Gustav Philipp Körner.

Memoirs of Gustave Koerner, 1809-1896, life-sketches written at the suggestion of his children; online

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Online LibraryGustav Philipp KörnerMemoirs of Gustave Koerner, 1809-1896, life-sketches written at the suggestion of his children; → online text (page 27 of 67)
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ascension, has always puzzled me. Goethe has tried to ex-
plain it, but I think not satisfactorily. In spite of the fact
that the vivifying idea of the picture was lost to me, yet the
admirable drawing, the excellent grouping, the superhuman
beauty of the women in the foreground, who, with the most
perfect naturalness, turn to the "demoniac" boy, the fine
transparent color, the distribution of lights, made a deep and
lasting impression on me.

The private gallery of the Infante Sebastian, in the Calle
Alcala, contains some two hundred pieces, all of which have
been selected with the utmost care and taste: fine Murillos,
wonderful examples of Velasquez, several Riberas, Goyas, and
Claude Lorrains, many old German masters of the most splen-
did coloring, several pieces by Rubens and Titian, six grand
Salvator Rosas, one Rembrandt, Raphael, Domenichino, Cor-
reggio, a great many of the finest Teniers, Snyders, and some
of the best other Spanish painters. The gaUery is open on all
days except rainy ones, and, as these are very few, the Infante
has shown certainly great liberality. But it was then a sort of
''terra incognita." I found myself the only visitor every
time. Yet it cannot be said that the Madrid public cares little
about pictures. The Royal Museum on Sundays, the only
day it is open to everybody, is always crowded, and, what is
seldom found in the rest of Europe, is frequented by the
lower classes, by peasants of the neighborhood, by soldiers,
and male and female servants. All these visitors distinguish
themselves by their quiet and correct behavior, and by their
perfect ease while moving about on the marble floor amidst
the higher classes and surrounded by the most resplendent
treasures of art.


Early in January (1863) the O'Donnell ministry quite
unexpectedly tendered its resignation. The Queen did not
accept it, but still a modification was made. The minister of
foreign affairs, Calderon CoUantes, was supplanted by Gen-


eral Serrano, Duke de la Torre. Though denied by O'Donnell,
this was undoubtedly done to reconcile 'the Emperor Napoleon.
Serrano was an enemy of Prim, and was supposed to be very
favorably inclined to the French government. A bold, daring
soldier, just then returned from Cuba, where he had been
captain-general, this change, I thought, boded no good to our
interests and would make my position rather more difficult.
The atmosphere of the island where he had passed the last
few years, and where the ''Montgomery" affair and other
(.difficulties had just happened, was one not favorable to the
Union cause. I was, however, greatly disappointed. I found
him the most pleasant of all foreign ministers to deal with.
There was no circumlocution about him. He was frank and
straight, and spoke to the point, and yet was always courte-
ous and even cordial. Our grievances he found in great part
well-founded, and promised redresses. On some points he
begged me to give him time for further investigation until
he could hear from the Cuban authorities. He was a very
handsome man, extraordinarily so, with graceful manners,
and a man of the world. If it was true, as was universally
believed, that he became so much a favorite of the young
Queen, soon after her marriage, as to arouse the jealousies of
the King, who left Madrid and for a long time lived at the
Prado Palace, separately from the Queen, the lady showed
at least very good taste. Of course, more than ten years had
passed since, but the General was still a model of manly beauty.
His wife was also one of the great belles of Madrid, and of
his two young daughters one could say "pulchra mater,
pulchrior filia. ' '

In my "Aus Spanien," I said of Serrano that there was
a great future before him. He was still in high favor with
the Queen, was a man of brilliant manners, an excellent sol-
dier, and possessed of a vast fortune. To a certain degree he
was even liberal and took great interest in colonial affairs.
He had a keen intellect, and was merciless if necessary. In
the revolution of 1868 he was the main hero, became regent


of Spain after Isabella's dethronement, until the election of
Amadeo as King in December, 1870, and then was made prime
minister. After the resignation of Amadeo in 1872, and the
short and strange reign of the Republic, Serrano made an end
of it, and Alphonso, Isabella's son, was returned to the throne
under a liberal constitution.

But my relations with Greneral Serrano came to a rather
speedy end. In March the O'DonneU ministry had to resign,
and the Marquis of Miraflores, a liberal Moderado, became
minister-president and also minister of foreign affairs.

While Serrano was minister, I had a very singular ex-
perience of some of the diplomatic ruses, in which sometimes
Mr. Seward indulged himself, not always successfully. In
one of my interviews with Marshal Serrano, after having
finished our discussion of official business, we came to speak of
things generally. A letter written by the Emperor Na-
poleon to General Forey in July, had just been published in
some of the French papers and had created a great sensation.
In it the Emperor indicated the object of the Mexican expedi-
tion to be to prevent the encroachment of the Anglo-Saxon
race upon the Latia civilization existing in the southern part
of the American continent, a task which devolved on France
as the head of that civilization. This, of course, was aimed
at the United States.

Serrano said he was not surprised at the contents of the
letter, but rather by its indiscreet publication. He did not
think, however, that Napoleon would attempt to impose a
dynasty on Mexico ; he thought this was impracticable and that
the Emperor would retire as soon as the military honor of
France was vindicated. I took a different view; said that I
was satisfied that the Emperor was pursuing a deep laid
scheme of interference and of the establishment of a monarchy,
trying to take advantage of our trouble; that, however, we
should never allow a foreign power, against the wiU of the
Mexican people, to force a monarchy on that country.

This official interview, and also a subsequent conversation.


I reported to Mr. Seward, in a despatch, Number 22, of the
31s(t of January, 1863, particularly calling Mr. Seward's atten-
tion to the letter of the Emperor.

In reply, Mr. Seward wrote that the President had fully
approved of the presentation of our claims to the Duke de la
Torre, but had disapproved of my remarks made concerning
the Mexican question and the Emperor Napoleon; that the
United States placed the utmost confidence in the loyalty of
the Emperor, who was only intent on settling the just claims of
the French citizens and so forth ; and that I should caU on the
Duke de la Torre and tell him that the views I had expressed
relating to his Imperial Majesty were only my private views,
noways committing my government. When I read this des-
patch in the presence of Mr. Perry, we both simultaneously
remarked that this despatch had been read to the French
minister at Washington, before it was sent. And sure enough,
when the next year's diplomatic correspondence was printed
and published as one of the public documents, I found a des-
patch from Mr. Dayton, our minister to Paris, to Mr. Seward,
containing the following message : * ' Showed your despatch to
Mr. Koerner, our minister to Spain, to Mr. Drouyn de I'Huys,
who expressed very great satisfaction at its contents."

Now it was well known that General Prim, after he had
withdrawn the Spanish forces from Mexico, alleging that the
government of France was pursuing plans of subverting the
Eepublican government, on his return to Spain, by way of
the United States, was received there with enthusiasm ; that
the entire press of the North highly approved of his conduct ;
and that President Lincoln and Seward treated him with the
utmost courtesy and respect. Mr. Perry, before my arrival,
and I, afterwards, had expressed to the Spanish government
our great satisfaction at the action of Spain in withdrawing
from the convention, and had always put forth our most stren-
uous efforts when there appeared the least vacillation in a min-
istry on this, point, — all of which had been reported to Mr.
Seward and was by him always approved. Besides, the Ameri-


can, aaid a great many organs of the European, press had de-
nounced the claims of French citizens as wholly fraudulent
and as gotten up by the Emperor's personal followers. The
lower house of Congress had passed a resolution against any
interference of European powers in establishing a dynasty in
Mexico, and the American newspapers had endorsed this res-
olution unanimously.

Could Mr. Seward reasonably believe that in the face of
this public opinion he could dupe and mystify so keen and
practiced a diplomat as Drouyn de THuys and his master?
It seems that he did.

In my reply to Mr. Seward I rather ironically stated
that I was sorry that the President differed so widely from
the views which I had expressed in a friendly conversation
with General Serrano ; that, however, this gentleman was min-
ister no more ; and that if the President wished that I should
entertain his successor with that affair and clear our govern-
ment of the suspicion of distrusting the Emperor, I should do
so, if instructed. Of course I was not so instructed, but ad-
vised to drop the matter. Mr. Seward undoubtedly thought
that he had made a good point at the Tuileries.

I must say, however, that this was the only time that Mr.
Seward visited me with disapproval, which was only ostensi-
ble and not meant as such, as he knew me well enough to
know that I would see through it at once. In all his corres-
pondence he showed the utmost delicacy and courtesy and in
almost every instance expressed his approval in very flatter-
ing terms. The public diplomatic correspondence, as printed
in almost every case, except that relating to England and
France, which, of course, at that time was exceedingly volum-
inous, is very meagre, and I think that such a stunted and
mutilated diplomatic correspondence does very little good and
is very apt to create erroneous views with the general public.

In Madrid, the O'Donnell ministry (Union Liberal) ex-
ploded. Nobody knew or dared say openly, why? Narvaez,
the head of the Moderados, was called upon to form a ministry,


but the Queen became alarmed, as she was told the people
would rise. Miraflores, a Moderado too, of a more liberal turn,
was entrusted with the government. He was an old gentle-
man of the old school; he had been a page at the court of
Joseph Bonaparte, which was thrown up to him every day by
the opposition papers. Most ceremonious and polished in his
manners, m;y interviews with him were rather more formal
than those with his predecessor. He rejoiced in the general
discussion of international law, and plumed himself on his
superior diplomacy. He had, indeed, in times now long past,
been a cabinet minister, and ambassador to Eome, London
and Paris. He reminded me a good deal of old Polonius. In
one respect he was an improvement. He gave us frequently
the finest dinners at his palace. The Pope's nuncio only
was equal to him in this respect. He himself confessed that
for many years he had been retired from active public life,
(though he had been in the Senate all the time,) and had
paid little attention to the present state of affairs. The eon-
sequence was that I had to commsence ah ovo, and to go over
again the whole ground that had been covered by Perry,
Schurz and myself, — a tedious business.


Early in the spring, Mr. Payne left us, and the other at-
tache, Irving Van Wart, came back from England. He was
a fine, jovial, vivacious young man, fond of society, and was
very popular with the young men of the diplomatic corps
and their Spanish associates. He had become quite a hero in
Madrid on account of his pluck. Walking in the Calle Jeronirao
once, he came across a big Spanish bully who was beating a
woman. Van Wart, though a small man in comparison, but
a fine pugilist, sprang to the woman's assistance, knocking
the fellow down with one blow between the eyes and gave
him a big thrashing to the delight of a crowd of bystanders,
who, however, had been quiet spectators.

Not long afterwards we were surprised by visitors. Ex-


Governor Matteson, of Illinois, his wife and two beautiful
daughters, Clara and Arabella, a Miss Payne, of Cleveland,
a daughter of Senator Payne, of Ohio, and now wife of Wil-
liam C. "Whitney, Secretary of the Navy under Cleveland,
and my old warm friend, Curran, of Springfield. Mrs. Matte-
son, Clara and Bella had been friends of our Augusta at
Springfield, and I had been, of course, much in the family as
Lieutenant-Governor when Matteson was Governor.

We did everything in our power to make their stay agree-
able. When the ladies, Mrs. Matteson being herself still a
very handsome woman, and the girls, all blondes with rosy,
delicate complexions, drove into the Puente Castellana, they
created quite a sensation, and sustained the reputation for
beauty which the American ladies had in Madrid. Colonel
Preston's daughter was also very beautiful, and it was said
that no less a person than the Duke de Ossuna, the richest and
most titled grandee of Spain, had come very near offering her
his hand. The young Mattesons made one conquest, when, af-
ter a few days' stay at Madrid, the party left for Andalusia
and Morocco, and Irving Van Wart joined them as guide, pro-
viding himself with a full Andalusian costume.

The sea-voyage and the journey through France, Ger-
many and Switzerland of last year, had somewhat improved
my health, but the acute climate of Madrid had seriously
affected me. While Sophie and the children enjoyed good
health, my nervous system became again very much disar-
ranged. Violent headaches and shooting pains through the
head made me sometimes for days unfit to do my work. Sleep-
lessness was almost constant. As the court leaves Madrid in
May and June for Aranjuez, and in July and August for
La Granja, way up in the Guadarrama Mountains (a second
Versailles), and the ministry follows the court, the diplomatic
body, if they are not absent on leave, also resort to those
places, at least to La Granja. The fact is that during the
summer months very little official business is transacted.
Nearly all the foreign ministers leave the capital. Under


these circumstances I asked and obtained leave of absence for
three months to commence the middle of June.

But before leaving for the north of Europe, (sea-bathing
having been recommended,) we made a tour to Andalusia.
In my "Aus Spanien" I published a number of letters
descriptive of this journey, addressed to our Mary at home, —
hence I shall here only touch on some of the principal inci-


Granada, the Alhambra, and Seville

Leaving Madrid in the evening of the 5th of May by rail,
we arrived at four o'clock in the morning at Santa Cruz de
Mudela, the terminus of the railroad toward Cordova. There
we were transferred to the stage of the Postas Granadinas.
No stranger has written about Spain without giving an account
of the Spanish diligencias with their '*mayorals" (conduct-
ors), '*2agals" (assistant drivers and runners), and ''de-
lanteros" (postilions riding the foremost near horse), and a
multitude of mules and horses, sometimes as many as eight,
decorated with all sorts of ribbons, tassels and bells. Wash-
ington Irving has used in their description his light fantastic
pen. Alexander Dumas, Theophile Gautier, Wachenhusen
and Hacklander have left us most vivid pictures of these
queer conveyances. Hacklander carries off the palm. More
even than Dickens, he has an eye for animals, particularly
horses, and for all sorts of vehicles, for harnesses, for drivers,
and, in fact, for everything belonging to the stable. Without
meaning to detract in the least from his great talent for photo-
graphing other pictures of life, I may say that we owe to
Hacklander the poetry of the stable, in its nobler significa-
tion of course. I could repeat only what these distinguished
travelers have written upon the subject with more or less
ability. I will confine myself, therefore, to a short sketch
given by a talented Spanish writer, Don Juan Garcia, of
Madrid, who a few weeks before we, for the first time, trusted
ourselves to the diligencia, published an account of his tour
through Andalusia.



"This old-fashioned mode of traveling," he wrote, ''if less
convenient, has nevertheless its charms and its poetry. The
Spanish character is stamped on it in strong and fiery colors.
The mayoral, zagal, delantero, are national types which in all
probability the next generation will see no more. "What life
is there when the stage starts, what force in the arm that
cracks the whip, what energy in the voice, what mobility in
the legs of the zagal, who running alongside the animals,
whips them, holding fast on the mane of one of them ! And
on the other hand what intelligence in the beasts ! How they
contract their flanks to avoid the blow, how they stretch their
legs to go faster! The monster coach with its voluminous
deck full of trunks seems to be nailed to the ground, immov-
able, but at the voice of the driver, at the crack of the whip,
it flies ahead like the wind, lost already in the clouds of dust.
Amid the cries, the curses, and the noise tinkle shrill and
cheerful bells. ' '

After taking a cup of chocolate and some rolls at the
station-house, we were carried away in a very uncomfortable
coach at a brisk gallop. The great roads of Spain (caminos
realos) are most splendid, however, — wide and perfectly well
kept; and the branches and rivers are spanned by solid and
magnificent bridges ; otherwise the speed of these coaches up-
hill and downhill would be impossible.

The country soon became quite interesting. Nothing rug-
geder, wilder and fearfuler can be imagined than the narrow,
rockbound gorge of Despena Perros. Here Andalusia was
entered. Santa Elena, Carlotta, and Carolina are regularly
laid out towns, — German colonies planted by Charles III ; but,
save for the better cultivation of the soil and a somewhat
lighter complexion of the inhabitants, no trace of their German
origin is found.


We dined at Bailen, one of the glories of Spain. Near
it the decisive battle between the Christians and the Moors
was fought (Navas de Tolosa), and here Napoleon met with
the first great reverse of his armies by the defeat and capitu-


lation of General Dupont. This victory (July, 1808) gave
strength to the Spanish resistance, and encouraged the Eng-
lish in their support. The grand result of this battle is still
the boast of the Spaniards, together with the defense of Sara-
gossa, I do not think there is a newspaper in Spain which
has not once a week at least some reference to Bailen or to
* * muy heroieo Saragossa. ' '

Our delantero was a boy of rather delicate frame, some
eighteen years of age. Since five o'clock in the morning he
had been steadily trotting or galloping, and at every relay
he had to take the saddle off his horse and to put it on a new
one. He had constantly handled his whip and had been
hallooing and singing when not smoking his cigarette. When
we arrived at Bailen, we could hardly believe that he was to
ride the lead horse clear to Granada. It is said, however, that
these delanteros usually die of consumption at an early age.
Some miles after we left Bailen we crossed the Guadalquivir.
It is not wider than the Illinois and of a rather yellow color.

The old Moorish city of Jaen, with an old Alcazar and a
monumental cathedral, the capital of the one-time kingdom of
Jaen, we passed toward evening. In spite of the cathedral and
other churches and chapels it does not look at aU like a Chris-
tian place. It is the Orient. We soon entered the valley, called
Val-Paraiso (paradise), one of the most fertile in Spain,
watered by hundreds of irrigating rivulets. Orange trees,
pomegranates, splendid walnuts and chestnuts of most lux-
uriant growth filled up the wide valley; aloes, laurel and
pomegranate hedges closed in the fields and vegetable gardens,
which extended on both sides of the road in exuberant rich-

The sun had set. But a full moon was rising, and it was
soon as light bs day. We soon pa^ed another rugged moun-
tain-range of bad repute, as not long before several attempts
had been made to rob the stage here. We rode through deep
ravines, narrow gorges, and passed through one steep rock
by a short tunnel. Up and down we went at the top of the


mules' speed. The wheel-horses were two high horses; then
came three mules abreast; and the leaders were horses again.
It was a wild, romantic country, well wooded with pine
and live oak. To see from time to time on the side of the hills
a station of the '*guardia civil" and to meet a patrol of two
of them on horseback, their rifled carbines in position, was
rather reassuring. About midnight we reached the wonder-
fully rich plain (vega) of Granada ; and soon the city itself,
leaning on a mountain-spur between the river Darro and the
river Genii and crowned by the Alhambra and the Generalif e,
came into view. The idea of entering magical Granada, the
balmy and yet bracing night-air, the wonderful landscape
gilded by the moonlight, the near prospect of escaping from
our prison-stage, all this had so affected us that when we dis-
mounted at the Hotel Minerva, in the Garrera del Darro,
we found ourselves refreshed and elastic in spite of the long,
tedious and fatiguing trip of nearly thirty-six hours.


We entered the hotel. We were behind time, and nobody
appeared. Our mayoral finally started a mozo. We wanted
a parlor and two bed-rooms in the "primero." We were
shown a suite of rooms quite acceptable. We were just order-
ing our trunks up and were taking possession when the cham-
bermaid came in, telling us that we could not stay, as the
washerwoman had failed to return the bed-sheets and so she
could not make up the room. There was another large hotel
opposite. Gustavo went over, but found the house was full.
We felt pretty bad. But the mozo soon relieved us by the
information that there was in the garden adjoining the Al-
hambra a "fonda" which was much patronized by the Eng-
lish ; he would take us there ; our trunks would be sent up in
the morning. Gardens of the Alhambra! That was enough
to make us forget, even at two o'clock in the morning, all our
fatigue. We cheerfully consented; we walked first along the
very wide street of the Darro, turned then into a labyrinth of


small alleys about five or six feet wide, then went up hill,
and after a march of one and a half miles, stood before the
outer gate of the walls of the Alhambra, the Gate of Charles
V, A most magnificent avenue opened upon us, after passing
the portal of that mighty gate. Still we ascended. Parallel
with this large avenue ran others. The trees were so trained
that their tops came close together, forming bowers. The air
was mild, perfumed by the exhalations of the trees and roses
and the oleander-bushes. Numberless streamlets, unseen by
us, *'made music to the lonely ear," and foxmtains jetted up,
their streams gilded by the moon. About half a mile from the
gate stood before us a gigantic wall, flanked by a mighty
tower, and close to this tower was a small house, '* Fonda de
l-os siete Suelos, ' ' named after the tower, called * * Torre de los
siete Suelos" (seven-storied).

The landlord was awakened, and amidst much hubbub and
loud and lively chattering on the part of the landlord, the
landlady, the mozo, the chambermaid of the Fonda, and our
own mozo,* and the barking of a half a dozen dogs, we were
finally well quartered, at least according to the Spanish no-
tions of a tavern ; old-fashioned, decrepit furniture, high but
narrow rooms, stone floors, but beds (all iron or steel bed-
steads) and bed linen, as almost everywhere in Spain, fresh
and clean.


Alhambra and Granada, — what subjects for pen and

Online LibraryGustav Philipp KörnerMemoirs of Gustave Koerner, 1809-1896, life-sketches written at the suggestion of his children; → online text (page 27 of 67)