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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 7 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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“Cintra, Oct 7. 1800.
“My dear Tom,

“. . . . . You have probably heard enough of the infection at Cadiz to be anxious for information. Our accounts agree in nothing but in the extent of the calamity: one day we are assured it is the black vomit, another day the yellow fever, and now it is ripened into the plague. This only is certain, that for the last ten or twelve days of our accounts, from 240 to 260 persons have died daily in Cadiz. Whether it has extended beyond that city is also uncertain; some reports say that it has spread to the
south—to Malaga and Alicant; others bring it to the frontier town, within 200 miles of us. We all think and talk seriously of our danger, and forget it the moment the conversation is changed. Whenever it actually enters Portugal we shall probably fly to England. I hope the rains, which we may soon expect, will stop the contagion.

“So much have I to tell you, that it actually puzzles me where to begin. My Cintra memorandums must be made; and more than once have I delayed the task of describing this place from a feeling of its difficulty. There is no scenery in England which can help me to give you an idea of this. The town is small, like all country towns of Portugal, containing the Plaza or square, and a number of narrow crooked streets that wind down the hill: the palace is old—remarkably irregular—a large, rambling, shapeless pile, not unlike the prints I have seen in old romances of a castle,—a place whose infinite corners overlook the sea; two white towers, like glass houses exactly, form a prominent feature in the distance, and with a square tower mark it for an old and public edifice. From the Valley the town appears to stand very high, and the ways up are long, and winding, and weary; but the town itself is far below the summit of the mountain. You have seen the Rock of Lisbon from the sea,—that rock is the Sierra or mountain of Cintra: above, it is broken into a number of pyramidal summits of rock piled upon rook; two of them are wooded completely, the rest bare. Upon one stands the Penha convent,—a place where, if the Chapel of Loretto had stood,
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one might have half credited the lying legend, that the angels or the devil had dropped it there—so unascendable the height appears on which it stands, yet is the way up easy. On another point the ruins of a Moorish castle crest the hills. To look down from hence upon the palace and town my head grew giddy, yet is it farther from the town to the valley than from the summit to the town. The road is like a terrace, now with the open heath on the left, all purple with heath flowers, and here and there the stony summits and coombs winding to the vale, luxuriantly wooded, chiefly with cork trees; descending as you advance towards Colares, the summits are covered with firs, and the valley appears in all the richness of a fertile soil under this blessed climate.

“The cork is perhaps the most beautiful of trees: its leaves are small, and have the dusky colour of evergreens, but its boughs branch out in the fantastic twistings of the oak, and its bark is of all others the most picturesque;—you have seen deal curl under the carpenter’s plane—it grows in such curls,—the wrinkles are of course deep, one might fancy the cavities the cells of hermit fairies. There is one tree in particular here which a painter might well come from England to see, large and old; its trunk and branches are covered with fern—the yellow sunburnt fern—forming so sunny a contrast to the dark foliage!—a wild vine winds up and hangs in festoons from the boughs, its leaves of a bright green, like youth,—and now the purple clusters are ripe. These vines form a delightful feature in the scenery; the vineyard is cheerful to the eyes, but it is the wild
vine that I love,—matting over the hedges, or climbing the cork or the tall poplar, or twisting over the grey olive in all its unpruned wantonness. The chestnut also is beautiful; its blossoms shoot out in rays like stars, and now its hedge-hog fruit stars the dark leaves. We have yet another tree of exquisite effect in the landscape—the fir;—not such as you have seen, but one that shoots out no branches, grows very high, and then spreads broad in a mushroom shape exactly—the bottom of its head of the brown and withered colour that the yew and the fir always have, and the surface of the brightest green. If a mushroom serves as the Pantheon Dome for a faery hall—you might conceive a giant picking one of these pines for a parasol—they have somewhat the appearance in distance that the palm and cocoa has in a print.

“The English are numerous here, enough to render it a tolerable market, for sellers will not be wanting where purchasers are to be found; yet, last year, the magistrate of the place was idiot enough to order that no Englishman should be served, till all the Portuguese were satisfied,—one of those laws which carries its antidote in its own absurdity. Among this people the English are in high favour; they are liberal, or if you will, extravagant, and submit to imposition; now a Portuguese fights hard for a farthing,—servants love to be in an English family. If a Portuguese mistress goes out she locks up her maids for fear of the men; the relations of the servants often insist that this shall be done. Oftentimes the men and women of a family do not know each other.
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All kitchen work is done by men, who sleep and live below; the females are kept above, a precious symptom of national morals! calculated to extend the evil it is designed to prevent;—but I wander from Cintra. The fire flies were abundant when we first came here; it was like faery land to see them sparkling under the trees at night; the glow-worms were also numerous,—their light went out at the end of July; but we have an insect which almost supplies their places,—a winged grasshopper, in shape like our own; in colour a grey ground hue, undistinguishable from the soil on which they live, till they leap up, and their expanded wings then appear like a purple: we hear at evening the grillo—it is called the cricket, because its song is like that animal, but louder; it is, however, wholly different,—shaped like a beetle, with wings like a bee, and black:—they sell them in cages at Lisbon by way of singing birds.

“We ride asses about the country: you would laugh to see a party thus mounted; and yet soon learn to like the easy pace and sure step of the John burros. At the south-western extremity of the rock is a singular building which we have twice visited,—a chapel to the Virgin (who is omnipresent in Portugal), on one of the stony summits, far from any house: it is the strangest mixture you can imagine of art and nature; you scarcely, on approaching, know what is rock and what is building, and from the shape and position of the chapel itself, it looks like the ark left by the waters upon Mount Ararat. Long flights of steps lead up, and among the rocks
are many rooms, designed to house the pilgrims who frequent the place. A poor family live below with the keys. From this spot the coast lies like a map below you to Cape Espichel with the Tagus. ’Tis a strange place, that catches every cloud, and I have felt a tempest there when there has been no wind below. In case of plague it would be an excellent asylum. At the north-western extremity is a rock which we have not yet visited, where people go to see fishermen run the risk of breaking their necks, by walking down a precipice. I have said nothing to you of the wild flowers, so many and so beautiful; purple crocusses now cover the ground; nor of the flocks of goats that morning and evening pass our door; nor of the lemon venders,—of these hereafter.

“Our Lady of the Incarnation will about fill the sheet. Every church has a fraternity attached to its patron saint; for the anniversary festival they beg money, what is deficient the chief of the brotherhood supplies; for there are four days preceding the holiday; thus people parade the country with the church banner, taking a longer or a shorter circuit according to the celebrity of the saint, attacking the sun with sky-rockets, and merry making all the way. Those of whom I now speak travelled for five days. I saw them return;—they had among them four angels on horseback, who, as they took leave of the Virgin at her church-door, each alternately addressed her, and reminded her of all they had been doing to her honour and glory, and requested her to continue the same devout spirit in her Portuguese, which must
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infallibly render them still invincible; this done, the angels went into the Plaza to see the fireworks! . . . .

Yours truly,
R. S. ”