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TRAVEL & TOPOGRAPHY
Everyman, I will go with thee, and be thy guide,
In thy most need to go by thy side.
FRANCES CALDERON DE LA BARCA, born in Edinburgh, 1804, the daughter of
William Inglis. After her father's death she settled in America, where she
married the Spanish diplomat, Don Angel Calderon de la Barca. She
accompanied him on his various appointments to Mexico, Washington, and
finally to Madrid, where she was created Marquesa de Calderon de la Barca
by Alfonso XII and died in 1882.
FRANCES CALDERON DE LA BARCA
LIFE IN MEXICO
INTRODUCTION BY MANUEL ROMERO DE TERREROS MARQUES DE SAN FRANCISCO
First published 1843
In the year 1843, two new books took the American public by storm: one was
Prescott's _History of the Conquest of Mexico_, and the other _Life in
Mexico_ by Madame Calderon de la Barca. William Hickling Prescott was
already known as an able historian on account of his scholarly _Reign of
Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain_ which had appeared four years before and
elicited praise from all quarters; but his new work outran the former in
that the author had succeeded in depicting one of the most stirring
episodes of history with the grandeur of an epic and the interest of a
It was therefore natural that a book with Prescott's endorsement should be
favourably received by the general public; but _Life in Mexico_
immediately attained wide circulation on its own merits, and was received
with unbounded enthusiasm. Soon the slight veil that pretended to hide the
author's name was drawn aside and Madame Calderon de la Barca became
famous in literary and social circles.
Frances Erskine Inglis was born in Edinburgh in the year 1804. Her father,
William Inglis, belonged to a distinguished Scottish family, related to
the Earls of Buchan, and was a grandson of a gallant Colonel Gardiner who
fell in the battle of Prestonpans, while her mother, a Miss Stern before
her marriage, was a celebrated beauty of her time.
Fanny, as Frances was familiarly called, was still very young when her
father found himself in financial difficulties and decided to retire with
his family to Normandy where living was supposed to be cheaper. But
William Inglis died a few years later, and his widow determined to settle
in America. In the United States Mrs. Inglis established a private school
first in Boston, later in Staten Island, and finally in Baltimore, and her
daughter was a great help, for she immediately revealed herself as an
excellent teacher. Besides, Fanny became a great friend of Ticknor,
Lowell, Longfellow, and especially of Prescott, who thought her "ever
lively and _spirituelle_."
In 1836 a Special Diplomatic Mission from Spain arrived at Washington, and
at its head came Don Angel Calderon de la Barca, a gentleman of high
social standing and an accomplished man of letters, who, naturally enough,
soon established literary relations with William Prescott, then at work on
his _History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella_. In this connection
he became acquainted with many of Prescott's friends, the Inglis ladies
among others, and the result was that he fell in love with the
accomplished Fanny, and married her in 1838. Shortly afterwards Don Angel
was appointed Isabel II's Minister to Mexico, the first Spanish Envoy to
the young Republic that had formerly been the Kingdom of New Spain. The
newly married couple, accordingly, started on their journey to Mexico,
which was destined to be a long one, even for those days, for they left
New York on October 27th and did not reach their destination until the
26th of the following December.
Calderon's mission to Mexico lasted somewhat more than two years, during
which time he and his wife, says Prescott, "lived much at their ease," and
"were regaled _en prince_." In spite of Don Angel's delicate diplomatic
duties and her own frequent social engagements and strenuous excursions,
Fanny Inglis Calderon found time to write almost daily letters, most of
them of considerable length, to relatives and friends. These letters
constituted the basis of the present book when they were collected and
published--with certain necessary omissions--simultaneously in London and
Boston in 1843, under the title of _Life in Mexico during a Residence of
Two Years in that Country_. The book was provided with a short but
substantial Preface by Prescott.
That same year saw Don Angel Calderon de la Barca transferred to
Washington as Spanish Minister, a post in which he not only discharged his
diplomatic duties with much ability, but also frequented the literary
circles and even found time to translate several works into Spanish.
In 1853 Calderon was recalled to Spain by his government and arrived at
Madrid on September 17th with his wife, who had recently become a
Catholic. A year later, he was appointed Minister of State in the Cabinet
of the Conde de San Luis, and thus became an actor in the troubled drama
of that period of Isabel II's reign. When finally the unpopularity of the
government culminated in a general rebellion, Calderon managed to escape
the unjust fury of the rabble by hiding first in the Austrian, and later
in the Danish Legation, until he was able to cross the frontier and take
refuge in France. The events that Madame Calderon had witnessed in Spain
moved her to write that entertaining book _The Attache in Madrid_, which,
pretending to be a translation from the German, appeared in New York in
The Calderons were able to return to Spain after an absence of two years,
but in 1861 Don Angel died at San Sebastian, just when he was expecting to
move to a small villa which was being built for him nearby in picturesque
Zarauz. Hard upon this event Madame Calderon retired to a convent across
the Pyrenees, but shortly afterwards Queen Isabel asked her to come back
and take charge of the education of her eldest daughter, the Infanta
Isabel, a request which, though at first respectfully declined, was
finally accepted by her. From that time on Madame Calderon became the
constant companion of the Infanta Isabel, until the latter's marriage to
the Count of Girgenti in 1868. She then returned to the United States, but
only for a comparatively short time, for as soon as Alfonso XII came to
the throne, Madame Calderon went back to Spain and was created by him
Marquesa de Calderon de la Barca. Thenceforward she led a very quiet life
until her death, in the Royal Palace of Madrid, on February 3rd, 1882.
Any radical change in the form of government is liable to be accompanied
by disorders, and this is even more likely to be true in a country like
Mexico, which has become famous for its frequent political troubles and
has been aptly called "a land of unrest." In the eighteen-forties the
country witnessed many plans, "pronunciamientos" and revolutions, which
could not escape the vigilant mind of Madame Calderon, who often refers to
them with a spice of delicate satire and irony which is not unkindly.
After the long period of peaceful if unexciting viceregal rule, the
government of the new republic had become the prey of political groups,
headed by men who coveted the presidency chiefly impelled by a "vaulting
ambition" which, in most cases "overleapt itself." Madame Calderon drew
faithful portraits of many of the politicians of those days, not stinting
her praise to such men of honour as Bustamante, nor hiding her sympathy
towards the much reviled Santa Anna.
Naturally, as the wife of the Spanish Minister, she feels occasionally
bound to dwell somewhat disparagingly upon the existing state of things,
as compared with the excellences of the former viceregal regime. Thus, on
visiting the older cities and establishments, she lays stress on the great
benefits that the Mother Country had bestowed on her Colonies, an opinion
that, she states, was shared by the most distinguished persons in Mexico,
who missed the advantages of the days of yore: "I fear we live in a
Paradise Lost," she exclaims, "which will not be regained in our days!"
But this does not mean to say that she withholds praise where praise is
due. On more than one occasion she extols the valour of a soldier, the
talent of a Minister like Cuevas, or the honesty and clearsightedness of a
politician like Gutierrez de Estrada; and when she refers to the rivalry
that arose between the different parties, she has unbounded praises for
the cadets of the Military School, for their patriotic conduct and their
loyalty to the legally established government.
In Madame Calderon's time the Mexican upper classes were an extension, so
to speak, of the old viceregal society. Only the very young had not seen
the Spanish flag flying over the public buildings or had not been more or
less acquainted with the last viceroys. The presidential receptions of a
Bustamante or a Santa Anna in the National Palace, just as during the
short reign of Augustin I de Iturbide, were ablaze with brilliant
uniforms, glittering decorations, fine dresses, and rich jewels, while at
private parties the old family names and titles continued to be borne with
the prestige of former colonial days.
On the other hand, the relations between lord and servant are faithfully
portrayed by Madame Calderon de la Barca. Speaking of life in a
_hacienda_, she describes how the lady of the house sat at the piano,
while the employees and servants performed the typical dances of the
country for the benefit of guests and relatives, without suggesting any
idea of equality or disrespect, more or less in the fashion of the Middle
Ages, when the lord and the lady of the manor sat at table with their
servants, though the latter remained rigorously below the salt. With
regard to the lower classes, Madame Calderon always sees the picturesque
side of things which she describes vividly and colourfully.
It is to be regretted (particularly from a Mexican point of view) that
Fanny Inglis, or her editor, should have thought it expedient only to give
the first and last letters of the names of the more prominent persons of
whom she speaks, a system which makes it difficult for a reader of later
days to identify them, except in one or two cases. Many were the intimate
friends of the Calderons, but especially the Conde de la Cortina, a well-
known figure in society and in literary and scientific circles, the
Marques and Marquesa de Vivanco, and the "Guera Rodriguez," (the "Fair
Rodriguez"), a celebrated beauty of her time, who is said to have been
greatly admired by no less a person than Alexander von Humboldt himself!
Naturally enough, Madame Calderon was a competent judge of her own sex and
was alert to the good qualities as well as to the foibles of the ladies of
Mexico, whose excessive fondness for diamonds and, in some cases, too
showy dresses elicit her mild criticism.
Monastic life was one of the features of Mexico at that time. Most cities,
large and small, were full of churches, monasteries, and convents; and
Madame Calderon (who became a Catholic three years later) was not then
well acquainted with the ceremonies and liturgy of the Church, and
consequently falls into many errors on the subject; but when she describes
her visit to a convent and the ceremony of the veiling of a nun, she
writes some of her most picturesque and touching pages.
Madame Calderon does not stint her admiration for the great buildings of
the country, both civil and religious, though her descriptions betray only
too often the influence of the romantic age in which she lived.
Beautiful indeed as is her description of a garden in Tulancingo, she
rises to real eloquence before some of "Nature's pageants," admiring a
sunset over the Monastery of San Fernando, walking under the shade of the
centennial trees of Chapultepec, or wandering within the gigantic Caverns
of Cacahuamilpa, the recollection of which, she says, "rests upon the
mind, like a marble dream," and where an unfortunate traveller, years
before, had lost his way and met a tragic death.
Prescott's statement that Madame Calderon's letters were not intended
originally for publication seems hardly credible; but, on the other hand,
there is no proof for the suggestion that she had the letters of Madame
D'Aulnoy in mind. Be that as it may, the fact is that just as the French
Countess has left us a living picture of Spain in the late seventeenth
century, in the same way the wife of the Spanish Minister drew a most
faithful pen-portrait of the social, political, and even economic order,
in Mexico in the early nineteenth.
As to Madame Calderon de la Barca's personal appearance, since a portrait
of her, which is said to exist in the possession of a relative, has never
been published, the reader is free to imagine that lively lady as it may
best suit his or her individual fancy. That she was clever, well-read, and
an excellent judge of character, as well as a true lover of nature and a
keen observer of manners and customs, is evident in her letters, which
constitute by common consent a most entertaining and truly delectable
narrative, which even the lapse of more than a century has not been able
MANUEL ROMERO DE TERREROS, Marques de San Francisco.
_History of the Conquest of Mexico with the Life of the Conqueror Hernando
Cortes, and a view of the Ancient Mexican Civilization_. New York, Harper
& Bros., 1843.
_Life in Mexico, During a Residence of Two Years in That Country_, by
Madame Calderon de la Barca, with a Preface by W. H. Prescott, author of
The History of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, 1843.
_The Attache in Madrid; or, Sketches of the Court of Isabella II_,
translated from the German, New York, 1856.
_Prescott Unpublished Letters to Gayangos in the Library of the Hispanic
Society of America_, edited with notes by Clara Louisa Penney, New York,
LETTER THE FIRST
Departure of the "Norma"--Last look of New York Bay--Fellow passengers--
Contrary Winds--Deceitful Appearances--Sunset in Southern Latitudes--Seas
passed over by Columbus--Varied Occupations on Shipboard--Berry Islands--
Bahama Banks--Evening in a Tropical Sea--L. E. L.--Pan of Matanzas--Morro
Castle--Bay of Havana--Arrival--Handsome House in Havana--Sights and
LETTER THE SECOND
Havana Aristocracy--Lucia di Lammermoor--La Rossi and Montresor--Brig-of-
war--Countess de V---a--Dinner at H---a's--Southerly Winds--View from the
Balcony--_Quinta_ of Count V---a--San Cristobal--Mass at San Felipe--Erard
Harp--Dinner at General M---o's--A Dessert at Havana--Queen of Spain's
Birthday--Dinner at the Yntendencia--La Pantanelli--Theatre of Tacon--
Railroad--Cure by Lightning--Shops--Ball at the Countess F---a's Last
LETTER THE THIRD
Departure in the Jason--Spanish Captain and Officers--Life on board a Man-
of-War--"_Balances_"--Fishing--"_Le Petit Tambour_"--Cocoa-nuts--A
_Norte_--Spanish Proverb--Peak of Orizava--Theory and Practice--_Norte
Chocolatero_--Contrary Winds--Chain of Mountains--Goleta
LETTER THE FOURTH
Distant View of Vera Cruz--Pilots--Boat from the City--Mutual Salutes--
Approach to Vera Cruz--Crowd on the Wharf--House of Don Dionisio V---o--
Guard of Honour--German Piano--Supper--Madonna--Aspect of the City--
_Sopilotes_--Deliberations--General Guadalupe Victoria--Two-headed Eagle--
Dilapidated Saint--Harp--Theatre--Dona Innocencia Martinez--Invitation
from General Santa Anna
LETTER THE FIFTH
Departure from Vera Cruz--Sandhills--Oriental Scene--Manga de Clavo--
General Santa Anna--Breakfast--Escort and Diligence--Santa Fe--Puente
Nacional--Bridge sketched by Mrs. Ward--Country in December--Don Miguel--
First Impressions--Fruit--Plan del Rio--German Musicians--Sleeping
Captain--Approach to Jalapa--Appearance of the City--Cofre de Perote--
Flowers--House and Rock--Last View of Jalapa--Change of Scenery--San
Miguel de los Soldados--Perote-Striking Scene before Day-break--Non-
arrival of Escort--Yankee Coachman Dispute--Departure--Company of Lancers
--Alcalde--Breakfast at La Ventilla--Pulque--Double Escort--Crosses--
Brigand-looking Tavern-keeper--Ojo de Agua-Arrival at Puebla-Dress of the
LETTER THE SIXTH
Departure from Puebla--Chirimoyas--Rio Frio--Indian Game--Black Forest--
Valley of Mexico--Recollections of Tenochtitlan--Mexican Officer--
Reception--Scenery--Variety of Dresses--Cheers--Storm of Rain--Entry to
Mexico--Buenavista--House by Daylight--Sights from the Windows--Visits--
Mexican Etiquette--Countess C---a--Flowers in December--Serenade--
LETTER THE SEVENTH
Debut in Mexico--Cathedral--Temple of the Aztecs--Congregation--Stone of
Sacrifices--Palace--Importunate Leperos--Visit to the President--Countess
LETTER THE EIGHTH
Ball in Preparation--Agreeable Family--Fine Voices--Theatre--Smoking-
Castle of Chapultepec--Viceroy Galvez--Montezuma's Cypress--Vice-Queen--
Valley of Mexico--New Year's Day--Opening of Congress--Visits from the
Diplomatic Corps--Poblana Dress--"Funcion extraordinaria"--Theatre--Visit
to the Cathedral of Guadalupe--Divine Painting--Bishop--Beggars--
LETTER THE NINTH
Visits from Spaniards--Visit from the President--Disquisition--Poblana
Dress--Bernardo the Matador--Bull-fight extraordinary--Plaza de Toros--
Fireworks--Portrait of C---n--Fancy Ball--Dress-Costume of the
Patronesses--Beauty in Mexico--Doctor's Visit--Cards of _faire part_--
Marquesa de San Roman--Toilet in Morning Visits of Ceremony--Attempt at
Robbery--Murder of a Consul--La Guera Rodriguez--Dr. Plan--M. de Humboldt
LETTER THE TENTH
San Fernando--House of Perez de Galvez--A Removal--Size of the Houses--Old
Monastery--View by Sunset--Evening Visits--Mexican Etiquette--A Night--
view from the Azotea-Tacubaya--Magueys--Making of Pulque--Organos and
Nopal--Environs of Mexico--Miracle--Hacienda--View from the Countess C---
a's House--Arzobispado--Anecdote--Comparative View of Beauty--Indians--
Rancheritas--Mexican Cordiality--Masses for the Dead--San Agustin--Form of
Invitation--Death of a Senator--A Mistake
LETTER THE ELEVENTH
Calle de Tacuba--The Leap of Alvarado--The "Noche Triste"--Sale of a
Curate's Goods--Padre Leon--Leprosy--Pictures--The Annunciation--The
Alameda--Paseo de Bucarelli--The Viga--Indians in Canoes--A Murder--A
Country Fete--Visit to the Colegia Vizcaino--The Jota Arragonesa--Old
LETTER THE TWELFTH
The Viga during the Carnival--Variety of Equipages--The Millionaires--The
Monks--Masked Ball--An Alarming Sight--Medical Students--Dinner at the
Prussian Minister's--Rides on Horseback--Indian Love of Flowers--Santa
Anita--The Chinampas--Their Origin--Indians in Canoes--Song of "El
Palomo"--Fighting--The Great Lakes--The Drain of Huehuetoca--The Great
Market of Tlatelolco
LETTER THE THIRTEENTH
Convent of San Joaquin--Mexico in the Morning--Tacuba--Carmelite Prior--
Convent Garden--Hacienda of Los Morales--El Olivar--A _Huacamaya_--
Humming-birds--Correspondence--Expected Consecration--Visit to the
Mineria--Botanic Garden--Arbol de las Manitas--The Museum--Equestrian
Statue--Academy of Painting and Sculpture--Disappointment
LETTER THE FOURTEENTH
Palm Sunday--Holy Thursday--Variety of Costumes--San Francisco--Santa
Domingo--Santa Teresa--Nuns--Stone Bust--The Academy--Religious
Procession--Pilgrimage to the Churches--Santa Clara--Nun's Voice--Orange-
trees and Rose-bushes--The Cathedral Illuminated--Our Saviour in Chains--
Good Friday--The Great Square towards Evening--Dresses of Men, Women, and
Children--Approach of the Host--Judas--Great Procession--_Miserere_--The
Square by Moonlight--A Lonely Walk--_Sabado de Gloria_--Ball in
Contemplation--Weekly Soirees--Embroidered Muslins--A Tertulia at Home
LETTER THE FIFTEENTH
Letter from the Archbishop--Visit to the "_Encarnacion_"--Reception--
Description--The Novices--Convent Supper--Picturesque Scene--Sonata on the
Organ--Attempt at Robbery--Alarms of the Household--Visit to San Agustin--
Anonymous Letter--The Virgin _de los Remedios_--Visit to the Chapel--The
Padre--The Image--Anecdote of the Large Pearl--A Mine
LETTER THE SIXTEENTH
Mexico in May--Leave Mexico for Santiago--Coach of Charles X.--Mexican
Travelling--General Aspect of the Country--Village of Santa Clara--
Robbers' House--Temples of the Sun and Moon--San Juan--Mexican Posada--
School-house--Skulls--Hard Fare--Travelling Dress--Sopayuca--Military
Administrador--Santiago--Matadors and Picadors--Evenings in the Country--
Dances--Mexican Songs--Cempoala--Plaza de Toros--Skill of the Horsemen--
Omatusco--Accident--Tulansingo--Beautiful Garden--Mexican Dishes--Fruits--
Horses--Games of Forfeits--Ranchera's Dress--Young Girls and their
Admirers--Verses--Knowledge of Simple Medicine--Indian Baths--Hidden
LETTER THE SEVENTEENTH
Arrival at Tepenacasco--Lake with Wild-ducks--Ruined Hacienda--Sunset on
the Plains--Troop of Asses--Ride by Moonlight--Leave Tepenacasco--San
Miguel--Description--Thunderstorm--Guasco--Journey to Real del Monte--
English Road--Scenery--Village of Real--Count de Regla--Director's House--
English Breakfast--Visit to the Mines--Mining Speculations--Grand Scenery
--Visit to Regla--The Cascade--The Storm--Loneliness--A Journey in Storm
and Darkness--Return to Tepenacasco--Journey to Sopacuya--Narrow Escape--
Famous Bull--Return to Mexico
LETTER THE EIGHTEENTH
English Ball--Dresses--Diamonds--Mineria--Arrival of the Pope's Bull--
Consecration of the Archbishop--Foreign Ministers--Splendour of the
Cathedral--Description of the Ceremony
LETTER THE NINETEENTH
Mexican Servants--Anecdotes--Remedies--An unsafe Porter--Galopinas--The
Reboso--The Sarape--Women-cooks--Foreign Servants--Characteristics of
Mexican Servants--Servants' Wages--Nun of the Santa Teresa--Motives for
Taking the Veil
LETTER THE TWENTIETH
The Convent Entry--Dialogue--A Chair in Church--Arrival of the Nun--Dress
--Jose Maria--Crowd--Withdrawal of the Black Curtain--The Taking of the
Veil--The Sermon--A Dead Body--Another Victim--Convent of the Encarnacion
--Attempt at a Hymn--Invitation--Morning Visit--The Nun and her Mother--
Banquet--Taking Leave--Ceremony of the Veil-taking--A Beautiful Victim--
The Last Look--Presentation to the Bishop--Reflections--Verses
LETTER THE TWENTY-FIRST
San Agustin--The Gambling Fete--The Beauties of the Village--The Road from
Mexico--Entry to San Agustin--The Gambling Houses--San Antonio--The
Pedregal--Last Day of the Fete--The Cockpit--The Boxes--The Cock-fight--
Decorum--Comparisons--Dinner--Ball at Calvario--House of General Moran--
View of the Gambling Tables--The Advocate--Ball at the Plaza de Gallos--
Return to Mexico--Reflections--Conversation between two Ministers
LETTER THE TWENTY-SECOND
Countess C---a--Gutierrez Estrada--Dinner at General Moran's--Dowager
Marquesa--Fete at San Antonio--Approach of the Rainy Season--Diamonds and
Plate--Great Ball--Night Traveling--Severe Storm--Chapter of Accidents--
Corpus Christ!--Poblana Dress--Book Club--Ball--Humming Bird--Franciscan
Friar--Missions to Old and New California--Zeal and Endurance of the
Missionaries--Present Condition--Convent Gardener
LETTER THE TWENTY-THIRD
The President--Yturbide--Visit from the Archbishop--Senor Canedo--General
Almonte--Senor Cuevas--Situation of an Archbishop in Mexico--Of Senor
Posada--His Life--Mexican Charity--Wax Figures--Anecdote--Valuable
Annual--Compliments to the Mexican Ladies by the Editor--Families of the
Old School--Morals--Indulgence--Manners--Love of Country--Colleges
LETTER THE TWENTY-FOURTH
Revolution in Mexico--Gomez Farias and General Urrea--The Federalists--The
President Imprisoned--Firing--Cannon--First News--Escape--Proclamation of
the Government--Cannonading--Count C---a--Houses Deserted--Countess del
V---e--Proclamation of the Federalists--Circular of the Federalists--
Scarcity of Provisions--Bursting of a Shell--Refugees--Dr. Plan--Young
Lady Shot--Gomez Farias--Rumours--Address of Gomez Farias--Balls and
Bullets--Visit from the ----- Minister--Arrival of Monsieur de -------
Expected Attack--Skirmish--Appearance of the Street--San Cosme--General--
The Count de B------ More Rumours--Suspense--Cannonading--Government
Bulletin--Plan of the Rebels Defeated--Proclamation of the President--Of
General Valencia--Maternal Affection--Fresh Reports--Families leaving the
City--Letter from Santa Anna--Bustamante's Letter when imprisoned--
Second Letter from Santa Anna--Government Bulletin--Proclamations--An
awkward Mistake--The Archbishop visits the President--Conclusion of the
LETTER THE TWENTY-FIFTH
Plan of the Federalists--Letter from Farias--Signing of Articles--
Dispersion of the "Pronunciados"--Conditions--Orders of General Valencia--
Of the Governor--Address of General Valencia--Departure of our Guests--The
_Cosmopolita_--State of the Palace and Streets--Bulletin of the Firing--
Interior of Houses--Escape of Families--Conduct of the Troops--Countess
del V---e-- Santa Anna--Congress--Anecdote--Discussion in Congress--Leprosy
LETTER THE TWENTY-SIXTH
Visitors--Virgin de los Remedies--_Encarnacion_--Fears of the Nuns--Santa
Teresa--Rainy Season--Amusing Scene--"_Esta a la disposicion de V._"--
Mexican Sincerity--Texian Vessels--Fine Hair--Schoolmistress--Climate--Its
Effects--Nerves--_Tours de Force_--Anniversary--Speech--Paseo--San Angel--
Tacubaya--Army of "The Three Guarantees"--Plan of Yguala--A Murder--Indian
Politeness--Drunkenness--Senor Canedo--Revolutions in Mexico--The Penon--
The Baths--General ------- --Situation and View--Indian Family--Of the
Boiling Springs--Capabilities--Solitude--Chapultepec--The _Desagravios_--
Penitence at San Francisco--Discipline of the Men--Discourse of the Monk--
Darkness and Horrors--Salmagundi
LETTER THE TWENTY-SEVENTH
Fete-day--Friendly Hint--Precautions--General Tranquillity--President in
San Agustin--Revisit Museum--Ancient Manuscripts--Sculpture--Bronze Bust,
etc.--Freshness after Rain--Ball at the French Minister's--Pamphlet--
Gutierrez Estrada--His Character--Concealment--_Mexicalsingo_--Minister of
the Treasury--Archbishop's Permission--Paintings--Mexican Painters--Santa
Teresa--Description of the Interior--The Penitences--Tortures--
Disciplines, etc.--Supper--Profane Ballads--Monasteries--San Francisco--
Padre Prior--Soldiers and Friars
LETTER THE TWENTY-EIGHTH
_dia de Muertos_--Leave Mexico--_Herraderos_--San Cristobal--Tunas--Plaza
de Toros--Throwing the _Laso_--Accidents--Rustic Breakfast--Country Fare--
Baked Meat--Indian Market--Buried Bull--Mountain--Solitary _Hacienda_--
_Reyes_--Mules marked--Return--Queen of Spain's Birthday--Diplomatic
LETTER THE TWENTY-NINTH
Virgin of _Cavadonga_--Santo Domingo--Decorations and Music--
Daguerreotype--Weekly Soirees--An Arrival--An Earthquake--Honourable Mr.
----- --Broken Furniture--_Dios_--Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe--Party to
the _Desierto_--_Itzcuintepotzotli_--Inn of _Guajimalco_--Ruined Convent--
Its Origin--_Dejeune a la Fourchette_--Splendid Scenery--Vow to the
Virgin--Musical Mass--Tacuba--Ride with the Prior
LETTER THE THIRTIETH
Christmas-day--Kalends and Mass--Amateur Performances--Solo--_Posadas_--
Wandering of the Holy Family--_Nacimiento_--Crowded Party--French Cooks--
Mexican Cook--State of Household--New Year's Day--Mass--Dirtiness of the
Churches, etc.--Comparisons--Private Chapels--English Club--Preparations
LETTER THE THIRTY-FIRST
Leave Mexico--Cuernavaca--_Tierra Caliente_--_Atlacamulco_--Orange Groves
--Sugar-cane--Annual Produce--Will of Cortes--Description--Coffee
Plantation--Scorpions--List of Venomous Reptiles--_Aspansingo_--Doubts and
LETTER THE THIRTY-SECOND
Leave _Atlacamulco_--Assemble by Starlight--Balmy Atmosphere--Flowers and
Trees of the Tropics--The Formidable _Barrancas_--Breakfast under the
Trees--Force of the Sun--_Meacatlan_--Hospitality--Profitable Estate--
Leave Meacatlan--Beautiful Village--Musical Bells--Ride by Moonlight--
Sugar Fires--Cocoyotla--Old Gentleman--Supper--Orange-trees and Cocoas--
Delicious Water--Sugar Estates--_A Scorpion_--Set off for the Cave--
Morning Ride--Dangerous Path
LETTER THE THIRTY-THIRD
Cave of _Cacahuamilpa_--Superstition--Long-bearded Goat--Portal--
Vestibule--Fantastic Forms--Breakfast--Pine Torches--Noble Hall--
Stalactites and Stalagmites--Egyptian Pyramids--Double Gallery--Wonderful
Formations--Corridor--Frozen Landscape--Amphitheatre--World in Chaos--
Skeleton--Wax Lights--Hall of Angels--Return--Distant Light--Indian
Alcalde--_Cautlamilpas_--Rancho--Return to Cocoyotla--Chapel--Meacatlan--
Eclipse of the Moon--Benighted Travellers--Indian Village--_El Puente_--
Return to _Atlacamulco_
LETTER THE THIRTY-FOURTH
Ride by Starlight--Fear of Robbers--Tropical Wild Flowers--Stout Escort--
_Hautepec_--Hacienda of _Cocoyoc_--A Fire--Three Thousand Orange-trees--
Coffee Mills, etc.--Variety of Tropical Fruits--Prodigality of Nature--
_Casasano_--Celebrated Reservoir--Ride to Santa Clara--A Philosopher--A
Scorpion--Leave Santa Clara--Dangerous _Barranca_--_Colon_--Agreeable
House--Civil _Administrador_--San Nicolas--Solitude--Franciscan Friar--
Rainy Morning--Pink Turban--Arrival at _Atlisco_--Cypress--Department of
Pyramid--Arrival at Puebla
LETTER THE THIRTY-FIFTH
Theatre--Portmanteaus--Visitors--Houses of Puebla--Fine Arts--Paseo--Don
N. Ramos Arispe--Bishop--Cotton Factories--Don Esteban Antunano--Bank of
_Avio_--United States Machinery--Accidents--Difficulties--Shipwrecks--
Detentions--Wonderful Perseverance--"_La Constancia Mejicana_" Hospital--
Prison--El Carmen--Paintings--Painted Floors--Angels--Cathedral--Gold and
Jewels--A Comedy--Bishop's Palace--Want of Masters
LETTER THE THIRTY-SIXTH
Concert--Diligence--Leave Puebla--Escort--View from the Cathedral Towers--
Black Forest-History of the Crosses-Tales of Murder--An Alarm--Report of a
Skirmish--Rio Frio--Law Concerning Robbers--Their _Moderation_-Return to
Mexico--Carnival Ball--Improvement in Dress
LETTER THE THIRTY-SEVENTH
Distinguished Men--Generals Bustamante, Santa Anna, and Victoria--
Anecdote--Senor Pedraza--Senor Gutierrez Estrada--Count Cortina--Senor
Gorostiza--Don Carlos Bustamante--"Mornings in the Alameda"--Don Andres
Quintana Roo--Don Lucas Alaman--General Moran--General Almonte--Senor
Canedo--Senors Neri del Barrio and Casaflores--Doctor Valentin--Don
Francisco Tagle--Eight Revolutions
LETTER THE THIRTY-EIGHTH
New Minister--San Angel--Profitable Pulque Estate--The Village--
Surrounding Scenery--The Indians--The Padre--The Climate--Holy Week in the
Country--Dramatic Representations--Coyohuacan--The Pharisees--Image of the
Saviour--Music and Dresses--Procession-Catholicism amongst the Indians--
Strange Tradition--Paul the Fifth--Contrast between a Mexican and a New
England Village--Love of Fireworks--Ferdinand the Seventh--Military Ball--
LETTER THE THIRTY-NINTH
Holy Thursday at Coyohuacan--Hernan Cortes--His Last Wishes--_Padres
Camilas_-Old Church--Procession--Representation of the Taking of Christ--
Curate's Sermon under the Trees--A Religious Drama--Good Friday--Portable
Pulpit--Heat--Booths--Religious Procession--Simon the Cyrenian--Costumes--
Curate's Sermon--Second Discourse--Sentence Pronounced by Pontius Pilate--
Descent from the Cross--Procession of the Angels--Funeral Hymn--The
_Pesame_ to the Virgin--Sermon--"Sweet Kitty Clover"--Music in Mexico--
LETTER THE FORTIETH
Balloon--San Bartolo--Indian Women--A Beauty--Different Castes--Indians--
Their Character, etc.--Those of Noble Race--Ball at the French Minister's
--_Abecilla_--Danger of Walking Unattended--Shooting Party--A Murder--
Robbery of a Farmhouse--Discomfited Robber Captain--The "_Zambos_"--
Letters and Visitors--Country Life in Mexico
LETTER THE FORTY-FIRST
Gambling--Fete at San Agustin--Breakfast at San Antonio--Report--Cock-
fight--Ladies--Private Gambling--A _Vaca_--The _Calvario_--Bonnets--
Dinner--Evening Ball--Mingling of Classes--Copper Tables--Dresses and
Decorations--Indian Bankers, Male and Female--Decorum--Habit--Holders of
Banks--Female Gambler--Robbery--Anecdote--Bet--_Casa de Moneda_--Leave San
Angel--Celebration--Address--Cross and Diploma--Reply--Presentation of a
Sword--Discourses and Addresses--Reflections
LETTER THE FORTY-SECOND
Italian Opera--Artists, Male and Female--Prima Donna--Lucia di Lammermoor
--Some Disappointment--Second Representation--Improvement--Romeo and
Giulietta--La Ricci--La Senora Cesari--The Mint--False Coining--Repetition
of Lucia--Procession by Night--A Spanish Beauty--Discriminating Audience--
A little _too simple_--Gold Embroidery--Santiago--Pilgrims--Old Indian
Custom--Soiree--Mexico by Moonlight--Mysterious Figure--Archbishop--
LETTER THE FORTY-THIRD
Revillagigedo--The False Merchant and the Lady--The Viceroy, the Unjust
Spaniard, the Indian, and the Golden Ounces--Horrible Murder--Details--
Oath--Country Family--The Spot of Blood--The Mother Unknowingly Denounces
her Son--Arrest of the _Three_--Confession--Execution--The Viceroy
fulfils his Pledge--Paving of the Streets--Severity to the Monks--Solitary
Damsel--Box on the Ear--Pension--Morning Concert--New Minister-"Street of
the Sad Indian"--Traditions--A Farewell Audience--Inscription on a Tomb
LETTER THE FORTY-FOURTH
Agitation--Storm--Revolution--Manifesto--Resembling a Game of Chess--
Position of the Pieces--Appearance of the City--Firing--State of Parties--
Comparisons--"_Comicios_"--The People--Congress--Santa Anna--Amnesty
Offered--Roaring of Cannon--Proclamation--Time to _Look at Home_--The Will
of the Nation--Different Feelings--Judge's House Destroyed--The Mint in
LETTER THE FORTY-FIFTH
Leave Mexico--Travelling Equipage--San Xavier--Fine Hacienda--
Millionaires--Well-educated Ladies--Garden, etc.--Tlanapantla--Indian Hut
--Mrs. Ward--Dona Margarita--The _Pronunciamiento_--False Step--Santa Anna
in Puebla--Neutrality--General Paredes--President in Tlanapantla--Tired
Troops--Their March--Their Return--Curate's House--Murder--General Paredes
in the Lecheria--President in Tlanapantla--A Meeting--Return of the
President and his Troops--General Paredes and his Men--Santa Anna in
Tacubaya--A Junction--President in Mexico--_Allied Sovereigns_--Plan--
Articles--President declares for Federalism--Resigns--Results--
Hostilities--Capitulation--Triumphal Entry--_Te Deum_--New Ministry
LETTER THE FORTY-SIXTH
Santa Monica--Solidity--Old Paintings--Anachronism--Babies and Nurses from
the Cuna--Society--Funds-Plan--Indian Nurses--Carmelite Convent--Midnight
Warning--Old Villages and Churches--Indian Bath--San Mateo--The Lecheria--
Fertility--_Molino Viego_--Dulness--Religious Exercises--Return to Mexico
--Mexican Hotel--New Generals--Disturbances--General Bustamante--
Inconvenience--Abuses in the Name of Liberty--Verses--Independence
LETTER THE FORTY-SEVENTH
Opera--Santa Anna and his Suite--His Appearance--_Belisario_--Solitary
"_Viva_!"--Brilliant House--Military Dictatorship--_San_ _Juan de Dios_--
Hospital _de Jesus_--_Cuna_--Old Woman and Baby--Different Apartments--
Acordada--Junta--Female Prisoners--Chief Crime--_Travaux Forces_--
Children--Male Prisoners--_Forcats_--Soldiers Gambling--Chapel--
Confessional--Insane Hospital--Frenchmen--Different Kinds of Insanity--
Kitchen--Dinner--Insane Monk--"Black Chamber"--Soldiers--College--Santa
Anna's Leg--Projects--All Saints--Senora P---a--Leave-takings
LETTER THE FORTY-EIGHTH
Leave Mexico--Diligence--Indian Padre--Brandy-drinking Female--Bad Roads--
Beautiful View--Escort--Good Breakfast--Crosses--Robber's Head--Select
Party--Lerma--Valley of Toluca--Hacienda--Toluca--Count de B---- and Mr.
W------The Commandant--Gay Supper--Colonel Y------Day at Toluca--Journey
to _La Gabia_--Heat and Hunger--Pleasant Quarters--Princely Estate--El
Pilar--A Zorillo--A Wolf--Long Journey--Tortillas--Count de B------State
of Michoacan--Forest Scenery--_Trojes of Angangueo_--Comfort
LETTER THE FORTY-NINTH
Leave _Trojes_--Beautiful Territory--Tarrascan Indians--Taximaroa--
Distressed Condition--An Improvement--Cold Morning--Querendaro--Fine Breed
of Horses--San Bartolo--Produce--Country Proprietors--_Colear_--Ride to
Morelia--Wild Ducks--Sunset--Cathedral Bell--Cuincho--Curates Morelos,
Matamoros, and Hidalgo--Warm Baths--Handsome Girls--Starving Travellers--
Lost Mules--Lancers--Night on a Heap of Straw--Mules Found--Tzintzontzan--
King Calsonsi--Pascuaro--Kind Reception--Bishop--Robbers--Curu--Night in a
Barn--Mountain--Uruapa--Enchanting Scenery--Pleasant Family--Jorulla
LETTER THE FIFTIETH
Indian Dresses--Saints--Music--Union of Tropical and European Vegetation--
Old Customs--Falls of the Sararaqui--Silkworms--Indian Painting--Beautiful
Heroine--Leave Uruapa--Tziracuaratiro--Talkative Indian--Alcalde's House--
Pascuaro--Old Church--Mosaic Work--The Lake--The Cave--Fried Fish--Rich
LETTER THE FIFTY-FIRST
San Bartolo--Mass--Markets--Rancheros--San Andres--Insanity--Rancho--House
of Don Carlos Heimburger--Wild Scenery--German Songs--Las Millas--Leave
taking--Storm--Rainbow--El Pilar--La Gabia--Toluca--News--Copper
_Pronunciamiento_--Return to Mexico--General Moran--Funeral Obsequies--New
Theatre--_Cock's Mass_--Santa Clara--Santa Fe Prisoners--New Year
LETTER THE FIFTY-SECOND
Last Day in Mexico--Theatre--Santa Anna--French Minister's--Parting--
Diligence--Last Look of Mexico--Fatigue--Robbers--Escort--Second
Impressions--Baths at Jalapa--Vera Cruz--Some Account of San Juan de Ulua
--Siege of 1825--Siege of 1838--General Bustamante--Theatre--Of the North
LETTER THE FIFTY-THIRD
Sail in the Tyrian--Norther off Tampico--The Bar--The River Panuco--The
Pilot--The Shore--Alligator--"_Paso de Dona Cecilia_"--Tampico--Spanish
Consul's House--Society--Navigation--Banks of the Panuco--Extraordinary
Inoculation--The "_Glorieta_"--Leave Tampico--Furious Norther--Voyage--
Arrival at Havana
LETTER THE FIFTY-FOURTH
Havana--The Carnival--The Elssler--La Angosta--_Ingenio_ of Count V---a--
General Bustamante--Lord Morpeth--Leave Havana--Voyage in the Medway--Old
Friends--Return to the United States
The present work is the result of observations made during a two years'
residence in Mexico, by a lady, whose position there made her intimately
acquainted with its society, and opened to her the best sources of
information in regard to whatever could interest an enlightened foreigner.
It consists of letters written to the members of her own family, and,
_really_, not intended originally--however incredible the assertion--for
publication. Feeling a regret that such rich stores of instruction and
amusement, from which I have so much profited, myself, should be reserved
for the eyes of a few friends only, I strongly recommended that they should
be given to the world. This is now done, with a few such alterations and
omissions as were necessary in a private correspondence; and although the
work would derive more credit from the author's own name, than from
anything which I can say, yet as she declines prefixing it, I feel much
pleasure in making this statement by way of introduction to the public.
WILLIAM H. PRESCOTT.
Boston, December 20, 1842.
SPANISH OR MEXICAN WORDS WHICH OCCUR IN THE COURSE OF THE WORK, WHICH ARE
GENERALLY EXPLAINED WHEN FIRST USED, BUT WHICH BEING REPEATED, THE READER
MIGHT FORGET AND WISH TO REFER TO.
_Alameda_-Public walk with trees.
_Anquera_-Coating of stamped gilt leather, edged with little bells, which
covers the back of the horses.
_Arroba_-Spanish weight of twenty-five pounds.
_Azotea_-The flat roof of a house.
_Cargadores_-Men who carry loads.
_Chinguirito_-Spirit made from sugar-cane.
_Compadre and Comadre_-Godfather and Godmother; names by which two persons
address each other, who have held the same child at the baptismal font, or
have been sponsors together at a marriage, etc.
_Canonigo_-Canon or prebendary.
_Camarista_-Lady of honour.
_dia de Anos_-Birthday.
_Frisones_-Large horses from the north.
_Garbanzos_-Chick-peas _Cicer Arietinum_.
_Gachupin_-Name given to the Spaniards in Mejico.
_Ingenio de Azucar_-Sugar plantation.
_Leperos_--Beggars, low persons.
_Monte Pio_--Office where money is lent on security.
_Mezcal_--Brandy distilled from pulque.
_Manga_--Cloak made of cloth, with a hole in the middle for putting the
_Nuestro Amo_--Our Master, used in speaking of the Host.
_Ojo de Agua_--Spring of water.
_Portales_--Covered portico supported by columns.
_Pulqueria_--Shop where pulque is sold.
_Poblana_--Woman of Puebla.
_Pronunciamiento_--A revolution in Mexico.
_Pronunciados_--Those who revolt.
_Rebozo_--A scarf that goes over the head.
_Sopilote_--Species of carrion vulture.
_Sarape_--A woollen blanket more or less fine, with a hole for the head to
_Tierra caliente_--The hot land.
_Tertulia_--An evening party.
_Tortilla_--Species of thin cake.
_Tortillera_--Woman who bakes tortillas.
_Vaca_--Joint stock in gambling.
_Vomito_--Name given to the yellow fever.
LIFE IN MEXICO
LETTER THE FIRST
Departure of the Norma--Last look of New York Bay--Fellow-passengers
--Contrary Winds--Deceitful Appearances--Sunset in Southern Latitudes
--Seas passed over by Columbus--Varied Occupations on Shipboard--Berry
Islands--Bahama Banks--Evening in a Tropical Sea--L. E. L.--Pan of
Matanzas--Morro Castle--Bay of Havana--Arrival--Handsome House in
Havana--Sights and Sounds.
PACKET SHIP "NORMA,"
Oct. 27th, 1839.
This morning, at ten o'clock, we stepped on board the steamboat Hercules,
destined to convey us to our packet with its musical name. The day was
foggy and gloomy, as if refusing to be comforted, even by an occasional
smile from the sun. All prognosticated that the Norma would not sail
to-day, but "where there's a will," etc. Several of our friends accompanied
us to the wharf; the Russian Minister, the Minister of Buenos Ayres,
Mr. -----, who tried hard to look sentimental, and even brought tears into
his eyes by some curious process; Judge -----, Mr. -----, and others, from
whom we were truly sorry to part.
The Norma was anchored in one of the most beautiful points of the bay, and
the steamboat towed us five miles, until we had passed the Narrows. The
wind was contrary, but the day began to clear up, and the sun to scatter
the watery clouds.
Still there is nothing so sad as a retreating view. It is as if time were
visibly in motion; and as here we had to part from -----, we could only
distinguish, as through a misty veil, the beauties of the bay; the shores
covered to the water's edge with trees rich in their autumnal colouring;
the white houses on Staten Island--the whole gradually growing fainter,
till, like a dream, they faded away.
The pilot has left us, breaking our last link with the land. We still see
the mountains of Neversink, and the lighthouse of Sandy Hook. The sun is
setting, and in a few minutes we must take our leave, probably for years,
of places long familiar to us.
Our fellow-passengers do not appear very remarkable. There is Madame
A----, returning from being prima donna in Mexico, in a packet called after
the opera in which she was there a favourite, with her husband Senor
V---- and her child. There is M. B---- with moustaches like a bird's nest;
a pretty widow in deep affliction, at least in deep mourning; a maiden lady
going out as a governess, and every variety of Spaniard and Havanero. So
now we are alone, C---n and I, and my French femme-de-chambre, with her air
of Dowager Duchess, and moreover sea-sick.
28th.--When I said I liked a sea life, I did not mean to be understood as
liking a merchant ship, with an airless cabin, and with every variety of
disagreeable odour. As a French woman on board, with the air of an
afflicted porpoise, and with more truth than elegance, expresses it: "Tout
devient puant, meme l'eau-de-cologne."
The wind is still contrary, and the Norma, beating up and down, makes but
little way. We have gone seventy-four miles, and of these advanced but
forty. Every one being sick to-day, the deck is nearly deserted. The most
interesting object I have discovered on board is a pretty little deaf and
dumb girl, very lively and with an intelligent face, who has been teaching
me to speak on my fingers. The infant heir of the house of ----- has shown
his good taste by passing the day in squalling. M. B----, pale, dirty, and
much resembling a brigand out of employ, has traversed the deck with uneasy
footsteps and a cigar appearing from out his moustaches, like a light in a
tangled forest, or a jack-o'-lantern in a marshy thicket. A fat Spaniard
has been discoursing upon the glories of olla podrida. _Au reste_, we are
slowly pursuing our way, and at this rate might reach Cuba in three months.
And the stars are shining, quiet and silvery. All without is soft and
beautiful, and no doubt the Norma herself looks all in unison with the
scene, balancing herself like a lazy swan, white and graciously. So it is
without, and within, there is miserable sea-sickness, bilge-water, and all
the unavoidable disagreeables of a small packet.
31st.--Three days have passed without anything worthy of notice having
occurred, except that we already feel the difference of temperature. The
passengers are still enduring sea-sickness in all its phases.
This morning opened with an angry dispute between two of the gentlemen, on
the subject of Cuban lotteries, and they ended by applying to each other
epithets which, however much they might be deserved, were certainly rather
strong; but by dinner time, they were amicably engaged in concocting
together an enormous tureen of _gaspachos_, a sort of salad, composed of
bread, oil, vinegar, sliced onion and garlic--and the fattest one declares
that in warm weather, a dish of _gaspachos_, with plenty of garlic in it,
makes him feel as fresh as a rose. He must indeed be a perfect bouquet.
The opening of morning is dramatic in our narrow cabin. About twenty voices
in Spanish, German, Italian, and broken English, strike up by degrees. From
a neighbouring state room, _Nid d'oiseau_ puts forth his head. "Stooar! a
toomlar! here is no vater!" "Comin, sir, comin." "_Caramba!_ Stooard!"
"Comin, sir, comin!" "Stuart? vasser und toel!" "Here, sir." "Amigo! how is
the wind?" (This is the waking up of el Senor Ministro, putting his head
half suffocated out of his berth.) "Oh steward! steward!" "Yes, miss,"
"Come here, and look at _this_!" "I'll fix it, miss,"--etc.
1st November.--A fair wind after a stifling night, and strong hopes of
seeing the Bahama Banks on Sunday. Most people are now gradually ascending
from the lower regions, and dragging themselves on deck with pale and
dejected countenances. Madame A---- has such a sweet-toned voice in
speaking, especially in her accents of her _bella Italia_, that it is
refreshing to listen to her. I have passed all day in reading, after a
desultory fashion, "Les Enfants d'Edouard," by Casimir Delavigne,
Washington Irving, D'Israeli's "Curiosities of Literature," etc.; and it is
rather singular that while there is a very tolerable supply of English and
French books here, I see but one or two odd volumes in Spanish, although
these packets are constantly filled with people of that nation, going and
coming. Is it that they do not care for reading, or that less attention is
paid to them than to the French or American passengers? One would think
Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Calderon, or Moratin, better worth buying than
many commonplace novels which I find here.
3rd.--Yesterday the wind blew soft as on a summer morning. A land-bird flew
into the ship. To-day the wind has veered round, but the weather continues
charming. The sea is covered with multitudes of small flying-fish. An
infantile water-spout appeared, and died in its birth. Mr. -----, the
consul, has been giving me an account of the agreeable society in the
Sandwich Islands! A magnificent sunset, the sight of which compensates for
all the inconveniences of the voyage. The sky was covered with black clouds
lined with silver, and surrounded by every variety of colour; deep blue,
fleecy, rose, violet, and orange. The heavens are now thickly studded with
stars, numbers shooting across the blue expanse like messengers of light,
glancing and disappearing as if extinguished.
It is well to read the History of Columbus at sea, but especially in these
waters, where he wandered in suspense, high-wrought expectation, and firm
faith; and to watch the signs which the noble mariner observed in these
latitudes; the soft serenity of the breezes, the clear blue of the heavens,
the brilliancy and number of the stars, the sea-weeds of the gulf, which
always drift in the direction of the wind, the little land-birds that come
like harbingers of good tidings, the frequency of the shooting stars, and
the multitude of flying-fish.
As the shades of evening close around, and the tropical sky glitters with
the light of innumerable stars, imagination transports us back to that
century which stands out in bold relief amidst other ages rolling by
comparatively undistinguished, and we see as in a vision the Discoverer of
a World, standing on the deck of his caravel, as it bounded over the
unknown and mysterious waste of waters, his vigilant eyes fixed on the
west, like a Persian intently watching the rising of his god; though his
star was to arise from whence the day-god sets. We see him bending his gaze
on the first dark line that separated the watery sea from the blue of the
heavens, striving to penetrate the gloom of night, yet waiting with patient
faith until the dawn of day should bring the long-wished for shores in
6th.--For three days, three very long and uncomfortable days, the wind,
with surprising constancy, has continued to blow dead ahead. In ancient
days, what altars might have smoked to Aeolus! Now, except in the increased
puffing of consolatory cigar-smoke, no propitiatory offerings are made to
unseen powers. There are indeed many mourning signs amongst the passengers.
Every one has tied up his head in an angry-looking silken bandana, drawn
over his nose with a dogged air. Beards are unshaven, a black stubble
covering the lemon-coloured countenance, which occasionally bears a look of
sulky defiance, as if its owner were, like Juliet, "past hope, past cure,
7th.--This morning the monotony of fine weather was relieved by a hearty
squall, accompanied by torrents of rain, much thunder, and forked
lightning. The ship reeled to and fro like a drunken man, and the
passengers, as usual in such cases, performed various involuntary
evolutions, cutting right angles, sliding, spinning round, and rolling
over, as if Oberon's magic horn were playing an occasional blast amidst the
roaring winds; whilst the stewards alone, like Horace's good man, walked
serene amidst the wreck of crockery and the fall of plates. Driven from our
stronghold on deck, indiscriminately crammed in below like figs in a drum;
"weltering," as Carlyle has it, "like an Egyptian pitcher of tamed vipers,"
the cabin windows all shut in, we tried to take it coolly, in spite of the
There is a child on board who is certainly possessed, not by a witty
malicious demon, a diable boiteux, but by a teasing, stupid, wicked imp,
which inspires him with the desire of tormenting everything human that
comes within his reach. Should he escape being thrown overboard, it will
show a wonderful degree of forbearance on the part of the passengers.
8th.--The weather is perfect, but the wind inexorable; and the passengers,
with their heads tied up, look more gloomy than ever. Some sit dejected in
corners, and some quarrel with their neighbours, thus finding a
safety-valve by which their wrath may escape.
9th.--There is no change in the wind, yet the gentlemen have all brightened
up, taken off their handkerchiefs and shaved, as if ashamed of their six
days' impatience, and making up their minds to a sea-life. This morning we
saw land; a long, low ridge of hills on the island of Eleuthera, where they
make salt, and where there are many negroes. Neither salt nor negroes
visible to the naked eye; nothing but the gray outline of the hills,
melting into the sea and sky; and having tacked about all day, we found
ourselves in the evening precisely opposite to this same island. There are
Job's comforters on board, who assure us that they have been thirty-six
days between New York and la "joya mas preciosa de la corona de Espana."
[Footnote 1: The most precious jewel in the Spanish crown, the name given
For my part, I feel no impatience, having rather a dislike to changing my
position when tolerable, and the air is so fresh and laden with balm, that
it seems to blow over some paradise of sweets, some land of fragrant
spices. The sea also is a mirror, and I have read Marryat's "Pirate" for
the first time.
Thus then we stand at eight o'clock, P.M.; wind ahead, and little of it,
performing a zigzag march between Eleuthera and Abaco. On deck, the pretty
widow lies in an easy chair, surrounded by her countrymen, who discourse
about sugar, molasses, chocolate, and other local topics, together with the
relative merits of Cuba as compared with the rest of the known world.
Madame A---- is studying her part of Elizabetta in the opera of Roberto
Devereux, which she is to bring out in Havana, but the creaking of the
Norma is sadly at variance with harmony. A pale German youth, in
dressing-gown and slippers, is studying Schiller. An ingenious youngster is
carefully conning a well-thumbed note, which looks like a milliner's girl's
last billet-doux. The little _possede_ is burning brown paper within an
inch of the curtains of a state-room, while the steward is dragging it from
him. Others are gradually dropping into their berths, like ripe nuts from a
tree. Thus are we all pursuing our vocations.
9th.--Wind dead ahead! I console myself with Cinq-Mars and Jacob Faithful.
But the weather is lovely. A young moon in her first quarter, like a queen
in her minority, glitters like a crescent on the brow of night.
Towards evening the long wished for lighthouse of Abaco (built by the
English) showed her charitable and revolving radiance. But our ship,
Penelope-like, undoes by night what she has performed by day, and her
course is backward and crabbish. A delicious smell of violets is blowing
from the land.
10th.--A fair wind. The good tidings communicated by the A----, _toute
rayonnante de joie_. A fair wind and a bright blue sea, cool and refreshing
breezes, the waves sparkling, and the ship going gallantly over the waters.
So far, our voyage may have been tedious, but the most determined landsman
must allow that the weather has been charming.
Sunday at sea; and though no bells are tolling, and no hymns are chanted,
the blue sky above and the blue ocean beneath us, form one vast temple,
where, since the foundations of the earth and sea were laid, _Day unto day
uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge_.
This morning we neared the Berry Islands, unproductive and rocky, as the
geography books would say. One of these islands belongs to a coloured man,
who bought it for fifty dollars--a cheaply-purchased sovereignty. He, his
wife and children, with their _negro slaves_! live there, and cultivate
vegetables to sell at New York, or to the different ships that pass that
way. Had the wind been favourable, they would probably have sent us out a
boat with fresh vegetables, fish, and fruit, which would have been very
acceptable. We saw, not far from the shore, the wreck of a two-masted
vessel; sad sight to those who pass over the same waters to see
"A brave vessel,
Who had, no doubt,
some noble creatures in her,
Dashed all to pieces!"
Who had, at least, some of God's creatures in her. Anything but that! I am
like Gonzalo, and "would fain die a dry death."
We are now on the Bahama Banks, the water very clear and blue, with a
creamy froth, looking as if it flowed over pearls and turquoises. An
English schooner man-of-war (a _boy_-of-war in size) made all sail towards
us, doubtless hoping we were a slaver; but, on putting us to the test of
his spy-glass, the captain, we presume, perceived that the general tinge of
countenance was lemon rather than negro, and so abandoned his pursuit.
This evening on the Banks. It would be difficult to imagine a more placid
and lovely scene. Everything perfectly calm, all sail set, and the heavens
becoming gradually sprinkled with silver stars. The sky blue, and without a
cloud, except where the sun has just set, the last crimson point sinking in
the calm sea and leaving a long retinue of rainbow-coloured clouds, deep
crimson tinged with bright silver, and melting away into gray, pale vapour.
On goes the vessel, stately and swanlike; the water of the same turquoise
blue, covered with a light pearly froth, and so clear that we see the large
sponges at the bottom. Every minute they heave the lead. "By the mark
three." "By the mark three, less a quarter." "By the mark twain and a
half," (fifteen feet, the vessel drawing thirteen,) two feet between us and
the bottom. The sailor sings it out like the first line of a hymn in short
metre, doled out by the parish clerk. I wish Madame A---- were singing it
instead of he. "By the mark three, less a quarter." To this tune, the only
sound breaking the stillness of the night, I dropped to sleep. The captain
passed the night anxiously, now looking out for lights on the Banks, now at
the helm, or himself sounding the lead:
"For some must watch whilst others sleep;
Thus wags the world away."
11th.--Beautiful morning, and fair wind. About eight we left the Banks.
Just then we observed, that the sailor who sounded, having sung out five,
then six, then in a few minutes seven, suddenly found no bottom, as if we
had fallen off all at once from the brink of the Bank into an abyss.
A fellow-captain, and passenger of our captain's, told me this morning,
that he spoke the ship which carried out Governor and Mrs. McLean to
Cape-Coast Castle--the unfortunate L.E.L. It does not seem to me at all
astonishing that the remedies which she took in England without injury,
should have proved fatal to her in that wretched climate.
We have been accompanied all the morning by a fine large ship, going full
sail, the Orleans, Captain Sears, bound for New Orleans.... A long
semicircular line of black rocks in sight; some of a round form, one of
which is called the Death's Head; another of the shape of a turtle, and
some two or three miles long. At the extremity of one of these the English
are building a lighthouse.
12th.--We are opposite the Pan of Matanzas, about sixty miles from Havana.
Impatience becomes general, but the breeze rocks up and down, and we gain
little. This day, like all last days on board, has been remarkably tedious,
though the country gradually becomes more interesting. There is a universal
brushing-up amongst the passengers; some shaving, some with their heads
plunged into tubs of cold water. So may have appeared Noah's ark, when the
dove did not return, and the passengers prepared for _terra firma_, after a
forty days' voyage. Our Mount Ararat was the Morro Castle, which, dark and
frowning, presented itself to our eyes, at six o'clock, P.M.
Nothing can be more striking than the first appearance of this fortress,
starting up from the solid rock, with its towers and battlements, while
here, to remind us of our latitude, we see a few feathery cocoas growing
amidst the herbage that covers the banks near the castle. By its side,
covering a considerable extent of ground, is the fortress called the
_Cabana_, painted rose-colour, with the angles of its bastions white.
But there is too much to look at now. I must finish my letter in Havana.
HAVANA, 13th November.
Last evening, as we entered the beautiful bay, everything struck us as
strange and picturesque. The soldiers of the garrison, the prison built by
General Tacon, the irregular houses with their fronts painted red or pale
blue, and with the cool but uninhabited look produced by the absence of
glass windows; the merchant ships and large men-of-war; vessels from every
port in the commercial world, the little boats gliding amongst them with
their snow-white sails, the negroes on the wharf--nothing European. The
heat was great, that of a July day, without any freshness in the air.
As we approached the wharf the noise and bustle increased. The passengers
all crowded upon deck, and we had scarcely anchored, when various little
boats were seen making for the Norma. First boat brought an officer with
the salutations of the Captain-General to his Excellency, with every polite
offer of service; second boat brought the Administrator of the Yntendente
(the Count de Villa Nueva), with the same civilities; the third, the master
of the house where we now are, and whence I indite these facts; the fourth,
the Italian Opera, which rushed simultaneously into the arms of the A---i;
the fifth, prosaic custom-house officers; the sixth, a Havana count and
marquis; the seventh, the family of General M---o. Finally, we were hoisted
over the ship's side in a chair, into the government boat, and rowed to the
shore. As it was rather dark when we arrived, and we were driven to our
destination in a volante, we did not see much of the city. We could but
observe that the streets were narrow, the houses irregular, most people
black, and the volante, an amusing-looking vehicle, looking behind like a
black insect with high shoulders, and with a little black postilion on a
horse or mule, with an enormous pair of boots and a fancy uniform.
The house in which, by the hospitality of the H---a family we are
installed, has from its windows, which front the bay, the most varied and
interesting view imaginable. As it is the first house, Spanish fashion,
which I have entered, I must describe it to you before I sleep. The house
forms a great square, and you enter the court, round which are the offices,
the rooms for the negroes, coal-house, bath-room, etc., and in the middle
of which stand the volantes. Proceed upstairs, and enter a large gallery
which runs all round the house. Pass into the _Sala_, a large cool
apartment, with marble floor and tables, and _chaise-longues_ with elastic
cushions, chairs, and arm-chairs of cane. A drapery of white muslin and
blue silk divides this from a second and smaller drawing-room, now serving
as my dressing-room, and beautifully fitted up, with Gothic toilet-table,
inlaid mahogany bureau, marble centre and side-tables, fine mirrors, cane
sofas and chairs, green and gold paper. A drapery of white muslin and rose-
coloured silk divides this from a bedroom, also fitted up with all manner
of elegances. French beds with blue silk coverlids and clear mosquito
curtains, and fine lace. A drapery divides this on one side from the
gallery; and this room opens into others which run all round the house. The
floors are marble or stucco--the roofs beams of pale blue wood placed
transversely, and the whole has an air of agreeable coolness. Everything is
handsome without being gaudy, and admirably adapted for the climate. The
sleeping apartments have no windows, and are dark and cool, while the
drawing-rooms have large windows down to the floor, with green shutters
kept closed till the evening.
The mosquitoes have now commenced their evening song, a signal that it is
time to put out the lights. The moon is shining on the bay, and a faint
sound of military music is heard in the distance, while the sea moans with
a sad but not unpleasing monotony. To all these sounds I retire to rest.
LETTER THE SECOND
Havana Aristocracy--"Lucia de Lammermoor"--La Rossi and Montresor--Brig-
of-war--Countess de V---a--Dinner at H---a's--Southerly Winds--View from
the Balcony--_Quinta_ of Count V---a--San Cristobal--Mass at San Felipe--
Erard Harp--Dinner at General M---o's--A Dessert at Havana--Queen of
Spain's Birthday--Dinner at the Yntendencia--La Pantanelli--Theatre of
Tacon--Railroad--Cure by Lightning--Shops--Ball at the Countess F---a's--
15th.--We expected hospitality and a good reception, but certainly all our
expectations have been surpassed, and the last few days have been spent in
such a round of festivity, that not a moment has been left for writing. At
home we have held a levee to all that is most distinguished in Havana.
Counts, marquesses, and generals, with stars and crosses, have poured in
and poured out ever since our arrival. I do not pretend to form any
judgment of Havana. We have seen it too much _en beau_.
Last evening we found time to go to the theatre. The opera was "Lucia de
Lammermoor." The _prima donna_, La Rossi, has a voice of much sweetness,
sings correctly and with taste, is graceful in her movements, but sadly
deficient in strength. Still she suits the character represented, and comes
exactly up to my idea of poor Lucy, devoted and broken-hearted, physically
and morally weak. Though the story is altered, and the interest weakened,
how graceful the music is! how lovely and full of melody! The orchestra is
good, and composed of blacks and whites, like the notes of a piano, mingled
in harmonious confusion.
The theatre is remarkably pretty and airy, and the pit struck us as being
particularly clean and respectable. All the seats are red leather
arm-chairs, and all occupied by well-dressed people.
At the end of the first act, we went round to the Countess F---a's box, to
return a visit which she had made me in the morning. We found her extremely
agreeable and full of intelligence, also with a very decided air of
fashion. She was dressed in fawn-coloured satin, with large pearls. At the
end of the second act, Lucia was taken ill, her last aria missed out, and
her monument driven on the stage without further ceremony. Montresor, the
Ravenswood of the piece, came in, sung, and stabbed himself with immense
enthusiasm. It is a pity that his voice is deserting him, while his taste
and feeling remain. The house has altogether a French look. The boxes are
private--that is, the property of individuals, but are not shut in, which
in this climate would be suffocating. We passed out through a long file of
soldiers. The sudden transition from Yankee land to this military Spanish
negro-land is _dreamy_.
The General de la Marina (_Anglice_, admiral of the station) called some
days ago, and informed us that there is a brig of war destined to convey us
to Vera Cruz.
Amongst the ladies who have called on me, I find none more charming than
the Countess de V---a. Her voice is agreeable, her manners cordial and
easy, her expression beautiful from goodness, with animated eyes and fine
teeth, her dress quiet and rich. She is universally beloved here. I
received from her, nearly every morning, a bouquet of the loveliest flowers
from her quinta--roses, carnations, heliotrope, etc. The dinner at H---a's
to-day was a perfect feast. I sat between the Count de F---a and the Count
de S---- V----, a millionaire. Everything was served in French white and
gold porcelain, which looks particularly cool and pretty in this climate.
The Count de P---r was there and his brother; the latter a gentlemanly and
intelligent man, with a great taste for music, and whose daughter is a
first-rate singer and a charming person. After dinner we rose, according to
custom, and went into an adjoining room while they arranged the dessert,
consisting of every imaginable and unimaginable sweetmeat, with fruit,
ices, etc. The fruits I have not yet learned to like. They are certainly
wonderful and delicious productions of nature; but to eat eggs and custards
and butter off the trees, seems unnatural.
The heat to-day is terrible; with a suffocating south wind blowing, and
were the houses not built as they are, would be unbearable. The dinner is
served in the gallery, which is spacious and cool.
After dinner, Senor Don P---o H---a rose, and, addressing C---n, pronounced
a poetical impromptu, commemorating the late victory of Espartero, and
congratulating C---n on his mission to the Mexican republic. We then
adjourned to the balcony, where the air was delightful, a cool evening
breeze having suddenly sprung up. A large ship, full sail, and various
barks, passed the View From the Balcony Morro. There were negroes with bare
legs walking on the wall, carrying parcels, etc.; volantes passing by with
their black-eyed occupants, in full dress, short sleeves, and flowers in
their hair; well-dressed, martial-looking Spanish soldiers marching by, and
making tolerably free remarks on the ladies in the volantes.... We had a
visit from the Captain-General.
In the evening we went out to see the Countess de V---a, at her pretty
quinta, a short way out of town, and walked in the garden by moonlight,
amongst flowers and fountains. The little count is already one of the
chamberlains to the Queen, and a diamond key has been sent him by Queen
Christina in token of her approbation of his father's services. These
country retreats are delightful after the narrow streets and impure air of
the city.... We saw there a good engraving of Queen Victoria, with the
Duchess of Sutherland and Lady Normanby.
17th.--Yesterday we went to see the procession of the patron saint, San
Cristobal, from the balconies of the Yntendencia. It is a fine spacious
building, and, together with the Captain-General's palace, stands in the
Plaza de Armas, which was crowded with negroes and negresses, all dressed
in white, with white muslin and blonde mantillas, framing and showing off
their dusky physiognomies.
Two regiments, with excellent bands of music, conducted the procession,
composed of monks and priests. San Cristobal, a large figure with thick
gold legs, surrounded by gold angels with gold wings, was carried by to the
music of "_Suoni la tromba_," to which were adapted the words of a hymn in
praise of Liberty.
We attended mass in the morning in the church of San Felipe, and entered,
preceded, according to custom, by a little negro footman carrying a piece
of carpet. There were few people in church, but the grouping was
picturesque. The black faces of the negresses, with their white mantillas
and white satin shoes; the black silk dresses and black lace mantillas of
the Havana ladies, with their white faces and black eyes, and little
liveried negroes standing behind them; the officers, music, and
long-bearded priests--all were very effective.
Found, on my return, an excellent Erard harp, sent me by the Marquesa de
A---s, a pretty woman and female Croesus.
A splendid entertainment was given us to-day by General M---o. His house is
large and cool; the dinner, as usual, in the gallery; and although there
were ninety-seven guests, and as many negroes in waiting, the heat was not
oppressive. The jewels of the ladies were superb, especially the diamonds
of the M---- family; sprays, necklaces, earrings, really beautiful. The
Marquesa de A---- wore a set of emeralds the size of small eggs. She had a
pretty, graceful-looking daughter with her, with beautiful eyes. Even the
men were well sprinkled with diamonds and rubies.
The dessert, from variety and quantity, was a real curiosity. Immense vases
and candelabras of alabaster were placed at different distances on the
table, and hundreds of porcelain dishes were filled with sweetmeats and
fruits-sweetmeats of every description, from the little meringue called
"mouthful for a queen," to the blancmanger made of supreme de volaille and
After dinner our health was drank, and another poetical address pronounced.
The evening concluded with music and the Havana country-dances.
20th.--Yesterday being the Queen of Spain's birthday, a dinner was given to
us at the Yntendencia. The house in size is a palace, and the apartments
innumerable. The dinner very elegant, and the dessert arranged in another
room, a curiosity as usual for profusion and variety. Her Majesty's health
was proposed by Don B---o H---a, and so well-timed, that all the guns of
the forts fired a salute, it being sunset, just as the toast was concluded,
which was drank with real enthusiasm and hearty goodwill. According to
Spanish custom, the aristocracy generally _se tutoient_, and call each
other by their Christian names; indeed, they are almost all connected by
inter-marriages. You may guess at an inferior in rank, only by their
increased respect towards him.
We stood on the balcony in the evening. The scene was beautiful, the
temperature rather warm, yet delicious from the softness of the breeze. The
moon rose so bright that she seemed like the sun shining through a silvery
veil. Groups of figures were sauntering about in the square, under the
trees, and two bands having stationed themselves with lamps and music,
played alternately pieces from Mozart and Bellini. We regretted leaving so
delightful a scene for the theatre, where we arrived in time to hear La
Pantanelli sing an aria, dressed in helmet and Theatre of Tacon tunic, and
to see La Jota Arragonesa danced by two handsome Spanish girls in good
One evening we went to the theatre of Tacon, to the Captain-General's box.
It is certainly a splendid house, large, airy, and handsome. The play was
the "Campanero de San Pablo," which, though generally liked, appears to me
a complicated and unnatural composition, with one or two interesting
scenes. The best actor was he who represented the blind man. The chief
actress is an overgrown dame, all fat and dimples, who kept up a constant
sobbing and heaving of her chest, yet never getting rid of an eternal smirk
upon her face. A bolero, danced afterwards by two Spanish damsels in black
and silver, was very refreshing.
23rd.--To-morrow we sail in the Jason, should the wind not prove contrary.
Visits, dinners, and parties have so occupied our time, that to write has
been next to impossible. Of the country we have, from the same reason, seen
little, and the people we are only acquainted with in full dress, which is
not the way to judge of them truly. One morning, indeed, we dedicated to
viewing the works of the Yntendente, the railroad, and the water-filterers.
He and the Countess, and a party of friends, accompanied us.
The country through which the railroad passes is flat and rather
monotonous; nevertheless, the quantity of wild flowers, which appeared for
the most part of the convolvulus species, as we glanced past them--the
orange-trees, the clumps of palm and cocoa, the plantain with its gigantic
leaves, the fresh green coffee-plant, the fields of sugar-cane of a still
brighter green, the half-naked negroes, the low wooden huts, and, still
more, the scorching sun in the month of November,--all was new to us, and
sufficient to remind us of the leagues of ocean we had traversed, though
this is but a halt on our voyage.
At the village where the cars stopped, we listened with much amusement to
the story of a fat, comfortable-looking individual, who was cured by
lightning in the following manner:--He was in the last stage of a decline,
when, one hot July morning, he was knocked down by a thunderbolt, a ball of
fire, which entered his side, ran all through his body, and came out at his
arm. At the place where the ball made its exit, a large ulcer was formed,
and when it dispersed he found himself in perfect health, in which he has
continued ever since! In such cases the "bottled lightning," demanded by
Mrs. Nickleby's admirer, might be a valuable remedy.
Of course I could not leave Havana without devoting one morning to
shopping. The shops have most seducing names--Hope, Wonder, Desire, etc.
The French modistes seem to be wisely improving their time, by charging
respectable prices for their work. The shop-keepers bring their goods out
to the volante, it not being the fashion for ladies to enter the shops,
though I took the privilege of a foreigner to infringe this rule
occasionally. Silks and satins very dear--lace and muslin very reasonable,
was, upon the whole, the result of my investigation; but as it only lasted
two hours, and that my sole purchases of any consequence, were an
indispensable mantilla, and a pair of earrings, I give my opinion for the
present with due diffidence.
I can speak with more decision on the subject of a great ball given us by
the Countess F---a, last evening, which was really superb. The whole house
was thrown open--there was a splendid supper, quantities of refreshment,
and the whole select aristocracy of Havana. Diamonds on all the women,
jewels and orders on all the men, magnificent lustres and mirrors, and a
capital band of music in the gallery.
The Captain-General was the only individual in a plain dress. He made
himself very agreeable, in good French. About one hundred couple stood up
in each country-dance, but the rooms are so large and so judiciously
lighted, that we did not feel at all warm. Waltzes, quadrilles, and these
long Spanish dances, succeeded each other. Almost all the girls have fine
eyes and beautiful figures, but without colour, or much animation. The
finest diamonds were those of the Countess F---a, particularly her
necklace, which was _undeniable_.
Walking through the rooms after supper, we were amused to see the negroes
and negresses helping them-selves plentifully to the sweetmeats, uncorking
and drinking fresh bottles of Champagne, and devouring everything on the
supper tables, without the slightest concern for the presence either of
their master or mistress; in fact, behaving like a multitude of spoilt
children, who are sure of meeting with indulgence, and presume upon it.
Towards morning we were led downstairs to a large Souvenirs suite of rooms,
containing a library of several thousand volumes; where coffee, cakes,
etc., were prepared in beautiful Sevres porcelain and gold plate. We left
the house at last to the music of the national hymn of Spain, which struck
up as we past through the gallery.
Should the north wind, the dreaded _Norte_, not blow, we sail to-morrow,
and have spent the day in receiving farewell visits. We also went to the
theatre, where every one predicts we shall not get off to-morrow. The play
was "Le Gamin de Paris," translated. After our return, I paid a very late
visit to the P---r family, who live close by us, and now, at two in the
morning, I finish my letter sleepily. Many beautiful _souvenirs_ have been
sent us, and amongst others, the Count de S---- V---- has just sent C---n a
model of the palace of Madrid, one of the most beautiful and ingenious
pieces of workmanship possible. It is carved in wood, with astonishing
accuracy and delicacy.
My next letter will be dated on board the Jason.
LETTER THE THIRD
Departure in the Jason--Spanish Captain and Officers--Life on board a
Man-of-War--"_Balances_"--Fishing--"_Le Petit Tambour_"--Cocoa-nuts--A
_Norte_--Spanish Proverb--Peak of Orizava--Theory and Practice--_Norte
Chocolatero_--Contrary Winds--Chain of Mountains--Goleta.
JASON, 24th November.
This morning, at six o'clock, we breakfasted, together with Captain
Estrada, the commander of the Jason, at the _Casa H---a_; and the wind
being fair, repaired shortly after in volantes to the wharf, accompanied by
our hospitable host, and several of our acquaintances; entered the boat,
looked our last of the Palace and the Yntendencia, and of Havana itself,
where we had arrived as strangers, and which now, in fifteen days, had
begun to assume a familiar aspect, and to appear interesting in our eyes,
by the mere force of human sympathy; and were transported to the ship,
where a line of marines, drawn up to receive us, presented arms as we
entered. The morning was beautiful; little wind, but fair. We took leave of
our friends, waved our handkerchiefs to the balconies in return for signals
from scarcely-distinguishable figures, passed between the red-tinted Cabana
and the stately Morro, and were once more upon the deep, with a remembrance
behind, and a hope before us. Our _Bergantina_ is a handsome vessel, with
twenty-five guns, five officers, a doctor, chaplain, and purser, and one
hundred and fifty men.
We find the commander very attentive, and a perfect gentleman, like almost
all of his class, and though very young in appearance, he has been
twenty-nine years in the service.
25th.--The weather delightful, and the ship going at the rate of five knots
an hour. The accommodations in a brig not destined for passengers are of
course limited. There is a large cabin for the officers, separated by a
smaller one, belonging to the captain, which he has given up to us.
At seven o'clock C---n rises, and at eight, a marine sentinel, transformed
into a lady's page, whom we are taking to Mexico as porter, brings us some
very delicious chocolate. He is followed by the Captain's familiar, an
unhappy-looking individual, pale, lank, and lean, with the physiognomy of a
methodist parson, and in general appearance like a weed that has grown up
in one night. He tremblingly, and with most rueful countenance, carries a
small plate of sugar-biscuits. These originals having vacated the cabin, I
proceed to dress, an operation of some difficulty, which being performed
_tant bien que mal_, I repair upstairs, armed with book and fan, and sit on
deck till ten o'clock, when the familiar's lamentable announcement of
breakfast takes us down again. The cook being French, the _comestibles_ are
decidedly good, and were the artist a little less of an oil, and more of a
water painter, I individually would prefer his style. We have every variety
of fish, meat, fowl, fruit, _dulces_, and wines.
A very long interval has to be filled up by reading, writing, sitting, or
walking upon deck, as suits the taste of the individual, or by drinking
orangeade, or by sleeping, or by any other ingenious resource for killing
time. At five, dinner, at which no one joins us but the captain and one
officer; and after dinner on deck till bed-time, walking about, or gazing
on the sky or sea, or listening to the songs of the sailors.
26th.--Little wind, but a day of such abominably cruel "_balances_," as
they call them, that one is tempted to find rest by jumping overboard.
Everything broken or breaking. Even the cannons disgorge their balls, which
fall out by their own weight.
28th.--We have had two days of perfect weather though very warm; the sky
blue, without one cloud. To-day we are on the sound, and have lain to,
about noon, to let the sailors fish, thereby losing an hour or so of fair
wind, and catching a preposterous number of fish of immense size. The water
was so clear, that we could see the fish rush and seize the bait as fast as
it was thrown in. Sometimes a huge shark would bite the fish in two, so
that the poor finny creature was between Scylla and Charybdis. These fish
are called _cherne_ and _pargo_, and at dinner were pronounced good. At
length a shark, in its wholesale greediness, seized the bait, and feeling
the hook in his horrid jaw, tugged most fiercely to release himself, but in
vain. Twelve sailors hauled him in, when, with distended jaws, he seemed to
look out for the legs of the men, whereupon they rammed the butt-end of a
harpoon down his throat, which put a stop to all further proceedings on his
part. He was said to be quite young, perhaps the child of doting parents.
The juvenile monster had, however, already cut three rows of teeth.
We are sometimes amused in the evening, when upon deck, by a little
drummer, who invariably collects all the sailors round him, and spins them
long, endless stories of his own invention, to which they listen with
intense interest. On he goes, without a moment's hesitation, inventing
everything most improbable and wonderful; of knights and giants and
beautiful princesses, and imprisoned damsels, and poor peasants becoming
great kings. He is a little ugly, active fellow, with a turned-up nose, a
merry eye, and a laughing mouth. Amongst his axioms is the following verse,
which he sings with great expression.
Hasta los palos del monte
Tienen su destinacion
Unos nacen para santos
Y otros para hacer carbon.
which may be translated so:
Even the mountain-trees
Have their allotted goal,
For some are born for saints
Whilst others serve for coal.
29th.--Beautiful day, fair wind, great heat, and more fishing. At least
thirty large fish were caught this morning, also an infant shark, a
grandchild who had wandered forth to nibble, and met an untimely grave. We
have seen several alacrans or scorpions on board, but these are said not to
be poisonous. The ship is the perfection of cleanness. No disagreeable
odour affects the olfactory nerves, in which it has a singular advantage
over all packets. This, and having it all to ourselves, and the officers
being such perfect gentlemen, and all so kind and attentive, makes our
voyage so far a mere pleasure trip.
We had some of the Countess de V----'s cocoa-nuts, of which she sent us a
great supply, pierced this morning, each containing three tumblers of fresh
and delicious water.
1st December.--We are now about thirty leagues from Vera Cruz, and if the
wind blows a little fresher, may reach it to-morrow. This is Sunday, but
the chaplain is too sick to say mass, and the heat is intense.
2nd.--An unpleasant variety--a _Norte!_ I knew it was coming on, only by
the face of the first lieutenant when he looked at the barometer. His
countenance fell as many degrees as the instrument. It is very slight, but
our entry into port will be delayed, for, on the coast, these winds are
most devoutly dreaded. It has rained all day, and, notwithstanding the
rolling of the ship, we attempted a game at chess, but after having tried
two games, abandoned it in despair, a "_balance_" having, at the most
interesting period of each, overturned the board, and left the victory
undecided, somewhat after the fashion of Homer's goddess, when she
enveloped the contending armies in a cloud.
4th.--Yesterday evening a south wind, and the Spanish proverb says truly
"Sur duro, Norte seguro."
"A south wind strong, The norther ere long."
This morning the sky is covered with watery clouds, yet we can see the
Cofre de Perote and the peak of Orizava, which are thirty leagues inland!
The latter, called by the Mexicans, Citlal Tepetl, or the mountain of the
star, from the fire which used to burn on its lofty summit, rises nineteen
thousand five hundred and fifty-one feet above the level of the sea.
Covered with perpetual snows, and rising far above clouds and tempests, it
is the first mountain which the navigator discovers as he approaches these
But the south wind continues and we are obliged to turn our back to the
coast. There is much impatience on board. A---- was taken ill, and declared
she had got the yellow fever. The doctor was sent for, who, very sick
himself, and holding by the table to keep himself from falling, told her,
without looking at her very particularly, that there was nothing the
matter, only to keep yourself "_quite quiet and still_;" and the ship
rolling at the same moment, he pitched head-foremost out of the cabin,
showing practically how much easier precept is than example. As we shall no
doubt have a norther after this, which may last three days, our promised
land is still at some distance.
5th.--The weather is charming, but the south-west wind holds most
implacably, and the barometer has fallen five or six degrees, which, added
to other signs of the times known to navigators, causes all hands to
prepare for the dreaded enemy.
6th.--Job never was on board a ship. A norther, not a very severe one, but
what they call a _Norte chocolatero_, that is, its shock tore a sail in
two, as I tear this sheet of paper. The most ingenious person I see is "the
master of the sails." He sews most excessively quick and well. Towards
evening the wind calmed, but the ship, tossed upon a horribly swelled sea,
became a mortal purgatory. Still the wind is lulled, though Humboldt and
others say a Norte must last forty-eight hours, and we have only had it for
twenty-four. We shall see.
7th.--A most horrible night! My hammock, which I had foolishly preferred to
a bed, not having room to swing in, threw me furiously against the wall,
till fearing a broken head, I jumped out and lay on the floor. To-day there
is a comparative calm, a faint continuation of the Norte, which is an air
with variations. Everything now seems melancholy and monotonous. We have
been tossed about during four days in sight of Vera Cruz, and are now
further from it than before. The officers begin to look miserable; even the
cook with difficulty preserves his equilibrium.
Sunday, 8th.--A Norte! The sky is watery, and covered with shapeless masses
of reddish clouds. This is a great day amongst all Spanish Catholics, _Le
Virgen de la Concepcion_, the patroness of Spain and the Indies; but no
mass to-day; the padre sick and the Norte blowing. What a succession of
long faces--walking barometers!
9th.--Yesterday evening the wind held out false hopes, and every one
brightened up with caution, for the wind, though faintly, blew from the
right quarter. The rain ceased, the weather cleared, and "hope, the
charmer," smiled upon us. The greater was our disappointment when the
breeze died away, when the wind veered to the north, and when once more the
most horrible rolling seized the unfortunate Jason, as if it were possessed
by a demon. Finding it impossible to lie in my hammock, I stretched myself
on the floor; where, during a night that seemed interminable, we were
tossed up and down, knocked against the furniture, and otherwise
This morning there is little wind, but that little from the north, so that
the termination of our voyage appears as far off now as it did eight days
ago. The faces of all on board are calmly lugubrious. Little said. A few
Spanish shrugs interchanged with ominous significance.
10th.--As there is only one particular wind during which it is not
dangerous to approach the coast, namely, "_la brisa_," the breeze which
usually follows the norther, we may spend our Christmas here. The weather
is beautiful, though very sultry, especially during the calms which
intervene between the _nortes_. With books one might take patience, but I
read and re-read backwards and forwards everything I possess, or can
find--reviews, magazines, a volume of Humboldt, even an odd volume of the
"Barber of Paris"--"Turkish Letters," _purporting_ to be the translation of
a continuation of the Montesquieu's "Lettres Persanes," and in which the
hero, disguised as a gardener, brings the Visier's daughter a bouquet,
which she condescendingly receives, lying in bed _a l'Espagnole!_ I am now
reduced to a very serious Spanish work on the truth of Christianity.
This evening, to the joy of all on board, arose the long-desired breeze.
The ship went slowly and steadily on her course, at first four, then eight
knots an hour. The captain, however, looked doubtingly, and, indeed,
towards morning, the wind changed to the south, and our hopes died away.
11th.--Contrary wind. A south, expected to be followed by a "norte seguro."
But now, at eleven, A.M., it is quite calm, and very sultry, whilst to
increase, if possible, our weariness, a long range of lofty mountains
stretches along the horizon, from Punta Delgada to the Cofre de Perote, and
on till they seem to sink in the ocean. Behind the Cofre rises Orizava, now
like a white cloud, but this morning tinged with a rosy light by the rays
of the rising sun. The sea is tranquil and the horizon clear, nevertheless
the enemy is looked for. There are a few white and feathery clouds
flickering about in the sky, and there is an uneasy swell in the waves....
At three o'clock, out burst the norther, which, like the flaming sword,
guarding the issues of paradise,
"Waved over by that flaming brand, the gate
With dreadful faces throng'd and fiery arms,"
seems to warn off all vessels from approaching these iron-bound shores.
Eleven days within a few hours' distance of the coast!
16th.--Five days more passed with a continuation of contrary winds and
constant rolling. We are further from hope than we were fourteen days ago.
Captain, officers, sailors, all seem nearly disheartened. This morning they
caught the most beautiful fish I ever beheld, of the dolphin
species--the Cleopatra of the ocean, about four feet long, apparently
composed of gold, and studded with turquoises. It changed colour in dying.
There is a proverb, which the sailors are repeating to each other, not very
"Este es el viage del Orinoco.
Que el que no se murio, se volvio loco."
"This is the voyage of the Orinoco,
in which he who did not die, became crazy."
17th.--Spoke a goleta, who came close up by our vessel, and seemed to have
a miserable set on board, amongst others, a worthy pair from Havana, who
had just come out of prison, having been accused of murdering a negro. The
wind continues contrary. I shall fold up this sea-scrawl, and write no more
till we reach Vera Cruz.
LETTER THE FOURTH
Distant View of Vera Cruz--Pilots--Boat from the City--Mutual
Salutes--Approach to Vera Cruz--Crowd on the Wharf--House of Dionisio
V---o--Guard of Honour--German Piano--Supper--Madonna--Aspect of the
City--_Sopilotes_--Deliberations--General Guadalupe Victoria--Two-headed
Eagle--Dilapidated Saint--Harp--Theatre--Donna Inocencia
Martinez--Invitation from General Santa Anna.
VERA CRUZ, 18th.
This morning, the sanguine hoped, and the desponding feared, for the wind,
though inclined to _la brisa_, seemed unlikely to prove sufficiently strong
to enable us to reach Vera Cruz--this being the twenty-fifth day since we
left Havana; a voyage that, with a steamer, might be performed in three
days, and with a sailing-vessel and a fair wind, is made in six or seven.
About noon, the aspect of things became more favourable. The breeze grew
stronger, and with it our hopes.
At last appeared in view, faintly, certain spires beside the low sandy
land, which for some time we had anxiously watched, and at length we could
distinguish houses and churches, and the fort of San Juan de Ulua, of
warlike memory. By slow but sure degrees, we neared the shore, until Vera
Cruz, in all its ugliness, became visible to our much-wearied eyes. We had
brought a pilot from Havana to guide us to these dangerous coasts, but
though a native of these parts, it seemed that a lapse of years had blunted
his memory, for we had nearly run upon the rocks. A gun was therefore
fired, and another pilot came out, who at sight of the Spanish flag waxed
enthusiastic, and pointing out the castle to our ignorant friend,
exclaimed, alluding to the desperate struggle made by the Spaniards to
defend this their last stronghold at the end of the war, "_We_, although
but a handful of men, defended ourselves for years like soldiers, and now
these Frenchmen took it in three days!" and, walking about in a transport
of patriotic despair, he seemed to forget his actual duty in the tide of
remembrances which the sight of Spanish colours and a Spanish crew had
Anything more melancholy, _delabre_ and forlorn, than the whole appearance
of things as we drew near, cannot well be imagined. On one side, the fort,
with its black and red walls: on the other, the miserable, black-looking
city, with hordes of large black birds, called _sopilotes_, hovering over
some dead carcass, or flying heavily along in search of carrion. Still, as
the goal of our voyage, even its dreary aspect was welcome, and the very
hills of red sand by which it is surrounded, and which look like the
deserts of Arabia, appeared inviting.
A boat full of cocked hats was now seen approaching from the city,
containing the Consul in full uniform, and other authorities. C---n having
sent for and obtained permission from the Governor, to permit the Jason,
contrary to established usages, to anchor beneath the castle, a salute of
twenty guns was fired from our ship. Being upon deck, I was nearly
suffocated with smoke and powder. A salute of the same number of cannon was
then fired from the castle, in honour of the first Spanish man-of-war that
has appeared in this port since the Revolution.
And now we prepared, before the sun went down, to leave our watery prison;
and the captain's boat being manned, and having taken leave of the
officers, we, that is, C---n, the commander, and I, and my French maid and
her French poodle, got into it. Then came a salute of twenty guns from the
Jason in our honour, and we rode off amidst clouds of smoke. Then the fort
gave us welcome with the same number of guns, and, amidst all this
cannonading, we were landed at the wharf.
A singular spectacle the wharf presented. A crowd, as far as the eye could
reach, of all ages and sexes of Vera Cruzians (and a very curious set they
seemed to be), were assembled to witness his Excellency's arrival. Some had
no pantaloons; and others, to make up for their neighbours' deficiencies,
had two pair--the upper slit up the side of the leg, Mexican fashion. All
had large hats, with silver or bead rolls, and every tinge of dark
complexion, from the pure Indian, upwards. Some dresses were entirely
composed of rags, clinging together by the attraction of cohesion; others
had only a few holes to let in the air. All were crowding, jostling, and
nearly throwing each other into the water, and gazing with faces of intense
But a plume of coloured feathers was seen towering above the
copper-coloured crowd, and immediate passage was made for an aide-de-camp
from the Governor, General Guadalupe Victoria. He was an immensely tall
man, in a showy uniform all covered with gold, with colossal epaulets and a
towering plume of rainbow-coloured feathers. He brought to C---n the
welcome and congratulations of the General, and those Spanish offers of
service and devotion which sound agreeably, whatever be their true value.
We now began to move through the crowd, which formed a line on either side
to let us pass, and entered the streets of Vera Cruz, which were crowded,
balconies and all, and even roofs with curious faces. The guard formed as
we passed, and struck up a march. The principal street is wide and clean,
and we reached the house of Senor V---o, a rich merchant, formerly consul,
where we are to reside, followed to the door by the whole population. We
were received with great hospitality, and found excellent rooms prepared
for us. The house is immensely large and airy, built in a square as they
all are, but with that unfurnished melancholy look, which as yet this style
of house has to me, though admirably adapted to the climate.
A guard of honour sent by General Victoria, trotted into the courtyard,
whose attendance C---n declined with thanks, observing that his mission had
for object to terminate the coolness hitherto existing between two families
of brothers; that between members of the same family there was nothing to
fear, and all compliments were unnecessary.
I found a German piano in the drawing-room, on which I was glad to put my
fingers after a month's abstinence. A number of gentlemen came in the
evening to visit C---n. We were received by this family with so much real
kindness, that we soon found ourselves perfectly at home. We had a
plentiful supper--fish, meat, wine, and chocolate, fruit and sweetmeats;
the cookery, Spanish _Vera-Cruzified_. A taste of the style was enough for
me, garlic and oil enveloping meat, fish, and fowl, with pimentos and
plantains, and all kinds of curious fruit, which I cannot yet endure. Bed
was not unwelcome, and most comfortable beds we had, with mosquito
curtains, and sheets and pillows all trimmed with rich lace, so universal
in Spanish houses, that it is not, as with us, a luxury. But the mosquitoes
had entered in some unguarded moment, and they and the heat were inimical
19th.--I opened my eyes this morning on the painting of a very lovely
Madonna, which hung unvalued and ill-framed, in one corner of the
apartment. At eight, rose and dressed, and went to breakfast. Here, when
there are two guests whom they wish to distinguish, the gentleman is placed
at the head of the table, and _his_ lady beside him.
To me nothing can exceed the sadness of the aspect of this city and of its
environs--mountains of moving sand, formed by the violence of the north
winds, and which, by the reflection of the sun's rays, must greatly
increase the suffocating heat of the atmosphere. The scene may resemble the