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Chapter 10:

  • Madrid.
  • -- the Prado. -- theatres. -- Spanish people. -- the Court. -- society in Madrid. -- the diplomatic corps. -- excursion to the Escorial. -- St. Ildefonso. -- Segovia.


to me, the Prado is an inexhaustible source of amusement. In the first place, it is in itself the finest public walk I have ever seen within the walls of any city, not excepting either the Tuileries or the Chiaja. It begins at the gate of Atocha, and, passing the superb entrance of Alcala, extends round to the convent and gate of the Recoletos. Anciently it was an uneven meadow of little beauty, but famous for being the scene of the plots, murders, duels, and intrigues of the city and court, as may easily be gathered from the familiar use made of it in the novels of Cervantes and Le Sage, the plays of Lope, and indeed the old comedies and romances generally. It was not, however, until the middle of the last century, when the neighboring palace of Buen Retiro rose into favor, that Charles III. levelled it, planted it with trees, and made it the beautiful walk it now is. As you enter it from the gate of Alcala, or rather from the street next to it, you find yourself in a superb, wide opening called the Saloon; on your right hand a double walk, and on your left, first the place where the carriages parade, and afterwards another double walk, the whole ornamented with three fine fountains, and eight rows of trees, statues, marble seats, etc. During the forenoon, and nearly all the afternoon, no part of the city in summer is so silent and deserted as this; and yet, when the heats will permit, it is a spot which of all others here most solicits you by its freshness, its solitude, and its shade. At five o'clock the whole Prado is watered, to prevent the dust which would otherwise be intolerable. Just before sundown the carriages and crowd begin to appear; and about half an hour after the exhibition is in its greatest splendor. On your left hand are two rows of carriages, forming a complete line, slowly moving up and down on each side, while the king and the infantas dash up and down in the middle [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. [202]

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. . . . . [203]

At length the long-desired day arrives, and, for all purposes of business, Madrid is like a Protestant Sunday. The whole city throngs to the circus, even to the very lowest class of the populace; and I have often seen more waiting on the outside-merely to hear, and echo and enjoy, the shouts and stories that come from within, because they could not afford to pay the price of admittance—than the entire amphitheatre could contain. For myself, I cannot speak with any of the skill or assurance of a connoisseur. I never went but twice, and then stayed only long enough the first time to see four bulls killed, and the second time three, for it was physically impossible for me to stay any longer. The horrid sights I witnessed completely unmanned me, and the first time I was carried out by one of the guards, and the second time I was barely able to get out alone. Still, however, I saw all the operations and manoeuvres, as much as if I had been there a hundred times, and had all the technics and pedantry of the art at my command; and what was wanting in the practice and experience of a hardened amateur was fully made up to me by the vivacity with which I felt everything, and the deep impression its splendors, its dangers, and its cruelties made on my memory. . . . . Nothing can prevent the crowd from going if they have the money necessary to pay their admittance; and if they have it not, instances have been known where they have sold everything they possessed in the world to get it; and. . . . I was shown a man who was so absolutely destitute of all means, that he married the evening previous, as the only way of obtaining them. Nothing, in short, can hinder them, not even the heats, which hinder everything, and almost bring life itself to a pause in Madrid; and if they cannot get seats on the shady side of the amphitheatre, they will sit in the sun during one of the burning noons of July and September; and do it so heedlessly, that the first bull-fights given after the dog-days this year sent a crowd of patients to the hospital, thirty-eight of whom died within ten days afterwards of fevers caught there.

Nor are these the only fatal effects. The interest the common people take in everything relating to this festival rises afterwards, at any moment of excitement, to passion and guilt. Quarrels arise about a favorite picador or banderillero, that are never appeased; the details of one of these shows become the source of family bitterness for life; and only a few days ago, one Monday afternoon, as I was just going into the palace of the Prince de Laval to dinner, a man stabbed his brother, who fell dead before me at the door I was entering, in [204] consequence of a difference that had thus arisen in the amphitheatre in the morning2 . . . . .

It is a curious and interesting sight to see the people, when, from their union in a great mass, they feel their own strength, and when, from their excitement, they enter into the rights of their own importance and power,—when, in fact, they feel themselves to be what they are, and become for the moment free in consequence of it. Royalty is little respected on Mondays in Madrid, and therefore whatever the people persist in requiring in the amphitheatre,—even to the extreme cruelty of putting fire upon the bull's back to goad his fury,—is always granted, to avoid unpleasant consequences. Their exclamations and cries, too, which from the excitement under which they are uttered often seem revolutionary, are sometimes curious, and such as on any other occasion would be found offensive and dangerous. Of an uncommonly brave and persevering bull, several young men in my neighborhood cried out repeatedly that he was fit to be the president of the Cortes, and of another, who shrunk from the contest after receiving only two blows from the picador, apparently the same persons kept shouting,. . . . that he was as cowardly as a king. . . . The bull-fights are, indeed, a warrant and apology for all sorts of licentiousness in language, in the same way the Roman shows were; and, like the amphitheatre of Flavius, that of Madrid would furnish a little anthology of popular wit, which, though it might strongly savor of vulgarity, could hardly fail to be very characteristic and amusing. . . . .

After all, however, the people are not so bad as might reasonably be anticipated from all the means that seem to be studiously taken to corrupt them. The lower class especially is, I think, the finest materiel I have met in Europe to make a great and generous people; [205] but this material is either unused or perverted. Talent is certainly not wanting, and instruction to a certain point is very general. Nearly everybody can read and write, and if they can do no more, it is because the monks, who manage all the education of the country, find it for their interest to stop them here. In disposition, and turn of character, they vary in different provinces. In Catalonia they are industrious and active; in Aragon, idle, proud, and faithful; in Castile, cold and rude, but still attaching themselves easily to those who are kind to them; and in Andalusia, light-hearted, giddy, cruel, and revengeful. Galicia furnishes water-carriers to all Madrid, and they have among themselves a tremendous police, which insures the honesty of the individuals, and sometimes even inflicts secretly the punishment of death; but the government tolerates without acknowledging it, because the Gallegos are not unjust, and their opportunities and temptations to dishonesty are so great, that, though you never hear of an instance of it, much is due to their police. They are the hardiest and most enterprising of all the Spaniards, and, at the season of the harvest, may be found all over Castile and Estramadura, and even in Portugal, gathering it for the idle inhabitants; some remain afterwards as servants, and some are to be found in little shops and inns everywhere in Spain; but when they have accumulated a subsistence, they are almost sure to go home to die in peace at last. These different characters are so distinctly marked in the different provinces, that it seems as if you had changed country every time you pass from one to another; but still there are some traits in common to them all. One of the most striking—and one, it seems to me, on which many of their national virtues are founded—is a kind of instinctive uprightness, which prevents them from servility. I have seen the lowest class of the people, such as gardeners, bricklayers, etc., who had never seen the king, perhaps, in their lives, suddenly spoken to by him; but I never saw one of them hesitate or blush, or seem confounded in any way by a sense of the royal superiority. And in a country where the noxious luxury of a great number of servants is so oppressive, it is curious to see with what familiarity they treat their masters; joining in the conversation at the Duchess of Ossuna's, for instance, while they wait at table, correcting the mistakes of their statements, etc., but in all cases and under all circumstances without for an instant offending against the most genuine and unaffected respect. The higher, however, you go up in society in Spain, the less the different classes are like what their situation ought to make them. As the means of respectable instruction fail almost altogether, the [206] middling class has by no means the strong, decided character it has in other countries. Except on the sea-coast, they cannot well have the ambition of accumulating wealth; because it will not give them rank in society; and as they are almost inevitably ignorant, they in general lead an idle, dull, and unworthy life; though still, when you do find a man who, by the mere force of his character, has raised himself above the level of this class, you are pretty sure to find something marked and distinguished. The highest class of all is deplorable. I can conceive nothing more monotonous, gross, and disgraceful than their manner of passing their day and their life. . . . .

I was presented at court, as it is better a stranger should be in Spain; and afterwards went occasionally to see the show, which is sometimes magnificent. Not one of the royal family is able to manage even the common formal conversation of a presentation, except Don Francisco; and the king was guilty of the marked folly of always talking to me about his Father in Rome, with extreme interest, making inquiries how he looked, etc., as if he were notoriously the most affectionate son in the world. The besa-manos (kissing hands) is, however, the grand exhibition, and in fact is unique in its kind, for nothing like it is to be seen at any other court in Europe. The ceremony is this. On the great court festivals, the magnificent saloon of the ambassadors is dressed out in all its gala; the royal family, in all the royal paraphernalia, stand in a row opposite to the entrance, and as many of their subjects as have a court dress, or a dress that warrants them to appear at court, come and kiss their royal hands in token of allegiance. Of course all in office come in their spendid uniforms, all above a lieutenant of the military, all the nobles of the realm, the heads of the monastic orders in their humble, solemn habits, the king's body-guards with their finery, etc., etc.; in short, as mingled and splendid a show of magnificent dresses, contrasted and broken, occasionally, by the plain and sober suits of the clergy, as I can well imagine, and in no small number, too, for I one day remember to have seen between thirteen and fourteen hundred, who thus voluntarily passed under the yoke. It was there I first saw the distinguished men whose names were so famous in Spain and in Europe, only a few years ago,— Palafox, the Marquis of St. Simond, the Duke of Infantado, the Maid of Zaragoza, dressed as a captain of dragoons, and with a character as impudent as her uniform implies, etc., etc.; and, indeed, aside from this, the mere show is more magnificent than can be seen at any other court in Europe; but this is all there is, at Madrid, that can interest or amuse any stranger at the palace for a moment. [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; [208] and she was the only person at this tertulia of the St. Iago family, who could have induced me to go there a second time, for any purpose but that of persuading myself anew of the rudeness and corruption of the highest class in Spain.

The Marchioness de Sta. Cruz, who is certainly the most elegant Spanish woman in her manners at Madrid, did not make a regular tertulia at her house, because she went at ten o'clock every night to her mother's, the Duchess of Ossuna; but until that time she received all who came. The Spaniards, however, evidently did not like it, for they could not feel the charm of such manners as the Marchioness has learnt in better societies and more refined countries, so that after all the tone here was more foreign, and there were more visitors from the corps diplomatique than from all the rest of the capital.

At the Prime Minister's were to be found high officers of the government, those who desired to become so, pretenders to place, and those who feared to lose it, et hoc genus omne, together with the gentlemen of the diplomacy and the foreigners they introduced. Mr. Pizarro seldom came, for he really had not time. He is—I write after his fall and exile—an honorable, honest man, with respectable talents, firmness, and perseverance, but often unpleasant in society from great personal vanity. His wife—who is still to be called young, and will long be beautiful—was the most estimable and respectable Spanish woman I knew in Madrid; besides that, she had received an uncommonly good education abroad. She was born in Constantinople, and lived there many years, so that she yet speaks modern Greek easily, as her nurse was an Albanian; she also speaks Turkish tolerably. After her father's return,—for he was minister there,—she married Mr. Pizarro, and has been with him at several of the courts of Europe, and added elegance of manners to her other accomplishments, while grace and beauty were born with her. In her own house, where she lived without show, because her husband administered the royal favor and was still poor, she was simple and kind; and in the diplomatic parties, where she was almost always found, she was sought for her unaffected manners and her elegant conversation.

The house, however, to which I went most frequently, was that of the Duchess of Ossuna,—a woman extraordinary alike from her rank, her talents, and her wealth. I know not how many titles she unites in her person and her family, nor how many fortunes have served to form the foundation of her immense incomes, but the number is great. At one time during the Revolution she was, notwithstanding [209] all this, reduced by the French to nothing, for every one of her estates was confiscated, and herself with all her children and grandchildren shut up in one small, poor house in Cadiz during the whole siege. She has often described to me how gayly and happily she lived there; and when I was in Cadiz, I was told she continued during the whole siege the most light-hearted person in the garrison. She keeps the most splendid Spanish establishment in Madrid, and passes every Thursday at her country-seat, where I used sometimes to go with the Duke de Laval, to take a late dinner, and ride into Madrid in the evening; but still she did not like to have a great deal of company at her tertulias; and as there was no gaming, not many of the higher class of Spaniards liked to come. She, however, always had her children; and her children are the first persons at court, both by their talents and culture. . . .

Of course all these houses were but places where I went only now and then, either to exercise myself in speaking Spanish, to see foreign, new, and strange manners, or to meet one or two persons that interested me. The society on which I relied for rational conversation and agreeable intercourse was the foreign and diplomatic, which had its stated rendezvous and amusements, five evenings every week, and afforded a refuge on the others.

On Sunday evening there was always a quiet, sober party at Sir Henry Wellesley's. He himself is a man of not more than common talents, but of sound judgment, and altogether a respectable English gentleman.

The chief secretary of the legation, Mr. Vaughan, is a Fellow of Oxford, about five-and-thirty years old, who, though in the opposition, has made his way by talent and learning, and is soon to become a minister. For five years he had a travelling fellowship, and employed it in going through the interior of Asia, crossing down from Russia into Persia, and coming back by Palestine and Greece; altogether one of the most romantic expeditions I have ever heard of, and he himself altogether an interesting man. . . . .

On Tuesday evening everybody went to the soiree of the Countess de Balbo, wife of the ambassador from Sardinia. She is now very old, and being a Parisian, and daughter of a man distinguished by his rank and talents, had to pass through many vicissitudes during the Revolution, and relates a vast number of interesting anecdotes of French society, from the time of Buffon and Franklin down to the elevation of Bonaparte. The Count was no doubt the most learned and sound man in Madrid. He has passed a great part of his life in [210] study and learned society; is himself the head and chief support of the Academy of Turin; and, after being ambassador all over Europe, has, since I left Madrid, been called home to be Minister of State, and Director of Public Instruction,—an office for which he asked on account of the quiet it would give him in his old age; at the same time he refused the splendid appointment of viceroy of the island of Sardinia, which was sent to him while I was at Madrid. I used to dine with him often in an unceremonious way, and enjoyed much the overflow of his very extensive and judicious learning, for he is in this respect one of the most distinguished men I have seen in Europe. The Duke de Laval, when there was any doubt or question about anything that could not be settled, always used to say, ‘Eh bien done, demandez à Monsieur de Balbe, car il sait tout’; and when I heard him converse I often thought so. Caesar, his only son, a young man about two years older than myself, on whose education he has bestowed unwearied pains, was, among those of his own age, what his father was in the oldest class,—the first at Madrid. He has much learning, good taste, and sense for all that is great and beautiful, extraordinary talents, and an enthusiasm which absolutely preys upon his strength and health. But, though he is passionately fond of letters, his whole spirit is eaten up with political and military ambition. He thinks of nothing but Italy, and, taking his motto from his favorite Dante, ‘Ahi serva Italia di dolore ostello,’ etc., is continually studying the Principe and Arte di Guerra, and dreaming over Machiavelli's grand plan to consolidate it all into one great, splendid empire, with the Alps for a barrier against the intrusions of the North. I knew him intimately, for there was seldom a day we did not meet at least once, and I shall always remember him with affection, for it is rare in Europe to meet a young man with so high talents and so pure a character. On Wednesday evening there was a convocation at the house of the Minister of Russia. He has of late played a bold part in Spanish politics, and a year ago had such personal and immediate influence with the king, that he could nominate or displace a ministry at will; but, since the unfortunate sale of the Russian fleet, his power has declined. In all respects, however, he is a curious study in the great book of the knowledge of the world. He is, on the whole, to be called ignorant of books, and is certainly an idle, lazy man; but his genius is strong, bold, and original, and he makes his way in the palace merely by the imposing weight of talent. Au reste, he is careless and capricious, and the chief part he plays in society is at the whist-table, [211] of which he is immoderately fond. His wife, Mad. de Tatistcheff, is a Polish woman, old enough to have a daughter by an earlier husband grown up, but still beautiful, and an accomplished coquette. The daughter, who has been educated entirely in England, is without much talent or beauty; natural, simple, and good, and with a French and an English girl, whom Mad. de Tatistcheff has in her family, made a pleasant society. Wednesday evening, however, was the most splendid evening in the week at Madrid. Mad. de Tatistcheff had fitted up a neat theatre, and the party always began by a little French farce or comedy, which some of the diplomatists performed well, and which was amusing. She, however, never took a part in it, but reserved herself for an exhibition of more taste and effect afterwards; I mean the singularly striking and beautiful one of making natural pictures, for which her fine person admirably fitted her. This art was invented by the famous Lady Hamilton. When Goethe was in Italy, he was bewitched with it, and when he afterwards published his Wilhelm Meister, gave such glowing descriptions of the effect it is capable of producing, that all Germany took the passion for a while, and it has ever since been more successfully practised there than anywhere else. Mad. Schulze of Berlin, who represents in public, is now the most admired; but I never was where she exhibited, and those who have seen both, say Mad. de Tatistcheff is more beautiful, and does it with more taste and talent. . . . .

Compared with the magical effect it produces, the most beautiful picture is cold and dead, and the most beautiful woman uninteresting and prosaic; for here you have all the fancy, taste, and poetry of art, glowing with life and starting into reality; and while on the one hand the painter's talent chooses the attitude, arranges the costume, and distributes the lights and the colors, on the other, the warm, living form and the eye beaming with intelligence and feeling come to his aid, and give a grace beyond the reach of art. I shall therefore always remember Mad. de Tatistcheff's representations of Guercino's Penitent Magdalen, of Domenichino's Sibyl, of Raphael's St. Cecilia, and indeed all the many wonderful living pictures she made, as among the most striking pleasures I have enjoyed in Europe. Indeed, in all respects, if her husband made a great figure at court and in the palace, she sustained his reputation well in her drawing-room; for her Wednesday-evening fete, beginning with a play and these beautiful magical exhibitions, and ending as it always did with a ball, was the most splendid one in the week.

On Thursday evening, however, Lady Wellesley followed her,— [212] hand passibus oequis, to be sure,—but still with a beautiful entertainment. She had the finest garden in Madrid, and trusting to the invariable climate of Castile, used to illuminate it fancifully, and receiving her company there, made it a gay and graceful fete champetre, with dancing on the grass, music, a supper, etc. Nothing of the sort could be done with more taste, and perhaps if the majority of voices were taken, this would have been called, from the genuine, lighthearted enjoyment it gave, the pleasantest evening in the week.

On Saturday evening Prince Scilla, the Neapolitan Ambassador, and the richest of all the corps diplomatique, gave a concert and a ball. He is one of the best natured, kind-hearted, honorable gentlemen in the world,—and his family and legation are like himself,— and Saturday evening, therefore, was a pleasant one, because it was impossible to be in Prince Scilla's house, without feeling you were with kind, good people; and besides this, there was amusement enough and no ceremony. . . . .

Two persons I must not forget, for they were the two I knew the most intimately and familiarly. The first was my own minister, Mr. Erving, to whom I was introduced by Mr. Jefferson; and it was a matter of satisfaction to me to find my country represented by a man who was so much respected, both by the diplomacy, the government, and the Spaniards. As to the opinion of the diplomacy, I know it as well as I can know anything; and Mr. Pizarro and Mr. Garay made so little mystery of respecting Mr. Erving more than any other foreign minister at Madrid, that it gave a little umbrage to them all, as three of them have told me, and as I easily saw without being told. Moreover, the king's conduct to him personally at the levee, after he received the news of Jackson's taking Pensacola, and when, the Prince Laval had triumphantly told me the night before, and M. de Tatistcheff had told Caesar de Balbo, he would not venture to be seen at court, sufficiently showed what was the influence of his name and character, which he has entirely founded, as everybody there knows, on two rules,—never to ask anything however inconsiderable from anybody as a favor, and never to cease to insist upon what he ought to claim as a right. In his own house I found him very pleasant, for he has talent, a clear head, and considerable knowledge, though very little literature. His establishment was elegant, and he might easily have made it more so if he had chosen; but it was not necessary, for he was quite on a par with most of the ministers there. In short, I am clear there was not one of the diplomacy who understood his business better, or, taking the whole capital together, was more respected than Mr. Erving. [213]

The other person I refer to is the Prince and Duke de Laval Montmorency, of whom I have already spoken so often. He is one of the most distinguished noblemen in Europe, for he traces his ancestry ap to the remotest age of the French Monarchy, and there finds his progenitor to be the first nobleman in the country who received the Christian religion, and who thus gave to the family the title of ‘Premier Baron Chretien,’ which they still wear in their arms. Since then there has hardly been one of its generations that has not been marked by some of the great offices of the kingdom. They have repeatedly been married into the royal family of the Bourbons, have acquired successively the title of Count of Buchoven, and Prince of Laval from the German Empire, Duke of Laval, and peer of the realm in France, and Duke of San Fernando-Luis and grandee of the first class in Spain, besides all sorts of knighthoods, crosses, commanderships, etc., etc., and besides having been, more than once, at the head of affairs at home, and having often gained great battles abroad. I have never yet found anybody who was not ready to say that these honors are well placed on the prince that now wears them; for to more than common talents, and more than common acquired knowledge, he adds a genuine goodness that delights, above everything else, in promoting the happiness of all around him. In the last point he gave his own character exactly one evening, when he said to a lady that accused him of wishing to disoblige her: ‘Moi, madame? vous,— vous dites cela de moi? de moi, qui ai toujours eu l'ambition, que depuis le plus humble valet, jusqua au Roi, tout le monde dise, quand je passerai, c'est un excellent homme; il a le coeur profoundement bon’; and, in truth, I never saw him otherwise. Mad. de Stael loved him very much, and during her last sickness, when he happened to be at Paris, used to beg him to come and see her every day, that she might enjoy his brilliant conversation; for, even at Paris, he was famous for this talent, and at Madrid was unique. His dinners were by far the pleasantest there, for whatever there was of elegant talent and literature at Madrid were friends at his house, and, wherever he was, the conversation took a more interesting and cultivated turn than elsewhere. The daily rides that I made with him, and Caesar de Balbo, are among the brightest spots in my life in Europe, though perhaps I never disputed so much and so hotly, in a given time, in my life, for though he is nearly fifty years old, and has passed, with unmoved tranquillity, through the revolutions of the last thirty years, without taking part in any, he is in discussion as prompt, excitable, and enthusiastic as a young man of twenty; and as Caesar [214] de Balbo is the model of all that is bold, vehement, and obstinate, we used to have fine battles. Indeed the Duke do Laval, with whom I seldom failed to pass three or four hours, every day, in society somewhere, is one of the very few men I have met in Europe in whom I never saw anything to discourage the regard his general character and conduct inspired, and whom I shall always remember with unmingled gratitude and affection. . . .

Excursion to the Escorial.

Just before I left Madrid I took five days, from September 1st to the 6th, to visit the Escorial and St. Ildefonso, the two most famous royal ‘residences,’ and on all other accounts two of the most interesting spots in Spain. I set out early on the morning of the 1st, by the horse-post, which is the most agreeable mode of conveyance the country affords, and after traversing the dreary, barren waste round Madrid, in which for the space of thirty miles I saw only two meagre, dirty villages, and hardly a solitary tree, I at last entered the royal domains of the Escorial, where there are woods, if there is nothing else. These domains extend for many miles round the convent, and, even before I entered them, its domes and towers springing up on the dark, barren sides of the mountain, upon whose declivity it stands, were already visible. I spurred my horse with eagerness to greater speed, and just before eight o'clock reached the little village that has been formed round it, having, in this expeditious and not unpleasant mode of travelling, gone thirty-five (English) miles in four hours.

The Escorial is as vulgar a name as the Tuileries. It signifies the place where scoria are thrown, and it is so called because there was formerly an iron manufactory near, that threw its scoria on this spot. Its more just name is San Lorenzo el Reale, since it is a royal convent, dedicated to Saint Lorenzo. It is a monument of the magnificence, the splendor, the superstition, and perhaps the personal fears of Philip II. It was at the battle of St. Quintin, which happened on the day of this saint,—and which is painted in fresco by Giordano round the chief staircase of the convent,—that he made a secret vow to build a monastery in his honor, if he succeeded and escaped. The battle was gained, and in 1567 he began the convent, led to this spot by the circumstance that he had often hunted here, and perhaps by his gloomy disposition, which seemed always to delight in barrenness and desolation. . . . . The convent itself is worthy of the severest [215] influences of the most monkish ages. It is the only establishment I have ever met that satisfied all the ideas I had formed, of the size of a monastery such as Mrs. Radcliffe or Dennis Jasper Murphy describes, and which is here so immense that, in the space occupied by its chief staircase alone, a large house might be built. . . . . For two days I enjoyed walking about continually with the monks, the prior, and the Bishop of Toledo, who happened to be there.

The church of the convent would be reckoned among the large churches of Rome, and the beautiful ones of Italy. The instant I entered it, its light, disencumbered arches and dome, its broad, fine naves, and its massy, imposing pilasters reminded me of Palladio's works at Venice. . . . . Immediately below the chief altar is the Pantheon, the burial-place of the kings. It is small and circular, made of the richest marbles, and ornamented with bronze and precious stones, yet in a very plain, simple style of architecture, and, from the solemn air that breathes through the whole of it, much better fitted to its purpose, than the gorgeous burial-place of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany. The sarcophagi are all of bronze, and all alike, ranged one above another to the height, I think, of six, and each plainly marked with the name of him whose ashes it contains. Seven kings rest here, beginning with Charles V., and seven queens, since none are interred in this sacred and glorious cell but such as have given succession to the empire. . . . . The libraries are an important part of this establishment. The lower one contains the printed books, all neatly bound in the same plain livery, with their edges gilt, and their names written on the gilding, which is thus placed outwards instead of a label, and gives a very gay appearance to the collection. It was Philip II. who began it, and therefore it contains a great many books in Spanish literature that are now extremely rare; though, as there is neither order nor catalogue, it is almost impossible to find them, and those I observed were hit upon by chance. The library above, which is the manuscript library, is, as everybody knows, a great mine which is yet but imperfectly explored. The whole number is 4,300, of which 1,805 are Arabic, 567 Greek, a great number of curious Castilian, which chiefly engaged my attention, etc., etc. Philip III. added to it an immense number of Arabic manuscripts,3 which he took at sea, on board a vessel bound to Morocco; it would now be beyond all price, but that the greater part of it was burnt in 1671. Since the time of Philip IV., who finished the [216] ornaments of both the halls of the libraries, little has been added to either.

Among the manuscripts here should be mentioned those of their church service, which are the largest and most magnificent in their style of execution, illumination, etc., I ever saw, far before the famous ones of Florence. There are 220 of them, each so large that they can be carried only by two men on their shoulders. In the collection of reliques is a Greek manuscript of the Four Gospels, pretended—in an inscription that looks to be about the fourteenth century—to have belonged to St. Chrysostom. It is certainly ancient, written in initial capitals, etc., and deserves attention, if it has not received it.

The pictures which have been accumulated here are numerous, and scattered through the whole building,—in the aisles, the corridors, the galleries, and even the very cells. The chief collections, however, are in the church, the sacristy, and the two halls where the monks hold their chapters. Of the Italian schools the most abundant is the Venetian, but it is of course the Spanish that prevails, among whose masters the most frequent are Mudo, Carvajal, etc. There are a great many prodigiously fine works by Spagnoletto and Bassano, a few by Correggio, Caracci, and Titian, and even the Roman school, with its great head, is not wanting. In statuary, too, they have something, especially a Saint Lorenzo of great beauty, that is evidently of ancient Greek workmanship, transformed by the power of the church to what it now is; and a Christ Crucified, by Benvenuto Cellini, very fine, which he mentions in his Life, and which, if I mistake not, is singular among the works of this original and eccentric genius.

With all these resources, with the society of the monks, who are in number one hundred and twenty-three, and with the delightful music of the church, which, whether heard in its lofty, solemn naves, or echoed through the interminable aisles, that make the whole convent a labyrinth, falls on the ear like magic,—wish these resources I passed two short and very happy days at the Escorial.

It was at sundown, on the evening of the 2d, that I took leave of the prior and the bishop, and mounted my post-horse for St. Ildefonso. We galloped up the side of the mountain, by a fine bright evening, and descending partly down on the other side, came to St. Ildefonso,—or, as it is commonly called here, La Granja,—at ten o'clock, severely chilled, though in the plain the heat of the dog-star still rages; for St. Ildefonso is situated where no other monarch's palace is, in the region of the clouds, since it is higher up than the [217] crater of Vesuvius, and precisely at that elevation where the great clouds are commonly formed in summer.4 I sent my letter of introduction to Count Guaiaqui, a Peruvian nobleman of talent and an immense fortune, who was six years captain-general of his country, and has since refused the viceroyalty of Mexico. He called on me immediately, and brought the governor of the place, who offered me all sorts of civilities, and arranged my visit here, and at Segovia, in the pleasantest manner. The following morning I began my operations, conducted by Count Guaiaqui, and, in the course of a most beautiful day, enjoyed all that is to be seen at this royal sitio. It is entirely the work of Philip V. Before his time there was nothing here but a farm-house, belonging to a convent of Segovia, which he bought, struck by the beauty of the situation and the refreshing coolness of the climate, which afforded a delightful retreat from the oppressive heat of Madrid in summer. Philip was a Frenchman, who knew of nothing and conceived nothing more beautiful than Versailles. La Granja, therefore, is its miniature. There are three gates of entrance which form the front of the establishment,—the little village is within these gates, and before the palace, to which it serves only as offices and an appendage. Farther up is the palace; then come the gardens with the very beautiful fountains; and then the whole is closed up by the mountain covered with fine woods, and filled, until lately, with all sorts of game. . . . . The first thing we went to see was the glass manufactory, a royal plaything established by Philip in 1726; but, what is remarkable, the only royal manufactory in Spain that yet pays its own expenses. The work is ordinary, and in general trifling. . . . . From the manufactory we went with the governor, who came to find us, to the palace. It is a mere repetition of Versailles in its outline and arrangement, and like that, has a fine facade towards the gardens, and a chapel in front where are deposited, in a plain sarcophagus, the bones of its founder. The interior is finer, and better preserved than that of the palace of the Escorial, and has still its furniture and a part of its pictures, though the best are in Madrid. . . . . When we had finished all this we went to walk in the gardens, where my new friends showed me everything,. . . .the fountains, and the great reservoir on the side of the mountain that supplies them, all still reminding me of Versailles in miniature, though the situation and scenery are vastly finer. After this I went to dine with Count Guaiaqui,—the governor [218] promising me, that, if I would come to the gardens at five o'clock, all the fountains should play,—a great compliment to me, or rather to my letter of introduction from the Prince Laval. At five o'clock, then, I was there, and soon afterwards the show began. It was a delicious evening, one worthy of the Bay of Naples, and the sun was fast setting behind the mountain, to the westward of us. The village was all assembled in the gardens to see the fete, and added not a little to its picturesque effect, by giving life and movement to the scene. The first exhibition was of sixteen fountains, in a line ascending the hill, and composed of several hundred jets d'eaux, so arranged as to make one coup d'oeil of singular beauty and variety. The setting sun fell upon the whole series, and each had its little rainbow dancing on the white spray it threw up, while the foliage of the trees amidst which it was seen, and which sometimes opened and sometimes closed the view, made it seem the work of enchantment. I thought of the gardens of Armida, and the celestial fountain, which Southey, in his ‘Kehama,’ has formed of the blended and conflicting elements, but for once the reality exceeded the efforts of imagination. I could not be weary with looking at it; but at last my conductor took me by the elbow, and I went to see the fountain of Diana, which is imitated from Versailles, and the most poetical thought I have ever seen in this kind of ornament; but the imitation is finer than the original, the baths of Diana, which is, I suppose, the most magnificent single fountain in the world;. . . . but there was nothing so struck and delighted me as the first coup d'oeil, compared with which all there is at Versailles is a mere awkwardly combined plaything.

. . . . In the morning I rode on to Segovia. . . . . The first thing I did was to present a letter from Count Guaiaqui to the bishop,—a very respectable old man, who from an income of $30,000 a year gives $25,000 to the poor, and denies himself even the common luxury of a coach, which his age and infirmities really require. He gave me his secretary, a lively young Peruvian, for my guide to see the city. . . . The first thing we went to see was the cathedral, a curious and regular mixture of the Gothic and Greek architecture, but otherwise not interesting. The next was the Roman Aqueduct, called by the people ‘Puente del Diablo,’ for they have no idea such a stupendous work could be achieved by a personage of less authority and power. . . . . It begins outside of the city, and traverses the valley on a hundred and fifty-nine arches in the upper row, but not quite so many below, and goes to the hill where stands the castle. It is built of square-hewn stones, united without cement or clamps, [219] and is nevertheless so perfectly preserved, that it still serves the purpose for which it was built as well as when it was new; nobody knows its date, but it did not seem to me to be of the good ages of Roman architecture, though it is certainly one of the most solid and magnificent monuments that have come down to us from antiquity. . . .

My little secretary now resigned me into the secular hands of the general-commandant, to whom I also had letters, and who carried me immediately to see the military school of which he is the head. It is in the Alcazar, or castle, a remarkable building, whose front indicates a great antiquity, and whose ornaments and style are of the richest, most gorgeous Moorish architecture. It was once the residence of the kings of Castile, whose statues in wood, with those of the kings of Oviedo and Leon, from 700 to 1555, are all preserved here. For a long time, however, it was used only as a castle of state, and the last person that was confined here was Escoiquiz, in 1808. . . . . It was Charles III. that established the military school here, where one hundred and thirty-two young men of noble birth are educated for the army. They have eight professors (all officers),. . . . a respectable laboratory, a good philosophical apparatus, and an excellent military library of about twenty thousand volumes. . . . . I am satisfied there is no public institution I have seen in Spain that is established on so good a footing, and so well, regularly, and successfully conducted as this is. . . . .

Early in the morning of the 6th I mounted my post-horse and galloped over the mountains,. . . . arrived at Madrid at four o'clock, so little fatigued, that, after dining and resting, I wrote all the evening, and at ten o'clock went to Prince Scilla's, where I danced till midnight.

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.

2 Talking about bull-fights with the Duke de Laval, he spoke of the women's love of them, and said that, at the last, one of the royal princesses had driven the pica into the bull's neck,—the nail to which are attached the colors of the province from which the bull came. Mr. Ticknor said that he could scarcely believe that of any woman, but that she was a Portuguese, and might be pretty coarse. ‘Well,’ said the Ambassador, ‘you are going to court, of course,’ naming the day; ‘come and stand by me when the royal family pass, and I will make her boast of it.’ When the time came, Mr. Ticknor took his place by the Duke; the ladies of course stopped to speak with the Ambassador of France. When the Portuguese princess came, the Duke said to her that he heard they had a fine bull-fight on Monday. ‘O yes,’ she said; ‘and I did something towards its success, for I drove in the pica

3 There is a complete Catalogue of the Arabic manuscripts by Cassini, in two folios. Madrid, 1770.

4 See Humboldt, ‘Configuration du sol de l'espagne.’

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