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EVERYMAN'S LIBRARY

664

TRAVEL & TOPOGRAPHY


Everyman, I will go with thee, and be thy guide,
In thy most need to go by thy side.


FRANCES CALDERON DE LA BARCA, born in Edinburgh, 1804, the daughter of
William Inglis. After her father's death she settled in America, where she
married the Spanish diplomat, Don Angel Calderon de la Barca. She
accompanied him on his various appointments to Mexico, Washington, and
finally to Madrid, where she was created Marquesa de Calderon de la Barca
by Alfonso XII and died in 1882.




FRANCES CALDERON DE LA BARCA


LIFE IN MEXICO


INTRODUCTION BY MANUEL ROMERO DE TERREROS MARQUES DE SAN FRANCISCO


First published 1843


INTRODUCTION


In the year 1843, two new books took the American public by storm: one was
Prescott's _History of the Conquest of Mexico_, and the other _Life in
Mexico_ by Madame Calderon de la Barca. William Hickling Prescott was
already known as an able historian on account of his scholarly _Reign of
Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain_ which had appeared four years before and
elicited praise from all quarters; but his new work outran the former in
that the author had succeeded in depicting one of the most stirring
episodes of history with the grandeur of an epic and the interest of a
novel.

It was therefore natural that a book with Prescott's endorsement should be
favourably received by the general public; but _Life in Mexico_
immediately attained wide circulation on its own merits, and was received
with unbounded enthusiasm. Soon the slight veil that pretended to hide the
author's name was drawn aside and Madame Calderon de la Barca became
famous in literary and social circles.

Frances Erskine Inglis was born in Edinburgh in the year 1804. Her father,
William Inglis, belonged to a distinguished Scottish family, related to
the Earls of Buchan, and was a grandson of a gallant Colonel Gardiner who
fell in the battle of Prestonpans, while her mother, a Miss Stern before
her marriage, was a celebrated beauty of her time.

Fanny, as Frances was familiarly called, was still very young when her
father found himself in financial difficulties and decided to retire with
his family to Normandy where living was supposed to be cheaper. But
William Inglis died a few years later, and his widow determined to settle
in America. In the United States Mrs. Inglis established a private school
first in Boston, later in Staten Island, and finally in Baltimore, and her
daughter was a great help, for she immediately revealed herself as an
excellent teacher. Besides, Fanny became a great friend of Ticknor,
Lowell, Longfellow, and especially of Prescott, who thought her "ever
lively and _spirituelle_."

In 1836 a Special Diplomatic Mission from Spain arrived at Washington, and
at its head came Don Angel Calderon de la Barca, a gentleman of high
social standing and an accomplished man of letters, who, naturally enough,
soon established literary relations with William Prescott, then at work on
his _History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella_. In this connection
he became acquainted with many of Prescott's friends, the Inglis ladies
among others, and the result was that he fell in love with the
accomplished Fanny, and married her in 1838. Shortly afterwards Don Angel
was appointed Isabel II's Minister to Mexico, the first Spanish Envoy to
the young Republic that had formerly been the Kingdom of New Spain. The
newly married couple, accordingly, started on their journey to Mexico,
which was destined to be a long one, even for those days, for they left
New York on October 27th and did not reach their destination until the
26th of the following December.

Calderon's mission to Mexico lasted somewhat more than two years, during
which time he and his wife, says Prescott, "lived much at their ease," and
"were regaled _en prince_." In spite of Don Angel's delicate diplomatic
duties and her own frequent social engagements and strenuous excursions,
Fanny Inglis Calderon found time to write almost daily letters, most of
them of considerable length, to relatives and friends. These letters
constituted the basis of the present book when they were collected and
published--with certain necessary omissions--simultaneously in London and
Boston in 1843, under the title of _Life in Mexico during a Residence of
Two Years in that Country_. The book was provided with a short but
substantial Preface by Prescott.

That same year saw Don Angel Calderon de la Barca transferred to
Washington as Spanish Minister, a post in which he not only discharged his
diplomatic duties with much ability, but also frequented the literary
circles and even found time to translate several works into Spanish.

In 1853 Calderon was recalled to Spain by his government and arrived at
Madrid on September 17th with his wife, who had recently become a
Catholic. A year later, he was appointed Minister of State in the Cabinet
of the Conde de San Luis, and thus became an actor in the troubled drama
of that period of Isabel II's reign. When finally the unpopularity of the
government culminated in a general rebellion, Calderon managed to escape
the unjust fury of the rabble by hiding first in the Austrian, and later
in the Danish Legation, until he was able to cross the frontier and take
refuge in France. The events that Madame Calderon had witnessed in Spain
moved her to write that entertaining book _The Attache in Madrid_, which,
pretending to be a translation from the German, appeared in New York in
1856.

The Calderons were able to return to Spain after an absence of two years,
but in 1861 Don Angel died at San Sebastian, just when he was expecting to
move to a small villa which was being built for him nearby in picturesque
Zarauz. Hard upon this event Madame Calderon retired to a convent across
the Pyrenees, but shortly afterwards Queen Isabel asked her to come back
and take charge of the education of her eldest daughter, the Infanta
Isabel, a request which, though at first respectfully declined, was
finally accepted by her. From that time on Madame Calderon became the
constant companion of the Infanta Isabel, until the latter's marriage to
the Count of Girgenti in 1868. She then returned to the United States, but
only for a comparatively short time, for as soon as Alfonso XII came to
the throne, Madame Calderon went back to Spain and was created by him
Marquesa de Calderon de la Barca. Thenceforward she led a very quiet life
until her death, in the Royal Palace of Madrid, on February 3rd, 1882.

Any radical change in the form of government is liable to be accompanied
by disorders, and this is even more likely to be true in a country like
Mexico, which has become famous for its frequent political troubles and
has been aptly called "a land of unrest." In the eighteen-forties the
country witnessed many plans, "pronunciamientos" and revolutions, which
could not escape the vigilant mind of Madame Calderon, who often refers to
them with a spice of delicate satire and irony which is not unkindly.
After the long period of peaceful if unexciting viceregal rule, the
government of the new republic had become the prey of political groups,
headed by men who coveted the presidency chiefly impelled by a "vaulting
ambition" which, in most cases "overleapt itself." Madame Calderon drew
faithful portraits of many of the politicians of those days, not stinting
her praise to such men of honour as Bustamante, nor hiding her sympathy
towards the much reviled Santa Anna.

Naturally, as the wife of the Spanish Minister, she feels occasionally
bound to dwell somewhat disparagingly upon the existing state of things,
as compared with the excellences of the former viceregal regime. Thus, on
visiting the older cities and establishments, she lays stress on the great
benefits that the Mother Country had bestowed on her Colonies, an opinion
that, she states, was shared by the most distinguished persons in Mexico,
who missed the advantages of the days of yore: "I fear we live in a
Paradise Lost," she exclaims, "which will not be regained in our days!"

But this does not mean to say that she withholds praise where praise is
due. On more than one occasion she extols the valour of a soldier, the
talent of a Minister like Cuevas, or the honesty and clearsightedness of a
politician like Gutierrez de Estrada; and when she refers to the rivalry
that arose between the different parties, she has unbounded praises for
the cadets of the Military School, for their patriotic conduct and their
loyalty to the legally established government.

In Madame Calderon's time the Mexican upper classes were an extension, so
to speak, of the old viceregal society. Only the very young had not seen
the Spanish flag flying over the public buildings or had not been more or
less acquainted with the last viceroys. The presidential receptions of a
Bustamante or a Santa Anna in the National Palace, just as during the
short reign of Augustin I de Iturbide, were ablaze with brilliant
uniforms, glittering decorations, fine dresses, and rich jewels, while at
private parties the old family names and titles continued to be borne with
the prestige of former colonial days.

On the other hand, the relations between lord and servant are faithfully
portrayed by Madame Calderon de la Barca. Speaking of life in a
_hacienda_, she describes how the lady of the house sat at the piano,
while the employees and servants performed the typical dances of the
country for the benefit of guests and relatives, without suggesting any
idea of equality or disrespect, more or less in the fashion of the Middle
Ages, when the lord and the lady of the manor sat at table with their
servants, though the latter remained rigorously below the salt. With
regard to the lower classes, Madame Calderon always sees the picturesque
side of things which she describes vividly and colourfully.

It is to be regretted (particularly from a Mexican point of view) that
Fanny Inglis, or her editor, should have thought it expedient only to give
the first and last letters of the names of the more prominent persons of
whom she speaks, a system which makes it difficult for a reader of later
days to identify them, except in one or two cases.



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