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Letters written during a journey in Spain and a short residence in Portugal (Volume 1) online

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University of California • Berkeley



Gift of



ROBERT PALFREY UTTER



/



LETTERS



FROM



SPAIN AND PORTUGAL.



Printed by W. Fople,*
22, Old Boswell Court, Strand.



LETTERS

written during

A JOURNEY IN SPAIN,

AND A

SHORT RESIDENCE IN PORTUGAL.

BY

ROBERT SOUTHEY.



IN TWO VOLUMES.
VOL. I.



THIRD EDITION, CORRECTED AND AMENDED,



Hcntion :

FRJNTED FOR LONGMAN, HURST, REES, AND ORME^
PATERNOSTER-ROW.

18G8.



PREFACE.



In the following letters I have related
what I have seen. Of the anecdotes
with which they abound, there are
none of which I myself doubt the
authenticity. There are no disquisi-
tions on commerce and politics ; I
have given facts, and the Reader may
comment for himself. The book is
written with scrupulous veracity ; I
have never in the slightest instance
enlivened the narrative by deviating
from plain truth.

I have represented things as they
appeared to me. If any one better
informed than I am should find me
erroneous, I shall beg him to apply
this story :



VI. PREFACE.

A friend of mine landed at Falmouth
with a Russian who had never before
been in England. They travelled to-
gether to Exeter ; on way the Rus-
sian saw a directing-post, of which the
inscription was effaced. Cl I did not
think till now (said he) that you erect-
ed Crucifixes in England." His com-,
panion rectified the error, and seeing
close by it the waggon direction, " take
off here,'' he added — " had you re-
turned home with this mistake, you
would have said not only that the Eng-
lish erected Crosses by the way-side,,
but that stones were placed telling the
passenger where to take off his hat,
and where it was permitted him to
put it on again."



CONTENTS.



LETTER I.



Page



Voyage to> Coruna. Appearance of
the Galician Coast. Custom-house.
Accommodations., Carts at Co-
mna, . . . 1;

LETTER II.

Theatre. Dress., Maragatos.. Jea-
lousy of the Governments Walk
among the Mountains. Monumen-
tal Crosses. Tower of Hercules. . II



CONTENTS.

LETTER III.

Page
Departure from Coruna. Road to
Betunzos. Travelling accommoda-
tions* Scenery of Galicia. Gri-
teru. Bamonde. * * 30 !

LETTER IV.

Lugo. Roman Baths. Bishop's Pa-
lace. - 51

LETTER V.

St. Juan de Corbo. Manilas. Pu-
ente del Corzid.. Lugares. Fami-
liarity of the Spanish poor. Castro.
Road to Villafranca. Palace of
the Duke of Alva.. Melancholy
History of a Widow. .. . 65<

LETTER VI.

Carcabelos.. Ponferrada j Manners
of the Muleteers. Travelling ac-
cidents. Hospitality of the Bar-
ber at St. Miguel de las Duenas*



CONTENTS.

Page
His library. Christmas Day. Man-
zanar. The Bierzo. . . 84

LETTER VII.

Situation of Gil Bias' Cavern. As-
torga. Baueza. Puente de Bi-
saua. Benevente. Castle of the
Duke of Ossuna. . .127

LETTER VIII.

Road to Tordesillas. Juan de Pa*
dill a. Medina del Canipo. Are
halo. Funda San Rafael. Qua-
darama. Approach to Madrid.. 154

LETTER IX.

Madrid. Miscellaneous Observations.
Royal Recreations. . . 174

LETTER X.

St. Isidro. . . .189



CONTENTS.



LETTER XI.



Page



Queen of Spain. Museum. Fiesta
de Novillos. Progress of French
Principles. . . . 199

LETTER XII.

Departure from Madrid.. Naval
Carnero. Talaveyra de la Reyne.
Road to Naval Moral. . 213

LETTER XIII.

JForest of the Escurial Friars.. Royal
Travelling. Puente de Almarez.
Xaraizejo. Truxillo. Tale of a
Spanish JErostator* .. . 231



LETTERS

FROM

SPAIN AND PORTUGAL.



LETTER I.



Voyage to Cortina. Appearance of the Ga-
lician Coast. Custom house. Accommo-
dations. Carts at Cor una,

Coruna, Sunday, Dec. 13, 1795.

When first I went on board the Spa-
nish Packet, the mate was employed in
cutting a cross upon the side of his birth,
and the sailors were feasting upon a mess
of biscuit, onions, liver, and horse beans,
boiled into a brown pap, which they
were all pawing out of a bucket. The
same taste and cleanliness of cookery

VOL. I. B



<2

were displayed in the only dinner they
afforded us on the passage; and the
same spirit of devotion made them, when
the wind blew hard, turn in to bed and
to prayers. Our voyage was rough and
unpleasant; on the fifth morning, how-
ever, the wind became favourable, and
we arrived in sight of Cape Finisterre.

The coast of Galicia presented a wild
and desolate prospect ; a long tract of
stone mountains, one rising above ano-
ther, not a tree or bush upon their bar-
ren sides; and. the waves breaking at
their base with such prodigious violence
as to be visible many leagues distant.
The sun shone over the land, and half
hiding it by the morning mists, gave a
transitory beauty. If the eye cannot be
filled by an object of vaster sublimity
than the boundless ocean, when beheld
from shore, neither can it ever dwell on
a more delightful prospect than that of
jand, dimly discovered from the sea and
gradually growing distinct. We passed



by a little island, seven leagues from
Coruiia, and one of our fellow passengers
who knew the country observed, on
pointing it out to us, that it was only
inhabited by hares and rabbits. A Swede,
(who had a little before obliged me with
a lecture on the pronunciation of the
English language) made a curious blun-
der in his reply, confounding the vowels
a and o ; <l As for de vimmin," said he,
" dey may be very good — but de robers
" I should not like at all."

We dropt anchor in the harbour at
one o'clock, as hungr)^ as Englishmen
may be supposed to be after five days
imprisonment in a Spanish Packet, and
with that eagerness to be on shore, which
no one can imagine who has never been
at sea. We were not, however, permit-
ted to land, till we had received a visit
from the Custom-house Officers. To
receive these men in office, it was neces-
sary that Senor Don Raimundo Aruspini
should pulchrify his person : after thi*
23 £



4

metamorphosis took place, we were
obliged to wait, while these unmerciful
visitors drank the Captain's porter, bottle
after bottle, as fast as he could supply
them ; and though their official business
did not occupy five^niinutes, it was
five o'clock in the evning before we were
suffered to depart, and even then we
were obliged to leave our baggage be-
hind us.

Other places attract the eye of a tra-
veller, but Coruna takes his attention by
the nose. My head, still giddy from the
motion of the ship, is confused by the
multiplicity of novel objects . . . the dress
of the people . . • the projecting roofs and
balconies of the houses . . . the filth of the
streets, so strange and so disgusting to
an Englishman : but, what is most
strange, is to hear a language which
conveys to me only the melancholy
reflection, that I am in a land of stran-
gers.

We are at the Navio (the Ship) a



Posada, kept by an Italian. Forgive
me for using the Spanish name, that I
may not commit blasphemy against all
English pot-houses. Our dinner was a
fowl fried in oil, and served up in an atti-
tude not unlike that of a frog, taken
suddenly with a fit of the cramp. With
this we had an omelet of eggs and gar-
lic, fried in the same execrable oil ; for
execrable it is in this land of olives, as
the fruit is suffered to grow rancid be-
fore the juice is expressed. Our only
drink was wine, not the vino generoso
with which Spain supplies us in Eng-
land, but the meagre beverage which the
labourers in the vineyard reserve for
themselves.

You must perceive that I write at
such opportunities as are to be caught,
for the room we sit in serves likewise
for the bed-chamber. It is now Monday
morning. Oh, the misery of the night!
I have been sojtead, that a painter would
find me an excellent subject for the mar-



tyrdom of St. Bartholomew. Jacob's
pillow of stone was a down cushion, com-
pared to that which bruised my head
Jast night ; and my bed had all possible
varieties of hill and vale, in whose re-
cesses the fleas lay safe ; for otherwise,
it was so hard that I should inevitably
have broken their bones by rolling over
them. Our apartment is indeed furnish-
ed with windows ; and he who takes the
trouble to examine, may convince him-
self that they have once been glazed.
The night air is very cold, and I have only
one solitary blanket, but it is a very
pretty one, with red and yellow stripes.
Add to this catalogue of comforts, that
the cats were saying soft things in most
vile Spanish : and you may judge what
refreshment I have received from sleep.

At breakfast they brought us our tea
on a plate by way of cannister, and some
butter of the country, which did lit-
tle credit to the dairies of Galicia. This
however was followed by some excellent



chocolate, and I soon established a
plenum in my system.

The monuments of Spanish jealousy
still remain in the old houses; and the
balconies of them are fronted with a
lattice more thickly barred than ever
was hencoop in England. But jealousy
is out of fashion at present ; and they
tell me, an almost universal depravity ot
manners has succeeded. The men ap-
pear at first like a Jew-looking race;
the little boys wear the monkey appen-
dage of a tail; and I see infants with
more feathers than a fantastic fine lady
would wear at a ball. The women soon
look old, and then every feature settles
into symmetry of ugliness. If ever Opie
paints another witch, he ought to visit
Coruna. All ideas that you can form by
the help of blear eyes, mahogany com-
plexion, and shrivelled parchment, must
fall infinitely short of the life.

The custom house officers were very
troublesome. They kept one of our



8

companions five hours, unrolled every
shirt, and handed a new coat round the
room, that every body might look at the
"buttons ! We brought with us a round
of salted beef undressed, a cheese, and a
pot of butter for our journey ; and they
entered these in their books, and made
us pay duty for them, as though we
were merchants arrived with a cargo of
provisions. I had been obliged to call
on the Consul in my sea dress. If we
had either of us regarded forms, this
would have been very unpleasant : but
I, as you well know, care little for these
extraneous things, and Major Jardiae
is a man who attended more to the na-
ture of my opinions, than the quality of
my coat.

The carts here remind me of the anci-
ent war-chariots, and the men stand in
them as they drive. They are drawn
by two oxen, and the wheels make a
most melancholy and detestable discord.
The Governor of this town once ordered



that they should be kept well oiled to
prevent this ; but the drivers presented
a petition against it, stating that the ox-
en liked the sound, and would not draw
without it ; and therefore the order was
revoked. These carts are small, and I
often see two oxen drawing what might
be conveyed in an English wheel-bar-
row.

A low wall is built all along the water-
side, to prevent smuggling, and a number
of little forts are erected about the adjoin-
ing coast for the same purpose. This
town is admirably paved ; but its filth
is astonishing, when, with so little trou-
ble, it might be kept clean. In order
to keep the balconies dry, the water
spouts project very far; there are no
vents left in the wall, and the water and
the filth lie in the middle of the streets
till the sun dries, and the wind sweeps
them. The market place is very good,
and its fountain ornamented with a squab
faced figure of Fame. The Fountains



10

are well contrived ; the spouts are plac-
ed so high that no person can either
dirt or deface them, and they therefore
fill their vessels by the medium of a
long tube, shaped like a tobacco-pipe.
Some of the houses in one of the back
streets here have little gardens, which
I am told is very unusual in Spain.
Cabbages, turnips, and brocoli thrive
here, but horticulture is almost entirely
neglected, and the want of vegetable
food is one of the privations which
an Englishman has to suffer when tra-
velling in this country.

I apply to the language; it is very
easy, and with a little assistance I can
understand their poetry. This, you will
say, is beginning at the wrong end :
but remember, that I am obliged to
attend to prose in conversation, and that
" the cat will always after kind." Or
if you like a more classical allusion,
you know by what artifice Achilles was
discovered at the court of Lycomedes.
Tuesday Evening, Dec. 15.



11



LETTER II.



Theatre. Dress. Maragatos. Jealousy
of the Government. Walk among the
Mountains. Monumental Crosses. Tow-
er of Hercules.

Tuesday night.
1 am just returned from the Spanish
Comedy. The theatre is painted with a
muddy light blue, and a dirty yellow,
without gilding, or any kind of ornament.
The boxes are engaged by the season :
and subscribers only, with their friends,
admitted to them, paying a pesetta *

* 4 maravedis make l quaito.
&\ quartos — l real.

4 reales — l pesetta.

5 pesettas — l dollar, or peso duro, value

4s. 6d.
In small sums they reckon by reales, in large onesj
by dollars or doubloons. The doubloon is an ima-
ginary coin, value three dollars,



12

each. In the pit are the men, each
seated as in a great armed chair; the
lower class stand behind these seats :
above are the women, for the sexes are
separated, and so strictly, that an officer
was broke at Madrid for intruding into
the female places. The boxes, of course,
hold family parties. The centre box,
over the entrance of the pit, is appointed
for the magistrates, covered in the front
with red stuff, and ornamented with the
royal arms. The motto is a curious one ;
" Silencio y no fumar" " Silence and
no smoaking." The comedy, of course,
was very dull to one who could not un-
derstand it. I was told that it contained
some wit, and more obscenity ; but the
only comprehensible joke to me was,
u Ah V said in a loud voice by one man,
and "Oh !" replied equally loud by ano-
ther, to the great amusement of the au-
dience. To this succeeded a comic
opera. The characters were represented
by the most ill-looking man and woman



13

I ever saw. My Swedish friend's island"
of hares and rabbits could not have a
fitter king and queen. The man'b dress
was a thread-bare brown coat lined with
silk which had once been white, and
dirty corduroy waistcoat and* breeches ;
his beard was black, and his neckcloth
anid shoes dirty. .. but his face! Jack*
ketch might sell the reversion of his fee
for him, and be in no danger of defraud-
ing the purchaser. A soldier was the
other character, in old black velveret
breeches, with<a pair of gaiters reaching
above the knee, that appeared to have
been made out of some blacksmith's old
leathern apron. A farce followed, and
the hemp-stretch man again made his
appearance, having blacked one of his
eyes to look blind. M. observed that he
looked better with one eye than with
two, and we agreed, that the loss of his
head would be an addition to his beauty,
fhe prompter stands in the middle of the
stage, about half way above it, before a



14

little tin skreen, not unlike a man in a
cheese-toaster. He read the whole play
with the actors, in a tone of voice equally
loud ; and when one of the performers
added a little of his own wit, he was so
provoked as to abuse him aloud, and
shake the book at him. Another prompter
made his appearance to the opera, un-
shaved, and dirty beyond description :
they both used as much action as the
actors. The scene that falls between the
acts would disgrace a puppet-show at an
English fair; on one side is a hill, in
size and shape like a sugar-loaf, with a
temple on the summit, exactly like a
watch-box ; on the other Parnassus, with
Pegasus striking the top in his flight,
and so giving a source to the waters of
Helicon ; but such is the proportion of
the horse to the mountain, that you
would imagine him to be only taking a
flying leap over a large anuhill, and:
think he would destroy the whole ceco-
nomy of the state by kicking it to pieces,



15

Between the hills lay a city ; and in the
air sits a duck-legged Minerva, sur-
rounded by flabby Cupids. I could see
the hair-dressing behind the scenes ; a
child was suffered to play on the stage,
and amuse himself by sitting on thescene >
and swinging backward and forward, so
as to endanger setting it on fire. Five
chandeliers were lighted by only twenty
candles. To represent night, they turned
up two rough planks, about eight inches
broad, before the stage lamps ; and the
musicians, whenever they retired, blew
out their tallow candles. But the most
singular thing, is their mode of drawing
up the curtain. A man climbs up to the
roof, catches hold of a rope > and then
jumps down; the weight of his body
raising the curtain, and that of the cur-
tain breaking his fall. I did not see one
actor with a clean pair of shoes. The
women wore in their hair a tortoise-shell
comb to part it, the back of which is
concave,, and so large as to resemble the



16

.front of a small bonnet*. This would
not have been inelegant, if their hair
had beeri clean and without powder, or
even appeared decent with it. I must
now to supper. When a man must diet
on what is disagreeable, it is some conso-
lation to reflect that it is wholesome ;
and this is the case with the wine; but
the bread here is half gravel, owing to
the soft nature of their grindstones.
Instead of tea, a man ought to drink
Adams's solvent with his breakfasts

Wednesday.

I met one of the actors this morning,
equipped as though he had just made his
descent in full dress from the gibbet.
The common apparel of the women is a
black stuff cloak, that covers the head,
anti reaches about half way down the
back: some wear it of white muslin;
but black is the most common colour,
and to me a very disagreeable one, as

* We have since seen this fashion in our own ;
country.



17

connecting the idea of dirt. The men
dress in different ways ; and where there
is this variety, no person is remarked as
singular. I walked about in my sea-
suit without being taken notice of. There
is, however, a very extraordinary race
of men, distinguished by a leathern
jacket, in its form not unlike the ancient
cuirass, the Maragatos, or carriers.
These people never intermarry with the
other Spaniards, but form a separate
race: they cut their hair close to the
head, and sometimes leave it in tufts
like flowers. Their countenances express
honesty, and their character corresponds
to their physiognomy ; for a Maragato
was never known to defraud, or even to
lose any thing committed to his care.

The churches here exhibit some curi-
ous specimens of Moorish architecture:
but as this is a fortified town, it is not
safe to be seen with a pencil. A poor
emigrant priest last year, walking just
without the town gates, turned round to



18

look at the prospect. He was observed,
taken upon suspicion of a design to take
plans of the fortifications, and actually
sent away !

I had a delightful walk this morning
with the Consul, among the rude scenery
of Galicia : — little green lanes, between
stony banks, and wild and rocky moun-
tains ; and although I saw neither mea-
dows, or hedges, or trees, I was too
much occupied with the new and the sub-
lime, to regret the beautiful. There were
four stone crosses in one of the lanes. I
had heard of these monuments of murder,
and therefore suspected what they were.
Yet I felt a sudden gloom, at reading
upon one of them, " Here died Lorenzo
of Betanzos."

About a mile from the town, I ob-
served a stone building on an eminence,
of a singular construction. f f Do you
not know what it is?" said Major J. I
hesitated. " If I were not in Spain, I
should have thought it a windmill, on



19

the plan of that at Battersea." " Yoa are
right/' replied he " this is the only one
that has yet been attempted on the pe-
ninsula, and it does not succeed. Eri-
jaldi, who owns it, is an ingenious, en-
terprising man ; but, instead of improving
by his failure, his countrymen will be
deterred by it from attempting to succeed.
Marco, another inhabitant of this town,
has ventured on a bolder undertaking,
and hitherto with better fortune ; he has
established a linen manufactory, unpa-
tronized and unassisted."

Our walk extended to the highest
point of the hills, about a league from
Cor una. The view from hence commands
the town, now seen situated on a penin-
sula ; the harbour, the water winding
into the country, and the opposite shore
o\ Ferrol, with the hills towards Cape
Ortegal ; to the right, the same barren
and rocky ridge of hills continues ; to
the left, the Bay of Biscay, and the light-
house, or Tower of Hercules. The in-



£0

scription near this building is roofed, to
preserve it from the weather j but they
take the opportunity of sheltering cattle
under the same roof, and their filth ren-
ders the inscription illegible. The tra-
dition * is, that Hercules built the toweiy

* The whole tale is in the Troy Boke, Book II. Chap.
22, entitled " How Hercules founded 'he city of Co-
rogne upon the tomb of Gerion."

" When it was day, Hercules issued out of his

galley, and beholding the Port r it seemed to him that a
city would stand well there ; and then he said, that
forthwith he would make one there, a^d concluded
to begin it. He sent to all places, were he knew any
people were thereabouts, and gave to each man know-
ledge that he was minded to make a City there, and
the first person that would come to put hand thereto,
should have the government thereof. This thing was
known in Galicia. Many came thither, but a woman
named Corogne was the first that came ; and therefore
Hercules gave unto her the ruling thereof, and named
it Corogne, in remembrance of the victory that he had
there. Upon the body of Gerion he founded a tower,
and by his art composed a lamp, burning continually day
and night, without putting of any thing thereto, which
burned afterwards the s^ace of three hundred years.
Moreover, upon the pinnacle or top of the tower, he



21

tind placed in it a mirror, so constructed
by his art magic, that all vessels in that

made an image of copper, looking into the sea, and gave
him in his hand a looking-glass having such virtue, that
if it happened that any man of war on the sea came
to harm the city suddenly, their army and their coming
should appear in the said looking-glass $ and that dured
unto the time of Nebuchadonozar, who being adver-
tised of the property of the glass, filled his galleys with
white things and green boughs and leaves, that in the
looking-glass they appeared no other but a wood; where-
by the Corognians, not knowing of any other thing
than their glass shewed to them, did not furnish them
with men of arms, as they had been accustomed to
when their enemies came, and thus Nebuchadonozar
took the city in a morning, destroyed the looking glass
and the lamp. When the tower was made, Hercules
caused to come thither all the Maids of the country,
and willed them to make a solemn feast in the remem-
brance of the death of Gerion/'

This is orignally an oriental fiction, as a similar tale is
told of the Fharos at Alexandria.

Lt Geographe Persien au climat 3e. parlant d?Mexan-
drie ou ce v. limat commence, dit que dans cette ville qu*
Alexandre Jit batir sur le hard de la mer Mediterranee, ce
grand Prince fit construire un Pharc qui passe pour hre
une des mervcilles du monde; dont la hauteur tioit de 180
coudees, au plus haut duquel il fit placer un miroir fait



22

sea, at whatever distance, might be be-
held in it*.

par V art talismanique, par le moyen duquel la Fille
d'Alexandrie devoit toujours conserver sa grandeur el
sa puissance, tant que cet ouvrage merveilleux subsisteroit.

Quelques-uns -ont ecrit que les vaisseaux qui arrivoient
dans ce port, se voyoient de fort loin dans ce miroir.
Quoi quHl en soit, il est fort celebre parmi les Orientaux.
Les Persans appellent ce Phare, Le Miroir cZ 1 "Alexandria
lis disent que la fortune de la Ville y etoit attache'e,
parceque c 1 etoit un Talisman. D'Herbelot.

They who are not versed in the black letter classics,
will be surprised to find Hercules metamorphosed into
a Necromancer. I subjoin one more specimen of his art
magic. * € After this Hercules went to the city Salaman-
que, and forasmuch as it was well inhabited, he would
make there a solemn study, and did make in the earth a


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