LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 6 October 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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“October 6. 1800.

“You saw Mafra from the sea, a magnificent object, but, like every thing in Portugal, it looks best at a distance; its history you know from the last letter in my first edition.* . . . . We yesterday went there from Cintra, a distance of three leagues (twelve miles). A quinta of the Marquis Pombal, on the way, forms a pleasing object from the olives which are planted to screen the vines; the grey foliage and the lively sunshine, as it were, of the vines contrasting very well. The quarries are near where the first stone is dug for the Lisbon buildings; two columns are now lying by the road, which in the great Pombal’s time were hewn for the Square of Lisbon, each of a single stone—a foolish waste of labour, only becoming barbarian pride; for

* Letters from Spain and Portugal.

columns whose parts are put together upon the spot look as well, and are in reality as firm: there they lie, like the square itself, and the half-finished streets, monuments to the memory of Pombal.

“Two leagues on the way lies a place called Cheleinas; it may contain fifty scattered houses, I assuredly speak on the outside of its number, but the place is a town, and its inhabitants strangely jealous of its title. Some lads, lately passing through, inquired the name of the village; the man replied, angrily, it was a town; and as they, not believing it, laughed at him, he raised an uproar, and they were actually in danger of being stoned by the offended townsmen. A bridge has been lately built here over a valley, and a great work it is; it happens to be in the Prince’s road from Queluz to Mafra, and on that account this improvement has been made. The valley, in which Cheleinas stands, would not be noticed for beauty in a cultivated country, but here it appears beautiful from the contrast of vine and olive yards with naked and sun-burnt hills: the people are in fault, not the climate; trees will grow wherever they will plant them, but planting indicates foresight, and Portuguese never think of the future. A stream runs through it, which in the rainy season must be wide and rapid; this sweeps down the soil from the mountains, and fertilizes the bottom. A circuitous road round the hill-top, to avoid a steep descent, leads to Mafra; there is a bye-path, nearer by two miles, which I advise none but a pedestrian to take. Mafra itself is a small place, the estalagem rather better than usual, and not worse than a dirty English alehouse.
Ætat. 26. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 113
Saturday had been the day of
St. Francisco, a holyday in all Franciscan communities, more especially there because the Prince conceives himself under great obligations to St. Francisco, and regularly attends his festival at Mafra. Of course the country was assembled there, food and fruit exposed for sale in the Plaza, and all the women equipped in all their finery. We went to mass; the Prince followed the Host as it was carried round the church: in the evening there was a procession, and the Prince paraded with it; and thus the Regent of Portugal passes his time, dangling after saints, and assisting at puppet-shows, and no doubt he lay down last night thoroughly satisfied that he had done his duty.

“The church and convent and palace are one vast building, whose front exhibits a strange and truly Portuguese mixture of magnificence and meanness; in fact it has never been faced with stone, a mud plaster is in its place; the windows are not half glazed, red boards filling up the workhouse-looking casements. The church is beautiful; the library the finest book-room I ever saw, and well stored. The friar who accompanied us said ‘it would be an excellent room to eat and drink in, and go to play afterwards;’ and ‘if we liked better to play in the dark, we might shut the windows!’ He heard the servant remark to me that there were books enough for me to read there, and asked if I loved reading. ‘And I,’ said he, ‘love eating and drinking.’ Honest Franciscan! He told us, also, that the dress of their order was a barbarous dress, and that dress did not change the feelings. I suspect this man wishes he had professed in France.
A Portuguese of some family was a nun in France: after the dissolution of the monasteries, her brother immediately engaged with a Portuguese abbess to receive her, and wrote in all haste for the distressed nun; she wrote, in answer, that she was much obliged to him, but she was married.

“‘You have a superb convent here,’ said I. ‘Yes,’ said the monk, ‘but it is a wretched place in winter, we suffer so from the cold; the rheumatism kills many; we have no fire in our cells, only in the kitchen.’ Such is Mafra: a library, whose books are never used; a palace, with a mud-wall front; and a royal convent, inhabited by monks who loathe their situation. The monks often desert; in that case they are hunted like deserters, and punished, if caught, with confinement and flogging. They take the vows young—at fourteen: those who are most stupidly devout may be satisfied with their life; those who are most abandoned in all vice may do well also; but a man with any feeling, any conscience, any brains, must be miserable. The old men, whose necks are broken to their yoke, whose feelings are all blunted, and who are, by their rank or age, exempt from some services, and indulged with some privileges,—these men are happy enough. A literary man would be well off, only that literature would open his eyes.

“The library was not originally a part of the foundation: the Franciscan order excluded all art, all science; no pictures might profane their churches; but when Pombal turned them out of this palace, he removed to it the regular canons of St. Vincent, an order well born and well educated, wealthy
Ætat. 26. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 115
enough to support themselves, and learned enough to instruct others. His design was to make Mafra a sort of college for the education of the young Portuguese; the library was formed with this intention: in what manner this plan was subverted by the present Prince, you may see in the old ‘
Letters;’ incredibly absurd as the story may appear, it is nevertheless strictly true.

“The Franciscan is by far the most numerous monastic family. A convent that subsists upon its revenues must necessarily be limited in its numbers, but every consecrated beggar gets more than enough for his own support; so the more the merrier. . . . . God bless you! I conclude in haste.

Yours affectionately,
R. Southey.”