Leandro Fernández de Moratín

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Leandro Fernández de Moratín (1760–1828) was an important Spanish dramatist, translator, and neoclassical poet. Leandro Fernández de Moratín’s father was Nicolás Fernández de Moratín, a prominent literary reformer and dramatist.

Moratín quickly gravitated toward the Enlightenment movement, driven in part by the conservatism of the Bourbon royalty that reigned until 1808. The Enlightenment championed scientific reason, democratic modes of governance, and the worth of the individual. These values undermined the rule of monarchs and set the stage for the political revolutions that swept the world in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Moratín’s most famous work is his 1805 comedic play El sí de las ninas—translated as The Maidens’ Consent—which validates young people who marry for love instead of social or financial benefit. The following quotation embodies the key theme of the play:

“Querer y ser querida… Ni apetezco más ni conozco mayor fortuna.”

Translated: “To love and be loved… I do not want or know a better fortune.”

Moratín recognized that most marriages were not built on a foundation of affection, but instead were made to advance the social and financial standings of the families involved. While these arranged marriages were often a net benefit for the families, Moratín rejected this practice because it was a disservice to the individuals confined in the marriage. The above quotation contends there is no higher value than true love.

In Moratín’s informal study of England, Apuntaciones sueltas de Inglaterra—or Loose Notes on England—he examines British culture and tracks the lineaments of his thinking.

“Encontrones por las calles. — Los ingleses que van de prisa, sabiendo que la línea recta es la más corta, atropellan cuanto encuentran; los que van cargados con fardos o maderos, siguen su camino, no avisan a nadie y dejan caer a cuantos hallan por delante.”

Translated: “Encountered in the streets. — The English who are in a hurry, knowing that the straight path is the shortest, run over everything they find; the ones who are burdened with bales or bundles of lumber follow their path, warning no one and toppling those who are ahead.”

This quotation is an observation of the thinking, motivations, and psyche of English society. When the English set their mind on a goal, they look for the most direct way to achieve that outcome. Such actions can be expedient but also disastrous, bringing adverse impacts on those caught in the crossfire. This sketch also reveals Moratín’s penchant for finding and drawing attention to the comedic aspects of human life. The following aphorism, very different in form and tone, is from the same volume:

“A que nunca abandonemos la realidad por la apariencia.”

Translated: “That we may never abandon reality in favor of appearance.”

In this quotation, Moratín conveys his understanding that appearance often obfuscates reality. This statement is a clear expression of Enlightenment modes of thinking, which favor rigorous and skeptical examinations of the world, often at the cost of long-held illusions. Only when individuals commit to being honest with the reality at hand can they think and act effectively.

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