Wednesday, February 22

ASPECT OF LISBON (May 1809)

Leaves from the diary of an officer of the guards. Published 1854

We arrived at the inn, a dirty, spacious, dear,
and badly attended hotel, with good wine and good 
living, as we thought at least, who had just quitted 
a transport. On landing, we went to report our 
arrival to the Commandant, Colonel Peacock, of 
the Guards*, who asked us all to dine with him the 
next day. Mr. Stuart, our Minister, gave a ball, 
to which we were also invited. Neither "love nor 
money" however could procure me a bed at the 
inn that night ; all were filled ; some by officers who 
had come down on leave from the Army, others 
by those either embarking, or, like ourselves, dis- 
embarking; the squadron of our navy in the Tagus 
also took their share of the inns when they came 
on shore. Our men being still on board the trans- 
port, we were not entitled to billets ; I contrived at 
last, through a brother officer who had just left the 
army, to obtain a bed in the apartments of a friend 
of his, the Superior of a monastery. The goodly 
Monk, who bestowed upon me a lodging, was a lively 
comfortable-sized clerico, who, according to his own 
account, had dreamed of more things in his philo- 
sophy than saying his prayers ; and he spoke of the 
world, and what was passing in it, as one who was 
on good terms both with it and himself. 

In the evening we attended our dinner and ball ; 
the latter was very gay: the military and naval 
uniforms of our own country mingled with those 
of Portugal and Spain ; the dark eyes and expressive 
countenances of the Lisbon ladies, contrasted with 
the fair faces of our countrywomen, formed a novel 
and agreeable mixture. The women of Portugal 
have fine eyes, which are their principal attraction, 
and more expressive countenances than the tamer 
beauties of the North ; but their skin is generally 
sallow, and neither in clearness of complexion nor 
regularity of feature can they vie with their neigh- 
bours the Spaniards or the natives of Italy. With 
respect to the Portuguese men, they are generally 
a Jewish-looking race, and in the higher orders 
there prevails a diminutiveness of stature which is 
anything but dignified. 

The hospitable entertainment and affability of 
our Minister were well known and appreciated by 
the whole of the British Army during this event- 
ful period. At this ball we heard that intelligence 
had been received, that Marshal Massena with 
120,000 men had taken Ciudad Rodrigo, and ad- 
vanced ; and a sharp affair near Almeida, on the 
Coa, had taken place between our Light Division 
under Craufurd and the advance-guard of the 
French army ; that Massena was about to invade 
Portugal, and that our army was already in move- 
ment. We had it also intimated to us from the 
Commandant, that we were to shift our transports 
to others, and go by sea round to Mondego Bay. 

On our way from this gay scene, conning over 
the new order of our destination, we encountered 
an army of half-wild dogs in the streets. These 
animals, in conjunction with pigs, were the sole 
scavengers of Lisbon; and as night approached, 
the canine dustmen came forth from their dens in 
the ruins of the town, to feed on its filth, and fight 
over it half the night through. Sometimes even 
they were bold enough, if interrupted at their 
orgies, to attack foot-passengers. 

They were not destroyed, in consequence of the sanitary service 
they rendered to his Majesty of Portugal's capital.