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circle. Here is one that exhibits the still fresh romance in the heart of forty-four years: —
"Last evening, at your house, we had one of the most lovely tableaux I ever beheld. It was the conception of Murillo, represented by Madame A . Mademoiselle Antoinette arranged
the tableau with her usual good taste, and the effect was enchanting. It was more like a vision of something spiritual and celestial than a representation of anything merely mortal; or rather it was woman as in my romantic days I have been apt to imagine her, approaching to the angelic nature. I have frequently admired Madame A
as a mere beautiful woman, when I have seen her dressed up in the fantastic attire of the mode; but here I beheld her elevated into a representative of the divine purity and grace, exceeding even the beau ideal of the painter, for she even surpassed in beauty the picture of Murillo. I felt as if I could have knelt down and worshiped her. Heavens! what power women would have over us, if they knew how to sustain the attractions which nature has bestowed upon them, and which we are so ready to assist by our imaginations! For my part, I am superstitious in my admiration of them, and like to walk in a perpetual delusion, decking them out as divinities. I thank no one to undeceive me, and to prove that they are mere mortals."
And he continues in another strain: — "How full of interest everything is connected with the old times in Spain! I am more and more delighted with the old literature of the country, its chronicles, plays, and romances. It has the wild vigor and luxuriance of the forests of my native country, which, however savage and entangled, are more captivating to my imagination than the finest parks and cultivated woodlands.
"As I live in the neighborhood of the library of the Jesuits' College of St. Isidoro, I pass most of my mornings there. You cannot think whaF a delight I feel in passing through its galleries, filled with old parchment-bound books. It is a perfect wilderness of curiosity to me. What a deep-felt, quiet luxury there is in delving into the rich ore of these old, neglected volumes! How these hours of uninterrupted intellectual enjoyment, so tranquil and independent, repay one for the ennui and disappointment too often experienced in the intercourse of society! How they serve to bring back the feelings into a harmonious tone, after being jarred and put out of tune by the collisions with the world!"
With the romantic period of Spanish history Irving was in ardent sympathy. The story of the Saracens entranced his mind; his imagination disclosed its Oriental quality while he pored over the romance and the ruin of that land of fierce contrasts, of arid wastes beaten by the burning sun, valleys blooming with intoxicating beauty, cities of architectural splendor and picturesque squalor. It is matter of regret that he, who seemed to need the southern sun to ripen his genius, never made a pilgrimage into the East, and gave to the world pictures of the lands that he would have touched with the charm of their own color and the witchery of their own romance.
I will quote again from the letters, for they reveal the man quite as well as the more formal and better known writings. His first sight of the Alhambra is given in a letter to Mademoiselle Bollviller: —
"Our journey through La Mancha was cold and uninteresting, excepting when we passed through the scenes of some of the exploits of Don Quixote. We were repaid, however, by a night amidst the scenery of the Sierra Morena, seen by the light of the full moon. I do not know how this scenery would appear in the daytime, but by moonlight it is wonderfully wild and romantic, especially after passing the summit of the Sierra. As the day dawned we entered the stern and savage defiles of the Despena Perros, which equals the wild landscapes of Salvator Rosa. For some time we continued winding along the brinks of precipices, overhung with cragged and fantastic rocks; and after a succession of such rude and sterile scenes we swept down to Carolina, and found ourselves in another climate. The orange-trees, the aloes, and myrtle began to make their appearance; we felt the warm temperature of the sweet South, and began to breathe the balmy air of Andalusia. At Andujar we were delighted with the neatness and cleanliness of the houses, the patios planted with orange and citron trees, and refreshed by fountains. We passed a charming evening on the banks of the famous Guadalquivir, enjoying the mild, balmy air of a southern evening, and rejoicing in the certainty that we were at length in this land of promise. . . .
"But Granada, bellissima Granada! Think what must have been our delight when, after passing the famous bridge of Pinos, the scene of many a bloody encounter between Moor and Christian, and remarkable for having been the place where Columbus was overtaken by the messenger of Isabella, when about to abandon Spain in despair, we turned a promontory of the arid mountains of Elvira, and Granada, with its towers, its Alhambra, and its snowy mountains, burst upon our sight! The evening sun shone gloriously upon its red towers as we approached it, and gave a mellow tone to the rich scenery of the vega. It was like the magic glow which poetry and romance have shed over this enchanting place. . . .
"The more I contemplate these places, the more my admiration is awakened for the elegant habits and delicate taste of the Moorish monarchs. The delicately ornamented walls; the aromatic groves, mingling with the freshness and the enlivening sounds of fountains and rivers of water; the retired baths, bespeaking purity and refinement; the balconies and galleries, open to the fresh mountain breeze, and overlooking the loveliest scenery of the valley of the Darro and the magnificent expanse of the vega, — it is impossible to contemplate this delicious abode and not feel an admiration of the genius and the poetical spirit of those who first devised this earthly paradise. There is an intoxication of heart and soul in looking over such scenery at this genial season. All nature is just teeming with new life, and putting on the first delicate verdure and bloom of spring. The almond - trees are in blossom; the fig-trees are beginning to sprout;