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The House of Ulloa

The House of Ulloa
Cover of first edition
AuthorEmilia Pardo Bazán
Original titleLos pazos de Ulloa
TranslatorPaul O'Prey and Lucia Graves
PublisherPenguin Books (U.K. first edition)
Published in English
Pages275 (U.K. first edition)

The House of Ulloa (Spanish: Los pazos de Ulloa) is a novel by Emilia Pardo Bazán, published in Spanish in 1886, and translated into English by Paul O'Prey and Lucia Graves, published by Penguin Classics in 1990.[1][2] It was republished by Pocket Penguins in 2016.[3][4] The story continues in the 1887 novel La madre naturaleza [es].

Plot Synopsis

The story is set in rural Galicia, in the mid-to-late 19th century. The main character is Julian Alvarez, a meek, dainty and profoundly religious priest who has been assigned as chaplain to the estate of the marquis of Ulloa, the arrogant Pedro Moscoso. The marquis' house is almost in ruins, but Don Pedro cares only to go hunting and leaves the day-to-day running of the estate to his majordomo, the sly Primitivo. Julian is shocked that a nobleman would allow a roguish character such as he to manage his affairs, and is even more perturbed to find that Primitivo's beautiful daughter Sabel is the mother of Don Pedro's illegitimate son, Perucho.

As he lives on the Ulloa estate and tries to sort out the long-neglected affairs of the marquis, Julian becomes more and more disillusioned with his role. He is unable to get rid of Primitivo and Sabel; the house is constantly inhabited by scoundrels and vagabonds; and by failing to act he feels he is officially sanctioning the marquis' illegitimate union with Sabel.

Eventually, Don Pedro violently beats Sabel after she dances with another man at a feast, but doesn't banish her from the house. The marquis reveals to Julian that he is afraid of Primitivo, who is the real master of the estate through his connections with the peasants and his ruthless methods. Through Sabel, Don Pedro is also controlled by Primitivo. Julian convinces the marquis to change his life and travel to the city to find a wife.

Don Pedro and Julian travel to Santiago, where they are hosted by the marquis' uncle, who is also Julian's patron. The uncle has four daughters, and Don Pedro resolves to marry one of them. He is initially attracted to the buxom and provocative Rita, who returns his advances, but after a heart-to-heart conversation with Julian he proposes to Marcelina, nicknamed Nucha, a much more meek and modest girl. Nucha reluctantly accepts, causing a rift with the rest of her family and her sisters. They get married and return to the Ulloa estate in the countryside.

Nucha soon becomes pregnant, and, much to Don Pedro's dismay, gives birth to a girl. He grows apart from his wife and starts sleeping again with Sabel. Without her family and estranged from her husband, Nucha dedicates herself wholly to her newborn daughter, with only Julian to give her company. Her mental and physical state deteriorates after she starts to suspect that the boy Perucho is Don Pedro's illegitimate son. Julian also becomes more and more distraught; he notices signs of physical abuse in Nucha and blames himself for having brought this woman, whom he considers saintly and without error, to a remote estate surrounded by people who don't deserve her.

Don Pedro stands as a candidate in the provincial election, but even though Primitivo uses all of his wiles and resources to have his master elected, the marquis is defeated. Privately, the local political leaders believe Primitivo to have betrayed them. Don Pedro becomes furious at the election loss and Nucha, who had hoped that they could move to Madrid if he had been elected, realises that there is nothing more for her at the dilapidated estate.

Nucha asks Julian to help her escape back to her father; as they conspire, Primitivo informs Don Pedro of their whereabouts and reinforces a rumor that they might be having an affair. Don Pedro confronts the two with great violence but as he does so Primitivo is shot dead as retaliation for the electoral loss. Upon seeing Don Pedro threaten to beat his wife, Julian finally stands up for himself and leaves the estate for good. He is assigned to a mountain parish where he works with great abnegation for ten years, and eventually receives a notice that Nucha has died.

In the epilogue, Julian returns to the Ulloa estate to pay his respects to his former mistress. There, he encounters Nucha's daughter and Perucho, now both grown up and handsome. The story continues in La madre naturaleza [es].


Televisión Española (TVE) in co-production with Radiotelevisione italiana (RAI), adapted the novel and its sequel to the television series Los pazos de Ulloa, directed by Gonzalo Suárez and premiered in 1985.[5]


  1. ^ Lezard, Nicholas (20 August 2013). "The House of Ulloa by Emilia Pardo Bazán – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 July 2017.
  2. ^ "The House of Ulloa". SOLO. Retrieved 17 July 2017.
  3. ^ "The House of Ulloa". Pocket Penguins. Retrieved 17 July 2017.
  4. ^ "The House of Ulloa". Penguin Books. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  5. ^ ""Los pazos de Ulloa", una reflexión sobre el mundo de Emilia Pardo Bazán". El País (in Spanish). 9 December 1985.
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The House of Ulloa
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