The Project Gutenberg eBook, Things seen in Spain, by C. Gasquoine Hartley

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Title: Things seen in Spain

Author: C. Gasquoine Hartley

Release Date: July 10, 2012  [eBook #40201]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)


This ebook was transcribed by Les Bowler.

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p. vCONTENTS [0]




Spain the Home of Romance—The Conservatism of the People—Spain the most Democratic of Countries—The Tradition of Chivalry—The Cid—Spain the Connecting Link between Europe and Africa—The Place of the Moor in the Country To-day—The Gardens of Granada—The Bull-fight: its National Importance—Spanish Dancing



The Character of the People—Their Quietness and Sobriety—Their Cruelty—This the Result of their Stoicism and Indifference to Pain—These the Qualities of a Strong and Primitive People—The Feria, the Holiday p. viof the Sevillians—Religion: its Place in the National Life—The Dance of the Seises—Holy Week in Seville—Religious Processions—The Paseos



Toledo, the Type of the Spanish City—Its Architectural Monuments—The Intermingling of Arab and Christian Art—Granada—The Alhambra—Cordova—The Great Mosque—Seville, the City of Pleasure—The Special Character of the Streets—The Café’s and Shops—The Typical Andalusian—The Parks—The Sevillanas—Spanish Courtship—The Houses of Seville—The Patios—The Home-life of the Sevillians—Spanish Hospitality


TOWN LIFE IN SPAIN (continued)

Madrid: its Situation—The Old Town—The Rastro—The New Town—The Puerta del Sol—Cafés—The Aguadores—The p. viiPrado Park—The Theatre—Spanish Children—The Museums—The Picture-galleries



Life in a Spanish Posada—Spanish Peasants—The Toilers of the Field and other Workers—The Cigarreras of Seville—The Kermesse in the Esclava Gardens—The Love of Festivals—Easter Day in a Spanish Village—Third-class Travelling—Wild Life in Spain—Fishing in the Country Districts



Spanish Art the Reflection of the Spanish Temperament—The Great Buildings of Spain—Spanish Gothic—Its Realistic Naturalness, its Massiveness and Extravagance—The Churches, the Real Museums of Art Treasures—Polychrome Sculpture—Spanish Painting—Its Late Development—Its Special Character—Its Strength, its Dramatic and Religious Character



The Real Spirit of Spain—The Spiritual Instinct of the Race—The Escorial—Spanish Beggars—The Spaniard belongs to the Past, but also to the Future







Women at the Al-Mida Fountain in the Patio de los Naranjos, Cordova


A Peasant of Andalusia


A Busy Street leading to the Market, Valencia


The Puerta Visagra Antigua, Toledo


Pastimes of the Gitanos in the Camino del Sacre Monte, Granada


Walls and Towers of the Alhambra on the Bank of the Darro, Granada


A Glimpse of Granada from the Walls of the Generalife, the Summer Palace of the Moors


A Group of Dancers at the Feria, Seville


The Old Town of Ronda


The Falls of the Guadalevin, the Great Gorge, and the New Bridge, Ronda


p. xSpanish Dancers, Seville


The Cave of the Doves


The Limestone Quarries, Almeria


A Gipsy House at Coria


Interior of the Same House


A Village Pasos


A Rope and Matting Factory, Seville


Sacristy of the Convent of the Cartuja, Granada


Bridge of Alcantara and the Alcázar, Toledo


A Street in Cordova


Puerta del Perdon


The Queen’s Chamber, Alhambra


Court of Lions, Alhambra


A Group of Workers in a Patio


“Las Planchadoras”


The Throne-Room, Royal Palace, Madrid


The Rastro Market, Madrid


Mounting Guard in the Plaza de Armas


Children at Play


A Bridge and Country Homes


The Village Posada


A Medieval Ox-Cart


Harvesting Wheat


p. xiAn Orange-Picker


Pottery Vendors


A Basque Peasant-Girl driving an Ox-Cart


Sherry a Half-Century Old


Ruins of an Old Aqueduct


Beaching Fishing-Boats


Choir-Stalls in the Mosque, Cordova


Burgos Cathedral


Residence of the Mexican Minister, Madrid


The Old Aqueduct of Trajan


Main Gallery in the Museo del Prado


The Cross by the Wayside


Town and Monastery of the Escorial


Puerta Judiciana, or Gate of Justice


Municipal Plaza and Cathedral, Toledo


The Valley of the Guadelevin River


Flamenco Dance of a Gitana, Seville


p. 12 A Peasant of Andalusia


Spain the Home of Romance—The Conservatism of the People—Spain the most Democratic of Countries—The Tradition of Chivalry—The Cid—Spain the Connecting Link between Europe and Africa—The Place of the Moor in the Country To-day—The Gardens of Granada—The Bull-fight: its National Importance—Spanish Dancing.

Coming into Spain by any of the chief portals—at Port Bou, at Algeciras, or at Irun—one finds oneself in a totally new country.  You cast much behind you as you come, for instance, from France; you will be impressed by a certain strangeness of aspect far different from all you have learnt to expect p. 14in other countries.  You will feel transplanted back into another world.  It is as if Spain had sat aside waiting, indifferent and proud, while elsewhere life has rushed onwards.

The conservatism of Spain may be gathered from the old impressions we find in the pages of writers describing the people and the country of more than a century ago, which are still true in so much as they refer to what is essential in the national spirit, and to the survival of the customs of mediæval Europe.  “I regard the Spanish people,” says Stendhal, “as the living representatives of the Middle Ages.”

A Busy Street Leading to the Market, Valencia

Spain is still the home of the romance which belonged to an age that has passed.  And although the more flourishing Spanish towns are nowadays full of animation—factories are springing up and signs of commercial activity are not wanting—this new movement of progress has not destroyed this romance.  The Spain which Cervantes immortalized still lives.  We may still take Don Quixote and Sancho Panza as typical p. 17figures, whom you may see any day in the towns of Castile or walking on the roads of La Mancha.  These are the types that have remained unchanged.

And herein rests the fascination of Spain—this conservatism which has lasted into an age of hurrying progress.  It is a fascination that everyone will not feel, but for those whom it touches the glamour is more permanent and irresistible than that of any other country I know.

Many details of life, and especially in the smaller towns still unvisited by the tourist, remind us of a past that other countries have left behind.  The serenos, or night watchmen, with long hooded cloaks, tipped staves, and lanterns, are familiar figures in every town.  In the country the shepherd is seen, wrapped in his coloured blanket, leaning on his tall staff in the midst of his flock.  The wandering palmer with his cockle-shell, known to the England of Chaucer, may still be met in Spain.

You realize how far you are from the p. 18present when you enter a Spanish town.  You pass under a Moorish gateway, dark and imposing, with a suggestion of savage strength in its gaunt yellow masonry that carries memories of battles that have been fought.  Here you wait for the consumos to examine your luggage, which, if they doubt your honesty, they will probe with their long steel prong.  The dull jangle from the bells of your straining mules gives an unaccustomed sound as you drive upwards, for almost every Spanish town is set upon a hill.

If the town is small, the posada where you seek for lodging will have a wineshop below.  You will see a crowd of wild-looking men, with great cloaks and sombreros pulled low upon their foreheads, seated at a rude table.  They are taking wine from the bota, the long-spouted leather bottle from which only the Spaniard has the skill to drink.  Thoughts of brigands will crowd your mind.  But you need have no fear; these are simple townsmen.  Savage looks and this strange, wild appearance cover the simple friendliness of the child.  The p. 19excited conversation will cease as you enter.  Most likely you will hear the word “Francéses” muttered by one and another, for in Spain every foreigner is first taken to be French.  You answer, “No, Ingléses.”  At once an atmosphere of friendliness springs up, and an exchange of greetings will be made.  No one will take any further notice of you.  It is not the custom of the Spanish landlord to force his attentions upon his guests.  He is constitutionally incapable of the obsequious fussiness that belongs to commercial hospitality.  You will be accepted as one of the family, and the friendly trustfulness that is one characteristic of the fine Spanish courtesy will soon cause the foreign caballero to feel at home.

Spain is still the most democratic of countries.  Every Spaniard expects as a matter of right to be treated as an equal.  It is significant that the title Señor is given alike to God and to a beggar.  Your host at the posada will sit down with you to meals, and his son, who waits upon you, will slap you p. 20on the back with easy friendliness as he makes plans for your enjoyment.  These familiar and intimate relationships, which once were common in every country, are found to-day nowhere so universally practised as in Spain.  Each Spaniard that you meet gives the greeting which commends you to God.  And no native ever eats in company without first uttering the customary gusta, an invitation to share in the repast, which is a survival, most probably, of the belief of primitive peoples in the evil eye that poisons the food of those who eat alone.

The Puerta Visagra Antigua, Toledo

The snobbery that has arisen out of modern progress is unknown to the Spanish man and woman.  Business is not here the highest aim of life.  The Spaniard still feels true what Ganivet made Hernan Cortes say: “The grandest enterprises are those in which money has no part, and the cost falls entirely on the brain and heart.”  The hustling, besmirching spirit of commercialism is absent from the Spanish character; and for this reason, although Spain belongs to the past, p. 23the country, to those who have eyes to see, will seem to belong also to the future.

El Mitayo Cid Campeador, as the old chronicles affectionately call the Spanish hero, with his democratic manners, his rough-and-ready justice, and his acts at once ideal and yet practical in achievement, is the supreme representative of chivalry.  Valour and virtue, the qualities peculiarly identified with the Spanish romantic spirit, were his.  His energy in warfare, his power in love, his childlike religious faith, and his fearlessness in facing pain and also death, are characteristics that belong to all the men who have made Spain great.

Spain was the land of the sword, and the business of the true Spaniard was war.  And this love of action, strange as it may seem to those accustomed to think of the lazy Spaniard, is a very real trait in the Spanish character.  But the action must be connected with romance.  It has nothing at all to do with the idea of working for the gain of money which belongs to the “getting on” p. 24spirit of modern civilization.  The Spaniard works as the child works, for joy, and not for gain.

Living in Spain, you come to understand that this land is really the connecting link between Europe and Africa.  Both in his physical traits and in his character, the Spaniard shows his relation to the North African type—“the child of a European father by an Abyssinian mother” he has been called.  This is true.  Lithe and vigorous, with long-shaped heads and rich pigmentation of skin—the type is clearly seen in the pictures of Murillo and Zurbaran, and with a more vivid expression in the portraits of El Greco—the Spaniard has more points of contact with the Eastern than with the Western races.  Seldom indeed is he entirely a European.

But it is among the women that the resemblance stands out most clearly.  There are women with dark long African faces.  You will see them among the flamencas of Seville, or in the gipsy quarter of the Camino p. 25del Sacro Monte at Granada—women with slow, sinuous movements, which you notice best when you see them dance, and wonderful eyes that flash a slow fire, quite unforgettable in their strange beauty.

In dress we still find the Oriental love of bright and violent colours.  The elegant Manilla shawls and the mantilla, which give such special distinction to the women of Spain, are modifications of the Eastern veil.  The elaborately dressed hair, built up with combs, with the rose or carnation giving a note of colour, has also a very ancient origin.  Then, the men in some districts still retain the fashion of loose, baggy trousers such as women wear in the East.

We see the Moorish influence in the Oriental seclusion of the houses, with the barred windows and high gates, often studded with bosses, seeming to forbid an entrance.  The Spaniard still constructs his house as the Moors built their houses, around the inner court, or patio, those gardens of colour and rest, sometimes quite hidden from the p. 26passer-by, as at Toledo; sometimes visible through an openwork iron gateway, like the gay patios of Seville.  Each house still has its buzon, and is fronted with a zaguán, or vestibule of wood.

In every department of Spanish life we meet with this persistence of the Moorish influence.  This need not surprise us.

The coming of the Moors into Spain was a civilizing expedition more than a conquest.  It was the Orient entering Europe.  The invaders—for the most part Berbers with a few Arabs—were a race of young and vigorous culture, of such astonishing and rapid growth that, although in Africa they had hardly emerged from savagery, in Spain they manifested a truly wonderful receptivity, and absorbed and developed the best elements they found in the life of the country.

Pastimes of the Gitanos in the Camino Del Sacre Monte, Granada

In two years the Moors became masters, and under their dominion, from the eighth to the fifteenth century, the most elevated and opulent civilization flourished.  All p. 29the arts, sciences, industries, inventions, and culture, of the old civilization budded out into fresh discoveries of creative energy.  Religious toleration came with them, and was lost with them.  The spirit of chivalry arose among the Moors, and was afterwards appropriated by the Christian warriors of the North.  A Moorish knight was in every respect like a Spanish knight.  It was religion alone that divided them—one called on the name of Allah, the other on that of Christ.

We must remember that the primitive Iberians of Spain were themselves of Berber stock, and this affinity in racial origin explains the peaceful amalgamation of the conquerors with the conquered.  Afterwards by the constant mingling of their bloods the Moors and the old Spaniards became one.  The Moor gave to the Spaniard and he took from him, and they contributed to the same work of national civilization.

Ganivet has said truly that those who deny the Moorish influence show themselves p. 30unable to comprehend the Spanish character.  The Moorish dominion ended, passing almost as swiftly as it came.  But the spirit of their exquisite civilization, perhaps the most exquisite that the world has yet seen, moulded their Christian conquerors into its likeness.  And penetrating the Spanish character, and the daily life and habits of the people, this influence remains; indeed, it is not overstating the truth to say that to-day the pulse of the land still beats with Moorish life.

It is in the gardens of Spain that the stranger will find best the reflection of the Moorish spirit.  The Moors made their cities places of gardens and waters.  The very names that they gave to their pleasure places speak of joy.  “The Meadow of Murmuring Waters,” “The Garden of the Water-wheel”—what magic lingers in the suggestion of the words!

Many of these old gardens have perished.  Cordova has lost all except its Orange Court and the old garden of the ruined Alcázar.  p. 33In Seville the parks are new.  But in Granada the gardens have triumphed over the devastations of the Christians; and it is one of the exquisite surprises of the place to come suddenly on some fragment of a delicious garden where the Moorish tradition lives almost undisturbed.

Walls and Towers of the Alhambra, on the banks of the Darro,

There are few cities, even in Spain, that hold so many gardens.  There is the Alameda of the Alhambra, the green garden which lies around the Moorish citadel; the paseos on the banks of the Genil, planted with trees and cooled by fountains, the pleasure-grounds of the people; and the Jardín de los Adarves, on the south terrace of the Alhambra hill, a trellised retreat, with climbing vines and flowers, and splendid view of Vega and distant snow-capped hills.  Everyone will find in these gardens something that makes special appeal to him.

But the most exquisite haunt even among the gardens of Granada is the Generalife—the summer palace of the Moorish Princes, at the foot of the Cerro de Sol, and to the p. 34east of the Alhambra hill.  Here you have the charm of small and perfect gardens laid out in terraces, with great clipped cypresses, myrtles, and orange-trees, and the glow of flowers, with that of the delicate Moorish architecture, of richly coloured tiles and rare inscriptions.  And everywhere is the joyous sound of flowing water; the fountains are always playing, and water runs in channels made of inverted tiles placed on the top of the balustrades.  One of the charms of Moorish life was the love of pure water.

An old legend says that the name Generalife in Arabic signifies the “house of love, of dancing, and of pleasure,” and, further, that it was built by one Omar, a passionate lover of music, that he might retire here and entirely give himself up to that amusement.  The story is probably untrue, and the name, as the chronicles state, is a corruption of the Arabic “Djennat-al-Arif,” which means “the garden of Arif.”  But romance so often is more beautiful than fact.  One likes to think that this exquisite palace and gardens were p. 35designed as a place wherein a man could give his soul to music.

“Charming place!  Thy garden is embellished with flowers which repose upon their stalks and exhale the sweetest perfumes; fresh air agitates the orange-trees and spreads abroad the sweet odour of its blossoms.  I hear voluptuous music joined to the rustling of the leaves of thy grove.  Everything around is harmonious, green, and flowering.”

Such is part of the inscription upon the arcades of the Garden of the Pond, and how perfectly the rich imagery of the words conveys the charm of the garden!  The Generalife has kept more than any place in Spain its Moorish character, combining in its palace and garden, in spite of decay and alterations, much of that full suggestion of all beautiful things that was their gift.

In Spain dancing is something more than an amusement; it is a serious art closely connected with religious ritual, which expresses, perhaps as nothing else does, if we except the bull-fight, the true spirit of the people.  The dances are Eastern in their p. 36origin; they are dramas of love, and especially those of the Gitanas, who have adopted and kept living the ancient dances of the country.

Seville, the joyous southern capital, is the city that has given its own spirit to the most beautiful of the Spanish dances.  Granada and Malaga are also centres of dancing, and sometimes good performances may be witnessed at Madrid.  But the best cafés cantantes, where the true Spanish dancers perform, are hidden in back streets where the foreigner does not readily find them.  These dances are national ceremonies and belong to the people, and are far different from the dances, often quite modern in character, that are given at the popular cafés.  The varieties are numerous, and the names are often confusing.  Many dances date back far into antiquity, while almost all owe their special character to Arabic influences.

A Glimpse of Granada from the walls of the Generalife

The bolero is the most aristocratic dance.  “What majesty, what decorum, what distinction!” p. 39cried Valera, speaking of the dances of Ruiz and his daughter Conchita.  It is danced by a man and a woman, and is a kind of drama between them; both use castanets.  It is a slow dance of deliberate grace and fascination.  The jota is danced by a woman alone.  This dance, too, is a love drama of intense passion, but always decorous, always beautiful.  Both these dances are native to Andalusia, the province of Spanish dancing.  Outside of Andalusia, the most famous dance is the Aragonese jota.  This is danced by a man and a woman, and the castanets are used.  But the drama is different, the movements are quicker and less varied, and there is great vivacity.  It seems a kind of combat between the two dancers; it is more a drama of battle than a drama of love.

But the most typical of all Spanish dancing is the flamenco dance of the Gitanas, which you will see best at Seville; it is the most primitive and the most African of all.  A group of performers sit in a semicircle upon a small stage.  The spectators all take their p. 40part by a rhythmic clapping of hands and stamping feet.  One of the performers—generally a man—plays the guitar and sings an accompanying song.  A dancer rises suddenly, spontaneously, as if seized by the passion of the music.  She wears a long dress, usually of white, and a beautiful Manilla shawl is folded on her shoulders.  How can one describe the dance which is so unlike all other dances?  It is not a dance of the feet; every part of the body plays its share in the performance: the swaying figure, the beckoning hands, the glittering smiles that come and go in the dark eyes—all contribute.  The dancer is alive to her fingertips, and every expressive movement has the Spanish simplicity of emphasis.  At first the movement is slow, then faster, and now increases and rises to a passion of intensity.  And all the time the spectators are actively participating, their emotion rising with the dancer’s emotion; their rhythmic clapping and beating of feet grows louder as the drama proceeds, and cries of long-drawn-out p. 43oles stimulate the dancer.  The dance ends as unexpectedly as it began: a pause comes, and the swaying body is still, as if languor had followed on strong emotion.  There is silence; the dancer goes back to her seat.  Then the singer starts a new song, the clapping is taken up again, another dancer comes forward, and a new drama is acted.

A group of dancers at the “Feria,” Seville

The foreigner who would understand Spain must see these dances; then he will come to know yet another characteristic of the people—their love of strong, quite elemental sensation.  It is this that so often makes them seem cruel to us.

This delight of the Spaniard in all emotions that make sharp appeal to the senses explains the existence of the bull-fight, the national sport, which is so much a part of the life of the people that, although to-day there is a widespread movement to repress, or at least to mitigate, its cruelty, it seems unlikely that its real attraction will cease.

It is impossible not to condemn the bull-fight; its cruelty cannot be denied.  It is p. 44brutal, as the most cultivated Spaniards themselves admit.  And yet there are certain facts that the stranger must remember before he condemns.  The bull-fight, like the dance, is a solemn ritual rather than an amusement.  The combats take place on Sunday, while the most famous form part of the ceremonies of Holy Week.  Part of the proceeds are devoted to some religious object—a charity or other holy work.  Almost all the great bull-rings have a chapel where the fighters first prepare themselves in prayer and partake of the Holy Eucharist.  To the foreigner it may seem that this union of religion and bull-fighting is incongruous, but to most Spaniards it does not appear so.

The bull-fight is the Spaniard’s strongest, most characteristic intoxication.  The poor man will sell his shirt to buy a ticket for the bull-ring.  They are a profoundly serious people, but every incident connected with their national sport arouses them into vivid life.  I remember on one occasion, p. 45when travelling in Andalusia in an open third-class railway carriage, the train passed a vacada, or training-place of bulls to be used in the ring.  The effect was magical.  These quiet, sombre people sprang upon the seats, some leaned far out of the windows; they gesticulated, they waved their sombreros, they called the names of the bulls, they cheered, they shouted.  Never had I seen the decorous Spaniard so strongly moved.

The toreros are the idols of the Spanish people.  You will see them best at Seville, in their faultless tight majo costumes and frilled shirts, fastened with diamond studs, and diamond rings on the fingers of their faultless hands, and with their pigtail fastened upon the top of their heads.  There is something splendidly attractive in their perfect bodily equipoise, with every muscle trained to faultless precision.  The toreros have in the highest degree strength, agility, and grace.  Even women have been toreros and Madame Dieulafoy tells of one Doña, Maria de Gaucin, who left her convent to p. 46become a torero; then, after gaining renown throughout Spain for her exploits in the bull-ring, returned to the practices of religion.  Only in Spain would such division of a life be thought perfectly natural, perfectly seemly.

The old town of Ronda

The bull-fight was established in Spain in the eleventh or twelfth century, and is of Moorish origin.  The bull would also seem to have come first from Africa.  But the spectacular and ceremonial character of the contest is certainly adapted from the Roman combats, the influence of which had survived among the old Spaniards.

Every Spanish town has its Plaza de Toros.  Here, and especially at Seville during the Easter festival, you will see all the population of the place, a motley crowd of men and women.  Señoras in white lace mantillas and white dresses, and their cavaliers, the gay Sevillanos, side by side with the gente flamenca and the cigarreras in lovely shawls, their hair elaborately arranged, with a white flower showing against its p. 49blackness; for the bull-fight is a democratic institution, where the greatest foregather with the people.  The patience of the vast crowd is perfect as they await the advent of the appointed hour.  All are animated with a suppressed seriousness, the prelude to violent emotion which is so characteristic of the Spaniard.

The entire performance is carried out with an elaborate ceremony of detail which the stranger often finds difficult to appreciate.  The President enters his palco.  Then follows the paseo de la cuadrilla, the processional entrance of the bull-fighters, grave, handsome men, in their beautiful and varied costumes of yellow and violet, gold and green, or whatever the chosen colours may be.  The procession moves slowly across the ring; there is no haste.  Each one in turn gravely and with perfect grace salutes the President, who then throws down the key of the bulls’ den, the toril.  In a few moments the first bull rushes into the arena.  The combat has begun.

The fight is divided into three acts.  In p. 50the Suerte de Picar, the first, the picadores, dressed in round felt hats, short cloaks, and long leggings of plaited steel, and mounted on blindfolded horses, in turn receive the charge of the bull, thrusting him aside with their long pikes.  Sometimes they come to close quarters, a picador is thrown, his horse is wounded, or perhaps killed.  The shouts of the now excited crowd show that this is the critical moment.  The picador rises quickly, another horse is brought, while the chulos divert the attention of the bull by dexterous waving of their brightly coloured cloaks.  When the bull is sufficiently wearied—for this is the object of the first act in the drama—the President gives a signal, and the picadores retire.

The Falls of the Guadalevín, the Great Gorge and New
Bridge, Ronda

The banderilleros take their place.  This is the Suerte de Banderillear, the second act, the object of which is to inflame the bull.  The banderilleros place the barbed darts, or banderillas, in the shoulders of the bull.  Each is about 2 feet long, of curious device, and ornamented with long coloured streamers.  p. 53It is the most exciting part of the combat.  The utmost skill, agility, and daring, are needed to plant the darts.  There must be no bungling, no second of hesitation.  It is now that the excitement of the spectators is really aroused, for a sense of solemnity is given by the possible presence of death.  A banderillero may be seen to seize hold of the lashing tail, swing himself along the beast’s side, and plant his dart between its horns.  It is done with surprising skill, with delight, and with passion; and the applause of the spectators swells to a great roar, which refuses to be silenced.

The last act is the Suerte de Matar.  The chief espada comes into the ring; to him belongs the honour of the death.  First he approaches the President, and solemnly dedicates to him the slaying of the bull.  He is armed with a short Toledan blade and the muleta, a small red cloth.  Calmly he walks towards the bull.  And now a silence falls upon the hitherto raging crowd.  It is the moment of pause, of silent waiting for the p. 54most violent emotion of all.  First he plays with the now infuriated and wearied beast.  There is still no hurrying.  The Spaniard wishes always to gain the very utmost out of his sensations.  The bull is teased by the waving of the red cloth, and in this way is made to take the proper position for the death-blow.  The espada watches his moment; then, with unerring decision, he buries the blade in the bull’s neck between the shoulders, and walks slowly to the President’s box, with absolute composure and a dignity that is almost defiant.  Deafening cheers greet him, rewards and costly tributes are thrown, and he is presented with a great bouquet of flowers.  How Spanish is this ending, which rewards the slayer with flowers!

It is over; the ring is cleared, sand is raked over the pools of blood, a new bull is driven forward, again the drama begins.  Six times the scene is re-acted, and a seventh bull, a toro de gracia, is added at the first bull-fight of the year.

Spanish Dancers, Seville

In this repetition of emotions, this delight p. 57in heaping up sensations, we have a very real revelation of the Spanish temperament.  And this explains the devotion of the people to the bull-fight.  When we come to estimate the Spanish character, we shall find that the Spaniard has the qualities which belong to all primitive people.  The sentiment of sympathy with suffering is essentially a modern one.  The Spaniard is still the Moor, his ancestor.  He is cruel because he is indifferent to pain, his own or another’s.


The Character of the People—Their Quietness and Sobriety—Their Cruelty—This the Result of their Stoicism and Indifference to Pain—These the Qualities of a Strong and Primitive People—The Feria, the Holiday of the Sevillians—Religion: its Place in the National Life—The Dance of the Seises—Holy Week in Seville—Religious Processions—The Pasos.

The character of the Spaniard, as one gradually learns to know it, not from a brief visit spent tourist fashion in hurrying from one city to another, but from living among the people, sharing their common life and entering into their spirit, is a very positive character.  And this character, though at first seemingly full of contradictions, is one of an almost curious uniformity, strongly individual, and not easy to comprehend.

p. 59A significant quality of the Spaniard is his quietness—the grave enjoyment which he retains even under the influence of strong emotion, such as we have seen in the dances and in the national pastime of the bull-fight.  His countenance will keep its accustomed gravity even whilst his mind is inflamed.  The Spaniard has what one would like to call an active languor.  On the one hand we find in his character a deeply rooted dislike, which is almost a contempt, for useful work, with, on the other hand, a reserve of untiring energy and a special aptitude for violent and emotional action.

In Spain work is not the highest aim of life.  This is the reason why time is of so much less value.  It explains the tendency to delay everything to a convenient to-morrow—that annoying mañana with which the Spaniard cheerfully responds to every demand.

One of the first lessons I learnt in Spain was the unimportance of time.  We were staying in a country village off the beaten tracks of travel, and had to drive a long p. 60distance to meet the train which was to take us to Madrid.  When we arrived at the small wayside station, we found we had three hours to wait.  There was no waiting-room, no refreshments could be procured, and it was raining and very cold.  I felt angered at the discomfort and waste of time; but the Spaniards who were our companions accepted the delay with true philosophy.  They were genuinely distressed at my annoyance—the Spaniard is always courteous to the foreigner—but they did not at all share it.  They wrapped their great cloaks around them, and walked up and down the wind-driven platform for three hours, calmly indifferent.

I understood their acceptance of life on its own terms, which is the very root of the Spanish character, at once its strength and its weakness, the cause of its beauty and of its defects.

The Cave of the Doves, “El Chorro,” between
Boladilla and Malaga

A charge of cruelty is often made against this people.  But the cruelty which one meets so often, and especially in the treatment of animals, is almost always misunderstood p. 63by the stranger.  It arises from a certain hardness of fibre, which makes the Spaniard indifferent to pain.  And if he is cruel to others, the Spaniard is also cruel to himself.  I know of no people who are as little careful of personal comfort.  Stoicism may be said to be the religion of the true Spaniard.  Every form of asceticism has been practised by him, and to-day there exist brotherhoods whose members flagellate themselves with special instruments made of sharp broken glass till the blood flows, just in the same way as the banderilleros prick the bulls in the ring.

The Spaniards have always shown an interest in blood and a satisfaction in shedding it.  Two centuries ago it was a common custom for lovers to scourge themselves in the streets during Holy Week, to win admiration from their mistresses.  The Spaniard still gains the approval of his women by feats of daring, and the bull-fighter is the idol of the people.

We find an expression of this insistence on p. 64pain in the Spanish pictures and sculpture.  Artists in no other country have depicted the sufferings of the Christ and the tortures of martyrs with the same delight of detail.  I recall the pictures of Zurbaran and Ribera, or those agonized images of the Christ by Juan Juni at Valladolid, in which sorrow is carried to a distortion that is almost caricature.  The Spaniard accepts these images; he clothes them with little embroidered skirts and lace petticoats with the naïveté of a child; to him they are the most poignant expression of his religious emotion.

The Limestone Quarries, Almeria

It would seem, then, that in the Spanish character there is not only an indifference to pain, but an actual delight in the emotion of suffering, which prevents an understanding of cruelty.  It is the temperament that makes the martyr and the fanatic.  I remember on one occasion some boys were torturing a young bird, which one boy held by a string tied to its leg.  I offered to buy the bird for a few reales.  At once it was given to me, and I set it free.  But what was the result?  In p. 67less than an hour some twenty birds had been caught, fastened to strings, and were brought to me.  No payment was asked: the birds were a gift to the foreign señora.  The boys had not understood at all that I disliked their cruelty; they thought that I had a strange fancy for captive birds.

The incident is characteristic of what the stranger will meet constantly in Spain.  Your driver will flog his mules with the butt-end of his whip—yes, beat them till they fall.  If you remonstrate, he will smile, rarely will he be angry; but never will you make him understand.  Once during a long drive I gained respite for a team of mules at the cost of a bribe of two pesetas.  I know that driver pitied my foolishness.

Yet, let there be no mistake, the Spaniard is not without the tenderer emotions of humanity.  And, after all one has heard of Spanish cruelty, it is interesting to note the signs of gentleness and kindness that meet one in many unexpected ways.  I have never seen any other people so friendly with one another.  p. 68The home life of the people, be they rich or poor, is charming, with a standard of kindness that compares favourably with that of other countries.  Domestic crimes are comparatively infrequent.  The Spaniard is known for his considerate love for children, and the relations between parents and children are universally happy.  In no country does less stigma fall upon a child who is born out of wedlock.  One of the strongest impressions I gained during my stay in the Peninsula was the happiness of the charming children.  It is noteworthy that the first hospital for the insane was established in the country of the bull-ring.  The practice of allowing counsel to poor persons in criminal cases is of much older origin than in our own country.  The pest of beggars is another witness to this softness in their character; the Spaniard feels that it is inhuman to refuse alms.

A Gipsy house at Coria

It is when the Spaniard comes into personal relationships that his real native kindness appears.  For his friend he is ready to sacrifice his life—a quality which Strabo p. 71notes as belonging to the ancient Iberians.  You will often meet with a curious mingling of cruelty and kindness in the same individual.  I recall a characteristic incident.  An artist friend was sketching in a small town in the province of Old Castile, and upon one occasion was greatly annoyed by a lad who threw sand upon the wet canvas, thereby showing, I suppose, his hostility to the foreigner, whose actions he did not understand and therefore disliked.  The artist, rather than contend with his rudeness, left the spot and returned home.  By mistake a small purse-bag was left behind.  The boy found it, and followed with it to the hotel.  What a change!  There was no rudeness now; instead, a real pleasure in rendering a service.  Smiling and bowing, the persecutor of half an hour before returned the purse with the fine Spanish courtesy, refusing to receive any reward.

It is these seemingly contradictory impulses that puzzle the stranger in estimating the Spanish character.  But the truth is, that p. 72the deep-rooted conservatism of the race has kept alive in the Spaniard of to-day the qualities that belong to primitive peoples.  Mr. Havelock Ellis, the English writer who has best understood the Spanish spirit, says truly: “The Spaniard is, and remains to-day, in the best sense of the word, a savage.”  The Spanish nature is elemental, and responds to all the emotions that touch the elemental passions: love, religion, war—these are the emotions that stir life into action.

Much of what is characteristic of the life of the people may be studied in the Feria, the great spring festival, which is held at Seville each year in the middle of April.  From all parts of Spain people flock to the southern city, and for three days at this national picnic they make holiday together.  In the Prado de San Sebastian streets of wooden pavilions, or casetas, have been erected, consisting mainly of one room, which is furnished with chairs, a piano, and beautiful flowers.  Here on each day the families of Seville assemble in their own p. 73caseta, and pass the joyous hours in receiving guests, dancing, guitar-playing, and singing.  One side of the caseta is entirely open, so that all can see the company within.  The women and the older men sit upon the chairs; the majos, in faultless costume, stand about, each smoking his cigarette; the children, brilliant, fascinating little people, play in front.  Some of the women, and many children, are dressed in the old Andalusian costume, with black lace over bright yellow silk; all the women wear mantillas upon their hair.  Fans are fluttering everywhere; there is a soft tinkling of guitars.  Dark eyes flash upon you, and red lips part in smiles as you stand and look within.  It is a family party, carried out with a publicity that seems strange to us, but is perfectly natural to the Spaniard.  At the Feria everyone is accepted as a friend.  Someone clicks a pair of castanets, and a beautiful girl gets up to dance the seguidilla, that most graceful dance which every Andalusian child is taught.  The effect on the company p. 74is magical.  How animated they are! every face is smiling.  Their chairs are drawn in a circle around the dancer, whom they applaud with rhythmic clapping.  It is the seguidilla, with its gracious memories, which gives life to the Feria.

In another part of the fair the Gitanas have their tents.  All the women from Triana and the Macarena are here, amusing themselves simply and quietly with a joyous decorum.  Some of the Gitana women are remarkably handsome; all have superb hair, and the gay colours of their dresses give brightness to the scene.  There is dancing here, too, the flamenco dances, with slow movements and passionate suggestion of love, and the noise of the constant clapping of the spectators.

Interior of the same house at Coria

On the outskirts, in the open space of the Prado, are flocks of sheep and goats, and droves of bullocks, horses, mules, and donkeys, tended by picturesque herdsmen and muleteers in the dress of the several provinces.  Caballeros ride their horses up and down to show off their points.  The p. 77vendors haggle and chaffer with the buyers, for all the animals are for sale; but all is good-natured, there is no quarrelling.  At intervals there are little ventas, or refreshment booths, where the people buy a refresco.  Families are camping and picnicking on the grass.  Others are seated on chairs arranged in a circle around the couple who rise to dance.  At a little distance there are swings for the children.  The noise is great—the Spaniards delight in loud sounds—concertinas and barrel-organs, the sounds from the castanets of the dancers, and the loud clapping of hands, mingling with the cries of the aguadores and the vendors of shell-fish and chestnuts.  Here, too, everyone is happy; but you will not see one drunken or quarrelsome person; among all the people there is a friendly, good-natured content.

“Seville,” it has been said, “lights up for a fiesta as a face lights up with a smile.”  And evening is the time at which the Feria looks its best.  The great iron tower in the centre of the park is brilliantly illuminated, p. 78and the avenues of casetas, radiating in every direction, are softly lighted with thousands of fairy lights, electric lamps, and Chinese lanterns; in each a different scheme of colour prevails.  The soft warm air is fragrant with the scent of the blossoming orange-trees.  In each caseta there is a dancer, and from the open doors eager faces look out upon the passers-by.  The sound of castanets and guitars is heard in every direction.  The broad walks are filled with people, an unending stream, slowly walking up and down.  This is the true Spain, idle, joyous, brilliant, happily content, making the very most of life with the fine acceptance that is the gift of the Sevillians.

It is this spirit which the Spaniards have brought into their religion—the understanding that joy is a part of worship.  And although Seville is not a religious city as Toledo and Valencia are, it is here that the splendid ceremonies of the Church are carried out with more detail and spectacular appeal than in any city in Spain.  The Sevillians p. 79have made the ritual of their religion a part of their life’s enjoyment.

Nothing shows this better than the strange mediæval custom of the Seises, the sacred dances which take place in the cathedral on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and on that of Corpus Christi.  The sixteen seises, or choristers, dance in front of the high-altar, using castanets and singing in the most charming and graceful minuet fashion.  It is perfectly dignified, perfectly religious, and the young dancers perform without a suspicion of levity.  There is something specially characteristic of the Spaniards’ attitude towards religion in thus making dancing a part of the sacred ritual of the Church.  Just as the bull-fight is carried out as a solemn ceremony, so dancing, the people’s strongest passion, finds its place in the service of the house of God.  To the stranger it is an astonishing ceremony, a witness to the pagan element that lives so persistently in the Spaniard—the cause of those sharp contrasts that surprise us in his character.

p. 80All Spain gathers in Seville to take part in the great festival, which is held during the Semana Santa, the Holy Week of Easter.  It is the people’s holiday as truly as is the Feria; both are “holy days.”

A Village “Pasos.”

The most characteristic of the ceremonies are the religious processions, which take place on each day during the week, and all day long on Good Friday.  At Granada and many other towns the Church processions have been given up; but at Seville the custom remains unchanged from the Middle Ages.  The whole city is given up to the pasos, vehicular traffic is stopped, all business ceases.  Everyone, from the Archbishop and the Alcalde downwards, assembles in the public squares, where seats are erected, in the streets, or in the balconies and windows of the houses, to witness the performance.  It is an amazing sight, this multitude gathered to watch the procession of an image!  But the Spaniards give themselves up to it with simple abandonment.  Nothing seen in Spain will give so true an impression of the part p. 83that religion takes in the life of the people.  The stranger will feel himself carried back at least three centuries.

The pasos, which are carried in these processions, consist of a single sacred figure, or a group of figures illustrating a scene from the Passion.  Many of the statues have real beauty; they are the work of Montañés, the seventeenth-century sculptor, whose polychrome carvings express so perfectly the Spanish religious spirit.  Borne by twenty-five invisible carriers, at an extremely slow pace, the sacred groups pass through the streets of the city.  Each paso is followed by the members of the cofradia, or brotherhood, to whom the statue belongs.  They are dressed in the costume of their Order, the long gown, usually of white cloth, with the peaked cowl covering the head.  Each brother carries a lighted candle.  Companies of acolytes, white and scarlet robed, swing censers and chant anthems.  A line of gendarmes, in capes of vivid red, march in advance to clear the way.  Women clad in p. 84white walk beside them; barefooted, they are fulfilling a vow.  The sacred figures, and especially the Virgin, to whom the chivalrous Spaniard has always rendered his homage, are vested in rich gowns of silk and velvet, enriched with jewels of such great price that a soldier with drawn sword walks on guard behind.  The platforms on which the statues rest are thickset with lighted tapers and laden with flowers.

A rope and matting factory, Seville

The slow procession proceeds through the densely crowded streets and squares to the accompaniment of solemn music, with which mingle the vivas and bravas of the spectators.  Before the doors of the City Hall there is a pause to greet the Alcalde, who rises from his velvet chair.  Then the procession passes onwards through the reverent, bare-headed crowd to the cathedral.  The women, black-robed and with black mantillas, in the balconies, where rows of lamps and candles burn, rise in reverence.  One and another sings an ardent petition, with eyes fastened on the sacred figure.  Now a young p. 87girl presses forward in the crowd with a gift of marigolds, which are placed at the Virgin’s feet.

There is a completeness and simplicity in the worship, the great crowd, rich and poor, women and men, all moved by one strong emotion.  And the spell of the strange scene penetrates the spirit; one forgets its pagan, mediæval childishness; one begins to understand how these outward symbols have had power to hold the faith of the people.

The cathedral is the chief centre of all the ceremonies; and the vast edifice—Santa Maria is the largest Gothic church in the world—which is not too vast for its part in the great functions, is seen best on these days of festival.  The gold and silver plate, all the splendid Church treasures—silver candelabra beyond counting, jewelled censers, chalices, and crosses, golden keys and diamond stars, Arfe’s rich and delicate monstrance—have been laid out by the side of the great altar.  Crimson drapings cover the walls; the priests p. 88wear their terno celeste, vestments of blue and gold.  The great doors are wide open, and all day long the people come and go in endless procession, as the pageants of the pasos arrive and then depart.  The Mass, with its elaborate ritual, is sung to the Spanish music of Eslava; the Sacrament is borne in priestly procession.  Each day has its special function.  On Palm Sunday is the consecration of the palms and olive branches; on Maundy Thursday the typical Spanish ceremony of the washing of feet takes place; on Good Friday there is the Passion Sermon; and on Saturday the Cirio Pascual, the great candle, 25 feet high and 770–880 pounds in weight, is consecrated.

Sacristy of the Convent of the Cartuja, Granada

All the days the cathedral is filled with relays upon relays of worshippers: some kneel upon the bare stones, one by one or in groups together; some stand; others sit on the chairs they have brought with them.  The black dresses and mantillas of the women mingle with the bright colours of the peasants who have come from the country districts.  There p. 91is something social, well-nigh domestic, in the scene.  In the intervals between their devotions the women chatter loudly together and use their fans; children play about as if in their own homes; even dogs and cats are there, quite unmolested.  The Spaniard is wholly at home in his church, which to him is so much a part of the world and his daily life that he can talk, eat, sleep, and transact business, there.

As the week advances an indescribable emotion grows, which culminates on the Saturday, when, at ten o’clock in the morning, the Veil of the Temple is rent in twain.  The great purple curtain, which has hung in front of Roldan’s beautiful Christ upon the Cross, is sharply drawn by hidden cords.  The signal is given; all the bells of the city ring out joyously, the great organ peals forth jubilees of victory, Gloria in Excelsis soars out in choral chants.  It is the moment of supreme emotion.  The multitude falls upon its knees before the great symbol of the accomplished Passion.

p. 92This is the end of the Holy Week ceremonies.  The women put off their black, and now appear in white lace mantillas and dresses predominantly white.  In the afternoon the children’s festival of the lambs takes place.  Then on Easter Sunday the bull-fight is celebrated.


Toledo, the Type of the Spanish City—Its Architectural Monuments—The Intermingling of Arab and Christian Art—Granada—The Alhambra—Cordova—The Great Mosque—Seville, the City of Pleasure—The Special Character of the Streets—The Cafés and Shops—The Typical Andalusian—The Parks—The Sevillanas—Spanish Courtship—The Houses of Seville—The Patios—The Home-life of the Sevillians—Spanish Hospitality.

Toledo has kept, perhaps, more than any city in Spain its mediæval aspect, combining in its buildings of so many civilizations that here remain together; churches, convents, mosques, Gothic walls and ornaments, Moorish houses and steep passages—everywhere the Moorish design is evident—and a great Christian cathedral—much of what is most typical of the genuine Spanish civilization.  p. 94I know of no city that can give a more poignant emotion than Toledo.

A great town, set on its rough and elevated rock of granite in the midst of the blue Sierra, closely ringed by the deep brown water of the Tajo, it is like no other city in the world.  The national character, strong and aloof, passionate and brilliant, and the nation’s history, are here epitomized before you.  And coming to the city, as the stranger does, from Madrid, blatant, noisy, and modern, you will feel transplanted back into an older world.

Your first impression is of something extraordinarily austere.  You seem to have passed into silence and an almost painful absence of life.

Bridge of Alcantara and the Alcázar, Toledo

Toledo has remained as the Moors built it, a tortuous network of cobbled alleys, as was most fitting in a city built upon rock, scorched by sun in summer, and in winter swept with icy winds.  The tall houses, rising in straight p. 97upward lines like an arrangement of flat walls, are almost all windowless on the side next to the street; where there is a window it is barred and closely latticed, and the high gates are studded with iron bosses and seem to forbid an entrance.  No sight of the tree-shaded court is given, as at Seville and Cordova.  No one appears to go in and out of these doors.  Every house has the aspect of a prison; they all look as if they had histories.

There is the same absence of bustling modern life in the streets.  In the Calle del Comercio there are shops, but the wares are simple, having an old-world air; only specially interesting is that of Alvarez, the best maker of damascene.  Even in the Zocodover, the centre of the city’s business, all is sedate.  You will see the water-carriers driving their mules up the steep streets from the vega, a peasant whose beast is laden with bright-coloured fruits and vegetables, or a group of goats that supply the milk for the city.  Yet often the streets seem deserted.  Only the companies of beggar children, who clamour p. 98incessantly around you with their strange cry, “Un caukie sou!  Un caukie sou!” remind you of the life hidden in the sleeping city.

Romance lives in Toledo.  How many scenes and how many figures famous in Spain’s history are recalled to our memory here.  In no other city are there the same number of architectural monuments.  It is the chief centre of the two great elements of Spanish civilization, the Christian and the Arab, which makes it the place where the native art can best be studied.  Its cathedral and churches are furnished with the most perfect examples of the industrial arts that have been produced in the Peninsula.  El Greco, who adopted Toledo as his home, expresses in his pictures, which are one of the great possessions of the city, the Toledan spirit, which is the spirit of Spain.  The churches are the museums and picture-galleries of the city; each one has its special appeal—its precious mosaics, its ironwork, its glass windows, its cloisters, its tombs, its beautiful carvings, or its pictures.

p. 99In Toledo you understand the part that religion has taken in the history of the country.  You can hardly walk for five minutes in any direction without coming upon some church; they stand at the corner of almost every square, many are embedded between the brown walls of the houses.

Its architecture shows a curious mingling of Arab, Gothic, and Renaissance work.  Christian and Moor overlap in many buildings, while in others the art of each emerges isolated and independent.  In the great cathedral, the perfection of Gothic in Spain, we see nothing of the Moor, while in the mosque of Bel-el-pardon, now called El Cristo de la Luz, and in the ancient mosque in the Calle de las Tornarias, which has never been converted to Christian uses, and retains its original character almost unimpaired, we can with difficulty trace the Christian.  But in other buildings—the Sinagoga del Tránsito, for instance—we find the Moorish traditions persisting with the Christian.  And it is this intermingling and p. 100absorption of the Moorish civilization with the Christian that gives the real character to Toledo.  Not only in the churches that once were mosques does the passage of that great people remain, but in the houses, austere without but beautiful within, in ancient palaces, in fragments of gardens that still are places of rest, in embattled bridge and arch, in exquisite harmonies of ornament that meet you everywhere, and, more than all, we find this gracious influence in the spirit of the city itself.  Toledo is a living picture, a city in which each building is a voice that speaks the history of Spain.

In Cordova, and even in Granada, you are less sharply conscious of the Moorish influence.

A street in Cordova, looking towards the Mosque

Time, the tamer of proud cities, has shadowed Granada, and to visit it is to understand the desolation of conquest.  The big hotels, placed so incongruously near to the Alhambra, the clamorous guides, the beggars—all the disagreeable conditions of a show city that trades on its past are here.  p. 103The efforts of recent years, that have developed a certain amount of industrial activity, have not lessened this impression; for modern enterprise seems strangely out of place in Granada, while the attempts to improve the old city, such as the boulevard which has been driven through its centre, have been left unfinished, with a result of added desolation.  In the air itself there seems something of decay, as the white mists from the snowy heights of the Sierra Nevada rest shroud-like upon the vega.  Always you seem to catch an echo of that ultimo suspiro del Moro.  Ruins meet you everywhere; only the gardens in Granada have kept the charm of their exquisite beauty.

But there is one possession that conquest has left to Granada.  It is to see the Alhambra that everyone comes to the city, which is but a setting to this Moorish jewel.  And in the wooded garden, which lies around the citadel, where nightingales sing, and flowers embroider the grass, and the sound of running water is always heard, Granada, p. 104with its memories of ruin, seems shut off as by a veil of quiet.  The Alhambra is the supreme pearl of Moorish art in Spain.  It is bewildering in the appeal of its strange beauty.  It is like an invocation of an Eastern sorcerer, and as you wander in its courts and halls the Thousand and One Nights seem true.  It is hardly conceivable that people lived here.  You seem to understand the brilliant dominion of the Moors in Spain.  Only people with a history like theirs could have reigned here; life lived here could but have been a romance.

The first impression you gather from the almost bewildering beauty is how any building so seemingly fragile can be so strong.  More than five centuries have passed since the Alhambra was built.  The repeated earthquakes which did so much damage to Granada, and laid in ruin the Renaissance palace of Charles V., have been powerless to destroy this most delicate of architectural structures.  To-day the Alhambra is kept as a show-place, rejuvenated by the restorer.  p. 105But even this has not been able to dim the exquisite beauty of its courts and halls.  And all the jewelled weaving of ornaments, so difficult to grasp as being quite real, have kept much of their splendour.  It almost seems as though the common superstition were true, and that the charm of Fate does guard the Red Palace of the Moors.

Cordova suffers from the memory of a past greatness which she cannot now support.  Gautier describes the city as le squelette blanché et calciné.  Cordova is a city in sleep; it rests in a quiet and beautiful dream.  Here the Eastern spirit of acceptance echoes with an unsilenced voice.  And this is why the sensitive stranger will find such perfect satisfaction in the white city’s sleeping peace.  Cordova was the town that I most loved in Spain.

But the tourist goes to Cordova in haste to visit the mosque.  “Mezquita?  Mezquita?”  Each Cordovese you encounter will surmise your desire and direct you without question.  They know that this p. 106imperishable building is the one interesting lion in their city; it is to visit it that the stranger comes to Cordova.

The great mosque is a “wonder of the world,” the one perfectly satisfying building left in the city of the Khalif, the Cordova that was known as “the Bride of Andalusia.”  This Church of the Divine Wisdom is the most complete expression in building that the Moors have left in Spain, more even than the Alhambra.  It is one of the buildings that sum up the genius of a people, the experience of a race, and the teaching of a school.

In the Outer Court of Oranges, where the water of the fountains and the leafy shade of the orange-trees give delicious coolness from the blazing heart of the sun, you will find the untiring charm and dreamy peace of Oriental repose.  You will see the women of Cordova gathered around the great almîda fountain with their red-brown pitchers to fill.  You will hear them chattering, telling the news of the day.  Now and then p. 107will come a sound of laughter as a youth, also with a vessel to fill, joins them.  The women will leave their pitchers and go into the mosque, one by one or in groups together, for prayer is a part of the day’s work.  Figures move slowly up and down the cloisters; they are the Canons; each will be smoking a cigarette.  Groups of beggars crouch on the low stone seats; they seem quite content in the sun.  At the hour of service a band of acolytes will come from the chancery and cross the court slowly to the mosque, making a line of scarlet.  And presently there will be a soft sound of music as the boys sing the coplas in honour of the Virgin.  Yes, the Court of Oranges is the most perfect spot in Cordova, to which the stranger will come again and again.

Puerta Del Perdón (Gate of Pardon) the Mosque, Cordova

And when you go into the mosque itself, you will pass out of the colonnades of orange-trees into colonnades of stone.  Before you, around you, everywhere, a forest of columns; and the canopy of curves above you, formed by the double rows of crossed fantastic arches, p. 110will seem like the interlacing branches of great trees.  You will remember those enchanted forests you dreamed of as a child.  In truth, the architecture of the mosque is like a living thing.  The light, entering from above, plays upon the arches, causing the red stones to gleam like fire; it frets the thousand columns with moving patterns; it catches the glass mosaics in jewelled brilliance, and makes a soft shining upon the marble pavement, in which, as you look up and down, you see the long arcades reflected until the distance dies away, mysterious and apparently unending.

The Queen’s Chamber, Alhambra, Granada

But words cannot describe this wonderful temple.  The Moorish houses of prayer will bring you a sense of joy: there is nothing of the mystic suggestion of a Gothic cathedral—that of Seville, for instance; your spirit is freed, not awed.  The mosque was to the Moor this world as well as the next.  Here is the message of a race who understood the fulness of living so well that they knew how to be joyously at home with their God; and you realize more fully this lesson that the p. 113Moors gave to Spain, which finds its expression to-day in the Spaniard’s happy familiarity with his God.

The stranger will now be ready to understand the special atmosphere of Seville, for it is this frank acceptance of joy as the gold thread of life which gives the southern city its charm.  It is not shadowed with memory like sleeping Cordova, nor is it overburdened with heroic monuments like Toledo; there are no ruins such as give sadness to Granada; it is still a living city whose blood is pulsing with the joy of life lived in the sunshine.

The buildings for which the city is famous all have this aspect of joy—the Moorish Tower of Gold; the Alcázar, with its flower-crowded gardens; the Giralda Tower, which is so old, and yet in its glittering whiteness looks so new.  There is a joyousness in these buildings that I have never seen in the buildings of any other city.

Then, Seville is alive commercially, and from its wharves among the orange-trees which line the banks of its rivers vessels p. 114carry away its wine, its oil, and its oranges.

Seville has no rival among the cities of Spain.  The old saying is still true: “To him whom God loves He gives a home in Seville.”

In Seville you are happy without seeking to be so, and when the stranger has learnt this he has learnt the secret of the Sevillanos.

Seville has the aspect of a city given up to a holiday humour; and if I wished to describe the special quality of her happy people, I should say that they understood perfectly the difficult art of loafing.  You must be happy to loaf successfully; that is why Northern people find it so difficult.  But not even the Venetians loaf as well as the Sevillanos.  Go to the Calle de las Sierpes, that narrow, animated street, the centre of Seville’s joyous life; it is different from other streets; its gay shops, with the double row of irregular, close-drawn windows that make a sinuous line of light—certainly it is like a serpent.  All day and far into the night people saunter up and down its p. 115pavements or sit in one of the many cafés, which are always filled with crowds of unoccupied persons.  You will seem to be watching a stage play.  It is here that you will see best the majos, or dandies of Seville; in springtime there is sure to be a matador strolling about in splendid costume, and women in mantillas saunter to and fro with their slow, graceful walk.

In the cafés you will have an opportunity of studying the typical Andalusian.  He wears a short coat and very tight trousers of a light colour, and a felt hat with a broad, flat brim.  He is always clean-shaven, and his hair is cut very short.  These men are often handsome, and have a striking expression of strength; the faces, dignified and always humorous, often resemble a comic actor.  They are an affectionate and friendly company, and their conversation echoes with a deafening buzz.  Notice the way in which they smoke their cigarettes, and at intervals drink their refrescos or sip from their small glasses of aguardiente.  Their enjoyment is p. 116so Spanish, so epicurean.  And women in the street fan themselves in the same way.  All these people are happy in the frank acceptance of life as it is.

Inside the shops, which have doors wide open to the street, groups of women sit to buy fans and mantillas.  Making purchases is a delightful game, in which all Spanish women excel.  They smile, and chatter, and use their fans, bargaining with delicious grace, while the salesman, cigarette in hand, shrugs his shoulders and gesticulates.

“But the mantilla is dear, señor.”

He throws out his hands in protest.

“No, señorita; I am giving it away at ten pesetas.”

“Is the quality good?” and she raises her eyebrows in bewitching incredulity.

“As good as God’s blessing.”

And with mutual smiles and salutations the purchase is made.

Court of Lions, Alhambra, Granada

It is in the Paseo de las Delicias—the name will tell you of the beauty of this park, with its orange-groves, hedges of blue aloes, p. 119and all manner of tropical trees and flowers—that the ladies of Seville drive and promenade each afternoon.  The majos cast languishing glances upon them as they walk to and fro, and compliments are given: “Oh, Jesus, what an air!”  “Happy is the mother that bore thee!”  “Your eyes are as runaway stars that would rather shine in your face than in the heavens!”

The Sevillanas smile and chatter together; this play of love is a part of the accustomed homage which is their due.

There is a fascination about Spanish women not easy to define.  Many of them are not beautiful, but they are always graceful, and they all walk beautifully.  Then, most of them have the soft, expressive eyes which the East has bequeathed to Spain.  There is a quality and certain finish about them which is unique; each one looks as if she understood that she was a woman, and was very glad that this was so.  Perhaps this is why they are so attractive; this is the reason, too, why the old women are so p. 120good-humoured, smiling, and gay.  The indefinite unquietness that so often characterizes English and American women is entirely absent.  These Spanish señoras, for their happiness, have kept the pagan content.

A group of workers in a “patio” at Seville

Much of what is characteristic of the home life of the Sevillians may be gathered from the arrangement of their houses.  They are all—the houses of the poor as well as those of the rich citizens—built around the patio, or shaded court, where palms, myrtles, pomegranates, and jasmines grow, and the singing of caged birds mingles with the sound of the playing fountains.  Into this patio all the windows of the house open and the rooms lead.  The doors are of open ironwork—no two doors are alike—and often, even in the small houses, the grating is of exquisite workmanship.  One door, which also has an open reja, or grating, leads into the street.  It is in these patios that the Sevillians spend their lives, and this throwing open of their homes to the gaze of all who pass in the streets is exactly characteristic of this simple, p. 123happy people.  Every afternoon and evening the youth of the family laugh and sing and dance to the rattle of the castanets.  It is against the rejas that the lovers stand at night and sing their serenades, and so persistent is their patience that they have gained the title of “iron-eaters.”  All Andalusians are musical; even the beggar thrums his guitar, which he will not part with for bread; to him music is a necessity, and bread a luxury with which he can dispense.

The Andalusian’s leisure is a perpetual source of delight.  What impresses the serious foreigner, who is so fortunate as to become an inmate of a Sevillian home, is the mirth and courtesy of the family, who all seem to enjoy endless leisure.  Spanish households have a pleasantness quite their own.  The men are never preoccupied with business; smoking cigarettes, they will pass hours chattering to the women of the family, who spend the greater part of the day working their beautiful embroideries.  Few books are read, and talking is the chief occupation.  p. 124No people can talk like the Spaniards, and the excitement is so spontaneous that often the conversation is carried on far into the night.  The slightest incident gains a poetic vividness from their dramatic telling.  Cigarette-smoking and talking are the only indulgences which the Sevillians carry to excess.

In their home life there is a love of visiting and a love of receiving visitors.  Tertulias, or parties, are frequent.  But a Spanish party differs materially from an English, in so far as there are no refreshments—if we except the glasses of pure water and plate of azucarillos to sweeten the water, which are placed upon a side-table.  This is an instance of the sobriety of the Sevillians.  The guests dance and sing and talk incessantly, and are perfectly satisfied to enjoy themselves without eating.

The Spaniards are good hosts; the exquisite politeness which is natural to them, even to those of the very lowest classes, causes them to lay themselves out to p. 125entertain; boredom would seem to be unknown to the native host and hostess.  They make a pleasure of the slightest social intercourse.  I recall one occasion in Seville, when I asked permission to enter the house of a poor woman in the Macarena quarter, in order that my artist friend might make a drawing from her balcony of a building of which a satisfactory view could not be obtained in the street.

“My house is yours, señoras; make whatsoever use of it you will,” was her answer to my request.  And during the hours that my friend was at work she put aside her occupations—she was a planchadora, and was ironing with her assistants on our entrance—and gave herself up solely to help and entertain us.  A refresco was brought to us; calientes, the twisted doughnuts which are made in every Andalusian house, were fried for us.  Nor would she consent to receive the payment which we, with our foreign stupidity, offered to her on our departure.  No, the kindly, cheery p. 126woman did not understand payment for hospitality.

But it is during the days of festival at Easter and the Feria that the fine hospitality of the Sevillians is seen at its best.  The houses are filled to overflowing, and hospitality is taxed to a degree that only the most perfect courtesy and good-nature could endure.  Every corner is received with a chorus of welcome, and embraced like a brother.  Beds are surrendered, even sofas are given up, and as fresh strangers arrive, unable to gain accommodation in the crowded inns, mattresses, pillows, and rugs are brought out of cupboards, and beds are made upon the floor.  All the members of the family, and even the tired servants, who are always joyously ready to help, sit up, because there is literally nowhere for them to sleep.  The difficulty of obtaining provisions in these seasons of festivity is very great: the butcher cannot provide meat; even bread is hard to buy.  But the señora of the house is never troubled; she tells you her woes, and then p. 129goes smiling to fry calientes and prepare other delicacies for the refreshment of her guests.  The constant Spanish courtesy never fails, and the foreigner who happily chances among this crowded joyous party can but wonder.

“Las Planchadoras” (laundresses) at work, Seville


Madrid: its Situation—The Old Town—The Rastro—The New Town—The Puerta del Sol—Cafés—The Aguadores—The Prado Park—The Theatre—Spanish Children—The Museums—The Picture-galleries.

The contrast is great from Seville to Madrid, which is less distinctly Spanish than any city in the Peninsula.  The royal capital, established by the decree of Philip II., has the appearance of an accidental growth on the harsh Castilian slopes.  The climate is the worst of any town in Spain.  Madrid suffers all the oppressions of the sky—baked by fierce summer suns, and chilled by the ice of treacherous winds.  In point of distance it is only some twenty leagues, in one direction, from Toledo, and in the other from beautiful p. 133Avila; but in its life it is separated by centuries from the old Spanish cities.  It is the strangest transformation to come from them into the eager, bustling life of the modern capital.  There are no antiquities here, no great memories, no romance, nothing but what the people and the natural brightness in the air give to it.

The Throne-Room, Royal Palace, Madrid

To stay in Madrid is to undergo the most absorbing fatigue.  The Madrileño lives with a speed that in Spain startles.  The city never sleeps, never stays its chatter; its inhabitants are apparently so full of business that they turn day into night, yet no one seems to work.  It thus comes about that the lover of Spain, who has become used to the untroubled content of happy Seville or the sleeping peace of Cordova and Toledo, can with difficulty find himself at home in Madrid.

Madrid is a city of contrasts.  Treasures of art abound in its museum, yet of all cities it is surely the least influenced by the spirit of beauty and design.  Its splendid bridge which p. 134gives entrance to the city has been ridiculed with the question, “Where is the river?”  It misses all charm of environment; the city has no suburbs, and the country around is barren and without trees and verdure.  Yet the Madrileños cannot be persuaded that any other city is its equal.  It is a capital in transition of a country in transition, and as such it must be regarded.

The Rastro Market, Madrid

The old part of the town, such as the Rastro and surrounding narrow streets, where on each Sunday is held the market, the largest rag-fair in the world, still bring one a sensation of living in the Middle Ages.  The wares are laid out in most primitive fashion in the narrow streets in great piles; all kinds of antiquities are sold, as well as clothes and wonderful peasant jewellery.  The low stalls are piled up with flowers, fruits, and vegetables, of all colours, in confused abundance.  Women and girls stand in groups of twos or threes, or sit beside their wares, bundled in bright-coloured shawls, and all with kerchiefed heads.  They talk incessantly; they do not p. 137seem to care whether their goods are sold or not, but they chaffer noisily over every sale.  Some of the women have perfectly-shaped faces with magnetic eyes that recall the East.  It was here once that I saw a manola, beautifully attired with a white mantilla, silk shoes, gaily coloured dress and jewellery.  She reminded me of Goya’s pictures.

Fine savage old men in tattered cloaks wander on the outskirts of the market asking alms, and beautiful, bewitching children play their games unchecked.

But the Rastro is not the real Madrid.  The modern town, with its aspect of a city still in the making, so that one thinks not so much of what it is as of what it may become, has grown up in the image of Paris, with boulevards, wide streets, tall characterless houses and modish shops.  It is to be feared that this new Madrid will overgrow all that is left of the old city.

The Madrileños spend their lives in the streets and squares, almost all of which are wide, clean, and well paved.  The houses are p. 138ornamented with balconies, the first of which, supported by pillars, forms in many parts of the city a piazza where the inhabitants may walk under cover.  The Puerta del Sol, the largest and most animated plaza, and the centre of Madrid, is the rendezvous of the idlers of the city.  From eight o’clock in the morning, and far into the night, it is thronged with groups of men wrapped in their cloaks, which they wear to protect them from the treacherous winds that sweep the city even in summer.  Furnished with several dozen cigarettes and coppers for azúcar and water, they pass the hours in endless talking.  Politics form the chief subject of conversation, and the progressive element in Spanish society discusses here.

Most of the cafés are in this quarter, and they are always filled.  They are less attractive in their outside appearance than the cafés of Seville, but the refreshments served are excellent.  The Madrileños, like all Spaniards, drink more water than wine.  In every street and paseo you see the p. 139picturesque aguadore, with his cántaro of white or brown clay and reed basket, containing glasses, sticks of azucarillos, and oranges or limes.  He has not changed from the day when Velazquez painted him; he still wears a loose jacket of snuff-coloured cloth, breeches, leather gaiters, and a peaked hat.

Perhaps it is the climate which causes the Madrileños always to suffer thirst.  The bebidas heladas, or iced drinks, flavoured with orange, lemon, strawberry, cherries, or almond, which are sold in every café, are far superior to any English or American beverages.  Spanish preserves also deserve to be mentioned, and there is one variety, known by the name “angel’s hair,” cabello de angel, which is delicious.

Madrid is so much a modern city that at first the stranger hardly realizes how pleasantly its inhabitants live.  It is most fortunately rich in well-shaded parks and beautiful green promenades.

The Prado is the evening gathering-place of the fashionable Madrileños, and the p. 140tree-shaded promenade, from seven o’clock onwards, affords the most animated sight.  An astonishing number of people collect here.  In the crossways which intersect the carriage-drive, all the families of the city walk to enjoy the cool of the evening.  The Madrileños are seen at their finest here.  The majos, resembling plates of fashion in their tight, faultless clothes, stand about in groups admiring the ladies who roll past in landaus, for carriages are essential to fashionable Madrid.  Some of the men ride the splendid Andalusian horses; with manes, long sweeping tails, and gay trappings, like the horses that Velazquez painted.  The Madrileñas have adopted the costumes of Paris, and in fashionable attire Spanish women always look badly dressed.  The mantilla is, however, worn by most women, and even a plain face looks beautiful in this fascinating head-dress.  Like all Spanish women, each Madrileña carries a fan, which is held open as a parasol to give shade from the sun.  A woman without a fan is unknown, and there is something truly p. 143Spanish in the use these vivid, bewitching women make of them.  The Madrileña collects fans as an English lady collects jewels; she will often own more than a hundred of various colours and patterns.

Mounting guard in the Plaza De Armas, Royal Palace, Madrid

During summer this outdoor parade in the Prado is in gay career until midnight; and as the night advances the promenades are full of gay noise.  There are open-air concerts, and dancing takes place upon the open spaces of grass.  Around the stalls of the refresco sellers, families are seated talking gaily together.  The greatest animation prevails.  The Madrileños never seem to be tired.  The abandonment to happiness is contagious, and the stranger will gain a sense of the joy of life as he sees the ardent faces of men, women, and children, in whom mirth is never vulgar, but as natural as speech.

In the winter season the Madrileños visit the theatre, which every Spaniard adores.  Gautier writes that “long before Shakespeare the Spaniards invented the drama.”  Spain in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries p. 144produced an almost countless number of dramatic works, and a passion for the drama still animates the people.  Spanish women, as we should expect, are first-rate actresses; they mark all shades of character with appreciation and fine delicacy.  It is interesting to note that it was in Spain that women first played women’s parts, which in England at the same period were entrusted to boys.

The Teatro Real at Madrid is devoted to Italian opera, but at the more popular Teatro Español, where La Guerrero, the Bernhardt of Spain holds sway, there is an opportunity of witnessing the native dramas of Zorilla, Hartzenbusch, and Tirso de Molina, or the modern society plays of Echegaray and Galdos.  The sainete, which takes the place of our “curtain-raiser,” is usually comic, and those that are most popular are adapted from the farces of Cervantes and Lope de Rueda.

Even in the heat of summer the Madrileños visit the theatres, but at this season the p. 145performances are limited to the popular zarzuelas, operettas, four of which are given in each evening.

Spanish children share the love of the theatre which belongs to their elders.  At the afternoon performances, which are given on every Sunday and fiestas, half the house is occupied by child ticket-holders, whose interest in the action of the piece is astonishing.  They applaud with cries of “bonito”; they ask questions, and the house is never still for a single instant.

Spanish children are already grown up when quite young, but they are the most fascinating little people, at the same time natural and self-conscious, with a sort of precocious winsomeness.  Their bodies are so full of energy that they give an impression of more vivid life than the children of Northern countries.

Nowhere are children happier and more loved than in Spain; the niños are the idols of their parents, and are universally treated with indulgence.  Yet the Spanish child is p. 146not spoilt, and the obedient spirit is never lacking.  Even the poorest child is taught to practise those courtesies of life which in Spain are never forgotten.  Ask a child his name, and after the answer he will always add, “at the service of God and yourself.”  No child forgets the “mil gracias” with which a benefit is accepted.  I recall a small boy of peasant parentage who acted as my guide upon one occasion, and who, when asked what gift he would like for his service, answered: “I shall like best, señora, what pleases you most to give me.”  Even in the prayer which Spanish children offer at night you find an expression of this quaint, delicious politeness:

“Jesus, Joseph, Mary,
   Your little servant keep,
While, with your kind permission,
   I lay me down to sleep.”

Those who have taught Spanish children all praise their intelligence.  During the first twelve years of life both girls and boys develop more rapidly than other European children.

p. 147 Children at play in the park of the Buen Retiro, Madrid

p. 149This precocious understanding is manifest in their games.  Go to the great park of the Buen Retiro, where during each afternoon the young Madrileños are busy with their plays of bull-fighting, politics, and flirtations.  The children are attended by their nurses, who most frequently are the pasiegas from Santander, who wear the charming national costumes of a pleated red petticoat with silver-lace border, velvet bodice, and brightly coloured handkerchief as head-dress.

Al toro is the favourite game.  The niños, using a mask for the bull and the capes of red and yellow which are sold on the stalls, go through the whole pantomime of the bull-ring with a vivid and quite grown-up delight in the sharp appeal made to their sensations.  Another group play at soldiers, armed with sticks for swords and holding a great flag.  Other children, a little older, pass the time in flirtations.  The boys pay the extravagant Spanish compliments to little girls, or in the wooded groves they sing the native melodies to the answering songs of the nightingales.

p. 150I talked with one young singer, who told me he had reached his fifteenth year, and already was betrothed.  I asked him if he were not too young.  “No, señora,” was his answer; “God is good, and my parents have money to maintain us.”  Afterwards he took up his song, that had something wild and Oriental in its passionate notes.

Among the excellences of Madrid must be counted her Museums.  The Armeria with its fine collection of arms and weapons, the Museo Naval, and the Museo Arqueologico, furnish effective mementoes of the entire tragedy of Spain’s history.  Of her art galleries who can say praise enough?  It is only in Madrid that it is possible to realize, to the full extent of their gifts and limitations, the artists of Spain.  The Academia de Bellas Artes and the Museo de Arte Moderno are rich in pictures.  And it is to see the Museo del Prado that the stranger visits Madrid; no picture-gallery in the world contains a more wonderful collection of masterpieces.

It is a splendid art inheritance that is p. 151enshrined in the Prado.  Spain in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was closely connected with the countries that were then the centres of art.  The Catholic Sovereigns had a fine taste for pictures, and to them we owe largely the collection of the great works which, after the pictures of Velazquez, are the glory of the Prado.

The building, of pale brick and white stone, placed in a tree-shaded park, is well designed, and on the whole well lighted.  Externally it is a model of what a picture-gallery should be.  A bronze statue of Velazquez stands before the entrance.  This is fitting.  The Prado is in a very special way the home of Velazquez.  No other nation has been so supremely fortunate in preserving almost intact the work of her greatest painter.  No picture is wanting to the complete understanding of his exquisite art.

In the Prado there are masterpieces by the world’s great painters—by Titian, by Rubens, by Raphael, by Albrecht Dürer, by Holbein, and how many others?  But p. 152even in the presence of these masters we seek Velazquez.  Here, too, Goya astonishes us with his vigorous and wonderful art; there are admirable paintings by El Greco, by Ribera, by Murillo; but we can see nothing but Velazquez.  And the emotion of first seeing these pictures is one of awe.  We are not in the presence of an Old Master, but of a painter who in his perfect art forestalled every modern movement in painting.  This is why Velazquez stands alone among artists.  And the lover of art journeys to the Prado that he may study his pictures, as the pilgrim journeys to the shrine of his saint.


Life in a Spanish Posada—Spanish Peasants—The Toilers of the Field and other Workers—The Cigarreras of Seville—The Kermesse in the Esclava Gardens—The Love of Festivals—Easter Day in a Spanish Village—Third-class Travelling—Wild Life in Spain—Fishing in the Country Districts.

To know Spain it is not enough to visit the towns.  It is when the stranger leaves the beaten tracks of travel, and goes to the country districts, where the outcome of modern progress is still unknown, that he sees the life of ancient Spain almost unchanged.  I know of no experience more necessary to the understanding of the country and its people than a lengthened stay in a village posada.  The life, indeed, will be hard in many ways, and it will be wise for p. 154the stranger to cultivate the stoicism and indifference to personal comfort that characterize the Spaniards themselves; but the experience is excellent, and the people you meet are charming in their kindness and perfect courtesy.

The posada is the casa huéspedes, or house of hospitality for the neighbourhood.  The title is no misnomer, but stands for what the village posada truly is.  To stay there is to find a new meaning in the word “hospitality”; it is to know willing service, restrained by the fine Spanish courtesy from offensive attention.

A bridge and country homes in the mountains of Northern Spain

It is more than probable that the first sight of the posada may disturb the stranger.  It is built with a spacious vestibule.  On one side of the stone staircase, which gives entrance to the upstairs living-rooms, is a dark wineshop, where the men of the village foregather to talk and drink the black native wine; while the other side serves as the stable, in which the mules, donkeys, oxen, and other animals belonging to the p. 157house, have their home.  Many odours cling about the dark staircase; the scent of closely packed animals mingles with that of garlic, while the air reeks with the fumes of rancid aceite, or oil—the never-to-be-forgotten smell that belongs to every posada.  The noise in the vestibule is deafening and incessant; the men talk in loud voices which are piercingly vibrant and metallic.  Cackling hens, with maybe a fat black pig or little woolly lamb, block the way as one climbs the staircase to the living-room.

This room is bare, but never dirty; the filth which I had been led to expect from my experience of some of the smaller inns in the towns does not exist in the village posadas.  The large windows open on to wooden balconies which look out on to the tree-shaded plaza.  The walls are freshly whitewashed, and the bare boards of the floor are scrubbed to snowy whiteness by their daily scouring with sand; the curtains, too, when there are any, are always white.  Sometimes a few highly coloured and amazing religious p. 158prints in black frames hang upon the walls, but, fortunately, more often they are bare.  The furniture is of the simplest description—a large table, bare of any cloth, that fills most of the room, wooden chairs and a Spanish press, a great cupboard which holds the linen of the family.  The beds are placed in small alcoves which lead out of the living-rooms; and these beds are always comfortable, with spotless linen, embroidered, lace-trimmed, and brought from the lavender-scented chest.  There is no fireplace in the living-room, and if, as often chances in winter and early spring, the weather is cold, the only heat is gained from the brasero, whose charcoal ashes give the very faintest glow of warmth.  The Spaniards accept cold without murmur; they wrap themselves in their cloaks, and wait till God sends out the sun.

The Village Posada at Matarosa

The posada is ruled by the señora.  She sways a rod of iron over her husband, relatives, servants, guests, and the arrangements of the house, being full of energy and the vigour of character that is common to p. 161Spanish women even in old age.  She is the characteristic type of the Spanish woman of the people, her face a formidable mass of wrinkles; jamona, or stout in body, but of surprising agility; she is witty, smiling, and contented.  From break of day until late evening she bustles about, shouting orders as she goes from one task to another, yet she seems never hurried, never overburdened.  How happy she is if her efforts are appreciated and her guests enjoy the fare she has provided! how her face saddens and clouds if any dish is sent from the table uneaten.  “Mas, mas!” (More, more!), is her constant cry as she enters the room at the beginning of every course to urge her guests to eat.

To have English visitors staying at her posada filled the good señora with pride.  Her satisfaction reached its zenith when letters arrived from England.  She was loath to yield them up.  “The great English people will know of my posada now,” she said on one occasion, pointing to the address in triumph.  With comical humility she p. 162asked that, in my goodness, I would give her the envelope.  How well do I remember the joy with which she carried away the torn trophy!

Nothing was too good for these strangers who had come from a foreign land to stay at her posada.  The best of everything the house contained was given up for our use, special food was cooked, and the village was ransacked to provide things fitting for los Ingléses.  On one occasion, when I had asked for a certain food not to be obtained in the neighbourhood, a messenger was sent on horseback twenty miles over the mountains to the nearest town to procure it.  Nor was any payment allowed for the service.  No, the English señora was her guest; she had asked for something, it was her duty to provide it.  The trouble! the expense! she did not understand.  In the old Spain service is not rendered for payment.

It is in the villages that one is best able to study the peasants and the gipsies.  Sunday is the dia festivo, when the youths and maidens, dressed in the picturesque native p. 163costumes, dance and sing to the music of the village piper, who plays the dulzaina, a kind of clarionet.  He marks the time by beating on a drum which is slung around his waist.  The singing is the tuneless chanting heard so often in Spain, a kind of interminable dwelling on one piercing note, not beautiful to unaccustomed ears, but disturbing in its strange appeal, which so persistently recalls the East.  The dances are danced by boys and girls and men and women grouped in couples of four or six.  There is a great deal of movement; the hands keep time with the feet, playing castanets hung with bright-coloured ribbons.

In all parts of Spain there are gipsies, but it is in the districts of the south that the stranger will see them best, for there would seem to be a special affinity between the Andalusian and the gipsy character.  The Gitanas and Gitanos live in communities, often in houses carved out of the mountain sides.  It is among them that we find the most typical of the Spanish dancers.  Dancing p. 164is a universal accomplishment, a part of life, in which every girl and boy takes his or her share.

A mediæval ox-cart, Province of Guipúzcoa

On one day in the week the market is held in every small town, on the open ground of the plaza, under the overspreading trees.  Let us look at the market-place at Ampuero, a large village in the Basque province of Guipúzcoa.  The whole ground space is filled with booths that are piled up with fruit and vegetables, with dress-stuffs, pots, water-jugs, furniture, and a medley of wares that give bright colour to the scene.  Peasants from the surrounding hamlets have all come to buy and sell.  They are dressed in the native costume—the men with the boina, or cap of dark blue wool, shaped like a Scotch tam-o’-shanter, short smock jackets, trousers of bright blue linen, and red or black body sashes; and the women with their many-coloured handkerchiefs of silk, bright skirts that are short and very wide, and still brighter blouses.  The Spanish peasants have the delight in vivid colour that belongs to all p. 167primitive and happy people.

The sellers and buyers stand about in groups talking in the ancient and mysterious Basque language, which once, as place-names prove, was spoken over the greater part of the Peninsula.  All business is carried out in the vivid, primitive Spanish manner.  And what impresses the stranger most is the courtesy and happy good-nature, which makes the universal bargaining a game enjoyed alike by buyer and seller.

In one corner of the plaza, under an archway, is a stone image, beneath which burns a sacred lamp, and always, as they pass, the men and women pause, cross themselves, and make a genuflection; religion is part of business.  The mules and ox-carts stand at the outskirts of the plaza.  The mules are shaved on the upper part of their bodies and their tails and ears, and have a curious appearance; they are thin and badly cared for, but this is hidden by their gay trappings.  The ox-waggons are exceedingly primitive, and as each one arrives a hoarse and deafening noise pierces the air.  The peasants leave p. 168the wheels of the cart unoiled, and delight in the frightful music, which can be heard half a league away; they believe that the sound drives off demons.  A peasant would not own a cart that did not “play.”

The Basques claim to be the oldest race in Europe; and it is now generally acknowledged that they represent the primitive Iberians of Berber stock, who form the fundamental population of all Spain.  Many primitive customs survive among them, and one of the most interesting is that by which the eldest daughter in some districts takes precedence over the sons in inheritance.  They are a people of the mountains, and to know the Basques you must live in their villages; even their one town, Bilbao, in spite of its industrial and commercial prosperity, is really an overgrown village more than a city.  It offers a striking contrast to Barcelona, the other great Spanish seaport, and the most perfect example of a commercial city.

Harvesting wheat in the Basque Province of Guipúzcoa

To see the Basques at their finest you p. 170must watch them in the fields, where the women work side by side with the men, and appear to have equal strength with them.  They use a large and primitively-shaped fork on which both feet are placed to force the implement into the ground, and the work is carried out with surprising rapidity.

Great flocks of sheep are reared in Spain, especially in Estremadura; each flock belonging to one proprietor is called a cabaña, and many contain 50,000 sheep.  The shepherd who guards the cabaña is one of the most constant figures in the country districts.  A million arrobes of wool—an arrobe is about 25 pounds—are said to be obtained in each year, and the wool is famed throughout Europe.  Although manufactures are not extensively developed, I have seen cloth made at Guadalajara that for beauty of colour and quality would compare favourably with the manufactures of England or France.  It is worth noting that in some manufactories it is the custom to set aside a portion of the wool to be sold for the benefit of souls in p. 172purgatory—an instance of how in Spain religion is connected with everything.

The most important industries of Spain are wine-making and fruit-growing.  The country makes all the common wines for her own consumption, and the brandies, rich wines, and fruits exported form a considerable source of wealth.  Many thousands of men, women, and children, are employed in these industries.  At Seville and other towns in the south, the women pick the oranges ready to be taken to the ships.  Great heaps of golden fruit line the groves, which are afterwards sorted, the better fruit being wrapped in paper before it is packed.

One of the oldest industries is pottery.  The jarro, or earthen pots used for water, are made of white or red clay, unglazed, and very beautiful in shape.  The jarro are sold by women in the markets of the towns for a few reales—that is to say, about five or six English pence.

An orange-picker, Seville

Spanish workers are universally poor, receiving wages so low that it is surprising p. 175how they live.  But they are thrifty and sober, while their needs are simple, and their hardships are mitigated in some measure by the fact that almost all industries are carried on out of doors.  In the streets of the towns you see men and women at work at the edge of pavements, making and mending boots, working sewing-machines, preparing leather goods, ironware, and other commodities.  The shops and small manufactories are open to the street; you can see the occupants within making ropes and baskets, saddlebags, brushes, and a variety of wares.  What impressed me was that these workers always looked happy.

Women play an important part in the life of workaday Spain, and the splendid types of these women workers make the foreigner think deeply.  They are full of energy and vigour even in old age.  They work as well as the men in the fields, turning the soil with forks, training the vines, and garnering the grapes and chestnuts.  I have seen women carrying immense burdens, p. 176unloading boats, acting as porters, removing household furniture.  I saw one woman with a chest of drawers easily poised upon her head; another, who was quite old, carried a bedstead.  A beautiful woman porter in one village carried our heavy luggage, running with it on bare feet, without sign of effort.  For what surprised me most was that, in spite of hard physical labour, these women are beautiful.  They are always happy and contented; in their faces, and especially in their eyes, is that indescribable expression, the wonderful smile of Spanish women.

A visit to the fábrica de tabacos at Seville will show the stranger a charming scene of labour.  The rooms of the factory are large, and, although low, are airy.  They open into outer courts, and the great chambers, supported by pillars, resemble a church.  Each room has its altar, which is decorated with flowers and offerings.  As the workers pass they cross themselves, and never fail to make the customary p. 177genuflection.  Yet, with the easy familiarity which is the special feature of the Spaniard’s religion, they will often place their outer garments upon the altar.  The cigarreras are deeply religious, and at a recent Easter festival one of the pasos of the Virgin was presented with a splendid new mantle at a cost of 9,000 dollars, for the purchase of which the 7,000 workers had each contributed two centimos a week during the preceding year.

The cigarreras, in brightly coloured costumes, sit at work making polvo de Sevilla and tabaco de fraile.  A skilful worker can easily accomplish ten atados, or bundles of fifty cigars, daily.  The murmur of conversation never ceases; talking seems to aid the Spaniards in work.  Many of the women have their babies with them, whom they tend in the intervals of work; children a little older play happily together in groups.  It is enough to have seen these smiling, contented, industrious women to know that life is happy to most women in Spain.

p. 178The Kermesse, which is held each year in the Esclava Gardens, is the festival of the cigarreras; it is a kind of fair.  The stalls and booths, where every variety of wares are sold, are presided over by the cigarreras, dressed in the beautiful Andalusian attire.  They chaffer over every sale, but they do not seek customers, and appear to be more occupied in talking than in selling their goods.  All day long the gardens are full of gay noise.  The women pass to and fro; some sit on seats, some rest upon the grass under the trees.  In the centre of the gardens a platform is erected, where in turn the women dance the sevillanas and other dances with charming spontaneous enjoyment.  The sound of castanets and clapping of hands never ceases; the talking is deafening.  Sometimes there is a quarrel, but this is rare.  There is a natural refinement in these women, and because they are really happy they have no need of riot to convince themselves that life is pleasant.

Pottery vendors in a Spanish Market

Their love of festivals is shared by all p. 181Spaniards, and everywhere holiday-making is a part of life.  In the country districts, as in the towns, the Pascua de Resurrección of Easter is the most popular festival, when the days are spent in a curious combination of religious ceremonial and holiday-making.

It was my good fortune to spend one Easter in a mountain village, where I had an opportunity of seeing the customs of the people of old Spain.  On Palm Sunday the village was filled to overflowing with peasants, many of whom had travelled long distances, riding on mules or driving in the wooden ox-carts, from the hamlets among the mountains.  They were dressed in the native costumes.  The men wore velvet breeches adorned with silver buttons, and leather gaiters, open to show the calves; bright sashes of red or yellow silk; jackets of brown cloth, with embroidered cuffs and collars; blue or maroon cloaks, brightly lined; and pointed hats, adorned with silver tassels.  The fantastic dress gave the scene an aspect more African than European.  p. 182The women were not so gay, and were almost universally attired in black; but the mantilla with the white flower, which all wore, gave them an incomparable grace.  All day the streets were filled with bustle and life.  Vendors of palms were stationed in every corner selling their wares, while boys ran to and fro among the crowds with arms full of olive branches.

The great function was the procession, when the pasos were carried through the streets after the celebration of Mass.  In the plaza a stand had been erected, and every seat was filled; people crowded the pavements, and in the balconies of every house men and women were closely packed.  The gendarmes of the little town walked first, marching gravely, the representatives of law and order; then followed the children, clad in white, and bearing the consecrated palms and olive branches; while after them came the priests, dressed in robes richly embroidered and trimmed with lace.  Upon the shoulders of hidden bearers was carried the litter, p. 183illuminated with hundreds of candles, upon which rested the figure of the Virgin, the patron saint of the village.  The image was hideous, quite without beauty, and decked out in cheap tawdry finery, strangely incongruous.  But to the peasants she was the Mother of God.  I saw no sign of levity; the attitude of the men as well as of the women was perfectly dignified, perfectly religious.  All eyes were riveted upon the sacred figure, heads were bared, and each man and woman bowed and made the sign of the cross as the lighted litter passed.  Prayers were murmured and blessings invoked.  “Holy Mother, cause the crops to ripen,” “the sick child to be healed,” “the lover’s heart to soften”—such were the cries of the women.  Children pressed forward, dodging unchecked among the gendarmes and priests, clamouring for a blessing.  One small niña knelt upon the pavement in front of the pasos, holding up a white carnation in offering.  A priest stepped forward, took the flower, and placed it upon the litter.

p. 184To the children of the village the Easter days brought special enjoyment.  The part they played in the festival was a strange one, giving an example of the old-world customs that live so persistently in Spain.  On the Viernes Santo, or Good Friday, each boy and girl went to church armed with a horn and large wooden clapper, upon which strange instruments they played to frighten the spirit of the traitor Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Señor Dios, the name by which they quaintly designate the Saviour.  They blew and rattled with a will, and the hideous, deafening noise mingled strangely with the music of the Mass, for the evil spirit must not escape.  Incomprehensible survival of an old superstition, blending the grotesque with the most sacred service of the Church—how often the stranger is surprised in Spain!

A Basque peasant-girl driving an ox-cart

The Spaniards are more friendly with one another than any people that I know.  The stranger will realize this travelling in the third-class trains, as he must in the country districts, where the expresses do not stop.  p. 187These trains are known as mixto, and convey luggage as well as passengers.  The carriages are uncomfortable, and not always clean, and the speed is very slow.  Patience is a quality that the visitor to Spain must cultivate.  The train may start before the advertised time; it may be an hour late.  No Spaniard is disturbed by such trifles.  At the stations there is always a crowd of people waiting.  There is a kind of fatalistic patience in their appearance; they seem not so much to be waiting for a particular train, as hoping that presently a train will come that will take them to their destination.  Even when the train arrives there is no hurrying; a start will not be made until everyone is ready, for punctuality is a small virtue compared with politeness.  The long-drawn cry of A-a-gua fresco! is always heard.  Much time is occupied, as everyone in the train seems to want to drink.

In the carriages the company talk together with excessive volubility, and have the appearance of being members of one family.  p. 188As soon as you enter questions will be asked.  “Where are you going to?”  “Are you Francéses or Ingléses?”  “Why have you come to visit their country?”  “Are you married, and is the señor who is with you your husband?”  “How many children have you?”  “How old are you?”  “Why do you wear a hat, and not a mantilla?”  “And how is it you have no earrings and no fan?”  You will soon become accustomed to this interrogation, which is made with no hint of familiarity, and is the outcome of a friendliness that wishes to make the stranger at home.

The natives seem to be without a thought of themselves, and incapable of considering personal comfort.  They will crowd upon one seat of the carriage to give the English strangers more room.  If the weather is cold, they will insist upon giving you their cloaks.  They talk to you incessantly, explaining to you the scenery and various places through which the train passes, with delightful childish enthusiasm.  They will offer you everything in p. 191their possession that you chance to admire.

Sherry a half-century old, Jerez

I remember saying to a little Spanish maid, “What a beautiful carnation in your hair!”  Off came the flower.  “It is at your disposal, señora.”  I protested with the fitting answer: “A thousand thanks, but, no, I could not accept.”  But the offer was quite sincere, and, in spite of protest, the flower was fastened into my hair, amidst the compliments and congratulations of every occupant of the carriage.  On another journey a fan and a beautiful peasant brooch, which I rashly admired, were pressed upon me with the same delightful politeness.

When meal-time arrives, each peasant brings out the alforja, or embroidered wallet, which Sancho Panza kept so well filled.  A huge Spanish loaf is produced, and some of the long thin garlic sausages.  Slices of the bread are cut to serve as plates.  But before the meal is begun a hearty gusta invites all the other occupants to share in the feast.  It is customary at this stage to refuse, and “Muchas gracias” is p. 192politely murmured.  Soon the black-leather wine-bottle is brought out of the wallet and a packet of some kind of sweetmeat.  Now is the time for acceptance; the bottle is handed round for everyone to drink, and small pieces of the sweetmeat are divided.  It is a charming experience, provided that you have acquired the skill to drink from that curious long-spouted bottle of leather.  And if you fail, the Spaniards will enjoy the task of teaching you the art.

But, indeed, there is no limit to the helpful friendliness of these simple happy people.  On one occasion a workman abandoned his own journey, and, in spite of our protests, came with us.  When we arrived at our destination, he spent several hours in assisting us to find suitable lodgings in the village in which we had planned to stay, where there was no regular house of hospitality.  He introduced us to the inhabitants of the place as his friends, and expended much energy to insure our comfort.  It is only when work is profitable that the Spaniard is ever lazy.  p. 193He delights to expend an immense amount of effort, which may not be considered useful, so long as the work makes appeal to his Spanish love of romantic effects.  It is because this trait is so often overlooked by the stranger, who too quickly condemns “the lazy Spaniards,” that I recount this characteristic incident.  Our friend was genuinely surprised when we offered payment for his services; there was a note of dignified sorrow in the “Muchas gracias” of his refusal.  It had been a privilege to assist los Ingléses, whom he admired.  Had he not once visited our country?  We were a great people.  He desired that we should think well of his country.  All he would accept was to share our meal, after which he left us—I suppose, to continue his own journey.

Among the mountains and in many country districts there are still no railways.  The stranger who travels here has to use the diligences, which on certain days in the week run from the nearest town to the outlying hamlets.  The diligence is a kind of p. 194coach without springs.  I know of no other conveyance so uncomfortable, except the long car of Ireland.  It is drawn by a team of gaunt mules, usually six in number, with gay harness, and each animal has jangling bells around its neck.  The driver wears a picturesque dress: a brown jacket with coloured collar, a red sash and knee-breeches, and a peaked hat adorned with tassels.  He drives with a tremendous amount of noise, stamping his feet, shouting, and brandishing his whip.  He beats incessantly the wretched mules.  The coach is kept at full gallop, and ascends and descends the steep hills with a rapidity which is often alarming; but accidents are rare, owing to the sure-footedness of the mules.

Ruins of the Old Aqueduct, which supplied the Alhambra with
water, Granada

It was when travelling in these mountainous districts that we gained some knowledge of the wild animals of Spain.  We were often near to the haunts of boars, wolves, and deer.  Bears are common in many hilly districts, and that fine wild creature, the ibex, ranges the peaks of the p. 197higher mountains.  Foxes are plentiful everywhere, and the wild-cat is far from scarce.  The marten is often found, and otters live in most of the rivers.

The swamps and ponds are filled with big green frogs, and lizards of the same colour are common.  The frogs are much larger than the English frog, and their peculiar cry, a sort of monotonous rumbling, is so loud that it can be heard a mile away.  The legs of these green frogs are a table delicacy much esteemed in many districts.

In the country hamlets the stranger must be prepared to meet discomfort.  One of the trials will be hunger.  In the fondas of the Basque provinces and in the smaller towns the fare is ample, and as a rule well cooked.  But the peasants of Central and Southern Spain are the most frugal people, who subsist on a diet that would be refused by the poorest workers in England.  For the stranger the peasants do their utmost, but the diet is limited to eggs, leathery, quite tasteless beef, hard stale bread, and thin p. 198wine.  The cooking is always indifferent.  The first meal of the day consists of a cup of chocolate or coffee, often without milk, and a lump of dry bread.  There is no butter, and no milk except goat’s milk, and, strange as it seems in this fertile land, vegetables and fruit are always scarce in the country villages.  The universal dish is garbanzos, a large dried pea, which is cooked with garlic as a flavour.

We spent several months fishing in these districts, and, although sometimes we fared tolerably well, more often we had to be content with indifferent and inadequate meals.  But for the sake of experience the stranger can endure discomfort with fortitude.

Beaching fishing-boats: the Blue Mediterranean

There are numerous sport-giving rivers in all parts of Spain, which possess all the qualities for the production of fish-life.  Such rivers as the Sil and Minho contain trout as big as any in Europe.  The fishing is free, except for a licence costing about three shillings.  There can be no doubt that with proper cultivation these rivers might p. 201become a fisherman’s paradise in the course of a few years.  But a complete revision of the ley de pesca—fishing law—is necessary.  Rivers are not stocked, and trout hatcheries are almost unknown.  The poacher is everywhere, using snares, spears, and the deadly dynamite.  Thousands of small fish are scooped out of the small pools of the tributaries with pole-nets during dry seasons.  But, on the other hand, Spain is, happily, almost free, except in the mining districts of the north, from poisoned and contaminated waters.  There are thousands of miles of beautiful rivers with no factories, works, or big cities within many leagues of their lengths.  Then, the fish in the Spanish rivers are splendidly prolific.  Trout teem in many rivers, where the deep pools baffle the poachers, who devote their attention to the shallows and tributaries.  Salmon are found in many rivers; shad or sábalos, escalos—a kind of cross between a chub and a dace—barbel, bogas, and other coarse fish, and eels, are plentiful.  The barbel is different from p. 202the barbel of England, being a handsomer fish and not so coarse; it is more golden in colour, and the scales are less thick.  The beautiful silvery sábalos are caught in sunk nets, whose opening is concealed by a green bough which looks like water-weed, and so deceives the travelling fish.  The sábalos will not rise to any bait.  They vary from 4 pounds to 12 pounds in weight, and are an excellent fish to eat, resembling the salmon.

In all parts of Spain there are native anglers.  The tackle they use is of the rudest description—a rod made of maize stalks, with a hazel switch for the top, coarse casts, and flies clumsy and big.  But they are all keen, and many of them are clever fishermen.  At Materosa, a small hamlet on the wild Sil, some leagues from the town of Ponferrada, the peasants gain their living by fishing with the rod for trout, which they send to the market at Madrid.

I recall Estanislao, a chico who fished with a great bamboo rod, which he looked too small to handle.

p. 203We talked to him.

“You are also a fisherman?”

“Yes, señora; I have fished all my life, and my father before me.”

This chico was a good angler.  Standing on a great boulder, he cast with a loud swishing noise across the river, letting his dozen flies swim on the rough water.  At each cast the weight of his great rod nearly threw him into the whirling current.  But he caught more fish than we did.

We offered him a present of some of our flies.  He looked at them and smiled.

“Muchas gracias, they are very pretty.  But how can I catch big trout with these little hooks?”

He laughed till the tears ran down his face.  But in a minute he remembered the good manners in which every Spanish child is trained.  He added:

“Mil gracias, señora!  Es favor que usted me hace (A thousand thanks, señora!  It is a favour you make me).  I will keep them as toys!”


Spanish Art the Reflection of the Spanish Temperament—The Great Buildings of Spain—Spanish Gothic—Its Realistic Naturalness, its Massiveness and Extravagance—The Churches, the Real Museums of Art Treasures—Polychrome Sculpture—Spanish Painting—Its Late Development—Its Special Character—Its Strength, its Dramatic and Religious Character.

To understand Spain you must know her architecture, her sculpture, and her pictures.  For in Spain, perhaps to a greater extent than in any country, art is the reflection of the life and temper of the people.  And this is true although the essential ideas of her art in building, in carving, and in painting, have all been borrowed from other nations.  It is the distinctive Spanish gift to stamp with the p. 205seal of her own character all that she learns from without.

The first, as it has remained the strongest, expression in art of this people was in building and in sculpture, which gave opportunity for emphasis to their special dramatic temperament.  We must go back to Rome for another country that has spoken in its buildings with the same overwhelming force.

The cathedrals which arose in the period of the nation’s greatest prosperity were the chief point of attraction—the theatre, the centre, of all life.  They were built for the honour of God, but also for the enjoyment of the people themselves; religion was joyful, popular—democratic, one might say.  All the exuberant life garnered by Hispano-Arab culture lives in the Spanish buildings.  Here Roman, Byzantine, and Arab art have passed, and also the Mudejar, the Gothic, and the Renaissance—in fact, all the styles of Europe.  For this reason there is no native school of architecture.  Spain possesses few p. 206pure Gothic, Romanesque, or Renaissance buildings.

But it is just this complexity which gives to the Spanish buildings their special character.  The Spanish artists, though they lacked creative genius, were no base imitators; they sought to combine, and they gave to the temples they had to construct that massive, strong, and exuberant spirit that was in harmony with their own temperament.  In such a cathedral, for instance, as that of Burgos we find vigour and joyous exuberance rather than reserve and beauty—a confused richness that has a flavour of brutality almost.  The sombre Gothic can be traced in the older portions of the building, but everywhere it has been seized upon by the restless fancy of later workers.  Spanish architecture is like the Spanish manners.  The Spaniard can use a floridity of expression that would be ridiculous in England.

p. 207 Choir stalls in the Mosque, Cordova

The carving and moulding of wood and stone and iron in the fifteenth century had reached a high level of accomplishment.  p. 209And although none of the world’s famous sculptors have been Spaniards, the amount of strong and beautiful carvings to be found in every part of the Peninsula is amazing; in no country can they be surpassed.  Every great church and cloister contains carvings in wood—a material chosen by the Spaniards for the freedom and facility it gave for expression—which are treasures of delight.  The immense and amazing retablos and the carved walnut-wood choir-stalls which every great church contains cannot be matched elsewhere.  It is a pity that these characteristic works are hardly known; they are the basis of all Spanish art.  In no country in Europe can be seen more wonderful carvings than on the monumental tombs of such cathedrals as Toledo, Zamora, and Leon.  Again, the ironwork church screens, notably those of the cathedrals of Seville, Granada, and Toledo, cannot be surpassed.  In these works, with their dramatic conceptions, finding expression in a wealth of interesting details, never without the p. 210tendency to over-emphasis of statement which marks the art of this people, the Spanish character speaks.  Æsthetic sensibility is almost always absent; the art here is vigorous and romantic, frankly expressive, with a kind of childlike, almost grotesque, naturalism that shows a realistic grasp of all things, even of spiritual things.  I recall the polychrome sculpture of this people; the images of the anguished Virgin, in which sorrow is carried to its utmost limit of expression; the bleeding heads of martyred saints, such, for instance, as those terrible yet moving heads of the Baptist by Alonso Cano at Granada, or the poignantly lifelike polychrome carvings of the Crucified Christ by Montañes, Gregorio Hernandez, Juni Juanes, and other sculptors, which are seen in many churches, and which are carried in procession in the Easter pasos at Seville and elsewhere, images in which all the details of the Passion are emphasized with an emotional delight in the presentment of pain.  And when I think of these images I understand the bull-fight.

Burgos Cathedral

p. 213Until the fifteenth century painting found no home in Spain.  Placed as she is almost midway between the art centres of Flanders in the North and of Italy in the South, Spain has geographically a position of equipoise between these conflicting art influences.  But this balance of influence was modified by the bent of the Spanish character, and the true affinity of Spain in art has always been with the Flemings.  No one can doubt this who has a knowledge of the Spanish Primitives.  The art of Spain is Northern in its literalness, in its dramatic force, and deep and singular gravity.

Jan van Eyck in 1428 visited Portugal and Spain, and, incited by the brilliant reception accorded to the great Flemish master, other enterprising Netherland painters flocked to the Peninsula.  From this time the native artists gave their attention to painting, and on this Flemish foundation arose a really capable group of painters.  The essential ideas in the pictures of these early masters are all borrowed; but, p. 214though Flemish in their inspiration, they yet retain an attractive Spanish personality of their own.  The Spanish painters, more perhaps than the painters of any other school, have imitated and absorbed the art of other nations without degenerating into copyists.

Residence of the Mexican Minister, Madrid

But this development of a national art on the basis of Flemish influence was not of long duration, and before the fifteenth century closed the newly-born Spanish school was rudely disturbed by the introduction into Spain of the Italian influences of the Renaissance.  The building of the Escorial brought a crowd of artists from Italy—not the great masters, for they were no longer alive, but pupils more or less mannered and decadent.  Spain was overrun with third-rate imitators of the Italian grand styles, of Michael Angelo, of Raphael, and their followers.  This is not the place to speak of the blight which fell upon the native painters.  The distinctive Italian schools were an influence for evil, fatal to p. 217the expression of the true genius of the people; for the deep-feeling, individualistic temper of the Spaniards could not be reconciled with the spirit of Italy.

But the Spanish temper is strong.  The native painters used Renaissance forms, but they never worked in the Renaissance spirit.  And it was not long before Spanish artists were turning to Venice, where they found a new inspiration in an art suited to their temperament in its methods, and in its spirit.  El Greco, who had received his first inspiration from Tintoretto, the mighty master of the counter-Reformation, came as a liberating force to Spain.  The torch he had lighted at Tintoretto’s fire burnt in Toledo with splendid power.  El Greco is the first great Spanish painter.

And the seventeenth century witnessed in the art of the Spanish school one of those surprising outbursts of successful life that meet us now and again, in every department of enterprise, in this land of fascinating contradictions, which give so strange a denial to p. 218the usual limit of her attainment.  It was the century of Velazquez and Murillo, of Ribera and Zurbaran.  In Velazquez, Spanish painting gained its crown of achievement.

In the period after his great inspiration, imitation seemed inevitable to his successors.  Spanish painting apparently was dead.  Yet it was just in this time of degradation that the Spanish school was surprised suddenly by the remarkable art of Goya.  Again a great personality filled the Spanish art stage, forcing a reversal of judgment.  We forget the usual level of the period’s achievement; we remember only Goya.  With him, once more, we are face to face with a new force in art.  Spain challenges the world again; and she gives it its most personal, its most daring genius.

Such, in briefest outlines, is the history of Spanish painting.

The Old Aqueduct, known as “El Pueute,” of Trajan,

It will be seen that Spain is not an art-lover’s paradise.  There has never been a time when the accomplishment of the Spanish school is really comparable to what the Italian p. 221and Flemish schools have achieved.  Spain is not a land of great painters.  Murillo has sunk to the rank of a second-rate master; Ribera and Zurbaran are yet hardly known outside Spain.  El Greco, Velazquez, Goya—these are the only really great names; and Velazquez towers as much above his fellow-artists as Cervantes above his fellow-novelists.  Spain’s claim to the world’s attention in the arts, as also in literature, rests upon the accomplishment of individuals more than upon the general average of her work.  It is the result of that personal quality—the predominance of character—which rules every department of Spanish achievement.  It still lives in the vigorous and characteristic Spanish painters of to-day—such, for instance, as Zuloaga, Anglada-Camarasa, and Sorolla, artists who take high rank among European painters.

It is often contended that Spanish paintings, if we except the works of the masters El Greco, Velazquez, and Goya, are wanting in dignity, wanting in beauty.  But are we p. 222not too apt to confine beauty to certain forms of accepted expression?  Surely, any art that interprets life has beauty; and no one can doubt, who knows the Spanish pictures, that life was the inspiration of these painters.

The main gallery in the Museo Del Prado, Madrid

The Spanish character speaks in every Spanish picture.  There is one quality, which at a first knowledge will impress the careful observer, in all these pictures, which, though different, all have one aim—it is their dramatic seriousness.  Rarely do you meet with a picture in which the idea of beauty, whether it be the beauty of colour or the beauty of form, has stood first in the painter’s mind.  Almost in vain will you search for any love of landscape, for any passage of beauty introduced for its own sake.  Pictures of Passion scenes, of Assumptions, of martyrdoms and saintly legends, were painted with a vivid belief in the reality of these things, by men who felt the presence of the Divine life as a part of human life.  To see these pictures in which p. 225homely details are introduced into the most sacred themes is to understand the Spaniard’s easy familiarity with his religion.

This is the reason why the Spanish painters always treat a vision as a real scene, and why, too, they present religious and saintly characters by Spanish models.  There is a Spanish picture by Zurbaran in the National Gallery of London; it is entitled “St. Margaret.”  You look at the picture; you see a Spanish lady, her face powdered, as was the fashion; an embroidered saddle-bag hangs on one arm, in the other hand she holds a rosary.  She is dressed in the picturesque Andalusian costume.  I always smile when I look at this picture, it is so truly Spanish.  The incongruity of clothing saintship in the garb of fashion would not be evident to Spanish Zurbaran; he could not see a saint, therefore he painted a woman, but in accordance with the custom of the day he called her a “saint.”

All the Spanish pictures tell stories.  The successes of her painters are due to this aim; p. 226their failures, to the sacrifice of beauty of ideal to this—a danger from which, perhaps, no painter except Velazquez quite escaped.  He alone, faultless in the balance of his exquisite vision, was saved quite from this danger of overstatement.  It is the special gift of the whole school, from the time of the early painters of Andalusia to the time of Goya, to present a scene just as the painter supposed it might have happened.  Was not their aim to translate life—the life of earth and the truer life of heaven?  And to the Spaniard, we must remember, life was always dramatic.

The Cross by the Wayside, Granada

We find a sort of wild delight in martyrdom, as, for instance, in the pictures of Ribera—a joy that is perfectly sincere in pain and in the scourging of the body.  There are pictures horrible with the sense of death and human corruption.  Again and again is enforced the Catholic lesson of humility, expressing itself in acts of charity to the poor, such as exists to-day in the custom of the washing of feet at the Easter p. 229celebrations in Seville.  There is a childlike sincerity in these pictures which compels us to accept and realize what the painter himself believed in.

I recall the pictures of Zurbaran in the museum of Seville, pictures which carry you into a world of realism, a world in which visions are translated into the facts of life, set forth with a childlike simplicity of statement.  Each picture is a scene from the life of old Spain.  What honesty is here, what singular striving to record the truth!  (The word “truth” is used in a restricted sense.  Zurbaran understood nothing of the inner suggestiveness of art; to him art meant facts, not vision.)  The peasants in his religious scenes are almost startling in their outward resemblance to life.  How simple is his rendering of the Scriptural scenes, his conceptions of the Christ!  With what poignant reality he depicts the Crucifixion, a subject exactly suited to his art!  His saints are all portraits, faces caught in a mirror, the types of old Spain.  No one has painted saints as p. 230Zurbaran has done.  Before his saints gained their sanctity they must have struggled as men; and as we look at the cold, strong faces we come to know the spiritual instinct that belongs to every true Spaniard.

Among the Spanish priests to-day, and especially in those living in the country districts of Castile, the observant stranger will see the types represented in Zurbaran’s pictures.  In the faces of these men, as, indeed, in their whole appearance, there is a profound asceticism, a sort of energy concentrated in a white heat of devotion.  I have never seen the same type in Italy, or among the priests of any country.  But often when watching a Spanish priest, in the services of the Church or walking alone on the roads, I have felt that I understood the meaning of the phrase, “This man has embraced religion.”

To all the Spanish painters art was serious—a matter of heaven, not of earth.  Each painter was conscious of the presence of the Divine life, giving seriousness as well as p. 231joy to earthly life.  It is this which gives Spanish painting a special interest to the student of Spain.  In their ever-present religious sense, in their adherence, almost brutal at times, to facts, as well as in those interludes of sensuous sweetness which now and again, as, for instance, in the facile and pleasing art of Murillo, burst out so strangely like an exotic bloom, the Spanish pictures reflect the temper of Spain.

No one can understand Spanish painting who does not know the Spanish character.  I think, too, that nothing reveals to the stranger more truly the Spanish character, which is at once so simple and yet so difficult, in its apparent contradictions, to comprehend, as a knowledge of the art of her painters.


The Real Spirit of Spain—The Spiritual Instinct of the Race—The Escorial—Spanish Beggars—The Spaniard belongs to the Past, but also to the Future.

What is the real spirit of Spain?  We are now in a better position to attempt an answer.  The word which I should use to represent the main impression made upon me by the character of the average Spaniard, the soldier, the bull-fighter, the priest, the gentleman, the peasant, is individualism; and it seems to me that this attitude explains Spain’s greatness in the past, and also her position to-day.  A love of independence, a kind of passionate egotism, and a clannish preference for small social groups, has always distinguished this race.  To his p. 233friends, even when they have injured him, the Spaniard is invariably indulgent; but those who are outside his circle he regards with indifference, which quickly rises to enmity.

Spain has always been the country of great personalities.  Her brilliant achievements in every department of life—in warfare, in travel, in politics, in literature, and in the arts—have ever been the result of individual, and not of collective, genius.  Velazquez is the world’s greatest painter; Cervantes, the world’s greatest story-teller.  The Spanish spirit, with its wide-ranging energy for dramatic enterprise and its passion for personal freedom, has filled Spain in the past with martyrs and heroes.

The Spaniard has two devotions: his observance of the traditions of his race, and his religion.  The ceremonies of life, which he never forgets to practise, are so real in his hands that they become quite simple and natural.  He may commit a crime sooner p. 234than forget to behave gracefully.  Every Spaniard, be he beggar, peasant, or prince, acts in the tradition of his race, by which every man is equal and a gentleman.

There is an inscription on the staircase of the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) of Toledo which is worth quoting as an instance of the Spanish attitude to duty: “Noble and judicious men who govern Toledo, leave your passions on this staircase—leave there love, fear, and desire of gain.  For the public benefit forget every private interest, and serve God; He has made you the pillars of this august place, be firm and upright.”

Town and Monastery of the Escorial

Religion is the great devotion of the Spaniard: it is much more than an attendance upon forms; it is a profound sentiment, which in him is the spirit of acceptance.  In the sphere of devotion this people know no limit to self-sacrifice.  It is not without significance that Ferrer, the greatest of later-day martyrs, was a Spaniard.  The spiritual instinct is the deepest instinct of the race.  In the faces of many peasants, p. 237and in some of the dwellers in the towns, I have seen often the making of martyrs and fanatics.  The gloom, so helpful to the emotion of worship, which pervades all Spanish churches is one instance of how truly they comprehend the needs of the devotional spirit.  The ecstatic attitudes which may be noted almost everywhere in the worshippers in the churches is quite unlike anything that will be seen in other countries—in Italy, for example, or in France.  And religion is so real a thing, so truly a part of life, that immediately after this absorbed prayer they will talk and laugh together.

But if you would understand the spiritual instinct which so remarkably unites the life of this world with the after-life—the instinct which is really at the root of the true nature of the Spaniard—there is one building that the stranger must not fail to visit: it is the Escorial, the Royal Temple to Death.  The spirit of the Escorial is in one aspect the spirit of Spain.  There is nothing in the p. 238country more impressive than this mighty Palace of the Dead.  It was built, as all the world knows, by Philip II., the richest and most powerful of Kings, in fulfilment of a vow made on the day of the Battle of St. Quentin.  We see the suite of small dark rooms which he prepared for himself, wherein he might make ready for death.  And how Spanish are these barely furnished rooms set in the midst of a palace—this withdrawal from all the things of this world to prepare for the life of the next world!

Puerta Judiciana, or Gate of Justice

It is in the Pantheon of the Escorial that the Spanish Kings are buried.  The great outer doors of the palace are never opened except when the Sovereigns come for the first time to the Escorial, and when their bodies are brought there to the vault which awaits them.  The Pantheon is a small octagon; it is lined with polished marbles, which are crumbling away with a strange decomposition.  The sarcophagi, all exactly alike, are placed in niches that cover all the wall space; almost every niche is occupied, p. 241but a few empty ones await the living.  An altar with a crucifix of black marble upon a pedestal of porphyry stands opposite the doorway.  The chamber is very cold, and is penetrated only by a few rays of half-extinguished light.

To-day tourists flock to the Escorial: English, American, French—a strange procession!  They seem curiously out of place; their expressions of admiration are grotesque in their incongruity.  There is a deathly solemnity about this mighty palace that has something ferocious, almost, in its suggestion. Yes, to see this immense building, with its simple structure which corresponds so perfectly with the emotion of the place, set in such splendid isolation amidst the grey and sombre mountains of Old Castile, where it seems but a part of the desolate landscape, is to realize that insistence on death and acceptance of pain which is so real a part of the Spanish spirit—the shadow which, in spite of all her joyous life, haunts this romantic and fascinating land.  And the p. 242sensitive stranger will feel again that he understands the cruelty that has surprised him sometimes in the character of her people.

It was from the Moors that the Spaniards inherited their readiness to sacrifice themselves for a cause, and this genius for sacrifice has made them heroes, martyrs, and conspirators; it has given them their strength, and also their weakness.  This people can resign themselves to anything, and resignation can just as easily be heroism or mere apathy.  The heroic side of this power gave Spain the greatness of her past history; the other side, the resignation that is apathy, may be seen everywhere in Spain to-day.  One instance is the beggars who follow you in the streets of every town, with their incessant cry for alms.  There is terrible poverty in Spain, of which these hordes of beggars are but a too genuine sign.

Municipal plaza and south façade of the famous old
cathedral-seat of the Primate of Spain, Toledo

Begging is a profession of which no one is ashamed.  And what impressed me most was that only rarely did the beggar appear unhappy.  p. 245They all seemed to find their own enjoyment in that open-air life in the sun which is the happiness of Spain.  I recall one beggar who always sat at the door of the Cathedral of Leon.  He was very old.  The cloak in which he was wrapped was so worn and threadbare that one wondered how the rags held together.  He never appeared to move; through each day he kept the same position.  His face was a mass of wrinkles which showed strongly from the ingrained dirt.  There was a patient humour in his eyes, which were still bright.  His face reminded me of Velazquez’ picture.  He seemed quite content when I refused his cry for alms, so that I gave the answer that Spanish courtesy demands, “Perdone usted, por el amor de Dios!” (Excuse me, brother, for the love of God!).  He hardly troubled to hold out his hand.  It was warm where he sat in the sunshine; a shadow from the sculptured figures of saints and angels, which ornamented the portal, fell on him pleasantly.  Someone will give to him some day; he p. 246was quite content.  He was a man of Spain.

Spain has something from of old, which the younger countries of the world, with all their headlong progress, have as yet only begun to gain.  That something is tradition.  It is interesting to note for one’s self the signs of this tradition in the daily life of the people—in their fine understanding of the art of living, in their unfailing courtesy, in their kindness in all personal relationships.  I have never known a people with so little thought of themselves or care for personal gain.  The greatest gift of their inheritance is a splendid capacity for sacrifice.  And if, as must be acknowledged, this quality has led them often into evil, nevertheless it will, with awakened knowledge, gain their redemption.

The valley of the Guadalevín River, Ronda

In England, and even more in America—the newest as Spain is one of the oldest of civilizations—business is the only respectable pursuit, including under business literature and the arts, which in these countries are p. 249departments of business.  In Spain this is not so; there are other aims and other traditions, havens of refuge from the prevalent commercialism.

The duty of expending great labour to gain the little good of money is not as yet understood by the Spaniards.  They have always been, and still are, a people who stand definitely for art and the beauty of life—men and women whose spiritual instinct enables them to open windows to the stars, and through these windows, in passing, the stranger sometimes looks.

Flamenco dance of a Gitana, Seville

Literature and art in Spain rest on a long tradition which has not only produced pictures, carvings, splendid buildings, and books, but has left its mark on the language, the manners, the ideas, and the habits of the people.  And even though in every art the technical tradition has been interrupted, there remains the tradition of feeling.  Spain is one of the few uncommercial countries where the artist and the author are still esteemed as worthy and profitable p. 251members of the community.  Spanish paper money bears the portraits of men of letters and great painters.  Goya’s etchings are reproduced on the pictures used as stiffeners in the packets of cigarettes.

It is this ever-present consciousness of a great tradition, which we may call an understanding of “good manners,” meaning by this the art of beautiful living, finding its expression as it does in the common life of the people, that makes it true that, though the Spaniard belongs to the Past, he belongs also to the Future.  He has the qualities which younger nations now are striving to gain.

Side by side with the new growth of material prosperity, which has been so marked in the country in recent years, there is to-day a corresponding movement of spiritual reawakening.  When education spreads among the people, when the over-scrupulous submission to authority, which has given power to the officialism of Church and State, shall have found new channels of duty, we shall p. 252cease to hear dismal prophecies of Spain’s downfall.  By the splendid spiritual qualities of her people Spain will be saved.  She will be born again before many years have passed.

p. 253INDEX

Al toro, the game of,


Alcázar, the,




Alhambra, the,


Andalusian, the typical,


“Angel’s hair,”




Architecture in Toledo,




Art galleries,



Banderilleros, the,


Basques, the,



68, 242

Boina, the,


Bolero, the,


Bota, or leather bottle,


Bull-fight, the,


Burgos Cathedral,


Business v. Art,



Cabaña a,


Cafés cantantes,


Cafés in Madrid,








Children, Spanish,


Chulos, the,



46, 177

Climate of Madrid, the,


Conservatism of Spain,


Consumos, or Customs officers,




Court of Oranges at Cordova,


Cruelty in the Spanish nature,





Democracy in Spain,






Dulsaina, the,



El Greco,

98, 217

Escorial, the,


Espada, the,



Fábrica de Tabacos,


Family life,




Feria, the,




Flamenco dance of the Gitanas,


Food, indifferent,




Frogs as a delicacy,





Ganivet on Moorish influence,




Generalife of Granada, the


Gente flamenca,


Giralda Tower, the,


Gitana women,


Gitanas, the, or gipsies,

36, 163



Granada, the gardens of,

33, 103


Hair, elaborately dressed,


Hospitality of the Spaniards,


Households, Spanish,


Houses, construction of,



Indifference to pain,





p. 254Jan Van Eyck,


Jarro, the,


Jota, the,



Kermesse, the,


Kindliness of the Spanish nature






115, 140



Maria de Gaucin, torero,


Market, a,


Montanés, the sculptor,


Moorish influence,


Moors in Spain, the,


Mosque at Cordova,


Muleta, the,


Museo del Prado,








Pain, the Spaniard’s indifference to,




Pascua de Resurrección, the,


Paseo de la Cuadrilla, the,


Pasos, the,

80, 182

Patio, the,

25, 120

Peasants, Spanish,


Physical traits,


Picador, the,


Plaza de Toros, the,


Port Bou


Posada, the,

18, 153

Prado, the,


Puerta del Sol, the



Railway trains,


Rastro of Madrid, the,


Reja, the, or grating,


Religion and dancing,


Religious processions,


Romance, Spain the home of,



Sainete, or “curtain-raiser,”


Santa Maria, Cathedral of,


Seguidilla, the,


Seises, the,


Semana Santa, the,


Serenos, or night watchmen,



36, 46, 80

Spanish character, the,


Stendhal on the Spanish people,


Suerte de Banderillear, the,


Suerte de Matar,


Suerte de Picar, the,



Teatro Real at Madrid,


Tertulias, or parties,


Theatre in Spain, the,


Thrift and sobriety,




Toreros, the,


Toro de gracia,


Tower of Gold, the,






Vacada, the,







Wild animals,




Women, fascination of Spanish,


Women, Spanish,


Women workers,



Zeguán, the,







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Most page numbers related to the illustrations have been removed in this etext, and the list of illustrations has had the page numbers adjusted to those pages which carry page numbers in the printed book.

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