A Short Life of
icolás Gómez Dávila
Nicolás Gómez Dávila was born in Cajicá, Colombia (near Bogotá), on May
, into awealthy bourgeois family. When he was six, his family moved to Europe, where they lived for the next seventeen years. During his family¶s stay in Europe, young Nicolás would spend mostof the year at a school run by Benedictines in Paris, but would often go for his vacations toEngland. However, during his time in Paris he was beset by a long-lasting illness which confinedhim to his bed for most of two years. It was during this illness that under the direction of privatetutors he learned to read Latin and Greek fluently and to love the classics. His formal educationended at the secondary level.When Gómez Dávila turned twenty-three, he moved back to Bogotá, and almost immediatelyupon his return married Emilia Nieto Ramos. According to German writer Martin Mosebach, shewas already married when she met Gómez Dávila, and had to obtain an annulment in order to beable to marry him. However their marriage may have started out, it lasted for over fifty years.After the wedding, the young couple moved into the house in Bogotá that was to remain their home for the course of their entire marriage. There they raised three children: two sons and adaughter.After establishing his household, Gómez Dávila, or ³don Colacho´ as he became known to hisfriends, led a life of leisure. Because his own father was for most of his long life able to attend tothe family carpet factory, Gómez Dávila only had to manage the business for a short periodhimself, before in turn passing it on to his son. However, even during the time when he bore primary responsibility for the business, he did not pay excessive attention to it. Mosebach reportsthat Gómez Dávila generally only visited the office once a week at midday for about ten minutes,in order to tell the business manager to increase profits, before going out to lunch with friends atthe Bogotá Jockey Club, where he was an active member, playing polo and even serving as anofficer for a while. (He had to give up polo, though, after injuring himself on his horse²he wasthrown off while trying to light a cigar.)Gómez Dávila was in fact a well-connected member of the Bogotá elite. Besides his membershipin the Jockey Club, he helped Mario Laserna Pinzón found the University of the Andes in
.Furthermore, Gómez Dávila¶s advice was sought out by Colombian politicians. In
, hedeclined the offer of a position as an adviser to president Alberto Llera after the downfall of themilitary government in Colombia. In
74, he turned down the chance to become the Colombianambassador at the Court of St. James. Although he was well disposed to both governments,Gómez Dávila had resolved early on in his ³career´ as a writer to stay out of politics. Althoughsome of his friends were disappointed that he did not accept these offers, they later concluded(according to Mosebach) that he was right to refuse the honors²he would have been a disaster as a practical politician.Gómez Dávila instead spent most of his life, especially after his polo injury, reading and writingin his library. He was a voracious reader, often staying up well into the night to finish a book. Bythe end of his life, he had accumulated a library of approximately
0,000 volumes. Indeed, hisfamily had trouble disposing of many of the books because so many appealed primarily tospecialized scholarly interests, and because so many were in languages other than Spanish.