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Art. IV. Six Months' Residence and Travels in Mexico; containing Remarks on the Present State of New Spain, its natural Productions, State of Society, Manufactures, Trade, Agriculture, and Antiquities, &c. With Plates and Maps. By W. Bullock, F.L.S. Proprietor of the late London Museum. 8vo. pp. 532. Price 18s. London. 1824.
R. BULLOCK, " Proprietor of the late London Museum," finding Belzoni's Tomb so profitable a concern, conceived the spirited project of a voyage to the New World, to furnish the ladies and gentlemen of the metropolis with a Mexican Exhibition in the Egyptian hall, Piccadilly. He sailed from Portsmouth Dec. 11, 1822, landed at Vera Cruz the 2d of March following, on the 31st of August once more found himself half at home on the deck of an English man of war, and landed at Portsmouth on the 8th of November, having succeeded in bringing home materials for two exhibition rooms and an eighteen-shilling volume. Relying solely on the patriotism of' his intentions,' he humbly submits these his best endeavours to that public through whose kindness and patronage' he has been enabled to perform this voyage.' Such a man deserves to be liberally remunerated, and it would be ungrateful to complain of being made to pay a somewhat high duty upon such luxuries. But we cannot help thinking, that had Mr. Bullock charged one shilling, instead of two, for admittance to his rooms, and a third less for his picturebook, he would have found his patriotism better rewarded in the long run by a more extensive demand. The plates in the present volume consist of a view of Mexico (on a folding plate); two views of Vera Cruz; two of Xalapa; two of Puebla de los Angeles; the gate of the canal of Chalco; the pyramid of the Sun; the mountain of Popocatapete; four coloured plates of Mexican costume; two of Mexican sculpture; and two plans of the ancient and modern city. In point of number, Mr. Bullock has been liberal; and though slight and shewy, the plates sufficiently answer the purpose of illustration.
Vera Cruz appeared to our Traveller the most disagreeable place on earth, and not without reason. Its gloomy deathlike appearance,' and its character of being the most unhealthy spot in the world,' naturally make the stranger ⚫ shudder every hour he remains within its walls, surrounded by arid sands, extensive swamps, and savannahs the exhalations of which are removed only by strong winds.'
Of any other city,' he adds, it is considered a disgrace to say that grass grows in the streets; but here it would be a compliment,
for no vegetation is to be observed; and fish is the only article of provision not brought from a distance. The only water fit to drink is what, falls from the clouds, and is preserved in tanks. Milk is scarcely to be, had, as not a cow is kept within miles, and what is perhaps peculiar to Vera Cruz, there is not a garden even near it. The absence of vege-` tation attests at once the poverty of the soil and the insalubrity of the climate. The rainy season, which is also the hottest, proves fatal to a great proportion not only of strangers, but of the Mexicans themselves'; and, not to mention the many other afflictions to which frail nature is heir, that scourge, the black vomit, would alone, it might be thought, defend the city from the intrusion of visiters.......... One class of the occupants will excite some surprise in those unacquainted with tropical regions; I mean the carrion vultures. They are as tame in the streets as domestic fowls, and, like the dogs from the mountains at Lisbon, act as the scavengers of the place, very speedily clearing away whatever filth may be left. Their senses of sight and smell are very acute : while I was preserving some fishes in an apartment at the top of the Posada, the surrounding roofs were crowded with anxious expectants; and when the offal was thrown out, it was, with much contention, greedily consumed. They are on good terms with the dogs, and the two animals may be frequently seen devouring the same carcase. They pass the night on the roofs of the churches, where I have sometimes observed several hundreds.'
It was a weary five days, that Mr. Bullock passed in this depopulated capital. On the 8th of March, he set off for the city of Xalapa, distant only about twenty-two leagues, but a four days' journey. This place is said to contain 13,000 inhabitants, but the population is decreasing: it is described as a handsome place, and is justly celebrated for the excellency of its washing! Many of the inhabitants of Vera Cruz, we are told, actually send their linen a four days' journey to be washed here; and to the praise of the water of Xalapa and the washerwomen thereof, Mr. Bullock never saw linen look so well. Of the people who wear this linen, he professes to be unable to give a very satisfactory account; but, as a specimen of their general information, he states, that they believe the continent to be under the dominion of Spain, and that England, France, Italy, and Germany, are so many paltry provinces of the empire. They had heard of the great English pirates, Drake and Raleigh, but not of Duke Wellington. But then, we ought to recollect, Mr. Bullock candidly remarks, very few of the inhabitants of Great Britain have heard of Puebla or Guatamala; yet, they are superb, populous, and 'wealthy cities.' This is very true; and if the ladies and gentlemen of Ashantee never heard of London, how few of our citizens have heard of Coomassie! A happy way of reasoning this, that places knowledge and ignorance on the same
level. It is impossible to say, however, what may be the effect of Mr. Bullock's visit to Xalapa, in elevating the standard of general intelligence. On his first visit, he found nothing give them more pleasure than a volume of the plates of Ackerman's Fashions.
It was in prodigious request, and they looked with astonishment at some prints of the public buildings of London. But their wonder was greatly augmented when they were informed of the purposes for which they had been built. We heard them exclaim in amazement to each other, " And yet these people are not Christians !”—“ What a pity they are not Christians !"5
On our Author's return to Xalapa in August, he was immediately struck with the alteration that had taken place in the appearance of many of the ladies during his short absence.
Instead of their universally appearing in black, as formerly, many were now to be seen in the last fashions of England, in white muslins, printed calicoes, and other manufactures of Manchester and Glasgow; and the public promenade on the evening of a Sunday or a holiday, presented an appearance of gayety hitherto unknown. On inquiring the cause of this change, I was informed that it principally arose from the volumes of Ackerman's Fashions which I brought with me from England, and the arrival of an English lady, whose newly imported wardrobe had made a hasty tour through most of the respectable houses in the city, and from which the belles had taken their new costumes. I believe, a few of our dashing milliners, with a tolerable stock in trade, would soon realize a property, and by introducing British manufactures where they are at present little known, add considerably to their consumption.'
Mr. Bullock seems to forget, that while he supplied the fashions, and the English lady the patterns, the Manchester and Glasgow manufactures must have been introduced into Xalapa by other individuals;-that our merchants have, in fact, forestalled his recommendation to our milliners. Without in the least depreciating his services on the present occasion, it is evident that the revolution in dress must be ascribed, in some measure, to other circumstances.
About seven or eight leagues from Xalapa, a tract of country commences, which is wholly covered with a volcanic soil.
was an entire mass every form that can state as when first
The whole country for leagues,' says Mr. B. of cinder, scoria, lava, and pumice, piled up in be conceived, and still remaining in the same left by some dreadful explosion of an unknown volcano: in some places, huge pinnacles threatening to fall and crush the passing traveller; in others, the liquid lava seems to have burst like an immense bubble, leaving arches of solid crust, from sixty to eighty feet high, and three or four thick, all hollow underneath, and spread at the
bottom with loose cinders. This valley is bounded on the left by a ridge or wall of immense height, as if the great flood of melted matter had been chilled and stopped in its course. In some parts it seemed as if the lava and scoria had been in part decomposed; and in these, several species of aloes, yucca, dracine, and other strange and picturesque plants were thriving luxuriantly. In other places, thousands of trunks of huge trees, dead and crumbling into dust, added wildness to the scene of desolation. Still further on the left, the mountain of pines, of extraordinary size, and others covered with stunted oaks, served by contrast to exhibit the picture of this tremendous-looking and savage region with greater force.'
Mr. Bullock was highly delighted with the city of Puebla de los Angeles, said to contain 90,000 inhabitants, many of whom are wealthy, and live in good style, and vying in the splendour of its churches and the richness of its endowments, with the capitals of Europe. It contains, according to this Traveller, 60 churches, 9 monasteries, 13 nunneries, and 23 colleges.
They are the most sumptuous,' he says, I have ever seen. Those of Milan, Genoa, and Rome are built in better taste, but, in expensive interior decorations, the quantity and value of the ornaments of the altar, and the richness of the vestments, are far surpassed by those of Puebla and Mexico.'
The high altar of the cathedral appears to be the ne plus ultra of El-Doradic splendour. We should exceedingly like to see it in the Egyptian hall, Piccadilly. It is described as
' a most superb temple, of exquisite workmanship, and in elegant taste, lately finished by an Italian artist, from Roman designs, but executed in Mexico, and of native materials. It is of such size as to occupy a considerable part of the cathedral, and to reach into the dome. Its fault is, that it is too large, being disproportionate to the building in which it is placed, and also too modern to harmonize with the surrounding objects. The materials are the most beautiful marble and precious stones that can be found in New Spain. Its numerous and lofty columns, with plinths and capitals of burnished gold, the magnificent altar of silver, crowded with statues, &c. &c., have an unequalled effect. I have travelled over most of Europe, but I know of nothing like it; and only regret that it does not belong to a building more worthy of it. The side altars are all crowded to excess with statues, carving, gilding, silver candelabras, balustrades, gold chandeliers, &c. It was Holy-week, and in the evening I accompanied Mr. Furlong and his lady to the service of Tenebra, and never witnessed such a splendid scene: certainly it surpassed in magnificence all I knew of the pomp of courts. The whole cathedral, and all its costly appendages, and fretted golden roof, were displayed and illuminated by thousands of wax-lights, reflected from gold and silver chandeliers of the finest workmanship; an altar covered with massive plate, as fresh as from the hands of the artisan; a host of officia
tory clergy, arrayed in the richest vestments; the waving of banners; the solemn music, and a well-conducted band! That heart must have been cold indeed, which could have remained inanimate amid such a scene. He who would wish to see the pomp of religious ceremony, should visit Puebla.'
There is one question which it did not occur to Mr. Bullock to put to himself, Is all this religion? We ask, Has it any connexion with religion--any more connexion than a levee, a review, or a pantomine? Unless, indeed, the name of religion is to be given to any rites, however absurd or revolting, which Turk, Papist, or Pagan may deem an acceptable worship of Allah, the Virgin, Buddh, Brahma, or Teoyamiqui. But if this were all that Mexico could furnish in the way of sights, it would scarcely be worth while to endure even a day at Vera Cruz, to say nothing of a transatlantic voyage, to enjoy the spectacle. Possibly, Mr. Bullock may be of a different persuasion from ourselves. He speaks with great complacency of there being in every drawing-room or sitting-room in Puebla, a wax model of the infant Saviour, or some Saint, or the picture of the Virgin of Guadaloupe, or of a Magdalen, or of the Crucifixion; the frames often of silver.' Here, too, he says, the Englishman will witness the same religion and ceremonies, the same observance of holydays, with the religious proces'sions, that at once were the solace and amusement of our an-, 'cestors.' Mr. B. never met with clergy so humble, kind, ⚫ and attentive to strangers, as the clergy of Puebla de los An⚫geles.' In short, he is perfectly dazzled with the magnificence, charmed with the politeness, and animated by the piety, that distinguish this angelic' city and its fortunate inhabitants. Here it is gold, real gold, that glitters, and the proverb is all on his side.
The approach to Mexico is far from prepossessing. When first seen, it is discovered to be situated in a swamp, and the country in its immediate vicinity resembles the worst parts of Lincolnshire. Nothing around gives any idea of the mag⚫nificent city to which you are approaching: all is dreary si ⚫lence and solitude.' The suburbs are mean and dirty, and the inhabitants are covered with rags or wrapped in a blanket. The interior of the city, however, is represented as quite repaying the traveller. The regularity and largeness of the streets, -many of them nearly two miles in length, terminating in view of the mountains; the size and grandeur of the churches and houses; the novel effect of the style of building, the houses being, for the most part, painted white, crimson, brown, or light green in distemper, or cased with glazed porcelain; to