The Maclise Portrait-Gallery/Don Telesforo de Trueba y Cozio


"Who amongst our readers,"—I may ask with a genial and unusually well-informed writer in The Hour[1] newspaper,—"has ever heard so much as the name of Don Telesforo de Trueba y Cozio, whom he will ever find in the act of dancing, and admiring his own shadow the while through his spectacles? We remember him well, and in this very posture, and can testify to the excellence of the likeness. He was one of the pleasantest and most amiable of men, and when we read of the doings of Spanish patriots of the present day, we are forced, in spite of ourselves, to put the most favourable construction on their most outrageous vagaries, from our recollection of the fine qualities and accomplishments of the author of the Exquisites."

Maginn avowed that he had little to say about this dapper, self-satisfied gentleman, and I must confess that I have not much more. My readers may regard him as a fly in amber, and wonder, so completely are his
The Author of The Exquisites.png

The Author of "The Exquisites."

name and fame now things of the past, to what he is indebted for being thus embalmed in the "Gallery,"—

"The thing, we know, is neither rich, nor rare."

The answer is,—his pleasing appearance and gentlemanly manner, his reputation as a linguist, his temporary success as a dramatic author and a novelist, his membership of the Garrick Club, his fame as a contributor to the Metropolitan and other magazines, and the prestige which invariably attaches to a well-bred, well-educated foreigner, of assured position, in lion-loving London.

However this may be, Trueba, though fond enough of notoriety, hardly felt grateful for the manner in which it was conferred, and was angry with the artist for handing him down to posterity, absorbed in self-complacency and the solitary performance of his Terpsichorean evolutions. Why should this be?" asks Fraser (August, 1831, p. 20). " All works of art should be consistent; one would not paint a puppy with a lion's head, a goose with the wings and long neck of an ostrich, or a donkey with the head and ears of the bearded pard." This occurs in a short notice of Trueba's novel, Paris and London a trashy, flippant, indecent affair, dedicated to Bulwer, and now quite forgotten. Thus, attitude and occupation alike appropriate—

"The Don, to tune of gay quadrille,
 Floats double, Don and shadow,"

and we have Trueba himself before us, an elegant trifler, —

"Nescio quid meditans nugarum, et totus in illis.'

Let his shade therefore be grateful for his undeserved occupancy of a place in our "Gallery," and the immortality therewith involved.

The mother of Trueba, a lady of fortune, and a staunch Liberal, left Spain on the overthrow of the constitutional party, and took up her residence in Paris. Her son was educated in this country; and thus English was so far his vernacular tongue that, as Maginn wickedly said, "he could no more write Spanish than Lord Palmerston, or Dr. Bowring." He became an author, and wrote several novels,—The Castilian, The Incognito, Salvador the Guerilla, Gomez Arias,—of the merits of which, as I do not chance to have met with one of them, I will not attempt to speak. Besides these, he was author of several farces, which obtained a certain amount of success in their day: such as Call again To-morrow, Mr. and Mrs. Pringle, etc.; also a comedy, The Exquisites, which may still be remembered by octogenarian play-goers, and which was reviewed by Leigh Hunt in The Tatler. Then came another, entitled Men of Pleasure, which was unsuccessfully performed at Drury Lane, in June, 1832; and a third, which appeared with better fate, at the Victoria, in January, 1834, under the title of The Royal Fugitive; or Triumph of Justice. I believe that he also wrote pieces in French, which achieved success on the Parisian stage; and that he is not unknown as a dramatic author,— in spite of the Doctor's assertion that he was innocent of Castilian,—in his own country and language.

In 1829, Trueba wrote for Constable's Miscellany the "Life of Herman Cortes," an able and apparently impartial biography of that extraordinary man; and in the following year, for the same serial, the  History of theConquest of Peru by the Spaniards." His Romance of the History of Spain. (3 vols. 8vo, 1831) is an interesting and well-written collection of tales founded on the historical or legendary history of his native country.

Sydney Smith, dining on some occasion with Rogers and Tom Moore, made allusion,in his own peculiar style, to literary lions, and the reception they were wont to meet with, on their first appearance on the horizon of London. "Here's a new man arrived; quick! put on the stew-pan,—fry away,—we'll soon have it out of him!" I don't know that this was exactly the fate of Trueba; but he was, doubtless, to some extent spoilt by being petted. "A man," acutely says Maginn, "who consents to be shown as a lion, runs the risk of being at last metamorphosed into an ass." He was a clever fellow enough; and if he had really and honestly worked, something might have been got out of him. As it was, " he wrote passable novels in irreproachable English"; but we need no Aristarchus to tell us that "they were not quite equal to the workmanship of his countryman, Cervantes. Where are they now? Echo answers, "Where?"—

"A boundless contiguity of waste!"

Trueba returned to Spain in 1834, and was speedily elected a member of the Chamber of Procuradores, and Secretary of Committee, where his talents as a linguist, and knowledge of English life and society, must have made him eminently useful. But his career was short; his death taking place October 4, 1835, at the age of about thirty, in Paris,—whither he had fled, as Fraser subsequently records, from Madrid, "his death accelerated, as was said, by the terrors of the murderous Spanish contest, into which he had thrust himself, without any suspicion of the danger he was drawing upon his head."

  1. November 12, 1873.