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Revista Hispánica Moderna


Amidst the rumbles of an impending revolution in Venezuela, on July 10, 1810, the H.M.S. Wellington docked in Portsmouth and Andrés Bello, alongside Luis López Méndez and Simón Bolívar, proceeded to London as part of a commission representing the Caracas Junta. For Bello, the anticipated brief visit to the English capital extended into a prolonged nineteen-year residency that left an indelible mark on his literary studies in medieval literature and his jurisprudence that he would more fully cultivate in Chile in the post-independence era. An encounter with Thomas (sic) Antonio Sánchez’s edition of the Poema de Mio Cid (PMC) inspired the creation of Bello’s own edition of the gest that curiously skirted tales of illegitimacy surrounding the Cid’s birth and the contested status of his daughters. Fostering his acquaintance with Roman law practices that had previously informed Alfonso X el Sabio’s Siete Partidas, Bello’s Cidian studies also facilitated his erudition on the Castilian law code that would come to serve as a primary source for the Código civil de la República de Chile. The Civil Code, forged largely under Bello’s direction in Santiago, notably instituted voluntary parental recognition of illegitimate offspring and abolished paternity suits, thus strengthening the legal weight of the fathers’ will through contract regarding their desire to establish or reject ties to illegitimate kin. As it is well known that Bello himself was conceived prior to his parents’ marital union and since it has been speculated that he fathered at least one illegitimate child, Bello’s treatment of the anecdotes of the Cid’s bastardy in his posthumous edition of the medieval gest and the regulations stipulated for illegitimate children in the Civil Code gain rather insightful significance when read concomitantly with the related aspects of Bello’s own alleged biography. The thematic dialogue between Bello’s Cidian studies and the Code, gleaned through the rereading of Bello’s birth, his supposed illicit affairs and related progeny (be these latter biographical points fabricated or not), contributes to the analysis of both bodies of work and the interpretation of Bello as an introspective literary and legal scholar beset by private concerns.


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