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Chapter 18

Biarritz Vacation and Romance with Nelly Boustead (1891)


To seek solace for his disappointments in Madrid, Rizal took a vacation in the resort city of Biarritz on the fabulous French Riviera. He was a guest of the rich Boustead family at its winter residence Villa Eliada. He had befriended Mr. Eduard Boustead and his wife and two charming daughters (Adelina and Nellie) in Paris in 1889-90. He used to fence with the Boustead sisters at the studio of Juan Luna and to attend parties at the Boustead Parisian home. It was in Biarritz where he had a serious romance with Nellie and finished the last chapter of his second novel, El Filibusterismo. With the Bousteads in Biarritz. When Rizal arrived in Biarritz at the beginning of February, 1891, he was warmly welcomed by the Bousteads, particularly Mr. Boustead who had taken a great liking for him because of his remarkable talents. As a family guest, he was treated with friendliness and hospitality by Mrs. Boustead, Adelina, Nellie, and Aunt Isabel (Mrs. Boustead's sister). The one month vacation in Biarritz worked wonders for Rizal. The scenic beaches filled with tourists from all parts of the world, the refreshing breezes of the Atlantic Ocean, and the festive

atmosphere of the city cheered his despondent spirit and made him forget the bitter memories of Madrid. His sorrowing heart began to sing once more with joy and his health improved with remarkable swiftness. Writing from Biarritz to Mariano Ponce on February 11, 1891, he said: "I have put on much weight since I arrived here; my cheeks are no longer shrunken as before for the reason that I go to bed early and I have to no cares. Romance with Nellie Boustead. Biarritz, with its romantic gardens, delightful villas, and panoramic beauties, is an ideal setting for romance. On an emotional rebounce, Rizal having lost his beloved Leonor, came to entertain considerable affection for Nellie, the prettier and the younger daughter of his host. He found her to be a real Filipina, highly intelligent, vivacious in temperament, and morally upright. He wrote to his intimate friends, except Professor Blumentritt, of his love for Nellie, also called Nelly, and his intention to propose to marriage to her. As early as on February 4, 1891, M.H. del Pilar teased him about changing the o in Noli to an e, which means Noli to Nelly. Five days later, Tomas Arejola told Rizal:
In your letter you talk repeatedly of Boustead who can be a madame or a mademoiselle. Several times here since last year I have been told about this young woman who, according to your letter, is also a Filipino. They told me that she is highly commendable for her very thorough education, her very beautiful moral and physical qualities, and, in addition, for being a Filipino. On this occasion and all the time you are there exposed to the warmth of

the treatment and attentions of that family, may I take the liberty of making the following reflections. Through you, yourself, I know that you are now free from your engagement in the Philippines. On the other hand, while conditions there are not altered, your permanence in our country is not advisable; and even if it were so, they would never leave you in peace at your home. Consequently, by marrying there, I fear that instead of happiness, you would only find bitterness and trouble. And what is the remedy? .... See if Mademoiselle Boustead suits you, court here, and marry here, and we are here to applaud such a good act.

Antonio Luna, who had previously loved and lost Nelly, encouraged Rizal to woo and marry her. From Madrid, he wrote to Rizal, saying;
With respect to Nelly, frankly, I think there is nothing between us more than one of those friendships enlivened by being fellow countrymen. It seems to me that there is nothing more. My word of honor. I had been her fianc, we wrote to each other. I like her because I knew how worthy she was, but circumstances beyond our control made all the happiness one cherished evaporate. She is good, she is naturally endowed with qualities admirable in a young woman and I believe that she will bring happiness not only to you but to any other man who is worthy of her I congratulate you as one congratulates a friend. Congratulations!

With the encouragement of his close friends, Rizal courted Nelly who in turn, reciprocated his affection. Unfortunately, their romance beneath the lovely Biarritz moon did not have a happy fairy tale finale. Rizals marriage proposal failed for two reasons: (1) he refused to give up his

Catholic faith and be converted to Protestantism, as Nelly demanded, and (2) Nellys mother did not like Rizal as son-in-law. Nelly Boustead, being a good Protestant, wanted Rizal to espouse Protestantism before their marriage. Rizal, being a man of firm conviction, refused. Although he became a Mason, he remained loyal to the Catholic religion, the faith of his clan. Years later, while he was living in exile in Dapitan, he refuted Father Pablo Castells accusation that he was a Protestant as follows: As to being a Protestant... If Your Reverence knew what I had lost for not accepting Protestantism, you would not say such a thing. Had I not always respected the religious idea, had I held religion as a matter of convenience or an art of getting along in this life, instead of being a poor exile, I would now be a rich man, free, and covered with honors. Nellys mother, like the mother of Leonor Rivera, had no wish to entrust her daughters happiness to a man who poor in material things, a physician without a paying clientele, a writer who earned nothing from his pen, and a reformer who was persecuted by the friars and government officials in his own country. Although they could not get married, Rizal and Nelly parted as good friends. When she learned that Rizal was leaving Europe, she sent him a farewell letter, saying: "now that you are leaving I wish you a happy trip and may you triumph in your undertakings, and above all, may the Lord look down on you with favor and guide your way giving you much blessing, and may you learn to

enjoy! My remembrance will accompany you as also my prayers'' El Filibusterismo finished in Biarritz. Frustrated in romance, Rizal found consolation in writing. Evidently, while wooing Nellie and enjoying so "many magnificent moonlight nights" with her, he kept working on his second novel which he began to write in Calamba in 1887. On March 29, 1891, the eve of his departure from Biarritz to Paris, he finished the manuscript of El Filibusterismo. Writing to blumentritt on that date, he said:
"I have finished my book! Oh, no, I have not written in it my idea of revenge against my enemies but only what is good of those who are suffering, for the rights of the Tagalog race, though brown and may not have good features! Surely, I will leave tomorrow for Paris, and from there I dont know where I am going.

To Paris and Back to Brussels. As he had written to Blumentritt, Rizal bade farewell to the hospitable and friendly Bousteads (parents and daughters) on March 30, 1891 and proceeded to Paris by train. He stayed at the home of his friend, Valentin Ventura, on 4 Rue de Chateaudum. From Paris, he wrote his friend, Jose Ma. Basa, in Hongkong, on April 4, expressing his desire to go to that British colony and practice ophthalmology in order to earn his living.

Moreover, in this letter, he requested Basa to advance him the amount for a first class steamer ticket frm Europe to Hongkong. By the middle of April, 1891, Rizal was back in Brussels, where he was happily received by Marie and Suzanne Jacoby (his landladies) and, above all, by Petite Suzanne (the Belgian girl who loved him). Retirement from Propaganda Movement. Since abdicating his leadership in Madrid in January, 1891, owning to the intrigues of his jealous compatriots, Rizal retired from the Propaganda Movement, or reform crusade. He desired to publish his second novel, to practice his medical profession, and later, when he became financially independent, he expected to make a more vigorous campaign for his country's redemption. From Brussels, on May 1, 1891, he notified the Propaganda authorities in Manila to cancel his monthly allowance and devote the money to some better cause, such as the education of a young Filipino student in Europe. His notification was contained in a letter addressed to Mr. A. L. Lorena (pseudonym of Deodato Arellano), as follows:
Through the kindness of J. A.; I received your letter of 13 February with a draft for P 100 that the Propaganda is sending me for the months of January and February and I thank you for such attention. In order to avoid increasing its attentions I believe my retirement is necessary. I will establish

myself and earn my living. My chosen place is either in the Philippines, Hong Kong, or Japan, because Europe seems to me a place of exile and I am hereby notifying the Propaganda of my intention so that it may make its decision. With the P 50 that it send me monthly it could do something better, which is to defray the cost of the education of another young man who is not in the same situation as I am. Though such an amount is sufficient to live on in any place in Europe, it is not enough for one who wishes to accomplish something and to carry out the plans that he may cherish. Consequently, I have asked friend Basa to furnish me with the funds for my return, so that I can start earning a small fortune. If at last, after the end of a few years, I become financially independent, I shall be able to undertake a more vigorous and effective campaign than I have been doing until now.

Rizal stopped writing for La Solidaridad. Simultaneous with his retirement from the Propaganda Movement, Rizal ceased writing articles for La Solidaridad. Many of his friends in Spain urged him to continue writing for the patriotic periodical, because his articles always attracted considerable attention in European countries. M.H. deL Pilar himself realized the need for Rizal's collaboration in both the Propaganda Movement and in the La Solidaridad newspaper because the enthusiasm for the reform crusade in Spain was declining. On August 7, 1891, he wrote to Rizal begging forgiveness for any resentment and requesting him (Rizal) to resume writing for

the La Solidaridad. In short, he said in his letter, if you have any resentment, I beg you to put it aside; if you consider me at fault, and this fault is pardonable, forgive me. . .We would much like that you resume writing for it; not only would we strengthen La Solidaridad but we would defeat the friar intrigue in the Philippines. In his reply to Del Pilars letter, Rizal wrote denying any resentment and explaining why he stopped writing for La Solidaridad as follows:
I am extremely surprised at your letter, telling me about resentments, disagreements, and reconciliations, etc. I believe it is useless to talk about what does not exist, and if it has existed, it ought to have evaporated in the past. I think like you do, that there being nothing one ought not to waste time talking about it. If I stopped writing for La Solidaridad, it was because of several reasons: 1st, I need time to work on my book; 2nd, I wanted other Filipinos to work also; 3rd, I considered it very important to the party that there be unity in the work; and as you are already at the top and I also have my own ideas, it is better to leave you alone to direct the policy such as you understand it and I do not meddle in it. This has two advantages: It leaves both of us free, and it increases your prestige, which is very necessary, inasmuch as men of prestige are needed in our country. This does not mean to say that I need not work and follow the course of your work. I am like an army corps who, at the needed moment, you will see arriving to descend upon the flanks of the enemy before you. Only I ask God to give me the means to do it. I fight for the nation, the Philippines.

Revising the Fili for Publication. In Brussels, Rizal worked day after day revising the finished manuscript of El Filibusterismo and readied it for printing. Apparently, the revision was mostly completed on May 30, 1891. On this date, he wrote Jose Ma. Basa: "My book is now ready to go to press; the first twenty chapters are already corrected and can be printed and I am recopying the rest. If I receive any money you will surely have it in July. I am writing it with more ardor than the Noli and although it is not so cheerful, at least it is more profound and more perfect In case I do not receive money, will you ask them to send me money for the printing of my book? If not, I will be leaving this place and be with you." Two weeks later, on June 13, Rizal informed Basa: "I am now negotiating with a printing firm and as I do not know if it will be printed here (Belgium) or in Spain, I cannot send it to you as yet. In case it is not published here, I will send it to you by the next mail. Only three chapters are left to be corrected. It is longer than the Noli, first part. It will be finish before the 16 th of this month. If by chance, anything happens to me, I leave its publication to Antonio Luna, including its correction. If my Noli (sic. Fili Z.) is not published, I shall board a train on the following day when I receive you letter with the passagemoney; but if my book is published I shall have to wait until it comes off the press. *****