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do not know when scenery had a more vivifying effect on my feelings than in passing from the dreary, parched wastes of the Castles to the green mountains and valleys of the Basque provinces. The nights were superb, a full moon lighting up splendid mountain scenery; the air bland, and fresh, and balmy, instead of the parching airs of Madrid. The first sight of the sea, too, and the inhaling of the sea-breeze, brought a home feeling that was quite reviving. You cannot imagine how beautiful France looks to me, with her orchards and vineyards, and groves, and green meadows, after naked, sterile Spain. I feel confident I shall return from this excursion with a stock of health and good spirits to carry me through the winter.
He left Bordeaux on Wednesday, the 13th, and travelling day and night, arrived at Versailles at three o'clock on Friday (15th). Here he remained nearly two weeks without coming to Paris, and, indeed, without leaving the house, excepting in a carriage to take the air, the journey from Madrid having brought on a temporary irritation of the lingering symptoms of his malady.
We came to Paris the day before yesterday [he writes to his brother, September 30th], but I have not yet been out of the house. I am gradually, however, getting over this transient access of my complaint, and hope in a few days to be again able to go about on foot. I intend consulting the ablest physician on the subject. I am anxious to get well, so as to be able to return to Madrid before the cold weather sets in. I do not like to be away from my post in these critical times.
Thirteen days later, he writes to his sister (October 12th):
I have now been two weeks in Paris, but am still confined very much to the house, excepting when I go out in a carriage. The least exercise
on foot produces an irritation of the malady which still lingers about my ankles, and thus retards my cure. I begin to think it will yet take a considerable time to conquer it, and that I shall have to return to Madrid before my cure is completed. My general health, however, is good, my appetite excellent, and I am growing as stout a gentleman as formerly.
The next day (October 13th) he writes to me from Paris:
I am leading a very quiet life in the very centre of all that is gay and splendid. My obstinate malady, which still clings to me just sufficiently to fetter me, prevents my sallying forth excepting in a carriage, so that I pass most of the time in the house. Last night, however, I managed to visit the opera, and saw Grisi in "Norma." She is one of the finest actors I have ever seen, quite worthy of being classed with the Siddonses, Pastas, etc. I had scarcely expected ever again to have seen such a glorious combination of talent and personal endowment on the stage.
November 22d, in a letter to me, he reports himself as being on the point of setting off in the malle poste for Bordeaux, in very good travelling condition; and, four days later, after a comfortable journey, he writes to his old friend, Brevoort, from that city, as follows, giving, as will be seen, a glance at his own private affairs, the public concerns of his mission, and an amusing sketch of an encounter with Rogers, while at Paris:
BORDEAUX, November 26, 1843.
MY DEAR BREVOORT :
I received your most kind and welcome letter some short time before leaving Paris, and should have answered it immediately, but I was in one of those moods when my mind has no power over my pen. Indeed, I have long owed you a letter, and have intended to write to you; but
correspondents multiplied fearfully upon me, and my pen was tasked, diplomatically and otherwise, on my arrival at Madrid, to such a degree as to fag me out, and to produce the malady which has harassed me for nearly a year past. I am now on my way back to my post, after between two and three months' absence. I set out in pursuit of health, and thought a little travelling and a change of air would "make me my own man" again; but I was laid by the heels at Paris, by a recurrence of my malady, and have just escaped out of the doctor's hands, sufficiently recovered to get back to my post, where I hope, by care and medical treatment, to effect my cure.
This indisposition has been a sad check upon all my plans. I had hoped, by zealous employment of all the leisure afforded me at Madrid, to accomplish one or two literary tasks which I have in hand.
A year, however, has now been completely lost to me, and a precious year, at my time of life. The "Life of Washington," and, indeed, all my literary tasks, have remained suspended; and my pen has remained idle, excepting now and then in writing a despatch to government, or scrawling a letter to my family.
Carson will give you an account of diplomatic and household affairs at Madrid. I was extremely sorry to part with him ; but I could not advise him to stay, where there was no career nor regular pursuit opening to
I do not know whether you speak in jest or earnest about the popular view of my conduct on the occasion of the diplomatic intervention for the safety of the little Queen, during the late siege of Madrid. My conduct was dictated at the time by honest and spontaneous impulse, without reference to policy or politics. I felt deeply for the situation of the Queen and her sister, and was anxious that their persons should be secured from the civil brawls and fightings which threatened to distract the city, and invade the very courts of the royal palace. In all my diplomacy, I have depended more upon good intentions, and frank and open conduct, than upon any subtle management. I have an opinion that the old maxim, "Honesty is the best policy," holds good even in diplomacy!
Thus far I have got on well with my brother diplomatists, and have
met with very respectful treatment from the Spanish Government in all its changes and fluctuations. I have endeavored punctually to perform the duties of my office and to execute the instructions of government; and I believe that the archives of the legation will testify that the business of the mission has never been neglected. I have not suffered illness to prevent me from keeping everything in train; and, indeed, my recovery has been retarded by remaining at my post during the revolutionary scenes of last summer, though urged by my physicians to spend the hot months at the watering places in the mountains. I do not pretend to any great skill as a diplomatist; but in whatever situation I am placed in life, when I doubt my skill, I endeavor to make up for it by conscientious assiduity.
While I was in Paris, in driving out one day, with my niece in the Champs Elysées, we nearly ran over my old friend Rogers. We stopped, and took him in. He was in one of his yearly epicurean visits to Paris, to enjoy the Italian opera and other refined sources of pleasure. The hand of age begins to bow him down, but his intellect is clear as ever, and his talents and taste for society in full vigor. He breakfasted with us several times, and I have never known him more delightful. He would sit for two or three hours continually conversing, and giving anecdotes of all the conspicuous persons who have figured within the last sixty years, with most of whom he has been on terms of intimacy. He has refined upon the art of telling a story, until he has brought it to the most perfect simplicity, where there is not a word too much or too little, and where every word has its effect. His manner, too, is the most quiet, natural, and unpretending that can be imagined. I was very much amused by an anecdote he gave us of little Queen Victoria and her nautical vagaries. Lord Aberdeen has had to attend her in her cruisings, very much against his will, or, at least, against his stomach. You know he is one of the gravest and most laconic men in the world. The Queen, one day, undertook to reconcile him to his fate. "I believe, my lord," said she, graciously, "you are not often seasick." Always, madam," was the grave reply. "But," still more graciously, "not very seasick." With profounder gravity, "VERY, madam!" Lord Aberdeen declares, that, if her Majesty persists in her cruisings, he will have to resign.
During his absence in Paris, the declaration of the majority of the Queen had been made by the Cortes, and she had taken the oath to support the constitution; an imposing ceremonial, at which the diplomatic body were present. Soon after his return to Madrid, he writes as follows:
[To Mrs. Paris.]
MY DEAR SISTER :
I arrived safe in Madrid about ten days since, after a somewhat rapid journey; but I had the mail carriage to myself, and was enabled to make myself comfortable. On approaching Spain, I heard of the mail having been robbed between Bayonne and Madrid, and the passengers extremely maltreated, and was advised not to go until I could be well escorted; but I knew that highway robberies seldom occurred twice in any neighborhood, unless at long intervals, so I pushed forward. It had been advertised that the mail would be doubly guarded, in consequence of the late robberies, but the promise was not fulfilled. We passed through the robber region in the night, with only two musketeers to guard the carriage, both of whom went to sleep. As I did not care to keep watch myself, and alarm myself with shadows, I arranged myself comfortably, and fell asleep likewise, and continued napping through all the dangerous part of the road. I arrived in Madrid just in time to witness the three days of public rejoicing for the young Queen's accession to the throne. All the houses were decorated, the balconies hung with tapestry; there were triumphal arches, fountains running with milk and wine, games, dances, processions, and parades by day, illuminations and spectacles at night, and the streets were constantly thronged by the populace in their holiday garb. . The Moderados have the government at present, and are determined to maintain their sway by military means. General Narvaez is with them, and, under his military vigilance, the capital gleams with the bayonet as in time of war.
MADRID, December 10, 1843.