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1832 there fought, for the first time at Madrid, the Romero of modern bullfighting, Francisco Montes, a native of Chiclana, in Andalusia, and the son of parents who had seen better days and come down in the world." Through the influence of Cándido, sub-manager of the academy of bullfighting, founded, as we have seen, by Ferdinand the Seventh, Montes was nominated a pupil, with a pension of six reales daily; and emerging after a brief course of instruction, secured immediate recognition as the master-torero of his century. He is still quoted as a paragon of the art, uniting the theories of the "old masters" with novel and brilliant suertes of his own origination. His active triumph, however, was not long-lived. In 1850 a severe cornada undermined his health, and retiring to his native town he died a few months later at the age of forty-six.
The method of Montes may be regarded as the boundary line between the old style of bullfighting and that which obtains at the present day. He published a guide to the sport, El arte de torear á pié y á caballo, considered to be the torero's very Bible for the infallible wisdom of its precepts; and his practical directions, delivered in the ring and propagated among the cuadrillas who worked in his employ, have descended in one shape or other to numerous of his successors. Between his time and the present there have been various eminent matadores, among them Francisco Arjona Herrera (Cúchares); José Redondo (El Chiclanero); Francisco Arjona Reyes (Currito); Antonio Carmona (El Gordito); Julián Casas (El Salamanquino); and José Sánchez del
Campo (Cara-ancha); but none have occupied a larger share of the afición's, or as we should say, the fancy's attention, than Salvador Sánchez (Frascuelo, 1844-1898) and Rafael Molina (Lagartijo, 1841-1900), two giants of the sport, whose rivalries of a dozen or fifteen years ago are never likely to be obliterated from the eventful annals of the lidia.
At the present moment there is a distinct dearth of first-rate matadores; and, indeed, death and disablement have made away with not a few. Notwithstanding, Fuentes, El Algabeño, and Mazzantini are still available, the first two of these being yet in the prime of manhood, and there are plucky striplings, such as Machaquito and Revertito, whom time may develop, if their lives are spared, into something worthy of the old traditions; but for obvious. reasons the future of a torero is shrouded in uncertainty, and providence, in the form of a brace of astas, is apt to upset the wariest of prophecies.
Fairly considered, the merits of latter-day bullfighting should not be appreciably less than in the days of Costillares and Pepe-Illo; but the manner of fighting has been largely modified, and for this reason it is not easy to draw a just comparison between the old style and the new. At first sight, when we read of the Romeros killing the majority of their bulls by the exceedingly difficult suerte de recibir, not attempted nowadays so much as twice or thrice a year; or of José Cândido, with merely a dagger in his hand, killing a bull as it swept past him, it would appear that the toreros of to-day were very degenerate creatures indeed. But it must also be borne in mind that in the earlier epoch the suerte de
picar was so severe as to leave the bull more dead than alive. The horses were better; the heads of the garrochas were larger and keener, and it was the custom of the picadores to drive them home both oftener and harder. In fact, the picador was then as important a participant as any. His name figured first upon the programme (the only privilege he has been able to retain until the present), and his pay, if not munificent, was at least in approximate relation to the arduous work he was called upon to perform. This suggests a momentary comparison of the sums then earned with those now ruling among bullfighters generally. About the year 1780, Joaquín Rodríguez (Costillares) earned seven hundred and fifty pesetas for a whole day's corrida. This was then regarded as extraordinarily liberal. I may add that formerly the bullfight was held in both the morning and the afternoon, and the number of bulls would rise to as many as eighteen, apportioned, as a rule, between two espadas. Even if we descend to much later times, I cannot find that Montes ever earned so much as a thousand pesetas for a media corrida, or afternoon's fight. At the present day a leading matador earns-or demands, and gets-four, five, and even six thousand pesetas for killing two or three bulls. Out of this sum he pays his cuadrilla, not an exorbitant item when one considers that a banderillero rarely earns more than fifty dollars, and a picador not so much.
The modern espada, then, if once he contrives to push himself into notice, earns considerably more money than his prototypes. In social position he has not progressed. Possibly the novelty of
petting and patronizing a torero is not so keen as in the days of Pepe-Illo and the beautiful Duchess of Alba. The picador has degenerated into the merest accessory, and the banderillero occupies a position intermediate between the picador and the espada. Occasionally a banderillero thinks fit to promote himself to an espada, and it naturally depends upon circumstances whether he remain a novillero or aspire to become a matador de alternativa. In these more exalted capacities he may do either well or badly, according to his condiciones, application, courage, and so forth, but it is certainly preferable to see him remain a good banderillero than decline into a third-rate matador, for the market is already overstocked with maletas, and the plums, though luscious and inviting, are few and far between.
Another detail of the torero that has undergone a gradual but ample change is the indumentaria, or costume. At the middle of the eighteenth century this was nothing more showy than a plain, buff-coloured jacket and breeches, with low shoes and a leather belt. Thirty years later Costillares replaced the belt by a sash resembling that now worn, and later still, in the time of Pepe-Illo, the severity of the uniform was further improved into a similitude of the present traje de luces, but the trimmings upon the jacket were merely of black braid. Some twenty years later this was replaced by the massive gold embroidery which has continued to the present.
THE PAST OF THE PRESENT.
T seems no little of a leap from the chronicles of the plaza de toros to a retrospect of social and political Spain, and yet there is a close analogy between the essentially national pastime of the Spaniards upon the one hand, and their politics and temperament upon the other. The bullfight
is the emblem of the merits and demerits of its patrons. It is a bloody spectacle, but perhaps we English incline too far in the opposite direction of ultrahumanity. We are becoming the most neurotic of races, disposed to whimper over the very least and lightest of our fellow men's and fellow animals' mishaps, and the day, I fear, is fast approaching when a daddy longlegs with a fractured tibia will throw us into a convulsion. The sight of bloodshed, therefore, is tonic and advisable at intervals, but the Spaniards have been over-glutted with it, and here we find another point of analogy between their darling sport-the bull-fight-and their darling business-war. Yet it is singular to reflect that if Spain had defended her West Indian colonies as tenaciously and vigorously as she has defended the bullfight against the veto of various of her kings, Cuba would still belong to the Spanish Crown!