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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 whit 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
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?
canno* 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.
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. Everyone 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 Logrono, 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 Artimana the author intends to present the public with representative of these royal commissioners. We copy only a
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 Arlimana (the king's commissioner) drew from the table-drawer near him a thumbscrew, of which there were several of different sizes, and into which he put the 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.—Riilhio 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 Jive, 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.
Artimuna 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 monstrou
calumnies which the author employs for the sake, as he conceives, of effect. Though the Inquisition, for instance, deserves no mercy, as an establishment, the inquisitors should not be put out of the pale of humanity, especially in our times, when it is well known that they never used wanton cruelty. To assert in a book solemnly introduced as a faithful narrative of facts, that the author saw the prisoners ' knocked down' by the members of the holy tribunal, and that his own food was mixed ' with drugs,' would deserve the most indignant reproof, if it were not evident that these are mere shifts of distressed invention; the grimace and distortion of a common mind, feverish and distracted, in the search of something that may petrify the reader.*
As Sandoval is evidently written with a political design, everything that malice can devise has been vented in it against the king of Spain. We will not undertake to defend the conduct of Ferdinand's government towards the supporters of the constitution of Cadiz as a party. We are fully persuaded that it would have been greatly in favour of the crown, and much to the credit of the person who holds it, if the solemn promises which were made to the Constitutionalists at Cadiz, before the king was set at liberty to join the army of the Duke d'Angouleme, had been religiously kept. In obliging the whole party of Constitutionalists to fly to this and other countries, Ferdinand has lost to himself and to Spain some men whose presence must have been of great advantage to both. The number of such men is not great; but their being involved in the fate of the other exiles gives weight and respectability to a party that would enjoy very little of either without them. But it has been the misfortune of Spain that the contending parties, since the invasion of Napoleon, have acted in regard to each other with the most bitter rancour. The desperate state of the country induced some of the most enlightened and honest men to join the government of Joseph; that since, as they thought, they could not prevent his usurpation, they might turn it, by their efforts, to the benefit and improvement of their nation. Some of these men were so conscious of the purity of their intentions, that they would not fly when the French armies were forced to quit Spain. The treatment which they met with was horrible; and their friends, who had taken refuge in France, soon learnt to give up all hopes of mercy from the constitutional government. A similar conduct has been observed by Ferdinand in regard to the friends of the Cortes. Among the supporters of a limited monarchy are men of the brightest talents and honesty; men, whose detestation of the principles which have ruined their cause—if the madness of the Exdl- tados can by any liberty of language be called principle—whose conviction of the fatal results of the secret associations, defended and painted en beau in Sandoval, were and are as strong as those of the staunchest Royalists. A general amnesty in both cases would have preserved those two masses of talent, now improved by experience, to a country, which, though possessed of the most active and abundant intellect, suffers under a lamentable dearth of practical judgment in political matters. Numbers of more or less worthless individuals would, indeed, in both cases have remained in the country; but a little watchfulness, and the moral strength which the government must have gained by the liberality of such measures, would have more than overbalanced the danger consequent on their presence. But envy, jealousy, and ignorance, and the shortsightedness of passion, acted with their usual violence. A considerable proportion of the most honourable, learned and intelligent Spaniards are wandering in poverty and bereavement from all they love. These would have supported the throne with their heart and soul, if the throne had not been identified with despotism. These would have remained quiet in the country even under a despotic government, when they saw the hopelessness of establishing a more moderate constitution. But they are persecuted with no less violence than those who openly called for the death of the king and the establishment of a federative republic. What are the consequences? one is that such works as Don Esteban and Sandoval are published as expressing the sense of the whole body of Spanish exiles; thus adding fuel to the already violent flame of political hatred which devours the unfortunate Spanish nation, and affording the absolute government the most feasible pretexts for its continued violence against the Liberates. We do not intend to indulge in declamation when we say that these pernicious works present a very plausible apology for the past conduct of Ferdinand VII. towards the Constitutionalists; and that if they have any effect at all in Spain, it must be that of precluding for a long time the chance of any relaxation in the royal system of action in relation to that party.
* The book, we must say, is conceived in a thoroughly bad spirit. The night-scene at the inn of Logrono cannot be read to a modest female, and the description of the dance of prostitutes and cut-throats, at the Lavapies, (it should be Avapies,) is gross and disgusting in the extreme. We need make no comment on the statement of' a Spaniard,' that the Ladies of Madrid are in the habit of intriguing with the ruffians of its St. Giles's!
The picture of the King personally, which these two works exhibit without the least disguise to the English public, is so evidently dictated by a rancorous hatred, that it cannot but become suspicious to every candid reader. That the education which Ferdinand received in the profligate court of his mother, mu *