Friday, July 07, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 7.7.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

Life in Spain:-

I've been reading a book published in 1792 and entitled:-


Of course, that's not the way it was originally written; it's the way a computer had rendered the original text to the best of its ability. As you'll appreciate, it's not an easy read. Here's another short example:-

t B ^HE morning after my arrival I exJL amined my letters. Among the perfons of diftindlion and authority, to whom I was recommended, I judged, as an ecclefiaftic, my lird: attention to be due to the archbhliop, and therefore I haftened early to his palace. He received me with politenefs, permitted me to kifs his ring[!], made me fit down, and then, having read my letter, he told me, that as long as I continued at Seville I muft dine every day with him, unlefs when I fliould be more agreeably engaged.  

Anyway, Townsend was an ardent free-trader who was horrified by the attitude of the Spanish government - national and local - towards trade and commerce. Going so far as to say:- No country ever invented a more ruinous system of finance, or one less friendly to manufactures and to commerce. And: Among a great variety of causes producing this effect, and itself the genuine offspring of bad government, is the want of a free market.  It's a theme to which he constantly returns as he meticulously researches and records data - and attitudes! - around the country. Frankly, when you observe the curb-ful attitude of the Spanish government towards developments such as Google, Airbnb, Blabla car and Uber, you're force to wonder whether much has changed. And then there are the cartels and the medieval guilds such as those of the pharmacists. . . . 

But back to Townsend . . . It can be rather boring to plough through his observations and lists but, from time to time, there are gems like this report of an Inquisition trial in Sevilla not long before he'd arrived there. Of a man charged with using an early version of female viagra  or rohypnol so that he could take advantage of numerous women. I have, of course, gone to the trouble of correcting the computer's pathetic efforts at reproduction:-

The principal actor in this farce was Ignacio Rodriguez, a beggar. The first profession of this man was arms ; but of his conduct in that line little has transpired. It is certain, that he was with count 0‘Reilly in the unfortunate expedition against Algiers, where he was wounded in the leg. In consequence of this he was discharged as an invalid, and had an offer of the usual pension; but he chose rather to cast himself on the public, and to enjoy his liberty, than to be lost in obscurity with his companions. For this purpose, he was careful to keep his wound from healing ; and, such was his address, that he procured a comfortable living, or rather, as it appeared, fared sumptuously every day.

After some years, he was so unfortunate as to attract the attention of D. Bernardo Cantero, the intendant general of the police, who, seeing him from day to day, inquired for what reason he kept his wound open, and ordered him to have it healed. Rodriguez, not knowing to whom he spoke, replied with insolence, “I ask alms, and not advice.” This ill-timed answer proved his ruin.

The intendant, struck with his appearance, and offended with his insolence, watched him, and having observed something uncommon in a long conversation between him and a female, called Juliana Lopez, caused her to be followed, and arrested. This woman, although artful, being taken by surprise, was confused, and soon confessed, that the paper she had delivered to the beggar contained some materials for making love powder. On this evidence Rodriguez was taken into custody, with a female named Angela Barrios, who, being a woman of inferior talents was employed only in commissions of no great importance. All three being committed to the common jail, were frequently questioned, and the result of their examination was laid before the king, who, by the advice of his confessor, referred the matter to the inquisitors. In consequence of this the prisoners were removed, and confined in the prison of the inquisition.

No tribunal has such advantages in tracing out the truth[!]. Nor can any other investigate a dark transaction with such a certainty of success as this court[!]. Unfettered by forms[!], and not limited for time, they are at liberty to bring whom they please before them, to take them from their beds in
the the middle of the night, to examine them by surprise, to terrify their imaginations, to torment their bodies, to stretch them on the rack, and to cross examine them at distant periods. With these advantages, the impostor was made to confess the whole of his practices, with all the most minute particulars, and the names of the parties to whom he had sold his powder. He explained, in his confession, the materials of which he had composed it; but these, to a modest ear, should never have been mentioned; and he acknowledged, that every female, after taking it, had been obliged to grant him whatever he chose to ask, without which the charm was to have no effect. Whenever he administered it, he muttered some necromantic formula, that he might give an air of mystery to the transaction, and inspire the mind with confidence in its success.

Juliana Lopez, his associate, served him as an emissary and a panegyrist ; and that she might in all respects lend herself to his views and to his wishes, she hired a convenient garden, to which he might retire at all seasons, whenever it suited his convenience.

Angela Barrios acted as a servant to the others, and being of a weak understanding, was never admitted to their confidence. Fidelity and silence on her part were sometimes however requisite, and in these she never failed.

The process, according to custom, contained the most minute particulars. Their crimes were proved by a multitude of testimonies, and their guilt was confirmed by their own confessions. From these it appeared, that his powder was administered to persons of all ranks; and one of the inquisitors has since informed me that many ladies of high station in Madrid were duped by him, although out of tenderness their names had been concealed.

When the process was gone through, the judges resolved to celebrate an Auto de Fe - publicly in the church of the Padres del Salvador, but the king would not consent that the nuns of S. Domingo should lose their privilege of having the Auto in their church. The inquisitors gave way, but sent a request, that the nuns might not be admitted to the grate, lest their ears should be offended, and the purity of their imaginations should be defiled. This message had the effect, which might have been
expected. Their curiosity was the more excited, and of all the nuns four only were absent from the grate.

On the day appointed, at six in the morning, the people began to assemble in the street of the inquisition, and the troops took their station to preserve good order. About eight the beggar left his dungeon, leaning on his crutches, and attended by a capuchin friar of no respectable appearance,
named Father Cardenas. As soon as he appeared in court, he fell upon his knees before one of the inquisitors, who with the greatest mildness and gentleness addressed him thus: “ My son, you are going to hear the relation of your crimes, and the sentence pronounced for the expiation of your guilt. Our lenience is great, because our holy tribunal, always most indulgent, seeks rather to reform than to punish. Let your sorrow flow from your confessions of guilt, and not from a sense of the disgrace you suffer.”

This exhortation ended, which is the same, even when the criminal is committed to to the flames, they proceeded to throw over the shoulder of the beggar his san bcnito, or more properly his saco benedito being the sackcloth with S. Andrew’s cross, anciently worn by penitents. On his head they placed the cap with serpents, lizards, and blackbeetles, a green candle in his hand, and round his neck a halter. To Juliana Lopez the same speech was made, and when she had been clothed in familar attire, she stood, although not with equal confidence, near to her companion.

Last of all came forth Angela Barrios, who, trembling and bathed in tears, fell down upon her knees, and begged the inquisitors to spare her life. She was answered, that the holy tribunal was not accustomed to put any one to death[??]; that they would do her no harm; and that as her offence was not equal to that of her companions, they had not even provided for her a san benito, the disgraceful badge, by which all, who have worn it, are rendered, with their families, infamous for ever.

When everything was thus arranged, the procession began to move. In front marched soldiers to clear his way; then appeared the standard of the holy office, supported by alguazils, and followed by familiars, With the learned doctors of the inquisition next advanced the beggar, supported by his crutches, and attended by two secretaries, who carried the whole process in a box lined with velvet; and the little capuchin, as confessor, with the Marquis of Cogolludo, foil to the Duke of Medina Coeli, of the blood royal, and the first nobleman in Spain, as alguazil mayor, brought up the rear.

No sooner had the pageant entered the church than mass began; after which they read the process in the hearing of the whole assembly, which consisted of the principal nobility, with all the ladies of the court, who had been invited by la Marquesa de Cogolludo, and sat with her on a stage raised for this occasion. The secretaries were frequently interrupted in reading by loud bursts of laughter, in which the beggar joined. The mirth was, however, in some cases, attended with a degree of trepidation, when in the process circumstances were related in which ladies who were present had been concerned and who expected every moment to be named.

After the whole of the process had been read, the chief inquisitor rang a little bell, and the prisoners drew nigh to hear their sentence. That of Ignacio Rodriguez was, to be whipped through the streets of Madrid, to be instructed and fortified in the mysteries of the catholic faith by a spiritual guide appointed by the court, with whom he was to go through holy exercises for one month, failing[?] on the Fridays on bread and water; and at the end of this period he was to make a general confession. He was to be five years shut up in the penitentiary house of Toledo, and afterwards to be banished
for ever from Madrid and from the royal mansions, with an obligation to inform the holy office wherever he should happen to reside. The sentence of the other was not so severe.

The whole ceremony ended about three in the afternoon.

The day following, the beggar, naked down to his waist, was mounted on an ass, attended by the Marquis of Cogolludo. Thus accompanied, the impostor was conducted through the streets, but without receiving any stripes and as he proceeded, he was frequently refreshed by his friends
with biscuits and wine; while many, who knew not the nature of his offence, thinking him a heretic, cried out, viva la Virgen Maria Purisima, to which he replied, Por me que viva.

This ceremony ended, the Marchioness of Cogolludo gave a grand entertainment to the judges and officers of the inquisition. [Well, why not?]

Townsend ends his account with this observation: Had it been the intention of the king to make the inquisition, preparatory to its abolition, contemptible in the eyes of the whole nation, he could not have taken any step more effectual for the purpose, than he did, when he called upon that tribunal to examine into offences, which should have been infinitely below its notice, and to appear in the procession with a wretch, who should have been punished in secret by the vilest minister of justice. Others have given the history of this execrable tribunal, both as to its origin and progress, together with the form of its proceedings, and cruel treatment of its prisoners.  

Townsend might also have been thinking of the poor women - 'of all ranks' - who must have sat in terror of being identified as the details emerged. To much laugher.

Today's cartoon:-

I had a feeling it was going to be one of those days


Alfred B. Mittington said...

There are excellent scanned versions of Townsend's book on the internet. Googlebooks is one. Another is

So no need to read scrambled texts.


Colin Davies said...

Useful at last!

Colin Davies said...

Useful at last!

Alfred B. Mittington said...

Thank you

Thank you

Perry said...

That cartoon suggests to me that you need a hobby.

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