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a pretty accurate opinion of the nature, extent, and variety of the merits of the Athenaid. It has, indeed, been our endeavour to select from this very long poem such specimens of the author's powers as might produce the most favorable impression. We are, however, free to confess, that as a whole it does not exhibit any surpassing excellence : but, with all its faults, it will not, we think, be deemed unworthy of the notice and space we have allotted to it. It is, moreover, one of the objects of our work to point out the sources of innocent pleasure hitherto neglected; and those who are capable of receiving gratification from Leonidas, are likely to experience as much or more in the perusal of the Athenaid.
Art. VII. The Life and Adventures of Lazarillo Gonsales, sur
named de Tormes. Written by himself. Translated from the original Spanish. In two parts: 12mo. 19th Edition ; London, 1777.
This is one of the amusing histories of Spanish roguery; and, in gratitude for the entertainment Lazarillo has afforded us, we intend to devote a few pages to him. It may be thought that we are easily pleased, and if it be so, we are rather disposed to consider it as an advantage than otherwise. We would rather belong to that class which
“ Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
than be enrolled in the ranks of those critics, who can find a blot in every author's scutcheon, and whose chief pleasure is to be displeased. We would, by our own will, have the critic, were his knowledge as ample and comprehensive as the “ casing air," as pliant and impressible. We think it no proof of a man's wisdom, or of his knowledge, to be niggardly of praise, and, like a certain insect, to pass over that which is good to light upon that which is unsound and worthless. But so it is
“ The bee and spider, by a diverse power,
While some read for information, many read for amusement, but both objects have the same tendency—the increase of human happiness; and the power of enjoyment is the greatest proof of wisdom.—This little work will perhaps be thought by some of a low and trifling nature; but it is the first of a race of comic ro
mances, which have added to the innocent delight of thousands. Indeed, for wit, spirit, and inexhaustible resources in all emergencies, there is nothing like your Spanish rogue ; he is the very pattern of a good knave, the perfection of trickery. Foul weather or fair, it is much the same to him; in winter or summer he is ever blithe and jocund. If his face be as plump and bright as the orange
of his own Seville, he is not without its tartness ; and if it be as lean and sunken as an apple kept over the springtime, he can laugh with the season. In fact, he is never out of season; for, if we have a black cloud on one side of the hill, there is sunshine on the other. He is the true Spanish blade, sharp and well tempered. And then for his plots and shifts, and pleasant adventures, there is no end to them, they are countless. Of all rogues, the Spanish is, after all, the only agreeable companion. A French rogue is nothing to him; and your Jeremy Sharpes and Meriton Latroons are mere dullards in the comparison. The first is but a mechanical sharper, and the others are indecent blackguards. They are bread without saltmere animal matter without soul. We would not, however, for the world, depreciate our old acquaintance Gil Blas, a book which we cannot leave without regret, whenever we dip into it; but he is, in reality, nothing more nor less than a Spanish rogue. Spain gave him birth, and furnished his adventures. Nor would we say any thing against that pleasantly extravagant book, the « Comic Romance” of Scarron, which has more of the English cast of humour, than any other work of the same country that we are acquainted with. As to those eminent individuals who first figure at Tyburn, and then in the “ Newgate Calendar," there is too much of reality in their deeds; and besides, they present, with the dreadful inadequacy and inequality of their punishments, a too uniformly sanguinary, and gloomy picture for us to introduce here. But the Spanish rogue is too light for the gallows“ hemp was not sown for him.” And we escape with gladness from the reflexions which were just awakening in our minds, to the more immediate object of this article.- What depth of knowledge and acuteness of observation do the Spanish "Lives" and " Adventures" display; and what a fund of wisdom is mingled with their rogueries, as in the Gusman de Alfarache, for instance, the most celebrated of all Lazarillo's successors, and which will form the subject of an article in one of our future numbers. Books of this description have, some how or other, obtained an uncommon degree of popularity; and judging from the number of editions through which the book before us has passed, it has received its share. For ourselves, we can say, with truth, they have beguiled us of many an hour which would otherwise have been wearisome; and we can still turn from
perusing, in the pages of the historian, the graver knaveries of "your rich thieves, such as ride on their foot-cloathes of velvet, that hang their horses with hangings of tissue and costly arras, and cover the floors of their chambers with gold and silk, and curious Turkey carpets --who live bravely, upheld by their reputation, graced by their power, and favoured by flattery;"*—and divert ourselves with the more ingenious and less fatal tricks of the vulgar hero, who commenced
his youthful career by leading a blind beggar. Lazarillo, however, is a low and wretched rogue--he has neither the genius, or the ambition, to figure in a higher sphere than that in which he was bred-he neither possesses the various and versatile inventions, or embarks in the intricate and impudent plots, of Gusman, nor meets with the romantic adventures or arrives at the dignity of Gil Blas. In short, Lazarillo is not a professed or finished sharper, but is more the victim of the knavery of others, than a knave himself.-Some of the scenes are of a sombre cast, but relieved by the usual quaintness, liveliness, and spirit of enjoyment, of the Spanish writers.--Lazarillo, in his greatest straights, loses not his good humour.
Than his first master, the devil never hatched an archer or cunninger old fellow-he had more prayers by heart, than all the blind men of Spain-and, for his guide's misfortune, was stingy and avaricious, as he was cunning.–Our Lazarillo was half starved to death by him, and obliged to exert his utmost ingenuity to extract a portion of his master's provisions. One of his expedients will be found in the ensuing extract.
“At meals, the blind old man used always to keep his wine in an earthen
mug, which he set between his legs, from whence I used, as often as I could, to move it slily to my head, and after giving it a hearty kiss, returned it to the place from whence it came. But my master being as cunning as I was sly, and finding his draughts were shortened, after that, always held the mug by the handle.
“That new precaution proved but a whet to my industry; for by means of a reed, one end of which I put into the pot, I used to drink with more satisfaction and conveniency than before; till the traitor, I suppose, hearing me suck, rendered my darling machine useless, by keeping one hand upon the mouth of the can.
“Used to wine as I then was, I could more easily have dispensed with my shirt; and that exigency put me upon a fresh invention of making a hole near the bottom of the mug, which, stopping with a little wax, at dinner-tiine I took the opportunity to tap the can, and getting my head between the old man's legs, received into my mouth the delicious juice with all the decency imaginable. So that the old man, not knowing to what he should impute the continual leakage of his liquor, used to swear and domineer, wishing both the wine and the pot were at the devil.
* Gusman de Alfarache.
“ You won't accuse me any more, I hope (cried I) of drinking your wine, after all the fine precautions you have taken to prevent it.—To that he said not a word; but feeling all about the pot, he at last unluckily discovered the hole, which cunningly dissembling at that time, he let me alone, till next day at dinner, not dreaming, God knows, of the old man's malicious intention, but getting in between his legs, according to my wonted custom, receiving into my mouth the distilling dew, and pleasing myself with the success of my own ingenuity, my eyes upward, but half shut, the furious tyrant, taking up the sweet but hard pot with both his hands, flungit down again with all his force my face; by the violence of which blow, imagining the house had fallen upon my head, I lay sprawling without any sentiment or judgment, my forehead, nose, and mouth, gushing out with blood, and the latter full of broken teeth and broken pieces of the can.
“From that time forward Iever abominated the monstrous old churl, and, in spite of all his flattering stories, could easily observe how my punishment tickled the old rogue's fancy.
“He washed my sores with wine, and with a smile, what sayest thou (quoth he) Lazarillo; the thing that hurt thee, now restores thee health? Courage, my boy!—But all his raillery could not make me change my mind.”
For this castigation, Lazarillo afterwards took an opportunity of amply revenging himself.—The blind man, greedy as he was, in comparison with the priest, our hero's next
master, was a prodigal. The whole stock of provisions, accessible to the unfortunate adventurer, was a rope of onions, of which he was allowed one every four days. The Priest exercised his skill in arithmetic so rigidly in the store room, that Lazarillo never exceeded the quartidian allowance with impunity. There were occasions, indeed, on which he contrived to lay-in a good meal, and that happened whenever there was a funeral in the parish, so that it was his earnest prayer, morning and evening, that God would call unto his rest one of their parishioners, at least every day. And he proceeds
“When we went to carry the holy unction to any of the parishioners, the priest needed not bid me pray for the sick person; I was of my own accord sufficiently inclined to do that, earnestly desiring (not as the custom is, that he would dispose of them according to his holy will, but) that they might speedily be received into Paradise; and if after that it happened that any body recovered (Lord pardon me for it!) I wished them at the Devil with all my heart; whereas I accompanied with a thousand benedictions the corpse of those who peaceably left the world, and by their departure entitled me to a lusty supper."
There was an old antique chest, in which the priest carefully deposited the sacrament-bread for his own peculiar use.
This he kept so fast locked up, and was so cunning withal, that Lazarillo with all his expedients could not for a long time circumvent a single morsel of it.
At length, fortune smiled upon him.
“ But for all those reasons of policy, it was a damned hard matter for me to resist much longer the cruellest enemy of mankind, hunger. But not knowing how to better myself, while I was contriving some means for my evasion, one day the priest being out of doors, a tinker came to mend pots and kettles (if I may not rather call him an angel in disguise, sent by heaven to deliver me from all my misery and sorrow). When he asked me, whether we had any thing to mend ? · Alas! friend, (quoth I) if you could mend what's amiss with me, you should have work enough. But having no time to lose, Master (quoth I) I have lost the key of yonder great trunk, and the priest will break my bones;
for God's sake, see if, amongst all them you have got about you, there be never a one that will serve my turn! You would do me a great service, and I would pay you thankfully for it.
“The compassionate tinker, without any more ado, began to try his keys, and, when I was just past all hopes of succeeding (my most fervent prayers not being wanting) I was of a sudden overjoyed to see the curate's trunk fly open,
“ That sight was like the opening of heaven to me, when I set my eyes upon the loaves that were shut up in it. I told the tinker I had no money to give him, but that he might pay himself in bread; upon which he chose the best loaf he could see, and, leaving me the key, went away very contentedly, but not half so overjoyed as I.
“ However, I meddled with nothing that night, being too much afraid the tinker's loaf might be missed; and besides that, when I had so great a treasure in my power, my hunger abated with my plenty, and I was persuaded it never durst assault me more. The priest came back in the evening, and, as good luck would have it, did not miss his loaf.
“ He was no sooner out of doors next morning, but away I went to the blessed chest, and seizing one of the holy loaves, it became invisible in less time than you could say two pater nosters; that done, I carefully locked the chest, and began sweeping the room with so light a heart, that I fancied, with my cunning invention, I should live very happily in time to come. This joy lasted all that day and the next, but my cursed stars thought that long enough for me to be easy at a time.
“The very third morning after I had found out that noble invention, my devilish master began to search up and down his chest, and reckon hiš loaves over and over again. That cruel search put me in a panic fear, and I heartily recommended myself to God and all the saints-0 blessed St. John, (quoth I) O sweet St. Anthony, confound his memory, or put out his eyes !
“When he had spent three quarters of an hour in counting upon his fingers the number of the loaves, and the days on which they had been given, If this chest (said the miser) had been in any other place, I should have thought that some of my bread was stolen ; but I shall take care to keep so strict an account in time to come, that I shall know better what to think. There's now nine and a broken one.