Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

Charles lived here half like a monk and half like a retired country gentleman. Although strictly attentive to his religious duties, he amused himself with his flowers, rides, mechanical experiments, and his young son, Don Juan of Austria. The ex-Emperor was sadly plagued by the villagers of Cuacos, who, then as always ill-conditioned, poached his trout in the Garganta, drove away his milk-cows, and threw stones at the future hero of Lepanto for climbing up their cherry-trees. His was no morbid unsocial misanthropy, but a true weariness of the world with which he had done, and a wish to be at rest: he sedulously avoided all allusion to politics. Neither was he in his dotage, although enfeebled in health from gout; his ambition and passions were subdued, but not his relish for intellectual and innocent recreations. He brought with him his old servants, who knew his wants and ways, and whose faces he knew: he had his book, his ride, his hobby, experiments, and his prayers; he had friends, some to tell his sorrows to and divide them, others to impart his joys to and double them; he had the play and prattle of his little boy. Phlegmatic and melancholy he was by constitution, and from the inherited taint of his mother; but the story of his having had the funeral service said over himself while alive is untrue: no record or tradition of the kind existed among the monks. Philip II., who feared his father might repent of his resignation, and wish again to resume the crown, kept a spy here, who daily reported to Secretary Vasquez every minute circumstance. The original letters, once in the Salesas at Madrid, were incorporated by Tomas Gonzalez in a work on this Retirada, which unfortunately is not yet printed. The ruin commenced by the French was completed by the Liberals of Cuacos, who, July 4, 1821, came and stole everything. They kept horses in the church, and made the Emperor's room a place for silk-worms. Recent sequestrations have again destroyed what the poor monks had partially restored, and chaos is come again.

[ocr errors]

'Never again will it be the lot of traveller to be welcomed, like ourselves, by these worthy men, to whom news and a stranger from the real living world was a godsend. The day was passed in sauntering about the ruined buildings and gardens with the good-natured garrulous brotherhood. At nightfall supper was laid for all the monks together at a long board, but the prior and procurador had a small table set apart in an alcove, where, "bidden to a spare but cheerful meal, I sat an honoured guest. As the windows were thrown wide open to admit the cool thyme-scented breeze, the eye in the clear evening swept over the boundless valley, and the nightingales sang sweetly in the neglected orange-garden, to the bright stars reflected like diamonds in the black tank below us. How often had Charles looked out, on a stilly eve, on this self-same and unchanged scene, where he alone was now wanting! When supper was done, I shook hands all round with my kind hosts, and went to bed in the chamber where the Emperor breathed his last. All was soon silent, and the spirit of the mighty dead ruled again in his last home; but no Charles disturbed the deep slumber of a weary insignificant stranger. Long ere daybreak next morning I was awakened by a pale monk, and summoned to the early mass, which the prior în his



his forethought had ordered. The chapel was imperfectly lighted; and the small congregation consisted of the monk, my sun-burnt muleteer, and a stray beggar, who, like myself, had been sheltered in the convent. When the service was concluded, all bowed a last farewell to the altar on which the dying glance of Charles had been fixed, and departed in peace. The morning was grey, and the mountain air keen; nor was it until the sun had risen high that the carol of the light-hearted maidens dispelled the cowl, and relaid the ghost of Charles in the dim pages of history.'-pp. 550-553.

This is indeed a beautiful description-light, yet complete: how admirably the pathos is relieved by its setting: you open and close among the gay dancing village girls.

We wish we could, by way of conclusion, produce here at length what will be, for very many readers of the book, its most interesting chapter-a wise as well as witty one on Spanish railways. It is an awful damper-enough to make Birmingham hiss despair-enough to add a yet more horrific shriek to the infernal gamut of the locomotive whistle. In this age of quackery we should look in vain for anything to match the scheme of railways for the Spanish Peninsula--the grand Madrid and Aviles junction by Valladolid and Leon!-the grand Madrid and Barcelona line by Zaragoza and Lerida!the grand Madrid and Alicante! the grand Madrid and Cadiz! the grand Madrid and Badajoz!-to be connected of course with the grand web of Portugal! But only look at the map. See the enormous distances-the vast desert plainsthe huge obstinate hard sierras intersecting the desolate illpeopled wildernesses. Consider the fewness and the poverty of the far-separated, withered, idle, tradeless towns-even the metropolis inferior in every resource to any second-rate English city: a venerable adage asserts that the angels have many a tusslé among themselves for a place in the celestial balcony that commands the best view of Madrid-but the capital of Spain is not larger than Edinburgh, and there is more wealth and business in one street of Liverpool. Consider the lazy, loitering, do-nothing character of the lounging nation-abstemious in every thing but cigars and love-the Asiatic fixture of the West. Consider that for what little traffic there is, never as yet have decent roads been provided. Consider that the existing traffic has, from immemorial time, been in the hands and the sole support of the most energetic body of men in Spain-that railways, if successfully established by force of English gold, must be ruin to the muleConsider the resistance of these sturdy myriads and their innumerable allies-their revenge-how easily they will impede, how instantaneously they will destroy. Consider finally the fate



of Spanish Bonds. We have no doubt that many of our readers are overburdened with money-their case is hard-they have our imaginative sympathy-no doubt they must endeavour to get some means of relief-but we venture to suggest that a chainbridge from Dover to Calais, or a tunnel between Portpatrick and Donaghadee, would be a more judicious plan on the whole than the Spanish rail. Meanwhile be contented in all the really interesting parts of Spain with your horse or your mule, and if this Hand-book finds you at Madrid, take Mr. Ford's advice→

'Hurry across the Castiles and central provinces by day and night in swift coaches, by extra post and mails, until the rails can convey you quicker; above all things beware of walking or riding journeys, especially in winter or summer: preferable even is the mud, wet, and cold of the former, to the calcining heats of the latter, which bake the mortal clay until it is more brittle than an olla, and more combustible than a cigar. Those "rayes," to use the words of old Howell, "that do but warm you in England, do half roast you here; those beams that irradiate onely, and gild your honey-suckled fields, do here scorch and parch the chinky gaping soyle, and put too many wrinkles upon the face of your common mother." Then, when the heavens and earth are on fire, and the sun drinks up rivers at one draught, when one burnt sienna tone pervades the tawny ground, and the green herb is shrivelled up into black gunpowder tea or souchong, and the rare pale ashy olive-trees are blanched into the livery of the desert-then, when the heat and harshness make even the salamander muleteers swear doubly as they toil along like demons in an ignited salitrose dust-then, indeed, will an Englishman discover that he is made of the same material, only drier, and learn to estimate water. But a good thirst is too serious an evil in Spain to be made, like an appetite, a matter of congratulation; for when all fluids evaporate, and the blood thickens into currant jelly, and the nerves tighten up into the catgut of an overstrung fiddle, getting attuned to the porcupinal irritability of the tension of the mind, how the parched soul sighs for the comfort of a Scotch mist, and fondly turns back to the uvula-relaxing damps of Devon;-then, in the Hagar-like thirst of the wilderness, every mummy hag rushing from a reed hut, with a porous cup of brackish water, is changed by the mirage into a Hebe, bearing the nectar of the immortals; then how one longs for the most wretched Venta, which heat and thirst convert into the Clarendon, since in it at least will be found water and shade, and an escape from the god of fire. Well may Spanish historians boast that his orb at the Creation first shone over Toledo, and never since has set on the dominions of the great king, who, as we are assured by Berni (Creacion, p. 82), "has the sun for his hat "—tiene al sol por su sombrero; but humbler mortals who are not grandees of this solar system, and to whom a coup de soleil is neither a joke nor a metaphor, should double up sheets of brown paper in the crown of their beavers-sic nos servavit Apollo-and oh! ye our fair readers who value complexion, take for heaven's sake a parasol.' M 2


Surely every reader will acknowledge that this hand-book is the work of a most superior workman-master of more tools than almost any one in these days pretends to handle, and among them of some which few indeed could have meddled with, and not cut their fingers. In whatever shape it might have pleased him to present himself, the public must have hailed with admiring respect the combination of so much keen observation and sterling sense with learning à la Burton and pleasantry à la Montaigne.

Williams Ewart Gladzione

ART. VII.-The Life of the Rev. Joseph Blanco White, written by Himself; with portions of his Correspondence. Edited by John Hamilton Thom. In 3 vols. 8vo. London, 1845. THIS is a book which rivets the attention, and makes the heart

bleed. We state so much, without taking into account the additional power and interest which it must acquire in the minds of many who still live, from personal associations with its author and subject. It has, indeed, with regard to himself, in its substance though not in its arrangement, an almost dramatic character; so clearly and strongly is the living, thinking, acting man projected from the face of the records which he has left. The references to others, accordingly, with which the book abounds, are, by comparison, thrown into the shade; and yet our readers may apprehend that even these are sufficiently significant, when we add, that among the many persons to whom Mr. Blanco White alludes as beloved and intimate friends, perhaps none are more prominently named than Mr. Newman, and, even to a much later period, Archbishop Whately.

But, further, the interest of the work is not merely concentrated upon the writer: it is also very much compressed within the limits of his mental history; and it embraces his external fortunes, chiefly as they were dependent upon that. His literary tastes and his political labours might justly deserve some detailed notice; but all the space that we can spare must be devoted to matters of deeper import. For his spirit was a battle-field, upon which, with fluctuating fortune and a singular intensity, the powers of belief and scepticism waged, from first to last, their unceasing war; and within the compass of his experience are presented to our view most of the great moral and spiritual problems that attach to the condition of our race.

A rapid sketch of his history will enable our readers to judge of the delicacy and difficulty of the task we undertake. He was born in 1775, at Seville. A Spaniard, of Irish extraction by the


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

father's side, he was intended in early years, though he was of gentle blood, for the calling of a merchant. His apprenticeship commenced at the age of eight. But he hated the countinghouse and loved his books:' and naturally enough, we presume, in his position, learning and the Church were to him inseparable ideas.' It is material to apprehend clearly this the first change in the direction of his course and we remark, that in relating it in 1830, he says, his mind hit instinctively upon the only expedient that could release him from his mercantile bondage, § Divines declared that he had a true call to the ecclesiastical career. He readily advanced in the theoretical part of his education, but he regarded the devotional practices with horror.|| At fourteen, he was sent to study philosophy with the Dominicans of the college of Seville, whose lectures were founded on Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas. Here occurred his second act of mental rebellion. The system of instruction was odious to him: and 'a great love of knowledge,¶ and an equally great hatred of established errors, were suddenly developed in his mind.' His instructors denied the possibility of a vacuum; and attributed the ascent of liquids by suction to the horror of nature at being wounded and torn.'** The works of the Benedictine Feyjoo, which had come into his hands, imparted to him the true view of these physical questions. Being rebuked by his teacher, for inattention, in the lecture-room and before the whole class, he started up and denounced the falsity of the doctrine which was inculcated there. At this time he began to question, except upon matter of religion, all the settled notions of his relatives; and his mother, to whom he gives credit for great penetration, thanked Heaven that Spain was his native country; else he would soon quit the pale of the Church.'††

He was, however, transferred to the university of Seville, where he received more congenial instruction from such members of the Society of the Jesuits as lingered there after the suppression of the order. With his friends he organized a private society for the cultivation of poetry and literature. But he also attached himself to the oratory of St. Philip Neri,‡‡ at which the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius were practised. He has supplied us with a very remarkable, and apparently an impartial, description of them.§§ They had a sufficient effect upon him to prevent his abandoning the intention to receive holy orders; yet he went through them with a consciousness, never subdued, of strong dislike.||||~ The fear of giving pain to his mother, whose domestic influence was supreme,

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »