Academic journal article Hispanic Review

Henry Buckle's Decadent Spain in Ortega's Espana Invertebrada

Academic journal article Hispanic Review

Henry Buckle's Decadent Spain in Ortega's Espana Invertebrada

Article excerpt

Espana inverlebrada poses a mystery to the alert reader. In its first part, it seems to present an accolade to the Catholic Monarchs for unifying Spain and lifting her to hegemony; in its second part, nonetheless, it undercuts this tribute to Ferdinand and Isabella by describing their accomplishment as a burst of artificial plenitude, masking a nation essentially ailing since the time of its origins. The enigma is resolved when we recognize that the same paradox appears in Henry Thomas Buckle, and that Ortega is maintaining a between-thelines dialogue with the Victorian scholar. In fact, Buckle's History of Civilization in England (published in two volumes, in 1857 and 1861, respectively) deeply affected the historiography of Spain.1 One lengthy chapter, the first in volume H, constituted a negative sequel to the whole of English history, presented as progressive; for Buckle unveiled a richly documented, 122-page synthesis of Spanish history, nearly always static or regressive from the fifth to the mid-nineteenth century. The book achieved resonance throughout Spain and immediately went into numerous reprints. The chapter on Spain, translated into Castillan, appeared in London in 1861 in a separate volume under the title Historia de la civilization en Espana, and in Valencia in 1908 under the title Bosquejo de una historia del intelecto espanol desde el siglo v hasta mediados del xix. Received as a decisive contribution, the work oriented generations of Spanish thinkers.

The part Buckle's historiography played in the Spanish Regeneration movement has yet to be fully explored. The Regenerationist engineer Lucas Mallada, if "Azorin" (José Martinez Ruiz) is to be believed, relied too heavily on the 1861 London translation in his book Los males de lapalria y lafutura revolution espanola (1890). In a severe critique of Mallada's work, affirming the omnipresence of Buckle in Mallada, "Azorin" shows his own familiarity with the 1861 translation and the considerable diffusion of Buckle's ideas on Spain in that country. "Azorin" regards Mallada's book as the transposition to space (geology, geography) of what Buckle had concluded in time (history) in his "famoso ensayo sobre Espana, que forma parte de su Historia de la civilization en Inglaterra, ensayo que fué puesto en castellano y publicado en Londres en 1861 ... con el titulo de Historia de la civilization en Espana" (6: 254-55). According to "Azorin," Mallada arrives at more or less the same erroneous deductions about Spain as does Buckle. Even so, "Azorin" ranks Mallada's book as the most "representative" of its time, as if the spirit of that epoch in Spain coincided with Buckle's sensitivity. Not only in geography, but also in observations on Spanish politics and intellectual life, Mallada seems to "Azorin" to display Buckle's orientation (6: 255). 2Although "Azorin" does not specify Buckle's and Mallada's supposed errors, they have to do with the poverty of the Spanish soil, defects of national character, adverse conditions of Spanish agriculture, the backwardness of Spanish industry and commerce, and immorality in public life.3

What "Ajzorin" says of Mallada, Miguel Olmedo Moreno writes years later of Angel Ganivet, whom he accuses of committing "un plagio" with respect to Buckle throughout the whole first part of his Idearium espanol (129). In fact, our own more recent studies have shown that Ganivet synthesizes many authors in all his main ideas. To Buckle he probably owes the notions that Spain is characterized by its desire for independence; that its land has influenced its character; and that the Reconquest amounts to a sustained, eight-century campaign for national independence. However, he moves with relative independence of Buckle in certain respects, revealing that, like "Azorin," he has given Buckle a critical reading; he does not share Buckle's anticlericalism, and, unlike Buckle, he distinguishes the policy of the Catholic Monarchs from that of Charles V (Orringer, "Introduction" 27, 68). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.