Welcome to my blog. Please feel free to roam around and learn a bit more about Portuguese History. To find your interests, please, have a look at the right side of the page, where you can find all the posts arrenged into labels, such as "Society", "Politics", etc. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 25, 2013


In one of my recent trips to the library, I found this amazing book, amongst others, and I decided to share with you. Unfortunately I cannot share all of it, but I leave you with some of my favorite parts, which I highlighted. I excuse myself beforehand for my lack of translation abilities.
It seems that most, if not all, of the travelers who visited Portugal, and also Spain, wrote about their delights of observing and describing the national women.
At the end of copying the parts of texts I found most interesting (and I had to limit myself quite a bit), I leave you with some of the conclusions the author of the book came to. It gives a good incite to the period mentality.
(Taken from the book “As Mulheres Portuguesas vistas por Viajantes Estrangeiros – século XVIII, XIX, XX”, [Portuguese Women seen by Foreign Travellers], by Ana Vicente, Gótica, Lisboa 2011)

[On the cover of the book] «The Portuguese women are quite kind, spirituous and very vivid. They're not taken as frisky but few occasions are given to them to prove it, because fathers, husbands or even brothers are unusually zealous, exercise on them a endured supervision. They only leave the house to go to church or to do visits.» (César de Saussure, “Letters Written from Lisbon”, 1730)

[Circa 1824] «The woman that is seated with crossed legs holding a spindle in her left hand and shake her brazier with her right hand, is a chestnut roaster. (…) There's nothing special to say about these women apart from the fact that they roast the chestnuts like nobody else in the world(A.P.D.G., “Sketches of Portuguese Life, Manners, Costume and Character”, ilustrated by twenty coloured plates, London, Geo. B. Whittaker, 1826, p 2)

[Seabathing] «I've entered many times the water accompanied by a dozen women, and hold their hands while they dived their heads under water. There are ladies who's gardens go directly to the beach and they get undressed in their summer houses and go into water holding a rope, with one of the ends tied to the door. This type of bathing isn't as healthy as the sudden head immersion; but these ladies won't do it any other way, entering on foot isn't less healthy then the way of a floating bathtub.»(idem, p 166)

Seabathing in the Tagus river by A.P.D.G., "Sketches of portuguese life, manners, costume and character", 1826. Women taking a bath in the river in Lisbon, wearing theirs shifts that have become translucid with the water. A very muscular and what seems to be, at least, a very taned man is pushing one of them onto the boat.

«The peasants, or women, generally of bigger hight then the female inhabitants of the cities; their skin is similar to the men, of a darker color, more healthy, and not so yellow or dull colored. They have beautiful eyes, full of expression. When young, they are very beautiful, and generally they have pleasant faces; but their beauty last shortly.(...)» (idem, pp322-323)

[The peasants like to sing, but sing badly] «The women also tune their voices with effects non better then of their spouses; nothing can be more monotonous then their songs, and nothing more out of tune then their interpretations. However the women don't lack spirit and ability to answer back: a friend of mine seeing a peasant passing by on a donkey, followed by several of these animals, said to her “Goodbye, mother of donkeys!” to which she replied immediately “Goodbye my son!”, with calmness and composure» (idem, pp.330-331)

«The women here use less petticoats, under their dresses, even in winter, and some lower social classes don't wear any, being happy with only a shirt that is covered by the dress. These last ones don't use a night cap and many maintain the old habit of sleeping in the natural state, and consider that during the night wearing clothing isn't healthy and is unnecessary. Both genders adopt this practice. » (Baillie, Marianne, “Lisbon in the years of 1821, 1822 and 1823”, 2nd edition, 2nd vol, London, John Murray, 1825, vol I, p 116)

[Between the regions of Douro and Minho] «The women share with their men the agricultural chores. They work continually the furrows of the earth, the heads covered with a round felt hat, to protect them selves of the harshness of the sun.
Like the men they find in the lively dancing a release of their fatigues (Breton, “L'Éspagne et le Portugal, ou Moeurs, Usages et Costumes des habitans de ces Royaumes”, 6 tomes, Paris, A. Nerveu, 1815, tome VI, p 35)

City of Coimbra, Thomas St. Clair. You can see the big felt hats that the peasants are wearing.

[1816] «In front of my house lives a very beautiful woman whose manners don't lack elegance. I didn't deny myself the pleasure of observing her. I saw her a few days ago with her head resting on the knees of her chamber maid that was taking her lice. Goodbye pleasure! The hygiene is inseparable of the grace and beauty. I've seen many people of the folk occupied in this repugnant task. But thought it was exaggerated what they would tell me about this people’s habit which is (…) the ladies sitting in great voluptuousness when they scratch or pick their heads.» (Tollerane, Louis-François de, “Notes Dominicales prises pendant un voyage en Portugal et au Brésil en 1816, 1817 et 1818”, coment. Par Léon Bourdon, 3 tomes, paris, PUF, 1971, tome 1, pp 75-76)

Street scenes by A.P.D.G. in "Sketches of portuguese life, manners, costume and character", 1826. You can see an old lady taking the lice off of the heaqd of a young woman on the balcony and a soldier eating the roasted chestnuts he just bought from the chestnuts seller.

«Approaching Porto, the vivaciousness of the national character became more evident: the women had the pleasure of mocking and giving a quick answers and sometimes they would take their dares to an inconvenient level, giving me wrong road directions. However, goodness will always win, and they always told me about the mistake they got me into after I gave the first steps into the wrong direction. (...)The beautiful necklaces and earrings made of gold, worn by the women of lower classes, surprised me a lot, until I found out that they invest all of their money in acquiring these ornaments» (“Portugal and Gallicia”, [Henry George Herbert, 3rd Earl of Carnarvon], 2nd vol., 2nd edition, London, John Murray, 1837, vol I, pp 56-57)

«The Portuguese are one of the more hairiest races of Europe. This southern sun puts beards on fifteen year old boys and mustaches on many ladies (who's voices are thicken for taking snuff) in such a way that the only apparent sexual distinction is the skirt.»(Hughes, Terence Mahon, “Revelations of Portugal, and narrative of an overland journey to Lisbon, at the close of 1846”, 2nd vol, London, Henry Colburn, 1847, vol II, p 365)

«The inferiority of the look of the women of Lisbon can be given to the fact that they live exclusively inside the houses, being deterred of doing healthy exercises, breathing not very healthy smells from the streets under their balconies, careless in the quality of the food they ingest and very deficient in what is necessary to their houses and cuisine. (...)» (idem, vol II, p 369)

Woman selling fruit, A.P.D.G., "Sketches of portuguese life, manners, costume and character", 1826. A woman is indoors buying fruit, two beggars are lice ticking and there's a religious procession hapening and a lady on the balcony praying while it passes. Other details: there's a parrot on the window, something very fashionable to have and the house is being belssed by 2 religious icons.

According to the author, most of the documents found are written by men. Many of them travel to Portugal for individual reasons, others because of their profession, others because of the war, others because of health issues (Portugal was famous for it's weather) and others just because they're looking for something new and “exotic”. Some travel with wife an family, others alone. But what all of these have in common is that they were travelers who wrote and not traveling writers. Some of them were Beckford, Byron, Southy and Hans Christian Andersen.
Portugal wasn't part of the Romantic Literature route and those who visited Portugal came here for different and heterogeneous purposes. Although the Portuguese landscape (specially Sintra) gave them a “romantic” perspective of Portugal.
The difference between travelers who wrote about their travels and other type of writers is the lack of objectivity. They come with a set of baggage which with they analyze and compare what they see according to what they already know. What they see is rarely of a learning experience and more of critic and denial. Although what all of them seem to agree upon is the division between the city and the countryside and North and South. William Beckford wrote: «Only the peasants are excellent.»
The general opinion was of a country that didn't deserved to be European, all wild and almost barbaric and »that needed a positive influence of a more advanced civilization».
A traveling guide of mid 19th century (author unknown) wrote the following about Portugal:
«The tourist (…) should be prepared for the worst of lodgings, the worst of foods, extreme tiredness, and not expect a lot about the level of architecture, ecclesiology or fine arts. But for those who seek landscapes, specially the artist, no other country in Europe has so many attractions and beauties uncovered» (Handbook for Travelers in Portugal, John Murray, 1855)
Still today (year 2000) an internet search associates Portugal still to Spain, to the Moorish traditions and the sunny, warm waters and fishing region that is Algarve.

River scenes, A.P.D.G., "Sketches of portuguese life, manners, costume and character",1826. Dock workers are helping women into the boat to travel to the other side of the river. If it is in Lisbon and if I'm not mistaken, these boats are called "faluas".

Saturday, May 11, 2013


Taken from the book “A Guerra Peninsular em Portugal – English Reports”, by Maria Leonor Machado de Sousa, Centro de Estudos Anglo-Portugueses, Caleidoscópio, Lisboa, 2007

Another good book I found in the local library. I keep telling that it's like a treasure chamber!
This book, as the title refers, is about several documents (letters, diaries, memories) written by several British citizens during the Peninsula War. The author took the parts of those documents, written from people like the Duke of Wellington, to the daughter of Sir Nicholas Trent, Clarissa Trent, to several soldiers and other military personnel, that referred Portugal directly and which I will show just a small part of.
One is from Joseph Sherer (a soldier who was also the author of “Sketches of India” and like most of the enlisted men, saw the military life as a way to see the world*), another one is from Sir Robert Ker Porter (14 letters written to a Mr. S., 7 of which are about Portugal, during the march of an officer under Sir John Moore) and the last one is the famous book of the recollections of Rifleman Harris (the recollections of a rifleman of the 95th, that was a shepherd in Dorset, became a soldier and a cobbler during the campaigns, written by Captain Henry Curling of the 52nd regiment of foot).
Joseph Sherer conscientiously chose to write only the good memories he had from his time as a soldier (and through a very romantic lens) and he states so in his writings, while the letters of Sir Robert Ker Porter, although printed anonymously, have a more personal view of Portugal and quite the oposite of the 1st.
About the underlined passages, those are the ones I found interesting.
Again, excuse me of any translating mistakes.

* «I enjoyed my life more whilst on active service than I have ever done since, and I look back on my time spent on the fields of the Peninsula as the only part worthy of remembrance» (Note by Benjamin Randell Harris in the manuscript)


Recollections of the Peninsula War. By author of “Sketches of India”. Second edition. London. Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown and Greene, 1824.

(July 1809) «There are few landscapes that can compare to that toast to the eyes of a traveler that, for the first time, from the deck of a ship, on the Tejo, contemplates Lisbon emerging, proudly beautiful, before him (...)»

Praça do Comércio, with a view form the Castle of S. Jorge. This would be one of the first things that the British soldiers would have seen landing in Lisbon. During the 1st French Invasion, the French flag was hoisted at the castle. Picture taken by me.

Wellington landing in Lisbon in 1809, Greenwich Maritime Museum. The tower you see in the water is probably painted by the author throough word-of-mouth; never has a fortification like existed on the Tejo. It could be the Torre de Belém, but I'm not sure.

(Walking around Lisbon) «Right under the window of our cafe, some Moorish loaders, that in Lisbon are numerous, got busy of the most amazing tasks. Their herculean shapes, their little turbans and their singular expressions, alongside with the prodigious effort they made to lift and carry the heavy loads, gave us a new and unique vision. My thoughts turned, naturally, to that time in the past, to the time where these moors, now so degraded and politically insignificant, ruled over this beautiful land (…)»

«On the way back to the square of S. Pedro, where we dined, I entered several churches (…) (and) appreciate the costumes of this country, and believe that from all catholic countries: the fact that the doors of the churches are open at any time of the day and, in their interior, there are always some people, opening their hearts in prayer, before the altars of the saints of their devotion. In moments of affliction, despair and fear it is here that they turn to and, feeling protected and helped by the holiness and solemness of the pace, lay their sorrows and fears in the hands of God, to whom they beg salvation and forgiveness.»

«(...) The Portuguese have been, non rarely, described, by foreign travelers, as careless, relatively to themselves, with their garments and tattered looks. I confess that I don't share it. On the contrary, I had the opportunity to notice that all middle and higher classes of the society showed an extreme care to the quality and brightness of their whites. A plump shape and of medium height, with an amazing healing quality, make the particular dotes of the feminine beauty in Portugal, characteristics that, here, and like anywhere else in the world, define a beautiful woman. About the height of the men in Lisbon, clearly smaller then of the English, is not as short as it has, frequently and falsely, represented.(...)»

«This was the treatment that I received on the first tour in Portugal and, not regarding rare exceptions, corresponded, in general, to the type of reception offered to the British army by the Portuguese, according to their possessions at the beginning of the Peninsula War: poor and rich, clergy and leymen, nobles and peasants, all expresses their good will and readyness to serve and honor us.»

«The English don't adapt themselves easily to the habits of other nations, nor condescend in tolerating (not even flatter) the harmless self-esteem of the amicable foreigners. No! Wherever they march or travel, they assume always an arrogant manner, of conscious superiority, and hope that their ways, costumes and opinions overlap the other countries that they cross or, at least, that others suspend, even temporary, their modus vivendi

«Every time we stopped for a week or two at the same place, the pedlers, that followed the army, surpassed us and opened their temporary shops in the neighboring towns or even at the campsite. So, even for a high price, we could provide ourselves with several delicacies, like tea, sugar, aguardentes, wines, cigars, etc. I must confess that at this type of bivouacs we missed two great things: books and the company of women.»

Letters from Portugal and Spain, Written during the March of the British troops under Sir John Moore. With a map of the route, and appropriate engravings”. By an officer. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, 1809.

Letter III
«Lisbon, the 13th of October, 1808.
(…) Lisbon, like most of all the continental capitals, looks to an Englishman as deprived of all comforts even the most trivial ones. There isn't one Inn in which one can pass the night without suffering the tortures from hell, just as bad as it's flames and sulfur. I made the attempt in lodging myself in one; but if I were destined to pass the nocturnal hours in the most miserable hovel in England or install myself in that place, I would have preferred the first one. It would be impossible to find in all Great Britain a housing in such ruin, so badly furnished, so filthy, and so infested by bugs: and yet it's the Leon d'Or, the most important hotel in town.»

The hotel Léon d'Or in Lisbon, still standing today. Photo taken by me.

«(...) present to you the women of this country, famous by the romance novells. I'll start at the lower classes: they show a suprising good taste in dressing, wearing as clothing a cape with sleeves that fall from the shoulders. It's generally from red fabric, edged and ornated with black velvet drawn in much ability. The way they fold the cape is extremely graceful and attracts a lot of attention, since one can see all their shape, finishing at an elegant foot or ankle. These extremities are very beautiful and ornated with much care: when we think about the filth of the streets, we are amazed with the cleanness that this sign of female pride is preserved. The heads are covered in a white scarf, from which an interesting face peeks through, even if skinny, with a pair of beautiful brown eyes. This is the tout ensemble of the Lisbon beauty.»

Middle-class woman from Lisbon, William Bradford, in "Esquisse du pays du caractere et du costume en Portugal et Espagne", 1812

Letter IV
«Lisbon, the 19th of October, 1808.
(...)If the weather is good, I propose to go immediately to Cintra, the Switzerland of Portugal, after what I have to prepare for my departure with the army. General Moore hasn't let us yet, but every day we wait for it to go forward. In the meanwhile, I cannot but pray that the rainy season continues and doesn't surprise us during the journey. The consequences for the army would be terrible. The rain here isn't as over there. Comparing to those here, the strongest rain precipitates over your head like mist: but here (and I've experienced it two or three times) the rain falls in cascade, like the water falls. As bad as these floods are, they are a blessing for the city, since they clean all the filth to the vast rive bed of the Tejo. - Goodbye!»

Letter V
«Lisbon, the 29th of October, 1808.
Yesterday, John Moore and his retinue left the capital. We will go to in a day or two, and hope to reach the army before their arrive Salamanca, or even further, in Valladolid. To equip myself for the march it was necessary to acquire mules and horses. From the last ones, they only had one; but now, if you were here, I would present you with a better set. During the negotiations I found out that all the sellers have a passion for extortion, which (because I find it everywhere) I must consider is an absolute vice of the human race. The Portuguese dealers seem to think they couldn't express better their gratitude for the services that we provide them by relieving our purses at every opportunity. Honesty was never a measure of their price, since generally the demanded five times more then the real value of the article.»


The recollections of rifleman Harris as told to Henry Curling”. Edited and introduced by Christopher Hibbert. London, Century Publishing, 1985.

Chapter 3
(Battle of Roliça) «On the 17th, and still at the front, we encountered the French again. I remember seeing the pleasant effect of the sun beams lurking over their weapons as they took position to face us.»

«When the call was made, after the battle, the women whose husbands were missing came to the formation to know the news of them by the survivors. Amongst other names, I heard a female voice calling for Cochan, with no answer.
The name caught my attention and I noticed the poor woman that had called him, sob in front of us and apparently fearful of asking for her husband. (…) Mrs Cochan returned with me to the company to which her husband belonged and laid down in the bushes near us. She was with other women in the same circumstances, with the sky as canopy and the grass as pillows, because we didn't had our tents. Poor woman!»

Chapter 4
«I remember seeing many men weakening during the march from Salamanca. Our marches were long, and the most week were detected. It was everyone for himself, those whose strengths began to fail didn't looked right nor left, they just continued straight ahead, with glassy eyes, stumbling the best they could. If they would fall, sometimes it wasn't easy to get up again, and few were willing to help the comrades when their own energy was diminished. In this march I myself, even being strong, felt completely defeated, and fell down on the streets of a town called, I think, Zamora, where I stayed, like dead, for a while.»

Chapter 5
(Battle of Vimeiro) «As soon as the battle was over; a truce flag had arrived from the French side; I think that it was general Kellerman that brought it. We laid on the floor on the spot we were standing when the firing stopped. A Frenchman laid on the ground near me: he was dieing and asked me for water, which I understood more from his mannerisms then his words (he pointed his finger to his mouth). It's needless to say that I got up and gave it to him.»

(Major Travers)«The Major revealed what no one of us, I think, knew, which was, he was completely bold and had covered the nudity of is head with a wig, which, during the heat of the battle, was dislodged of one way or the other; however, one could see the Major riding his horse from one side of the other, diging his spurs on the sides of the horse and so agitated as at the end of the battle. “A guinea” he would repeat shouting while riding, “to whom finds my wig!”»

Chapter 6
«I had roamed until some distance when I saw a French officer running in my direction with all the energy, chased by at least half a dozen men on horse. The Frenchman was a tall and good looking man, with a blue uniform; he ran so fast like a wild Indian, dodging himself like a rabbit. I lifted my hand and yelled at his chasers to not hurt him. However, one of the riders made him fall down with a despaired blow, already close to me, and on the return tilted himself and thrusted him with the sword.
I'm afraid to say that there was an English dragoon amongst these rascals; the others I thought being, by their uniforms, from the Portuguese cavalry. If the Frenchman slaughtered this way was a prisoner trying to escape, or whatever reason for this episode of cold blooded cruelty, I don't know, because the riders left in gallop immediately without a word of explanation; although regarding it as completely disgusting the scene I've just witnessed, I went back to my comrades, laid down again and soon I was sleeping so profoundly as any other there.»

(August or early September)«Soon after, captain Leech told me to take my cobbling instruments out and start working on the men's belts, many of which had been torn during action; I continued with that occupation as long as there was enough light to see, afterward laying down to rest.
That night we laid on a hill; many men broke of branches from the trees near by, to make a small roofing for the heads, since we didn't had our tents with us.
I remember that it was very cold that night , in such a way that I couldn't sleep because of the cold; my feet had shrunken, as if I had cramps. In fact, I was forced to get up once more during the night and run to keep my limbs warm.»

Monday, May 6, 2013

Cintra Convention

As I said before, in a related post (I think the “From Oeiras to Queluz II”), I had wish to translate the Convention of Sintra, the one that ended the 1st French Invasion. I guess, someone saw the post and the promise of translation and decided to give a helping hand by giving me a link, as you can see below, to the text of the Convention published in the London Gazette.

So, a big thank you to Mr. Edgar Cavaco. He has a wonderfull blog about the French Invasions, where he transcripts several documents written during that time. Only in Portuguese, though.


No images today, just the link. The text is divided into 2 columns: the one on the left is the French Version, the one on the right, the English one.