Philip Thicknesse.

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

. (page 5 of 11)
Online LibraryPhilip ThicknesseA Year's Journey through France and Part of Spain, 1777 Volume 1 (of 2) → online text (page 5 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

solidity, and excellent workmanship.

The invalide guard at this fortress take upon themselves, very
improperly, and I am sure very unwarrantably, to examine strangers who
pass, with an impertinent curiosity; for they must admit all who come
with a proper _passa-porte_ into _Spain_, and durst not admit any
without it. On my arrival at the Guard-house, they seized my horse's
head, and called for my _passa-porte_, in terms very unlike the usual
politeness of French guards; and while my pass was carried into a little
office, hard by, to be registered, those who remained on the side of my
chaise took occasion to ask me of what country I was: I desired to
refer them to my _passa-porte_, (where I knew no information of that
kind was given,) as it was a question I could not very well answer; but
upon being further urged, I at length told them, I was an
_Hottentot_. - "_Otentot_ - _Otentot_ - pray what king governs that
country?" said one of them. No king governs the _Hottentots_ replied I.
"What then, is your country without a king?" said another, with
astonishment! No; not absolutely so, neither; for the _Hottentots_ have
a king; but he always keeps a number of ambitious and crafty men about
his Court, who govern him; and those men, who are generally knaves, feed
the people with guts, and entrails of beasts, give the king now and then
a little bit of the main body, and divide the rest among themselves,
their friends, their favourites, and sycophants. But I soon found, these
were questions leading to a more important one; and that was, what
_countryman_ my horse was; - for, suspecting him to be an _Englishman_,
they would perhaps, if I had been weak enough to have owned it, have
made me pay a considerable duty for his admission into _Spain_; though I
believe it cannot legally be done or levied upon any horse, French, or
English, (to use an act of parliament phrase) but such "as are not
actually in harness, nor drawing in a carriage."

The Spaniards too have done their duty, as to the descent of the
_Pyrenees_ from _Bellegarde_, but no further; from thence to this
village, is about the same distance that _Boulon_ is from the foot of
the mountains on the other side; but though this road is quite destitute
of art it is adorned highly by nature.

But, before I left _Bellegarde_, I should have told you, that near that
Fortress the arms of France and Spain, cut on stone pillars, are placed
_vis-a-vis_ on each side of the road; a spot where some times an affair
of _honour_ is decided by two men, who engage in personal combat; each
standing in a different kingdom; and where, if one falls, the other need
not run; for, by the Family Compact, it is agreed, not to give up
deserters or murderers.

The road is not less romantic on the Spanish, than on the French side of
the _Pyrenees_; the face of the country is more beautiful, and the faces
of all things, animate and inanimate, are quite different; and one would
be apt to think, that instead of having passed a few hills, one had
passed over a large ocean: the hogs, for instance, which are all white
on the French side, are all black on this.

We arrived here upon a Sunday, when the inhabitants had on their best
apparel: but instead of high head-dresses, false curls, plumes of
feathers, and a quantity of powder, the women had their black hair
combed tight from their foreheads and temples, and tied behind, in
either red, blue, or black nets, something like the caul of a peruke,
from which hang large tassels down to the middle of their back; the
men's hair was done up in nets in the same manner, but not so gaudy.

Before we arrived here, I overtook a girl with a load of fresh hay upon
her head, whom (_at the request of my horse_) I entreated to spare me a
little, but, till she had called back her brother, who had another load
of the same kind, would not treat with me; they soon agreed, however,
that my request was reasonable; and so was their demand; and there,
under the shade of a noble grove of large cork-trees, we and our horse
eat a most luxurious meal: appetite was the sauce; and the wild scenes,
and stupendous rocks, which every way surrounded our _salle a manger_,
were our dessert.

And that you may not be alarmed about this mighty matter, (as it is by
many thought) of parting from _France to Spain_, by the way of
_Perpignan_, it may not be amiss to say, that I left the last town about
seven o'clock in the morning, in a heavy French _cabriolet_, drawn by
one strong English horse, charged with four persons, and much baggage;
yet we arrived here about three o'clock the same day; where at our
supper, we had a specimen of Spanish cookery, as well as Spanish beds,
bills, and custom-house officers: to the latter, a small donative is
better bestowed, than the trouble of unpacking all your baggage, and
much better relished by them: as to the host, he was neither rude, nor
over civil; the cookery more savoury than clean; the window frames
without glass, the rooms without chimneys. The demand for such
entertainment is rather dearer than in France.

Before I left _Perpignan_, I found it necessary to exchange some French
gold for Spanish, and to be well informed of the two kingdoms. There
were many people willing to change my money; though but few, indeed, who
would give the full value. Formerly, you know, the _Pyrenees_ were
charged with gold, from whence the Phoenicians fetched great quantities
every year. In the time of the Romans, much of the _Pyrenean_ gold was
sent to Rome; and a King of Portugal, so lately as the year 1512, had a
crown and sceptre made of the gold washed from those hills into the
_Tagus_; their treasures were known, you may remember, even to Ovid.

"Quod suo Tagus amne vehit fluit
Ignibus aurum."

But as I did not expect to find a gold mine on my passage into Spain, I
thought it best to carry a little with me, and leave nothing to chance;
and I should have been content to have found, by the help of my gun, the
bird vulgarly called the _Gelinotte des Pyrenees_; it has a curved bill
like a hawk, and two long feathers in the tail; but though I saw a great
number of different birds, I was not fortunate enough to find the
_Ganga_, for that is the true name of a bird, so beautiful in feather,
and of so delicate a flavour, that it is even mentioned by Aristotle,
and is a native of these hills.

P.S. I forgot to tell you, that the day we left _Cette_ we stopped,
according to custom, to eat our cold dinner, in an olive grove; from
whence we had a noble view of the Mediterranean Sea, and a most
delightfully situated _Chateau_, standing upon the banks of a salt-water
lake, at least twenty miles in circumference, "clear as the expanse of
heaven;" and that while we were preparing to spread our napkin, a
gentleman of genteel appearance came out from a neighbouring vineyard,
and asked us if any accident had happened, and desired, if we wanted
any thing, that we would command him, or whatever his house afforded,
pointing to the _Chateau_, which had so attracted our notice: we told
him, our business was to eat our little repast, with his leave, under,
what we presumed, was his shade also, and invited him to partake with
us. He had already captivated us by his polite attention, and by his
agreeable conversation: we lamented that we had not better pretensions
to have visited his lovely habitation. We found he was well acquainted
with many English persons of fashion, who have occasionally resided at
Montpellier; and I am sure, his being a winter inhabitant of that city,
must be one of the most favourable circumstances the town affords. These
little attentions to strangers, are never omitted by the well-bred part
of the French nation. I could not refill asking the name of a gentleman,
to whom I felt myself so much obliged, nor avoid telling him my own,
and what had passed at the town of _Cette_, relative to the musical
instruments, as one of the largest was still with us. - He seemed
astonished, that I preferred the long and dangerous journey by land, as
he thought it, to _Barcelona_, when I might, he said, have run down to
it over a smooth sea, in the same bark I had put my baggage on board.



From _Jonquere_ to _Figuere_ (about four hours journey, so they reckon
in Spain) the road is intolerable, and the country beautiful; over which
the traveller may, as nature has done, repose himself upon a flowery
bed, indeed; for nature surely could not do more for the pleasure and
profit of man, than she has done from _Jonquere_ to _Girone_. The town
of _Figuere_ is, properly speaking, the first town in Spain; for
_Jonquere_ is rather a hamlet; but _Figuere_ has a decent, comfortable
appearance, abounds with merchants and tradesmen, and at a little
distance from it stands the strongest citadel in Spain; indeed it is the
frontier town of the kingdom. The quietness of the people, and seeming
tranquility of all ranks and orders of men in Spain, is very remarkable
to a person who has just left a kingdom in every respect so different.
Strangers as we were, and as we must be known to be, we passed
unnoticed; and when we stopped near a cottage to eat our hedge dinner,
neither man, woman, or child came near us, till I asked for water, and
then they brought with it, unasked, dried grapes, and chesnuts, but
instantly retired. I was charmed with the Arcadian inhabitants, and
visited the inside of their cabin; but its situation upon a little
_tump_, on the bank of a brook, shaded by ever-green oaks, and large
spreading fig-trees, was all it had to boast of; it had nothing within
but straw beds, Indian corn, dried grapes, figs, &c.

From _Figuere_ to _Girone_, which is a good day's journey, the country
is enclosed, and the hedgerows, corn fields, &c. had in many places the
appearance of the finest parts of England, only warmed by a hotter sun,
and adorned with woods and trees of other species; instead of the
hawthorn, I found the orange and the pomegranate, the myrtle and the
cypress; in short, all nature seemed to rejoice here, but man alone.

From many parts of this road we had a view of the _Mediterranean_ Sea,
and the Golfe _de Royas_, a fine bay, over which the heads of the
_Pyrenees_ hang; and on the banks of which there seemed to be, not only
villages, but large towns; the situations of which appeared so
enchanting, that I could hardly resist the temptation of visiting
them; - and now wonder why I did not; but at that time, I suppose I did
not recollect I had nothing else to do.

We entered this town rather too late, and were followed to our inn by an
armed soldier, who demanded, in harsh terms, my attendance upon the
Governor; I enquired whether it was customary for a Gentleman, just off
a journey, to be so called upon, and was assured it was not; that my
_passa-porte_ was sufficient. I therefore gave that to my conductor, and
desired him to take it, and return it, which he did, in about half an
hour; but required to be paid for his trouble - a request I declined

This is a fortified city, well built, but every house has the appearance
of a convent. I went into the market, where fruit, flesh, and
vegetables, were to be sold in abundance; but instead of that noise
which French and English markets abound with, a general silence and
gravity reigned throughout; which, can hardly be thought possible, where
so many buyers and sellers were collected together. I bought a basket of
figs, but the vender of them spoke to me as softly as if we had been
engaged in a conspiracy, but she did not attempt to impose; I dare say,
she asked me no more than she would have demanded of a Spaniard. The
manners of people are certainly infectious; my spirits sunk in this
town; and I wanted nothing but the language, and a long cloak, to make
me a compleat Spaniard. Our inn was the Golden Fountain; and,
considering it was in Spain, not a bad one. If the town, however, was
gloomy, the country round about it exhibited all the beauties nature can
boast of.

In climates, says some writer, where the earth seems to be the pride and
masterpiece of nature, rags, and dirt, ghastly countenances, and misery
under every form, are oftener met with, than in those countries less
favoured by nature; and the forlorn and wretched condition of the people
in general seemed to belie and disgrace their native soil. Certain it
is, that the natives of the southern parts of Europe have neither the
beauty, the strength, nor comeliness of men born in more northern
climates. I have seen in the South of France, in Spain, and Portugal,
the aged especially of both sexes, who hardly appeared human! nor do
you see, in general, even among the youthful, much more beauty than that
which youth alone must give; for youth itself is beauty. Whoever
compares the natives of Switzerland, England, Ireland, and Scotland,
with those of Spain, Portugal, or other Southern climates, will find,
that men born among cold, bleak mountains, are infinitely superior to
those of the finest climates under the sun. Perhaps, however, this
difference may arise more from the want of Liberty than the power of
climate. Oh Liberty! sweet Liberty! without thee life cannot be enjoyed!
Thou parent of comfort, whose children bless thee, though they dwell
among the barren rocks, or the most surly regions of the earth! Thou
blessest, in spite of nature; and in spite of nature, tyranny brings



After we left _Girone_ we passed thro' a fine country, but not equal to
that which is between _Jonquire_ and that town; we lay the first night
at a _veritiable_ Spanish _posada_; it was a single house, called the
_Grenade_. We arrived there early in the afternoon; and though the
inside of the house was but so-so, every thing without was charming, and
our host and his two daughters gave us the best they had, treated us
with civility enough; and gave us good advice in the prosecution of our
journey to Barcelona; for about four leagues from this house, we found
two roads to that city, one on the side of the Mediterranean Sea, the
other inland. He advised us to take the former, which exactly tallied
with my inclination, for wherever the sea-coast affords a road in hot
climates, that must be the pleasantest; and I was very impatient till we
got here.

After we had left the high inland road, we had about three leagues to
the sea side, and the village on its margin where we were to lie; this
road was through a very wild, uncultivated country, over-run with
underwood and tall firs. We saw but few houses and met with fewer
people. When we came near the sea, the country, however, improved upon
us; and the farms, churches, convents, and beacons, upon the high lands,
rendered the prospects every way pleasing. We crossed a shallow river
several times, adorned on both sides with an infinite quantity of tall
beeches, on one of which trees (boy like) I cut my name, too high for
_other boys_, without a ladder, to cut me _out_ again. At length we
arrived at the village, and at a _posada_, than which nothing could be
more dreadful, after the day-light was gone; for beside the rudest
mistress, and the dirtiest servants that can be conceived, there lay a
poor Frenchman dying in the next room to us; nay, I may almost say, in
the same room with us, for it could hardly be called a door which parted
us. This poor man, who had not a shilling in his pocket, had lain twenty
days ill in that house; but was attended by the priests of the town with
as much assiduity as if he had been a man of fashion: he had been often
exhorted by them, it seems, to confess, but had refused. The night we
came, he feared would be his last, and he determined to make his
confession; I was in the room when he signified his desire so to do; and
all the people were dismissed by the parish priest. I returned to my
room, and could now and then hear what the priest said: but the sick
man's voice was too low: his crimes however, I fear, were of an high
nature, for we heard the priest say, with a voice of impatience and
seeming horror, _Adonde - adonde - adonde_? - Where - where - where?

You may imagine, a bad supper, lighted by stinking oil, burning in an
iron lamp hung against the side of a wall, (for there were no candles to
be had) and while the sick man was receiving the last sacrament, would
have been little relished had it been good; that our dirty straw beds
were no very comfortable retreat; and that day-light the next morning
was what we most wanted and wished for. Indeed, I never spent a more
miserable night; but it was amply made up to us by this day's journey to
_Martory_, for we coasted it along the sea, which sometimes washed the
wheels of my chaise At others, we crossed over high head-lands, which
afforded such extensive views over both elements, as abundantly overpaid
us for the sufferings of the preceding evening. The roads, indeed, over
these head-lands were bad enough, in some places dangerous; but between
walking and riding, with a steady horse, we got on very well.

On this coast, we found a village at every league, inhabited by rich
fishermen, and wealthy ship-builders, and found all these artificers
busy enough in their professions; in some places, there were an hundred
men dragging in, by bodily strength, the _Saine_; at others, still more
surprising, ships of two hundred tons were building on the dry land,
where no tide rises to launch them! These villages are built close to
the sea; nothing intervenes between their houses and the ocean but their
little gardens, in which, under the shade of their orange, lemon, and
vine trees, which were loaded with fruit, sat the wives and daughters of
the fishermen, making black silk lace. Though I call them villages, and
though they are in reality so, yet the houses were such, in general, as
would make a good figure even in a fine city; for they were all well
built, and many adorned on the outside with no contemptible paintings.

The town, indeed, from which I write, is situated in the same manner,
but is a little city, and affords a _posada_, (I speak by comparison,
remember) comfortable enough; and the sea a fish, they call the red
fish, than which nothing can be more delicious; I may venture almost to
call it the sea woodcock, for it is eaten altogether in the same manner.
We fared better than my poor horse, for not a grain of oats or barley
did this city afford; nor has he tasted, or have I seen, a morsel of hay
since I parted from my little _Dona_, near the foot of the _Pyrenees_.
Tomorrow we have seven hours to _Barcelona_; I can see the high cape
under which it stands, and from under which, you shall soon hear again
from me.



Upon our arrival at this town, we were obliged to wait at the outward
gate above half an hour, no person being admitted to enter from twelve
till one, tho' all the world may go out; that hour being allotted for
the guards, &c. to eat their dinner. As I had no letter to any person in
this city, but to the French Consul, I had previously wrote to a Mr.
Ford, a merchant at Barcelona, with whom I had formerly travelled from
London to Bath, to beg the favour of him to provide lodgings for me; I
therefore enquired for Mr. Ford's house, and found myself conducted to
that of a Mr. Curtoys; Mr. Ford, unfortunately for me, was dead; but the
same house and business is carried on by Messrs. Adams and Curtoys, who
had received and opened my letter. After this family had a little
_reconnoitred_ mine, Mr. Curtoys came down, and with much civility, and
an hospitable countenance, told me his dinner was upon the table, and in
very pressing terms desired that we would partake of it. We found here a
large family, consisting of his wife, a motherly good-looking woman;
Mrs. Adams, her daughter by a former husband, a jolly dame; and several
children. Mrs. Adams spoke fluently the Catalan, French, English, and
Spanish tongues; all which were necessary at a table where there were
people who understood but one only of each language. Mr. Curtoys pressed
us to dine with him a few days after, a favour which I, only, accepted;
when he told me, he was nominated, but not absolutely fixed in his
Consulship of this city; that he had obtained it by the favour of Lord
Rochford, who had spent some days at his house, on his way to Madrid,
when his Lordship was Ambassador to this Court; and before I went from
him, he desired I and my family would dine with him at his country-house
the next day: instead of which, I waited upon him in the morning, and
told him, that I had formerly received civilities from his friend, Lord
Rochford, and believed him once to have been mine; but that,
unfortunately, I found now it was much otherwise; and observed, that
perhaps his politeness to me might injure him with his Lordship; and
that I thought it right to say so much, that he might be guided by his
own judgment, and not follow the bent of his inclination, if he thought
it might be prejudicial to his interest; and by the way of a little
return for the hospitable manner in which he had received and
entertained me, and my family, I took out an hundred and twenty-five
pound in Banknotes, and desired him to send them to England; adding,
that I had about thirty pounds in my pocket, which I hoped would be
sufficient for my expences, till he had an account of their safe
arrival. But instead of his wonted chearful countenance, I was
_contunded_ with an affected air of the man of business; my bank notes
were shined against the window, turned and twisted about, as if the
utmost use they could be of were to light the Consul's pipe after
supper. I asked him whether he had any doubts of their authenticity; and
shewed him a letter to confirm my being the person I said I was, written
to me but a short time before, from his friend Lord Rochford, from whom
he too had just received a letter: he then observed; that a burnt child
dreads the fire; that their House had suffered; that a Moor had lately
passed thro' France, who had put off a great number of false Bank notes,
and that I might indiscreetly have taken some of them; but assuring him
that I had received all mine from the hands of Messrs. Hoare, and that I
would not call upon him for the money till he had received advice of
their being good, I took my leave, and left my notes.

But as there was a possibility, nay, a probability, that Mr. Curtoys
might not have very early advice from England, or might not give it to
me if he had, (for all his hospitality of countenance and civility was
departed) I thought it was necessary to secure a retreat; for I should
have informed you, that I found at his table a Mr. Wombwell, whose uncle
I had lived in great intimacy with many years before at Gibraltar, and
who left this man (now a Spanish merchant) all his fortune. Indeed, I
should have said, that Mr. Wombwell had visited me, and even had asked
me to dine with him; and as he appeared infinitely superior both in
understanding, address, and knowledge of the world to good Mr. Curtoys,
I went to him, with that confidence which a good note, and a good cause,
gives to every man. I told him the Consul's fears, and my own, lest I
might want money before Mr. Curtoys was ready to supply me; in which
case, and which only, I asked Mr. Wombwell if he would change me a
twenty pound Bank note, and shewed him one which I then took out of my
pocket; but Mr. Wombwell too examined my notes, with all the attention
of a cautious tradesman, and put on all that imperiousness which riches,
and the haughty Spanish manners to an humble suitor, could suggest. I
tell you, my dear Sir, what passed between us, more out of pity than
resentment towards him; he said I will recollect it as nearly as I can,
"that if you are Mr. Thicknesse, you must have lived a great deal in the
world; it is therefore unfortunate, you are not acquainted with Sir
Thomas Gascoyne, a gentleman of fashion, well known in England, and now
in the same auberge with you." I confessed that I had seen, and
conversed with Sir Thomas Gascoyne there, and that it was very true, he
was to me, and I to him, utter strangers; but I observed, that Sir
Thomas had been ten years upon his travels, and that I had lived
fourteen years in retirement before he set out, and therefore that was
but a weak circumstance of my being an impostor; I observed too, that
impostors travelled singly, not with a wife and children; and that
though I by no means wished to force his money out of his pocket, I
coveted much to remove all suspicions of my being an adventurer, for
many obvious reasons. This reply opened a glimpse of generosity, though

1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11

Online LibraryPhilip ThicknesseA Year's Journey through France and Part of Spain, 1777 Volume 1 (of 2) → online text (page 5 of 11)