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 Villaespesa. Writers of note contributed to the journal, including Juan Ramón Jiménez and the founder of Latin American modernism, Rubén Darío.
Machado moved to Paris, where he maintained a friendship with Darío until the Nicaraguan’s death. In 1902, he published his first poetry collection, Soledades, which was representative of the Generation of ’98 mentality. Its stark images portray the individual lost in a landscape littered with the ruins of a crumbling society, a feeling Machado probably experienced as his own family suffered the consequences of the disintegration of the bourgeois stronghold on Spain’s social structure.
Literary magazines such as Helios, Blanco y Negro, Ateneo, and the national newspaper El país published Machado’s reviews and poetry from 1904 to 1907. He moved to Soria, the inspiration for his major collection of poetry, Campos de Castilla (1912; The Castilian Camp, 1982). There he met his future wife Leonor, and they married in 1909. They traveled to Paris but returned to Soria after Leonor developed tuberculosis. The publication of The Castilian Camp met with critical acclaim that established the poet internationally. Leonor died, and Machado left Soria for the seclusion of Baeza.
The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and World War I brought Machado out of seclusion, and he reestablished ties with his literary colleagues, including the philosopher Unamuno. Machado and Unamuno signed the manifesto of the Liga antigermanófila. Machado focused on journalism, writing reviews for the newspaper El Sol and literary journals La Pluma and Índice. He promoted the poetry of young writers, the future poets of the Generation of ’27. He began his collaboration with one of the most important European literary journals, Revista de Occidente, founded by his colleague José Ortega y Gasset, in 1923.
The Machado brothers made their foray into theater in 1924. They produced and directed an adaptation of El condenado por desconfiado (wr. 1615?, pb. 1634) by Tirso de Molina. Their staging was a critical and popular success. The positive reception inspired them to...
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