Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Mexican Morals and Manners

Nov. 1836. — Read yesterday a very entertaining letter from Mrs. Ashburnham, the wife of the newly-appointed consul to Mexico.* Her account of the manners, of the ignorance, profligacy, and devotion of the natives, strongly reminded me of Majorca; the (so-called) ladies living in their bed-rooms, or in their kitchens — every wife with one lover at least, who passes the life-long evening puffing his cigar at her feet — a lady receiving company with six dragoons sitting on the bed in which she was talking of nothing but house-hold affairs—every woman, even those of seventy, coiffee en cheveux, with one flower stuck perhaps in the grey locks, which do not hide the redness of the head; children from their birth for some years with an edifice of satin, gold, &c. &c., erected on their wretched little heads.

She says that they have an opera, much better than could have been expected in such a society; that there the ladies are always dressed with a species of fire-fly in their hair: these fire-flies are certainly more brilliant than any diamonds, but they must be not only living, but lively and kept in a state of agitation to emit this light; then they protrude their six ugly legs. What a horrid tickling, crawling sensation they must give!

The houses are described as built round a court, like all Spanish houses. Cages filled with the beautiful birds of that climate are suspended as lamps are in our rooms; the court and galleries full of flowers, the galleries especially of one plant which the humming-birds particularly affect; but they are described as so shy that they do not perch even for a minute.

Mrs. Ashburnham speaks of her astonishment at receiving from a lady she hardly knew, a message to say, that ‘she kissed my hands and begged to inform me that she had another devoted servant at my disposal, whom I was in all things to command and on all occasions.' This simply meant that she was brought to bed, and was. as well as could be expected. These notices are sent every nine or ten months from every well-regulated family all over the town.
Editor's note
* Now Lady Webster, widow of the late Sir Godfrey V. Webster, Bart.

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