Philip Thicknesse.

A Year's Journey through France and Part of Spain, 1777 Volume 1 (of 2) online

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perseverance; and all the _well-bred_ part of beggars do not despair,
though they have ten refusals. But the worst sort of beggars in Spain,
are the troops of male and female gipsies: these are the genuine breed,
and differ widely from all other human beings. In Spain I often met
troops of these people; and when that interview happens in roads very
distant from towns or dwellings, the interview is not very pleasing; for
they ask as if they knew they were not to be refused; and, I dare say,
often commit murders, when they can do it by surprize. Whenever I saw
any of these people at a distance, I walked with a gun in my hand, and
near to the side of my chaise, where there were pistols visible; and by
shewing them I was not afraid, or, at least, making them believe so,
they became afraid of us. They are extremely swarthy, with hair as black
as jet; and form a very picturesque scene under the shade of those rocks
and trees, where they spend their evenings; and live in a manner by no
means disagreeable, in a climate so suitable to that style, where bread,
water, and idleness is certainly preferable to better fare and hard
labour. It is owing to this universal idleness that the roads, the inns,
and every thing, but what is absolutely necessary, is neglected; yet,
bad as the roads are, they are better than the _posada_, or inns. _El
salir de la posada, es la mejor jornada_, - "_the best part of the
journey_, say the Spaniards, _is the getting_ _out of the posada_." For
as neither king nor people are at much expence to make or mend the high
ways, except just about the capital cities, they are dry or wet, rough
or smooth, steep or rugged, just as the weather or the soil happens to
favour or befoul them. - Now, here is a riddle for your son; I know he is
an adept, and will soon overtake me.

I'm rough, I'm smooth, I'm wet, I'm dry;
My station's low, my title's high;
The King my lawful master is;
I'm us'd by all, though only his:
My common freedom's so well known,
I am for that a proverb grown.

The roads in Spain are, like those in Ireland, very _narrow_, and the
leagues very long. When I complained to an Irish soldier of the length
of the miles, between Kinsale and Cork, he acknowledged the truth of my
observation; but archly added, that though they were _long_, they were
but _narrow_. - Three Spanish leagues make nearly twelve English miles;
and, consequently, seventeen Spanish leagues make nearly one degree.
The bad roads, steep mountains, rapid rivers, &c. occasion most of the
goods and merchandize, which are carried from one part of the kingdom to
the other, to be conveyed on mule-back, and each mule has generally a
driver; and as these drivers have their fixed stages from _posada_ to
_posada_, so must the gentlemen travellers also, because there are no
other accommodations on the roads but such houses; the stables therefore
at the _posadas_ are not only very large, but the best part of the
building, and is the lodging-room of man and beast; all the muleteers
sleep there, with their cloaths on, upon a bundle of straw: but while
your supper is preparing, the kitchen is crowded with a great number of
these dirty fellows, whose cloaths are full of vermin; it would be
impossible, therefore, for even a good cook to dress a dish with any
decency or cleanliness, were such a cook to be found; for, exclusive of
the numbers, there is generally a quarrel or two among them, and at all
times a noise, which is not only tiresome, but frequently alarming.
These people, however, often carry large sums of money, and tho' they
are dirty, they are not poor nor dishonest. - I was told in France, to
beware of the _Catalans_; yet I frequently left many loose things in and
about my chaise, where fifty people lay, and never lost any thing.

When I congratulated myself in a letter to my brother, upon finding in
Wales a Gentleman of the name of Cooke, whose company, conversation, and
acquaintance, were so perfectly pleasing to me; my brother observed,
however, that my Welch _friend_ was not a _Welchman_, for, said he,
"there are no COOKS in Wales;" - but this observation may be with more
justice applied to Spain; for I think there are no COOKS in Spain; but
there are, what is better, a great number of honest, virtuous men: I
look upon the true, genuine Spaniards to be as respectable men as any
in Europe; and that, among the lower order of them there is more honour
and honesty than is to be found among more polished nations; and, I dare
say, there were an hundred Spaniards at _Barcelona_, had they been as
well informed about my identity as Messrs. Curtoys and Wombwell, that
would have changed my notes, or lent me money without.

_P.S._ The tour through Spain and Portugal by UDAL ap RHYS, grandfather
to the now Mr. Price of Foxley in Herefordshire, abounds with more
falshoods than truths; indeed I have been told it was written, as many
modern travels are, over a pipe in a chimney corner: and I hope Mr.
Udal never was in Spain, as "_one fib is more excusable than a



_Monsr Anglois_ having sent me back my _passa-porte_, signed by _Don
Philipe Cabine_, the Captain-General of _Barcelona_, accompanied by a
very kind and friendly letter, I determined to quit the only place in
Spain which had afforded me pleasure, amusement, and delight. We
accordingly sat off the next day for _Martorel_, and went to the Three
Kings, where our Italian host, whose extortions I had complained of
before, received us with a face of the utmost disdain; and though he had
no company in his house, put us into much worse apartments than those we
had been in before. I ordered something for supper, and left it to him,
as he had given us a very good one before; but he was not only
determined to punish us in lodging, but in eating also, and sent only
four little mutton cutlets, so small, that they were not sufficient for
one, instead of four persons; we pretended, however, not to perceive his
insolence, that he might not enjoy our punishment; and the next day, as
I was desirous of looking about me a little, we removed to another
_posada_, where, about noon, a Canon of great ecclesiastical preferment
arrived, with a coach, six mules, and a large retinue, to dinner: the
Canon had no more the marks of a gentleman than a muleteer; and he had
with him two or three persons, of no better appearance. While his
dinner, a kind of _olla_, was preparing, I went into the kitchen, where
the smell of the rancid oil with which it was dressed, would have dined
two or three men of moderate or tender stomachs; nor had he any other
dish. There was behind his coach a great quantity of bedding,
bed-steads, &c. so you will perceive he travelled _comme il faut_. His
livery servants were numerous, and had on very short livery coats, with
large sleeves, and still shorter waists. After he had eat a dinner,
enough to poison a pack of hounds, he sat off in great pomp for
_Barcelona_, a city I passed the next day with infinite pleasure,
without entering its inhospitable gates; which I could not have done,
had not _Mons. Anglois_ saved me that mortification by getting my _passa
porte refreshed_. I confess, Sir, that while I passed under the
fortifications of that city, which the high road made necessary, I felt,
I knew not why, a terror about me, that my frame is in general a
stranger to; and rather risqued two hours' night travelling, bad and
dangerous as the roads were, than sleep within four leagues of it; so
that it was ten o'clock before we got to _Martereau_, a little city by
the sea side, where we had lodged on our way to _Barcelona_. The next
day, we proceeded on the same delightful sea coast we had before passed,
and through the same rich villages, on our way to _Girone_, _Figuiere_,
&c. and avoided that horrid _posada_ where the Frenchman died, by lying
at a worse house, but better people: but having bought a brace of
partridges, and some _red fish_ on the road, we fared sumptuously,
except in beds, which were straw mattrasses, very hard, and the room
full of wet Indian corn; but we were no sooner out of our _posada_, than
the climate and the beautiful country made ample amends for the town and
_posada_ grievances.

It is contrary to the law of Spain to bring more than a certain quantity
of Spanish gold or silver out of the kingdom, and I had near an hundred
pounds in gold _duras_, about the size of our quarter guineas. I
endeavoured to change them at _Figuiere_, but I found some very artful,
I may say roguish, schemes laid, to defraud me, by a pretended
difficulty to get French money, and therefore determined to proceed with
it to _Jonquiere_, the last village, where it was not probable I could
find so much French money. I therefore had a very large French _queue_
made up, within which the greater part of my Spanish gold was bound; and
as the weight _made_ me hold up my _tete d'or_, the custom-house
officers there, who remembered my entrance into Spain, found
half-a-crown put into their hands less trouble than examining my baggage
gratis; they accordingly _passed_ me on my way to _Bellegarde_, without
even opening it; and we found the road up to that fortress, though in
the month of December, full as good as when we had passed it in the
summer; and after descending on the French side, and crossing the river,
got to the little _auberge_ at _Boulon_, the same we had held too bad
when we went into Spain, even to eat our breakfast at; but upon our
return, worthy of a place of rest, and we accordingly staid there a
week: beds with curtains, rooms with chimnies, and paper windows, though
tattered and torn, were luxuries we had been unaccustomed to. - But I
must not omit to tell you, that on our road down on the French side of
the _Pyrenees_, two men, both armed with guns, rushed suddenly out of
the woods, and making towards us, asked, whether we wanted a guard? I
was walking, perhaps fortunately at that time, with my fuzee in my hand,
and my servant had a double barrelled pistol in his; and therefore
forbid them to approach us, and told them, we had nothing else to lose
but our lives, and that if they did not retire I should look upon them
as people who meant to plunder, rather than protect us: they accordingly
retired into the woods, and I began to believe they had no evil intent;
but finding an _Exempt_ of the _Marechaussee_ at _Boulon_, I told him
what had passed, and asked him whether his men attended upon that road,
in coloured cloaths, or any others were allotted, to protect or guard
travellers? He assured me there were no such people of any kind; that
his men always moved on horseback, in their proper character, and
suspected _our guard_ would have been very troublesome, had they found
us _off our guard_; but he did not offer, nor did I ask him, to send
after them, though he was a very civil, sensible man, who had been three
years on duty in _Corsica_; and, consequently, his company, for the week
I staid in such a poor town, was very agreeable. And as _Mons. Bernard_,
or some officer of the _Marechaussee_, is always in duty at this town, I
would advise those who enter into Spain, by that route, to procure a
couple of those men to escorte them up to _Bellegarde_ - an attention
that no officer in France will refuse to shew, when it is not
incompatible with his duty.

The rapid water at this town, which I had passed going into Spain, was
now lower than usual. Here too my horse, as well as his master, lived
truly _in clover_; and though our habitation was humble, a habitation at
the very foot of the _Pyrenees_ could not but be very beautiful; no part
of France is more so; it is indeed a beautiful and noble sight, to see
the hanging plantations of vines, olives, and mulberry-trees, warmed by
a hot sun on the sides of those mountains, the upper parts of which are
covered with a perpetual snow. But beautiful as all that part of the
country is, there was not a single gentleman's house in the environs.

After a compleat week's refreshment, we proceeded to _Perpignan_ to
spend our Christmas, where we found the _Chevalier de Maigny_ and his
Lady, who had given us the letter of recommendation to the French Consul
at _Barcelona_; who shewed us those marks of civility and politeness,
French officers in general shew to strangers. There we staid a
fortnight; and _Mons. de Maigny_ got me a considerable profit, in
changing my Spanish gold for French.

In this town, I found an unfortunate young Irishman; he had been there
three months, without a friend or a shilling in his pocket; and as he
was a man of education and good breeding, I could not so soon forget my
own situation at _Barcelona_, not to pity his: but what most induced me
to assist him a little, was, what he feared might have had a contrary
effect. When I asked him his name, he readily answered, "R - h; an
unfortunate name!" said he; - "but, as it is my name, I will _wear
it_." - He had a well-wisher in the town, a French watch-maker, to whom
he imparted the little kindness I had shewn him; and as it was not
enough to conduct him on foot to the north side of this kingdom, the
generous, but poor watch-maker, gave him as much as I had done, and he
sat off with a light heart, though a _thin pair of breeches_, for his
own country. He had been to visit a rich relation at Madrid; and, I
believe, did not meet with so cordial a reception there as he expected.

At this town I drank, at a private gentleman's house, part of a bottle
of the wine made at a little village hard by, called _Rios Alto_; the
most delicious wine I ever tasted: but as the spot produces but a small
quantity, that which is really of the growth is very scarce, as well as
dear: it has the strength of full port, with a flavour superior to

_Perpignan_ is the principal city of _Rosillein_; it is well fortified,
but the works are in a ruinous condition: the streets are narrow and
dirty, but the Governor's, and the botanic gardens are worthy of notice:
the climate is remarkably fine, and the air pure. The _Pyrenees_, which
are at least fifteen miles distant, appear to hang in a manner over the
town: to see so much snow, and feel so much sun, is very singular. Wood
is very scarce and dear in that town: I frequently saw mules and asses
loaded with rosemary and lavender bushes, to sell for firing. The
barbarous language of the common people of this province, is very
convenient, as they understand French, and can make themselves
understood thro' a great part of Spain: from which kingdom not a day
passes but mules and carriages arrive, except when the heavy rains or
snow obstruct the communication. - The mules and asses of Spain, and this
part of France, are not only very useful but valuable beasts: the only
way to get a valuable one of either sort from Spain, is, to fix upon the
beast, and promise a round sum to one of the religious mendicants to
smuggle it out of the kingdom, who covers the animal with bags, baskets,
and a variety of trumpery, as if he was going into France to collect
charity: and passes either by _not_ being suspected, or by being a
_Religieux_ if he is suspected.

As we took exactly the same route from _Perpignan_ to this town as we
went, except leaving _Cette_ a few leagues on our left; I shall say
nothing of our return, but that we relished our reception at the French
inns, and the good cheer we found there, infinitely more than as we
went: and that we were benighted for some hours before we got into
_Montpellier_, and caught in the most dreadful storm of rain, thunder
and lightning I ever was exposed to. I was obliged for two hours to hold
my horse's bridle on one side, as my man did on the other, and feel with
sticks for the margin of the road, as it was elevated very high above
the marshy lands, and if the heel had slipped over on either side, it
must have overset the chaise into the lowlands: besides which, the
roaring of the water-streams was so great, that I very often thought we
were upon the margin of some river or high bridge: nor was my suffering
quite over even after I got into the city: I could not find my former
_auberge_, nor meet with any body to direct me: and the water-spouts
which fell into the middle of those narrow streets almost deluged
us. - My poor horse, too, found the steep streets, slippery pavement, and
tons of water which fell upon him, as much as he could well bear: but,
as the old song says,

"Alas! by some degree of woe,
We every bliss obtain;"

So we found a good fire and good cheer an ample recompence for our wet
jackets. It was so very dark, that though I led my horse by the head
above a league, I could but seldom see him: nor do I remember in my
whole life to have met with any difficulty which so agitated my
mind: - no: not even at the _bar of the House of Lords_, I did not dread
the danger so much, as the idea of tumbling my family over a precipice,
without the power to assist them; or, if they were _gone_, resolution
enough to _follow them_.


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Online LibraryPhilip ThicknesseA Year's Journey through France and Part of Spain, 1777 Volume 1 (of 2) → online text (page 11 of 11)