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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 12 February 1801

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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“Thursday, Feb. 12. 1801. Lisbon.

“On Tuesday we crossed the river to Casilhas Point, procured jackasses and proceeded to a place called Costa to dinner. You know the castle in the mouth of the Tagus, the state prison, where the man is confined that beat the king. The Costa is a collection of fishermen’s huts on the sand, in a line with it, on the south side of the river: the ride is about seven miles, over a hilly country, that everywhere displayed novel and striking views; for the foreground, huge aloes and the prickly pear, the broom
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and furze in blossom,—broad-headed firs every where where the sandy soil was not cultivated for vines or olives; the sweep of the bay southward skirted by the pine-covered plains and the mountain boundary; behind us Lisbon on its heights, and the river blue and boundless as a sea. Through a cleft in a sand bank, a winter ravine way for the rains, we first saw the Costa at about half a mile below us,—the most singular view I ever beheld,—huts all of thatch scattered upon the sand: we descended by a very steep way cut through the sand hill, the sand on either side fretted by the weather, like old sculpture long weather worn,—all below belongs to the sea; but on the bare sands, a numerous tribe have fixed their habitations, which exactly resemble the wigwams of the Nootka savages,—a wooden frame all thatched is all; most commonly the floor descends for warmth, and the window often on a level with the ground without; two only symptoms showed us that we were in a civilised country,—a church, the only stone building, and a party stretched upon the sand at cards. The men live by fishing, and a stronger race I never saw, or more prolific, for children seemed to swarm. As parties from Lisbon are frequent here, there are two or three hovels of entertainment. Ours had ragged rhymes upon its walls, recommending us to drink by the barrel and not by the quart.

“In riding to Odwellas, I saw something curious: it was a Padrona by the road side,—we have no other word in English, and it occurs often in romance, for a place raised by the way side,—where a station or inscription is placed: there was an image of Christ there,
and some unaccountable inscriptions about robbery, and hiding heaven in the earth, which a series of pictures in tiles behind explained. A hundred years ago, the church of Odwellas was robbed of the church plate, and of the sacrament. Then I saw the thief playing at skittles when the sacristan of the church past by, whom he followed in and hid himself; then I saw him robbing the altar; next, he hides the church dresses in the house of a woman; and here he is burying the sacrament plate in a vineyard upon this very spot; here he is examined upon suspicion and denies all, and says who ever did the sacrilege ought to have his hands cut off; here he is taken in the act of stealing the fowls of the convent, and he confesses all; here they dig up the hidden treasure, and carry it back in a solemn procession; here he is going to execution; here you see his hands cut off according to his own sentence, and here he is strangled and burnt. It is remarkable that in almost all these tiles, the face of the criminal is broken to pieces, probably in abhorrence of his guilt. The loss of the wafer has been ever regarded as a national calamity, to be lamented with public prayer and fasts and processions. It happened at Mexico in the Conqueror’s days, and
Cortes himself paraded with the monks and the mob.

“Sat March 28.

“In the long interval that has elapsed since this letter was begun, we have travelled about three hundred and fifty miles. Waterhouse and I took
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charge of
Edith and three ladies; a doctor at Alvea da Cruz, of whom we besought house room one night in distress, told us, with more truth than politeness, that four women were a mighty inconvenience. We did not find them so; they made our chocolate in the morning, laughed with us by day, enjoyed the scenery, packed our provisions basket, and at night endured flea-biting with a patience that entitles them to an honourable place in the next martyrology. All Lisbon, I believe, thought us mad when we set out; and they now regard our return with equal envy, as only our complexions have suffered. To detail the journey would be too long. We asked at Santarem if they had rooms for us,—they said plenty: we begged to see them; they had two rooms,—four men in bed in one, one fellow in bed in the other. At Pombal, Waterhouse and I slept in public, in a room that served as a passage for the family. Men and women indiscriminately made the ladies’ beds; one night we passed through a room wherein eight men were sleeping, who rose up to look at us, something like a picture of the resurrection. These facts will enable you to judge of the comforts and decencies of the Portuguese. They once wanted us, four women and two men, to sleep in two beds in one room. Yet, bad as these places are, the mail coach has made them still worse; that is, it has rendered the people less civil, and made the expenses heavier.

“We crossed the Zezere, a river of importance in the history of Portugal, as its banks form the great protection of Lisbon; it is the place where a stand
might most effectually be made against an invading army; the river is fine, about the width of our Avon at Bownham, and flowing between hills of our Clifton and Leigh height that are covered with heath and gum-cistus; the water is beautifully clear, and the bottom sand: like all mountain streams, the Zezere is of irregular and untameable force. In summer, horsemen ford it; in winter, the ferry price varies according to the resistance of the current, from one vintem to nine,—that is, from a penny to a shilling. It then enters the Tagus with equal waters, sometimes with a larger body; for, as the rains may have fallen heavier east or north, the one river with its rush almost stagnates the other.

“At Pombal we saw Our Lady’s oven, where annually a fire is kindled, a wafer baked, and a man, the Shadrach of the town, walks round the glowing oven and comes out unhurt and unsinged by special miracle of Our Lady of Cardal. At Thomar is a statue of St. Christofer on the bridge: three grains of his leg, taken in a glass of water, are a sovereign cure for the ague; and poor St. Christofer’s legs are almost worn out by the extent of the practice. Torres Vedras is the place where Father Anthony of the wounds died—a man suspected of sanctity. The pious mob attacked his body, stripped it naked, cut off all his hair, and tore up his nails to keep for relics. I have seen relics of all the saints,—yea, a thorn from the crown of crucifixion, and a drop of the Redemption blood. All this you shall hereafter see at length in the regular journal.

“A more interesting subject is our return. My
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uncle will, I think, return with us; or, at least, speedily follow. We look forward to the expulsion of the English as only avoidable by a general peace, and this so little probable, that all preparations are making for removal. My uncle is sending away all his books; and I am now in the dirt of packing. In May, I hope to be in Bristol; eager enough, God knows, to see old friends and old familiar scenes; but with no pleasant anticipation of English taxes, and English climate, and small beer, after this blessed sun, and the wines of Portugal. My health has received all the benefit I could and did expect: a longer residence would, I think, render the amendment permanent; and, with this idea, the prospect of a return hereafter, to complete the latter part of my History, is by no means unpleasant.

“God bless you and keep you from the north seas. I have written in haste, being obliged to write many letters on my return. Edith’s love. I know not when or where we shall meet; but, when I am on English ground, the distance between us will not be so impassable. Farewell!

Yours truly,
Robert Southey.”