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 novel.
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 1856.
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 to mar.
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, 1927.
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
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 Visit—Souvenirs
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 Peasants—Christmas-eve-Inn-"Nacimiento"
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— Patriotic Hymn
LETTER THE SEVENTH
Debut in Mexico—Cathedral—Temple of the Aztecs—Congregation—Stone of Sacrifices—Palace—Importunate Leperos—Visit to the President—Countess C—-a—Street-cries—Tortilleras—Sartor Resartus
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— Mosquitoes Eggs
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 —Anecdote—Former Customs
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 Soldiers
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 Treasures—Anecdote
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 Present—Education—Comparison—Schools—Opportunities—Natural Talent— 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— Propositions—Refusal—Taoubaya—Archbishop—Fresh Proposals—Refusal— Second Letter from Santa Anna—Government Bulletin—Proclamations—An awkward Mistake—The Archbishop visits the President—Conclusion of the Revolution—Government Newspapers—Circulars
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 Dinner
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 for Journey
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 Difficulties—A Decision
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 Puebla—Volcanoes—Dona Marina—Verses—Popocatepetl—Cholula—Great 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— Drapeaux
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— Anecdote
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— Viceroy
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 Requisition—Preparations—Cannonading—"Los Enanos"
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 celebrated
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 Indians—Convent—Cuincho—Darkness—Morelia—Alameda—Cathedral—Silver —Waxworks—College—Wonderful Fleas
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 Winds
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.
_Administrador_-Agent. _Alameda_-Public walk with trees. _Aquador_-Water-carrier. _Alacran_-Scorpion. _Anquera_-Coating of stamped gilt leather, edged with little bells, which covers the back of the horses. _Arriero_-Muleteer. _Arroba_-Spanish weight of twenty-five pounds. _Azotea_-The flat roof of a house. _Barranca_-Ravine. _Botica_-Apothecary's shop. _Calle_-Street. _Cargadores_-Men who carry loads. _Chinguirito_-Spirit made from sugar-cane. _Chile_-Hot peppers. _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. _Comicos_-Actors. _Camarista_-Lady of honour. _dia de Anos_-Birthday. _Dulces_-Sweetmeats. _Diario_-Daily newspapers. _Frisones_-Large horses from the north. _Funcion_-Solemnity-festival. _Frijoles_-Brown beans. _Galopina_-Kitchen-girl. _Garbanzos_-Chick-peas _Cicer Arietinum_. _Gachupin_-Name given to the Spaniards in Mejico. _Garita_-City-gate. _Goleta_-Schooner. _Gentuza_-Rabble. _Honras_-Funeral honours. _Hacienda_-Country-place. _Ingenio de Azucar_-Sugar plantation. _Invalidos—Disabled soldiers. _Jarro_—Earthen jar. _Ladrones_—Robbers. _Leperos_—Beggars, low persons. _Litera_—Litter. _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 head through. _Novios_—Betrothed persons. _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. _Paseo_—Public walk. _Paso_—Pace, pacing. _Padrino_—Godfather. _Plaza_—Square. _Patio_—Courtyard. _Petate_—Matting. _Poblana_—Woman of Puebla. _Pronunciamiento_—A revolution in Mexico. _Pronunciados_—Those who revolt. _Rancho_—A farm. _Ranchero_—Farmer. _Rebozo_—A scarf that goes over the head. _Reja_—Iron grate. _Sopilote_—Species of carrion vulture. _Sarape_—A woollen blanket more or less fine, with a hole for the head to go through. _Traspaso_—Conveyance, transfer. _Tilma_—Indian cloak. _Tierra caliente_—The hot land. _Tertulia_—An evening party. _Toreador_—Bull-fighter. _Tortilla_—Species of thin cake. _Tortillera_—Woman who bakes tortillas. _Vaca_—Joint stock in gambling. _Vomito_—Name given to the yellow fever. _Venta_—Inn.
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 sight.
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, past help."
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 suffocating heat.
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 to Cuba.]
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— Last Visit—Souvenirs.
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 milk.
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 style.
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 shores.
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 maltreated.
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 encouraging:
"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 called forth.
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 curiosity.