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siness between sleeping and waking, then indeed it matters little of what its gossip consists, so long as it is not positively pernicious. But such productions, far from advancing the literature of a country must themselves lose all literary caste, and find their level infinitely lower among the mass of trifles that engage the trifling, and on which alone they fix their lethargic attention ; mistaking moonshine for reality through utter ignorance, wilful or involuntary, of what constitutes the interests and pursuits not of mere idlers but of the active and actual world.
Art. V.- Doña Isabel de Solis, Reyna de Granada ; Novela
Historica. (Da. Isabel de Solis, Queen of Granada; an Historical Novel.) By Don Francisco Martinez de la Rosa.
Madrid, 1837 The author of this novel has often been before the public ; some of his works have already been reviewed by the literary periodicals of this metropolis, and his name as a statesman and politician has of late acquired no small celebrity : we may therefore take a passing glance of his life, so far as concerns his writings. Martinez de la Rosa began his literary career by the publication, in 1808, of some witty pamphlets upon the effects which the invasion of the Spanish territory by the troops of Buonaparte was calculated to produce on a nation eminently proud, and holding fast and tenaciously to its ancient institutions. After this first success, he obtained farther reputation by the publication of an essay upon the Spanish Insurrection of 1808, which appeared in a journal of that period called El Español. But at the same time that he cultivated literature, Martinez de la Rosa played a most conspicuous part in the Cortes of 1813, where he was considered as one of the most eloquent Spanish orators. This, as well as the active share which he took in the administration of the Peninsula during the captivity of King Ferdinand VII., brought upon him the ill-will and anger of that monarch, who, upon his return to his paternal dominions in 1814, caused the author to be cast together with Arguelles and several other eminent patriots, into one of the dungeons on the coast of Africa. It has been said that the persecution to which he was on this occasion exposed, and his long imprisonment, impaired his health and preyed upon his spirits : it has even been hinted by critics, who, while reviewing his works, were, we fear, under the influence of party, that by his long confinement he has lost a great deal of that liveliness which was discernible in all the writings of his youthful years; and that, even after he had been restored to liberty and to
power, a certain dejection was always perceivable, both in his speeches and compositions. But this assertion is entirely unfounded; for in his numerous subsequent productions he has given ample proofs of a fecundity and liveliness of imagination unequalled by any of the modern Spanish authors. In 1820 he published his Arte Poetica, which by the voluminous notes he added to it may be called a critical work upon Spanish literature, rather than a mere treatise on versification, as its title would seem to imply. During his exile from 1823 to 1828, he published in Paris a collection of his lyrical and other poems, among which the “ Siege of Saragossa” and a few light compositions were very much admired. He also wrote, while in Spain, some dramas for the theatre ; namely, Lo que puede un Empleo (The Effects of a Place); and La Hija en Casa y la Madre en las Mascaras (The Mother at the Masquerade and the Daughter at Home). Tragedy he likewise attempted though without much success, and wrote La Viuda de Padilla (The Widow of Padilla), to an edition of which he prefixed a very learned introduction upon the wars of the Comunidades, written with great vigour and spirit; Moraima, Edipo, also tragedies ; the Conspiracy of Venice, a drama, lately acted in the theatres of Madrid, and which, we believe, has never been printed; and another drama, written in French, and performed with some success at the Porte St. Martin in Paris, bearing the title of Aben-Omeya. Since his return to his country he has published an historical work with the title of Bosquejo Historico (Historical Sketch), containing a narrative of some of the events which preceded the conquest of Granada by Ferdinand and Isabella; and the first volume (only) of a political work, called El Espiritu del Siglo: The Spirit of the Age. In fact, he has left no branch of literature untouched; but, as he himself acquaints us in the preface to the novel now lying before us, seems to have undertaken the arduous task of trying all. The perusal of Scott's admirable novels, and those of his imitators in France, Germany, and Italy, led M. de la Rosa to write the present, the principal scene of which is in the city of Granada, his birth-place, and whose history and traditions he has investigated with peculiar interest and attention. We have stated so much with regard to this writer, and now proceed to the review of his work; although our judgment may be, we fear, in some measure restrained by the circumstance, not uncommon in Spain, of only the first volume having been published; without the author deeming it necessary to inform us whether the remainder is written or will ever be printed.
At the time when the novel begins (1475), the fortress of Martos, which belonged to the Knights of Calatrava, was occupied by a Spanish officer of distinguished rank and noble birth. The Comendador, Don Sancho Jimenez de Solis, for such was his name, had seen in his younger days much of active warfare; and his eminent services bad gained the notice of his sovereign, who to reward bis merit bestowed on him the government of that important fortress. During the long and desultory struggle which preceded the conquest of Granada, the town of Martos and its territory had often been converted into a field of battle for the two contending powers. Its situation at the entrance of the kingdom of Jaen, and on the frontiers of the Moorish dominion, made it the scene of frequent skirmishes, and many a gallant feat of arms had been performed under its walls. Another circumstance, unrecorded by the Spanish author, contributed to the celebrity of the fortress of Martos and of the rock on which it is situated. During the reign of Ferdinand IV., an exceedingly weak monarch whose whole life was spent in continual warfare with his revolted barons, an expedition was undertaken against the Moors. The king with his army on his way to the Mussulman frontiers stopped at Martos; when Peter and John de Carvajal, two brothers, of the nobility of the place, were accused of having in a former skirmish with the king's troops put to death one of his partisans. Ferdinand, anxious only to revenge the injury done to his authority, and without taking the trouble of inquiring into the circumstance or submitting the case to be tried by a court of justice, ordered the brothers to appear before him; and, in spite of their solemn protestations of innocence, sent them to be precipitated from a high rock on which the town is built, commanding the plain, and overlooking a deep ravine. If any faith can be placed in the ancient chronicles, the two brothers were guiltless of the crime imputed to them; and on the point of meeting death, seeing no hope of justice or mercy at Ferdinand's hands, they are said to have cited him to appear with them before the judgment-seat of God within thirty days. To this fatal summons Ferdinand's premature and sudden decease, which is said to have taken place within the fixed limit, is seriously attributed by Mariana and other sober historians; and posterity has designated him by the name of Fernando el Emplazado (Ferdinand the Summoned); the rock from whence the Carvajals were precipitated being also known in the romances by the name of La Peña, or the rock, of Martos.
The Comendador had a daughter called Isabel, on whom he doated, and who was his only child. When young she had been miraculously preserved from death by a Moorish female slave of the name of Arlaja, who, by means of some herbs and plants unknown to any one but herself, had cured her of a consumptire disease that baffled all the efforts of the leeches and empirics of the time. Grateful for the cure, Isabel conceived for Arlaja an unbounded attachment and devotion destined to influence her future life. It may be supposed that the personal charms of the heroine are very minutely enumerated, and that the author has forgotten none of the accomplishments, personal and mental, which make woman an object of love and admiration. We shall therefore spare our readers the description, and proceed to sketch the other characters of the tale.
The Comendador seeks among his friends a suitable husband for his daughter, and having fixed upon Pedro de Venegas, a descendant of the illustrious family of Luque, communicates his intention to Isabel, and appoints the day for the ceremony. Don Pedro Venegas, followed by a numerous band of his own retainers, and accompanied by Don Alonso de Cordova, his uncle, and by the Señor de Zuheros, arrives soon afterwards at Martos; the three cavaliers with their attendants are lodged within the castle.
“ The night fixed for the espousals at length arrived, and a silent calm succeeded to the noise and bustle of the day, not unlike the tranquillity of the ocean after a storm. The followers of the different guests, and the menials of the castle, overcome with sleep and wine, lay dispersed about the courts and corridors. A few only of the principal household servants, and the ladies and knights who were to witness the ceremony, stood at the door of the chapel in anxious expectation of the signal. A low murmur announced at last the arrival of the bride and bridegroom with their friends, and immediately afterwards a dozen pages, with a torch of wax in one hand, and the cup in the other, were seen approaching the chapel with due solemnity and composure. They were followed by Isabel and Don Pedro, who, deeply absorbed in their own thoughts, walked in silence, scarcely daring to raise their eyes from the ground. Not so the Comendador, who, with Don Alonso de Cordova and the Señor de Zuberos, walked with head erect and cheerful countenance; the cortege being closed by Isabel's handmaidens, wrapt up in mantles, and by a few favoured esquires who had, by dint of entreaty, obtained this signal distinction.
“ The chapel of the castle was small and dark, and had only one nave; the ceiling was of carved walnut, the altar adorned with wooden images, placed in gilt niches. But the antiquity of the retreat, and its rude ornaments, raised the soul above worldly contemplation and inspired sweet and melancholy reveries. The idea that there, under the marble flags with which the chapel was paved, many of the ancestors of the Comendador slept in peace, their ashes mingled with the earth redeemed by them from the Moors, and their bodies lying under the altars which they had in life defended, contributed not a little to impress the mind with religious feelings. In the centre of the chapel, a foot above ground, arose a scpulchre, on which was coarsely carved the figure of a
VOL. XXI. NO, XLI.
young woman, with the hands crossed over the breast, the feet joined, and the face looking up to heaven. It was that of the mother of Isabel ; and the Comendador felt a degree of consolation mixed with sorrow in the thought that his sainted wife might witness and bless their daughter's union from her tomb. The bride was already at the foot of the altar, pale and tremulous; the bridegroom by her side breathless and agitated; the minister of heaven was pronouncing the sacred words, and on the point of receiving the fatal yes which was to unite them until death, when suddenly an appalling shriek struck every one with horror. The Comendador and his friends at first thought it might be a scuffle among the people of the castle; but immediately after, the cry of fire ! and the approach of a confused multitude; the clatter of arms, the precipitate step of fugitives, the groans of the wounded and dying, too plainly told the fatal truth.
“ Isabel fainted away in the arms of her husband; her friends and retainers fled panic-struck; the Comendador rushed out like lightning to inquire into the cause of the alarm, but was himself met at the door of the chapel by the crowd of fugitives, who thronged to it for refuge. In vain did he demand to be heard ; in vain he repeated question after question : no answer could be obtained, his voice was drowned in cries and lamentations, as though death were at hand. Alas-it was but too near !
“ The Moors on the frontiers, encouraged by a long peace, and secure of making an easy prey of people plunged in heedless revelry, had during the night scaled the walls of the castle, and profiting by the negligence of the drunken soldiers they inundated its hall and courts and began the work of destruction with fire and sword. Many were the Christians who, on that fatal night, passed from the arms of sleep into those of death; others fled to the chapel in hopes of finding an asylum, invoking the name of God, which died in terror on their lips. But alas! at sight of that holy retreat, the fury of the Infidels increased instead of abating, and they rushed among the Christians like so many wolves into a sheepfold. The Comendador, immoveable as a statue, sword in band awaited their attack; and though pierced with a hundred wounds, stood for some time fixed as rock, and then staggered and fell, trailing himself towards the tomb of his wife, where he breathed his last. Before the altar, the youthful Venegas was seen sustaining Isabel, and protecting her with his own body from the blows of the assailants. Scarcely was the young cavalier sensible of what passed round him; he had neither arms for defence, nor hope of succour from human power ; regardless of his own life, his heart was agonised for the fate of his beloved !
. Surrender or die !' exclaimed the chief of the invading party, rushing forward to separate them ; Venegas at that instant received a wound in the forehead, embraced once more his bride, and fell bathed in blood at her feet. Such was the end of a day begun under such happy auspices! Who will put faith in earthly joy, which so quickly flies before us!”—pp. 35
Isabel was made captive, and before the day dawned the Moors disappeared from the castle, carrying their prize with them.