Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

The tray or bier is about two feet and a half wide, six long, and from six to eight inches deep, so that the body, when laid upon the back, is fully exposed to view. As in this warm climate, the muscles do not become rigid, and as funerals take place within a few hours of the last scene of life, the corpse, as it is carried along, either by the hand or on men's shoulders, has a considerable degree of motion, which greatly resembles what might be expected from a living subject in the lowest state of debility. It is conveyed, also, not with that slow and solemn pace, and orderly procession, which seem best to agree with deep-rooted sorrow, but in an indecent hurry, a sort of half-run, attended with loud talking, and a coarse air of joy. The shattered remains of man are decked out in all the gaudy trappings of a gala-day; the face painted, the hair powdered, the head adorned with a wreath of flowers or a metallic crown; the finery being limited only by the ability of surviving friends to procure it." _" At the church-door the corpse was laid down, and continued for some time exposed to public view. It had not acquired that cadaverous appearance which dead bodies usually assume with us; for, indeed, disease is here so rapid in its operation, and interment so quickly follows death, as to prevent it. This exposure of the body, in a country where assassination is much too common, appeared to me an excellent custom; it gave the surrounding multitude an opportunity of ascertaining whether the deceased came to his end by a natural process, or by violence -unless poison might have been so administered as to excite no suspicion, or a wound might be concealed under the gaudy array. At all events, it renders the concealment of murder more difficult than it otherwise would be. In due time, the priests receive the body, perform over it the rites of the church, and deliver it to those who are charged with the ultimate ceremonies.

By these men I saw a body, the dress and ornaments of which were unusually rich, entirely stripped of them; and the work was done so coolly as to demonstrate that the men either had a right to do so, or had been long accustomed to do it. In general, the trappings are only cut or torn from the bier to which they have been fastened, in order to keep the corpse from rolling over; it is then tumbled into the grave, which, for white people, is always within some sacred building; a quantity of quicklime and earth are thrown in, and the whole beaten down with huge wooden stampers. This last circumstance appeared to me more inhuman and shocking than any I had ever witnessed at an interment, and I even thought it not many degrees short of cannibalism itself.”

The corpses of the poorer people, especially the blacks, Mr. Luccock says, were treated with much less ceremony; but he gives us to understand, that in subsequent years, along with sundry other improvements, “the common harshness of the proceedings at funerals was much softened.”

The next quotation relates to a figure in the Royal Chapel, and of the use to which it is applied. VOL. XIT:

52

“ The orchestra is well supplied, and the music admirable; but its effect is not a little counteracted by a circumstance which has often excited the risible faculties of heretics. Directly in front, and below the railing of the orchestra, is a well carved figure, much like what in England is called a Saracen's Head. The face expresses wonder, rage, and consternation, or rather a sort of suppressed ferocity. Its eyes are large and glaring, and fixed so directly upon the sinall crucifix, which stands on the altar, than no one can mistake their object. The mouth is coarse and open, containing a concealed pipe, which communicates with the organ. In the more pathetic parts of the mass, and particularly at the elevation of the Host, the key of this pipe is touched, and the head utters a dismal groan, expressive of the horror which infidels must feel on such an occasion. Whatever may be thought of the conceit, such mummery cannot be Christian worship.”

To this we add the description of a painting in the convent of St. Bento, the principal one in Rio.

“ In the anti-room, at the entrance of the convent, is a curious painting. It represents the tree of life, round and expansive, with firm roots, a strong stem, and branches full of foliage. It is, at once, in flower and fruit; the former a sort of rose, not unlike the flower of the tree which produces the celebrated Brazil wood, and probably intended to represent it; the fruit is of a most unusual description,-a Benedictine monk, in the full habit of the order, seated in the midst of the flower. The countenances and figures seem to be drawn from the life, and are well done. A man who has no reverence for monks, may smile at the strange conceit; yet the picture is so designed and executed that it is almost impossible not to mix some feelings of admiration, at the sight of it, with those of contempt. It brings to mind the history of the order, its wealth, and ease, and its unrivalled influence over Brazilian af. fairs."

Persons leaving the city on business sometimes place their daughters in one of the Recolhimentos, or religious houses for families; husbands, who suspect they do not possess the entire hearts of their wives, send them thither, when they go from home; some women, whose characters are known to be båd, are confined there by way of punishment; and, again, females of rank and character often choose to live in these houses during the absence of their husbands. Thus the Recolhimentos “present a strange jumble of age, character, and purpose, young and old, the innocent and the corrupted, female schools and magdalene hospitals."

The arrival of the Royal Family of Portugal in Brazil, is stated to have occasioned universal regret among the people. The viceroy had been accustomed to receive the most profound homage from all classes of society; even the distant shadow of his equipage in the streets made them uncover their heads and bow the knee; and no one ventured to pass a common soldier on duty, or to read a public notice stuck against the wall, without performing some act of homage. These humiliating marks of respect were in some measure compensated by the studied courteousness which descended from the representative of royalty through all the gradations of society, and the easy intercourse which subsisted between him and his courtiers, and the citizens. The coni paratively exclusive state, and the more ceremonious bearing, in which it behoved royalty to regulate its intercourse with the people, were therefore at first deemed by them as a serious public evil, and the circumstances of privation and distress to which the House of Braganza were at that time reduced, must have deepened this feeling of regret, in as much as the real condition of royalty came far short of the splendour and magnificence with which in Brazil. ian ideas it had been dignified. The queen was too old to feel the whole extent of her misfortunes, and though her person was in Rio, her imagination was said to have presented to her generally Lisbonian scenes. Her son, the Prince Regent, has been accused of apathy; but his want of energy is to be ascribed to the “cowardly sycophants and hypocritical priests” by whom his councils and conduct were influenced. His gratitude to the British nation was shown in the kindness and the protection displayed toward the English resident in Rio. The Prince Regent's consort is described as a woman of energetic character, and the widow of his brother was a person of mild uninteresting habits, but retired from public life. Besides these personages, his family consisted of seven

and a relation from Spain the Infante Don Carlos de Bourbon. All of them, with their attend. ants, nearly three hundred in number, were crowded into a miserable abode, which had formerly contained the mint and a prison, and was united by a covered way with the convent of Carmelites. The royal equipage was a small chaise, drawn by two mules; the guard rode on unshod, lame, blind, and galled horses, and were clothed in jackets, exhibiting every possible shade of blue, “ that various and varying colour," and many of them were much patched; they had no waistcoats, gloves, or stockings; and their boots were old and torn, never blacked, nor even brushed. The Prince Regent's wife sometimes went out on horseback, when, in compliance with the custom of the country, she rode astride. The children very seldom took the air, until a good strong family-chariot arrived, a present, it is said, from the king of Great Britain.

“Some idea of the low state of the colony, low in the arts and conveniences of life, may be formed from the fact, that on the anniversary of the Queen's birth-day, which occurred some months after my arrival, there were only six carriages mustered on the occasion, and these all open ones, with two wheels, and driven by dirty negroes. Yet this was a gala-day, and the wealthy part of the community had done their utmost to make a show.”

The lawyers meet every unhallowed morning in the street called Rua-da-Qui-Tandi, to transact business; and we have a ludicrous description of their dress and appearance.

“ The generality were dressed in old, rusty black coats, some of them well patched, and so ill adapted to the height and form of the wearers, as to excite a suspicion that they were not the first who owned them. Their waistcoats were of gayer colours, with long embroidered bodies, large flaps, and deep pockets. Their breeches were black, so short as scarcely to reach either to the loins or the knees, where they were fastened with square buckles of mock brilliants; their stockings of home-spun cotton, and their shoe-buckles enormously large. Their heads were covered with powdered wigs, surmounted by large fan-tailed greasy hats, in which was usually placed a black cockade. The left thigh bore a very old shabby dirk. It was amusing to observe with what punctilious ceremony these gentlemen and their subalterns addressed each other; how exactly in order they bowed, and held their dirty hats; with what precise forms, and cool deliberations, they combined to pick the pockets of their clients. There were in the crowd a few respectable-looking men, but they were indeed a small proportion; the leading characters of the profession did not find it necessary to attend these street meetings. In general the meagre and sharpened features of the persons present, and their keenly piercing eyes, added to their sallow complexions, would have led a pretender in the science of Lavater, to determine the features of their minds with a glance, and to come to no very favourable conclusion."

Apothecaries shops are fitted up in a gaudy style. Merchants make their purchases of goods before breakfast, dine at noon, and then sleep till the evening; when they come forth to pay their visits and enjoy their amusements. They are represented as lamentably ignorant.

“ Merchants as respectable in their line as most in the country, have excited our astonishment, by asking in what part of London England was; which was largest, Great Britain or Madeira; which farthest from Rio. Their ignorance extended beyond geography; few of them were acquainted with more than the first principles of arithmetic; in reading they spelled out the meaning, and to write a letter was a dreaded task.”

The mechanics are said to be very unskilful, yet so proud that they think it beneath them to be seen carrying their tools. Slaves are sent into the streets to act as porters, and regulate their step by an African song. No playfulness of the young, or shouting of the more advanced, is to be seen or heard in the streets of St. Sebastian. Begging is not confined to the necessitous, for even the wealthy ask boons, borrow with a tacit understanding never to pay, and buy on an undefined credit; officers of the army have been seen soliciting charity; " and it is to be regretted, but ought to be

recorded, that more than one person who wore a star, fell into deeper disgrace-stole, and were detected.” The dress of the females is extremely slight, often nothing more than a single habit “ bound about the waist by the strings of a petticoat;" they wear no stockings, and seldom slippers. Their hair is long and fancifully decorated with artificial flowers; their manners are coarse and pert; and their minds uncultivated.

“At eighteen in a Brazilian woman, nature has attained to full maturity. A few years later she becomes corpulent, and even unwieldy; acquires a great stoop in her shoulders, and walks with an awkward waddling gait. She begins to decay, loses the good humour of her countenance, and assumes, in its place, a contracted and scowling brow; the eye and mouth both indicate that they have been accustomed to express the violent and vindictive passions; the cheeks are deprived of their plumpness and colour; and at twenty-five, or thirty at most, she becomes a perfectly wrinkled old woman.”—“ Premature age is owing partly to climate, partly to a constitution enfeebled and ruined by inactivity; most of all to the unnatural and shamefully early age at which females are allowed to marry.

The shopkeeper and his servants both eat and sleep on the ground floor of the houses occupied as shops and warehouses; and persons of rank and riches inhabit the upper stories, to which there is an entrance from the streets. The front room is called the Sala, and is fitted up in rather a fantastic style; the varanda is in the back part of the house, and is usually occupied by the family. The principal meal is the dinner at noon, which consists of soup full of vegetables, carnesecca, feijam, and farinha. Knives are used only by the men; women and children employ their fingers. The female slaves eat at the same time in different parts of the room. Wine is drunk only during dinner; after it coffee is brought in; then water is carried round for the purpose of washing the mouth, the hands, and even the arms, and is generally poured upon the guests by a female slave; and, lastly, each retires to his siesta, to indulge in “ the luxury of laziness.” There is

among

the Brazilians a great want of personal cleanliness—the houses and the beds are overrun with vermin-and filth of all kinds is allow. ed to accumulate in the streets.

“When a gentleman calls upon another, if he be not intimate at the house, he goes thither in full dress, with a cocked hat, with buckles in his shoes and at the knees, and with a sword or dirk by his side. Having reached the bottom of the stairs, he claps his hands as a signal to attract attention, and utters a sort of sibilant sound, between his teeth and the end of his tongue, as though he pronounced the syllables chee cu. The servant, who attends the call, roughly inquires in a nasal tone, who is it? and being told, retires to inform the master of the house, what are the wishes of the visiter. If he be a friend, or one so

« AnteriorContinuar »