Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Finden's Landscape & Portrait Illustrations of the Life and Works of Lord Byron

Artist: Drawn by C. Stanfield from a sketch by Capt. Elliot
Engraver: E. Finden

STANFIELD, William Clarkson, 1793-1867
Original and selected information on the subjects of the engravings by William Brockendon

John Murray

Lo! Cintra's glorious Eden intervenes
In variegated maze of mount and glen.
Ah me ! what hand can pencil guide, or pen,
To follow half on which the eye dilates
Through views more dazzling unto mortal ken
Than those whereof such things the bard relates,
Who to the awe-struck world unlock'd Elysium's gates ?

The horrid crags by toppling convent crown'd,
The cork-trees hoar that clothe the shaggy steep,
The mountain moss by scorching skies imbrown'd,
The sunken glen whose sunless shrubs must weep,
The tender azure of the unruffled deep,
The orange tints that gild the greenest bough,
The torrents that from cliff to valley leap,
The vine on high, the willow-branch below,
Mix'd in one mighty scene, with varied beauty glow.

Childe Harold, canto i. St. 18, 19.

" The village of Cintra, about fifteen miles from the capital, is perhaps, in every respect, the most delightful in Europe : it contains beauties of every description, natural and artificial. Palaces and gardens rising in the midst of rocks, cataracts, and precipices; convents on stupendous heights; a distant view of the sea and the Tagus; and besides (though that is a secondary consideration) is remarkable as the scene of Sir Hew Dalrymple's convention. It unites in itself all the wildness of the Western Highlands with the verdure of the South of France."—Moore's Life of Lord Byron, vol. i. 12mo. p. 280.

The " Convention of Cintra" is the name given in history to an event by which the advantages gained by our gallant army at Vimeira were most disgracefully sacrificed in the impolitic convention of Sir Hew Dalrymple; but Colonel Napier states, in his " History of the Peninsular War," that " the armistice, the negotiations, the convention itself, and the execution of its provisions, were all commenced, conducted, and concluded, at the distance of thirty miles from Cintra, with which place they had not the slightest connexion, political, military, or local." Opposed to this we have Mathews, in his " Diary of an Invalid," one who is less likely to be acquainted with the facts, but who asserts, in closing some remarks upon the royal palace at Cintra, " Hard by is the palace of the Marquess Marialva, famous for the Cintra convention. The ink which was spilt on this memorable occasion is still visible upon the floor—scattered, as it is said, by Junot, in an ebullition of spleen, when he put his name to the instrument; but surely he had not the most cause for vexation."

Every traveller speaks of Cintra as a scene of striking and singular beauty: its pure air offers, like that of Richmond to the citizens of London, a temptation to the inhabitants of Lisbon to spend their Sundays where they can breathe its freshness. Cintra is fifteen miles from Lisbon. Dr. Southey, in his " Letters," says, " I know not how to describe to you the strange beauties of Cintra. It is perhaps more beautiful than sublime—more grotesque than beautiful; yet I never beheld scenery more calculated to fill the mind with admiration and delight. This immense rock, or mountain, is in part covered with scanty herbage; in parts it rises into conical hills, formed of such immense stones, and piled so strangely, that all the machinery of deluges and volcanoes must fail to satisfy the inquiry for their origin. Nearly at the base stands the town of Cintra, and its palace, an old irregular pile with two chimneys, each shaped like a glass-house. But the abundance of wood forms the most striking feature in this retreat from the Portuguese summer. The houses of the English are seen scattered on the ascent, half hid among cork-trees, elms, oaks, hazels, walnuts, the tall canes, and the rich green of the lemon-gardens. On one of the mountain-eminences stands the Penha convent, visible from the hills near Lisbon.

On another are the ruins of a Moorish castle, and a cistern within its boundaries, kept always full by a spring of the purest water that rises in it. From this elevation the eye stretches over a bare and melancholy country, to Lisbon on the one side, and, on the other, to the distant convent of Mafra; the Atlantic bounding the greater part of the prospect. I cannot, without a tedious minuteness, describe the ever-varying prospects that the many eminences of this wild rock present, or the little green lanes, over whose bordering lemon- gardens the evening wind blows so cool and rich."

Murphy, who published his " Travels in Portugal" in 1795, says, p. 244, that " about thirty years ago, a foreign gentleman discovered a mine of loadstone in this mountain. What suggested the idea of it were the herbs that grew immediately over it, which were of a pale colour, and more feeble than the adjacent plants of the same species. Having dug about six feet deep, he found a fine vein; but as the mountain is a mass of disjointed rocks and clay, he could not proceed further without propping as he excavated. Government therefore, apprehending the produce would not defray the expense, ordered it to be shut up." Is this fact capable of being illustrated by electrico-magnetic researches ?

All travellers seem to agree upon the strikingly beautiful effect of the first appearance of Cintra. Thus Kinsey describes it:

" We at length began to wind round the rock on which a little chapel is situated, to the left above the road, when Cintra was at once disclosed to our longing expectations, with its forest scenery of oak and corktrees, its royal palace, numerous quintas shining amid the orange and lemon-groves which adorn the declivity of the Moorish hill, and a lovely valley to the right, where nature is beheld in her richest and greenest garb, extending down to the sea, whose golden waves reflected at the moment the rays of the setting sun; and sunsets can in no part of the world be more astonishing and glorious than in Portugal. When Lisbon is entirely burnt up and fainting under oppressive heat, the inhabitants of this favoured spot are enjoying their mountain-rills and delightfully refreshing verdure, and an atmosphere more than ten degrees cooler, from its northern aspect, than at the capital."—Portugal Illustrated, p. 128.

But all these accounts are heightened in effect by being brought into immediate contrast, by authors who have just escaped the filth, and heat, and discomfort of Lisbon; and something of the same feeling is imparted to their readers, to whom the description of fountains, gardens, fresh breezes, and pure air, is made to follow the disgusting account of those offences which in Lisbon had passed " betwixt the wind and their nobility."

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