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  • The Tormento Sketches:Secrets and Surprises from the Original Manuscript Surrounding the Galdosian Creative Process
  • Michael Schnepf

When Pérez Galdós sat down in 1914 for an interview with J.M. Carretero ("El Caballero Audaz") he was on the verge of a stunning revelation about how he created the memorable characters that have delighted readers for decades.1 "Antes de crear literariamente los personajes de mis obras," he explains, "los dibujo con el lápiz para tenerlos delante mientras que hablo de ellos (10)." A few lines later in the same interview he surprises his readers with yet another confidence: " [...] tengo dibujados todos los personajes que he creado (10)." From the standpoint of how the Galdosian creative process worked the impact of this information is dramatic to say the least. Not only did the novelist observe his characters in the streets of Madrid he also made sketches that played a vital role in the evolution from graphic to lexical.

Stephen Miller, author of Galdós Gráfico and probably the critic most familiar with the graphic component in Galdós, confirms the importance of these manuscript drawings:

Más significantes son algunos de los abundantes dibujos que adornan las páginas manuscritas de las novelas galdosianas. No se estudian aquí por requerir un tiempo y acceso a los manuscritos que yo no tengo. Pero la cita galdosiana dada arriba de la entrevista de 1914 con Carretero, indica la relevancia de la investigación gráfica de los manuscritos de las novelas galdosianas.


Many of these sketches are found in the original manuscripts of Galdós´s novels housed in the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid as well as in the galley proofs stored in the Casa-Museo Pérez Galdós in the Canary Islands. The whereabouts of many sketches is simply not known while others have more than likely disappeared for ever. A few manuscripts, such as that of La desheredada, for example, contain dozens and dozens of sketches of human subjects along with many additional drawings of jewelry, furniture, ships, animals etc (Schnepf/Ramírez). The original manuscript of Tormento is not as saturated with art but it does contain many particularly curious sketches that warrant publication and additional critical attention inasmuch as they help us understand how and to what degree Galdós made use of this preliminary art work.

A few brief comments on the novelist´s situation in 1883-84 will help to establish a context for subsequent conclusions. At this juncture in his professional career, Galdós was deeply involved with the artistic ambience of Madrid primarily because of his ongoing collaboration with the Mélida brothers on the illustrated edition of the episodios nacionales. Galdós was not only supervising the project, he was also actively participating as an illustrator.2 During these years of intimate contact with the art world, don Benito enjoyed free access to studios where he interacted with both the artists and their female models (Miller 178-79), an experience reflected in Tormento when Refugio Sánchez Emperador provokes scandal and derision after her neighbors learn that she is working as a model for two painters. Finally, it should be noted that when Galdós published Tormento [End Page 119] in 1884 he was in the midst of his most fertile period (1876-1886) with regard to the production of artwork in his original manuscripts (Schnepf' "Galdós Sketches" 195-97).

Tormento is a novel dominated by feminine characters. Amparo Sánchez Emperador and Roslía de Bringas are undeniably the protagonists, the two figures who spar throughout the entire novel. But the work also features an impressive number of female secondary characters—Refugio, Marcelina Polo, Isabel Godoy, Cándida García Grande, Nicanora Ido de Sagrario, and the inept maid, Celedonia—whose physical quirks and idiosyncrasies seem to lend themselves to sketches and caricature. Nevertheless, Galdós does not respond artistically to Refugio´s missing tooth, to the "cara de caoba" of Marcelina or to Godoy as a "humana reliquia" (231): surprisingly, we find not one sketch of a female subject in the manuscript of Tormento. 3

Unlike the situation in the illustrated episodios nacionales where the...


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