Arriola was the author of several religious works and of works of poetry as well: Of the latter, only one achieved publication during his lifetime, but it was successful and popular as attested to by its being reprinted several times over a considerable period: This was his Canción famosa a un desengaño (Mexico City, 1755, 1767, 1782; Puebla, 1776). In the mid–20th century, a manuscript of his Décimas de Rosalia was discovered and published for the first time (Mexico City, 1955), to much scholarly acclaim. In the 19th century, García Cubas deemed Arriola “one of the most renowned [poets] in Mexico during the viceregal era”(our translation).
That Arriola wrote a play has been known for some time. The apparent first reference to it in a bibliography came in 1816, when Beristáin listed “No hay mayor mal que los zelos” in his Biblioteca hispano-americana setentrional; he seems to be the originator of the erroneous idea that the play was published in Mexico and published anonymously. This misinformation is repeated in later bibliographies, e.g., DeBaker, Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jésus (1890); Nicolás León, Bibliografía mexicana del siglo XVII (1902); and Monterde, Bibliografía del teatro en Mexico (1933). The fact is, very, very few NovoHispanic plays were published during the colonial period, despite the very active theatrical life of both Mexico’s most sophisticated cities.
Searches conducted during March of 2006 found no evidence that a printed copy of Arriola’s “comedia famosa”—as the “title-page” here calls it—has ever been found. It is not listed in Medina, La imprenta en Puebla de los Ángeles; nor González Cossío, Cien; nor González Cossío, 510; nor Gavito, Adiciones a La imprenta en Puebla de los Ángeles; nor RLIN; nor OCLC; nor the card catalogue of the JCB; nor the OPACs of the Biblioteca Nacional de México or the Biblioteca Nacional de España. Medina, La imprenta en México, 8972, does list the play, but Medina made his note never having seen a copy and basing his entry on Beristáin.
Alfonso González, in his 1992 bio-bibliography of Arriola for the Dictionary of Mexican Literature (ed. Eladio Cortés; Westport & London: Greenwood Press), firmly labelled the play “Lost.” Well, now it has been discovered. “No hay mayor mal que los zelos” involves a sizeable cast of 13 actors delivering their lines in Baroque poetic form. Its principals are all members of the nobility: a king, three princes, two princesses, a count, a marquis, two servants, two soldiers, and a musician. A three-act tale of love, marriage, misdeeds, ill-spoken words, and uncontrolled desires, it contains some very memorable lines, as for example in the closing scene, where Cascabel, the servant, says, “If you won’t marry me . . . then go and marry a Huguenot heretic.” This is a play that could be staged, as well as studied.
Provenance: “Es de D[oñ]a Maria Josefa Bravo y Haro, Año de 1802" on the front free endpaper.
On Juan de Arriola see: DeBaker-Sommervogel, I, 586–87; Dictionary of Mexican Literature, pp. 50-51; García Cubas, Diccionario geográfico, histórico, y biográfico de los Estados Unidos Mexianos, I, 202. Contemporary vellum over paste boards. Solid. Vellum shows wear along fore-edges and lower one-third of vellum of front cover has been replaced with later vellum. Written in a very clear, single hand, with some emendations in the margins. Single-click any image above except that of the binding, for an enlarged, more readable image.