner of a classic hero, he struggles against his fate. His first strategy is to use extensively the mental mechanism of denial so characteristic of schizophrenic disorder: he tries to deny the reality of Fortunata's nature, and of her liaison with Juanito Santa Cruz. When this defense mechanism breaks down, Maximiliano tries to force Fortunata to confess and thereby substantiate his suspicions. At this point, the theme of Oedipal rage and rivalry emerges. There seems good reason to speculate that Juanito becomes for Maximiliano an unconscious representation of his father, to whom his mother ultimately 'belonged'; thus Juanito can be potent with Fortunata while he cannot. Eventually Fortunata leaves her husband for her lover. Maximiliano's natural impulse is to kill Juanito, but he dominates this. In a passage reminiscent of Freud's description of renunciation in Superego development, Maximiliano philosophizes about his moral triumph:

Entonces no veía a Dios en mí; ahora sí que le veo. Créalo usted; hay que anularse para triunfar; decir no soy nada para serlo todo.

In this mood, Maximiliano is persuaded to take Fortunata back after Juanito abandons her. But the cycle is soon renewed: Fortunata revives the affair with Juanito, although she continues to live with Maximiliano.

Maximiliano now accelerates his retreat from a reality that he cannot tolerate. Because his idealized intrapsychic state has long since been disrupted, and he has been unable to restore his ties with reality through noble renunciation, he now grows so ill that he cannot function at his job in the pharmacy. With singular beauty Galdós depicts the onset of this breakdown: Maximiliano's growing asceticism in service of his struggle against, and continued attempt to deny, the jealousy resulting from his inner awareness of Fortunata's renewed infidelity24.

At this point Fortunata relates to Maximiliano as nurse-mother, the reincarnation of a transiently caring, 'good' and protective mother. Although her compassionate care has no curative effect, it provides Maximiliano with a secondary benefit as he flees reality through illness. However, in the short run, her tender reaction to his delusional ravings serves only to aggravate his regression. Yet still she continues to undress and put him to bed, and to listen to his pseudo-philosophical theories although she has learned from experience that such excesses of «somnolencia espiritual» at night make him suffer the following morning «la desconfianza furibunda y la manía de que todos se conjuraban contra él». By now Maximiliano's justified suspiciones about Fortunata's infidelity have overwhelmed his Ego, and his florid persecutory delusions about «everyone» constitute for us the evidence of a paranoid schizophrenic illness.

Maximiliano's waking life now draws closer to his dreams. He tells Fortunata of one dream, replete with details from his work in the pharmacy. He had suddenly   —15→   experienced anguish and thought of her, whereupon he felt «una sed muy rara, sed espiritual que no se aplacaba en fuentes de agua». So he drank an entire flask of hydrochlorate of morphine. There followed a dream within a dream (or a stupor induced by the drug). An Angel appeared to Maximiliano, called him «Joseph», and assured him he had no cause to be jealous: although his wife was indeed pregnant, it was «por obra del Pensamiento puro». The dream suggests that in this period of failing defense mechanisms, Maximiliano has increased his habitual use of bromides, laudanum, and hydrochlorate of morphine (the latter, just then being introduced as a sedative for mental patients)25 which were readily available to him as a pharmacist. Functionally the dreams serve Maximiliano as a means of reassuring himself that Fortunata will beget a child, not by another man but by abstract thought (hopefully, his own pure thought). This soon becomes his waking delusion.

Although no longer trusted to prepare prescriptions, Maximiliano continues in the pharmacy where he directs his delusional ideas into a search for a «panacea» that will solve the problems of every living person. The origin was probably the urging of Maximiliano's aunt to invent something practical, and gain thereby fame and fortune. It is not, however, material gain but Spanish Catholic religiosity that dominates the dream content although Maximiliano does not appear to be even a minimal practicing Catholic; like Galdós, he finds religious imagery the most convenient way to describe delusion and dream life -the analogy with Joseph, husband of a Virgin; the reference to Maximiliano's Jewish antecedents; the fact that Juanin Santa Cruz is the cross he must bear.

Galdós goes outside Maximiliano to reveal still more the nature of his psychosis. As Professor Shoemaker has shown, the novelist uses the secondary figure of José Ido del Sagrario to contrast with that of Maximiliano. José Ido has no basis for suspecting his wife's fidelity, while Maxi's suspicions are justified in fact. His schizophrenia is contrasted with José Ido's pellagra-induced psychosis (made manifest each time he eats meat). Although José Ido and Maximiliano «are not unlike», writes Shoemaker, «the resemblance is like a kind of ironic esperpento in which the parts correspond but the whole is a twisted inversion»26.

As his illness progresses, Maximiliano's dreams exhibit more characteristics of the paranoid schizophrenic. «El problema que quedaba por resolver», he tells his wary aunt and Fortunata, «era el de la emanación de las almas. ¿De dónde emana el alma? ¿Es parte de la sustancia divina, que se encarna con la vida y se desencarna con la muerte para volver a su origen?... ¿O es una creación accidental hecha por Dios, subsistiendo siempre impersonal? Aquí estaba el intríngulis».

In his daytime fantasies (as he had done earlier in his dreams) Maximiliano identifies himself with Jesus Christ or with Joseph. This serves as a restitutive function, enabling Maximiliano to continue his attempt to deal with an intolerable reality. Fortunata, not understanding this, wants him to stop thinking about such things because «te calientes la cabeza», but Maximiliano responds with plans not only to continue but to expand the scope of his delusions: he will not limit himself to saving Fortunata but will redeem all people -«la señora humanidad».


He has reached the point in his psychotic religious fervor where he suggests the murder of Fortunata. «La muerte es la liberación, el indulto, o sea la vida verdadera. Procuremos obtenerla pronto». There is now a danger that the Id forces might be released in the service of the Superego, in a typical schizophrenic religious murder. However, Maximiliano's restitutive psychotic symptoms manage to protect him against these unbridled Id forces.

During this period, Maximiliano achieves great tranquility, despite his periodic fears that his aunt and Fortunata may be slowly poisoning him with arsenic. Ebullient, he desires neither food nor sleep because he is convinced that he has found the «fórmula» for the drug panacea he has so long sought.

The degree of illness waxes and wanes. Maximiliano shores up his fragmented Ego, its reality testing function shattered, with restitutive delusional ideas about the reality of the outer world. He continues to resolve his awareness of Fortunata's pregnancy (by now no longer a delusion but a fact), and to make it aceptable, by his fantasy that she has been impregnated by «Pure Thought». It will therefore «bring no dishonor on you», he assures Fortunata (who has told no one of her condition, and is therefore astounded). Maximiliano continues:

Nacerá de ti verdadero Mesías. Nosotros somos nada más que precursores... cuando des a luz, tú y yo habremos cumplido nuestra misión, y nos liberaremos, matando nuestras bestias.

Fortunata refuses to be liberated through any such suicide pact:

Va a ser [el niño] el consuelo de mi vida. Para eso le tengo, y para eso me lo ha dado Dios... ¿Ves cómo me salí con mi idea?... ¡Oh!, si no lo sintiera aquí dentro, yo y tú seríamos iguales, tan loco el uno como el otro, y entonces sí que debíamos matarnos.

She then leaves Maximiliano, rents an apartment, and awaits the birth.

This reduces the pressures on Maximiliano, and he now experiences relatively lucid intervals, such as the one in which he discursses «the Messiah affair» with his brother and acknowledges that jealousy had forced upon him a delusion he now describes as «una idea loca». While still relatively lucid, he tracks down Fortunata (who has had her baby) and talks rationally about their marriage, commenting nothing could have come of it. He talks of how he went mad, and of how «los disparates que habíamos hecho los enmendó la Naturaleza». But Maximiliano's grandiose delusional ideas reappear as he tells Fortunata that he is «un santo... no es esto jactancia, es la verdad». He then acts in most unsaintlike fashion, for he reports that Juanito is having an affair with another woman. To which Fortunata replies that if he had shot her, he could not have killed her more effectively. First she tries to persuade Maximiliano to shoot Juanito and his new love. Unsuccessful, she arises and attempts the act herself but dies from post-partum hemorrhage, directing that her son by Juanito be handed over to Jacinta27.

Maximiliano now reverts to complete madness: his Ego has been overwhelmed completely by the permanent loss of Fortunata. Still his psychosis serves also as a mechanism to protect himself against both his homicidal impulses toward Juanito, and his suicidal impulses. Although lucid intervals continue   —17→   to reappear, Maximiliano believes his active life is over: «vivo en la pura idea». He enters the asylum at Leganés with dignity, fully cognizant.

Two Independent Analyses of Maximiliano's Psychosis

In 1957 Dr. Ángel Garma, a distinguished Spanish psychoanalyst who fled to Buenos Aires after the Civil War, published in Argentina a diagnosis that offers partial confirmation of our interpretation28. Rather than tracing Maximiliano's illness through to its full psychotic state, he concentrates on three symptomatic ways that Maximiliano coped with his unresolved Oedipal conflict and resulting sexual impotency: his migraine headaches, psychotic deliria, and pseudo-oligophrenia (or temporary mental deficiency related to sexual frustration).

As the origins of Maximiliano's psychosis, Dr. Garma singled out as of equal importance not only the promiscuous behavior of the mother but the fact that as a premature baby, Maxi was not breast-fed. Curiously Dr. Garma cited as an additional factor a family inheritance of «masochistic moral attitudes» which he attributed to the Rubíns' reputed Jewish ancestors.

Although differing from the focus in the present article, because it is primarily concerned with sexual development, Dr. Garma's diagnosis fits into our description of a borderline personality whose carefully constructed defense of neurotic symptoms disintegrates under the impact of marriage29.

Dr. José Rallo, a psychoanalyst in Madrid and the formal discussant of this paper at the 1973 International Congress of Psychoanalysis in Paris, suggested that another key to Maximiliano's delusion was «frustrated parenthood», and argued that parenthood was the central concern of many of the characters and not just of Jacinta (he singled out Guillermina and Moreno among others).

As for Maximiliano, by entering Leganés he would appear to undergo the ultimate castration of insanity, withdrawing from a dangerous and disappointing outer world into a psychotic world of his own construction. Given the state of psychiatry in 1887, not only in Spain, Maximiliano (like Galdós himself) would be justified in such an assumption. Today psychiatrists would consider Maxi's psychosis as temporary, and functional in nature, and would attempt to help him reconstruct his old defenses for a world without Fortunata.

There is a slight hint that Maximiliano will continue to fight against an unjust and cruel fate: his pretense that entering Leganés will make no difference, since his mind remains free, carries a twist of adaptation and reconciliation with that same outer world. This concludes Galdós' masterful portrait of the dynamics of mental illness. The details are there for any scholar to study.

Part Two

The Sources for Galdós' Knowledge of Psychiatry

With the speed of a gifted man who had disciplined himself to earn a living as a novelist, Galdós began late in 1885 to write Fortunata y Jacinta and published the four volumes at six month intervals (January 1886 to June 1887).   —18→   The quest for the origins of his knowledge of psychosis, with its unique psychoanalytic elements and clinical psychiatric acumen, has disclosed an exciting, contemporaneous controversy on the treatment of the mentally ill, not only in Paris at the heart of Europe's intellectual life but in Madrid. The end result of the debate was to make manifest a central issue in modern psychiatry: organic versus psychological causes, and corresponding therapy, for the mentally ill. The issue was perceived differently in Paris and in Madrid: in the former, neurology had just acquired academic recognition (with the establishment of the first chair in Europe in Clinical Diseases of the Nervous System) and a vanguard had already formed to explore the new field of the psychological causes of mental illness. But in Madrid the premise of insanity as an illness was not yet universally accepted, and therefore the debate continued about whether the function of asylums was merely to house the insane (more or less humanely, a cause for further debate), or whether they should become hospitals for research and treatment of the mentally ill. Moreover, traditionalists held a tight monopoly on the argument of the 'non-material' causes of insanity, some even opposing research on the brain because it was the hallowed site of the soul. Thus the reform movement launched in 1885 was forced into a defense a ultranza of 'materialist' (i.e. organic) causes, and into identification with an ideology of progress very loosely defined as 'positivism'. What they most sought were the scientific, rational, non-metaphysical elements, and its rejection of anything that could not be verified by experimentation. The degree to which Galdós intellectually perceived these issues is a matter for further scholarship, but that he had direct knowledge about the debate over the care of the mentally ill at the time he was writing Fortunata y Jacinta seems a matter beyond dispute.

The year 1885 marks a milestone in modern psychiatry. Sigmund Freud arrived to study with Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot at his famous clinic in La Salpêtrière just at the point in Charcot's career when he turned from neuropathology to concentrate on the dynamic role of conscious and unconscious memories in the etiology of hysteria (which he preferred to term neurosis, separating it thus from identification with women in order to achieve a more scientific pathogenesis)30. Charcot's role was definitive. His appointment in 1882 to the first chair of neurology had signified recognition of that field as a special and autonomous discipline, a major achievement in the care of the mentally ill (albeit within the broader field of neuropathology). And it was as a neurologist that Charcot was nominated the following year (1883) to the French Academy of Sciences. Faced with strong opposition by those who censored his recent experiments at Salpêtrière with hypnotism as a therapy for neurotics, Charcot not only refused to withdraw his candidacy; he made a justification of those experiments a central theme of his Exposé de Titres et Travaux. Thus his election to the Academy in November 1883 signified academic recognition of research on the non-organic causes of mental illness.

Charcot's work on hysteria has long since been superseded, and his famed public lectures at Salpêtrière (with hysterical patients to demonstrate his theories) discredited by charges that the patients were malingering. Certain manifestations that he studied have been given other names (such as catatonia and schizophrenia), and new categories devised (psychoneuroses, functional   —19→   disorders). But his theoretical work on neuroses has been enormously innovative31. Freud, who had Charcot's portrait on his wall, acknowledged specifically two contributions which he first studied in his year at Sapêtrière (1885-1886): Charcot's attempts to reproduce hysterical symptoms in a controlled experiment in order to study them, and his concepts of neurosis which enabled Pierre Janet and Eugen Bleuler to develop a theory of neuroses that was acceptable to science. Even the opposition to Charcot produced creative studies; at the University of Nancy, Ambroise Liébeault published his major work on psychotherapy in 1889, and Hippolyte Bernheim published his study in 1891. They laid the groundwork for the scientific application of hypnotism, and substituted verbal for sensory stimuli. A study of the press and publications in Spain will show the extent, and way, in which this controversy was transmitted to the public and to physicians.

In 1885, as Freud arrived in Paris to study with Charcot, Dr. Luis Simarro, a Spanish neurologist, left Paris after five years of study and returned to Madrid where he initiated a new era of mental health care32. Both literally and figuratively, Doctors Freud and Simarro missed one another in Paris. Throughout his long public career as a specialist in the criminally insane and as an experimental psychologist, Simarro remained committed to a rigid physiological determinism which considered mental illness to be either an inherited condition, or the result of an accident or a physical disease. For Simarro and his colleagues, the «mind was nothing more than a mechanical apparatus composed of nerve cells», writes Professor Temma Kaplan.

In Spain, Dr. Simarro was to encounter major opposition to both phases of reforming mental health care: financial obstacles to the establishment of asylums offering humane custodial care, and far more fundamental obstacles to medical research into the causes and therapy for mental illness.

Conditions in Spain had been far better in the past. Some medical historians would even credit Spain with the first authentic psychiatric hospital in the Western world, founded by Father Juan Gilabert Jofre in Valencia in 141033. From the fifteenth through the eighteenth century, certain asylums specialized in the care of the insane, offering not simply humane treatment but therapeutic work programs. But by the end of this period, declining income and overcrowding due to population increase severely strained the facilities, although the tradition was continued, for example, at Nuestra Señora de Gracia in Saragossa. Between 1798 and 1840 the tradition was dealt a death blow: an impoverished state disamortized the property of the religious orders who ran these private foundations, and sold it, without making any provision to meet the financial responsibilities it had incurred34. War destroyed some asylums, notably the one in Saragossa. Corruption and administrative disorganization prevented the state from fulfilling its new role as the sole agency of philanthropy; not until 1849 was there a Ley de Beneficencia, and this was so vague as to hinder good ordering, much less reform. Still more important, reaction, that fed upon an exhausted society's desire for peace and stability, prevented scientific research, particularly in medicine and psychiatry. Thus when a reform movement gathered momentum in Spain at mid-century, it had to concentrate on establishing model   —20→   asylums, while elsewhere in Western Europe professors of neurology had begun to use asylums as hospital-clinics for research and clinical training.

In 1885 (as Galdós began to write Fortunata y Jacinta, and Simarro returned from Paris), reformers who had been promoting a new model asylum in Madrid for over forty years suffered a severe setback. A Royal Decree in January had designated the old asylum, of Santa Isabel in Leganés, as a 'general' or national institution. Not only had the law of 1849 stipulated there should be six 'model' training institutions, but conditions at Leganés were hardly such as to inspire scientific research. Housed in a remodeled palace purchased in 1851, when overcrowding in Madrid's general hospital made it imperative to move out the insane, the asylum had provided the only mental health care for the nation's capital since then. Dr. Esquerdo's famed (perhaps, excessively so) private clinics could treat only a small number of the wealthy. By 1885 problems such as an initial lack of any water had been resolved, but limited funds and overcrowding make it impossible for Leganés to offer even decent custodial care. Moreover, opposition from the clergy who administered Leganés prevented scientific care.

A second decree on May 19, 1885, struck again at reform. Because of excessive demand, entry into Leganés had always been difficult, requiring not medical certification as much as political influence to cut the red tape. This new decree not only did not reform this abuse at Leganés but extended the same procedure to all of Spain's insane asylums. Doctors decried this new offense to medical prestige, as well as restricted entry, but failed to secure modification of the decree. Leganés, then was very much a topic for discussion in Madrid as Galdós created Maximiliano Rubín.

So was the controversy provoked by the intensely physiological orientation of the reform group which revived the old charge of heresy against 'material' or organic theories. Even reformers like Concepción Arenal, who welcomed improved medical care, resented treatment of the insane as though they were simply physically ill.

The aspect of psychiatric reform that aroused greatest public interest was care of the criminally insane, particularly in the wake of the spectacular murder of the Bishop of Madrid on Palm Sunday of 1886 by a priest, Cayetano Galeote. Dr. Simarro and his colleagues deliberately used the case to mark the opening of a new era in forensic medicine, building on that discipline's repute as a result of the work of Dr. Pedro Mata y Fontanet.

Galdós took time off from Fortunata y Jacinta (from volume two, where he introduces Maximiliano) to prepare for La Prensa of Buenos Aires three articles on the Galeote case35. They show a point at which Galdós made contact with official psychiatric circles in Madrid. But far more significantly, precisely because they are so pedestrian, the articles constitute evidence of the deeper knowledge of mental illness attained by Galdós, the novelist, as opposed to the conventional conscius knowledge of Galdós, the journalist. Following an analysis of these articles, a section will describe the medical circles with which the novelist was in contact and thus drew his ideas about the physiological origins of mental illness in which he consciously believed. Succeeding sections will explore the resources of his personal life which were, apparently, the prime source for his understanding of the psyche.

The Case of Father Cayetano Galeote y Cotilla

On April 18, 1886, Galeote fired three times point blank at Narciso Martínez Isquierdo, first Bishop of Madrid, as he entered the Cathedral to celebrate Easter-mass; he died the following day. Madrid newspapers delighted in details of the irregular life of the priest assassin and of his 'housekeeper', Tránsito Durdal. The case exemplified a problem of growing concern to authorities in Madrid: for years secular priests with minimal religious instruction and even less vocation had settled there in search of freedom from episcopal discipline coupled with a chance to earn a stipend by saying a daily mass at one of the many churches. The high incidence of such cases had been a major cause for the establishment in 1885 of the first bishopric in Madrid, and for the appointment of the upright and arch-conservative Narciso Martínez to the See. And this in turn had led eventually to the disciplining of Galeote. Deprived of his stipend, he appealed the decision to Bishop Martínez who upheld it. «Estoy vengado», shouted Galeote as he was led to prison.

Galeote's lawyers entered a plea on the basis of insanity, citing not only the priest's erratic behavior for months before the crime but a family history of psychotic disorders. Opposition came from those politicians, lawyers and doctors solely concerned with punishment of a crime.

Galdós was fascinated. He had written about Martín Merino, the priest who tried to assassinate Isabel II, depicting him as driven by his liberal conviction to regicide. He recognized immediately that the case of the psychotically ill Galeote was quite different.

Within a week of the arrest, Galdós managed to visit both the priest in prison, and Tránsito Durdal. In his first dispatch to La Prensa he provided a case study of a persecution complex, using Galeote's words and those of the remarkably intelligent 'housekeeper' who loved him. In his dispatch on the trial, held in October 1886, Galdós reported the arguments of Doctors Simarro and Jaime Vera that Galeote's sense of persecution was so compelling as to make him act mechanically, beyond the ability of his will to control. Quite willing to accept a diagnosis of insanity (because he had confirmed it by his own observations), Galdós was curiously reluctant to accept as a consequence that Galeote should be confined to an insane asylum; he believed that with therapy the priest might recover36 (an added reason for believing that Maximiliano might recover).

In the event, the judges were not swayed by the psychiatrists. On October 11 they condemned Galeote to die. But immediately afterward his psychosis became so manifest as to force the judges to commute his sentence to life imprisonment. Thus Cayetano Galeote literally, and Maximiliano Rubín figuratively, entered Leganés within six months of each other.

The Galeote case brought prestige to the field of forensic medicine, and to Simarro and his colleagues who had correctly diagnosed Galeote. But at least one medical historian argues that this field contributed little or nothing to the study of psychiatry in general, indeed perhaps the reverse, for it linked officially the teaching of psychiatry to legal medicine. But even here the gains were limited. No separate asylum for the criminally insane was established, much   —22→   less the model one proposed by reformers like Simarro on the commission appointed to study the problem in the wake of the Galeote case. By the decree of May 12, 1885, the criminally insane continued to be sent to Leganés until in 1893, and then only because of overcrowding, the governing board refused further entry. The long awaited Royal Decree of 1897 on reform did nothing more than define legally the psychotic criminal.

Galdós might have aided the reform effort. In April 1886 (the month of the Galeote crime, and while working on the second volume of Fortunata y Jacinta) Galdós was 'elected' to the Cortes; that is, friends contrived a post for him as Liberal deputy from Puerto Rico37. He served five years, but never once spoke for a reform of the care of the mentally ill; the thought of Maximiliano confined with Galeote did not stir him to action. Indeed he proudly announced to Narciso Oller, in a letter in July 1886, that he was not involved in anything «que sea política activa». Service in the Cortes was part of his professional training; he had gone to observe and record: «¡Lo que allí se aprende! ¡Lo que allí se ve! ¡Qué escuela!»38

As he isolated his creative activities from his daily routine, just so Galdós isolated the case of Maximiliano from that of Galeote, despite their common features. Galeote (diagnosed at the time as paranoid) would today be considered a paranoid schizophrenic, as would Maximiliano. Galdós acknowledged in both cases physiological factors: family insanity in Galeote's case, possible congenital syphilis in Maximiliano's. But in both instances he draws on a deeper level of consciousness to show the compelling non-organic forces at work, and the functional nature of the psychosis. If the manuscript of Fortunata y Jacinta is extant, it would be valuable to explore how, if at all, Galdós changed his characterization of Maximiliano in response to the Galeote case39.

Galdós continued to pay homage to «el proceso fisiológico». In an essay written three years after he finished Fortunata y Jacinta, he argued that it could explain in whole or in large part the mystery of «el mundo moral». There were ifs, however: if medical science succeeded in dominating «el proceso fisiológico», and if this then revealed «el secreto de los temperamentos y de los desórdenes funcionales», he concluded «no sería tan misterioso y enrevesado para nosotros el diagnóstico de las pasiones»40. This he wrote in a prologue to a book by his close friend, Dr. Manuel Tolosa Latour, who was his contact with the world of Madrid doctors that so intrigued him.

«La Ciencia Hipocrática»

Medicine fascinated Galdós. «Vivo en continua flirtation con la Medicina, incapaz de ser verdadero novio suyo, pues para esto son necesarios muchos perendengues», he confessed in the prologue to Tolosa's book. In part this reflected the temper of a period when physicians were highly respected41. But there was a subjective dimension. Gregorio Marañón, his close friend as well as physician in later years, described it as «una suerte de devoción suya, como ante un poder mágico», and added this was characteristic of Galdós' entire family. «Siempre hubo en aquella casa un médico que tenía mágica autoridad»42.

From 1880 on, Dr. Tolosa was both physician and confidant. Reflecting a lack of specialization (another obstacle to medical progress in that era), he   —23→   practiced not only as a general physician but as a pediatrician and sometime psychiatrist. A common interest in abnormal behavior may have led to the friendship: in any event, Tolosa had published in 1882 in El Siglo Médico the horrendous description of Leganés which had appeared in the first chapter of La Desheredada.

This relationship, ended only by Tolosa's death in 1916, vastly enriched Galdós' life, not only because it was warm and sustaining, but because it enabled the novelist to share vicariously in the Doctor's multifaceted activities, as Ruth Schmidt's research has shown43. Doctor to high society, friend of literary figures, married to a former actress, but most important for our purposes: medical consultant-in-ordinary during the years of Galdós' greatest creativity44. This productive collaboration was born of Galdós' conviction that doctors too often lock up in their files clinical data «que nos serían útiles a los que tenemos por oficio el pintar la vida y el dolor».45

Through Tolosa, Galdós could follow closely the efforts to reform mental health care. Tolosa collaborated with Simarro and his colleagues (Drs. Ángel Pulido, José María Escuder, and Jaime Vera) and used El Siglo Médico to publicize their activities. Professor Temma Kaplan is preparing a book on this group whose medical determinism clashed with their political proposals for improving society through education and political reform. Relying heavily on the clinical handbook of Dr. Emil Kraepelin, published in 188346 (just two years before Simarro returned to Madrid) these physicians believed empirical observation was needed only to determine symptoms; this done, the disease followed a set course as described in Kraepelin's handbook. It seems obvious that Galdós did not gain his understanding of Maximiliano's illness in this milieu.

Nor did he gain it through books, to judge by Berkowitz's catalogue of Galdós' library, the basis if not the extent of his reading47, and a guide to his reading preferences. In a total collection of 3,949 volumes, there are only twelve works on psychology. Moreover, the pages are cut on only two of these twelve volumes. Five volumes deal with psychiatry, two with forensic medicine; of these seven, the pages of only three are cut. Four were a gift from their authors, so we cannot even be sure they interested Galdós, as we might assume if he had bought them. Not one of the four books by Henry Maudsley, published in translation between 1880 and 1881, is in the library48. If Galdós did read the rather popularized work of this physiologically-oriented psychiatrist, as E. Dale Randolph argues, it seems curious that he would not have purchased at least one of the books published at a time when he was writing about insanity in La Desheredada49. It should be noted that in his articles on Galeote, Galdós does not cite any psychiatric authorities as he might be expected to do when writing in a field where he was a mere lay practioner. In Fortunata y Jacinta he does mention briefly Dr. Pedro Mata y Fontanet, a leader in the field of forensic medicine but equally prominent as a Liberal politician in the years when then novel takes place.

As for psychoanalysis, Marañón claimed that Galdós «no tuvo nada que ver»50 but it is difficult to believe that he did not at least know about the work of Freud, who was his contemporary. There is no indication that Freud,   —24→   who read Spanish, knew the work of Galdós; he does not mention him, and he did not own any of his novels51.

Thus from an era in which care of the mentally ill was hotly debated, from a circle of medical acquaintances committed to physiological origins, our quest for the sources of Galdós' knowledge moves inward to that private vision where he merged what he observed and experienced with what he unconsciously understood about human behavior. That Galdós tended to confuse the two dimensions of reality was quite apparent to all who knew him.

The People of Galdós' World

To such an extent did Galdós live with the characters in his novels, reported Marañón, that «en los últimos años hablaba de ellos como si hubieran tenido existencia humana».52 Galdós himself admitted that his habit of starting a new novel as soon as he had finished one enabled him to live «en un mundo imaginario». He wrote in his memoirs: «lo imaginario me deleita más que lo real».53

Galdós provided a specific instance in the case of Fortunata y Jacinta (one of only two novels whose creation he described). Having interrupted his work for a vacation in Germany, he returned and the gossip in the novel came to tell him news of the other characters. «Todas estas figuras, pertenecientes al mundo imaginario, y abandonadas por mí en las correrías veraniegas, se adueñaron de mi voluntad».54 Galdós had created «new people», not replicas of himself or his family or people whom he observed. This is not to deny the point of Marañón, who knew the people of Galdós' world, that he drew heavily on men and women «de carne y hueso» for his portraits55. But the unconscious synthesizing and organizing process, truly creative in the mind of an artist like Galdós, transmutes the details; it is an alchemic process56.

In the case of Galdós, the attempt to determine the base metals is unusually difficult for details of his private life remain obscure. Galdós, wrote a friend, Clarín, «tan amigo de contar historias, no quiere contar la suya»57. Not only did he persuade journalists to respect his privacy, he convinced them also to distort its tenor. Deliberately Galdós projected an image of a life that was «siempre tranquila, concentrada, una vida de trabajo y de estudio, alegrada por las sensaciones de interesantísimos viajes y por las charlas amenas de las tertulias del Ateneo y del salón de Conferencias del Congreso»58. And somehow journalists like Luis Olmet, who undoubtedly knew better, acquiesced. A distinguished British scholar, L. B. Walton, gave it scholarly currency in a biography published eight years after the death of Galdós59.

But the more the curtain is drawn, the more bizarre the scenario becomes. Professor Hyman Chonon Berkowitz began a new era with a series of richly factual articles published in the 1930's. But his biography60, published posthumously, is disappointing despite its sincere attempt at objectivity and wealth of new data (unverifiable in large part since it came from family and close friends of Galdós whom Berkowitz interviewed). This was the perhaps inevitable result of the obligations Berkowitz incurred with Galdós' illegitimate daughter, María Pérez Galdós de Verde, and with his nephews (particularly José Hurtado de Mendoza). But it may be due also to Berkowitz's failing health at the time of writing.


With the publication in 1973 of Pardo Bazán's correspondence with Galdós, we have gained new insight. Now that the dike has broken, we can hope for more complete and extensive publications of this sort. But meanwhile we must rely on Berkowitz's biography as the primary documentation on Galdós' relationships. For our purpose, an analysis of the creation of Maximiliano, the most significant are those of Galdós with his mother (who died just as he was concluding Fortunata y Jacinta), with relatives who served as 'second mothers', and with the women who might have served as a prototype for Fortunata. To consider this material in psychoanalytic terms will not permit us «to peer into the depths of a personality beyond the limits of the evidence available», as the historian Otto Pflanze has warned, but it does «enable us to make more sense out of the evidence we have by establishing interrelationships, both actual and possible that might otherwise go unobserved»61.

The Women in Galdós' Life

The central figures in his life were women, and most of them were relatives who dominated him but offered in return sustaining moral or financial support. Perfectly understandable is Galdós' assertion, late in life, that «nunca sentí la necesidad de casarme, ni yo puse empeño en ello»62.

The pattern was established by his mother who favored Galdós, the youngest of her eight children and very frail of health. Rafael de Mesa, son of a childhood teacher of Galdós, was the first of a long line of biographers to cite her importance. Dolores Galdós was described by her son many years after her death as simply «una dama virtuosísima, perteneciente a una distinguida familia» (the latter stretching the point in a rather significant way)63. Those looking from outside viewed her as an iron-willed, controlling individual who deliberately broke up an adolescent love affair of Galdós with a cousin, Sisita, and sent him to Madrid to study law in imitation of her own brother who had made a fortune in Cuba. When Galdós defied her, turning instead to a career of writing, the tie was broken. After 1869, the end of his abortive university career, Galdós never again saw his mother.

Berkowitz vividly describes the motivations of Dolores Galdós but provides no documentation for us to study it anew. In 1944, just before his death, Berkowitz presented to a professional meeting a portrait of the mother much sharper than that of the later biography. Donald F. Brown, who heard Berkowitz's unpublished paper citing the mother as the prototype of Doña Perfecta, reassessed that novel and concluded that Galdós' characterization of the fanatical Catholic matriarch, 'verging at times on caricature', was even more harsh than Berkowitz had acknowledged64. Brown ascribes the distortion to the angry hostility of a young man (a dimension which could be further refined by comparing the two versions of Doña Perfecta, discovered, subsequent to Brown's article, by C. A. Jones). The portent of this hostility in a novelist noted for his anticlericalism has not been fully explored. However Francisco Ruiz Ramón has suggested the possibility that the death of Dolores Galdós in 1887 relieved the novelist of the need to rebel, releasing him to explore the spiritual concerns evident for example in Ángel Guerra65. For our purposes, it is important to   —26→   record that as Galdós concluded Fortunata y Jacinta, he concluded also an important relationship in his life.

Galdós mother stands out as a dominant figure even more when contrasted with his father, Sebastián Pérez, a virtual non-entity within the family structure. A professional army officer, his destiny seemed to be the common one of «mandar en el cuartel y obedecer en casa»66. By all accounts, a warm and kindly person, he told his children tales of his adventures in the Spanish War of Independence against Napoleon's armies, and possibly of his role in an abortive Liberal coup in 1843 (the year of Galdós' birth) which brought financial hardship to the family. Thus as a child Galdós was undoubtedly prompted to create an active fantasy life about his father's glamorous past as a means of offsetting the apparently weak, submissive, and «castrated» image in the home and in his relationship to his wife.

Long before the death of his mother and throughout the period of his greatest creativity, Galdós' household in Madrid was dominated by a neurotic sister-in-law, Magdalena Hurtado de Mendoza. She encouraged his childhood ambition to write, financed him, and after the death of her husband and only child she came to Madrid (ca. 1870) to make her home with Galdós until her death in 1894. The price of her support was high. Galdós' letters to Dr. Tolosa record her chronic, apparently psychosomatic illnesses («ruidos en la cabeza»), and unending demands for care and attention67. «Doña Magdalena», he always described her, indicating her position within his household. Berkwitz bluntly describes her as high strung and «pathologically domineering», consciously determined to win control over Galdós from his mother (who apparently did not fight back). She succeeded: Galdós was «so much soft clay in her hands». Berkowitz reported68.

And yet Galdós saw another dimension to Doña Magdalena. Eight years after her death, he recreated her as Laura in the play Alma y Vida despite the family protests at so direct a portrait. He depicts her as psychically unattractive, pathetic, self-pitying, a woman flattered by those around her because of her position. «Privada de los goces de la vida real, procuro alegrarme con la fingida y mentirosa», Laura declares69. Whether Madrina was as honest as Laura about the function of her daydreaming is an intriguing question.

Thus at the time that Galdós was writing Fortunata y Jacinta, Doña Magdalena ruled his household, while a sister (Concha) lived with them and read over his copy each day. Another sister, Carmen, maintained a separate household. From childhood, Galdós had found comfort in the home of Carmen, the only sister to marry. When Magdalena Hurtado de Mendoza died, Carmen (now widowed) moved in with Galdós; she and her son, José Hurtado de Mendoza, devoted the next three decades of their lives to him. Marañón believed Carmen was the woman Galdós most loved in his life; yet while he pictures her as the archtype of «la madre», he candidly admits that Carmen's son, José, suffered severe psychological disorders in later life as a result of his excessive devotion to her70. There is undoubtedly some element of this in Carmen's relationship to Galdós.

As for the women in Galdós' sex life, we are only beginning to perceive, much less trace, this labyrinth he deliberately closed off. To inquiring journalists,   —27→   Galdós replied that his love life «no tiene nada de interesante»71. «There is the adolescent affair with a cousin, Sisita, which becomes more significant when viewed within the slightly incestuous context of the marriages of a brother and sister of Galdós to Sisita's half-brother and sister (José and Magdalena Hurtado de Mendoza). Galdós did talk later to friends of a summer romance with Juanita Lund which ended in 1879 when she married someone else72. About his illegitimate daughter, born in 1894, he apparently said nothing, even to his family, until she appeared at his death bed. Thus lacking any guidance from Galdós, biographers have only recently been able to lay out the two main passageways of the labyrinth: the relationships with his peers, such as Emilia Pardo Bazán, and those with women from baja Madrid. The salient fact is that both types of relationships were maintained on the periphery of his work and home. In an attempt to comprehend the creative process, scholars should determine the degree to which Galdós' family fostered this double existence, and the degree to which he personally constructed it -- as part of that process best described by Antonio Maura, an acquaintance of forty years. Galdós, said Maura, deliberately developed a technique of making «infranqueable la distancia entre el espectador y la escena», the product of his natural shyness and of his dedication to «el oficio de observador»73.

A good number of Galdós' affairs developed out of fan letters. He would reply to those he found interesting, ask sometimes for a photograph, then arrange an interview with those who sustained his interest. In these encounters there is some suggestion that Galdós put to practical use his clinical knowledge of psychology. Berkowitz, who examined this correspondence (which Galdós had neatly tied and labelled «Cartas de Mujeres Desconocidas») concluded that many of the women were unstable74. They wrote to ask, not for money or for favors (although there were some exceptions), but to seek a confidant, to gain solace from one whom they considered a «spiritual champion». By responding, Galdós secured not only new material for his novels, and private pleasure, but perhaps also some comfort from acting out a desire to exert authority over women by aiding in the resolution of their problems.

Galdós' affair with Emilia Pardo Bazán (near its apex at the time he was writing Fortunata y Jacinta) developed out of such correspondence. Although prompted to write by her literary ambitions, when Pardo Bazán initiated the correspondence in 1881, she was just beginning a discrete but permanent separation from her husband. Thus over the succeeding decade her relationship with Galdós moved forward from a literary apprenticeship, to close friendship, and then to the ardent affair described in part in letters written in 1889 and published recently by Carmen Bravo Villasante. In his role as teacher, Galdós took Pardo Bazán with him to explore every corner of Old Madrid, as he gathered material for Fortunata y Jacinta, opening up to her a world of poverty and crime she would use in her later novels. But in their sexual relations, inflamed by their furtive trip to Germany in the spring of 1889. Bazán took the lead. On the one hand, she was maternal, energetic and solicitious about Galdós great difficulties in eating and sleeping, and his ill health; it is she who arranges their rendezvous. As lover, she is less generous: she does recall with pleasure their passion, she consistently refers to him as good and indulgent,   —28→   far more worthy than she is. But she makes these assertions as she explains her affair with Lázaro Galdiano, and insists on telling Galdós that it was not simply «transitorio y accidental... me encontré seguida, apasionadamente querida y contagiada»75. That she should beg his pardon does not alleviate the cruelty of such insistence, a cruelty apparent too when she replies to Galdós' assertion that no one had loved her as did he. No, she replies: «he mareado siempre a los que se me acercaron». Although she might admit that «nadie me quiere de la manera que tú», she is not sure that «esta diferencia de modo afecta a la cantidad». Even if she were to be firmly convinced, and therefore «sería para ti solo», she does not rule out the possibility of a future «contagio momentáneo»76. In this affair at least, Galdós appears to play the passive role usually enacted by a woman, his only defense a «maquiavelistiquidisimultiforme» that appears to be the characteristic which most intrigues Pardo Bazán.

Galdós' vulnerability in affairs such as this may explain, albeit only in part, a practice he continued until the end of his life of seeking sexual satisfaction in chance encounters. Berkowitz, seeking to avoid all idealization of Galdós, laid bare this pattern. At the time Galdós was writing Fortunata y Jacinta, he was carrying on just such an affair with the real life counterpart of his protagonist77. Later in life, these affairs caused him extreme financial hardship, either because he had to pay more for his pleasure, or more to prevent any publicity about them78. Nevertheless, it was common knowledge, at least among Madrid intellectuals like Pío Baroja, that Galdós was being blackmailed, and that this was a veiled cause for his desperate need for money which prompted friends to organize a national subscription79. A Socialist editorialist may not have known the details but he did know that Galdós had earned more money than any other writer in Spain; so he proposed «una tutela sobre esos grandes hombres... ganando torrentes de dinero, lo gastan para dar satisfacción a vicios censurables que ellos mismos condenan en admirables páginas»80.

Galdós' family was a silent accomplice. They apparently considered him a genius, but inept in practical affairs - reportedly, unable even to put up his own umbrella81. Because the income from his writing supported many relatives, Galdós' family assumed responsibility for shielding him against both cares and consequences. To use the revealing phrase of Marañón, Carmen sought to avoid for Galdós «toda suerte de roces con la realidad», and she discretely paid the bills for the novelist's escapades if a collector came to the door82.

To the end of his life, Galdós went out each day in search of these encounters, wrapped up against the cold by family and accompanied by a servant. At the same time he carried on an autumnal affair of many years duration with Teodosia Gandarías, wealthy, cultured, who had written a letter admiring his work; the same age as Galdós, she died just three days before he did. Pedro de Repide remembers as a child the aged Galdós arriving in his neighborhood each morning between eleven and twelve to visit Teodosia Gandarías, a figure «de vitrina... podía ser un personaje de Solana o de galerías de figuras de cera»83. And yet when Galdós wanted to spend the night with this old love, his nephew forced him to come home, probably as concerned about the proprieties as by the novelist's health.


The inability to develop an exclusive, long term relationship, in or out of wedlock, remains the most difficult aspect of Galdós' life to assess. Surely the time has come to study in scholarly fashion this dimension of a novelist who gained renown for his knowledge of female psychology. When, and how, did Galdós, a shy adolescent, become a mujeriego? Not only would we tap the deeper sources of his creativity, but counterbalance thereby Pío Baroja's harsh evaluation of a Galdós lacking in «sensibilidad ética», who pursued women through money and deceits, not because «le interesaba su espíritu, sino su vida y hasta sus trampas»84.

The Inner Life of Galdós

In our quest for a deeper understanding of Galdós, the novelist, this biographical material will be used as the basis for cautious speculation about the way he synthesized and organized these experiences by the creative process. Given the great number of his novels and the kaleidoscopic range of characters, there is no question whatsoever of «psychoanalytic reductionism» that equates a living person with a literary figure. The characters of Galdós represent distortions, or the condensation of several persons into one; they are the product of the ego function which harmonized the demands of Galdós' inner and outer worlds. Not only literary scholars, but psychiatrists, will benefit from a deeper understanding of this function.

For Galdós, as for Maximiliano, the fusion of fantasy and reality was a familiar experience. Alfonso Armas Ayala, who is editing Galdós' correspondence, comments on a «misteriosa dualidad» which makes it difficult to decide whether the novelist is trying out material for his novels, or acting out in his life material from his novels85. There is therefore sound basis for exploring the connections between the psychology of one set of people (the author and his objects) and another set of people (the character and his objects).

One further observation might be made in relating the man to his work. All galdosiano scholars have commented on his constant, comprehensive ability to observe. «He sounds like somebody who took-in life around him like a sponge, possibly rather indiscriminately», writes Dr. Edith Buxbaum, «and reproduces it in a near obsessional way. But because he was a great writer, his reproduction went through a creative process which gave it artistic form». For her, as for Dr. Ian Shaw, the writing of novels was for Galdós «his defense, which kept him 'all together'». Writes Dr. Shaw, remembering his own treatment of a gifted writer, «Galdós had to write, had to create these characters out of his own psychic needs». For such an artist, his work takes on the contours of a love object; he needs to «discharge an important portion of his psychic energies in contributing to 'the work'-an 'Ideal Object' which possessed moral value». As a contribution to 'good' work, Galdós selected out details for his portrait of Maximiliano86.

Many similarities exist between the two. Most obviously, both suffer from crippling migraines. In February 1887, as Galdós was completing Fortunata y Jacinta, Dr. Tolosa sent him still another ointment to try (this one quite poisonous) but it did not work87.


As adolescents, both Maximiliano and Galdós were somewhat lonely and withdrawn, descriptively schizoid in their interpersonal relations. A highschool classmate recalls88:

Sentado de cara al libro, un codo clavado en el pupitre y la barba apoyada en la mano, se pasaba las horas balanceándose de izquierda a derecha, sin chistar ni mirar al texto, con el alma ausente, quién sabe donde.

These spells of musing, reported observers, were followed by periods of intense creativity when Galdós would sketch or write. A mediocre student by his own admission, Galdós was not unruly; he simply preferred to play hooky, to take long walks alone, or to engage people in conversation. Then, as later in life, he listened far more than he talked. The characterization of Maximiliano may thus be one negative representation he had of himself.

Maximiliano's mother, impulsive and instinctually free, would seem to be directly opposed to that of the primary conscious representation Galdós had of his own mother. But to the grim side of Dolores Galdós, described by Berkowitz, may be added the novelist's representation of her in the person of Maximiliano's mother which may reveal another side about which he either knew or fantasized. This would explain why, as he lay dying, he would occasionally call out loudly for his mother89.

The division of women into sacred and profane (as represented by the two for whom the novel is entitled) might indicate these two sides of his own mother. To these would be added his childhood memories and fantasies about Adriana Tate-the mistress of the uncle whom he had been taught to emulate, the mother of the girl with whom he fell in love as an adolescent, and the mother also of the domineering Madrina with whom he made his home as an adult. Warm in contrast with his mother's stoicism, sensuous in contrast with the latter's rigidity, Adriana Tate may be hypothesized a second mother to Galdós (as can his sister, Carmen).

The males in the novel are not strong figures. Like Maximiliano, Galdós falters in a love relationship (such as that with Pardo Bazán) because of his weak male identification, the result of 'governing biographical factors'. Dr. José Rallo would go further: he postulates a powerful inverted Oedipus as manifest in Galdós' profound feminine identifications, not only because women predominate in Fortunata y Jacinta, but because of the specifically female problems that prevail. He writes that Galdós' relations with women «seem to be governed by a series of disconnected images in which inhibited longings are mingled with desires for independence and even more so, with strong identifications»90. These homosexual undercurrents, like those of incest, flow into the creative channel.

The negative representations of Maximiliano's two older brothers may reflect Galdós' image of his own brothers. One, Ignacio did become a general and became Captain General of the Canaries, but this seems due as much to Galdós' political influence as to his brother's merits91.

Juanito Santa Cruz is the most complex male characterization. Galdós' 'promiscuous' uncle in Cuba is the most obvious source. But Juanito may be also a representation of Galdós' mental image of his own father as a glamorous   —31→   young army officer (while the portrait of Maximiliano's father bears a great similarity to Galdós' conscious representation of him). Thus the ambivalent attitude of Maximiliano toward Juanito throughout the novel may well reflect Galdós' inner knowledge that he had never had, but always yearned for, an aggressive and dominant father. Finally, the figure of Juanito may reflect Galdós' own self image as an adult with a very active sex life.

Maximiliano's relationship to Fortunata may touch on a corner in Galdós own personality development. He met the real life counterpart of Fortunata on one of his daily strolls through the central district of Madrid, as she stood in the doorway of a tenement eating a raw egg, a replica of her encounter with Juanito in the novel. Juanito, like Galdós as an adult, establishes an intimate relationship immediately, while Maximiliano does not dare to talk with the women he encounters in the street (he meets Fortunata through mutual friends). It is quite probable that Galdós as an adolescent would not have dared to do so either. Maxi's solitary pursuit of women along the street, concluded Montesinos «de tal manera parecen y son de una verdad increíble» that «apenas es concebible» that they are anything but auto-biographical92.

Montesinos' speculation fits well with other evidence to suggest the inner turmoil that marred his youthful relations with women, an inhibition that extended even to contacts with prostitutes. Galdós had mastered this inhibition by the time he met the real live 'Fortunata' and wrote this novel, but memory of his own adolescence undoubtedly deepened his portrayal of Maximiliano while memory of his own resolution of that conflict enriched his account of Juanito. And in turn the creative process may well have enabled Galdós to work out this, and other conflicts, of his inner life.

Ricardo Gullón has pointed out this function of Galdós' creativity in his brilliant essay on the novelist's use of dreams. «Era sofiador y se sabía soñador», writes Gullón. «Cuando ataca a la fantasía, es a sí mismo a quien dirige la admonición, luchando con el sueño que le habitaba». To achieve this, he linked himself as tightly as he could to reality, with the paradoxical result that he was obliged to «trascenderla y a encontrar los caminos del sueño»93.

In the creation of Maximiliano, Galdós integrated dreams and fantasies into a description of schizophrenic illness as psychoanalytic psychiatrists understand it today, and thus made clear his understanding of «the laws, rules and dimensions of the unconscious roots of human behavior»94. Admittedly, the symptomatology seems old fashioned in today's context, but then social and historical influences shape the expression of personality disorders just as do personal factors. Thus not only the manifestation of psychosis and neurosis, but their genesis, may change over time.

What remains in the acknowledgement of the psychological origins of mental illness, Galdós' unconscious reflection of the great debate waged as he wrote his novel. With specific regard to schizophrenia, Freud may have believed it to be largely inherited or caused by constitutional factors, and as such beyond the reach of treatment. But later analysts, considering adverse early childhood conditions such as defective parenting to be major causes, do treat schizophrenia. Although they acknowledge the importance of, and participate in, the search for a precise understanding of the organic causes and for a chemical cure, they also   —32→   believe that most cases of overt schizophrenic psychosis result from defective adaptation (both psychic and physiological) to the life conditions of an individual.

Galdós' portrayal of Maximiliano stands by itself as a major literary creation. His retreat from reality adds a major dimension to the plot for it both develops out of, and contributes to, the action. It is, in short, a beautifully drawn and at times profoundly poetic characterization of an individual locked in a classic struggle against forces over which he has no control. These are admittedly not the gods and elements of antiquity, but rather demons within Maximiliano's psyche. But for all that, his courageous struggle to preserve his identity and his equilibrium in a hostile world is no less ennobling.

University of Washington

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