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A great Spaniard: Gtregorio de Maranon



The Spanish Republic of 1931 is remembered, if at all, as a failure and the victim of Franco's fascism. Yet, along with the clueless politicians, there were some great men who tried to save the republic. One of them was the physician Gregorio de Marañon, born in Madrid in 1887. As a physician he was ahead of his time. He wrote a number of technical books on sex, and popularized the subject in Three Essays on Sex Life. He was also a respected historian, having written biographies of two Spanish historical figures. Olivares and Antonio Pérez, and of the Swiss writer Henri Frédéric Amiel, who has left a famous Intimate Diary, which Marañón used to study the problem of timidity. He combined his interest history and biology in The Biological Ideas of Father Feijó, an eighteenth-century Spanish Benedictine of encyclopedic knowledge who was ahead of his time in the field of biology.

Most relevant to the study of the Spanish Republic are his books The Roots and the Dignity of Spain, Liberal Essays, and Liberalism and Communism (see below). After the Republic was proclaimed in 1931, Marañón became a member of the constituent assembly and then of the parliament. As a moderate. he became disillusioned. He cooperated with Ortega y Gasset and other intellectuals in an organization, the Friends of the Republic, which was swept aside in the rush of events. During the Civil War he went to Argentina and other countries, speaking and publishing books on the tragedy; many of them translated into English amd other languages.- Among these are Spanish Liberals Speak on the Counter-Revolution in Spain, the other liberals being former president Alcalá Zamora (editor), Alejandro Lerroux, Miguel de Unamuno and Pío Baroja. The English translation was published in 1937 by the Spanish Relief Committee in San Francisco. Liberalism and Communism: The Background of the Spanish Civil War (1938), which appeared in many languages. Some intellectuals stayed abroad and died there, while others, among them Marañon, returned to Spain after the Civil War, when Franco's dictatorship softened and became a "dictablanda". He died in Madrid in 1960. Although he is highly respected, there in no entry about him in the Encyclopedia Britannica, showing how little interest there is abroad in Spanish intellectual life.

I recently received a letter from Kristin Parker, who said: "I was doing some research on the web and came across your name in association with Gregorio Maranon. May I ask how you knew him? He was my great-grandfather-in-law. I am very close, obviously, to the family, so am curious, as I am doing research for my husband". I replied:"I was in Spain from 1931 to 1936, when Gregorio Marañon was already well-known. I returned to Spain after the Civil war in 1953, and he was very nice to me, first in Madrid and then in his Toledo Cigarral de Menores. He gave me a vellum-bound copy, which I have in my hand now, of the 1627 edition of Los Libros de lsa Santa Madre Teresa de Jesús, Fundadora de los Monasterios de Monjas y Frailes carmelitas descalzos de la primera regla. The censura was by Frai Luis de León. [These are famous names in Spanish history.] The copy is motheaten, but Gregorio wrote a dedication to me, and I treasure it as a souvenir of one of the sensible people who could have saved the republic. I would like to know more about your family".

Kristin replied: "Gregorio's daughter, Mabel, now lives in London. She married Tom Burns, original publisher of the Catholic magazine The Tablet, and started a family that includes three sons and one daughter. They split their lives between Spain and England. Mabel was extremely close to her father Gregorio and really is the keeper of his life.She has wonderful stories, photographs, books. I'm a budding archivist so I've always been interested in Maranon's story, but I am really just learning. Mabel's daughter runs the Anglo-Spanish Society in London, two of her brothers are journalists, the other a banker, in Madrid. I'm piecing together Gregorio's story for my husband and his two brothers - in some ways they are too close to the stories; the stories told by Mabel have a feel of ancestral legend, if you know what I mean. A simply chronology even would help his great grandchildren get a picture of the important work that he did during this particular time in history.I know my husband would be so pleased to hear of you, who met his great grandfather. What took you to Spain in 1931, if you don't mind me asking?"

Kristin should read my account, Spain; from monarchy to civil war, 1931-1936. Memories of an eye witness, available on line at the following at the following URL: http://mabry.argentinacity.com/hilton. The tie between England and Spain is interesting. The Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid was an important link between the two countries, and, although masses of Spaniards went into exile in France and Mexico, a number of intellectuals found refuge in England, among them Alberto Jiménez Frau and José de Castellejos. There is a long, sad historical background of war between Spain and England, but that ended with Napoleon, and the relations are now very cordial. A parallel development is that between the US and Latin America, but the problems between the two have still not been solved. My aim is to promote an Atlantic Community of England, Spain, the United States and Latin America. It may be possible when Latin America settles down.

Ronald Hilton - 3/31/02


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