It is a strange thing that, although Spain is a country which has always had a great attraction for English speaking people, Spanish novelists are very little known to them. Everyone, of course, has heard of Cervantes and many people have read Blasco Ibañez, but how many people know even the name of Pérez Galdós? Yet Galdós is not only the most popular of Spanish writers, whose books are a household word among his countrymen, but he is a major European novelist who ranks with Balzac, Dostoevsky and Dickens. He is unknown outside Spain and Latin America because none of his mature works have been translated.
There is not very much to be said about Galdós as a man. He was born in 1843 at Las Palmas in the Canary Islands of a prosperous middle class family, and went to school at an English college in that city. Here he learned our language well enough to read and fall in love with Dickens. We are told that he was a timid, silent youth, much given to reading, and, when he was nineteen, his parents sent him to Madrid to study law. Madrid was at this time in the full glamour of the late Isabelline period, pleasure-loving, animated and idle. From midday to midnight the streets and cafés were thronged with people: plots and revolutions were in the air, yet such was the mildness of the age that the fear and hatred which had been so prevalent thirty years earlier during the era of the Carlist Civil Wars had all been dissipated. The young Galdós threw himself into this pleasant life with zest. The theatres, the cafés, the Ateneo--Madrid's club for writers and politicians--and no doubt the usual love . . .