My aim in this short paper is to reproduce and comment on two letters written by Galdós to Costa in 1901. Apart from a third letter, probably written in 1902 and not yet found, they are almost certainly the only ones sent by the novelist to the polymath; their publication will surely interest -in view of the scarcity of letters from Galdós- the readers of Anales Galdosianos.182
In the Prologue of her valuable book Cartas a Galdós, Madrid, Revista de Occidente, n.d., 454 pp., Soledad Ortega notes how few and unrewarding were the letters which Galdós wrote, or dictated, almost reluctantly, to his friends. Absorbed in his own creative work and unwilling or unable to reveal his intimacy, his letters «no pasan de ser notas sumarísimas referentes a algo que desea o necesita» (Cartas, p. 12). Yet -and this is understandable in a novelist- he relished receiving letters and kept carefully classified those from people whom he appreciated. It is because of this meticulous hoarding that I believe that the eight letters he preserved from Costa (Cartas, pp. 417-423) were the only ones Costa wrote to him. My own failure to unearth any copies or drafts of letters from Costa to Galdós other than two of the letters contained in Cartas a Galdós strenghthens this belief. It will be noticed that the two letters from Galdós here reproduced answer two letters from Costa which, in Soledad Ortega's book, are noted as having been crossed through by a blue pencil (Cartas, 417, 420) -surely a mark made by the novelist once he had replied to a letter. The remaining letters from Costa, of scarce importance, are not so marked.
One further point: faced with a rich collection of letters from men famous in literary and artistic circles, Soledad Ortega considers that Costa's letters, written between 1901 and 1906 and few in number «dicen muy poco, ocasionales parabienes como suelen ser» (Cartas, p. 17). Her comment is probably justified although I would have thought that Costa's views on Galdós' España de hoy (19. 6. 1901) and Casandra (18. 12. 1905) were significant enough both from the point of view of literary criticism and of political comment on current affairs not to deserve such a curt dismissal.
The first letter from Galdós, written in his own hand, is obviously a reply to one from Costa dated 16. 3. 1901 (Cartas, p. 417) in which Costa says that he is sending Galdós the proofs of Part 1 of Caciquismo y Oligarquía. Although three versions of this work were published in 1901, internal evidence admits only Oligarquía y caciquismo como la forma actual de gobierno en España: urgencia y modo de cambiarla. Memoria de Sección sometida a debate del Ateneo Científico y Literario de Madrid en marzo de 1901. Madrid (Est. tip. de Fortanet), 1901, 56 pp. Galdós letter reads as follows:
Galdós admission that he had been helped by a few of Costa's ideas in the writing of a difficult article on clericalismo for the Neue Freie Presse and that he would read it to him «cuando esté terminado y puesto en limpio» will, I think, interest specialists in Galdosian studies who, as far as I know, have not yet drawn attention to the possible influence of Costa upon Galdós. The fact that Galdós sent the article rather than read it (as will be seen from the next letter) does not detract from his intention, which was clearly to seek criticism and commentary from someone he held in high esteem. R. Pérez de la Dehesa, El pensamiento de Costa y su influencia en el 98, Madrid (Soc. de Estudios y Publicaciones), 1966, 260 pp., has already remarked on the influence, mainly ideological, exercised by Costa on certain key figures of the 98 generation (Unamuno, Azorín, and Maeztu) as well as upon Ortega, whose selfconfessed admiration for Costa as thinker and stylist is well known. A few unpublished letters from Blasco Ibáñez and other writers to Costa give evidence of the same desire for Costa's approval and, all in all, suggest that Pérez de la Dehesa's study should lead to a fuller work to determine how widely or deeply Costa did in fact influence some of his contemporaries.
The second letter from Galdós, also written in his own hand and dated 29. 4. 1901, is an immediate reply to one by Costa (Cartas, p. 420) written on 28. 4. 1901 and wrongly dated by Soledad Ortega as of 1905, possibly because Costa's ones and fives are not immediately distinguishable to anyone unfamiliar with his handwriting.183 Don Benito's letter reads as follows:
Although Galdós writes that he would try to prepare a paper on Caciquismo, the fact that nothing from his pen appeared in the final version of this book, published by the Ateneo,184 and containing the contribution of sixty-five prominent Spaniards, proves, I think, that Costa's attempt to obtain a paper from his friend (on a subject to which they were both committed) was unsuccessful.
Galdós did however manage to finish an article for Neue Freie Presse of Vienna. As I could not see the text of this controversial article in any collection of Galdós writings, I obtained the German version Die Krankheit Spaniens (7. 4. 1901), only to find (with much relief), that Josette Blanquat had just reproduced the original Spanish from Heraldo de Madrid (9.4.1901) in her detailed article Au temps d' «Electra» (documents galdosiens) in Bh, t. LXVIII, 1966, Nos. 3-4, pp. 253-308.
This second letter from Galdós shows by its honesty and bitterness how sincere must have been the friendship which allowed the normally reticent Galdós to unburden himself so frankly. A study of the friendship between Costa and Galdós might well be rewarding. They obviously knew each other fairly well and met (as can be seen from their letters), occasionally. Apart from intriguing differences in temperament, they shared at least one ambition: to create a new, tolerant, intelligent and wellgoverned Spain. Costa certainly appreciated Galdós -«hombre bueno y humano» he calls him in a letter written to a young friend in March 1909- and we know that he found comfort in his solitude and sadness in the novelist's works -of which I found thirty-nine (all opened) among the few books left in Costa's library, Casandra bearing the following dedication: a Joaquín Costa su buen amigo B Pérez Galdós.
But that must be for another occasion. Costa's reply, which does not offer personal sympathy, (though he might have given it verbally) shows clear concern for the solutions of the problems exposed by his literary friend and it is pertinent to link his criticism of La España de hoy to that of Casandra: both bear witness to Costa's empiricism which almost reproaches D. Benito for not joining forces with other intellectuals to form a party or at least a pressure group aimed at revivifying Spanish politics. Failing such a joint effort, Costa would seem content if only Galdós would use his talents in the writing of a play or a social novel in which solutions would be presented.—98→
Finally, in order to situate the brief correspondence between Galdós and Costa, I give in tabulated form the correct sequence of letters between the two men:
|Costa to Galdós (1843-1920)||Galdós to Costa (1846-1911)||Other landmarks|
|1. 16th March 1901 (Cartas, p. 417)||30. 1. 1901 Electra|
|1. 28th March 1901|
|2. 28th April 1901 (Cartas, p. 420)||7/9. 4. 1901 La España de hoy|
|2. 29th April 1901|
|3. 19th June 1901 (Cartas, pp. 417-418)|
|4. 28th February 1902 (Cartas, p. 419)|
|5. Undated, but makes sense here. The date offered by S. Ortega springs from her error in dating letter. No. 2 (Cartas, p. 422)|
|6. ?April 1902 (Cartas, p. 420)|
|7. 18th December 1905 (Cartas, pp. 422-423)|
|8. 25th December 1906 (Cartas, p. 423)|
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