Imágenes de páginas

their hand, which is the privilege of priests, but the end of their right sleeve, to be kissed by the pious. To what influence these miserable beings are sometimes raised, may be learned from a few particulars of the life of Hermanito Sebastian (Little brother Sebastian) the last but one of the Franciscan collectors in this town.

During the last years of Philip V. Brother Sebastian was presented to the Infantes, the king's sons, that he might confer a blessing upon them. The courtiers present, observing that he took most notice of the king's third son, Don Carlos, observed to him that his respects were chiefly due to the eldest, who was to be king. “Nay, nay, (it is reported he answered, pointing to his favourite) this shall be king too.” Some time after this interview Don Carlos was, by the arrangements which put an end to the Succession War, made Sovereign Prince of Parma. Conquest subsequently raised him to the throne of Naples; and, lastly, the failure of direct heirs to his brother Ferdinand VI. put him in possession of the crown of Spain. His first and unexpected promotion to the sovereignty of Parma had strongly impressed Don Carlos with the idea of Sebastian's knowledge of futurity. But when, after the death of the prophet, he found himself on the throne of Spain, he thought himself bound in honour and duty to obtain from the Pope the Beatification, or Apotheosis, of Little Sebastian. The Church of Rome, however, knowing the advantages of strict adherence to rules and forms, especially when a king stands forward to pay the large fees incident to such trials, kept on at a pace, compared to which your Court of Chancery would seem to move with the velocity of a meteor. But when the day arrived for the exhibition, before the Holy Congregation of Cardinals, of all papers whatever which might exist in the hand-writing of the candidate for saintship, and it was found necessary to lay before their Eminences an original letter, which the King carried about his person as an amulet, good Carlos found himself in a most perplexing dilemma. Distracted between his duty to his ghostly friend, and his fears of some personal misfortune during the absence of the letter, he exerted the whole influence of his crown through the Spanish ambassador at Rome, that the trial might proceed upon the inspection of an authentic copy of the precious letter. The Pope, however, was inexorable, and nothing could be done without the autograph. The king's ministers at home, on the other hand, finding him restless, and scarcely able to enjoy the daily amusement of the chase, succeeded, at length, in bringing about a plan for the exhibition of the letter, which, though attended with an inevitable degree of anxiety and pain to his Majesty, was nevertheless the most likely to spare his feelings. The most active and trusty of the Spanish messengers was chosen to convey the invaluable epistle to Rome, and his speed was secured by the promise of a large reward. Orders were then sent to the ambassador to have the Holy Congregation assembled on the inorning when the messenger had engaged to arrive at the Vatican. By this skilful and deep-laid plan of operations the letter was not detained more than half an hour at Rome; and another courier returned it with equal speed to Spain. From the moment when the King tore himself from the sacred paper, till it was restored to his hands, he did not venture once out of the palace. I have given these particulars on the authority of a man no less known in Spain for the high station he has filled, than for his public virtues and talents. He has been minister of state to the present King Charles IV., and is intimately acquainted with the secret history of the preceding reign.*

Great remnants of self-tormenting fanaticism are still found among the Carthusians. Of this Order we have two monasteries in Andalusia, one on the banks of the Guadalquivir, within two miles of our gates, and another at Xerés, or Sherry, as that town was formerly called in England, a name which its wines still bear. These monasteries are rich in land and endowments, and consequently afford the monks every comfort, which is consistent with their rule. But all the wealth in the universe could not give those wretched slaves of superstition a single moment of enjoyment. The unhappy man who binds himself with the Carthusian vows, may consider the precincts of the cell allotted him as his tomb. The monks spend daily eight or nine hours in the chapel, without any music to relieve the monotony of the service. At midnight they are roused from their beds, to which they retire at sunset, and they chaunt matins till four in the morning. Two hours' rest are allowed them between that service and morning prayers. Mass follows, with a short interruption, and great part of the afternoon is allotted to vespers. No communication is permitted between the monks, except two days in the week, when they assemble during an hour for conversation. Confined to their cells when not attending church-service, even their food is left them in a wheel-box, such as are used in the nunneries,t from which they take it when hungry, and eat it in perfect solitude. A few books and a small garden, in which they rear a profusion of flowers, are the only resources of these unfortunate beings. To these privations they add an absolute abstinence from flesh, which they vow not to taste even at the risk of their lives.

I have on different occasions spent a day with some friends at the Hospederia, or Strangers' Lodge, at the Carthusians of Seville, where it is the duty of the steward, the only monk who is allowed to mix in society, to entertain any male visiters who, with a proper introduction, repair to the monastery. The steward I knew before my visit to England, had been a merchant. After several voyages to Spanish America, he had retired from the world, which, it was evident in some unguarded moments, he had known and loved too well to have entirely forgotten it. His frequent visits to the town, ostensibly upon business, were not entirely free from suspicion among the idle and inquisitive; and I have some reason to believe that these rumours were found too well grounded by his superiors. He was deprived of the stewardship, and disappeared for ever from the haunts of men.

The austerity of the Carthusian rule of life would cast but a tran sient gloom on the mind of an enlightened observer, if he could be sure that the misery he beheld was voluntary, that hope kept a crown of glory before the eyes of every wretched prisoner, and that no unwilling victim of a temporary illusion was pining for light and liberty under the tombstone sealed over him by religious tyranny. But neither the view of the monks fixed as statues in the stalls of their gloomy church, nor those that are seen in the darkest recesses of the cloisters, prostrate on the marble pavement, where, wrapt up in their large white mantles, they spend many an hour in meditation, nor the bent, gliding figures which wander among the earthy mounds under the orangetrees of the cemetery—that least melancholy spot within the walls of the monastery—nothing, I say, did ever so harrow my feelings in that mansion of sorrow as the accidental meeting of a repining prisoner. This was a young monk, who, to my great surprise, addressed me as I was looking at the pictures in one of the cloisters of the Carthusians near Seville, and very politely offered to show me his cell. He was perfectly unknown to me, and I have every reason to believe that I was equally so to bim. Having admired his collection of flowers, we entered into a literary conversation, and he asked me whether I was fond of French literature. Upon my showing some acquaintance with the writers of that nation, and expressing a mixed feeling of surprise and interest at hearing a Carthusian venturing upon that topic, the poor young man was so thrown off his guard, that, leading me to a bookcase, he put into my hands a volume of Voltaire's Pièces Fugitives, which he spoke of with rapture. I believe I saw a volume of Rousseau's works in the collection ; yet I suspect that this unfortunate man's select library consisted of amatory, rather than philosophical works. The monk's name is unknown to me, though I learned from him the place of his birth, and many years have elapsed since this strange meeting, which, from its insulation amidst the events and impressions of my life, I compare to an interview with an inhabitant of the invisible world. But I shall never forget the thrilling horror I felt, when the abyss of misery where that wretched being was plunged broke suddenly upon my mind. I was young, and had, till that moment, mistaken the nature of enthusiasm. Fed as I saw it in a Carthusian convent, I firmly believed it could not be extinguished but with life. This ocular evidence against my former belief was so painful, that I hastened my departure, leaving the devoted victim to his solitude, there to await the odious sound of the bell which was to disturb his sleep, if the subsequent horror of having committed himself with a stranger allowed him that night to close his eyes.

* Jovellanos.

See Letter VIII.

Though the number of Hermits is not considerable in Spain, we are not without some establishments on the plan of the Lauras described by Gibbon.* The principal of these solitudes is Monserrat in Catalonia, an account of which you will find in most books of travels. My own observation on this point does not, however, extend beyond the hermitages of Cordoba, which, I believe, rank next to the above-mentioned.

The branch of Sierra Morena, which to the north of Cordoba separates Andalusia from La Mancha, rises abruptly within six miles of that city. On the first ascent of the hills the country becomes exceed ingly beautiful. The small rivulets which freshen the valleys, aided by the powerful influence of a southern atmosphere, transform these spots, during April and May, into the most splendid gardens. Roses and lilies, of the largest cultivated kinds, have sown themselves in the greatest profusion upon every space left vacant by the mountain-herbs and shrubs, which form wild and romantic hedges to these native flower-knots. But as you approach the mountain-tops

. Chapter xxxvii.
t.... Aut mixta rubent ubi lilia multa
Alba rosa.

Æn. xii. 68,

to the right and left, the rock begins to appear, and the scanty soil, scorched and pulverized by the sun, becomes unfit for vegetation. Here stands a barren hill of difficult approach on all sides, and precipitous towards the plain; its rounded bead inclosed within a rude stone parapet breast high, a small church rising in the centre, and about twenty brick tenements irregularly scattered about it. The dimensions of these huts allow just sufficient room for a few boards raised about a foot from the ground, which, covered with a mat, serve for a bed, a trivet to sit upon, and a diminutive deal table supporting a crucifix, a human skull, and one or two books of devotion. The door is so low that it cannot be passed without stooping; and the whole habitation is ingeniously contrived to exclude every comfort. As visiting and talking together is forbidden to the hermits, and the cells are at some distance from one another, a small bell is hung over the door of each to call for assistance in case of sickness or danger. The hermits meet at chapel every morning to hear mass and receive the sacrament from the hands of a secular priest, for none of them are admitted to orders. After chapel they retire to their cells, where they pass their time in reading, meditation, plaiting mats, making little crosses of Spanish broom, which people carry about them as a preservative from erisypelas, and manufacturing instruments of penance, such as scourges and a sort of wire bracelets bristled inside with points, called Cilicios, which are worn next the skin by the ultra-pious among the Catholics. Food, consisting of pulse and herbs, is distributed once a day to the hermits, leaving them to use it when they please. These devotees are usually peasants, who, seized with religious terrors, are driven to this strange method of escaping eternal misery in the next world. But the hardships of their new profession are generally less severe than those to which they were subject by their lot in life; and they find ample amends for their loss of liberty in the certainty of food and clothing without labour, no less than in the secret pride of superior sanctity, and the consequent respect of the people.

Thus far these hermitages excite more disgust than compassion. But when, distracted by superstition, men of a higher order and more delicate feelings fly to these solitudes as to a hiding-place from mental terrors, the consequences are often truly melancholy. Among the hermits of Cordoba, I found a gentleman who, three years before, had given up his commission in the army, where he was a colonel of artillery, and, what is perhaps more painful to a Spaniard, his cross of one of the ancient orders of knighthood. He joined our party, and showed more pleasure in conversation than is consistent with that high fever of enthusiasm, without which' his present state of life must have been worse than death itself. We stood upon the brow of the rock, having at our feet the extensive plains of Lower Andalusia, watered by the Guadalquivir, the ancient city of Cordoba with its magnificent cathedral in front, and the mountains of Jaén sweeping majestically to the left. The view was to me, then a very young man, truly grand and imposing; and I could not help congratulating the hermit on the enjoyment of a scene which so powerfully affected the mind, and wrapt it up in contemplation. “Alas! (he answered with an air of dejection) I have seen it every day these three years !" As hermits are not bound to their profession by irrevocable vows, perhaps this unfortunate man has, after a long and painful struggle, returned to the habitations of men, to hide his face in some obscure corner, bearing the reproach of apostacy and backsliding from the bigoted, and the sneer of ridicule from the thoughtless, his prospects blasted for ever in this world, and darkened by fear and remorse as to the next. Wo to the man or woman who publicly engages his services to religion, under the impression that they shall be allowed to withdraw them upon a change of views, or an abatement of fervour. The very few establishments of this kind, where solemn vows do not banish the hopes of liberty for ever, are full of captives, who would fain burst the invisible chains that bind them, and cannot. The church and her leaders are extremely jealous of such defections: and as few or none dare raise the veil of the sanctuary, redress is nearly impossible for such as trust themselves within it. But of this more in my next.

L. D.

PHYSIOGNOMY AND CRANIOLOGY. “Physiognomy unites hearts: it alone forms intimate and lasting connexions; and friendship, that heavenly sentiment, has no foundation more solid.” LAVATER.

CREDULITY, if it be of good faith and in no wise affected, is a very taking disorder. The bonhommie by which a man imposes on himself, wears such an aspect of sincerity, that it is more painful to misbelieve than to be deceived. The great influence that Lavater exercises over his readers must be owing chiefly to this. The very mention of his name excites a laugh from those who have never read and from those who have forgotten him; but none can resist persuasion at the time of perusal. For the old it is a fascinating book, for the young a dangerous one; it is written with all the simplicity of a child, and contains pretty pictures into the bargain. Therefore it is advisable to keep it out of the way of little folk, unless parents would have them (and I have seen such) most unaccountably curious about the eyes, ears, moutlıs, and noses of every stranger that enters the room.

Those short-cuts to a knowledge of mankind are very tempting : there can be no mode imagined for ascertaining characters in this physical way, that will not attract attention and become more or less popular for a time. But it is much to be feared, or rather indeed much to be hoped, that none of them will succeed. It would be inconvenient even for the best of us to be rendered legible in this summary manner, to be compelled

“To wear our hearts upon our sleeves

For daws to peck at," and to have an impertinent eye discover in the curl of one's nose some villanous propensity, that we ourselves had been unable to discover at the bottom of our hearts. The consequence of such a gift of universal penetration would be, that the world would go masked : " the human face divine” would be no more visible, but would remain ensconced behind some screen capable of defying the infernal brood of physiognomists and craniologists for ever. In short, we should carry our heads cased in steel, in brass, or some such thing, and, instead of calling for soap to wash one's face of a morning, it is the blacksmith we shoulu

Vol. III, No. 14.-1822.

« AnteriorContinuar »