“Lisbon could even be one of the most flourishing capitals in Europe, says Rattazzi, if it enjoyed its income, the government only appropriates them and their main streets and pays for the pavers.”
In May, I will present the second issue of “Praça Nova”. António Godinho Gil came to this magazine with a short essay on French “Portugal at a glance”, a book published in 1880 by Princess Marie Rattazzi (1831-1902).
Rattazzi was the great-niece of Emperor Napoleon. She married several times, collected lovers. Her second husband, Urbano Rattazzi, was a Piedmontese politician who had not yet been unified prime minister in 1862 and 1867, Italy was born in 1861, but unification would only end with Rome’s accession in 1871.
Cultured, rich, modern, developed, energetic, Rattazzi wrote and published. She was in Portugal in 1876 and 1879. The Portuguese who crossed paths with her were speechless. According to the French princess, the public smoked and scandal of the three, showed about four centimeters of leg above the time, or the origin.
“Portugal at a Glance” is now available online. At the time, and in the following decades, the book aroused virulent reactions in the national media, starting with that of Camilo Castelo Branco, who did not really like the appreciation of “Mrs. Rattazzi” about his literary work. Forward.
In over 500 cards, fortresses on 25 cards, the princess makes some insightful and pertinent observations about Portugal and the Portuguese. Here are some observations that have been perplexing:
The Portuguese lack of love for trees. The peasants themselves not only do not plant, but cut down all that exist.
There was neither a grammar nor an official dictionary for the Portuguese language.
The love for Portuguese jewelry, a passion that all types of social classes have. Some women, «by dint of adornment», apparently «walking shrines».
The excess of nobility claims would be one of the causes of the English insurrectionary spirit. This is because the bourgeoisie, instead of enriching work, enriches its energy for the maintenance of titles.
The injustice of the justice system, with a shocking difference in treatment between rich and poor. “Laws are webs of speech that perhaps clothes are laughed at, that survive, as if for the sake of contrasts, and that undo as soon as they become uncomfortable”.
The backwardness of agriculture and the Portuguese economy that could be much better not for the greed of power. Lisbon could even be one of the most flourishing capitals in Europe, says Rattazzi, if it enjoyed its income, the problem is that the government absorbs that income, appropriates it and only returns «a portion so limited that it only arrives to have the main streets and pay the pavers’.
Despite the few flattering remarks about Portugal, Princess Rattazzi generally liked what she saw. She saw originality in our uses and costumes, in nature itself. Portugal retains a primitive originality, which generates a certain attraction of novelty even to many visitors and, at the same time, explains the certain erroneous evaluation formulas regarding it. She also praised the royal family, Fontes Pereira de Melo, several Portuguese writers, especially Eça de Queirós.
Above all, the book is interesting because Rattazzi is able to describe in detail what he sees. 142 years after its publication, and despite some abusive generalizations, “Portugal at a glance” continues to maintain a certain relevance.