Saturday, 7 February 2009

Tennyson, 1859

August 21st Braganza Hotel, Lisbon

We shall go to Cintra either tomorrow or next day. It is said to be Lisbon's Richmond and rather cockney tho' high and cool. The man who is landlord here is English and an Englishman keeps the hotel at Cintra.

August 23rd Cintra. We drove over Lisbon yesterday in the blazing heat and saw the Church of St. Vincent, and the Botanical gardens where palms and prickly pears and huge cactuses were growing, and enormous oleanders covered all over with the richest red blossum, and I thought of our poor one at farringford that won't blossom. There were two strange barbaric statues at the gate to the garden, which were dug up on the top of a hill in Portugal : some call them Phoenician but no one knows much about them. I tried to see the grave of Fielding the novelist, who is buried in the Protestant cemetery, but could find no one to let me in ; he lies among the cypresses. In the evening we came on here ; the drive was a cold one, and the country dry, tawny, and wholly uninteresting. Cintra disappointed me at first, and perhaps will continue to disappoint, tho' to southern eyes from its ever green groves, in contrast to the parched barren look of the landscape, it must look very lovely. I climbed with Grove to the Peña, a Moorish-looking castle on top of the hill, which is being repaired, and which has gateways fronted with tiles in pattern ; these gates look like those in the illustrated Arabian Nights of Lane.

August 26th. [...] I continue pretty well except for toothache.

To the Duke of Argyll, Oct. 3rd 1859

[...] I went to see that Cintra which Byron and Beckford have made so famous ; but the orange-trees were all dead of disease, and the crystal streams (with the exception of a few springling springlets by the wayside) either dried up, or diverted thro' unseen tunnels into the great aqueduct of Lisbon. Moreover the place is cockney, and when I was there, was crammed with Lisbon fashionables and Portuguese nobility; yet Cintra is not without its beauties, being a mountain rising out of an everywhere arid and tawny country, with a fantastic Moorish-looking castle on the peak, which commands a great sweep of the Atlantic and the mouth of the Tagus : here on the topmost tower sat the king (they say) day by day in the old times of Vasco da gama watching for his return, till he say him enter the river ; there, perhaps, was a moment worth having been waited for. I made some pleasant acquaintances, but I could not escape autograph hunters ; a certain Don Pedro Something even telegraphed for one after I had returned to Lisbon.

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