In 1910, many years after writing his first novel, Galdós told El Bachiller Corchuelo, «En el 69 imprimí La fontana de oro... Aunque La fontana lleva fecha del 70, se imprimió en el 69. Se le puso la otra fecha porque se creyó que tardaría más en salir a la calle y salió a fines del mismo año...».1
The elderly author's memory failed him: the novel did not appear until early in 1871. The so-called first edition of 1870 is a falsification, actually the 1892 printing provided with a false title page, as we shall soon see.
Of course there are things in the early editions which could lead the unwary to the belief that La fontana did in fact come out in 1870. Don Benito's prologue carries the date «Diciembre de 1870» and the last page bears the colophon «Madrid, 1867-68». We must examine such evidence as exists about the origin and publication of the work.
Galdós tells us that in the interval between his first and second trips to France (i.e. 1867-68) he destroyed most of his youthful dramas, and then «Pasados algunos meses, reanudé mi trabajo literario, y sin descuidar mis estudios en la universidad, me lancé a escribir La fontana de oro, novela histórica, que me resultaba fácil y amena. Un impulso maquinal, que brotaba de lo más hondo de mi ser, me movió a este trabajo, que continué metódicamente, hasta que llegaron personas de mi familia para llevarme a París por segunda vez. [...] En el delicioso pueblo de Bagnères de Bigorre proseguí escribiendo La fontana de oro sin llegar a terminarla». After his return to Madrid during the Revolution of September, 1868, he adds «Volví a poner mano en La fontana de oro...».2
As to who «las personas de mi familia» were we have the paper concerning the proving of the will of Benito's brother Domingo, made before the notary Vicente Martínez on April 23, 1868. Shortly after Domingo's death (March 21, 1870) his good friend Juan Massieu y Westerling declared before the judge «Que pocos días antes de ausentarse para el estrangero don Domingo Pérez Galdós en 1868» he left his sealed will in the care of his friend.3
Another friend, V. Fernández Ferraz, gives us another bit of information on the origin of La fontana. In a letter dated September 26, 1902, commenting primarily on the success of Electra in Costa Rica, he declares that he was the one who «antes que ningún otro de sus amigos, presintió y vio claro adonde llegaría usted con sus geniales producciones. Y buen testigo de esto sería su hermano mayor, si viviese, al cual dije en Sevilla cuando en 1867, si mal no recuerdo,4 me preguntaba si 'publicando cuentos' no descuidaría usted sus 'estudios de abogado' y 'se pondría en ridículo' escribiendo libros. 'Su hermano Benito, Sr. de Galdós, siempre será un abogado de verdad, un gran defensor de justicia y acaso el primer escritor de España en este siglo —6→ y el que viene: mándele eso sin tardanza, para que no caiga en poder de editores que explotan el talento ajeno'».5
What Ferraz recommended giving to Don Benito was the wherewithal to publish La fontana privately. In the review of the novel by Galdós' close friend Alcalá Galiano we read «la novela que hoy ha impreso por su propia cuenta»,6 which confirms that in fact the book was financed by money provided by Domingo and Magdalena.7 Of course the manuscript was not completed at the time Ferraz spoke to Domingo. Galdós himself clearly states that the first edition of La fontana was privately financed, although he doesn't mention the source of the funds. «En aquel tiempo no había editores de novelas por tomo, y con los editores de novelas por entregas no quería yo, ni podía en modo alguno, entenderme. Apechugué, pues, con las dificultades de la magna empresa y... eché al mundo La fontana de oro, escrita y editada por mí».8
Now turning to the false «first» edition: It is described as printed in 1870 at the Imprenta de La Guirnalda, Calle de las Pozas, núm. 12, and it has 327 pages.9 But La Guirnalda did not have its own press until several years later. Up to number 102 (March 16, 1871) it carries the line «Imprenta de T. Fortanet, Libertad 29» at the end of each number, and beginning with the following number «Imprenta de J. Noguera, Bordadores 7». Galdós himself was not closely connected with La Guirnalda until it became the property of Miguel Cámara y Cruz in January, 1873.10 There is no mention of La fontana in the magazine during the years 1871-72, whereas after Galdós' association with Cámara ample publicity is given to all his productions. On the other hand several reviews of the novel appear elsewhere between March 27 and May 13, 1871, and some refer to the book as just recently published while two others give its date as 1871.11
If these arguments were not enough, a comparison of the edition of 1892, printed by La Guirnalda, is conclusive. The book has 327 pages, the identical number of the false first edition, and the only other early printing of the novel that has the same number of pages is that of 1885.12 My first impression that the false «first» edition was forged by adding a new title page to the 1885 printing must be abandoned for some small differences such as the division of hyphenated words, show that the two texts are not the same printing. However, the new printing of the novel in 1892 shows no disparity with the forged fraudulent princeps.13
Two scholars have revealed that the edition of 1871 -the true princeps- has an ending quite different from that which appears in modern editions of La fontana.14 The usual denouement is a happy one: Lázaro and Clara return to Ateca, their home, marry and live in peace. But the 1871 version is tragic: Lázaro is stabbed by his abominable uncle and Clara dies of shock and sorrow. It is now possible to state convincingly that Galdós changed his ending once, and only once, between the edition of '71 and the second edition, which is described on its title page as «notablemente corregida». As long as the false first edition was considered genuine, we had a vacillation going from happy ending to tragic to happy, which would show an uncertainty hardly laudable in the author.—7→
But the 1871 edition contains a passage which could easily lead one to think it the second, rather than the first, version of Galdós narrative. The author interrupts his story to tell the reader «Al llegar a este punto de nuestra historia, el autor se ve en el caso de interrumpirla para hacer una advertencia importante. Había escrito la conclusión y desenlace del modo más natural y lógico, creyendo que era buen fin de jornada para aquellos amantes, el casarse... Esto, en su entender, se avenía mejor que nada a las condiciones artísticas que quiso dar a su libro. Pero desgraciadamente la colaboración de un testigo presencial de los hechos que vamos refiriendo, le obligó a desviarse de este buen propósito, dando a la historia el fin que realmente tuvo».15 Here we see Galdós justifying a melodramatic ending in the name of realism. He speaks as if he has already written a happy ending, and perhaps he had, but he does not state that he published this denouement. He claims that he was influenced by Bozmediano in changing his mind about the outcome of his novel. Perhaps behind the fictitious Bozmediano there stood some real living friend or critic who urged him to give more dramatic interest to his tale; perhaps the author was giving in to the trend towards romantic idealism about which he had recently complained.16
We cannot say with complete assurance what caused him to adopt the tragic ending but we can show that his dear friend Alcalá Galiano did his best to persuade him to change to the happy outcome. In his review of the first edition he chides Galdós for having killed his hero and heroine. «No le perdonamos esto al autor de La fontana de oro. Matar a Clara y a Lázaro, un par de muchachos tan buenos y guapos, que podían haber dado a estas horas unos cuantos vástagos al mundo y ser un modelo de esposos y... De fijo invocará el autor en defensa de su asesinato, pues el autor los asesina, razones literarias de efecto que no admitimos. Es una crueldad matar a Clara tan llena de vida... Por este crimen condenamos al Sr. Galdós al castigo de remordimiento... literario».17
While the forged «first» edition was still believed to be genuine a theory was advanced to account for the supposed change from a happy to a tragic ending. Calling attention to the murder of General Juan Prim, the champion of liberalism and Galdós' ideal, certain critics speculate that the novelist's hopes for a successful liberal government were destroyed and that consequently he allowed his pessimism to take form in the deaths of Lázaro and Clara.18 From Galdós' confused recollections concerning the publication of La fontana we can conclude that the printing took place toward the end of the year preceding the issuance of the first edition. Hence, the printing was begun in late 1870 and the novel with the tragic ending, which appears in the manuscript, was completed before the tragic death of General Prim on December 30, 1870. The tragic outcome of the 1871 text could not have reflected the shock and grief of the author.
Furthermore Galdós became the chief redactor of El Debate, a paper founded to support Prim and his ideals.19 Only seventeen days after the general's murder the first issue of the paper came out with a strong leading article (January 16, 1871) supporting Amadeo, the new sovereign whose chief supporter was Prim. It looked forward to the calming of the conflicts which accompany reforms and the peaceful enjoyment of newly acquired political —8→ rights. This article was probably by Don Benito, or at least, it must have had his approval as the director of the new publication. It is not the work of a man plunged into despair and devoid of hope for a liberal renewal of his country.
There remains the final mystery -who prepared the false title page and what was his motive? In all probability it was someone with access to the printing shop of La Guirnalda, for the page corresponds to title pages of the novels put out by that press.20 Since we know that the deceit was perpetrated after 1892 and that Galdós and Cámara began to fall apart about 1894, suspicion falls on the latter. Cámara was in control of the press and could easily have a new title page printed and bound with the text of the 1892 edition. But why would he do so?
The contract between the publisher and the novelist covered everything they would produce after its signing in 1874. It committed them to all future production,21 not to whatever antedated that agreement. Thus Galdós should have had possession of the 1910 unsold copies of La fontana when the partnership was dissolved. As we have seen, he states with special emphasis (in 1894) that La fontana was «escrita y editada por mí» which sounds as if he suspected an attempt would be made to deprive him of the sole possession of this property. But if an edition earlier than 1871, printed by La Guirnalda, should come to light, it would appear to the unsuspicious arbitrators that the partnership already existed and that the novel was part of the common property.
In sum, the weight of the evidence points to Cámara as the originator of the false princeps. This volume in the Biblioteca Nacional is apparently the unique copy of its kind, bearing the date 1870, and it did not attract attention until relatively recent times. For example, Palau y Dulcet does not include it among Galdós' works in the first edition (vol. 6, 1926).
Whether or not Cámara used the spurious copy to establish his claims to half of the remaining copies of the 1892 edition, we cannot say. But we do know that this claim was recognized by the arbitrators and that he did receive unwarranted possession of half of the copies of La fontana de oro.
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