In the first three decades of the nineteenth century, during the wars of independence and the struggles against absolute despotism, literature continued, in its general tendencies, that of the previous century. However, the world of skeptical intelligence and Volterra rationalism (José Marchena), of abstract and anti-historical philanthropism (Cienfuegos) and of individualistic enthusiasm (José María Blanco) has now collapsed. Neoclassicism had been in lyric, within Horatian schemes, a formal return to Luis de León, Rioja and the Argensolas and, in some scholars, also a contact with Herrera. Now it extends into the new century; but in politics it is in function of liberalism, and it seeks to establish the divine without taking it away from history and to establish tradition without putting it in antithesis with progress. Manuel María de Arjona, Juan Nicasio Gallego, Alberto Lista and José Samoza represent, in the formal balance of a somewhat artificial and academic but morally dignified art, this neoclassical movement; which inPreludios de mi lira (1832) by Manuel de Cabanyes has the accents and accents of a youth vibrant with dreams and enthusiasms. The lyrical attitudes of Horace, which the eighteenth century had renewed with an excessive transfer in style, acquire in him a new vigor of passion, which is already a romantic desire for beauty. Romanticism, in the multiplicity of its tendencies, had set foot in Spain and had spread. In the journals, theoretical Ossianic predilections and Schillerian influences had been affirmed (1803-05); Schlegel’s lectures on Spanish theater had been translated (1805-08); the controversy on the Calderón theater had begun from Böhl de Faber, advocating a return to the national theater (1814-18) and promoting refundiciones(1820-22). Romanticism had become a new orientation of literary ideas and liberal spirits (El Europeo, 1821); while the translations of Atala (1803), of Paul et Virginie (1815), of René(1832), the novels of Walter Scott (1831-32) and Manzoni. The historical novel of national subject, within the usual Scottian fantasies, arises with the hasty works of Telésforo de Trueba y Cossio and Ramón López Soler. It is a wave of enthusiasm, which discovers dead corners of Spanish history and spreads a light of romantic poetry. The interest passes from facts to customs and looks for the ideal distances of passion and dreams. History enters it only as an element of external cohesion. The novels of Patricio de la Escosura appear on the edge of art. With melodramatic tints and sentimental intentions, where lyricism frees itself from reality and becomes almost an ideal biography,(1834). With more positive objectivation of individuality and freshness of original impressions, Enrique Gil y Carrasco paints a world of simple virtues within a historical frame with ideal backgrounds in El Señor de Bembibre (1844). But in general, when not supported by reliable knowledge that allows us to effectively portray the color of time, as in La campana de Huesca(1854) by Antonio Cánovas del Castillo, the historical novel was only a pretext to tie adventurous plots, and soon descended, with the very fruitful Manuel Fernández y González, to popular literature. In relation to romanticism, which was liberalism in its fervent work of spreading culture, the novel of customs arises as a portrayal of everyday reality in more modest areas of life. Ramón de Mesonero Romanos (1803-82) focuses his art, simple and modest, often unnerved and widespread and too equal, in the memories of his native Madrid, episodically reliving its tumultuous and moving history, the most picturesque and moving scenes, presenting types and characters of broad human sympathy (Panorama matritense, 1832-35; Escenas matritenses, 1836-41;Tipos y caracteres, 1843-62). The life of the humble and the dispossessed, in a representation full of local color, with a humanity tender in its affections and without abandonment, is in Serafín Estébanez Calderón’s Escenas andaluzas (1847). Problems of education or morals, with feminine accents, frank and vibrant, with an incisive but healthy and serene realism, arise in the novels of Cecilia Böhl de Faber (Fernán Caballero). They are worth more for their general inspiration of sincerity than for the development and study of particular beauties.
In the theater, romanticism exacerbated tendencies inherent in the Spanish spirit, realist and particularist, able to carry out passion motifs with rigorous logic and to portray concrete personality rather than character. Despite the numerous translations of the French theater of the eighteenth century, the Alfierian inspiration made itself felt in the refundiciones of Lope, Alarcón and Calderón attempted by Manuel Bretón de los Herreros (1796-1873). He best distinguished himself in the Moratian comedy, in light and brilliant types, comic and caricatured (Muérete y verás, 1837; La escuela del matrimonio, 1852). The tragedies, which Francisco Martínez de la Rosa wrote before he was taken by the romantic drama with Byronic vertigo (La conjuración de Venecia, 1834), are Alfieri for passionate monologues schemes and statuary attitudes (La viuda de Padilla, 1814; El Edipo). The truly romantic drama bursts onto the Spanish scene with Don Alvaro or la fuerza del sino (1835) by Angel de Saavedra, Duke of Rivas. This too is prepared by the dramatic schemes of the previous tragedies: El duque de Aquitania on the type of Oreste dell’Alfieri. The romanticism of the author, which on Scottian models and with psychological mediocrity has unfolded in national legends (Florinda), or drawn from Romancero or old Spanish dramas (El Moro Expósito), breaks intoDon Álvaro the dramatic units, mixes the various literary genres, various metric forms, promiscuously alternates verse and prose, according to the aesthetics of French romanticism created by Victor Hugo. The drama succeeds in the tragic and impetuous evocation of a past full of great passions, where a fate dominates which is the vague presupposition of a tumultuous action.