Part 3 out of 3
Campomanes--Olavides--Sierra Morena--Aranjuez--Mengs--The Marquis
Grimaldi--Toledo--Madame Pelliccia--My Return to Madrid
Different circumstances in my life seem to have combined to render me
somewhat superstitious; it is a humiliating confession, and yet I make
it. But who could help it? A man who abandons himself to his whims and
fancies is like a child playing with a billiard cue. It may make a
stroke that would be an honour to the most practised and scientific
player; and such are the strange coincidences of life which, as I have
said, have caused me to become superstitious.
Fortune, which under the humbler name of luck seems but a word, is a very
divinity when it guides the most important actions of a man's life.
Always it has seemed to me that this divinity is not blind, as the
mythologists affirm; she had brought me low only to exalt me, and I found
myself in high places, only, as it seems, to be cast into the depths.
Fortune has done her best to make me regard her as a reasoning, almighty
power; she has made me feel that the strength of my will is as nothing
before this mysterious power, which takes my will and moulds it, and
makes it a mere instrument for the accomplishment of its decrees.
I could not possibly have done anything in Spain without the help of the
representative of my country, and he would not have dared to do anything
for me without the letter I had just given him. This letter, in its
turn, would probably have had but slight effect if it had not come to
hand so soon after my imprisonment, which had become the talk of the
town, through the handsome satisfaction the Count of Aranda had given me.
The letter made the ambassador sorry that he had not interposed on my
behalf, but he hoped people would believe that the count would not have
acted as he did if it had not been for his interposition. His favourite,
Count Manucci, had come to ask me to dinner; as it happened I was engaged
to Mengs, which obtained an invitation for the painter, and flattered his
vanity excessively. He fancied that the invitation proceeded from
gratitude, and it certainly smoothed away the mortification he had felt
at seeing me arrested in his house. He immediately wrote to the effect
that he would call upon me with his carriage.
I called on the Count of Aranda, who kept me waiting for a quarter of an
hour, and then came in with some papers in his hand. He smiled when he
saw me, and said,--
"Your business is done. Stay, here are four letters; take them and read
them over again."
"Why should I read them again? This is the document I gave the alcalde."
"I know that. Read, and confess that you should not have written so
violently, in spite of the wrongs that vexed you."
"I crave your pardon, my lord, but a man who meditates suicide does not
pick terms. I believed that your excellency was at the bottom of it
"Then you don't know me. Go and thank Don Emmanuel de Roda, who wants to
know you, and I shall be glad if you will call once on the alcalde, not
to make him an apology, for you owe him none, but as an act of politeness
to salve over the hard things you said of him. If you write the history
of Princess Lubomirska, I hope you will tell her that I did my best for
I then called on Colonel Royas, who told me that I had made a great
mistake in saying that I was satisfied.
"What could I claim?"
"Everything. Dismissal of the alcalde and compensation to the tune of
fifty thousand duros. Spain is a country where a man may speak out save
in the matters which the Holy Inquisition looks after."
This colonel, now a general, is one of the pleasantest Spaniards I have
I had not long returned to my lodging when Mengs called for me in his
carriage. The ambassador gave me a most gracious reception, and
overwhelmed Mengs with compliments for having endeavoured to shelter me.
At dinner I told the story of my sufferings at Buen Retiro, and the
conversation I had just had with the Count of Aranda, who had returned me
my letters. The company expressed a desire to see them, and everyone
gave an opinion on the matter.
The guests were Abbe Bigliardi, the French consul, Don Rodrigues de
Campomanes, and the famous Don Pablo d'Olavides. Everyone spoke his
mind, and the ambassador condemned the letters as too ferocious. On the
other hand, Campomanes approved them, saying that they were not abusive,
and were wonderfully adapted to my purpose, namely, to force the reader
to do me prompt justice, were the reader to be the king himself.
Olavides and Bigliardi echoed this sentiment. Mengs sided with the
ambassador, and begged me to come and live with him, so as not to be
liable to any more inconveniences from spying servants. I did not accept
this invitation till I had been pressed for some time, and I noted the
remark of the ambassador, who said I owed Mengs this reparation for the
indirect affront he had received.
I was delighted to make the acquaintance of Campomanes and Olavides, men
of intellect and of a stamp very rare in Spain. They were not exactly
men of learning, but they were above religious prejudices, and were not
only fearless in throwing public scorn upon them but even laboured openly
for their destruction. It was Campomanes who had furnished Aranda with
all the damaging matter against the Jesuits. By a curious coincidence,
Campomanes, the Count of Aranda, and the General of the Jesuits, were all
squint-eyed. I asked Campomanes why he hated the Jesuits so bitterly,
and he replied that he looked upon them in the same light as the other
religious orders, whom he considered a parasitical and noxious race, and
would gladly banish them all, not only from the peninsula but from the
face of the earth.
He was the author of all the pamphlets that had been written on the
subject of mortmain; and as he was an intimate friend of the
ambassador's, M. Mocenigo had furnished him with an account of the
proceedings of the Venetian Republic against the monks. He might have
dispensed with this source of information if he had read the writings of
Father Paul Sarpi on the same subject. Quick-sighted, firm, with the
courage of his opinions, Campomanes was the fiscal of the Supreme Council
of Castille, of which Aranda was president. Everyone knew him to be a
thoroughly honest man, who acted solely for the good of the State. Thus
statesmen and officials had warm feelings of respect for him, while the
monks and bigots hated the sound of his name, and the Inquisition had
sworn to be his ruin. It was said openly that he would either become a
bishop or perish in the cells of the holy brotherhood. The prophecy was
only partly fulfilled. Four years after my visit to Spain he was
incarcerated in the dungeons of the Inquisition, but he obtained his
release after three years' confinement by doing public penance. The
leprosy which eats out the heart of Spain is not yet cured. Olavides was
still more harshly treated, and even Aranda would have fallen a victim if
he had not had the good sense to ask the king to send him to France as
his ambassador. The king was very glad to do so, as otherwise he would
have been forced to deliver him up to the infuriated monks.
Charles III. (who died a madman) was a remarkable character. He was as
obstinate as a mule, as weak as a woman, as gross as a Dutchman, and a
thorough-paced bigot. It was no wonder that he became the tool of his
At the time of which I am speaking the cabinet of Madrid was occupied in
a curious scheme. A thousand Catholic families had been enticed from
Switzerland to form a colony in the beautiful but deserted region called
the Sierra Morena, well known all over Europe by its mention in Don
Quixote. Nature seemed there to have lavished all her gifts; the climate
was perfect, the soil fertile, and streams of all kinds watered the land,
but in spite of all it was almost depopulated.
Desiring to change this state of things, his Catholic majesty had decided
to make a present of all the agricultural products for a certain number
of years to industrious colonists. He had consequently invited the Swiss
Catholics, and had paid their expenses for the journey. The Swiss
arrived, and the Spanish government did its best to provide them with
lodging and spiritual and temporal superintendence. Olavides was the
soul of this scheme. He conferred with the ministers to provide the new
population with magistrates, priests, a governor, craftsmen of all kinds
to build churches and houses, and especially a bull-ring, a necessity for
the Spaniards, but a perfectly useless provision as far as the simple
Swiss were concerned.
In the documents which Don Pablo Olavides had composed on the subject he
demonstrated the inexpediency of establishing any religious orders in the
new colony, but if he could have proved his opinion to be correct with
foot and rule he would none the less have drawn on his head the
implacable hatred of the monks, and of the bishop in whose diocese the
new colony was situated. The secular clergy supported Olavides, but the
monks cried out against his impiety, and as the Inquisition was eminently
monkish in its sympathies persecution had already begun, and this was one
of the subjects of conversation at the dinner at which I was present.
I listened to the arguments, sensible and otherwise, which were advanced,
and I finally gave my opinion, as modestly as I could, that in a few
years the colony would banish like smoke; and this for several reasons.
"The Swiss," I said, "are a very peculiar people; if you transplant them
to a foreign shore, they languish and die; they become a prey to home-
sickness. When this once begins in a Switzer, the only thing is to take
him home to the mountain, the lake, or the valley, where he was born, or
else he will infallibly die."
"It would be wise, I think," I continued, "to endeavour to combine a
Spanish colony with the Swiss colony, so as to effect a mingling of
races. At first, at all events, their rules, both spiritual and
temporal, should be Swiss, and, above all, you would have to insure them
complete immunity from the Inquisition. The Swiss who has been
bred in the country has peculiar customs and manners of love-making, of
which the Spanish Church might not exactly approve; but the least attempt
to restrain their liberty in this respect would immediately bring about a
At first Olavides thought I was joking, but he soon found out that my
remarks had some sense in them. He begged me to write out my opinions on
the subject, and to give him the benefit of my knowledge. I promised to
do so, and Mengs fixed a day for him to come and dine with me at his
The next day I moved my household goods to Mengs's house, and began my
philosophical and physiological treatise on the colony.
I called on Don Emmanuel de Roda, who was a man of letters, a 'rara aves'
in Spain. He liked Latin poetry, had read some Italian, but very
naturally gave the palm to the Spanish poets. He welcomed me warmly,
begged me to come and see him again, and told me how sorry he had been at
my unjust imprisonment.
The Duke of Lossada congratulated me on the way in which the Venetian
ambassador spoke of me everywhere, and encouraged me in my idea of
getting some place under Government, promising to give me his support in
The Prince della Catolica, invited me to dinner with the Venetian
ambassador; and in the course of three weeks I had made a great number of
valuable acquaintances. I thought seriously of seeking employment in
Spain, as not having heard from Lisbon I dared not go there on the chance
of finding something to do. I had not received any letters from Pauline
of late, and had no idea as to what had become of her.
I passed a good many of my evenings with a Spanish lady, named Sabatini,
who gave 'tertullas' or assemblies, frequented chiefly by fifth-rate
literary men. I also visited the Duke of Medina-Sidonia, a well-read and
intelligent man, to whom I had been presented by Don Domingo Varnier, one
of the gentlemen of the king's chamber, whom I had met at Mengs's house.
I paid a good many visits to Donna Ignazia, but as I was never left alone
with her these visits became tiresome. When I suggested a party of
pleasure with her and her cousins, she replied that she would like it as
much as I, but as it was Lent and near Holy Week, in which God died for
our salvation, it was more fit to think of penance than pleasure. After
Easter, she said, we might consider the matter. Ignazia was a perfect
example of the young Spanish devotee.
A fortnight after, the King and Court left Madrid for Aranjuez.
M. de Mocenigo asked me to come and stay with him, as he would be able to
present me at Court. As may be imagined, I should have been only too
glad to accept, but on the eve of my departure, as I was driving with
Mengs, I was suddenly seized with a fever, and was convulsed so violently
that my head was dashed against the carriage window, which it shivered to
fragments. Mengs ordered the coachman to drive home, and I was put to
bed. In four hours I was seized with a sweating fit, which lasted for
ten or twelve hours. The bed and two mattresses were soaked through with
my perspiration, which dripped on to the floor beneath. The fever abated
in forty-eight hours, but left me in such a state of weakness that I was
kept to my bed for a whole week, and could not go to Aranjuez till Holy
Saturday. The ambassador welcomed me warmly, but on the night I arrived
a small lump which I had felt in the course of the day grew as large as
an egg, and I was unable to go to mass on Easter Day.
In five days the excrescence became as large as an average melon, much to
the amazement of Manucci and the ambassador, and even of the king's
surgeon, a Frenchman who declared he had never seen the like before. I
was not alarmed personally, for, as I suffered no pain and the lump was
quite soft, I guessed it was only a collection of lymph, the remainder of
the evil humours which I had sweated away in the fever. I told the
surgeon the history of the fever and begged him to lance the abscess,
which he did, and for four days the opening discharged an almost
incredible amount of matter. On the fifth day the wound was almost
healed, but the exhaustion had left me so weak that I could not leave my
Such was my situation when I received a letter from Mengs. It is before
me at the present moment, and I give below a true copy:
"Yesterday the rector of the parish in which I reside affixed to the
church-door a list of those of his parishioners who are Atheists and have
neglected their Easter duties. Amongst them your name figures in full,
and the aforesaid rector has reproached me bitterly for harbouring a
heretic. I did not know what answer to make, for I feel sure that you
could have stopped in Madrid a day longer to discharge the duties of a
Christian, even if it were only out of regard for me. The duty I owe to
the king, my master, the care I am bound to take of my reputation, and my
fears of being molested, all make me request you to look upon my house as
yours no longer. When you return to Madrid you may go where you will,
and my servants shall transport your effects to your new abode.
"I am, etc.,
"ANTONIO RAPHAEL MENGS."
I was so annoyed by this rude, brutal, and ungrateful letter, that if I
had not been seven leagues from Madrid, and in a state of the utmost
weakness, Mengs should have suffered for his insolence. I told the
messenger who had brought it to begone, but he replied that he had orders
to await my reply. I crushed the letter in my hand and flung it at his
"Go and tell your unworthy master what I did with his letter, and tell
him that is the only answer that such a letter deserves."
The innocent messenger went his way in great amazement.
My anger gave me strength, and having dressed myself and summoned a
sedan-chair I went to church, and was confessed by a Grey Friar, and at
six o'clock the next morning I received the Sacrament.
My confessor was kind enough to give me a certificate to the effect that
I had been obliged to keep my bed since my arrival 'al sitio', and that
in spite of my extreme weakness I had gone to church, and had confessed
and communicated like a good Christian. He also told me the name of the
priest who had affixed the paper containing my name to the door of the
When I returned to the ambassador's house I wrote to this priest, telling
him that the certificate enclosed would inform him as to my reasons for
not communicating. I expressed a hope that, being satisfied of my
orthodoxy, he would not delay in removing my name from his church-doors,
and I concluded by begging him to hand the enclosed letter to the
To the painter I wrote that I felt that I had deserved the shameful
insult he had given me by my great mistake in acceding to his request to
honour him by staying in his house. However, as a good Christian who had
just received the Holy Communion, I told him that his brutal behaviour
was forgiven; but I bade him to take to heart the line, well known to all
honest people, and doubtless unknown to him:
'Turpius ejicitur quam non admittitur hospes.'
After sending the letter I told the ambassador what had happened, to
which he replied,--
"I am not at all surprised at what you tell me. Mengs is only liked for
his talents in painting; in everything else he is well known to be little
better than a fool."
As a matter of fact he had only asked me to stay with him to gratify his
own vanity. He knew that all the town was talking of my imprisonment and
of the satisfaction the Count of Aranda had accorded me, and he wanted
people to think that his influence had obtained the favour that had been
shewn me. Indeed, he had said in a moment of exaltation that I should
have compelled the Alcade Messa to escort me not to my own house but to
his, as it was in his house that I had been arrested.
Mengs was an exceedingly ambitious and a very jealous man; he hated all
his brother painters. His colour and design were excellent, but his
invention was very weak, and invention is as necessary to a great painter
as a great poet.
I happened to say to him one day, "Just as every poet should be a
painter, so every painter should be a poet;" and he got quite angry,
thinking that I was alluding to his weakness of imagination, which he
felt but would not acknowledge.
He was an ignorant man, and liked to pass for a scholar; he sacrificed to
Bacchus and Comus, and would fain be thought sober; he was lustful, bad-
tempered, envious, and miserly, but yet would be considered a virtuous
man. He loved hard work, and this forced him to abstain, as a rule, from
dinner, as he drank so inordinately at that meal that he could do nothing
after it. When he dined out he had to drink nothing but water, so as not
to compromise his reputation for temperance. He spoke four languages,
and all badly, and could not even write his native tongue with
correctness; and yet he claimed perfection for his grammar and
orthography, as for all his other qualities. While I was staying with
him I became acquainted with some of his weak points, and endeavoured to
correct them, at which he took great offence. The fellow writhed under a
sense of obligation to me. Once I prevented his sending a petition to
the Court, which the king would have seen, and which would have made
Mengs ridiculous. In signing his name he had written 'el mas inclito',
wishing to say your most humble. I pointed out to him that 'el mas
inclito' meant the most illustrious, and that the Spanish for the
expression he wanted was 'el mas humilde'. The proud fool was quite
enraged, telling me that he knew Spanish better than I, but when the
dictionary was searched he had to swallow the bitter pill of confessing
himself in the wrong.
Another time I suppressed a heavy and stupid criticism of his on someone
who had maintained that there were no monuments still existing of the
antediluvian period. Mengs thought he would confound the author by
citing the remains of the Tower of Babel--a double piece of folly, for in
the first place there are no such remains, and in the second, the Tower
of Babel was a post-diluvian building.
He was also largely given to the discussion of metaphysical questions, on
which his knowledge was simply nil, and a favourite pursuit of his was
defining beauty in the abstract, and when he was on this topic the
nonsense he talked was something dreadful.
Mengs was a very passionate man, and would sometimes beat his children
most cruelly. More than once I have rescued his poor sons from his
furious hands. He boasted that his father, a bad Bohemian artist, had
brought him up with the stick. Thus, he said, he had become a great
painter, and he wished his own children to enjoy the same advantages.
He was deeply offended when he received a letter, of which the address
omitted his title of chevalier, and his name, Rafael. One day I ventured
to say that these things were but trifles after all, and that I had taken
no offence at his omitting the chevalier on the letters he had written to
me, though I was a knight of the same order as himself. He very wisely
made no answer; but his objection to the omission of his baptismal name
was a very ridiculous one. He said he was called Antonio after Antonio
Correggio, and Rafael after Rafael da Urbino, and that those who omitted
these names, or either of them, implicitly denied his possession of the
qualities of both these great painters.
Once I dared to tell him that he had made a mistake in the hand of one of
his figures, as the ring finger was shorter than the index. He replied
sharply that it was quite right, and shewed me his hand by way of proof.
I laughed, and shewed him my hand in return, saying that I was certain
that my hand was made like that of all the descendants of Adam.
"Then whom do you think that I am descended from?"
"I don't know, but you are certainly not of the same species as myself."
"You mean you are not of my species; all well-made hands of men, and
women too, are like mine and not like yours."
"I'll wager a hundred doubloons that you are in the wrong."
He got up, threw down brushes and palette, and rang up his servants,
"We shall see which is right."
The servants came, and on examination he found that I was right. For
once in his life, he laughed and passed it off as a joke, saying,--
"I am delighted that I can boast of being unique in one particular, at
Here I must note another very sensible remark of his.
He had painted a Magdalen, which was really wonderfully beautiful. For
ten days he had said every morning, "The picture will be finished to-
night." At last I told him that he had made a mistake in saying it would
be finished, as he was still working on it.
"No, I have not," he replied, "ninety-nine connoisseurs out of a hundred
would have pronounced it finished long ago, but I want the praise of the
hundredth man. There's not a picture in the world that can be called
finished save in a relative sense; this Magdalen will not be finished
till I stop working at it, and then it will be only finished relatively,
for if I were to give another day's work to it it would be more finished
still. Not one of Petrarch's sonnets is a really finished production;
no, nor any other man's sonnets. Nothing that the mind of man can
conceive is perfect, save it be a mathematical theorem."
I expressed my warm approval of the excellent way in which he had spoken.
He was not so sensible another time when he expressed a wish to have been
"He was such a great painter."
"Certainly," said I, "but what can you mean by wishing you had been
Raphael? This is not sense; if you had been Raphael, you would no longer
be existing. But perhaps you only meant to express a wish that you were
tasting the joys of Paradise; in that case I will say no more."
"No, no; I mean I would have liked to have been Raphael without troubling
myself about existing now, either in soul or body."
"Really such a desire is an absurdity; think it over, and you will see it
He flew into a rage, and abused me so heartily that I could not help
Another time he made a comparison between a tragic author and a painter,
of course to the advantage of the latter.
I analysed the matter calmly, shewing him that the painter's labour is to
a great extent purely mechanical, and can be done whilst engaged in
casual talk; whilst a well-written tragedy is the work of genius pure and
simple. Therefore, the poet must be immeasurably superior to the
"Find me if you can," said I, "a poet who can order his supper between
the lines of his tragedy, or discuss the weather whilst he is composing
When Mengs was beaten in an argument, instead of acknowledging his
defeat, he invariably became brutal and insulting. He died at the age of
fifty, and is regarded by posterity as a Stoic philosopher, a scholar,
and a compendium of all the virtues; and this opinion must be ascribed to
a fine biography of him in royal quarto, choicely printed, and dedicated
to the King of Spain. This panegyric is a mere tissue of lies. Mengs
was a great painter, and nothing else; and if he had only produced the
splendid picture which hangs over the high altar of the chapel royal at
Dresden, he would deserve eternal fame, though indeed he is indebted to
the great Raphael for the idea of the painting.
We shall hear more of Mengs when I describe my meeting with him at Rome,
two or three years later.
I was still weak and confined to my room when Manucci came to me, and
proposed that I should go with him to Toledo.
"The ambassador," he said, "is going to give a grand official dinner to
the ambassadors of the other powers, and as I have not been presented at
Court I am excluded from being present. However, if I travel, my absence
will not give rise to any remarks. We shall be back in five or six
I was delighted to have the chance of seeing Toledo, and of making the
journey in a comfortable carriage, so I accepted. We started the next
morning, and reached Toledo in the evening of the same day. For Spain we
were lodged comfortably enough, and the next day we went out under the
charge of a cicerone, who took us to the Alcazar, the Louvre of Toledo,
formerly the palace of the Moorish kings. Afterwards we inspected the
cathedral, which is well worthy of a visit, on account of the riches it
contains. I saw the great tabernacle used on Corpus Christi. It is made
of silver, and is so heavy that it requires thirty strong men to lift it.
The Archbishop of Toledo has three hundred thousand duros a year, and his
clergy have four hundred thousand, amounting to two million francs in
French money. One of the canons, as he was shewing me the urns
containing the relics, told me that one of them contained the thirty
pieces of silver for which Judas betrayed our Lord. I begged him to let
me see them, to which he replied severely that the king himself would not
have dared to express such indecent curiosity.
I hastened to apologise, begging him not to take offence at a stranger's
heedless questions; and this seemed to calm his anger.
The Spanish priests are a band of knaves, but one has to treat them with
more respect than one would pay to honest men elsewhere. The following
day we were shewn the museum of natural history. It was rather a dull
exhibition; but, at all events, one could laugh at it without exciting
the wrath of the monks and the terrors of the Inquisition. We were
shewn, amongst other wonders, a stuffed dragon, and the man who exhibited
"This proves, gentlemen, that the dragon is not a fabulous animal;" but I
thought there was more of art than nature about the beast. He then
shewed us a basilisk, but instead of slaying us with a glance it only
made us laugh. The greatest wonder of all, however, was nothing else
than a Freemason's apron, which, as the curator very sagely declared,
proved the existence of such an order, whatever some might say.
The journey restored me to health, and when I returned to Aranjuez, I
proceeded to pay my court to all the ministers. The ambassador presented
me to Marquis Grimaldi, with whom I had some conversations on the subject
of the Swiss colony, which was going on badly. I reiterated my opinion
that the colony should be composed of Spaniards.
"Yes," said he, "but Spain is thinly peopled everywhere, and your plan
would amount to impoverishing one district to make another rich."
"Not at all, for if you took ten persons who are dying of poverty in the
Asturias, and placed them in the Sierra Morena, they would not die till
they had begotten fifty children. This fifty would beget two hundred and
My scheme was laid before a commission, and the marquis promised that I
should be made governor of the colony if the plan was accepted.
An Italian Opera Comique was then amusing the Court, with the exception
of the king, who had no taste for music. His majesty bore a considerable
resemblance to a sheep in the face, and it seemed as if the likeness went
deeper, for sheep have not the slightest idea of sound. His favourite
pursuit was sport, and the reason will be given later on.
An Italian musician at the Court desired to compose some music for a new
opera, and as there was no time to send to Italy I offered to compose the
libretto. My offer was accepted, and by the next day the first act was
ready. The music was composed in four days, and the Venetian ambassador
invited all the ministers to the rehearsal in the grand hall of his
palace. The music was pronounced exquisite; the two other acts were
written, and in a fortnight the opera was put upon the stage. The
musician was rewarded handsomely, but I was considered too grand to work
for money and my reward was paid me in the Court money of compliments.
However, I was glad to see that the ambassador was proud of me and that
the minister's esteem for me seemed increased.
In writing the libretto I had become acquainted with the actresses. The
chief of them was a Roman named Pelliccia, neither pretty nor ugly, with
a slight squint, and but moderate talents. Her younger sister was pretty
if not handsome; but no one cared for the younger, while the elder was a
universal favourite. Her expression was pleasant, her smile delightful,
and her manners most captivating. Her husband was an indifferent
painter, plain-looking, and more like her servant than her husband. He
was indeed her very humble servant, and she treated him with great
kindness. The feelings she inspired me with were not love, but a sincere
respect and friendship. I used to visit her every day, and wrote verses
for her to sing to the Roman airs she delivered so gracefully.
On one of the days of rehearsals I was pointing out to her the various
great personages who were present. The manager of the company,
Marescalchi by name, had entered into an arrangement with the Governor of
Valentia to bring the company there in September to play comic opera in a
small theatre which had been built on purpose. Italian opera had
hitherto never been presented at Valentia, and Marecalchi hoped to make a
good deal of money there. Madame Pelliccia knew nobody in Valentia, and
wanted a letter of introduction to someone there. She asked me if I
thought she could venture to ask the Venetian ambassador to do her the
favour, but I advised her to try the Duke of Arcos.
"Where is he?"
"That gentleman who is looking in your direction now."
"How can I dare to ask him?"
"He is a true nobleman, and I am sure he will be only too happy to oblige
you. Go and ask him now; you will not be denied."
"I haven't the courage to do so. Come with me and introduce me."
"That would spoil everything; he must not even think that I am your
adviser in the matter. I am just going to leave you; you must make your
request directly afterwards."
I walked towards the orchestra, and looking round I saw that the duke was
approaching the actress.
"The thing's as good as done," I said to myself.
After the rehearsal was over Madame Pelliccia came and told me that the
Duke would give her the letter on the day on which the opera was
produced. He kept his word, and she received a sealed letter for a
merchant and banker, Don Diego Valencia.
It was then May, and she was not to go to Valentia till September, so we
shall hear what the letter contained later on.
I often saw the king's gentleman of the chamber, Don Domingo Varnier,
another 'gentleman in the service of the Princess of the Asturias, and
one of the princess's bed-chamber women. This most popular princess
succeeded in suppressing a good deal of the old etiquette, and the tone
of her Court had lost the air of solemnity common in Spanish society. It
was a strange thing to see the King of Spain always dining at eleven
o'clock, like the Parisian cordwainers in the seventeenth century. His
meal always consisted of the same dishes, he always went out hunting at
the same hour, coming back in the evening thoroughly fatigued.
The king was ugly, but everything is relative, he was handsome compared
with his brother, who was terrifically ugly.
This brother never went anywhere without a picture of the Virgin, which
Mengs had painted for him. It was two feet high by three and a half
broad. The figure was depicted as seated on the grass with legs crossed
after the Eastern fashion, and uncovered up to the knees. It was, in
reality, a voluptuous painting; and the prince mistook for devotion that
which was really a sinful passion, for it was impossible to look upon the
figure without desiring to have the original within one's arms. However,
the prince did not see this, and was delighted to find himself in love
with the mother of the Saviour. In this he was a true Spaniard; they
only love pictures of this kind, and interpret the passions they excite
in the most favourable sense.
At Madrid I had, seen a picture of the Madonna with the child at her
breast. It was the altarpiece of a chapel in the Calle St. Jeronimo.
The place was filled all day by the devout, who came to adore the Mother
of God, whose figure was only interesting by reason of her magnificent
breast. The alms given at this chapel were so numerous, that in the
hundred and fifty years, since the picture had been placed there, the
clergy had been able to purchase numerous lamps and candlesticks of
silver, and vessels of silver gilt, and even of gold. The doorway was
always blocked by carriages, and a sentinel was placed there to keep
order amongst the coachmen; no nobleman would pass by without going in to
pray to the Virgin, and to contemplate those 'beata ubera, quae
lactaverunt aeterni patris filium'. But there came a change.
When I returned to Madrid I wanted to pay a visit to the Abbe Pico, and
told my coachman to take another way so as to avoid the crush in front of
"It is not so frequented now, senor," said he, "I can easily get by it."
He went on his way, and I found the entrance to the chapel deserted. As
I was getting out of the carriage I asked my coachman what was the reason
of the change, and he replied,--
"Oh, senor! men are getting more wicked every day,"
This reason did not satisfy me, and when I had taken my chocolate with
the abbe, an intelligent and venerable old man, I asked him why the
chapel in question had lost its reputation.
He burst out laughing, and replied,--
"Excuse me, I really cannot tell you. Go and see for yourself; your
curiosity will soon be satisfied."
As soon as I left him I went to the chapel, and the state of the picture
told me all. The breast of the Virgin had disappeared under a kerchief
which some profane brush had dared to paint over it. The beautiful
picture was spoilt; the magic and fascination had disappeared. Even the
teat had been painted out; the Child held on to nothing, and the head of
the Virgin no longer appeared natural.
This disaster had taken place at the end of the Carnival of 1768. The
old chaplain died, and the Vandal who succeeded him pronounced the
painting to be a scandalous one, and robbed it of all its charm.
He may have been in the right as a fool, but as a Christian and a
Spaniard he was certainly in the wrong, and he was probably soon
convinced of the mistake he had made by the diminution in the offerings
of the faithful.
My interest in the study of human nature made me call on this priest,
whom I expected to find a stupid old man.
I went one morning, but instead of being old, the priest was an active,
clever-looking man of thirty, who immediately offered me chocolate with
the best grace imaginable. I refused, as was my duty as a stranger, and
indeed the Spaniards offer visitors chocolate so frequently at all hours,
that if one accepted it all one would be choked.
I lost no time in exordiums, but came to the point at once, by saying
that as a lover of paintings I had been grieved at finding the
magnificent Madonna spoilt.
"Very likely," he replied, "but it was exactly the physical beauty of the
picture that rendered it in my eyes unfit to represent one whose aspect
should purify and purge the senses, instead of exciting them. Let all
the pictures in the world be destroyed, if they be found to have caused
the commission of one mortal sin."
"Who allowed you to commit this mutilation? The Venetian State
Inquisitors, even M. Barberigo, though he is a devout man, would have
put you under the Leads for such a deed. The love of Paradise should not
be allowed to interfere with the fine arts, and I am sure that St. Luke
himself (who was a painter, as you know) would condemn you if he could
come to life again."
"Sir, I needed no one's leave or license. I have to say mass at that
altar every day, and I am not ashamed to tell you that I was unable to
consecrate. You are a man and a Christian, you can excuse my weakness.
That voluptuous picture drew away my thoughts from holy things."
"Who obliged you to look at it?"
"I did not look at it; the devil, the enemy of God, made me see it in
spite of myself."
"Then you should have mutilated yourself like Origen. Your generative
organs, believe me, are not so valuable as the picture you have ruined."
"Sir, you insult me."
"Not at all, I have no intention of doing so."
That young priest shewed me the door with such brusqueness that I felt
sure he would inform against me to the Inquisition. I knew he would have
no difficulty in finding out my name, so I resolved to be beforehand with
Both my fear and my resolve were inspired by an incident which I shall
mention as an episode.
A few days before, I had met a Frenchman named Segur, who had just come
out of the prisons of the Inquisition. He had been shut up for three
years for committing the following crime:
In the hall of his house there was a fountain, composed of a marble basin
and the statue of a naked child, who discharged the water in the same way
as the well-known statue of Brussels, that is to say, by his virile
member. The child might be a Cupid or an Infant Jesus, as you pleased,
but the sculptor had adorned the head with a kind of aureole; and so the
fanatics declared that it was a mocking of God.
Poor Segur was accused of impiety, and the Inquisition dealt with him
I felt that my fault might be adjudged as great as Segur's, and not
caring to run the risk of a like punishment I called on the bishop, who
held the office of Grand Inquisitor, and told him word for word the
conversation I had had with the iconoclast chaplain. I ended by craving
pardon, if I had offended the chaplain, as I was a good Christian, and
orthodox on all points.
I had never expected to find the Grand Inquisitor of Madrid a kindly and
intelligent, though ill-favoured, prelate; but so it was, and he did
nothing but laugh from the beginning to the end of my story, for he would
not let me call it a confession.
"The chaplain," he said, "is himself blameworthy and unfit for his
position, in that he has adjudged others to be as weak as himself; in
fact, he has committed a wrong against religion. Nevertheless, my dear
son, it was not wise of you to go and irritate him."
As I had told him my name he shewed me, smilingly, an accusation against
me, drawn up by someone who had witnessed the fact. The good bishop
gently chid me for having called the friar-confessor of the Duke of
Medina an ignoramus. He had refused to admit that a priest might say
mass a second time on a high festival, after breaking his fast, on the
command of his sovereign prince, who, by the hypothesis, had not heard
"You were quite right in your contention," said the Inquisitor, "but yet
every truth is not good to utter, and it was wrong to call the man an
ignoramus in his presence. For the future you would do well to avoid all
idle discussion on religious matters, both on dogma and discipline. And
I must also tell you, in order that you may not leave Spain with any
harsh ideas on the Inquisition, that the priest who affixed your name to
the church-door amongst the excommunicated has been severely reprimanded.
He ought to have given you a fatherly admonition, and, above all,
enquired as to your health, as we know that you were seriously ill at the
Thereupon I knelt down and kissed his hand, and went my way, well pleased
with my call.
To go back to Aranjuez. As soon as I heard that the ambassador could not
put me up at Madrid, I wrote to the worthy cobbler, Don Diego, that I
wanted a well-furnished room, a closet, a good bed, and an honest
servant. I informed him how much I was willing to spend a month, and
said I would leave Aranjuez as soon as I heard that everything was ready.
I was a good deal occupied with the question of colonising the Sierra
Morena; I wrote principally on the subject of the civil government, a
most important item in a scheme for a new colony. My articles pleased
the Marquis Grimaldi and flattered Mocenigo; for the latter hoped that I
should become governor of the colony, and that his embassy would thereby
shine with a borrowed light.
My labours did not prevent my amusing myself, and I frequented the
society of those about the Court who could tell me most of the king and
royal family. Don Varnier, a man of much frankness and intelligence, was
my principal source of information.
I asked him one day whether the king was fond of Gregorio Squillace only
because he had been once his wife's lover.
"That's an idle calumny," he replied. "If the epithet of 'chaste' can be
applied to any monarch, Charles III. certainly deserves it better than
any other. He has never touched any woman in his life except his wife,
not only out of respect or the sanctity of marriage, but also as a good
Christian. He has avoided this sin that his soul may remain pure, and so
as not to have the shame of confessing it to his chaplain. He enjoys an
iron constitution, sickness is unknown to him, and he is a thorough
Spaniard in temperament. Ever since his marriage he has paid his duty to
his wife every day, except when the state of her health compelled her to
call for a truce. In such seasons this chaste husband brought down his
fleshly desires by the fatigue of hunting and by abstinence. You can
imagine his distress at being left a widower, for he would rather die
than take a mistress. His only resource was in hunting, and in so
planning out his day that he should have no time left wherein to think of
women. It was a difficult matter, for he cares neither for reading nor
writing, music wearies him, and conversation of a lively turn inspires
him with disgust.
"He has adopted the following plan, in which he will preserve till his
dying day: He dresses at seven, then goes into his closet and has his
hair dressed. At eight o'clock he says his prayers, then hears mass, and
when this is over he takes chocolate and an enormous pinch of snuff, over
which his big nose ruminates for some minutes; this is his only pinch in
the whole day. At nine o'clock he sees his ministers, and works with
them till eleven. Then comes dinner, which he always takes alone, then a
short visit to the Princess of the Austurias, and at twelve sharp he gets
into his carriage and drives to the hunting-grounds. At seven o'clock he
takes a morsel wherever he happens to be, and at eight o'clock he comes
home, so tired that he often goes to sleep before he can get his clothes
off. Thus he keeps down the desires of the flesh."
"Poor voluntary martyr!"
"He thought of marrying a second time, but when Adelaide of France saw
his portrait she was quite frightened and refused him. He was very
mortified, and renounced all thoughts of marriage; and woe to the
courtier who should advise him to get a mistress!"
In further speaking of his character Don Domingo told me that the
ministers had good cause for making him inaccessible, as whenever anyone
did succeed in getting at him and asked a favour, he made a point of
granting it, as it was at such times that he felt himself really a king.
"Then he is not a hard man, as some say?"
"Not at all. Kings seldom have the reputation they deserve. The most
accessible monarchs are the least generous; they are overwhelmed with
importunate requests, and their first instinct is always to refuse."
"But as Charles III. is so inaccessible he can have no opportunity of
either granting or refusing."
"People catch him when he is hunting; he is usually in a good humour
then. His chief defect is his obstinacy; when he has once made up his
mind there is no changing it.
"He has the greatest liking for his brother, and can scarce refuse him
anything, though he must be master in all things. It is thought he will
give him leave to marry for the sake of his salvation; the king has the
greatest horror of illegitimate children, and his brother has three
There were an immense number of persons at Aranjuez, who persecuted the
ministers in the hope of getting employment.
"They will go back as they come," said Don Domingo, "and that is empty-
"Then they ask impossibilities?"
"They don't ask anything. 'What do you want?' says a minister.
"'What your excellency will let me have.'
"'What can you do?'
"'I am ready to do whatever your excellency pleases to think best for me'
"'Please leave me. I have no time to waste.'"
That is always the way. Charles III. died a madman; the Queen of
Portugal is mad; the King of England has been mad, and, as some say, is
not really cured. There is nothing astonishing in it; a king who tries
to do his duty is almost forced into madness by his enormous task.
I took leave of M. Mocenigo three days before he left Aranjuez, and I
embraced Manucci affectionately. He had been most kind to me throughout
My cobbler had written to tell me that for the sum I had mentioned he
could provide me with a Biscayan maid who could cook. He sent me the
address of my new lodging in the Calle Alcala. I arrived there in the
afternoon, having started from Aranjuez in the morning.
I found that the Biscayan maid could speak French; my room was a very
pleasant one, with another chamber annexed where I could lodge a friend.
After I had had my effects carried up I saw my man, whose face pleased
I was anxious to test the skill of my cook, so I ordered her to get a
good supper for me, and I gave her some money.
"I have some money," she replied, "and I will let you have the bill to-
After taking away whatever I had left with Mengs I went to Don Diego's
house, and to my astonishment found it empty. I went back and asked
Philippe, my man, where Don Diego was staying.
"It's some distance, sir; I will take you there tomorrow."
"Where is my landlord?"
"In the floor above; but they are very quiet people."
"I should like to see him."
"He is gone out and won't be home till ten."
At nine o'clock I was told that my supper was ready. I was very hungry,
and the neatness with which the table was laid was a pleasant surprise in
Spain. I was sorry that I had had no opportunity of expressing my
satisfaction to Don Diego, but I sat down to supper. Then indeed I
thought the cobbler a hero; the Biscayan maid might have entered into
rivalry with the best cook in France. There were five dishes, including
my favourite delicacy 'las criadillas', and everything was exquisite. My
lodging was dear enough, but the cook made the whole arrangement a
Towards the end of supper Philippe told me that the landlord had come in,
and that with my leave he would wish me a good evening.
"Shew him in by all means."
I saw Don Diego and his charming daughter enter; he had rented the house
on purpose to be my landlord.
My Amours With Donna Ignazia--Return of M. de Mocenino to Madrid
All you barons, counts, and marquises who laugh at an untitled man who
calls himself a gentleman, pause and reflect, spare your disdain till you
have degraded him; allow him a gentle title so long as he does gentle
deeds. Respect the man that defines nobility in a new way, which you
cannot understand. With him nobility is not a series of descents from
father to son; he laughs at pedigrees, in which no account is taken of
the impure blood introduced by wifely infidelities; he defines a nobleman
as one who does noble deeds, who neither lies nor cheats, who prefers his
honour to his life.
This latter part of the definition should make you tremble for your
lives, if you meditate his dishonour. From imposture comes contempt,
from contempt hatred, from hatred homicide, which takes out the blot of
The cobbler Don Diego might have feared, perhaps, that I should laugh at
him, when he told me he was noble; but feeling himself to be really so he
had done his best to prove it to me. The fineness of his behaviour when
I was in prison had given me some idea of the nobility of his soul, but
he was not content with this. On the receipt of my letter, he had taken a
new house only to give up the best part of it to me. No doubt he
calculated on not losing in the long run, as after I had left he would
probably have no difficulty in letting the apartment, but his chief
motive was to oblige me.
He was not disappointed; henceforth I treated him entirely as an equal.
Donna Ignazia was delighted at what her father had done for me. We
talked an hour, settling our business relations over a bottle of
excellent wine. I succeeded in my contention that the Biscayan cook
should be kept at my expense. All the same, I wanted the girl to think
that she was in Don Diego's service, so I begged him to pay her every
day, as I should take all my meals at home, at all events, till the
return of the ambassador. I also told him that it was a penance to me to
eat alone, and begged him to keep me company at dinner and supper every
day. He tried to excuse himself, and at last gave in on the condition
that his daughter should take his place when he had too much work to do.
As may be imagined I had anticipated this condition, and made no
difficulty about it.
The next morning, feeling curious to see the way in which my landlord was
lodged, I paid him a visit. I went into the little room sacred to Donna
Ignazia. A bed, a chest, and a chair made up the whole furniture; but
beside the bed was a desk before a picture, four feet high, representing
St. Ignatius de Loyola as a fine young man, more calculated to irritate
the sense than to arouse devotion.
My cobbler said to me,
"I have a much better lodging than I had before; and the rent of your
room pays me for the house four times over."
"How about the furniture and the linen?"
"It will all be paid in the course of four years. I hope this house will
be the dower of my daughter. It is an excellent speculation, and I have
to thank you for it."
"I am glad to hear it; but what is this, you seem to be making new
"Quite so; but if you look you will see that I am working on a last which
has been given me. In this way I have not to put them on, nor need I
trouble myself whether they fit well or ill."
"How much do you get?"
"That's a larger price than usual."
"Yes, but there's a great difference between my work and my leather, and
the usual work and leather of the bootmakers."
"Then I will have a last made, and you shall make me a pair of shoes, if
you will; but I warn you they must be of the finest skin, and the soles
"They will cost more, and not last so long."
"I can't help that; I can't bear any but the lightest boots."
Before I left him he said his daughter should dine with me that day as he
was very busy.
I called on the Count of Aranda, who received me coldly, but with great
politeness. I told him how I had been treated by my parish priest and by
"I heard about it; this was worse than your imprisonment, and I don't
know what I could have done for you if you had not communicated, and
obliged the priest to take out your name. Just now they are trying to
annoy me with posters on the walls, but I take no notice."
"What do they want your excellency to do?"
To allow long cloaks and low-crowned hats; you must know all about it."
"I only arrived at Madrid yesterday evening."
"Very good. Don't come here on Sunday, as my house is to be blown up."
"I should like to see that, my lord, so I will be in your hall at noon."
"I expect you will be in good company."
I duly went, and never had I seen it so full. The count was addressing
the company, under the last poster threatening him with death, two very
energetic lines were inscribed by the person who put up the poster,
knowing that he was at the same time running his head into the noose:
Si me cogen, me horqueran,
Pero no me cogeran.
"If they catch me, they will hang me,
So I shall not let them catch me."
At dinner Donna Ignazia told me how glad she was to have me in the house,
but she did not respond to all my amorous speeches after Philippe had
left the room. She blushed and sighed, and then being obliged to say
something, begged me to forget everything that had passed between us. I
smiled, and said that I was sure she knew she was asking an
impossibility. I added that even if I could forget the past I would not
I knew that she was neither false nor hypocritical, and felt sure that
her behaviour proceeded from devotion; but I knew this could not last
long. I should have to conquer her by slow degrees. I had had to do so
with other devotees who had loved me less than she, nevertheless, they
had capitulated. I was therefore sure of Donna Ignazia.
After dinner she remained a quarter of an hour with me, but I refrained
from any amorous attempts.
After my siesta I dressed, and went out without seeing her. In the
evening when she came in for her father, who had supped with me, I
treated her with the greatest politeness without shewing any ill-humour.
The following day I behaved in the same manner. At dinner she told me
she had broken with her lover at the beginning of Lent, and begged me not
to see him if he called on me.
On Whit Sunday I called on the Count of Aranda, and Don Diego, who was
exquisitely dressed, dined with me. I saw nothing of his daughter. I
asked after her, and Don Diego replied, with a smile, that she had shut
herself up in her room to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. He
pronounced these words in a manner and with a smile that he would not
have dared to use if he had been speaking to a fellow-Spaniard. He added
that she would, no doubt, come down and sup with me, as he was going to
sup with his brother.
"My dear Don Diego, don't let there be any false compliments between us.
Before you go out, tell your daughter not to put herself out for me, and
that I do not pretend to put my society in comparison with that of God.
Tell her to keep her room to-night, and she can sup with me another time.
I hope you will take my message to her."
"As you will have it so, you shall be obeyed."
After my siesta, the worthy man said that Donna Ignazia thanked me and
would profit by my kindness, as she did not want to see anyone on that
"I am very glad she has taken me at my word, and to-morrow I will thank
her for it."
I had some difficulty in shaping my lips to this reply; for this excess
of devotion displeased me, and even made me tremble for her love. I
could not help laughing, however, when Don Diego said that a wise father
forgives an ecstasy of love. I had not expected such a philosophic
remark from the mouth of a Spaniard.
The weather was unpleasant, so I resolved to stay indoors. I told
Philippe that I should not want the carriage, and that he could go out.
I told my Biscayan cook that I should not sup till ten. When I was alone
I wrote for some time, and in the evening the mother lit my candles,
instead of the daughter, so in the end I went to bed without any supper.
At nine o'clock next morning, just as I was awaking, Donna Ignazia
appeared, to my great astonishment, telling me how sorry she was to hear
that I had not taken any supper.
"Alone, sad, and unhappy," I replied, "I felt that abstinence was the
best thing for me."
"You look downcast."
"You alone can make me look cheerful."
Here my barber came in, and she left me. I then went to mass at the
Church of the Good Success, where I saw all the handsome courtezans in
Madrid. I dined with Don Diego, and when his daughter came in with
dessert he told her that it was her fault I had gone supperless to bed.
"It shall not happen again," said she.
"Would you like to come with me to our Lady of Atocha?" said I.
"I should like it very much," she replied, with a side-glance at her
"My girl," said Don Diego, "true devotion and merriment go together, and
the reason is that the truly devout person has trust in God and in the
honesty of all men. Thus you can trust in Don Jaime as an honest man,
though he has not the good fortune to be born in Spain."
I could not help laughing at this last sentence, but Don Diego was not
offended. Donna Ignazia kissed her father's hands, and asked if she
might bring her cousin too.
"What do you want to take the cousin for?" said Don Diego; "I will answer
for Don Jaime."
"You are very kind, Don Diego, but if Ignazia likes her cousin to come I
shall be delighted, provided it be the elder cousin, whom I like better
than the younger."
After this arrangement the father went his way, and I sent Philippe to
the stables to put in four mules.
When we were alone Ignazia asked me repentantly to forgive her.
"Entirely, if you will forgive me for loving you."
"Alas, dearest! I think I shall go mad if I keep up the battle any
"There needs no battle, dearest Ignazia, either love me as I love you, or
tell me to leave the house, and see you no more. I will obey you, but
that will not make you happy."
"I know that. No, you shall not go from your own house. But allow me to
tell you that you are mistaken in your estimate of my cousins'
characters. I know what influenced you, but you do not know all. The
younger is a good girl, and though she is ugly, she too has succumbed to
love. But the elder, who is ten times uglier, is mad with rage at never
having had a lover. She thought she had made you in love with her, and
yet she speaks evil of you. She reproaches me for having yielded so
easily. and boasts that she would never have gratified your passion."
"Say no more, we must punish her; and the younger shall come."
"I am much obliged to you."
"Does she know that we love each other?"
"I have never told her, but she has guessed it, and pities me. She wants
me to join her in a devotion to Our Lady de la Soledad, the effect of
which would be a complete cure for us both."
"Then she is in love, too?"
"Yes; and she is unhappy in her love, for it is not returned. That must
be a great grief."
"I pity her, and yet, with such a face, I do not know any man who would
take compassion on her. The poor girl would do well to leave love alone.
But as to you. . . ."
"Say nothing about me: my danger is greater than hers. I am forced to
defend myself or to give in, and God knows there are some men whom it is
impossible to ward off! God is my witness that in Holy Week I went to a
poor girl with the smallpox, and touched her in the hope of catching it,
and so losing my beauty; but God would not have it so, and my confessor
blamed me, bidding me to do a penance I had never expected."
"Tell me what it is?"
"He told me that a handsome face is the index of a handsome soul, and is
a gift of God, for which a woman should render thanks continually; that
in attempting to destroy this beauty I had sinned, for I had endeavoured
to destroy God's handiwork. After a good deal of rebuke in this style,
he ordered me to put a little rouge on my cheeks whenever I felt myself
looking pale. I had to submit, and I have bought a pot of rouge, but
hitherto I have not felt obliged to use it. Indeed, my father might
notice it, and I should not like to tell him that it is done by way of
"Is your confessor a young man?"
"He is an old man of seventy."
"Do you tell him all your sins without reserve?"
"Certainly, for the smallest circumstance may be really a great sin."
"Does he ask you questions?"
"No, for he sees that I am telling him the whole truth. It is a great
trial, but I have to submit to it."
"Have you had this confessor for long?"
"For two years. Before him I had a confessor who was quite unbearable.
He asked me questions which made me quite indignant."
"What questions were these?"
"You must please excuse me telling you."
"Why do you go to confession so often?"
"Why? Would to God I had not good cause! but after all I only go once a
"That's too often."
"Not so, for when I am in mortal sin I cannot sleep at night. I am
afraid of dying in my sleep."
"I pity you, dearest; I have a consolation which is denied you. I have
an infinite trust in the infinite mercy of God."
The cousin arrived and we set out. We found a good many carriages in
front of the church-door, and the church itself was full of devotees,
both male and female. Amongst others I saw the Duchess of Villadorias,
notorious for her andromania. When the 'furor uterinus' seized her,
nothing could keep her back. She would rush at the man who had excited
her, and he had no choice but to satisfy her passion. This had happened
several times in public assemblies, and had given rise to some
extraordinary scenes. I had seen her at a ball; she was still both young
and pretty. As I entered the church I saw her kneeling on the stones of
the church floor. She lifted her eyes, and gazed at me, as if doubtful
whether she knew me or not, as she had only seen me in domino. After my
devotees had prayed for half an hour, they rose to go, and the duchess
rose also; and as soon as we were out of the church she asked me if I
knew her. I replied in the affirmative, and she asked why I had not been
to see her, and if I visited the Duchess of Benevento. I told her that I
did not visit her grace, and that I should have the honour of paying her
a call before long.
On our way I explained to my two companions the nature of the duchess's
malady. Donna Ignazia asked me anxiously if I really meant to go and see
her. She seemed reassured when I replied in the negative.
A common and to my mind a ridiculous question is which of the two sexes
enjoys the generative act the more. Homer gives us Jupiter and Juno
disputing on this point. Tiresias, who was once a woman, has given a
correct though amusing decision on the point. A laconic answer has it
that a woman enjoys the act the most because with her it is sharper,
repeated more frequently, and finally because the battle is fought in her
field. She is at the same time an active and passive agent, while action
is indispensable to the pleasure of the man. But the most conclusive
reason is that if the woman's pleasure were not the greater nature would
be unjust, and she never is or can be unjust. Nothing in this universe
is without its use, and no pleasure or pain is without its compensation
or balance. If woman had not more pleasure than man she would not have
more organs than he. The greater nervous power planted in the female
organ is demonstrated by the andromania to which some women are subject,
and which makes them either Messalines or martyrs. Men have nothing at
all similar to this.
Nature has given to women this special enjoyment to compensate for the
pains they have to undergo. What man would expose himself, for the
pleasure he enjoys, to the pains of pregnancy and the dangers of
childbed? But women will do so again and again; so it must be concluded
that they believe the pleasure to outbalance the pain; and so it is
clearly the woman who has the better share in the enjoyment.
In spite of this, if I had the choice of being born again as a woman, I
should say no; for in spite of my voluptuousness, a man has pleasures
which a woman cannot enjoy. Though, indeed, rather than not be born
again, I would be a woman, and even a brute, provided always that I had
my memory, for without it I should no longer be myself.
We had some ices, and my two companions returned home with me, well
pleased with the enjoyment I had given them without offending God.
Donna Ignazia, who was delighted with my continence during the day, and
apparently afraid of its not lasting, begged me to invite her cousin to
supper. I agreed, and even did so with pleasure.
The cousin was ugly, and also a fool, but she had a great heart and was
sympathetic. I knew that Donna Ignazia had told her all, and as
she was no restraint on me I did not mind her being at supper, while
Ignazia looked upon her as a safeguard.
The table had been laid for three, when I heard a step coming up the
stairs. It was the father, and I asked him to sup with us. Don Diego
was a pleasant man, as I have said, but what amused me most of all about
him was his moral maxims. He knew or suspected that I was fond of his
daughter, though in an honourable way; he thought my honour or his
daughter's piety would be a sufficient safeguard. If he had suspected
what had really happened, I do not think he would ever have allowed us to
He sat beside his niece and facing his daughter, and did most of the
talking, for your Spaniard, though grave, is eloquent, and fond of
hearing the fine harmonies of his native tongue.
It was very hot, so I asked him to take off his waistcoat, and to tell
his daughter to do just as she would if only he and his wife had been
Donna Ignazia had not to be entreated long before she took off her
kerchief, but the poor cousin did not like having to shew us her bones
and swarthy skin.
Donna Ignazia told her father how much she had enjoyed herself, and how
they had seen the Duchess of Villadorias, who had asked me to come and
The good man began to philosophise and to jest on her malady, and he told
me some stories, germane to the question, which the girls pretended not
The good wine of La Mancha kept us at table till a late hour, and the
time seemed to pass very quickly. Don Diego told his niece that she
could sleep with his daughter, in the room we were in, as the bed was big
enough for two. I hastened to add that if the ladies would do so I
should be delighted; but Donna Ignazia blushed and said it would not do,
as the room was only separated from mine by a glass door.
At this I smiled at Don Diego, who proceeded to harangue his daughter in
a manner which amused me extremely. He told her that I was at least
twenty years older than herself, and that in suspecting me she had
committed a greater sin than if she allowed me to take some slight
"I am sure," he added, "that when you go to confession next Sunday you
will forget to accuse yourself of having wrongfully suspected Don Jaime
of a dishonourable action."
Donna Ignazia looked at me affectionately, asked my pardon, and said she
would do whatever her father liked. The cousin said nothing, and the
father kissed his daughter, bade me a good night, and went away well
pleased with the harangue he had delivered.
I suspected that Donna Ignazia expected me to make some attempt on her
honour, and feeling sure that she would resist for the sake of
appearance, I determined to leave her in peace. Next morning I got up
and went into their room in the hope of playing some trick on them.
However, the birds were flown, and I had no doubt that they had gone to
Donna Ignazia came home by herself at ten o'clock. She found me alone,
dressed, and writing. She told me she had been in the church for three
"You have been to confession, I suppose?"
"No; I went last Sunday, and I shall wait till next Sunday."
"I am very glad that your confession will not be lengthened by any sins I
have helped you to commit."
"You are wrong."
"Wrong? I understand; but you must know that I am not going to be damned
for mere desires. I do not wish to torment you or to become a martyr
myself. What you granted me has made me fall deeply in love with you,
and it makes me shudder when I imagine that our love has become a subject
of repentance with you. I have had a bad night; and it is time for me to
think of my health. I must forget you, but to bring about that effect I
will see you no longer. I will keep on the house, but I will not live in
it. If your religion is an intelligent one, you will approve of my idea.
Tell your confessor of it next Sunday, and you will see that he will
"You are right, but I cannot agree to it. You can go away if you like,
and I shall say nothing, but I shall be the most unhappy girl in all
As she spoke these words, two big tears rolled down her cheeks, and her
face dropped; I was profoundly moved.
"I love you, dearest Ignazia, and I hope not to be damned for my love. I
cannot see you without loving you and to this love some positive proof is
essential; otherwise, I am unhappy. If I go you say you will be unhappy,
and if I stay it is I that will be unhappy, my health will be ruined.
But tell me which I shall do stay or go? Say."
"Then you must be as loving and tender as you were before."
"Alas! I promised to commit that sin no more. I tell you to stay,
because I am sure that in eight or ten days we shall have become so
accustomed to one another that I shall be able to love you like a father,
and you will be able to take me in your arms without any amorous
"Are you sure of this?"
"Yes, dearest, quite sure."
"You make a mistake."
"Let me be mistaken, and believe me I shall be glad to be mistaken."
"Nothing, nothing. I may be too long, I shall endanger . . . let
us say no more about it. I will stay."
I went out more pained with her state than my own, and I felt that the
best thing I could do would be to forget her, "for," said I to myself,
"even if I do enjoy her once, Sunday will come again; she will confess,
repent, and I shall have to begin all over again. She confessed her
love, and flatters herself that she will be able to subdue it--a foolish
hope, which could only exist in a mind under the dominion of prejudice."
I came home at noon, and Don Diego dined with me; his daughter did not
appear till the dessert. I begged her to sit down, politely, but coldly.
Her father asked her jestingly if I had paid her a visit in the night.
"I never suspected Don Jaime of such a thing," she replied, "and I only
objected out of shyness."
I interrupted her by praising her modesty, and telling her that she would
have done quite right to beware of me, if my sense of duty had not been
stronger than any voluptuous desires inspired by her charms.
Don Diego pronounced this declaration of love as good as anything to be
found in the "Morte d'Arthur."
His daughter said I was laughing at her, but Don Diego said he was
certain that I was in earnest, and that I had known her before taking her
to the ball.
"You are utterly mistaken," said Donna Ignazia, with some degree of fire.
"Your father is wiser than you, senora," I replied.
"What! How and when did you see me?"
"At the church where I heard mass, and you communicated, when you went
out with your cousin. I followed you at some distance; you can guess the
She was speechless, and her father enjoyed the consciousness of his
"I am going to see the bull fight," said he; "it's a fine day, and all
Madrid will be there, so one must go early to get a good place. I advise
you to go, as you have never seen a bull fight; ask Don Jaime to take you
with him, Ignazia."
"Would you like to have my companionship?" said she, tenderly.
"Certainly I would, but you must bring your cousin, as I am in love with
Don Diego burst out laughing, but Ignazia said, slyly,
"It is not so impossible after all."
We went to see the splendid but barbarous spectacle in which Spaniards
take so much delight. The two girls placed themselves in front of the
only vacant box, and I sat behind on the second bench, which was a foot
and a half higher than the first. There were already two ladies there,
and much to my amusement one of them was the famous Duchess of
Villadorias. She was in front of me, and sat in such a position that her
head was almost between my legs. She recognized me, and said we were
fortunate in meeting one another; and then noticing Donna Ignazia, who
was close to her, she congratulated me in French on her charms, and asked
me whether she was my mistress or my wife. I replied that she was a
beauty before whom I sighed in vain. She replied, with a smile, that she
was rather a sceptical person; and turning to Donna Ignazia began a
pleasant and amorous discourse, thinking the girl to be as learned in the
laws of love as herself. She whispered something in her ear which made
Ignazia blush, and the duchess, becoming enthusiastic, told me I had
chosen the handsomest girl in Madrid, and that she would be delighted to
see us both at her country house.
I promised to come, as I was obliged to do, but I begged to be excused
naming the day. Nevertheless, she made me promise to call on her at four
o'clock the next day, telling me, much to my terror, that she would be
alone. She was pretty enough, but too notorious a character; and such a
visit would have given rise to talk.
Happily the fight began, and silence became general, for the Spaniards
are passionately devoted of bull fighting.
So much has been written on the subject that my readers will pardon my
giving a detailed account of the fight. I may say that the sport is, in
my opinion, a most barbarous one, and likely to operate unfavourably on
the national morals; the arena is sometimes drenched in the blood of
bulls, horses, and even of the unfortunate picadores and matadores, whose
sole defence is the red rag with which they irritate the bull.
When it was over I escorted the girls--who had enjoyed themselves
immensely--back to the house, and made the ugly cousin stay to supper, as
I foresaw that they would again sleep together.
We supped together, but it was a melancholy affair, for Don Diego was
away, and I did not feel in the humour to amuse my company.
Donna Ignazia became pensive when, in reply to a question of hers, I said
that it would be absolutely rude of me not to go to the duchess's.
"You will come with me some day," I added, "to dine at her country
"You need not look for that."
"Because she is a madwoman. She talked to me in a way that would have
offended me if I did not know that she fancied she was honouring me by
laying aside her rank."
We rose from table, and after I had dismissed my man we sat on the
balcony to wait for Don Diego and to enjoy the delicious evening breezes.
As we sat near to each other in the twilight, so favourable to lovers'
vows, I looked into Donna Ignazia's eyes, and saw there that my hour had
come. I clasped her to me with one arm, I clung with my lips to hers,
and by the way she trembled I guessed the flame which consumed her.
"Will you go and see the duchess?"
"No, if you will promise me not to go to confession next Sunday."
"But what will he say if I do not go?"
"Nothing at all, if he understands his business. But let us talk it over
We were so tightly clasped together that the cousin, like a good girl,
left us, and went to the other end of the balcony, taking care to look
away from us.
Without changing my position, in spite of the temptation to do so, I
asked her if she felt in the humour to repent of the sin she was ready to
"I was not thinking of repentance just then, but as you remind me of it,
I must tell you that I shall certainly go to confession."
"And after you have been to confession will you love me as you love me
"I hope God will give me strength to offend Him no more."
"I assure you that if you continue loving me God will not give you grace,
yet I feel sure that on Sunday evening you will refuse me that which you
are now ready to grant."
"Indeed I will, sweetheart; but why should we talk of that now?"
"Because if I abandon myself to pleasure now I shall be more in love with
you than ever, and consequently more unhappy than ever, when the day of
your repentance comes. So promise me that you will not go to confession
whilst I remain at Madrid, or give the fatal order now, and bid me leave
you. I cannot abandon myself to love to-day knowing that it will be
refused me on Sunday."
As I remonstrated thus, I clasped her affectionately in my arms,
caressing her most ardently; but before coming to the decisive action I
asked her again whether she would promise not to go to confession next
"You are cruel," said she, "I cannot make you that promise for my
At this reply, which I had quite expected, I remained motionless, feeling
sure that she must be in a state of desperate irritation at the work half
begun and not concluded. I, too, suffered, for I was at the door of the
sanctuary, and a slight movement would have sent me into the inmost
shrine; but I knew that her torments must be greater than mine, and that
she could not resist long.
Donna Ignazia was indeed in a terrible state; I had not repulsed her, but
I was perfectly inactive. Modesty prevented her asking me openly to
continue, but she redoubled her caresses, and placed herself in an easier
position, reproaching me with my cruelty. I do not know whether I could
have held out much longer, but just then the cousin turned round and told
us that Don Diego was coming in.
We hastened to arrange our toilette, and to sit in a decent position.
The cousin came up to us, and Don Diego, after making a few remarks, left
us on the balcony, wishing us a good night. I might have begun over
again, but I clung to my system of repression, and after wishing the
girls good night with a melancholy air, I went to bed.
I hoped Donna Ignazia would repent and come and keep me company, but I
was disappointed. They left their room early in the morning, and at noon
Don Diego came to dine with me, saying his daughter had such a bad
headache that she had not even gone to mass.
"We must get her to eat something."
"No, I think abstinence will do her good, and in the evening I daresay
she will be able to sup with you."
I went to keep her company by her bedside after I had taken my siesta.
I did my best for three hours to convince her of her folly; but she kept
her eyes closed, and said nothing, only sighing when I said something
I left her to walk in St. Jerome's Park, and told her that if she did not
sup with me I should understand that she did not wish to see me again.
This threat had its effect. She came to table at supper-time, but she
looked pale and exhausted. She ate little, and said nothing, for she
knew not what to say. I saw that she was suffering, and I pitied her
from my heart.
Before going to bed she asked me if I had been to see the duchess. She
seemed somewhat cheered when I answered in the negative. I told her that
she might satisfy herself of the truth of my reply by asking Philippe,
who had taken my note begging her grace to excuse me for that day.
"But will you go another day?"
"No, dearest, because I see it would grieve you."
She gave a sigh of content, and I embraced her gently, and she left me as
sad as I was.
I could see that what I asked of her was a great deal; but I had good
grounds for hope, as I knew her ardent disposition. It was not God and I
that were disputing for her, but her confessor and I. If she had not
been a Catholic I should have won her the first day.
She had told me that she would get into trouble with her confessor if she
did not go to him as usual; she had too much of fine Spanish honour in
her to tell him what was not true, or to endeavour to combine her love
with her religion.
The Friday and the Saturday passed without any events of consequence.
Her father, who could not blind himself to our love any longer, trusted,
I suppose, to his daughter's virtue, and made her dine and sup with me
every day. On Saturday evening Donna Ignazia left me sadder than ever,
and turned her head away when I would have kissed her as usual.
I saw what was the matter; she was going to communicate the next day.
I admired her consistency, in spite of myself, and pitied her heartily;
for I could guess the storm that must be raging in her breast. I began
to repent having demanded all, and wished I had been contented with a
I wished to be satisfied with my own eyes, and got up early on Sunday
morning and followed her. I knew that she would call for her cousin, so
I went on to the church. I placed myself by the sacristy-door, where I
could see without being seen.
I waited a quarter of an hour, then they came in, and after kneeling down
for a few moments, separated, each going to her own confessor.
I only noticed Donna Ignazia; I saw her going to the confessional, and
the confessor turning towards her.
I waited patiently. I thought the confession would never come to an end.
"What is he saying?" I repeated to myself as I saw the confessor speaking
to her now and again.
I could bear it no longer, and I was on the point of going away when I
saw her rise from her knees.
Donna Ignazia, looking like a saint, came to kneel in the church, but out
of my sight. I thought she would come forward to receive the Holy
Communion at the end of the Mass that was being said, but instead of that
she went towards the door, rejoined her cousin and they left the church.
I was astonished. My heart was seized with a pang of remorse.
"It's all over," I said to myself. "The poor girl has made a sincere and
full confession, she has avowed her love, and the priest's cruel duty has
made him refuse her absolution.
"All is lost. What will come of it?"
"My peace of mind and hers require me to leave her.
"Wretch that I am, to have lost all for all! I should have made allowance
for the peculiar Spanish character.
"I might have enjoyed her by surprise now and again; the difficulty would
have added piquancy to the intrigue. I have behaved as if I were once
more twenty, and I have lost all.
"At dinner she will be all sad and tearful. I must find some way out of
this terrible situation."
Thus soliloquising, I came home ill pleased with the line of conduct I
My hairdresser was waiting for me, but I sent him away, and told my cook
not to serve my dinner till I ordered it; then, feeling the need of rest,
I flung myself on my bed and slept profoundly till one o'clock.
I got up and ordered dinner to be brought in, and sent a message to the
father and daughter that I was expecting them.
My surprise may be imagined when Donna Ignazia appeared in a costume of
black velvet, adorned with ribbons and lace. In my opinion there is no
more seductive costume in Europe when the wearer is pretty.
I also noticed that every feature of her face breathed peace and calm; I
had never seen her looking so well, and I could not help congratulating
her. She replied with a smile, and I gave her a kiss, which she took as
meekly as a lamb.
Philippe arrived, and we sat down to table. I saw that my fair
sweetheart had crossed the Rubicon; the day was won.
"I am going to be happy," said she, "but let us say nothing, and it will
come of itself."
However, I did not conceal my bliss, and made love to her whenever the
servant was out of the room. She was not only submissive, but even
Before we left the table she asked me if I still loved her.
"More than ever, darling; I adore you."
"Then take me to the bull fight."
"Quick! Fetch the hairdresser."
When my hair was done I made an elaborate toilette, and burning with
impatience we set out on foot, as I was afraid we should not secure a
good place if we waited till the carriage was ready. We found a fine box
with only two persons in it, and Ignazia, after glancing round, said she
was glad that the detestable duchess was not anywhere near us.
After some fine sport my mistress begged me to take her to the Prado,
where all the best people in Madrid are to be seen.
Donna Ignazia leant on my arm, seemed proud to be thought mine, and
filled me with delight.
All at once we met the Venetian ambassador and his favourite, Manucci.
They had just arrived from Aranjuez. We greeted each other with due
Spanish politeness, and the ambassador paid me a high compliment on the
beauty of my companion. Donna Ignazia pretended not to understand, but
she pressed my arm with Spanish delicacy.
After walking a short distance with us M. de Mocenigo said he hoped I
would dine with him on the following day, and after I had nodded
acquiescence in the French style we parted.
Towards the evening we took some ices and returned home, and the gentle
pressure of my arm on the way prepared me for the bliss I was to enjoy.
We found Don Diego on the balcony waiting for us. He congratulated his
daughter on her pleasant appearance and the pleasure she must have taken
in my society.
Charmed with papa's good humour, I asked him to sup with us, and he
accepted, and amused us with his witty conversation and a multitude of
little tales that pleased me exceedingly. He made the following speech
on leaving us, which I give word for word, but I cannot give the reader
any idea of the inimitable Spanish gravity with which it was delivered.
"Amigo Senior Don Jaime, I leave you here to enjoy the cool air with my
daughter. I am delighted at your loving her, and you may be assured that
I shall place no obstacle in the way of your becoming my son-in-law as
soon as you can shew your titles of nobility."
When he was gone, I said to his daughter,--
"I should be only too happy, if it could be managed; but you must know
that in my country they only are called nobles who have an hereditary
right to rule the state. If I had been born in Spain I should be noble,
but as it is I adore you, and I hope you will make me happy."
"Yes, dearest, but we must be happy together; I cannot suffer any
"I give you my word of honour that I will be wholly faithful to you."
"Come then, 'corazon mio', let us go in."
"No, let us put out the lights, and stay here a quarter of an hour. Tell
me, my angel, whence comes this unexpected happiness?"
"You owe it to a piece of tyranny which drove me to desperation. God is
good, and I am sure He would not have me become my own executioner. When
I told my confessor that I could not help loving you, but that I could
restrain myself from all excess of love, he replied that this self-
confidence was misplaced, as I had already fallen. He wanted me to
promise never to be alone with you again, and on my refusing to do so he
would not give me absolution.
"I have never had such a piece of shame cast on me, but I laid it all in
the hands of God, and said, 'Thy will be done.'
"Whilst I heard mass my mind was made up, and as long as you love me I
shall be yours, and yours only. When you leave Spain and abandon me to
despair, I shall find another confessor. My conscience holds me
guiltless; this is my comfort. My cousin, whom I have told all, is
astonished, but then she is not very clever."
After this declaration, which put me quite at my ease, and would have
relieved me of any scruples if I had had them, I took her to my bed. In
the morning, she left me tired out, but more in love with her than ever.