The Gil Blas Tour of Spain

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A Lifetime's Itinerary

No doubt subsequent heroes like Roderick Random, Tom Jones, Tristram Shandy, Barry Lyndon and even Oliver Twist inherited a good share of Gil Blas’ DNA. One thing common to them all is that they’re always on the move, always seeking. There are numerous sub-plots and diversions with secondary characters visiting Sicily, Italy, North Africa, Portugal and America, but this page shows the sequence of Gil Blas’ first visits to towns on his travels around early 17th century Spain, a journey that took him, with much to-ing and fro-ing, sixty-five years!

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requited love misery betterdanger travelling worseimprisonmentdeathhappyness etc...

1. Oviedo

This is where Gil Blas is born; his uncle educates him and packs him off to Salamanca by mule to get a job teaching Latin and Greek. He should have travelled south; inexplicably he goes west. (Book I. Chapter 1.)

2. Peñaflor

Things go wrong almost at once. He’s held up by a vagrant soldier and swindled by an innkeeper who induces him to sell his mule for a pittance and join a muleteer’s caravan. (I. 2.)

3. Astorga imprisonment

Falsely accused of trying to rob his travelling companions, Gil Blas flees into a forest, is captured by brigands, is forced to join them, fails to rob a monk, helps capture a wealthy lady, Doña Mencia, and escapes with her. But he’s wearing stolen clothes. This lands him in jail. On the lady’s evidence (she is now in Burgos) Gil Blas is acquitted and released. But he has no money. He decides to go in search of Doña Mencia and see if she will help. (I. 3 – 13.)

4. Burgos

Doña Mencia has entered a convent. Gil Blas visits her and she acknowledges his rescue by giving him a large sum of money. Now wealthy, Gil Blas buys new clothes, hires a valet, Ambrosio, and sets out for Madrid with two mules. (I. 14 – 15.)

5. Valladolid

Now treated deferentially, Gil Blas is invited to stay with Don Rafaël who claims to be a cousin of Doña Mencia. After being royally entertained, Gil Blas awakes to find he has been robbed and that Don Rafaël and Ambrosio have disappeared. Poor again, Gil Blas abandons his idea of going to Madrid; he encounters an old school friend, Fabricio, who helps him find a job as a footman to an elderly priest. When the priest dies, he finds a new job with a doctor who teaches him how to cure the sick. Unfortunately his patients all succumb to his treatment. In despair, Gil Blas sets out on foot for Madrid in the company of a journeyman barber. (I. 16 – II. 8)

6. Segovia happiness

Gil Blas joins a banquet to celebrate the barber’s return to his hometown, and then armed with a useful introduction, continues on to Madrid. (II. 9 – III. 1.)

7. Madrid

His contact in Madrid finds Gil Blas a job first as valet to a wealthy man of doubtful probity, then to one of a group of fops from whose servants he learns the finer arts of sophisticated city behaviour. This includes learning the art of seduction, which he at once applies to winning the heart of a girl, Laura, who appears to be a courtesan but is also waiting-maid to a leading actress. Laura arranges for Gil Blas to become the general factotum in her mistress’s household. This is a carefree, profligate establishment and Gil Blas, who has his prudish side, soon tires of the excess. He finds a new job as valet to an elderly gentleman whose daughter, Aurora, engages his help in winning the heart of an inconstant student. The father dies, leaving Aurora free to pursue her desires. (III. 2. – IV. 2.)

8. Salamanca Travelling love

Gil Blas and Aurora travel to the university town where they mount a complex charade to entrap the student. The trick succeeds, Aurora gets her man, but Gil Blas is left without a job. (IV. 3 – 6.)

9. Madrid

Aurora finds Gil Blas a job as valet to an elderly relative who has fallen in love with an ageing courtesan who has her eye on his inheritance. When Gil Blas tries to remove the wool that has been pulled over his master’s eyes, he finds himself transferred elsewhere: he becomes major-domo to a society hostess. He takes a fancy to one of the maids but an angry rival challenges Gil Blas to a duel. They fight; Gil loses and is forced to flee for his life. (IV. 7 – 8.)

10. Toledo travelling danger

On the road outside the city, Gil Blas saves a gentleman, Don Alfonso, from the militiamen of the Inquisition who are looking for him. They shelter from a storm in an empty hermit’s cave. The hermit and his companion, who soon return, turn out to be Don Rafaël and Ambrosio in disguise. (IV. 9. – 11.)

11. Cuenca travelling danger worse

All four are fugitives from justice now and decide to travel together to avoid their pursuers. But they are in need of food and money. The group liberates an old man and his daughter made prisoners by some brigands. The daughter, Serafina, turns out to be Don Alfonso’s fiancée (whose brother he had killed in a duel, forcing him to flee). (V. 1. – 2.)

12. Segorbe unrequited love worse love better

Serafina, although grateful for being freed, feels she cannot marry her brother’s killer. They separate. Gil Blas and Don Alfonso help Don Rafaël and Ambrosio operate one of their complicated swindles like the one that fooled Gil Blas in Valladolid. Don Rafaël and Ambrosio plan a new heist, but Gil Blas and Don Alfonso decide to renounce the lowlife and their colleagues’ evil schemes. They arrive at Don Alfonso’s family estate where the two men are warmly welcomed. Don Alfonso and Serafina are reconciled and marry. (VI. 1. – 3.)

13. The Leyva country estate unrequited love danger travelling

Gil Blas becomes intendant of the family estate and would have been settled for life had Serafina’s duenna not fallen in love with him and by her scheming made his life impossible. To the family’s regret, he is forced to leave. (VII. 1. – 2.)

14. Grenada better misery love danger

Gil Blas is eager to discover the beauty of Andalucia and in Grenada is hired by the Archbishop to make clean copies of his sermons. He performs this task so well that he becomes influential, but when he suggests the prelate is losing his touch he is summarily dismissed. He goes to the theatre; one of the actresses seems familiar. He discovers she is Laura, who is now the protégée of a Portuguese aristocrat who Laura persuades to employ Gil Blas. But a rival of Laura’s threatens to tell the Portuguese that Gil and Laura are lovers, and our hero has to flee once more. (VII. 3 – 10.)

15. Ubeda travelling

Gil Blas manages to escape with the help of a friendly muleteer. (VII. 11.)

16. Toledo travelling worse

He hopes to find work with the family of Don Alfonso but their house is empty. Gil Blas continues north to Madrid. (also VII. 11.)

17. Madrid better better love danger

Back in the capital, Gil Blas helps a war veteran obtain a pension and runs into his old friend Fabricio who is now pursuing au unsuccessful career as a playwright. Once again, Fabricio helps Gil Blas find a job, as steward to a Sicilian count with a pet monkey, but is dismissed after falling ill. He is then hired as a steward to work for one of the two men in charge of the personal affairs of the nation’s first minister, the Duke of Lerma. The Duke’s country home is damaged by fire; the Duke is so impressed by Gil Blas’ report on the incident that he promotes him onto his official staff to write reports for the king. The Duke is so pleased with his work that he allows him to present petitions from people seeking favours as a way of earning additional income. Gil Blas seizes this opportunity and hires a valet, Scipion, to search for petitioners. Scipion becomes Gil Blas’s inseparable companion and they quickly earn a lot of money selling favours, but to Fabricio’s disgust. One favour Gil Blas obtains secretly is the appointment of Don Alfonso as Governor of Valencia. The Duke then asks Gil Blas to recruit a courtesan who can teach the Crown Prince the art of love. Scipion quickly finds a likely candidate, and Gil Blas organises the encounter, much to the young Prince’s delight and satisfaction. Shortly after, late at night, men-at-arms arrest Gil Blas. (VII. 12. – IX. 3.)

18. Segovia imprisonment worse misery travelling

Gil Blas is hastily transferred to Segovia and imprisoned in the dungeons of the Alcazar. Scipion discovers his master had been arrested because of the King’s disapproval of the Prince’s amorous escapade. At the same time the Duke of Lerma falls into disgrace for corruption, a victim of his rival, the Count-Duke of Olivares. Gil Blas repents for his own excesses, decides to abandon governmental and court life, and to retire to the country. After a while the King forgives him his indiscretions and Gil Blas is released. (IX. 4. – IX. 9.)

19. Madrid better travelling

Gil Blas runs into Don Alfonso who has come to Madrid to receive his appointment. Learning that Gil Blas was behind this, out of gratitude Don Alfonso and his father make Gil Blas the gift of a small estate near Valencia. He and Scipion decide they will retire there after Gil Blas returns from visiting his elderly parents in Oviedo. (IX. 10.)

20. Valladolid travelling happiness

On his way, Gil Blas calls on his medical mentor, and hears of Fabricio’s success as a writer. (X. 1.)

21. Oviedo misery death travelling

Gil Blas finds his father and uncle both on their deathbeds and his mother impoverished. It is too late to save the two old men and they die. The funerals are organised and Gil Blas invites his mother to join him in Valencia. She refuses, but Scipion ensures that Gil Blas gives her enough money for her needs. (X. 2.)

22. Leon / Palencia /Segorbe travelling

Gil Blas and his faithful valet cross Spain in eager anticipation of a quiet life in the country. (X. 3.)

23. Llirias / Valencia better love death misery

The country house Gil Blas has been given delights him and he quickly settles into an idyllic life. He visits Don Alfonso in nearby Valencia where he encounters Don Rafaël and Ambrosio who are now impersonating monks. Back home Gil Blas falls in love with a farmer’s daughter, Antonia, and marries her, and Scipion finds his long-lost wife. Both women are soon pregnant, but Antonia dies in childbirth. Gil Blas is heart-broken. The King has also died and the Crown Prince is now on the throne. Olivares has become first minister. Scipion persuades Gil Blas to seek work in Madrid to get him over his sorrow. (X. 4. – XI. 1.)

24. Madrid better better

The new (and grateful) King gives Gil Blas a recommendation to Olivares who is reluctant to hire him, but when Gil Blas writes him a speech on the state of the nation and his political intentions, Olivares is delighted. Gil Blas soon becomes Olivares’ most trusted aide, speechwriter and spin-doctor, an important but invisible government figure. He helps organise Olivares’ daughter’s marriage, sends Scipion on a lucrative journey to America, and sees Fabricio well supported by an indulgent patron. Olivares is as concerned as Lerma for the King’s amorous well-being. He has heard talk of a young actress in Toledo. (XI. 2. – XI. 14.)

25. Toledo execution love

Before he can get to the theatre Gil Blas witnesses an auto da fé in which his friends Don Rafaël and Ambrosio are among the Inquisition’s victims to be burned at the stake. Thus sobered, he learns the actress in question, Lucretia, an ingénue, is Laura’s daughter, of whom he is perhaps the father. Mother and daughter reluctantly accede to his request to accompany him to the capital. (XII. 1. – 2.)

26. Madrid execution better danger

Lucretia’s relationship with the King starts well but ends badly since she is ashamed of giving in to his advances. She enters a convent and dies soon after. Laura in turn enters a nunnery. Gil Blas is shocked by these events but continues to assist Olivares in his government work and also organises Olivares’ adoption of his natural son for which the Count-Duke has Gil Blas ennobled. In a chance encounter, Fabricio warns Gil Blas that rivals have planned the ouster of Olivares, but Gil Blas dismisses this as false. Political events in Zaragoza and Portugal discredit Olivares and Fabricio is proven right. (XII. 3. – 9.)

27. Loeches misery execution better

Olivares retires to his country estate, tired and shattered. Gil Blas tries to raise his spirits but is unsuccessful. Olivares falls ill and dies, leaving Gil Blas a large bequest. (XII. 10. – 12.)

28. Llirias travelling better love

Gil Blas and Scipion, now both elderly, wealthy and wise, retire to the country estate. Gil Blas’ daughter has found a fiancée, and Gil himself soon falls in love with a neighbour. The celebration of a double marriage brings the story to a close. (XII. 13. – 14.)

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