LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 30 May 1800

Vol. I Contents
Early Life: I
Early Life: II
Early Life: III
Early Life: IV
Early Life: V
Early Life: VI
Early Life: VII
Early Life: VIII
Early Life: IX
Early Life: X
Early Life: XI
Early Life: XII
Early Life: XIII
Early Life: XIV
Early Life: XV
Early Life: XVI
Early Life: XVII
Ch. I. 1791-93
Ch. II. 1794
Ch. III. 1794-95
Ch. IV. 1796
Ch. V. 1797
Vol. II Contents
Ch. VI. 1799-1800
Ch. VII. 1800-1801
Ch. VIII. 1801
Ch. IX. 1802-03
Ch. X. 1804
Ch. XI. 1804-1805
Vol. III Contents
Ch. XII. 1806
Ch. XIII. 1807
Ch. XIV. 1808
Ch. XV. 1809
Ch. XVI. 1810-1811
Ch. XVII. 1812
Vol. IV Contents
Ch. XVIII. 1813
Ch. XIX. 1814-1815
Ch. XX. 1815-1816
Ch. XXI. 1816
Ch. XXII. 1817
Ch. XXIII. 1818
Ch. XXIV. 1818-1819
Vol. IV Appendix
Vol. V Contents
Ch. XXV. 1820-1821
Ch. XXVI. 1821
Ch. XXVII. 1822-1823
Ch. XXVIII. 1824-1825
Ch. XXIX. 1825-1826
Ch. XXX. 1826-1827
Ch. XXXI. 1827-1828
Vol. V Appendix
Vol. VI Contents
Ch. XXXII. 1829
Ch. XXXIII. 1830
Ch. XXXIV. 1830-1831
Ch. XXXV. 1832-1834
Ch. XXXVI. 1834-1836
Ch. XXXVII. 1836-1837
Ch. XXXVIII. 1837-1843
Vol. VI Appendix
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“Lisbon, May 30. 1800.

“The country immediately adjoining Buenos Ayres, the hill on which we live, is very unpleasant; bare, burnt hills, bearing nothing but windmills. The Valley of Alcantara, over which the great aqueduct passes, is indeed very striking; it winds among these hills, and perhaps owes much of its beauty to the contrast, like the villages in the South Downs, and that beautiful valley on the left of the road from Salisbury to Deptford. In rich countries they would not be noticed, but here they are like water in the deserts. The whole road to Cintra is thus ugly and uninteresting. The road paved all the way—a very Devil’s bowling-alley—you can imagine no scenery more wearying; but eastward of Lisbon it is totally different; there all is rich and beautiful—exquisitely beautiful, now that the green corn and the vineyards give it all the fresh verdure of an English landscape. Yesterday evening I took a long ride there with my uncle about the Valley of Chellas, the gardens of which delightful spot chiefly supply Lisbon. The place is intersected by a thousand bye-lanes, unenterable by carriage, and as intricate as one of the last propositions in Euclid, all angles and
curves. In this scenery there is scarcely an English feature. Orange trees in the gardens, and vine-covered trellis-walks; olive trees growing in the corn-fields, and now in full blossom: the blossom is somewhat like the old-man’s-beard of our hedges, not so striking at a distance as when looked into, but it gives a greyness to the tree, a sober blossom, in character with the dusty foliage: fig trees, their broad leaves so green and rich, and a few broad-headed pine trees here and there, and cherries, apricots, &c., in the gardens, varying the verdure. In the gardens is usually a water-wheel, and the garden is veined with little aqueducts; these wheels creak eternally, and such is the force of association that the Portuguese reckon this creaking among the delights of the country: they think of water, and the garden revived by it.

“The country looks covered with wood; not, indeed, of forest size, but large enough for beauty, and all useful. The fences are either walls,—and the walls are soon covered with luxuriant vegetation in this country,—or aloe-guarded banks; and the aloe is magnificent: the stem of the blossom looks almost like a piece of timber: and the fennel grows finely as a weed; you know its handsome leaf, fine as vegetable threads, or like hair fine and curled, its blossom growing tall, a fine yellow flower, distinguishable at a considerable distance from its size: and the acanthus, the plant that gave a man of genius the idea of the Corinthian capital, which he in consequence invented:—blend these with wild roses and woodbines, more profusely beautiful than I ever saw them elsewhere, and you have the idea of these bank-
fences. Our way was up and down steep hills, whence we looked over the valleys, its scattered houses, and here and there a convent, always a beautiful object, and sometimes the river, and its far shore like a low cloud. It was dusk before we returned, and the fire-flies were awake, flashing about the banks, and then putting out their candles, and again in light, like fairy fireworks. My
uncle, when first in this country, had lost himself in a lane at Cintra; it was evening; he had heard nothing of these fireflies, and some hundreds rose at once before him: he says he thought there was a volcano beginning under his feet.

“The warm weather is come; we shut our windows to exclude the heated air, and our shutters to darken the room: if half the money expended upon the souls in purgatory were employed in watering the street, we should be relieved from the torment of burning. Yet is the heat more endurable than the intense light; this is insufferably painful: the houses are white, the stones in the street white, the very dust bleached, and all reflect back upon us the scorching sun: the light is like the quivering of a furnace fire; it dazzles and makes the eyes ache, and blindness is very common. At evening the sea breeze rises, a sudden change! tremendous for an invalid, but it purifies the town, and then, owl-like, we come out of our nests. At Cintra we shall be cool; we wait only for the processions of the Body of God, and St. Anthony, the 12th and 13th of June, and the Heart of Jesus on the 28th, and the first bull-fight, which will be about that time.

“The butchers annually pay a certain sum to
government, like tax or turnpike-men in England. Veal is prohibited; there are, however, smugglers who carry on a contraband trade in veal, and better mutton than is to be procured in the legal way: one of these was taken up near our door a few days since; a public calamity, I assure you. The Portuguese servants do not like mutton, and they mutinied in an English family the other day on this account. A tax of one real per pound on all meat sold in Lisbon raises the fund for the aqueduct; a light tax (about the fifth of a halfpenny) for so great a benefit. The water is indeed purchased from the Gallegos, who are water-carriers by trade, but you may send to the fountains if you please; and the Great Aqueduct is known by a name expressive of this,—they call it the free waters. The number of Gallegos employed here is disgraceful both to Spain and Portugal: to their own country, that these industrious people cannot find employment at home; to this, that the Portuguese are lazy enough to let foreigners do their work, who annually drain Lisbon of its specie.

“The mules and goats have a most ugly cup-shaped bell, from six to twelve inches long, hanging from their neck, with a clapper as rude as the rude cup in which it clinks. Manuel is at war with my uncle’s mule, and, like worse people than himself, adopts the system of coercion, when conciliation has been advised, and the effects of force experienced. ‘You should coax the mule,’ said my uncle, ‘and never go near her without carrying her something in your hand.’ ‘No, senhor,’ said Mambrino, ‘that is the way with horned cattle, I know, but not with beasts like mules and
horses; nothing but beating will do.’ One day there was a hallaballoo (I never saw that word in a dictionary, so pardon the spelling if it be wrong) in the stables, which alarmed my uncle; out he went and there was Manuel, discomfited by the mule, and crawled up under the manger in bodily fear.

Friday, June 6th.

“Your letter has just reached me; a welcome visitant. Here a letter is of ten-fold more value than in England: our friends are, perhaps, like our daily comforts,—their value hardly understood till we are deprived of them. I go on comfortably. The weather makes me lazy, and yet I have read enormously, and digested much. Laziness is the influenza of the country. The stone-cutter will lay his head upon the stone at which he has worked, and deep, though it be hot enough to broil a beaf-steak. The very dogs are lazy: it was but yesterday I saw a great son of a bitch (literally) let a mule step upon him, from sheer laziness; and then he rose, howling, and walked away. The fellows lie sleeping every where in the streets; they seem to possess the power of sleeping when they will. Everlasting noise is another characteristic of Lisbon. Their noonday fireworks, their cannonading on every fool’s pretext, their bells to every goat in a flock and every mule in a drove, prove this; above all, their everlasting bell-ding-donging,—for bell-ringing would convey the English idea of music, and here it is only noise. A merchant, not far from my uncle’s, has a private chapel, from whence his bells annoy the whole neighbourhood. The English Hotel, till lately, was near
him, and the invalids were disturbed, and of course injured, by the noise: they sent to state this, and request that he would have the goodness to dispense with the bell-ringing; he returned for answer, that the Prince had given him leave to have a private chapel, and his bells should ring in spite of any body! I would have this fellow hung up by the heels, as a clapper to Great Tom of Lincoln, and punish him in kind.

“We often heard a noise below which puzzled us; it was like damping linen, but so often, that all the linen in Lisbon could not have supplied the sound. At last, when Maria was cleaning the adjoining room, we heard it; she was laying the dust, and in the same way as she damps the clothes in ironing,—by taking a great mouthful of water and then spirting it out: this is the Portuguese way, and the mouth makes a very good watering-pot.

“I have heard a good anecdote to illustrate the personal insecurity in this kingdom. Did you ever see old H——? He was a Porto merchant, and had a quarrel with a Portuguese, in consequence of which he and his antagonist always went out with guns, each watching for the first shot; but the Portuguese used to attack his house at night, and fire through the windows at him, till Mrs. H——, who did not like this chance-shooting, prevailed on her husband to quit the kingdom. The gallows here has a stationary ladder; and God knows, if the hangman did all that was necessary, he would have a hard place.

“My uncle has purchased charts of all the coasts and ports of Spain and its islands, with the intention of giving them to you. Should you ever get on this
station, they will be eminently useful.
Lord St. Vincent has a copy, but the copies are so rare and so expensive that there can be very few in the navy.

“God bless you! Edith’s love.

Yours affectionately,
Robert Southey.”