Jovellanos, Gaspar Melchor de

Jovellanos, Gaspar Melchor de

(gäspär` mĕlchôr` dā hōvĕlyä`nōs), 1744–1811, Spanish statesman and writer. Very influential as an advocate of economic and social reform during the enlightened reign of Charles III (his reports both on agrarian and prison reform are still considered classics), Jovellanos's personal integrity put him at odds with church and state once the fear produced in Spanish governmental circles by the French Revolution led to politics of repression. He was imprisoned for seven years (1801–8). At the time of the French invasion in 1808, he became one of the leaders of the Central Junta, which organized the war against Napoleon. A firsthand view of Jovellanos's life and times is afforded by his diary, covering the years from 1790 to 1801. Jovellanos's poetry is philosophical and reflective; his best-known poem is Epístola de Fabio a Anfriso [epistle from Fabio to Anfriso].
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Jovellanos, Gaspar Melchor de


Born Jan. 5, 1744, in Gijón; died Nov. 27, 1811, in Vega, Asturias. Spanish state and political figure who typified the Spanish Enlightenment; poet, playwright, economist, philosopher, and historian.

Jovellanos was the son of an impoverished nobleman. From 1767 to 1774 he served as a member of the Superior Appellate Council in Seville. After moving to Madrid in 1778, he was elected to the Royal Academy of History, as well as the royal academies of art, language, and law. From 1778 to 1790 he was a member of the tribunal of the Superior Council of Castile.

Having become a close associate of P. Campomanes, the Count of Floridablanca, and other prominent state figures, Jovellanos helped institute a number of reforms in the spirit of enlightened absolutism. He took part in the work of the “economic societies of friends of the people,” which had been created by Campomanes. In 1795 he published the draft of an agrarian law aimed at limiting large-scale land ownership, protecting small-scale peasant landowners, and gradually freeing the Spanish economy from feudalism. Jovellanos’ economic views were close to those of the physiocrats, and he shared the views of A. Smith on the labor theory of value.

As an opponent of the forces of reaction that supported feudalism and clericalism, Jovellanos was subjected to persecution. Alarmed by the bourgeois revolution that had begun in France, the Spanish ruling circles adopted a reactionary policy; Jovellanos was released from all his posts and sent to Asturias in 1790 “to study its natural resources.” In 1797 and 1798, Jovellanos served as minister of justice. After speaking out against the Inquisition and the privileges of the clergy, he was again sent to Asturias. In 1801 he was arrested and imprisoned in a fortress on the island of Mallorca.

Jovellanos was set free in 1808, and during the Spanish Revolution of 1808–14 he served as a member of the Central Junta, within which he headed the liberal minority. With indignation he rejected an invitation from Joseph Bonaparte to occupy the position of minister of internal affairs in Bonaparte’s government.

Jovellanos was the author of the patriotic poem “Asturian Military Song” (1808), the classical tragedy Munusa (1780), and the petit bourgeois drama The Noble Criminal (1774).


Obras publicadas e inéditas, vols. 1–2. Madrid, 1951–52.
Diarios, vols. 1–3. Oviedo, 1953–56.


Marx, K. “Revoliutsionnaia Ispaniia.” In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 10. Pages 441–46.
García Puertas, M. Jovellanos. Montevideo, 1954.
Dotor Municio, A. Jovellanos. Madrid, 1964.
Caso Gonzales, J. M. La poética de Jovellanos. [Madrid] 1972.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Jovellanos, Gaspar Melchor de. "Memoria para el arreglo de la policia de los espectaculos y diversiones publicas y sobre su origen en Espana".