Dragon and Tennille first met in while Dragon was keyboardist for The Beach Boys , whom Tennille would soon join as an additional keyboardist.
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Of their own motion these poets learned all the essential secrets of the dramatic art. They acquired the faculty of telling upon the stage any story they chose in such a way that it should seem a picture of life itself to their audience; and, at the same time, they managed to fuse with their tales all their accumulated reflection upon men and things, all the various play of fancy, all the fine gold of the imagination, and all the humor, gay or grotesque, which the plain prose of life itself does not contain.
Working freely, unawed by classic models whose perfection they would attain, they were easy in their motions, frank of conception, and ready to follow their matter wherever it might lead them. They had no dread of being dull or unpoetical or undignified; the best of them were constantly all these. But for this very reason they were large and free and powerful, scornful of trivial difficulties and obstacles, and able to attain success where all the chances were against them.
The thought and feeling, the hopes and aspirations, the delusions and absurdities of Spain in the period of her greatest power and splendor are all mirrored in their verse. Like the Elizabethan dramatists, furthermore, they exacted tribute from all other literatures and spent it as they would. And though their work has seldom the rare distinction of ultimate perfection of form indeed, in this respect falls below the best Elizabethan standard , no one can read it without perceiving that he is engaged with the rich and vital utterance of artists who are masters of their craft.
Hardly less remarkable than the Spanish drama is the Spanish novel. Obviously, much the same qualities are demanded for success in the one form as in the other; and from the earliest period Spanish story-tellers have known how to do their work well. There are tales in the fourteenth-century collection by Don Juan Manuel, known as El Conde Lucanor , that are as skillfully contrived as could possibly be. In spite of its prolixity, the once famous romance of Amadis of Gaul , which was given its Spanish form in the end of the fifteenth century, must still be regarded as a highly successful piece of narration.
At the close of the same century, the often indecent, but never dull 'tragi-comedy' of Celestina a novel in fact, though dramatic in form proved its excellence as a piece of literary workmanship by attaining speedily a European reputation. The sixteenth century saw the evolution of so-called novela picaresca , or rogue novel, one of the most important and influential of modern literary forms. And, finally, in Cervantes published the first part of one of the greatest of modern books, Don Quixote ,—a novel in which the art of story-telling is brought to almost unrivaled perfection. In more recent times, the Spanish novel has, of course, suffered from the general intellectual decline of Spain as a whole.
Its originality has been impaired by the inevitable and generally baneful influence exercised by foreign models upon the taste of a people not confident in its own strength and superiority.
The eighteenth century, in particular, produced little deserving even casual mention. Yet in no period have evidences of the old power been entirely lacking; and as soon as the intellectual, no less than political, agitations that attended the opening of the present century began, these evidences at once became more numerous and more significant.
The task of acquiring modernity has, to be sure, proved longer and more difficult in Spain than in any other great European nation, and the earlier literary work of the century has about it too much of the general spiritual and artistic uncertainty of such a period of confusion and change to possess enduring excellence. But the trained observer can detect even in the unequal and hesitating essays of the first half of our century indications of a renewal of the old skill and of the gradual evolution of a new type of novel, which, while modern in its methods and materials, still allies itself with what is best in the older tradition.
The fruition of this period of growth has been seen since the middle of the century, and to-day Spanish novelists easily hold their own with the best of the world. Indeed, in the opinion of many well qualified to judge, there is in no language at the present time a body of fiction more original, more various, more genuinely interesting than Spanish authors have produced.
The reader of Valera is filled with perpetual admiration of his fine cosmopolitan scepticism, combined with rich traditional culture of the true Spanish type, rendered in a subtle, gay, delightful style that derives from the purest sources of sixteenth-century Spanish.
Pereda studies the crude and homely life of the region of Santander with the care for detail of the most scrupulous realist, but without the hard and brutal curiosity about the merely external that realism adopted as a literary creed seems to bring with it. The details of his early life are entirely unknown except to himself, his invincible modesty denying them even to personal friends like the writer of the only biography of him a meagre one that has appeared, Leopoldo Alas. He studied in the local Instituto, and must have profited by his opportunities, for the literary attainments shown in his novels can have resulted only from persistent labor from youth up.
In he went to Madrid to study law in the University, but with little eagerness for his future profession. He already dreamed of a literary career, and tried the hand of an apprentice at journalism and at pieces for the theatre, none of which, happily, as he has since said, was represented. In , his mind being engaged at once by the revolutionary agitation of his own time, and by the similar interest of the still more violent upheaval in Spain in the first years of the century, he began a kind of historical novel, La Fontana de Oro , in which he undertook to study the inner motives and history of that period, so all-important for modern Spanish history, and to illustrate the detestable character of Ferdinand VII as it appeared in one of his most disgraceful moments.
It was four years, however, before the book was completed and published. This he greeted with delight, believing the realization of his conservatively radical political views to be at hand; but he speedily found himself sadly disillusioned.
In his novel appeared, making no sensation, but attracting the favorable attention of a few competent judges. The road was at last opened before him, and he pressed steadily on in it.
His imagination had now become deeply stirred by both the political and the social aspects of the great period of the awakening of Spain, when, to begin with, she freed herself by heroic efforts from the Napoleonic tyranny, and then made her incipient advances towards modernity in the face of the opposition of the representatives of her traditional religion and of her outworn social order.
In he had completed a second novel, El Audaz , in which a phase of the struggle earlier than that studied in La Fontana de Oro , was his theme. Then, taking a suggestion perhaps from the success of the historical novels of Erckmann-Chatrian, he began a succession of consecutive tales, Episodios Nacionales , as he called them, which, in two series, cover the whole agitated time from the Battle of Trafalgar in down to the death of Ferdinand VII in Each series has its hero, whose fortunes afford a slender thread binding the tales together, and whose participation in the successive events or crises of the War of Independence and of the reign of Ferdinand VII enables the author to give these events their proper setting in the political and social movements of the period.
Naturally, there is great inequality in the execution of so long a list of tales twenty in all , and the reader's attention at times flags. Here, to be sure, the situations are less famous and picturesque, the part of action is diminished, and patriotic emotion is less evoked; but the struggle to be studied is none the less violent and profound. For readers of our time this struggle perhaps gains in interest from being rather inward than outward, and from demanding of him who paints it rather a study of souls than the delineation of stirring events.
In few countries has the clash between the new and the old been so violent, or the adjustment to the new produced so many and so startling incongruities as in Spain. The inevitable result is ruin for the party whose physical force is less, the single individual, yet hardly less complete ruin for those whom intolerance and hate have driven to the annihilation of their adversary.
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The sympathies of the author, as his closing sentence shows, are with the new, but his conscience as artist has none the less compelled him to give to the old its right of full and fair utterance. Gloria , in particular, has received great and deserved laudation, in spite of some looseness and unevenness of the technique due to the rapidity with which it was written the first part in hardly more than a fortnight, the author tells us. The theme is not unlike that of George Eliot's Daniel Deronda , one of the protagonists being an English Jew, with the profoundest attachment to the traditions of his race, the other a Spanish girl, in whom the faith of her fathers is an ineradicable instinct.
Few finer and more tragic situations have been imagined by moderns than this. Other groups of novels deal with the other aspects of the modern society of Spain of which mention has been made. In one group we have the disasters caused in lowly homes by the vanity of women who have caught a glimpse of the pleasures of the rich, and pitilessly demand them. The poor official, out of a place, in Miau , is goaded to suicide by the exactions of his wife and daughter and sister-in-law.
In La de Bringas we have the squalid intrigues of a family on the edge of 'high life' and striving to get within it. El Amigo Manso loves, and is exploited for her social advantage by the woman whom he loves. A second group of tales deals with the hard question how the woman, left to her own resources and without income, shall find her support.
At the same time, it should not be supposed that the general impression produced by his novels is gloomy and forbidding. On the contrary, few modern writers show so constantly the play of a free and wholesome humor, or in more manly fashion take life as it comes, without tears or whining. He does not strive nor cry; nor does he moralize. He shows us life as it appears to him in a critical period of his nation's history, unfolding it before us in its incessant variety, and not debauching us by lessons of unmanly pessimism any more than by alluring optimism.
And to give to his work its final and irresistible claim upon us, he is the master of a singularly rich and virile style—a style not modeled upon a fad, but expressive of the whole nature of the man; capable of eloquence, of wit and humor, of anger and scorn; now simple and unadorned, now laden with a burden of reflection and of the great traditional memories, literary and other, of the race. The Spanish purists have indeed declared this style to be far from impeccable, and this is altogether probable. But none the less it has something much more important than impeccability; it has life and strength, and, when its master pleases, beauty.
Cuando usted guste marchar La jaca corre como el viento. Me parece que el Sr. Verdad es que a quien de casta le viene Son tres bultos. Dos maletas y un mundo de libros para el Sr. Una jaca de no mala estampa era destinada al caballero. Principiaba a amanecer. Pero vamos al caso. Bien dicen que al bueno Dios le da larga vida.
Buena prenda se lleva usted, caballero 20 D. Poco va de Pedro a Pedro. Tal sitio 25 que se distingue por su yermo aspecto y la desolada tristeza del negro paisaje, se llama Valleameno. Palabras hermosas, realidad prosaica y miserable. El Sr. Pero usted, Sr. Veo que no todo es tristeza y miseria en los Alamillos. Cuando esto hablaban, tomaron de nuevo el camino real.
Echemos por la vereda. Bajan al camino real, cuando la Guardia civil se descuida, y roban lo que pueden. A aquel sitio llamamos las Delicias.