Moiiatin, Leandro Fernandez De
spanish moratin drama madrid
MOIIATIN, LEANDRO FERNANDEZ DE (1760-1828), Spanish dramatist and poet, was the son of N. F. Moratin mentioned below, and was born at Madrid on 10th March 1760. His poetical and artistic tastes were early developed, but his father, keenly alive to the difficulties of the literary calling, caused him to be apprenticed to a jeweller. At the age of eighteen Moratin surprised his friends by winning the second prize of the Academy for a heroic poem on the conquest of Granada, and two years afterwards he attracted still more general attention by a similar success of his Leccion Poetica, a satire upon the popular poets of the clay. Through Jovellanos he was now appointed secretary to Cabarrus on his special mission to France in 1787, and during his stay there he diligently improved his opportunities of becoming acquainted with the contemporary French drama, and of cultivating the acquaintance of men of letters. Of the literary friendships lie then formed the most important was that with Goldoni ; indeed, Moratin is much more correctly styled "the Spanish Goldoni" than "the Spanish Moliere." On his return to Spain Florida Blanca presented him to a sinecure benefice in the diocese of Burgos ; and in 1790 his first play, El Viejo y la Tina (The Old Husband and the Young Wife), a highly finished but somewhat dreary verse comedy in three acts, written in 1786, but delayed by objections of the actors, was at length produced at the Teatro del Principe. Its success was only moderate. El Cafe or La Comedia "Neva, on the other hand, given at the same theatre two years afterwards, at once became deservedly popular, and had considerable influence in modifying the public taste. It is a short prose comedy in two acts, avowedly intended to expose the follies and absurdities of the contemporary dramatists - the school of Lope de Vega run to seed - who commanded the support of the masses ; and it is still read with pleasure for the simple ingenuity of its plot, the liveliness of its dialogue, and the easy grace of its style, while to the student of literature it throws much useful light on the contemporary state of the Spanish drama, and on the reforming aims of the author and his party. In the same year (1792) Florida Blanca was disgraced, but Moratin at once found another patron in Godoy, who provided him with a pension and the means for foreign travel ; he accordingly passed through France into England, where he began the free and somewhat incorrect translation of Hamlet which was printed in 1798, but which has never been performed. From England he passed to the Low Countries, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, and on his return to the Peninsula in 1796 he received a lucrative post at the Foreign Office. His next appearance in the drama did not take place until 1803, when El Baron was first publicly exhibited in its present form. It successfully weathered a determined attempt to damn it, and still keeps the stage. It was followed in 1804 by La Mogigata (The Female Hypocrite), of which imperfect manuscript copies had begun to circulate as early as 1791. It was favourably received, as on the whole it deserved to be, by a public which was now at one with the author as to the canons of his art, and an attempt to suppress it by means of the Inquisition on alleged religious grounds (La Mogigata being an imitation, a somewhat feeble one, of Moliere's Tartufe) was successfully frustrated. Moratin's last and crowning triumph in the department of original comedy was achieved in 1806, when El Si de las JViiias (A Girl's Yes) was performed night after night to crowded houses, ran through several Spanish editions in a year, and was soon translated into several foreign languages. In 1808, on the fall of the Prince of the Peace, Moratin found it necessary to leave Spain, but shortly afterwards he returned and consented to accept the office of royal librarian under Joseph Bonaparte - a false step, which, as the event proved, permanently alienated from him the sympathies of his country, and compelled him to spend almost all the rest of his life in exile. In 1812 his Escuela de los Maridos, a translation and adaptation to the more dignified and stately Spanish standard of Moliere's Ecole des Math, was produced at Madrid, and in 1814 El Medico a Palos (from Le Medecin Malgr'e Lad) at Barcelona. From 1814 to 1828 Moratin lived in France, principally at Paris, and devoted himself to the preparation of a learned work on the history of the Spanish drama (Origenes del Teatro Espanol), which unfortunately stops short of the period of Lope de Vega. He died at Paris on 21st June 1828.
An edition of his Obras Dramaticas y Liricas in three vols. was published at Paris in 1825. The lyrical works, consisting of odes, sonnets, and ballads, are of comparatively little interest ; they reflect the influence of his father and of the Italian Conti. The best edition of the Obras is that published by the Spanish Academy of history in four vols. at Madrid in 1830-1331 ; see also vol. ii. of 13-iblioteca de Aulores Espaiiolcs (1846).