Lord Byron in Portugal – final installment

War and Politics in Portugal

My bizarre project to personally annotate Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage continues. For the first time, I feel I might be getting in over my head — Byron’s poem addresses a swirling turmoil of events with which I’m not familiar. I encourage you to add any insights, or offer corrections. My sources are the Encyclopedia Brittanica, Wikipedia, and quaint footnoted editions I come across in Google Books. If learning about the politics of early 19th century Portugal tests your patience, please hang in there, because Byron is about to enter Spain.

The next three stanzas (24-26) of Canto I deal with the Cintra Convention (1808).

When the French invaded Portugal, they were stopped by a British general who came to be known as the Duke of Wellington. The victors agreed to let the weakened French army return home as part of the Cintra Convention. This peace agreement angered Byron.

The Cintra Convention occurred within the context of the Peninsular War (1808-1814), that portion of the Napoleonic Wars taking place on the Iberian Peninsula. After Napoleon made a pact with Russia in 1807, only two countries remained allied or friendly to Britain: Sweden and Portugal. Russia would deal with Sweden.

Napoleon wanted Portugal to close their ports and declare war on Britain, but when the Portuguese hesitated, he invaded, and Spain, a former ally, switched sides when the French crossed into their territory and occupied part of the country (Spain refers to the Peninsular War as the War of Independence or Guerra de la Independencia.) Of course, that’s just the gist of it. Here is a great image of the Battle of Vimiero, the village near Lisbon where Wellington defeated the French.

785px-Batalha_do_VimeiroContinuing with Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage…

XXIV.

Behold the hall where chiefs were late convened!
Oh! dome displeasing unto British eye!
With diadem hight foolscap, lo! a fiend,
A little fiend that scoffs incessantly,
There sits in parchment robe arrayed, and by
His side is hung a seal and sable scroll,
Where blazoned glare names known to chivalry,
And sundry signatures ador the roll,
Whereat the urchin points, and laughs with all his soul.

“diadem hight foolscap” — A diadem is a royal band or crown, and “hight” means “named.” Byron regards the king of Portugal as a “little fiend” whose crown might as well be the cap of a fool. The signatures probably refer to those who signed the treaty. Even poor street kids — urchins — recognize Portugal’s folly in this agreement, Byron says.

One theme of continuing interest and surprise to me is the political feistiness of poets, a trait perhaps not appreciated by modern readers, who probably think poets of the past just whiled away their time sniffing flowers. Poets, barely a blip on our cultural radar, once dared to shape public opinion.

XXV.

Convention is the dwarfish demon styled
That foiled the knights in Marialva’s dome:
Of brains (if brains they had) he them beguiled,
And turned a nation’s shallow joy to gloom.
Here Folly dashed to earth the victor’s plume,
And Policy regained what Arms had lost:
For chiefs like ours in vain may laurels bloom!
Woe to the conquering, not the conquered host,
Since baffled Triumph droops on Lusitania’s coast.

Byron says the treaty was signed in Cintra, “in Marialva’s dome”, but historian Napier, author of the History of the Peninsular War, says it was signed 30 miles away. Also, it turns out Byron omitted some verses from the original manuscript,  “at the entreaty of his friends” because of the insults he hurled at those in power.

Lusitania is the ancient name of Portugal. (In an unrelated note, the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in 1915 by German U-Boats, as you might recall, created public outrage in America, leading to its entry into WWI.)

XXVI.

And ever since that martial synod met,
Britannia sickens, Cintra, at thy name;
And folks in office at the mention fret,
And fain would blush, if blush they could, for shame.
How will posterity the deed proclaim!
Will not our own and fellow-nations sneer,
To view these champions cheated of their fame,
By foes in fight o’erthrown, yet victors here,
Where Scorn her finger points through many a coming year?

Byron disparagingly calls the convention a “martial synod” (synods refer to ecclesiastical assemblies).

One odd note: in Texas, the name Cintra (a Spanish multinational) is associated with the controversial construction of privatized toll roads.

XXVII.

So deemed the Childe, as o’er the mountains he
Did take his way in solitary guise:
Sweet was the scene, yet soon he thought to flee,
More restless than the swallow in the skies:
Though here awhile he learned to moralise,
For Meditation fixed at times on him,
And conscious Reason whispered to despise
His early youth misspent in maddest whim;
But as he gazed on Truth, his aching eyes grew dim.

XXVIII.

To horse! to horse! he quits, for ever quits
A scene of peace, though soothing to his soul:
Again he rouses from his moping fits,
But seeks not now the harlot and the bowl.
Onward he flies, nor fixed as yet the goal
Where he shall rest him on his pilgrimage;
And o’er him many changing scenes must roll,
Ere toil his thirst for travel can assuage,
Or he shall calm his breast, or learn experience sage.

Byronic heroes, like Childe Harold, are moody and restless. There will be much traveling, until toil ends his wanderlust, or until he calms down or obtains wisdom. Speaking of toil, I assume he’s referring to the strain of travel, because as far as I can tell, Byron never had to work at a real job.

XXIX.

Yet Mafra shall one moment claim delay,
Where dwelt of yore the Lusians’ luckless queen;
And church and court did mingle their array,
And mass and revel were alternate seen;
Lordlings and freres—ill-sorted fry, I ween!
But here the Babylonian whore had built
A dome, where flaunts she in such glorious sheen,
That men forget the blood which she hath spilt,
And bow the knee to Pomp that loves to garnish guilt.

Mafra is northwest of Lisbon, site of the Palacio de Mafra.

fry = individuals; members of a group or class

ween = believe (another archaic word)

Why was the Maria I a luckless queen? Well, according to a footnote I found on Google Books: “The queen laboured under a kind of melancholy derangement, from which she never recovered.” Another footnote from an 1899 edition, edited by Earnest Hertley Coleridge, said that it was the death of her husband, combined with the death of her favorite confessor, and the death of her son that “turned her brain.” Although that fact that she married her uncle, Pedro III, makes me wonder whether she was all there to begin with.

XXX.

O’er vales that teem with fruits, romantic hills,
(Oh that such hills upheld a free-born race!)
Whereon to gaze the eye with joyaunce fills,
Childe Harold wends through many a pleasant place.
Though sluggards deem it but a foolish chase,
And marvel men should quit their easy chair,
The toilsome way, and long, long league to trace.
Oh, there is sweetness in the mountain air
And life, that bloated Ease can never hope to share.

Oh, there is sweetness in the mountain air And life, that bloated Ease can never hope to share.

XXXI.

More bleak to view the hills at length recede,
And, less luxuriant, smoother vales extend:
Immense horizon-bounded plains succeed!
Far as the eye discerns, withouten end,
Spain’s realms appear, whereon her shepherds tend
Flocks, whose rich fleece right well the trader knows—
Now must the pastor’s arm his lambs defend:
For Spain is compassed by unyielding foes,
And all must shield their all, or share Subjection’s woes.

Spain is surrounded by enemies! (compassed = encompassed). I give credit to Byron — why hang out in a resort when you can enter a war zone?

XXXII.

Where Lusitania and her Sister meet,
Deem ye what bounds the rival realms divide?
Or e’er the jealous queens of nations greet,
Doth Tayo interpose his mighty tide?
Or dark sierras rise in craggy pride?
Or fence of art, like China’s vasty wall?—
Ne barrier wall, ne river deep and wide,
Ne horrid crags, nor mountains dark and tall
Rise like the rocks that part Hispania’s land from Gaul

Unlike the barrier that separates “Hispania’s land from Gaul” [Spain from France], there is no geographic barrier that separates “Lusitania and her Sister” [Spain and Portugal].

dark sierras = long jagged mountain chains. The word applies especially to mountain ranges having irregular or serrated outlines. (From Spanish serra, or saw.)

Tayo = Tajo, the largest river of the Iberian peninsula.

XXXIII.

But these between a silver streamlet glides,
And scarce a name distinguisheth the brook,
Though rival kingdoms press its verdant sides.
Here leans the idle shepherd on his crook,
And vacant on the rippling waves doth look,
That peaceful still ‘twixt bitterest foemen flow:
For proud each peasant as the noblest duke:
Well doth the Spanish hind the difference know
‘Twixt him and Lusian slave, the lowest of the low.

the “silver streamlet” = the 1899 edition says this is the Caia River, a tributary of the Guadiana, mentioned next.

hind = by this word, Byron is referring to farmhands or rustics. Again with the bashing of the Lusians!

XXXIV.

But ere the mingling bounds have far been passed,
Dark Guadiana rolls his power along
In sullen billows, murmuring and vast,
So noted ancient roundelays among.
Whilome upon his banks did legions throng
Of Moor and Knight, in mailed splendour drest;
Here ceased the swift their race, here sunk the strong;
The Paynim turban and the Christian crest
Mixed on the bleeding stream, by floating hosts oppressed.

roundelay = a song or poem with a refrain

Muslim and Christian forces clashed on the banks of the Guadiana. Byron’s eyes always seem to see past and present simultaneously.

Next up (if I have the energy) – Byron arrives in Spain.

The Guadiana river near Serpa, Portugal.

The Guadiana river near Serpa, Portugal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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A great discussion about Lord Byron’s Life

Here is an informative podcast about Lord Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage: BBC In Our Time, January 6, 2011 Though I found the host’s frequent interruptions annoying, I’m sure I’ll revisit this program.

Here is a summary of nearly all the topics discussed with his guests:

  • Byron’s aristocratic background and his grandfather, an admiral named “Foul Weather Jack.”
    Engraving of Byron's father, Captain John

    Engraving of Byron’s father, Captain John “Mad Jack” Byron, date unknown (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • His father, “Mad Jack,” an army captain and drunken profligate. Jack seduced and married an aristocratic heiress named Amelia. After she died, he was in debt and on the run from creditors. He remarried “a rather plain plump Scottish girl named Catherine” for her money. Three years later, Mad Jack died (at 35) and she was bankrupt. (Catherine was Byron’s mother; Amelia was the mother of Byron’s half-sister Augusta, with whom he would have a scandalously incestuous relationship.)
  • Byron’s club foot.
  • Sexual abuse by his Calvinist nurse.
  • The rejection of one of his early works, Hours of Idleness
  • His retaliatory assault on poets and critics in English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. “It was English Bards that brought him to real public prominence…” a guest said, and not Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, of which Byron famously said “I awoke to find myself famous.”
  • His capacity for hate / holding grudges
  • 1809 – Byron’s grand tour – speculation on why he left to England: “This remains a mystery to some degree… it may have been because of his homosexual tendencies, which he felt he could only indulge in the East…” along with a love of Greek culture, etc.
  • The meaning of “childe” and why he started writing the poem.
  • The influence of Edmund Spenser (the poem is written in Spenserian stanzas).
  • The innovative style of the poem: “There were lots and lots of travel poems in the period… but what’s unique about CHP is that it’s simultaneously a travelogue, a political poem… and a very personal poem with all sorts of veiled references to personal scandal, and that’s what’s new”
  • The similarities between — and the merging of — the fictional Harold and the real Byron.
  • The break up of his marriage
  • How Byron was the first to write about “The shame of war, the disgrace of war — this is something entirely new in English poetry.”
  • Byron’s descriptions of bull-fighting.
  • On Greece becoming a “sad relic of departed worth”
  • 1812 – Childe Harold first published by Murray
  • Byron was one the first celebrities, before “being famous” was commonplace
  • 1816 – Byron left Britain for good following the exposure of his affair with his half-sister, along with rumors of attempted sodomy with his wife, etc.
  • His dangerously liberal politics.
    Frontispiece to a c. 1825 edition of Childe Ha...

    Frontispiece to a c. 1825 edition of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • His description of the Battle of Waterloo (Canto III) and his feelings about Napoleon.
  • What exactly is a “Byronic hero”?
  • What Byron doesn’t like about Wordsworth: his isolation from humanity
  • His continued status as a political hero in Greece and elsewhere. “There was a cult of Byron in every European country, except for Portugal.” (They never forgave him for insulting their country.)
  • Byron’s influence on other artists, including Bram Stoker: “Every vampire you encounter is based on Lord Byron”

Unpoetic Subjects

I listened to the wind

and to the speaking leaves

And learned not a thing

but to pause and to breathe

Dear reader, thank you for your continued interest in my blog. I was in Zilker Park (Austin, Texas), taking a break from writing a more ambitious poem about weedwackers when I wrote those lines.

The prospect of writing poems about seemingly unpoetic subjects delights me immensely. Weedwackers and leaf-blowers would surely shatter the noonday reveries of Romantic poets, yet they fill me with nostalgia. Their hypnotic hum in the distance seems like the sleepy sound of summer itself, inseparable from the languorous, Floridian days of my youth. Weedwackers are “mechanical cicadas, biting not to eat” wielded by “invisible men, to keep teeming Nature neat.” (I’m still working on it.)

Poets should embrace the world in its entirety. You don’t need to cultivate a poetic mood to write poetry, you need to cultivate poetic eyesight.

When I see blackened blobs of dried gum in a parking lot, they inspire me to write. The Tao Te Ching has taught me that the world should not be divided into beautiful and ugly, or other dualisms. (There is only the Tao, the Way, the unity of all things – whatever that means.)  Our minds, craving categorization and simplicity, fall prey to false opposites all the time: good and evil, us and them, right and wrong, etc.

Just as I occasionally find unlikely beauty in “ugliness,” I sometimes see ugliness in what traditionally is regarded as beautiful. For example, Nature inspires us with its beauty, but often I reflect on how brutal it is: a cycle of killing, eating, evading, surviving and mating. It’s as ruthless as capitalism. Nature relaxes you, but Nature is hardly relaxed. Nature is relentless struggle and death.

Submitting everything we see to convenient labels, to approval or rejection, to celebration or complaint, is easy but unsubtle, and blunts the mind to true understanding. For example: Advertising is ugly. And flowers are beautiful, right? Yet consider that flowers merely serve as billboards for bees and other pollinators. Their beauty, to our eyes, is an accidental development. Nature has employed advertising for eons.

And beauty of course, is subjective and species specific. There is nothing more alluringly beautiful to the fly than the tantalizing scent of putrefying flesh.

Lord Byron in Portugal – continued

The story so far: having escaped death at the hands of assassins, Lord Byron continues his sight-seeing tour of Portugal, describing the sights as seen by his fictional character Childe Harold.

XXII.

On sloping mounds, or in the vale beneath,
Are domes where whilom kings did make repair;
But now the wild flowers round them only breathe:
Yet ruined splendour still is lingering there.
And yonder towers the prince’s palace fair:
There thou, too, Vathek! England’s wealthiest son,
Once formed thy Paradise, as not aware
When wanton Wealth her mightiest deeds hath done,
Meek Peace voluptuous lures was ever wont to shun.

whilom = formerly. “England’s wealthiest son” is a reference to William Beckford, author of Vathek, considered a classic gothic novel. I have a nicely illustrated copy of it, and confess I have yet to read it, though it’s not lengthy.

English: The hall of Fonthill Abbey in Wiltshi...

English: The hall of Fonthill Abbey in Wiltshire, England (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A wealthy eccentric, the life of Beckford is worth mentioning. At five he received piano lessons from Mozart, who was nine years old at the time. His father, twice Lord Mayor of London, bequeathed him, his only son, a vast fortune derived from Jamaican sugar plantations powered by slave labor. Beckford blew most of his fortune on collecting art and on building Fonthill Abbey, a gigantic gothic construction with a central tower that ended up collapsing twice.

When his sexual involvement with a young boy was exposed (Beckford was 18 and the boy 10 when they first met), he chose self-exile, fleeing to the Continent with his wife.

Fonthill Abbey. Built 1795 - 1807 by James Wya...

Fonthill Abbey. Built 1795 – 1807 by James Wyatt for William Beckford, the author of the gothic fantasy novel Vathek. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

XXIII.

Here didst thou dwell, here schemes of pleasure plan.
Beneath yon mountain’s ever beauteous brow;
But now, as if a thing unblest by man,
Thy fairy dwelling is as lone as thou!
Here giant weeds a passage scarce allow
To halls deserted, portals gaping wide;
Fresh lessons to the thinking bosom, how
Vain are the pleasaunces on earth supplied;
Swept into wrecks anon by Time’s ungentle tide.

Apparently, a pleasaunce, aside from meaning enjoyment, is also “the region of a garden with the sole purpose of giving pleasure to the senses, but not offering fruit or sustenance” (an obsolete definition from allwords.com). A pleasaunce, full of pretty but useless, fruitless plants, is a fine metaphor for empty pleasures. Take care, dear reader, lest you end up ruined with no more than a garden full of giant weeds!

Vain are the pleasaunces on earth supplied; Swept into wrecks anon by Time’s ungentle tide.

Lord Byron in Portugal

The Story so far… Childe Harold has fled his native land and the empty pleasures of his hall, because there’s nothing and no one to keep him at home. He is about to arrive in Portugal. (For earlier portions, see the Childe Harold Project)

XIV.

On, on the vessel flies, the land is gone,
And winds are rude in Biscay’s sleepless bay.
Four days are sped, but with the fifth, anon,
New shores descried make every bosom gay;
And Cintra’s mountain greets them on their way,
And Tagus dashing onward to the deep,
His fabled golden tribute bent to pay;
And soon on board the Lusian pilots leap,
And steer ‘twixt fertile shores where yet few rustics reap.

Bay of Biscay = see image

English: This is a map showing the location of...

Cintra = city northwest of Lisbon. Sintra seems to be the modern spelling.

Tagus = longest river on the Iberian Peninsula. (Tajo in Spanish, Tejo in Portuguese; Tagus is Latin.)

Lusian = Portuguese

XV.

Oh, Christ! it is a goodly sight to see
What Heaven hath done for this delicious land!
What fruits of fragrance blush on every tree!
What goodly prospects o’er the hills expand!
But man would mar them with an impious hand:
And when the Almighty lifts his fiercest scourge
‘Gainst those who most transgress his high command,
With treble vengeance will his hot shafts urge
Gaul’s locust host, and earth from fellest foemen purge.

“Gaul’s locust host” refers to the French. Apparently, Byron sees war with the French as a form of divine punishment on the Portuguese for their destruction of the landscape. Lacking specifics, I’ll just read on.

Fellest = According to Merriam-Webster, fell can mean: a : fierce, cruel, terrible; b : sinister, malevolent <a fell purpose>; c : very destructive : deadly <a fell disease>

XVI.

What beauties doth Lisboa first unfold!
Her image floating on that noble tide,
Which poets vainly pave with sands of gold,
But now whereon a thousand keels did ride
Of mighty strength, since Albion was allied,
And to the Lusians did her aid afford
A nation swoll’n with ignorance and pride,
Who lick, yet loathe, the hand that waves the sword.
To save them from the wrath of Gaul’s unsparing lord.

Lisboa or Lisbon, is the capital of Portugal

“Which poets vainly pave with sands of gold” – this line, combined with those from Stanza XIV:  “And Tagus dashing onward to the deep, His fabled golden tribute bent to pay” seem to have a story behind them; I’m guessing false or exaggerated tales of gold.

England (Albion) came to aid the Portuguese (Lusians), with “a thousand” ships (is he being literal here? – that’s quite a fleet). Byron paints quite an unflattering image of the nation of Portugal.

Gaul’s unsparing lord = Napoleon.

XVII.

But whoso entereth within this town,
That, sheening far, celestial seems to be,
Disconsolate will wander up and down,
Mid many things unsightly to strange e’e;
For hut and palace show like filthily;
The dingy denizens are reared in dirt;
No personage of high or mean degree
Doth care for cleanness of surtout or shirt,
Though shent with Egypt’s plague, unkempt, unwashed, unhurt.

sheen = to be bright, show a sheen (to be bright or shining)

surtout =a man’s long, close-fitting overcoat. pronunciation

shent = destroyed / also “to put shame to” or reprove

XVIII.

Poor, paltry slaves! yet born midst noblest scenes—
Why, Nature, waste thy wonders on such men?
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 unlocked Elysium’s gates?

The scene is more dazzling than anything described by … earlier I thought Shakespeare, but W. Hiley, editor of an 1877 edition I found on Google Books, says Dante.

ken = another one of those nice old words, meaning the range of vision; sight or view; the range of perception, knowledge or understanding.

Elysium = the Greek version of paradise, a place often mentioned in old poetry.

XIX.

The horrid crags, by toppling convent crowned,
The cork-trees hoar that clothe the shaggy steep,
The mountain moss by scorching skies imbrowned,
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,
Mixed in one mighty scene, with varied beauty glow.

The word “toppling” caught my e’e – it’s an interesting word choice. Perhaps the crags seem toppled or overthrown by the convent; it also conveys the feeling of resting “atop” the crags. Also, you get a nice assonance with “toppling” and “convent.” That’s my thought, anyway.

hoar = a word you see oft in Romantic poetry. Hoar, hoary  – anything that’s white or gray, or ancient can be described with this word. It’s also a synonym for frost / sometimes I’ve seen “hoar-frost.” It’s unfortunate that this fine old-fashioned word and “whore” are homophones.

Reading poetry aloud is essential for appreciating the repetition of certain sounds: “horrid”, “hoar,”   “scorching,” “torrents”; “sunken”  and “sunless” and “unruffled”; “glen” and “tender.”

azure = blue

XX.

Then slowly climb the many-winding way,
And frequent turn to linger as you go,
From loftier rocks new loveliness survey,
And rest ye at ‘Our Lady’s House of Woe;’
Where frugal monks their little relics show,
And sundry legends to the stranger tell:
Here impious men have punished been; and lo,
Deep in yon cave Honorius long did dwell,
In hope to merit Heaven by making earth a Hell.

Two things worth mentioning here – Byron’s translation error and Honorius.

Nossa Senora de Peña or “our Lady’s house of woe” should be translated as “our lady of the rock”  (rock is peña; pena is Portuguese for punishment). Byron addresses the error in his notes to Cantos I-II.

Our Lady of the Rock

Our Lady of the Rock

I looked up Honorius in Wikipedia; he lived in the Convento de Santa Cruz da Serra da Sintra (Convent of the Holy Cross of the Sintra Mountains), lived to be 100, and spent the last thirty years of his life living in a small hole, which still exists today. Wish I had an image of it! Robert Southey, a poet and contemporary of Byron’s wrote this:

Inscription for the Cell of Honorius, at the Cork Convent, near Cintra
Robert Southey (1774–1843)
HERE, caverned like a beast, Honorius passed,
In self-affliction, solitude, and prayer,
Long years of penance. He had rooted out
All human feelings from his heart, and fled
With fear and loathing from all human joys.
Not thus in making known his will divine
Hath Christ enjoined. To aid the fatherless,
Comfort the sick, and be the poor man’s friend,
And in the wounded heart pour gospel-balm,—
These are the injunctions of his holy law,
Which whoso keeps shall have a joy on earth,
Calm, constant, still increasing, preluding
The eternal bliss of heaven. Yet mock not thou,
Stranger, the anchorite’s mistaken zeal!
He painfully his painful duties kept,
Sincere, though erring. Stranger! do thou keep
Thy better and thine easier rule as well.

XXI.

And here and there, as up the crags you spring,
Mark many rude-carved crosses near the path;
Yet deem not these devotion’s offering—
These are memorials frail of murderous wrath;
For wheresoe’er the shrieking victim hath
Poured forth his blood beneath the assassin’s knife,
Some hand erects a cross of mouldering lath;
And grove and glen with thousand such are rife
Throughout this purple land, where law secures not life!

So – not only are the Portuguese (of all social classes) dirty and dingy in appearance, but apparently the murder rate is out of control. Byron is a young tourist, already guilty of a translation error – perhaps not every cross denotes a murder.

Here is what he says in his notes to Cantos I-II:

“It is a well-known fact, that in the year 1809 the assassinations in the streets of Lisbon and its vicinity were not confined by the Portuguese to their countrymen; but that Englishmen were daily butchered: and so far from redress being obtained, we were requested not to interfere if we perceived any compatriot defending himself against his allies. I was once stopped in the way to the theatre at eight o’clock in the evening, when the streets were not more empty than they generally are at that hour, opposite to an open shop, and in a carriage with a friend; had we not fortunately been armed, I have not the least doubt that we should have adorned a tale instead of telling one.”