Familiar Spanish Travels, By W. D. Howells

























































































 - FAMILIAR SPANISH TRAVELS

By W. D. HOWELLS



ILLUSTRATED
HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
NEW YORK AND LONDON
MCMXIII
COPYRIGHT, 1913, BY HARPER - Page 1
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FAMILIAR SPANISH TRAVELS

By W. D. HOWELLS

ILLUSTRATED HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS NEW YORK AND LONDON MCMXIII COPYRIGHT, 1913, BY HARPER & BROTHERS PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PUBLISHED OCTOBER. 1913

TO M. H.

CONTENTS

I. AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL APPROACHES

II. SAN SEBASTIAN AND BEAUTIFUL BISCAY

III. BURGOS AND THE BITTER COLD OF BURGOS

IV. THE VARIETY OF VALLADOLID

V. PHASES OF MADRID

VI. A NIGHT AND DAY IN TOLEDO

VII. THE GREAT GRIDIRON OF ST. LAWRENCE

VIII. CORDOVA AND THE WAY THERE

IX. FIRST DAYS IN SEVILLE

X. SEVILLIAN ASPECTS AND INCIDENTS

XI. TO AND IN GRANADA

XII. THE SURPRISES OF RONDA

XIII. ALGECIRAS AND TARIFA

FAMILIAR SPANISH TRAVELS

I

AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL APPROACHES

As the train took its time and ours in mounting the uplands toward Granada on the soft, but not too soft, evening of November 6, 1911, the air that came to me through the open window breathed as if from an autumnal night of the middle eighteen-fifties in a little village of northeastern Ohio. I was now going to see, for the first time, the city where so great a part of my life was then passed, and in this magical air the two epochs were blent in reciprocal association. The question of my present identity was a thing indifferent and apart; it did not matter who or where or when I was. Youth and age were at one with each other: the boy abiding in the old man, and the old man pensively willing to dwell for the enchanted moment in any vantage of the past which would give him shelter.

In that dignified and deliberate Spanish train I was a man of seventy-four crossing the last barrier of hills that helped keep Granada from her conquerors, and at the same time I was a boy of seventeen in the little room under the stairs in a house now practically remoter than the Alhambra, finding my unguided way through some Spanish story of the vanished kingdom of the Moors. The little room which had structurally ceased fifty years before from the house that ceased to be home even longer ago had returned to the world with me in it, and fitted perfectly into the first-class railway compartment which my luxury had provided for it. From its window I saw through the car window the olive groves and white cottages of the Spanish peasants, and the American apple orchards and meadows stretching to the primeval woods that walled the drowsing village round. Then, as the night deepened with me at my book, the train slipped slowly from the hills, and the moon, leaving the Ohio village wholly in the dark, shone over the roofs and gardens of Granada, and I was no longer a boy of seventeen, but altogether a man of seventy-four.

I do not say the experience was so explicit as all this; no experience so mystical could be so explicit; and perhaps what was intimated to me in it was only that if I sometime meant to ask some gentle reader's company in a retrospect of my Spanish travels, I had better be honest with him and own at the beginning that passion for Spanish things which was the ruling passion of my boyhood; I had better confess that, however unrequited, it held me in the eager bondage of a lover still, so that I never wished to escape from it, but must try to hide the fact whenever the real Spain fell below the ideal, however I might reason with my infatuation or try to scoff it away. It had once been so inextinguishable a part of me that the record of my journey must be more or less autobiographical; and though I should decently endeavor to keep my past out of it, perhaps I should not try very hard and should not always succeed.

Just when this passion began in me I should not be able to say; but probably it was with my first reading of _Don Quixote_ in the later eighteen-forties. I would then have been ten or twelve years old; and, of course, I read that incomparable romance, not only greatest, but sole of its kind, in English. The purpose of some time reading it in Spanish and then the purpose of some time writing the author's life grew in me with my growing years so strongly that, though I have never yet done either and probably never shall, I should not despair of doing both if I lived to be a hundred. In the mean time my wandering steps had early chanced upon a Spanish grammar, and I had begun those inquiries in it which were based upon a total ignorance of English accidence. I do not remember how I felt my way from it to such reading of the language as has endeared Spanish literature to me. It embraced something of everything: literary and political history, drama, poetry, fiction; but it never condescended to the exigencies of common parlance. These exigencies did not exist for me in my dreams of seeing Spain which were not really expectations. It was not until half a century later, when my longing became a hope and then a purpose, that I foreboded the need of practicable Spanish. Then I invoked the help of a young professor, who came to me for an hour each day of a week in London and let me try to talk with him; but even then I accumulated so little practicable Spanish that my first hour, almost my first moment in Spain, exhausted my store. My professor was from Barcelona, but he beautifully lisped his _c's_ and _z's_ like any old Castilian, when he might have hissed them in the accent of his native Catalan; and there is no telling how much I might have profited by his instruction if he had not been such a charming intelligence that I liked to talk with him of literature and philosophy and politics rather than the weather, or the cost of things, or the question of how long the train stopped and when it would start, or the dishes at table, or clothes at the tailor's, or the forms of greeting and parting.

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