Biography and History

Blanco White, José María (Seville, 1775 - Liverpool, 1841)

On arriving in Andalusia from Ireland, William White (father) changed his surname to Blanco White; that name was used interchangeably with Blanco y Crespo (surnames of his parents) by the author (son). José María Blanco White was one of the leading writers of Spanish Romanticism and also a controversial figure because of the political and religious positions he assumed throughout his life. His religious conviction changed from Catholicism to a Christian faith without a church. This last professed faith he described when dying as one that “theologues don't understand.”

During his life in Spain he held various religious positions: as a priest, as rector in the Colégio Mayor, and as magistrado de la Capilla Real de San Fernando in the Cathedral of Sevilla (1804). Nominated Preceptor of the Infante Don Francisco de Paula, he held the post for only a short period because he lost the favor of Prime Minister Godoy. As editor of Elsemanário patriotico (1808-1809) he inflated articles in favor of the independence of Spain and on the corruption of the court. As a result he was considered “persona non grata” by the Junta Suprema de España Indias and emigrated to England, where he arrived March 3, 1810.

He founded El Español (London, 1810-1813) to crusade against Spanish colonialism, though he continually stated in its pages that “America would never rebel if the ill administration of the mother country wouldn't compel them.”

In 1822 his successful book Letters from Spain appeared under the pen name Don Leucádio Dolblado. This book established his reputation in England, where he was befriended by Southey, Lord Holland, J. S. Mill and Mrs. Hemans.

In 1826 having received a M.A. degree from Oxford University for literary and economic reasons, he left London for Oxford. While living in Oxford, Blanco defected in 1835 from the Anglican church, he settled in Liverpool in the 1830's and there became a Unitarian. During this period he published his famous Observations on Heresy and Orthodoxy (London, J. Mardon, 1835) which tried to explain his doubts and faith.

The London Review requested him to prepare a series of articles about literary figures--a commission he accepted. Between 1835-36 he wrote about Martínez de la Rosa, Crabble, Guizot, Lamb, and Godoy. In 1839 (for no apparent reason) he resumed writing in Spanish, poetry and the unfinished novel Luísa de Bustamante published in Revista de Ciencias literatura y artes by D. José Blanco-White y Olloqui (his nephew). In 1840 he resumed writing in English, producing the work “Plain Dialogues on Religion” published after his death as Plain Dialogues on Religion by the Author of the Poor Man's Preservative against Popery. In February 1841, paralyzed and unable to write, he was transported to Greenbank, the Liverpool house of his friend William Rathbone, where he died on 20 May 1841.

Notes on the Blanco White Family Tree

Don Guillermo White y Nangle and his two brothers Thomas and Pablo were the first ones from the White family for Durbin and Waterford, Ireland, to move to Sevilla, Spain, in the beginning of the 18th century.

Tomas Cahill became partner of Don Guillermo Blanco White y Morrogh in 1786.

In 1802 Lucas Beck, Doña María Fernanda White, Cahill's widow in her name and her daughter's name and Don Guillermo White formed a new business company. Later Don Lucas Beck married D. María Cahill y White.

Don Guillermo Blanco (alas White y Morrogh) following the death of Tomás Cahill moved to Alcala in 1800 to escape the yellow fever plague, leaving Lucas Beck in charge of the business firm.

The uncle of Doña Gertrudis Crespo y Neve was Don Felipe de Neve Noguera Castro y Figueroa, governor of California and the founder of its city of Los Angeles.

Don Fernando Blanco White was the legitimized son of Don José María Blanco White and Magdalena Esquaya. Educated in England by his father, he later became an officer in the Indies.

Dona Ana Gabriela White y Morrogh was known in the family as “Tia Anica.”

Source: From the finding aid for C0075


  • Authors, Spanish -- 19th century..
  • Blanco White Family Collection. 1713-1930 (inclusive), 1798-1841 (bulk).

    Call Number: C0075

    The collection contains manuscripts related to four generations of the Blanco White family, spanning two centuries: including works, diaries, correspondence, documents, accounts and expense records, and printed material. Joseph Blanco White, the Spanish-English writer and religious figure, remains the focus of the collection; however, his brother Fernando, a politician and intellectual of 19th-century Seville, also accounts for a substantial part of the material. Of particular interest are autograph manuscripts of several of Joseph's literary efforts, as well as other genealogical material relating to the Blanco White family.