|I recently scanned the text of this dissertation, The Populist Romance: A Study of Michelet's Le Peuple and Selected Novels of Hugo, James, Zola, and Galdós (University of Texas at Austin, 1980), and have not finished proofing. (Move your mouse pointer over French or Spanish text to see translations.) —David McMurrey|
Although the ironic treatment of the populist tradition in such later nineteenth century works as those of Zola and James previously discussed might seem to have for all time destroyed the populist romance, the facts of social history, political movements, and literature in the twentieth century instruct us otherwise. Whether as a result of simple naivete, romantic ideas about the people keep reappearing. Of course, the social situation itself can almost by itself elicit the populist romance without the benefit of tradition. As long as there are social classes and social distance between them, the chances are good that curiosity, guilt, or discontent will drive some of the members of one class to explore the other. As long as civilization is loaded with its discontents, the lower classes will seem to some less inhibited, less repressed, less sophisticated, more spontaneous, healthy, and primitive. As long as there runs the ascetic or stoic streak in our culture, the plebian life will appear—rather by default—a manifestation of that ideal. But the question remains: can there be such a thing as a modern romantic populist who maintains both his belief in the common people and his intellectual honesty, while at the same time being fully aware of and responsive to the questions raised about the populist romance? Can the populist romance survive into the modern age?
Of course there are any number of forms a modernist version or a modernist treatment of the populist romance could take. Benito Pérez Galdós's La Revolución de Julio (1903) is one example of a solution to the problems of resurrecting the populist tradition in an age of irony. While the novelistic career of Galdós, like Zola's, spills over into the twentieth century, he is essentially a novelist of the nineteenth century. In his long career, Galdós portrays the pueblo in almost every conceivable light: in the First Series of the Episodios nacionales, it is a heroic, unified force struggling to eject its Napoleonic invaders; in some of his early novels, like La Fontana de Oro (187O), El Audaz (1871), and the historical novels of the Second Series of the Episodios nacionales, the pueblo appears often as a gullible, unruly, superstition-ridden, backward element preventing the progress of the nation.1 Generally throughout his life a vocal supporter of the Spanish middle class, Galdós became an ardent supporter of the working class and the republican movement in the years just before and after the disaster of 1898 when Spain lost its colonies to the United States.2 This short-lived, "republican interlude," as Chonon Berkowitz has called it, is the period in which Galdós wrote La Revolución.3 Though there is little respect for Galdós the politician in this era, there is much admiration for some of the works in the Third Series and Fourth Series of the Episodios, the latter of which contains his fictional treatment of the abortive popular uprising of July 1854.4
Galdós was in a unique position to transform the populist romance not only because of his continuing concern for the pueblo, but also because of his deep familiarity with the evolution of European literature and thought and because of the constant innovation and experimentation with the form of the novel that he had carried on in his career. With the exception of Henry James, Galdós is one of the least "provincial" of the novelists treated in this study, at least in terms of the range of his reading. He knew and owned many of the works of Michelet, Hugo, Balzac, Flaubert, Zola, as well as British writers, particularly Dickens and Thackeray. Thus he would have been well aware of the international evolution of the romantic idea of the people. And, as a novelist who was constantly exploring the potentials of his medium, Galdós would have been in a position to take that evolution one step further.
5Hinterhauser points out that Galdós studied Michelet's and Lamartine's histories of the French Revolution carefully (p. 207). Walter Pattison observes that when Galdós arrived in Madrid as a law student Hugo's Les Misérables was enjoying great fame and that Galdós later described Hugo as one of the five great novelists—not poets—of the century. Pattison describes many similarities between Hugo's fiction and other novels of Galdós. (Walter Pattison, Galdós and the Creative Process [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1954], p. 11). Two of Galdós's characters, Felipe Centeno in the Novelas contemporaneas and Vincente Halconero in the Fifth Series of the Episodios, list Hugo and Michelet specifically as their favorite writers.
La Revolución de Julio accomplishes this transformation of the populist romance by balancing the romantic and ironic attitudes within itself; it is neither a simple return to the romanticism of the people of over a half century ago, nor does it remain mired in the ironic attitude of the age immediately preceding. Somehow it contains both but manages to go beyond them to a new vision of the people that can be described as tragic or even existentialist.
Galdós accomplishes this renewal of the populist romance by creating a novel with two populists—one the typical romantic, the other a reluctant, hesitant, ironic one. The ironic populist is miserable in his attitude toward the world and seeks a way out but cannot bring himself to make the passionate, idealistic commitment of his counterpart. In La Revolución, Galdós also creates a rather ambiguous version of the romantic sociology of the people. Although the pueblo possesses a superiority and excellence compared to the rest of Spanish society and although they win our sympathy, they seem rather, as do Zola's revolutionaries, impractical and full of illusions. There seems little hope that they will succeed in their revolutionary struggles, but the pueblo does not lose our respect, sympathy or admiration, despite this concession to irony. Finally, as one might expect, the romantic, progressivist view of history also gives way to the sense of irony that pervades La Revolución: in the novel there is a stalled or chaotic sense of time; there is no progressive moment toward a perfect society as the Romantics thought they had perceived. Despite their heroic efforts, the pueblo's struggle on the historical plane is thus doomed. Instead of what they achieve or might achieve in the future, it is the pueblo's rather Sisyphean, heroic, but futile effort that creates meaning and value in an otherwise meaningless world. The spectacle of their struggle has a cathartic effect much as does that of the tragic hero.
All of the elements of the populist romance thus appear in La Revolución, but in a new and ambiguous way. The romantic populist tradition has not been rejected outright, but rather it has been transformed by the ironic consciousness of Beramendi, the central character.
The Search for the Tragic Pueblo
La Revolución de Julio contains several narrative levels: the efforts of Beramendi, who is the central character and narrator, to keep his memoirs of the period, in which he lives; his search for his cousin Virginia who runs away from her wealthy, indolent husband with a common worker; and, most importantly, Beramendi's own quest to find something in the world to believe in in order to escape his ironic attitude, which at times makes him physically and emotionally ill. Beramendi is one of Galdós's most ingenious character creations; his "memoirs" provide the narrative frame for several other historical novels in the Fourth Series of the Episodios, particularly Las Tormentas del 48, Narváez, and Prim.
La Revolución is a modernist novel in the sense that it is as much about Beramendi's difficulties as a historical narrator as it is about the events of the period themselves. He remains perplexed about what events in the world constitute history and about what interpretive position to take toward those events. He is also a peculiarly inept and bumbling sort of historian—indifferent at times toward major historical events in the life of his nation, at other times, forgetful, out of position, or detained by his overly protective wife, María Ignacia.
The novel contains a more traditional narrative level: the story of Bermendi's efforts to find his cousin Virginia. We hear of her activities only through Beramendi's memoirs: he receives secret letters from her and constantly seeks information about her well-being and whereabouts. Like Beramendi's, her story is also a quest. However, hers takes the form of a radical escape from the world of the Spanish elite. Becoming disaffected with the idle, useless life among the wealthy and the powerful classes of Spain, she runs away with the common worker, Leoncio Ansúrez, who has been hired to make minor repairs on her home in Madrid. Leoncio belongs to a family Galdós has already taken great care to discuss in Narváez; the family represents an almost pure strain of the Celtiberic race, the founding race of Spain, which is considered in the Fourth Series the essence of what is Spanish. Hiding with Leoncio in the country-side, Virginia is enamored of the pueblo and committed to its cause—all of which she reports to Beramendi in her passion-filled secret letters. They return to civilization for the battle of Vicalvaro to fight briefly on the revolutionary side and then later during the uprising in Madrid to man the barricades with the pueblo there. Beramendi's search for his cousin and her lover causes him to be present, rather coincidentally, at some of the major historical moments of the period of Spanish history covered by this section in his memoirs, 1852 to 1854.
In its fictionalization of this period, La Revolución de Julio contains some surprising parallels to another great novel of the people, Les Misérables. These apparently consciously drawn similarities serve to reinforce the great, underlying difference between the two novels' assessments of the nature and historical situation of the Spanish pueblo and the French peuple. The difference, however, is not, entirely nationalistic but also reflects the evolution of European thought from an optimistic age which saw history as progress to an ironic age which saw history as static, chaotic, or cyclical. Thus the parallels drawn to Hugo's great romantic novel serve to call attention to the different intellectual atmosphere that had arisen in the intervening years.
Like Les Misérables, Galdós's novel concerns an abortive revolution and a spontaneous uprising of the masses. Both end in defeat, but Hugo's authorial reflections on that defeat in France are far different from those of Beramendi, who refuses to hold out any hope of progress or future triumphs of the people. The two novels possess a number of similarities: a major battle, Waterloo and Vicálvaro; fugitives from the law, Valjean and Leoncio Ansúrez; a principled, protest against the barbarities of capital punishment; and of course stirring scenes at the barricades. In addition, the world, "miserables," is used with conspicuous frequency for pueblo in La Revolución de Julio and Beramendi's trance-like state when he fights with the pueblo at the barricades is extraordinarily like Marius's in Les Misérables. Hugo's novel deals with a popular uprising in 1832 France; Galdós situates his novel in popular rebellion in 1854 Spain. Both conflicts are little-known and rather obscure.
As for the historical background of La Revolución de Julio, the novel opens with an attempted assassination of Isabel II by the anarchist priest Merino in 1852. This event is followed by defrocking and public execution—both of which Beramendi is present to record. These events, while they unleash the Spanish people's great love for their queen, are harbingers of the discord and rebellion to come. Raymond Carr has called the Revolution of 1854 which eventually ensues a "strange alliance of conservative generals [Dulce and O'Donnell]," who issued the pronunciamiento, calling for the overthrow of the government, and of civilian politicians within the context of a popular revolt.6 To Carr, the rebellion only appeared to be an authentic "national democratic revolution." Instead it is an expression of the disatisfied segments of the wealthy Spanish class who manipulated popular revolt for their own purposes. Although Galdós's plebian revolutionists often make references to "hambre," hunger, there seems to have been little connection between the revolt and hardship. The historical background of the novel is confused by a rush of ministers who attempt to shore up Isabel's popularity and forge compromises with the discontented elements in the political arena. During the entire period of the 1850's, Madrid swirls with factions and conspiracies. Repression and censorship increase, and Isabel's minister San Luis banishes some of the opposition generals. These eventual leaders of revolt hide in various parts of Madrid; as the chief of police for San Luis, Chico, tells Beramendi, since San Luis took over as minister, "Se ha destado el infierno; aquí conspiran progresistas y moderados, paisons y militares, las señoras del gran mundo y los cesantes de todos los ramos" (III, p. 33).7 Soon, these generals gather outside Madrid, and pronounce against the ministry of San Luis—events which lead, directly to the battle of Vicálvaro.
While none of this political squabbling impresses Beramendi as particularly historical or promising, he beings to long for a "clean sweep," "la acción destructadora" (III, p. 54), as Spain moves toward the 28th of June 1854, the actual day of the pronunciamiento. His longing for real political and social change is created out of an increasing frustration with Spain's internal political situation, the fiery rhetoric of Virginia's letters, and his own deep need for a better society. Until the indecisive, rather pointless, and disillusioning battle at Vicálvaro, the first engagement between the rebellious generals and San Luis's government, a historical moment at which Beramendi is present to record and experience, he is filled with giddy and obviously unfounded hopes—that romantic revolutionism already encountered in Les Misérables. Eventually, the skirmish appears to him as one between ambitious and egotistical generals. The generals wanted a military and not a civilian revolution and had no thought of cooperating with the pueblo.8
After Vicálvaro, Beramendi returns to Madrid, and after an illness which seems to be the effect of his deep disappointment with his nation's inability to overcome its own malaise, he is present once more to record the spontaneous rebellion of the urban pueblo in July of 1854. There had already been and would continue to be a rapid turnover of new ministers, first the Duke of Rivas, then Femandez de Córdoba, all attempting to maintain the government with a certain amount of concession to the opposition generals. In this moment the popular uprising in Madrid occurs, which ruins the court's attempt to come to some agreement with the generals. Though the rebellion may not have been popular and widespread, Beramendi sees it in nothing but the sublimest light; for a few days and nights, the pueblo—not a set of parasitic rulers—controls the city. Of course, Beramendi's view of the events in July is close, firsthand, and confused; in his eyes, what happens in the streets of Madrid is noble and heroic.9 It is the pueblo as a whole that rises up benign in its action—in thorough contrast to the realistic portrait drawn by the historian Carr.
The novel ends with the four days' fighting at the barricades brought ruthlessly under control by General San Miguel, who represents the Progessive political faction which had used the revolt for its own ends. The Revolution of 1854 was thus a brief "parenthesis in the conservative hegemony of Isabelline Spain."10 It was revolutionary only by accident. It did nonetheless ignite the hopes of the Spanish lower classes for democratic rule and improved economic conditions. But quite unlike the optimism Hugo is able to find in the temporary defeat of the insurrection of 1832 in France, Beramendi in his memoirs can see nothing but inevitable defeat for the pueblo's heroic struggles and its high hopes.11
Although Beramendi's search for Virginia, which leads him to be present at some of the important historical moments of the 1852-1854 period, accounts for much of what goes on in the novel, on the more important thematic level, the novel is a record of Beramendi's quest for something in which to believe in the Spanish world and for a way out of his paralyzing ironic attitude toward that same world. He desperately longs for his nation to transcend its eternal, fruitless political squabbling and to move toward a better society. His memoirs are a record of his temporary discoveries of movements and events in Spain he thinks will help make the nation better; but his optimism is nearly always followed by crushingly disillusioning events. However, this pattern of despair is broken at the end of the novel when at last he discovers a locus of permanent value—the pueblo. But his vision of the pueblo is unlike anything encountered in previous chapters of this study, because however excellent and noble the Spanish pueblo may be, there seems little hope of its transforming Spanish history by its revolutionary struggles.
At the beginning of the novel, Beramendi describes himself as a man prone to severe periods of depression, which make him seriously ill both physically and emotionally:
Sepa la Posteridad que ha dos anos padecí alteraciones de mi salud, cuyo proceso y síntomas fueron gran confusión de los médicos de casa; y tan desconcertado me puse, que mi amada esposa y mi bendita suegra llegaron a creer que yo había perdido el juicio, o que mis tenaces melancolías y desgana de todo me llevarían pronto a perderlo. (III, p. 12)
He is a highly ironic individual, like Hyacinth in The Princess Casamassima; but, unlike Hyacinth, his sense of the ironic can become so overpowering that the world, particularly the Spanish portion of it, can begin to look grotesquely farcical, absurd, and meaningless. The despair and horror he feels at these moments lead to his depression and illness. The rise and the fall of his emotional and physical health is carefully tied to the general health and outlook of Spain. His illness is often tied to the turmoil and the failed hopes of the nation as a whole; thus he is a barometer for the condition of the troubled nation during the period of years covered by La Revolución.
The early parts of the novel trace Beramendi's increasing conviction concerning the need for a sweeping social revolution in Spain, not just a change of leaders at the top. He begins this set of memoirs, which Galdós entitles La Revolución de Julio, as a man who has just recovered from another period of deep depression. At first his response to the attempted assassination of Isabel II seems that of a rank sensation-monger; he calls it "mi fogosa curiosidad de lo anormal, de lo extraordinario, de lo que borra y destruye la vulgar semejanza de todas las cosas" (III, p. 9). But this taste for the lurid is actually a fierce desire to find portents of major change in Spain's political and social conditions which will improve his psychological condition. He looks everywhere for hopeful signs on the Spanish landscape. Beramendi longs for a total revolution that will not simply replace one dictator with another but that will renovate Spanish society from top to bottom. This longing builds and intensifies until the battle of Vicálvaro, at which point he is profoundly disappointed. He believes that upheaval of practically any sort in Spain will be a positive good:
España no necesita de la acción consolidora del tiempo, porque no tiene nada que consolidar; necesita de la acción destructora, porque sus grandes necesidades son destructivas. Las revoluciones, que en las otras partes desequilibran la existencia, aquí la entonan. (III, p. 54)
He becomes overjoyed and even ecstatic once O'Donnell and the other opposition generals have pronounced against the government: he sees it as that first step in the clean sweep, in the moral renovation he has sought: "asegurada la subsistencia para toda la familia, nada me importa que Madrid sea un campo de batalla: vengan tiros, lucha, sacudimientos; sean allanadas las moradas de los soberbios; las viejas rutinas caigan; abrase paso la vida nueva..." (III, p. 57). But 1854 will simply produce another pronunciamiento as Beramendi sadly leams midway through the novel. Until that moment, however, he sees the revolution in those sweeping, apocalyptic terms of a romantic populist from the 1840's, as satirized by Henry James in his The Princess Casamassima: "A la fuerza expansiva de las ideas ha vencido una fuerza mayor; la inercia, la formidable pesadumbre de la almas que no vuelan ai corren" (III, p. 58). In all these moments leading to the disillusioning battle, Bermendi is oddly breathless, scrambled and disjointed in his expression, suggesting the impracticality of his visionary hopes. He sees the revolution as coming straight from the pueblo, as involving all the common people, not just the politicians and the generals, not just a palace revolution. This state of mind is so strongly contrasted to his normal one of cynicism and irony, established fully in the early pages of the novel, that his high hopes seem only a momentary illusion soon to be destroyed.
Arriving at Torrejón, a town near Vicálvaro, Beramendi's spirits are soaring with revolutionary optimism and enthusiasm. Like the typical romantic revolutionary, he is ready for the kingdom of God, or some anarchic version of it. Although we may generally smile at his comic ineptitude as historian, Beramendi does leave a beautiful portrait of Torrejón in its revolutionary fervor, where the insurrectionists are camped prior to the battle of Vicálvaro.
In Torrejón, members of the pueblo, awakened to the spirit of the times, hug each other, shout revolutionary slogans, decorate the town, and look forward to the new era: "el pueblo se engalanaba para festejar el cambio venturoso, la nueva dirección hacia los vagos horizontes del progreso y el 'bienestar'" (III, p. 66). For some reason the revolutionists believe that Beramendi is the civilian leader of the revolt; "Arrastrado por aquel vértigo y metido en él, llegué a creerme que soy, en efecto, la cabeza civil de la revolución." Being treated as such and beginning to believe it himself, indeed he is the leader in the sense that his inflated hopes and enthusiasm reflect the general vertigo of the pueblo in this moment: "Nunca vi gente más alegre; creyérase que esperaban lluvia de monedas de oro y plata o presenciar gloriosas combates caballerescos." As the "ejército libertador" advances to battle "rompió la multitud en exclamaciones de júbilo. El toque de clarines de Caballería y el grave paso de esta encendían en todos los corazones un sentimiento de admiración, de piedad y ternura que no es fácil definir. En los sentimientos que despierta tan sublime música se confunden y hermanan la grandeza heróica y el fervor religioso" (III, p. 69).
But from the moment the actual killing starts, Beramendi is shocked and disillusioned: "al fin, entre mis confusiones y hastío de tanta barbarie surgía la pregunta no contestada: '¿Y todo esto para qué?'...ante aquel combate, en cierto modo casero, entre cuatro gatos, como suele decirse, lucha por el gobierno de un país siempre desgobernado, mi pensamiento no podía elevarse a las alturas de la historia trágica. Nada, nada: que acabaran pronto y se fueran a sue casas" (III, p. 70). Beramendi abruptly returns to his ironic view of things. The little old peasant women with whom be finds himself watching the battle, much in the same atmosphere of the Waterloo episode in Stendhal's La Chartreuse de Parme, echo his own fallen spirits; one of the women welcomes it all greedily because the troops bring money to the village, the other chimes in greedily too that revolutions enable the poor to ransack the rich and the convents and to profit from the destruction and the chaos.
At length the battle begins to appear "una comedia marcial" and Beramendi reflects that "La página histórica me resultaba poco interesante" (III, pp. 71-72). In the descriptions after the battle he emphasizes the presence of "pólvora" and "yeso," suggestive of the unredeemed desert that Spain has remained as opposed to becoming a garden of Eden. The exhausted, discouraged troops return to the village like savage barbarians no longer filled with faternal idealism and grab whatever food they can in complete reversal of the spirit that had marked their behavior toward the pueblo before the battle. Just as everything in the area of disillusioning battle begins to taste dry and powdery, like the "yeso" from the city walls blasted by cannon fire, so the generals attempt to whitewash their poor performance and to see it as a victory. Beramendi turns away from this historical moment disgusted and contemplates the calm and indifference of the horses and dogs in the street outside the generals' meeting place.
With his hopes for real social and political change again dashed, Beramendi returns to Madrid as depressed and nauseated as ever; he suffers a complete relapse into his emotional problems, and again there is a gap in his memoirs. He wonders as does his wife, "¿Se reproducían en mi las tristezas o sandadas que años atrás alteraron gravemente mi salud?" (III, p. 80). What he feels after the battle and back in Madrid is simply "ganas de vomitar la história contemporánea que tengo en el cuerpo, y que se me ha indigestado formando un bolo." His great nausea at the failure of the revolution is also a nausea at the return of things as usual in Spain: "mis ilusiones de ver a España en camino de su grandeza y bienestar han caído y son llevadas del viento. No espero nada; no creo en nada... Me hastía el recuerdo de la batalleja que vi en Vicálvaro" (III, p. 80). Once again Beramendi has returned to his totally ironic view of things: "los hechos y los hombres son por sí sobradamente rastreros y miserables."
When the rebellion begins in Madrid, it is not certain that he will concern himself with it at all, but he continues his search for Virginia and Leoncio. His search for these two once again causes him to be caught, just as he had been in the revolutionary zone at Torrejón and Vicálvaro, in the middle of a big historical moment. Even in his search through the city for the couple, he cannot keep himself out of the streets despite his wariness: "No era posible que yo me privase de salir a la calle, para contemplar una página histórica, que sin duda habría de ser más bella que la de Vicálvaro" (III, p. 84). But there is in his attitude now a reluctance to become involved emotionally after the lesson his earlier experience had taught him about placing any hope in movements promising change: "Con ver un poquito bastaría, quizá, y sin quizá, ciertas páginas históricas, como las obras de pintura, pierden bastante miradas desde un punto de vista cercano."
As Beramendi wanders the streets in search for Virginia and Leoncio he begins to absorb the revolutionary excitement, and the lack of food, the fiery plebian liquor, the euphoria of the uprising, and the excitement of meeting Virginia and Leoncio at last take their toll on him. He claims in his memoirs that he blacked out and that he came to his senses later wearing working class clothing black with the powder of gunfire. He is told also that he had been fighting vigorously and heroically on the barricade, but rather like a sleepwalker. He also remembers dimly having killed a swashbuckling adventurist opportunist on the revolutionary side who was preparing to rape or seduce Lucila, Leoncio's sister, and one of the legion of the Ansúrez family that wander throughout the Fourth Series.12 Fully recovering his senses, Beramendi rushes home though in great embarassment at his four days' away and his extraordinary adventures.
At the end of the novel, at the end of this section of his memoirs, Beramendi is curiously buoyant and cheerful at a moment which in the past would have found him once again deeply dejected. He has not fallen into the same headlong despair that he did after the battle of Vicálvaro. The popular revolution has failed, Spain is still the same, nothing has improved, but he has now found something to be optimisitic about—the existence of the pueblo. It does not seem to matter to him that the pueblo's struggle fails and seems destined for continuing failure. His pain at what he views as the absurdity of Spanish politics and Spanish history is now softened somewhat by the existence of the pueblo, regardless of their lack of accomplishments; their spirit, idealism, and heroism redeem the Spanish world for him. Beramendi's search at long last culminates in his discovery of the heroic, tragic pueblo.
Central to Beramendi's populist sociology is his recognition that nothing has changed and that most likely nothing will ever be changed: "Aquí quedaba Madrid, con su corte, su política, y el eterno rodar de los artificios, que se suceden mudándose, y se mudan para ser siempre los mismos...Y yo a mi casa" (III, p. 112). To Beramendi, "Revolución cómoda, casera, cambio de nombres y de personas nada más" (III, p. 82) is all that ever results. Beramendi realizes that "después de pasarse largos días y noches en tan peligrosos andanzas," the pueblo must return to the same routine, a life unchanged and as usual precariously on the verge of disaster and misery. It is as if the revolution had no other goal than this: "par ganar un triste cocido y vivir estrechmente entre afanes y miserias" (III, p. 101). What Beramendi discovers that is admirable in the pueblo is its capacity to struggle for a better life in spite of the certainty of failure:
Sentí lástima de aquella pobre gente, y también admiración muy viva, pues desde le hondura de su vida miserable se lanzaban impávidos a la conquista de una España nueva. Cuanto tenían, las vidas inclusive, lo sacrificaban por aquel idéal de pura soñación, y por una programa de Gobierno que no habría podido puntualizar, si fueran llamados a realizarlo. (III, p. 101)
Beramendi senses in the pueblo an idealism bordering on fantasy and illusion; however, quite unlike the way in which these half-dream visions are treated in Zola's fiction, for example, those of Florent in Le Ventre de Paris, they become admirable, a source of heroism, and the only element that redeems an otherwise absurd world in Bermendi's eyes:
¡A luchar y pelearse por un principio fantástico, vagaroso, como las formas de hombres y animales que se dibujan en las nubes! ¡Y luego volver al trabajo, a las privaciones, a la insignificancia! (III, p. 101)
As in the case of populists discussed in previous chapters, both Beramendi and Virginia discover in the plebian world what they lack in their own. The pueblo becomes a projection or a satisfaction of their needs. However, La Revolución de Julio gives tacit acknowledgement to the difficulties of being a romantic populist in an age of irony and thus creates an unusual version of the type in Beramendi. Virginia on the other hand is the thoroughly romantic type who acts out all the classic phases: she runs away to the world of the pueblo, scorning that from which she has come; she transforms her identity into one that is no longer aristocratic but remarkably plebian in Beramendi's eyes; she struggles alongside the people, making their cause her own. It is no coincidence that in some of her phases Virginia reminds us of certain female characters in the romances of George Sand; Le Compagnon du Tour de France (1840) and Le Meunier d'Angibault (1845) are two stories in which aristocratic ladles spurn their comfortable milieu and take up the humble plebian life.
Virginia, the young woman in La Revolución who goes to the pueblo, is the daughter of a noble and wealthy family, and her marriage is arranged with the son of another affluent, but in this case self-consciously modernistic family. Beramendi makes it clear in his journalistic musings about this marriage that Virginia must be asphyxiated by the excessive wealth, fashion consciousness, and modem gadgetry that so preoccupies her new family. When she finally runs off with a common worker, Leoncio Ansúrez, she defines her act of rebellion not only as a revolt against "el ladronazo de su padre, y su casa y toda la sociedad" (III, p. 29), but also, like Lady Aurora in The Princess Casamassima, as a search for life: "me lanzo por el camino de la vida." Virginia exerts a great force upon Beramendi by her example and by the polemics of her secret letters:
Bandidos hay de la Política, que explotan al pueblo; bandidos eclesiásticos, que echan benediciones, y otras clases de bandolerismo ilustrado, como don Mariano, mi ex-suegro. (III, p. 60)
Her letters shape the way he looks at the uprising in the streets of Madrid:
¡Ay Pepe, lo que aprende una cuando se mete tierra dentro por el verdadero país, y ve de cerca sus miserias y siente el latido de la sangre de la nación!
In words reminiscent of the Princess Casamassima's, she calls on Beramendi to become "salvaje" and defines her act as a journey to the pueblo and to the heart of Spain:
pero yo te digo: "Hazte salvaje como yo; bájate a lo mas hondo de lo que mi ex suegro llama capas sociales, a esta capa de la pobreza que vive sobre el terruño, y verás las verdades netas...Pero yo me rio de ti y de tus sabidurías, sacadas de libros y discursos. Yo soy una ignorante que ha leído en el libro grande de las cosas, tales como son, y ha visto de cerca la España en cueros, musculosa, cargadad de cardenas. Viviendo en ella y con ella es como nos instruimos.
Clearly, her rebellion against high society and her discontentment with life there shape the way she views the pueblo. In her call to Beramendi to go to the people, she repeats that traditional rejection of intellectualism and repeats that traditional romantic notion of the different cognitive processes by which the common folk knows things—both features of the populist romance. To Beramendi's eyes Virginia successfully becomes plebian: "está más bella de salvaje que lo estuvo de señorita y señora, y que los efectos del sol y el aire superan a cuantos cosméticos inventa la industria del tocador" (III, p. 97). Beranendi does notice "la fatiga del trabajo duro, que acabará por deteriorar su belleza;" however on the whole he feels that "Naturaleza" has benefitted Virginia so that "sobre sus facultades brilla hoy un sol nuevo que todo lo ilumina, la razón, antes apenas perceptible, como un resplandor de aurora entre brumas" (III, p. 97).
Though Beramendi is filled with the same criticism and disaffection for Spanish society, Virginia's act represents to him throughout the novel the rebellious step he himself cannot take; she acts upon their mutual disaffection. Her rebellion, her act of dropping out of the wealthy, fashionable, and highest circle of Madrid society, is an explicit criticism of that world: it is social revolution on the personal and private level to Beramendi. Virginia's letters are filled with scorn for the world she has abandoned. For example, Virginia imagines that her sister Valeria must be unhappy still trapped in that world: "Sospecho que se aburre, que se distrae recibiendo y pagando vistas y asistiendo a todos los teatros...A no ser que le de por matar el fastidio en las iglesias, comiéndose los santos...Si es así, de veras la compadezco" (III, p. 98). As these passages show, her populism is filled with as much preoccupation for the world she has rejected as for the world she has embraced.
Beramendi on the other hand has a great deal of sympathy for the pueblo but cannot bring himself to follow the classic course of action that Virginia does. He is too ironic to believe that he can transform his identity; he knows the pueblo is doomed to failure; and he knows history is a chaos or a stasis. As a man thoroughly familiar with the literature of his time, no doubt the populist quest is to a certain extent hackneyed in his eyes. Also, Beramendi, quite unlike the other populists as we have seen in this study, has a deep sense of love and responsibility toward his wife and family and simply cannot "go to the people" at a moment's notice. Most important is Beramendi's pessimistic outlook, however. Unlike the romanticism of Virginia which propels her into action and commitment with fiery passion and with practically no doubts or misgivings, the ironic Beramendi is paralyzed into inaction and doubt. This reserve is ultimately broken down in the euphoria of the street fighting in Madrid at the end of the novel; he loses his critical, ironic faculties temporarily and becomes for a while the typical populist. Once the fighting is over and he has returned to his senses, Beramendi resumes his former nonplebian identity.
Like Virginia, Beramendi's populism is built upon discontentment with his own social class. However, that feeling extends to himself: part of the grandeur and heroism he sees in the pueblo is an expression of his own feelings of worthlessness; as for the common people,
trabajaban rudamente todo el año para vivir con estrechea, y yo vivo de riquezas que no he labrado, y de rentas que no se como han venido a mí. Y viviendo en la inactividad, amenizando mis ocios con el recreo de ver pasar hombres y cosas, ellos se lanzan a la hechura de los aconticimientos, a impulsar la vida general, y a desenmohecer los ejes del carro de la Historia. Ellos dan su hacienda corta y su vida, no por el beneficio y mejora de sí mismo y de la clase a que pertenecen, sino por la mejora de toda la sociedad. Si algo bueno resultare de esta revolución, no sera para ellos, que seguirán tan pobres, oscurecidos y barbaros como antes, mientras recogen el fruto de la mudanza política los camastrones que han cultivado y adquirido la agilidad oratoria, o los áureos gandules como yo. (III, p. 1O6)
Beramendi feels worthless in the presence of the pueblo; he has nothing of the pueblo's heroic idealism to struggle for; he views himself over-refined, inert, sterile, egoistic, uselessly erudite, and terribly small in comparison. His quest for the pueblo is one in which he searches for regeneration, a quest such as Michelet in Le Peuple had called on the French middle and upper classes to make. Similarly Beramendi's populist sociology is built as much upon a loathing of his own social world as upon a real perception of the plebian world: compared to "el desdén y el hastío de las vulgares cosas que me rodean. .. [de] las tintas medias, la clase media, el justo medio y hasta la moral media." (III, p. 81), Beramendi finds "lo grande y hermoso, la poesía de los hechos humanos" in the pueblo alone.
The pueblo, as the English working classes were for the Princess, is simply Beramendi's context within which he catalogs his own self-criticisms. Everyone other than the tragic pueblo belongs to humanity. Beramendi feels painfully inferior to the pueblo after the uprising is put down in Madrid:
Mi alma era toda tristeza, considerando cuán poco soy y cuán poco valgo. ¡Entre aquellos hombres inocentes y rudos que perciben un ideal y corren ciegos tras él menos preciando sus propios vidas, y yo, existencia infecunda, inmóvil pieza de un mecanismo que anda sólo a medias y a tropezones, que colosal diferencia! Ellos me parecían materia viva, aunque tosca; yo, materia inerte, ociosamente refinada. Ellos marchan; yo permanezco apegado al suelo como un vegetal. Ellos son elemento activo; yo, formación petrificada del egoismo y de la pereza. Para consolarme de la envidia que me punza el corazón, pienso en la barbarie de ellos; comparo su grosería con mi finura, y su ignorancia con las varias erudiciones de segunda mano que me adornan. Pero esto no me vale, y en lo mejor de mis compariciones, les veo agigantarse, mientras yo, de tanto empequeñecer, llego a ser del tamaño de cañamón. (III, pp. 105-106)
Despite his admiration for the pueblo, his scorn for himself and his own social class, Beramendi is too ironic, too self conscious to carry out the pattern of rebellion, exile, and identity transformation achieved by Virginia.
The fact that he does become the character type of the romantic populist during the uprising in Madrid because of the stress and the excitement of the moment suggests that some part of him greatly wants to go to the people. Although he calls that temporary state of delirium on the barricades a "dolencia tan vaga como cruel," a moment full of "desórdenes extraños de la inteligencia, y aberraciones sensorias muy peregrinas" (III, p. 108), his sympathies are clearly with the struggles of the pueblo.
The origins of the attack which transforms Beramendi into a member of the "clase humilde" are certainly physical in origin: after having sneaked out of his house away from the watchful care of his wife, he remains awake for over two days and eats little or nothing. To push him to the breaking point, his only meal consists of "buñuelos y aguardiente," hard bread and brandy, a truly fiery and revolutionary repast but somehow not the sustenance to keep his fragile psyche intact. In many other ways during his delirium, his identity is transformed into that of the common pueblo. His complete transformation for the short period may be another explanation for his inability to remember any of what he did or said: "no puedo traer fácilmente a mi memoria mis acciones de aquel día" (III, p. 180). During the uprising, "Rodrigo, his "escudero," claims he was like an "autómata que iba y venía, y maquinalmente funcionaba moviendo los muelles y resortes de su organismo. Sin apreciar la causa impulsora ni darse cuenta de sus efectos." But at some point, Beramendi finds himself armed; he is shocked and terrified to be told he had actually been firing away. Rodrigo tells him he had eaten the standard pueblo fare: "¡Vaya por Dios! Comí pan, aceitunas negras, un pedazo de cecina, medio arengue, y apuré un vaso de vino." His amazement is reinforced when he is told how he was dressed, during his delirium: "llevaba un chaquetón holgado y vetusto, en vez de la levita que saqué de mi caaa, y de que en lugar de mi sombrero llevaba una gorra de cuartel...mis botas de caña, por arte de magia, se habían convertido en zapatos de orillo, blandos y feos" (III, p. 109).
If part of the tradition of the populist romance is a dream of identity, and if this drama can be found in the various populist movements and to-the-people movements in history, then naturally it would also appear in the fictional literature of the populist romance. The guilt-ridden as veil as the idealist and the bored populist attempts to throw off or conceal evidence of his origins in the more comfortable classes and adopt the mask and disguises of the common people. The attempted transformation of identity had been part of the comedy in James's The Princess Casamassinia; in Galdós's La Revolución de Julio and Les Misérables it is oddly genuine: the hyper-critical and ironic Beramendi would never permit himself to engage in such a costume game; the fact that his transformation coincides with a general mental breakdown indicates how great was the stress which he was enduring. In these moments Beramendi becomes, though only temporarily, the typical romantic populist, against his ironic impulses. Convinced of the excellence of the pueblo and the rightness of its cause, he joins them for awhile at the barricades and transforms his identity into a plebian one. However Beramendi cannot remain the populist: he is too ironic to accept the romantic revolutionary vision of history, too ironic to believe in such transformations of identity, though not too ironic to believe in the excellence of the pueblo or in Virginia's own identity change.
In his account of his adventures in the streets of Madrid during the uprising, there are many elements that draw a parallel between Beramendi and Don Quixote; in fact, Beramendi himself points to the analogy specifically: as he looks back upon his exploits, he sees a great deal of irresponsibility:
El olvido de mi cara familia, en el amor ardiente al pueblo y en la insana ambición de realizar yo una or mas acciones heróicas, siempre dentro de lo popular, es decir, que mi quijotismo tenía el carácter de amparo de los humildes por estado y nacimento. (III, p. 108)
Like the Don, Beramendi has only a delicate psychic balance at best, and the literature he has read, members of his family believe, has added to his instability as it seemed to have done to Don Quixote:
en lo que duró mi quietud hubo tiempo sobrado para que María Ignacia [his wife] y doña Visita, que veían en mis persistentes lecturas y en mis nocturnas encerronas para escribir la cause inmediata de mis achaques, discurrieran algo semejante a lo que el alma y sobrina de Don Quijote imaginaron para contar de raíz el morboso influjo de los libros de caballerías. (III, p. 13)
He is acompanied by a boy, Rodrigo Ansúrez, the brother of Leoncio, whom he calls his "escudero," and Rodrigo serves as Bermendi's reality principle in ways similar to those which Sancho Panza serves the Don. In the end, once he is back from the streets at home and over his delusions, he reneges upon his commitment to the revolution and its ideals in a way quite similar to that in which Don Quixote renounces his role: looking back on his activities at the barricades, he writes,
Recordando ahora, un poco lejos ya de aquel día y de aquellos sucesos, lo que entonces pensaba yo y decía, obligado me veo a reconocer que no me encontraba, el 18 de julio, en la completa serenidad de juicio que normalmente disfruto. (III, p. 92)
After the uprising, he attempts to pass his actions off as "raras turbaciones," of which he has been cured. Drawing the parallel to Don Quixote however serves to give the actions of the revolutionary pueblo an aura of that quixotic idealism that borders on fantasy and impracticality. One cannot look upon the struggles for the ideal of either Don Quixote or the pueblo in this novel and simply scoff.
The Tragic Pueblo in History
In the populist romance, the view of history is generally an expression of both the nature of the populist and his ideas about the people, his partisan "sociology." Michelet and Hugo define history as progress toward a perfect society. For Michelet, the peuple is the positive element in society and therefore the natural agent of the progressive movement. Hugo on the other hand modifies that perspective to the extent that the romantic populist must go to the people to save them from their misery, to enlighten and lead them forth to the new eden. Zola retains the progressive idea of history but sees the peuple as not contributing to that process. The agent of progress must come from some other source: in Les Rougon-Macquart it seems identified with the science and technology at times, and at others with the simple human will to bounce back from defeat. Henry James takes a decidedly conservative view of history: there is no sense of progress nor are the revolutionary people agents of any potential forward movement in The Princess Casamassima. Popular revolution is associated with the destruction of value, located for James in civilization, particularly in its cultural achievements. To be sure, neither James nor Zola is hostile to the common people but simply refuses to see them as any better or in fact any different from any other segment of society.
As a man who had thought long and hard about historiography as well as history, Galdós was able to construct a powerful caricature of the historian in Beramendi. Just as the romantic world of knighthood and chivalry was dead in Don Quixote's time, that romance of revolutionary progress and triumph of the people, dreamed by the radicals up until the failures of 1848, was also spent. As Don Quixote had expected reality to fit his ideal conception of it, Beramendi seems to be a caricature of the historian searching confusedly for a pattern in history, preferably the romantic revolutionary, progressive one. In this respect, Beramendi is a caricature of that general type of historicist-visionary that Michelet and Hugo represent. Thus, La Revolución takes away the progressivist element but retains the romantic sociology of the people. However noble, excellent, and deserving it may be, the pueblo cannot change history.13
In many respects, Beramendi is an anti-historian: everything—indifference, forgetfulness, restrictions, curfews, absentmindedness, illness, plain incompetence—keeps him on the surface, or at least keeps him from describing the historical moment of 1853-54 in La Revolución de Julio as a traditional historian would. However this very chaos and confusion characterize history itself; Beramendi may be far more accurate a historian than it seems.14
Beramendi must give rather embarassed excuses for the lacuna in his memoirs. More importantly he recognizes the confused, incompetent nature of those memoirs, "mis vagas Memorias," as he calls them:
Creerá [Posteridad] que es mi correo el viento; que a él las confío en descosidas hojas, y que algunos puñados de éstas se le van cayendo en su carrera por los espacios. (III, p. 12)
There is high comedy in his attempt to be a historian just as there is high comedy in Don Quixote's attempt to be a knight. But, if the memoirs read as if they have been strewn by the wind along a dusty road, it is also because Spanish history particularly in the nineteenth century reads in the same confused, and scattered way.15
Beramendi also represents the interesting combination of henpecked husband and historian. Not only must he make excuses to Posterity for not covering certain important historical events for which his wife would not let him out of the house, but María Ignacia even urges him to adopt a certain tone or narrative mode in his memoirs: a comic or even satiric perspective, not the tragic (III, p. 18). The obedient husband reflects that "La tragedía no existe ya más que en el pueblo bajo y en los ladrones y bandidos" and that "volviendo mis ojos a la sociedad alta y media, y a la política, también es ya comedia pura." One suspects that by "comedia pura" Beramendi does not mean a more lofty conception of comedy but instead, pure farce. At moments during the time period covered by the novel, he can scarcely bring himself to keep his memoirs at all:
Y de Memorias, nada, porque aquí no hay vida pública; ningun acontecimiento sonoro rompe el plácido runrun de la existencia. Ecos llegan acá del rebullicio político que anda en Madrid por la reforma constitucional; pero como nada me importa que nos quiten la vigente Constitucion para ponernos la que más guste a la reina Cristina, a los señores eclesiásticos y a los realistas disfrazados de liberales. (III, p. 24)
Beramendi does not even make an attempt to sort out the political events, leaders, ideologies, programs; much of it he cannot even remember. As he comments at one point, it is all about as meaningful to him as the discovery of mosquitoes on the moon. Beramendi most often views the politics of Spain as so much irrelevant meaningless and irritating noise—a metaphor which echoes Unamuno. The real history, as Michelet saw, is made and occurs elsewhere.
Even when this historian wants to keep history, he is practically paralyzed by the immense difficulties of the project:
¿Cómo empiezo? ¿Qué materia social o político cogeré del montón de la vida presente para probar en ella mis fuerzas mentales embotadas? (III, p. 24)
In the revolution suddenly everything becomes "historical," the most notable example of which is Beramendi's niece Virginia's escape from home and husband to live with Leoncio Ansúrez, the locksmith and doorpainter. Their act is as rebellious as the opposition generals' and occurs at the same time as their pronunciamiento. As one of Beramendi's first "escuderos" Sebo and he go in search of the rebellious pair, Beramendi thinks that this will afford a fine opportunity to view "un interesante capítulo de la Historia de España" (III, p. 63).
Otherwise, Beramendi is constantly out of position both mentally and spatially to accomplish his task. At the battle of Vicálvaro all he tells us is the sardonic commentary of old women, and his best descriptive efforts are reserved for the behavior of the town dogs during the fighting. At the festive and revolutionary town of Torrejón, one of his stops on his way to the battle, Beramendi suffers another of his problems, his bad memory: "Ni recuerdo bien lo que dije, ni hago por traer aquellos disparates desde las neblinas de mi memoria a la claridad de estas páginas" (III, pp. 66-67). Typical of this historian too is his ability to find his way right into the meeting of liberal generals discussing their strategy and at the same time his indifference toward this opportunity. He quickly loses interest and wanders outside to describe the placid indifference of the horses.
Most importantly, La Revoluciín creates a sense of history that is distinctly non-progressive. After the disillusioning battle at Vicálvaro, where Beramendi loses all of his hopes in a better future for Spain, there occurs a scene on the way back to Madrid that symbolizes this destruction of the romantic sense of progressivism. Beramendi offers Rodrigo a gift, perhaps a watch, if the boy will find the rebellious lovers Virginia and Leoncio for him. Rodrigo answers, "¿Para qué quiero yo reloj, si no me importa nada saber la hora?" (III, p. 73). What he wants is something else, a violin, and from this moment in the novel, music becomes associated with a certain melancholic sense of timelessness, of historical stasis. In a world where revolutionary hope has been beaten, there is no time, only an eternal, helpless present that cannot be changed. Beramendi will discover however that despite this sense of futility the pueblo can still heroically fight for the realization of its visions of a better world. This will be the lesson Beramendi learns in Madrid in the uprising. Thus, La Revolución gives forth a sense of history as unprogressive, absurd, chaotic, or static; this sense history is built right into the novel and is conveyed by Beramendi's own narrative techniques—or rather, his own narrative dilemmas and inadequacies. The chaotic, discontinuous, unreliable nature of his memoirs—his theoretical problems as a historian—creates a sense of the historical field, in its own right. His scrambled memoirs reflect the scrambled nature of Spanish history in this era—although by default of course. Therefore, he is a more accurate historian ultimately than he realizes.
In many ways the novel is Beramendi and his wife María Ignacia's continuing debate as to the proper interpretation of Spanish history in the mid-nineteenth century. While María Ignacia holds a comic view which accepts existing society despite its problems, Beramendi feels trapped in a fiercely negative view of the social world and longs to escape from it—without, however, adopting the optimistic perspective of his wife.
Of course this debate is not a formal one, but the two disagree regularly as to the proper vision of history Beramendi ought to incorporate into his memoirs. María Ignacia, who allows her husband to continue his memoirs once again in 1852 only if he allows her to read them and perhaps even censor them, argues that he ought to adopt a more optimistic, hopeful tone; she is critical of his preoccupation with the tragic overtones of the Merino affair. Just returning from the execution of Merino, Beramendi writes that his wife,
Horrorizada con mi relate, me autorizó para que lo escribiese, recomendándome que en lo sucesivo huya de impresiones patibularias y consagre mis Memorias a cuadros y tipos placenteros, proscribiendo todo lo drámatico. La misma sociedad me indica el camino que debo seguir, pues ella no quiere ya cuentas con el género trágico, y se ha hecho pura comedia con sus puntos de sátira, y la exhibición de passiones tibias, de carácteres excéntricos o graciosos. (III, p. 18, emphasis added)
She wants him to avoid writing in the tragic mode to protect his precarious emotional and mental balance but also to avoid the suggestion that something is fundamentally wrong with the Spanish government and the nation. For María Ignacia, Spain may not be perfect, it may even be absurdly comical, but it is all that one can ask for in this imperfect world. While comedy and tragedy both ultimately reaffirm the existing social order, to María Ignacia a tragic view of Spanish history and culture implies that something is deeply wrong with her nation. Comedy, on the other hand, with its "puntos de satira," points to the ultimate harmony and justice of existing society, even though minor imperfections and problems may remain.
Beramendi, however, takes a bitterly satiric, pessimistic view of the Spanish world around him, if not of the world in general: it is a "vida triste, valle de lágrimas..., no, no valle, vivero más bien de imbéciles" (III, p. 19). As for his wife's insistence that he see comedy in the world, he merely converts her perspective to "comedia pura" (III, p. 18), that is, society as pure farce.16
Despite his sceptical nature, Beramendi longs to escape his way of looking at the world and to find something of value and meaning in it. Like Hyacinth, he cannot withdraw from the world and enjoy a sense of personal superiority. Beramendi is obviously too disgusted by his own class and too painfully aware of Spain's social problems to be able to accept the comic perspective of his wife. He has too little of the passion and the romantic self-abandon of Virginia and too much irony to become a revolutionary populist as does Virginia. The tragic view is thus his natural alternative: it permits him his healthy scepticism about man and history but enables him to escape the excesses of that perspective which threaten his sanity. At the same time, the tragic view affords him something to admire and respect in the world—the pueblo.
Tragedy is only a dim possibility, in this world, which Beramendi calls "Majaderópolis" (III, p. 24); he even longs for some event in his world to take on tragic proportions and seeks it on the stage of contemporary Spanish history, as an escape from the usually nauseating and absurd world of Spanish politics. Only great and noble individuals, however, are equal to tragedy; to Beramendi only the Spanish pueblo, the lower classes, the workers and the peasants, are capable of tragic heroism and tragic greatness: "La tragedia no existe ya más que en el pueblo bajo y en los ladrones y bandidos" (III, p. 18). All else in the world, to Beramendi, is "vulgaridad social," an inversion of the usual perspective to be sure. Only the pueblo redeems the world of its absurdity; only in its actions can he find relief from the nausea he feels: "¡Luego me dices tú," he writes to his wife, "que me consagres a los tipos cómicos de nuestra sociedad! ¡Ay mujer mía! Me diverten mucho más los trágicos" (III, p. 20). Obviously writing at the time of the popularity of the costumbristas such as Mesonero Romanes, Beramendi refuses to adopt that perspective of the local colorist which belittles and reduces the common people to the status of the quaint and picturesque. Rather, amidst la clase humilde, for example, at the public execution of Merino, Beramendi hopes to capture in the pueblo's reactions "la exclamación trágica," "una interpretación trágica" (III, pp. 21-22). In what he calls this "tierra clásica de majaderos" (III, p. 24), that is, Spain, Beramendi finds only the pueblo capable of greatness, even if only a tragic greatness. He even longs for a revolution:
Anhelo también que, si los sucesos políticos toman vuelo y se hinchan eon trágica grandeza revolucionaria, salga del seno agitado de los tiempos algún privado suceso de los que se miden y confunden con los públicos, formando una conglomeración sintética. (III, p. 24)
Deeply pessimistic, Beramendi sees the revolution as inevitably doomed but longs for it anyway: "Revolución quiero y necesito: revolución en los cerebros y en los corazones, revolución arriba y abajo, dentro y fuera" (III, p. 16). He never concedes the slightest hope for the success of the revolution despite his longing for it. Even a revolution that fails is preferable to "el plácido rúnrun de la existencia" (III, p. 24).
Ultimately, Beramendi's tragic view of the pueblo is justified or reinforced by the symbolic story of Mita and Ley. These are the names that Virginia and Leoncio have adopted as aliases when they are hiding in the countryside outside of Madrid. Of course Beramendi never overtly in his memoirs interprets this story, but his constant fascination with it and his obvious disappointment at Virginia's mundane though playful explanation of the nicknames strongly suggest that his interpretive wheels have been furiously turning all the while:
Tonto, el amor tiene lugar de niño para abreviar los nombres. Al declararnos libres, quisimos olvidarnos hasta de cómo nos llamabamos.. .El me decía mujercita ..., y quitando letras y letras, vino a parar en Mita... Yo, sin saber cómo, convertí el Leoncio en Ley. Los salvajes, ya lo sabes, cuando no tienen otra cosa que comer, se comen las silabas... (III, p. 99)
Galdós plants this retraction of the symbolic value of these two names at the end of the novel: asked by the dazzled and perplexed Beramendi, who thought perhaps the names had been a key to the whole period, just why they have adopted such names, he finds that they are only the shortened forms of one very ordinary word and one very common name.
The silence of La Revolución on the meaning of the two names engages the reader in the interpretive activity. The two names Virginia and Leoncio adopt and their actions in the novel are richly suggestive of the nature of the pueblo and its relationship to the rest of society and to the historical process. Essentially Mita and Ley stand for the idea that in the pueblo is located the potential for a better future in Spain: the name "Ley" stands for the idea that in the pueblo is a higher sense of law and accompanying social structure, which will both turn Spain in the direction of a just and good society; the name "Mita" stands for the idea that in the pueblo there is a stronger sense of idealism and hope or confidence in the future. Thus, in the traditions and the customs of the pueblo is the source of institutions and laws that will bring about a better Spain. The entire social framework will be based on what is innate or traditional in the pueblo and not upon some foreign importation. In the symbolic names and actions of Mita and Ley is a return to the idea expressed by Michelet that the true genius and best leadership of a nation is its people.17
Interpreting the story of Mita and Ley involves not merely understanding the symbolism of their names but also involves considering their activities and their geographical location with respect to Spanish society—whether they are in or out of it. Important too is the fact that they in their own minds are married, regardless of how Spanish society views their relationship. They provide their own internal sense of law which enables them to be married. Ley, whose name means law in Spanish, symbolizes this notion that in the pueblo is a traditional sense of law or justice. Leoncio comes from a family whose roots are somehow pure Celtiberic, that is, for many Spanish intellectuals in the late nineteenth century, the most purely "Spanish" of Spaniards. Celtiberic laws, institutions, and values were eventually suppressed by the Roman invasions which placed foreign social structures upon the Spanish people. However, as symbolized in the survival of the Ansurez family, those original Celtiberic traditions remain deeply embedded. Ley's separation from society when he lives with Mita in the wilderness can be interpreted a number of ways: essentially, that separation suggests that Spanish society is separate, alien, or apart from the laws and institutions it ought to possess. Considered as an ideal for Spain, Ley is separate from Spanish society, thus suggesting the distance that separates Spain from just law and a good society. When Ley returns to civilization, it is appropriately during the revolutionary uprisings, suggesting that for those brief moments in history the pueblo is in control of society and can bring its own repressed social structures and tradition to bear upon reality. In those few short moments of history, Spanish reality is commensurate with the ideal of a just and good society.
La decisión de Galdós de inventar a los Ansúrez tiene como fundamento la teoría de Costa, en la que se refleja la de Herder, de considerar la familia como unidad natural de inagotable capacidad de creación y regeneración, frente a las abstracciones negativas de un estado artificial, esclavizador de o los individuos y de sus agrupaciones naturales. (p. 388)
Mita's symbolic role in relationship to Ley is a bit more obscure. On one level, her relationship to Ley suggests that any legal system or social structure—the practical, functional realities of a society—must be intimately tied, "married," to a higher ideal, a vision of the mythical just and good society, which is never attainable but must always be striven for. She is thus the spirit, the ideal, the vision, or the "myth" that law depends upon. Mita's nursing of the ailing Ley back to health suggests something of this relationship.
Mita's name gives tacit recognition to the idea that a social structure must have a mythic basis, that is, a larger ideal foundation which it strives to realize. That foundation of course represents a fiction; no ideal society will ever be achieved, but it must be sought nonetheless. Her name also implies that man needs myths, or fictions, to stabilize his existence in the world; otherwise, he is like Beramendi who has no such mythic basis. Existence for him "becomes the "abyss" and he is filled with nausea and despair. His triumphant, repeated cry at the end of the novel, "¡Viva Mita! ¡viva Ley!" reflects the change he has undergone. While he remains the ironic one, he has now located a source of meaning and value in the world—the pueblo. In them is a native sense of law, a vision of society, an ideal, a spirit—all embodied in the names of Mita and Ley—that could turn Spain in the direction of the ideal.
However, since destiny may never allow the pueblo to wrest power from the indifferent ruling elite, and since social reality may never become commensurate with the ideal envisioned by the pueblo, that "ideál de pura sonación," the pueblo's struggle is a tragic one: they remain fighting for "un principio fantástico, vagaroso, como las formas de hombres y animales que se dibjuan en las nubes" (III, p. 101). In their quest for "una España nueva," they over-reach, strive to upset the apparent order of things: they are like tragic heroes, presumptuous. They attempt to act like gods and change the established order of the world; they aim for perfection—in this case, a perfect society. They are divinely, tragically foolish. The pueblo's heroic but futile struggles are noble and a powerful locus of meaning and value in themselves to Beramendi:
ellos se lanzan a la hechura de los aconticimientos, a impulsar la vida general, y a desenmohecer los ejes del carro de la História. (III, p. 106)
Beramendi realizes that the pueblo's struggles may never bring the envisioned society a moment closer, but the struggles in themselves are like visitations of the ideal, rather like the brief presence of Mita and Ley in Madrid.
1To Regalado, the pueblo in the First Series is "a la vez tema y personaje en su heróica oposición a los ejércitos franceses"; however, once independence has been achieved, the pueblo becomes "la masa 'espontánea' que se esfuerza por conservar la tiranía absolutista y las vie j as tradiciones que representa" (p. 356). (Antonio Regalado García, Benito Pérez Galdós y la novela historica espanola, 1868-1912 [Madrid: Insula, 1966]). Hinterhauser defines the pueblo of the latter phase as"un juguete de intrigantes clericales y laicos, y el causante de canallerescos actos de venganza" (p. 126). (Hans Hinterhauser, 'Los Episodios nacionales' por Benito Pérez Galdós [Madrid: Gredos, 1963]).
2By more critics than Regalado, Galdós is viewed as a partisan of the middle classes throughout his career except for this "brief republican interlude." In the middle classes he saw the health and the future of Spain, and this attitude is manifested in one of the central characters in the Fifth Series, Vincente Halconero, who thinks that "nuestra clase...estas familias medianamente ilustras, medianamente ricas, medianamente aderezadas de cultura y educación serán las directoras de la Humanidad en los anos que siguen." (Hinterhauser, pp. 126-28, 186-188).
3Chonon H. Berkowitz's Galdós: Spanish Liberal Crusader (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1948), pp. 383-408.
4According to Antonio Regalado García, the vision of the pueblo that arises in the Third and Fourth Series is "el mito colectivo del pueblo, mito falso y adormecedor que velaba la realidad de los graves problemas sociales." Regalado argues that despite the appearances that Galdós was leaning toward republicanism, anarchism, or socialism, he remained an advocate of "liberalismo burgués." Regalado finds this new political leaning of Galdós "tibio y sin fundamentación ideológica," and his political activism of the same period that of "un vulgar politicastro de escaso talento" (pp. 433, 514, 439).
Similarly, Hans Hinterhauser argues that Galdós's political change has "un carácter subjetivo, y este último y tardío amor de don Benito nos parece apolítico, muy sentimental y quizá, un tanto senil" (p. 144).
Agreeing with Regalado on the quality of some of the historical novels of the Fourth Series, Hinterhauser argues,
los Episodios nacionales son una obra literaria mucho más esencial de lo que hasta ahora se había querido reconocer; más exactamente: a pesar de que en la concepción fundamental del autor predomine un juicio crítico-histórico determinado y una doctrina política, no cabe duda de que pueden aspirar al rango de obra de arte. (p. 317)
7All references are to Benito Pérez Galdós, Obras completas (Madrid: Aguilar, 1941).
8Carr, p. 248.
9According to Raymond Carr, the street fighting in July, "the toughest which Madrid was to know until 1936," was the work of a "relatively small group of obscure meneurs who could count on the sympathies of a mob inspired by domestic hatreds and private revenges." It was aparently not, as Beramendi sees it, a true, popular revolution. (Carr, pp. 248-49).
10Carr, p. 249.
11Pi y Margall, leader of the federal republican movement around the 1868 revolution accused the democratic leaders of the 1854 uprising of not having a social program upon which to build a solid working class movement. However, as Carr explains, the Spanish lower classes were not educated in the traditions of political action as were the French peuple, and thus the "enthusiasm of primitive revolt decayed of its own accord once its immediate object [court scandal and local grievance] was achieved." (Carr, p. 249)
12This opportunist's name is Bartolomeo Gracián, a name which makes obvious allusion to the 17th century Baltasar Gracián (1601-1658) who is remembered as a master of wit and irony. In fact in his Criticón (1651-57), there appears a section what takes place in "the City of Deceit and the Plaza of the Vulgo ('Mobs') where a demagogic politician...seduces the masses." (Virginia Ramos Foster, Baltasar Gracián [Boston, Twayne, 1973], pp. 21, 71-76). Of course, one could have scant faith in a popular revolutionary so named. When Beramendi kills him in defense of the honor of Lucila Ansúrez, he defends the honor and purity of the Spanish pueblo and also symbolically kills the ironist in himself.
13Later in the Fourth Series Galdós creates a radical extreme of the historicist who alters, often unknowingly, events to fit a preconceived pattern; Santiuste in Prim literally rewrites Spanish history to fit his ideal conceptions. Beramendi cannot be so powerful or masterful with historical fact; he sees an aimlessness and a shapelessness around him and reflects it in his memoirs. He finds this quality deeply frustrating and mentally distressing; Santiuste, thus, is a Beramendi who has broken down under the stress and under the experience of too much of the reality of the Spanish labyrinth.
14Although Alfred Rodríguez criticizes the whole Fourth Series of the Episodios as an "extremely dissociated structure," containing "neither a unitive plot nor a single nucleus of closely interrelated plots (An Introduction to the Episodios nacionales of Galdós [New York: Las Americas, 1967], p. 139), the whole point of the "disunity" of the Fourth Series is to reflect a chaotic sense of history.
15Rodríguez argues that Galdós shares the 19th century's view of history as a "dialectical continuity," in which fairly straightforward forces of causality operate, and that this view of history never changes throughout his obra even in the "paradoxical" Fourth and Fifth Series. However, whether or not it reflects Galdós's view, the point of Beramendi's confusion as historian—his fragmented and windblown "memorias"—and his inability to get at history is to break down that sense of history as a neat continuum governed by laws of causality and to see it as a chaos of events forming no particular pattern, either progressive or regressive. (Rodriguez, pp. 26-29).
16In those Episodios of the Fourth Series where Beramendi is the memorialista, he begins with a rather comical address to "Posteridad." At the beginning of Narváez he characterizes history as "la continuidad monótona de los mismos crímenes y tonterías" and as not offering any improvement to humanity "sino tan sólo alteraciones de forma en la maldad y ridiculez de los hombres." (II, p. 1507).
17Herbert Ramsden in a fine study of the 1898 Generation discusses this similar concern among writers like Unamuno and Ganivet: regeneration, they believed, was to be brought about by renewed awareness of the national self, of the pueblo, "the lives of ordinary men and women, people without history who day by day go about their ordinary work," (The 1898 Generation: Towards a Reinterpretation [Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1974], pp. 17-18).
18Beramendi sees in "los Ansúrez," according to Regalado, "la esencia misma de lo español," "la más remota tradición, viva en el presente, en la España eterna, en la intrahistórica, expulsada de la tierra y de la história externa por un sistema político injusto y corrompido" (pp. 381-82). Galdós's ideas about the Ansúrez family reflect those of Joaquím Costa (1846-1911) about the Celtiberic roots of the pueblo. Costa was "un apasionado cultivador del estudio de la vida civil, política y religiosa de los celtíberos, 'nuestros progenitores.'"
19The process by which irony returns to myth or romance, described by Northrop Frye in his Anatomy of Criticism is particularly relevant to Beramendi's longing to escape irony and to find the mythic or the spiritual. Moreover, the return of myth is quite relevant to La Revolución de Julio, the work of a novelist generally considered a master of realism or naturalism. Thus, the development in this late stage of Galdós's long novelistic career can be favorably compared to the process that, according to Frye, leads to the return of myth in the literature of modernism:
Irony descends from the low mimetic: it begins in realism and dispassionate observation. But as it does so, it moves steadily towards myth, and dim outlines of sacrificial rituals and dying gods begin to reappear in it...This reappearance of myth in the ironic is particularly clear in Kafka and Joyce... (p. 42)