Philip Thicknesse.

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

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see no absurdity in a set of men meeting as the Quakers do, and sitting
in silent contemplation, reflecting on the errors of their past life,
and resolving to amend in future. I think an honest, good Quaker, as
respectable a being as an Archbishop; and a monk, or a hermit, who think
they merit heaven by the sacrifice they make for it, will certainly
obtain it: and as I am persuaded the men of this society think so, I
highly honour and respect them: I am sure I feel myself much obliged to
them. They have a good library, but it is in great disorder; nor do I
believe they are men of much reading; indeed, they are so employed in
confessing the pilgrims and poor, that they cannot have much time for

I forgot to tell you, that at _Narbonne_ I had been accosted by a young
genteel couple, a male and female, who were upon a _pilgrimage_; they
were dressed rather neat than fine, and their garments were adorned with
cockle and other marine shells; such, indeed, all the poorer sort of
pilgrims are characterised with. They presented a tin box to me, with
much address, but said nothing, nor did I give them any thing; indeed, I
did not _then_ know, very well, for what purpose or use the charity they
claimed was to be applied. This young couple were among the strangers
who were now approaching the sacred image. I was very desirous of
knowing their story, who they were, and what sins people so young, and
who looked so good, had been guilty of, to think it necessary to come so
far for absolution. _Their sins on the road_, I could be at no loss to
guess at; and as they were such as people who love one another are very
apt to commit, I hope and believe, they will obtain forgiveness of
them. - They were either people of some condition, or very accomplished
_Chevaliers d'Industrie_; though I am most inclined to believe, they
were _brother and sister_, of some condition.

After visiting the Holy Virgin, I paid my respects to the several monks
in their own apartments, under the conduct of _Pere Pascal_, and was
greatly entertained. - I found them excellently lodged; their apartments
had no finery, but every useful convenience; and several good
harpsichords, as well as good performers, beside an excellent organist.
The Prior, in particular, has so much address, of the polite world about
him, that he must have lived in it before he made a vow to retire from

I never saw a more striking instance of national influence than in the
person of _Pere Tendre_, the Frenchman! - In spite of his holy life, and
living among Spaniards of the utmost gravity of manners, I could have
known him at first sight to have been a Frenchman. I never saw, even
upon the _Boulevards_ at Paris, a more lively, animated, or chearful

Indeed, one must believe, that these men are as good as they appear to
be; for they have reason enough to believe, that every hour may be their
last, as there hangs over their whole building such a terrifying mass of
rock and pine heads, so split and divided, that it is difficult to
perceive by what powers they are sustained: many have given way, and
have no other support than the base they have made by slipping in part
down, among the smaller rocks and broken fragments. About an hundred
years ago, one vast block fell from above, and buried under it the
hospital, and all the sick and their attendants; and where it still
remains, a dreadful monument, and memento, to all who dwell near it! - I
should fear (God avert the day!) that the smallest degree of an
earthquake would bury all the convent, monks, and treasure, by one fatal


Before I bring forth the treasures of this hospitable convent, and the
jewels of _Neustra Senora_, it may be necessary to tell you, that they
could not be so liberal, were not others liberal to them; and that they
have permission to ask charity from every church, city, and town, in the
kingdoms of France and Spain, and have always lay-brothers out,
gathering money and other donations. They who feed all who come, must,
of course, be fed themselves; nor has any religious house in Europe
(_Loretto_ excepted) been more highly honoured by Emperors, Kings,
Popes, and Prelates, than this: nay, they have seemed to vie with each
other, in bestowing rich and costly garments, jewels of immense value,
and gold and silver of exquisite workmanship, to adorn the person of
_Neustra Senora_; as the following list, though not a quarter of her
_paraphernalia_, will evince: but before I particularize them, it may be
proper to mention, the solemn manner in which the Virgin was moved from
the old to the new church, by the hands of King Philip the Third, who
repaired thither for that purpose privately as possible, to prevent the
prodigious concourse of people who would have attended him had it been
generally known. He staid at the convent four days, in which time he
visited all the hermitages above, in one; but returned, greatly
fatigued, and not till ten o'clock at night. After resting himself the
next day, he heard mass, and being confessed, assisted at the solemnity
of translating the Virgin, in the following manner: - After all the
monks, hermits, and lay-brothers had heard mass, and been confessed, the
Virgin was brought down and placed upon the altar in the old church, and
with great ceremony, reverence, and awe, they cloathed her in a rich
gold mantle, the gift of the Duke of _Branzvick_, the sleeves of which
were so costly, that they were valued at eighteen thousand ducats. The
Abbots, Monks, hermits, &c. who were present, wore cloaks of rich gold
brocade, and in the procession sung the hymn _Te Deum Laudamus_; one of
whom bore a gold cross, of exquisite workmanship, which weighed fifty
marks, and which was set with costly jewels. The procession consisted of
forty-three lay-brothers, fifteen hermits, and sixty-two monks, all
bearing wax-tapers; then followed the young scholars, and a band of
music, as well as an infinite number of people who came from all parts
of the kingdom to attend the solemnity; for it was impossible to keep an
act of so extraordinary a nature very private. When the Virgin was
brought into the new church, she was placed on a tabernacle by four of
the most ancient monks; the King held also a large lighted taper, on
which his banner and arms were emblazoned, and being followed by the
nobles and cavaliers of his court, joined in the procession; and having
placed themselves in proper order in the great cloyster of the church,
the monks sung a hymn, addressed to the Virgin, accompanied by a noble
band of music: this being over, the King taking the Virgin in his arms,
placed her on the great altar; and having so done, took his wax taper,
and falling on his knees at her feet, offered up his prayers near a
quarter of an hour: this ceremony being over, the monks advanced to the
altar, and moved the Virgin into a recess in the middle of it, where she
now stands: after which, the Abbot, having given his pontifical
benediction, the King retired to repose himself for a quarter of an
hour, and then set off for _Martorell_, where he slept, and the next day
made his entry into _Barcelona_.

Among an infinite number of costly materials which adorn this beautiful
church, is a most noble organ, which has near twelve hundred pipes. In
the _Custodium_ you are shewn three crowns for the head of the Infant
Jesus, two of which are of pure gold, the third of silver, gilt, and
richly adorned with diamonds; one of the gold crowns is set with two
hundred and thirty emeralds, and nineteen large brilliants; the other
has two hundred and thirty-eight diamonds, an hundred and thirty pearls,
and sixteen rubies; it cost eighteen thousand ducats.

There are four crowns also for the head of the Virgin; two of plated
gold, richly set with diamonds, two of solid gold; one of which has two
thousand five hundred large emeralds in it, and is valued at fifty
thousand ducats; the fourth, and richest, is set with one thousand one
hundred and twenty-four diamonds, five of which number are valued at
five hundred ducats each; eighteen hundred large pearls, of equal size;
thirty-eight large emeralds, twenty-one zaphirs, and five rubies; and at
the top of this crown is a gold ship, adorned with diamonds of eighteen
thousand dollars value. The gold alone of these crowns weighs
twenty-five pounds, and, with the jewels and setting, upwards of fifty.
These crowns have been made at _Montserrat_, from the gold and separate
jewels presented to the convent from time to time by the crowned heads
and princes of Europe. There is also another small crown, given by the
Marquis de _Aytona_, set with sixty-six brilliants.

The Infanta gave four silver candlesticks, which cost two thousand four
hundred ducats.

Ann of Austria, daughter to Philip the third, gave a garment for the
Virgin, which cost a thousand ducats.

There are thirty chalices of gilt plate, and one of solid gold, which
cost five thousand ducats.

Prince Charles of Austria, with his consort Christiana of Brunswick,
visited _Montserrat_ in the year 1706, and having kissed the Virgin's
hand, left at her feet his gold-hilted sword, set with seventy-nine
large brilliants. This sword was given the Emperor by Anne, Queen of

In the church are six silver candlesticks, nine palms high, made to hold
wax flambeaux. There are diamonds and jewels, given by the Countess de
Aranda, Count Alba, Duchess of Medina, and forty other people of high
rank, from the different courts of Europe, to the value of more than an
hundred thousand ducats. - But were I to recite every particular from the
list of donations, which my friend, _Pere Pascal_, gave me, and which
now lies before me, with the names of the donors, they would fill a
volume instead of a letter.


I know you will expect to hear something of the Ladies of Spain; but I
must confess I had very little acquaintance among them: when they appear
abroad in their coaches, they are dressed in the modern French fashion,
but not in the extreme; when they walk out, their head and shape is
always covered with a black or white veil, richly laced; and however
fine their gowns are, they must be covered with a very large black silk
petticoat; and thus holding the fan in one hand, and hanging their
_chapelets_ over the wrist of the other, they walk out, preceded by one
or two shabby-looking servants, called pages, who wear swords, and
always walk bare-headed.

I have already told you, that the most beautiful, indeed the only
beautiful woman, I saw at _Barcelona_, was the Intendant's daughter;
and I assure you, her, black petticoat and white veil could not conceal
it; nor, indeed, is the dress an unbecoming one. Among the peasants, and
common females, you never see any thing like beauty, and, in general,
rather deformity of feature. No wonder then, where beauty is scarce, and
to be found only among women of condition, that those women are much
admired, and that they gain prodigious influence over the men. - In no
part of the world, therefore, are women more caressed and attended to,
than in Spain. Their deportment in public is grave and modest; yet they
are very much addicted to pleasure; nor is there scarce one among them
that cannot, nay, that will not dance the _Fandango_ in private, either
in the decent or indecent manner. I have seen it danced both ways, by a
pretty woman, than which nothing can be more _immodestly agreeable_; and
I was shewn a young Lady at _Barcelona_, who in the midst of this dance
ran out of the room, telling her partner, she could _stand it_ no
longer; - he ran after her, to be sure, and must be answerable for the
consequences. I find in the music of the _Fandango_, written under one
bar, _Salida_, which signifies _going out_; it is where the woman is to
part a little from her partner, and to move slowly by herself; and I
suppose it was at _that bar_ the lady was so overcome, as to determine
not to return. The words _Perra Salida_ should therefore be placed at
that bar, when the ladies dance it in the high _gout_.

The men dress as they do in France and England, except only their long
cloak, which they do not care to give up. It is said that Frenchmen are
wiser than, from the levity of their behaviour, they seem to be; and I
fancy the Spaniards look wiser from their gravity of countenance, than
they really are; they are extremely reserved; and make no professions of
friendship till they feel it, and know the man, and then they are
friendly in the highest degree.

I met with a German merchant at _Barcelona_, who told me he had dealt
for goods to the value of five thousand pounds a year with a Spaniard in
that town; and though he had been often at _Barcelona_ before, that he
had never invited him to dine or eat with him, till that day.

The farrier who comes to shoe your horse has sometimes a sword by his
side; and the barber who shaves you crosses himself before he _crosses
your chin_.

There is a particular part of the town where the ladies of easy virtue
live; and if a friend calls at the apartment of one of those females,
who happens to _be engaged_, one of her neighbours tells you, she is
_amancebados y casarse a mediacarta_; _i.e._ that she is
half-married. - If you meet a Spanish woman of any fashion, walking
alone without the town, you may join her, and enter into whatever _sort
of conversation_ you chuse, without offence; and if you pass one without
doing so, she will call you _ajacaos_, and contemn you: this is a custom
so established at Madrid, that if a footman meets a lady of quality
alone, he will enter into some indecent conversation with her; for which
reason, the ladies seldom walk but with their husbands, or a male friend
by their side, and a foot-boy before, and then no man durst speak, or
even look towards them, but with respect and awe: - a blow in Spain can
never be forgiven; the striker must die, either _privately_ or publicly.

No people on earth are less given to excess in eating or drinking, than
the Spaniards; the _Olio_, or _Olla_, a kind of soup and _Bouilli_, is
all that is to be found at the table of some great men: the table of a
_Bourgeois_ of Paris is better served than many _grandees_ of Spain;
their chocolate, lemonade, iced water, fruits, &c. are their chief
luxuries; and the chocolate is, in some houses, a prodigious annual
expense, as it is offered to every body who comes in, and some of the
first houses in Madrid expend twenty thousand _livres_ a year in
chocolate, iced waters, &c. The grandees of Spain think it beneath their
dignity to look into accounts, and therefore leave the management of
their household expenses to servants, who often plunder and defraud them
of great sums of money.

Unlike the French, the Spaniards (like the English) very properly look
upon able physicians and surgeons in a very respectable light: - Is it
not strange, that the French nation should trust their health and lives
in the hands of men, they are apt to think unworthy of their intimacy or
friendship? - Men, who must have had a liberal education, and who ought
not to be trusted in sickness, if their society was not to be coveted in
health. Perhaps the Spanish physicians, who of all others have the
least pretensions, are the most caressed. In fevers they encourage their
patients to eat, thinking it necessary, where the air is so subtile, to
put something into the body for the distemper to feed upon; they bleed
often, and in both arms, that the blood may be drawn forth _equally_;
the surgeons do not bleed, but a set of men called _sangerros_ perform
that office, and no other; the surgeons consider it dishonourable to
perform that operation. They seldom trepan; a surgeon who attempted to
perform it, would himself be perhaps in want of it. To all flesh wounds
they apply a powder called _coloradilla_, which certainly effects the
cure; it is made of myrrh, mastic, dragon's blood, bol ammoniac,
&c. - When persons of fashion are bled, their friends send them, as soon
as it is known, little presents to amuse them all that day; for which
reason, the women of easy virtue are often bled, that their lovers may
shew their attention, and be _bled too_. - The French disease is so
ignorantly treated, or so little regarded, that it is very general; they
consider a _gonorrhoea_ as health to the reins; and except a tertian
ague, all disorders are called the _calentura_, and treated alike, and I
fear very injudiciously; for there is not, I am told, in the whole
kingdom, any public academy for the instruction of young men, in physic,
surgery, or anatomy, except at Madrid.

Notwithstanding the sobriety, temperance, and fine climate of Spain, the
Spaniards do not, in general, live to any great age; they put a
prodigious quantity of spice into every thing they eat; and though
sobriety and temperance are very commendable, there are countries where
eating and drinking are carried to a great excess, by men much more
virtuous than those, where temperance, perhaps, is their principal


I forgot to tell you that, though I left the Convent, I had no desire to
leave the spot where I had met with so cordial a reception; nor a
mountain, every part of which afforded so many scenes of wonder and
delight. I therefore hired two rooms at a wretched _posada_, near the
two ancient towers below, and where I had left my horse, that I might
make my daily excursions on and about the mountain, as well as visit
those little solitary habitations above once more. My host, his wife,
and their son and daughter, looked rather cool upon us; they liked our
money better than our company; and though I made their young child some
little presents, it scarce afforded any return, but prevented rudeness,
perhaps. The boys of the village, though I distributed a little money
every day to the poor, frequently pelted me with stones, when they
gained the high ground of me; and I found it necessary, when I walked
out, to take my fuzee. I would have made a friend of the priest, if I
could have found him, but he never appeared! - It was a poor village, and
you may easily conceive our residence in such a little place, where no
stranger ever staid above an hour, occasioned much speculation. My
servant too (a French deserter) had neither the politeness nor the
address so common to his countrymen; but I knew I was _within a few
hours_ of honest _Pere Pascal_; and while the hog, mule, and ass of my
host continued well, I flattered myself I was not in much danger; had
either of those animals been ill, I should have taken my leave; for if a
suspicion had arose that an heretic was under their roof, they would
have been at no loss to account for the cause or the calamity which had,
or might befall them. - During my residence at this little _posada_, I
saw a gaudy-dressed, little, ugly old man, and a handsome young woman,
approach it; the man smiled in my face, which was the only smile I had
seen in the face of a stranger for a fortnight; he told me, what he need
not, that he was a Frenchman, and a noble Advocate of _Perpignan_; that
his name was _Anglois_, and that his ancestors were English; that he had
walked on foot, with his maid, from _Barcelona_, in order to pay his
devotions to the Holy Virgin of _Montserrat_, though he had his own
chaise and mules at _Barcelona_: he seemed much fatigued, so I gave him
some chocolate, for he was determined, he said, to get up to the convent
that night. During this interview, he embraced me several times,
professed a most affectionate regard for me and my whole family; and I
felt enough for him, to desire he would fix the day of his return, that
I might not be out upon my rambles, and that he would dine and spend the
evening with me; in which case, I would send him back to _Barcelona_ in
my _cabriolet_; all which he chearfully consented to; and having lent
him my _couteau de chasse_, as a more convenient weapon on ass-back than
his fine sword, we parted, reluctantly, for five days; that was the time
this _noble Advocate_ had allotted for making his peace with the Holy
Virgin; - I say, his peace with the Holy Virgin; for he was very
desirous of leaving _his_ virgin with us, as she was an excellent cook,
and a most faithful and trusty servant, both which he perceived we
wanted; yet in spite of his encomiums, there was nothing in the
behaviour of the girl that corresponded with such an amiable character:
she had, indeed a beautiful face, but strongly marked with something,
more like impudence than boldness, and more of that of a pragmatic
mistress than an humble servant; and therefore we did not accept, what I
was very certain, she would not have performed. I impatiently, however,
waited their return, and verily believed the old man had bought his
crimson velvet breeches and gold-laced waistcoat in honour of the
Virgin, and that his visit to her was a pious one. - He returned to his
time, and to a sad dinner indeed! but it was the best we could provide.
He had lost so much of that vivacity he went up with, that I began to
fear I had lost his friendship, or he the benediction of the Holy
Virgin. Indeed, I had lost it in some measure, but it was transferred
but a little way off; for he took the first favourable occasion to tell
my wife, no woman had ever before made so forcible an impression upon
him, and said a thousand other fine things, which I cannot repeat,
without losing the esteem I still have for my countryman; especially as
he did not propose staying only _one night_ with us, nay, that he would
depart the next morning _de bon matin_. During the evening, all his
former spirits returned, as well as his affection for me: he told me, he
suspected I wanted money, and if that was the case, those wants should
be removed; so taking out a large parcel of gold _duras_, he offered
them, and I am persuaded too, he would have lent or given them to me. I
arose early, to see that my man and chaise were got in good order, to
conduct so good a friend to _Barcelona_; but not hearing any thing of
_Monsieur Anglois_, I directed my servant to go into his chamber, to
enquire how he did; - my man returned, and said, that _Madame_ was awake,
but that _Monsieur_ still sleeps. Madame! what Madame? said I! - Is it
the young woman who came with him? I then found, what I had a little
suspected, that the mountain virgin was not the _only_ virgin to whom
_Monsieur Anglois_ made his vows. He soon after, however, came down,
drank chocolate with us, and making a thousand professions of inviolable
regard, he set off in my chaise for _Barcelona_; but I should have told
you, not till he had made me promise to visit him at _Perpignan_, where
he had not only a town, but country house, at my service. - All these
professions were made with so much openness, and seeming sincerity,
that I could not, nor did doubt it; and as I was determined then to
leave that unhospitable country, and return to France, I gave him my
_passa-porte_, to get it _refreshed_ by the Captain-General at
_Barcelona_, that I might return, and pass _by_ the walls only of a town
I can never think of but with some degree of pain, and should with
horror, but that I now know there is one man lives in it, and did
then,[D] who has lamented that he had not an opportunity to shew me
those acts of hospitality his nature and his situation often give him
occasion to exercise; but the _etiquette_ is, for the stranger to visit
first; and I found but little encouragement to visit a German Gentleman,
though married to an English Lady, after the hostile manners I had
experienced from my _friends_ and _countrymen_, Messrs. _Curtoys_,
_Wombwell_, &c.



In the archives of _Montserrat_ they shew you a letter written to the
Abbe by King Philip the second, who begins, "venerable and devout
_Religieux_," and tells him, he approves of his zeal, of his building a
new church at _Montserrat_, charges him to continue his prayers for him,
and, to shew his zeal for that holy house, informs him, that the bearer
of his letter is _Etienne Jordan_, the most famous sculptor then in
Spain, who is to make the new altar-piece at the King's expence, and
they agreed to pay _Jordan_ ten thousand crowns for the design he laid
before them: the altar was made at _Valladolid_, and was brought to
_Montserrat_ on sixty-six waggons; and as Jordan did much more to the
work than he had engaged to perform, the King gave him four thousand
crowns over and above his agreement, and afterwards gave nine thousand
crowns more, to gild and add further ornaments to it.

At the death of Philip the Second, his son, Philip, the Third, assisted

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Online LibraryPhilip ThicknesseA Year's Journey through France and Part of Spain, 1777 Volume 1 (of 2) → online text (page 9 of 11)