Philip Thicknesse.

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

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sullied with arrogance and pride. "I should be sorry (said he) to see a
countryman, who is an honest man, in want of money; and therefore, as I
think it is probable you are Mr. Thicknesse, I will, when you want your
note changed, change it;" adding, however, that "he thanked God! if he
lost the money, he could afford it." I then told him, he had put it in
my power to convince him I was Mr. Thicknesse, by declining, as I did,
the boon he offered me; I declined it, indeed, with an honest
indignation, because I am sure he did not doubt my being Mr. Thicknesse,
and that _he_, not _I_, was the REAL PRETENDER. I had before told him,
that I had some letters in my pocket written by a Spanish Gentleman of
fashion, whose hand-writing must be well known in that town; - but to
this he observed, that there was not a Moor in Spain who could not write
Spanish; - he further remarked, that if I was Mr. Thicknesse, I had, in a
publication of my travels, spoke of Sir John Lambert, a Parisian Banker,
in very unhandsome terms, and, for aught he knew, I might take the same
liberty with his name, in future. I acknowledged that his charge was
very true, and that his suggestion might be so; that I should always
speak and publish such truths as I thought proper, either for the
information of others, or the satisfaction of myself. Mr. Wombwell,
however, acknowledged, that Mr. Curtoys, to whom I shewed Lord
Rochford's letter to me, ought to have been quite satisfied whether I
was, or was not an impostor; but I still left him under real or
pretended doubts, with a resolution to live upon bread and water, or the
bounty of a taylor, my honest landlord; for, tho' a Spaniard, I am sure
he had that perception, and that humanity too, which Mess. Curtoys and
Wombwell have not, or artfully concealed from me: yet, in spite of all
the unkind behaviour of the latter, I could not help shewing him my
share of vanity too; I therefore sent him a letter, and enclosed therein
others written to me by the late Lord Holland, the Duke of Richmond,
Lord Oxford, and many other people of rank; and desired him to give me
credit, at least, for _that_ which he could lose nothing by - that of my
being, if I was an impostor, an ingenuous one. He sent the letters,
handsomely sealed up, back again, without any answer; and there
finished for ever, our correspondence, unless _he should renew it_.

I am ashamed of saying so much about these men and myself, where I could
find much better subjects, and some, perhaps, of entertainment; but it
is necessary to shew how very proper it is for a stranger to take with
him letters of recommendation when he travels, not only to other
kingdoms, but to every city where he proposes to reside, even for a
short time; for, as Mr. Wombwell justly observed, when I have a letter
of recommendation from my friend, or correspondent, I can have no doubt
who the bearer is; and I had rather take that recommendation than Bank
notes. - I confess, that merchants cannot be too cautious and
circumspect; I can, and do forgive Mr. Curtoys, for reasons he shall
shew you under his own hand: but I have too good an opinion of Mr.
Wombwell's perception to so readily forget his shrewd reprisals; though
I must, I cannot refrain from telling you what a flattering thing he
said to me: I had shewn him a printed paper, signed _Junius_; said he,
"If you wrote this, you may be, for aught I know, really JUNIUS." I
assured him that I was not; for being in Spain, and out of the reach of
the inquisitorial court of Westminster-Hall, I would instantly avow it,
for fear I should die suddenly, and carry that secret, like _Mrs.
Faulkner_, to the grave with me.



You will, as I am, be tired of hearing so much about Messrs. Wombwell,
Curtoys, Adams, and Co. - but as there are some other persons here, which
my last letter must have put you in some pain about, I must renew the
subject. I had, you know, some letters of recommendation to the _Marquis
of Grimaldi_, which I had reserved to deliver into his Excellency's
hands at _Madrid_; but which I found necessary to send away by the post,
and to request the honour of his Excellency to write to some Spaniard of
fashion here, to shew me countenance, and to clear up my suspected
character. I accordingly wrote to the _Marquis_, and sent him my letters
of recommendation, but sixteen days was the soonest I could expect an
answer. I therefore, in the mean time, wrote myself to the _Intendant_
of _Barcelona_, a man of sense, and high birth; I told him my name, and
that I had letters in my pocket from a Spanish Gentleman of fashion,
whom he knew, which would convince him who I was, and desired leave to
wait upon him. The Intendant fixed six o'clock the same evening. I was
received, and conducted into his apartment, for he was ill, by one of
his daughters; the only woman I had seen in Barcelona that had either
beauty or breeding; - this young Lady had both in a high degree. After
shewing my letters, and having conversed a little with the Intendant, a
Lady with a red face, and a nose as big as a brandy bottle, accosted me
in English: "Behold, Sir, (said she) your countrywoman." This was Madam
O'Reilly, wife to the Governor of _Monjuique_ Castle, and brother to the
Gentleman of that name, so well known, and so amply provided for, by the
late and present King of Spain. She was very civil, and seemed
sensible. Her husband, the Governor, soon after came in, and the whole
family smiled upon me. I then began to think I should escape both goal
and inquisition. Mrs. O'Reilly visited my family. Mr. O'Reilly borrowed
a house for me, and a charming one too; I say borrowed it, for no
Spaniard letts his house; I was only to make him some _recompense for
his politeness and generosity_. The Intendant even sent Gov. O'Reilly to
know why Mr. Curtoys had not presented me, on the court-day, to the
Captain-General. Mr. Consul Curtoys was obliged to give his reasons in
person; had they been true, they were good: the Intendant accepted them,
and said he would present me himself. Things seemed now to take a
favourable turn: Mr. Curtoys visited me on his way back from the
Intendant's; assured me he had told him that I was a man of character,
and an honest man; and that though he could not _see me_ as _Consul
Curtoys_, he should be glad to see me as _Merchant Curtoys_. On the
other hand, the _Marquis of Grimaldi_, with the politeness of a
minister, and the feelings of humanity, wrote me a very flattering
letter indeed, and sent it by a special _courier_, who came in four days
from _Madrid_. Now, thought I, a fig for your Wombwells, Curtoys, &c.
The first minister's favour, and the _shining countenance_ of Madam
O'Reilly, must carry me through every thing. But alas! it was quite
otherwise; - the _courier_ who brought my letter had directions to
deliver it into my own hands; but either by _his blunder_, or _Madam
O'Reilly's_, I did not get it till _nine hours_ after it arrived, and
then _from the hands_ of _Madam O'Reilly's_ servant. The contents of
this letter were soon known: the favour of the minister at _Madrid_ did
not shine upon me at the _Court of Barcelona_! I visited Madam O'Reilly,
who looked at me, - if I may use such a coarse expression, - "like God's
revenge against murder." I could not divine what I had done, or what
omitted to do. I could get no admittance at the Intendant's, neither. I
proposed going to _Montserrat_, and asked my _fair_ countrywoman for a
letter to one of the monks; but - _she knew nobody there, not she_: - Why
then, madam, said I, perhaps I had better go back to France: - Oh! but,
says she, perhaps the _Marquis of Grimaldi_ will not let you; adding,
that the laws of France and Spain were very different. - But, pray,
madam, said I, what have the laws of either kingdom to do with me, while
I violate none of them? I am a citizen of the world, and consequently
free in every country. - Now, Sir, to decypher all this, which I did by
the help of some _characters_ an honest Spaniard gave me: - Why, says he,
they say you are a _great Captain_; that you have had an attention shewn
you by the _Marquis of Grimaldi_, which none of the O'Reilly's ever
obtained; and they are afraid that you are come here to take the eldest
brother's post from him, and that you are to command the troops upon the
second expedition to _Algiers_; for every body is much dissatisfied
with his conduct on the first; adding, that the Spaniards do not love
him. - I told him, that might arise from his being a stranger; but I had
been well assured, and I firmly believed it, that he is a gallant, an
able, and a good officer; but, said I, that cannot be the reason of so
much shyness in the _Intendant_, even if it does raise any uneasiness in
the O'Reilly's family: - Yes, said he, it does; for the Captain-General
O'Reilly is married lately to one of the Intendant's daughters. So you
see here was another mine sprung under me; and I determined to set out
in a day or two for _Montserrat_. I had but one card more to play, and
that was to carry the open letter I had to the French Consul, and which,
I forgot to tell you, I had shewn to the acute, discerning, and
sagacious merchant Wombwell. It was written by _Madame de Maigny_, the
Lady of the _Chevalier de Maigny_, of the regiment _d'Artois_, one of
the Gentlemen with whom I had eat that voluptuous supper in company at
_Pont St. Esprit_; but, as Mr. Wombwell shrewdly observed, my name was
not even mentioned in that letter, it was the _bearer only_ who was
recommended; and how could that Lady, any more than Mr. Wombwell, tell,
but that I had murdered the first bearer, and robbed him of his
recommendatory letter, and dressed myself in his scarlet and gold-laced
coat, to practise the same wicked arts upon their lives and fortunes?

Now, you will naturally wish to know how Sir Thomas Gascoyne, my
_vis-a-vis_ neighbour in the same _Hotel_, conducted himself. I had,
before all this fuss, eat, drank, and conversed with him: he is a
sensible, genteel, well-bred man; and there was with him Mr. Swinburne,
who was equally agreeable: no wonder, therefore, if I endeavoured to
cultivate an acquaintance with two such men, so much superior, in all
respects, to what the town afforded. Sir Thomas, however, became rather
reserved; perhaps not more so than good policy made necessary for a man
who was only just entering upon a grand tour through the whole kingdom,
from Barcelona to Cadiz, Madrid, &c. &c. I perceived this shyness, but
did not resent it, because I could not censure it. He had no suspicion
of me at first; and if he had afterwards, I could not tell what
circumstances might have been urged against me; and I considered, that
if a man of his fortune and figure could have been suspected, there was
much reason for him to join with others in suspecting me.

The Moor, it seems, who had put off the counterfeit bank notes, had been
advertised in all the foreign papers; his person was particularly
described; and as application had been made to the Courts of France and
Spain, to stop the career of such a villain, the Governor of _Barcelona_
had, upon Sir Thomas Gascoyne's first arrival, stopped him, and sent
for the Consul, verily believing he had got the offender. The Moor was
described as a short, plump, black man; and as Sir Thomas has black
eyes, and is rather _en bon point_, the plain, honest Governor had not
discernment enough to see that ease and good breeding in Sir Thomas,
which no Moor, however well he may imitate Bank notes, can counterfeit.
But as Sir Thomas had letters of credit upon Mr. Curtoys, which
ascertained his person and rank, this adventure became a laughable one
to him. It is, indeed, from his mouth I relate it, though, perhaps, not
with all the circumstances he told me. - Now, had my person tallied as
well as Sir Thomas's did with that of the itinerant Moor, I should
certainly have been in one of the round towers, which stick pretty thick
in the walls of the fortification of this town.

You will tremble - I assure you, I do - when I think of another escape I
had; and I will tell you how: - The day after I left _Cette_, I came to
a spot where the roads divide; here I asked two men, which was mine to
_Narbonne_? one of them answered me in English; he was a shabby, but
genteel-looking young man, said he came from _Italy_, and was going to
_Barcelona_; that he had been defrauded of his money at _Venice_ by a
parcel of sharpers, and was going to _Spain_ to get a passage to
Holland, of which country he was a native; he was then in treaty, he
said, with the other man to sell him a pair of breeches, to furnish him
with money to carry him on; and as I had no servant at that time, he
earnestly intreated me to take him into my service: I would not do that,
you may be sure; but lest he might be an unfortunate man, like myself, I
told him, if he could contrive to lie at the inns I did, I would pay for
his bed and supper. He accepted an offer, I soon became very sorry I had
made; and when we arrived at _Perpignan_, I gave him a little money to
proceed, but absolutely forbad him either to walk near my chaise, or to
sleep at the same inns I did; for as I knew him not, he should not enter
into another kingdom as one in my _suite_; and I saw no more of him till
some days after my arrival at Barcelona, where he accosted me in a
better habit, and shewed me some real, or counterfeit gold he had got,
he said, of a friend who knew his father at Amsterdam. He was a bold,
daring fellow; and it was with some difficulty I could prevail upon him
not to walk _cheek by jole_ with me along the ramparts.

Soon after this I was informed, that a fine-dressed, little black-eyed
man was arrived in a bark from Italy. This man proved to be, as Mr.
Curtoys informed me, the very Moor whom Sir Thomas Gascoyne was
suspected to be: he was apprehended, and committed to one of the round
towers. But what will you say, or what would have been my lot, had I
taken the other man into my service? - for the minute _my white man_, for
he was a _whitish_ Moor, saw the black one arrive, he decamped; they
were afraid of each other, and both wanted to escape; my man went off on
foot; the black man was apprehended, while he was in treaty with the
master of the same bark he came in, to carry him to some other sea-port.
Now had I come in with such a servant, and with my suspected Bank notes,
without letters of credit, or recommendation; had the Moor arrived, who
is the real culprit, and who had been connected with my man, what would
have become of his master, your unfortunate humble servant? - I doubt the
_abilities_ of his Britannic Majesty's Consul would not have been able
to have divided our degrees of _guilt_ properly; and that I should have
experienced but little charity on my straw bed, from the humanity of Mr.
Wombwell. However, I had still one card more to play to reinforce my
purse; it was one, I thought could not fail, and the money was nearer
home: - I had lent, while I was at Calais, thirty guineas to a French
officer, for no other reason but because he wanted it: I knew the man;
and as he promised to pay me in three months, and as that time was
expired, I applied to Mr. Harris, a Scotch merchant, at his house at
Barcelona, on whom the London Bankers of the same name give letters of
credit to travellers. I begged the favour of him to send the note to his
correspondents at Paris, and to procure the money for me, and when it
was paid, that he would give it to me at Barcelona; but Mr. Harris too,
begged to be excused: he started some difficulties, but at length did
give me a receipt for the note, and promised, reluctantly enough, to
send it. I began now to think that I should starve indeed. Every article
of life is high in Spain, and my purse was low. I therefore wrote to Mr.
Curtoys, to know if he had any tidings of the Bank bills; for I had
immediately wrote to Messrs. Hoare, to beg the favour of them to send
Mr. Curtoys the numbers of those which I received at their house; and
they very politely informed me, they had so done. Mr. Consul Curtoys
favoured me with the following answer:

"Mr. Curtoys presents his compliments to Mr. Thicknesse; no ways doubts
the Bank bills _to be good_, from London this post under the 24th past,
they _accuse_ receipt thereof, &c. _Barcelona_, 12th of December, 1775."

As Mr. Curtoys's correspondent had _accused receipt thereof_, I thought
I might too, and accordingly I went and desired my money. The cashier
was sick, they said, and I was desired to call again the next morning,
_when he would be much better_; - I did so, and received my money; and
shall set off immediately for _Montserrat_, singing, and saying what I
do not exactly agree to; but, being at Rome, I would do as they do
there: I therefore taught my children to repeat the following Spanish

"Barcelonaes Buéno,
Si la Bolsa fuéno;
Suéno ô no fuéno;
Barcelonaes Buéno."

I will not translate what, I am sure, you will understand the sense of
much better than you will think I experienced the truth. I hope,
however, to have done with my misfortunes; for I am going to visit a
spot inhabited by virtuous and retired men; a place, according to all
reports, cut out by nature for such who are able to sequester themselves
from all worldly concerns; and from such strangers as they are I am sure
I shall meet with more charity for they deal in nothing else than I met
with humanity or politeness at Barcelona.

_P.S._ I should have told you, that before Sir Thomas Gascoyne left this
town, he sent a polite message, to desire to take leave of me and my
family: I therefore waited upon him; and as he proposed visiting
Gibraltar, I troubled him with a letter to my son, then on that duty;
and was sorry soon after to find that my son had left the garrison
before Sir Thomas could arrive at it. If you ask me how Sir Thomas
Gascoyne ventured to make so great a tour through a country so aukwardly
circumstanced for travellers in general, and strangers in particular, I
can only say, that when I saw him he had but just began his long
journey, and that he had every advantage which _religion_ and fortune
could give him. I had none: he travelled with two coaches, two sets of
horses, two saddle mules, and was protected by a train of servants. I
had religion, (but it was a bad one in that country) and only one
footman, who strictly maintained his character, for he always walked.
Indeed, it is the fashion of all Spanish gentlemen to be followed by
their servant on foot. I therefore travelled like a Spaniard; Sir
Thomas like an Englishman. The whole city of _Barcelona_ was in an
uproar the morning Sir Thomas's two coaches set off; and I heard, with
concern, that they both broke down before they got half way to
_Valencia_; but, with pleasure, by a polite letter soon after from Mr.
Swinburne, that they got so far in perfect health.

I am, dear Sir, &c.

_P.S._ Before I quit Barcelona, it will be but just to say, that it is a
good city, has a fine mole, and a noble citadel, beside _Monjuique_, a
strong fort, which stands on a high hill, and which commands the town as
well as the harbour. The town is very large and strongly fortified,
stands in a large plain, and is encompassed with a semi-circular range
of high hills, rather than mountains, which form _un coup-d'oeil_,
that is very pleasing, as not only the sides of the hills are adorned
with a great number of country houses, but the plain also affords a
great many, beside several little villages. The roads too near the town
are very good. As to the city itself, it is rather well built in
general, than abounding with any particular fine buildings. The
Inquisition has nothing to boast of now, either within or without,
having (fortunately for the public) lost a great part of its former
power: it, however, still keeps an awe upon all who live within its
verge. I never saw a town in which trade is carried on with more spirit
and industry; the indolent disposition of the Spaniards of _Castile_,
and other provinces, has not extended ever into this part of Spain. They
have here a very fine theatre; but those who perform upon the stage are
the refuse of the people, and are too bad to be called by the name of
actors. They have neither libraries nor pictures worthy of much notice,
though they boast of one or two paintings in their churches by natives
of the town, François _Guirro_, and John _Arnau_. In the custom-house
hangs a full-length of the present King, so execrable, that one would
wonder it was not put, with the painter, into the Inquisition, as a
libel on royalty and the arts. I am told, at _La Fete Dieu_ there are
some processions of the most ridiculous nature. The fertility of the
earth in and about the town is wonderful; the minute one crop is off the
earth, another is put in; no part of the year puts a stop to vegetation.
In the coldest weather, the market abounds with a great variety of the
choicest flowers; yet their sweets cannot over-power the intolerable
smell which salt fish, and stinking fish united, diffuse over all that
part of the city; and rich as the inhabitants are, you will see the
legs, wings, breasts, and entrails of fowls, in the market, cut up as
joints of meat are in other countries, to be sold separately: nor could
I find in this great city either oil, olives, or wine, that were
tolerable. I paid a guinea a day at the _Fontain d'Or_ for my table;
yet every thing was so dirty, that I always made my dinner from the
dessert; nor was there any other place but the stable of this dirty inn
to put up my horse, where I paid twelve livres a week for straw only;
and whoever lodges at this inn, must pay five shillings a day for their
dinner, whether they dine there or not.

_Catalonia_ is undoubtedly the best cultivated, the richest, and most
industrious province, or principality, in Spain; and the King, who has
the SUN FOR HIS HAT, (for it always shines in some part of his
dominions) has nothing to boast of, equal to _Catalonia_.

As I have almost as much abhorrence to the Moors, as even the Spaniards
themselves, (having visited that coast two or three times, many years
ago) you may be sure I was grieved to meet, every time I went out, so
many maimed and wounded officers and soldiers, who were not long
returned from the unsuccessful expedition to _Algiers_. There are no
troops in the world more steady than the Spaniards; it was not for want
of bravery they miscarried, but there was some sad mismanagement; and
had the Moors followed their blows, not a man of them would have
returned. My servant, (a French deserter) who was upon that expedition,
says, Gen. O'Reilly was the first who landed, and the last who
embarked; - but it is the HEAD, not the _arm_ of a commander in chief,
which is most wanted. The Moors at _le point du jour_, advanced upon
the Spaniards behind a formidable _masked and moving battery_ of
camels: the Spaniards, believing them, by a faint light, to be cavalry,
expended a great part of their strength, spirits, and ammunition, upon
those harmless animals; and it was not till _this curtain_ was removed
that the dreadful carnage began, in which they lost about nine thousand
men. There seems to have been some strange mismanagement; it seems
probable that there was no very good understanding between the marine
and the land officers. The fleet were many days before the town, and
then landed just where the Moors expected they would land. There is
nothing so difficult, so dangerous, nor so liable to miscarriage, as
the war of _invading_: our troops experienced it at _St. Cas_; and they
either have, or will experience it in America. The wild negroes in
Jamaica, to whom Gov. Trelawney wisely gave, what they contended for,
(LIBERTY) were not above fifteen hundred fit to bear arms. I was in
several skirmishes with them, and second in command under Mr. Adair's
brother, a valiant young man who died afterwards in the field, who made
peace with them; yet I will venture to affirm, that though five hundred
disciplined troops would have subdued them in an open country, the
united force of France and England could not have extirpated them from
their fast holds in the mountains. Did not a Baker battle and defeat
two Marshals of France in the Cevennes? And is it probable, that all
the fleets and armies of Great-Britain can conquer America? - England
may as well attempt moving that Continent on this side the Atlantic.



I never left any place with more secret satisfaction than I did
_Barcelona_; exclusive of the entertainment I was prepared to expect,

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