Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe

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Mora, José Joaquín de

  • Cultural criticism, activist writingPublishing, periodicalsSpanishTransnational / trans-European
  • Author:
    Durán López, Fernando
  • Text:

    José Joaquín de Mora (Cadiz 1783 – Madrid 1864), son of a judge and grandson of a schoolmaster, studied law in Granada, and was a professor at that university until the War of Independence, when he joined the Patriots’ army. He was captured in 1809 and exiled to France until 1814; while there he married a Frenchwoman.

    On his return to Spain he began his literary career. In Cádiz he led a famous debate with Juan Nicolás Böhl de Faber on the theatre of Calderón, championing the Classicist camp that resisted the Romantic views of Friedrich Schlegel. In 1815, he settled in Madrid to practice law and journalism. From 1817 he managed the Crónica científica y literaria, dealing mainly with popular science, literary criticism and poetry. This educational journalism he pursued throughout his life, in dozens of publications. In literature, he was a fierce defender of Neoclassicism against European Romanticism. He also published translations from the French (including Chateaubriand).

    When the constitution was re-established in March 1820, Mora and Manuel Eduardo Gorostiza transformed the Crónica into the Constitucional. Although he had previously kept a very low political profile and had good relations with the absolutist government, during the Liberal Triennium (1820-23) he was an ardent liberal among the patriotic societies he attended and in the newspapers for which he wrote: Minerva nacional (1820); Correo general de Madrid (1821); La antorcha española (1821); El eco de Padilla (1821); El independiente (1822); El patriota español; El tribuno and El indicador (1822-23). He translated Bentham and d’Holbach.

    In 1823, Mora fled to London together with hundreds of Spanish liberals. He remained there for a little over three years, but was one of the writers most transformed by exile, acquiring a cosmopolitan and internationalist attitude. To earn a living he worked as a translator and editor for the publisher Rudolph Ackermann, who had started an ambitious expansion of his business into Latin America and needed bilingual writers to adapt his printed work for an American readership, or to provide original writing. In the Ackermann publishing house, Mora replaced the prestigious Joseph Blanco White. Between 1824 and late 1826, he edited two newspapers (Museo universal de ciencias y artes and Correo literario y político de Londres), published a volume of poetry (Meditaciones poéticas), prepared five didactic “catechisms” on various subjects, translated two novels by Walter Scott (Ivanhoe and El talismán), several Viajes pintorescos, the volumes on Persia in The world in miniature (an illustrated collection about the countries and customs of the world), and several works on American topics. He wrote original works on women’s education and the history of Arabs in Spain, together with a large number of poems and translations for four issues of No me olvides (New Year’s gift books that Ackermann had successfully introduced in England under the title Forget me not). As a result of this employment, and influenced by Blanco White, Mora came closer to British political, social, cultural and philosophical models, and a tenuous critic of Spanish traditionalism. While he remained a Classicist, he proved amenable to some aspects of English Romanticism (like Scott).

    In 1826, he, together with the Neapolitan Pedro de Ángelis was appointed by the Argentine president Bernardino Rivadavia to help him develop an educational system and set up a government-friendly press. They both arrived in Buenos Aires in January 1827; during his ten-month stay, Mora established the newspapers Crónica política y literaria de Buenos Aires and El conciliador, and founded two educational establishments. After Rivadavia’s resignation, he moved to Chile serving president Pinto, and later provided similar services to Gamarra in Peru and Santa Cruz in Bolivia. In all these places he founded newspapers, set up schools, had an influence on legislation and government, earned himself the enmity of rivals and polemicists, and was deeply involved in political struggles that brought him persecution and grave danger. He continued producing poetry and literary work of all kinds, as well as translations. During his time in Bolivia, in particular, he wrote some of his most important works, including the Leyendas españolas and Don Juan (published later, in 1840 and 1844 respectively) – his personal attempt to create a Spanish historical poetry that shunned the pathos of Romantic historicism.

    Mora moved back to London in 1838 as a diplomatic officer for the Peru-Bolivian Confederation. In 1843 he returned to Spain where, for a while, he was director of the San Felipe Neri school in Cádiz, later shuttling between Madrid and London for the rest of his life. He continued producing translations, generally of Scottish philosophers, and frequently collaborating in periodicals published in Madrid. In 1853 he compiled most of his poetry into a large volume of Poesías.

    Word Count: 778

    Buenos Aires (AR)

    Granada (ES)

    Cadiz (ES)

    Madrid (ES)

    London (GB)

    Chateaubriand, François-René de

    Scott, Walter (Sir)

    Blanco White, Joseph

    Schlegel, Friedrich

    Böhl de Faber, Juan Nicolás

    Gorostiza, Manuel Eduardo

    Ángelis, Pedro de

  • Notes:

    Cultural community / country: Argentinian, Chilean, Peruvian, Bolivian.

    Word Count: 7

  • Article version:
    1.1.1.1/a
  • Amunátegui, Miguel Luis; 1888. Don José Joaquín de Mora: apuntes biográficos (Santiago de Chile: Imprenta Nacional)

    Durán López, Fernando; 2015. Versiones de un exilio: Los traductores españoles de la Casa Ackermann (Londres, 1823-1830) (Madrid: Escolar y Mayo)

    Rodríguez Espinosa, Marcos; 2008. “Exilio, vocación trasatlántica y mediación paratextual: José Joaquín de Mora y sus traducciones de Ivanhoe (1825) y El talismán (1826) de Walter Scott”, in: Diez estudios sobre la traducción en la España del siglo XIX, ed. Juan Jesús Zaro (Granada: Atrio) 73-94

    Tully, Carol; 2010. “Ackermann, Mora and the transnational context: Cultural transfer in the old world and the new”, in: Londres y el liberalismo hispánico, ed. Daniel Muñoz Sempere, Gregorio Alonso García (Madrid: Iberoamericana) 153-164


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    All articles in the Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe edited by Joep Leerssen are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://www.spinnet.eu.

    © the author and SPIN. Cite as follows (or as adapted to your stylesheet of choice): Durán López, Fernando, 2018. "Mora, José Joaquín de", Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe, ed. Joep Leerssen (electronic version; Amsterdam: Study Platform on Interlocking Nationalisms, https://ernie.uva.nl/), article version 1.1.1.1/a, last changed 10-08-2018, consulted 16-12-2018.