Page images
PDF
EPUB

Yet the gross absurdity of such an interpretation hardly equals that of the following note in one of these Spanish novels:

· Pero Votero ; literally, Swearing Peter, or Old Nick.' The mistaking V for B is a frequent vulgarism among Spaniards. In surnames, and other words of uncertain derivation, (though not in Estebun, where any well-educated Spaniard would use the v,) it is difficult to chuse between the two letters. Not so in the word Perobotero, which, from the derivation commonly given to that softened appellation of the devil, few natives of Spain would spell Votero. Yet this slight lapse would prove nothing, if it were not accompanied by another which must arise from such an ignorance of the difference between Botero (a skinbottle maker), and Votador (a swearer), as is absolutely incredible even in a Spanish school-boy. To those who are thoroughly acquainted with Spanish this cannot, indeed, appear a more likely mistake for a Spaniard,' than it would be for an Englishman to take a picture-dealer for a pickpocket, or making boots for making booty. *

We

[ocr errors]

We

may venture in a note to dwell for a moment on such a triling point of Spanish philology as Perobotero. That name may be said to be classical in the Castilian language, since it is frequently found in Quevedo; we believe, however, that it is not mentioned in the best Spanish dictionaries. We had never had occasion to think upou the derivation of such a strange euphemism for Satan, till, having mentioned in our review of Don Esteban, the popular notion that it came from Botero, a skin-bottle maker-in allusion to the melted pitch which is employed in that occupation--we were led to dwell on the unsatisfactory nature of such an etymology. Pero is, indeed, the old Spanish word for Pedro. But Perobotero is one word, and the devil was never christened in Spain, as he has been in England: Pero, therefore, cannot be Peter in this case. Our conjecture, then, is, that Perobotero has been vulgarized in Spain, and that it was originally formed from two words of the barbarous Latin of the monkish writers; viz. the mis-spelt Greek word which means fire, and botare, used in the Latin of the middle ages for throwing-out : Pirobotarius would thus be synonimous with the French boute-feu and the Spanish bota-fuego. The transition of Piro and Botarius into Pero and Botero, two significant words in Spanish, would be as natural as that of Asparagus, into our, till very lately quite familiar and established, Sparrowgrass.

It would have been a strange thing, indeed, that such Spanish scholars as we have proved the manufacturers of Don Esteban to be, should have found us ignorant of Spanish grammar and orthography. This, however, they have attempted (in their pamphlet) with all the confidence of half-knowledge. We found the word Calatayud (we believe more than once, though we will not take the trouble to hunt after the word through three volumes) spelt Calataguz. Had this mistake stood single, we would have passed it over ; but, joined as it was with many others, which tended to prove an imperfect knowledge of Spanish in the authors or compilers of the work, we strongly suspected that the substitution of the g for y, and of: for d, might be the blunder of an Englishman who, recollecting that the Castilians pronounce the final d as if it were a Spanish z, (though no educated man follows that pronunciation in writing,) and forgetting the guttural sound of the before u, had exposed his ignorance and affectation in that mis-spelt word. Here the triumph of the authors of Don Esteban is quite ludicrous. They had never heard (where could they bave learnt it?) that consonants are divided by all philosophical grammarians according to the organs by which they are pronounced. The letter y, in English, may indeed be called soft or hard; but in Spanish there is no soft g, for it is either a siinple

guttur

We shall not waste time in exposing fully the Munchausen vein of this firm : we alluded to it on a former occasion as gently as possible; for, to say the truth, we ascribed their offences in that sort chiefly, if not entirely, to the Spanish partner, probably some sufficiently unfortunate exile. We certainly did not think that many words could be necessary for placing in their true colours a set of manners-painters, who describe a single peasant as taking a wild bull in full career by the horns, throwing him down without difficulty, tying him, and, still unassisted, so dragging him to the stake!* But, in remarking on the authors' flourishes of this class, we happened to hint that the national character of the Spaniards appeared to be considerably affected with the turn for pompous exaggeration in more ways than one; and a few words that dropt from us in relation to Spanish vanity in general, have, we perceive, kindled much wrath among certain Spanish writers now in this metropolis, who hold certainly a rank in letters very different from what any of the manufacturers of Don Esteban and Sandoval can ever hope to reach. We are sorry for this : the respectable among the Spanish exiles should consider that our observations cannot in any degree affect individuals. No Englishman ever feared to appear in any unfavourable light abroad in consequence of the descriptions of John Bull's character given by his own countrymen, and the figure which Englishmen and Englishwomen make in the French farces. Such general remarks, and even satires, on national failings, act, on the contrary, as foils, which enhance whatever merit exists in individuals, and turn the mere absence of the defects, which are expected as a matter of course, into personal excellencies. They operate, besides, as salutary warnings; and accordingly the exaggeration of these very authors has, in their new production, assumed at all events a more disguised, a less childish form, than it exhibited in the former one.t

The

guttural or a strong aspirute. Trusting, therefore, that any one acquainted with that fact could not misunderstand us, we called the g before u a guttural. The worthy Castilian took guttural for aspirate, and, like all persons of very limited knowledge, conceived it impossible that what he had always called by one name, could be more accurately expressed by another.

* To mend matters, the writer assures us in a note, that' this method of securing bulls is very common in Castile’!! Cacus was nothing to this breed of Herculeses.

+ We could not wish for a more explicit acknowledgment, and more striking proof of the national character which we described in the Article on Don Esteban, than the following passage of Sandoval, vol. iii. p. 94. It is precisely that cautiousness, bordering on indecision, of which I disapprove,' said Vidal. Tardiness, whether caused by distrust or circumspection, is the radical defect of our national character ; never do to-day what may be put off till to-morrow, is a proverb too frequently used, and the spirit of which, I fear, pervades the heart and soul of every Spaniard. This patlıy, this fatal recklessness, which has at all times impeded the success of our most

brilliant

The main spring of the plot in the historical novel now before us is a friar of the order of St. Dominic, enjoying absolute sway in a wealthy family, with whose only daughter and heiress Sandoval, the hero, is in love. The friar is not only an atheist, but a most systematic hypocrite, who acts the saint for the gratification of his own passions, and for the aggrandizement of a nephew, the most hideous wretch in body and mind of all that graceless brood who do not admire the Constitution of Cadiz. This Father Lobo, we are informed, is a kind of embodied representation of the royalist clergy, in other words, of more than nine tenths of the Spanish ecclesiastics both secular and regular. Let us hear what is said in the preface to Sandoval.

With respect to the conduct of that grave personage of his tale, the monk, the author can assure his readers, that it is a faithful copy, taken from certain great prelates, who are now at the head of the Spanish church. Every body in Spain, who takes the trouble of looking at things with his own eyes, sees that the generality of them are downright atheists. He believes in God!" said a certain bishop to a friend of the author, alluding contemptuously to another clergyman who passed for a man of talent and intrigue. * What great things can any one expect from him?" But is Father Martinez, bishop of Malaga, or Father Cirilo, general of the Franciscans, or Father Velez, general of the Capuchins, or any other of those who compose the Spanish hierarchy, a wbit better than the above-mentioned ecclesiastical sneerer at piety? The author could fill a folio volume with anecdotes of the impious deeds and blasphemies of these men.'

The names mentioned in the preceding extract are real; and the description contained in it of the Spanish clergy is given, as we have observed, in the preface of the work. We will not stop to comment on the spirit which such a paragraph betrays, or to ask what degree of fairness or accuracy it promises. We give it as a sample of the tenderness with which a Spanish patriot treats his country. As to ourselves, though firmly persuaded that the Spanish religious system, supported even in the Constitution of 1812 by the exclusion of all others, has a direct tendency to produce atheism-we feel bound solemnly to declare that we never met in that country—and we are now appealing to the experience of half a life-time--with an infidel who assumed the cloak of sanctity. Such persons generally submit with great reluctance to the necessity of conforming externally to rites and ceremonies which they cannot omit, much less oppose, without subjecting themselves to severe punishment. Of the speech which the author mentions on the authority of a friend, we take upon ourselves to believe that, if there be any truth at all in the story, the impious sentiment must have been expressed by one of the bishops attached to the author's party, and probably raised to the episcopal dignity through their influence. A servile bishop could not have been rash enough to commit himself so madly.

brilliant undertakings, and kept us dependent on the will of nations we despise, and always a century behind them in improvement, will render us slaves to the end of time.' What but the most outrageous vanity can combine the acknowledged backwardness of a century in improvement, with a feeling of contempt for those that have such a decided pre-eminence in civilization ?

cannot

Such is the representation of the Spanish clergy; the very clergy whom the mass of the Spanish people obey so blindly, according to these two novels, as to have enabled them to ruin the Constitutional system. What then can be the state of the flock which clings so pertinaciously to the sway of such pastors ? But the patriotic Don who talks of nations that the Spaniards despise' shall give us specimens. Father Lobo, wishing at first to secure the beautiful Gabriela for his nephew, (though he afterwards alters his scheme to that of prostituting her to the king of Spain, so manages the affairs of Sandoval, and the family of Lanza, that the hero has to fly his native town, and the young lady is forced to enter a convent.--We are neither making a regular abstract of the plot of the novel, nor wish to introduce any remarks on the absolute disregard to probability with which the whole story is conducted. Our object is the moral picture which results from it. But in alluding to the affair of the Nunnery we cannot help observing that in the same proportion as the language is more idiomatical and easy, betraying the hand of a practised English writer; in the same degree, that portion of the novel abounds in those little inaccuracies of costume and keeping, of which a Spaniard could not have been guilty. To omit those connected with manners and mere customs, the supposition that a woman could be made a nun when she was heard publicly saying that she took the veil against her will, is what could never have entered the thoughts of a Spaniard. Every one in Spain knows that the laws, both ecclesiastical and civil, make that impossible. The victims must be made to conceal their reluctance.-But to proceed: the rascal Artimana, the monk's nephew, is made Comisionado Regio, in consequence of his uncle's sending the portrait of Gabriela to one of the king's favourites, (the name of a real person

is mentioned); and the reverend author of this intrigue is supposed to avail himself of the influence of the confessional to engage Gabriela's mother in a journey to Madrid, from Logroño, her usual place of residence. Thus Father Lobo hoped to put the king in possession of the stipulated price of his nephew's promotion.

In this Artimaña the author intends to present the public with representative of these royal commissioners. We copy only a

small

put the

small portion of the scene at Artimana's office, with the voucher of its authenticity; and take leave to recommend it, notwithstanding its sickening details, as an important guide whereby to judge of the trust which may be reposed on the author of Don Esteban, when he describes the conduct of the Spanish royalists.

'The young man (a constitutionalist) obeyed, and Artimaña (the king's commissioner) drew from the table-drawer near bim a thumbscrew, of which there were several of different sizes, and into which he

young man's thumbs.* The savage complacency with which he screwed them up, showed that he was now in his element. At every turn of the screw the cracking of the bones became louder, and the blood gushed out of the tops of the thumbs in greater quantity; and as they splintered into pieces one after another, the very marrow flew from them, and besmeared the tormentor himself.'

* Note.—Rufino Gonsalez, whom Ferdinand nominated Minister of Police, after his return to Madrid from Cadiz, and whose barbarous decrees are the opprobrium of the age in which we live, was, at the epoch alluded to in the text, Comisionado Regio at Pamplona, and made use of the thumb-screws above described, as did also several of his colleagues in other cities. For this fact, many gentlemen at present in this country, among whom the author himself is one, can vouch, having been eye-witnesses of these barbarities.'

Nothing can equal the disgusting effect of this picture, except the absurd improbability of its details. The note appended to it, is evidently intended to make the public believe that the author and his friends were eye-witnesses of such a scene.

But he little suspects that there is a witness above all suspicion deposing against him and his friends: to wit, Nature herself, who has informed all anatomists but this Joint Stock Company that there is no marrow in the bones of the hand.-Let the readers of these works, whenever they are tempted to believe that Spain, since the Freemasons quitted her soil, is exclusively inhabited by fiends; let them, we request, remember the scene of the thumbscrew, with its terrific appendage-the stream of marrow.

Artimaña might be more cruel than the other supreme judges of Spain, but he could not be more venal than their body is represented, directly and by inference, both in Don Esteban, and Sandoval. We cannot crowd our pages with references; but we recollect part of the title of one of the chapters in the last mentioned work. It is: Method of arranging Affairs with Spanish Judges; and will, we think, be found in the third volume. Profligacy, and corruption, and want of common honesty are, indeed, so profusely and indiscriminately attributed to the inhabitants of Madrid in that volume, that Spain's worst enemies might make it their text-book. That unfortunately there is some truth in that picture, we lament not to be able to deny. What we detest is the

grossness of delineation, the coarse and vulgar taste with which the whole is executed, and, most of all, the monstrov

calumni

« PreviousContinue »