Gustavo Adolfo Becquer

Portrait of Gustavo Adolfo Becquer

Gustavo Adolfo Becquer was a Spanish poet, playwright and literary columnist. He was born in Seville, Spain on 17th February 1836 and died in Madrid on 22nd December 1870 aged 34.

Major Works

A series of Rhymes and a series of Legends, usually published together as “Rimas y leyendas” 

Biography

Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer was born on 17th February 1836 in Seville, Spain. His father Jose Dominduez Becquer was a painter of Flemish aristocratic heritage.

1841: Death of his father.

1846: He was originally educated at San Antonio Abad school and then moves on the Colegio de Náutica de San Telmo (Nautical School of San Telmo), in Seville. He meets and befriends Narciso Campillo. His mother dies and Becquer and his brothers are taken in by their uncle, Don Juan de Vargas. A little while later he goes to live with his godmother, Doña Manuela Monahay who had a large library which appealed to the young man’s literary ambitions.

1847: San Telmo school is closed by royal order.  Becquer starts painting studies in his uncle’s workshops but then his uncle pays for his Latin courses. 

1850: His Godmother gets him a place in the studio of Don Antonio Cabral Bejarano, at the Santa Isabel de Hungría school.

1853: He moves to Madrid to follow his dream of making a name for himself as a poet. The dream does not turn into reality and he finds it hard to scrape a living together with his friends. He begins to write comedies (under the name of Gustavo Garcia) which are mainly satires on the bourgeois people of Madrid.

1854: He moves to Toledo, where he writes his book “History of the Spanish Temples”.

1855: He moves in with his brother Valeriano in Madrid. 

1857: Becquer contracts tuberculosis. His “Historia de los Templos de España” is published in one volume although it was originally envisioned to run to several volumes.

1858: He meets Josefa Espín, and her sister, the opera singer Julia Espín. The latter would later become his muse. Becquer was in love with her but it was unrequited due to the fact that she was upper class and disapproved of his artistic ways. He later falls in love with Elisa Guillén but she also grows tired of him and leaves.

1860: He publishes “Cartas Literarias a Una Mujer” (Literary letters to a woman) and meets Casta Esteban Navarro at the house of his doctor. He has a job working at the Dirección de Bienes Nacionales but loses it for being caught drawing by his boss.

1861: Casta Esteban Navarro and Becquer get married in May. He starts writing for the newspaper “El Contemporáneo”.

1862: His first son is born after Becquer manages to get enough money together to live with his wife. After the birth they move to Soria. 

1863: He moves back to Seville and works with his brother Valeriano.

1864: He moves back to Madrid where he works at a government post censoring novels. (Fiscal de Novelas) 

1865: Bécquer starts writing more to support his family. He moves from “El Contemporáneo” to write for “El Museo Universal” and “Los Tiempos”.

1868: His wife has an affair and Becquer travels between Madrid and Toledo. He writes most of his eighty-six “Rimas” (Rhymes) which are heavily inspired by Heinrich Heine and “Libro de los Gorriones” (Book of the Sparrows). Most of his works were published by friends after his death. 

1869: The two brothers publish a book of satiric and erotic illustrations under a pseudonym entitled “Los Borbones en Pelotas.”

1870: In Madrid he edits “La Ilustración de Madrid” but the death of his brother causes him to become depressed. He returns to write for “El Museo Universal” and then becomes literary director of the journal “La ilustración de Madrid.” 

Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer died on 22nd December 1870 of tuberculosis. He was buried in Madrid but later moved to Seville with his brother.