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[201] with all the privileges of royalty, and compel everybody on foot to take off his hat as he passes, and everybody in a carriage to stop and stand up. . . . . Every time I see this singularly picturesque crowd, mingled with the great number of the officers of the guard that are always there in splendid uniforms, and contrasted with the still greater number of monks and priests in their dark, severe costumes, I feel persuaded anew that it is the most striking moving panorama the world can afford. At about three quarters of an hour after sunset, when the Prado is usually quite full, the Angelus, or evening-prayer [bell], sounds in the neighboring convent, and the row of carriages stops as if by magic, while everybody on foot becomes fixed as a statue and prays. . . . .

As to theatres, Madrid has but two, and these have always been in a struggle for their existence, and even now can hardly be said to have gained a decided victory over the monks, and the Inquisition. The Principe is in general the best, since Mayquez, who is an eleve of Talma, and not a bad imitation of his master, though little else, acts there; but the Cruz is more interesting to me, because more of the original national pieces, written before the French dynasty came in, are represented there. I have been often to both as a means of learning the language, especially if any of the old plays were represented, and really all that is national in it delights me more and more. The ancient Spanish costumes, which are strictly observed, are so splendid and graceful, the ancient manners, which are no less imitated and observed, have something so original and noble, and the plays themselves are written in a style of poetry so proud and elevated, though often with bad taste, that when the play is by Lope, or Tirso de Molina, or Montalban, or Calderon, I think I had rather go to the Spanish theatre than to any other except the English. After the principal piece, some of their beautifully graceful national dances, the bolero, the polo, the fandango, or the manchegas, are performed with castanets, and the whole ends with what is called a saynete, a little piece less farcical than our afterpieces, which is to a regular play what an anecdote is to a novel, and represents to the life the manners of the lower or middling classes, which the Spanish actors play with more spirit and less caricature than those of any other nation. The great sin of both theatres is, that the majority of the longer pieces they represent are translations from ordinary French comedies, though it must be confessed they are becoming better in this respect; and that the national plays are coming more into fashion, and are oftener acted.


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