Francisco Martínez de la Rosa Martínez de la Rosa, Francisco de Paula (Berdejo Gómez y Arroyo) - Essay

Francisco Martínez de laRosa


(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

Francisco de Paula Martínez de la Rosa (Berdejo Gómez y Arroyo) 1787-1862

Spanish statesman, playwright, poet, historian, essayist, novelist, and children's writer.

An early supporter of the Spanish constitution of 1812 and a minister of Spain, Martínez de la Rosa was a noted playwright whose play La conjuración de Venecia (1830; Tragedy of the Conspiracy of Venice) is traditionally viewed as the first expression of Romanticism in Spanish theater. A revolutionary in his youth, Martínez de la Rosa was imprisoned and later exiled, but nevertheless developed a moderate political view and advocated constitutional monarchy. The theme of political moderation, along with Martínez de la Rosa's moralism and neoclassical manner, figure prominently in his collected writings, which in addition to drama, include significant works of poetry and history. As premier of Spain, he is remembered for his skilled oratory and signing of a treaty to suppress the North African slave trade. As a writer, he is said to occupy a transitional place in Spanish literature, illustrated principally by his historical tragedies, which are thought to represent the shift from eighteenth-century classicism to early Romanticism in Spain.

Biographical Information

Martínez de la Rosa was born in 1787 into a wealthy and established bourgeois family of Granada, Spain. His father encouraged him in the study of science, languages, and classical literature, and the precocious Martínez de la Rosa excelled as a student. He received a doctorate in civil law in 1804 and was subsequently awarded a professorship in moral philosophy at the University of Granada. Martínez de la Rosa began writing while obtaining his university degree, often responding through poetry to the turbulent period of Spanish history in which he lived. In 1808 Napoleonic France invaded Spain and Martínez de la Rosa became part of the literary and political resistance. As an active member of the revolutionary constitutionalists at this time, he was sent on a mission to Cádiz to secure weapons for his cause. The following year, in response to a literary contest held by the Central Junta to memorialize Spanish victories against France, Martínez de la Rosa wrote the poem “Zaragoza,” first published in London in 1811. Soon, however, French troops pushed the Spanish back as far as Cádiz and Martínez de la Rosa decided to depart for England, where he was later engaged in both diplomatic and literary activities. After returning to Cádiz in 1811, he continued his involvement in revolutionary politics. His first play, the comedy Lo que puede un empleo, was performed in Cádiz while the city was under siege in 1812. By the time the attack had ceased, he had produced another play, La viuda de Padilla (first printed in 1814; The Widow of Padilla). 1813 saw his election to the governing Cortes as deputy from Granada. The ensuing coup d'état of Ferdinand VII, which restored the former absolute monarch to power, signaled a dramatic shift in Martínez de la Rosa's career. As a leader of the constitutional government he was accused of treason by Ferdinand and sentenced to prison, first in Madrid and later for a ten-year term at the North African Peñón de la Gomera. While in the penal colony, Martínez de la Rosa began his Poética y anotaciones (1827) and numerous other works. A victory by the constitutionalists in Spain prompted his early release from prison in 1820. His political views having shifted from revolutionary to moderate following his incarceration, Martínez de la Rosa was appointed prime minister by Ferdinand in 1822, but the fell out of favor with both the newly-strengthened king and with his former liberal allies by the following year and was forced to flee to France. Exiled in Paris for the next eight years, Martínez de la Rosa wrote what were to become his most enduring literary works, including his La conjuración de Venecia. He was able to return to Madrid by 1830, and reestablished himself both as a statesman and a successful writer. The mid-1830s witnessed the high point of his influence as premier of Spain. He also continued to write and publish, focusing increasingly on history, notably in his ten-volume study of European history El espíritu del siglo (1835-51; Spirit of the Age). Martínez de la Rosa left politics in 1840, withdrawing to Paris in order to pursue his writing, although he was recalled briefly to diplomatic service in 1848 as ambassador to Italy. He died in Madrid in 1862.

Major Works

Composed while Martínez de la Rosa was in political exile, the drama La conjuración de Venecia features a brooding and pessimistic protagonist, Rugiero, who becomes involved in a conspiracy to overthrow the Venetian Doge in 1310. The coup, conducted in the midst of Carnival, culminates in his arrest. Brought to trial, the Romantic hero discovers his captor to be his lost father, and when sentenced to execution goes peacefully to his death. Aben-Humeya ou La Révolte des Maures sous Philip II (1830) depicts a 1568 rebellion against the Spanish government of Philip II. Its protagonist, Aben Humeya, a member of the old royal family, seizes power only to fall victim to a subsequent coup. Martínez de la Rosa's remaining tragedies include three more historical dramas, La viuda de Padilla, Morayma (1827), and Amor de padre (1848), all of which share a similar formula to that of the above works, presenting failed revolutions, fallen heroes, and tragic lovers. Edipo (1828) is a classical drama based upon Sophocles's Oedipus Rex, while the topical political satire Lo que puede un empleo is representative of the playwright's comedies. First collected in his Poesías (1833), Martínez de la Rosa's early poetry is generally political in nature, commemorating contemporary historical events, such as the Spanish victory at Salamanca and the War of Granada. His long didactic poem, Poética, repeats the tenets of neoclassical poetic theory while defending the merits of Spanish national literature. Principal among his historical works, El espíritu del siglo considers the foundations of government in Europe from the Roman Era to the end of the eighteenth century, with particular focus on the causes of French Revolution. In it, Martínez de la Rosa expresses a political theme of moderation achieved through a proper balance of political freedom and civil order. Other non-fictional works include the picaresque historical biography Hernán Pérez del Pulgar el de las hazañas (1834), and Bosquejo histórico de la política de España desde los tiempos de los Reyes Católicos hasta nuestros días (1857), an examination of Spanish history. In addition to his better known dramatic, poetic, and historical writings, Martínez de la Rosa also wrote a three-volume novel, Doña Isabel de Solís, Reina de Granada (1837-46), and a collection of moral tales, poems, and fables for children entitled Libro de los niños (1839; Book for Children).

Critical Reception

During his lifetime, Martínez de la Rosa distinguished himself as a writer primarily through his dramatic works. Among them, the popular classical tragedy La viuda de Padilla, which critics consider to be representative of his early plays, has, like many of Martínez de la Rosa's other writings, since been largely dismissed as lacking any enduring literary merit. His best known play, La conjuración de Venecia, was a considerable success when first performed and while many subsequent commentators have admired its incipient Romanticism, a number of modern critics have tended to view the drama as essentially a neoclassical work, culled from various sources and exhibiting only a few Romantic elements. The lengthy Poética y anotaciones has provided additional evidence of Martínez de la Rosa's neoclassicism, though some scholars have pointed out the significant nationalist qualities of the work. Additionally, the historical romance Doña Isabel de Solís was both a critical and a popular failure, and has generally failed to elicit critical interest. Commentators have found in Martínez de la Rosa's non-fictional writings, however, considerable intrinsic value, especially in the ambitious El espíritu del siglo. Most acknowledge, nonetheless, that his historical studies have been largely superseded by the work of other, less politically motivated historians, both in terms of style and acuity. Overall, modern critical consensus has generally regarded Martínez de la Rosa as neither an innovator in drama, nor a pioneer of Romanticism in Spain, but rather an erudite and prolific writer who synthesized his works from a vast knowledge of classical and modern literature.

Principal Works

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

Odas a los atributos de Dios que brillan en la Sacrosanta Encaristía (poetry) 1805

“La revolución actual de España” (essay) 1810

Zaragoza (poetry) 1811

Lo que puede un empleo (drama) 1812

La viuda de Padilla [The Widow of Padilla] (drama) 1814

Poética y anotaciones (poetry and criticism) 1827

*Obras literarias. 5 vols. (dramas, poetry, and prose) 1827-30

Edipo (drama) 1828

Aben-Humeya ou La Révolte des Maures sous Philippe II [also published as Abén Humeya o la Rebelión de los Moriscos] (drama) 1830

La conjuración de Venecia [Tragedy of the Conspiracy of Venice] (drama) 1830

Los celos infundados o el marido en la chimenea (drama) 1833

Poesías (poetry) 1833

Hernán Pérez del Pulgar el de las hazañas [Life of Pérez del Pulgar] (history) 1834

El espíritu del siglo. [Spirit of the Age] 10 vols. (history) 1835-51

Doña Isabel de Solís, Reina de Granada. 3 vols. (novel) 1837-46

Obras literarias. 4 vols. (dramas, poetry, and prose) 1838

Libro de los niños [Book for Children] (children's literature) 1839

Obras dramáticas (play) 1843

Obras completas (play, poetry, history, and novel) 1844-45

Amor de padre (drama) 1848

El parricida (drama) 1856

Bosquejo histórico de la política de España desde los tiempos de los Reyes Católicos hasta nuestros días. 2 vols. (history) 1857

Obras de Don Francisco Martínez de la Rosa. 9 vols. (play, poetry, history, novel, and essay) 1964

*In addition to previously published works, this edition of the Obras literarias contains Apéndices sobre la literatura española, La niña en casa y la madre en la máscara, Morayma, Edipo, Epístola a los Pisones, and Apuntes sobre el drama histórico.

†Comprised of the works from the 1827-30 edition plus Martínez de la Rosa's poetry and the dramas Lo que puede un empleo and Los celos infundados.

‡Contains all plays to 1843 as well as the dramas El español en Venecia and La boda y el duelo.

James Kennedy (essay date 1852)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Francisco Martínez de la Rosa,” in Modern Poets and Poetry of Spain, Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1852, pp. 169-82.

[In the following excerpt, Kennedy recounts the life of Martínez de la Rosa and briefly examines his principal writings.]

Throughout the civilized world, and even beyond it, this eminent statesman has long been heard of, as one who, while devoting his life faithfully to promote the welfare of his own country, had exerted himself no less assiduously for the general interests of mankind. As an orator, a statesman and a political writer, he has thus obtained a deservedly high European reputation, due to his services and merits. In...

(The entire section is 4238 words.)

James Francis Shearer (essay date 1941)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Poética: Motivation and Purpose, Dates and Circumstances of Composition of its Various Parts,” in The Poética and Apendices of Martínez de la Rosa: Their Genesis, Sources and Significance for Spanish Literary History and Criticism, Princeton University, 1941, pp. 10-32.

[In the following excerpt, Shearer discusses Martínez de la Rosa's motivation for composing his defense of poetry while analyzing the aesthetic principles and nationalistic character of his Poética.]

The motivation of any important literary or critical work and the circumstances and date of its composition are necessarily of great interest since these facts frequently...

(The entire section is 8504 words.)

Michael D. McGaha (essay date 1973)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The ‘Romanticism’ of La conjuración de Venecia,” in Kentucky Romance Quarterly, Vol. 20, No. 2, 1973, pp. 235-42.

[In the following essay, McGaha suggests that the romantic qualities of Martínez de la Rosa's drama La conjuración de Venecia are relatively slight and that the playwright was essentially a neoclassicist.]

Francisco Martínez de la Rosa (1787-1862) is traditionally credited with having introduced Romanticism into Spain. The work which gained him this title was his play, La conjuración de Venecia, written during his exile in France and first published by Didot in 1830. The play was first performed in Madrid on April...

(The entire section is 2910 words.)

Robert Geraldi (essay date 1983)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Francisco Martínez de la Rosa: Literary Atrophy or Creative Sagacity?” in Hispanofila, Vol. 27, No. 1, September, 1983, pp. 11-19.

[In the following essay, Geraldi enumerates parallels between Martínez de la Rosa's dramas Aben-Humeya and La conjuración de Venecia, while maintaining that both plays were artistically innovative and revolutionary.]

In reading Aben Humeya (1830) and La conjuración de Venecia (1834) by the dramatist Francisco Martínez de la Rosa, the reader becomes aware of various similarities in the two plays and may be misled to the erroneous conclusion that the author was lacking in inventive and creative...

(The entire section is 3223 words.)

Nancy K. Mayberry (essay date 1988)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “More on Martínez de la Rosa's Literary Atrophy or Creative Sagacity,” in Hispanofila, Vol. 31, No. 3, May, 1988, pp. 29-36.

[In the following essay, Mayberry asserts that Martínez de la Rosa's tragedies display little artistic innovation, and rather rely on a formula derived from Sophocles's Oedipus Rex.]

Martínez de la Rosa is well known to students of Spanish literature as the author of La conjuración de Venecia, the play that introduced Romantic drama to Spain. Somewhat less well known is his Aben-Humeya, the play composed in French and performed in France before being translated into Spanish and performed in Madrid in 1836. Almost...

(The entire section is 3302 words.)

Robert Mayberry and Nancy K. Mayberry (essay date 1988)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Histories, Essays, and Miscellaneous Writings,” in Francisco Martínez de la Rosa, Twayne Publishers, 1988, pp. 106-21.

[In the following excerpt, the authors survey Martínez de la Rosa's non-fictional works, including his theoretical and political writings, and particularly his ten-volume history of Europe, El espíritu del siglo.]

Although Martínez is known to students of Spanish literature primarily as the author of the first romantic drama in Spain, his most ambitious writings were not drama, poetry, or the novel, but histories of political thought. More than thirty years of his life were spent composing a monumental history of Europe entitled...

(The entire section is 6825 words.)

Further Reading

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)


Dendle, Brian J. “A Note on the Valencia Edition of Martínez de la Rosa's La viuda de Padilla.Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 50, No. 1 (January 1973): 18-22.

Examines textual variants in three early editions of Martínez de la Rosa's drama La viuda de Padilla.

Fontanella, Lee. “Pelayo and Padilla in Reformist and Revolutionary Spain.” In Essays on Hispanic Literature in Honor of Edmund L. King, edited by Sylvia Molloy and Luis Fernández Cifuentes, pp. 61-72. London: Tamesis Books Limited, 1983.

Refers to Martínez de la Rosa's treatment of the story of Juan de Padilla as part of a study of...

(The entire section is 142 words.)