« PreviousContinue »
A of this treatise (in small 4to.) very beautifully written, is in the British Museum, MS. Harl. No. 1275. This work was translated into French by Jehan de Vignay, a monk, a copy of which is also in the British Museum; the MS. has these lines in it," Et suiret du jeu des eschez fut translate de latin en francois pour se roy iehan de france premier de ce nom par frere iehan de vignay, hospitalier de lord de hault pas," &c. It is from this French version that Caxton translated his edition, printed in 1474 with the first metal types used in England.
I shall now proceed to describe the very curious MSS. on chess, which have been consulted in drawing up the present essay; and then afterwards pursue my inquiry into the state of the game in Europe during the 13th and 14th centuries.
(To be continued.)
SONNETS FROM FILICAJA.
On the Death of Christina, Queen of Sweden.
And in its mighty ruin buries all
WHERE is thine arm, Italia?-Why shouldst thou
Both were thy vassals once-though victors now.
Thus dost thou guard the wreath that bound thy brow,
Was this thy glorious promise, this thy vow?
Degenerate Sloth: 'midst blood, and groans, and cries,
Sleep, vile adulteress: from thy guilty bed,
Too soon th' avenging sword shall bid thee rise,
Qui sit meritorius libros novos scribere et veteres renovare..
Quare tantam librorum colleximus copiam ad communem profectum scolarum et non solum ad propriam voluptatem
De modo communicandi studentibus omnibus libros nostros
Exhortatio scolarium ad rependenda pro nobis suffragia debitæ pietatis...... 20
I have preferred giving the Latin divested of its abbreviations for the sake of classical readers, who I hope will pardon my digressing into so long a note-the MS. is well worth a careful perusal.
LETTERS FROM SPAIN.
BY DON LEUCADIO DOBLADO.
Seville, 1805. WHEN the last census was made, in 1787, the number of Spanish females confined to the cloister, for life, amounted to thirty-two thousand. That in a country where wealth is small and ill distributed, and industry languishes under innumerable restraints, there should be a great number of portionless gentlewomen unable to find a suitable match, and consequently glad of a dignified asylum, where they might secure peace and competence, if not happiness, is so perfectly natural, that the founders and supporters of any institution intended to fulfil these objects would deserve to be reckoned among the friends of humanity. But the cruel and wicked church law, which, aided by external force, binds the nuns with perpetual vows, makes the convents for females the Bastilles of superstition, where many a victim lingers through a long life of despair or insanity. Though I do not mean to enter into a point of Theological controversy, I find it impossible to dwell for a moment on this subject without expressing my utter abhorrence and detestation of the cold indifference with which our church looks on the glaring evil consequences of some of its laws, when, according to her own doctrines, they might be either repealed or amended without relinquishing any of her claims. The authority of the Roman Pontiff, in all matters of church government, is not questioned among, Catholics. Yet, from a proud affectation of infallibility, even upon such points as the most violent partisans of that absurd pretension have never ventured to place within its reach, the church of Rome has been so sparing of the power to reform her laws, that it might be suspected she wished to abandon it by prescription. Always ready to bind, the heirs of Saint Peter have shewn themselves extremely averse to the more humane office of loosing on earth, except when it served the purposes of gain or ambition. The time, I believe, will never come when the church of Rome will agree to make concessions on what are called matters of faith. But I cannot discover the least shadow of reason or interest for the obstinacy which preserves unaltered the barbarous laws relating to the religious vows of females; unless it be that vile animal jealousy, which persons, deprived of the pleasures of love, are apt to mistake for zeal in the cause of chastity: such zeal as your Queen Elizabeth felt for the purity of her maids.
The Nunneries in this town amount to twenty-nine. Of these, some are under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Friars, whose rule of religious life they profess; and some under that of the Episcopal See. The last generally follow the monastic rules of Saint Benedict, Saint Bernard, or Saint Jerom; and it is remarkable, that the same superiority which is observable in the secular above the regular clergy, is found in the nuns under the episcopal jurisdiction. Some of the last inhabit large' convents, whose courts and gardens allow the inhabitants ample space for exercise and amusement. Instead of narrow cells, the nuns live in a comfortable suite of apartments, often at the head of a small family of younger nuns whom they have educated, or of pupils, not under re
VOL. IV. NO. XVI.
ligious vows, whom their parents place there for instruction. The life, in fact, of these communities, is rather collegiate than monastic; and were it not for the tyrannical law which deprives the professed nuns of their liberty, such establishments would be far from objectionable. The dress of these nuns is still that which the Duenas, or elderly matrons, wore when the convents were founded, with the addition of a large mantle, black, white, or blue, according to the custom of the order, which they use at the choir. From a head-dress not unlike that which, if I may venture upon such matters, I believe you call a mob-cap, hangs the black veil. A rosary, or chaplet of black beads with a cross at the end, is seen hanging over the neck and shoulders, or loosely coiled on a leather strap, which tightens the tunic or gown to the waist. A slip of cloth of the breadth of the shoulders, called the scapulary, hangs down to the feet both before and behind, probably with a view to conceal every outline of the female shape.
The mildness of these monastic rules being unsatisfactory to the fiery spirit of bigotry, many convents have been founded under the title of Reformed, where, without the least regard to the sex of the votaries, young and delicate females are subjected to a life of privation and hardship, as the only infallible method of obtaining the favour of Heaven. Their dress is a tunic of sackcloth, tied round the waist with a knotted rope. The rule allows them no linen either for clothing or bedding. Woollen of the coarsest kind frets their bodies, day and night, even during the burning summers of the South of Spain. A mantle of the same sackcloth is the only addition which the nuns make to their dress in winter, while their feet, shod with open sandals, and without either socks or stockings, are exposed to the sharp winter blasts, and the deadening chill of the brick floors. A band of coarse linen, two inches in breadth, is worn by the Capuchin nuns, bound tight six or eight times round the head, in remembrance, it is said, of the crown of thorns; and such is the barbarous spirit of the rule, that it does not allow this band to be taken off even under an access of fever. young woman that takes the veil in any of the reformed convents renounces the sight of her nearest relations. The utmost indulgence as to communication with parents and brothers extends to a short conversation once a month, in the presence of one of the elder nuns, behind a thick curtain spread on the inner side of the iron grating, which completely intercepts the view. The religious vows, however, among the Capuchin nuns put a final end to all communication between parents and children. To those unacquainted with the character of our species of Christianity, it will be difficult to conceive what motive can influence the mind of a young creature of sixteen thus to sacrifice herself upon the altars of these Molochs whom we call Saints and Patriarchs. To me these horrid effects of superstition appear so natural, that I only wonder when I see so many of our religious young females still out of the convent. Remorse and mental horrors goad some young men into the strictest monasteries, while more amiable, though equally mistaken views, lead our females to a similar course of life. We are taught to believe self-inflicted pain to be acceptable to the Deity, both as an atonement for crime, and a token of thankfulness. The female character, among us, is a compound of the most ardent feelings-vehement to deliriousness, generous to devotedness. What wonder, then,
if, early impressed with the loveliness and sufferings of an incarnate Deity, an exquisitely tender mind grow restless and dissatisfied with a world as yet known only through the pictures of morose fanatics, and pant after the most effectual means of giving her celestial lover an unquestionable proof of gratitude? The first nascent wish of taking the veil is cagerly watched and seized by a confessor, who, to a violent jealousy of earthly bridegrooms, joins a confident sense of merit in adding one virgin more to the ten thousand of the spiritual Harem. Pious parents tremble to place themselves between God and their daughter, and often with a bleeding heart lead her to the foot of the altar.
There is an extreme eagerness in the Catholic professors of celibacy, both male and female, to decoy young persons into the toils from which they themselves cannot escape. With this view they have disguised the awful ceremony which cuts off an innocent girl from the sweetest hopes of nature, with the pomp and gaiety which mankind have unanimously bestowed on the triumph of legitimate love. The whole process which condemns a female "to wither on the virgin thorn," and "live a barren sister all her life," is studiously made to represent a wedding. The unconscious victim, generally in her fifteenth year, finds herself, for some time previous to her taking the veil, the queen— may, the idol of the whole community which has obtained her preference. She is constantly addressed by the name of bride, and sees nothing but gay preparations for the expected day of her spiritual nuptials. Attired in a splendid dress, and decked with all the jewels of ker family and friends, she takes public leave of her acquaintance, visits, on her way to the convent, several other nunneries to be seen and admired by the recluse inhabitants, and even the crowd which collects in her progress follows her with tears and blessings. As she approaches the church of her monastery, the dignified ecclesiastic who is to perform the ceremony, meets the intended novice at the door, and leads her to the altar amid the sounds of bells and musical instruments. The monastic weeds are blessed by the priest in her presence; and having embraced her parents and nearest relations, she is led by the lady who acts as bride's-maid to the small door next to the double grating, which separates the nuns' choir from the body of the church. A curtain is drawn while the abbess cuts off the hair of the novice, and strips her of her worldly ornaments. On the removal of the curtain she appears in the monastic garb, surrounded by the nuns bearing lighted tapers, her face covered with the white veil of probationship, fixed on the head by a wreath of flowers. After the Te Deum, or some other hymn of thanksgiving, the friends of the family adjourn to the Locutory, or visiting-room, where a collation of ices and sweetmeats is served in the presence of the mock bride, who, with the principal nuns,, attends behind the grating which separates the visitors from the inmates of the convent. In the more austere convents the parting visit is omitted, and the sight of the novice in the white veil, immediately after having her hair cut off, is the last which, for a whole year, is granted to the parents. They again see her on the day when she binds herself with the irrevocable vows, never to behold her more, unless they should live to see her again crowned with flowers, when she is laid in the grave. Instances of novices quitting the convent during the year of proba
tion are extremely rare. The ceremony of taking the veil is too solemni, and bears too much the character of a public engagement, to allow full liberty of choice during the subsequent noviciate. The timid mind of a girl shrinks from the idea of appearing again in the world, under the tacit reproach of fickleness and relaxed devotion. The nuns, besides, do not forget their arts during the nominal trial of the victim, and she lives a whole year the object of their caresses. Nuns, in fact, who, after profession, would have given their lives for a day of free breathing out of their prison, it has been my misfortune to know; but I cannot recollect more than one instance of a novice quitting the convent; and that was a woman of obscure birth, on whom public opinion had no influence.
That many nuns, especially in the more liberal convents, live happy, I have every reason to believe; but, on the other hand, I possess indubitable evidence of the exquisite misery which is the lot of some unfortunate females, under similar circumstances. I shall mention only one case, in actual existence, with which I am circumstantially acquainted.
A lively and interesting girl of fifteen, poor, though connected with some of the first gentry in this town, having received her education under an aunt who was at the head of a wealthy, and not austere, Franciscan convent, came out, as the phrase is, to see the world, previous to her taking the veil. I often met the intended novice at the house of one of her relations, where I visited daily. She had scarcely been a fortnight out of the cloister, when that world she had learned to abhor in description, was so visibly and rapidly winning her affections, that at the end of three months she could hardly disguise her aversion to the veil. The day, however, was now fast approaching which had been fixed for the ceremony, without her feeling sufficient resolution to decline it. Her father, a good but weak man, she knew too well, could not protect her from the ill treatment of an unfeeling mother, whose vanity was concerned in thus disposing of a daughter for whom she had no hopes of finding a suitable match. The kindness of her aunt, the good nun to whom the distressed girl was indebted for the happiness of her childhood, formed, besides, too strong a contrast with the unkindness of the unnatural mother, not to give her wavering mind a strong though painful bias towards the cloister. To this were added all the arts of pious seduction so common among the religious of both sexes. The preparations for the approaching solemnity were, in the mean time, industriously got forward with the greatest publicity. Verses were circulated, in which her confessor sang the triumph of Divine Love over the wily suggestions of the impious. The wedding-dress was shewn to every acquaintance, and due notice of the appointed day was given to friends and relatives. But the fears and aversion of the devoted victim grew in proportion as she saw herself more and more involved in the toils she had wanted courage to burst when she first felt them.
It was in company with my friend Seandro, with whose private history you are well acquainted *, that I often met the unfortunate Maria Francisca. His efforts to dissuade her from the rash step she was
* See Letters III. IV. V.