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La Gaviota: A Spanish novel

Language - English
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Description: - GAVIOTA (sea-gull) is the sobriquet which Andalusians give to harsh-tongued, flighty women of unsympathetic mien and manners; and such was applied to the heroine of this tale by a youthful, malicious tormentor—Momo. Fernan Caballero is, indeed, but a pseudonym: the author of this novel, passing under that name, is understood to be a lady, partly of German descent. Her father was Don Juan Nicholas Böhl de Faber, to whose erudition Spain is indebted for a collection of ancient poetry. Cecelia, the daughter of Böhl de Faber, was born at Morges, in Switzerland, in 1797, and subsequently married to a Spanish gentleman. Indeed, since the death of her first husband, she has successively contracted two other marriages, and is now a widow. We have it on the authority of the Edinburgh Review, that the novels of this gifted authoress were “published at the expense of the Queen.” The same authority remarks, “Hence it might have been foretold, that of the various kinds of novels, the romantic and descriptive was the least repugnant to the old Spanish spirit; and that in order for a writer successfully to undertake such a novel, it would be necessary for him to have a passionate attachment to the national manners and characteristics, and a corresponding dislike to the foreign and new—such are the qualities we find united in Fernan Caballero: La Gaviota is perhaps the finest story in the volumes.” Its advent is a real literary event: the most severe critics have dissected this new work, and have unhesitatingly proclaimed the authoress to be the Spanish Walter Scott. Among the painters of manners, the best, without doubt, are the Spanish writers. We are certain to find there truth, joined to a richness and piquancy of details; and, above all, a spirited tone, which singularly heightens and sets off their recitals. They have, however, what in us is a defect, but with them a natural gift—the being a little prolix. In translating it is easy to avoid this prolixity. This has been attended to in the present translation. I have preserved all the character of truth and originality of this novel; curtailing only such passages as seemed, in my judgment, too long and tedious for those who are not initiated into those agreeable familiarities of Spanish intimate conversation, and others, which are without attraction to those who were not born under the bright sun of Iberia. In regard to the translation, I would again quote from the review of it by the “Edinburgh Review:” “One quality which distinguishes their talk it is impossible to give any notion of in translation, and that is the enormous quantity of proverbs, in rhyme or in assonance, with which they intersperse their speech; and even when they are not actually quoting a proverb, their expressions have all the terseness of proverbial language.”
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