Antonio Machado was born into a prominent bourgeois family of Seville. He was the second of five sons. His father, Antonio Machado Álvarez, studied law and philosophy, but his devotion to the study of native folklore gained him recognition as an eminent folklorist. He founded the journal El folk-lore Andaluz in 1882 and published several collections, including Colección de cantes flamencos in 1881 and the Biblioteca de las tradiciones populares españoles in 1884. Antonio Machado’s grandparents lived with the family. The Machado patriarchs were intellectual and anticlerical positivists as well as liberal Republicans. One grandfather was the governor of Seville, and the other, dean of the School of Medicine at the Universidad de Sevilla, introduced Darwinism to Spain.
Antonio and his older brother Manuel studied under some of the greatest philosophers of the times. Among them were their father’s friends, Francisco Giner de los Ríos and Francisco Quiroga. While in Puerto Rico serving as an attorney, their father fell gravely ill and died on his return to Spain in 1893. Three years later, their paternal grandfather died, and the entire family was dependent on their grandmother. Several of the sons tried unsuccessfully to make a life in the New World. The two older boys pursued translation and journalism as practical professions. In 1899, Antonio joined his brother Manuel in Paris, where both of them worked as translators for the publisher Garnier. In the Latin Quarter, they met Oscar Wilde and other bohemian artists.
After returning to Madrid, Antonio Machado enrolled in the Universidad de Madrid. He published poems in Electra, a literary journal that promoted European modernism. His brother Manuel served as editor for the journal, which was directed by several founders of the Generation of ’98: Pío Baroja (whom the brothers had met in Paris), Ramiro de Maetzu, and Francisco...
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