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[207]

With a middling class thus oppressed and ignorant, a nobility so gross and unworthy, and a court worse than all below it, the strangers whom accident, curiosity, or occupation bring together at Madrid take refuge in one another's society. The points of union and meeting are the houses of the different persons belonging to the corps diplomatique, and thus all the strangers who have been bred in a more refined and more respectable state of society, together with a few Spanish families, who from living in foreign countries have caught more or less of foreign culture and manners,—like the Duchess of Ossuna, the Marchioness de Mos, the Marquis de Sta. Cruz, the Prince of Anglona, etc.,—make a society completely apart from the Spanish, and with a tone and character altogether different. A more decided proof of the fallen state of manners and refinement could hardly be given than this elegant society, which, subsisting entirely by itself, is the object of considerable jealous repugnance to the higher classes of the Spaniards, who yet gladly come to its luxurious dinners and splendid fetes.

When I went into Spanish society, it was at the houses of the Marquis de St. Iago, the Marquis de Sta. Cruz, at Mr. Pizarro's, the Prime Minister, at the Duchess of Ossuna's, etc,, etc. I mention these because they are the best. That at the Marquis de St. Iago was the most truly and unmixed Spanish that was open to foreigners in Madrid; that is, the most so where there was much elegance and show, for he is one of the first of the first class of grandees, and extremely rich. At his house, the tertulia assembled between ten and eleven every night, and was composed of the chief nobility who would consent to go out of their own houses. The amusement was gaming, and almost all the gentlemen smoked; many came dirtily dressed, and all were noisy, rude in their manners, and to a certain degree gross. It was, however, considered the most elegant and fashionable, as it certainly was the most numerous and splendid, merely Spanish tertulia in Madrid that I saw. I went to it rarely, and always only to see the Marquis's sister, Paulita, one of the sweetest and most interesting creatures in the world,—young, beautiful as a sibyl, full of genius and enthusiasm, and disinterestedly refusing to be married that she may keep her fortune, which is immense, in her own hands, and remit its income to her father, who is an exile, and whose title and wealth have been taken away and given to his child. She was the only Spanish young lady at Madrid whose conversation could interest for a moment, unless it were, indeed, a very well educated daughter of the Duchess de Ribas;


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