Albert Bathurst Piddington.

Spanish sketches, by A. B. Piddington. With thirty-four illustrations online

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Online LibraryAlbert Bathurst PiddingtonSpanish sketches, by A. B. Piddington. With thirty-four illustrations → online text (page 1 of 8)
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41 657


THE following sketches first appeared in
1913 in the Sydney Morning Herald and are
republished now by the courteous permission
of that j ournal's proprietors. Their reprinting
has been delayed by the war.

A. B. P.


December 1915.




AT THE CORTES ...... 13



TOLEDO ....... 45









Senor Don Jose Canalejas . . Frontispiece

Facing page

Madrid. The Congreso Building ... 13

Velazquez. Portrait of Philip IV . . .26
Portrait of the Duque d'Olivares,

Minister of Philip IV . . .27
El Primo ..... 29
Las Meninas (The Maids of Honour) 35
The Surrender of Breda . . 39

Toledo. The Puerite de Alcantara, over the

Tagus 45

San Juan de los Reyes ... 47

Cordova. ' Cordoba Muerta ' ... 56
In the Campina .... 60
Scenes in the City ... 62
(a) A Plaza ; (b) Moorish Bridge

over the Guadalquivir . . 64
Puerta del Perdon ... 66

Aisles in the Mosque (i) . 70

Aisles in the Mosque (2) . . 72

Sequence of Arches in the Mosque . 80
The last Arch of the Sequence . 81
The Mihrab . 82


Facing page
Seville. The Alcazar, or Palace of the Moorish

Kings ..... 102

The Cathedral the Giralda Tower . 104

The Cathedral (Interior) . . . 107

The Cathedral Tomb of Columbus . 118

Granada. General View of the Alhambra Hill,

with the Sierra Nevada . . 120
The Alhambra. Mirador de la Reina . . 134
Recess in Sala de los Embaj adores
(Hall of the Ambassadors), showing
gallery leading to the Mirador de la
Reina ..... 135
Patio de los Leones (Court of the

Lions) ..... 143
Patio de los Leones, showing Sta-
lactite roof in one Portico . . 145
Sala de las Dos Hermanas (Hall of

the Two Sisters) . . . 146
(a) Design of a Stalactite Ceiling ;
(b) Mosaic, showing the geometrical
composition of pattern . .152
Sala de los Abencerrajes . . 154

Courtyard of the Mosque . . 159


[This chapter relates to an interview at Madrid
on October 25, 1912, and was written in London on
November 10. Canalejas was shot while walking in
the Puerta del Sol, Madrid, on November 12, and
died in a few moments. He was in his 5Qth year.
The narrative has been left, as it was written, in the
tense of the living.]

FOR many reasons Senor Don Jose Canalejas,
the Premier (or Presidente del Consejo, to
give him his exact title) of Spain, is one of
the most interesting of European political
leaders. He is the man whom observers
from without regard as the only man able to
remake Old Spain ; he has already done
much to establish a firm and ordered govern-
ment ; he is quite likely to have a revolution
on his hands ; and he has recently drawn the
eyes of Europe upon him by breaking a great
railway strike through one of those sudden
coups de main which, whatever their ultimate
effect, win admiration at the time by reason


>; ;/j :;;;-;/:;SP^ISH SKETCHES

of their ingenious application of little-used
resources to meet the sudden needs of
a country. In Spain the railways are owned
by private companies, who pay very low wages
and exact very long hours the ordinary
railway hand receiving only two or three
pesetas (15. 8d. or zs. 6d.) for a day never
less than ten and often twelve hours long.
A railway strike almost universal in its
extent was begun, and threatened to paralyse
the country's internal and external business,
including postal communication. Canalejas
soon found a way to deal with it. He sum-
moned, under the powers of the military
law, all the railway employees who were
reservists to attend for military duty at their
ordinary posts of railway work ; and being
there they were ordered to do their usual tasks,
and, as soldiers, they had to do anything
they were told. Such a straining of the law
would never be tolerated in a British com-
munity there would be hosts of far from
mute or inglorious Hampdens to raise the
point that such a summons was not a bona fide


call to military service ; but the Spanish
strikers, without education, without strong
leaders, and with the Spaniards' recent
knowledge of the swiftness of military tri-
bunals as evidenced in the shooting of Ferrer,
did not care to risk it. There was no Winkel-
ried amongst them to break the enemy's line
by gathering a sheaf of spears into his own
bosom, and the strike collapsed.

Conscious, no doubt, that such a device of
law could not be practised again, and ought
not to be necessary where services of the
State, such as the carriage of mails, are in
question, Canalejas has introduced a Bill to
punish with imprisonment the men who lead
in railway strikes. It was during the Cortes'
debates on this measure that I saw Canalejas
at his house in the busy Calle de las Huertas,
the Street of the Orchards, a name about as
descriptive now as is St. Martin in-the-Fields
or Emu Plains. The house is a splendid
modern mansion formerly belonging to the
Duchess of San Antonio, and connected, in
street gossip, with one of those legends about



prominent men which are believed or dis-
believed according to party predilections. It
is said that Canalejas, when he practised as
an advocate, was counsel for the duchess in
a long law-suit and lost the case ; and that
as she did not pay his fees he insisted on her
giving him this house. Canalejas has publicly
denied this, with the usual consequences.
His enemies say that a man who would do
such a thing would think nothing of denying
it ; his friends claim the denial of a Spanish
caballero as conclusive. And as no black
crow is ever lonely for long, some other
houses which Canalejas owns (or is said to
own) are, according to the same gossip,
similarly associated with lost causes and
impossible beliefs.

My own first visit took place at midday,
when Canalejas habitually receives as many
newspaper representatives as choose to come,
or any friend they bring. We assembled
first in the secretary's room, where about a
score of men from Madrid and other capitals
were waiting. A young Government official


was discussing with my sponsor, a famous
German correspondent, his invention for
recording in notation music as it is played,
an invention which, strange to say, was stated
a week later in a London paper to have been
recently made by a Swiss electrician. Pre-
sently we were summoned to another room
and trooped across the fine outer court-
yard of the house (where with characteristic
Spanish happy-go-lucky incongruity a horse
was being clipped and shod), then up a dwarf
flight of stairs, along a narrow passage, and
into a spacious reception-room, handsomely
furnished and adorned at one end with a glass
wall-case full of dolls 'his colleagues', whis-
pered a perky little reporter as he whisked
out his note-book. At this moment Canalejas
bustled in with the quick footstep so notice-
able in the Madrileno, and indeed in all
Spaniards of the north, shook hands with
such of the reporters as came in his way, and
having nodded and laughed himself through
the throng, stood leaning lightly on a chair
and dashed off rapidly and quite impromptu


his remarks on the Government's intentions
as to the Strike Bill, his treatment by one
of the Madrid papers over that matter, the
purchase by the Government of Cervantes'
house at Valladolid, and the expected compact
with France it was accomplished two days
later over Morocco. During the interview
Canalejas answered at once and without
apparent reservation such questions as the
native or the acquired modesty of any
reporter permitted him to ask, and finally
beamed pleasantly at us all with the remark
that he could think of nothing further to say.
This was accepted as ' closing the incident '.
Hearing from my friend that I had had
some experience of the working of com-
pulsory arbitration in Australia, Canalejas,
observing that that country is muy socialista,
invited me to meet him later, when he would
be alone.

At my next visit the lack of ceremony as
to admission struck me even more than before.
True, there were two men in uniform at the
conciergerie who knew me ; but once past


them, I was apparently free to find or lose
my way in any part of the great mansion.
Disliking this unchartered freedom, I loudly
addressed an invisible ' Sefior ' and a door
opened, disclosing a coachman in shirt-sleeves
and with a lathered face. He told me to
' go straight on ' the invariable formula used
in all countries by people who know the way
to those who do not, as if in unconscious
imitation of many of the moral philosophers
and ethical guides of humanity. Interpreting
this direction freely but cautiously, I found
myself at Canalejas' door, and was admitted
by the Premier with that particular enthu-
siasm which is the essence of a Spanish
greeting. It was certainly a great surprise
that a man at the very time violently de-
nounced by a great gathering of heady
Socialists assembled at Madrid, and in a
high degree unpopular with a class dangerous
through its ignorance as well as through
its miseries, should sit, as it were, with open
doors and all the blinds pulled up. Probably,
like Caesar, Canalejas thinks life not worth


living if so much care has to be taken to
preserve it.

Taking both hands warmly and with
a running comment of pleasure and welcome,
Canalejas took me to a divan and sat down
with a manner of cordial intimacy. He spoke
admiringly of the great wealth and widespread
prosperity of Australia, and then at once
began to ask for information as to the working
of compulsory arbitration there. He said
he had tried in vain to get any literature
on the subject (for he reads English), but he
was familiar with the federal system, in which
a single judge decides inter-State disputes
in all industries, and the wages-board system
of our individual States, in which the tribunal
varies with varying trades or groups of trades.
What he specially wanted to know was how
far the system had succeeded in preventing
or ending strikes, and what had been done
with regard to imprisonment for striking.
I told him that in very large industries and
with bitter differences to excite them, working
men could not always be brought to a standard


of law so advanced as that which forbids
strikes ; while in numberless instances, not
heard of because they led to no sensation,
strikes were avoided and arbitration resorted
to as a matter of course. He heard with
interest and approval what I had to say about
the harmonizing effect of bringing the two
sides together with an impartial chairman in
private conference and letting them talk out
their respective points of view ; but I think
the practical partisan was not far off when
I described the prosecution of leaders in
the great coal strike. 'That involved', said
he, ' holding up the railways, a great inter-
ference with public services/ I pointed out
that apart from a few isolated instances of
light penalties, imprisonment was only im-
posed on this one occasion, and that was when
the strike was launched with less warning
than Italy's descent on Tripoli, and in an
industry which was not only vital to our
private businesses and public services, but
which bulked largely in our overseas trading.
Canalejas wholly approved of imprisonment


in a case of such a strike without notice, for
his own proposal involves an ' embargo ' of
a month's notice, in the case of a railway
strike. He does not, however, propose com-
pulsory arbitration (which he had a day or
two before denounced in the Cortes as ' hate-
ful to liberty and to Liberals' abomination
de la liber tad y del Liberalismo) but a voluntary
tribunal, with representatives for each side,
and a representative of the State, as being
a third but neutral party. This last ingredient,
logical as it is, the Socialists oppose out of
utter, and, I am convinced, sincere, distrust
of the neutrality of the Government. And on
the main question, the taking away of the
right to strike el derecho de huelga the
Conservatives, led by Maura, are at one with
the Socialists. There are evidently, then,
troublous days ahead for Canalejas; but he
is a brave, resourceful, and alert man.
Meredith denned humour as ' strength and
to spare ', and I left Canalejas feeling
that his not undignified bonhomie, his
gaiety and seeming happiness, cover a very


strong and resolute nature, equal to its
task and something more par negotiis atque

In personal appearance as well as in manner,
Canalejas is the last man one would picture as
quelling a revolt. He has nothing leonine,
nothing severe, nothing intense about him.
A shade below middle height, he stands, sits,
or walks, with a loose and easy fashion of
carelessness, though his build, if somewhat
slack, is solid and strong. His face is by no
means ' sicklied o'er with the pale cast of
thought ' ; on the contrary, his very dark
complexion is richly warmed and humanized
by a lively blood. His hair and heavy
moustache are without a touch of grey in
them, though he is over fifty. His eyes dark
and bright, though not piercing, are full of
kindness, and a sort of buoyant mirth. He
has a high and narrow forehead, such as we
associate with the notion of a Castilian
hidalgo, whether from Velazquez or from the
portraits or prints of Pizarro, and a broad
mobile mouth, with a jaw where especially


you will see the outward signs of a strong
pugnacious spirit. But (pace Lavater)

. . . there is no art
To read the mind's construction in the face ;

one can only say of Canalejas that his face
bespeaks force, courage, and intellect, and
these, with his pervading friendliness of
nature, are no bad equipment for a statesman
who has to remake modern Spain.








THE popular chamber in Spain is the
Congreso, a body of 406 members or diputa-
dos, elected by the equal (and compulsory)
suffrage of all men over 25, and making up
with the Senado the Cortes. It meets in a
spacious hall shaped like a semicircular
theatre, of which the presidential bench (el
sillon presidential) is the stage, but which
has neither orchestra stalls nor boxes. All
round the free floor-space run the members'
seats, and above them galleries large enough
for hundreds of spectators. On the right of
the President, the front bench for ministers
is the famous Banco Azul, so called because
it is upholstered in rich blue cloth, bearing
a golden crown in the centre, while the rest
of the benches are crimson. The Banco
Azul is fronted by a broad polished table
running its whole length. There is no table
of the House nor Bar.

The rich and stately effect of this fine
chamber is enhanced by a bright carpet in


the centre, displaying the arms and motto of
Charles V two columns to represent the
Pillars of Hercules, having the Globe between
them, and the proud legend ' Plus Ultra'.
Proud as is this motto, it was justly conceived
in the epoch when two great victories of
peace and war, the discovery of America
and the Conquest of Granada, the last of
the Moorish strongholds, had synchronized ;
when the national mind had been exalted by
Pizarro's conquest of Peru, and the national
wealth increased by those vast wagon-loads of
gold and silver, which the skill of Toledo and
Valencia was to transmute into the exquisite
jewel-work still sometimes seen in Spain ;
and when the humblest Spaniard in the
streets of any southern port might rub
shoulders with the very men who had over-
run Mexico and had stood, in fact, as Keats
afterwards stood in the noble projection of
a poet's imagination, beside ' stout Cortez ',

. . . when, with eagle eyes,
He stared at the Pacific and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.


But seen now, in a nation moth-eaten like
its own antique tapestries and chasubles and
robes of state, which has lost by sheer decay
all its old expansion beyond the limits of its
birth, this motto ' Further Yet ' seems at
first only, in Burke' s words, ' to remind us,
what shadows we are, and what shadows we
are pursuing*. Yet here, if anywhere, in the
Parliament of the modern nation, to these
words of aspiration might be given a range
and a meaning more glorious than in the
days of Ferdinand and Isabella, if the high
natural intelligence of the race could be
turned to the prime necessity of education,
and the amelioration of Spain's social condi-
tions. And then, by the individual self-
discipline and self-development which go
with self-government, Spain might yet achieve
a greatness more real than any she has yet

The galleries were filled, for the most part
by working men, when the deputies strolled
in. A dozen ushers (porteros) in swallow-
tailed blue costumes, loaded with gold braid,
hastily drew on their white gloves as the


President came in, accompanied by the vice-
presidents and four secretaries. This official
procession was preceded by a pair of amazing
figures, perhaps best described as Beefeaters.
These were the maceros or mace-bearers of the
Chamber, and, except that they wore trousers
andboots instead of knee-breeches and buckled
shoes, their costume was very much like that
of the traditional halberdiers. The gorra, or
flat-topped head-dress such as still figures on
the jack in a suit of cards, the capes, the
doublets, the slashed sleeves in sumptuous
velvet and silk, and the lace ruffles at the wrist,
were all present ; while a sort of apron,
stretched with a comfortable rotundity under
the open cloak, displayed, just where bodily
well-being had reached for the time its
maximum outward curve, the legend, proud of
the present and not unhopeful of the future,
'Plus Ultra'. In Spain the great ambition is
to obtain some Government post in which
to live the life of a Canon (vida de canonigos),
and so reach the felicity expressed in the
proverb ' as fat as a Canon ' gordo como un


The maceros stood solemn and silent at
each side of the curtained alcove at the extreme
rear of the stage, and in the unfailing punc-
tuality with which they changed guard every
half-hour, if in no other respect, they main-
tained the claims of order and settled practice
in the Assembly. The President and secre-
taries (all in ordinary dress and without any
robes of office) filed into their places at the
long table in front of the stage or rostrum,
a clerk sat below in a box like that of an
associate, and throughout the session deputies
strolled up between the maceros and the
President, talking to him or his confreres as
they wished. Very soon a votacion nominal or
vote without going into the lobby (which is
never done) and without written papeles,
which is the most solemn form of voting, was
taken. The secretaries, aided by the clerk,
wrote down the names of those present on
what seemed from the gallery a vast balance-
sheet. No vote by voices or show of hands
preceded this tiresome process ; apparently
the lists of the result were drawn up according
to the member's seat in the chamber or the



officers' knowledge of his party allegiance.
The list was next read out, and each member
rose at hearing his name and bowed silently,
much as on motion day in the courts the
presiding judge asks each barrister ' Do you
move ? ' and the latter proves that he does
not move by rising and bowing.

The votacion nominal having concluded,
the clerk announced the concurrence of the
Senado (which has equal powers with the
Congreso) in various bills, and then the debate
on the proyecto de ley against railway strikes
followed. During the first half-hour of
flowery but quite unnoticed rhetoric from
a graceful young Republican, conversation
ran on freely, both on the benches and in the
galleries. Spanish courtesy seemed to be
proof against interrupting the speaker's evi-
dent, though solitary, enjoyment, but it
would not forgo the right to talk about the
things that really mattered. Long before
the speech was over, an exchange of wireless
messages between one of the conservadores
and the clerk (who had meantime moved up
on to the rostrum) led to the latter pro-


ducing from a drawer in the presidential table
some packets of pastilles of cafe y leche
wrapped in white paper, with the Govern-
ment stamp in gold. By this time members
were in all attitudes and in all parts of the
chamber, and the gold-braided ushers moved
busily amongst them, handing out this literal
variety of the sweets of power. All was
going smoothly, when the first speaker gave
way to Sefior Y , a big and burly Re-
publican, with a voice to vanquish the
clamours of the bull-ring. He had strong
views about regulation 506 and the votacion
nominal of the previous day. Pastilles were
soon forgotten as members shouted support
or defiance wherever they happened to be.
In the midst of these rumores (the modern
Spanish frequently harks back to pure Latin),
the jangling of the President's bell (cam-
panillazo) broke, but broke unheeded. At
last his high thin voice was audible, and he
began his ruling. After two or three quiet
and judicial sentences, the slight but fiery
count broke suddenly out into a willing
onslaught on the speaking deputy, accusing

C 2


him of piling up palabras y palabras y pala-
bras, and freely expressing his own view on
the strike question. Sefior Y- replied
with equal passion and a louder voice ; the
house took sides vocally ; while the President
rang his bell, pounded it on the table, almost
sprang out of his seat, and finally in despair
gave the right-hand secretary a vigorous and
reproachful nudge, with an evident appeal to
him to do something to assist. That officer
sprang to his feet, and poured fresh reproof
on the offender, while the clerk below rose
up, pale but helpful, with his tiny missal of
Standing Orders or reglamentos del Congreso.
It was all useless ; but at last a chain of
members standing between the Banco Azul
and the rostrum passed the word that Cana-
lejas would speak. The President swung to
his right, caught the Premier's pido la palabra
' I claim to speak ' and called him. At
once the waves died down as the master of
Spain arose. His fine oratory, notable even
in a nation of orators, soon reduced the bull-
voice to silence, and he then took the oppor-
tunity, whether by design or by a rare


impulse of impatience, to denounce the revo-
lutionaries who were imperilling the monarchy
and the whole social order. The effect was
astonishing. The bull-voiced deputy glided
out silent through silent members, and Cana-
lejas' ascendancy was so manifest that one
ceased to wonder that whenever he was
half an hour late the political world began
to talk of a crisis. All the more so because
he was too straightforward ever to catch
el catarw de Sagasta the cold which used
to keep Sagasta, a former Premier, away
from the Cortes whenever a difficult situation

But even though it succeeded, it was
doubtful whether this challenge to the violent
sections of the community was judicious.
In travelling through Spain, I had found that,
to a stranger from the Antipodes, people of
all sorts talked freely enough about the
doubtful permanence of the existing order.
In Granada, for instance, a thoughtful man,
who had given his hostages to fortune, pre-
dicted that a republic would come very soon,
and that it would come as the result of dis-


content throughout all classes, and not only
in the industrial world. This was, it is true,
in southern Spain, where, it is said, most
people are either Republicans or else Carlists
adhering to Don Jaime ; but for many
reasons the country as a whole has in its
soil the germs of revolution. While the rich

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Online LibraryAlbert Bathurst PiddingtonSpanish sketches, by A. B. Piddington. With thirty-four illustrations → online text (page 1 of 8)