My First Twelve Years

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ISBN Illustrated paperback: 9788499535807
ISBN hardcover: 9788411260893

The first autobiographical account of the Countess of Merlin was published in French in 1831. It was later translated into Spanish by Agustín de Palma in 1838. In My First Twelve Years (Mis doce primeros años) he recounts, with a nostalgic tone, his childhood, his confinement in a Havana convent, his attempts to escape from it, among other adolescent adventures.
We also find descriptions of colonial life amidst the horrors of slavery and the idleness of the wealthy class.
This memoir is also a book of travels through the Atlantic, Cadiz, Seville, Aranjuez and Madrid. City in which the Countess of Merlin lived surrounded by the most important figures of the Spain of that time. This can be seen in this passage from My First Twelve Years:

“One night the meeting was very large. The games had just been formed. The triplet and dice played to the serious players. The noisy backgammon had been sent to the next room, according to custom. Various groups here and there, alternately entertained themselves with politics, literature, or those trifles that often put a man of talent and a fool on the same level. My sister and I were seated at a table occupied with some friends in playing various games of patience, in looking at caricatures and perhaps even in making them. All was movement and pleasure around us. The joy, the jokes that came from our table, attracted some like a magnet, and others to where we were. Suddenly Goya’s arrival was announced, and an exclamation came from our table. That ingenious painter, added to his rare talent, the grace of making excellent caricatures; and our table was commonly the theater where he exercised his malignity. My mother took advantage of his visits to show him our works, and that day we waited impatiently to show him two drawings we had finished; one was a head of St. Teresa, and the other a Magdalene. It occurred to one of our friends to confuse them so that he could judge them with impartiality; we applauded this idea, and after the first compliments, our works were exhibited on the table. Goya, secretly warned by our friend Nieves, examined them and let the curious approach. V… who prided himself on being intelligent, was one of the first.”

María de las Mercedes Santa Cruz y Montalvo Cárdenas y O’Farrill was born in Havana in 1789 and died in Paris in 1852. She was the author of a varied and rich body of work, written in French. However, he quickly rose to notoriety. Almost all of his work was translated into Spanish and became famous in Cuba and Spain.

Translation by Agustín de Palma.

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