Victor Balaguer

The Man who named the Streets in Barcelona's Eixample

Víctor Balaguer, known as Lo trobador de Montserrat, was a politician, journalist, writer and historian. He was an important figure in La Renaixença and the person chosen to name the streets of the newly-built Eixample district of Barcelona.

Víctor Balaguer i Cirera was born on Carrer de Sant Pau in Barcelona on December 11th 1824 and despite objections from his mother, who wanted him to be a doctor or lawyer, he took an early interest in literature and his first play, Pepín el Jorobado, was performed in 1838, when he was only 14 years old.

In 1843, Balaguer had his first success with Enrique el Dadivoso but nevertheless in 1844, he enrolled at the University of Barcelona to study Law, where he came into contact with the literature of Voltaire, Rousseau, Dumas, Hugo, Scott and others and began writing for the newspaper El Hongo.

On finishing his studies, Victor Balaguer moved briefly to Madrid in 1845, where he worked translating popular French writers of the day into Spanish.

Back in Barcelona, in 1847, Balaguer was named official poet first of El Liceu and then later of the Teatre Principal, which brought him certain local fame.

In 1851, he married Manuela Carbonell i Català and a year later gave a series of talks on the history of Catalonia for the Societat Filharmònica de Barcelona.

Political and Literary Career

During the 1850s, Balaguer came into contact with General Espartero and General Prim through his membership of the Partido Progresista and throughout this period he began recovering the history of the old Crown of Aragon.

He also began to champion the Catalan language and published his first poem in Catalan, A la Verge de Montserrat, in 1857, which also led him to becoming involved in the Renaixença or renaissance of Catalan literature and promoting the restoration of the Jocs Florals in May 1859.

He briefly went to Italy as correspondent for the War of Independence and from 1860 and 1864 published the five volumes of Historia de Cataluña y de la Corona de Aragón, which were a great success and in which he argued in favour of a federal monarchy and a return to pacts between the King and the people.

It was as a result of this that Victor Balaguer was chosen to name the streets of the newly-built Eixample in 1864. The streets he named covered the territories of the Crown of Aragon (Carrer Aragó, València, Mallorca, Rosselló, Còrsega, Sardenya, Sicília, Nàpols...), traditional Catalan political institutions (les Corts Catalanes, la Diputació, el Consell de Cent) and key historical figures (Pau Claris, Roger de Llúria, Roger de Flor...), most of which are in La Dreta de l'Eixample

From 1865 to 1867, Balaguer was exiled to Provence due to his involvement in one General Prim's conspiracies and on his return took part in the Sexenio Democrático and the First Spanish Republic, in which he was minister during the reign of Amadeu I.

He later would be a minister again in the government of Práxedes Mateo Sagasta in 1886.

Balaguer's wife died in 1881 and as he had no heirs, he dedicated his inheritance to founding the Biblioteca Museu Víctor Balaguer in Vilanova i la Geltrú as a way of saying thank you to the town that had elected him to the Congress of Deputies since 1869.

Víctor Balaguer i Cirera died in Madrid on January 14th 1901 at the age of 76. Incidentally, although there are many streets in the Eixample named after writers and poets, none are named after Balaguer himself. 

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