Baltasar Gracian y Morales - Encyclopedia




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BALTASAR GRACIAN Y MORALES (1601-1658), Spanish prose writer, was born at Calatayud (Aragon) on the 8th of January 1601. Little is known of his personal history except that on May 14, 1619, he entered the Society of Jesus, and that ultimately he became rector of the Jesuit college at Tarazona, where he died on the 6th of December, 1658. His principal works are El Heroe (1630), which describes in apophthegmatic phrases the qualities of the ideal man; the Arte de ingenio, tratado de la Agudeza (1642), republished six years afterwards under the title of Agudeza, y arte de ingenio (1648), a system of rhetoric in which the principles of conceptismo as opposed to culteranismo are inculcated; El Discreto (1645), a delineation of the typical courtier; El Oraculo manual y arte de prudencia (1647), a system of rules for the conduct of life; and El Criticon (1651-1653-1657), an ingenious philosophical allegory of human existence. The only publication which bears Gracian's name is El Comulgatorio (1655); his more important books were issued under the pseudonym of Lorenzo Gracian (possibly a brother of the writer) or under the anagram of Gracian de Marlones. Gracian was punished for publishing without his superior's permission El Criticon (in which Defoe is alleged to have found the germ of Robinson Crusoe); but no objection was taken to its substance. He has been excessively praised by Schopenhauer, whose appreciation of the author induced him to translate the Ordculo manual, and he has been unduly depreciated by Ticknor and others. He is an acute thinker and observer, misled by his systematic misanthropy and by his fantastic literary theories.

See Karl Borinski, Baltasar Gracidn and die Hoflitteratur in Deutschland (Halle, 1894); Benedetto Croce, I Trattatisti italiani del "concettismo" e Baltasar Gracidn (Napoli, 1899); Narciso Jose Linan y Heredia, Baltasar Gracidn (Madrid, 1902). Schopenhauer and Joseph Jacobs have respectively translated the Orciculo manual into German and English.

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