Not the Mataró I know

A short story “El lobo de las sierras” published in The new monthly magazine in 1851 evokes a typical day in the life of a British railway engineer on the Catalan coast (the Mataro-Barcelona line opened in 1848):

It was enough to have disquieted a man of stouter nerves than Tom, who, torn, stupid and intoxicated as we have seen, from the vine-clad valley below, was now transported, after a short ride of two hours, into what seemed to his disordered imagination another world. In truth, the clime, the scene—the adjuncts were all strange. His labours had been in the fertile valley of Mataro, whence—although he had vacantly gazed on the mountain ridges; had glanced beyond the lower belt of olives and vines; upwards where commences the region of heaving corn ; thence upwards still to the zone where Ceres in her turn yields to the empire of the chestnut and the pine ; and higher yet, where the bleak rocky peaks loom like ghosts of distant giants in robes of driven snow—nevertheless, this mutation of climate and production, common enough to mountainous regions, had been to him a sort of dreamy unreality, so that now, when the cold blasts of the sierra came whistling and howling in his affrighted ears, the snow streaks seemed goblins; the rugged pines and high fantastic rocks, angels of darker hue; and the wildly gushing mountain torrents, pursuing their headlong course with hissing, howling, and crashing sound, filled him with terror and dismay.

If Gothic fiction hasn’t got any better, then it certainly hasn’t got any worse.

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