previous next


An opera-house they have not, nor are operas much in the Spanish taste and character, any more than tragedies. Philip V., however, who brought in their foreign tastes, built an opera-house in 1730, but Ferdinand VII., for reasons which I do not know, has pulled it down. Operas, notwithstanding this, are given alternately in the two theatres. . . . .

The great amusement—the national and prevailing amusement, which swallows up all the rest—is the fiestas de toros, the bull-fights. It is purely and exclusively Spanish, and the passion with which it is sought by all classes, and with which it always seems to have been sought, is inconceivable to one who has not witnessed it; and would be incredible upon common testimony, if we had not the histories of the gladiators and circenses, for examples before us. Of their earliest origin I have no knowledge, nor am I aware that any can be obtained; for almost nothing has been written upon them. . . . .

The first intimations I find of them are in the oldest Spanish Chronicle,—that dark chaos from which the elements of Spanish poetry and history are alike drawn, and which is itself hardly less interesting and instructive than either. There it is said, incidentally, that there were bull-fights in Saldaña, in 1124, on the marriage of Alfonso VII.; and there is an ancient tradition, which I think I have noticed in his Chronicle, that the Cid was a famous toreador, and that he was the first that ever fought bulls on horseback.1

They take place only in the summer, and during the months when the heat is not extreme,. . . . and it is always on Mondays, both morning and afternoon,—in the morning with six bulls, and in the afternoon with eight bulls; but each part of the day, if any one of the royal family is there,—which can seldom fail,—the people demand an extra victim by acclamation, and it is uniformly granted. Great preparations are made long beforehand. Fine bulls are brought from all parts of the kingdom,—the best from La Mancha, Navarre, and Andalusia, and are pastured near Madrid. Two days before the festival they are driven in, and, to my great dismay, I have several times met them in my evening rides, for they do not always treat the persons they meet so civilly as they treated Don Quixote near Saragossa. . . . On their arrival they are shut up in a pasture near the amphitheatre, and on Sunday evenings great crowds of the common people go out to see them, as if it were a show. . . . .

1 Mr. Ticknor sketches in many pages the growth, ceremonies, and mode of carrying on the bull-fights,—a long and minute description, which he afterwards arranged as an article for the ‘North American Review,’ July, 1825, Vol. XXI. p. 62.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Salda (Russia) (1)
Madrid (Spain) (1)
Caesaraugusta (Spain) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Elisha Ticknor (1)
Don Quixote (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
July, 1825 AD (1)
1730 AD (1)
1124 AD (1)
1st (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: