Emilia Pardo Bazán stands as perhaps the Spanish speaking world's greatest woman novelist. Along with Galdos and Clarín she was one of the three most important writers of late 19th century Spain. An intellectual of astounding breadth, she was the leading exponent of the Naturalist literary school in her country, -- as attested by her numerous theoretical wrtitings on the subject -- and was an outspoken feminist. She also wrote the first review of Darwin's _Origin of the Species_ to appear in print in Spain.
_The House of Ulloa_ is the work of fiction for which she is best known, and is also the work which perhaps best illustrates Pardo Bazán's own peculiar and unorthodox conception of Naturalism. A primitive and violent rural countryside provides the setting for the novel. When Julian, a cultured and somewhat effeminate priest arrives at the house of the Marquis of Ulloa, he discovers a brutish place which is physically falling prey to creeping nature. Weeds and plants have encroached on the property and whole sections of the once magnificent manor have fallen into disrepair. Julian attempts to "save" the Marquis by marrying him to a city dwelling cousin. The plan, however, does not sit well with Primitivo, the Marquis' ruthless and violent butler. Primitivo excercises a defacto control over the Marquis' property and finances, and is alarmed by the intrusion of the new inhabitants. His opposition is heightened by the fact that the Marquis has borne an illegitimate child of Primitivo's daughter and the new arrivals threaten his grandson's eventiual claims to inheritance. Thus the stage is set for a powerful and cruel denouement.