Portugal – Coimbra – Camcensem Dona Telles – Pombal

November 20th.—”It seems to me Portugal has seen a great deal of fighting,” said Mrs. Loring, as we sat last evening over our good wood fire at the Lawrence in Cintra, looking back over what we had seen, and for-ward to what we might see. ” There is no doubt about that,” said I ; ” and it has required a great deal of fighting to keep itself alive. Subjugated by the Carthaginians three hundred years before Christ ; conquered by the Romans eighty years after ; invaded by the Vandals in the fifth Christian century ; occupied by the Moors in the eighth century ; bestowed upon Count Henriques by Affonso VI. of Castile and Leon, with the hand of his daughter, Theresa, and wrested from the Moors, after great sieges and bloody battles, in the 12th century ; torn by a rebellion of the aristocracy in the middle of the thirteenth century ; conquering the Algarves at the same time ; riven by the civil war and rebellion of the reign of Diniz ; engaged in the final fight with the Moors in 1340 ; ravaged by the civil war waged by Dom Pedro against the King Affonso IV., who had murdered his wife ; occupied in the war with Castile, in 1370 ; fighting the great battle of Aljubarrota, in 1370 ; carrying the war into Africa, in the middle of the fifteenth century ; raging in another civil war, in 1438, between the Regent, Dom Pedro, and Affonso V. ; attempting to take the crown of Castile with the sword, in 1476 ; startled by the great conspiracy of the nobles against the king towards the close of the fifteenth century ; conducting wars of conquest in India in the early part of the sixteenth century ; mourning over Dom Sebastian’s annihilating defeat in Africa ; busy with the perpetual conflicts in the Castilian usurpation, from 1581 to 1640 ; warring with Spain for nearly thirty years for independence, from 1640 ; fighting the Dutch in the Atlantic islands, and Brazil, and the Spaniards at the Linhas de Elvas, in 1658 ; warring with France and Spain a century afterwards ; opening the nineteenth century with her share in the Peninsular wars against Napoleon ; employed from 1821 to 1834 in the Miguelite disturbances ; counting fourteen revolutions in fifteen years preceding 1851, and engaged in numerous skirmishes which I cannot possibly remember ; “-” Let us abandon the battle-grounds for the present,” said Mrs. Loring, ” and turn our attention to the schools.” “Schools ! ” said I ; “why, there is but one in Portugal. We will go to Coimbra.”

Such an autumn or early winter morning as can be occupied by an excursion like this is not easily found outside of Portugal,—and away from that part of Portugal in which we now are. Nearly five months we have been here, most of the time in Cintra, and not a storm have we yet seen ; but few showery days, no severe cold, no frost. The heat has been slight ; the air has been invigorating ; and this season of the year, which finds the trees bare of leaves in New England, and the fields frost-bitten and clothed in a winter garb, following a season of tempests and long cold storms and gales and destructive seas, is radiant here with beauty. The sky today is cloudless ; the forests are just tinged with a golden yellow ; the leaves still adorn the trees ; the air has the flavor of May ; the grass has returned to the pastures ; young lambs are playing among the flocks on the hillsides ; and the newly upturned earth, which the farmers are ploughing everywhere, looks like the beginning, and not the close, of the year. Such a day for an excursion is not often seen anywhere on earth. So we go to Coimbra.

Coimbra lies in that line which I pursued when I left Lisbon and followed Torres Vedras and wandered along the historic coast of Portugal. It is a hundred and thirty-eight miles from Lisbon, and the road to it runs through that historic part of Portugal to which I have been so much devoted, and through the towns of Santarem, Thomar, and Pombal, on whose names the student of Portuguese history lingers long. Of course the Romans settled in the valley of the Mondego, the Moors took their place for a season, and in the early part of the eleventh century the Cid and Fernando the Great fixed there the Castilian rule. Coimbra was once the capital of Portugal, and remained so until the Cortes, controlled by the eloquence of the great lawyer John das Regras, elected Dorn John I. ” of good memory ” king, when the seat of government was moved to Lisbon. It has its churches and its cathedral, its university, and the buildings which usually cluster around an institution of learning. It can be explored in a reasonably short space of time, if one desires ; has a charming situation on the high and hilly river bank ; is old and quaint and interesting. It has its supply of decrepit beggars usually found in the towns and cities of Portugal. The oldest inhabitant, who still lives on nothing, as he has done for ninety years, has his terrible traditions for willing ears. The traffic of the place is of that limited nature usually found in seats of learning —feeding and lodging professors and students. It is the university, therefore, which citizens talk most about and travellers visit first—the only university in all Portugal. B or Portuguese purposes it is doubtless better than Oxford or Cambridge, or Harvard with its theological liberality and its political eccentricity ; but for the outside world it presents but few attractions. As a law school it takes high rank and supplies the kingdom with judges, advocates, and barristers, as well as legislators and councillors. It educates the best of the medical fraternity, enjoys the benefit of fine museums of anatomy and natural history, and has an admirable library of sixty thousand volumes to which the suppressed convents of St. Bento, Santa Cruz, Santa Rita, and Graça made liberal forced contributions. The capacity and deportment of the students have always held high rank. The course of medicine lasts eight years ; the law six years, five for qualification for a judgeship, and one additional for the degree of a doctor ; the theological term is six years, is controlled by a faculty of seven members, and is very thorough in theological lore with text-books mainly in the Roman Index. The terms begin in autumn and last until the end of May ; examinations continue until the end of July, followed by a vacation of three months. About $400 is a liberal allowance for the annual expenses, tuition being free. The accurate and systematic education of the university furnishes Portugal with an ample supply of accomplished members of all the liberal professions, who are held in high esteem throughout the kingdom. For the supply of technologists, scientists, metaphysicians, engineers, mineralogists, chemists, electricians, the university has hardly reached distinction. There are, however, five faculties—theology, law, medicine, mathematics, and philosophy, besides a school of design.

Into the general education of Portugal the students of Coimbra do not appear to have entered. For the supply of teachers for what are called municipal schools, normal schools for males and females are amply provided, and they furnish an excellent body of teachers. The municipal schools are not graded as in Massachusetts, but have been organized on the system of classes, which I have always advocated,—the old plan of our academies, in which the scholars had an opportunity to learn from the recitations of their associates, as well as from the guidance of the instructors. Municipal schools are provided for boys and girls separately, and all children are admitted free. Unfortunately compulsory education is not enforced, and the proportion of uneducated children is consequently very large. In addition to the government provision for education, there are many liberally endowed schools supported by private munificence and bequests. There have been a few instances of the private academies once so well known and so useful in New England from which many accomplished boys went forth into the higher walks of scholarship. The last of these, as near as I can ascertain, kept in Lisbon by an English scholar, secured for its founder, Mr. Davidson, an ample fortune, and gave many young men from Lisbon and many from Brazil, who desired an English education, but were unwilling to expose themselves to the rigors of an English climate, an opportunity to pursue studies in this line. The collegiate and common-school education of Portugal is well provided for, but the addition of a Round Hill with Bancroft and Cogswell at its head, or a Franklin Academy ruled by Mr. Simeon Putnam, or Exeter with the beloved and venerable Abbott, or Andover with its genial and authoritative Taylor and Bancroft, would add greatly to the educational privileges of a kingdom to which more and more young men from abroad are annually attracted. The University of Coimbra should have its attendant Eton and Rugby, to make the classical system of Portugal complete. That its name is beloved and venerated by all Portuguese scholars is not surprising, for from its walls have gone forth the learned men who have made the literature of Portugal what it is —its historians and poets and novelists.

I wish we could count Miranda, the neglected father of Portuguese poetry, among its alumni ; but we cannot, and are obliged to leave him to the tender mercies of the mass of mankind without the love and admiration of a college fraternity. The mother of Camoens, however, sent her son to Coimbra, gave her mite to the cultivation of his mind, and gave the country of her birth his immortal genius. We all know how misplaced love in the aristocratic circles of Lisbon drove him to the wars ; how his censuring verse was punished by his banishment to China ; how he was cast ashore at Goa, bearing his immortal poem through the waves ; how he was betrayed and starved at Mozambique ; how he depended upon the alms bestowed upon his negro servant Antonio in the streets of Lisbon for his subsistence ; and how at last he found a pauper’s grave where he rested in neglect until his country, inspired by a cultivated monarch, erected a stately and imposing monument to his memory. But we ought also to remember that he gave his native land the inspiration which great genius alone can give the mind and heart of a people. What Shakespeare is to the English tongue, and Dante to Italy, and Goethe to Germany, and Calderon to Spain, Camoens is to Portugal, revealing to the Portuguese mind all that is devoted, heroic, and noble in the history and character of the kingdom. The weakness of human nature consists not in the absence of generous sentiments, and poetic emotions, and noble aspirations, and warm appreciation, but in the incapacity of man to express the inmost workings of his soul. He who utters all this for his fellow-men, and gives shape to his thoughts and feelings, becomes for all men the creator and guide. Camoens taught the people of his time and country all they were capable of, and Portugal became his as he made it. Byron, in his brilliant defence of Pope—who even at this day rises higher and higher in proportion as he is assailed—says : ” He who can reconcile poetry with truth and wisdom is the only true poet in its real sense, the maker, the creator” ; and this Camoens did, and placed himself in that great group around which stands that multitude who have laid their offerings on the altar erected to their inspired brethren, and have done the best they could to keep step to the music of their great leaders and captains.

But Coimbra has other objects of interest besides the university. Go where you will in Portugal, you will find that somebody has been there before, and somebody of so much importance that he and his deeds cannot be forgotten even in the midst of the life immediately around you. The morning papers of Lisbon have hardly yet ceased their articles on the death of the king and his imposing funeral, and the extraordinary speech of the Cardinal Patriarch as he swung the incense and sprinkled the holy water on the coffin of the monarch, calling for the prayers of the faithful on his Majesty who, in spite of the absolution of the Nuncio, was still in Purgatory. If one could only find a file of the Coimbra Daily Journal (if there was such a paper) of November 11, 1387, he might undoubtedly read the following, reported for that faithful chronicler of the little passing events of that day :

” SAD TRAGEDY.-OUR readers will be pained to hear that our beloved Princess Dona Maria Telles, the sister of Dona Leonor Telles, whose conduct has not been quite satisfactory to her husband, King Dom Fernando I., was murdered by her husband, Dorn John, the son of the unfortunate Inez de Castro, and thus another unhappy tragedy has been added to the history of the royal family. The marriage of Dona Telles, a secret alliance, with Dom John had aroused the anger of her sister, the queen, and she cherished vengeance in her heart. It was easy for her to rouse the ambition of Dom John, by promising him the hand of her daughter and a path to the throne were he free, even to the point of murder in his own family. Dona Maria had been a good wife, and Dom John had been a happy husband. But then a seat upon the throne ! The Prince Dom John, unmindful that the prince should be secondary to the husband and father, invited many of our most honorable and Christian nobility to a banquet at which the princess was not present. As the evening wore away she retired to her royal and virtuous couch. As the banquet went on, Dom John became more and more excited, until he announced to his friends that he suspected his wife of infidelity and he proposed to remove her forthwith by death. The journey to Coimbra was short. To reach his palace was but the work of a moment, and the door of the princess’ chamber yielded at once to the mad and furious attack of the Prince. The tender-hearted attendant friends of the infuriated husband wept and fainted while the Infante stabbed his helpless wife, reiterating stab upon stab until she fell weltering in her blood and calling on her Saviour for mercy. The scene is said to have been most heartrending, and adds another tragical chapter to the history of that distressed family of which the mother of Dom John, Inez de Castro, was a member.

” We are told that the Infante has fled the city and will remain abroad until his errors are forgotten—or perhaps to wear away his life in the forests of Galliza. We trust and believe the Lord will have mercy on his soul. We cannot too strongly express our regret that such a sad event has occurred in our community.”

This article from the ancient Coimbra Daily journal must have been read with great pain by the citizens of the city who loved their country, were proud of their government, and had great faith in and devotion to the ruling family. I have looked in vain for an account of the funeral of the unfortunate Princess. I have not cared to ascertain the exact fate of him who was called the unfortunate Prince:

“Coimbra is famous not only for its tragedies but for its beauties and solemnities. Its Botanic Garden is famous the world over, and under somewhat adverse circumstances of climate really vies with the vales of Montserrate. The river Mondego flows through a most beautiful country, a bright and sparkling stream in summer-time, and a raging torrent in winter, destroying all before it. It is renowned for its destructive floods, and for centuries has swept away from time to time the habitations men have erected on its banks. Still the population runs its chances, and, perhaps, enjoys the dangerous adventure. Nature on a rampage has great fascination. The hills on which Coimbra sits are some of the most picturesque in Portugal, and the city, like all others which sit upon a hill, has great natural as well as artificial charms. It has a bridge also,—and a city with a background of mountains, a surface of hills and valleys, a river, and a bridge, has almost everything required to make it perfect. A bridge with an event, moreover, is a great treasure. Coimbra has such an one, famous not only for its antiquity but for its historic and significant procession, which started out in 1423, when the plague was raging in the city, under the leadership of Vincente Martins, who made a vow that if he and his five sons were saved from the contagion by the intercession of the five martyrs of Morocco, he would visit the Convent of Santa Cruz annually, where their relics reposed, going in solemn procession, naked from the waist upwards. The devotion became very popular ; the number of penitents who joined the procession increased largely, until it reached nearly three hundred, old and young. Some in drawers only, some girt about with a napkin, marching through the most populous streets across the bridge to the convent, where a sermon was preached to this ancient Salvation Army. In 1555, a bishop of Coimbra suppressed the procession and the plague returned with unusual violence. The ceremony was reestablished, and was continued until the eighteenth century, when it was finally abolished by Bishop Dom Francisco de Lemos. I am not aware that anything of similar interest has taken its place ; but the bridge is there all ready for the rare display, and I doubt not more visitors would throng Coimbra on the 16th of January to view it, than could be tempted by any ceremony within the classic walls of the university.

It is usually considered that the attractions of Coimbra can be exhausted in a day. But if the Church of Santa Cruz, with its remarkable history, its queer art, and its impressive architecture ; and the old Cathedral, where the Master of Aviz was crowned king under the title of Dom John I. ; and the Quinta das Lagrimas, where Inez de Castro was murdered ; and the Monastery of Santa Clara, are all to be visited, rooms may be profit-ably taken at the tolerable hotel, Mondego, for many days. Coimbra is as well worth exploring as any town in the peninsula.

The return to Lisbon leads through Pombal, about thirty miles from Coimbra, and one of the representative towns of the kingdom. Pombal is a great name in Portuguese history, as great as that of Gambetta in Prance, or Castelar in Spain, or Gladstone in England in our day, or as Wolsey and Richelieu in former times —perhaps as Jefferson and Hamilton and Washington combined in one. He has been likened to Bismarck, whom Senator Hoar seems to think is the greatest statesman of modem times, because he is in favor of a protective tariff. Pombal had a smaller territory to control and a very different form of civilization to deal with. He had a people accustomed to violent commotions, fed on sharp traditions, taught in a severe school. And he had a country in which insurrections and earthquakes divided the attention of mankind. The story of his life is most interesting, and may be given in full, according to the usually accepted journal style, so important was he to the country of his birth and service. His name was Sebastiâo José de Carvalho Mello, Marquis of Pombal. He was born in Lisbon in 1699, studied at Coimbra, and having entered the army, in which, however, he remained but a short time, was appointed to a post in the diplomatic service. He distinguished himself as Minister to London ; thence he was sent to Vienna, where he most successfully acted as mediator between the Austrian Government and the Holy See. Returning to Portugal, on the death of Dom John V., he was called by the new king, Dom José, to a seat in the cabinet ; and henceforth, during the rest of that monarch’s life and reign, he devoted himself to the regeneration of his country by a series of the most useful and vigorous reforms. The great earthquake of November 1, 1755, placed him in the most trying circumstances that ever befell a minister ; but his indomitable energy overcame all difficulties, and he commenced the restoration of the almost ruined capital on the magnificent plan, which, owing to his death, was unfortunately never entirely completed. The concise reply said to have been made on this occasion to the King, when Dom José mournfully inquired what was to be done, is certainly characteristic of the self-possession of the man ” Bury the dead, and feed the living.” For fourteen days and nights he lived, so to speak, in his carriage, going from one part of the smoking ruins to another, issuing edicts to preserve order and guard the inhabitants from the robbers whom the earthquake had set free. It was owing to his firmness that the seat of government was not then transferred to Rio de Janeiro. Among the most important measures of his ministry we may mention the expulsion of the Jesuits ; the curbing of the much-abused power of the Inquisition, whose authority he reduced to that of an ordinary tribunal, subject to royal jurisdiction ; the establishment of manufactories throughout the country ; the regeneration of the colonies ; the abolition of slavery, declaring that all slaves on touching Portuguese soil were free ; the restoration of commerce ; and, in a word, the vast reforms by which he was enabled to raise his country from a state of ruin and insignificance to opulence and an honorable position among the kingdoms of Europe. The just appreciation of these measures by statesmen of the present day has rendered the name of the great Marquis revered and honored not only by his fellow-countrymen but by Europe in general. In Portugal he is always spoken of as the wise statesman, the undaunted minister ; and every intelligent Portuguese, when he speaks of the present comparative decline of his country, breathes a wish that such a man could again be found to undertake its government and revive its former prosperity.

On the death of Dom José, Pombal renewed a previous request to be exonerated from office, alleging his advanced age and infirm state of health. Dom José had refused it, but Dona Maria I. granted his petition and allowed him to retire with all his appointments, besides conferring on him some additional honors. But the priests and Jesuits, whom he had certainly taken no pains to conciliate, would not allow him to enjoy them in peace, and the Queen ere long suffered herself to be influenced by them. The aged statesman was banished to the town of Pombal, and there persecuted by harassing examinations. Finally, after much suffering, he died at that place, at the advanced age of eighty-six. In the centre of what is now called Black Horse Square, on account of an equestrian statue of Dom José I., erected in 1775, in gratitude to the King and Pombal for their energy in rebuilding the city, there was placed the effigy of the powerful Minister. Not long after, this effigy was destroyed by the populace, who recalled the tyranny of Pombal while in office. In 1833, how-ever, by order of Dom Pedro, the tribute to his memory was restored, and now adorns the monument.

Pombal would not have found opportunity for his peculiar qualities except in a land of earthquakes, and Jesuits, and conspirators, or suspects, or civil contests, or extravagance, or great wealth, or great poverty. In youth and early manhood he was one of the graceless disturbers of Lisbon. He had immense forces, and was ready at all times to use them for good or evil as circumstances presented a tempting opportunity. His will was law. He filled the exhausted coffers of his country by tithes, taxes, and trade, which would almost be denominated rapine in the laws of Christian commonwealths. He suspected the Duke of Aveiro and the Marquis of Tavora of conspiracy against the King, on grounds so slender that history is still in doubt whether he was authorized to consider whatever movement there was anything more than a protest against his own imperious tyranny, and with an incredible refinement of cruelty tore them from their families, ordered them to public execution and most savage torture, burned their bodies with the scaffold on which they perished, and cast their ashes into the sea. He was inhuman and unscrupulous, and when he died his system of trade was abandoned, the sentences against his victims were annulled, their innocence proclaimed, and their imprisoned companions set free. His audacious career marks so imposing a period in Portuguese history that his name is still cherished as that of a demi-god, and it is enough to fix the date of historic events to say they occurred before Pombal’s time. To his people he may be a hero, and his career heroic. But his example is a misfortune, his methods could not be perpetuated, his deeds of philanthropy were hardly an offset to his cruelty and imperiousness. He left nothing behind him which has passed into the glory of his country except the rebuilding of a stricken city and the freedom of the slaves. It is possible that Portugal, impoverished and ruined by the folly and extravagance of Dom John V., might but for Pombal have passed under the rule of Spain. And when he checked the power of the Church, and expelled the Jesuits, he removed the greatest obstacle to the exercise of his own imperial sway, which he exerted to save his country and control his feeble and vacillating monarch. He made himself the ruler, and he accomplished his object not by the exercise of a broad and far-seeing statesmanship, but by the adoption of temporary and not always scrupulous expedients. His life was ended in exile and disgrace, and his system died with him, .

To get from the town of Pombal to Lisbon or Cintra, you must pass through Thomar and Santarem, not very important places it is true, but representative of the career of this country. Thomar has an enormous con-vent of course, and it is an interesting one and was quite unrivalled in Europe. The Templars settled in Thomar in the time of Dona Theresa, and there they lived and fought the Moors and received a third of all the lands received from them. The castle of Gualdim Paes, the Master of the Templars, still remains, owned by the Count of Thomar. There is the largest bell in Portugal hanging in the belfry of the chapter-house, with the longest Latin inscription known. And more than all there is a cotton factory under the management of an Englishman, with other inferior mills, on a lively little stream which flows through a beautiful valley.

And when Thomar is left Santarem is soon reached, the last stand of Dom Miguel in 1833, and where he learned that he was not wanted in Portugal. It is a pretty place, and is also attractive to the ecclesiologist and to the archaeologist. But the most interesting fact connected with it, to my mind, is its name. Few towns derive their names from such an impressive source, I am happy to say. S. Irene had taken the veil at Nabamia, now Thomar, and was falsely accused by Remigio, a monk who had fallen violently in love with her, of incontinency. She was in consequence put to death, a common occurrence in her time, and her body was thrown into the Nabao, probably that pretty little industrial stream to which I have just alluded. Hence it floated down into the Zerere and by the Zerere into the Tagus, until it reached this spot, where her innocence was proved by miraculous apparition and where she was buried with great honor in the church, and the town was named after her.

The liberation of Santarem from the Moors in 1147 is a great episode in Portuguese history. It was accomplished by Dom Affonso Henriques, by a stratagem in which he notified the Moors that an existing truce was suspended for three days, during which time he marched from Coimbra, made a vow that if successful he would endow the Cistercians with the whole tract of country from the Serra to the sea. In consequence of this vow, probably, he took the city with scaling ladders, dislodged the Moors, and founded Alcobaça. This deed has been considered a part of the poetry of war, and ranks with Ivry and Bunker Hill.

The way from the theology and war of Santarem to Lisbon or Cintra is easy. We made our trip to Cintra and the Hotel Lawrence. The days were still charming, the nights resplendent with the fullest moon I had ever witnessed. It was St. Martin’s summer, the Indian summer of America made more summery by the warm air of Portugal. St. Martin’s day, moreover, was being celebrated by the jovial sons of Cintra. A rural Bacchus was borne through the streets, enveloped with vines and crowned with clusters, the hero of the Vinhos, who could carry off more Collares in a day than any other frequenter of the wine shops. His noisy companions bore him in triumph to the plateau in front of Setiaes, where an out-door revel occupied the afternoon. Cheerful and happy and elated, the disciples of Bacchus returned toward evening, the king of the festival still retaining his reputation, and the effects of his example manifest among his followers. As they passed by the hotel a small donkey was letting his heels fly indiscriminately into the crowd, who showed a noble indifference to his attacks. The sun went down, the moon rose, and the festival was over.