Billeder på siden

under the slender modification of Indian manners as yet effected by the Papal Christianization of these countries, and in the neighborhood of a river-system so awful, of a mountain-system so unheardoí in Europe, there would probably, by blind, unconscious sympathy, grow up a tendency to lawless and gigantesque ideals of adventurous life; under which, united with the duelling code of Europe, many things would become trivial and commonplace experiences that to us home-bred English (“qui musas colimus severiores") seem monstrous and revolting.

Left, therefore, to itself, my belief is, that the story of the Military Nun would have prevailed finally against the demurs of the sceptics. However, in the mean time, all such demurs were suddenly and officially silenced forever. Soon after the publication of Kate's memoirs, in what you may call an early stage of her literary career, though two centuries after her personal career had closed, a regular controversy arose upon the degree of credit due to these extraordinary confessions (such they may be called) of the poor conscience-haunted nun. Whether these in Kate's original MS. were entitled "Autobiographic Sketches," or "Selections Grave and Gay," from the military experiences of a Nun, or possibly "The Confessions of a Biscayan Fire-Eater," is more than I know. No matter: confessions they were; and confessions that, when at length published, were absolutely mobbed and hustled by a gang of misbelieving (that is, miscreant) critics. And this fact is most remarkable, that the person who originally headed the incredulous party, namely, Senor de Ferrer, a learned Castilian, was the very same who finally authenticated, by documentary evidence, the extraordinary narrative in those parts which had most of all invited scepticism. The progress of the dispute threw the decision at length upon the archives of the Spanish Marine. Those for the southern ports of Spain had been transferred, I believe, from Cadiz and St. Lucar to Seville; chiefly, perhaps, through the confusions incident to the two French invasions of Spain in our own day [1st, that under Napoleon; 2dly, that under the Duo d'Angoulême]. Amongst these archives, subsequently amongst those of Cuzco, in South America; 3dly, amongst the records of some royal courts in Madrid; 4thly, by collateral proof from the Papal Chancery; 5thly, from Barcelona - have been drawn together ample attestations of all the incidents recorded by Kate. The elopement from St. Sebastian's, the doubling of Cape Horn, the shipwreck on the coast of Peru, the rescue of the royal banner from the Indians of Chili, the fatal duel in the dark, the astonishing passage of the Andes, the trag.

[ocr errors]

ical scenes at Tucuman and Cuzco, the return to Spain in obedience to a royal and a papal summons, the visit to Rome and the interview with the Pope-finally, the return to South America, and the mysterious disappearance at Vera Cruz, upon which no light was ever thrown all these capital heads of the narrative have been established beyond the reach of scepticism: and, in consequence, the story was soon after adopted as historically established, and was reported at length by journals of the highest credit in Spain and Germany, and by a Parisian journal so cautious and so distinguished for its ability as the Revue des Deux Mondes.

I must not leave the impression upon my readers that this complex body of documentary evidences has been searched and appraised by myself. Frankly I acknowledge that, on the sole occasion when any opportunity offered itself for such a labor, I shrank from it as too fatiguing and also as superfluous; since, if the proofs had satisfied the compatriots of Catalina, who came to the investigation with hostile feelings of partisanship, and not dissembling their incredulity, -armed also (and in Mr. de Ferrer's case conspicuously armed) with the appropriate learning for giving effect to this incredulity,—it could not become a stranger to suppose himself qualified for disturbing a judgment that had been so deliberately delivered. Such a tri'bunal of native Spaniards being satisfied, there was no further opening for demur. The ratification of poor Kate's memoirs is now therefore to be understood as absolute, and without reserve.


This being stated, — namely, such an attestation from competent authorities to the truth of Kate's narrative as may save all readers from my fair Westmoreland friend's disaster, it remains to give such an answer, as without further research can be given, to a question pretty sure of arising in all reflective readers' thoughts—namely, does there anywhere survive a portrait of Kate? I answer and it would be both mortifying and perplexing if I could not — - Yes. One such portrait there is confessedly; and seven years ago this was to be found at Aix-la-Chapelle, in the collection of Herr Sempeller. The name of the artist I am not able to report; neither can I say whether Herr Sempeller's collection still remains intact, and remains at Aixla-Chapelle.

But inevitably to most readers who review the circumstances of a case so extraordinary, it will occur that beyond a doubt many portraits of the adventurous nun must have been executed. To have affronted the wrath of the Inquisition, and to have survived such an audacity, would of itself be enough to found a title for the martial YOL. I. 2

nun to a national interest. It is true that Kate had not taken the veil; she had stopped short of the deadliest crime known to the Inquisition; but still her transgressions were such as to require a special indulgence; and this indulgence was granted by a Pope to the intercession of a king-the greatest then reigning. It was a favor that could not have been asked by any greater man in this world, nor granted by any less. Had no other distinction settled upon Kate, this would have been enough to fix the gaze of her own nation. But her whole life constituted Kate's supreme distinction. There can be no doubt, therefore, that, from the year 1624 (that is, the last year of our James I.), she became the object of an admiration in her own country that was almost idolatrous. And this admiration was not of a kind that rested upon any partisan-schism amongst her countrymen. So long as it was kept alive by her bodily presence amongst them, it was an admiration equally aristocratic and popular, — shared alike by the rich and the poor, by the lofty and the humble. Great, therefore, would be the demand for her portrait. There is a tradition that Velasquez, who had in 1623 executed a portrait of Charles I. (then Prince of Wales), was amongst those who in the three or four following years ministered to this demand. It is believed, also, that, in travelling from Genoa and Florence to Rome, she sat to various artists, in order to meet the interest about herself already rising amongst the cardinals and other dignitaries of the Romish church. It is probable, therefore, that numerous pictures of Kate are yet lurking both in Spain and Italy, but not known as such. For, as the public consideration granted to her had grown out of merits and qualities purely personal, and was kept alive by no local or family memorials rooted in the land, or surviving herself, it was inevitable that, as soon as she herself died, all identification of her portraits would perish and the portraits would thenceforwards be confounded with the similar memorials, past all numbering, which every year accumulates as the wrecks from household remembrances of generations that are passing or passed, that are fading or faded, that are dying or buried. It is well, therefore, amongst so many irrecoverable ruins, that, in the portrait at Aix-la-Chapelle, we still possess one undoubted representation (ind therefore in some degree a means for identifying other representations) of a female so memorably adorned by nature; gifted with capacities so unparalleled both of doing and suffering; who lived a life so stormy, and perished by A fate so unsearchably mysterious.




My route, after parting from Lord Westport at Birmingham, lay, as I have mentioned in the "Autobiographic Sketches," through Stamford to Laxton, the Northamptonshire seat of Lord Carbery. From Stamford, which I had reached by some intolerable old coach, such as in those days too commonly abused the patience and long-suffering of Young England, I took a post-chaise to Laxton. The distance was but nine miles, and the postilion drove well, so that I could not really have been long upon the road; and yet, from gloomy rumination upon the unhappy destination which I believed myself approaching within three or four months, never had I weathered a journey that seemed to me so long and dreary. As I alighted on the steps at Laxton, the first dinner-bell rang; and I was hurrying to my toilet, when my sister Mary, who had met me in the portico, begged me first of all to come into Lady Carbery's dressing-room, her ladyship having some

* Lady Carbery. — “To me, individually, she was the one sole friend that ever I could regard as entirely fulfilling the offices of an honest

thing special to communicate, which related (as I understood her) to one Simon. "What Simon? Simon Peter?"—0, no, you irreverend boy, no Simon at all with an S, but Cymon with a C,-Dryden's Cy

[blocks in formation]

"That whistled as he went for want of thought.""

This one indication was a key to the whole explanation that followed. The sole visitors, it seemed, at that time to Laxton, beside my sister and myself, were Lord and Lady Massey. They were understood to be domesticated at Laxton for a very long stay. In reality, my own private construction of the case (though unauthorized by anything ever hinted to me by Lady Carbery) was, that Lord Massey might probably be under some cloud of pecuniary embarrassments, such as suggested prudentially an absence from Ireland. Meantime, what was it that made him an object of peculiar interest to Lady Carbery? It was the singular revolution which, in one whom all his friends looked upon as sold to constitutional torpor, suddenly, and beyond all hope, had kindled a new and nobler life. Occupied originally by no shadow of any earthly interest, killed by ennui, all at once Lord Massey had fallen passionately in love with a fair young countrywoman, well connected, but bringing him no fortune (I report only from hearsay), and endowing him simply with the priceless blessing of her own womanly charms, her

friendship. She had known me from infancy; when I was in my first year of life, she, an orphan and a great heiress, was in her tenth or eleventh."See closing pages of "Autobiographic Sketches."

« ForrigeFortsæt »