We stayed longer in Seville than in any other Spanish city, and, among other things, we saw the pottery, where all sorts of earthen and porcelain ware are made, and whose tiles are almost equal to some of the ancient ones. Yet Spain is far behind other European nations in this, one of the earliest manufactures of mankind, and he who is limited for time can spend it more profitably than in seeing the familiar operations of the potter’s wheel and the burnisher’s jewel in a foreign land.
Walking through the squares of the city, we came upon a beautiful Moorish palace – modern, of course, but a fine copy of an original, with elegant Moorish courts and gardens, and rooms decorated with arabesques and verses from the Koran. Upon entering the patio, we found the entire place given up to busi ness. It had been bought at auction for forty thousand dollars, by an enterprising trader, from the decayed family who once owned it, or from their creditors; and now piles of ginghams and cottons and ready-made clothes, and even Yankee notions, occupied counters and shelves in the elegant rooms, whose marble pillars and superb walls and ceilings showed the richness and luxury of former tenants. So one generation goeth and another cometh, and even in Seville, the city of love and pleasure, business overcomes sentiment, and debt brings ruin and eviction to spendthrifts.
Thence we took our way to the famous tobacco factory. Entering through a damp court, we followed a guide through an immense building, where five or six thousand women are gathered, making cigars and cigarettes. The work is mostly done in three extensive rooms, where the women sit in little groups around low tables, on which the tobacco and the cigars are piled. I never saw so many women together in my life, and the immediate impression was to degrade and commonize the sex. I do not think that any sensitive man could look upon so many women engaged in such a business, without at least a passing shudder, and the feeling that his sentiments of reverence for womanhood had received
a shock. The workers were all comparatively young; not a few had the look and manner of gypsies. Some had infants on their laps, or in cradles beside their work-tables, and there was a great difference in the dexterity and neatness with which they wrought. I watched one woman, who made from seven to ten cigars in a minute, and was told that there were others who could do even better than this. She seized the strips of tobacco known as “filling” from a pile upon the table; from another pile she drew a wrapper, moistened it with a sponge, smoothed it, and dexterously twisted or rolled it around the filling, bringing one end to a smooth point and cutting the other off with shears. The cigars thus made went into a pile, till twenty-five or fifty were finished, and were then tied in bundles with yellow silk ribbons stamped with the brand or the name of the manufacturer. Most of the women were chattering, and all were bold and coarse in their manners and behavior. We did not agree with some travellers, who have written that all the types of Andalusian beauty may be seen here. Remnants of beauty there certainly were, here and there among the six thousand, and perhaps a thorough cleansing would have brought out a handsome face which had been concealed by dirt and frowsy hair; but, with the exception of very black and often large eyes, and occasionally a rich contrast of color, the elements of beauty were lacking. One womanly trait was almost universal, the love of flowers. The ugliest slattern, equally with the comparatively neat woman, had a flower or two in her hair, on her bosom, or in a jug beside her table. It was a little bit of pure nature in a very dark and depressing human dungeon, as it seemed to me. The very infants brought here by their mothers seemed narcotized and prematurely old; the roses and the lilies alone seemed young and sweet.
As we got into the carriage, we felt the need of a good airing, and directed the driver to take us to Italica.
A pleasant drive of about an hour over a rough road, along the old banks of Guadalquivir and through the village of Santo Pozo, or “Holy Well,” brought us to the Amphitheatre, which is now all that remains here of the once prosperous city, the birthplace of three Roman emperors, Trajan, Hadrian, and Theodosius. Italica was founded in the sixth century, and its palaces, aqueducts, temples, and amphitheatre were magnificent. War and earthquake and the plundering of Sevillian builders have destroyed and depleted the place, and though the form and the walls of the circus remain, all of its mosaics and columns have been removed. It is two hundred and ninety-one feet long by two hundred and four feet wide; there are traces of dens for beasts, and water-tanks, and rooms for gladiators, and the wedge-shaped rows of seats where the people sat to see the show can yet be distinguished. I am not an archaeologist, and preferred to climb upon a grassy slope on the ruined wall, and muse over the historic past, and let imagination people these hills and groves and fill these seats with the rich and gay inhabitants of the Roman province thirteen centuries ago and this arena with gladiators and wild beasts, and then to think what changes have passed over the Roman Empire in these ages, and how much greater and more beneficent is the influence upon mankind of a country which was then unknown than that of Rome with all its power and learning and wealth had ever been! Even Spain in her decadence, with an imperfect form of Christianity, is a far better and happier country than the same land when Italica was in all its glory with Trajan’s magnificent palace, and the vast population flocking to the amphitheatre to see and rejoice in scenes of cruelty and blood. The old brutal spirit lingers, it is true, about the bull-ring in Spain, but it has been tempered by the civilization which Christianity has brought to Europe and the world. When we had mused sufficiently we ate oranges of Seville and bread of Santo Pozo, and then drove back to the city,
The squares of Seville are handsome and sur rounded by fine buildings with porticos and balconies. The square of San Francisco contains some of the oldest buildings of the town, with porticos supported on stone columns, and overhanging stories, and jalousies. Most of the streets are very narrow, and the houses are all furnished with iron balconies, which, in the cool afternoons and evenings, are full of women looking down into the streets. Here, too, the senorita listens to the guitar of her lover, according to the romances; and the custom of “eating iron ” yet prevails in Spain. The lover who desires to attract the attention of a fair lady who has smitten him, stands before her house, and gazes intently upon the iron balcony, in the hope that his love may appear and reward him with a glance. Though unrewarded, he persists, and it may be that the fair one asks father or brother to find out who the “ironeater ” is. If he is desirable and acceptable, he is admitted as an acquaintance, and his days of “eating iron” are ended. Sometimes the “iron-eater” fails in his suit, and the iron enters into his soul.
In the evenings, no promenade is more brilliant than Las Sierpes, a narrow and crooked street, from which all vehicles are excluded. The finest shops and the best clubs are along this street; the shopkeepers stand at their doors, and the club members sit in warm evenings far out on the roadway, drinking cool syrups and smoking and gossiping, while the crowds of well-dressed and handsome people promenade, every lady with a fan, which she wields with inimitable grace and meaning. Crowds come out from the theatre to refresh themselves between the pieces. There are as many as four short plays in an evening’s performance, each lasting about an hour. One pays fifty centimes for each play that he attends, and stays for all, or takes as many as he chooses. There are gypsy performances, especially provided for the entertainment of foreigners, and street music of all kinds going on through the day and evening. We saw a parade of Spanish troops one afternoon, but it was like the drill of the awkward squad at West Point on a larger scale. In fact, the only Spanish soldiers that we saw, who had a military aspect and bearing, were in and around Madrid. The season was advancing, and with summer would come great heat, so we packed our trunks, and regretfully left the most charming city of Spain.