The Project Gutenberg eBook of A Supplementary Chapter to the Bible in Spain

This ebook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and most other parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this ebook or online at If you are not located in the United States, you will have to check the laws of the country where you are located before using this eBook.

Title: A Supplementary Chapter to the Bible in Spain

Author: George Borrow

Editor: Thomas James Wise

Release date: July 20, 2009 [eBook #29469]

Language: English


Transcribed from the 1913 Thomas J. Wise pamphlet by David Price, email  Many thanks to Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library, UK, for kindly supplying the images from which this transcription was made.

Cover of pamphlet

Facsimile of last page of pamphlet

supplementary chapter

Inspired by
ford’shand-book for travellers in spain.”


printed for private circulation


In 1845 Richard Ford published his Hand-Book for Travellers in Spain and Readers at Home [2 Vols. 8vo.], a work which still commands attention, and the compilation of which is said to have occupied its author for more than sixteen years.  In conformity with the wish of Ford (who had himself favourably reviewed The Bible in Spain) Borrow undertook to produce a study of the Hand-Book for The Quarterly Review.  The following Essay was the result.

But the Essay, brilliant as it is, was not a ‘Review.’  Not until page 6 of the suppressed edition (p. 25 of the present edition) is reached is the Hand-Book even mentioned, and but little concerning it appears thereafter.  Lockhart, then editing the Quarterly, proposed to render it more suitable for the purpose for which it had been intended by himself interpolating a series of extracts from Ford’s volumes.  But Borrow would tolerate no interference with his work, and promptly p. 8withdrew the Essay, which had meanwhile been set up in type.  The following letter, addressed by Lockhart to Ford, sufficiently explains the position:

June 13th, 1845.

Dear Ford,

El Gitanosent me a paper on theHand-Bookwhich I read with delightIt seemed just another capital chapter of hisBible in Spain,” and I thought, as there was hardly a word ofreview,’ and no extract giving the least notion of the peculiar merits and style of theHand-Book,” that I could easily (as is my constant custom) supply the humbler part myself, and so present at once a fair review of the work, and a lively specimen of our friend’s vein of eloquence in exordio.

But, behold! he will not allow any tampering . . . I now write to condole with you; for I am very sensible, after all, that you run a great risk in having your book committed to hands far less competent for treating it or any other book of Spanish interest than Borrow’s would have been . . . but I consider that, after all, in the case of a new author, it is the first duty ofThe Quarterly Reviewto introduce that author fully and fairly to the public.

Ever Yours Truly,
J. G. Lockhart.

p. 9The action of Lockhart in seeking to amend his Essay excited Borrow’s keenest indignation, and induced him to produce the following amusing squib:—

Would it not be more dignified
To run up debts on every side,
And then to pay your debts refuse,
Than write for rascally Reviews?
And lectures give to great and small,
In pot-house, theatre, and town-hall,
Wearing your brains by night and day
To win the means to pay your way?
I vow by him who reigns in [hell],
It would be more respectable!

This squib was never printed by Borrow.  I chanced to light upon it recently in a packet of his as yet unpublished verse.

The Essay itself is far too interesting, and far too characteristic of its author, to be permitted to remain any longer inaccessible; hence the present reprint.  The original is a folio pamphlet, extending to twelve numbered pages.  Of this pamphlet no more than two copies would appear to have been struck off, and both are fortunately extant to-day.  One of these was formerly in the possession of Dr. William J. Knapp, and is now the property of the Hispanic Society of New York.  The second example is in my own library.  This was Borrow’s own copy, and is freely p. 10corrected in his handwriting throughout.  From this copy the present edition has been printed, and in preparing it the whole of the corrections and additions made by Borrow to the text of the original pamphlet have been adopted.

A reduced facsimile of the last page of the pamphlet serves as frontispiece to the present volume.

T. J. W.


Does Gibraltar, viewing the horrors which are continually taking place in Spain, and which, notwithstanding their frequent grotesqueness, have drawn down upon that country the indignation of the entire civilized world, never congratulate herself on her severance from the peninsula, for severed she is morally and physically?  Who knows what is passing in the bosom of the old Rock?  Yet on observing the menacing look which she casts upon Spain across the neutral ground, we have thought that provided she could speak it would be something after the following fashion:—

Accursed land! I hate thee; and, far from being a defence, will invariably prove a thorn in thy side, a source of humiliation and ignominy, a punishment for thy sorceries, thy abominations and idolatries—thy cruelty, thy cowardice and miserable pride; I will p. 12look on whilst thy navies are burnt in my many bays, and thy armies perish before my eternal walls—I will look on whilst thy revenues are defrauded and ruined, and thy commerce becomes a bye word and a laughing-stock, and I will exult the while and shout—‘I am an instrument in the hand of the Lord, even I, the old volcanic hill—I have pertained to the Moor and the Briton—they have unfolded their banners from my heights, and I have been content—I have belonged solely to the irrational beings of nature, and no human hum invaded my solitudes; the eagle nestled on my airy crags, and the tortoise and the sea-calf dreamed in my watery caverns undisturbed; even then I was content, for I was aloof from Spain and her sons.  The days of my shame were those when I was clasped in her embraces and was polluted by her crimes; when I was a forced partaker in her bad faith, soul-subduing tyranny, and degrading fanaticism; when I heard only her bragging tongue, and was redolent of nought but the breath of her smoke-loving borrachos; when I was a prison for her convicts and a garrison for her rabble soldiery—Spain, accursed land, I hate thee: may I, like my African neighbour, become a house and a retreat only for vile baboons rather than the viler Spaniard.  May I sink beneath the billows, which is my foretold fate, ere I become again a parcel of Spain—accursed land, I hate thee, and so long as I can uphold my brow will still look menacingly on Spain.’

p. 13Strong language this, it will perhaps be observed—but when the rocks speak strong language may be expected, and it is no slight matter which will set stones a-speaking.  Surely, if ever there was a time for Gibraltar to speak, it is the present, and we leave it to our readers to determine whether the above is not a real voice from Gibraltar heard by ourselves one moonlight night at Algeziras, as with our hands in our pockets we stood on the pier, staring across the bay in the direction of the rock.

‘Poor Spain, unfortunate Spain!’ we have frequently heard Spaniards exclaim.  Were it worth while asking the Spaniard a reason for anything he says or does, we should be tempted to ask him why he apostrophizes his country in this manner.  If she is wretched and miserable and bleeding, has she anything but what she richly deserves, and has brought down upon her own head?  By Spain we of course mean the Spanish nation—for as for the country, it is so much impassible matter, so much rock and sand, chalk and clay—with which we have for the moment nothing to do.  It has pleased her to play an arrant jade’s part, the part of a mula falsa, a vicious mule, and now, and not for the first time, the brute has been chastised—there she lies on the road amidst the dust, the blood running from her nose.  Did our readers ever peruse the book of the adventures of the Squire Marcos de Obregon? [13]  No!  How should our p. 14readers have perused the scarce book of the life and adventures of Obregon? never mind! we to whom it has been given to hear the voice of Gibraltar whilst standing on the pier of Algeziras one moonlight evening, with our hands in our pockets, jingling the cuartos which they contained, have read with considerable edification the adventures of the said Marcos, and will tell the reader a story out of the book of his life.  So it came to pass that in one of his journeys the Señor de Obregon found himself on the back of a mule, which, to use his own expression, had the devil in her body, a regular jade, which would neither allow herself to be shod or saddled without making all the resistance in her power—was in the habit of flinging herself down whenever she came to a sandy place, and rolling over with her heels in the air.  An old muleteer, who observed her performing this last prank, took pity on her rider, and said, “Gentleman student, I wish to give you a piece of advice with respect to that animal”—and then he gave Marcos the piece of advice, which Marcos received with the respect due to a man of the muleteer’s experience, and proceeded on his way.  Coming to a sandy place shortly after, he felt that the mule was, as usual, about to give way to her penchant, whereupon, without saying a word to any body, he followed the advice of the muleteer and with a halter which he held in his hand struck with all fury the jade between the two ears.  Down fell the mule in the dust, and, rolling on p. 15her side, turned up the whites of her eyes.  ‘And as I stood by looking at her,’ said Marcos, ‘I was almost sorry that I had struck her so hard, seeing how she turned up the whites of her eyes.  At length, however, I took a luncheon of bread, and steeping it in wine from my bota, I thrust it between her jaws, and thus revived her; and I assure you that from that moment she never played any tricks with me, but behaved both formally and genteelly under all circumstances, but especially when going over sandy ground.  I am told, however, that as soon as I parted with her she fell into her old pranks, refusing to be shod or saddled—rushing up against walls and scarifying the leg of her rider, and flinging herself down in all sandy places.’  Now we say, without the slightest regard to contradiction, knowing that no one save a Spaniard will contradict us, that Spain has invariably proved herself just such a jade as the mule of the cavalier De Obregon: with a kind and merciful rider what will she not do?  Look at her, how she refuses to be bridled or shod—how she scarifies the poor man’s leg against rude walls, how ill she behaves in sandy places, and how occasionally diving her head between her fore-legs and kicking up behind she causes him to perform a somersault in the air to the no small discomposure of his Spanish gravity; but let her once catch a Tartar who will give her the garrote right well between the ears, and she can behave as well as any body.  One of the best of her riders was Charles the p. 16First.  How the brute lay floundering in the dust on the plains of Villalar, turning up the whites of her eyes, the blood streaming thick from her dishonest nose!  There she lay, the Fleming staring at her, with the garrote in his hand.  That’s right, Fleming! give it her again—and withhold the sopa till the very last extremity.

Then there was Napoleon again, who made her taste the garrote; she was quiet enough under him, but he soon left her and went to ride other jades, and his place was filled by those who, though they had no liking for her, had not vigour enough to bring her down on her side.  She is down, however, at present, if ever she was in her life—blood streaming from her nose amidst the dust, the whites of her eyes turned up very much, whilst staring at her with uplifted garrote stands Narvaez.

Yes, there lies Spain, and who can pity her?—she could kick off the kind and generous Espartero, who, though he had a stout garrote in his hand, and knew what kind of conditioned creature she was, forbore to strike her, to his own mighty cost and damage.  She kicked off him, and took up—whom? a regular muleteer, neither more nor less.  We have nothing further to say about him; he is at present in his proper calling, we bear him no ill-will, and only wish that God may speed him.  But never shall we forget the behaviour of the jade some two years ago.  O the yell that she set up, the true mulish yell—knowing all p. 17the time that she had nothing to fear from her rider, knowing that he would not strike her between the ears.  ‘Come here, you scoundrel, and we will make a bell-clapper of your head, and of your bowels a string to hang it by’—that was the cry of the Barcelonese, presently echoed in every town and village throughout Spain—and that cry was raised immediately after he had remitted the mulct which he had imposed on Barcelona for unprovoked rebellion.  But the mule is quiet enough now; no such yell is heard now at Barcelona, or in any nook or corner of Spain.  No, no—the Caballero was kicked out of the saddle, and the muleteer sprang up—There she lies, the brute!  Bien hecho, Narvaez—Don’t spare the garrote nor the mule!

It is very possible that from certain passages which we have written above, some of our readers may come to the conclusion that we must be partisans either of Espartero or Narvaez, perhaps of both.  In such case, however, they would do us wrong.  Having occasion at present to speak of Spain, we could hardly omit taking some notice of what has been lately going on in the country, and of the two principal performers in the late funcion.  We have not been inattentive observers of it; and have, moreover, some knowledge of the country; but any such feeling as partisanship we disclaim.  Of Narvaez, the muleteer, we repeat that we have nothing more to say, his character is soon read.  Of the caballero—of p. 18Espartero, we take this opportunity of observing that the opinion which we at first entertained of him, grounded on what we had heard, was anything but favourable.  We thought him a grasping ambitious man; and, like many others in Spain, merely wishing for power for the lust thereof; but we were soon undeceived by his conduct when the reins of government fell into his hand.  That he was ambitious we have no doubt; but his ambition was of the noble and generous kind; he wished to become the regenerator of his country—to heal her sores, and at the same time to reclaim her vices—to make her really strong and powerful—and, above all, independent of France.  But all his efforts were foiled by the wilfulness of the animal—she observed his gentleness, which she mistook for fear, a common mistake with jades—gave a kick, and good bye to Espartero!  There is, however, one blot in Espartero’s career; we allude to it with pain, for in every other point we believe him to have been a noble and generous character; but his treatment of Cordova cannot be commended on any principle of honour or rectitude.  Cordova was his friend and benefactor, to whom he was mainly indebted for his advancement in the army.  Espartero was a brave soldier, with some talent for military matters.  But when did either bravery or talent serve as credentials for advancement in the Spanish service?  He would have remained at the present day a major or a colonel but for the friendship of Cordova, who, p. 19amongst other things, was a courtier, and who was raised to the command of the armies of Spain by a court intrigue—which command he resigned into the hands of Espartero when the revolution of the Granja and the downfall of his friends, the Moderados, compelled him to take refuge in France.  The friendship of Cordova and Espartero had been so well known that for a long time it was considered that the latter was merely holding the command till his friend might deem it safe and prudent to return and resume it.  Espartero, however, had conceived widely different views.  After the return of Cordova to Spain he caused him to be exiled under some pretence or other.  He doubtless feared him, and perhaps with reason; but the man had been his friend and benefactor, and to the relations which had once existed between them Cordova himself alludes in a manifesto which he printed at Badajoz when on his way to Portugal, and which contains passages of considerable pathos.  Is there not something like retribution in the fact that Espartero is now himself in exile?

Cordova!  His name is at present all but forgotten, yet it was at one time in the power of that man to have made himself master of the destinies of Spain.  He was at the head of the army—was the favourite of Christina—and was, moreover, in the closest connexion with the Moderado party—the most unscrupulous, crafty, and formidable of all the factions which in these latter times have appeared in the bloody circus p. 20of Spain.  But if ever there was a man, a real man of flesh and blood, who in every tittle answered to one of the best of the many well-drawn characters in Le Sage’s wonderful novel—one of the masters of Gil Blas, a certain Don Mathias, who got up at midday, and rasped tobacco whilst lolling on the sofa, till the time arrived for dressing and strolling forth to the prado—a thorough Spanish coxcomb highly perfumed, who wrote love-letters to himself bearing the names of noble ladies—brave withal and ever ready to vindicate his honour at the sword’s point, provided he was not called out too early of a morning—it was this self-same Don Cordova, who we repeat had the destinies of Spain at one time in his power, and who, had he managed his cards well, and death had not intervened, might at the present moment have occupied the self-same position which Narvaez fills with so much credit to himself.  The man had lots of courage, was well versed in the art military; and once, to his honour be it said, whilst commanding a division of the Christine army, defeated Zumalacarregui in his own defiles; but, like Don Mathias, he was fond of champagne suppers with actresses, and would always postpone a battle for a ball or a horse-race.  About five years ago we were lying off Lisbon in a steamer in our way from Spain.  The morning was fine, and we were upon deck staring vacantly about us, as is our custom, with our hands in our pockets, when a large barge with an awning, and manned by many p. 21rowers, came dashing through the water and touched the vessel’s side.  Some people came on board, of whom, however, we took but little notice, continuing with our hands in our pockets staring sometimes at the river, and sometimes at the castle of Saint George, the most remarkable object connected with the ‘white city,’ which strikes the eye from the Tagus.  In a minute or two the steward came running up to us from the cabin, and said, ‘There are two or three strange people below who seem to want something; but what it is we can’t make out, for we don’t understand them.  Now I heard you talking ‘Moors’ the other day to the black cook, so pray have the kindness to come and say two or three words in Moors to the people below.’  Whereupon, without any hesitation, we followed the steward into the cabin.  ‘Here’s one who can jabber Moors with you,’ bawled he, bustling up to the new comers.  On observing the strangers, however, who sat on one of the sofas, instead of addressing them in ‘Moors,’ we took our hands out of our pockets, drew ourselves up, and making a most ceremonious bow, exclaimed in pure and sonorous Castilian, ‘Cavaliers, at your feet!  What may it please you to command?’

The strangers, who had looked somewhat blank at the first appearance of our figure, no sooner heard us address them in this manner than they uttered a simultaneous ‘Ola!’ and, springing up, advanced towards us with countenances irradiated with smiles.  p. 22They were three in number, to say nothing of a tall loutish fellow with something of the look of a domestic, who stood at some distance.  All three were evidently gentlemen—one was a lad about twenty, the other might be some ten years older—but the one who stood between the two, and who immediately confronted us, was evidently the principal.  He might be about forty, and was tall and rather thin; his hair was of the darkest brown; his face strongly marked and exceedingly expressive; his nose was fine, so was his forehead, and his eyes sparkled like diamonds beneath a pair of bushy brows slightly grizzled.  He had one disagreeable feature—his mouth—which was wide and sensual-looking to a high degree.  He was dressed with elegance—his brown surtout was faultless; shirt of the finest Holland, frill to correspond, and fine ruby pin.  In a very delicate and white hand he held a delicate white handkerchief perfumed with the best atar-de-nuar of Abderrahman.  ‘What can we oblige you in, cavalier?’ said we, as we looked him in the face: and then he took our hand, our brown hand, into his delicate white one, and whispered something into our ear—whereupon, turning round to the steward, we whispered something into his ear.  ‘I know nothing about it,’ said the steward in a surly tone—we have nothing of the kind on board—no such article or packet is come; and I tell you what, I don’t half like these fellows; I believe them to be custom-house spies: it was the custom-house barge p. 23they came in, so tell them in Moors to get about their business.’  ‘The man is a barbarian, sir,’ said we to the cavalier; ‘but what you expected is certainly not come.’  A deep shade of melancholy came over the countenance of the cavalier: he looked us wistfully in the face, and sighed; then, turning to his companions, he said, ‘We are disappointed, but there is no remedy—Vamos, amigos.’  Then, making us a low bow, he left the cabin, followed by his friends.  The boat was ready, and the cavalier was about to descend the side of the vessel—we had also come on deck—suddenly our eyes met.  ‘Pardon a stranger, cavalier, if he takes the liberty of asking your illustrious name.’  ‘General Cordova,’ said the cavalier in an under voice.  We made our lowest bow, pressed our hand to our heart—he did the same, and in another minute was on his way to the shore.  ‘Do you know who that was?’ said we to the steward—‘that was the great General Cordova.’  ‘Cordova, Cordova,’ said the steward.  ‘Well, I really believe I have something for that name.  A general do you say?  What a fool I have been—I suppose you couldn’t call him back?’  The next moment we were at the ship’s side shouting.  The boat had by this time nearly reached the Caesodrea, though, had it reached Cintra—but stay, Cintra is six leagues from Lisbon—and, moreover, no boat unless carried can reach Cintra.  Twice did we lift up our voice.  At the second shout the boat rested on its oars; and when we added ‘Caballeros, p. 24vengan ustedes atras,’ its head was turned round in a jiffy, and back it came bounding over the waters with twice its former rapidity.  We are again in the cabin; the three Spaniards, the domestic, ourselves, and the steward; the latter stands with his back against the door, for the purpose of keeping out intruders.  There is a small chest on the table, on which all eyes are fixed; and now, at a sign from Cordova, the domestic advances, in his hand a chisel, which he inserts beneath the lid of the chest, exerting all the strength of his wrist—the lid flies open, and discloses some hundreds of genuine Havannah cigars.  ‘What obligations am I not under to you!’ said Cordova, again taking us by the hand, ‘the very sight of them gives me new life; long have I been expecting them.  A trusty friend at Gibraltar promised to send them, but they have tarried many weeks: but now to dispose of this treasure.’  In a moment he and his friends were busily employed in filling their pockets.  Yes Cordova, the renowned general, and the two secretaries of a certain legation at Lisbon—for such were his two friends—are stowing away the Havannah cigars with all the eagerness of contrabandistas.  ‘Rascal,’ said Cordova, suddenly turning to his domestic with a furious air and regular Spanish grimace, ‘you are doing nothing; why don’t you take more?’  ‘I can’t hold any more, your worship,’ replied the latter in a piteous tone.  ‘My pockets are already full; and see how full I am here,’ he continued, p. 25pointing to his bosom.  ‘Peace, bribon,’ said his master; ‘if your bosom is full, fill your hat, and put it on your head.  We owe you more than we can express,’ said he, turning round and addressing us in the blandest tones.  ‘But why all this mystery?’ we demanded.  ‘O, tobacco is a royal monopoly here, you know, so we are obliged to be cautious.’  ‘But you came in the custom-house barge?’  ‘Yes, the superintendent of the customs lent it to us in order that we might be put to as little inconvenience as possible.  Between ourselves, he knows all about it; he is only solicitous to avoid any scandal.  Really these Portuguese have some slight tincture of gentility in them, though they are neither Castilian nor English,’ he continued, making us another low bow.  On taking his departure the general gave the steward an ounce of gold, and having embraced us and kissed us on the cheek, said, ‘In a few weeks I shall be in England, pray come and see me there.’  This we promised faithfully to do, but never had the opportunity; he went on shore with his cigars, gave a champagne supper to his friends, and the next morning was a corpse.  What a puff of smoke is the breath of man!

But here before us is a Hand-book for Spain.  From what we have written above it will have been seen that we are not altogether unacquainted with the country; indeed we plead guilty to having performed the grand tour of Spain more than once; but why do we say guilty—it is scarcely a thing to be ashamed of; p. 26the country is a magnificent one, and the people are a highly curious people, and we are by no means sorry that we have made the acquaintance of either.  Detestation of the public policy of Spain, and a hearty abhorrence of its state creed, we consider by no means incompatible with a warm admiration for the natural beauties of the country, and even a zest for Spanish life and manners.  We love a ride in Spain, and the company to be found in a Spanish venta; but the Lord preserve us from the politics of Spain, and from having anything to do with the Spaniards in any graver matters than interchanging cigars and compliments, meetings upon the road (peaceable ones of course), kissing and embracing (see above).  Whosoever wishes to enjoy Spain or the Spaniards, let him go as a private individual, the humbler in appearance the better: let him call every beggar Cavalier, every Don a Señor Conde; praise the water of the place in which he happens to be as the best of all water; and wherever he goes he will meet with attention and sympathy.  ‘The strange Cavalier is evidently the child of honourable fathers, although, poor man, he appears to be, like myself, unfortunate’—will be the ejaculation of many a proud tatterdemalion who has been refused charity with formal politeness—whereas should the stranger chuck him contemptuously an ounce of gold, he may be pretty sure that he has bought his undying hatred both in this world and the next.

p. 27Here we have a Hand-book for Spain—we mean for travellers in Spain—and of course for English travellers.  The various hand-books which our friend Mr. Murray has published at different times are very well known, and their merit generally recognized.  We cannot say that we have made use of any of them ourselves, yet in the course of our peregrinations we have frequently heard travellers speak in terms of high encomium of their general truth and exactness, and of the immense mass of information which they contain.  There is one class of people, however, who are by no means disposed to look upon these publications with a favourable eye—we mean certain gentry generally known by the name of valets de place, for whom we confess we entertain no particular affection, believing them upon the whole to be about the most worthless, heartless, and greedy set of miscreants to be found upon the whole wide continent of Europe.  These gentry, we have reason to know, look with a by no means favourable eye upon these far-famed publications of Albemarle-street.  ‘They steal away our honest bread,’ said one of them to us the other day at Venice, ‘I Signori forestieri find no farther necessity for us since they have appeared; we are thinking of petitioning the government in order that they may be prohibited as heretical and republican.  Were it not for these accursed books I should now have the advantage of waiting upon those forestieri’—and he pointed to a fat English squire, who with a p. 28blooming daughter under each arm, was proceeding across the piazza to St. Marco with no other guide than a ‘Murray,’ which he held in his hand.  High, however, as was the opinion which we had formed of these Hand-books from what we had heard concerning them, we were utterly unprepared for such a treat as has been afforded us by the perusal of the one which now lies before us—the Hand-book for Spain.

It is evidently the production of a highly-gifted and accomplished man of infinite cleverness, considerable learning, and who is moreover thoroughly acquainted with the subject of which he treats.  That he knows Spain as completely as he knows the lines upon the palm of his hand, is a fact which cannot fail of forcing itself upon the conviction of any person who shall merely glance over the pages; yet this is a book not to be glanced over, for we defy any one to take it up without being seized with an irresistible inclination to peruse it from the beginning to the end—so flowing and captivating is the style, and so singular and various are the objects and events here treated of.  We have here a perfect panorama of Spain, to accomplish which we believe to have been the aim and intention of the author; and gigantic as the conception was, it is but doing him justice to say that in our opinion he has fully worked it out.  But what iron application was required for the task—what years of enormous labour must have been spent in carrying it into effect even after the necessary materials had been collected—and then the p. 29collecting of the materials themselves—what strange ideas of difficulty and danger arise in our minds at the sole mention of that most important point!  But here is the work before us; the splendid result of the toil, travel, genius, and learning of one man, and that man an Englishman.  The above is no overstrained panegyric; we refer our readers to the work itself, and then fearlessly abandon the matter to their decision.  We have here all Spain before us; mountain, plain, and river, poblado y desploblado—the well known and the mysterious—Barcelona and Batuecas.

Amidst all the delight and wonder which we have felt, we confess that we have been troubled by an impertinent thought of which we could not divest ourselves.  We could not help thinking that the author, generous enough as he has been to the public, has been rather unjust to himself—by publishing the result of his labours under the present title.  A Hand-book is a Hand-book after all, a very useful thing, but still—The fact is that we live in an age of humbug, in which every thing to obtain much note and reputation must depend less upon its own intrinsic merits than on the name it bears.  The present work is about one of the best books ever written upon Spain; but we are afraid that it will never be estimated at its proper value; for after all a Hand-book is a Hand-book.  Permit us, your Ladyship, to introduce to you the learned, talented, and imaginative author of the—shocking!  Her Ladyship would faint, and would p. 30never again admit ourselves and our friends to her soirées.  What a pity that this delightful book does not bear a more romantic sounding title—’Wanderings in Spain,’ for example; or yet better, ‘The Wonders of the Peninsula.’

But are we not ourselves doing our author injustice?  Aye surely; the man who could write a book of the character of the one which we have at present under notice, is above all such paltry considerations, so we may keep our pity for ourselves.  If it please him to cast his book upon the waters in the present shape, what have we to do but to be grateful?—we forgot for a moment with what description of man we have to do.  This is no vain empty coxcomb; he cannot but be aware that he has accomplished a great task; but such paltry considerations as those to which we have alluded above are not for him but for writers of a widely different stamp with whom we have nothing to do.

What to observe in Spain.

Before we proceed to point out the objects best worth seeing in the Peninsula, many of which are to be seen there only, it may be as well to mention what is not to be seen: there is no such loss of time as finding this out oneself, after weary chace and wasted hour.  Those who expect to find well-garnished arsenals, libraries, restaurants, charitable or literary institutions, canals, railroads, tunnels, suspension-bridges, p. 31steam-engines, omnibuses, manufactories, polytechnic galleries, pale-ale breweries, and similar appliances and appurtenances of a high state of political, social, and commercial civilisation, had better stay at home.  In Spain there are no turnpike-trust meetings, no quarter-sessions, no courts of justice, according to the real meaning of that word, no treadmills, no boards of guardians, no chairmen, directors, masters-extraordinary of the court of chancery, no assistant poor-law commissioners.  There are no anti-tobacco-teetotal-temperance meetings, no auxiliary missionary propagating societies, nothing in the blanket and lying-in asylum line, nothing, in short, worth a revising barrister of three years’ standing’s notice.  Spain is no country for the political economist, beyond affording an example of the decline of the wealth of nations, and offering a wide topic on errors to be avoided, as well as for experimental theories, plans of reform and amelioration.  In Spain, Nature reigns; she has there lavished her utmost prodigality of soil and climate which a bad government has for the last three centuries been endeavouring to counteract.  El cielo y suelo es bueno, el entresuelo malo, and man, the occupier of the Peninsula entresol, uses, or rather abuses, with incurious apathy the goods with which the gods have provided him.  Spain is a terra incognita to naturalists, geologists, and every branch of ists and ologists.  The material is as superabundant as native labourers and operatives are deficient.  All p. 32these interesting branches of inquiry, healthful and agreeable, as being out-of-door pursuits, and bringing the amateur in close contact with nature, offer to embryo authors, who are ambitious to book something new, a more worthy subject than the decies repetita descriptions of bull-fights and the natural history of ollas and ventas.  Those who aspire to the romantic, the poetical, the sentimental, the artistical, the antiquarian, the classical, in short, to any of the sublime and beautiful lines, will find both in the past and present state of Spain subjects enough, in wandering with lead-pencil and note-book through this singular country, which hovers between Europe and Africa, between civilisation and barbarism; this is the land of the green valley and barren mountain, of the boundless plain and the broken sierra, now of Elysian gardens of the vine, the olive, the orange, and the aloe, then of trackless, vast, silent, uncultivated wastes, the heritage of the wild bee.  Here we fly from the dull uniformity, the polished monotony of Europe, to the racy freshness of an original, unchanged country, where antiquity treads on the heels of to-day, where Paganism disputes the very altar with Christianity, where indulgence and luxury contend with privation and poverty, where a want of all that is generous or merciful is blended with the most devoted heroic virtues, where the most cold-blooded cruelty is linked with the fiery passions of Africa, where ignorance and erudition stand in violent and striking contrast.

p. 33Here let the antiquarian pore over the stirring memorials of many thousand years, the vestiges of Phœnician enterprise, of Roman magnificence, of Moorish elegance, in that storehouse of ancient customs, that repository of all elsewhere long forgotten and passed by; here let him gaze upon those classical monuments, unequalled almost in Greece or Italy, and on those fairy Aladdin palaces, the creatures of Oriental gorgeousness and imagination, with which Spain alone can enchant the dull European; here let the man of feeling dwell on the poetry of her envy-disarming decay, fallen from her high estate, the dignity of a dethroned monarch, borne with unrepining self-respect, the last consolation of the innately noble, which no adversity can take away; here let the lover of art feed his eyes with the mighty masterpieces of Italian art, when Raphael and Titian strove to decorate the palaces of Charles, the great emperor of the age of Leo X., or with the living nature of Velazquez and Murillo, whose paintings are truly to be seen in Spain alone; here let the artist sketch the lowly mosque of the Moor, the lofty cathedral of the Christian, in which God is worshipped in a manner as nearly befitting His glory as the power and wealth of finite man can reach; art and nature here offer subjects, from the feudal castle, the vasty Escorial, the rock-built alcazar of imperial Toledo, the sunny towers of stately Seville, to the eternal snows and lovely vega of Granada: let the geologist clamber p. 34over mountains of marble, and metal-pregnant sierras, let the botanist cull from the wild hothouse of nature plants unknown, unnumbered, matchless in colour, and breathing the aroma of the sweet south; let all, learned or unlearned, listen to the song, the guitar, the Castanet; let all mingle with the gay, good-humoured, temperate peasantry, the finest in the world, free, manly, and independent, yet courteous and respectful; let all live with the noble, dignified, high-bred, self-respecting Spaniard; let all share in their easy, courteous society; let all admire their dark-eyed women, so frank and natural, to whom the voice of all ages and nations has conceded the palm of attraction, to whom Venus has bequeathed her magic girdle of grace and fascination; let all—sed ohe! jam satis—enough for starting on this expedition, where, as Don Quixote said, there are opportunities for what are called adventures elbow deep.

The following account of the rivers of Spain would do credit to the pen of Robertson:—

‘There are six great rivers in Spain,—the arteries which run between the seven mountain chains, the vertebras of the geological skeleton.  These six watersheds are each intersected in their extent by others on a minor scale, by valleys and indentations, in each of which runs its own stream.  Thus the rains and melted snows are all collected in an infinity of ramifications, and carried by these tributary conduits into one of the six main trunks, or great rivers: all these, p. 35with the exception of the Ebro, empty themselves into the Atlantic.  The Duero and Tagus, unfortunately for Spain, disembogue in Portugal, thus becoming a portion of a foreign dominion exactly where their commercial importance is the greatest.  Philip II. saw the true value of the possession of Portugal, which rounded and consolidated Spain, and insured to her the possession of these valuable outlets of internal produce, and inlets for external commerce.  Portugal annexed to Spain gave more real power to his throne than the dominion of entire continents across the Atlantic.  The Miño, which is the shortest of these rivers, runs through a bosom of fertility.  The Tajo, Tagus, which the fancy of poets has sanded with gold and embanked with roses, tracks much of its dreary way through rocks and comparative barrenness.  The Guadiana creeps through lonely Estremadura, infecting the low plains with miasma.  The Guadalquivir eats out its deep banks amid the sunny olive-clad regions of Andalucia, as the Ebro divides the levels of Arragon.  Spain abounds with brackish streams, Salados, and with salt-mines, or saline deposits, after the evaporation of the sea-waters.  The central soil is strongly impregnated with saltpetre: always arid, it every day is becoming more so, from the singular antipathy which the inhabitants of the interior have against trees.  There is nothing to check the power of evaporation, no shelter to protect or preserve moisture.  The soil becomes more p. 36and more baked and calcined; in some parts it has almost ceased to be available for cultivation: another serious evil, which arises from want of plantations, is, that the slopes of hills are everywhere liable to constant denudation of soil after heavy rain.  There is nothing to break the descent of the water; hence the naked, barren stone summits of many of the sierras, which have been pared and peeled of every particle capable of nourishing vegetation; they are skeletons where life is extinct.  Not only is the soil thus lost, but the detritus washed down either forms bars at the mouths of rivers, or chokes up and raises their beds; they are thus rendered liable to overflow their banks, and convert the adjoining plains into pestilential swamps.  The supply of water, which is afforded by periodical rains, and which ought to support the reservoirs of rivers, is carried off at once in violent floods, rather than in a gentle gradual disembocation.  The volume in the principal rivers of Spain has diminished, and is diminishing.  Rivers which were navigable are so no longer; the artificial canals which were to have been substituted remain unfinished: the progress of deterioration advances, while little is done to counteract or amend what every year must render more difficult and expensive, while the means of repair and correction will diminish in equal proportion, from the poverty occasioned by the evil, and by the fearful extent which it will be allowed to attain.  The rivers which are really adapted to p. 37navigation are, however, only those which are perpetually fed by those tributary streams that flow down from mountains which are covered with snow all the year, and these are not many.  The majority of Spanish rivers are very scanty of water during the summer time, and very rapid in their flow when filled by rains or melting snow: during these periods they are impracticable for boats.  They are, moreover, much exhausted by being drained off, bled, for the purposes of artificial irrigation.  The scarcity of rain in the central table-lands is much against a regular supply of water to the springs of the rivers: the water is soon sucked up by a parched, dusty, and thirsty soil, or evaporated by the dryness of the atmosphere.  Many of the sierras are indeed covered with snow, but to no great depth, and the coating soon melts under the summer suns, and passes rapidly away.’

Here we have a sunny little sketch of a certain locality at Seville; it is too life-like not to have been taken on the spot:—

‘The sunny flats under the old Moorish walls, which extend between the gates of Carmona and La Carne, are the haunts of idlers and of gamesters.  The lower classes of Spaniards are constantly gambling at cards: groups are to be seen playing all day long for wine, love, or coppers, in the sun, or under their vine-trellises.  There is generally some well-known cock of the walk, a bully, or guapo, who will come up and lay his hands on the cards, and say, ‘No one shall play p. 38here but with mine’—aquí no se juega sino con mis barajas.  If the gamblers are cowed, they give him dos cuartos, a halfpenny each.  If, however, one of the challenged be a spirited fellow, he defies him.  Aquí no se cobra el barato sino con un punal de Albacete—‘You get no change here except out of an Albacete knife.’  If the defiance be accepted, vamos alla is the answer—‘Let’s go to it.’  There’s an end then of the cards, all flock to the more interesting écarté; instances have occurred, where Greek meets Greek, of their tying the two advanced feet together, and yet remaining fencing with knife and cloak for a quarter of an hour before the blow be dealt.  The knife is held firmly, the thumb is pressed straight on the blade, and calculated either for the cut or thrust, to chip bread and kill men.’

Apropos of Seville.  It is sometimes called we believe La Capital de Majeza; the proper translation of which we conceive to be the Head Quarters of Foolery, for nothing more absurd and contemptible than this Majeza ever came within the sphere of our contemplation.  Nevertheless it constitutes the chief glory of the Sevillians.  Every Sevillian, male or female, rich or poor, handsome or ugly, aspires at a certain period of life to the character of the majo or maja.  We are not going to waste either space or time by entering into any lengthened detail of this ridiculous nonsense: indeed, it is quite unnecessary; almost every one of the books published on Spain, p. 39and their name at present is legion, being crammed with details of this same Majeza—a happy combination of insolence, ignorance, frippery, and folly.  The majo or Tomfool struts about the streets dressed something like a merry Andrew with jerkin and tight hose, a faja or girdle of crimson silk round his waist, in which is sometimes stuck a dagger, his neck exposed, and a queer kind of half-peaked hat on his head.  He smokes continually, thinks there is no place like Seville, and that he is the prettiest fellow in Seville.  His favourite word is ‘Carajo!’  The maja or she-simpleton, wears a fan and mantilla, exhibits a swimming and affected gait, thinks that there’s no place like Seville, that she is the flower of Seville—Carai! is her favourite exclamation.  But enough of these poor ridiculous creatures.  Yet, ridiculous in every respect as they are, these majos and majas find imitators and admirers in people who might be expected to look down with contempt upon them and their follies; we have seen, and we tell it with shame, we have seen Englishmen dressed in Tomfool’s livery lounging about Seville breathing out smoke and affecting the airs of hijos de Sevilla; and what was yet worse, fair blooming Englishwomen, forgetful of their rank as daughters of England, appearing à la maja on the banks of the Guadalquivir, with fan and mantilla, carai and caramba.  We wish sincerely that our countrymen and women whilst travelling abroad would always bear in mind that they p. 40can only be respected or respectable so long as they maintain their proper character—that of Englishmen and Englishwomen;—but in attempting to appear French, Italians, and Spaniards, they only make themselves supremely ridiculous.  As the tree falls, so must it lie.  They are children of England; they cannot alter that fact, therefore let them make the most of it, and after all it is no bad thing to be a child of England.  But what a poor feeble mind must be his who would deny his country under any circumstances!  Therefore, gentle English travellers, when you go to Seville, amongst other places, appear there as English, though not obtrusively, and do not disgrace your country by imitating the airs and graces of creatures whom the other Spaniards, namely, Castilians, Manchegans, Aragonese, &c., pronounce to be fools.


‘In the ninth century, the Normans or Northmen made piratical excursions on the W. coast of Spain.  They passed, in 843, from Lisbon up to the straits and everywhere, as in France, overcame the unprepared natives, plundering, burning, and destroying.  They captured even Seville itself, September 30, 844, but were met by the Cordovese Kalif, beaten, and expelled.  They were called by the Moors Majus, Madjous, Magioges (Conde, i. 282), and by the early Spanish annalists Almajuzes.  The root has been p. 41erroneously derived from Μιyος, Magus, magicians or supernatural beings, as they were almost held to be.  The term Madjous was, strictly speaking, applied by the Moors to those Berbers and Africans who were Pagans or Muwallads, i.e. not believers in the Khoran.  The true etymology is that of the Gog and Magog so frequently mentioned by Ezekiel (xxxviii. and xxxix.) and in the Revelations (xx. 8) as ravagers of the earth and nations, May-Gogg, “he that dissolveth,”—the fierce Normans appeared, coming no one knew from whence, just when the minds of men were trembling at the approach of the millennium, and thus were held to be the forerunners of the destroyers of the world.  This name of indefinite gigantic power survived in the Mogigangas, or terrific images, which the Spaniards used to parade in their religious festivals, like the Gogs and Magogs of our civic wise men of the East.  Thus Andalucia being the half-way point between the N. and S.E., became the meeting-place of the two great ravaging swarms which have desolated Europe: here the stalwart children of frozen Norway, the worshippers of Odin, clashed against the Saracens from torrid Arabia, the followers of Mahomet.  Nor can a greater proof be adduced of the power and relative superiority of the Cordovese Moors over the other nations of Europe, than this, their successful resistance to those fierce invaders, who overran without difficulty the coasts of England, France, Apulia, and Sicily: conquerors everywhere p. 42else, here they were driven back in disgrace.  Hence the bitter hatred of the Normans against the Spanish Moors, hence their alliances with the Catalans, where a Norman impression yet remains in architecture; but, as in Sicily, these barbarians, unrecruited from the North, soon died away, or were assimilated as usual with the more polished people, whom they had subdued by mere superiority of brute force.’

If the Moors called the Norsemen Al Madjus, which according to our author signifies Gog and Magog, the Norsemen retorted by a far more definite and expressive nickname; this was Blue-skins or Bluemen, doubtless in allusion to the livid countenances of the Moors.  The battles between the Moors and the Northmen are frequently mentioned in the Sagas, none of which, however, are of higher antiquity than the eleventh century.  In none of these chronicles do we find any account of this raid upon Seville in 844; it was probably a very inconsiderable affair magnified by the Moors and their historians.  Snorre speaks of the terrible attack of Sigurd, surnamed the Jorsal wanderer, or Jerusalem pilgrim, upon Lisbon and Cintra, both of which places he took, destroying the Moors by hundreds.  He subsequently ‘harried’ the southern coasts of Spain on his voyage to Constantinople.  But this occurred some two hundred years after the affair of Seville mentioned in the Handbook.  It does not appear that the Norse ever made any serious attempt to p. 43establish their power in Spain; had they done so we have no doubt that they would have succeeded.  We entertain all due respect for the courage and chivalry of the Moors, especially those of Cordova, but we would have backed the Norse, especially the pagan Norse, against the best of them.  The Biarkemal would soon have drowned the Moorish ‘Lelhies.’

‘Thou Har, who grip’st thy foeman
Right hard, and Rolf the bowman,
And many, many others,
The forky lightning’s brothers,
Wake—not for banquet table,
Wake—not with maids to gabble,
But wake for rougher sporting,
For Hildur’s bloody courting.’

Under the head of La Mancha our author has much to say on the subject of Don Quixote; and to the greater part of what he says we yield our respectful assent.  His observations upon the two principal characters in that remarkable work display much sound as well as original criticism.  We cannot however agree with him in preferring the second part, which we think a considerable falling off from the first.  We should scarcely believe the two parts were written by the same hand.  We have read through both various times, but we have always sighed on coming to the conclusion of the first.  It was formerly our custom to read the Don ‘pervasively’ once every p. 44three years; we still keep up that custom in part, and hope to do so whilst life remains.  We say in part, because we now conclude with the first part going no farther.  We have little sympathy with the pranks played off upon Sancho and his master by the Duke and Duchess, to the description of which so much space is devoted; and as for the affair of Sancho’s government at Barataria, it appears to us full of inconsistency and absurdity.  Barataria, we are told, was a place upon the Duke’s estate, consisting of two or three thousand inhabitants; and of such a place it was very possible for a nobleman to have made the poor squire governor; but we no sooner get to Barataria than we find ourselves not in a townlet, but in a capital in Madrid.  The governor at night makes his rounds, attended by ‘an immense watch;’ he wanders from one street to another for hours; he encounters all kinds of adventures, not mock but real adventures, and all kinds of characters, not mock but real characters; there is talk of bull-circuses, theatres, gambling-houses, and such like; and all this in a place of two or three thousand inhabitants, in which, by the way, nothing but a cat is ever heard stirring after eight o’clock; this we consider to be carrying the joke rather too far; and it is not Sancho but the reader who is joked with.  But the first part is a widely different affair: all the scenes are admirable.  Should we live a thousand years, we should never forget the impression made upon us by the adventure p. 45of the corpse, where the Don falls upon the priests who are escorting the bier by torch light, and by the sequel thereto, his midnight adventures in the Brown Mountain.  We can only speak of these scenes as astonishing—they have never been equalled in their line.  There is another wonderful book which describes what we may call the city life of Spain, as the other describes the vida del campo—we allude of course to Le Sage’s novel, which as a whole we prefer to Don Quixote, the characters introduced being certainly more true to nature than those which appear in the other great work.  Shame to Spain that she has not long since erected a statue to Le Sage, who has done so much to illustrate her; but miserable envy and jealousy have been at the bottom of the feeling ever manifested in Spain towards that illustrious name.  There are some few stains in the grand work of Le Sage.  He has imitated without acknowledgment three or four passages contained in the life of Obregon, a curious work, of which we have already spoken, and to which on some future occasion we may perhaps revert.

But the Hand-book?  We take leave of it with the highest respect and admiration for the author; and recommend it not only to travellers in Spain, but to the public in general, as a work of a very high order, written con amore by a man who has devoted his whole time, talents, and all the various treasures of an extensive learning to its execution.  We repeat that p. 46we were totally unprepared for such a literary treat as he has here placed before us.  It is our sincere wish that at his full convenience he will favour us with something which may claim consanguinity with the present work.  It hardly becomes us to point out to an author subjects on which to exercise his powers.  We shall, however, take the liberty of hinting that a good history of Spain does not exist, at least in English—and that not even Shelton produced a satisfactory translation of the great gem of Spanish literature, ‘The Life and Adventures of Don Quixote.’

* * * * *

p. 47London:
Printed for Thomas J. Wise, Hampstead, N.W.
Edition limited to Thirty Copies


[13]  Relaciones de la vida del Escudero Marcos de Obregon.